Travis' Seven

by Sammie

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"What about the kid?" Orin asked quietly.

"He's the best, Orin," Chris replied.

"You could carve that on his tombstone." Orin shook his head. "He's too young. This job could kill him."

Behind them, an annoyed JD pressed his lips together and quietly slipped out of the ranchhouse to the back patio.

"I know. But he was willin'."

"Chris, I got no doubt about his sincerity or his bravery, but I hope ya know what you're doin'. I don't wanna have to send him home to his parents in a box."

"I'll handle it, Orin," Chris replied. He paused and looked out at the patio, where JD was wandering aimlessly around the pool. "'Sides, his parents're gone."

Orin looked at Chris and then at the young man outside. He nodded and patted the younger man on the shoulder. "This place is yours however long you need it. I need to be gettin' back. Evie's waitin'."

Chris nodded. "Safe trip, Orin."

Orin paused at the door and smiled. "Good luck, Chris."

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

"Well, I'm pretty sure Earl would come after us and take out all our knees if he found out. One by one."

"If so, Mr. Sanchez, what would make you consider such a perilous assignment as this?"

Josiah swirled his drink slowly. "Well, I'm an expert at prayers for the dying."

Ezra began to chuckle. "Oh, I like this guy. Lord help me, I like him. I'm in this for the laughs, if nothing else."

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Chris walked out of the ranch house to the pool area in the back. The other men turned quietly to him.

The blond looked over the six. "Everyone eatin'? Got food 'fore Vin got here?"

The food he was chewing lessened the effect of Vin's scowl.

Chris smirked. "Everyone sober? Close enough. All right, 'fore we get started, no one's on the line yet. I've asked you here for a job. It's a privately sponsored job and it's dangerous. You're either in or you're out, right now."

The men looked at each other.

Chris then continued, "If this ain't your brand of whiskey, have some more food and be on your way. No hard feelings. The rest of you, come on into the house." He turned and headed inside.

Ezra and Josiah looked at each other and then at the other men before walking to the house.

Vin grabbed a small stack of finger sandwiches and trotted after them, Nathan on his heels.

Buck stood at the edge of the patio, still sipping his beer, discreetly watching the seventh.

The kid was sitting on a lawn chair across the way, lost in his own thoughts. He looked hurt and seemed to be stewing about something.

Buck walked over. "You're Dunne."

JD looked up at him but didn't say anything.

"From Boston."

JD watched him warily. "Yeah."

"It's nice there. Do you like it?"


Buck smiled genially. "That's wonderful. Now get in the d--n house."

+ + + + + + +

"The boss has given us this job, and we gotta come through," Chris started.

"God?" JD gasped.

"Trust me, kid, we'd hear God shoutin' if He were talkin' to Chris," Buck chortled.

"Orin Travis," Vin supplied.

"This--" Chris clicked the tiny little remote in his hand and a picture flashed on the screen "--is Earl. He's a hit man, but he takes out whole groups and areas, not just individuals. They suspect that the unsolved destruction of the business district of Witcoff from a few years ago was his doing. Totally gone. He's also wiped out two science research corporation parks. He tried to hit the Four Corners business district a year or so ago, and rumor has it he'll try again.

"Because of the sheer number he's killed, he's in the FBI's top most wanted. DEA wants a piece of him, too, and I'm thinking the ATF will, eventually. Earl's attractiveness is in his silence. For the two times he actually got caught, he hasn't revealed a single name; of course, those few times there wasn't enough to convict him. He also covers his tracks really well."

Chris looked at the six men. "Right now the reward money for Earl's capture is $5.6 million. There are seven of us. You do the math."

The blond cued up the next interface, a split screen with the pictures of two older men. "The one on the left is Guy Royal, and Stuart James is on the right. They are the two who would most want the business district of Four Corners gone, but there was no way to link them officially to the attempted hit on the area. The two men's families go back a long way, back into the 1870's. Both were ranchers, but the Royals then could also be counted as land speculators."


"Some ant-sized Western town was positive the Royal family was trying to burn people out and take their land--for when the railroad came through."


"I think so. Some inordinately ridiculous number of lawmen there, and a newspaper editor whose grandfather, father, whatever was a federal judge." Chris nodded at the pictures of the two men. "They're casino owners and they've partnered recently." He clicked again to bring up another split-screen picture, this time of two casinos. "Their casinos are both on the 4000 block of Las Vegas. Royal runs the the Gadiel, on the left, and James runs the Alexandria."

Josiah chuckled.


"'Gadiel' means 'God is my fortune,'" Josiah replied, resulting in a few snickers and snorts. "I don't really think that's what they were going for."

Chris nodded and kept on going. "Royal and James, for all intensive purposes, run clean operations. They give more than their share to charities. Feds also suspect 'em of hiring Earl to do the jobs on some business districts in their way--latest one being the attempted hit on Four Corners. It's not clear what they're planning at this point, and again, even if Earl is caught, the likelihood of him talking is slim."

Chris cued up the next interface. "These two are Earl's backup. On the left is Trey Barye, owner of the Marseille, also on the 4000 block but farther down from James and Royal's casinos. His second cousin's wife's brother's war buddy is Earl. Earl saved the guy's life."

"That's flimsy, pard."

"If it weren't for the fact that Earl has been seen there a few times."

"That's no reason to think Earl is tied to him."

"Does Barye have any other connection? Does he employ Earl?"

Chris shook his head. "Not that we know of. Barye appears to be doing quite well and has not invested in other business ventures that might be losing money. He also has not been involved in any shady business deals; Barye really has little use for a hitman like that. He simply fronts for Earl."

"And we're sure Earl's tied to him?"

"Feds think there is a tie, but they're not sure what. This is why we're not going to go charging in on him right off. Besides the personal connection, the suspicion is that Barye gets first pick of enforcers from Earl's recommendations. In return for what Earl did before and for the enforcers, Earl can stash whatever money he makes in Barye's vault."

"Whatever money Earl is making won't look out of place in a casino vault."

"That's right. Earl also has to be and is careful on his bookkeeping. Who owes him what has got to be carefully laid out so that there won't be any questions, especially with the number of clients he has. The last few times the feds searched his compound, they couldn't find the records, but they're pretty sure they exist."

"You think they're in the vault with the money," Vin confirmed.

Chris grinned.

"That's a lot of speculation, pard," Buck said doubtfully.

Chris shook his head and then continued. "The man on the right is James Lightfoot, head of the Eagle Bend law firm. He's on track to becoming Attorney General of Nevada. The two times Earl has been caught, it's never even gone to trial. By all appearances clean, of course, but a tip seems to indicate that Lightfoot is tied to Earl, getting personal payoffs when he assigns one of his top lawyers to defend or be a consultant for Earl."

"So we have to take 'em all out--Royal, James, Barye, and Lightfoot."

"That's right, and in one shot. We have to get those records."

"And we're positive they exist?"

"The feds are almost 100% sure they exist in some form, somewhere. Three agents swear they saw the papers during a bust after Witcoff, but because of legal issues, the papers were not allowed in court. Then, as I said before, they weren't able to find them in later searches."

"Search warrant?"

"There's only a few, scant rumors about Barye and it's not enough to get a warrant to search Barye's vault. They've already searched James and Royal's."

"We're gonna steal Earl's papers without a warrant."

"That's why it's a private job. And that's why we're gonna turn 'em over anonymously to the police."

"Mr. Larabee, how would we even get the $5.6 million, then?"

"Orin'll take care of it."

"And how are we gonna get these papers from Barye? He's not just gonna let us waltz right in."

Chris grinned. "We're going to hit the vault."

The men stared.

"Excuse me?"

"We're going to hit the vault," Chris repeated as he cued up the next slide, showing a moving video blueprint of the casino. "This is the Marseille. The vault for it is 200 feet under the strip and it holds all the money from the casino and anything else of extremely high value to Barye...or Earl."

"Like his papers."

"Right." Chris cued up the next slide, another blueprint. "This is a blueprint of the vault. In case you didn't know, good casino security rivals that of most nuclear silos. Going in, even with a search warrant, could result in the secret destruction of those papers even if we breezed past security checkpoints. There's just too many of them and they take time to go through. We have to figure out another way in before they know we're in there."

"Mr. Larabee, if I may speak freely?" Ezra finally spoke from his perch on the tall stool by the mini bar. At Chris' nod, he said pointedly, "Perhaps confronting Mr. Barye is not the best method, but attempting even to enter a vault similar to the one on your screen is much more hazardous and unlikely."

Chris motioned for him to continue.

"You were quite correct about casino security. They have cameras. Watches. Locks. Timers. Vaults. They have enough armed personnel to occupy Paris." He paused. "All right, that was a despicable example."

Chris held out the pointer to the Southerner and stepped aside.

Ezra hopped off the stool and took the pointer. "Thank you." He nodded to JD. "Mr. Dunne, could you restart the blueprint of the casino?"

The moving video started again. Ezra gestured to the blueprint on the monitor. "Let us first address this blueprint you have on the screen." He tapped it with the pointer. "We would first have to gain access into the casino cages; anyone will corroborate my statement that it takes more than a smile."

"Now, pard, can't underestimate the power of my animal magnetism." Buck grinned.

Ezra looked at him with an expression of surprise, disgust, bewilderment, and who knows what else.

Vin groaned. "Buck, that's nasty."

Ezra turned back to the screen. "Next, we would move through these security doors, each of which requires a different digit code; I would surmise between five and eight digits. The codes are altered every few hours, generally 12 to 24 hours. Past these doors lies the elevator."

Chris looked at Vin, the question in his eyes.

Vin grinned as he leaned against the wall. He tilted his head nearer to Chris's. "Ez was casino security for awhile before joinin' the FBI."

Chris looked at him in surprise. "Really."

Vin grinned as he watched Ezra describe the blueprint and its security pitfalls. "Yep. Head of casino security in some place in Reno."

"The elevator to the vault is no simple matter, either," Ezra continued. "Most casino vault elevators will not move without authorized confirmation. This could be fingerprint, facial, or vocal identifications...or any combination of them, and they would have to come from the one entering the elevator, the security system within the casino, the guards in the vault below, or any combination of them. Not only will we not be able to get these identifications, we will not be able to fake them."

"Can we override the elevator?" JD asked.

"Most unhappily, no. The elevator shaft is rigged with motion detectors, meaning if we were to override the lift manually, the shaft's exit would lock automatically and the unfortunate soul inside would be trapped."

"So...ah...what after the elevator?"

"In the unlikely event we actually manage to exit the elevator unscathed--I stress 'unlikely event'--of course, after that it is merely child's play." Ezra rolled his eyes as he cued up the blueprint of the vault. "There would only be a few more...uzi-toting guards who would make Mr. Sanchez and Officer Wilmington look like Tom Thumb...and then the vault door. If I am reading this blueprint correctly--and I would like to think that I am--this vault is most likely one of the least accessible ever designed."

Chris leaned over to Vin. "We got our inside man."

"We got our inside man." Vin grinned.

"Oh, I forgot to mention the cameras. My apologies."

JD looked sick. "And after that?"

"Then of course, there is the problem of exiting the casino," Ezra continued.

"Can we tunnel?" Buck asked.

"Unfortunately, security systems are such that if there were a groundhog burrowed there, everyone would know. Moreover, exiting the edifice would be even more difficult if there actually are many business papers there. A few records could be concealed on the person; several notebooks would require another method of transport out of the vault and out of the casino."

Ezra put the pointer down and turned to Chris. "Let us say we do gain access to the cages, manage to get through the security doors, somehow slide down the elevator we cannot move, maneuver past the armed guards, and enter the vault we cannot open--let us say we accomplish all that--are you truly expecting us simply to walk out of the vault with that damaging information?" He looked expectantly at the blond.

Chris gave an almost imperceptible, nonchalant shrug. "Yeah."

Ezra looked slightly taken aback. "Oh. All right."

+ + + + + + +

How we begin. First task: reconnaissance. I want to know the path and schedule of every chip. I want to know the rotation of the dealers, the security guards, the technicians--anyone with a security card. I want to know the guy who designed every switch, button, and light bulb in those buildings and then I want to know the guys on the assembly line who actually built the thing and the ones who maintain it. I want to know about their kids, their wives--no, Buck, you can't use that information, their pets, and how they take their coffee.

Josiah groaned as the dealer dealt out the last card. "My wife always tells me not to play this game."

The dealer chuckled as he cleaned up the cards to play again. "Wives are like that."

"Know from experience?" Josiah grinned.

"Oh yeah."

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Ezra sat at a nearby table in the staff cafeteria, shuffling his cards, dressed in a security officer's uniform.

Nearby, a technician prattled on about some Vegas show dancer, Jaquin, to a silent dealer.

Ezra looked up briefly to look at the dealer, who rolled his eyes at Ezra when he saw him watching.

The Southerner chuckled sympathetically and again shuffled his cards, taking out a jack, an ace, and a queen to put on top of the deck.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Nathan threw the dice down the table. "13! 13!"

As the crowd sighed in disappointment, he joined them and began to turn away. He saw the change truck move into the cages and turned back to the table. He checked his watch. "8: 35. Half-n-hour 'fore I gotta meet her," he mumbled to himself but loudly enough for the dealer to hear.

"You have more time to play, sir?"


~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

"So let me get this straight." Chris looked at Ezra, his arms crossed. "Security cards to get into the cages. 7-digit codes for the security doors, the elevator door, and the first half of the vault door. For only those who are approved, vocal identification from the security system and the vault below plus facial identification by the guy in the elevator to get it to move. And to open the vault door it's facial and fingerprint."


"Are you approved?" Buck asked.

"How utterly illogical. My dear sirs, I sincerely hope you did not think I would be given clearance for such high-security entranceways within a week."

"No." "Yes."

"Heaven forbid anyone listen to a voice of reason."

"If Chris had, we wouldn't've been here in the first place."

"Shut up, Buck."

+ + + + + + +

Second: power. On the day we hit, we're going to throw the power on Sin City. Buck, that's your show.

Buck trotted along the sidewalk, the ring of keys hanging from the belt loop of an electrician's uniform. He put another cone onto the road and popped the manhole cover.

As he climbed down the little ladder, he cut himself. "Ow!"

+ + + + + + +

Third is surveillance. Casino security has an eye and an ear on everything, so we want an eye and an ear on them.

"Which one is this one, kid?" Buck clapped the youth on the shoulder. JD careened forward and barely caught his balance. "What's going on here?"

JD stood up and moved to the center of his room and pointed. "That...that station right there is Earl's ranch compound and the Alexandria," he explained to Vin and Buck. "That station over there is the Eagle Bend building and the Gadiel."

"You got cameras on the compound and the firm?" Buck looked impressed. "Nice."

"And that one--" JD pointed at the largest bloc of computers "--is the main station. It covers the Marseille and can be used to call up any of the other two stations."

"Kid, we can get ya two more stations if you need 'em."

"That's great, Buck, but I can't monitor five different stations at once."

"Good point."

"How's the security system? For the Marseille, I mean."

"It's not the least accessible I've seen, but it's close. Does it have some closed circuit I can tap into?"

"Ez said probably not."

"Definitely a black bag job, then."

"We could use Ez's card to get ya into the cages."

"Nope," the Texan replied, his mouth full. He swallowed. "They track where he goes with that card. Runnin' around won't sit well with 'em."

"Do they hire in-house technicians?"

"Yep." Vin popped the last of his burrito into his mouth. "And one's lonely."

+ + + + + + +

The Vegas dancer, still in some fluffly bird costume, stepped out into the back alleyway.

Buck saw her and got up from his spot by the car. "Jaq." Buck grinned and kissed her on the cheek.

"Lookin' good, Buck." She slipped him a card. "Pallach's."

Buck took the in-house technician's security card and slipped her some money. "I'll have this back to ya within the hour. Say hi to yer ma for me tonight, okay?"

"Say it yerself. She's gonna be back there managin' the next dance number in a coupla minutes." Jaquin smiled and trotted off.

Buck frowned a little, taken aback, and tucked the card into his pocket.

+ + + + + + +

Josiah pushed his glasses up his nose and rubbed the mustache. "I'm gonna kill Ezra. This mustache is itchy and ridiculous."

He grabbed the balloons out of the back of his car and headed into the casino.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

JD watched discreetly from his corner in the casino as Josiah entered and headed across the floor.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

As Josiah passed by the blackjack tables, he bumped into Nathan from the back. Blackjack cards went flying.

Josiah growled something incomprehensible.

Nathan whirled around. "Watch it, old man!" The medic pushed Josiah. The balloons in the older man's hand floated up to the ceiling.

Josiah rumbled something.

"No, I wanna hear what you just said! Got a problem with a black man here?!"

"What if I do?" Josiah roared. "Whaddya gonna do about it, boy?"

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

"Uh, we have a visual obstruction over by the blackjack tables in pit number seven." The security man in charge of the monitors of the casino floor looked more closely at the screen. "Balloons or something," he wired.

"I see 'em," the guard replied. He walked from his spot by the door to the cages and and headed over to the pit.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

JD quickly moved across the casino floor in his worker's gear and inserted the card to key in his entrance. The light flashed green and the door clicked. JD slipped into the hallway.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Vin and Ezra sat huddled around the laptop receiving the feed from the little video camera in Josiah's glasses. Nathan and Josiah were really going at their "argument." Buck paced between them and Chris, who had taken up JD's usual seat at the computer console across the room.

Vin winced. "Ez, that's an awful Afro ya put on Nate. Might as well've used the hair to block that casino cam'ra."

"Mr. Tanner, I didn't see you helping with this."

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

JD pulled off his gloves and took a quick peek at the palm of his left hand. A rough picture of the casino cages directed him around a corner. Finally...the room with all the wiring for the security center's computers and the casino's cameras.

JD let himself in and quickly looked around the room before settling down to his spot.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

"What, ya think a black man can't be here to be playin'?" Nathan hollered at Josiah. "Ya think I oughta be servin' ya or somethin'? Whaddya want me ta do, get on the table and dance? Like me to shine your shoes? Want me to smile at you? You definitely don't think I should be playin'. You might as well call it whitejack!"

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

"JD really need to do this?" Buck mumbled worriedly as he finally dropped into a seat next to Chris.

"So he said. I figure he'd know," Chris replied, watching the still-blank monitors. He turned to Buck. "He'll be fine, Buck. Don't worry."

Buck looked indignantly defensive. "Who's worryin'?" he exclaimed, trying to be nonchalant. "About the kid? Me?"

Chris just chuckled.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

JD crouched behind the wires of the monitors, holding them to the side with his right hand. He carefully snapped the small clip into place and wiped his forehead with his free hand. He then tucked the wires neatly back behind the rest.

He moved on to the next set of wires, separating out the one he needed and repeating the process with his clips.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

"Sirs, please!" the guard cut in as he pulled down the balloons. "Let's end this here."

Nathan glared. "You better talk to him," he told the guard.

The guard sighed and handed the balloons back to Josiah. "Your ballons, sir."

"Thank you," Josiah replied, still glaring at Nathan, who glared right back.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

The security camera images popped up. Buck turned and called to Vin and Ezra, "We're in."

The two hurried over from their spot to stand behind the two older men. The four looked at all the pictures coming in, taking stock of the myriad of images the security cameras were now beaming to JD's computers.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

JD headed down the hall, responding quickly and hurriedly to another casino staff member who greeted him.

The staffer stopped and looked back at JD for a moment. Then he let himself into the security room, looking through the rows of wiring.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Chris muttered, "Why do they always paint hallways that color?"

Buck chuckled. "They say taupe is soothin'."

"Why not--"

"Mr. Larabee, I understand your affinity for black, but the color does not allow for enough visual perception, wouldn't you say?"

"Standish, what the h--"

"He means black don't cut it, cowboy."

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

JD suddenly stopped where the hallways interstected. He looked to his left and his right.

He then looked down at his left hand. The ink was smudged beyond recognition.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

"Oh no," Chris murmured.

The men watched anxiously as the young tech disappeared off the monitor heading to his right...and then reappeared heading in the other direction.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

JD finally found the right hallway.

"Excuse me." The staffer exited the security room and called after JD.

JD kept walking, his pace quickening. His face went white and beads of sweat appeared.

"Excuse me!" the man hollered.

The Bostonian was just to the door, his hand opening it, when the man caught him and accidentally banged his fingers.

JD winced.

"I'm so sorry," the man exclaimed. "Are you okay?"

"I'm, uh, I'm fine."

"I dropped this." The man handed him a small receiving device.

JD tried to look as innocent as he could as he took the device. "Oh, uh, thanks."

The man grinned. "How's reception on these things?"

"Excellent." JD smiled for real.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Four breaths of relief as Buck and Chris slumped in their chairs.

"Kid near gave me a heart attack," Buck mumbled.

+ + + + + + +

The fourth is construction. We're going to build an exact copy of the Marseille's vault.

Vin pushed two boxes down the rollers to JD. "Smaller box's those blocker things ya and Buck wanted. Large one are the trays."

"This building stuff is for practice, right Vin?"

"Somethin' like it, kid."

Fifth task: Intelligence.

Chris walked up to Vin and JD and checked off the two packages coming in. "We need those codes, JD. There's only one guy who'll have 'em."

"Barye," JD confirmed.

"Learn ta love yer shadow."

"Just watch 'im on the cameras?"

"Gotta walk 'fore ya crawl!" Chris replied as he checked off another box.

Vin pushed another large carton down the rolling belt to JD. "Reverse that."

+ + + + + + +


"$1850. That's my best offer," the elderly car salesman said.

"Well, okay," Buck said disappointedly. He and the salesman looked out at the lot to the two white, unmarked vans.

The salesman winced when he saw the people his buyer had come in with. The kid--couldn't have been more than a teenager--and some long-haired young man were bouncing his van, apparently testing the shocks.

"They're some really nice vans," Buck sighed.

"That they are," the salesman said nervously.

The kid tripped mid-bounce and fell off, which made the back of the van fly up. The long-haired one lost his grip as he was tossed into the air and then hit his head on the way down.

Both men winced.

"Well." Buck turned back to him and held out his hand. "Thank you for your time, Mr.--"

The salesman shook it. "Oh, uh, Deare. Bobby Jim Deare."

"Right, 'Deare' like the animal."

"Yes, that's it, just like that."

"Yeah, ha ha...." Buck paused for a moment, looking surprised, as he continued to hold the man's hand in a handshake. "Your hands. Do you moisturize?"

"I'm sorry?"

"I tried all sorts of brands of lotions. My girlfriend, she don't like my hands all rough, y'know? An' I think it's all prissy, but she insists. She wants me to use...ah...aloe vera with a little sunscreen in it. And ideally speakin', we all should wear gloves 'fore goin' to bed. But I found out that that's...ah...problem-some."

"Oh, uh...right...."

"Plus, them gloves just feel awkward. And I don't wanna smell like a flower. So I really don't get into the usual lotions, you know."

"I see, yeah yeah," the salesman squeaked. He leaned in a little bit. "Let me tell you something, if you were willing to pay cash?"


"I might be able to drop that down to say, seven--sixteen...each?"

Buck looked at him in mock disbelief. "For those vans?"

"Yes sir."

"You'd do that?"

"Well, yes sir."

"That'd be great," Buck exclaimed. "Y'know, they told me to come see you."

"Oh did--did they? Well, uh, I'm sure glad they did."

"Yeah, that's what they told me!" Buck continued, looking pleased.

"Okay, um, well, lemme go get the paperwork, and--and--and, um, I'll be right back, just wait here at the table, okay?"

"Oh, definitely." Buck smiled as he released the salesman's hand.

The salesman gripped his now red, squished right hand as he hurried to the back.

"Thank ya, mister!" Buck called after him, a smirk on his face.


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