Travis' Seven

by Sammie

Page 1 | Page 2 | Page 3 | Page 4 | Page 5

Nathan growled as he checked Vin's head. "Can't go out a door without gettin' yer fingers jammed. Can't go down manholes without gettin' tetanus. Can't go buy a car without comin' back lookin' like ya're sproutin' a twin outta yer head!"

Vin squirmed and looked at Josiah pleadingly.

Nathan grabbed his patient's head to hold it still. "Stop movin'!"

"Athena jumped from Zeus's head," Josiah supplied in Vin's defense.

Nathan turned to Josiah. He waved an arm at the other men. "Do you see gods here? I don't think so!"

"Well, now, when I went to see Cindy last--"

"BUCK! WE. DON'T. WANT. TO. KNOW!" chorused six voices.

"If you geniuses were runnin' the world, I'd get off!"

+ + + + + + +

JD shook his head, continuing in a low voice. "...and then Lightfoot not only got the PI drummed out of the force, he managed to sack the guy's brother-in-law's--"

"--horse ranch, I heard," Buck finished as he chuckled over his drink, undistracted by the many restaurant diners around them.

"You sure know how to pick 'em," JD muttered. "He's ruthless."

Buck smiled. "You scared?"

JD, a little wild-eyed with nervousness. "You suicidal?"

"I work with Chris, JD." Buck grinned. "'Sides, fear keeps ya sharp, kid."

"You're full of cr-p, Buck."

"You just figuring that out now?" Buck took another sip. "What next?"

"Lightfoot leaves the building around noon and heads over to this restaurant, next to the firm. You can tell--not a really posh place, but not bad. He meets this lady around noontime right over there in the lobby, Tuesdays--like today--and Thursdays."

"How do you know they come here?"

"Once I figured out he was leavin', I talked to Ez. We figgered he was goin' for lunch. Ezra told me that it would give him a chance to escape from the 'nauseatin' meals made en masse' or somethin' and followed Lightfoot here."

Buck chuckled. "Sounds like Ez."

"She's usually here just a minute or so 'head of him. I've only ever seen the lady on the cameras back at the ranch, and the tapes from the mini-cam in that pair of glasses Ez was wearing, so it'll take me a minute to recognize her."

A beautiful blonde in a fitted, navy blue suit-style dress walked in the front door, her hair bound up neatly at the back of her head. A few small, wispy curls had escaped from her bun and danced around her neck and face. She smiled at the waiter, who led her to a booth across the room from Buck and JD's.

"Oh, that's her, that's definitely her." JD sighed with a smile. "She's so pretty."

Buck's grin of anticipation fell from his face as he looked out of the corner of his eye.

JD, oblivious, rattled on softly as both men watched her. "She's a reporter or editor or something. Pretty big, too. Some tragic story about her husband being killed and then the killers targeting her little boy. I don't know if we can use her yet. I haven't even caught her name."


"What?" JD turned back to Buck.

"Mary." Buck finished off his drink and pushed the cup away. "Her name's Mary."

+ + + + + + +

Buck strode into the room where Vin was working at the large oak table. He tapped his friend on the shoulder.

Vin took one look at his serious face and followed him quietly out to the back porch. It was darkening, with the first stars coming out in the night sky.

Vin looked questioningly at the older man.

"Mary," Buck said shortly, watching his friend as he crossed his arms.

Vin pressed his lips into thin line and blew out a breath of frustration as he looked away. He ran his hand over his face.

"He never said that she'd be at the center of this," Buck said in exasperation, nodding quickly at the inside of the house.

"No," Vin agreed. He rubbed his temples.

"Gonna talk to him?"

"The both of us," Vin replied clippedly. He brushed past Buck and headed back into the ranch house.

+ + + + + + +

Buck and Vin moved across the floor silently. Chris was working with Ezra in the vault replica, the Southerner instructing him as to which drawers to search. Chris neatly extracted the files from yet another place in the vault.

Buck walked right into the vault replica and tapped Chris on the shoulder. "We needta talk."

Ezra opened his mouth to protest and then saw the warning look on Vin's face. He quickly shut up.

Chris nodded without looking back as he began to slide the tray gently back into its shelf. "Sure, let me--"

Vin interrupted clippedly, "Now."

Chris looked at the both of them, pushed the tray in, and followed them outside. "What?"

"Tell me this isn't about her." Vin crossed his arms.


"Mary!" Buck looked up from the ground at his oldest friend. He gestured at the house with his arm. "Mary. James Lightfoot." He tilted his head to look at Chris. "Tell me this is not about messing with the guy who's with Mary."

"Mary and I never had anything."

Vin rolled his eyes.

Buck was not to be put out. "Tell me!"

"It's not about that."

"Did you hear that?" Buck said to Vin in mocking eager seriousness, as if Chris weren't there. "It's not about Mary."

"Right," Vin replied with the same tone of voice. "No idea why we thoughta somethin' so silly."

"Absolutely ridiculous," Buck agreed sarcastically.

The two men crossed their arms and turned back to Chris.

Chris looked at them with a slightly defeated and definitely exasperated look. "Not...entirely."

"Chris, you left Mary and Billy out of the loop--without one word--to go after Ella. Quit the PD and disappear, no explanation, for what, two years? Billy adored you. Mary was a source for us and a good one, too, and she cared about you. Orin Travis was the one who got your butt out of that sling when you ran off to track down Ella and he brought you in for this job. I'm surprised the man's even talkin' to you. He sure ain't gonna let you do anything that would involve either Mary or Billy. Whatever claim you might've had on them is gone."

"Claim? C'mon, Buck, there was nothing going on between us."

"So what's this, Chris? Huh?" Buck waved an arm impatiently.

"I didn't interfere when that Gerard Whitman came around!"

Buck rolled his eyes. "Chris, all we want to know is: when push comes to shove, and you have to choose between getting Earl and his employers and getting Mary, what're you gonna choose? There are innocents out there, Chris, includin' her and Billy, who Earl'll target. And let me remind you, Mary does not split seven ways." He gestured back at the inside of the house.

"Six," Vin corrected, finally speaking up. "Nate's got Rain."


"And I think Inez will cut the number down to five."

Buck turned with a grin. "Really...."

Vin smirked. "Not you, Buck."

Buck scowled.

Vin pinned Chris with a serious stare. "And if I have a death wish, then I'll think 'bout gettin' within ten feet of Mary Travis."

"You're not helping me here, Vin," Buck warned.

"I don't need ta," he replied, still staring steadily at Chris. "Chris, you needta choose, or I'm walkin'--walkin' right off this job. Mary's a fine, wonderful lady, but this job is dangerous and I am not gonna risk my life if no one's gonna win. Lose focus in this game for one second and someone gets hurt. There'll be no repeats of Ella or Charlotte." He paused, still watching Chris. "And I guarantee that if'n I walk off, Ez walks off."

"And then ya're in trouble," Buck warned. "And who knows who else goes."

The two looked at him expectantly.

Chris watched them quietly. Then he said in a low voice, "If all goes to plan, I won't have to choose."

Buck and Vin sighed and exchanged looks.

Chris pressed his lips together for a silent moment, then asked softly, "How'd she lo--?"

"She looked good," Buck interrupted with a tone of concession.

The three men shifted uncomfortably. Vin nodded at them and moved off. As Buck was about to go, Chris called out softly, "Thanks."

Buck turned around and contemplated the man for a moment before nodding.

+ + + + + + +

The young editor pointed to various sections of the page as he talked. Mary listened carefully as she followed his motions and then asked a few questions. The two began to mark down the page with different colored arrows, working together to rearrange the layout.

The door opened and a little boy ran into the room.

The layout editor smiled as Mary swept the boy into a hug. The young man grinned and pretended to make a lollipop come out of the child's ear, delighting the boy and earning the editor a playfully chastising look from Mary.

Lightfoot appeared in the doorway. "James," Mary greeted with a smile. "Thank you so much for picking Billy up."

"My pleasure." Lightfoot smiled at her.

"James, this is Darin Henson, the Clarion's chief layout editor. Darin, this is James Lightfoot, with the Eagle Bend firm."

As the two men greeted each other, Billy turned to his mother. "Ma? Mr. Lightfoot wants to know if we're going to the July Four thing."

"Yes we are."

Billy grinned happily. "I love fireworks."

Mary smiled at her son before turning to the lawyer. "James, thank you again. And we will definitely be going."

"Wonderful! I'm delighted. I'll see you at lunch tomorrow?"

Mary nodded.

+ + + + + + +

"So?" Barye crossed his arms and looked at Lightfoot. "What do you want?"

"I have a lunch engagement back near the firm, and I know you've never liked me, so I'll keep it short."

"Thank you."

"I got this anonymous email this morning." Lightfoot tossed a sheet in front of Barye. "We can't trace its source. It indicates that there may be bounty hunters on Earl's trail."

"And this affects me how?"

"Just remember your loyalties," Lightfoot replied as he left.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

The newspaper editor took a sip of her water from the glass in front of her and moved her cutlery set and her plate farther away from the table's edge. She smiled at the hand on her shoulder and turned to greet the man. "James, you're a bit late. I almost sent out a search--" She stopped in utter shock.

"Mary," Chris said quietly, standing right behind her.

"Chris," Mary replied, stiffening. "What're you doing here?"

"Visiting." The blond sat down across from her.

She watched him steadily. "He'll be here. I suggest you go."

"He can wait a bit."

Mary sighed and played with her napkin. "Chris, what do you want?"

"Just to say hello, can't I do that?"

"It's the only thing you ever did," she replied quietly.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Barye picked up the email and read it over.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~


"You need to go." Her voice hardened.

"Not until I've said my piece."

"Oh, that's rich," Mary impatiently retorted, her eyes blazing, her soft voice rising one notch. "'Say your piece.' Don't you think it's a little late now? Now you want to say something! You didn't want to say anything when you left Billy and me in the lurch and didn't even tell us we were in danger. You didn't say anything when a whole patrol of police showed up at my door and camped out on my lawn to protect me although who knew from what, at that time."


"You didn't say anything when Billy was wondering where you were. You didn't say anything when Buck and Vin were nearly blown to bits. You didn't say anything to me about that--that woman although she was consuming your whole life with what she did to your wife and your son. 'Say your piece.' Well, I don't want to hear it."


"I'm not finished! Why should you start talking now? Why bother explaining now? If our friendship meant nothing to you then, why would it matter now?" Mary paused slightly to catch her breath. "I've moved on with my life, and you're not part of it."

"Mary, you want to make a life on your own, I'm going to have to accept that," Chris retorted. "But not...with...Lightfoot."

"Don't you think it's a bit of a conflict of interest if you're telling me what to do with my life?!"

"But it doesn't mean I'm wrong."

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

JD opened up the email program on the computer. One new message.

>Email to received and opened 0813.<

The tech grinned.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Chris looked at Mary silently, his green eyes holding hers. "Does he make you smile?" he asked softly. "Does he make Billy laugh?"

He watched as her eyes slowly dropped from his gaze to her plate, her knuckles going white from her tight grip on her napkin. She pressed her lips together tightly as her large green eyes lifted back up to his.

"He...doesn't...make us...cry," she whispered softly.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

The casino owner sighed and tossed the sheet onto the table.

His phone began to ring. It was his manager.

Barye listened and then nodded. "All right. I'm coming." He set down his phone, picked up the email, and slipped it into the desk before heading out.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

"Do you remember what I said to you when we first met?" she asked softly.

"About the bad element?" Chris teased just the slightest bit, trying to elicit a smile.

Mary sighed, the teeniest smile tugging at her lips as she looked away from him. "No."

"You asked me if I knew what I was doing," he replied to her question.

She looked up at him. "Do you?"

"I know what I'm doing, Mary," Chris said in a quiet, confident voice.

"And what is that?" Lightfoot looked down at the pair, who started a little bit and looked up at him.

"Lightfoot." Chris gave him a nonchalant look of disinterest.


Mary smiled genially but nervously. "Chris was just walking through the restaurant when he spotted me."

"Is that right?" Lightfoot asked with all suspiciousness.

"Yeah, imagine the odds." Chris grinned cheekily at him as he got up out of Lightfoot's seat.

"All the restaurants in the world," Lightfoot bit off, increasingly riled by the man's utter disregard for him.

+ + + + + + +

Chris trotted down the stairs and headed out of the lobby, hands in his pockets.

When he hit the floor, a figure above him turned and looked down from the balcony.

Vin then folded up his newspaper and headed off.

+ + + + + + +

"Where are they," Ezra demanded as he and JD moved restlessly in the suite across the street. He looked out at the casino. "They were supposed to get the stuff and arrive an hour ago."

Chris and Buck entered the suite, closely followed by the other three.

"We got a problem," JD announced. He held up a wanted notice.

+ + + + + + +

"You've been red flagged," JD said, his hands stuck nervously in his pockets. "Lightfoot and these two--Mary and William--have restraining orders against you, and Lightfoot's extends to Barye among a few other people. The minute you set foot in that casino, they'll be watching you like a hawk. A hawk with video cameras."

"How'd this happen?" Buck exclaimed. "Chris!"

"I have no idea." Chris didn't look up, still reading the restraining orders.

"I do." Vin pinned his old friend with a stare as he informed the others. "He's been houndin' her. Saw 'em together 'fore she had lunch."

"Who?" Buck asked and got a look from Vin. He frowned in understanding and blew out a breath in exasperation.

"Who told you to follow me?" Chris asked slowly in a low, dangerous voice.

"Do I look like some errand boy?" Vin glared. "I was worried ya couldn't leave Mary alone. Looks like I was right."

"Who's Mary?" JD asked.

"Travis's former daughter-in-law!" Buck shot out. "And pro'bly somethin' else, unofficially. Billy's her son and Travis's grandson."

"Nothing 'unofficially'!" Chris spat out.

"Mary's here?" Josiah asked in surprise.

"You harassed Mr. Travis's daughter-in-law?!" Ezra exclaimed.

"I'm sorry, Chris," Vin said quietly but firmly. "I didn't know if it would sting you, but it did." He paused, looking straight at him. "You're out, Chris."

"HE'S OUT?!" JD exclaimed.

Nathan protested, "You can't just kick him out!"

"This is not your call!" Chris hissed.

"Ya made it mine," Vin retorted. "Ya made it mine when ya put her 'fore us and this job!"

"I didn't do that, and you know it."

Vin pointed a finger at his old friend. "Okay, so ya didn't, not technically. But I know how you and me are. Ella, Charlotte. Get distracted, lose focus in this game one second, and someone gets hurt. And it's like to blow the whole works. That's what's gonna happen, whether or not we're at the top of yer list."

Buck stepped in. "Vin, now Mary ain't like Charlotte and she sure ain't nothing like Ella."

Nathan nodded. "Mary Travis is an honorable woman."

"I didn't say she was bad," Vin retorted, his narrowed eyes still fixed on Chris. "Mary's a terrific, strong woman. Ain't got to do with her. But we got screwed over twice 'cause we was doin' stuff for the wrong reasons and 'cause we got distracted. If we're goin' inta this with anything but the purest motives we's screwed."

The other five watched the two men stare at each other silently.

Vin never broke his gaze as he delivered his ultimatum. "Either someone else, anyone else, runs this or I'm out."

"Fine," Chris spat before storming out.

The others watched his angry exit, followed by Vin's not long after.

Josiah was still shaking his head in amazement. "Mary's with Lightfoot now? She's too tall for him!"

+ + + + + + +

Billy carried another brown bag into the kitchen and set it on the table. "Ma? Should I put the meat in the freezer?"

"We'll need it day after tomorrow. Put it in the refrigerator."


"Are you sure you'll need this much, Mary?" James asked from the doorway.

"It's a Fourth of July picnic, James," Mary replied with a smile. "Try and tell me there won't be anyone there."

The lawyer chuckled.

"There's more food in the pantry; I bought those bags of chips and bottles of soda last week."

+ + + + + + +

"So what now."

"We could still do what we had planned, just--"

"No way. Unless we plan to do this job in Reno, we're in trouble."

JD appeared in the doorway in a rush. "I just intercepted a call. Barye wants a psychological report from the PD."

"Whadja tell him?"

"I told him we'd get him one!"

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

"He's dangerous," came Lightfoot's voice over the phone.

"I can see that, James," Barye said, exasperated.

"No, you don't under--"

"Yes, I do. I'm going to get a formal report. Thank you for your concern." Barye slammed the phone down, muttering curses about Lightfoot. "Earl needs a new lawyer."

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

"Josiah or Nate."



"Because we assigned 'em to--"

"Oh, right."

"It matters little. We want Mr. Barye to feel non-threatened and in control of the situation."

Four heads turned to eye the computer tech.

JD looked up at his screen a moment, furrowed his brow, and turned slowly as if dreading to see who was watching him. He swallowed nervously when he saw four feral grins. "Can I still say 'no'?"

+ + + + + + +

Ezra sat on one of tall bar stools next to the mini-bar, fingering his scotch and watching the young man standing in front of him, twitching. "Where will you put your hands?" He winced when JD moved to fix his tie. "No. Do not touch your tie. Look at me."

JD looked at him nervously.

"Now, if I asked you a question, and you had to think of an answer, where would you look?"

JD nervously and almost inadvertently looked downward.

"No. If you should happen to look down, your mark will know you are lying; if up, they will know you do not know the truth. You struggled a bit with this problem when you were caught in the cages."

JD nodded.

"Verbosity must be avoided."

JD lost his persona and stared in disbelief. "Excuse me, Ez, but don't you--"

"Mr. Dunne, pardon my frankness, but you have neither the breadth of vocabulary nor the long training as I have had."

"Thank God for small miracles!" JD exclaimed, then tried to slip back into his persona. He shifted on his feet.

"Do not shift your weight. Always look at your mark but do not stare. Vagueness will make him suspicious of you, so be specific; however, do not be so specific that he feels you are attempting to cover all your exit routes. Do not be memorable. Be funny but--never mind. No jokes."

JD opened his mouth to protest.

"None. Son, we would need to work on your repertoire first, and we do not have the time for that. Your mark has to like you and then forget you in a moment."

JD nodded.

"Ez?" Vin hollered from below. "Need ya ta take a lookit this."

"Coming, Mr. Tanner," Ezra called back and got up. At the doorway, he turned back to JD. "It is of essence that Mr. Barye suspects nothing of you."

JD nodded.

+ + + + + + +

Buck gently locked the arms of the contraption and pushed it into the small, wheeled cart, a perfect replica of the carts Barye's casino used. He turned to the men standing nearby, eating lunch off of plates in their hands as they watched. "When the lights go out, JD'll remotely pop the lid and raise the blockers out of the cart."

Vin eyed Chris's plate.

"And we'll only see if they work when the floor sensors do go on."

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

"You're the psychologist?"

"The new kid, anyway," JD said with sheepish embarassment.

Barye eyed the short redhead suspiciously. "You have the report."

JD nodded and stepped into the casino owner's office. He handed a folder to the other man. "The psych eval is in there."

Barye read over the report, every once in awhile looking at the young officer who was eyeing his surroundings curiously. "Been at the PD long?"

JD blushed innocently at being caught. "Just a couple months."

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Josiah came into JD's computer room. "How's out youngest brother doing?"

Nathan sat at the main computer console, watching intently as the two men talked in that office. "Okay. I think he's got Barye where he wants him." He turned to look at Josiah. "Buck?"

"Ain't ever seen something more thin and flimsy, but if Buck and JD say it'll work, it'll work."

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Barye looked at him carefully. "You work with Keimstein often?"

The younger man took a small breath. "No, not...not really. Just once, before...before he died last year," he said sadly.

The casino owner eyed him for a moment and then tossed the report onto the desk. "Tell me about this."

"Oh." JD paused for a moment. "Well, Chris Larabee. He...was a cop. Went vigilante not long after his family was killed. Returned to the force for a year or so afterwards, and then quit again. Supposedly he had finally identified his family's killer and was going after the person."

Barye shook his head, but not unkindly. "Your opinion."

JD furrowed his brow thoughtfully. "Unstable."

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Chris's hand twitched on his sidearm as the men argued.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~


"Trigger happy."

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Chris reached for his plate. It was empty. He looked up to see Vin eating his chicken leg. "I was eatin' that."

Vin paused mid-chew. "No ya weren't."

"Yes I was."

"No ya weren't. 'Sides, ya're puttin' on some weight, cowboy."

"I am gonna shoot ya."

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~


~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Chris polished off his mug of beer and set it on a shelf of the vault replica.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

"If there's anything to worry about, Mr. Barye, I think it would just be a short temper."

"Just a short temper," the man repeated, a hint of agreement in his voice.

"I don't think he's capable of much. Maybe before, but not since his family died."

Barye nodded. "Thank you."

+ + + + + + +

"Tomorrow's yers," Vin announced to the rest of team, who was sitting on the sofas around the coffee table. "On the 4rth at 5:30, everyone but JD shows up at the suite across the street. 8, Chris shows up. Ez grabs the codes. If that all goes okay, we're a go. Then Buck shuts down the mainframe. It'll be down for two minutes. We move then."

The six others nodded.

"You gonna be okay here at the ranch, alone?"

JD nodded.



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