Chris grimaced as Buck and Josiah pried so hard on the bumper of the Bureau
SUV that he could hear the metal screech. Both of them were strong, big men
and they made it seem like moving large heavy objects was effortless. It
only added to his exasperation after a very irritating day. Larabee swallowed
his rising temper and kept turning the wheel.
JD sat behind him, the new kid still a little in awe of his famous Team Leader.
He was playing with some gadget that Chris couldnt identify, humming
along to music that came from his new CD Walkman. The kid had
no doubt that Buck would get them out of the situation, none at all.
Nathan, the teams medic, stood outside the SUV, behind the straining
men and offered pointless advice. There were times that Chris wished that
he hadnt listened to Buck. There were times he wanted to kick
Nathans butt into next week. The man was more irritating than Jordan
and Kinsey put together. After listening to Jackson spew useless comments
at the two men trying to get them out of the ditch, Chris was fuming. His
RMETF, Number Seven, had been called out on a purely ATF case
in Wrightly, Colorado. Armpit of the Western World.
It was bad enough that a RMETFs efforts were being wasted on a low-level
ATF case, and Chris had had to deal with the idiot Sheriff of the region,
Sheriff Lasker, but Laskers men had wanted the case broken before the
RMETF had arrived. Larabee suspected that Lasker had pushed to take care
of the situation so that the ATF wouldnt look too close at what he
and his boys were doing, but Chris had no evidence of wrongdoing. Nothing
at all except the friendly help that had ended the ATF SUV in a ditch, a
deep muddy ditch. The situation theyd come to deal with had gone
pear-shaped, thanks to the local incompetents, but if theyd gotten
there sooner, maybe the RMETF would have been able to have it come in a
controlled fashion. As it was RMETF Seven had been able to prevent the Sheriff
turning it into another Waco
Chris cursed in his mind. His frustration was growing. Judge Orrin Travis,
who was assigned to keep his RMETF on the straight and narrow, was pushing
him about the last two positions on his team. Travis wanted him to take the
Incompetent Baker as his undercover man. As far as Larabee could see
Bakers only ability was brown-nosing as a politicos son. Damn
but Chris hated Politics. There was no way that hed take Baker. The
man gave him the willies. He wasnt sure why but the two exercises that
hed run with Baker had left him with nightmares that he woke screaming
after. No, Baker would NEVER be a member of his RMETF if he could avoid it.
The other thing that disturbed Chris, the thing that he was barely admitting
to himself, was that the dreams featured two strangely familiar people that
hed never met. Someone who was watching his back, and in the depths
of the nightmare, someone who had died protecting him
and someone else
whod suffered worse because of him. That was the thing that taking
command of the RMETF had forced him to confront. When hed been a SEAL
the idea of being a Team Leader and having men you relied on and who relied
on you had been the only reality. Now in the wake of the murder of his family,
Chris Larabee didnt want to let people in.
He hadnt kept Buck out, and he could feel the others edging their way
into his space. Chris wasnt going to let that happen. Hed do
his best by them, but he wasnt going to let them in. Chris Larabee
was not going to have someone die for him, no way. The shadow world of that
re-occurring nightmare had suggested that someone was going to suffer worse
than dying for him, and Chris Larabee wasnt going to let that happen
Trying to force down the Anger generated by the remnants of his dark dreams,
Chris began to name the letters of the Greek Alphabet
Alpha, Beta, Gamma,
.Damn it Buck! Epsilon, Zeta, Eta, Theta, Iota, Kappa,
that Hurt! Larabee grimaced as he shifted in the drivers seat. Lambda,
Im going to swat you JD, No more humming! Xi, Omicron,
Pi, Rho, Okay, turning the engine over again,
.Sigma, Tau, Ypsilon,
..Shut Up Nathan, I cant hear myself think over all of that
blathering! If you dont knock it off Im going to throttle you!
Chi, Psi, Omega
. The volcano that was Christopher Larabee blew.
Two of the members of the RMETF were completely astonished by their Team
Leaders explosion, but the other two looked at each other, shrugged
and went back to trying to push the SUV out of the ditch the Deputies had
forced them into. Buck was familiar with all aspects of the Larabee temper,
and Josiah had known his new boss personality long before hed
arrived in Denver. Chris Larabee was not a man to anger, and was not one
who could contain his rage for very long.
It had been a cheerful display of interagency cooperation that
had landed them in this ditch when Sheriff Laskers men had run them
off of the road. Buck had shaken his head when he saw one of the Deputies
give an inappropriate salute. He hoped the man would find it worth it when
Chris caught up to him. Josiah had hung his head. Larabees personality
was dominated by the unresolved issues in his past. Pissing the man off was
not a good thing at this time, as his temper was almost without restraint
and Larabees anger often led to a physical response. Those Deputies
had better high tail it out of the area until the man cooled down.
Both men had been surprised that Chris had reigned in his temper so well
since February when the team was founded. He was a man that ran hot and intense
in most everything that he did. They also knew that the unsolved murders
of his family ate at him like a canker, preventing him from evening out his
moods. Chris Larabee had two modes
Complete professionalism and Complete
They were building up to a big one. This was only the faint wind before the
Larabees explosion had startled JD out of his complacency. The teams
Wiz kid took it well. He understood Chris a lot better than the Team Leader
would have suspected or liked. JD settled his gadget down to silent mode,
turned off his tunes and became still. His Leader needed to vent, and JD
wasnt going to cause him to vent at him.
Nathan Jackson on the other hand had been completely startled as Larabee
exploded into swearwords. He considered Larabees diet and wondered
if he could get the man to try something macrobiotic. It would do wonders
for his temperament. Jackson grinned as he saw Josiah make a mental note
to add to his file on the RMETF Seven leader. Leave it to Josiah to figure
Ignoring the fountain of profanity from the drivers seat, Buck and
Josiah managed to finally get the SUV out of the ditch and back on the main
road. Chris steered the vehicle back up the embankment and onto the asphalt.
Theyd done it. Buck grinned at Josiah, but the older man was listening
to the faint rustling of wings just out of his sight. Were they Crows?
Josiah was about to try to find the source, but Buck wacked him on the shoulder
and motioned to the SUV.
You coming? he gestured, but the profiler knew that he meant
not to get Larabee angrier by hesitation.
Yes, Josiah said, indicating more than his compliance with
Bucks request. He saw no Crows, but there was a beautiful grey fox
standing near the SUV on the edge of the road. It was staring at them. The
fox yawned and if hed been a human being, Josiah would have sworn that
the creature was highly amused by their situation. Climbing into the SUV,
Josiah found that Chris black mood had intensified. He said nothing
about foxes, the ride would be bumpy enough. Buck handed him a handi-wipe
as he buckled in. It looked like the two of them had brought half the muck
on the roadway with them. Chris cursing was inventive, Sanchez noted.
It would be very interesting to watch if he actually decided to follow through
with some of his comments.
The SUV was rattling and smoking as they headed back towards the little town
of Homers Corner. It was on the way to Denver, but Chris was sure that
theyd have to stop. His mood was being increased by the fact that the
SUV was fighting back. It hadnt been in the best shape when theyd
checked it out of the carpool in Denver. Now it was much worse the wear for
its time in the ditch. He swore again at Sheriff Lasker, all his Deputies,
Orrin Travis, Area Director Muhulland, and all the idiots whod sent
his team out here. Larabees invective broadened into things that his
SEAL team might have recognized. Buck did and hid his grin. No use setting
the man off any further.
JD raised an eyebrow at the constant flow from his new boss mouth.
Larabee was a curious man. Chris was really very creative when he lost it.
Shaking his head, JD wondered if some of the things that his boss was suggesting
were even scientifically possible. It would be interesting to watch him try,
though. He caught Buck hiding a grin and winked, quickly. There was no point
in upsetting Chris any more than he already was.
A few miles down the road, the SUV sputtered and stalled. Larabee began a
new string of curses, but he didnt strike anything. His men just looked
at each other in silence. Finally the truck just stopped. Chris pounded on
the steering wheel three times and threw himself out of the vehicle.
It would be a long walk to Homers Corner.
Chris said nothing as they marched along the dirty asphalt. No one made a
noise for fear of setting Larabee off again. Each man carried all of his
gear on his back as they trudged along. Buck was uncomfortably reminded of
several missions as a SEAL. He kept a close eye on JD. The boy might not
be up to such a strenuous hike, then again, Josiah and Nathan might not be
Looking back at the others Buck found that they were all trudging along in
their Leaders wake with ease. Perhaps hed underestimated their
stamina. JD gave him a smirk and Buck mimed swiping the kids hat and
hitting him with it.
The road was wet and muddy, unusual in June, and it made the going harder.
Chris didnt glance back at his men, he knew what they were doing. Each
of them hiked silently behind him, supporting his attempts to get his rage
under control. What was he going to do to keep these men at a distance? They
knew him too well already.
A feeling of being watched and measured came over Chris suddenly. All his
defensive alarms started to blare at him. He looked carefully around, trying
to hide his scrutiny from his men. He listened to all of his senses, but
he couldnt find the threat. The only thing that he could see was a
large grey fox following his men as they trudged along.
The fox came into sight of the others. Chris looked at it out of the corner
of his eye, not wanting to indicate his interest in the animal to his men.
Yawning the fox shook itself and strode onto the asphalt.
Look at that! he heard JD exclaim. The young easterner was still
enchanted by the wildness of Colorado. As if hed understood JD the
fox joined their walk, ambling along with them as if it was something that
it did every day. Chris knew that this was unusual behavior for a wild animal.
But then he could tell the animal wasnt what he appeared.
The fox wandered up to walk beside Chris and gave a convincing human like
yawn. He, and Chris could tell from scent that it was a he, seemed to find
them all very amusing, Larabee most of all. Glaring at the animal had no
apparent effect, except amusing it further, Chris knew he couldnt catch
a break and it appeared that he never could.
A large blue and white pickup came suddenly into view. Chris felt the fox
brush up against him. The driver of the car was a fifty-ish blond male with
a worried look.
You boys alright? The driver asked cautiously. Chris could feel
the fox twinning himself around his ankles like a cat would. Larabee was
about to respond when the driver spotted Josiah and lit up with a smile.
Josiah? Josiah Sanchez? He asked.
The big profiler came up to get a good look at the driver. Sanchezs
face was split with an answering grin. Chris heard the fox give a yip of
Josiah started but the driver cut him off.
Fairshawe. Josiah. Its Fairshawe. Are you having some trouble
here? Its kind of late to be hiking, David Fairshawe asked with
Our SUV broke down back down the road. Unfortunate meeting between
it and a ditch, Josiah said with amusement.
Why dont I give you a ride. Itll take you all night to
get to Homers Corner and there isnt much there. Climb in and
Ill take you to my place. Hank and Aaron can come out and get your
vehicle tomorrow. Theyll get it fixed.
Josiah looked at Chris and seeing his Leaders agreement, thanked David
and they all climbed in the back, the fox following, much to Larabees
unsettlement and JDs awe. Buck raised a cautious eyebrow at Chris in
question, but his leaders response was a sharp negative jerk of the
head. Nathan started itemizing his kit trying to remember if he had the set
of Rabies inoculations in there. Foxes did not behave like this that hed
David watched and laughed. Old Smoke there must like you an awful lot.
Hes almost tame, probably belonged to someone as a pet and was abandoned.
Hes been coming around here the last couple of months or so. Real tame,
never hurt anybody. This is the closest Ive seen him come near people
though. Ive given him a ride a time or two when hes jumped aboard.
This is just the first time hes done so with people back there. Dont
let him come into the house. My girls will want to keep him and Joanne will
be upset if they try to add another pet to their collection. Especially a
Josiah climbed into the cab of the truck next to the driver.
Fairshawe? he asked once he was certain the others couldnt
Thats the name they gave me. Is it going to be a problem for
you or them? David asked intently.
No, Were all Agents. Theyll understand the Witness Protection
Program. Shouldnt be a problem at all.
Good, David said releasing his tense grip on the wheel.
Agents? When did you sign up Doc?
Larabee is a hard man to refuse anything to, David. A hard man to
That the Blond with the weight of the world on his shoulders?
Yes, Josiah answered as David put the truck in gear and started
down the road.
Twenty minutes later they were pulling in to a garage next to a huge ranch
house. It was obvious that this was in fact a working cattle ranch. Looking
at the large shaggy beasts in the corral, Larabee noted that they were not
cattle but buffalo.
Wow JD said starring at the great ponderous beasties. Hed
never seen anything like this. The fox yawned and lay down across Larabees
jean covered thigh.
You cant stay there, critter, Larabee said, uncomfortable
with the animal. It smelled funny, almost like a French perfume. The fox
opened one green eye and looked at Chris. I mean it.
The fox responded by curling up closer to Larabee and grinning.
Smoke! You get out of there and leave the poor man alone! David
Fairshawe had come around to the back of the truck to lower the tailgate
and let the men out. The fox yawned and gave Fairshawe another grin. He jumped
over the side of the truck and ambled over to the corral where he sat down
by a post and watched the men get out of the truck.
Old Smoke doesnt bother the buffalo at all. He doesnt usually
get this close to humans, but he seems to have taken a liking to you. Aaron
would say it was a blessing, but thats his faith. Ive found him
to be lucky, so I guess thats mine, David said watching the fox
as it lay down and made itself comfortable beside the corral. A tan buffalo,
lighter than any other in the herd, came and whiffed softly at the fox through
the fencing. The fox turned over on its belly to take advantage of
the other animals actions.
Strange critter, Larabee said watching the fox intently.
Lots of strange things have come into these parts the last couple of
months, David answered, For good or for ill, lots of strange
things, and they wont let you get close enough to find out what they
need or why theyre here. Shaking his head at the fox, David Fairshawe
led the Agents of RMETF Seven into the house.
The Fairshawe home was warm and inviting. Joanne Fairshawe and the three
little girls were welcoming and kind. Josiah was introduced as Doc, and Joanne
had given him a huge hug with expressions of thanks.
When Joanne sent the girls off to their room to wash up and went back into
the kitchen to extend dinner for so many people, Buck turned to Josiah.
Something youd like to share, Preacher? Buck asked, having
started to tease Josiah about his Ministry at the Denver missions.
The older man had worked in church missions most of his life, and Buck needled
him a little about it, always in fun. It never crossed the line.
I worked with David years ago. He was a client, Josiah said softly
in warning. He was forced to witness some horrible things and ended
up in the Witness Protection Program. Last I heard he was in Chicago. I
wasnt very happy that theyd sent him to so large a city. David
has always needed peace and quiet. Im glad to see hes found it,
and even more happy that hes found someone to share it with. I guess
the Marshals overrode Agent Ford. That man was a total Jackass.
They didnt override him, David said coming up suddenly
behind them. There were some problems later and I had to be moved again.
Joanne came with me.
I was the secretary that they hired to type his writings up,
Joanne said slipping in beside her husband. I had been a makeup artist,
but that hadnt worked out so well for me, so I took a job typing for
the F.B.I. I wasnt in the pool very long before I was assigned to
Davids work. Believe me, it was an improvement. Ford has hands like
an octopus. Joanne smiled up at David and he slipped an arm around
her shoulders. I didnt like typing for David at first. He did
really well at playing the old curmudgeon, but he grows on you after a while,
and after you break down all of his walls with a sledgehammer and a pick
axe, hes better than anything you expected. Joanne grinned lovingly
up into her husbands face. He smiled and softly brushed one of her
long blond hairs out of her eyes.
Shes continued to put up with me. Im not sure why, but
Nonsense. Its not putting up with you, David. I enjoy the
chaos, Joanne laughed. Now, youd better show our guests
where they can wash up. The others will be in shortly.
The Fairshawes were full of laughter during dinner. All three of the
couples little girls were full of kindness and humor. They included
everyone around in their joy. Josiah found himself grinning like a loon.
Buck was flirting with each of the girls, mildly, nothing that would upset
anyone. Having accepted an invitation to tomorrows tea party, Buck
was looked well on by the Fairshawe parents, though David looked at Josiah
for reassurance once. JD had fit in like he belonged and was totally wrapped
up in a conversation involving computers with the eldest of the girls, Joy
Annette, a lively six years old. The Ranch hands, five large men and three
women Larabee wouldnt have wanted to take on in a fight, sat with the
family and willingly made room for the team from Denver.
Chris was uncomfortable. It was too much like dinners had been years
before Sarah and Adam
No he wasnt going there. He excused
himself from the table as soon as he could, ostensibly to call Orrin Travis,
their Federal Overseer. Travis had been surprisingly uncompromising,
return to Denver with the SUV or pay for the piece of junk out of Chris
own pocket. Larabee wanted to swear but instinct and training did not permit
balling out a superior even if he was behaving like an idiot.
There was a certain inevitability about Chris trying to get away from the
memories of a Happy family. He stalked off, away from the sounds of people,
wanting to find the door to outside. Chris didnt notice Bucks
concerned look, nor Josiahs weary expression. Larabee didnt have
it in him to consider the others right now. JD had noticed the retreat, but
knew better than to mention it. Nathan was not too involved in his conversation
with Hank and Aaron to miss his leaders descent into pain.
Some one else noticed too, the back door to the ranch house had opened and
one member of the household had missed the famous Larabee scrutiny. She stood
silent for a moment, measuring the situation then followed effortlessly
Chris wanderings. Knowing where shed find him, because pain draws
pain to it, she entered the little den, pausing briefly to look out the window
at the grey fox sitting patiently under the fence rails. With a smile that
belied her famously stiff exterior, She stepped into the den and waited for
Chris Larabee to realize that he wasnt alone.
Chris paused in his wanderings, the Fairshawe home seemed as lovely and open
as his own ranch house had once been, once when Sarah was alive, once when
they brought little Adam home. His baby son never saw a year of life. He
couldnt let himself remember that.
Trying to avoid his memories, Chris studied the walls, the ceilings, everything,
even the rugs. This was a home that love had made and it rubbed his open
wounds like acid. Only one wall seemed out of place. It was dominated by
a strange painting of a fluted silver disk with a twisted snake on top of
it. The painting was crude and for some reason it made Chris seriously uneasy.
Here in the corner, the painting couldnt be missed by anyone in the
There was something so malevolent about the painting that Chris couldnt
look at it directly. The serpent had red eyes and a knowing look. It may
have been crude but the painter had captured the hidden menace well. He looked
away at the pictures surrounding the painting, almost like a kind of shrine.
Joanne had a sister, a voice startled him. Whirling around to
confront the speaker, Chris found himself face to face with a woman, barely
five foot tall. Her dark hair was twisted into a no-nonsense knot with sharp
looking chopstick pins holding it in place. She wore a red shirt with tan
jeans and a rust overcoat. A stout staff and a backpack completed the ensemble,
a picture of competency and no-nonsenseism. Larabee was furious with himself
and a little off balance. When had anyone snuck up on him? It hadnt
happened for years, this woman could have killed him before hed heard
It wasnt a pretty story, the woman continued. And
suffice it to say, No matter how much she adores David, he wasnt her
What the hell does that matter? Chris snapped, feeling somehow
as if he was being measured and was coming up short.
You arent the only person to feel pain or loss, Christopher Matthew
Larabee. Theres a lot of pain in this life. The only thing that it
is given to you to be able to do about it is to live. Constantly wallowing
in grief gets nothing done. You dont really have so much time to waste.
Once you choose life, you must keep living. The womans sharp
tone brought him up short.
Larabee stared long and hard at her. Do I pass muster? She quipped.
Chris glared at her but she easily waived it off. David has suffered
so much in this life, more than can even be spoken. They found life in spite
of everything against them. The woman shook her head. You
arent ready to deal with it, so you think, but you cant run blind.
If you do youll lose it all. You only think that youve lost
everything. I wont deny your losses, but you can live in the past or
you can reach for what you have in front of you.
What the Hell? Who are you? Chris demanded, his anger raising
his voice. All sounds from the dining room ceased.
Dr. Shaw? Joannes voice came from the now silent room.
Are you here? I didnt see you come in. Joanne Fairshawe
came into the room. Is everything alright? You must be starving. Is
Toby coming? Itll only take a minute to heat something up. Come into
the dining room. Joanne smiled happily. Oh, She paused.
This is Agent Larabee. Agent Larabee, this is Dr. Lucia Shaw, shes
a lifesaver. She and Toby have volunteered to help out since the nearest
real Medical help is half way to Denver. Theyve been helping out at
the mine as well.
Tobys still there, Joanne. I need to get back there tomorrow.
Lucia Shaw nodded narrowly at Chris Larabee and followed Joanne back into
the dining room. He stubbornly turned back to the painting.
I believe that there is a world beyond, that Love is eternal and Hope is
the fire within us. These things no Darkness can ever overcome. Chris read
the lettering hed missed the first time, surrounding the
shrine like a cage to keep the evil in. There were pictures of
a young girl, dressed in the outlandish style of the eighties. A small plaque
read, Helen Mackie. The girls features indicated a relationship to
Joanne. Pictures of a boy on the other side of the painting read Scott
Thomas. Both sets of pictures had a memorial feel to them, a ring with
Lincoln High School emblazoned on the setting gave an image of two dead kids,
lives ended too soon.
He allowed himself to pick up the ring. Chris had a sudden jolting vision
of two teenagers tumbling off the roof of a building, broken bodies lying
on the ground. His stomach turned and he clamped down on everything in him.
Ruthlessly denying his long suppressed gifts Larabee jerked back to the room.
He found David Fairshawe looking at him sadly. What the Hell was wrong with
him that these people could sneak up on him like this.
Theres nothing in this house or on this land that will hurt you,
I made sure of that when I bought it. Nothing that would risk my children,
Agent Larabee, he paused. We all have uncomfortable memories.
Fortunately we have been able to live here in mostly peace. Its a safe
place, a good place to heal. David Fairshawe paused again, uncertain.
Josiahs always welcome here, and so are all those he calls
friend. Here Fairshawe shook his head, this man was too deeply in his
own pain to be reached. It had amazed him that Dr. Shaw had tackled the
rock of Larabee, as Joanne had started to call the tall Agent
dressed in funeral black. His grief did not leave him, not even for a moment.
There was little that any of them could do for Chris Larabee. That David
knew for certain. His thoughts suddenly brought up another lost soul who
wouldnt let anyone in, the young Tanner who was trapped working for
Virgil Watson out at the store. Perhaps
.? No, there was too much baggage
being carried. He had wished that he could do something for both of these
men, it was his nature to want to heal the imbalances he saw, Dr. Shaw would
laugh when he spoke with her later. Lucia had been trying to get him to reach
out, but his own baggage of memory was heavy as well.
Blinking his eyes to shut away the sight of a pair of wide green eyes in
a face white with terror, David Fairshawe put his own pain aside fully for
the first time in two decades to consider the man in front of him.
Here, he said finally. Theres too much here I think.
If you want you could go into town. Away from all of the rest for a while.
Not entirely sure why hed suggested such a thing, David Fairshawe
continued. Homers Corner isnt much, but its not
Larabee nodded stiffly, his very posture bound by his pain. David Fairshawe
was again reminded of another who carried such a weight of pain, one that
hed failed so long ago. Carefully, David set the keys down on a nearby
table, not wanting to touch Larabee or to risk upsetting the mans delicate
emotional balance. Here was one of the strongest gifts hed seen, bar
one, and a life so shattered that there was no chance for that gift to fly
free. He was overwhelmed, not with pity, but with sorrow, a sorrow so unlike
the grief he himself carried, that he wasnt sure what to call it.
Larabee took the truck at first light, not even waiting for breakfast. As
soon as hed heard the verified estimates on the repair to the SUV,
hed reassured himself to his mens plans for the day, and took
off. The thin shadowy form on the headrest of the cab told David that Larabee
wasnt alone, Old Smoke was along for the ride. Shaking his head about
the peculiarity of Foxes, Hed gone to help Joanne get breakfast started.
Shed looked sadly at the trail of dust being kicked up by the truck.
I wish., shed begun.
I know, Love, hed said and gently squeezed her shoulder
in a rare demonstration of affection. He needs to find his own way.
We cant help him, nothing more than being here if he needs us. He
wont even let those men of his in, we have no chance.
I know, Joanne said softly and bent herself to her morning duties.
+ + + + + + +
The RMETF Seven found itself doing unexpected tasks. Josiah and JD decided
to help around the barn so that Hank and Aaron wouldnt get behind by
helping them. Buck kept the girls involved with the tea party,
though he found that both Fairshawe parents watched the situation constantly.
Nathan caught a ride into Homers Corner to help Dr. Shaw. She needed
someone to watch the clinic in town while she went out to the mines and relieved
Toby, whom they hadnt yet met.
All of them were praying that Chris Larabee wouldnt happen upon the
deputy that had flipped him off yesterday. The man was too tightly wrapped
right now. Anything could send him over the edge into violence.
It hadnt taken Chris all that long to find his hitchhiker
but since the fox did nothing but yawn, he didnt object to the
animals presence even though he knew that the creature was anything
Leaving the truck parked in an open space in the towns business
district, Larabee had walked down the wooden boardwalk. Hed been
amused by the idea that a town that had only one actual street had a
business district. Most of the businesses were shabby and looked
ready to close at any time.
Hed wandered around with the fox tailing him wherever he went. Finally
Chris had entered the Saloon. There was no doubt that he wanted a drink.
Chris ordered a whiskey and stood and stared at it. Larabee hadnt taken
a drink since that day in the little apartment. *Choose to live or go. Come
about and live or go, there are no other options* That voice echoed through
his thoughts again. Sarah wouldnt like it if he did this, if he let
himself sink into a morass again.
Back then, hed promised himself to be the man they loved, one that
they would be proud of, it was all he had left to give them. That meant opening
up, accepting that they were gone. It meant that he needed to get control
of himself. It also meant opening up to his men. Chris knew that he was short
changing his people by not being there for them one-hundred and ten percent.
When hed led SEALs hed been there, he couldnt do less for
these men, could he? There had to be trust
.but did he trust himself?
An arm snaked around him to grasp a drink from the bartender. A root beer.
Chris turned to look at the man next to him. He was a slight thing, dressed
in grey. Not bad, the man said, winking at Larabee. I never
got a taste for Sarsaparilla, though I knew of a Sheriff who had a taste
for Milk. Here the man grinned a wide grin at Chris.
Chris was uneasy, recognizing that the man beside him was not an ordinary
man. He hated dealing with spirits they always seemed to want
something of him, something that he was often unwilling to give.
You know, there are thousands of places like this and a thousand men
who thought that this was not someplace theyd ever end up. Drunk and
lost, sometimes forever. They hardened their hearts against all that was
in them. Never opened up, never risked. To be truthful, never really lived.
Is that what youre looking for, Christopher? To crush away all thats
Larabee turned away from the bar, wishing he had a smoke. Buck had insisted
that he stop smoking long years ago, and he'd never completely lost the craving
for the little cigarillos that hed smoked after the SEALs. It had never
been a frequent thing, but No booze and no smoking wore on him, there was
nothing artificial between himself and the pain he carried. Trying to block
away the words his companion was saying was impossible, he couldnt
push down his heart enough. There were no walls hard enough to shield it
from pain. He couldnt do this.
Trying to shut them out of your heart will only get them killed. Would
you carry that? His companion asked. Life can be kind as well
as cruel, if you open yourself to it. Even though there has been loss, there
can be other gains
The man stopped, cocking his head as if listening
to something else. You can choose Christopher, to walk alone or together
with others, but the time is coming soon when you must choose. The
man blinked and added. Excuse me. I need to buy some Ribbon.
Chris raised an eyebrow at the non sequitur but bit his tongue. He knew better
than to ask. There were whole worlds of activity going on in the everyday
that he knew that he didnt see and didnt want to. His companion
had a parting shot for him.
You can walk alone and you can walk with someone beside you. There
are many out there that need you, There are many whom you need. Will you
strive or be drowned? There are so many lost, will you join them or stand
up and be found.
Theres a price for being found.
Theres a bigger one for not being," his companion said. I
still need to get that ribbon.
Chris shook his head, but soon was alone in the bar. Even the bartender had
gone. He looked at the drink and thought of the oblivion it might bring.
Gently, he raised the shot glass and poured it into the bars ditch.
No, he couldnt stay lost.
Oh, but Sarah, it hurt to Live. Especially alone. What had been between him
and Buck was broken, mending, but would never be completely healed. He
couldnt do this alone.
But it was time, he had to take the risk.
+ + + + + + +
Gunshots drew Chris out of his thoughts. He heard the bartender return and
dart under the bar.
Town always this lively? he asked.
Trail herd, Trail herd from Texas Ranch. All liquored up. Got in the
mood for a lynching. Chris heard the voice of his companion, but
didnt see him. He could however hear a voice he recognized.
Let me go! What are you doing?! Frowning, Chris recognized
Nathans voice crying out. There was rough laughter, bumps, and thumps
Stop right there," came the voice of Joanne Fairshawe. Chris started.
Step aside, Lady," one of the men replied. There were catcalls at the
woman and several vile suggestions.
We don't hang men anymore. Its wrong. You cant do this!
Joanne cried. Chris spotted her standing with her husband and the three little
girls. The children were terrified and for one brief moment, Chris felt
absolutely rabid that they were threatened, then he got a hold of himself.
If he was to win this situation, he needed to control his rage. It wouldnt
do Nathan any good if he got himself killed before he could help his man.
Larabee felt for his cell phone. Damn, it was dead.
The commotion in the street grabbed his attention again.
He killed a good man. Said he was a doctor, but he let him die," one
of the men yelled. The bunch of drunken idiots all agreed.
I never said I was no doctor! Nathan protested angrily, Chris
could see that he wasnt really as afraid of the men as he should be.
RMETF Sevens medic was still trying to talk the situation into his
perception of fair Im an EMT. There wasnt anything
more that I could do. I did all I could. The wasnt anything anyone
could have done. Hes been dead for hours!
Chris looked down the single street to the Sheriffs office. Lasker
and his boys were in there and the place was locked up tighter than a bank
vault. There would be no help from the local Law.
Nathan didn't kill your boss--gangrene did, Joannes husband
David called. He was trying to get the mob to settle down. If youd
brought him in earlier hed have survived. Drinking a case of Old Red
Eye is not the way to treat serious injury. Dr. Shaw will say the same thing
when she gets back from the mine. Nathan didnt kill your friend.
Please, Joanne cried. This is wrong!
Be thankful we're getting rid of this quack. Ain't no darkie doctors
and there never will be. They shouldnt be allowed to practice. Theys
all fakes, the leader screamed. He was obviously drunk. Damn. Chris
hated dealing with drunken idiots. Oh well. He checked his weapons. NO one,
NO ONE took one of his men!
You're not hanging that man, David Fairshawe exclaimed. Chris
knew he was too far away to intervene as Fairshawe was beaten by the mob.
I said get out of my way! We're late for a funeral, boys. Get this
&(*)*() moving! The mobs leader called, sealing his fate
as far as Larabee was concerned. Not only had this imbecile the audacity
to touch that which was Chris Larabees, but to harm a good man in front
of his wife and little ones. The Volcano began to stir.
Chris strode out onto the street. He looked around, no Law and a lot of dirty
men shoving back and forth. Townsfolk were running the other way. For a moment
he thought he saw a flash of pink ribbon, and turning he saw an elderly man
with a sour expression yelling at a young man with a rifle. The young man
looked up at him, in that instant Chris felt something in him react.
Now was that choice, he could take on this pup, this kid and go save Nathan,
or he could walk down the road alone. The tug of war inside him reached
its climax. He could accept what his self told him, or walk along
continuing in his self imposed exile from all that he could be.
This was the moment where his vow to live would be most tested.
Chris was startled as the man across the street nodded as if accepting his
authority immediately. There was something about him. The kid wasnt
what Larabee was, but there was a gift there all the same. It brought back
to Chris mind a promise long forgotten. He couldnt walk away,
not from Nathans need and not from this kid who now followed him down
the road like hed been at Chris side for years.
The fight was over quickly. Dispersing swiftly the mob faded when faced with
the rage in Chris Larabees face. Standing at his shoulder, the kid
proved that he had good aim with that rifle. Larabee could see the hanging
trigger lock and guessed that the kid had broken it out of some case in the
general store hed come out of.
Somehow knowing that the kid had his back, theyd untied Nathan and
Chris had taken his fury out on the door to the Sheriffs office. Lasker
and his gutless wonders were going to clean up this street and they were
going to do so Now!
Chris didnt notice the moment the kid slipped away, but felt his absence
a second later. Something in him raged at the loss. Where the Hell had the
kid gone? Didnt he realize that he belonged with Larabee? Part of the
unlikely family, part of the pack.
Christopher Matthew Larabee was not used to being thwarted.
It took a little to get Nathan up and attended to. Fortunately his cell phone
was fully charged and ready. Buck and the others tore into town after the
call and what Chris had left of Lasker and his boys didnt remain long
with RMETF Seven in charge. Lasker was cursing the day the ATF came to town.
Chris had called the State Police in on the situation and the ATF. Dr. Shaw
and her companion, the tall gangly Dr. Toby de la Vega arrived and took charge
of both Nathan and David Fairshawe. Looking at Fairshawes split cheek
and Nathans bruises fired Larabees rage. Since there was little
that Chris could do about the medical situation, he dealt with the rest of
It was a pleasure to unravel years of Sheriff Lasker and his cronies
+ + + + + + +
Virgil Watson didnt want to have anything to do with the man in black.
The tall Federal Agent had been taking names and breaking heads all day.
He was not going to get in the mans way. Watson didnt like the
look in the Agents eye when hed complained about the glass case
and the damage that idiot Tanner had created going to help that
was one of Larabees men. Big mistake, wrong answer.
Larabee was a scary man. The man glared like nothing Virgil had ever seen.
He took the twenties Larabee laid on the counter with a submissive silence.
Somehow he thought that if he did anything wrong, the Agent would rip his
Virgil waited until his sometime clerk, Vin Tanner, had broken down all the
boxes and put them in the dumpster. Larabee may have him after this, but
damn if Watson wasnt going to get a full days work out of the imbecile.
Vin was startled when Watson made a gift of the rifle that hed
used to save the EMT from Denver. Virgil Watson was not known for giving
things away. He was even more startled to see the man shake slightly as the
Federal Agent that Vin had been planning to look for stepped into the store
as if Vins own thoughts had summoned him. Watson fled quickly.
Names Larabee, Chris said. I run RMETF Seven out
of Denver. Your name is Vin Tanner, formerly Rangers, Formerly Triana
Follower, Larabee said gaining the satisfaction of seeing the kid jump
a little. You come highly recommended. The kid looked at Chris
with the bluest eyes that Larabeed ever seen. Everything in him swore
that this kid was his, his to command, his to protect. He wouldnt leave
him to be lost. Not now. Not ever.
Tanners history, although classified, hadnt been that hard to
obtain, Chris still had contacts all over the place. Alex Welch, RMETF
co-ordinator was fairly jumping for joy at the possibility that Chris would
get Tanner to join him. The kid might not realize it, but he had a lot of
friends still in the Military, in the Marshals, and in other places he probably
didnt even know existed.
Sir, was all Tanner said. Chris knew and so did the kid, Tanner.
You know, dont you? Larabee asked.
Yes," Vin said. I know what you are.
Good. Then you know that what I claim I hold.
Yes, sir. Vin looked at him in confusion. You want me?
You have work for me?
More than that, Tanner. More than a Job. A place to call home.
Chris grinned. If you know what I am, then you know what I feel and
what is going to happen. Ive got a group of merry mayhemists just waiting
to become a pack. Larabees grin dimmed. They dont
know what I am. I cant tell them, but I can tell you. The same connection
I knew someone like you long years ago. I cant tell the
others, Buck especially. This is your last chance. If you come youre
mine. Part of my team, part of my
family. A soft touch brushed
against Larabees mind, one last gift from the woman hed loved.
This was the right way, Larabee knew it.
Im in, Tanner said simply.
Lets go get your stuff and get you introduced to the others.
Dont worry, they only maul the ones they like, Chris laughed,
Vin looked around the store. Theres no debt here, Tanner. Ive
dealt with that jackal, Watson. I bought the Trailer, well take it
with us when we leave here, I paid a pretty penny for it, He grinned
at Vin. Dont worry Tanner, Youll pay me back. I paid more
than its worth, bought most of this damn store too. Hell, If theres
anything you want in here, take it. He tried to bleed me enough.
Vin nodded. He would follow this man, through Heaven or Hell. Looking at
Larabee he could see the sign of the Fox and the shape of the Wolf. Larabee
would protect his men, now that hed decided to let them in. It wasnt
like following a Triana, but there was what Fox had said. This was a place
Is there anything that you want, Tanner?
Just this, Vin said softly picking up the spool of three inch
wide pink ribbon and solemnly cutting ten yards.
Extra points if you can find the three crossover series...
Next: Advances in Modern Technology