Black and White

ATF Universe

by Violette

Part 8

"Geez, he looks awful," JD said as he entered the small hospital room.

Ezra lay still on the bed, the bruises on his face starkly evident against his pale skin. Tubes and wires sprouted from many parts of his body, emphasizing his weakened condition. The six men crowded into the room, surrounding the bed where the southerner lay. JD and Vin took up positions on opposite sides of the bed, near Ezra's head. Chris smiled faintly, wondering if they had consciously taken up such protective positions around their downed friend.

"He's gonna hate wakin' up to that catheter," Buck said, attempting to lighten the mood.

"What happened here?" JD asked curiously, pointing to the thick bandages on Ezra's wrists.

"His hands were tied when he showed up at my place," Vin said, an angry gleam in his eyes that promised retribution upon the person who hurt his friend.

"Damn," JD said softly.

The men made themselves as comfortable as possible, lending their silent support to the unconscious agent, until they eventually succumbed to sleep. That was how Orrin Travis found them when he arrived several hours later. Vin Tanner alone stirred at his entrance, his sharp eyes scanning the room for the source of the disturbance. A look of surprise crossed his face when he noticed the Assistant Director standing near the door. Quietly, he stood and made his way toward the older man, gesturing toward the hallway with his hand. Travis nodded and exited the room as silently as he had entered, followed closely by Vin.

"What are you doing here, sir?" Vin asked curiously, noting that it was only five AM.

"I have sources here at the hospital, who alert me whenever any of you boys are admitted," Travis explained. "... in the event that you fail to contact me within a reasonable period of time." He favored Vin with a penetrating stare. "Care to tell me why I wasn't informed of Agent Standish's reappearance?"

Vin reddened slightly under his scrutiny. "Uh, Chris decided to wait 'til morning, seein's how Ez ain't goin' anywhere for a while." He shrugged uncomfortably. "He didn't want to wake you in the middle of the night."

"And what is it that has brought my agent here?"

"Somebody did a real number on him," Vin said, running a hand through his long hair. "He showed up at my place all messed up with his hands tied."

"How is he?" Travis asked, frowning with concern.

"Pretty rough," Vin replied. "Got pneumonia and some busted ribs."

Travis sighed. "I'm going to have to inform Internal Affairs and Special Agent Farrell of this turn of events."

Vin nodded reluctantly.

"I'll try to keep them from questioning him for a few days until he's well enough to speak to them," he offered.

"Thank you," Vin said gratefully.

Travis looked at him thoughtfully. "What do you think happened?"

"I think Ezra's cousin set him up," he answered bluntly. "I asked him if Hanford was the one who did this to him and he said yes. And he had a couple of bottles in his pocket that Nate thinks might be some kind'a drugs."

"Drugs?" Travis asked skeptically.

Vin nodded. "He ran 'em over to forensics to get 'em analyzed."

"So you think Hanford might have attempted to force information from Agent Standish?" Travis prodded.

"He sure as hell wouldn't tell 'im anythin' willingly," Vin said irritably.

"That's not what Hanford's associates are saying," Travis reminded him.

Vin snorted disdainfully. "They know they'll get charged with assaulting a federal officer if they tell the truth."

"Perhaps," Travis allowed. "But without any evidence, Agent Standish is still in a lot of trouble."

Vin bristled at the doubt in his voice. "With all due respect, sir... if Ezra goes, then I'm goin' too." He looked Travis in the eye. "I ain't gonna work someplace that would take the word of a bunch'a lowlifes over one of its own."

Travis lifted an eyebrow in surprise. "You're that certain?"

"Yep," Vin said confidently.

"I'll take that under advisement," Travis said, with a sardonic smile. He should have expected something like this from his most unusual team. Their loyalty to one another was well-known throughout the agency, though he never thought it applied quite as much to Standish. He was the most recent addition to the team and it was no secret that the temperamental southerner wasn't the easiest person to work with. Chris had once referred to him as a "goddamned porcupine in an Armani suit". Travis had also heard other, much less flattering opinions of the man and had begun to question Larabee's sanity in keeping him on the team.

Tanner, though, seemed to think otherwise. It surprised him since, of the entire team, the sharpshooter was the one who seemed to have the least in common with the smooth undercover man. While Standish was in his element amidst money and luxury, Tanner seemed more at home on the streets or in the wilderness. Champagne and caviar versus beer and pizza. Still, the man was know for his insight into people and he obviously saw something in Standish that the rest of them didn't. Travis sighed and rubbed his hand over his face. This team certainly knew how to keep his life interesting.

"I'm gonna get back to Ez," Vin said. "I want to be there when he wakes up." He grinned at the Assistant Director, a wicked gleam in his eye. "Gotta give him grief about goin' out in public lookin' such a mess."

Travis chuckled and waved in dismissal. Yes, they were definitely an interesting team. Shaking his head in exasperation, he turned and walked slowly down the hall.

* * * * * * * * * *

The fog began to dissipate and Ezra gradually became aware of the familiar, but unwelcome, sounds of a hospital. Prying his eyes open, he gazed blearily around the room. Daylight streamed in around the curtains on the single, small window, dimly illuminating the room. In a chair next to the bed, JD slouched uncomfortably, sound asleep with his mouth half-open. Ezra frowned, wondering what he had done this time to end up in the hospital. Vague flashes of memory paraded through his mind until he finally was able to put the pieces together. A tide of self-loathing washed over him as he remembered how he had betrayed his teammates, failing them just as he had failed Monique all those years ago.

Ezra tried to sit up, but gasped at the pain that shot through his ribs, choking on the breathing tube in his throat. The gray fog returned, threatening to blanket him in darkness once again, but he fought against it stubbornly. He had no desire to return to the nightmares that came with unconsciousness. Forcing himself to relax, Ezra closed his eyes and eventually got his breathing under control.

His movements wakened JD, who jumped up from his seat and leaned over Ezra. "Ez? Are you awake?"

Slowly, Ezra opened his eyes and looked at the worried young agent. Since he couldn't talk, he waved his hand weakly in greeting.

JD grinned widely in relief. "Damn, Ez. You had us real worried. You've been out for two whole days."

Ezra gave him a look as if to say, "Yeah, right."

JD sighed. "Seriously, Ez. We were all real concerned about you. Heck, you nearly gave poor Vin a heart attack, showin' up at his place like you did."

Ezra looked away in embarrassment. He had already caused these men enough grief without this latest escapade.

"Hey! It ain't your fault!" JD said, recognizing the guilt in his friend's face.

Ezra shrugged slightly in response, but JD could tell he didn't believe it. He started to say something to convince him further, but was interrupted by the entrance of Dr. Tyler and a nurse, who shooed him out the door.

"I see our patient is awake," Dr. Tyler said cheerfully.

Ezra glared at him. He was feeling anything but cheery at the moment.

The doctor saw his reaction and smiled. "I know you're probably not feeling too well right now."

Ezra rolled his eyes.

"Let me explain to you what's happening," Dr. Tyler said with a chuckle. He had been warned about this patient's cantankerous nature. "You've got several cracked ribs, a lot of contusions, and a rather nasty case of pneumonia, which is why we have you on the respirator."

Ezra pointed to the breathing tube and looked at the doctor hopefully.

Dr. Tyler shook his head. "Not yet. We need to leave that in a little while longer, until your lungs sound better."

Ezra leaned back, frustrated with the situation.

"You're still a very sick man, Mr. Standish," the doctor said. "If your friends hadn't brought you in when they did, you might not be here to argue with me. You still have a high fever and a lot of congestion in your lungs, so we can't rush things."

Reluctantly, Ezra nodded. He had had pneumonia before and knew there was only so much that could be done to speed up the recovery process.

"Why don't you try to get some rest?" Dr. Tyler suggested. "I'll see you again tomorrow."

The nurse injected something into his IV bag and smiled at him before following the doctor from the room.

JD came back inside quietly a few minutes later. "How you doin'?"

Ezra shrugged, then winced at the pain it caused in his ribs.

"The doc says you're going to be fine," he said encouragingly. "The guys'll sure be glad to hear that. I called Chris to let him know you were awake."

Ezra made a face.

JD laughed. "Yeah, I know. But he really wants to talk to you."

Lifting an eyebrow, Ezra pointed to the respirator tube.

"Oh," JD said with chagrin. "I forgot about that." He grinned mischievously. "Well, I guess that's Chris's problem."

Ezra smiled as best he could around the obstruction in his mouth, then leaned back wearily. He had been awake for less than a half-hour, but he was already tired again.

JD watched his friend's eyelids begin to droop with growing weariness. "Hey, why don't you get some sleep, okay? You're gonna need it to handle Chris and the others."

Ezra nodded sleepily and lifted his hand in a wave before leaning back and drifting off to sleep.

Settling back in his chair, JD watched as Ezra's face relaxed into sleep. The others would be coming by as soon as they were done with work, but he didn't want to leave his friend alone. It seemed to him that Ezra had been alone too much lately, and he wasn't going to desert him when he needed a friend the most.

Vin had confided in him about what he had told AD Travis, and JD had decided that he would join him in leaving if Ezra got shafted by IA. Vin had insisted that he was too young, that he shouldn't ruin his own career, but JD was determined to stand up for what was right. It would be hypocritical of him to claim to be a good guy and then just stand around while an injustice was being perpetrated right in front of his face. Neither he nor Vin had informed the others of their intentions yet, preferring to wait to see what would happen before braving that particular minefield. JD was sure Buck would blow a gasket when he found out, but he didn't care. He wasn't a kid, no matter how much he might look like one, and he had to stand by his principles. Still, he prayed that it wouldn't come to that, since that was one confrontation he would rather avoid.

* * * * * * * * * *

"How is he?" Chris asked quietly as he entered Ezra's room.

JD looked over at Ezra, who was still sound asleep. "He seems okay. He was with it enough to give the doctor some dirty looks."

"Must be hell for him having that tube in," Chris said with a chuckle.

"Yeah," JD agreed. "He was hurtin' some, but they gave him painkillers or something. He's been out ever since."

"He still looks like hell," Chris observed. The swelling in his face had gone down, but it was still a multicolored patchwork of bruises and cuts. Whoever had worked him over had been very thorough.

"Any luck getting to Hanford's men?"

"Not yet," Chris said with a frustrated sigh. "But we will. I guarantee you that."

JD nodded in agreement. Nobody stood in Chris Larabee's way for long.

"The rest of the boys are going to the Saloon to grab a bite to eat before they come by," he continued. "Why don't you head on over there now?"

"What about you?" JD asked.

"Bring me a burger when you come back," Chris said.

"Okay." JD grabbed his coat and headed for the door. "See ya later."

Chris dropped into the plastic chair by the bed and studied his undercover agent. Farrell and Kendrick were chomping at the bit, anxious to interrogate Ezra, and it was all he could do to keep them away until the man woke up. Chris wanted answers as much as anyone else, but he wasn't willing to risk his agent's life to get them. Farrell and Kendrick didn't have such qualms.

Then there was the matter of Vin. AD Travis had told him of the sharpshooter's threat to quit if Ezra lost his job, and while he admired the man's loyalty, he didn't want to lose him. It would be bad enough losing Ezra, if it came to that, but to lose Vin as well would be devastating. The team simply would not function with two missing men. Chris sighed and leaned back in his chair. He was beginning to feel like the captain of a sinking ship.

* * * * * * * * * *

Chris hung up the phone and rubbed his temples.

"What now?" asked Vin, who was sitting across from his desk.

"Kendrick and Farrell are going to see Ezra tomorrow," he said with a sigh. "They found out that he got the breathing tube out this morning and they didn't waste any time in harassing Travis."

"Shit," Vin swore. "Nothin' you can do to stop 'em?"

"Nope," Chris said with a shake of his head. "Travis stalled them as long as he could, but they threatened to go over his head, so he had to give in."

"You know what time they're gonna show up?"

Chris shrugged. "I don't know."

"I want to be there," Vin said. "Ez shouldn't have to deal with those assholes alone."

"Can't be helped," Chris said, shaking his head. "Travis ordered us to stay out of their way."

"Goddammit!" Vin jumped up from his seat and began to pace. "He ain't in no condition to deal with that shit."

"I know," Chris said quietly. "But there's nothing we can do about it."

"I'm gettin' damn sick of hearin' that, cowboy," Vin said angrily.

"And I'm damn sick of saying it," Chris replied sympathetically. "Look, we can't do anything about Kendrick and Farrell tomorrow, but we there might be something else we can do."

Vin cocked his head slightly. "I'm listenin'."

"Farrell and Kendrick will be out of the office while they're talking to Ezra, right?" Chris said.

"Yeah, so?"

"So, that means they won't be around to stop us from questioning Hanford's lackeys," Chris said with a sly grin.

A smile slowly spread across Vin's face. "That's the best idea I've heard all day."

* * * * * * * * * *

He was running... being chased. His pursuers were faceless, but he could hear their mocking laughter in his ears. His breath came in heavy gasps as he struggled to escape. But they were gaining on him. He could hear them calling his name, getting closer with every step...


Ezra opened his eyes and blinked in confusion.


Turning his head, Ezra found Vin leaning over him, a look of concern on his face. It had been a dream. He breathed a sigh of relief that turned into a series of hacking coughs, sending renewed pain through his midsection with every breath. Finally, the attack subsided, and Ezra leaned back wearily into his pillow. By now, the others in the room had surrounded his bed, eyeing him worriedly.

"You okay?" asked JD anxiously.

Ezra nodded, then looked around in confusion. "What..." he began hoarsely. "What are you doing here?"

"Where else are we gonna be?" JD asked.

"You gave us quite a fright, brother," Josiah said with a smile.

"Hell, Ez," Vin said with a grin. "We're just makin' sure you keep your sorry butt in bed. Don't want you scarin' anyone, lookin' like that."

Ezra swallowed nervously, unsure of how to handle this unexpected display of concern. He certainly didn't deserve it after betraying all of their plans to Bradley. How could they even stand to be in the same room with him?

"Can you tell us what happened?" Chris asked.

Ezra met Chris's eyes, then looked away, afraid of what the other man would see in his face. Sensing his dilemma, Chris gestured silently for the others to leave the room. The others quietly filed out, but Vin stayed behind, determined to lend his support.

"Well?" Chris prodded.

With a soft sigh, Ezra turned to the blond man, defeat showing clearly in his eyes. "Bradley..." He paused, reaching for the cup on the nightstand, which Vin promptly snatched away and filled from the pitcher that stood beside it. Nodding his thanks, Ezra took a sip before continuing.

"Bradley came to my apartment last Thursday and..." He trailed off, looking at them curiously. "What day is it?"

Chris shared a look with Vin before answering, "It's Thursday afternoon."

"Oh," Ezra said dazedly, surprised that so much time had passed.

"So what happened Thursday?" Vin said.

"Um, Bradley dropped by for a visit," Ezra said. "He invited me to dinner but I was not feeling well enough to go out, so he offered to fix me a drink." Ezra grimaced in disgust. "It seems he slipped me the proverbial mickey, as I recall nothing else until awakening in that dismal room."

"What room?" asked Chris.

"Bradley and his... associates are using an old nightclub near the south side of town," Ezra explained. "They locked me in a room and..." he looked down, rubbing his arm unconsciously. "Bradley gave me some kind of drug in an attempt to elicit information regarding any pending operations against himself and his associates."

"We found the vials in your pocket," Chris said. "Forensics analyzed them. One was a sedative and the other was a variant of sodium pentothol."

Ezra smiled bitterly. "Well, whatever it was, it apparently worked. Bradley assured me that I provided him with quality information regarding the two previous attempts to apprehend him."

"Shit," Chris muttered.

Vin saw the self-loathing in Ezra's expression and squeezed his shoulder in support. "Not your fault, pard."

"And just how do you presume that?" Ezra said with a snort. "I am supposed to be a trained agent, and yet, Bradley and his band of miscreants were able to drug me, not once, but three times, without my knowledge. It doesn't speak very highly of my abilities, does it?" He clutched his chest as another coughing fit began.

"You couldn't have known, Ez," Vin continued, once the coughing had abated.

"I should have," Ezra said softly. "He's my cousin. Of all people, I should have seen what he was really like."

"Hate to break this to you Ez, but you ain't perfect," Chris said with a smile.

Ezra glared at him, not convinced.

"How'd you get your face busted?" Vin asked, feeling that a change of subject was needed.

"Bradley's associates weren't convinced of the efficacy of the drugs this time around," Ezra replied dully. "It appears that my cold medication interfered with their first attempt to procure information. They decided to try another form of persuasion."

"Looks like you made them do a lot of persuading," Vin observed.

"They did seem to enjoy their work," Ezra agreed with a grimace.

"Well, you don't have to worry about them anymore," Chris said. "We have them locked up downtown."

"Bradley?" Ezra looked at him, a question in his eyes.

Chris looked at the floor, then slowly back to Ezra. "I'm sorry, Ez. He refused to surrender. Nelson had to take him out."

With a pained look on his face, Ezra looked away, nodding silently. Bradley had always been proud and stubborn and wouldn't give up on anything he believed in without a fight. It was a shame that he couldn't have believed in something worthwhile.

"His pals are saying you gave up the info willingly because you were one of them," Chris said quietly.

Ezra turned to him, his eyes flashing with indignation. "I will not even dignify that with a response. "

"Don't have to convince me, pard," Vin said supportively.

"Thank you, Mr. Tanner," Ezra said gratefully. "To think that I could be one of those murderous reprobates is utterly preposterous. If I was indeed a part of their nefarious scheme, why would they feel the need to drug and incarcerate me while they attended to their business?"

"It's going to take more than that to convince IA and the Feds," Chris reminded him.

"Ah yes, guilty until proven innocent," Ezra said acidly. "The story of my life."

Chris sighed and ran a hand through his hair. "Ez..."

"Spare me, Mr. Larabee," Ezra interrupted. "As I told you before, this is quite familiar to me."

"We're doing what we can," Chris said lamely.

"I'm sure you are," Ezra said dispiritedly, not believing it for a minute.

"We got some more bad news, Ez," Vin said hesitantly.

Ezra turned to look at him, apprehension evident his expression. "What now?"

"Kendrick and Farrell are coming to question you tomorrow," Chris stated bluntly.

"Wonderful," Ezra said sarcastically, leaning his head back and closing his eyes.

"They won't let us be here with you," Vin said apologetically.

Ezra shrugged. "It won't matter, Mr. Tanner. They won't believe a word I say anyway."

Vin shook his head, not knowing what else to say to the depressed undercover agent.

Chris frowned. It might have been a result of the illness or the pain medication, but he couldn't remember ever seeing Ezra's face so open. The emotions he was feeling shone plainly for all to see, and Chris no longer doubted what he said. The man was a good actor, but he wasn't good enough to fake out both himself and Vin – not in his weakened condition. The problem was that IA didn't care about emotions. They cared only for facts, and right now, the facts pointed straight to Ezra.

"You're giving up?" Chris finally said. "That's not like you, Ezra."

"How would you know?" Ezra retorted.

"I know you're too damn stubborn to let an asshole like Farrell walk all over you," Chris said pointedly.

"Yeah, and Kendrick couldn't find his ass with both hands and a flashlight," Vin added. "You gonna let him beat you so easy?"

Ezra cocked an eyebrow at him. "Colorful, Mr. Tanner."

"But true," Chris said with a grin.

With a sigh, Ezra said wearily, "I suppose I ought to give them a run for their money."

"That's the spirit," Chris said.

"This ain't over, Ez," Vin said reassuringly. "Me and Chris are gonna see if we can't shake the truth out of those assholes they got in custody tomorrow."

"While the cats are away, the mice will play," Ezra quipped, feeling the faint stirrings of hope. If anyone could pry the truth from those two miscreants, it would be Larabee and Tanner. They were quite the formidable pair during interrogations. They rarely raised their voices, but still managed to intimidate most of the suspects into revealing all they knew. He wished he could be there to see it.

"You got that right," Vin agreed, his eyes twinkling mischievously.

"Then I shall attempt to keep them occupied to allow you the time you need to question the miscreants," Ezra said with a hint of a smile.

"Don't strain yourself," Chris warned. "You're still sick."

"It will be a pleasure, Mr. Larabee," Ezra countered. "Not a hardship."

"I'll bet," Vin said with a laugh.

"We'd better get back," Chris said. "We still have some wrap-up to do on Arbella."

"Hang tough, Ez," Vin said encouragingly.

"I shall endeavor to do so, Mr. Tanner," Ezra said.

"Good," Chris said.

Ezra watched them leave with mixed emotions. Why were they helping him? Even if they believed his story, he was still responsible for leaking information. They might be able to keep him out of the clutches of IA and the FBI, but nothing could free him from the guilt he suffered. If Bradley and his friends had succeeded in getting their hands on the weapons they planned to buy, many people would have been endangered simply because of the color of their skin or the religion they practiced. Ezra shuddered to think about how many lives might have been lost as a result.

Bradley was dead. His Brotherhood had been damaged, but would probably survive. Groups like that always seemed to live on, despite the efforts to eradicate them. Ezra wasn't happy that Bradley was gone, but he was thankful for the end of his racist activities. He shook his head sadly, wishing that his cousin had had the chance to experience the world, as he had. Perhaps then, he might have grown up to be more tolerant and accepting. Ezra sighed. He never thought he'd see the day that he would wish his childhood upon someone else. Maybe it hadn't been so bad after all.

* * * * * * * * * *

"Shit, Larabee. You're gonna get me in trouble," the man complained.

"Come on, Mac," Chris urged. "I wouldn't ask if it wasn't important."

FBI Special Agent Bob MacGregor looked at his old friend and sighed. "Yeah, I heard about Standish. Is he really worth all this trouble?"

Chris's expression hardened. "He's one of my men," he replied coolly.

MacGregor needed no further explanation. He knew from past experience that Larabee was loyal to a fault and would risk everything for 'one of his'. Looking at Tanner, who stood beside his boss, he could see the same look in his eyes. It figured that Larabee's boys would feel the same way as their leader.

"All right," MacGregor conceded. "But you'd better make it quick."

Chris nodded and slapped him on the shoulder. "Thanks, Bob. I knew you could help us out."

MacGregor snorted and led them to the interrogation rooms, where he would bring Hanford's men, Sam Connor and John Phillips. "Just don't damage them, okay?"

"No problem," Chris said.

After a short phone call, the prisoners were led into one of the rooms, and MacGregor shivered when he caught a glimpse of the predatory look on Larabee's face as he looked at them. It made him glad that he was on this side of the wall.

Chris entered the room and sat calmly across from the two men. "Hello, boys. I hear you've been telling quite a story about my agent."

The men looked at one another and then back at Chris.

"We only said what happened," John said confidently.

"Oh really?" Chris gave them a feral smile. "That's not what Agent Standish tells me."

Sam looked at John nervously. Standish was still at the nightclub, wasn't he?

"In fact, I think you two might have something to do with the condition he's in right now," Chris stated calmly.

"Don't know what you're talkin' about," John said defensively. "Standish gave us all the info we asked for, him bein' Bradley's cousin and all. He supports our Cause."

Vin, watching from the other side of the two-way glass, frowned at that statement. "Bullshit," he muttered under his breath.

MacGregor looked at him, unsurprised at the hard look on his face. He and Larabee were like two peas in a pod, right down to the ferocious glare they could bestow on deserving bad guys. That glare was going full force now, directed at the two criminals in the room, who were currently flinching from an identical look from Larabee.

Chris tried every tactic he knew, but the men weren't budging from their statements. Frustrated, he stomped out of the room, his fists clenching and unclenching by his sides. "Goddamn sonsabitches!" he growled. "I feel like belting the truth out of them."

"Maybe they are telling the truth," MacGregor offered, only to step back under the force of the fierce gazes being directed at him. "Okay, maybe not," he said lamely.

"Let me try," Vin said quietly.

Chris looked at him, then shrugged. "Go ahead. We've got nothing to lose." He and MacGregor watched as Vin strolled into the room casually and slouched into the chair in front of the men.

"You boys are gonna tell the truth, now," Vin stated matter-of-factly.

"We've been telling the truth," Sam said defiantly.

Vin smiled, then leaned over and whispered to the two men.

Chris frowned when both prisoners' eyes widened and they began to stutter nervously.

"You can't!" Sam pleaded.

"Yes, I can," Vin said pleasantly.

"But...." John trailed off as he looked into the sharpshooter's face. He swallowed anxiously, then said, "Okay, we'll tell you."

"It was Bradley's idea," Sam said. "He said his cousin was too much of a boy scout to give us anything voluntarily, so he got some drugs to do the job."

"Yeah," John agreed. "We saw him do it. The guy never knew what was goin' on."

"Were you the ones who beat him up?"

"Uh," Sam looked at John again.

John sighed. "Yeah, that was us."

Vin smiled. "Good. And you're gonna tell Farrell and Kendrick all the details, aren't you."

Sam bobbed his head eagerly. "Yes, sir."

"You ain't gonna...." John trailed off.

"Not if you tell 'em everything," Vin said.

"We will," Sam said.

"You never saw me or my friend, got it?"

"No problem," John said, relief evident in his voice.

Vin turned and faced the mirror, grinning broadly at the two men on the other side before he left the room as nonchalantly as he had entered.

"What the hell did you say to them?" Chris demanded, once Vin had re-entered the observation room.

Vin chuckled. "I just told 'em I'd spread the word in prison that they were child molesters unless they told me the truth."

"Shit, you do that and they'd end up being punks for half the prison population," MacGregor said, knowing that such offenders were not thought of very highly by the rest of the inmates.

"Yeah, and punching bags for the other half," Chris agreed, laughing out loud.

"Damn, you play dirty, Tanner," MacGregor said appreciatively.

"It worked," Vin said with a shrug.

"Come on," Chris said. "Let's go tell the guys the good news."

MacGregor chuckled to himself as they left. Things were never dull when Chris Larabee was around.


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