Disclaimer: I dont owe these guys. Just borrow them from time
to time. Their rights belong to those Hollywood guys. Dont make anything
but satisfaction from writing stories about them.
I came across this great short story called Booby trap by Bill Pronzini.
I just HAD to insert our guys as the prime characters. A big thanks to Mr.
Pronzine, for his fine story line and for not minding (I hope) "letting me"
borrow a few of his ideas.
He finished the third bomb just before nine Sunday
night. Only it really wasnt a bomb. That ATF agent
described it as a destructive device. It was the legal definition
of the Federal Firearms Code Penal Code. He remembered the handsome agent
reading it out loud in court. His voice refined, educated but with a steely
hardness that projected power and confidence.
"Chapter 2.5 Destructive devices section 12.303. Explosion of Destructive
Device. Every person who possesses, explodes or ignites or attempts to explode
or ignite any destructive device; or with any explosive with intent to injure,
intimidate or terrify any person, or with intent to wrongfully injure or
destroy any property is guilty of a felony and shall be punished by imprisonment
in the federal penitentiary to a period of three, five or seven years. "
He knew the section by heart. By the time of the trial, he could have recited
it aloud with the smug ATF agent. Hed read it over and over again from
a prison library book while in his cell awaiting trial. But the jury had
taken the word of that ATF agent and his partner, the one with the long brown
hair, about the devices that he had build over three years ago. The long-haired
one had testified that they were more than destructive devices,
they were also Chapter 3.2 "booby traps": specifically section 12355; Booby
traps; a felony. "Any person, who assembles, maintains places or causes to
be placed a booby trap device as described in section C is guilty
of a felony: followed by punishable by imprisonment in a Federal prison for
two, three or five years."
Sico. Albert Sico, the prosecuting attorney had led the agent; what was his
name? Hinson should know. The years hed spent in prison had softened
his mind. The agents name
..Wait ! Hinson pawed through a pile
of papers until he found what he wanted. His "hit list".
Scanning it he quickly found the name he was looking for, Vin Tanner. Smiling,
he remembered when the agent had stumbled several times while reading from
his deposition. Hinson felt a surge of power when he pictured how Tanner
had blushed and licked away the sweat from his upper lip. Tanners dirty
little secret was there for the world to see. The "oh-so-smart" and "mighty"
ATF agent read out loud like a 6th grader. Hinson chuckled at
the memory and putdown the list.
He collected his thoughts by concentrating on the bomb lying on the table
in front of him. He pictured in his mind Federal Judge William Mohr sprawled
out dead on his front lawn with his self-righteous You need psychiatric
help, Mr. Hinson four-eyed head blown off. His mind recreated the image
that had been provided by this mornings newscast. His smile widened
at the memory.
Device number one. Mission one accomplished.
But Mohr was the one he hated the least. Sure the idiot judge had sentenced
him to three years for "possessing material to assemble
booby-traps, but the one he really wanted. Actual the ones he
wanted were the two sanctified ATF agents; Tanner and Larabee. They had actually
called his work "shoddy".
There would be much more satisfaction when device number two made a pin cushion
of Prosecuting Attorney Albert Seco. But when the bomb he was making now,
ripped the life out of Agent Tanner. Then he would really have cause for
rejoicing. The satisfaction of seeing "Mr. Perfect" Christopher Larabee,
ATF grieving at the loss of his partner would be just another added treat.
Vengeance is mine, he thought. And so very satisfying.
Hinson arranged his tools carefully, placing them back into their correct
compartments. He carefully set the third bomb in its carrier and closed it.
Standing up, he stretched feeling the fatigue in his legs and shoulders.
It was then that he realized he hadnt eaten since breakfast. He decided
that he had better put something in his stomach before he went to bed. Hed
Three a.m. was only a few hours off and there wouldnt be time for a
quick breakfast. He had to drop the Prosecuting Attorneys present off
first and then drive all the way to Golden Gate Canyon State Park on Hwy.
93. Tanner had a cabin on the edge of the park he had inherited from some
old bounty hunter. He and Larabee trailered their horses the 20 miles almost
every weekend to ride the park trails. It didnt matter when Tanner
found his package. It would wait for him patiently. Thats the nice
thing about booby traps. No timers to worry about, it just waited until someone
came to claim it.
Hinson went into the cramped kitchen. The pilot light on the stove had gone
out. Relighting the pilot light with a match, he reminded himself to complain
to the apartment manager again about fixing it. He opened a can of stew and
emptied it into a saucepan and put it on the stove to heat. Looking around
the house, he remembered how the ad in the paper had described it. "Charming
mountain-view cottage. Completely furnished."
Mumbling to himself, Hinson described it for himself. "Miserable, drafty,
wood shack with bargain basement furniture. No central heating, a propane
stove that didnt work properly and a toilet that wouldnt stop
running no matter what you did to the handle or the flush tank."
At four hundred dollars a month in advance, Hinson had been outraged. No
discount even though he would be in it less than two weeks. Still it was
palatial compared to his prison cell. He had been out of that hell hole only
three months, but still he had nightmares.
But the place had a good view of the Colorado mountains, and that was very
important to a man just released from prison. The stew was ready. Hinson
emptied it into a bowl and opened a package of saltine crackers. As he sat
down to eat, he pulled his collection of pictures and newspaper clippings
over to look at them.
Picking through several he found the one he wanted. It was a picture of Tanner
and the rest of the ATF team they called "The Magnificent 7". Obviously taken
at a picnic or convention it was the one shown in the paper at the time of
his capture. High and mighty Federal agents! He thought as he
fingered the outline of Vins head. Those blue eyes would soon be looking
at the insides of a fireball. Smiling at the thought, he finishing his dinner;
put the dish in the sink and went to bed.
Chris Larabee looked out through window and assessed
his team. It was early yet so he didnt expect to see Ezra for another
fifteen minutes. Vin was cleaning one of his rifles while the usual early
morning chatter sailed around the room.
He looked down at the article on the front page of the paper and sighed.
He stood, stretching his lean body before picking up the paper and heading
for the open office. It had to be done. He had to tell the others.
"Hey, Chris. Theres fresh coffee in the lounge and Im suspecting
that Vins hiding some of Netties chocolate chip cookies in that
plastic tub in the top drawer of his desk. Aint that right, Vin?" Buck
Wilmington slid his chair across the room like a scooter and started to reach
inside Vins desk.
"Touch that and you loose an arm." Vin was using his rough, guttural voice.
That could mean trouble for Buck, if Vin was in a bad mood. Since Vin was
very seldom in that kind of a mood, Buck pushed his luck and slipped the
drawer open. There they were. A couple dozen of the best chocolate cookies
in Colorado sat within fingers length. Licking his lips, he reached forward.
A firm hand gripped his wrist and he froze.
Looking over he saw that Vin was still patiently cleaning his rifle so he
looked at the hand again and followed the arm upward. Waiting at the other
end was Josiah Sanchez. The teams profiler, Josiah had a vast background
in religious, philosophical and psychological education, but his immediate
attention was on preventing Buck from eating all of Netties cookies.
"A moment, Brother Buck ?" Josiah lifted Bucks hand effortlessly and
took the plastic tub from the drawer. "Vin was just waiting for us all to
get here before he offered these delicacies to the rest of us. Right, Vin?"
Seeing the twinkle in Vins blue eyes followed by a slight nod, Josiah
carried the prize toward the lounge.
Ezra slipped in quietly but not unseen by Chris. Just under the 8 am starting
time. Chris smiled and cleared his throat. "Boys, we need to talk. Someone
grab the cookies and bring your coffee in the conference room." Expecting
his orders to be followed Chris took his coffee down the hall toward the
When everyone was settled and the cookies passed around, Chris placed the
paper on the table in front of him and opened it to the front page. Sipping
his coffee to wash down a cookie, Chris started.
"If you didnt see the morning headlines, or hear it on the news, you
need to know this. Federal Judge Mohr who presided over the booby-trap trail
Vin and I testified in about three years ago." Looking around he watched
the various expressions of his men. He continued "Was killed this morning
when he opened the door to his car. The explosion blew him half way across
the front yard. He was torn to pieces." Chris held up the headlines and passed
the gristly picture on the newspaper around the group. He looked at Vin as
he sat, waiting for a response from his team.
Vin looked at the picture. He could barely make out one solid mass that might
resemble a body. He tried to picture the judge in his mind. Passing it to
Josiah, he leaned forward.
"Do we know if Hinson has been paroled? He still has time to serve doesnt
he?" Seeing the confusion on JDs face, Vin explained. "Leonard Hinson.
Chris and I worked the case four years ago, finished it right before you
game on. He swore hed get revenge. Cant be him though,
hes still locked up. The judge has put a lot of people away Chris.
I dont think its anything to worry about." Vin picked at another
cookie, not putting any pieces in his mouth. He dropped them in his cold
coffee and sat back his eyes staring at the newspaper picture.
Chris had dialed his cell the minute Vin had mentioned Hinson sentence. He
spoke to someone briefly and then sat waiting. He watched Vin closely. He
really hoped Vin was right about Hinsons prison sentence, but Chris
had worked for the Federal Government a lot longer than Vin. Chris listened
to the voice giving him the information he needed but didnt want to
hear. Clicking off the phone, he looked back down at the paper.
"Hinsons out, isnt he?" Josiahs deep voice carried softly
across the room.
Biting his lip, Chris turned to Vin. "Yeah, yeah he is. They let him out
for good behavior almost three months ago."
"But arent they supposed to let ya know if that happens. If they let
someone out early? So you can be careful?" JD asked to no one in particular.
"They are supposed to do that JD. The information doesnt obviously
get to the right people in a timely manner." Buck slammed his hand down shaking
Silence hung in the room. Ezra went out and soon came back with a pot of
freshly brewed coffee. Looking at the expressions of his friends, he poured
each a fresh cup silently. Finished, he sat down quietly.
Vin took a sip and leaned forward. "Well, Im not gonna put my life
on hold because one incident." Seeing Chris start to speak, he raised his
hand. "We dont know if it is connected to the booby-traps he set out
three years ago. Hell, we dont know if the judge being killed even
had to do anything with Hinson. Ah, hell, we dont know officially if
he is even out of prison."
Standing and setting down his coffee. "Im leaving at noon, liked wed
planned, to take Peso and Pony to the cabin." Looking around at the rest
of members, he said. "You guys are welcome to come or go your own way. Im
not wasting my time worrying unnecessarily. Thats nuts." Looking at
Chris, Vin nodded and left the room.
Hinson was up and on his way to his first deposit
at 5:30am. It was a short twenty minute drive to Sicos house. Hiding
his car in some over hanging trees, he walked the short distance to the garbage
can set close to the small duck pond. It technically belonged to the city
but everyone thought of it as Al Secos property.
Lifting the lid, Hinson was struck by the strong smell of the duck feed.
Trying to picture Sico stopping to feed the ducks every morning, rain or
shine was hard for Hinson, but it fitted his plans nicely. Exactly at 6:30am.
Hinson liked promptness. Reaching down into his bag he lifted the package
out carefully, keeping the connecting wires untwisted. He heard the quacking
of the ducks as they moved toward the shore anticipating breakfast. Hinson
quickly fitted the booby trap in place and carefully replaced the lid. Checking
for any signs on the outside of the can, he smiled and quickly walked away.
Wishing he had time to see the nails and broken glass slash Sicos face,
Hinson checked the area one more time and drove away unseen.
Al Sico had his mind on this mornings arraignment when he automatically
parked his Honda at the side of the curb. Curiously most of the ducks were
already gathered around the shore; some pecking the ground for the presence
of feed. If he hadnt been in such a hurry, Al might have given it some
thought about the cause of their early arrival. Checking his watch, he spoke
out loud to his gathering flock. "Gonna be a short stop ladies and gentlemen.
Have to be in court at 8 am. Lots of bad guys to catch today." Reaching
for the bungee cord that held the lid securely in place, Sico flipped it
off and reached to open the lid.
Mary Peterson was cleaning her front step watching with delight the actions
between Al Sico and his ducks. It was a morning ritual that happened as surely
as 8 am Mass at St. Michaels. The blast of light and sound that shattered
her front window was certainly not the usual early morning ritual. Turning
her face from the heat and debris that blew across the road, Mary felt her
legs give way and she sat stunned as the dust settled and she saw what was
left of Albert Sico.
Hinson kept the radio tuned to the all news Denver station. Traveling just
at the speed limit he made his way on Hwy 93 towards Golden Gate Canyon State
Park. He wasnt worried about encountering Tanner like he had Sico,
but since it was Friday he didnt want to be surprised by the agent
taking an afternoon off. Seeing the turn off at Golden Gate Canyon Road,
Hinson looked for mile maker 79 that would indicate the turn off to the dirt
road that lead to Tanners cabin.
Making the turn easily, Hinson slowed his speed to limit the amount of dust
his car made. He knew the cabin was located about ten miles up the road.
Hed gone by the Public Records Department downtown and gotten directions
to the property. Planning, careful planning. That was the key to everything.
Hinson stopped his car in a small turn off about a mile from the cabin. Taking
his equipment and a pair of binoculars, Hinson started up the road sticking
to the edge of the pathway.
Tick Tick Tick
Nathan Jackson, the communications specialist
and medic, was cleaning the coffee pot in the lounge sink when he heard the
news alert on the TV. The local newscaster was standing on the edge of a
subdivision pond. Nathan thought he recognized the area, but turned back
to his washing while listening to the announcer speak. The name "Sico" brought
Nathans head quickly around and he stood frozen as a photo of Albert
Sico was shown on the screen. Something about him being hurt
Al Sico was dead. Nathan almost dropped the clean pot when he heard how Sico
had died. A booby trap in a lid of a garbage can. Quickly setting the pot
aside, Nathan rushed into the office area and almost ran to Chris office.
Chris heard someone running in his direction as he completed coding in the
weekly payroll on his computer. Leaning back he let his hand slip toward
his holstered gun. When Nathan rounded the corner, Chris anxious reaction
turned to one of horror as Nathan told him what the TV had shown.
"What? Are you sure? Al Sico? Hes dead?" Chris heard the words tumbling
from his mouth but had not doubt about the information Nathan had brought
with him. Standing he came around his desk and headed for the lounge where
he joined the rest who were watching the news. Reaching for his cell phone,
Chris quickly started to dial his boss, Owen Travis. The phone chirped before
he could complete his dialing.
Clicking it on, he listened as the voice on the other end confirmed what
the TV was still showing. "Thanks. Ill be up in a few minutes." Seeing
the looks from the other team members, Chris clipped his phone back in place.
"That was Travis. Its true. Sicos dead. Hes waiting for
Ben Parsons, Team 3s arson specialist to call him back with details.
However, as of now we are under a red alert. No one is off on his own.
Especially, Vin or
.." Chris looked around doing a quick head count.
"Too late. He left exactly at noon. Said to tell you he would wait for you
at the cabin. He was going to take enough feed and hay for the entire weekend
and pick up the horses. Youre supposed to pick up groceries." Josiah
relayed the information with a hint of sadness. "Im sorry. He was set
to go. Kid can be stubborn sometimes."
"Stubborn??" Chris was angry. Angry at Vin, himself, the entire situation.
"Stubborn!! That hard headed, reckless idiot is leaving himself wide open.
Hes out there alone with Hinson." Standing with his hands on his hips,
Chris was so stunned by the sudden turn of events he was momentarily unable
"Chris? Chris?" Buck shoved a cell phone in his face to get a reaction. "Here,
Ive dialed Vins phone." Chris took the phone, as he saw other
team members go to their sources. Each man would start looking for signs
of Hinson through his own connections. Settling himself, he waiting impatiently
as the phone rang and rang. Leaving a message on Vins voice mail after
six rings, Chris clicked his phone off and headed toward Travis office.
Vin Tanner secured the back of the horse trailer
making sure that the vents were open to give both horses plenty of fresh
air. Both horses were veteran travelers and Vin anticipated no problems on
the short trip to his cabin. Checking the hitch one more time, Vin got in
the truck and started it. He immediately slipped a George Strait CD into
the console and started out. Listening to music instead of the news was his
first means of escape.
Chris Larabee walked into Owen Travis office and stood waiting for
Travis to get off the phone. Travis was supervisor of the Denver ATF office
and a personal friend of Chris. They personal and career paths had crossed
frequently over the years.
Owen Travis put down the phone and looked at the handsome man standing across
from him. He could see why his daughter, Mary always inquired about Chris
and made every opportunity to meet him. Chris was always polite, but to
Marys disappointment Chris had remained only a friend. "Chris, Im
waiting on a fax from Denver Fire/Arson Investigation. They confirmed over
the phone that Judge Mohrs bomb matched Hinsons signature also.
You and Vin are bound to be his next targets; I want you both under guard
till we get this guy."
Chris stood, "Id normally agree with you, Owen, except Vins already
gone. Hes heading to his cabin with Peso and Pony. Im supposed
to meet him later today. He doesnt know anything about Sico or that
Mohrs death is now related to Hinson. He knows Hinson is out on parole,
but thats it."
"Let me guess. Hes turned his beeper and phone off." Travis tried a
"No, he wouldnt turn the beeper off but the phone he would. Except
that he does not always keep his beeper on him just around him. Something
we are constantly battling over. Hes never missed a call, so its
more annoying than anything else. Until now." Chris turned toward the door.
"The guys are working on their leads and Im gonna head out to the cabin
with a couple of them. Vins not stupid. Hell check things out
carefully but Id like to get there before he does. Ill keep you
updated. Call me if you get anything."
Shaking hands with his Team 7 leader, Travis reached over and asked to be
connected to the Denver PD aircraft supervisor.
Downstairs in the teams office area, the rest of the group was busy
on phones or computers. JD jumped up as Chris came into the room. "Chris!
Ive come up with some possible leads on explosive suppliers."
Stopping next to Vins desk, Chris looked in JDs direction.
"Thats great, JD. Just a second. You all need to hear this. Sico was
killed by Hinson. The device had his signature and Travis says it looks like
one that killed Mohr is his also. It looks like hes taking out everyone
who was a part of the prosecution three years ago. I just tried and Vins
not answering his phone but Ill beep him as soon as we finish here.
Then Im heading out to the cabin. I cant order any of you to
Buck stood up along with the entire group and started grabbing his weapons
and equipment. Chris watched as his team mobilized to go with him. "Okay,
look. Were still gonna need to have a contact person here to coordinate
and JD? I want you to follow up on those contacts. It may lead us to an address
or alias; something."
Ezra reached for a ringing phone. He listened, smiled and put the phone back
down. "That was Wallace Cooper. Hes a bounty hunter whose acquaintance
I made through Mr. Tanner. He keeps track of anyone paroled or released in
the Denver area. He has proved to be quite helpful on occasion. He has an
address he wants to check out. Ill wait here with JD to see if it leads
to anything productive, if that is convenient. Shall we keep in touch, say
every fifteen minutes? "
Looking around his men, Chris nodded his approval. As usual they had divided
their talents and organized the team into its most efficient parts. Heading
for his office, he picked up his weapons and communications briefcase. His
phone buzzed and he picked it up. "Larabee." Chris listened as Owen Travis
offered him a helicopter courtesy of the Denver PD. "Ill take it.
Were leaving now."
Vin drove slowly down the dirt rode. His attention
was on anything that would give Peso or Pony a bumpy ride. The closer he
got to his cabin the more he relaxed. The cabin was nothing special, but
certainly comfortable enough for a week or a weekend stay. He and Chris had
built a lean-to and corral for the horses and rebuilt the dock. The cabin
was open to any of the team who wanted it, but none was as nature
oriented as Vin. He loved the escape from his busy life as an ATF agent.
Rounding a turn, Vin eased the truck and trailer down the hill with the cabin
now in sight. Parking, he went to the gate and checked the lock to see if
it had been tampered with before opening the gate. Everything looked just
as he had left it two weeks ago. Latching the gate open, Vin restarted the
truck and pulled the trailer up next to the corral. If Peso hadnt been
fussing so much to get out, Vin might have noted a figure slip behind the
cabin and disappear into the woodland cover as he drove up.
"Give it up, Peso. Hold your horses!" Vin smiled as he went about letting
down the back of the trailer and untying Pony and Peso. Both horses backed
out of the trailer on their own and headed for the cool water of the spring
feed water trough. Closing the corral gate behind them, Vin placed their
halters within easy reach on a pole.
Not liking the looks of the clouds building up behind the mountains, Vin
decided to unload the feed and hay into the feed shed instead of waiting
for Chris to arrive. Had he gone back, like he usually did to close the main
gate, he might have noticed a beaten down grass path and the empty roll of
electrical tape cast aside in a ditch. Instead, he went to the truck and
took off his shirt and unclipped his cell phone, and beeper. Leaving his
gun on, he went to work.
The beeper signaled its demands again and again. The message to call Chris
immediately was left unread. Vin concentrated on making trips between the
truck and the shed. It felt good to do some heavy physical labor. He left
the bags and hay bales outside the shed. Chris could help him with putting
it all inside if it didnt rain first.
His attention was drawn to the breeze sailing through the aspen trees and
the comforting noise of the horses munching hay. He stopped and dipped his
head in the cool water in the trough. Flipping his head up, he pulled a string
from a bale of hay and tied back his long hair into a pony-tail. The cold
water streaming down his back gave him a chill. He shivered unconsciously
and stood a minute taking in the surroundings carefully.
The wind shifted and suddenly Vin heard the high pitched cry of his beeper.
Cursing to himself, he trotted over to it and checked the message. It was
Chris. The message had been left three times. The last one only three minutes
ago. Reaching in his jacket for his cell phone, Vin started to dial Chris
number. His finger froze above the keys. Radio waves. His cell worked on
radio waves. So did detonators. Frustrated, Vin put the phone down and picked
up his beeper as it sounded again.
Chris Larabee was angry and frustrated. Flying in the police helicopter,
he, Nathan, Buck and Josiah were heading for a police car parked at the
intersection of Hwy 93 and Canyon Rd. He and Vin were going to have a serious
talk about beepers and cell phones. If necessary, he would nail the items
to Vins body. About to give another message to call immediately, Chris
was stopped by Josiahs hand.
"Wait, Chris. Dont ask Vin to call. His cell phone!" Nathan, Buck and
Chris all stared at Josiah coming to the same conclusion.
Chris quickly redialed Vins beeper number and spoke quickly. "Vin,
dont use your phone. Hinton killed Sico. Stay away from everything
until we get there. Ten minutes away." Clicking off his phone, Chris spoke
to the helicopter pilot asking for more speed.
Leo Hinson watched Tanner with a pair of high powered binoculars. He saw
the ATF agent pick up a beeper, check it and then start to dial his cell
phone. He almost broke out in laughter when the hot-shot bomb expert, finally
remembered not to use his cell phone. Too bad, because his
package wasnt radio activated. Sighing heavily he rose
slowly and started back out to his car. He really wanted to be there when
his prize opened Tanner, but he couldnt risk staying. He knew Larabee
and his crew was coming. It was too risky to stay even for a taste of that
sweet picture. Gathering his tools, Hinson left Vin Tanner to pick up his
Tick Tick Tick
Vin read the beeper message and sagged back against
the truck. Looking at the useless cell phone in his hand, Vin set it back
on the truck seat. He leaned back again and studied his cabin and the area
around it, looking for a place Hinson might have left a booby trap. His eyes
traveled the area over and over but nothing other than doors and windows
fit Hinsons method. Sticking to the truck, where he knew he was safest,
Vin started to watch Peso and Pony graze and wander the pasture corral.
Chris, Josiah, Buck and Nathan met the highway patrolman in a convience store
parking lot. As they climbed into the four-wheel drive vehicle, Chris gave
the officer directions to the cabin. The officer was to stay at the store
to secure the landing area in case they needed it again. Chris planned to
drive slowly until they came to the main gate. They would walk from there.
The helicopter was going to fly over the cabin and report back to Chris.
Josiah clicked on his chirping phone and listened. A short acknowledgement
and he turned his phone off. "That was JD. He tracked down a back door dealer
who sold about three pounds of gelignite to someone matching Hinsons
description five days ago."
"Guess that confirms it then." Nathan said staring intently at the roadside
woodland. The others agreed silently. There was nothing more to say.
Vin stood still, resisting the urge to search. A helicopter climbed slowly
overhead. Vin could see the Denver Police sign on the side. Waving his hand
to draw its attention, Vin watched as the chopper approached and hovered.
He saw the pilot speak into his mike and then turn away and head towards
the highway. Vin hoped that was a sign that help was on the way.
Buck gave the mike to Chris who listened carefully to the pilot. Letting
out a breath, Chris nodded his thanks and handed back the mike. Turning to
the others, he recited what the pilot had seen. Vin was leaning against the
truck next to the cabin. The horses were turned out in the corral and Vin
had waved at the helicopter. The gate to the driveway was still opened and
nothing else was moving in or out of the area that they could see. No one
Pony wandered around the pasture. Vin could see how much both the horses
liked coming to this place. The ranch was beautiful, but there was something
cool and refreshing about this place the horses sensed. Even Peso was usually
in a good mood during a stay. Standing up to stretch his tired limbs, Vin
shivered in the first cooling of the day. Reaching inside the truck cab,
he grabbed his shirt and put it back on. As he buttoned it, he continued
to watch the horses.
Chris was joined by the others as they left the SUV about half-a mile from
the front gate. With his binoculars, Chris could see the gate still open.
Not Vins usual habit, but if one of the horses had been getting fussy,
Vin may have planned to come back to close it. He signaled the others to
move forward slowly.
Pony was grazing closer and closer to the feed shed. Vin looked at his watch
and saw it was nearing their feeding time. "Pony!" Vin shooed. "Get outta
Ponys head came up, he studied Vin and with a snort finally moved a
few feet away from the feed bags. Pesos ears pricked, listening to
Vins voice and he started to move to join Pony; anticipating dinner.
Vin watched both horses and shook his head. "Ah, hell!"
Animals of habit. They couldnt help it. Vin watched as both horses
stood together waiting. Knowing they would soon get impatient and start getting
into trouble, Vin made a decision. He had made the trip back and forth to
the shed several times. If there was anything that looked like an explosive
device he would have seen it. Remembering to watch his steps carefully, he
decided to get feed buckets from the shed and put dinner out.
The electrical tape lay unseen as the men made their way slowly in a line
up the pasture toward the cabin. Keeping low and looking all around they
checked for signs of wires, discarded tubing or metal: Anything that might
indicate the makings of a bomb.
Vin walked slowly up to Peso and reached to scratch his ears. "You two stay
out of trouble and Ill get you some feed." Looking at Pony who was
studying the bag of feed, Vin laughed. "We all could be standing next to
a booby trap and you two are interested in one thing: food." Using a lead
line, he roped off both horses further away from the shed. Satisfied they
would be safe, Vin started up the path to the shed.
The group finally made their way to the edge of the grassed in area. The
cabin could be seen clearly from here. The truck and trailer were there.
Chris could see the back of his horse, its tail swishing impatiently. Both
Peso and Pony were standing together. Chris saw them clearly as he moved
around the side of the trailer. But where was Vin?
Vin decided to get the buckets first before opening the feed sacks. Neither
horse needed much encouragement to break through the temporary barrier he
Chris saw Vin walking to the shed. He saw the bags of feed and hay Vin had
placed on the porch. He heard Pony snorting and starting to paw at the ground.
Peso nickered quietly at Chris presence. Nathan headed down toward
the dock and Josiah and Buck approached the cabin cautiously.
Tick Tick Tick Tick
Hinson slipped the key into the lock of his
mountain-view apartment entered and locked it behind him. He
went to the bathroom and washed his hands and face. Finishing, he sat down
at his work bench and turned the portable radio on to an all-news station.
He didnt want to miss the announcement when it came. Surprise, Mr.
He placed his empty carrying case aside and took up his hit list.
He had expected to hear an announcement about the explosion on his car radio
before reaching his place. He hadnt of course, but it would come. He
had been patient this long; a few more hours would make little difference.
He took a pencil and neatly crossed off the name of Vin Tanner. Hesitating
above Larabees name, Hinson stopped. Hed wait for the announcement
of Tanners death before scratching out Larabees name. Perhaps
hed make some more surprises for the rest of Tanners friends,
especially Larabee. It was just payment for his years of torture in prison.
Perhaps he would make lots of little presents to spread all over the city.
Chris was still to far away to yell at Vin to get his attention. He was also
fully aware that Hinson could be hidden anywhere in the area. Staying at
the scene of his bombings wasnt Hinsons usual style, but Chris
wasnt taking any chances.
Buck Wilmington moved in carefully to the window at the side of the cabin.
Cautiously he looked for any signs of ground disturbance or window tampering.
This window, Buck knew, would give him a clear view of the main room and
the front door. Josiah continued around to the back of the cabin intent on
checking the backdoor and bedroom window. Buck took a look at where he knew
Vin usually left his "seal. There along the right hand side of the
window was a small brown piece of string glued into place with Elmers.
No one had used this window to enter the cabin. He knew Josiah would look
for the same security system. Leaning forward, Buck had a clear view of the
simple but neatly kept cabin. The front door stood as the last day it was
closed. No wires, no spring pins, no secret packages. Exhaling, Buck scanned
the rest of the room but saw nothing out of place.
Vin stood on the porch of the feed shed. He searched his jeans for the truck
key ring and found the key he needed for the feed room padlock. Getting ready
to open the padlock with the key, Vin stopped, spying something beside the
Chris saw Vin step on the feed shed porch. Nathan waved an all clear sign
from the dock area. He turned and saw Buck standing on the cabin front porch
giving the "OK" sign. He watched Vin move from the porch and step to the
side of the shed. Chris looked around quickly. No explosive devices in any
of the other major structures. Hinson would know they would tend the horses
first. Picking up his pace, Chris broke in to a slow trot.
Vin bent to get the feed buckets he found stored next to the shed. He remembered
the last time they had stayed they were running late. He had left them stacked
upside down next to the shed. Bending down, Vin checked the ground around
the buckets, picked up a stick and slowly lifted the edge of the bucket.
Seeing nothing but open space underneath the bucket, Vin picked them up and
brushed the leaves off.
Chris was five feet from the shed porch. Vin came around the edge of the
building, key in his hand. Approaching the door both buckets hanging from
his right forearm, Vin started to put the key in the padlock.
Tick Tick Tick Tick
It was wrong. Chris could sense it. Hinson! The
feed shed door was the perfect place! "Vin, stop!" Chris tried to keep his
voice pitched low in an effort to keep from startling the sharpshooter.
The wind blew sharply away from the shed porch. The buckets banged against
Vins side as he reached toward the padlock to steady it. He heard what
he thought was Chris voice coming from in front of the shed. The wind
made it hard to hear for sure, so Vin turned toward the sound. The buckets
dangling from his right arm, swung against the shed door hitting the padlock
Behind the shed door, a release pin slipped to the floor. The striker inside
the four inch metal tube made contact with the percussion cap as the coiled
spring snapped downward; its energy now released. The percussion cap ignited
the Primacord and closely behind it the gelignite exploded blowing the frame
Vin felt himself being lifted upward and blown outward as hot flames, sharp
splintered wood and debris spread all around him. Chris was two steps from
the porch when Vin came flying at him bringing most of the feed shed housing
Josiah threw his arms up to protect his face from the flying debris pelting
the cabin porch. Both he and Buck felt the heat of the explosion and as the
force of the blast spread outward. Nathan saw the shed explode and was almost
run over by Peso and Pony as they fled to the far side of the pasture by
the lake. He began running toward the remains of the shed hoping Chris and
Vin would still be alive.
Chris felt a sharp pain and pressure on his chest and tried to push away
the offending object. He opened his eyes cautiously feeling grime and dust
mixed with something liquid covering his face. His ears were ringing and
he felt as if his breath had been sucked out of him. He lay there trying
to remember what had happened. He tried to cough and felt a fire start to
burn inside his chest.
Buck beat Nathan to the shattered building and found Chris almost immediately.
He couldnt see Vin but knew he was somewhere in the pile of wooden
debris closer to where the door had been located. Whether he was alive in
that pile, Buck didnt want to guess.
Josiah came running across the lawn carrying the emergency medical kit that
Nathan insisted be kept in the cabin. He put it down next to Buck who was
working to get the last shattered board off Chris legs.
"Im okay here, Josiah. Go help Nathan find Vin." Buck eased his jacket
under Chris blood-covered head and leaned closer. "Chris? Talk to me.
Chris? He watched as Chris eyes began to open. "Youre okay. There
was an explosion. Nathan and Josiah have Vin." Buck kept talking, lying when
he didnt know the truth to protect his friend. Grabbing the medical
kit, he broke open a sterile package and put pressure on the heavily bleeding
scalp wound on Chris head.
"Josiah? You see him?" Nathan was carefully lifting smoldering boards, pieces
of plaster and glass off a large pile near the door. Josiah shook his head
and made his way over to the other side of the pile. Bending down he picked
up a large piece of plywood and saw one of the red buckets Vin had been carrying;
the bottom was melted.
"Nathan? Here." Josiah followed the line of the bucket and soon found Vins
right arm. The forearm, where he had been carrying the buckets, was deformed
and obviously broken. Smoke was coming from his clothing and Nathan quickly
grabbed water from the trough and soaked it thoroughly. Continuing to peel
the various piece of debris, both men soon had Vins body fully exposed.
Nathan made a quick check of Vins pulse again and made sure his airway
was clear. He was unconscious with various cuts, splinters and burns in addition
to his broken arm. He would give him a fuller exam after he had checked Chris.
Nathan gave Josiah quick instructions about immediate care for Vin and went
to join Buck with Chris.
"Hey, how are we doing here?" Nathan looked down into Chriss clouded
eyes and saw the confusion there.
"Buck says there was a bomb? I was
.the shed door!" Chris tried to sit
up but immediately sank back into Bucks arms as the pain returned to
his chest. Moaning he closed his eyes.
"Chris? Show me where it hurts?" Nathan helped Chris move his arm to the
most painful area. Cutting away clothing, the paramedic could see a reddened
badly bruised area probably caused by a flying board going from Chris
right shoulder downward along his side. A few light palpations confirmed
his suspicions that Chris had several broken ribs. Nathan continued to check
his pelvic area and legs. Everything looked okay, but he wasnt going
to move either man until he got an ambulance to the cabin area. "Buck, call
911 and get us help. Youd better call JD and Ezra too. Im gonna
see about Vin."
Vin felt cold and wet. Someone was trying to smother his face. He tried to
turn his face to avoid it but found he couldnt move his head. He felt
the panic starting as he tried moving his arms only to be met with agonizing
pain when he tested his right arm. "Oh
.hmmm". He tried turning his
head again; was stopped and the panic started again.
Josiah pulled the washcloth from Vins face. Looking at Nathan who was
continuing his inspection of Vins legs, Josiah let a smile play on
his lips. "Vin? Can you open your eyes? Everything is okay. Im just
holding your head still for you. I know your arm hurts. Its broken.
Just rest. Let Nathan finish checking you over."
Vin listened to Josiahs voice. Yes, it was Josiah. His scrambled brain
was beginning to make sense of where he was and how he was. The smell of
charred wood and Primacord stung his nose. The shed door. The booby trap.
"Hinson." Vin let the mans name slip through his teeth.
Nathan finished his exam and pulled a light blanket over Vin covering him.
Leaning over his head, Nathan spoke. "Yeah, it was Hinsons bomb. Good
thing you were carrying those buckets. Between Chris yelling at you and those
buckets providing a buffer, youre a lucky man."
"Dont feel lucky." Vin was starting to shiver. The entire impact of
what had happened suddenly overwhelmed him. "Josiah? My arm hurts so much."
Nathan looked up at Josiah and went for his medical kit. Vins body
was reacting by showing signs of shock. He reached for a bag of saline and
an IV administration kit. "Chris still doing okay?" Getting a nod from Buck,
he went back to Vin and Josiah.
"Vin. Im gonna give you some fluids and warm you up. Helps on
its way. Josiahs staying right here with you. Understand?" He saw Vin
nod his head weakly as he started the IV. Adjusting the rate of the fluids,
Nathan saw Buck waving his cell phone in the air. Josiah returned from the
cabin with two thermal blankets and covered Vin carefully.
Approaching Chris, Nathan raised an eyebrow. "Everything okay here?" He looked
at Chris who was now awake and looking much less confused.
"Vin okay?" Chris lifted his head and immediately felt pain rake his scalp.
Lowering his head slowly, Chris felt Buck chuckle. "Dont say it Buck."
"Okay, I wont tell you to keep your head still." Buck looked up at
Nathan. "That was JD on the phone. He said Team 3 is on its way and the ambulance
should be here in about ten minutes. They can call a medivac if you need
Nathan nodded. Both his patients were stable. Banged up and hurting for sure,
but okay. Looking over the area, he saw Peso and Pony still standing together
at the far end of the pasture. Pointing to them, Nathan said. "Those two
have the right idea. Staying as far away as they can."
Buck followed where Nathan was looking. "Yeah, well all be okay. Josiah
and I will pack them up and take them back to the ranch after the ambulance
takes these two to the ER."
Vin heard the sounds of sirens in the distance. He had stopped shivering
and felt much better with the warmth of the extra blanket and Josiah next
to him. His right arm throbbed with pain but the shock of the pain was wearing
off. He heard Chris and Buck nagging at each other and felt even better.
Nathan was hovering about attending to each of his "patients. He heard
other voices, probably paramedics, thought he heard the voice of Ben
Parsons from Team 3.
Both agents were quickly rechecked by the EMS teams. Vins arm was splinted
and Chris lungs checked carefully over the area of the broken ribs.
Both were secured carefully to backboards and placed side by side in the
ambulance. Nathan would go with them and Buck and Josiah would finish up
at the cabin.
Tick Tick Tick Tick Tick
Nathan sat in the orthopedic plaster room watching
the resident place a soft plaster cast on Vin Tanners right arm. Vin
had been given morphine for pain after a head CT for trauma and was resting
quietly. Vin would wear the soft cast for two days while much of the swelling
disappeared and then he would have surgery to fix the broken bones of his
forearm. His face and chest were covered with a thin covering of burn ointment
in various places. Most of the burns were flash burns; painful but would
heal easily. Small neat sutures were showing right at his hairline, repairing
a minor scalp laceration. Various wood and metal splinters had been removed
from his chest and arms. Vins long hair was covered with dust, dirt
and greasy with ointment and betadine. Someone had cut the string holding
the ponytail and with it wet, Nathan could see the natural curly ringlets
Vin fought hard to conceal. Nathan signed. Both his friends would be staying
in the hospital for a few days, but they would recover. That was all that
Buck was with Chris in a suture room getting a long series of stitches in
his scalp. X-rays had confirmed that ribs three and four where both broken
and the rest of his side from collarbone to hip bruised and swollen. Medicated,
he snored softly as Buck stood guard. Josiah had taken the horses back to
the ranch and Buck had driven the SUV behind the ambulance.
JD was now out with Team 3 putting a report together at the cabin and Owen
Travis was talking to the Fire and Arson expert Ben Parsons about the evidence
that had been collected. All of it again pointed to Albert Hinson.
Tick Tick Tick Tick Tick
He finished making the booby trap: big bomb present
for Christopher Larabee. He sat back pleased with his work. Even the lack
of any news on the radio about Tanner failed to dampen his spirits. Still
it was nothing to worry about it. If Vin Tanner didnt open his present
today; he would tomorrow. Verification of Tanners death and a good
nights sleep and he would be ready to work on placing Larabees
Once he decided where he would put it, all he had to do was arrange the rancid
bones he wanted to use as projectiles inside the package and connect the
leads to the micro switch. Maybe he would leave it where he could linger
nearby and see it happen. Wouldnt that be sweet?
His stomach growled. Hed been so intent on his work that he had forgotten
to eat again. He started to put his tools away and changed his mind. The
clean up tonight could wait. Good work deserved a good reward. It was time
for his reward right now.
He stood and stretched and padded into the kitchen. Of course, the damn pilot
light on the stove had gone out again. Annoyed and feeling martyred, he reached
for the box of kitchen matches.
Ezra Standish felt inefficient and especially
helpless when he heard about the booby trap that had exploded hurting Vin
and Chris. Despite Nathans assurance that both of his friends would
be recover after a few weeks, Ezra still felt like he should have been able
to add more to the investigation.
Currently he was sitting beside Wallace Cooper in an aged Suburban. Cooper,
a licensed bounty hunter, had finally called him as promised with a lead
on Hinsons address. Seeing Coopers transportation, Ezra had offered
the Jag, but Cooper said it was too "obvious" and would draw attention. Ezra
had started to protest, but given the size and physical abilities of Mr.
Cooper had changed his mind. Besides, if the address panned out; they could
possibly capture Hinson before he did any more harm.
Turning down the street to the Mountain View Apartment complex both men were
surprised to see an assortment of fire trucks, an arson investigators
car, ambulances and a coroners wagon. Parking up the street,
Wallace and Ezra walked toward the address that Wallace held in his hand.
"2643 Mountain View Lane Apt. 3." They were obviously going to have a difficult
time locating the exact apartment. Half of the complex was now a heap of
rubble and smoldering debris.
Ezra and Wallace finished talking to Fire Chief Leonard Albert. Shaking his
head at the information he had been given, he dialed Bucks cell phone
Buck sat dozing in a recliner at the foot of two hospital beds. Both Vin
and Chris were quietly sleeping after healthy doses of pain medication following
all their tests and procedures. With assurances that both men would recover
completely, he had finally allowed to himself to relax a little. There were
guards outside the hospital door and aside from the team, Vin and Chris could
expect to be covered with security twenty four hours a day until Hinson was
located. Getting them to do that right now was easy. However, if Hinson
wasnt located soon, Buck tried not to think about how difficult his
life could become.
His cell phone chirped and he clicked it on quickly to avoid waking Vin or
Chris. "Wilmington." Buck turned himself toward the window as he listened
to Ezra Standish.
"Buck, Ive got some good news." Ezra watched as the coroners
wagon was loaded with a large black bag on a stretcher.
"Whats that? Where are you?" Buck hadnt had time to wonder where
Ezra had gone to during the day. The agent often disappeared for long periods
of time, only to surface with exactly the information that would move a case
"We can quit worrying about Al Hinson." Ezra tried to picture Bucks
"Mr. Wallace and I have found him."
Buck sank back into his chair. "Where?"
"Mountain View Apartments. Just enough of him for a positive ID." Ezra said.
Sitting upright, Buck spoke in an astonished voice. "You mean hes dead."
"They dont get any deader, Mr. Wilmington. He blew himself up." The
showman part of Ezra relished Bucks reaction.
"Christ! How? Making another bomb?" Buck spoke quickly wanted all the
"No." Ezra started. "Well, he was making another one but thats not
what killed him. Pretty ironic actually. "
"Ironic?" Buck hung on Ezras words.
"He was living in this cheap rented place. Not much more than a series of
shacks on the beach. His apartment had faulty propane stove: one of those
old ones that the landlord should have replaced along time ago. The local
Fire Chief said it had worked loose or corroded through and gas leaked out.
You know how volatile propane is when it builds up. Hinson lit a match or
did something else to cause a spark. I believe the Chiefs exact words
were "Boom!" One of the investigators said it was an explosion just
waiting to happen. Ezra paused to let a fire truck with its alarms
sounding pass by before he resumed his conversation.
Buck was stunned but greatly relieved at Ezras explanation. He waited
for Ezra to continue.
"Actually one of the rescue firemen had a better term for it." Ezra admitted.
"What was that?" Buck asked.
"I believe he called it a "regular damn booby trap." Ezra clicked off his
phone and joined Wallace in a slow walk back to the car.