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Saturday 21st April
Vins sleep was fitful. Hed been
tossing and turning for hours, just snatching a few minutes here and there.
He looked at the glowing digital clock. 3.04am.
He rolled over on his back, punching the pillow up behind his neck and stared
at the shadowed ceiling. He wasnt going to be able to sleep, may as
well give up.
The problem keeping him awake was that he was not at all sure he was really
ready for the responsibility of being a stand-in parent. Especially to a
Hed been Uncle for barely a month and then yesterday hed
suddenly found himself in sole charge of three-year-old Rorie. Ezra had finally
succumbed to the inevitable and gone undercover, hopefully for just a short
while, and Chris had moved into the Standish household to help Vin deal with
his first time responsibility.
The previous Afternoon
Well be fine Ez. You jest do
yer thing an dont worry about us.
Vin, I dont doubt for one moment that you will cope admirably
in your position as in loco parentis but I do regret that we
have not had sufficient warning to enable us to prepare for this event. You
have not yet had the opportunity practice handling her alone and we have
no idea how Rorie will react when she returns from school and discovers my
He wont be alone.
The two Agents turned to Larabee questioningly.
I figured Id move in with you, just for a couple of days, till
youre settled in the new dynamic. Maybe leave after the weekend. That
Okay with you Ez?
Standish nodded, smiling in appreciation.
Vin jumped in defensively. If ya dont think Im up to
mindin the kid mebbe you should be the one
Tanner broke off to look at Ezra. I am trusting you to care for the
most important person in my life. Dont throw that in my face.
He smiled at Vin who smiled back, accepting the compliment.
However, having said that, it would probably be best, just this once,
to have Mr Larabees experience and support readily available. You will
be filling the roles of chief disciplinarian, homework monitor and fixer
of Owwies. He grinned. It usually takes both of us
to keep up with Rorie on a good day. If she is disturbed by my sudden
disappearance it may be as well to have back-up until she adapts. Nobody
doubts your ability. We all know how capable you are. I had you, he
glanced around, encompassing the rest of the team in his comment, all
of you, when I found myself thrust unexpectedly into parenthood. Accept the
assistance offered and Mr Larabee will remove to the ranch when you are
comfortably established as a twosome.
Besides, you have to learn to share. Chris grinned at Tanner
who nodded and smiled back.
It was as well he had agreed since Rorie had not taken the news at all well.
Whens he coming back?
Cant say fer sure pumpkin, itll be a few days, mebbe a
week, mebbe more. Hell clear it up fast as he can though.
Hes pretending to be a bad guy?
Yeah, finds out what theyre gonna do an then we catch them
What if they find out hes telling on them?
Darlin yer Daddys real good at what he does, the best
jest dont tell im I said that, Vin got a weak smile at
his aside, He told me ta tell ya he loves ya an that hell
be real careful pumpkin.
You know hes been shot before? I saw the scars. Vin and
Chris exchanged glances. Chris took over.
Shorty, every one of us has been hurt at some point. Id like
to promise you it wont happen again but I cant. You know thats
part of what we do, but we are careful. We have to stop the bad men getting
the guns so they cant hurt people. If Agents like your Daddy didnt
do what they do, thered be more guns on the street and a lot more innocent
people getting hurt.
Like at school?
Yep. Vin picked Rorie up and settled her on his hip. In an attempt
to redirect her attention he offered, how about we go to MacDonalds
for supper? Rorie smiled but it was a poor imitation of her usual dimpled
I guess not having Daddy here could be good sometimes. Uncle Vin can
I tell you a secret?
I dont like sushi!
Vin and Chris both laughed and said in chorus, Neither do I.
The evening had gone fairly quietly, notwithstanding the fact that Vin had
had to climb up into the plastic tubes of Macdonalds kids play area
to retrieve Rorie when she wouldnt come out. Hed had his first
taste of being the bad guy when hed told her shed have no candy
tomorrow, Saturday being the only day Ezra allowed it, as punishment. Shed
pouted and pleaded but with Chriss assistance hed held firm.
God, discipline was much harder than it looked.
Now he lay looking up at the ceiling and wondering if hed made the
right decision when hed offered to be named primary guardian for the
Hearing a shuffle he turned his head.
Rorie was silhouetted in the doorway, with the ever present George also in
He propped himself up on his elbows and smiled at her. Hello, Pumpkin.
Whats the matter? She didnt move so he held out his hand
to her. Comere. She shuffled forward. Rorie?
I had a accident, Uncle Vin. She hung her head and didnt
meet his eyes.
Vin looked perplexed until he realized she was naked. Ohh! Never mind
pumpkin, it aint the end o the world. Here, He reached
for his discarded t-shirt and slipped it over her head, you wanna come
in with me?
Rorie nodded and Vin lifted the covers and let her climb in beside him. It
looked like their morning cuddle was getting earlier.
Im sorry Uncle Vin.
Wetting the bed.
Ah Pumpkin, thats Okay. It was an accident. Sometimes when
youre worried or upset these things happen.
Does it happen to you?
Vin choked. No sweetie, not anymore. Its usually jest children.
Yall grow out of it. They cuddled in silence for a little while
and Vin could feel the little body relaxing against his chest. Want
ta tell me what the problem is? Is it yer Dad? He felt her nod.
What if he goes to the Angels?
I cant promise he wont someday but havin you is a
real good reason fer him ta try extra hard ta stay. Ya aint gotta worry
Rorie, well always be here fer ya. She nodded again and he waited
as her breathing evened out into sleep.
Chris was making pancakes when the little girl in the enormous t-shirt arrived
in the kitchen later in the morning, dragging the big bear behind her.
Hello there sleepyhead.
Morning Uncle Chris. She yawned.
Vin still asleep?
Yahuh. She climbed awkwardly into the chair, nearly toppling
over when she got her feet caught in the extra material of Vins T-shirt.
Only Chriss quick reflexes stopped her from tumbling off completely.
Whoa there. I dont think youre really awake yet either
are you? He picked up George and set him in an adjoining seat. You
ready for some blueberry pancakes ala Larabee?
I am. A dishevelled Vin arrived, running his hand through long
tousled hair. Hey Chris. Mornin Pumpkin.
Vin and Chris indulged in one of their infamous silent communications.
Rories head was turning side to side, like a spectator at a tennis
match, as she followed this, trying to work out what was going on.
So are you two up for going to the show today?
That got Rories attention. What show? She spoke through
a mouthful of pancake ala Larabee. Chris shook his head at her
and waited while she swallowed. Sorry. What Show?
Theres a spring show on, near the Ranch. The farmers show their
animals, theres police dog display teams, rodeo events, stalls selling
just about everything, food, ice cream
Yeah! Can we go Uncle Vin?
Vin nodded. I dont see why not. Slong as ya obey the
The child made a face. More rules?
Ya done? He got a nod in confirmation. Go wash up an
git dressed then. The little figure left with alacrity, only to return
for the bear.
Once shed gone Chris cleared up the kitchen and prepared for the outing
while Vin went off to change Rories bedding and sort out her unruly
mop of hair. If it meant keeping her mind off her missing parent they could
survive a visit to the county fair.
By the time they returned to the house both men were exhausted. Rorie, having
slept in the car on the way home, was full of beans. She gave up trying to
get one or other of her uncles to play with her, both just wanted to put
their feet up and vegetate, so she vanished up into her bedroom, taking her
backpack full of spoils with her.
Sitting in front of the TV with open bottles of beer Chris broke the silence.
So what happened last night?
She wet the bed. I figure she was worried bout Ez. She ended
up in with me at 3am. Chris laughed.
Having a kid around sure plays havoc with your love life, eh Cowboy?
Vin grinned. Shes easier ta talk ta than most females. Shame
she has ta grow up.
Thatll be an interesting spectacle. Watching Ez cope with the
Yeah! They laughed and Vin flicked the channels until he found
a movie they could both watch.
Theyd been sitting quietly for all of ten minutes when the sharpshooter
was struck by a thought. Thered been something about Rories behaviour
that had bothered him all day. Hed finally realized what it was. The
Is it jest me or was Rorie strangely attached ta that pack today?
Chris considered the question. What are you getting at Vin?
Aint sure. Its jest
she wouldnt let either
of us carry it an it mustve been heavy.
As one the two agents rose and crept stealthily up the stairs. They could
hear the child talking and laughing to herself. They exchanged glances. Vin
pushed her door open with his fingertips.
Aurora Standish! The child in question jumped at the unexpected
voice. She turned guiltily. Where did you get that? Vin pointed
at the animal she was trying unsuccessfully to hide behind her back.
Ummm. Ah, what?
Think fast kid. Chris approached and picked up the fluffy yellow
Well? Vin stood over her.
The man at the chicken farm gave him to me.
Cause I asked. He said itd be all right if I checked with my
Why didnt you?
HES NOT HERE!
Chris spoke again. Dont speak to Uncle Vin in that tone of voice
The little girl took on a mutinous expression, thrusting out her lower lip.
Vin sank to his knees and took hold of her shoulders, bringing her to face
him. Aurora ya know very well that when Ezra isnt here I am
responsible fer ya. Which means ya answer TO me when ya done wrong.
Rorie hung her head. Yes Uncle Vin.
I know ya aint happy that he aint here. Im sorry
fer that. But it aint fair ta take it out on me is it?
Okay then. If ya really are, I guess were good.
Can I keep it?
Not a chance. Rorie huffed. Dont push me, pumpkin.
Chris, ya think Miss Nettiell take it in?
I expect so. It can go in with her others. Ill drop it off on
my way home tomorrow.
You arent going to tell Daddy about this are you?
Hell want ta know what yave been doin but I aint
gonna tell im. Rories look of relief was short lived.
By Sunday afternoon, Chris felt that Vin and Rorie had established their
balance. Rorie now understood that Uncle Vin could be just as strict as Ezra
and she paid attention when he gave instructions. Vin was more confident
in his role as substitute parent and although they still made mischief together,
there had been a subtle shift in their relationship.
Rorie was in bed, hopefully asleep, when Vin walked Chris out to the Ram.
No problem Vin. Ive been there remember? Call if you need
anything. The two gripped forearms in their classic handshake.
Vin watched the car vanish down the street and turned back to the house.
He was on his own.
Tuesday 24th April
Vin happened to be out of the office when
the call came in from the school. Buck answered the phone.
Having identified himself and been checked by the school official as being
on the list of approved guardians, he was informed of the problem. Swearing
he threw down the phone and turned to the others.
Chris, get out here. Larabees office door opened and he
stuck his head out.
What did you say?
Chris dropped his ire in favour of anxiety as he approached Bucks
workstation. The other three also stopped what they were doing and gathered
Christ, that kids getting to be as much trouble as her father.
Apparently, the class had been on a day trip to the Science Museum. Rorie
had claimed that another child, a known truant, had been taken away in a
car. The teacher had pooh-poohed that idea and told her to stop telling tales.
Rorie had then taken off at a run, disappearing though the crowd of visitors
and out into the street. They had initiated a search but no trace of either
child had been found.
When did this happen?
According to the school about forty-five minutes ago.
That Museum is only two blocks from here. You boys head out and look
for her, Ill go find Vin.
Im here. Whats goin on? Tanner approached from
the direction of the elevator. What? He looked at all the worried
faces and took a breath. Okay is it Ez or Rorie?
Rorie. Buck filled him in on all hed learned from the school.
Okay lets go. They were moving to the door when Vins
phone rang again. This time he picked it up himself.
Tanner. He listened. Yeah bring her up. He disconnected
the call and redialled. Hi, Principal Sinclair please. Vin Tanner
Hello? Hi, Yes I know. Shes here at the office. No, I dont know
about the other one. Its just Rorie. Okay thanks. He replaced
the receiver as the elevator pinged, announcing a new arrival.
They all turned to watch as the missing child stepped out, followed by two
uniformed security officers, who nodded at Vin and then left.
Uncle Vin, Uncle Vin, Charlottes gone. She dashed up to
Vin who leaned down and picked her up.
What the HELL are ya playing at Aurora? Vin was alternately hugging
her and yelling at her. Ya scared the bejesus outta us! He hugged
her again. Talk kid, an make it good.
A man took Charlotte. He lied and said he had puppies and that our
mothers had said it would be Okay and Charlotte got in the car but I didnt
cause I havent got one and the man got mad and I kicked him and
then he took her away and I told the teacher and she said I was making it
up and I wasnt and the bad man took Charlotte and I had to do something
so I found a policeman and I told him and he didnt believe me either
and then I came here. We gotta find Charlotte Uncle Vin.
Vin looked at Chris with a very confused expression. Did you get
Chris nodded. He turned to the elevator again as two DPD cops stepped out.
Can I help you boys?
The older cop nodded. Sorry sir, Were just checking on the kid,
we followed her when she made a run through the people on the sidewalk but
lost sight of her a ways back. Finally tracked her to here. Security told
us she belongs to you. He looked towards the child. Your teacher
is worried about you. He spoke into his mic.
You the cops she spoke to? The man admitted they were. A
little kid tells you her friend has been abducted and you ignore it?
Chris shook his head. Things have changed since I was with the DPD.
Larabee turned to the child. Rorie do you remember anything about the
car or the man?
Yahuh. It was the same as Uncle Nates but it was black and older.
Kinda bent. There was a big white scratch down the side and the front window
was cracked like a spider web. I didnt get all the number but it started
with GPY 78 something. Chris nodded to JD who sat down at his
monitor and started to hammer at the keys.
What about the man? This came from the cop who was suddenly taking
the childs claim seriously. This kid belonged to a fellow law enforcer
and seemed to know what sort of thing they needed to track down her friend.
Vin snorted. Anything else?
He was big, like Uncle Josiah and he had a blue jacket and jeans. Or
maybe a brown jacket. I cant remember. He smelled like it does at the
gas station. She pulled a yucky face.
Got it. JD spoke from his terminal as he read off the information.
Black explorer, registration GPY 78312, registered Denver to a Marcus
Grayson Helligan, known paedophile currently on parole, address, he
paused as the information was flashed up, 1675 Mason.
Chris turned to the cops. You get that? The older one nodded
as his young colleague called it in. Make sure they get an APB out
on that vehicle. Are they sending units to the address? The younger
cop nodded. Yessir.
You boys can go and keep the streets safe. Dont think youve
heard the last of this. He was looking at Rorie as he spoke and missed
their expressions of resigned dread.
Vin had taken Rorie to his desk where he sat her on the edge as he collapsed
into his chair.
You Okay? She nodded. Nate? You want to check her over
before I kill her?
Nathan quickly examined the child, finding finger shaped bruises on her left
forearm to be her only injury.
Okay so you want ta tell me how ya got here?
I walked. Uncle Vin what about Charlotte?
Her attempt at redirection had no effect whatsoever on Vin. Theyll
find her. You walked? By yourself? He considered that. Ya crossed
two busy streets, BY YOURSELF?
I waited for the green man.
Vin sighed. Rorie ya ever heard of a phone? Ya shouldda called.
She shrugged. I didnt think of that. I could see the building
from the sidewalk so I just came. You gonna punish me again?
No. Vin smiled grimly at her expression of satisfaction. What
ya did was very brave an very dumb. She frowned at him. I
aint gonna punish ya. Im gonna let ya tell yer father an
leave it up ta him.
Rorie looked suitably horrified. Couldnt you just punish me and
get it over with? Then we could tell him it was finished and he wouldnt
punish me again. Would he? She looked unsure but hopeful.
Dont count on it. This came from Chris. Whichever
way you wont have to think about it too long since the bust is set
to go in the next couple of days.
Oh Lord. She sounded so like Ezra that the rest of Team 7 had
to stifle their smiles. Vin sighed a sigh of immense relief and hugged her
again. He wouldnt have to explain to Ezra how hed lost his child
the first time hed been left in charge.
Saturday 28th April
As usual, at about 6.30am Vin had a visitor.
He held the blankets up and Rorie crawled into the warm spot, putting her
cold feet on his flat belly.
Jeez Rorie couldnt ya find any socks?
She grinned at him. Just wanted to be sure you knew it was me.
Aint nobody else climbs inta my bed at dawn.
Uncle Buck says hes got people climbing outta his bed at dawn.
Vin gaped. Uncle Buck talks too much.
Yeah and half the time I dont understand what hes talking
Just as well pumpkin.
Vin let out an oomph as the child crawled up onto his chest,
digging surprisingly sharp elbows into his solar plexus.
Tell me a story Uncle Vin.
Vin wove a tale of native Indians and a young brave proving himself a man
by bringing home a buffalo until he realized it was almost 8.30.
Okay, off ya go while I get dressed. He climbed out of bed and
hitched his pyjama trousers further up on his narrow hips.
Can I watch you shave off the stuggle?
Its stubble an no, ya aint allowed in
my bathroom remember?
Just this once?
No. Iffn ya wanna watch, go watch Ez.
The little face under the mop of reddish curls gaped at him. Hes
Yep. But Vin was talking to air.
Thundering feet approaching down the corridor gave the Undercover Agent the
heads up and he was ready to catch the flying bundle when it
launched itself at his bed.
Ezra lay in the bed and cuddled the child in silence for a long time, both
of them content just to be in each others presence. Eventually she
wriggled and he reluctantly loosened his hold.
I missed you baby girl. He carded his fingers through the soft
curls framing her face.
I missed you more!
Mmmm. I doubt that. You had your Uncles for company. Were you a good
girl for Uncle Vin? Ezra had already received an in-depth report when
the two returned to the house the previous evening but he wanted her to tell
We had fun.
Ezra twisted his lips sardonically. I expect you did and you can tell
me all about it over breakfast. However, that wasnt the question I
She knew by his use of her full name that he was already aware of her activities
during his absence. Sighing, she pushed the hair out of her eyes and sat
back on his stomach. They looked at each other.
Where do you want me to start?
He raised his brows in true Standish style and stated Ive always
considered the beginning to be an appropriate place.
To Atlantan Legacy VII - Happy
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