It had been one hell of a Thursday, from beginning
to end, and he was almost beyond exhaustion. Mind, body, and spirit had been
battered beyond his threshold of tolerance and more than anything he just
wanted to lay down and go to sleep for a week. Maybe by then when he woke
up things would look better to his tired eyes.
BAM! BAM! BAM!
It had started all too early. Vin Tanner had been awakened at two in the
morning to the frantic pounding on his door. The cries for help from one
of the buildings children had echoed through his apartment and his
aching head. He hadnt even made it to bed until nearly midnight, after
spending a late evening going over the next days operation.
Chris, Buck, and Nathan were in Los Angeles for a conference and werent
due back until Saturday. Ezra and JD were testifying in a crucial case that
was beginning to drag itself out. And Josiah had taken a few days off to
help the sisters at the tiny convent in Vista City with a few minor repairs.
Vin was currently on loan to Team Two as their sniper while theirs was out
with the flu. Vin had spent the last day going over the plans for that
days bust and the last minute preparations he needed to make, having
come in late to the whole operation. Most of the guys on Team Two were cool
with it, but there were always the two pinheads that were put off by Vins
reputation and affiliation with Denvers premiere ATF team. Still, it
was his job to protect those men and do it he would while turning a blind
eye and ear to their less than friendly ribbing and cutting remarks. It was
just one more day and he was done.
Mr. Vin! Mr. Vin! Help, help! Its Mr. Carter, I think hes
having a heart attack.
Once the rapid beating of his heart and his labored breathing had slowed
down enough that he could hear, Vin had been out of the bed in an instant.
Pulling on a t-shirt and a pair of shorts over his briefs he didnt
even stop to consider how sweaty he was before running out the door and bounding
down the stairs.
The Carters were a very nice elderly couple that lived on the first floor.
Mrs. Carter was often baking her blue-eyed angel one sweet
treat or another in repayment for Vins help with minor repairs and
errands for the two neighbors. Vin loved doing it and didnt really
think about it much. It was just what he did and to help out those in need
just came naturally to the conscientious young man.
By the time Vin got downstairs, Mr. Carter was in cardiac arrest and after
performing CPR until help had arrived, Vin had driven Mrs. Carter to the
hospital. In dirty sweat soaked clothing he had sat with her until her two
sons had arrived and they received word that the old gentleman had suffered
a major heart attack. Even though he would likely survive, the rest of his
days would be spent in a rest home. After promising Mrs. Carter that he would
check up on them and giving her a quick hug, he had left her to the care
of her family.
By then it was after 5:30am and Vin had just enough time to run home, grab
a quick shower, and get to work. He needed to recheck his equipment for the
bust. His post was high on the top of a building overlooking the warehouse
where the bust was taking place. With no way to get inside ahead of time
it was his job to watch the doors.
The bust went down about 11:00am but not without a hitch or two or three.
No one was killed though two of the suspects had been wounded, both by Vin,
who had been forced to take them down when one of the two hecklers he had
been suffering through had pretty near gotten his fool head shot off. The
idiot had been out of position and Vin then spent most of the rest of the
afternoon having to go over what he saw and write up the report. Not to mention
the fact that he had sprained his ankle when he had to jump up and change
positions himself to cover the idiots ass. Though he had been able
to keep the ankle injury mostly hidden it had begun to swell and throb as
the day wore on and he hadnt really given it time to rest. Darren Sykes,
the leader of Team Two, had finally ordered Vin to go by the ER to have it
checked, not only because of regulations, but because the last thing
I need is a pissed off Larabee up my ass because his sharpshooter was injured
while under my supervision.
So, it had been back to the ER for another three hour wait for them to tell
him that he had sprained his ankle and should try and stay off of it for
a few days. Duh! Well, he had at least been able to check on the Carters
while he was there. Nothing had changed but the sweet woman had seemed touched
that he had stopped by, then she had chastised him for looking like he had
been in a bar fight and lost, then sent him on his way to get some rest and
let his ankle heal up. A glance at his reflection in the mirror as he stopped
by the bathroom on his way out explained her reaction. His eyes were darkened
with lack of sleep and fatigue. He hadnt eaten all day, unless you
counted Toastchees and an oatmeal cake as a meal. He really did look like
And as if his day hadnt already been a total disaster, that
#@&%!#%&@! Jeep of his had broken down. Vin had to have it towed
to a local garage and call a taxi to get home.
Running on empty and limping worse than ever Vin wearily made his way up
to his lonely apartment. He had already called The Saloon and left a message
with Inez to tell Ezra and JD that he wouldnt be able to make it. He
had promised to have a drink with them after work, but was too tired to care.
It had been the day from hell and his only thought was to climb into his
bed from whence this whole thing had begun, go to sleep, and pray he would
awaken to a renewed sense that life wasnt meant merely as a form of
Damn, he was tired. Sick and tired. He missed the guys. Having spent nearly
the entire week in the office on his own, he had not relished in the silence
like he had thought. He had missed JD and Bucks tireless heckling of
each other. Josiahs strange tales, Ezras flowery speech,
Nathans concerned glances, and most of all Chriss quiet and sometimes
not so quiet presence.
Dropping his butt onto his worn sofa and pulling off his hiking boots, both
the one he could tie and the one he couldnt, he realized he wasnt
going to make it to the bedroom. It was after 8 oclock and within seconds
of laying his head back on the couch, he was out.
BAM! BAM! BAM!
BAM! BAM! BAM!
Oh God, it was all starting again. Vin awoke with a start, his head pounding
to the same rhythm as the horrible banging noise. Quick natural reflexes
had his brain refocusing and gathering all of the clues to put together what
all had happened that day. He also recognized the voices outside his door.
Damn it. Ez should have gotten his message. Maybe they had just come by to
check up on him. But really, he just needed to be left alone to sulk and
rest and heal, both emotionally and physically, from what had been a grueling
Pulling himself up on his feet he shuffled toward the door. Throwing open
all of the locks he swung the door wide, ready to rip both men a new hole.
Not two, but six voices assaulted his ears and he staggered back a little
in shock as all six of his friends pushed and shoved their way into his tiny
Hey, Vin. JDs smile was big enough to light the room as
he eased past the stunned sharpshooter, four pizzas in hand. We thought
wed just bring the party on over here.
Certainly you didnt think you could slip out on us, Mr.
Tanner. Ezra was carrying a six-pack of his favorite domestic beer
Hope you dont mind, brother. The big profiler quickly followed,
carrying a twelve pack of coke, some more beer, and some chips.
Vin stared after Josiah. Wasnt he supposed to be in Vista City?
Buck and Nathan followed, with the tall medic handing Vin an ice pack and
a bottle of ibuprofen and Buck quickly slipping his arm under Vins
to help steady the wobbly man trying to nonchalantly stand on one foot.
Shoulda known we were going to find out about that ankle, old
son. Bucks stern look was softened by the big smile that followed.
Didnt think wes gonna forget ya, did ya?
Vins mind couldnt quite figure out what
was going on. Maybe it had been a harder day than he thought. What were they
all doing here? Werent Buck and Nathan supposed to be in Los Angeles
until Saturday? And so was
A hand on his shoulder had Vin looking up to stare into the face of his best
friend. A mixture of relief and confusion warred for control. Chris was the
man who understood Vin like no other. Lets get you sat down before
you fall down, cowboy. You look like about fifty miles of bad road.
Buck and Chris both shuffled Vin over to sit on the couch, while Nathan propped
up the ankle and took the ice pack back to place it on the swollen appendage.
Then the others slowly settled here and there around the room.
Chris put a crudely wrapped and very heavy package on Vins lap, only
adding to Vins confusion.
Buck cleared his throat, his voice serious. We know youve had
a rough day, Vin. One of your neighbors told us about Mr. Carter on our way
up. Were really sorry to hear about that, know youre really fond
of that nice old couple.
And Sykes spent a good fifteen minutes trying to
explain the actions of his two hotheads and your subsequent
injury. Ezra added what he had learned from Team Twos leader
when he had stopped by the office to escort Vin to The Saloon only to find
Vin already gone for the day.
Those two unfortunate souls are definitely going to be thinking three
or four times before bothering you again. Josiahs prophetic voice
held a steely tone that did not bode well for the two errant agents.
I stopped by the ER to check on you after Ez called me, but youd
already left. JD had searched for over thirty minutes before he finally
discovered that Vin had already been checked out and had left the hospital.
Sounds like a pretty rough day. Nathan sympathized. Course
now youre in for a long weekend. A sharp look from Vin was met
with a firm shake of the medics dark head. No way. Youre
on leave until Monday with that ankle. No arguments.
Vin just rolled his eyes. You forgot one.
Huh? Buck grunted beside him.
The jeep. It broke down on me on the way home. Had to call for a tow
and a cab.
Chris was watching Vin with concern. His best friend did look rough, with
the swollen ankle, the dark smudges under his eyes and the slumped shoulders,
but he also noticed the underlying confusion.
We took an early flight home and Josiah drove back this afternoon.
Chris patted the package in Vins lap. Open it.
Vin began to fumble with the paper, quirking a grin as he recognized the
funny papers from the last Sundays newspaper. He stared with wonder
at the beautiful slab of granite he found inside. It was a carefully crafted
desk plate and turning it over he read the inscription. Vin Tanner
Team Seven and in smaller letters below Sharpshooter
Ez insisted on the bottom part.
Vin swallowed hard, not knowing what to say and still totally confused. Finally
he managed a quiet croak.
Thanks, fellas. Its
Vin didnt look up but continued to stare at his present, his mind whirling.
What had he done to deserve this? It wasnt his birthday or anything?
Chriss voice quietly sounded in his ear. Its been two years
since you joined the team.
Vin looked up at Chris with the wonder of a child echoing in his deep blue
Happy Anniversary, Vin.
As the quiet rumblings of his friends chatter grew around him and the
food and drink was prepared, Vin sat back in wonder at the day he had had.
Glancing about at the friends, the family that he had to rely on whenever
the chips were down he smiled for the first time all day.
Yep, it sure had been one helluva day.
Sunshine on a cloudy day
Strength for the weary body
And balm for an ailing soul
Dedicated to the Black and Buckskin Family!
July 2, 2003