Point of View

by JIN

Disclaimer: Apparently it really is necessary to state again that I do not own or profit from these wonderful guys or anything related to m7.

Comments: This is an experiment . . . an exercise because I seem to get bored easily and because I’m still nervous to enter the ATF world. I have written a few stories from the C/V point of view – thought I’d try my hand with the others. The other guys don’t speak to me as easily, so please be kind! Of course, Chris and Vin are still there . . . poor guys.

Warnings: Cursing, violence, blood and guts (just kidding about the guts).

It was a dark and stormy night. Not a very original opening, I know – but it really was dark . . . and stormy. In fact, it had been raining for three damn days. And that night, it was thundering and lightening and the wind was blowin’ and . . . well, it was a really stormy night.

I love stormy nights – and this night was awesome. I’m sure Buck didn’t think that. I’m sure he was scared to death, even though he’d deny it. He’d tell you that he’s not afraid of a little, itty bitty storm – but he’d be lying. He practically shivers in his boots when it storms. Damn funny is what it is.

But I guess that has nothing at all to do with what happened that night.

So anyway, it was storming like hell, and Chris and Vin were late. It wasn’t all that different for them to be late, but with the weather being so bad and all – some of the guys were getting kinda nervous. Not me – hell, Chris and Vin can handle themselves better than . . . well, better than anybody. I didn’t figure a little rain would hurt ‘em.

We’d been waiting at Inez’s place for a good hour or more when they finally came in. They were a little wet; it was a stormy night, after all. So anyway, they finally came in and sat down at our table and it was all alright at first . . . but then things started happening and the whole night went t’ hell.


It was dangerous, that’s all there was to it. None of us should have been out that night. Heaven knows I had better places to be. But they all talked me into it . . . said we’d had a rough week wrapping up the Bracero case and we needed some down time.

Don’t understand why a group of grown men think sitting in a bar when all hell is breaking loose outside is "down time." I’ve got better ideas of ways to relax, but I’m part of the team and I go where the team goes. No one will ever say that Nathan Jackson ain’t a team player.

It was really bad out, though. And the later it got, the more worried I was. Chris had things to finish up at the office, and Vin naturally waited to come with him – but it was late, even by their standards. After two hours had passed, I was sure something terrible had happened . . . kept my cell on the table so I could see real quick if the hospital called.

I can’t tell you how relieved I was when those two walked in the door. Of course, they were drenched. Vin was shivering and I figured he’d be sick by morning. I was already calculating which antibiotic to use and how much he’d need. I can’t do the prescribing, but I have got connections. Good thing, too – working with this bunch.

Getting sick turned out to be the least of his problems, though. And the storm outside turned out to be nothing compared to what happened inside.

I knew we should’ve stayed home.


How this misguided band of misfits coerced me into participating in yet another long, drawn out affair at our customary tavern remains a mystery. The weather was positively wretched; gale force winds and driving rain all but ruining my attire as I rushed from my vehicle to the entrance.

Of course, I was in far better condition than our illustrious leader and his noble sidekick when they finally arrived. I believe drowned rodents would most accurately describe their appearance. At that point, I had been sitting, quite patiently I might add, for a good three hours.

For most of those three hours, I contemplated where I could have been: at home near the fire with a good novel and an even better glass of wine . . . although, my associates did provide their own unique brand of entertainment. As events began to unfold, however, it became apparent that I would be needed precisely where I was.


There is just nothing better than a good storm to remind us of God’s power. Lord, it was a night. I would have stayed out and watched His most awesome display - up close and personal – had Nathan not grabbed the collar of my coat and yanked me inside. Takes a brave man to go yanking me around – strong one, too. Fortunately, I happen to love Nathan and understand his predisposition for worrying.

He was mostly worried about Chris and Vin, though. They were running a few minutes late . . . but then, late is a relative term. Who can really measure time, after all? I’m sure you’ve heard about the value of a second, a minute, an hour . . . it’s all relative, like I said. Anything can happen in the space of time.

And anything did.

While the Lord was displaying His might outside, the Devil surely had a hand in what happened inside that night.


I am not scared of storms. It’s natural to get a bit jumpy with sudden, loud noises – hell, look at the line of work we’re in after all. And a tall man like me has to be wary in high winds . . . all kinds of things whippin’ about and knockin’ you around – not to mention lightening. It ain’t the same for JD – he’s a whole lot closer t’ the ground.

So anyway, let’s just make this perfectly clear: I am not scared of storms.

Of course, ‘bout anyone would’ve been nervous that night . . . wasn’t your typical storm. And Chris and Vin were late . . . could’ve been five minutes or five hours for all I knew . . . had better things to occupy my mind, after all. Inez was looking particularly ravishing and I couldn’t take my eyes off her.

But they did finally make it in. I didn’t notice if they were wet or not . . . like I said - Inez was lookin’ good. Neither one were talkin’ much, and I did notice that Chris looked worried and Vin looked . . . well, hell, Vin always looks kinda laid back and on edge all at the same time. That was how he looked that night.

Lookin’ back on it, it’s almost like they knew somethin’ was gonna happen. Wish they’d let us in on it before it did, though. Wish we’d had some idea how bad things were gonna get.


The place was empty by the time it all broke loose. Other people get like Buck in storms, I guess. It seemed like the wind was picking up even more, so the rest of the customers headed home.

I could tell Ezra and Nathan wanted to leave, too, but I was glad when Chris and Vin sorta settled in because I thought the whole thing was pretty cool. You could hear the rain and hail, I guess it was, slamming against the windows. The lights kept flickering on and off, so Inez got out a bunch of candles, and me and Buck helped her light ‘em.

I was surprised when three huge guys came pushing through the door. They damn near couldn’t get it open, with the wind like it was. I just figured they were stuck or stranded . . . probably on their way some place else when they pulled over because of the storm. I just figured they were a couple of regular guys, y’ know?

But Vin . . . he got this look on his face, right before the lights went out. And in the shadows of those candles we’d lit, I saw him get up real slow . . . and I saw him reach for his gun.


We should have left when everyone else did. I said it at least five times . . . and was ignored five times. I could have gone on myself, I know. But it was getting worse outside, and I kept watching Vin.

He already looked sick, although he didn’t say and I didn’t ask. I felt like I needed to stay.

By the time the three men came through the door, I was sure we were in the midst of a hurricane. And yeah, I understand geography and I know no hurricanes come hurtling through Denver, but I’m telling ya – this was no ordinary storm. We should have gone home. We shouldn’t have come in the first place.

But we did come and we were there, and when we were joined by those men, the knot in my stomach just twisted a little tighter. I couldn’t figure out why - they were just average looking men, after all; average height and weight in non-descript jeans and jackets. No one else was there by then, just us and Inez. My first thought was that there were three other men on this earth as stupid as we were, being out on a night like this.

My second thought was that we were in trouble . . . because in the glow of the candles, Chris’s face went white.


We were obviously trapped in the throes of some demonic act of nature. I had insisted on leaving earlier, but had a sudden change of heart after witnessing a rather large, undeterminable object blow past the windows. I shuddered in relief – thinking that very well could have been my head had I chosen to step outside in that moment . . . and resumed my seat at the table.

Fortunately, I’d had the foresight to bring along a deck of cards. I had just engaged Josiah in a hand when the men entered the establishment. I am, of course, being tactful. In truth, I believe my words were more akin to noting that the considerable gusts had blown in three unsightly, unsavory, unkempt mongrels.

As it turned out, calling these particular miscreants ‘mongrels’ does a huge disservice to the canine population.

As the . . . creatures . . . entered the premises, the lights went out once more. I quickly noted that JD and Buck remained behind the bar with Inez, lighting candles for our convenience. Vin stood slowly, although with his back to me, I was unable to see his expression. I turned to Josiah and was stunned that, even in the poor lighting, I could see the unease that graced his features. Something was amiss, but before I could inquire further, events began to unfold as violently as the storm that raged outside our meager shelter.


They used to call it ESP – extra-sensory perception. Some might call it instinct, a feeling, something stirring around deep in your gut. I personally would like to chalk it up to divine guidance, although the Lord knows that I tend to turn in the opposite direction out of shear stubbornness most times. It doesn’t matter what you call it, I just knew I had it the minute those guys entered the door. There were only three of them, and they were fairly small at that, but I had a ‘feeling’.

When the lights went out, I instinctively put my hand on my gun. I couldn’t say why. We don’t always carry our guns with us, and I found myself glancing at the others, trying to remember who was armed right then and who wasn’t. I wasn’t even sure why it mattered.

But it did matter. I turned my gaze towards Nathan, wondering if he felt it, too, but he was watching Chris. And after that, it didn’t matter what I felt or what Nathan thought.


Inez was in need of a little comfort. Oh, she tried t’ hide it, of course, but not much gets past old Buck. We were smack in the middle of a damn tornado, and a little togetherness was definitely called for. I was this close to convincing her of that, when she thrust a bunch of candles in my hands.

We’d just got most of ‘em lit, when the door blew open and these three guys rolled in. They looked like they could’ve been friends’ of JD t’ me . . . not much bigger or older than him in faded jeans and sweatshirts. They shook themselves off and didn’t say much, and that was about the time the lights went out.

I stole a glance at Inez in the candlelight, and she set my heart all a flutter, the way those shadows danced across her face. I thought that maybe she was the most beautiful . . . well, it’s not important.

What is important is that Inez moved to offer the men a drink, and I had a feeling that maybe that wasn’t a good thing. I was moving to go stand beside her when things just got plumb out of hand.


They were quick. It happened so fast, I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. And I have to be honest; the first thing I thought of was what a cool movie scene it would have made. The lightening and the wind and the thunder . . . the candle light throwing these eerie shadows all over the place . . . it felt like we were in a movie, or a well done TV show, at least.

But anyway, they were fast. One of them had moved behind Inez and had their gun up against her head in like, three seconds. Buck was close by and he almost made it in time, but the other guy was faster – and he pulled Inez back by the window while screaming at Buck to back off.

I was watching that whole thing, and didn’t even realize at first that the other two guys had their guns out, too . . . along with Chris and Vin and Josiah and Ezra. Me and Buck were still behind the bar, and we’d left our weapons locked up in the car anyway. I remember Buck saying that the others would be loaded and there was no need for all seven of us to be packing. He said something like, "Chris wouldn’t visit his mother without his gun", and then he laughed and said that was a line from some old show called "Starsky and Hutch". I rolled my eyes and told him it was time to join the twenty-first century and start watching real television like "CSI". He said it was "too gory", and then . . .

Where was I? Oh yeah, it was four to three, with Inez in a tight spot.

And I could see that Buck and I were thinking the same thing . . . we should have brought our guns.


It was hard to see in the dim light, but it was clear that we were in a mess. I was sitting next to Vin, Chris was across from him. Josiah was across from me and Ezra was on the other side of me. So when Vin stood up and turned towards the men, I couldn’t really see his face. I could see Chris’s though, and by the time he’d joined Vin on his feet with his gun in his hand, I knew by his expression that it was too late.

I don’t know why I was surprised that the other four at the table had their guns with them. I always knew ‘down time’ didn’t mean to them what it did to me. Not that I’m complaining, mind you. It could have been a whole lot worse if they weren’t prepared for trouble. Of course, I’m always prepared for trouble, but in a different way. I don’t go anywhere with these men without a supply of first aid supplies. In fact, I’d even left a kit at the bar with Inez, and now I’m glad I had that foresight.

The shadows were downright creepy, but I could see enough to realize that there were way too many weapons in way too tight a space.

Someone would be hurt before this was over.


Good Lord, we were in the midst of some horrid Tim Burton film. I kept waiting for Johnny Depp to leap from the shadows and wield a scissor-like claw or chop off a head.

One of the vile beings had his hand around Inez’ throat with his gun pressed up against her temple. I kept my aim steady on him, but I couldn’t help glancing at Buck and uttering a silent prayer that he would keep his own head intact. Yes, I know it may surprise some, but on occasion I have been known to resort to asking for assistance from a higher power.

The tension was unbearably . . . tense. I am sure there is a better way to describe it, but the point remains that for several long minutes, no one moved and no one spoke. The other two men remained armed at the door – their smug expressions notable even in the darkness. I, for one, had the great desire to drop them both where they stood without so much as a backward glance, but as always, I waited for direction from Chris. In spite of my reputation, I have gotten quite good at following orders.

To my surprise however, Chris did not take the lead . . . Vin did.


Time is relative, like I said, and I couldn’t tell you if it all happened over five seconds or five minutes. The only thing I was sure of was that Chris and Vin knew something we didn’t. And I don’t mind telling you that I was a bit irritated at that.

They never had said why they were late or why Chris was jumpy and Vin was . . . cautious. Alright, Vin’s always cautious – I’ll give you that. But there was something going on and we all knew it, although we also knew enough to give the two men their space. They’d only been at the table a short time when it all went down, so I’m choosing to believe that they were going to tell us eventually.

Vin went for his weapon at the same moment the man went for Inez. Chris and I were a step behind, but it didn’t matter at that point. We were already at a stalemate. I was hoping it was simple robbery, but as I said – Chris and Vin knew more than we did.

That was painfully obvious when Vin stepped forward and said in that soft drawl of his, "Ain’t no need to hurt no one. It’s me yer after."

Chris spoke real low then, his voice taking on that tone that we all know means we’d better listen up and good, "Don’t, Vin. We can take ‘em."

Vin still had his back to me, but I could hear him sigh, and it was a forlorn, desperate sound that sent a shiver up my spine. I wanted nothing more than to put my hand to his arm and remind him that we were at his back, but I didn’t get the chance.

Time is relative. But sometimes it just doesn’t play into our hands. That night, time was against us, and I never did get the chance to tell Vin what I needed to.


It happened so damn fast and I was too damn slow and so damn mad. I remember growling under my breath and slamming my hand on the bar. I was just getting ready to tell the son of a bitch where he could go when Vin spoke up. And what the hell was that all about anyway? How did he know?

Vin was walking real slow towards ‘em and Chris was tellin’ him not to, and then the guy closest to the door says, "You’re right, Tanner. Now just drop your weapon and come with us and everyone else will be safe and sound in their beds tonight."

It was real hard t’ see in the shadows, but I could tell that Inez’ eyes were wide and she was thinkin’ that as bad as she wanted out of this, she didn’t want Vin sacrificin’ himself for her. She’s one special woman, I’ll tell you that.

Vin pretty much just stopped in his tracks and said real quiet, "I’m comin’ – but you step away from her," and he tipped his head towards Inez.

Chris spoke up again and he said, "No, Vin." Just like that. Simple and to the point like only Chris can be.

But Vin ignored him - like only Vin can do.

Tanner just walked into the center of the room and he laid his gun down on the floor real slow.

"Just me," he said to the guy by the door, the one that had his gun pointed straight at Vin’s heart.

And it was like he was just fine with being taken out by these punks in a run-down bar – no offense to my darlin’ Inez – in the middle of the most god-awful storm that ever was.

But none of us were fine with it . . . none of us thought it would be that simple anyway. Even if it could have been as simple as them walking away with Vin, none of us had any intention of lettin’ it go down that way.

They knew it, too. But they were too young and too eager and just too damn stupid to let it go. Blood would be shed one way or the other . . . every person in that room knew that.

Except maybe Vin. To this day, I think he really thought he could get us all out of it just by goin’ along with ‘em. Shit, Tanner.

I guess I’ll always wonder how we could have done it differently, but I reckon it don’t much matter now.

Shit . . . it was a mess.


Sometimes I feel so stupid – and this was one of those times. I couldn’t think what to do. I just stood there behind the bar and did nothing at all. I don’t think I even turned my head . . . just let my eyes go back and forth between those men and Vin and Chris and Buck.

Buck was a few feet ahead of me, and I couldn’t see his face. But I could tell by the way he was standing that he was real tense and real mad. I prayed he wouldn’t go off and do something we’d all regret. Now don’t get me wrong – there’s not another man I’d rather have at my back. Buck’s my best friend and I trust him. But when it comes to a woman in trouble, he’s likely to act before he thinks. And with Inez being that woman, I figured he’d definitely act before he thought.

It was Vin who ended up surprising me, though. He must’ve known who the men were because he sure knew they were there for him. I was wishing he’d listen to Chris and just hold off. We could have taken them for sure . . . even with me and Buck being unarmed. In fact, I couldn’t believe anyone would think just three guys could take down the seven of us . . . geez, talk about stupid.

It was dark, and even with the doors and windows closed, it seemed like the candles were flickering with the wind. All of the sudden, it wasn’t so cool anymore. I couldn’t even think about a shoot-out in the shadows - didn’t want to think about how deadly it could be.

What if we weren’t as invincible as I thought?

Vin was right in the middle of the room and the other guys were still at the table in the back. Chris was inching forward though and he looked like he wanted to grab hold of Vin and pull him back. I couldn’t see his face, but I could tell that’s what he was thinking.

It might have turned out different if he hadn’t moved that way . . . I don’t know. I just know that when Chris moved, the third guy got nervous. And that’s when it all went to hell.


It was dark . . . it was just too damn dark for bullets to be flyin’. I was praying that everyone would keep their heads and keep still, but I knew it wouldn’t turn out that way. One of the guys saw Chris move towards Vin, and that was it. He fired.

I didn’t think he’d hit anything – 'til later. I heard the guy holding Inez yell, "Dammit, Richard!" and he turned for just a second. I’m not sure what happened after that, I just know that when I looked back a few seconds later, Inez was behind the bar with Buck and JD.

And the bullets started flyin’ in earnest then. We tipped our table over and got down behind it. I kept screaming at Chris t’ take cover, but the damn fool wasn’t listening. The three men were behind tables themselves at this point, although I was pretty sure at least one of them was hit.

My cell phone had been knocked to the floor when we dumped the table, and I reached for it then. Somehow I knew there wouldn’t be a signal; the storm must have knocked out everything for miles. I remember sliding it back in my pocket - with a few words that Rain would chew my ass for using. We were on our own.

It was about then that I realized I’d lost sight of Vin. I knew he was last standing right there in the middle of the room, but I wasn’t sure what had happened to him once the shooting started. I was relieved at first when I saw him flat on the floor, lying on his stomach. It was hard to see with the candles wavering and casting the odd shadows about the room, but I was pretty sure I saw him move, and I breathed a sigh of relief.

But then I could have sworn I saw a darker shadow spreading on the floor beneath him. I rubbed my hand across my eyes, thinking my mind was playing tricks on me. But deep inside - I figure I knew it all along. My heart and my stomach told me way before my brain did . . . Vin was hit. Oh God, Vin.

"Vin’s hit!" I yelled out, thinking maybe no one else realized it.

The firing stopped for a minute and I heard Chris gasp. And that was when Josiah reached over and pulled him back behind the table. He turned to me then and he said, "Chris is hurt, too, Nathan."


I pride myself on being perceptive; on being able to keep track of several simultaneous events; on keeping a level head under extreme duress. And I failed miserably on all accounts that night.

When the first shot was fired, I was simply stunned. As the battle ensued, I found that I’d somehow managed to lose track of not only Inez, but Vin as well. She was there, by the window, only moments before . . . and then she was gone. Vin was standing dangerously wide open in the middle of the room, but in the confusion and the darkness, I had trouble seeing if he was still there. I tried to peer around behind the table I’d been roughly shoved behind – courtesy of Josiah’s strong hand – but a bullet slammed a little too close for comfort just inches from my head. I returned fire, cursing the blackness and the shadows that distorted my vision.

Even with the sounds of fire echoing in my ears, I heard the panic in Nathan’s voice when he announced that Vin had been hit.

Well, of course he had. He had been in the middle of the room . . . in the open . . . an oddly willing target. I wanted to scream at the self-sacrificing, honorable sniper, "Is this what you wanted?" I wanted to stalk over, pull him into my arms, and tell him what a disastrous mess he’d made and that if he had the audacity to die on me I would never forgive him – but I couldn’t even do that. No one could get to him. They were on one side and we were on the other, and there lay Vin in the middle. Good Lord, Vin.

And then, Josiah announced that Chris was hurt, too.


I knew Chris was hit with the very first shot. I saw him jerk and then pull his body upright like nothing had happened. I just wasn’t sure how bad it was.

Vin was a different story. The bullets were flying fast and furious, and I had no idea where he’d ended up. I kept hoping that he’d made it off to the side somewhere, but when Nathan spoke up, I looked closer. Lord no, Vin.

The break in the shooting gave me the opportunity I needed to pull Chris in. I wasn’t sure if the gasp was because he was hurting, or because of what Nathan had said, but either way, he was getting out of the way.

He groaned a little, but he was right back up and shooting within minutes. "Take it easy, Brother," I said. "Let us handle it," but even though it was pretty dark back in our corner, I could tell he was looking at me like I’d lost my mind.

It was about then that one of the men shouted out, "Let us take Tanner and this is over."

Chris just about jumped out from behind the table at that. I kept my hand firmly on his arm as he answered back, "Over our dead bodies."

There are times when being a part of this family is nearly overwhelming in its intensity, and this was one of them. I couldn’t see the expression on a single one of my friends’ faces, but I didn’t have to. I knew we all felt the same. Chris hadn’t said over his dead body, he’d said over our dead bodies. And he was right . . . there was no way they were going out that door with Vin.

The only problem was - there was no way we could get to him either. And even though the light from the candles that lined the bar didn’t quite reach to the floor where Vin lay, it was apparent that he wasn’t going to be able to help us.


When Idiot Number Three fired that first shot, Idiot Number Two turned just enough to yell at him. And that was pretty much all the opportunity I needed. Fortunately, I’d trained Inez well, and she recognized it, too. Damn, that woman is somethin’ else. She threw her elbow in his stomach and he gasped and dropped the gun just enough that I knew I could yank her out from under him. Seconds . . . it was only seconds . . . but it was long enough.

I pulled her back behind me, and we crouched down low behind the bar. I glanced back to check on JD and he gave me a shaky nod. The Kid was nervous, I could see it, and I sure didn’t blame him. Damn storm was bad enough, shootin’ in the dark was a goddamn nightmare.

We were in a bad position, too, stuck behind the bar just yards from where Idiot Number Two was hunkered down – and no gun. Or at least, that’s what I thought - until Inez reached under the bar and handed me a pistol without my even thinkin’ t’ ask. I think this is a good place to repeat that Inez is one hell of a woman. So at least I could keep my particular Idiot occupied while the guys concentrated on the other two.

I was wonderin’ what had happened t’ Vin in the midst of all of this, but I didn’t have time t’ get too worried, until I heard Nathan yell that he’d been hit. Felt like I’d been punched in the stomach, especially when I realized that he was most likely lyin’ somewhere between them . . . and us. Dammit, Tanner.

And y’ know – that just made me mad. I was more determined than ever that the Three Idiots were goin’ down.


I could tell when it all changed . . . when it got personal. That probably sounds dumb, but that’s the way it is . . . the way it was. We’re professionals – we know our job. But when one of us is hurt, it all changes.

In spite of all the stuff they teach you, it gets personal. Those three guys didn’t stand a chance.

I was going nuts stuck behind the bar without a gun to help out. I tried inching down towards the one end of the bar – away from the shooters, to see if I could reach around and grab Vin’s feet. I thought the guys could cover me and that I could pull him back behind the bar. I don’t know what I thought would happen then, I just knew I couldn’t leave him lying out there on the floor. I couldn’t really see him at all, but I could picture him in my mind . . . I could see the blood and I almost thought I could smell it. And it wasn’t so cool at all. I was wishing it was just a movie.

And then I got a different idea. Y’ see, when you come in the door at Inez’ place, the bar lines most of the wall to your left. The guys were in the back, and the shooters in the front, and the only other way out was through the kitchen behind the bar. I was maybe ten feet from the door to the kitchen, and the only guy who might have a clear shot at me was the one who had had a hold of Inez – and Buck was keeping him real busy.

Creepin’ up as close as I could to Buck, I whispered to him, "Give me your keys, I’m going for help."

He sighed . . . like maybe he was wondering if that was such a good idea, but he stopped shooting just long enough to reach in his pocket and toss them to me.

I was turning and just about to make a run for it when he said, "Watch your back, JD – and go for help. Don’t try t’ be a hero."

It was kinda funny that I hadn’t even thought about that. But as I sprinted for that door, I have to admit I could see it in my mind: me crashing through the doors in Buck’s truck and taking them all out. It would have made a cool movie, if only Vin wasn’t hurt. Damn, Vin.


Seemed like a waste t’ me . . . waste of bullets, waste of time, waste of blood. They were all shootin’ in the dark like it made some sort of sense. And it had crossed the line from professional to personal.

That’s when I get real nervous, because that’s when we take foolish chances. With the candles lining the bar, about the only place I could see clearly was the area around the bar. So when I saw JD take off, I cringed. If I could see him, it was damn sure everyone else could, too. He only had to make it a few feet, but he was in plain sight of the shooter by the window. I’m almost positive I heard him yelp as he ran, but he did make it out the door.

And thank God he did. I knew it would take some time for him to get reinforcements, but at least the ball was rolling . . . at least help would be on the way. I’m good at what I do, but I had at least two men with bullets in ‘em.

Which reminded me . . . "Chris? How bad you hurt?" I asked.

He grunted and fired off another round. How many bullets does he carry around anyway? The man must be prepared for taking down an army.

I tried again, "Chris, let Josiah and Ezra hold ‘em and let me look at you."

He grunted again – or maybe it was a snicker, but then he said, "Only person you need to concern yourself with is lying on the floor, Nate."

And then he turned to Josiah and he said, "I’m goin’ for Vin."


I whispered a prayer of thanks when JD made it through the door, knowing help would soon be on the way. But either Chris didn’t know that, or blood loss had clouded his brain.

I latched onto his arm again when he said he was going after Vin. "No, Chris. JD’s gone for help. We sit tight."

"Vin can’t wait," he said. And in his voice, I heard that raw fear that creeps up on a man and squeezes the good sense right out of him.

"He can. He will." I could have said a whole lot more to offer him some reassurance, but I knew I had to keep it simple if I wanted him to hear me at all.

But I guess I just made him mad, because he shoved me aside and he growled, "Vin’s bleeding out twenty feet away from me and I’m not sitting on my ass and letting it happen!"

And that was when Ezra spoke up. "So we move the table."


I had purchased the tables. None of the others knew, but when Inez took over our favorite gathering place, I simply could not abide the cheap furniture. She made arrangements to repay my investment, but I simply took her monthly payment and deposited it back into her account. Since I manage the books for her, she is unaware. Yes, as difficult as it is for some to believe – she trusts me.

Do not be getting the idea that I am somehow chivalrous or God forbid, generous. I was just aware that if I was to continue cavorting with my current comrades – I would undoubtedly be spending an inordinate amount of time in this establishment. I was merely thinking of my own comfort. So I bought the best.

The table we’d taken refuge behind was no doubt riddled with bullets, but it had held up incredibly well. I made a mental note to inform the manufacturers how extremely pleased I was with their product.

And then it occurred to me that our shield was mobile. Why not move the table closer to our fallen friend?


I was pretty sure they’d winged JD, but I made myself not think about. The Kid was still on his feet and out the door, so it couldn’t have been too bad. At least, that’s what I told myself. But just in case he was lyin’ out there bleedin’ in the street, I decided it was time t’ end this, and I guess the boys decided the same.

I couldn’t quit firin’ long enough to poke my head around the bar and see what the others were up to, but I figured they’d gotten some kind of idea, because all of the sudden Idiot Number One yells out, "They’re coming towards us!" and he starts shootin’ all wild and crazy. Of course, he’d been shootin’ wild and crazy from the beginning.

I was keeping Number Two busy, and I wasn’t all that sure what had happened to the third guy, ‘til I heard him groan, "I’m bleedin’, man, get me outta here."

I shook my head at that. Young, stupid kids was all they were . . . probably hired to do the job with the lure of big bucks. Shit.

I hollered out then, "Sounds like a good idea – seein’ how this place is gonna be surrounded with cops in about five minutes." I was pretty sure it would take a little longer than that . . . with the power out and lines down and the storm still raging – JD might have to drive the fifteen minutes to the nearest station for help. That is, if he could drive. But I was not gonna think about that.

That was when my guy yelled out, "Let’s get the hell out of here, Lou!"

And Lou, otherwise known as Idiot Number One – although he apparently was the brains of the outfit - he stops shooting and says real calm, "I got my gun on Tanner’s head. You let us out of here, or I blow his brains all over the floor."

Now it was dark, but he just might have been able to see Vin’s head from where he was.

The shooting stopped then, and it got real quiet –except for the wind still howling outside the windows.

And then Chris says, "Go."

I’m thinkin’ that maybe that’s not the best way to go here, but I don’t say anything. I just keep my gun on my guy as he crawls towards the door, latching onto the injured one along the way. I move around from behind the bar so I can keep my eye and my gun on them, and that’s when Lou moves away from his table and heads for the door – his gun still pointed straight at Vin. The other two make it out, one of ‘em leaning on the other, but Lou’s just standing there in the shadows . . . lookin’ real twitchy between the door and the guys and Vin.

And I just knew he was gonna do it. Damn stupid kid. Probably was offered more money than he’d ever seen in his life to get Vin, and he just couldn’t walk away. Well, not that we had that in mind, anyway . . . but hell, he didn’t have t’ die that night.

Chris took him down. I couldn’t see who took the shot, but I didn’t have to. The Idiot didn’t even know what hit him before he was dead on the ground.

I took off out the front with Ezra on my tail. We caught up to the other two in minutes and dragged them back to the bar. I let Ezra get ‘em tied up neat and pretty, while I went out back and checked for JD. He wasn’t lying in the street and my truck was gone, but even in the light of one small candle, I could see a trail of blood.

I couldn’t think about it right then, so I went back inside - just in time to hear Nathan say that Vin had been shot . . . in the back.


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