by mcat

Page 1 | Page 2 | Page 3 | Page 4

Present day
"I’ll get us a room for the night," Chris said, pulling into the motel parking lot and up in front of the office.

"We’ll wait for ya," Buck said as Chris got out of the truck. "And get something on the first floor!" he called out after him.

Chris gave Buck a backhanded wave in acknowledgement as he entered the office. A few minutes later he got back into the truck and handed Buck the paperwork. Looking into the rear seat, he saw that Vin was still out of it.

"He ain’t said a word," Buck answered Chris’s silent question.

"Got a room in the back," Chris said, starting the truck and backing it out of the space. "On the first floor," he added before Buck could ask.

"Much obliged, Pard’," he replied, absently rubbing his leg.

Chris looked into the rearview mirror and checked on Vin again as he drove to the rear of the building. He sighed, knowing it was going to be a long night.

One month earlier

"I don’t think so, Tanner," Chris said angrily, wadding up the piece of paper in his hand and throwing it into the garbage.

"Sorry, Chris, ain’t that easy. Besides, it’s on my computer. I’ll just print up another one."

"Like hell you will!"

"What the hell do you want from me, Chris?!" Vin shouted as he started to pace the office. "Ain’t I been through enough? I’ve been stabbed, beat up, shot, drugged and threatened on this job, with the last three happening in the past five months. My body can’t take no more, let alone my head! I got better things to do with my life."

"Since when?" Chris responded. "The Vin Tanner I hired, and busted my butt to do so, I might add, said that his mission in life was to kick some bad guy ass."

"That was before I got my own ass kicked too many times," Vin retorted. "I can take full disability on this, Chris, and I aim to."

"You’re chickening out."

"I’m gettin’ out while I’m still alive!"

"What about a leave of absence?"

"No, Chris," Vin said firmly. "I’m getting out."

All Chris could do was watch as Vin walked out of the office, grabbing his jacket and ignoring the pleading looks of the other men as he passed by them.

+ + + + + + +

"So young to quit. So much to do yet. So much to live for."

"Like them warriors you keep tellin’ me about?"

"Sacrifices made. Battles fought and won."

"Suicides, that’s what they were. Weren’t no battles, ‘cause they didn’t fight back. And they didn’t win, they died!"

"And how is what you are doing any different?"

"I fought! I done my best! And I ain’t killin’ myself, neither."

"Not in body. But what about in mind?"

"Why are you doing this to me?! Why do you keep coming here?"

"Choose for yourself and you choose for all," she said before leaving.

+ + + + + + +

Vin opened his eyes as the phone rang. Not making a move to answer it, he let it ring, and then listened as the answering machine picked up. He listened to his own voice as the message tape played and then winced as the high-pitched beep sounded.

"Vin, this is Doctor Preston. You’ve missed your third appointment in a row. I’m a little concerned. Agent Larabee told me you took a leave of absence. I wish you’d have consulted me; maybe I can help. Please give me a call, Vin. You know the number."

Vin closed his eyes again and sighed. He felt guilty. Doctor Preston had been good to him, and for him, over the past five months. While Vin had felt apprehension at first, when told he needed to see the psychologist in order to keep his job, the man soon put him at ease. Having been an ATF agent himself at one point, before pursuing his psychology degree, John Preston easily impressed Vin as someone that knew what was important and what daily challenges Vin had to face.

"And damn you, Larabee. I put in a letter of resignation, not a fuckin’ leave of absence request," he muttered.

Sighing once again as he rose from the couch, Vin walked to the door and picked up his duffel bag. He turned around and took a look around the small apartment before opening the door and leaving.

Present day

"Come on, Vin. We’re here. Chris got us a hotel room," Buck called softly to the man in the back seat, but got no response.

"Vin," Chris called, grabbing his wrist and giving it a gentle tug. "Let’s go."

Vin opened his eyes and climbed out of the truck without a fight.

"How do you do that?" Buck whispered to Chris, nodding toward Vin.

"Dumb luck," he replied tiredly.

Vin and Buck followed Chris into room number 12 after he opened the door. Vin went directly to one of the beds and lay down.

"Don’t you go to sleep on us yet, Vin," Chris said, pulling Vin up to a sitting position. "I want some answers. And I ain’t talking about that flashback, either."

Vin shrugged away from Chris’s grip to sit against the headboard and whispered, "It wasn’t a flashback."

Three weeks earlier.

"Vin? What’s going on?" the woman asked, placing a cup of coffee onto the table in front of him.

Vin sat for a moment more, his head resting on his forearms as he sat at the large kitchen table. Letting out a sigh, he raised his head and looked at the woman. "Better get yourself a cup of your own, Aunt Linda. This is gonna take a bit."

Already prepared, knowing her nephew’s ways, Linda Cloud placed her cup on the table and sat down.

"It all started about five months ago…"

+ + + + + + +

"When did my grandmother start to visit you?" Linda asked.

"Not too long after I got outta the hospital," Vin replied wearily. "But it was just in my dreams, then. She just showed up; made an appearance. Didn’t say nothin’ or do nothin’. Not until about a month or so later."

"Maybe she was preparing you. Making her real appearance less sudden; less frightening for you."

"Yeah, well, it didn’t work."

"Not every day you get to talk with a ghost, huh?" Linda laughed.

"Aunt Linda," Vin began and then stopped, running his hand through his hair, frustrated. "I just don’t understand why. Why me? I ain’t even blood! Hell, even by legal standards, I was just under your guardianship, not formally adopted."

"Vin," the woman interrupted, placing her hand on Vin’s wrist to calm him. "When your father married my sister, you both became part of our family. Just because we are not bound by blood, does not mean we are not bound by spirit. And Grandma knew it. She knew right from the start that you and your father were right for the tribe. Especially you."

"That why I always got the extra oatmeal cookies?" Vin asked playfully, his tension easing.

"Maybe," Linda answered, laughing. "But seriously, Vin. If she’s choosing to visit you, to show you these things, there is a good reason."

"Ain’t none I can figure yet. I swear; I feel like Luke Skywalker listenin’ to Yoda. Can’t make heads or tails of what she’s sayin’," Vin said, shaking his head.

Linda laughed at Vin’s comparison, knowing how true it was. "I was always waiting for her to call me "Grasshopper" when she spoke to me."

"You been visited by her, too?" Vin asked.

"Not in a while, but yes. She’s helped me through some tough times; like when Caroline died."

"I can understand that, Aunt Linda," Vin responded. "But what she’s been tellin’ me, what she’s been showin’ me… it don’t make any sense to me. It was bad enough when the damn drug was causin’ the hallucinations and flashbacks, but then, to add her visits and visions on top… hell… I couldn’t tell what was real, what wasn’t; what was good or bad… Still can’t."

Linda Cloud saw the frustration in her nephew and felt badly for him. She moved her chair closer to his and gathered him into a hug. "I know it’s confusing, Vin. And you’ve been put through hell. But Grandma knows this and she really is trying to help. You need to trust her; ride it out."

Vin nodded slowly, then asked, "Mind if I crash here for a bit?"

"You know you’re always welcome here, Vin," she said. "And besides, maybe being here, home, might clear some things up. At the very least, you look like you need the rest. You look like shit, you know."

Vin laughed. "Always were straight with me, Aunt Linda."

"Never could be anything but, with you," she replied. "Go on. You know where you can bunk," she added, giving him a kiss on the cheek as she picked up the empty coffee mugs and brought them to the sink.

"Thanks," Vin replied before heading down the stairs.

When Vin was out of sight, Linda let out a sigh. "I sure hope you know what you’re doing, Grandma," she whispered.

"I do."

+ + + + + + +

"Any idea where he went?" Buck asked, sitting down heavily on the couch.

"No, dammit," Chris replied angrily as he grabbed a couple of beers from the fridge.

"You’d think with LaSalle’s threat still hanging in the air he’d at least let us watch his back," JD mused, grabbing another pretzel from the bowl on the coffee table.

"I talked to his neighbor in the campground; he hasn’t been to the Vinnebago since before this all started. Vin told you he couldn’t go there, didn’t he?" Josiah asked, accepting one of the cold bottles when Chris returned to his living room.

"Yeah," he replied taking a seat. "Too close to Charlie; the flashbacks."

It had been a week since Vin gave Chris his letter of resignation, the one that Chris had thrown into the garbage. He’d told A.D. Travis and the personnel and payroll departments that Vin had taken a leave of absence. He even forged Vin’s signature on the paperwork in order to get things done, hoping to buy some time. Time to talk Vin out of resigning. Not that he could really blame the man.

Vin had been put through hell by Jared LaSalle’s attempt at revenge – dosing Vin with cocaine and LSD had been his payback for the ATF’s infiltration into his organization. In addition to the physical trauma the drugs produced, Vin also received a gunshot wound that even now wasn’t fully healed. And then there were the flashbacks…and LaSalle’s recent threat…

Chris wondered if he really was asking too much of Vin. He’d always thought of Vin as a strong man – both physically and spiritually – but did he overestimate his friend this time? Would he be quitting, too, if it had been him that was going through all this?

Nathan’s voice brought him back to the present, back to his ranch, where he and the other five had met after work to try to figure out how to help Vin.

"I thought Vin said he’d been handling them pretty good lately," he spoke up.

"I thought so, too," Chris replied. "I guess we were wrong."

"LaSalle’s threat didn’t help too much," Buck put in.

"Okay. So he’s not in Purgatorio, not at the Vinnebago, not here…" JD began counting off. "Where does that leave?"

"Oklahoma?" Ezra suggested.

"Well, if that’s where he is, then at least he’s safe among family," Josiah said.

"If he’s there," Buck added.

+ + + + + + +

Vin walked up the stairs to the kitchen, petting Linda’s cat along the way.

"Breakfast is on the table, Vin," Linda called out. "Not much, but I know you aren’t much of a breakfast person, anyway."

"Thanks, Aunt Linda," he called back, grabbing some coffee and an apple, passing over the cereal boxes and English muffins his aunt had put out.

He headed out to the deck where she was watering her plants.

"You planning on seeing your dad?" she asked.

"I don’t know," he said quietly, sitting down on one of the chairs. "I don’t think he’d understand what’s goin’ on with me. Not that I do. I mean, he loved it here – bein’ with the tribe and goin’ to the powwows and stuff. But…"

"But he never believed," Linda finished.

"I wouldn’t say he never believed," Vin corrected. "But I know he wasn’t ever comfortable with some of the spiritual stuff."

"Not like you."

"Not like I used to be."

Present day

"What do you mean, ‘It wasn’t a flashback,’ Vin?" Chris asked, looking up sharply.

"What he said," Buck put in, his gaze on Vin now, too.

"I ain’t had a flashback in over a month," he said.

"So what the hell was that out there?!" Chris demanded, pointing toward the window.

Vin looked at both men, trying to gauge them, trying to decide whether they’d believe him or not. Before Chris could yell at him again, he replied, "A vision."

"A vision?" Buck and Chris asked simultaneously.

"There a difference between a flashback and a vision, Vin?" Chris asked as he began to pace the floor. "‘Cause I sure hope you can explain it to me, and it better include a damn good reason why Buck and I flew all the way out here to see an empty cabin!"

Vin closed his eyes and tried to come up with some reasonable explanation for all of this. He had hoped that Chris would have understood, or at least…reacted better. But looking at the angry man pacing the room in front of him, and then, at Buck, seeing him rubbing his still sore leg…

"Vin," Buck called quietly. "You said you needed Chris and me to meet you here. That it was all gonna end. What was supposed to be at that cabin, Vin?"

Chris stopped his pacing and looked to Vin to hear his answer.

"The end. I thought we’d find LaSalle there," he said. "She said it was supposed to end there," he whispered to himself. "It was supposed to end."

Chris was about to question Vin again when he felt Buck’s hand on his wrist. He looked at his old friend, who was shaking his head, saying "no more." Stopping to look at Vin, seeing the exhaustion and pain in his features as he sat slumped against the headboard, he nodded his head and agreed.

"Get some sleep, Vin," he said. "We’ll talk in the morning."

Two weeks earlier.

"The braves give themselves to their tribe. They show their enemies that they are willing to die for their people. For their cause. Are you willing to do so?"

"I do. I did"

"So why do you not understand?"

"You say they didn’t even put up a fight. What good is that? They just roll over and die!"

"Can you say there is no purpose for their deaths?"

"They can at least take some of the bad guys out with ‘em!"

"Perhaps. But does that not show that they are just as violent. Revenge seeking isn’t what this is about."

Vin closed his eyes and covered them with his palms, rubbing lightly, trying to erase the headache behind them.

"Think on this."

"Why can’t ya just come right out and tell me what you want me to get out of this?!" he shouted in frustration. "I’m goin’ crazy with all this shit. Just tell me!"

"That would be cheating," she said with a smile. "Rest now."

Vin dropped his hands back down to his sides and sighed. He had come to Oklahoma hoping to get answers about his visions from his Aunt Linda. Unfortunately, after a week’s stay at her house, he felt even more confused than ever.

"You’re in cahoots with her," he muttered, thinking of his aunt.

"No I’m not."

Vin looked up sharply, startled by the voice at the door. "How long you been standing there?" he asked his aunt.

"Not long," she replied. "I heard you shout; wanted to check on you."

"I’m fine. Just frustrated," he replied.

She entered the room and sat next to him on the bed. "You call Chris back yet?"

Vin shook his head.

"He sounded real worried on the phone."

"What’d you tell ‘im?"

"That you were here. That you were okay."

Vin looked at her. Saw something else in her eyes. "What else?" he demanded.

"Invited him out here to visit," she replied.


"Oh, don’t worry," she soothed, patting his knee. "He said he was busy on some case and couldn’t. But he told me to tell you that you’ve got three months of leave. I thought you told me that you’d taken disability?"

"Chris got a bit mixed up," he said sourly. "Look, Aunt Linda, this just ain’t workin’ out like I hoped. I think I’m gonna move on now."

+ + + + + + +

"Any word from Vin yet?"

"I talked to his Aunt Linda yesterday," Chris replied. "She said he was there and that he was fine. She invited me out to visit."

"So when do ya leave?" Buck asked excitedly, sitting up in his seat now.

"Look around you, Buck. We’re in the middle of a fucking case. Another week and we should have enough to put Doherty away for good."

"Okay, so in another week you’ll head out to Oklahoma," Buck insisted before returning his gaze toward the warehouse they were watching.



"He went out there for a reason, Buck. To get away from all of this. Us," Chris tried to reason.

"And that’s the last thing that boy oughtta be doin’ and you know it. It’s friends and family that get people back on their feet, back in the loop. Not sittin’ by yourself broodin’," Buck retorted. "You of all people should know that, Chris."

"Well, he’s with family then."

Buck just gave him a look then, not being able to argue with the statement, but not liking it either. He brought the camera he was holding into focus and snapped off a few shots of the people entering the warehouse.

Chris realized that he didn’t agree with his own statement either. Sure Vin had family - his father, aunt and a myriad of aunts, uncles and cousins out there in Oklahoma. But weren’t the six of them his family, too? Weren’t they more than just friends and coworkers? Wasn’t that why they were the best team in the ATF? Damn that LaSalle for doing this to Vin! To them.

Present day.

Chris brought the coffee and bagels into the room and set them on the table. Vin was still asleep on the first bed, so Buck must be the one he heard in the shower. He pulled one of the chairs close to Vin’s bed and sat, watching his best friend sleep, wondering what he was dreaming about, what he’d had those ‘visions’ about. The past few weeks had been hard on Vin. Hell, Larabee, how about the past six months? He shook his head and looked again at Vin. Six months ago, Vin would have been the first one awake, up at dawn. He would have been the one to go for coffee and breakfast. At the very least, he’d be awake now, not letting two other people walk about the room, go in and out, or even just sit there staring at him. Chris took in the tired, haggard face. The dark circles under Vin’s eyes. He’d lost weight, lost sleep. Maybe lost his mind, too? No.

"You’re thinkin’ I’m crazy, ain’t ya, Larabee?"

Chris shook his head and said, "No," to Vin’s rasped question.

"I do."

"Don’t say that, Vin," he responded, reaching over to put his hand on Vin’s shoulder. "It’s still the drugs affecting you."

"But it ain’t, Chris. They started it. They did somethin’ to me, opened my head up somehow. But it’s beyond that now. The Spirits, my Gods… they’re takin’ me on a trip a whole lot worse than LaSalle did. And I don’t know why. I just know that I can’t do it alone anymore, Chris."

"You never had to, Vin," Buck said as he sat down on the bed next to Vin, opposite Chris. Still dripping from the shower, clad only in a towel around his waist, he put his hand next to Chris’s on Vin’s shoulder. "That’s what our team is about. We’re more than a team - we’re your family, too. And we’ll do whatever it takes to keep it that way."

"I always liked that one. Brains and good looks."

Vin started laughing at the woman’s remark.

"What’s so funny?" Buck asked, recalling his words, wondering if he’d said something funny.

"She likes you, Buck. Thinks you’re smart and good looking."

"Well, of course!" Buck replied instantly. "Wait, who’re you talkin’ about? Who says I’m smart and good looking?"

"The woman who’s been sending me my visions. My step-great-grandma," Vin replied. "The one who’s been messin’ with my head and making me crazy!" he added, looking up toward the ceiling.

Chris and Buck looked at each other then. Was this just the drugs? Or was Vin telling the truth? They’d always known that his spiritual beliefs were that of the Comanche tribe he’d been raised with. They never thought twice about it. Buck often went to church with JD. Josiah had his own Christian past, as a missionary. Ezra was a devout atheist. Nathan was Baptist. Chris… he didn’t know anymore, but he’d been married in a Methodist church with Sarah all those years ago. But despite everyone’s own religious beliefs and practices, or lack thereof, no one had ever mentioned any miraculous contact with God, or other such happenings. Was it so hard to believe that Vin was having one?

"Like I said, you’re thinkin’ I’m crazy," Vin said, as if reading Chris’s mind.

"You’re not," Buck and Chris replied, simultaneously.

"So you believe me?"

"You know, Vin, I think I do," Chris replied. "Anybody else, not a chance. But you…"

"So what are these visions tellin’ you, Vin?" Buck asked. "I mean, what you were sayin’ out there, at the cabin. Hell, it’s like you were in the middle of a war or somethin’."

"I was."

One week earlier.

Vin pulled the Jeep over to the side of the road. For the past few days he’d been driving, pretty much aimlessly, across the states of Oklahoma and Texas. He had thought about heading towards Broken Bow, Oklahoma, to visit his father, but couldn’t think of a way for him not to worry about him. Though his shoulder still bothered him, he thought he’d be able to hide the fact from his father, but he didn’t think he’d be able to hide anything else. The elder Tanner was very intuitive when it came to his son.

Six months ago, when this all started, Chris had called Vin’s father to let him know that Vin had been involved in ‘an incident’ and had been shot. He also, having dealt with him before, assured him that Vin would be fine and would call him as soon as he could, that it wasn’t necessary to come out to Denver just yet. He’d managed to stall him for a few days, long enough for Vin to become lucid and talk to him himself. Vin recalled Chris telling him about the dark stare his father had given him when he arrived in Denver and found out the full story.

During the past six months Vin had talked often with his father, as he usually did. But not once had he mentioned the effects of the drugs or his visions. They’d talked about the job, about therapy with the Johannsen twins, just about anything but the visions and flashbacks. Not so much that he knew his Dad wouldn’t understand, but that he might understand too well, and worry.

Vin sighed and reached for the bottle of soda on the passenger seat. "Where the hell are ya goin’, Tanner?" he said aloud. He realized that he really didn’t know. "Was this what you went through, Dad?" he suddenly said, remembering the two years of wandering the countryside with his father after his mother died. They’d eventually found a home, and a new family, in Oklahoma. Vin wondered if that’s what he was destined to do now, as well. "Like my home and family just the way they are," he said aloud.

"Good. Because that, while important to remember, isn’t what this is about."

Vin dropped his chin to his chest and groaned. "When you plan on lettin’ me in on the secret? Any time soon?" he asked, despite knowing that he probably wouldn’t get an answer this time, either.

"The time is drawing near. The end is in sight. You’ll know it when it comes."

He just shook his head and let out a breath. "I’ll know it when it comes. Yeah, right."

"Trust your instincts, Vin Tanner. They will serve you well."

Shaking his head again as her image faded, Vin looked around him. He’d had thoughts of heading to El Paso, to visit some old friends, but changed his mind. "Fine. Dallas it is," he decided and started the Jeep on its way, heading south instead of southwest.

Present day.

"What do you mean?" Chris asked.

Vin sat up in the bed and leaned against the headboard. "Buck, you might wanna get some clothes on, this might take a while and I don’t want you catchin’ a cold and complainin’ about it for the next two weeks," he started. "Chris –,"

"Already got ‘em," Chris cut in, handing Vin a cup of coffee and a cream cheese bagel.

Vin nodded his thanks and sipped the hot brew while Buck got dressed. He winced when he saw the ugly scars on Buck’s leg. It wasn’t as if he hadn’t seen them before, they did have joint physical therapy sessions, but he still felt deep down that it was his fault, not the drugs’, that Buck was shot. When Buck was finished dressing and had gotten his own coffee and bagels, Vin began his story.

"She’s been showin’ me these Indian warriors. Showin’ me how they trained to fight, to survive. Sometimes it was like I was right there with ‘em, learnin’ how to make the weapons, use ‘em. Sometimes it was like watchin’ a TV show, like it wasn’t really real at all. It progressed. I followed the tribe as it roamed around, finding food or just changin’ with the seasons."

"She showed you this all at once?" Buck asked, sitting on the edge of his bed, truly intrigued with Vin’s story.

Vin shook his head. "Nah, over time. A little bit more each time she came," he answered. "And after a while, I got to see that the warriors were trainin’ to fight against soldiers – the whites. And they knew… they somehow knew that they weren’t gonna win."

Chris looked closely at Vin, and seeing the distress on Vin’s face now, he was sorely tempted to stop him from saying any more.

"But they stood their ground and fought anyway," Buck spoke up again, hoping that was what Vin would say next.

"That’s just it," Vin responded, shaking his head. "They stood their ground alright, but they didn’t fight back. It was like a suicide mission."

"That’s what you were seeing at the cabin," Chris asked, confirmed.

"I knew it was gonna happen that way, but actually seeing it…" Vin got out, his voice suddenly hoarse. "Suddenly seeing it, and knowing how wrong it was… I keep askin’ her why they didn’t fight back, why they didn’t at least take some bad guys with ‘em…"

"I take it you haven’t gotten that answer yet?" Buck asked.

"I thought I would," Vin continued, nodding his head in response to Buck’s question. "She told me that the end was near. That it was in sight. When I found this place… I was so damn sure…"

"Well, even though LaSalle wasn’t there, I’m at least glad you had the sense to call us," Chris said.

"Even though I wasted your time, cost the department some airfare?" Vin asked, feeling embarrassed, now. "Maybe that’s it. Maybe that’s the story – wastin’ everyone’s time and effort – my life is just like theirs."

"I think you’re wrong, Vin," Chris corrected him. "Yeah, I was angry last night when we didn’t find LaSalle, when you…"

"When it looked like I was goin’ crazy," Vin finished for him. "It’s okay, Chris."

"When you were having your vision," Chris continued, looking pointedly at Vin. "It’s just that we haven’t known what the hell to do, Vin. One week you seemed fine and the next it was if you were never gonna come back to us."

"You runnin’ off like ya did, well, that seemed to put that last thought into cement, if ya know what I mean," Buck added.

Vin stood up and stretched before he began pacing the room, trying to figure out what to say or do next.

"I was runnin’, wasn’t I?" he began, not really asking the question to Chris and Buck, but stating it. "I figured that out last week, before headin’ down this way. Ran away from the job, LaSalle, you boys. Hell, even my Dad. Guess I figured that I had to stop."

"And that is the first lesson learned."

Vin smiled at the woman’s words. But it ain’t the important one, is it? he thought back at her.

He was about to say some more when Chris’s cell phone rang.

"Larabee," he answered. After a few murmured "uh-huhs" with their accompanied head nods, he looked at Vin. "We’re about fifteen miles west of there. Yeah, we’ll wait. Meet us at our motel. We’re at a place called Dane’s Drive Inn." He then ended the call.

"Who was that?" Buck asked.

"Josiah. Said they finally got some info on LaSalle," Chris replied, still looking at Vin. "He’s supposed to be heading to a small cabin about fifty miles south of Dallas."

"Holy shit," Buck whispered, now looking at Vin, too.

"They all comin’?" Vin asked, his voice barely above a whisper.

"Yeah, Vin," Chris replied. "They’re all coming."

"We’re the warriors."


Vin tossed restlessly on the motel’s bed. He kept seeing the native warriors as they prepared for battle. But now, a new element was added to the familiar dream. The enemy. The white man. LaSalle. Vin saw him emerging from an old cabin. The man made eye contact with Vin and smiled. Then he raised his hand, pointed a gun at him and fired.

Vin sat up in the bed, instantly awake, breathing heavily. Automatically, his hand went to his chest, over his heart, to check for the gunshot wound.

"You’ve seen where it will end."

"How do I get there?"

"You will know."

Vin reached for the phone.

+ + + + + + +

"Chris? I got ‘im, Chris. I know where he is. You gotta get here. It’s all gonna end."

"Vin? Vin, slow down," Chris said into his cell phone, interrupting Vin’s excited words.

"He’s here. I know where he is," Vin continued.

"Vin! Slow down!" Chris commanded. "Now tell me what’s going on. Who’s there? And where? Where the hell are you?"

He heard Vin stop and take a deep breath over the phone. He also noticed the others starting to gather around him at the conference table upon hearing Vin’s name.

"I’m in Dallas," Vin began again, not at all calmed down. "And I’m gonna get LaSalle. You…you just gotta get here, Chris."

"Did you see him?" Chris asked calmly, needing to calm Vin down. "Vin? How do you know?"

"Just get here, Chris!" Vin ordered. "I’ll meet you at the airport."

After Vin abruptly ended the call, Chris just stared at the phone in his hand.

"Chris?" Buck called.

Buck was on light duty now, walking around with the aid of a cane, when he needed it. Light duty at the moment meant going through case files and researching the bad guys’ histories, to better enable the team to predict their moves, and occasional surveillance van duty. He was working closely with Ezra and Nathan, who were undercover working the Michael Doherty case. Doherty was running some weapons through Denver.

"Chris?" he called again and finally getting Chris’s attention. "That was Vin?"

"Yeah," he replied, pushing the buttons on the phone now, trying to dial Vin’s number. "Dammit, answer, Vin!"

"What’s goin’ on?"

"He said he’s got a line on LaSalle. He wants us out there," Chris replied, putting the phone down. "He’s in Dallas and wants us to meet him there right away."

"We’re just about to take down Doherty," JD put in.

Chris took a deep breath as he tried to decide what to do. "Buck, you’re with me. We’re heading to Dallas. Josiah, you and JD keep going on this. Contact Ezra, see if we can delay the buy for a few days."

"Keep us up to date, Chris," Josiah said as they all rose from the table, the tentative game plans agreed upon.

+ + + + + + +

Vin paced nervously as he waited in the airport terminal. He knew Chris would want answers. Real answers. Not something that came to him in a dream or vision. Shit, Vin, what the hell are you gonna tell him when he gets here? He’d turned off his phone, knowing that Chris would try to call him back, find out more and then refuse to come when he did know more. Or know that I ain’t got jack shit, just a feeling that once I start down that highway, we’re gonna find a cozy little cabin with LaSalle waitin’ for us?

He’d checked the airport schedule when he arrived and saw that there would be a flight from Denver coming in around four. It was still two hours away from arriving. Vin sat down heavily onto one of the seats and put his head down into his hands.

"Your friends are coming. They will help."

"Will we get him? Will we get LaSalle?"

"It’s almost over. You will see."

+ + + + + + +

Chris and Buck headed into the waiting area, hoping the stress and tension they’d endured for the past few hours worrying about Vin would soon be over. Chris hadn’t known what to think of Vin’s call – whether Vin truly had a line on LaSalle or if it was just another one of his flashbacks coming to haunt him. He’d called a few of his contacts in the Dallas ATF and PD offices and asked if they’d heard anything about LaSalle, but both sources came up dry. No one had seen or heard from LaSalle in months. So why have you got something, Vin? he asked himself.

Buck pointed out a slumped figure to their right. Vin had fallen asleep while he waited for them to arrive. Before he let Chris wake him, Buck took in Vin’s appearance.

"He looks like shit," Chris whispered.

"Looks like he ain’t been eatin’ or sleepin’ much," Buck added, agreeing with Chris’s assessment.

"Haven’t been," Vin replied, waking up, rubbing his eyes. "Good to see ya, boys."

"You alright, Vin?" Buck asked.

"I’ll be a whole lot better after we get this bastard," Vin replied, standing up and heading toward the exit.

"Whoa there, Vin," Chris said, grabbing Vin’s elbow, stopping him in his tracks. "Why don’t you tell us what’s going on, first."

"He’s got a cabin, south of here. He’s there. We’re gonna go get him," Vin replied.

"That’s it?" Chris asked. "How do you know? Did you see him? Have you been there?"

Vin looked back and forth between the two men. This was the moment he’d been dreading. "I got a source," he began. "She says he’s gonna be there, that we can end it all there."

"She?" Buck asked, raising an eyebrow suggestively.

"Okay, fine," Chris spoke up. "Just say we go along with this, Vin, don’t you think we’re gonna need more than the three of us? And hell, Buck isn’t even back on full duty yet. You got back up called in with the Dallas office?"

Chris waited for an answer, knowing that Vin had not been in contact with any of the local law enforcement authorities.

And knowing that he was stuck, Vin showed his guilt by becoming agitated. "Fine," he began, finally shrugging out of Chris’s grip. "I don’t got all the details squared away yet. But you at least gotta come with me to check it out. Do some scouting!"

Exasperated, Chris looked at Buck.

"We’re here," he said with a shrug. "Can’t do any harm to check the place out."

"My Jeep’s outside," Vin said, heading toward the exit again.

"I rented a truck," Chris said flatly, turning toward the car rental agencies area of the airport. He didn’t wait for Vin to argue.

+ + + + + + +

About an hour later, Vin directed Chris to pull off the road and turn down a dirt driveway. Chris had been getting frustrated at Vin’s lack of specific directions – ‘Just head south,’ ‘Keep goin’,’ ‘Turn here,’ and so on. He was beginning to think that they were just chasing one of Vin’s hallucinations. But then, that’s what friends do, Chris, he thought.

"There it is!" Vin cried out, pointing to a small log cabin at the end of the dirt drive.

Chris stopped the truck and turned off the engine. None of the men seemed eager to get out just yet.

"Don’t see any other cars around," Buck spoke up.

"Road doesn’t look like it’s been driven on in a while," Chris agreed. "You sure this is the place, Vin?"

"I’m positive," he replied. "Maybe he just ain’t got here yet," he added as he opened the back door and got out.

Chris and Buck joined him, pulling their guns from their holsters. The three men spread out and cautiously made their way toward the cabin. Chris looked around him as he walked, ever aware of the possibility of danger. He noticed something strange about Vin, though. While Vin was looking around, too, he looked as if he were actually seeing and hearing things. Chris wondered if he was missing something. Looking over at Buck, who was limping toward the right side of the cabin, he knew that he wasn’t missing anything. But what was Vin seeing?

Frustrated, cursing the damn drugs again, he headed toward Vin. Buck, who had gotten to the cabin and did a cursory check, shrugged his shoulders, meaning he didn’t find anything there. Leaving Vin for the moment, Chris headed toward Buck, to confirm his belief.

They found a fairly new, and locked, padlock on the outside of the front door. Looking into the windows, they didn’t see anything out of the ordinary. It seemed to be someone’s summer or hunting cabin.

"Like I said, don’t look like anyone’s been here for a while," Buck said.

Chris was about to say something when they heard Vin shout.


They ran toward Vin, who was standing in the middle of the grassy area in front of the cabin. Looking around and seeing no danger as they headed toward Vin, Chris began cursing.

"Vin?" Buck called when he got there, rubbing his leg.

"Oh, shit. Vin? Vin can you hear me?"