by mcat

Page 1 | Page 2 | Page 3 | Page 4

Present day.
Vin paced around the motel room. He was anxious to do something. Anything.

"The others won’t get into Dallas for another three hours," Buck said aloud. "Then, it’ll be another hour or so before they get here."

"That means we got time to go back there, set up a perimeter or something. Wait for him to show up," Vin spoke up, not stopping his pacing.

"No," Chris interjected. "We wait for them here, Vin. And we wait for back up from the Dallas office."

"He could come and go by then, Chris!"

"Yeah, that’s right, Vin," he retorted. "And we’ll all still be alive, too. We’re not going back there without proper manpower."


"Vin," Buck called quietly. "I don’t know about you, but after the last time we were there at that cabin, I ain’t too keen on headin’ back so soon. The place gave me the willies, and that was before you had that vision of yours."

That stopped Vin in his tracks. What Buck said was true – if he didn’t know that LaSalle would be there, he wouldn’t have any desire to go back, either. But LaSalle was going to be there. He knew it.

"Besides, Vin," Chris began, pushing Vin down onto one of the chairs, "if LaSalle does decide to show up, he’s gotta come through town, here. Maybe even stop at the general store for supplies. No one has been to that cabin for months, from what we could see. He’s gonna need food and other stuff."

"We can get us a room on the other side of the motel, so we face the main road," Buck added. "Set up a watch. We’ll know when he gets here. We ain’t gonna miss him, Vin."

Vin looked at the two men; his friends; saw the honesty and support in their eyes. He nodded his head, reluctantly agreeing with their plan.

+ + + + + + +

Chris sat by the window of their second room, watching the street in the small town. He wasn’t even sure if the town had a name – there was only the motel, a diner and the combination gas station/general store in it. His credit card receipt had "Dane’s Drive Inn, Dallas, TX" stamped on it. Who knew you could stay in a motel fifty miles away from Dallas, but still be in Dallas? he thought.

Looking to his right, at the table, he caught Buck’s eye. Buck shrugged his shoulders. Still going with the flow. Sitting on the bed, aimlessly flipping through channels on the television, was Vin.

They’d talked more about Vin’s vision; about the warriors; about the warriors sacrificing themselves. He tried to reassure Vin, that they had no intention of following suit, no matter what happened out at the cabin later. But still, Vin argued.

"You sound just like Charlie did," Vin said. "He said he wasn’t gonna give in. He was gonna fight until the end."

"He tried, Vin. You told me so. He fought the cancer – with drugs, radiation, hell, you even said he tried acupuncture and natural remedies – but he lost. It happens," Chris replied.

"He gave up." There was anger in Vin’s voice.

"Ever think that he did it for you?"


"Vin, maybe he ended it – surrendered to it – for you. To end your suffering." When he saw that Vin didn’t have a response to that, Chris continued. "Maybe those warriors had other motives, too. Maybe they chose to end it quickly, so that their loved ones wouldn’t suffer with them."

"How can you call losin’ someone an end of sufferin’?" Vin asked, the anger still there in his voice. "Hell, Larabee, you should know as well as anyone!"

"Yeah, Vin, I do," he replied. "But there’s a difference. Sarah and Adam didn’t have a choice in their deaths. They didn’t have time to make things right with their loved ones, or their lives. Charlie, and maybe those warriors…they did."

"And what kind of choice was it?"

"They chose to save someone else, Vin."

Chris saw movement in the street and watched as a black Chevy Tahoe pulled into the gas station. He watched as the driver got out and stretched his legs and looked around.

"They’re here," Chris said, rising from the chair.

+ + + + + + +

Chris stood in the lobby of the motel’s office and waited for his team to arrive.

"Where are the Dallas boys?" he asked.

JD and Josiah looked at each other, before looking at Chris, but did not answer.

"Don’t tell me," Chris muttered.

"Apparently, the Dallas office has better things to do than traipse around the woods looking for Mr. LaSalle," Ezra put in.

"Don’t they know why we want him?" Chris asked, exasperated, as he led them to the front room.

"They said they’d get a few people out here tomorrow morning, Chris," Josiah replied. "Seems most of their teams are working on those temple bombings that happened a couple days ago. They got orders from Washington to make them top priority, considering what’s going on these days."

"Any sign of LaSalle?" JD asked.

"Not yet. Here we are," he said, opening the door to the room.

+ + + + + + +

"‘Bout time you boys got your asses up here," Vin called from the window, nodding to each of his friends in greeting. "LaSalle just pulled into the gas station."

"You sure it’s him?" Chris asked, joining him at the window, taking a look at the blue BMW across the street.

"Trust me, Chris," Vin whispered. "I’ve been seein’ that ugly face of his in my dreams for the past six months. It’s him."

The other five joined them at the window as well, each sneaking peeks through the space between the curtains.

"That’s him, alright," JD muttered.

"So what’s the plan?" Nathan asked.

"I say we take him right here, before he gets onto his own turf," Buck suggested.

"Too many innocents around," Josiah countered.

"We wait until morning to take him," Chris responded. "When the Dallas crew gets here."

"So we’re just gonna sit here?" JD asked.

"Didn’t say that, JD. Today, we’re gonna follow him. We’re gonna set up a perimeter. See if any more of his friends show up."

"Hey, Josiah? How’d we know he was comin’ down here?" Buck asked.

"We got a call from Mr. Rogers," Ezra replied. "Apparently he hasn’t been liking his new neighborhood and thought we could help him find a new one."

"‘Bout time the little bastard broke," Vin muttered, turning away from the window. "He’s leavin’ the gas station. Headin’ towards the cabin."

"We’ll give him an hour or so to get there and settle in," Chris said. "Then we’ll go up and start scouting."

+ + + + + + +

"Josiah, did Rogers have any other information about the cabin, or the town?" Chris asked. "How often he comes here, whether the people here know him, would help him…"

"Said he comes here to do some hunting a couple of times a year," Josiah replied. "Didn’t mention any of the town’s people. Said he usually keeps to himself."

Chris nodded, satisfied. Then, "Buck, you stay here. Keep watch, let us know if it looks like any more of LaSalle’s boys show up," he instructed. "Right now, it’s just him and two others."

"Maybe we should do this now, while we outnumber them," Ezra spoke up.

"I want this done by the book. I don’t want him to slip through our fingers because we jumped the gun."

"We’ve got a warrant out on him, Chris," Buck cut in. "It’s good in every state of the Union, twenty-four, seven. We got every right to be there to grab him. Ain’t like we’d be doin’ any illegal searches or nothin’."

"I know that, Buck," Chris replied. "And I’m not worried about that part of the plan. What I’m worried about is this thing turning into one big shooting gallery. You saw the property; we aren’t gonna be able to drive up to the cabin without him knowing what’s up. He’ll start shooting before we even park the damn trucks."

"So we gotta sneak up on ‘im," Vin cut in. "Do our scoutin’ tonight. Find our ways in."

"Exactly," Chris said, inwardly relieved that Vin seemed to have calmed down and was thinking straight again.

"What’ve we got for gear?" Buck asked.

Nathan and Josiah hefted two duffel bags onto the bed and opened them up.

"Usual stuff," Nathan replied, pulling out surveillance equipment and radios out of one duffel bag as Josiah pulled out body armor from the other.

"Weapons?" Vin asked.

"We’re covered," JD replied. "In the lock box of the Tahoe."

"It’s not a rental," Ezra cut in, answering Chris’s unasked question and confused look. "Loaner from the Dallas office. Said we could take it, apologizing for their lack of manpower."

Chris nodded his head, understanding. Looking around at his team, seeing that they were ready, he said, "Let’s ride."

+ + + + + + +

Leaving Buck at the motel, to watch the comings and goings in town, the other six left town in the Dallas ATF’s Tahoe and Chris’s rental truck. Agreeing upon their plan before leaving, the two vehicles eventually split, with one going to the south of LaSalle’s property and the other heading toward its east side. After pulling off the roads, into the woods to hide the vehicles as best they could, two teams of three made their way towards the cabin.

"Looks like it’s just a quiet night at home," Nathan whispered into his radio mike, watching through binoculars as LaSalle and his two men sat inside the cabin.

"Still just the Beemer there?" Chris asked, not in sight of the cabin yet.

"Yeah," Nathan replied. "No one else here."


"Town’s just a-hoppin’, Chris. Why, three dogs, a cat and two raccoons came through in the past half hour alone!"

"I take it they’ve rolled up the sidewalks?" Josiah asked, amused at Buck’s reply.

"Not quite," Buck replied. "Looks like the diner is the place to be. Half the locals must eat there."

"Anybody got anything else to report from our end?" Chris asked, getting the team back on track.

He received either silence or negative replies from his teammates. Then, he looked over at Vin, who was to his left. "How you holding up?"

"I’m fine, Chris," he replied. "But I’ll be a whole lot better tomorrow, I bet."

"You will."

+ + + + + + +

"Anybody find any other way for a vehicle to get in here?" Chris asked, looking at his watch. They’d been scouting the woods surrounding LaSalle’s cabin for a little over an hour, making sure there were no obstacles, hidden driveways, paths or outbuildings – basically securing their entry for the morning.

"Looks like it’s just the one way in," JD replied.

"You’d think LaSalle would be smarter," Nathan responded.

"Over-confidence," Josiah suggested. "I’d say that it will be his final undoing."

"As long as it is not ours," Ezra added.

"We gonna stay here, Chris?" JD asked.

"Half of us," he replied. "JD, Nathan, Josiah. I want you three to stay here. Keep an eye on him and the place. Vin, Ezra and I will head back to town, meet up with the Dallas crew later. Keep communications open."

"I wanna stay," Vin said, stopping Chris from rising from his spot.

"You’re barely staying awake, Vin," Chris replied, and when Vin opened his mouth to argue, he continued, "I want you thinking with a clear head in the morning." His tone of voice left no room for argument.

"Why should tomorrow be any different?" Vin muttered, still wanting to stay, but knowing that this was not the time to argue with Chris, because, after all, he was right. He was barely staying awake.

"What was that?" Almost growled.

"Nothin’." Innocent.

"Fine. Ezra, you coming?" Chris asked, turning to head back towards the truck.

"Unlike Mr. Tanner, I have absolutely no qualms about heading back to that quaint, little, half-star hotel awaiting us. What was it called? Danny’s Drive Through? Why, I’m sure the owner slash desk clerk slash maid slash maintenance person slash…

"Shut up, Ezra," Chris and Vin said simultaneously.

+ + + + + + +

While Ezra, Buck and Vin slept, Chris kept an eye on the town. Buck was right. Once the diner closed for the night, even the animals seemed to have gone to bed. They didn’t even have any sidewalks to roll up. He kept tabs on the cabin, talking with Josiah, mainly. LaSalle and his men had turned off the lights around one a.m., after a night of poker and beer drinking.

Chris knew they had had an opportunity – to take LaSalle and the other two while they were unaware, outnumbered, and maybe even drunk. But the itchy feeling at the back of his neck, the one that sent fear into him, especially when he looked at Vin, wouldn’t let him do it. They’d wait for back up. They’d do it right. They wouldn’t sacrifice anybody, for anyone. He’d let LaSalle go, if he had to, to keep Vin safe. To keep his entire team safe.

Something on the television, which he’d had on, but muted, caught his eye. He nudged up the volume a bit and leaned in closer.

"Dammit," he swore.

Looking at his watch, seeing that it was three-thirty am, he knew that their plans were about to change as the Dallas news reporter began speaking of simultaneous bombings at a mosque and a Baptist church. They wouldn’t be getting any agents from the Dallas office to help them out today. If anything, they might be ordered to go to Dallas and help out there, having to leave LaSalle for another time. Another time. It took us six friggin’ months to find him this time.

"Me an’ Buck’ll stay. We ain’t officially on full duty, you know."

Chris looked over at Vin, sitting up on the bed now.

"I know what you’re thinkin’, Chris. And I understand."

He was about to say more when Chris’s cell phone rang. Chris muttered a few "uh-huhs" and "yeahs" in reply to the caller’s conversation. Vin knew what it was about. Chris ended the call and put his phone away.

"When you gotta be there?" Vin asked.

"They want us up there later this morning, to help with some of the evidence processing," he replied. "The fire departments are still on the scenes. Then their guys’ll go through first. Not much for us to do yet, until it’s time to tag and bag."

Vin nodded. Despite the fact that most of the team’s work currently revolved around firearms trafficking, they did still handle other types of cases and crises. And in a situation like Dallas currently had, the more agents to do the work, the better.

Chris got up and retrieved his radio from the table. "Josiah?" he called.

"Right here, boss."

"What’s the situation there?"

"Still quiet. They’re all snug in their beds, looks like," he replied. "Every now and then one might get up, check the windows and doors or hit the head."

Looking over at Vin again, seeing the anxiousness on his face, despite his words of understanding a few moments ago, it was easy to see that leaving LaSalle for another time would only prolong his friend’s current state. He had to take action, despite his earlier thoughts and itchy feelings. Now or never.

"Get ready. We’ll be there in half an hour," he told Josiah.

"We’re goin’ in?" Vin asked, out of bed now.

"Now or never."

+ + + + + + +

"Everybody set on the plan? Buck?"

"I’m in the truck at the end of the driveway. I’ll block in the Beemer, make sure it doesn’t leave if anyone gets past ya."


"I have the back of the cabin, watching the back door and windows."


"I got the front of the cabin."

"And Josiah, Nathan, Ezra and I will make the entry," Chris finished. "We’ll try to do it quietly, see if we can get at least one or two of them still in bed." He looked over at Vin, knowing that he was unhappy with his post outside the cabin. "Vin, we’ve been over this. We’re likely to fight with these guys. Your shoulder just isn’t up to it yet."

Vin just nodded in response before heading into the woods, toward his position.

+ + + + + + +

Fifteen minutes later, at four-thirty in the morning, Ezra was picking the lock to the front door of the cabin. In less than thirty seconds, he had it open. Guns in front of them, Ezra, Josiah, Nathan and Chris entered the front room, Ezra’s flashlight illuminating it, making sure it was clear. Chris gave the signal to head down the hall, to the first bedroom. Nathan and Josiah had just opened the door and were preparing to rush in, when all hell broke loose.

Unfortunately for them, one of LaSalle’s men had been up and as he was coming out of the bathroom, saw the four and immediately pulled his gun, firing into the hallway as he backed into the bathroom. Chris and Ezra, in front, returned fire.

"Watch those other doors!" he ordered. "JD! Vin! Head’s up!" he shouted into his radio, just as Ezra took another shot at the man peeking out of the bathroom doorway.

"I got one coming out the back door!" JD shouted.

"Josiah, back him up!" Chris ordered, firing another shot towards the bathroom.

+ + + + + + +

Vin heard the gunfire and knew that the others had engaged the bad guys before Chris’s message had come across on the radio. Hating the fact that he had no idea what was going on inside the cabin, wanting to be inside and wanting to face LaSalle himself, he held his position anyway. And it paid off, as he saw movement at one of the windows. He headed toward the window as a man climbed out.

"ATF! Freeze!" he ordered, aiming his weapon and flashlight at the man. And then he froze.

"Tanner! What a pleasant surprise!" Jared LaSalle said, stopping and turning to greet him. "Didn’t think you were back on duty, Vinny. Have any good hallucinations lately? Or are you still holding Larabee’s hand?" And before Vin could respond, he brought his weapon up and fired several shots at Vin.

Vin dove to his right and tried to return fire, but found his view blocked. He was surrounded by the braves.

"No!" he shouted, pushing off the ground, ignoring the fiery pain in his shoulder. He tried to get past the warriors, to get to LaSalle and return fire. He pushed against one, found himself being blocked by another. He heard more gunfire; watched as they started to fall, as he’d seen the day before, struck down by LaSalle’s bullets. "No!" he shouted again. "Get out of the way!" But they ignored his plea and moved to stay in front of him, crowding Vin in amongst them, to the point where he could no longer move. Two more fell before blinding lights and one more gunshot overwhelmed his senses.

+ + + + + + +

"JD? Vin? What’s your status?" Chris called into his radio, watching as Ezra and Nathan placed handcuffs on LaSalle’s man in the bathroom.

"I got mine," JD replied.

"Vin? Vin?" Chris was already heading out the front door before he finished saying Vin’s name the second time.

"Chris! Over here!"

Chris rushed over to Buck, who was kneeling next to Vin’s prone form.

"Vin? You hit?" he quickly asked, checking Vin over for himself.

"Don’t see any blood," Buck said. "But I don’t see how LaSalle coulda missed ‘im."

Chris turned around and glanced at LaSalle’s body, twenty feet away. "Vin took him out first," he reasoned, turning back to Vin, patting his cheek to try to rouse him.


Chris looked up sharply; saw Buck shake his head. "No?"

"I took out LaSalle," he said. "He was shooting at Vin. But Vin wasn’t shooting back. Hell, he wasn’t even holdin’ his gun."

Chris didn’t know how to respond to that. He was about to question it, when Vin let out a painful gasp.

"Shit," he swore, rolling onto his back.

"Vin? You okay?" Buck asked, helping him to sit up.

Looking around, suddenly remembering what happened, Vin panicked. "LaSalle!" he shouted.

"He’s dead, Vin," Chris replied soothingly, moving a bit, so Vin could see the downed man. "It’s over."

"They’re gone," he whispered, looking around. He tried to get up off the ground but found that his right arm would not cooperate. He winced as he tried to get up again.

"Easy there, Vin," Buck said, pushing him back to the ground. "Looks like you might’ve messed your shoulder up again when you fell."

"The braves," Vin went on, ignoring Buck’s effort. "They were here. They…LaSalle killed them."

Chris looked at Buck to see if he understood. Buck shrugged his shoulders. "What are you talking about, Vin?" he asked.

Vin was about to explain – or try to, anyway – when the rest of the team arrived, prisoners in tow.

"It’ll keep, Vin," Chris whispered.

"He alright?" Nathan asked, moving forward.

"I’m fine," Vin answered quickly, coming back to the here and now. "Just screwed up my shoulder again."

"Here, let me take a look," Nathan replied, doing as he said.

Chris helped Buck up off the ground and the two stepped back, giving Nathan room. Chris called the others over, to set their follow-up plan into motion.

"Josiah, give the county sheriff’s department a call," Chris began. "See if they can take care of the prisoners for us for a bit. You and Ezra stay to do the clean up and go through the cabin. See if we can find out more about LaSalle’s operations. The rest of us’ll head to Dallas. I’ll drop Buck and Vin off at an ER to get that shoulder checked, and then JD, Nathan and I will report for the church detail."

Three days later.

Chris entered the hotel room and placed the take out bags onto the table by the door, letting out a sigh as he did. When he looked up and saw Vin and Buck looking back at him, he glared. "Like you couldn’t get up and help me out when you heard me trying to open the door and hold dinner at the same time?"

"Vin ain’t allowed to do any liftin’," Buck began.

"And hell, by the time Buck coulda limped over there, you’da been in already," Vin finished.

Chris just rolled his eyes, refusing to argue with their logic. "Well, dinner’s here," he said.

"What about the others?" Buck asked, getting off the bed now to check out dinner.

"Josiah’s still dealin’ with that county sheriff, getting the extradition orders settled for LaSalle’s men," Chris replied. "JD and Nathan are still working on some evidence from the Baptist church and Ezra said something about Maude being in town and meeting her for dinner."

"Maude’s in Dallas?" Vin asked, surprised.

"Didn’t you know she has a condo here?" Chris responded, as if everyone should know that information. "Coincidental timing, I guess."

As the three men got their dinners squared away, Vin didn’t miss the unusual silence that had come over them. He’d told Chris and Buck that he’d come to some conclusions about the visions and that he’d let them know what they were tonight. He was grateful that the others had found other things to do, he wasn’t sure he was ready to let them know about the visions yet. It had been hard enough telling Chris and Buck.

"You don’t have to tell us, Vin," Chris said, knowing what was going through Vin’s thoughts.

"What he said," Buck agreed through a mouthful of taco.

"I know," Vin replied. "But, I’d like to. Things seemed to have gotten easier after I told ya." Ha! I got that one on my own! he thought to the old woman, knowing she was listening.

Very good, Vin. What do they say? A burden shared is a burden halved?

"Well, then, you take your time," Buck said, grabbing some soda.

"I think, maybe, that in some ways, Doctor Preston was right," Vin began. "That a lot of what I’d seen and heard – the hallucinations and stuff – were all because I was still angry at Charlie. I felt like he abandoned me, despite all the time we spent together when he was sick, preparin’ for when he was gonna die. I was still in denial. I felt like he gave up on us. That if he had just fought some more, he woulda licked the cancer, you know?" He threw a wadded up wrapper towards the garbage can. "Lookin’ back, I realize that half my problems with the Marshals had nothin’ to do with Banks. It was me. Refusin’ to deal. Then y’all came along and got me into the ATF and my problems seemed to go away."

"Maybe because you were part of a team again, able to share your problems and solutions," Chris suggested.

"Maybe. Probably."

"Definitely," Buck put in.

Vin smiled at that.

"But what about the tribe? And the braves? What did they all mean?" Chris asked.

"I got a couple of theories on that," Vin replied, glancing quickly toward the corner of the room, where she sat, watching and listening to him. "One of them had to do with learning about my family. And not just the Comanche family I grew up with, but you guys, too." Seeing Chris’s raised eyebrow, he added, "Yeah, you guys are my family, too. And families rely on each other. Do for one another. Sacrifice for one another."

"That’s nothing new, Vin," Chris said, moving to sit next to Vin.

"But sometimes I forgot that," Vin replied. "Sometimes I didn’t let y’all in when I should have. I got angry, thinkin’ I shouldn’t have to rely on you, that I should be able to do things alone. I never even noticed that the times that I was in control of my life these past six months were when one or more of you were around. And I ain’t just talkin’ about that hand-holdin’, Larabee," he quickly added.

Chris smiled at that and laughed. "We’re still stirring up rumors with Team Twelve, you know…"

"Fuck you, Larabee," Vin replied.

"Ain’t that how the last rumor started?" Buck asked and got a burrito thrown at him.

"Anyways, I think a lot of what I had to get out of this whole mess," he continued, looking at his step-great-grandmother again for confirmation, "was to go with the flow. That I’m not gonna be able to control everything in my life – asshole coworkers, drug dealers, cancer, death, visions – but I am gonna be able to control how I handle them, and who I choose to handle them with."

Very good.

"And are we gonna be included in that group?" Buck asked.

"We better be," Chris put in.

"Most definitely."

"What about the visions? Now that this ordeal with LaSalle is over, are they over, too?" Chris asked.

Vin looked to the woman. Her only response was to smile before fading from sight.


"Let’s just say that it’s good to have family around," Vin replied.