The B52's "Love Shack" emanated from Vin's computer. All seven drew on the unarmed computer. Once they recognized the lack of threat, they re-holstered their weapons and grinned sheepishly at each other. Except Chris. The black thundercloud over his head kept them from outright laughing. Chris started the anti-virus program and joined the rest around Vin's screen. It blinked 'Open Desk Drawer'.
Inside, Vin found a toy gun in bright blue and a joystick. He wondered how she unlocked the drawer, and then accepted it for now. When he saw her, they would have a talk about respecting privacy. Then he changed that; he broke into her office too many times for him to get upset about her violation. He connected the joystick.
The screen changed, a new logo flashing, "Shoot here to Start". He fired and a virtual town appeared on the screen.
The mechanical female voice said, "Your assignment: shoot the bad people without shooting the good, or getting distracted. Use the joystick to move and the gun to shoot." A male body appeared on screen with Vin's face, the picture taken from his official file.
Vin started the course, his left guiding his alter ego and his right primed and ready. An unarmed Harper waved at him as he passed. He held fire.
"Should have shot her," muttered a still agitated Chris.
"That's why ya ain't playing." Vin double shot, or double tapped, a bad guy when he cautiously turned the corner. Two more appeared in the windows only to 'die' immediately.
A group of college students streamed past him and a 'friendly' ran past him with a wave. The friendly wore JD's picture. Vin held fire.
"Thanks for not shooting me."
"That's sick, putting us in the game." Buck grumbled.
"I got her rhythm down. One of y'all will appear before a group of friendlies. She'll appear before the bad guys. Like now."
A Harper waved before three men with automatics forced Vin behind cover. He eliminated them quickly and then a young couple breezed past on bicycles, as Ezra and Buck facsimiles played cards on a porch.
Harper danced through the street, letting Vin killed a sniper on a nearby rooftop. Turning the corner, he spied Nathan and Josiah on the steps of the church. A blond Harper blew a kiss, just before ducking out of sight. The world opened to a desert, three desperados firing the second he peeked. He took cover behind large rocks before targeting and firing. With them eliminated, he glanced around at the rider coming near, weapon ready.
"This is my game, Chris. Don't do anything," Vin warned, knowing what she did before the rider arrived. Lo and behold, astride a black horse, dressed in unrelieved black, duster blowing in the breeze, sat Chris Larabee. He held up a sign, "You win." The printer gave them another round.
Dixie blared from Ezra's speakers. "Dear Lord, what now?" moaned the undercover operative.
= = 7 = =
"It's time for the poker play-off! Step right up, place your bets, and toss in your ante! Guaranteed winner every time!" The carnival barker on the screen, complete with white and red striped shirt, black arm garters, black bow tie, handlebar mustache, and loud microphone in his hand, only complimenting his story.
"I shudder to think of what she plans for me." Ezra sat in his chair, while the others crowded around. He hit the large button marked 'Play' and the background changed to the simulated green felt of a poker table. A button appeared that flashed 'Bet', so he did. The next button said 'Deal'. Ezra used the mouse to receive his hand - a pair of aces, an eight, a three, and a four.
"Dear Lord," he muttered.
"What?" asked JD.
"Dead man's hand," replied Buck.
"I fear you are correct." Ezra discarded the eight, the three, and the four only to get another ace and two more eights dealt back to him. He sighed, the screen slowly disintegrating to skull and crossbones.
"Let's cook some bacon!" The scream came from the speakers. The screen changed again and showed a video game. It was a demonstration showing virtual pigs blowing up and squealing the entire time.
"Someone end my misery now."
"Shut up, Ezra, and play. I did it, you do it." Chris held one hand on Ezra's shoulder, just as the Southerner went to stand. "Sit."
"Stay." Buck added while laughing.
A large button appeared reading 'Start the Carnage'. It flashed and Ezra reluctantly used his mouse to click it.
The monitor screen filled with hundreds of tiny pigs spinning in circles and running all over the screen. With a sigh, Ezra lined the crosshairs over one and clicked, causing the pig to explode. It squealed in protest. The ones he missed grunted and snorted at him. He continued to do so until the timer ran out, pleased at his high score.
The computer thought differently. "Sorry, pard, but you can't win that way. Have to do better!"
"Ez, I'll play if you want. That looks fun." JD offered.
"No, Mr. Dunne, I must face this fate alone." With all the dignity he could muster, especially for someone forced to blow up virtual pigs, Ezra sighed and started his next run. He beat his previous score by a significant amount and again the computer thought him lacking.
"Sorry, pard, but you suck! Try again to redeem yourself!"
Ezra detested someone saying he 'sucked' at something. It always made him strive harder to prove them wrong. He hit play and this time his mouse danced across the pad, racking up an impressive total of 'cooked bacon'.
The computer announced, "Not bad, do it again."
"I tire of this."
"Finish it, Ezra, so the rest of us can get back to work."
The Southerner sighed at the leader's directive. "Yes, sir." He groaned, with a mock salute in Chris' direction. He went to start the game again, planning to annihilate as many pigs as possible. Ezra continued the massacre, this time scoring an impressive number, so focused on his task he tuned out the gulps, swallows, and sighs of the men behind him. When he finished, the computer totaled his score.
"Congratulations! You killed 119 pigs. Sixteen were named Larabee, Twenty-five named Wilmington, thirty-two were named Jackson, twenty were named Dunne, and twenty-six were named Tanner." A graphic charted his kills, with each of the team's faces heading the columns. The printer spewed out Ezra's gift certificate.
"Well, I sincerely hope you gentleman do not take umbrage at my skill with the mouse, in this blasted game that she-devil forced me to endure."
"Ezra, don't ever let me see you with a fully automatic gun in your hand." Buck walked away shaking his head.
"Ya scare me, Ez. Didn't ya see the letters on the pigs?"
"No, Mr. Tanner, I did not. I focused on taking them out to finish the round."
"Yes, Mr. Sanchez?"
Nathan lowered his head and sighed when the sounds of sirens blared from his computer. "I'm not playing."
= = 7 = =
"Here, Ez, fix your computer." JD handed him the disk while they focused on Nathan's system. Ezra shook his head sadly and complied.
Facing the inevitable, Nathan dropped into his chair and stared at the screen in dismay. 'Ambulance Race' appeared in bouncy red and blue flashing script. When Nathan hit start, the graphics changed into the top view of an ambulance looking over the roof onto the road.
"You, a kind and brave soul, are the driver of this ambulance. You must race the rest of the rush hour traffic to the destination of the patient. One hundred points will be given for a successful, accident-free transport from the start of the call to dropping off the patient at the hospital. Fifty points awarded for arrival at the patient's location without an accident. Fifty more points awarded at the hospital accident free. You are on a clock. Fifty points will be deducted for each accident and if you are transporting, any accident doubles the deduction to one hundred. Good luck and safe driving!"
Nathan sighed, positioning himself reluctantly on the arrow keys as instructed on the screen. He started the race, barreling the ambulance down the familiar streets of Denver, until the first citizen cut him off, fittingly driving a yellow VW bug. He swerved to avoid it, managing to stay on the road and continuing on to the call.
He arrived safely, the patient showed as an "x" in the back, and he took off again for the hospital. This route he could drive in his sleep, because he spent enough time there. Once at the hospital, the "x" left the roof of the ambulance, but the next call appeared.
As he drove off, Nathan continued driving until a Dodge Ram pickup appeared behind him, both of them running with their lights. A blue light flashed in the front of the Ram and it tried passing the ambulance.
"I'll kill her," Chris muttered under his breath.
"Hush up." Nathan snapped, fully involved in keeping the ambulance from having an accident. The Ram cut to the shoulder to try passing him, so Nathan tried to let him, but the shoulder narrowed just as they drew abreast. Nathan expertly dodged the Ram and let it pass him. His quick reflexes saved him when the Ram slammed on the brakes to avoid the car ignoring the lights at an intersection. "Mm-hmm. That's about how you drive, Chris." The ambulance skidded to a stop.
"No, it's not."
Buck snorted over Nathan's shoulder. "Pard, just admit ya can't drive."
"Like you're a prize, Buck."
"Better than you. At least my insurance rates are lower."
"Y'all shut up, I can't concentrate," Nathan told the assembled agents without looking away from the screen.
He picked up his patient and started for the hospital, only to see a Chevy pickup swerve into his lane and nearly take out the side of the ambulance. The reason for the distraction was the row of cheerleaders lining the sidewalk, as the pickup continued operating erratically.
"She has your number, Brother Buck."
"Shut up, Josiah."
"Truth hurts, doesn't it?" teased JD.
Buck reached over and gave JD a noogie, before refocusing on the game. He accidentally hit Nathan and the ambulance bounced into the pickup. "Damn it, Buck, watch it."
CRASH! Explosions lit the screen and sparks flew when the two vehicles collided; the pickup swerving off, but recovering, and then disappearing down a side street. One hundred points disappeared from Nathan's total.
"Sorry, Nate." Buck backed off and dragged JD with him, giving the protesting kid a good-sized wedgie, before returning to the group.
JD punched him before fixing his underwear. Buck only laughed and looked back at the game.
The pickup was gone and while they watched, Nathan arrived at the hospital, but his timer was slowly winding down. He needed to make up some points. Taking off for his next site, Nathan gave the ambulance more gas, dodging through the traffic with little difficulty. When he arrived, he received his fifty points, then headed for the hospital with his patient. As he drove, he got behind a Suburban that crawled. It changed lanes whenever it felt like it and would not pull over for the ambulance.
Josiah huffed. "I would pull over immediately."
Ezra replied, "Once you realized it was there."
Josiah raised his eyebrows.
Nathan answered the question without turning around. "Come on, Josiah, we know you. You listen to your music, or ponder something and don't pay attention to everything around you. It would take you a minute to realize."
"Do I?" Josiah rubbed his chin thoughtfully.
"Yup." Vin agreed. "I've followed ya often enough ta know."
The ambulance finally made it around the Suburban and reached the hospital. Nathan hurried to pick up the next patient. This time, the problem came from a high-speed motorcycle weaving in and out of traffic. It changed lanes, seemingly never looking at surrounding traffic, nearly slamming into the side of the ambulance.
"Uh-huh." Nathan observed. "Just like JD on his donorcycle."
"Oh, come on, Nathan. I don't drive like that."
"Sure you do, Kid." Chris agreed, affection obvious in his tone.
"No, I don't."
With a sigh, Ezra tried. "Mr. Dunne, you drive that contraption at high rates, never looking when you are changing lanes. This behavior applies to both your personal transportation and that provided by our employers."
"Do too." Buck returned.
"Do not." Shove.
"Do too." Push.
"Boys!" Nathan finally shook the motorcycle and dropped off his latest patient. "I'm trying to drive here."
Buck responded by shoving JD into Vin, who in turn fell into Chris. Chris pushed Vin back into JD, and Vin turned around and clocked Chris.
"Don't hit me, cowboy. I'll hit ya back again, and harder."
"You and what army, Tanner?"
"Cowboy, ya know I can kick yer ass."
"Pack a lunch."
"Either of you gentlemen care to back up your boasts?"
"What did you have in mind, Ez?"
"Tonight's little soiree with Instructor Harper."
Vin and Chris considered each other, before holding hands out and shaking.
Nathan sighed, as he watched a black Jaguar cut off his ambulance, the Jaguar operating at a high rate of speed. Suddenly, the road closed down to one lane, without warning for construction, causing the Jaguar to slam on the brakes. Nathan rear-ended the car and practically drove over it.
CRASH! The entire screen showed an explosion. Tires and debris flew through the air to land on the sidewalk.
"Ezra!" Nathan yelled.
"I am perfectly innocent in this endeavor, Mr. Jackson."
"She must have watched y'all drive, because she has you right on."
"Please control yourself, Mr. Jackson. It is only a game."
Nathan nearly did something uncharacteristic and flip Ezra the bird, but he needed to regain all the points he lost. Concentrating on the game, he picked up his next patient and started hauling for the hospital, taking a few more chances, but getting there in one piece. The clock continued ticking down, as he picked up his next patient.
This time he played chicken with a battered jeep. The jeep weaved back and forth in front and behind the ambulance, never interfering, but swinging too close and nearly sideswiping the ambulance. Now truly into the game, Nathan shouted, "Damn it, Vin, you need to learn how to drive."
"I ain't drivin' that jeep, Nate."
"You could be."
Josiah chuckled loudly while Vin groaned. Nathan dropped off the last patient, finishing with a positive score, and the printer kicked out his certificate.
The computer's speakers announced, "Congratulations! You did it! You are now certified to drive with Team Seven!" Applause filled the room from the tiny speakers.
Nathan fed the computer the anti-virus disk and let it go to work, sitting back and stretching.
"Okay, show's over, let's get to work." Chris strode for his office and closed the door.
Not finished with them, every computer screen went blank, as the speakers engaged once more, "You may have won, but you cannot hide." Demonic laughter filled the room before the lights flickered off for three seconds. They returned and everything appeared to return to normal. Or whatever passed for normal.
Ezra looked around conceding. "I will admit she possesses a modicum of talent."
Those were the last words said, because the leader's door opened and the deadly glare said it all. Six agents quickly returned to work.
Team Seven found their way to the locker room, changing during the arrival of a number of Agents present for the afternoon's self-defense class and recertification. When they finished, the Seven met Harper inside the large room.
"You are early. Excellent." Harper smiled at them.
"Figure you're dead." Chris gave her a grin that did not reach his eyes.
"Really? So, my having a pulse, breathing, and free will does not count as alive?"
"You know what I mean." Slowly, Chris advanced on her.
Harper considered him with a feral smile. "Do you want to be smeared into the mat in front of all the others? I would have thought you had enough humiliation on Monday."
"I'm not your punch dummy, Harper. I'll gladly kick your ass all over the place."
"You're not MY punch dummy, Chris, you're the class punch dummy. Thank you for volunteering."
"Tanner, you're going to take Harper's place." Chris never looked over at Vin when he said this.
"I'll kick yer ass fer fun, Larabee, and I won't even break a sweat." Tanner continued stretching out. "I'll beat Roxanne, then I'll mop the floor with ya after class."
"Yeah, right, Tanner." Chris scoffed. He shook his head, wearing his infamous smirk.
"Agents, please prepare yourself for the assaults. Agents Wilmington and Tanner, you'll be assisting me with the demonstration part of it, so you can forgo the padding."
"Hello, Harper." A blond vision walked in, her toned body dressed in a leotard and tights. With platinum blond wavy hair, a deep dark tan, green eyes, and an extremely toned body.
Harper smiled in welcome. "Hello, Roxanne. I believe you remember Agent Wilmington?"
"Hi, Buck. Ready to go one-on-one with me again?" She smiled, dimples showing.
"Hi, darlin'. And no, not me tonight. That will be Junior, here." Buck patted Vin on the back.
Vin elbowed Buck. "Vin Tanner, ma'am. Pleasure to meet you."
"Call me Roxanne." They shook hands. "Hope you don't take it personally when I beat you later on."
"Always welcome a challenge, ma'am." Vin grinned, his blue eyes twinkling.
"Good." Roxanne faced Harper. "I'm doing what?"
Harper said, "Ground fighting okay with you? I would like Agent Wilmington to handle the general, and Agent Tanner to help with unarmed combat."
"With pleasure. Agent Larabee, I understand you're one of the suckers. Will you be part of my group?"
"Yes, he will." Harper smoothly interjected before he could answer. "Since his skills are strongest there, I would like him to make it difficult on the students."
"No, Harper, I don't have a problem with that. Thanks for asking." Chris's voice carried a heavy note of sarcasm.
She blatantly ignored him, to the amusement of those present. "Agents Dunne and Jackson, please assist Agent Tanner with the unarmed combat. Standish and Sanchez, you will be assisting Agent Wilmington. Your purpose is to take the hits, but you will make it very hard for the student to overcome you. I'll leave the organization of the sections to the respective person in charge, and when you think someone's ready for examination, call me over. Any questions?"
There were none, and the students started filing in. They took one look at their dummies and several of them smiled. Once the group completely assembled, Harper called the roll, and then brought the students into the center for a warmup. After the warm-up, she gave a quick speech.
"Okay, everything you have heard about me is true. I will not deny any of it, unless it is blatantly false. I am a witch, and many people will attest to that. I will also demand you give your best today, because you may find yourself in a fight for your life, and I do not allow coasting in my classes. You can't coast in real life. You will earn your passing grade. Comments about my methods can be directed to the appropriate source, and I will be more than happy to answer any questions."
No one said a word.
"Continuing, if you do not pass this class, you will be placed on light duty until you do pass. That is not negotiable."
A few people groaned.
"Too bad. Adjust. You will be tested in three areas - the general, unarmed combat and ground fighting. I have volunteers to assist me in preparing you for the examination, and I have volunteers willing to take a few hits. More than a few hits."
There was some scattered laughter, quickly quelled under Harper's stern look and the glare from the leader of Team Seven.
"Let me make this very clear. Intentional abuse of the volunteers will result in a failure of this refresher. No potshots allowed. No front of the face, no fractures, and no hospital trips. This area is not the time or the place for you to settle any grudges or take free shots at the darlings of the building. Am I understood?"
She waited until they nodded or acknowledged her.
"Good. We'll split up into three teams; you will work on those skills, be certified by me, and then move to the next group. This will take as much time as needed to certify all of you. Any questions?"
No one asked a thing. Harper split them into the groups, and it went quicker than she thought, because the people realized that the sooner they finished, the quicker they left.
Once the last student exited, Harper locked the facility and faced the dummies. "Thank you very much, everyone, for making that one of the smoothest classes yet."
Various forms of 'you're welcome' came back to her.
"Now, if I understand this correctly, Vin and Roxanne want to have a go at each other."
"Didn't realize it progressed that far that fast." Buck quipped, stepping back out of Vin's range.
"Sparring partners, Wilmington, before I put your face back in the mat again." Roxanne smiled at the rogue.
"Before or after you kiss me?"
"She ain't interested, Bucklin."
"Can't blame a guy for trying."
"Can we get this going?" Roxanne motioned with her hands.
"Take center, then. Do you want this timed or, until the first one taps out?"
"Timed, best number of tap-outs wins."
"I like her thinkin'."
"Okay, fifteen minutes then."
Vin and Roxanne lined up in the center, waiting for the signal to begin. Once they started, the combat flowed freely back and forth, neither one taking the advantage in the beginning. Both caused the other to tap out twice, and Vin managed, after a prolonged combat, to cause her to tap out for a third just as their time limit ended.
"Well done." Roxanne accepted Vin's hand up, and they bowed to each other, and then to Harper.
"Impressive. So, Standish, how much did I lose?" Harper smiled at Roxanne, happy to turn over her money. Roxanne acquitted herself well, and the Instructor was pleased with the combat itself.
"What you wagered." Ezra was counting money with a large grin.
"Let it ride. I'll call a draw between Chris and Vin."
"You don't think I'll beat this whelp?" Chris said to her, smirking the entire time.
"Hell, Larabee, ya need a road map ta find the fight." Vin grinned. "Bet on me, Harper, and I'll make ya some money."
"Riding on a draw."
"Let me get my money in on this." Josiah reached for his wallet in his bag.
The others bet, Ezra signaling Harper when they were finished.
"Timed combat, most tap outs wins. Gentlemen, are you ready?"
Chris and Vin slowly circled each other on the mat, nodding to her.
The fight started with the two friends circling each other, studying for a weakness. They grappled in the center, both trying for the advantage, but Vin refused to allow Chris to take him to the mat.
Everyone knew that Larabee held the advantage in ground fighting, and Tanner was more effective on his feet. So they predicted, in properly hushed tones, that Chris would try to get Vin down on the mats, and Vin would do everything he could to keep Chris on his feet.
For the first minute, that was exactly what happened. Then Chris got sick of it, and he tackled Tanner to the ground. After a prolonged rolling session, Chris gained dominance and pinned Vin. Vin tapped out, and they reset the combat.
This time, Vin used a series of blows to Larabee's legs and arms, pushing him around the mat. The blows continued to draw strength from Chris, and he started sweating as he kept trying to avoid the hands and feet that seemed to be everywhere. Finally, Vin punched through Larabee's defense and used his weight to put the man onto the mat, rolling him into a cradle and making him tap out.
That tied it at one apiece.
They faced each other, smirks on both their faces, as they circled. Chris went for the tackle, and Vin neatly dodged, sending his friend to the mat on his face. Two heartbeats later, Chris was pinned. Again. He tapped out, and they resumed the ready position.
Smarter now, Chris made Vin take the first move, and he managed to turn it against the wiry man, spinning the sharpshooter around and jumping on his back, creating his own pin on the Texan. Vin tapped out.
They knew the start position by heart, and retook it. This time, it was a prolonged battle of hits and punches, kicks and dives, which kept both men circling the mat from one side to the other. Just when it appeared that they were completely tired out, Harper stepped forward.
"Standish, I would call that a draw - two each."
"We gotta settle this, Harper." Vin looked at her with a pleading look.
"Sorry, but I have someplace I have to be. I will set it up later, but I just do not have the time to spare right now. Hit the showers, boys - you stink."
After Ezra paid Harper, they made plans to meet at the saloon for drinks, courtesy of Harper. She promised she'd see them soon enough, and they changed and showered in the locker room.
Little did they know that Harper cleaned up with Roxanne's help, and finished setting that day's practical jokes in motion. By the time they dressed, the plans were carved in stone and ready to go.
= = 7 = =
Team Seven left the Training Complex a little weary after being punch dummies and temporary Instructors for four hours, in addition to the separate matches after the class left. All they wanted was a good beer, a good meal, and a good bed, not necessarily in that order. They trudged to their vehicles and stopped to stare.
It took a moment, but then they realized something was wrong. Something was very, very wrong. Seven men with identical looks on their faces stared at each other, mouthing, 'The Harpy Struck Again'.
Chris flatly said. "She's dead."
"Uh-huh," Nathan agreed.
"We have been gotten but good, brothers."
"I'm gonna make her pay," mumbled Buck.
"I ain't driving my Jeep like that," Vin declared.
"Damn!" was all JD could say.
"MY CAR!" Ezra wailed. "SHE WRECKED MY CAR!"
One by one, they surveyed the damaged left behind by a demented Harpy.
Buck's sweetheart, his Chevy pickup, sported a banner on the front saying 'Breast Man'. Two lumpy protrusions stuck straight up from the roof of his truck accompanied by a blowup doll in the front seat wearing a black lace teddy.
Nathan's sedate SUV sported bright orange, four-inch wide stripes down both sides with his name in silver lettering on both sides. A sign hung on the back window: Honk if you feel fine.
Josiah's Suburban was no longer one single color - it was divided into five exact stripes running from the hood over the top, down the roof, and going all the way down to his bumper. Each stripe was of a florescent, burn the eye color that could be looked at for two seconds before turning away.
Vin's jeep received particular attention in the form of balloons, streamers, and flags. The roll bar held bright red streamers wrapped completely around it, while blue streamers weaved through his rims. Two large flags hung from the top of the roll bar - a giant yellow smiley face and the second showing a Harpy in full flight. His antennas sported balloons in red, blue, and yellow tied along the entire length of them, and his hood was decorated with another smiley face in some type of water-based paint. He only hoped it was water based paint. On the front quarter panel was a saying: HARPY WAS HERE.
JD's motorcycle now sported a florescent pink gas tank with fuzzy pink seat covers and saddlebags. A pair of dice hung over the windshield and his helmet proudly wore dingle berries. There was no way he would drive that home, but the alternative was just as bad - getting into a truck with breasts on the roof.
Chris looked at his Dodge Ram and fumed. On top was a black cowboy hat the size of the roof and a large saddle sat on a sawhorse in the bed. A pair of longhorns complete with skull graced his grill. While he looked at the grill, he saw his license plates were gone and replaced with a vanity tag.
COWPOKE! The woman signed her death warrant.
Ezra's Jag went too far. Gone was the sleek black machine everyone expected; in its place was a smashed up, severely damaged wreck. Only Ezra's license plate escaped intact; every window was gone, all the lights broken, and the metal twisted into unrecognizable shapes.
As each man examined his personal property, they each found a note in the driver's seat. Saying nothing, they read it before looking at any of the others.
Buck's said: A bold statement for a bold man.
Nathan's said: It's the end of the world as we know it...and I feel fine.
Josiah's said: Tam exanimis quam tunica Nehru fio. (Translated: I am as dead as the Nehru jacket.)
Vin's said: Have a nice day.
JD's said: Dude, it's like, radically pink, okay, man?
Chris' said: Enjoy your new tags and read what you sign next time.
Ezra's said: Take this key to the truck parked at the end of the street and open the back.
As they stared at each other in shock and smoldered, a highly pissed off Southerner stormed to a big truck parked just outside the garage at the end of the street. The rest of the team quietly followed, still holding their notes. Ezra reached for the heavy padlock and the key provided unlocked it for him. As he opened the doors, the rest of the Seven took a defensive posture, not knowing what to expect. Inside the truck was a polished, buffed, detailed Jaguar. A familiar looking Jaguar with no tags.
A man stepped out from behind the Jag. "Hi, don't shoot."
Ezra leapt into the vehicle and shoved the man into the side of the truck. "What the hay-ell is going on here?"
"Damn, she said you would be pissed off," the man commented.
"Mister, you know something, tell it now," Chris warned.
Ezra shoved the man to the tailgate and Vin pulled him down none-too-gently.
The man held both hands away from his body. "She paid me to switch the Jags from the wrecked one to this nice one. Told me to move the tags temporarily and wait for y'all. She didn't say nothing about y'all trying to scare the piss outta me."
"This is my Jag," Ezra said after examining it.
"Sure is...she paid to have it detailed for you too. Paperwork's in the front seat next to an envelope for you."
Ezra reached into his car and found the envelope, ripping it open. A small collection of words sprang out at him in bold type: GOTCHA! YOU DID NOT SEE THIS COMING. He could not help it; he started laughing.
"Ez, ya wanna let the rest of us in on this?" Vin still held the driver pinned against the bumper of the open truck.
"Let him go, Mr. Tanner. I fear I have been had," he said with a smile.
The driver nodded. "Yeah." He explained for everyone else. "She's a friend of my boss and she borrowed that totaled Jag as a joke; I'm supposed to switch the cars back now."
Vin let him go and pondered if he ever would go this far for a practical joke, and then decided he probably would if provoked enough.
They helped the driver switch out the two cars and replace the tags on the correct Jaguar. Before the driver left, he handed them another envelope. Chris took it this time and ripped it open.
Like I said earlier, drinks are on me at the saloon.
"You better hope I don't find you, Harper." Chris stalked to his truck, ripping the horns off the front.
The rest of the team cleaned the worst off their vehicles before driving to the saloon.
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