The Road Not Taken

by Heather M


Chris fired his name into the telephone so fast it was unintelligible to the caller.

"Am I speaking with Special Agent Chris Larabee, Denver Office of the ATF?" asked the female voice on the other end of the line.

"Speaking, who the devil are you?" Chris shot back. He wasn’t even going to attempt to hide his foul mood.

"Sheriff Brenda Santiago, Cuatro Esquinas, New Mexico." If Sheriff Santiago was at all perturbed by the rudeness at the other end of the telephone, there was no indication of it in her voice.

"What can I do for you Sheriff?" Chris made a feeble attempt to moderate his tone of voice a little. It never hurt to be at least civil with the local PD’s, there was always the chance they might need their help some day.

"Agent Larabee, it seems that we have one of your men here."

"One of my men?" Chris stood suddenly at his desk and pressed the telephone receiver tightly to his ear. He did not want to miss a word of what Sheriff Santiago had to say.

"An Agent Josiah Sanchez," replied Sheriff Santiago.

"What in hell is he doing there?" demanded Chris. "Is he alive?" he asked as after thought. That sounded bright Larabee, he chastised himself silently.

"A little bruised and battered but he is very much alive," replied the Sheriff. "He was arrested at a local bar Saturday night for drunk and disorderly."

"Arrested!" Josiah? The last time he’d spoken with Josiah was early last Thursday morning when he’d telephoned to let Chris know he was taking a couple a personal days. It wasn’t out of the ordinary, Josiah occasionally asked for a day or two off at the last minute, especially if he needed the time for his sister Hannah. But that was the last time any of the team had heard from Josiah and that was nearly a week ago.

"Are you still there Agent Larabee?" inquired the Sheriff after a long pause.

"I’m still here," snapped Chris.

"Agent Larabee, Mr. Sanchez has been somewhat uncooperative and there are charges pertaining to the assault of two of my deputies and damage to private property. I would appreciate it if you or your representative would come down here and meet with me personally."

"I can be in your office," he said checking his watch, it was 8:15 a.m., "By 6:00 p.m. this evening Sheriff." He was guessing. He had no idea where Cuatro Esquinas, New Mexico was.

"I’ll be gone for the day by then Agent Larabee. Mr. Sanchez won’t suffer unduly by remaining our guest for one more night. I’ll meet you in my office at 8:30 sharp tomorrow morning."

She sounded like she was preparing to end the telephone call. Chris wanted some details. "Sheriff, can you give me any specifics on what happened?" Chris asked, struggling to keep an even tone of voice.

"I’d prefer to discuss it in my office tomorrow morning, Agent. Good day."

Chris held the receiver away from his ear and blinked at it in disbelief. The woman just hung up on him! She telephones him out of the clear blue, tells him his missing agent is in her drunk tank and has been for the last three days and then she just hangs up on him. The bitch just hung up on me goddammit!

+ + + + + + +

Sheriff Santiago walked down the hallway past four empty jail cells to stop in front of the fifth cell, the "VIP suite," so named because the end cell provided the most privacy for its occupant.

"Mr. Sanchez."

"Yes Sheriff," the muffled reply came from the figure on the bunk. He was lying on his side with his back to the rest of the world.

"Mr. Sanchez, I’ve been in contact with an Agent Larabee in Denver. He’ll be here tomorrow morning."

Brenda Santiago heard the heavy sigh from the lone resident of the jail cells.

"I wish you hadn’t done that Sheriff."

"As pleasant as our little facility is Mr. Sanchez, it’s time you thought about leaving." Besides Mr. Sanchez, you’re obviously hurting and I haven’t a clue how to help you. Based on the growling at the other end of the telephone, there is someone in Denver who cares about you, maybe he can help you.

"Can I get you anything Mr. Sanchez?"

"No thank you, Sheriff."

Brenda Santiago pursed her lips, shook her head at the sadness in the big man’s voice and left him to his solitude.

+ + + + + + +

"Dammit! Dammit to hell!" Chris muttered to himself as another telephone ended up in pieces on the floor against the far wall. What the hell had Josiah gotten himself in to? He cursed both out loud and to himself as he ran over the events of the last two days in his mind.

When Josiah didn’t show up for work Monday morning, Nathan had voiced his concern. When lunchtime came and went and still no word from him, Nathan tried to contact him on his cell phone, the call went straight to messaging. The cell phone was turned off. Nathan left a message on the cell and then called Josiah’s place. Receiving no answer there either, he left the same message to have Josiah check in immediately with one of them. Certain that Josiah would pick up one of the messages no one thought any more about it until 4:30 rolled around and still nothing.

That’s when Nathan telephoned the residence where Hannah Sanchez lived. He discovered that there had been no concern with Hannah to call Josiah away from work the previous Thursday, but he had been in to visit with her Thursday morning. He had stayed about an hour and then left. No, he hadn’t left any special instructions as to where he could be reached if needed. That fact alone indicated Josiah hadn’t intended to be gone long. As the six worried friends left for home that night they assured one another that Josiah would be in contact with one of them before morning.

Tuesday morning came and as before there was still no word from Josiah. That’s when their search began in earnest. JD started a search through police report databases. Buck and Vin checked hospitals and, god forbid, morgues, for any John Does admitted since Thursday, matching Josiah’s description. Ezra checked travel manifests for air, train and bus travel. Nathan contacted impound lots, looking for one well used gray ‘82 Chevy suburban.

They found nothing. Zilch. Zippo.

Five friends were now very worried, the boss was down right grim.

Chris tried Josiah’s cell phone number from his office one more time before leaving for home, this time it rang before going to messaging, someone had turned the phone on. Hopefully that person was Josiah. But if he had, why hadn’t he answered?

Tuesday night had been a very long night for everyone. One of the professional pitfalls with working in law enforcement, is that you became well aware of some of the tragic things that happened to innocent people, either by accident or just by being in the wrong place at the wrong time…

Then came the call from Sheriff Santiago Wednesday morning. Chris’ worry was replaced with the momentary relief that Josiah had been found. The relief was quickly replaced with questions and renewed concern. What the hell had happened?

+ + + + + + +

Chris burst out of his office. One by one the team members hung up abruptly on their respective telephone conversations as each man caught the look on their boss’ face. JD pushed himself away from his computer screen and look up expectantly at his leader.

"I just got a call from a Sheriff Santiago in Cuatro Esquinas, New Mexico. Josiah is in a jail cell there," he announced.

For a second the room was absolutely still as each man took a moment to digest this bit of information. Then everyone seemed to react once.

"Mr. Sanchez is where?"

"In jail?"


"How’d he get there?"

"You’re sure?"

"Yeah, I’m sure," said Chris glumly. "The Sheriff knew everything. She gave me Josiah’s name, she knew he was ATF and that I was his boss. I just got off the phone with her, a real pain in the ass bitch, she wouldn’t say how he got there, only that he was arrested for D&D Saturday night."

"So what’s the problem?" asked Nathan. "D&D is usually overnight and a promise to appear."

"It’s a little more complicated than that." Chris as he ran his hand through his blonde hair, a now familiar worried gesture. "There are assault charges involving a couple of the Sheriff’s deputies as well."

Chris could see what his men were thinking by the confused expressions on their faces. Assault charges? Josiah? Gentle was the man’s middle name. Sure he could be rough, really rough if need be, it went with the job, but he was never rough without just cause.

"There couldn’t be more than one Josiah Sanchez, could there Chris?" asked JD.

"…in the ATF? I doubt it," replied Chris.

"Mr. Larabee, do you have reason to be suspicious of this Sheriff Santiago?" asked Ezra cautiously. Ezra rarely ever took anything at face value. Even now his mind was already working on other possibilities. "Could it be our Mr. Sanchez is not the perpetrator as we have been led to believe, but an innocent victim?"

Ezra’s tone of voice caused Chris to pause a moment before replying. "I don’t know, Ezra," he said slowly. "She seemed awfully anxious to get me off the phone and she stopped short of flatly refusing to give me any details of the arrest."

"It’s not like Josiah to go pickin’ fights in bars in the next state," said Vin, following Ezra’s line of thought.

"You three thinking we’ve got a situation here?" asked Buck, voicing their suspicions.

"We’re god damn well gonna find out," growled Chris. "I’m to meet with the Sheriff in her office tomorrow morning." Chris’ had that determined expression that the team knew oh so well, if something was wrong here, he was going to get to the bottom of it. He began dictating orders, "JD, Ezra find out everything you can about Cuatro Esquinas New Mexico, including where in hell it is and anything you can about the local Sheriff’s office, especially Sheriff Brenda Santiago. Nathan, Vin you’re with me. We leave as soon as JD and Ezra have something for us. Buck, you, Ezra and JD, are staying to mind the store and you’re in charge. Come into my office and I’ll bring you up to speed on the current cases."

"Hey Chris?"

"What JD?"

The kid cast a nervous sideways glance at the others. "Ahh, what happened to "we’re family, the whole sorry bunch of us."

"Whattaya mean?" asked Chris frowning at JD, those words sounded vaguely familiar to him.

"I think the rest of us should go too."

"You do, do you?" said Chris irritably, suddenly remembering where he had heard that phrase before. He didn’t much like having his words thrown back at him by the youngest member of the team.

"Yeah I do, "What affects one of us affects us all…" remember?" he said blinking rapidly as he peered out from under the dark hair that always seemed to need cutting.

Chris’ annoyance with JD melted. The kid looks like he’s gonna start bawling, Chris thought to himself. He frowned, confused by JD’s emotional reaction.

From the corner of his eye, JD could see Buck’s lips twitch as he fought to control a smile.

"The Kid’s right Chris." Buck he could see that JD was getting to his old friend.

"Your opinion is duly noted JD but the matter is not up for discussion," stated Chris gently but firmly.

"Chris I think we should all go…," Vin started to argue.

"Tanner, I’m the boss and the boss is the one who decides," said Chris sternly, "The decision’s been made."

"Mr. Larabee, you intend upon traveling out of our jurisdiction. One never knows what eventualities may arise that would require one of our unique individual talents." Ezra boldly waded into the argument as if oblivious to what Chris had just said to Vin and JD.

"I don’t recall asking for your input Agent Standish." Chris’ patience was beginning to wear thin.

"Chris, I’d feel better if we had the extra men."

Chris swung around to face the next challenger to his authority, his expression warning Nathan to be quiet, but Nathan continued on.

"It’s not like Josiah’s some wet-behind-the-ears rookie. We don’t know how he ended up in jail. You said yourself you felt the Sheriff wasn’t completely forthcoming. We have absolutely no idea what we’re facing here. I think the back up might be wise."

Chris held Nathan’s gaze for a moment. Nathan had a point, a damn good point. It was the sort of reasoning he’d come to depend on Josiah for.

Vin’s quiet voice could easily be heard by all six of them. "Face it Chris, ya might as well take us all ‘cause whoever you leave behind’ll just follow along anyway."

Chris threw an annoyed scowl at Vin, but his reply was directed at Nathan.

"You have a point, Nathan. I’ll call Travis."

With that, Chris disappeared back into his office swinging the door shut behind him.

There were a number of satisfied smiles exchanged as the five men turned their attentions back to the work on their desks and began preparations for their departure.

A minute later, JD picked up the pages both he and Ezra had run off the printer. He separated out Ezra’s work and carried it over to him.

"How’d I do Ezra?" JD asked.

"You did very well, Mr. Dunne. I was most impressed with your performance," complimented Ezra. "Might I suggest next time if you could manage a slight tremor in your voice or perhaps if it were to break with barely contained emotion…"

"Yeah, if you could make your chin quiver…," suggested Buck, "or maybe even a tear in the corner of your eye."

"I would disagree," said Ezra, "a tear would not be subtle enough. The personal battle to contain one’s emotions is always more effective than to give way to those emotions."

Nathan looked up from his desk, his expression confused. "Say what?"

"We are critiquing Mr. Dunne’s performance, Mr. Jackson." Ezra informed him.

Nathan could hardly believe his ears. "That was a performance?" He asked, fixing a wide-eyed incredulous look on JD.

"Well, ahh, yeah, uhm sort of," stammered JD, a little unnerved by Nathan’s reaction. "I really do think we all should go… don’t you?"

"Are you outta your mind JD? If Chris gets wind of this you’re a dead man." Nathan was astounded at JD’s recklessness.

"Mr. Jackson, you are over-reacting," scolded Ezra. "Mr. Dunne was merely taking the opportunity to practice some of the undercover skills I have been tutoring him in."

"Yeah Nate, you saw Chris’s reaction, the kid had him going." Buck grinned with pride in his younger counterpart.

Nathan looked at Vin appealing to him for support.

Vin shrugged, "I dunno JD," he said ruefully as he shook his head, "tuggin’ on the big dog’s tail is pretty risky business."

JD’s doubtful expression became one of worry. "Chris’d understand, wouldn’t he?" appealing to Buck for reassurance.

"Don’t you worry kid," said Buck, waving a dismissive hand in the kid’s direction. "I’m…, I’m sure it’d be fine…, just fine." Some how Buck’s words didn’t sound very reassuring.

JD starred at Buck for a moment as a horrified look crept over his face. He sat down heavily in his chair and dropped his head into his hands. "Oh god. What have I done?" he moaned.

Nathan shook his head in disbelief and turned his attention back to his desk. Lord help me! Josiah you have to come back and quick, I don’t like being the only sane one around here.

+ + + + + + +

Josiah, the Rock of the team, the agent he relied on the most, regardless of the situation. He trusted Josiah to back up the team more than anyone else on the team… including himself. If Josiah didn’t set an example and follow protocol how was he ever going get the others to?

Nathan, the Rock-in-training, Chris wasn’t too worried about him, he was well on his way to becoming some team’s solid, reliable, second-in-command someday, like Josiah was his. Buck and JD, joined at the hip, they at least attempted to follow procedure. He hoped they had enough sense between the two of them to keep themselves out of trouble or at very least, alive. But Vin… Christ, he was too used to relying on just himself, he wouldn’t think twice about going off on his own without a word to anyone if the conditions were right. And Ezra, as far as he was concerned the rules just didn’t apply to him…ever! How was he gonna keep those two in line now?

What the hell did you get yourself into Josiah? You’re the last member of this team I ever expected to have to mount a rescue operation for, including myself. You’re savvy enough, what could possibly have happened for you to end up in jail in "no place" New Mexico?

"Ya better let me take the wheel," drawled the Texan, his words abruptly interrupting Chris’ train of thought.

"What?" asked Chris, not having really heard what Vin had said.

"Ya better let me drive."


"You’re doin’ it again," replied Vin from the passenger seat.

"Doing what?" asked Chris irritably.

"You’re grippin’ the steering wheel so tight your knuckles are turnin’ white and clenchin’ your jaw so hard I can hear your teeth grinding all the way over here. I better drive if we’re gonna get there in one piece."

"I’m fine," stated Chris.

"Sure ya are, Cowboy," said Vin, his tone patronizing.

"Don’t call me that!"

"Mr. Larabee, perhaps we should consider taking a brief sojourn from our expedition to partake of a small repast in Santa Fe?" suggested Ezra from the back seat. "We have not paused on our journey since departure and as comfortable as I am sure your canine considers the rear seating in this vehicle, it is somewhat less kind to my personage.

"No, I want to get there," stated Chris stubbornly.

"Chris, starvin’ ourselves isn’t going to make a whit of difference to Josiah’s situation," argued Vin impatiently.

Vin turned his head to look at his friend. Even in profile the worry on Chris’ face was obvious.

"Hey pard, he’s alright," said Vin, attempting to allay his friend’s fears, "at least for tonight he is. Us gettin’ there any sooner won’t matter. The Sheriff’s office likely wouldn’t let us see him tonight anyway. Whatever else we might suspect, the way Sheriff Santiago’s dossier reads, sounds like she knows her business. He’ll be okay ‘til mornin’."

Chris tossed a quick sideways glance at Vin. He really didn’t want to stop, there was still more than five hours of driving yet, but it had been along time since breakfast.

"If nothing else Mr. Larabee," said Ezra, "might I suggest we interrupt our journey to redistribute the personnel between our two vehicles. Mr. Wilmington and Mr. Dunne should be separated if Mr. Jackson is to arrive with his sanity intact."

"Alright, we’ll stop," Chris relented grudgingly.

+ + + + + + +

Cuatro Esquinas was a small town a little more than three hours southeast of Albuquerque. The small community of 14,000 souls had two modest claims to fame.

It was home to a national monument, one of the many small churches that dotted the New Mexico territory. The church had been built over two hundred years before. It had been all but destroyed by territorial disputes and then rebuilt in the 1880’s by a local holy man. Legend has it he and six compatriots, some of whom were of dubious character, were the local law for nearly seven years. Stories abound as to the exploits of these seven men.

Cuatro Esquinas’ second claim to fame was that despite it’s size, Cuatro Esquinas High School had been to the state high school football championships three out of the last five years.

The local constabulary consisted of seven deputies, six men and one woman and Sheriff Brenda Maria Santiago. Sheriff Santiago was 37 years old. Born and raised in Cuatro Esquinas, she was third generation Sheriff succeeding her father, Bertram Santiago, after he retired in ’99 and her grandfather Bernardo Santiago. She was a graduate of California State University with honours in social studies. She had obtained her Masters in Criminology and after graduating from the police academy she spent six years with the LAPD. She returned home to Cuatro Esquinas in ‘97 to take a position as a deputy in the local Sheriff’s office. She was married to one Rod Dellandrea, vice-principal at the local high school and head coach of the football team, and they had three children. Her file with the LAPD had reflected solid police work and a bright future.

+ + + + + + +

"‘Morning Brenda."

"Good morning Hugh." Brenda Santiago looked up from the reports she was reviewing while sipping her second cup of coffee of the day.

"How’d the soccer games go last night?" he asked as he settled into the chair opposite his boss.

"They were good games, Leanne’s team won 2-1, Tammy’s lost in the last minute 3-2 and RJ scored his first goal."

"Way to go RJ," said Hugh, clearly pleased at the achievement, "I bet he was pretty proud."

"Wellll, not exactly," replied Brenda a little ruefully, "he scored on his own net."

"Ohhh, not good." Hugh grimaced at the news.

"His coach handled it really well, and at six years of age, it’s a tragedy that didn’t last long." After taking another sip of her coffee, "How’d the council meeting go last night?"

"The usual, lots of arguing, no resolutions." Hugh nodded toward the front door of the office. "You know they’re already out there waiting."

"I know," she replied setting her mug on the desk between them and then leaning back in her chair, "they’ve been there since just after 7:00. How long do you figure they’ll wait before they storm the place?" She asked with a wry smile.

"Eight oh one, right after they see Lundy come through the front door. Those city boys probably figure the town’s so small the Sheriff’s office doesn’t open for business until eight." Hugh lifted himself out of his chair, walked over to the window and peered through the half open horizontal blinds. "The one with the sour look on his face, you know, the blonde, he could be trouble. He looks about ready to bust down the door single handed right now."

"Yeah, I’m pretty sure he’s the one named Larabee, their leader. I think I understand how he feels though. If one of you were sitting in his jail cell, I’d have a pretty sour look on my face too."

"He brought enough of them along with him didn’t he?"

She got up walked over to stand beside her second-in-command. "Well, Hugh you never know what you might run across out here in the sticks. Injuns maybe," she teased.

He replied to her teasing with a broad smile, "…or worse yet, women lawmen."

She chuckled in response.

She and Hugh Soaring Eagle had both grown up in Cuatro Esquinas. He’d been a local high school football hero when she was in grade school. He could have made her life pretty miserable after she’d beaten him in the election for Sheriff, but Hugh was a spiritual man of great personal honour. He had seemingly endless patience and an intimate understanding of the various local peoples and politics. Hugh was skilled in wilderness survival and tracking, skills not taught in city police forces. Together they made a good team.

"When did they get in last night?" he asked.

"A little after nine according to Murla Spooner. Whitteker said she telephoned to report two suspicious vehicles with Colorado plates, pulling into the hotel parking lot while she was out walking Samson."

"Gossip, the communications marvel of the small town, faster than any metropolitan city call centre. I wouldn’t be without it," mused Hugh out loud.

"You and me both."

"All six of them," said Hugh thoughtfully, "Seems to me that the "brothers" he referred to care a lot about this man."

"Agreed," replied Brenda as her thoughts, once again, turned to the man in the jail cell.

Hugh left the window and walked out of her office, she followed him. "I think I’ll go say good morning to our guest, maybe he’s changed his mind about staying." He turned to walk through the security door that led to the jail cells.

"Good idea, it’s likely only ten minutes before they come marching in here. I’ll hold them off until you come back out."

+ + + + + + +

"You don’t suppose that officer is Sheriff Santiago do ya,’ asked Vin as he watched the comely sheriff’s deputy walk across the street in front of them and around to the side door of the Sheriff’s Office.

"Naw, too young and she doesn’t match Santiago’s LAPD picture at all,’ replied JD as he thumbed through the computer print-outs, "likely that’s Deputy Elena Palomas."

"JD control that stomach of yours," Chris ordered sharply.

"Sorry Chris," replied JD nervously.

Chris frowned and glanced sideways at JD.

"My stomach agrees with JD’s Chris. I don’t see why we couldn’t haven’t eaten breakfast, we haven’t had anything since Santa Fe last night," groused Vin.

"It’s a small town. We go to the only place in town that’s open to eat at this hour and some nosey waitress is sure to tip off the locals," explained Chris.

"Oh yeah, and like six strangers sittin’ half a block down from the local cop shop in two of the best lookin’ vehicles in town is gonna go unnoticed," countered Vin sarcastically.

Larabee’s only reply was to glare at Vin.

"I jus’ calls ‘em as I sees ‘em Cowboy."

"Don’t call me that!"


"Ezra wake up!"

"Why, pray tell, Mr. Jackson?" Ezra yawned and did not bother to open his eyes as he lay partially reclined in the right hand seat of Nathan’s Explorer.

"Chris may signal us to move in at any moment."

"Move in where and why?" drawled Ezra lazily.

"You heard Chris. He wants to arrive early for the meeting to throw Sheriff Santiago off her stride," replied Buck from the back seat.

Ezra sighed impatiently as he gave up on getting any rest. He straightened himself and brought the back of his seat upright as he replied. "Mr. Wilmington do you seriously believe that there is any one over the age of four in this dusty little backwater who is not already aware of our presence? General Schwarzkopf and half the allied forces of the Gulf War would be less conspicuous. I am profoundly disappointed in you gentlemen and Mr. Larabee in particular. It is painfully obvious to me that a seminar in undercover surveillance is desperately required."

"Really Ezra and just what would you do differently?"

"They knew we were coming Mr. Wilmington," replied Ezra impatiently, "or at least that someone was coming. We have an appointment for pity sakes. Why try to hide the fact that we are here? If we wanted to surprised anyone we should have presented ourselves upon arrival last night."

"Then what are we wasting time doing this for?" demanded Nathan impatiently.

Ezra’s voice became thoughtful as he replied. "Mr. Larabee takes the welfare of his men… our welfare, very seriously." Ezra’s gaze wandered across the street to settle on the other vehicle, without realizing it the other two men followed suit. "I suspect he is wondering if he has been neglectful as far as Mr. Sanchez is concerned."

"You’ve got a point there Ez," said Buck. "We all tend to think of Josiah as about as dependable as the sun rising and settin’. Is there something we missed that could have prevented this?"

"Exactly, I think this incident, as you would phrase it Mr. Wilmington, "has hit Mr. Larabee where it hurts" and I suspect Sheriff Santiago’s manner yesterday has only added to Mr. Larabee’s discontent in this matter. He is attempting to gain some degree of control over this situation, some sort of an advantage. It is the way he functions best."

"It isn’t helping any that Sheriff Santiago is a woman, Chris can be pretty… uhm, traditional about some things." Nathan couldn’t shake the feeling that this meeting wasn’t going to go well.

"Oh come on now Nathan. A woman Sheriff, is a woman first and a Sheriff second. Just give me thirty seconds with Sheriff Brenda to work the Wilmington charm and we’ll have no problem getting Josiah sprung…"

Ezra rolled his eyes heavenward, "Do spare us Mr. Wilmington."

+ + + + + + +

Brenda had followed Hugh out of her office to get herself another cup of coffee. The only place in town to get breakfast and a decent cup of coffee was the diner. Celia hadn’t called so it wasn’t likely they’d eaten yet. Trying to keep a low profile I suppose, it’s just not possible in a small town, boys.

Griff and Elena were seated at their desks, no longer even pretending to do their work. They peered through the horizontal slates of the window blinds at the strangers seated in the Ram truck and quietly speculated to each another about the strangers they were observing

"Sheriff are you sure, these guys are Federal agents?" ask Griffin Dunne, his tone skeptical. Griffin Dunne, who coincidentally, had the same last name as the young ATF agent, was an easy going young man in his mid-twenties. He had dark hair, was of average height, and solidly built. Griff’s family had lived in the area for more than a century.

"So I’m told Griff," replied the Sheriff. "Why do you ask?"

"They don’t seem professional enough for Federal agents to me Sheriff."

"What do you mean… professional enough?"

"Well Sheriff, from here I can see the three guys in the black Dodge Ram. There’s a blond man, about 40 I’d guess, sittin’ behind the wheel. Right about now, he looks like he could eat cactus straight-up and not even notice. But next to him there’s a hippie type…"

"Hippie type? Griff you’re too young to know what a hippie is."

"Well Sheriff he has long hair just layin’ loose all the way down to his shoulders."

The one named Tanner, she thought to herself.

"…and the third guy in the rear seat, I can’t see him too clearly but it looks like they brought one of their kids along."

John Dunne.

"Griff not all Federal agents wear dark suits and short haircuts like Mulder and Doggett."

"In my opinion Mulder and Doggett would be a big improvement to what I see here," huffed Griff.

Brenda had to smile at her deputy’s conservative outlook. Having spent more that fifteen years in L.A., not much surprised her anymore. To her knowledge Griff hadn’t traveled over the state line more that half a dozen times in his life. Experience would teach him.

"Can you see the other vehicle from here?" Brenda asked.

"Naw, but Elena walked right by them this morning on her way in," replied Griff.

"You did? What did you see?" asked Brenda leaning back against the front counter and sipping her coffee.

Elena busied herself with putting together another pot of coffee as she spoke. "There are three other men in a silver ’93 Ford Explorer. It’s parked further down and across the street from the truck we can see, in front Patsy’s Posies. There’s an African American man behind the wheel, I think he might have real nice eyes but it’s hard to tell right now ‘cause he looks really worried."

Sheriff Santiago, smiled into her cup at her deputy’s observations and continued with her mental checklist, Nathan Jackson.

"Beside him another fine lookin’ man with short brown hair with a bit of a wave in it."

Griffin Dunne rolled his eyes at the "fine lookin’" comment from his co-worker.

"He’s dressed real sharp, liked he stepped out of one the men’s fashion magazines Toni has at the Hair Den. He looked to be asleep when I walked by the truck."

Standish "Asleep?" queried the Sheriff a little surprised.

"Well, it looked like he was. Anyway, the third man looks to be really tall, maybe even taller than Mr. Sanchez. He’s real handsome too. He has dark hair, a big mustache, he gave me a real friendly smile when I walked by them."

…Number six, Buck Wilmington.

"You got all that just walking by them on your way in this morning?"

"Well, yeah Sheriff, the trucks are pretty fancy for local, and when I noticed they had Colorado plates, I figured they were here for Mr. Sanchez, I couldn’t help but notice the men waiting inside, not one of them is hard on the eyes.

"Speak for yourself," harumped Griff.

"Not bad Elena but it’s hard to match a description with information like "nice eyes," "fine looking" and "a friendly smile," " criticized the Sheriff gently.

"Well see for yourself Sheriff, not one of them’s a throw-away, not even "cactus eater" there."

Brenda smiled to herself again, with her blonde hair, her slightly too big bosom and the way she talked no one would ever guess Elena graduated in the top five at the police academy.

"I only meant, be more descriptive and less subjective in your observations."

"Yes ma’am."

Griffin Dunne was suddenly on his feet. "Sheriff here comes Lundy and here they come right behind him."


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