Disclaimer: I do not own the characters of the Magnificent 7 (if I did the television schedules would be very different). They belong to John Watson / Trilogy / Mirisch / MGM Worldwide. This is a piece of fanfic, it has no monetary value and was written for fun, so please dont sue me and leave 3 cats homeless thanks.
Thanks as always to everyone out there whose creativity, encouragement and inspiration keeps my muse awake, especially Nancy, Gloria and Lady Angel (to whom I respectfully dedicate this in repayment for all the laughter Ive had from her wonderful stories), to my friend Paula (lady of the yellow highlighter) for her sharp eyes, invaluable objective input and beta-skills, and to all those in M7 fandom who make this such a wonderful place to be
Authors Notes: This is just a piece of light-hearted nonsense. Feedback welcome, but please be gentle with me, Im a sensitive soul. I think the tech-specs are accurate (thank you to BMW (GB) Ltd) and apologies if Ive made any errors on any American terminology Im a Brit so I have to wing it a bit! Take our favourite ATF guys, a lot of very impressive engineering, a huge weakness of mine, one of Bucks ideas, and ...
It had been a 24-carat gold tip-off, no doubt about that. Anonymous, but then they sometimes turned out to be a damn sight more reliable than informants. Four men, the caller had said. Four men, working a good-sized operation out of some rat-infested, downtown warehouse. Team 9 had actually been the ones to head the bust, but Team 7 had gone along to ride shotgun, just in case. Well, most of Team 7. Chris Larabee was out of town with A D Travis, only overnight, but, as they say, "thems the breaks folks" he had missed a good bust. Textbook stuff. You know the drill, kick the door down, shout your lungs out, scare the pants off the bad guys and wave the biggest goddamn gun in the room, and, with any luck - no-one gets shot, and the good guys emerge victorious. And tonight it had worked. Team 9 had taken the miscreants in, and Team 7 were "mopping up". So far, they had found a sizeable number of Rolex watches (seemingly genuine), crates and crates of champagne, and enough travellers cheques to bankroll a third world country.
"So what do we have here?" JD looked around the dingy, stifling storeroom at the stacked crates of champagne, "Guys who like to drink, travel and always have the right time on them?"
Vin Tanner laughed. "Not bad JD, that was almost funny!"
Ezra Standish was rifling through the desk in the corner of the room. "Something, gentlemen, is not right here." His leaf-green eyes narrowed a little, as that laser sharp mind of his wrestled with the facts. "These items are indeed of some considerable value and, may I add, at least show a modicum of taste, but there is something missing."
Josiah Sanchez and Buck Wilmington entered the room together. Josiah, already of imposing stature, was still wearing his ATF bullet proof vest, most of the others having shed theirs in the stuffy heat, and was clutching a crow bar in one of his bear like hands. The effect was threatening. Not for the first time, Ezra was glad the big guy was on their side.
Buck, who had flung his Kevlar over a chair at the first available opportunity, was wearing a black T-shirt, emblazoned with the words "If I can reach it, I can wreck it" in violent yellow letters. Ezra, in his Armani shirt and YSL tailored pants, gave an involuntary shudder.
"Mr Wilmington where, if you dont mind me asking, did you acquire that piece of sartorial elegance?"
Buck looked non-plussed. Ezra sighed.
"That item of clothing you appear to be quite happy to have exhibited on your person?"
"Oh! My T-shirt!" Bucks face split into a wide grin under his dark moustache and he looked down at his chest with some pride. "Great isnt it? That cute little redhead from upstairs in Motor Vehicles gave it to me... she said thats what I did to her bed, so..."
"Whoa Buck! Thats more information than any of us needs, pard!" Vin was shaking his head, grinning.
"I regret having asked the question," Ezra said with a sigh. "There are some things in life it is much better not to know."
Josiah grinned. The banter never stopped. Somehow it seemed to be the glue that held these disparate personalities together. Seven totally different men, who, on the face of it, had about as much in common with each as coyotes have with rabbits, but through an accident of nature, chemistry, destiny or chance, had gelled together not just professionally, although they had the highest success rate in the whole damn region but personally, as friends. No, more than friends family. Each one trusted the other six without question or hesitation and their loyalty to one another was total. They trusted God, their guns and the other guys and not necessarily in that order. Hell, they werent christened "The Magnificent 7" by the other ATF teams for nothing, and those guys werent easy to impress.
"Guys," Buck said, "we need your help with a rather large door out back," he jerked his thumb over his shoulder, "to which we do not have a key."
"Hence the crowbar," Josiah said, waving the menacing object in front of him in a swift arc and slapping in into his right palm, his bulk and demeanour making the thing look like a fly-swat rather than a potentially lethal instrument.
The door was indeed, large. Rusting, covered with flaking blue paint, and obviously neglected by the ministrations of any oil can for the preceding half-century, it took the combined efforts of Josiah, Buck, Ezra, Vin, JD and their resident EMT and largest of the entire team, Nathan Jackson, to move the reluctant ton-and-a-half of metal. Once they got it going, however, despite its screeches of protest, it yielded to the onslaught and revealed a cavernous darkness beyond.
JD popped a flashlight and searched for the light switches, which he soon found embedded in a grey metal plate on the wall to the right of the door. "Here we go guys!" He ran his hand down the light panel, snapping the switches, "Let there be light!" There was a loud thrumming buzz as the overhead fluorescent tubes spanked themselves into life and, after a somewhat shaky start, finally shed some light in the darkness.
"Yeeeee ouch!!!!" Buck cried, staring, his eyes almost on stalks.
"Now, aint that a beautiful sight?" Vin said softly, emitting a long, low whistle.
"Oh my, my, my," Nathan shook his head, almost in disbelief.
"Gentlemen, I think we may have just found the something missing that I was referring to earlier." Even Ezra was slightly in awe of the sight.
"Oh," JD said, obviously unimpressed, "...a bunch of cars...."
As one, the others all turned to stare at him, dumbfounded.
"A bunch of cars? A bunch of cars? For someone supposed to have undergone a quality education Mr Dunne, your lack of appreciation of the finer things in life leaves me quite breathless," Ezra hit his stride effortlessly, without even pausing for breath, "terming what we are looking at a bunch of cars is directly comparable to calling the Mona Lisa a picture which, whilst it might be accurate in the crudest sense, is a most deplorable understatement."
JD just looked at him.
"Z8s." Josiah breathed the word with something approaching reverence.
Stretched out before them in the large storage area was a line a very long line of sports cars, parked in a serried rank, each one covered by a transparent sheet of thick, industrial grade polythene.
"Its like findin a diamond necklace in a hog bin," Buck said softly, looking around at the distinctly shabby surroundings. He walked up to the first car, trying to see the impressive outlines through the deformation of the protective plastic, which itself was covered in a thin layer of fine dust, distorting the prize it contained still further. Licking his lips, he grabbed the polythene in both hands and flung it backwards over the car, revealing gleaming black paintwork that mirrored the overhead strip lighting like lightning streaks on the hood, smooth curvaceous lines of bodywork, and, with the soft roof neatly stowed away, an interior of cream coloured full napa leather, the enticing aroma of which glided into his nostrils like early morning coffee.
When the contents of the shroud was fully revealed, Buck turned to the others, his clenched fist between his teeth and a mock-pained expression on his face, in the traditionally recognised signal for "So hot it hurts".
"Glory! Thats beautiful," Vin said, walking up to the side of the car and stretching out a hand, almost tentatively, to touch the glossy surface.
"That " Ezra said to JD, in his best listen-and-you-might-just-learn-something voice, "is a magnificent piece of German engineering and, whilst they may not be the most convivial race on the planet, their attention to detail and their mastery of the quality end of the automotive market is without a blemish. Its a BMW Z8 sports car, one of the finest super sports models on the market, superior in almost every respect to anything else in its class. It has a 4.9 litre engine, 450 brake horsepower, and will outrun a Porsche with ease That Mr Dunne, is quality sheer, unadulterated, heart-pounding quality "
"Better than your Jag?" JD asked, a twinkle in his eye.
Ezras eyes flashed. "Personally, I have always had superior respect for British engineering, but this splendid example of the car producers art will set you back considerably more than my Jaguar."
Josiah shook his head, somewhat sadly. "A hundred thousand dollars give or take."
JDs jaw dropped a little.
Nathan cast his eye down the line of plastic entombed vehicles. At a rough guess, there were perhaps eighteen or twenty of them in this hangar. "Thats a couple of million dollars worth of cars sitting here like ducks in a row," he said incredulously.
"A couple of million dollars?" JDs jaw dropped onto his chest.
Buck was still completely entranced. He walked around the gleaming car, stroking it as if it were a sleeping cat, his eyes shining just the way they did whenever a pretty woman came within ten paces of him. Somewhere in the back of JDs mind, a faint alarm bell began to ring softly.
No response, just a rapt expression, indicating Buck Wilmingtons mind was elsewhere.
Nathan had done a little snooping of his own. "Keys are over here!" he shouted, waving a bunch of car keys in front of his face that he had retrieved from a peg board near the light switches.
Buck heard that with no problem whatsoever. He looked levelly at Nathan, a bright gleam in his dark blue eyes, and began to smile. The others were obviously developing telepathic tendencies too, as slowly, five smiles began to spread across five faces. The bell in JDs head suddenly became a huge, ear-splitting siren.
"No... no... no..."
"Whod know? We could just borrow a couple for an hour, bring em back and nobody would be any the wiser." Bucks mind was racing.
"No!" JD shouted.
Vin grinned. "And Chris is out of town for the night."
Ezra tried to look detached and failed. "I have to confess, the prospect of putting such a splendid piece of engineering through its paces does have its attractions."
The siren was beginning to deafen JD. "NO!"
"We could just take em round the block.... lift the soul a little..." Gracious, even Josiah seemed to be succumbing to temptation.
"ARE YOU GUYS COMPLETELY NUTS?!" JD was yelling now. "These are contraband... evidence! If we steal them... were Federal Agents for chrissakes and if Chris ever found out ... I dont even wanna think about that ... hed kick our butts so far they wouldnt be able to find us with an atlas and a frickin oiuja board!"
No one seemed to be listening. Five pairs of eyes were fastened on the cars, five male hearts were beginning to beat just a little faster, five right feet began to itch, five right hands began to tremble a little at the prospect of feeling that engine under their control, five testosterone-flooded systems were fooling five crazy minds into thinking that they could, with a little luck, get away with this...
JD, the lone voice of reason in a sea of delusion, groaned, then tried yelling again he was running out of options. "Are you all completely goddamn-off-the-wall-suicidal-crazy-nuts??? We will be so busted well never get up again! Chris will skin us and make boots out of our hides and well be so frickin black and blue he wont need to dye it!"
"JD, please dont yell." Nathan said calmly and JD noticed, with a stab of something pretty close to fear, that Nathan had a faraway look on his face.
"Loosen up JD! Wheres the harm?" Bucks voice, almost soft, had that lyrical lilt that sounded as if hed been drinking.
"Loosen up? Loosen up? The only thing thats gonna be loose round here is your teeth and bones if you do this!"
Vin grinned that lop-sided eye-twinkler that always meant trouble, unless you were female in which case in meant no come to think of it, it always meant trouble. "So you stay here then," he drawled softly.
Buck climbed into the black Z8 he had just uncovered, sliding into the sports seat with a little giggle of delight. Placing the key in the ignition, he flexed his fingers. "Cmon baby, come to Uncle Buck," he purred, turning the key. The engine fired first time and the growl of 450 straining-at-the-leash wild horses filled the warehouse. Buck eased his right foot down on the accelerator and the growl turned into a full-throated roar.
Nathan was about twenty seconds behind him. The silver Z8 parked next to Buck turned the mono roar into a stereo roar as the engine responded to Nathans gentle nudging of the pedal. "Cmon Josiah!" He patted the seat next to him, "come and enjoy one of Gods wonderful creations!" Shedding his Kevlar, Josiah climbed in, grinning like hed just heard a very good joke.
Ezra threw a set of keys to Vin. "Mr Tanner? Would you care to do the honours? I consider it would only be fair to allow you the foremost opportunity to drive this splendid piece of engineering as I do have at least some experience of handling such a fearsome beast."
Vin slid into the soft leather driving seat of the second silver Z8. He felt his fingers tingle as he turned the key and eased down on the throttle.
By now, the windows in the place were vibrating.
Buck looked across at JD. "Come on kid. I swear, nobody will ever know." He winked.
JD thought about it for a moment or two. He had to admit the sound of those engines had stirred his blood a little. Perhaps they just might get away with it, he thought as he climbed in beside Buck.
They drove out onto the wide concrete apron fronting the warehouse and pulled up alongside one another.
"Mama! Listen to that!" Nathan was grinning from ear to ear, his normally composed face looking like a kid on Christmas morning.
Vin squirmed in the luxurious seat, feeling the soft leather hug his hips and mould to the shape of his spine. "Jeesh! Feels better than some of the women Ive known!"
There was no way Buck was going to let that pass. "You be careful now Vin! I doubt youve ever had anything that responsive under you, pard " Vin responded with a two-fingered salute.
"Gentlemen," Ezra waved an expansive arm, "shall we depart?"
Vin floored it, and the silver Beamer screamed in response, leaving an inch of Pirelli rubber on the concrete as he and Ezra created a swirled pattern of skid marks out on to the deserted street.
Nathan and Josiah were less than two seconds behind them, Nathans deft control avoiding the spirals, but leaving an equal amount of very expensive tire on the road this time in two perfectly straight lines.
Never one to be outdone, Buck punched the throttle and the black Z8 shrieked with delight, pelting after the fast-disappearing tail-lights of its silver sisters with a snarl like a pissed-off panther. The very air seemed to reverberate behind them before stillness settled over the scene.
Vin was really, really enjoying himself. The car responded to his every touch on the wheel, the slightest pressure on the accelerator swinging the rev counter like a metronome. It hugged the road, the big tires squatting on the asphalt like they were glued on, yet it flew like a falcon in a dive.
"Wow!" Vin shouted over the growling engine. "Feel this baby! What a machine!"
Ezra smiled indulgently. Driving the Jag had given him the same sense of euphoria that Vin was experiencing, and he understood just how potent that feeling could be. They threw the car through a few swift right and left turns, leaving the others behind, eventually emerging into a side street that ended at a set of traffic lights some 40 to 50 yards ahead. The lights were green. Vin glanced at Ezra, who merely raised his eyebrows in response. Gripping the wheel, Vin raced the lights, hanging a right turn that would have sent most cars crabbing across the road like Charlie Chaplin in one of those walking stick turns of his, but the BMW responded with a little squeal of pleasure, flinging itself in an almost impossible parabolic arc round the corner. Vin almost over-steered it, but not quite. Fighting momentum and inertia with complete success, the car straightened out and dashed up the main drag like a silver arrow heading straight for the bullseye. The guy driving the Buick in front of them nearly had heart failure when he glanced in his rear view mirror and saw the Z8 bearing down on him like a BMW eagle in pursuit of a Buick mouse-lunch. Vin braked, pulling the car to a halt a nerve-shattering three inches from the Buicks rear end.
"This is great! I gotta get me one of these!" Vins smile looked like hed just won a Vegas jackpot. The traffic eased to a halt, the Buick driver still looking in his mirror with a mixture of fear and pure green envy. Unable to resist the temptation, Vin sat in the traffic queue, revving the engine like a teenager, enjoying the looks he was getting from the passing pedestrians. Two young men, striding out of McDonalds, stopped so suddenly one piled into the other then just gawked, their mouths opening and closing like goldfish.
Ezra preened (mentally of course). There was no doubt about it, quality showed, and when it did, its colours were startling. He was born to be seen in vehicles like this they complimented one another perfectly. A middle-aged businessman, carrying a briefcase, turned his head and smiled knowingly at Ezra, with a conspiratorial we-both-know-excellence-when-we-see-it-now-dont-we smile that caused Ezra to tip an imaginary hat to his fellow connoisseur.
A gaggle of girls spilled out from a bar a little further down the street and instantly the noise of the engine caused all their heads to turn in unison. A chorus of "Ooohhs" and "Aaahhhs", accompanied by much giggling and batting of eyelashes, pointing of manicured fingernails and wriggling of skin-tight-clothing-swathed bodies ensued, particularly when they realised that this obviously expensive machine was being driven by a good looking, tall, long-haired guy with a handsome, red-haired, stockbroker-type in designer labels in the passenger seat.
Vin smiled, turning the famous eye-twinkler up to full power. "Evenin ladies!" he called, with a friendly wink and a wave. "Im sure I dont know which is more beautiful you or this car!"
More giggles, more wriggles.
Ezra settled for a slight tilt of his head and a broad smile, flashing a hint of gold tooth, making him look slightly predatory, unconsciously sexy, definitely assured. It was a look he had practised to perfection and it never failed him. Tonight was no exception. He wasnt the teams best undercover operative for nothing acting was a large part of his job.
Then the traffic began to move again and Vin roared away, over-revving the engine to hell in the interests of showing off, leaving the gaggle slowly melting into the sidewalk. "Jeesh! I gotta get me one of these!" he said again.
"Yes, there is no doubt that powerful cars do have a desirable effect on some women, however, I would counsel caution "
"Dont spoil it Ez! Just let me enjoy the moment, okay?"
On the corner, two ladies of the type that Ezra was about to "counsel caution" on, were out at work. One, a young brunette with spike-heeled boots, fishnet tights, a black leather mini-skirt and a tight red shirt, whooped appreciatively as the Z8 eased around the corner. "Yo, baby!" she yelled. Her "co-worker" a tall girl with a mass of peroxide white hair and a chest impossible to achieve naturally, wearing a white leather jacket and jeans that were so tight it looked as if someone had sprayed them on her strode towards the curb.
"Nice wheels boys. You lookin for some company to take on the road?"
"Sorry darlin, cant afford you and the car!" Vin retorted with a grin.
The girl grinned back. "Well now sweetheart, with a car like that, Im sure I could be persuaded to do a little negotiatin "
"Why dont you negotiate your sweet little " Suddenly, the sharp crack of gunshots echoed around the street and instantly, Vins eyes met Ezras.
"Down there!" Ezra shouted, pointing straight ahead.
Serious now, Vin kicked the throttle and roared off down the street. At the next intersection, they slowed a little, just as two more shots rang out.
Cranking the steering wheel through an almost suicidal right turn, Vin raced towards the sound. Almost at the end of the street, several cars were angle-parked to the curb in front of an all-night supermarket. Just as they pulled to a halt, Ezra heard a woman scream and saw two figures through the plate glass window of the shop, backing up towards the entrance, fanning at least two guns around behind them as they retreated and carrying two cash bags.
"Shit!" Vin shouted. "No radio!" There was no way they could call for help. Ezra was already out of the car, running in a low crouch towards the cover of the parked vehicles, his gun drawn.
Vin opened the drivers door and scrambled out, pulling his gun from its holster and ducking behind the open car door for cover. Positioning himself carefully to get the best view of the robbers, he raised the gun and aimed carefully, waiting.
The robbers backed out of the door to the shop, yelling at the customers inside to keep quiet and brandishing their weapons in a manner that suggested panic rather than professionalism.
"FREEZE! Federal Agent!" Ezra yelled at the top of his voice.
One of the robbers swung around and began firing blindly in completely the wrong place. They were both completely startled, their heads snapping round, first one way then the other, frantically searching for the voices they couldnt place.
"FREEZE! Drop your weapons!" Vin shouted.
On instinct, one of the robbers fired in the direction he thought Vins voice had come from. His hearing was pretty damn good. Vin flattened himself against the road as he heard a rapid succession of bullets puncture the car with sharp metallic rings.
Ezra got a shot off, gouging a huge hole in one of the gunmens jackets but missing anything vital, as two police patrol cars, sirens wailing, lights whirling, screeched into the street, one from either end. Both cars braked, one either side of the Z8, and four policemen pounced out, guns drawn.
The sight of so much hardware frightened the gunmen into surrender and both of them dropped the guns and raised their arms. "Okay! Okay! Dont shoot!"
"Lie down on your stomach and put your hands behind your head!" One of the policemen shouted. The gunmen complied, pretty damn fast.
Another policeman had a bead on Vin.
"Sokay! Were Federal Agents!" Vin yelled, slowly and deliberately putting his gun down on the road and reaching for his ID. He flashed the badge at the policeman, who approached carefully, never taking his eyes off Vin, his gun still drawn. He looked at Vins ID and lowered the gun.
"What the hell are you doing here?" The policeman was confused.
One of the occupants of the other patrol car was subjecting Ezra to similar scrutiny, whilst the two remaining policemen covered the gunmen.
"We came across this by accident," Ezra explained, "we just happened to be in the vicinity."
The policeman couldnt resist a wry smile. "Boy! Were you ever in the wrong place at the wrong time!"
"Howd you get here so fast?" Vin asked. The policeman shrugged.
"Shops got a direct alarm theyve been robbed six times in the past year." Two of his colleagues were cuffing the suspects and dragging them unceremoniously towards the patrol cars.
Ezra began to walk back to Vin when he noticed the line of bullet holes along the side of the car. Neat, round holes in an almost straight line. He gulped. Oh good Lord. He mentally added up the prospective cost of the damage, which started to make his head throb; then he tried to think of a plausible story about how a brand new Z8 had ended up looking like a survivor of the gunfight at the OK Corral, which made his head pound more threateningly; then, totally unbidden, a vision of Chris Larabee demanding an explanation surfaced in his imagination and he felt his knees go weak. Oh shit.
Vin, seeing Ezras shocked expression, bade goodbye to the policemen and strode round the car to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with his friend. He crossed his arms in front of his chest and put his head on one side. "Bullet holes," Vin said.
Ezra looked at him, raising his eyebrows. "No? Really? How completely staggering!"
Vin shrugged. "Were dead men, Ez."
"No? Really? You think?" The sarcasm dripped from Ezras words.
"We definitely need to get our story straight, because I think Chris is probably gonna be more than a bit pissed with us." Vin said slowly.
"No! You jest Mr Tanner!" Ezra was almost trembling with frustration.
Vin was thinking. "We could say it happened in the warehouse, during the take-down " he said carefully.
Ezra smiled witheringly. "We could, except if my memory serves, there were not actually any shots FIRED during the take-down, which would make this extra coach work slightly difficult to explain, would it not?"
Vin grinned. "Yeah, but Chris doesnt know that ."
"Oh of course Mr Tanner! We simply say that a car that was under a sheet of industrial grade polythene was punctured by bullets from guns that no-one fired, and that these bullets passed through this polythene sheeting miraculously leaving no holes, but somehow the holes subsequently appeared in the car. Wonderful! Perfect! Mr Larabee is bound to believe that! I mean, who wouldnt?"
"Okay Ezra, you got a better idea?"
"What, a better idea than that? Impossible!"
Vins blue eyes widened. "Youre not helping."
"Mr Tanner we are dead! We borrowed a brand new, illegally imported, very expensive sports car that does not belong to us, nay, a piece of important evidence in a smuggling case, and this car has now ended up resembling a cheese grater! Short of divine intervention or time travel, I can think of no plausible explanation that will prevent us from being horribly dismembered and fed to the rats."
Vin shrugged again. "Well, we gotta come up with somethin "
+ + + + + + +
Nathan and Josiah, having turned the opposite way to Vin and Ezra, were currently several miles away, cruising the side streets on the fringes of the urban area of the city, enjoying themselves tremendously. Nathan had already tried various manoeuvres, his analytical and enquiring mind testing turning circles, steering correction, 0 to 60 time, and a host of other sensible, practical applications of the high calibre piece of engineering under his control.
"This is a mighty fine piece of machinery Josiah", he said to the big man next to him, shaking his head in awe.
Josiah Sanchez grinned. "Any chance of letting me put it through its paces Brother Nathan?"
Nathan pulled over and the two swapped places, Josiah adjusting the seating rake to accommodate his longer legs. He gave the throttle one or two experimental pushes, raising his eyebrows at the response of the car. "Okay," he said, pulling out from the curb, "Lets raise a little hell!"
Anyone who knew them would scarcely have recognised Nathan and Josiah at that moment. Always the calmest and most steadfastly sensible of the seven, the EMT and the psychological profiler were currently behaving more like college students after a party. Swinging the Z8 through a narrow gateway into a deserted car park, Josiah wrenched the steering wheel and yanked the handbrake on, and the car did a perfect 360 degree turn on the spot, leaving a black circle of rubber with wraith-like wisps of smoke drifting upwards from it.
"Wow!" Nathan shouted, shaking his head in admiration.
"Very impressive," smiled Josiah, easing the handbrake off again and heading back out onto the street.
At that moment a small red sports car, travelling incredibly fast, flashed past up the street, followed a few seconds later by a police patrol car, sirens screaming, in hot pursuit.
Nathan and Josiah looked at one another. "They aint gonna catch him in that black and white," Nathan said.
"Looks like a case of divine intervention to me," Josiah said with a small smile, as they shot out of the car park and raced after the sports car.
They caught up with the police car in seconds, Nathan holding up his ATF identification badge as they swooped around the startled policemen and roared off after their quarry. Whoever was driving the car, which Nathan could now identify as a Porsche, was a skilled driver; snaking through the road junctions, doubling back and feigning right and left turns with ease, but Josiah was gaining steadily, his jaw set in a firm line, eyes concentrating intently on the road ahead. The Porsche suddenly veered left, disappearing down a narrow alley between two warehouses. Josiah almost overshot, but with a yell of protest, the Z8 twisted and flew down the constricted passageway shrieking its defiance.
The alley opened blindly on to another, wider street. Nathan just caught sight of the Porsche turning left out of the end of the alley as they turned into it. "Left! He went left!" He shouted at Josiah. They emerged out of the alleyway in a roar of noise and a scream of tires, Josiah offering up a silent prayer of thanks that it was late at night and the road appeared to be deserted. Gaining all the time on their target, Josiah eased out to try and force the Porsche to pull over.
As they raced across a mercifully deserted crossroads, they were almost level, but the tinted windows of the red car gave no hint as to the driver. Josiah tweaked the steering wheel slightly to the right, trying to panic the Porsche into thinking they were going to ram him. It worked. The Porsche driver swerved, lost control and mounted the curb, desperately trying to make the right turn into the next street. He almost succeeded indeed, if the dairy truck had not been parked just around the corner, he probably would have made it. Unfortunately, he could only brake hard and swerve, which did little, if anything, to lessen the impact. The red Porsche slammed sideways into the stationary vehicle, causing a veritable explosion of milk bottles and cartons that spewed out of the open sides and rear of the truck like sparks off a firecracker.
Josiah braked hard, the BMW swung right in a tight arc, but the best brakes in the world could not have prevented the inevitability of what happened next. Whilst it might be an amazing piece of engineering, the Z8 was subject to the same laws of physics as everything else and the momentum was unstoppable. He avoided actually hitting the dairy truck, but a positive hailstorm of milk containers exploded all over the car, and a veritable tidal wave of fresh milk all but drowned the two ATF agents.
For a few seconds everything was very, very still. Just the quiet drip, drip, drip of liquid and the tick of cooling metal could be heard. In the distance the approaching police sirens were drawing nearer.
"You okay, Josiah?" Nathan, milk dripping down his face, asked. Josiah nodded, retrieving a burst milk carton from his lap and regarding the white puddle of liquid he now seemed to be sitting in.
Nathan scrambled out of the car, squelching through a lake of milk on the roadway, in shoes that seemed to be full of the liquid, and made his way to the Porsche. He wrenched open the drivers door. The driver looked dazed, but there were no obvious injuries.
The police arrived a few seconds later and both of the young patrolmen seemed to be fighting an overwhelming urge to laugh as they regarded the two ATF agents in their flash car which now resembled a Jackson Pollack modern art painting. Fresh milk covered everything the upholstery, the controls, the bodywork. It dripped off the door handles, the alloy wheel trims and the two agents. There was a swamp of it in the footwells, and a river of it all around the three vehicles.
Josiah looked up at Nathan, brushing a small rivulet of milk from his right eye. "I think we may well be in trouble, Brother," he said glumly. Nathan nodded. Josiahs gift for understatement sometimes robbed Nathan of his powers of speech.
+ + + + + + +
"There now!" Buck grinned as he finished replacing the thick polythene sheeting over the black Z8, now returned to its original space in the warehouse, "Wasnt that great? I told you everythin would be okay JD, didnt I?"
"Okay, okay, Im sorry Buck, and yes, it was great." JD looked a little contrite. Buck had allowed him to drive the sports car back to the warehouse and he had to admit, it had been an experience worth the risk of "borrowing" the car.
"All we gotta do now is wait for the others to get back, put the covers back over the cars, an no-one will be any the wiser." Buck grinned at JD. "You need to learn to trust me, kid", he said. JD grinned back.
The unmistakable sound of a supersports engine caused them both to turn their heads, as Ezra drove, at a fairly sedate pace, into the warehouse. JD frowned. The southerner and Vin both looked as if they had hangovers. Low scowls sat on their faces and Vins arms were tightly folded across his chest. It was only when Ezra turned the car around to reverse it back to its original position that JD saw the bullet holes. His jaw dropped. Bucks eyes widened.
"What in the name of all the dancing demons of Hell HAPPENED???" Buck shrieked, looking at the row of perfectly round holes perforating the immaculate silver body panels.
"Bullet holes", Vin offered as explanation.
"You shot up the car?" JD asked, incredulous.
Ezra gave him a look that would have withered most mortals on the spot. Fortunately, JD was oblivious.
"Yes, precisely Mr Dunne! We took a piece of illegally imported contraband evidence and decided to take pot-shots at it, in order to disfigure it in such a way that no-one would be in any doubt that we had absconded with it."
"Ran into a robbery downtown", Vin explained. "One of the guys had a real jittery trigger finger."
Buck ran his hands through his hair. It could ONLY happen to them. Anyone else would have got clean away with it, but not Team 7. Or more precisely, not Vin and Ezra. Trouble followed those two around like a bad smell. A bad smell that Chris Larabee was going to scent like a bloodhound. They were dead men. All of them. Buck stared at the bullet holes, his mind racing. "Dont panic!" He shouted. "Thats the important thing. Dont panic. Let me think. I know! We could say that it happened during the raid "
"PLEASE!!" Ezra yelled.
Vin pulled a face at Ezra. "See? I told ya it wasnt a bad idea," he said, climbing out of the car and slamming the door so forcefully that Ezra winced.
Buck heaved a mental sigh of relief at the sound of the last car returning. Nathan and Josiah would be bound to come up with something. Nathan could come up with a plausible reason for anything. He looked at the car as they pulled in. No bullet holes here, thank God. Just two very sombre faces. Buck frowned. Something was wrong. And talking of bad smells
"Phew!! Whats that stink?" JDs nose wrinkled as the second silver Z8 reversed into place.
It took a few seconds for the others to realise it. A decidedly unpleasant smell was definitely emanating from the region of Nathan and Josiah, neither of whom seemed ready to vacate their "borrowed" vehicle. As Buck looked closer at the car, he could see something. A sort of film seemed to be covering the hood, the windscreen, in fact, the whole damn car. It had dulled the mirror-bright finish and seemed to be the source of the odour. Buck frowned. It smelt like like what was that smell? Refrigerators! Thats what it reminded him of! When JD left opened milk cartons, or those goddamn pots of yoghurt of his in the fridge until they almost became sentient life forms. They smelled exactly like that. Sour. Stale. Stomach churning.
"What on earth is causing that malodorous stench?" Ezra said, wrinkling his nose.
"Milk" Nathan and Josiah said in unison.
Josiah opened the drivers door and several cartons fell out, exploding with a soft "ploosh" on the concrete floor, spreading a widening pool of white around them. As he vacated the car, a small waterfall of milk dripped over the door sill, dribbled off the bottom of his trousers, and squelched from the sides of his shoes.
Bucks jaw dropped. The car was awash in milk. The stench was caused by the hot engine trying to evaporate a liquid that it was never intended to come into contact with. Bucks shoulders sagged as he looked carefully at the car. It was soaked. Saturated. The upholstery, the controls, the bodywork. The whole damn thing looked like itd been through a milk car wash. He groaned.
"Believe me Brothers, you do not want to know," was Josiahs only offer of an explanation.
"Gentlemen," Ezra said, "I think we need to have a conference."
They sat around one of the desks in the storeroom, everyone giving Nathan and Josiah, who were now beginning to smell worse than the car, a wide berth. The temptation to crack open one of the crates of champagne to lubricate their thinking had been almost overwhelming, but, this time, Nathan and JDs common sense prevailed, so they all settled for coffee. "Anyone want milk?" JD asked, then flinched from the murderous glares.
"Anyone got any bright ideas?" Buck asked.
Nathan spoke. "I dont know about the milk, but we could say that the bullet holes happened during the raid."
"I say we just deny all knowledge", JD said shrugging. "If we wipe our prints off everything, cover the cars back up and shut the door we dont even have to tell Chris we found the cars."
"Cmon JD! Were on clean-up here, remember?" Buck grimaced. "Its hardly likely that even we would miss a warehouse full of sports cars, now is it?"
"We could dispose of the milk-mobile and reposition the other cars so it wont be missed." JD offered.
"And where, exactly, do you propose to dispose of a one hundred thousand dollar sports car that was involved in an accident witnessed by at least two policeman and a suspect and that is ripe enough to attract the attention of a bloodhound with no sense of smell currently residing in a kennel on the moon?" Ezra asked.
"We could punch a few holes in the plastic, and tell Chris Ezras gun had a mis-fire then jammed", Vin said helpfully.
"Why my gun, Mr Tanner?"
Vin smirked. "'Caues I can shoot straight, even with a mis-fire."
"We could shoot Vin as a distraction," JD said.
"No thats been done," Nathan and Josiah said in unison.
"Even if we can come up with a plausible explanation for the bullet holes, what about the goddamned milk?" Buck asked.
No-one could come up with a suitable explanation for that.
By 3 a.m. they all had pounding headaches and Nathan and Josiah smelled worse than week-old cabbage. It was beginning to look like they were running out of options.
"We could always just tell Chris the truth," JD said.
The others just stared at him. Poor kid.
Eventually, bone-weary, they agreed to meet early the next morning in the office, and face the wrath of Larabee with a united front. He wouldnt shoot all six of them. Well, probably not. Well, not JD anyway.
+ + + + + + +
Ezra was late. He scooted out of the elevator almost at a trot, glancing up at the clock. If he hadnt beaten Chris into the office, the others would have him for breakfast
A muted roar, reminding Ezra of a wildlife programme hed seen about male lions fighting, echoed down the corridor, freezing the southerner in his tracks. He was too late. Gulping and thrusting his finger into his collar to loosen his tie, which suddenly felt like it was strangling him, he took a deep breath and opened the door to the bullpen.
Cait, Team 7s unassuming secretarial assistant, sat at her desk, her owlish eyes intent on her computer screen. The roar came again, from behind the closed door of Chriss office. Cait ignored it and continued typing. Ezra swallowed.
"Good morning Mr Standish," she said politely.
"Good morning Cait." He eyed the closed door and trembled slightly. "I assume Mr Larabee is already here?"
She nodded. "Yes, Mr Standish. He arrived about 10 minutes ago. The others are in there with him having a meeting, I believe." Her brown eyes danced a little behind her glasses.
"Oh dear Lord. I assume he, err, he wasnt in a particularly jocular mood this morning then? Not smiling?"
Cait looked at Ezra levelly, a tiny grin just beginning to flicker at the corners of her mouth. "Smiling, Mr Standish? Oh, I would say Mr Larabee was positively Beaming "
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And - just in case youre interested, this is what all the fuss was about (just picture your own M7 guy in this )