Author's Notes: This story came about after I read that Buck was an explosives expert in his ATF Guidelines dossier. Hope you like it!
"Dammit, JD, stay back! I'm not gonna tell you again!" Buck Wilmington was very good at what he did. However, he could do it a lot better if there wasn't someone breathing down his neck. "If this thing goes off before it's supposed to, you're right in the line of fire!"
"Alright, alright, I'm moving." JD Dunne stepped back to the area the Buck had previously designated as safe.
Buck's concentration never left his task. His sure, nimble fingers had no difficulty carrying out the job he'd assigned himself.
JD's attention was riveted on his partner. Before he realized it, his footsteps were slowly taking him back to Buck's side. He couldn't help it. It was absolutely fascinating, watching the man at work. For a guy with such big hands, no one would've guessed that he could so easily manipulate the delicate mechanism of the device before him.
JD knew that Buck had credentials up the wazoo certifying his skills at all things bomb-related. It was one thing, knowing it in theory. Seeing him in action was an altogether different story.
Buck spoke as he worked. The words actually aided his focus, rather than providing the distraction it would to most other folks. He'd been explaining his actions, step by step. "I ain't lyin', and I ain't boastin'. I'm just stating a pure, simple fact. The ladies got the right of it when they talk about my skilled hands. You gotta treat a trigger mechanism the way you would a lady: soft and gentle, but sure."
His tongue made its way to the corner of his mouth, somehow seeming to aid in his concentration. "Nowadays, you got all kinds of fancy trigger mechanisms: electronic, remote-controlled, timers, you name it. However. . ." he paused for a moment, having reached a most delicate part of the operation, before continuing. "There's something to be said for a plain, old-fashioned spring trigger. As long as it's a decent spring mechanism, you tighten down enough on the sucker and it's gonna pack a powerful wallop once the tension is released."
"If the person you're looking to take out comes on it unawares, and opens the door, or in this case, drawer, with his usual lack of caution, 'Blam!' he's history." Buck stepped back a minute, wiping away a stray droplet or two of the sweat which had accumulated on his forehead.
"Anyway, 'nuff said about triggers. The next thing you gotta consider is the payload. If you want to be particularly nasty, shrapnel is always a good thing to include. Me, I'm a simple kind of guy. With the relatively small reservoir we've got to work with here, a simple solid or liquid will do. If you go with the liquid, there's always the possibility that a stray drop might be left behind, warning your target. I guess that's sort of true with the solid, too, but, in my book, less likely. That's why we're looking at a powder, here." As he spoke, he slowly tapped a white substance into the cuplike holder of the device.
Catapult armed and ready, he slowly slid the top drawer of Vin Tanner's desk back into place. He stood back and surveyed the area, reassuring himself that not a trace showed of the work he'd done here today. He breathed a sigh of satisfaction. "That long-haired, sneaky, low down dirty weasel of a Tanner is going to learn that you don't mess with Buck Wilmington." Buck rubbed his hands in satisfaction as he returned to his desk.
JD trotted admiringly behind. "Remind me never to get on your bad side."
The fellow members of Team Seven who were in the room were thinking the same thing. At the moment, Josiah, Nathan and Ezra were doing a pretty good imitation of the three monkeys that see no evil, hear no evil, and speak no evil.
For his part, Josiah kept his eyes glued to the report in front of him. When the shit hit the fan in the form of one very irritated Vin Tanner, he wanted to be able to truthfully say that he'd seen nothing.
Nathan wished to remain neutral in the ongoing battle. He had no desire to make himself the target of Buck's amazingly inventive wrath.
Ezra Standish had been feeling that wrath for the past two weeks. It all started when Buck's admirable juggling of two different stewardesses had come crashing down around his ears. For the past several months, Buck had been skillfully balancing his dating of the two ladies so that neither knew of the other's existence. As Buck had explained, "Cathy and Cara are a mite more possessive than the usual girls I date. But, believe you me, they're well worth the trouble."
Buck's blissful existence had come to an abrupt end when both ladies turned up at the saloon on the same day at the same time. One of them had been invited by Buck; the other had not. Cara was supposed to have been in Florida, leaving Buck plenty of time for romancing the voluptuous Cathy. However, Cara's flight had been unexpectedly cancelled. Someone at the office had told her where to find Buck that evening. The resulting fallout when the two girls had met was not pretty. It left Buck with two less girlfriends, as well as a bad case of injured pride.
The next day, finding himself suddenly dateless, he had devoted his considerable detective skills to discovering who had ratted him out. By process of elimination, the circumstantial evidence had left him with one name: Ezra Standish. The man had vehemently proclaimed his innocence. "Mr. Wilmington, I assure you that you are quite mistaken in your belief that I would endeavor to make any effort whatsoever to involve myself in the convoluted acrobatic activities of the enamorous exercise of your love life which you are at such pains to rub everyone's noses in."
Buck decided that Ezra was a bit too eager to protest his innocence, as well as a tad jealous. Deciding that the man's words and tone of voice convicted himself, Buck set out to seek revenge on the bastard who'd caused him to be dateless on a Friday night. He could've rounded himself up another gal, but that was not the point. He'd had a good thing going with Cathy and Cara. At least, until Cara's parting kick left him wondering if he'd ever be able to father children.
His first return strike had been subtle, but effective. He'd set his alarm extra early, so that he'd been at the office before any of his other teammates. He'd gleefully attacked the base of Ezra's swivel chair, then sat back to enjoy his revenge.
Ezra liked things quiet when he worked. Nothing annoyed him more than the continuous clicking of a pen, or the tapping of fingers, or Buck's humming, when he was trying to complete a report. Therefore, he was surprised as well as irritated when he sat down at his desk that morning. As soon as he settled himself in his chair, it gave out the world's most god-awful annoying squeak.
The more he shifted, the more the chair squeaked. He glanced around the room, fuming. He'd been the last man in to work. All of the other chairs were occupied, so there was no chair available to swap out for his. As the morning progressed, he quickly decided that the noise was intolerable. He flipped his chair upside down, hoping to see the cause of the problem. When nothing revealed itself, he ended up exchanging his chair for one of the conference room chairs. Unfortunately, his new chair did not fit his desk. Therefore, he spent the rest of the morning perched on the edge of a non-swivel chair, until the blessed relief of a case took the Seven outside of the office.
The next day, Buck found that his chair had been replaced by Ezra's. He initially was going to fix it, but decided that it would be more fun to watch Ezra squirm every time Buck moved. Besides, if Buck hadn't been the one to boobytrap the chair, he wouldn't know how to fix it, would he? He smiled evilly to himself, listening to the steady "squeak-squeak-squeak." Buck's torture of his teammate continued for most of the morning, until Josiah approached.
"Buck, you must be deaf as a post not to be affected by that squeaking chair. However, you're driving the rest of us nuts. Move your ass, and let me either fix the thing or throw it out the damn window." Buck noticed the relief on his victim's face once the problem had been dealt with. He decided that Ezra had not suffered nearly enough.
The next day, Buck again made sure that he got into the office well before Ezra did. Last night, he'd made a trip to the local toy store. The result was sitting on Ezra's desk: a stuffed rat.
Ezra observed the furry creature, certain that his initial suspicion that Buck had tampered with his chair had been correct. He suspected that the stuffed animal may, itself, be boobytrapped. Therefore, he carefully held his wastebasket to the side of his desk and prodded the animal with a pen until it landed in the trash receptacle. Ezra worked in his customary quiet, until he went to get something from his desk drawer. A high pitched squeak assaulted his ears as soon as the drawer was opened. Convinced that it was coming from his trash bin, he hauled the wastebasket over to Buck's desk. "I believe that you lost something."
Buck looked up, his face the perfect picture of innocence. "Huh? Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't that your wastebasket?"
Ezra frowned. "I was referring to the stuffed rodent." So saying, he upended the contents of his basket into Buck's.
Buck looked on, then commented, "If there's anyone is this office who has a pet rat, I'd be betting that it was you."
Ezra stalked off, wastebasket in tow. "Speak for yourself."
The silence lasted for a whole fifteen minutes, until Ezra again had to retrieve something from his desk. No sooner had he opened the drawer, than the shrill "squeak" again assaulted his ears. The sound was coming from the desk itself! Thoroughly incensed, he removed the desk drawer completely. There, in the back, was the squeaker mechanism from the stuffed toy. It had been removed and placed within the desk so that every time the drawer opened, the mechanism was triggered. Ezra shook his head, amazed and appalled at the lengths to which some people would go for a prank.
It would be different if he'd been guilty of informing Cara as to Buck's whereabouts. However, he had not. He'd believed Cara when she'd said that she'd called Buck at the office. She didn't know who answered the phone, but whoever it was had informed the young lady that Buck was not available. If she wished to see him, she was informed that he would be at the saloon at seven o'clock that evening.
Uncertain if Buck's revenge had been satisfied, Ezra decided that it was time to do a little detective work to ascertain the identity of the true informer.
Things were quiet for the rest of the week. However, next Monday morning Ezra was concerned when he noted a squeaking sound coming from the right front side of his beloved Jaguar. What was most annoying is that the problem was intermittent. He quickly made an appointment with his local mechanic. Chris was understanding, and allowed Ezra the time off to tend to his vehicle. An hour later and fifty dollars poorer, Ezra's mechanic informed him that the squeaking had been caused by a small amount of grit which had been trapped beneath the wheelcover. When Ezra found himself wondering if Buck had deliberately sabotaged his vehicle, he decided that it was time to devote his remaining free time to clearing his name.
It was surprisingly easy to do so. He had the advantage over Buck, knowing himself to be innocent. As he considered and eliminated each of his teammates one by one, he was left with one person with no alibi: Vin Tanner. Once he had a name, motive was no problem. He recalled an incident a month or so ago, in which Buck had sabotaged Vin's oreo cookie stash. He'd removed the filling, replacing it with toothpaste.
Vin had no trouble figuring out who'd done it. Buck was laughing his ass off as soon as he took the first bite. "Who-o-ee, Vin, you should'a seen your face. If that ain't a sight to curdle your cream!" Buck was practically rolling on the floor, tears of laughter streaming down his face.
Once Vin had finished rinsing out his mouth and spitting, he'd eyed his teammate with a deadly glare. "You just wait, Bucklin. Payback's a bitch."
Now, as to whether or not Vin had known that Buck would be escorting Cathy the evening that Cara called, was debatable. He could have, in all innocence, simply have been trying to help out Cara by informing her of Buck's whereabouts. Nevertheless, Ezra had his man. His next task was to convince Buck of the fact.
That evening, he paid a visit to Buck at his home. Buck was surprised when Ezra showed up on his doorstep. "Mr. Wilmington. I'd like to speak with you privately, and I figured that this was the best way to do so."
Buck's greeting was friendly enough. He gestured for Ezra to take a seat, as he grabbed a couple of beers. Offering one to Ezra, he stated, "JD's out on a date, so's you can feel free to say what's on your mind. What's up?"
Ezra hesitated, wishing to make peace between the two of them, but needing to know the answer to his question. "Mr. Wilmington. . . Buck, please don't take offense at my question, but I need to know if you had anything to do with my car trouble earlier today?"
Buck's total bewilderment was enough of an answer for Ezra. He believed Buck, when he protested, "Your car? Hell, Ezra, I know you love that damn thing like I love the ladies. You ought to know I'd never touch it. What was wrong, anyway?"
Ezra shared his mechanic's findings, adding, "With all the irritating noises that have recently entered my life, you shouldn't be surprised at my suspicion that my current problem was no accident."
Looking guilty, Buck replied, "Well, I'm sorry about that. But, you gotta realize, I was really hurt at the way Cathy and Cara broke up with me." He crossed his legs, remembering a particular ache in his groin. "Hurt in more ways than one. It just burns me to think that one of my friends set me up."
Ezra refrained from commenting on the fact that Buck had set himself up by dating two women at once, and expecting that neither would find out about the other. He was, after all, here to arrange a ceasefire of hostilities. "I'm sorry that you mistakenly believed that I was responsible for that unpleasant confrontation." Ezra leaned forward, making eye contact with his friend, trying to emphasize the sincerity of his words. "Please believe me when I tell you that I am not the one who spoke with Cara."
Buck returned Ezra's look, then leaned back, sighing. "I believe you. I just can't figure out who else could've done it. Somebody owes me, big time."
Ezra gave a slight smile, expecting that his next words would cheer his friend. "Actually, after a bit of detective work, I believe that I've found the answer to that particular question." Ezra paused, giving Buck's anticipation the chance to build. Finally, he continued. "It was Vin."
Buck echoed, "Vin?" Ezra could see Buck working it out, as he repeated, "Vin." Then, more certainly, he stated, "Shit. Vin. Of course. I forgot all about the cookie thing, and his threat. I should've known. It's the quiet ones you gotta look out for. That scrawny, sneaky little so-and so. And, letting you do the time for his crime. I owe him. Big time. And, I aim to collect."
When JD returned home that evening, he was surprised to find Ezra visiting. Buck and Ezra filled him in on the reason for his visit, as well as his revelations. JD promptly offered his assistance with whatever form of revenge Buck had planned.
Ezra took that as his cue to leave. "If you gentlemen will excuse me, I'd like to be able to honestly say that I didn't have a clue as to the fate that's going to befall Mr. Tanner. Good night." He gave a slight shudder as he considered the possibilities, and took his leave.
The end result was Buck and JD's just completed visit to Vin's desk. Vin was closeted with the DA, giving a deposition. Chris was in his office, doing his usual song and dance with whoever was on the phone. While Buck anxiously awaited Vin's return, he could hear Chris's voice raised in anger. Buck knew what was coming next, and was not surprised at the crashing sound which drifted from Chris' office.
JD looked up, his face a combination of excitement and enthusiasm. "What's that? The third phone he's wrecked this month?"
Ezra corrected, "It's only the second. I'm still betting on four." With Chris's well known talent for destroying office equipment, Ezra had begun a betting pool as to how many telephones Chris would destroy in the course of the next month. Buck had wagered two; JD, three, thus explaining the boy's interest in the answer to his question.
A minute later, hurricaine Chris stormed out his office, heading straight for Vin's unoccupied desk. Buck began to get a little nervous as Chris took a seat, making himself at home as he picked up the phone.
Chris cursed to himself. He hadn't meant to wreck another phone; especially, not in the middle of a conversation. However, he'd been angry enough that it was better than the alternative: saying something that would've gotten him fired. Now that he'd had a minute or three to calm down, he needed to call AD Travis back. He headed for Vin's desk, the only one with a phone that was currently unoccupied.
"Hello. Chris Larabee here. I'm sorry, we got cut off somehow." As he spoke, he realized that he'd left his office without pen or paper. He scowled at Vin's immaculate desktop. His hand reached for the top drawer of the desk.
Buck saw the motion, but it was too late. He hollered, "Chris! No!" even as his trap was sprung on the wrong victim.
JD stared, his mouth hanging open. The catapult had worked amazingly well. Buck had aimed the thing so that the full impact would be directed at the occupant of the desk chair. Unfortunately, that occupant happened to be Chris. JD's feet were taking him towards the door as soon as the first curse words began to fall from Chris's mouth. Buck was already ahead of him.
Chris was blinking through the white fog of flour which surrounded him. He vaguely reflected that he'd just hung up on AD Travis again, as he futilely wiped at the white flour which covered most of the upper half of his body. When the fog cleared enough that he could see, he saw Buck and JD making a hasty exit. He now had a target for his anger. "Buck! JD!"
At the sound of Chris' voice, Buck and JD put on a burst of speed and were quickly lost from sight. Buck was laughing as he ran. "Whoa, that worked better'n I thought it would! Did you see the expression on Chris' face?"
JD laughed along with him. "What expression? All I could see was flour!" JD suddenly stopped laughing, as he realized what his instinctive flight reaction had cost him. "Aw, hell, now Chris is gonna think this is all my fault, me running off with you like this."
Buck, still laughing, said, "Hell, no. He knows me better than that. Wish I'd 'a had a camera." Buck shook his head. "Too bad that couldn't a been Vin. Well, we'd best be lyin' low for a bit, here."
While Buck and JD headed off for parts unknown, Chris stopped at Josiah's desk. Josiah was hard pressed not to laugh at the cartoonish figure standing in front of him. The only spot on Chris' face not covered by flour were his eyes, which he'd instinctively closed. He looked like he was wearing a mask.
The laser-like glare of the eyes facing him convinced him not to laugh, especially when Chris said, "Gimme your gun."
Josiah raised his hands, knowing that Chris wasn't serious. "Now, hold on there just a minute. I don't think shooting Buck or JD is gonna solve anything."
Chris agreed. "No, but it'd make me feel a hell of a lot better. I swear, I'm gonna kill 'em both."
With impeccable timing, Vin chose that moment to walk through the door. As soon as he saw Chris, he couldn't help himself: he burst out laughing. His laughter was quickly silenced when he heard Chris say to Josiah, "Gimme your gun."
He was quick to offer his apologies. "I'm sorry, Chris, I didn't mean anything by it. But, if you could see yourself. . ." Chris' "if looks could kill" expression caused Vin to stop in mid-sentence. "What the hell happened?"
Chris walked up to Vin, who was blocking his exit. "I was stupid enough to sit at your damn desk, and triggered a trap that was obviously meant for you. Now, get the hell outta my way, so I can clean up. Then, I'm gonna kill Buck and JD." Chris stalked out the door, a faint cloud of white powder following in his wake.
Vin immediately sobered up, realizing two things. One, he was extremely glad that Chris had saved him from being floured. And, two, Buck had finally figured out who'd been the one to talk to Cara. Although he hadn't known that Buck already had a date with Cathy, Vin couldn't find himself too upset by the outcome. He didn't think Buck was being fair to either woman, knowing that they wouldn't want to share his affections. And, too, now that both women were free, Vin had a date with Cara for this coming Friday. He'd have to make sure that Buck didn't find out. He looked around the floured office, shaking his head. Nope, that was one secret he intended to keep to himself for as long as he could. Feeling a little guilty, Vin set to work cleaning up his desk.
Ezra had watched the entire scene unfold, fascinated. He turned to Nathan. "How long do you expect Mr. Larabee to be angry with our missing team members?"
Nathan answered, "How many days in the week? How many weeks in the month? How many months in the year?"
Josiah added, "I suggest that we keep weapons out of his reach until further notice, just in case."
Buck relaxed when he realized that he and JD weren't being followed as they made good their escape.
JD fretted. "What are we going to do?"
Buck cheerfully replied, "I hear Alaska is nice this time of year." Buck put the truck in gear, smiling as he recollected the flurry of flour he'd left behind. He began to sing, "Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow."
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