Connected to You

by Susie Burton

Disclaimer: The ‘Magnificent Seven’ characters are the property of MGM, Trilogy and the Mirisch Company. I just borrowed them, played with them for a while and then very regretfully gave them back! Thank you to Mog for creating the ATF AU, and her generosity in allowing us all to skip in her playground. There are established parameters that I have used in this story that seem to be the accepted norm for this particular universe, so my grateful thanks go to all those fantastic writers before me who set many of the precedents. Sadly, no money will be made from this work of fan fiction - I just wrote it purely for my own pleasure and entertainment!

Genre: ATF – Humour (or perhaps more accurately - an amusing and frustrating sequence of events!)

Rating: PG13. Warning, this story contains a few words of profanity. Character focus: Vin, Seven.

Heartfelt thanks to my supportive husband, Mike, for unwittingly providing the inspiration for several key elements within this story. Some of the things I’ve written about did actually happen to him – although, thankfully, not all on the same day. It must be a ‘guy thang’! A huge thank you is due to my wonderful friend and super-beta Jean B, for doing the grammatical honours once again. Many thanks to Tony Clarkin and Bob Catley for their song, with grovelling apologies for the ‘Tanneresque’ misuse of their lyrics. Aside from a short, angsty WAT story, this is my first ‘dip’ into modern-day US, so please forgive any inaccuracies – as a Brit, I definitely find it easier to write Old West!

As with each of my previous stories, the themes, convoluted ideas and writing are, in their entirety, all of my own work. Apart from Jean B’s corrections and the concepts as credited above, no-one else has had any input into this work of fiction. If you enjoy this story, please let me know. Feedback is greatly appreciated!

He was late. How could that possibly happen? Being late for an important meeting wasn’t something that normally applied to Vin Tanner but, today, everything had seemed to conspire against him. Now he had to rush – and he hated that ‘trying-to-catch-up’ feeling. Maybe it suited Ezra Standish always to be running one step behind and constantly chasing after his tail, but for the Texan ATF agent, it simply wasn’t an option. The military had taught him that. It was a lesson that he’d learned well and a tenet that he faithfully adhered to.

The dilapidated apartment block where he lived had blown its communal electrical capacitator at some time during the night, plunging the entire building into darkness. It wasn’t really a major problem seeing as most of the occupants were asleep but, for Vin who was under strict instructions from his team leader not to miss the pre-meeting briefing at eight o’clock; it felt like a personal disaster. For months now, he’d been meaning to buy a new alarm clock, one with a back-up battery in it but, every time he went to the mall, it had completely slipped his mind. As a result, his old LED clock radio had died, along with the electricity supply, and he’d overslept. When he’d eventually woken with an astonished start, at seven that morning, things had just gone from bad to worse.

Of course, there was no hot water or heating in his apartment but taking a cold shower in a freezing bathroom had never worried Vin; in fact, the stinging, icy spray had helped to clear his heavy, sleep-clogged head. Once he’d shaved, showered and dressed he’d spent a fruitless few minutes trying to light the gas burner on his stove-top. The ignition was electric and, with no power source, the appliance’s safety cut-off switch had automatically kicked in, stopping the gas supply.


Vin banged the kitchen countertop, letting out an exasperated sigh as he realised that he’d have to go without his normal cup of coffee. Black sludge. That’s what Chris Larabee called the sharpshooter’s version of coffee and he, plus the other five members of Team Seven, always managed to find a reason to decline their colleague’s strong, gut-rotting brew whenever he made it in their office’s small kitchen.

Grabbing a can of coke from the virtually empty fridge, he pulled the aluminium tab and gulped down some of the not very chilled liquid. Lowering the almost empty can, he suddenly remembered what day it was. “Aw, hell! I’ve gotta get the breakfasts ‘n’ all! I don’t need this!” Vin muttered to himself.

With the exception of Chris and Josiah Sanchez, all of the team were on a rota to get the speciality coffees and pastries from Antonio’s deli, less than ten minutes from the Federal Building, and today it was the Vin’s turn to collect the pre-ordered refreshments. The previous week he’d forgotten to pick up the order and had spent the entire morning fending off sarcastic and ribald comments from his six disgruntled friends. He wasn’t in the mood for that today and, glancing at his watch, he realised he would just about have time to complete the vital chore before getting to the office.

Glancing around his untidy living room, he started hastily to organise the things he needed to take with him. He’d worked late the previous evening, but his draft report that was going to be presented at this morning’s meeting, hadn’t been quite finished, so he’d brought it home to work on. The plastic, open-topped file containing the salient pages of the document, sat on the small side table, and tucked inside this was a brown pill bottle.

The sharpshooter had been suffering from a persistent cold and cough for some time, but when his temperature had spiked dangerously one day last week, Nathan Jackson had almost literally frog-marched the reluctant Texan down to the local clinic to get a course of antibiotics. Vin hated taking medication, but the other agents had all decided to mollycoddle him and it was easier just to take the pills rather than listen to the constant nagging from his six friends. The medicine had to be taken after food, so he could have the first of today’s prescribed dose once he’d filled himself up with doughnuts at the office.

Crossing to the comfortable, worn sofa, Vin found his wallet and keys lying where he’d tossed them haphazardly just over eight hours ago. But he couldn’t see his cell ‘phone. A hasty rummage through the upholstered cushions failed to locate the missing ‘phone and, when he pushed the heavy sofa forwards, he didn’t find it lying on the floor either.

“C’mon, I ain’t got time fer this. Where th’hell are ya?”

The Texan searched the living room for a few more minutes before checking the bedroom, bathroom and kitchen. Still the elusive item remained hidden. Vin stared at his landline ‘phone for a few seconds, and then picked up the handset as the solution to his dilemma suddenly came to him.

“Sonofabitch! This is all yer fault, Ezra!”

The digital displays on the handset and base module were completely blank and Vin gazed in horrified disbelief at the tiny darkened screens. He’d recently purchased the ‘phone cum answering machine on the recommendation of Ezra Standish and, like the majority of the undercover agent’s ‘gadgets’, it was a top of the range, state of the art, digital device. But you obviously needed electricity to access its array of complex product features – and the one that the man needed right now was the ‘phonebook facility.

Pressing the receiver button, Vin put the handset to his ear and was heartily relieved to hear a dial tone. Well, that was a start, at least. He began punching in numbers, but his finger stopped when he got to the sixth digit.

“Is it 281763, or 871263?” he wondered aloud of his cell number.

After trying both combinations and failing to get a valid connection, the agent shook the sleek, plastic handset in sheer desperation. “Arrgh! Work dammit! All m’number cards are in m’desk! Who the hell ever calls their own cell?” Vin ranted impotently at the next to useless instrument.

“I’m gonna shove this hawg-stupid hunk of worthless plastic, right up Ezra’s ass! Antenna end first! He’ll be calling 911 every time he breaks wind!”

The ridiculous threat helped to relieve his annoyance somewhat, but it didn’t solve his problem. Even though the team were currently working on deskbound duties, Vin still needed his cell ‘phone. It was one of the ATF rules that Chris was a stickler for, and the sharpshooter wasn’t about to incur the Bureau-wide, infamous ‘Larabee wrath’ by arriving at work without it.

Crouching down, Vin shuffled through a pile of papers and magazines stacked under the side table until he found the local telephone directory. Flipping through the front pages, he ran his finger down the ‘Central Denver Services and Amenities’ list, until he found the ATF Division’s main switchboard number.

It took a few minutes for the operator to connect him to his department and, while he waited for someone to pick up his call, he wandered aimlessly around the room, still hoping that he might spot his missing ‘phone.


“Chris. I need a real quick favour. Can ya ring m’cell ‘phone?” Vin requested, easily visualising the puzzled look on his older friend’s face.

‘What’s wrong, Vin? You got trouble?’ There was genuine concern and worry in the disembodied voice of Team Seven’s leader.

“Nah! I’m fine. Jes’ lost m’cell, somewhere in m’apartment.”

‘Why didn’t you call it yourself?’

Vin huffed irritably down the mouthpiece. “Look, I cain’t r’member the number. Okay? I mean, it ain’t like I ring m’self every five minutes, is it? Only sad bastards know their own cell number. An’ we’ll leave that nar… nars… narsy… aw, hell… y’know what I mean… leave all that self-abortion stuff to Ezra. Talking of Mr Smoothy-pants, this crapped out ‘phone he said I should buy, don’t do its proper job iffen the electrics out. I’ll jes’ bet he did that on purpose, ‘cos he knows how often I lose m’power in m’apartment an’…”

‘Okay, okay! Calm down, Vin,’ Chris soothed, hearing the increasing anger in the other’s rambling explanation. ‘It’s narcissus and self-absorption, by the way. I’ll ring you when I hang up. You on your way in?’

“I will be once I find this damned ‘phone. I’ll swear it goes on walkabouts in the night! I’m pickin’ up our munchies from Toni’s, but s’long as the traffic ain’t snarled up… yeah, I should be on time.”

‘It was fine when I drove in, which was surprising considering how windy it is today – bad weather usually screws it all up. Did you finish going through those last sections on your report?’ Chris wanted to know.

“All sorted, Chris. I jes’ need to make a coupla changes before I print it off again. It won’t take me more than a few minutes.”

‘Good. Just make sure your ass is here on time for Travis’ briefing. We’ve got a lot to get through this morning and your input is imperative.’

“Know that. See ya shortly.”

Placing the handset back in its holder, he stood expectantly waiting for Chris’ call. Twenty seconds or so had ticked by before Vin heard the faint and extremely muffled notes of the theme from ‘The Magnificent Seven’. Glaring at the sofa as if the piece of furniture had just had the audacity to come to life, rear up and poke a tongue out at him, he started to search amongst the cushions again. The ‘phone was definitely in there somewhere – all he had to do was find it. Well, he was a former Army sniper and tracker, a damned good one too, so it should be easy. Shouldn’t it?

The ringing continued, getting louder and more insistent each time it completed its repeat loop on the tune. “Alright, alright already! I know yer in there. Ya don’t hav’ta keep goin’ on at me,” the sharpshooter fumed. Pushing up his shirt sleeve, he gingerly forced his hand down between the seating area and the side of the sofa’s arm.

His questing fingers poked around the dusty framework, wooden slats and metal springs of the old sofa and, as he thrust his hand in even further, he gave a pained yelp when his palm got snagged in the confined innards of the seat.

“Ow! Ya bit me, ya orn’ry pile of junk! Ya do that ag’in, an’ I’ll light a bonfire out back an’ have me a cookout! Wit’ diced up sofa on the menu!” Vin scowled heatedly, beyond caring that he was having a – reasonably - intelligent conversation with an inanimate object.

Carefully shifting his knees into a different position on the seat, the sharpshooter sucked in a whistling breath as he tried to extract his trapped hand. This wasn’t good. His arm was wedged-in fast and he couldn’t move it at all. The more Vin wriggled his hand, the more it hurt, and his uncomfortably angled right arm was buried beyond his elbow, within the sofa’s restrictive interior space.

Pushing away the claustrophobic sensation that suddenly surged through him, Vin took a few steadying gulps of air as he consciously tried to relax his body, aware that a panicked struggle would only make things worse. The last thing he wanted was to have to call someone for help. And he could just imagine what his colleagues reactions would be if his ridiculous predicament ever became public knowledge.

“Oh yeah, I can… jes’ see it in… t’morrows newspaper. ‘Denver’s Texan ATF agent eaten alive by his sofa! America’s finest - whupped by a battered lump of furniture!’ Buck an’ Ezra’ll… have a… field day! An’ JD’ll probably…”

As he’d been muttering to himself, Vin had been constantly feeling with his hand whilst trying to get his immobilised arm out of the sofa, but he stopped talking when his felt the cold smoothness of his vibrating cell ‘phone at his fingertips. Furrowing his brows in silent concentration, he painstakingly worked it into his hand with his middle finger and he’d just managed to grab hold of the object when suddenly, as if by magic, his arm slipped smoothly out of the tight gap.

“Jeez! Thank the Lord for that!” he exclaimed, as he pressed the speak button and put the ‘phone to his ear.

‘You found it then?’ Chris Larabee asked unnecessarily.

Vin could just see the cynical smile on his closest friend’s face and he knew that he would get ribbed by the other man once he got into the office. “Yeah. I’m on my way,” he eventually replied.

The sharpshooter gave a wry grin as he hung-up. Chris would certainly tease him about all of this, but he wouldn’t say a word to any of the other Team Seven agents; it would remain the pair’s private joke.

Going back into the kitchen, Vin examined the scrapes and the beginning of bruises on his right hand before giving them both a quick wash. He was still thirsty so, after grabbing two cans of coke for the thirty minute journey into the office, he went back into the living area and began hurriedly stuffing all his belongings into his jacket pocket. After adjusting his shoulder holster and clipping down the leather flap that secured his service revolver, he shrugged into his coat. Picking up the file holding the report, he finally left his apartment.

The traffic was reasonably light and Vin made good time in getting into the central area of Denver. Swinging his battered Jeep into a side street, he was relieved to see an empty parking space directly outside Antonio Morelli’s diner and snack bar. “M’first decent break today!” the sharpshooter muttered, as he pulled the vehicle into the kerbside.

As the agent got out of the car, a strong gust of wind suddenly caught the door, smashing it with some force into his side. Rubbing at his tingling hip where the one remaining coke can had painfully gouged into him, he swore under his breath at his continuing misfortune. It was Tuesday, but he was seriously starting to think that it was Friday the thirteenth! Slamming the door shut with a furious shove, Vin strode into the tiny diner to collect the team’s breakfast order.


“Morning, Chris, Josiah,” Nathan Jackson greeted his two friends as he wandered into his boss’ office carrying a sheaf of papers. “I’ve printed off the list of equipment we’ll need for the surveillance vehicles and JD’s just made his amendments to the IT side of things. That’s printing off as we speak, and Buck’s already started making up individual binders for the rest of us.” The EMT handed a copy of his report to each of the men, as he spoke.

“Thanks, Nathan. Let me see now…hmm…” Chris shuffled through the various files on the desk in front of him, mentally ticking off each of his team’s reports, “…well, that’s everyone’s except Vin’s firearms and tactical analysis. Good.”

“I thought he’d be here by now,” Nathan commented of the normally punctual sharpshooter.

“I spoke to him earlier. He’s stopping off at Toni’s, but he should be in shortly,” the team leader answered distractedly, as he started to collate the briefing schedules. They had started working on the details of this new case just last week and there was a great deal of additional planning needed before they could even think about going ahead with the bust.

“I see that Ezra’s actually made it in on time. That’s a first! Your ‘pep’ talk yesterday must’ve worked, Chris!”

At Nathan’s words Chris glanced up, peering through the glass partition at the undercover agent, who was lounging back in his chair with his eyes closed. “Well, it’s funny how they all get antsy, but very obedient and contrite, when you threaten to bust their ass down to traffic cop,” the blond agent replied with a thin, mirthless smile.

“You’re a hard, cruel man, boss.”

“Have to be where Ezra’s concerned, Josiah. One of these days he’ll push me too far and….” Chris’ thought trailed off as his ‘phone began to chirrup.


Chris put the handset to his ear, frowning as he patiently waited for the caller to announce him or herself. He could hear a strange whooshing sound and several indistinct voices, so there was definitely someone on the other end of the line, but the anonymous caller hadn’t spoken yet.

“Larabee. Hello. Is anyone there? Vin? Is that you again? Hello!”

‘Hey there, Toni!’

It was Vin Tanner’s voice, but it was obvious that he wasn’t speaking directly into his ‘phone and the senior agent could hear the occasional rustling and scratching sound, making the other’s speech sporadically fade in and out. He could also hear someone else talking, but this was so faint and distant, it was clear that it belonged to a person who was standing in the Texan sharpshooter’s immediate vicinity.

“Vin! Your ‘phone’s on! Vin! Tanner! VIN!” Chris bellowed down the ‘phone’s mouthpiece.

‘… an’ then I found out I had no electric. It don’t bother me none ‘specially, ‘cause it ain’t like I use m’own place much, but…’

“Vin! Pick… up… your… Goddamn ‘PHONE! VIN! VIN TANNER!” Chris tried again, but to no avail.

From the way he continued talking to the diner’s owner, it was clear that Vin had no idea that his cell ‘phone line was open. He couldn’t hear Chris shouting, so it probably meant that the connected implement was stowed away in his jacket pocket.

The three ATF agents out in the bullpen had heard Chris Larabee’s loud commands and, seeing the quizzically amused expressions on the features of both Josiah and Nathan, the men wandered over to their team leader’s office.

“What’s going on?” Buck Wilmington enquired of his two colleagues, as he strolled into the room.

“Vin’s on his way in, but it sounds like he must’ve pressed one of the buttons on his cell ‘phone by accident. He called Chris, but he’s not hearing anything from this end,” Josiah quietly explained to the other men.

Ezra Standish had positioned himself to the right hand side of the office doorframe, opposite the similarly lounging JD Dunne, and he gave a short laugh as he shook his head in total bemusement. “Waal, Mr Tanner is not the most technologically adept person that I have ever met, as I believe it was Mr Dunne who had to program all of our illustrious sharpshooter’s telephone numbers into his cell ‘phone’s directory. And I strongly suspect that he has absolutely no knowledge of that most useful tool known as a keypad lock,” he drawled laconically.

Chris was still avidly listening with the handset, when his mouth suddenly curved into a smile. Pressing a button on his the ‘phone’s display console, he then placed the receiver on its cradle and turned up the volume for the squawk box function.

‘….take that double white chocolate twist fer Buck, then….be fine, Toni….have two plain croissants…’ Vin’s muted voice filtered out of the desk ‘phone’s small speaker.

Chris’ amused hazel gaze locked with his oldest friend’s as he leaned back in his chair. “He’s picking up our breakfast order. Toni just told him that he hasn’t got any almond slices today, so Vin’s chosen a ‘delicious’ chocolate twist for you, pard,” the man in black supplied drolly, knowing what his oldest friend’s reaction would be to this news.

“Hellsfire! He knows damn well I don’t like those! I’ll kick his scrawny ass all the way around the office when he gets here! Twice!”

The other men roared with laughter, gleefully enjoying the moustached agent’s indignant outrage.

“Well at least he’s got you a couple of croissants to make up for losing out on your favourite breakfast, Brother Buck,” Josiah pointed out helpfully.

The reverberating bang of what could only be the sharpshooter’s Jeep door being closed suddenly came out of the speaker, followed a few seconds later by the sound of paper crackling and a quickly gone fizzing noise.

‘Mmm! Toni sure knows… how to make… croissants! They’ll never… know… an’ ole Bucklin… won’t want the twist, so… I’ll jes’… have t’help ‘im out. It’s m’duty!’ The words sounded even more muffled, but none of the listening men were in any doubt about what the Texan was currently up to.

“His DUTY! He’s eating my damned croissant!” Buck roared angrily. “That sneaky, little shit-eating-grin bastard’s got it all figured out! I won’t eat the twist and he’s the only one of us that likes ‘em, but he reckons I’ll be pacified with a lousy croissant. One when it should be two. One Goddamn, plain croissant! So he gets three bites at the cherry and I go hungry! I’ll kill him!” he raged at his five friends, who hadn’t even bothered hiding their grins.

‘Ahh! Tanner’s Manna from Heaven! Hey, that’s quite funny! God must’ve invented coke, I reckon, but it does give m’gas…’

The six eavesdropping agents exchanged looks of resigned amusement, as several loud belches interrupted Vin’s meandering soliloquy. There was a brief silence as the man obviously carried on eating and drinking his ‘secret’ pre-breakfast snack.

‘Hmm, that’s better. Oh-oh…’ Vin mumbled, as yet more ear-splitting belches blared out of the small speaker. ‘Manners, Tanner! Still, it’s only Mama Nature’s way o’ making room for more goodies. I’d best finish this coke afore Nate sees it. He chewed m’balls off summat fierce yesterday!’

Five pairs of questioning eyes swivelled in the direction of the team’s medic and unofficial, but self-appointed, nursemaid. They all had occasion to be badgered mercilessly by the EMT if sick or recovering from injury, but Vin seemed to be the only one who was constantly being lectured on his eating and drinking habits by the almost obsessively health conscious Nathan Jackson.

“I only told him that he guzzles too many cans of soda!” the dark-skinned agent stated defensively. “‘Sides Chris, ya allus criticise him fer all those bags of cookies an’ candies that he manages to snaffle throughout the day! An’ I ain’t the only one around here who bawls out the boy ‘cos of his sugar fixation!”

The grating sound of the Jeep’s engine starting up caused the six men to stare at the ‘phone once again. Vin’s in-car CD player had kicked in and for a few minutes that was the only thing to be heard above the engine noise. The music faded out and, when Chris Larabee heard the first few words of the next track, he had a rough idea of what was coming next.

Vin and JD both preferred rock - heavy rock – music and whenever Chris had occasion to travel in either of the younger agent’s cars, his ears were usually assaulted with a cacophony of drums, thrumming bass rifts, screeching guitars and indecipherable lyrics. He was more of a jazz and R&B listener himself; always had been and always would be, but Vin was constantly trying to give the senior agent a more eclectic approach to music. It was one of the few things that the pair openly disagreed on.

Chris shifted in his seat uncomfortably, as he immediately recognised the track. He’d had to sit through several renditions of the ‘Tanneresque’ version of this particular song, with replacement lyrics lovingly written by the poetically inclined sharpshooter and inserted to privately annoy his volatile friend. As a result, Chris now hated, or perhaps more accurately, detested the track in question with a passion, although he was careful to hide his intense dislike for the song from the younger man. That would merely spur on the prankster to antagonise the senior agent even more and was the equivalent of waving a red flag at a bull!

As the volume from his ‘phone’s speaker suddenly increased, the en-route Texan started to sing enthusiastically along with the music. The man in black puffed out a long, heavy sigh. They were all about to hear Vin’s first public performance of the song – renamed ‘Let M’Cookies In’ by the sharpshooter - with the appropriately revised lyrics.

‘…..did ya start bein’ orn’ry, t’give me trouble everyday, jes’ like some cake wit’ m’coffee, ya disappeared silently….’

“Hey, that’s the CD I loaned Vin!” JD exclaimed, after listening to the first verse and chorus of the song. “He’s changed most of the words though. But… hey… actually… he’s made them fit quite well!”

Buck Wilmington gazed curiously at his oldest friend, who suddenly appeared to be very interested in the state of his pristine shoes.

“You’ve heard this version before, haven’t you Chris? Is this another Tanner ‘special’, written just for you?” the ladies’ man enquired mischievously, knowing he’d made a bang on the nose guess.

The senior agent said nothing, his face well-schooled and impassive. But he was inwardly smiling, because he could almost picture the impish twinkle in his closest friend’s blue eyes as he drove along and continued to parody the song with his own verses.

‘… ‘I was tossed in yer own team, ya hid m’cookies far away…….count the cost of m’doughnuts, don’t have the money so ya say’… Dammit! What now? Cut that out, ya hawg-stupid pile o’ silica chips!’

The six listening agents could hear the now tinny warble to the music coming through the ‘phone speaker and, as they glanced at each other, they suddenly heard several loud bangs interspersed with a few clicking noises. As another thud sounded, the music cut out completely, and this was followed by an almost animal-like snarl from the sharpshooter.

‘Godammit! Spit it back out, ya… Phew, thank God…! Where’d the case…? Oh no, ya don’t....! Shit! NO! Don’t swallow it ag’in! Hand it back! Ya cain’t eat the CD – it ain’t even mine!’ A second violent thump was accompanied by a string of angry-sounding curses before four staccato taps interspersed his next words. ‘Give… it…. back… to… me! I’m an armed ATF officer, y’know? Jes’ do as I tell ya! C’mon, spit it out! Aw, hell! JD’s gonna go ballistic! That came all the way from London!’ There was no mistaking Vin’s anguished groan, even through the not very acoustically clear squawk box speaker.

JD had been listening to the sharpshooter’s furious tirade and, crossing to Chris’ desk, he pushed up the volume gain on his team leader’s phone. “Dammit! He’s having trouble with the Jeep’s CD player again. It sounds like he’s whacking it to try and make it work properly! And that’s my ‘Magnum’ album! I had trouble getting hold of that, ‘cos it’s a limited edition picture disc with five bonus tracks. There’re a British band, so when my old college roommate went to England on vacation, he managed to get a copy for me. It was a real lucky find, especially as it’s listed as unavailable in all the music catalogues.”

The youngest agent went on to explain to his confused-looking friends about the sharpshooter’s current problem with his vehicle. “A few weeks ago, Vin lost a CD in the stereo’s feed slot and he never did get it back. The ejector’s broken or something – it keeps spitting out and sucking the disc back in again. And the player must have a gap in the back, ‘cos when it happened the first time and he couldn’t eject the CD, Vin thought that it must’ve slipped down behind the Jeep’s dash fascia.”

“So you can only extract the ‘gobbled up’ disc if you remove half of the dashboard?” Josiah guessed.

JD nodded forlornly. He’d trusted the Texan with his prized CD and he could kick himself now for loaning it out. “That was the original too. I hadn’t got round to burning a copy yet, ‘cos my home PC had to go into the workshop for its annual health check and a drive upgrade.”

“You could have used mine, kid,” Buck interjected, with a sympathetic grin.

“Don’t you think I know that, Buck! The thing is, I didn’t dream it’d get guzzled up by Vin’s damned beaten-up, wreck of a car, now did I?” JD retorted heatedly.

The noisy blast of a vehicle’s horn suddenly spewed out of the speaker and Vin began to shout – very angrily. ‘Whoa! Are ya crazy, lady? This is my side of the street, so… Jeez! That was too close! Who the hell let ya loose wit’ a Beemer? Yer drivin’ wuss ‘n’ Cruella Deville in that splodgy dawg movie! Jesus!’

The Jeep’s horn blared out again but, from the continuous sound, it was obvious that the infuriated sharpshooter had just left his hand on the button. ‘Yeah, an’ the same to ya darlin’! That’s a double Texas dose fer ya to sit on! What the….? Oh no! Shit!’

The sharpshooter had clearly just exchanged a series of finger gestures with the other driver, when the sudden high-pitched screech of brakes caused Chris’ ‘phone to vibrate slightly. As one, the six agents leaned closer to the desk, helpless to do anything and subconsciously holding their breath as they waited for the sound of the inevitable crash. Fortunately, it never came. All they could hear now was Vin muttering irritably and the Jeep’s engine clattering, as the agent continued his eventful journey into work.

Chris flopped back into his chair with an audible sigh, suddenly wondering whether it was too early for a large whiskey – or maybe even two! He was exhausted before the day had even begun! The past few minutes had felt like he’d been taken on a roller coaster ride by the Texan and, for several long agonising seconds, he’d honestly believed that he’d be shortly called away to officially identify his friend’s mangled body, either in the wreckage of his Jeep or at the City morgue.

“Josiah…” Chris began, in a not too steady voice.

“Yep, I’m way ahead of you, boss. There’s an in-house anger management seminar starting next week and I just received a memo regarding the Bureau’s advanced driving refresher course. Phil ‘Pedantic’ Peterson’s taking that one, soo… knowing how badly Vin clashed with him on their last meeting, it’s probably a good thing that the driving seminar’s scheduled to run after the anger one. Don’t worry, Chris, I’ll pull some strings to make sure that boy’s booked in for both.” As he spoke, Josiah leaned over the desk and hastily jotted down an aide-memoire on a piece of paper.

“Do you think we’re gonna get our breakfast before Travis arrives?”

“You hungry, Buck?” Chris asked.

“Hell, I was quite peckish five minutes ago…. but I think I’ve lost my appetite now! I suppose if he’d been bringing in cocktails, it’d be fine. You know, ‘shaken, not stirred’,” Buck said, in his best James Bond voice. “There probably isn’t much left in our coffee cups anyway, after that cowboy’s drive through Hell!”

“He‘s just got into the parking lot,” Nathan put in, as he heard the familiar metallic squeak and rattle of the Federal building’s car park entry barrier through the ‘phone’s speaker.

“Well, at least he can’t come to any more grief now that he’s arrived!”

“I dunno about that, JD,” Buck replied uneasily. “We’re talking about a very pissed Vin Tanner here. He’s gonna be in a foul mood all day. More so when Chris tells him that he’s not only gotta attend a psyche course to get his temper under control, but he’s also earmarked to be tucked under ‘Pedantic’s’ loving wing for a week’s intensive work in the driving school.”

The six agents’ attention suddenly returned to the open ‘phone line, as they heard a loud thump and several highly colourful – even from a Tanner viewpoint – words of profanity uttered by the irate sharpshooter.

“Oh, shit! What the hell’s happened to him now?” Chris asked of no-one in particular.


Vin Tanner clenched his hands around the Jeep’s steering wheel in aggravated pique, as he drove down the spiral ramps of the underground parking lot. It had been an horrendous start to his day and he sincerely hoped that none of his friends crossed him in the foreseeable future. Not only that, he was feeling guilty about the loss of JD’s disc. Glaring in hostile loathing at the car’s stereo, the sharpshooter wondered how he could break the bad news to his younger friend. Whichever way he looked at it, Vin was certain that the Bostonian wasn’t going to be very impressed about the mishap, especially as the other agent was aware that Vin knew about the intermittent fault on his CD player. With a heavy sigh, he took his foot off the Jeep’s gas pedal and applied the brake as he reached Team Seven’s name-allocated parking bays.

Chris Larabee’s black Ram was parked in its usual place and the remaining team members’ cars were lined up alphabetically from their boss’ vehicle. So Vin had to get his car in between Ezra’s Jaguar and Buck’s pick-up truck. Normally it wouldn’t be a problem for the Texan as, apart from Chris, he always arrived at the office ahead of the other agents. But today wasn’t turning out to be a normal day.

“Argh! Godammit! They’ve hawged all the room! This jes’ ‘bout tops off m’mornin’! Buck an’ Ezra’ll pay fer this! I bet they cooked it up b’tween ‘em!” Vin spat out furiously.

The two agents in question had somehow managed to get their wider than average vehicles to the extreme right and to the left of the sharpshooter’s bay. Technically, they hadn’t encroached on Vin’s parking space, as the sides of their cars ran closely parallel with the white dividing lines; but their proximity to the Texan’s Jeep, once he’d pulled into his own bay, would probably mean that the man would have trouble getting out of his parked vehicle.

Vin eased his car into his narrowed space and killed the engine. Gingerly opening the driver’s door, he soon had his worst suspicions confirmed. Sure enough, as slim as he was, the gap was far too small for him to squeeze through, and getting out of the passenger door would be even more problematical as the right-hand side of his car was much closer to Buck’s pick-up.

“Hot damn! What the fuck’s happening today? I’m gonna hav’ta crawl outta the back now!”

With a peevish snort, Vin snatched the keys from the ignition, locked the front doors from the inside, and then began transferring everything from the passenger seat into the rear section of the Jeep. The seven coffees and bags of pastries had been packed tightly into a sturdy cardboard box by Toni Morelli, so they shouldn’t cause him a problem. Picking up the plastic file holding his amended report and the canister of antibiotics, Vin placed this on top of the lidded polystyrene cups, before clambering over the front seats.

It didn’t take long to pop the rear flip-up window and open the tailgate door and, as Vin jumped out of the Jeep, he heard the squeal of tyres on the plasticised surface of the parking lot. As he picked up the box, a powerful gust of wind caught the folder and it took off into the air doing a fairly decent imitation of Mary Poppins. The man could only watch in stunned disbelief as the report, along with the medication, landed in front of, and then disappeared under the wheels of the approaching car. As the vehicle carried on, the sharpshooter put the box on the ground and rushed over to rescue his file.

A wide, black tread mark from the guilty tyre ran all the way down the clear folder, but Vin could still see the extent of the damage to the folder’s contents. The report looked fairly clean and undamaged, but the brown medication container was totally obliterated, the flattened, pulped shards of plastic and the paper that had once been the label, mixing with the completely crushed white pills.

“Sonofabitch! Why me?” Vin grated out, as he stared at the destroyed canister. ”Nate’s gonna kill me! I’d only took half o’ ‘em ‘n’ all! He’ll be haulin’ m’ass back to the doc’s clinic, an’ that creepy nurse was jes’ itchin’ t’get her evil paws on m’body. Urgh! She was jes’ like Freddy Krueger in drag! Aw, dammit! I’ll jes’ tell ‘im I finished the pills off, he won’t know any different.”

Tipping the file upside down, Vin watched in resigned fascination as the remains of his prescription trickled onto the ground, the miniscule fragments then being scattered in the strongly gusting wind. With a frustrated sigh, he folded up the file and tucked it into his jacket’s inner pocket before going back to lock the tailgate on his car and collect the cardboard box. Carrying the breakfast items, he then made his way over to the elevator, grateful that despite all of this morning’s calamities, he had actually made it into work with time to spare.


Having listened to the grumbling diatribe from Vin, Nathan Jackson squinted suspiciously at Chris’ ‘phone, before glancing back at his team leader. “What d’ya reckon he meant by ‘Nate’s gonna kill me’ and that I’ll drag him back to the doc’s?” the EMT asked with a puzzled frown.

Chris ran a hand through his hair as he thought back to the previous evening, when he’d left the office at ten o’clock after working late with Vin Tanner. He recalled watching the sharpshooter ‘tidy’ his desk and, snapping his fingers, Chris suddenly remembered what the younger man had tucked into his report folder. “His medication! He put the pill bottle into a file with the unfinished papers and took it home with him,” the older man explained.

“Well, it sounds like he’s lost ‘em or summat, judging by that last comment. He must take the whole course of antibiotics, so he can dream on if he thinks I’m gonna let him get away with that!”

As he spoke, Nathan leaned across his boss’ desk and peeled off a post-it note from the pad by the ‘phone. The EMT was silent as he scribbled a reminder to himself to arrange yet another doctor’s appointment for the unsuspecting sharpshooter.

The loud ping of the elevator arriving at one of the floors now came over the speaker, and the six men looked expectantly at the entrance to their open plan office.

“Where the hell is he now?” Buck asked the question that was on the lips of all the agents, when the Texan failed to materialise.

Ezra scanned around the outer office area, wondering whether he was ever going to get his double latte and fruit Danish that the sharpshooter was bringing in. “Waal, the elevator is only seconds down the corridor from here, so I cannot believe that Mr Tanner can encounter any further problems during that brief…”

The undercover agent’s dissembling comments were suddenly cut off by the distinctive and crystal-clear sound of a heavy-duty zipper being pulled up or, as in this particular case, all the way down. A few more seconds passed before the men heard the all too familiar and extremely personal noise of someone urinating.

“Hey, he’s in the men’s room!” JD chortled, pointing at the ‘phone.

Ezra’s feature’s twisted into a distasteful grimace, his hand coming up to his forehead as he listened in growing dismay to the continuous splashing and trickling coming through the speaker. “Oh, good grief! I don’t believe that I’m hearing this at such an obscenely early hour of the day. And please, do not tell me that he’s taken our food in there with him,” the Southerner asked, his voice tinged with outraged incredulity.

“Cain’t rightly give ya that assurance, Ezra,” Nathan said, shooting the other man a wide grin. “I’ll wager he’s got it with him, ‘cos he prob’ly wouldn’t’ve risked leaving it in an open, public corridor. Someone might steal it. Waal, that’d be Vin’s reasoning at any rate!”

Buck laughed heartily, also enjoying the shocked expression on the face of the fastidious, hygienic conscious undercover agent. “You wouldn’t take my dollars on that one, Nate! Let’s just hope that he’s pissing at the open traps and not gone into one of the cubicle’s for a…!”

“Thank you, Mr Wilmington! I really did not need to hear your disgustingly crude and asinine observation regarding Mr Tanner’s bodily functions,” Ezra hastily interrupted.

The trickling sound carried on for a short time and the men breathed a collective sigh of relief as the noise finally tapered off. Almost immediately, the splashing abruptly started up again, although it was obvious to the six listening agents that the now stuttering flow wasn’t quite as strong as before.

“Is he ever going to stop peeing?” Buck asked in amazement, although he was suitably impressed by the volume of bodily fluid being excreted by the Texan.

“Vin had no electricity in his apartment again this morning,” Chris asserted, “so I imagine he had to make do with that coke he had in the car. Knowing how much he likes it and how much gas he suffered from on the way in, I’d say he’s probably already knocked back at least two cans. And….”

“…. what goes in, must surely come out again!” Nathan finished for their leader. “But what I want t’know is, why is that when he has his annual medical, he has such trouble giving a urine sample? It’s allus on the physician’s report an’ I’ve never figured that one out – ‘specially knowing how frequently he visits the bathroom. His bladder must be the size of a Q-Tip!”

“That’s the brain’s self-defence mechanism, brother. We’re in full control of our body’s normal tasks when in the relaxed and pseudo-private environment of the john, but as soon as another person makes a request for you to fill a specimen jar… well, a simple bodily procedure suddenly becomes some kind of test.”

“You’re probably right, Josiah, but I’d rather we dropped this particular discussion,” Chris commanded in a firm voice. He, Josiah and Nathan were, out of necessity, privy to certain facts regarding the physical and psychological health of all the members of Team Seven, and the senior agent had no wish to openly broadcast information regarding any of his men’s idiosyncrasies – no matter how trivial.

“There you go, Ez,” Buck began, as he heard vigorous splashing coming from the ‘phone. “At least he’s washing his hands after his visit to the head. He should be in here any second now, so’s you can have that fancy cow juice that you call coffee.”

“Oh, and I assume your first mitigating remark is designed to give me a modicum of reassurance about sanitation, is it Mr Wilmington? Our breakfast has been violently transported by our hyperactive Texan, on his very own interpretation of a Demolition Derby, in a vehicle which is long overdue for dismemberment in a scrap-yard. As if that was not bad enough, our morning sustenance has then been grotesquely paraded around the bacteria-laden confines of the gentlemen’s restroom, whilst our inimitable colleague has emptied his coke-sodden bladder. And then I’m expected to sit at my desk and, courtesy of Mr Tanner, joyously partake in a furiously whipped-up, urine-odorised, germ-ridden repast that is probably going to give me dysentery! But I’m urged to take solace from the fact that his hands are now scrupulously clean!” Ezra’s haughtily aggrieved voice had risen an octave or two as he spoke, and there was a look of righteous indignation on his face.

“It won’t kill ya, Ezra. Yer jabs are all up to date, so ya’ll be jes’ fine,” Nathan responded in a placating tone, his grin widening as the Southerner let out an annoyed huff.

JD nodded in agreement, as he nudged the undercover agent. “That’s right, Ez. Toni wraps everything, so it’ll be well protected. Count yourself lucky - you’re not the one who’s lost something that’s almost irreplaceable in Vin’s car. I’m gonna make sure I get my CD back though, even if it means tearing out the front section of his Jeep!”

“Heads up, fellas! And let me do the talking on this one,” Chris muttered in warning, as he spotted the sharpshooter weaving his way around the desks in the outer office. Leaning forward, the man in black pressed the speaker’s mute button on his ‘phone console, although he purposely left the line open.

“Hey, I hope ya ain’t started without me,” Vin stated by way of greeting, as he entered Chris’ office.

“Nope. We were just going through a couple of things while we waited for you.” The lie fell easily from the senior agent’s tongue.

“Yer chow’s here,” the sharpshooter declared as he placed the box on the corner of Chris’ desk.

No-one moved, and Vin shifted his feet uncomfortably as the other six men stared at him. “What’s wrong? Have I got dirt on m’face or summat?” he asked the senior agent, his brow furrowing in confusion as he saw the stony set to all of his friends’ faces.

“Nope. Josiah and I were just discussing a TV show that aired last night on the Science Channel. It was all about the cause and effect of serendipitous events in real life. Highly fascinating stuff!”

Josiah nodded sagely, picking up his cue and continuing with the hypothetical premise that Chris had started to construct. “Yep, it was extremely thought provoking, Brother Vin. It’s amazing how the smallest incident’s that happen to us can snowball, sometimes without our knowledge, until you finally end up with an avalanche.”

“Yes, it’s all been scientifically proven, but nonetheless it’s still weird how many everyday things are so closely connected. We can all suffer from a variety of associated but unpremeditated events, which ultimately result in catastrophic personal consequences for us all,” Chris said, with a perfectly straight face.

The sharpshooter shook his head in bafflement, completely lost and confused by what he was hearing. It was bad enough when Ezra Standish spouted off like he’d eaten a dictionary, but was the undercover agent’s bizarre and complicated mode of speech finally having a strange effect on his friends? Or had the two older agents gone totally mad?

Vin let out an angry snort. “What? Cain’t ya talk proper American, so’s I can understand ya?”

“It’s all about being connected with one another and how you get an insight into what your fellow man is doing,” Chris explained patiently.

“Oh. Waal, I still don’t understand,” Vin shrugged dismissively. The meeting would start shortly, and he was more interested in getting stuck into the remainder of his breakfast then playing word tag with his boss and the clever psychological profiler.

“Anyhow, take yer grub afore it gets cold.” Vin held out one of the triple espresso’s to Chris.

“What’s the problem, Chris?” the Texan wanted to know, when the other man ignored the proffered cup. He was starting to feel like he’d walked into the wrong office. It was as if his six friends had some momentous secret that they were deliberately hiding from him, because he could definitely feel an odd tension amongst the other agents.

“How was your journey into work this morning, Vin?”

“It was… fine, I guess. I couldn’t find m’cell ‘phone earlier, but ya know that, Chris,” Vin answered warily.

“Yeah, I do. Did anything unusual happen after that?”

“Nope. Jes’ a normal day, I reckon.”

“Normal? Are you sure about that, Tanner?”

“What the hell’s goin’ on? Is this some kinda interrogation, Larabee?” Vin could feel the anger rising in him, but he forced himself to remain calm.

There was an uneasy silence for several seconds and the sharpshooter frowned in puzzlement as the senior agent leaned forward and pressed a button on his ‘phone. Vin had had about as much as he could stomach this morning, and all he wanted to do now was get to the bottom of his friends’ disturbing behaviour. With an exasperated sigh, he repeated his question.

“What the hell’s goin’….?”

Vin abruptly stopped, staring in wide-eyed and open-mouthed amazement as his words suddenly transmitted out of the ‘phone’s squawk box.

Chris smiled thinly, savouring the astonished expression on his younger friend’s face. “Your cell’s been connected to my line ever since you got to Toni’s,” the man in black explained, as he quickly reset the dial tone.

“Aw, hell!” Vin groaned, as he hastily pulled his ‘phone from his jacket pocket and looked at the digital display. The call duration readout showed sixteen minutes of talk time on Chris’ number. And he’d thought his morning couldn’t get any worse!

“So, we all know how ‘normal’ your journey was, ‘cos we heard everything.” Chris’ statement was backed up by solemn nods from the other five men.

Vin’s cheeks suddenly reddened in embarrassment, as his mind turned over all of that morning’s frustrating events. “Ya heard everything!” he echoed, in stunned horror. “Aw, dammit, Chris, it warn’t my fault! I overslept…. the electric blew ag’in an’…. I hate bein’ late…. An’ then I got cut-up by…. Shit! Ya heard it all? Everything? All of ya? Together? Oh, Lord!”

“Yup. You know, Josiah told me something not long after you joined the team, Vin. He said there was a really strong connection between us both. Well, cowboy, you’ve certainly proved that concept right this morning!”

“Aw, hell!”

His favourite curse didn’t really cover how Vin felt, but it was the only thing that came into his mind. As the deflated sharpshooter sank into an empty chair, the other six men started laughing. They would be talking about this for weeks, probably months to come, and as he thought again about all of the things he’d said and done in the Jeep, Vin knew that he was in for some kind of payback. Big time!


AUTHOR’S FOOTNOTE: I’m not altogether sure that I wrote this story in the right frame of mind, nor am I convinced that it has helped me to fully recapture my angsty muse, as humour isn’t my normal or preferred medium for writing fan fiction (I think it probably shows in this piece too :- sigh!).

However, if you did enjoy this little piece of fluff, please let me know at – your comments would be really appreciated.

April 2004