Disclaimer: Not Mine.. no profit.
Acknowledgements: Mogs Universe - Thank you.
Just a short piece that focuses on Vin and his wilderness skills. I dont
have many such skills myself so if you ever find yourself in this situation
dont take what he does as Gospel I made it up! Love to
hear what you think. Any more ideas for this series?
- be nice.
Saturday 28th July
Daddy! Rorie came rushing into
the kitchen. It was mid morning and Ezra hadnt seen her the previous
evening since the whole team had gone to the Saloon to celebrate the end
of another successful bust and this morning she had gone to the store with
Terri and Olivia.
Good Morning Aurora. He carefully placed his coffee on the table
and folded the newspaper. He frowned at her shoes and she quickly toed them
off, leaving them in the middle of the kitchen floor.
Daddy guess what? Rorie padded over to his knee in small bare
feet, her lingering baby flat-footedness causing them to make soft thwack,
thwack noises as they landed on the tiles.
What? He winced as she climbed onto his lap, childishly oblivious
to his sensitive anatomy. He removed her knee from his groin and smiled at
her, placing a kiss on her nose.
Were going on an outing from school on Monday, right up into
the mountains. Its gonna be great. We get to take a picnic and walk
in the woods and
and how exactly is this expedition related to your lessons?
She was supposed to be studying music, acting and dance. Ezra couldnt
see the connection.
Theres a natural anti-theatre we are going to see. We all get
to take a turn at performing, kinda like a recital.
I believe you mean amphitheatre.
Zactly! Thats what I said. She looked at him as if he was
being deliberately obtuse and he chuckled. You have to sign the paper
to give percussion
for me to go. Can I Daddy, please?
I think I could allow that, if you promise to be on your best behavior.
Why dont you go and fetch the permission slip?
Okay. She slid off his lap and shot out of the kitchen towards
the cloakroom. He heard the muffled sounds of her greeting Vin in the corridor,
his colleagues deep rumble mingling with the childs higher pitched
tones. The two returned to the kitchen together.
Mornin Ez. Tanner was limping slightly, the result of a
fairly insignificant injury the sustained in the bust the day before. He
was also sporting a bandaged hand and a minor concussion and had been given
three days medical leave as a result, much to his disgust. At least two of
the days were over the weekend. Hed be back in the office by Tuesday.
Vin. Ezra took the envelope being waved in his face and watched
as his daughter pulled out a chair for Vin before asking what type of Pop
Tarts he wanted this morning. She dragged a stool over to the cabinets and
clambered onto the counter, depositing two Very Berry Strawberry Pop Tarts
into the toaster.
Aurora. I do not care to have you climbing on the countertops.
His tone was chiding and she dimpled at him unapologetically.
Im just helping Uncle Vin, Daddy. Hes got a poorly leg
and a sore hand. Her tone made him wonder if perhaps she was the parent
and he the child. Vin laughed. He let it slide.
Dont make it a habit.
He focused on the permission slip, signing his name in the appropriate box
and fishing in his wallet for the ten dollars requested for miscellaneous
It states here that they are requesting any available parents to provide
extra adult supervision on the trip. He raised his brows at his daughter.
You didnt mention that. He wrinkled his brow consideringly.
Didnt think it mattered. I know youre going to be at
work. Rorie shrugged. Arent you?
I am indeed. However
He left the sentence unfinished and
gazed at Vin.
Am I bein volunteered fer something? The Texan took on
expression of extreme caution
Mr Tanner, I know how you hate having to take compulsory sick leave,
perhaps a short trip into the mountains would be an acceptable distraction
from your misery? He handed the slip to Vin so he could see what they
were talking about.
Yer goin ta the mountains? Now he looked interested.
Yahuh. On Monday. You gonna come? Rorie was excited by the prospect
of having one of her favorite adults along for the outing. Uncle Vin was
her first choice for trips to the wilderness. He could answer any and all
the questions she could think up.
I could. I guess with lots of little kids they wont be walkin
too far. Vin grinned at his niece. He loved to tell her about all the
plants and animals they encountered in the woods and was proud to be able
to teach her something, God only knew he was no good to her in the academic
Indeed. If you would be so kind as to take the video camera and capture
Rories performance, Id appreciate it. Ezra smiled at the
two enthusiastic faces. Sometimes having Tanner around was like having a
second child. A mischievous long-haired, blue-eyed troublemaker. He shuddered.
Sounds good. Lets hope them summer forest fires ta the North
dont spread far enough ta make em cancel the trip. Over
the course of the next few days, both Agents would have cause to wish they
had never heard of the adventure.
The children had been split into groups between
the five accompanying adults. Vin was given Rorie, two older girls and a
little boy with bright red hair and a mass of freckles. He claimed to be
seven but Vin thought he looked more like a five year old.
Having endured the hour-long singsong on the bus, they were all relieved
to climb out and start the hike to the rocky cliff where Mother Nature herself
had carved the natural amphitheatre out of the mountains. As such it wasnt
much to look at, just a roughly semi-circular indent in an otherwise blank
wall of rock. As the children milled around and explored it became clear
exactly what was so special about this particular feature.
Arranging the group around on the grassy rise facing the rock, the two teachers
stood at the bottom of the incline and whispered softly to each other. Looks
of amazement crossed the faces of the audience as they realised that the
sound travelled unerringly right up to where they sat, clear as day.
Pretty soon the children were taking turns to perform, playing small portable
instruments, reciting poems or acting out scenes of plays. Vin switched his
camera to standby as the time approached for Rorie to have a turn.
Rising to her feet and trotting down to the spot pointed out by the teacher,
she turned around and beamed at the audience. Vin chuckled. There was no
way he could stand up in front of a crowd like that but exhibitionism seemed
to be a natural ingredient in the make up of a Standish. He flicked the switch
on the camera and focused the lens on the mini performer.
Rorie had decided to try singing a nursery rhyme, one her father often sang
to her when he was bathing her or putting her to bed.
Hush Little Darling dont you cry
Papas gonna sing you a lullaby
And if that lullaby
Vin put the camera down to join in the applause
as Rorie began to climb back up to where he was sitting. As she settled beside
him he tensed, senses alert, knowing instinctively something wasnt
right. He glanced around but couldnt see any danger and it wasnt
until he sniffed the air that he detected smoke. He hoped it was just a campfire.
The area was popular with campers and climbers nearly all year round so it
was possible. His instincts told him different.
Telling his charges to stay put, he rose to his feet and took a short walk
around. The forest was very quiet, unnaturally quiet. Vins acute survival
instincts kicked in. He didnt like this one bit. The hairs on the back
of his neck prickled. He edged down the slope and approached Rories
teacher, Mrs Preston. They had a quiet animated conversation. Mr Faversham,
the leader of the expedition, joined in, curious to know what was going on.
From her perch on the hill, Rorie watched the adults. Uncle Vin was gesturing
madly and Mr Faversham was shaking his head. Mrs Preston just looked worried.
She wondered what was going on. Theyd listened to two more children
perform when suddenly a couple of hikers appeared, running up the trail.
Jesus, Kids! The breathless man looked horrified to find twenty
odd children and five adults lounging on the grass.
Theres a fire coming. You have to move. NOW! The pair
disappeared on an uphill trail on the opposite side of the clearing from
where theyd emerged moments earlier.
Vin gave Mr Faversham a withering look and shot up the hill to grab Rorie
and the rest of his contingent, a boy of about six and two more girls of
around eight. He set off uphill calling FOLLOW ME, ALL OF YOU, NOW!
Where are you going? The bus is that way. Faversham pointed down
the trail where the hikers had appeared.
They came from there. Too late ta head fer the buses. Well go
ta Carsons Ridge, there are caves in the rocks. Trust me, I know what
I agree with Mr Tanner, Sir. Mrs Preston grabbed her group and
followed the Texan. One of the other adults also set off in their direction,
herding his group of four boys as fast as he could in pursuit of the fleeing
Stop! I am in control of this party and I say we head to the buses,
theres the lake down there. We can get into the water if necessary.
Look Mister. Vin stopped, allowing the whole group to catch up.
He was furious. They were wasting precious time. Im responsible
fer this kid. He motioned Rorie. And I aint about ta let
her or any o my others die. I know bout the wilderness, I was
raised on a Reservation. Ya kin head fer the lake but ya wont make
it. Them kids deserve ta live. Now follow me. He set off again.
How dare you! Come back here! The Texan ignored him. I
am taking my children this way. You will be responsible for those in your
care, Mr Tanner, on your head be it. Mrs Preston, Mr Jacks you must decide
for yourselves. Come Miss Gladstone. Children. Faversham set off briskly
downhill accompanied by his assistant, Miss Gladstone, and the seven children
under his direct control.
Vin shook his head and hurried his kids uphill. He didnt like letting
Faversham leave with those kids but he had to help those he could. There
wasnt time to argue. The roar of the approaching fire was getting louder.
By the time the exhausted group had made the climb to Carsons Ridge,
they could feel the heat at their backs. Vin quickly scouted the area and
selected a cave for their refuge. He ushered all the children inside and
spoke quietly with the adults.
Mrs Preston, stay with the kids get em ta sit down quietly an'
have their snacks. When ya got em settled see if ya kin find a natural
basin, somewhere we kin store water without it seepin away. Jacks,
git every water bottle and canteen ya kin find an come with me.
Theres a small spring up a ways. We need ta get as much water as possible.
We dont know how long were gonna be here. Both nodded and
set off to do as he said. The scruffy Texan ATF Agent seemed to know what
he was doing. Their lives and the lives of thirteen children depended on
Small dry bushes were beginning to burst into spontaneous fires when Tanner
called a halt to the ferrying of water. He looked down into the small pool
they had created. The last load would stay in the bottles, keeping as fresh
as possible, and be used as their first drinking water. He looked around.
Mrs Preston had found an old blanket and some bits of wood, a bent tin cup
and a broken fishing pole, in the cave. He had taken the blanket to the spring
on the last visit and it dripped heavily with water.
He glanced over at the huddled group of kids. Most of them were dirty and
scared. Rorie grinned confidently at him and he found himself smiling back,
buoyed up by her trust. His leg ached and he badly needed to rest but there
were a few more things to do before he could. Grabbing the sopping blanket
and the fishing pole he motioned to the bits of wood and Jacks picked them
up unquestioningly. They moved towards the mouth of the cave. The one Vin
had selected was slightly curved and cut deeply into the hillside so they
could huddle out of the direct glare of the fire. The thing that concerned
him most was the smoke.
Wanna git this blanket up as a kinda smoke screen. Not too close ta
the heat but sos we kin keep somea the smoke out. Jacks
nodded. Need ta keep it high. Smoke rises. They stretched the
blanket between the walls, wedging it up as well as they could. By the time
Vin was satisfied it hung roughly half way to the floor, sealed as tightly
as possible at the top.
Okay. Thanks Jacks. Lets git back ta them kids.
My name, Don Jacks. They arrived back where the children were
sitting. Mrs Preston smiled at him and he felt himself blush, thankful it
wouldnt be too obvious in the dimness.
Vivian Preston. I teach acting at the school and this is my daughter
Heather. She nodded to the child tucked tightly into her left side.
Im Eddie Jacks, hes my dad. A freckled boy of about
nine smiled in relief as his father settled beside him and placed a comforting
arm around his shoulder.
Which one is yours Mr Tanner?
Call me Vin, Maam. Rorie heres m niece. He
indicated the small blonde who grinned at him and clambered onto his knee,
entirely confident of her welcome. He glanced around at the rest of the
frightened group. What about the rest o ya? Whats yer
One by one the kids introduced themselves. Of the thirteen kids there were
7 girls and 6 boys. Rorie was the smallest, although another, larger, child
also claimed to be four. The eldest was Heather Preston who was ten.
Vin sat leaning against the rock wall, Rorie on his lap and the red haired
Charlie Davis leaning against his side. Occasionally he would get up to check
the progress of the fire until eventually it grew too hot to venture close
to the mouth of the cave. They could hear the roar of the firestorm as it
raged close to their refuge.
Mrs Preston managed to keep the children chatting about themselves and their
families, telling stories and swapping anecdotes for several hours until
one claimed to be hungry. That, of course, started them all off.
Whatcha got left in yer knapsacks? Everyone git out whatcha got an
well share. Everyone pulled out what they had and put it in a
pile in the center of the circle.
There ensued a picnic of carrots, cheese, chips, stale sandwiches, a tin
of sweet corn, a couple of apples and bananas and various snack sized candy
bars, slightly melted. Everyone was still hungry when the meal was over but
not one child complained.
Vin cuddled Rorie against his chest and, at her insistence, started telling
a story. The children listened, enthralled, to how the courageous Indian
Brave rescued all the animals from the fierce fire sent down on a marauding
tribe by the Great Spirit who was displeased with their lack of respect for
the land. He gently rubbed his palm up and down Rories spine in a familiar
comforting caress and his voice soothed most of the children to sleep before
the dramatic climax to the tale. The smoke was seeping into the rocky cavern
and his voice was hoarse by the time he finished speaking.
Vivian Preston smiled at him in the faint glow and handed him a water bottle,
which he took gratefully. You have a good way with children Vin.
Tanner chuckled. I aint had much practice with the real little
uns but I learned from a good teacher, Maam. Rories father
is one o m best friends an hes like the damned pied
piper. Kids jist love him.
It seems to be contagious. They love you too. Rorie is very luck to
have you both.
Tanner smiled sadly. Well Maam she aint got a mama but
her dad n me n the others try our best.
There are more?
Yep. Includin Ez n me, theres seven o us, an
that aint countin girlfriends an adopted grandmothers an
the like. Were a big family. Vin closed his eyes and leaned his
head back against the rock. He wondered what the rest of the boys were doing.
At about the time Rorie was singing her Nursery Rhyme, Ezra received a call
from the school informing him that the area the children were visiting was
under a firestorm warning but that as far as they knew everything was fine.
They were just keeping him informed. Ezra immediately passed this on to the
rest of the team and they switched on the local news.
.recent bout of fierce forest fires have spread to within thirty
miles of the Northern outskirts of Denver, swallowing vast areas of woodland
and leaving devastation in their wake. This latest fire, which authorities
believe may have been started deliberately, is travelling steadily East,
carried by the prevailing winds, and is expected to consume Garvey Valley,
a popular destination with tourists and climbers alike. Local Forest Rangers
have been despatched to the valley to clear out any campers who may still
be in the area and unaware of the threat. On to other stories, in Four Corners
today a man was caught
Buck flicked the switch.
Chris turned to Ezra who was looking extremely anxious. He was clearly too
worried to bother with expending his energy on producing his poker face.
They in Garvey Valley? Ezra nodded. The leader turned to the
Medic. Youve got friends in Search and Rescue havent you
Nate? Can you give them a call and find out whats happening?
Ezra. Standish turned to his boss. If my kid was up there,
theres no-one Id rather have looking out for her than that wild
and woolly cowboy.
Ezra smiled somewhat grimly but agreed. Me neither.
A few minutes later Nathan put down his phone. Fires moved through
the main parking area for Garvey Valley. Its skirting round Dawsons
Lake, heading uphill. Theyve picked up a few hikers and climbers but
no school groups. They knew about the group going to the amphitheatre but
nobodys seen them yet.
Chris pulled out a map of the area. Lets see if we can work out
where Vin would have gone.
Ezra stood rooted to the spot. JD patted his shoulder. Vinll
make sure shes Okay Ez. Try not to worry.
He nodded, his throat constricted with the worry of possibly losing two people
Two hours after the initial call, the school rang back.
Mr Standish? This is Edgar Levinson at Denver School for the Performing
Arts. We have been informed that some of the group from the field trip have
been picked up and taken to Mercy General Hospital. As yet we have no names,
Im sorry, and I cannot tell you their condition. I suggest you meet
at the hospital with the other families and we will try to give you more
information when you arrive.
Ezra slowly replaced the receiver and took a deep breath. Could someone
please drive me to Mercy. I think my hands are shaking too badly. He
looked up at the worried faces, answering the question nobody wanted to ask.
I dont know. Some of the group have been transported to the hospital,
not all, and they dont have any names.
Well all go. Chris grabbed his jacket. Theyre
our family too Ez. Standish just nodded.
When they arrived at Mercy General Emergency Department the crowd of anxious
families quickly swallowed them up. Being members of the most injury prone
ATF Team in the State did have some advantages, however, and the chief nurse
approached them immediately.
Hey guys. What are you doing here today? Mindy smiled wearily
The group on the field trip from the school, Mindy, any names yet?
Nathan stepped forward and shook the outstretched hand.
None of your lot. She glanced at each face, noting who was absent.
Vin taking dance lessons?
Ezras daughter is. Her name is Rorie, blonde, four years old.
Vin went with her as an accompanying adult.
Mindy shook her head and indicated a side room. Once inside she shot Ezra
a sympathetic look. They arent with the group weve admitted,
I can promise you that. According to the kids there was an argument and they
split up. The expedition leader and his assistant took a group of seven kids
back down to the parking area and the lake. Unfortunately they got caught
there by the fire. The others followed one of the parents uphill. We think
the second group consisted of one teacher, two parents and thirteen kids.
Sounds like they were following Vin. Chris voiced what they were
In what kind of condition are the ones who were rescued?
Mindy examined her hands.
Mrs Watkins, you are aware that we always prefer to know what we are
dealing with. Please. Ezras tone was gently persuasive. His hands
were shaking and he was desperately worried, both about his daughter and
his friend. He wouldnt contemplate losing either of them.
She looked up at him and took a deep breath. Not good, Ezra, Im
sorry. Only one Adult was brought out alive and he suffered serious burns.
I doubt hell make it. Two kids are already confirmed dead, one from
the smoke, the other drowned in the lake, trying to get away from the flames.
The five surviving kids have various degrees of burns and lung damage from
the smoke inhalation. We expect them all to survive but some will be permanently
The pale Undercover Agent let out a strangled wail of distress and made no
attempt to escape from Josiahs enveloping hug.
Jesus! Buck pushed a hand through his thick dark hair. What
a mess. He glanced over at Chris who was stark white. Buck didnt
think Larabee would survive losing his best friend and yet another much loved
child, especially to a fire. His oldest friend met his look and shook his
head, turning to examine a blood-pressure chart on the wall.
Mindy? The nurse turned to JD. Can you check Vin and Rorie
are not among those brought in?
Theyre not. Every member of staff here knows Vin and I would
have heard. I know for a fact that there is no female child under 6 admitted
with the first group.
Thank you. Ezra sighed, partly in relief, partly in frustration.
Mindy nodded and left to resume her duties, squeezing Chriss shoulder
as she passed. Everyone knew how close this motley group were. They probably
wouldnt survive the loss of one of their number and nobody recovered
from the loss of a child.
Lets head up to the main search area, try to hook up with the
emergency teams. We may be able to help and it will allow us to keep a watch
on whats happening and stay busy at the same time. Chris lead
the way from the hospital, waiting while Ezra exchanged brief words with
the Principal, Mr Levinson.
Mr Tanner is a survival expert Mr Levinson. He knows the area well.
If anyone can keep those kids safe its him. Edgar Levinson nodded.
Excuse me. Ezra turned to the distraught looking young couple
standing beside the Headmaster.
Can I help you?
Our son Charlie, is with the second group. He was in Mr Tanners
party. You said your friend is a survival expert?
Indeed. He is extremely proficient when it comes to matters concerning
the wilderness. Try not to worry. I have every faith in Mr Tanner.
He shook hands with the concerned parents. My four year old daughter
is also up there.
Thank you. At least we know hes in good hands. The small
woman hugged her husband tightly and moved to sit on the plastic chairs to
The two Team vehicles had to run a gauntlet of checkpoints before they reached
the HQ of the Search and Rescue effort. Darkness was beginning to fall as
they arrived, made blacker by the smoke screening the sun. Ezra and Chris
sat transfixed in the front seat of the Ram for long moments as they watched
the billowing clouds of ash climb skywards.
As they stepped from the cars an S&R paramedic, who greeted Nathan as
a long lost friend, approached them.
Jackson introduced his team and the Medic, Pete, nodded to each man in turn.
We may be able to use you, especially you Nate. Come on over to the
command center and Ill show you what were dealing with.
Inside the temporary HQ, the path of the firestorm was being plotted on a
large-scale map. They all pored over the display.
After a few minutes Chris stood straight and looked into the eyes of the
head of the S&R Team. Carsons Ridge. The man raised
You think they went there?
They have a good chance if they got there in time. Wouldnt have
been an easy climb with all those kids. You sure thats where your friend
would take them?
Completely. Tanner knows the territory and he knows what hes
Vin Tanner? Ex Ranger Sniper? He whistled as Chris nodded again.
Ive heard of him. One of the best snipers in the country, apparently,
and a formidable tracker. Part Native American isnt he?
Not by blood. More by inclination. Ezra smiled at the older man.
But we are confident he would have known where to go to wait out the
fire and made every effort to reach his destination expeditiously.
I hope so, for the sake of those kids.
Vinll make sure theyre okay. JDs confidence
in his team member was absolute. Chris and Ezra exchanged glances.
Tuesday 1st August
Vin woke with cramp in his calf and a sensation
of something wet trickling down his neck. He took a moment to get his bearings
before opening his eyes. The rest of the group were still asleep, piled
haphazardly against each other in a peculiar human pyramid. It couldnt
be much past dawn.
He glanced down at his chest. Rorie was drooling into the neck of his shirt.
He prodded her awake and set the sleepy child down on her bottom before heading
to check outside.
The whole area was a smouldering black wasteland. Small fires ate up what
was left of the vegetation and a pall of acrid smoke hung over the entire
area like a thick oppressive blanket. Tanner looked at the sky, seeing little
but the dense grey smoke cloud and floating whispers of ash and sparks. He
sighed. There was no way a chopper would be able to spot them through the
Theyd have to walk down.
Hey everyone, rise and shine. Vin gently encouraged the children
and adults to gather their belongings. Making sure everyone had a drink and
a full bottle they left their haven and headed out into the fresh air. At
least, it should have been fresh. Both children and adults gaped at the blackened
landscape. Where only the previous day there had been lush green vegetation,
there stood only grotesque, charred skeletons of the trees and bushes, a
stark reminder of the horror they had narrowly escaped. The ground felt hot
beneath their feet.
Vin looked down as Rorie slipped her hand into his. Uncle Vin?
Her voice was hoarse. She sounded like Josiah.
Yeah Pumpkin? Vin rasped back.
Will it come back or will it always be like this? He glanced
at the other kids who seemed struck dumb with shock, all waiting for his
He smiled reassuringly at her. Its kinda like when ya clean yer
room. Ya like it the way it is but yer dad makes ya tidy it. Fer a while
it stays bare until slowly, a bit at a time, more and more things start ta
appear an pretty soon its jest as messy as it always was.
Rorie chuckled throatily at the bizarre analogy, just as hed intended.
Its gonna grow back.
Yep. Even greener than bfore. All the stuff thats burned
feeds the earth and makes it stronger an richer. Soon little trees
an shoots will spring up an in a couple o years itll
be green again.
Little Charlie Davis gripped Vins other hand. What about the
Most of em will have run bfore the fire got too close.
Thats how I knew the fire was comin. The forest was too quiet
cause all the animals had gone. Only the weak an sick wouldda
gotten caught, Charlie. Thats part o Mother Natures way
o keepin the animals strong. Its called survival o
They slowly picked their way down the mountain. Stopping regularly so that
the Texan could scout ahead and check the path was clear and safe from any
lingering fires or unwelcome surprises.
It was mid morning when they spotted movement coming towards them. Vin put
his fingers to his lips and let out a piercing whistle that was immediately
answered. Within minutes an excited team of Search and Rescue volunteers
You must be Tanner. The leader of the search team shook his hand,
mentally counting heads. Any injuries?
Nope. All taken in a bit o smoke though. The man nodded
and one of the medics handed out water and high-energy bars to the group
of tired, hungry kids.
The leader fished out his walky-talky. Rescue HQ this is team Gamma,
There was a squawk from the handset. Go ahead Gamma.
Confirm contact School group. Three Adults, thirteen children, all
walking. Arrange pick up, Dawson Parking area, 30 minutes.
Acknowledged Gamma. Good job. They set off back down the slope,
the smaller children being carried by members of the rescue team.
The remaining members of Team 7 were disconsolately hanging around the mobile
café when the HQ Commander approached. They all looked tired and anxious
as they rose warily to their feet.
We found them. Seems your mans reputation is justified. They
are all walking. Three adults and thirteen children. We are collecting them
by chopper in thirty minutes. They will be taken directly to Mercy.
His announcement was met with beaming smiles and the ATF Agents quickly left
to head for the hospital.
Once there, the parents of Charlie Davis greeted Ezra. Is it true?
Theyre all Okay? He nodded, grinning, and the small woman burst
into tears and hugged him. He patted her back.
They should be here any moment Mrs Davis. Calm yourself. Do not let
your young man see how distressed you are, it will only make his trauma that
much more real and frightening. The woman wiped her eyes.
There was a sudden rush of medical staff towards the elevators as the call
came in that the chopper had landed. Anxious families rose to their feet
The elevator doors opened to reveal a collection of small, blackened faces,
all split with beaming white smiles. The relieved parents converged on the
group, as Team 7 stood back and waited. Finally, their missing Texan appeared
through the throng, carrying his small charge who wriggled down and raced
over to leap at her father.
Daddy! Ezra chuckled at the deep baritone.
Hello Honeybee. He hugged her tight, teary emerald eyes meeting
the red-rimmed blue of his friends over her head. Vin.
Tanner just nodded. Chris slapped him on the shoulder as Nathan fussed around
the returning pair, trying to get them into a cubicle to be checked over.
Were fine Nate. There was a collective rolling of eyes
over that familiar pronouncement. Mindy appeared to check them over and soon
they were ready to go home.
Mr Tanner? Vin turned to see the Principal of the school and
several parents standing behind him. Thank you. The words were
heartfelt in their simplicity. Vin blushed, although it was hard to see under
his soot-covered skin.
Jest did what I could, Sir. Aint nothin nobody else
wouldnt a done. He grinned at the kids. Everbody
Great. Yall be good fer yer parents now cause theyve
had a rough night. He hugged each child in turn, shaking hands with
some of the parents before quickly slipping away.
JD flicked off the video that had lapsed
into white noise. There was a silence.
That is quite some adventure you had Brother.
Vin had videoed inside their hidey-hole, capturing the faces of the children
in the dimness of the cavern. The sounds of the raging fire could be heard
clearly in the background.
I wanted ta film em all, jest in case.
You doubted your ability to bring those children safely through their
ordeal? Ezra gazed steadily at his friend. There is no one I
trust more with the precious life of my child than the six of you, and in
these particular circumstances you would have been my first choice. You obviously
have less faith in your expertise than we do.
We never questioned that you would take charge and keep those kids
safe Vin. Nathan smiled at the Texan. Even Ezra wouldnt
have taken bets against you, it was a sure thing.
Tanner met the eyes of his best friend.
Never doubted you Vin.
The tired Texan smiled slowly, a feeling of contentment rushing through him
at the confidence and trust placed in him by the men whose opinions he valued
above all others.
He let out the breath he hadnt realized hed been holding.
Thanks, fellers. Means a lot ta me, knowin how much faith yall
have in me.
The Seven lapsed into comfortable silence, content with the company of their
closest friends, now family.
To Atlantan Legacy XIV - Birds, Bees and Teddy
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