The Name Game

by Jody Revenson

Webmaster Note: This fic was previously posted on another website, and was moved to blackraptor in August 2004.

“Vin Vin Bo Bin, Banana Fana Fo Fin, Me Mi Mo Min, Vin.”

“What the hell are you mumbling?” Chris Larabee lowered the heavy surveillance binoculars from his target and trained his eyes instead upon his usually taciturn teammate.

“Sorry, pard.” Vin Tanner cracked his neck from side to side and struggled to find a comfortable position in the van. A sheepish grin crossed his face. “Spent a lot of time with the kids yesterday. Big jump rope competition. Can’t get that out of my head now.”

Chris pressed his lips into a fulminating smile. “Try.”

“I remember that song.” The deep resonance of Josiah’s voice rumbled over their ear pieces, followed by Nathan’s light laugh. “Had a little difficulty with my name, though. It’s a mouthful.”

Vin tested it out. “Josiah Josiah Bo Bosiah...yeah, that ain’t fun.”

“This is unnecessary conversation, gentlemen.” Chris turned the binoculars to observe his field agents as they continued a boring yet necessary reconnaissance detailing their current assignment’s daily activities. “And I want it stopped.”

“Our leader doth protest too much.” Taking a sip from the rancid coffee offered by the outdoor cafe that was his post, Ezra grimaced, then subtly shook his head. “I fail to perceive what you’re complainin’ about...” The southern agent quickly ran through the chant, stopping suddenly, “Ah, yes. Now I ascertain the reason. My sympathies.”

Vin duplicated the litany, then broke into a laugh. “Me Mi Mo Ha!...Truly sorry, Miss.”

Chris grunted in consternation, keeping a deadpan expression on his features. “Left deep psychological scars, that did.”

“You didn’t finish Josiah’s,” Nathan broke in from their location at a bus stop. “Me Mi Mo Messiah?” His laugh rang out again, joined by the southerner’s leisurely cackle.

“Delusions of grandeur nonwithstandin’, my friend.”

“That ain’t the half of it, Brother Standish.”

Silence ensued until the youngest team member bubbled up the obvious. “Well, what about Buck?”

Chris thought he heard the sound of the older ATF agent clouting his young ward on the head in their own surveillance van as a whelp of protest from JD’s lips screeched over the wires.

“Don’t even think about going there, kid.”

“Fine, but give me my cap back!”

“Make me!”

“Buck Buck Bo Buck, Banana Fana...”

“Cut the chatter, guys.” Chris resolutely reined his team in. “Focus on the task. I know it’s not fun but it’s necessary.”

“How long does it take this guy to buy a suit, anyway?” Vin worried the neckerchief around his throat and flapped his cotton shirttails for a breeze in the hot van.

“That’s not KMart’s annual 2-for-1 sale, you heathen; it’s a well-known house of couture and I can almost respect our target for his scrupulous attention to his appearance. It’s certainly an improvement over your clothin’ choice’s throwback to a bad Ralph Lauren ad.”

Vin happily picked up the gauntlet and headed down the runway. “Yeah, you’re the source, Ez. It ain’t every man who can pull off wearin’ a suit the same color as the Jolly Green Giant.”

“The color is mossy verdant, Mr. Tanner, and I’ll have you know it’s this year’s gray.”

“I thought brown was this year’s gray,” JD interrupted, making his own fashion statement.

“Nah, brown was last year’s blue. Blue is this year’s black,” instructed Buck.

“Then what about gray?”

“Aw, that was two years ago’s pink.”

“How do you know that?”

“You think I just read the Victoria’s Secret catalog for the pictures?”

Ignoring his leader’s agonized stare, Vin continued. “And Ezra, can you explain to me why you hafta put your initials on everything? EPS on your pockets, EPS on the inside of your coat. How come every time I see your shirts I think of loadin’ my VCR?”

“With a Three Stooges tape most likely,” Ezra drawled.

“What’s the ‘P’ for, anyway?” Vin elbowed his companion and mouthed “Do you know?” Chris shook his head, endeavoring to remember. “Is it Peacock? Or Pansy?”

“Fashion, of course,” Nathan broke into the conversation.


“Spelled P-H-A-S-H-I-O-N,” Josiah elucidated.

Chris rolled his eyes as his agents’ laughter mingled over his ear piece. Monday morning we’re going to have a little one-sided talk about discipline on the job, he thought.

“It’s Patrick, isn’t it, Ez?” JD volunteered, when the guffaws died down. “You said it meant ‘noble patrician’.”

“Nah,” said Buck. “He told me it was Parsifal, like some English knight.”

“Porter, you told me,” said Nathan, “the gatekeeper.”

“He told me Prescott,” declared Josiah, “of the priest’s house.”

“I thought it was Palmer,” Chris recalled, “and you said it meant ‘wanderer’.”

“What gives, Ez?” Vin took the binoculars from his friend and focused them on the subject of their discussion. He watched as the unflappable undercover agent discreetly tucked any visible portion of his cuffs inside his silk jacket sleeves.

“Why, it’s all of them,” the southerner intoned laconically. He held the knuckles of one hand over his mouth, attempting to muffle the explanation to his friends. “Mother simply allowed for a little improvisation whenever the need was warranted. The birth certificate provided the first letter, and I was allowed to provide a creative preference when requested.”

Vin shook his head in resignation, his shaggy hair flapping wildly around his collar. He handed the binoculars back to his partner. “There’s just no winnin’ with him, is there?”

“His playing field’s about as level as the Rockies themselves, my friend.”

“Since we’ve not yet been apprised of your true Christian name, I suppose it wouldn’t be expedient to hope for your intermediary appellation, Mr. Tanner,” Ezra asked, as he motioned to the waitress so he could switch to a more palatable tea.

“Michael,” responded the Texan easily, adding, “like the archangel.” He felt a tap on his shoulder as Chris sought his attention.

“Mine too, pard.” A smile twitched up the corner of Chris’ mouth as they placed a new piece into the puzzle of their almost mystical connection.

Vin nodded, then turned away. “What about you, Nathan?”

“Hemings,” replied the healer. “I’m told it goes way back to the Virginia side of the family.”

Josiah arched an eyebrow. “As in...”

“Let’s just say I’m going to have a hell of a family reunion this year.” Nathan smiled proudly.

“Well, I’ve got a mouthful of middle names.” The Brobdingnagian man offered up his contribution to the conversation without prompting. “Josiah Ezekial Samuel Urial Sanchez,” he sing-songed proudly. “Which is why you’ll never see my monogram on a coat pocket!”

Ezra smiled behind his tea cup. “A shame, Mr. Sanchez, as it’s so befittin’.”

“Unless someone thinks that’s the tailor,” interjected Vin. “How ‘bout you, Buck?”

“As I’ve said before, when you already have the glory an’ renown of being Buckingham Wilmington...”

“...the Fourth,” recited all the agents.

“...a middle name would just be unnecessary. Sorry, boys, I don’t have one.” He lowered his eyes to the younger half of the ‘dynamic duo’. “JD? You finally going to fess up?”

His questioning stare was met with a large saucer-eyed innocent look from his best friend. “I don’t have one either.”

Their team leader cringed as shouts of protest competed for attention over the wires.

“Boys, boys,” Vin tried to placate the situation while resting a light hand on his agitated van-mate’s shoulder. “Now, how could you not have a middle name, JD, when your name is initials in the first place?”

“I just don’t. Ow!” JD recoiled against the door frame of their van as Buck punched him in the arm.

“You’re such a liar!” roared his friend.

“C’mon, Buck, you must know,” Nathan teased. “You know even better than me every freckle on that kid. Tell us.”

“He’s never told me, I swear!” Buck crossed his arms defensively. “Anyway, you should know, Chris. You signed him up.”


“Hold on...” Ezra sharply interrupted the team’s discourse. “Target’s moving.”

“We’ll have to take this up another time, gentlemen.” Chris motioned for Vin to take the wheel and follow their subject onto the main street. “Josiah, Nathan, Ezra - go back and do a write up. Buck, we’ll switch off at ten-mile marks, got it? See you all later to compare notes.”


Holding out his newsboy’s cap to collect the money, JD traced a circle around the table before leaving the team’s conference room on a much-needed coffee run. The door closed behind him with a snap.

“That dog ain’t got no wings,” Vin sighed, raising his boots onto the table’s shiny surface. Five heads lifted from reading the day’s reports and five pairs of eyes queried each other before they rested upon their teammate.

Grasping for a response, Buck was the first to break the silence. “Anyone bring their Tanner-to-English dictionary with them today?”

“Ain’t gonna fly, I mean.” The Texan rolled his neck around slowly, delighting in his friends’ confused attention. “JD has to have a middle name. His first name’s John, his last name’s Dunne, and there’s something in the middle.”

“You mean like a creamy center?” laughed Ezra.

“Daniel? Douglas? Chris, you look at his W2s like I asked?”

“Had a few more important things to do.” He pointed at the Texan’s feet and Vin reluctantly dropped them back to the floor. Hunching over the table, he stared at the black-clad leader until Chris had to acknowledge the distracting gaze.

“I looked. There’s nothing written there.” He waggled his surveillance report at the obsessed sharpshooter. “Can we get back to work? Anyone see a weak link in this guy’s chain?”

“What do you mean there’s nothing there?” Vin persisted.

Chris looked heavenward for help. “He didn’t fill that box in.”

“But it’s a legal document. If he wants to get paid, he’s got to fill in all the blanks.”

Ezra leaned back in his seat and steepled his fingers. “Yet another shameless example of the government’s misuse of funds. Mr. Hoover must be turnin’ in his grave.”

“I could check his wallet,” Buck teased. “When he’s sleeping tonight, I could sneak into his bedroom and look through all his belongings. Get to the bottom of this.” He pulled at his shirt collar tabs proudly. “I am, after all, a trained detective.”

“I could travel to Boston and interview everyone who’s ever known him,” Josiah added, cracking his knuckles and flashing an evil smile. “I can be very persuasive.”

“I could secretly inject him with sodium pentathol,” Nathan chimed in. “Get the truth out of him.”

Vin shook his head. “No, I’m thinkin’ more like finding his birth certificate, Social Security...Hey!” He quickly raised his arms to ward off the onslaught of wadded-up paper projectiles heading at him.

“I wish you’d all give this case as much attention as you do some slightly less important concerns,” mumbled Chris.

Buck slapped his hands down on the table. “Aw, c’mon, y’all know what it’s like when you have a bug bite you need to scratch or a pimple on your back you just gotta pop.”

“Lovely imagery, Mr. Wilmington.”

“Nah, that’s exactly what I mean,” Vin exclaimed. “I just gotta know. I can’t stand secrets!”

Chris rolled his eyes in astonishment. “It’s not that I don’t sympathize with you, Vin. Now tell them again why it is you can’t go back to Tascosa?”

“Perhaps, Brother Tanner, it’s a secret he wants to take to his grave.”

“Well, that could happen since if I don’t find this out soon, I’m going to kill him.”

“Uh, and that’s why I stand behind my report,” Nathan said loudly, sounding the alarm as the door opened and the subject of their conversation entered.

“Okay, I gotcha each a Java and a sinker,” JD stated, proudly brandishing a large pink box of doughnuts, “so between the caffeine and the sugar, we should we able to...” He paused, puzzled at the innocent looks that greeted his return. “Guys? Everything all right?”

“We’ve been reassessing the day’s many enlightenments, Brother Dunne,” Josiah offered.

“Makin’ sure all questions have been answered.” Vin casually brushed the pile of paper missiles from his lap and smiled. “You know, what the perp’s habits are, who his contacts are. What your middle name is.”

JD laughed softly. “Well, two out of three ain’t bad.”


Ezra rose from his work and glided swiftly through the door when he heard yet another thud from the bullpen of desks outside his office. “Mr. Tanner, like any dumb animal, the keyboard will respond to a kind word, not repeated beatings.”

“I’ve checked DMV, school and Academy records. The space for his middle name is always empty.”

“I thought you were attemptin’ to seek out the birth certificate.”

“Now there’s another dog and pony show. When I ask for that info, I get this.” He clicked the mouse and a message flashed on the screen: ACCESS DENIED PENDING APPROVAL. “What in hell does that mean?”

Ezra leaned over and tapped in a few commands. The message flashed again: ACCESS DENIED PENDING APPROVAL. “That firewall’s a conflagration, my friend. They’ll be no passin’ that inferno.” The Southerner shook his head. “I’m of the mind that the only person capable of acquirin’ this information through the wires is the man in question himself.”

Vin hit the shut down menu and stood up, stretching his lanky frame. “Not like he has such a large social circle to pick at, neither. Can’t figure who’d know this if we don’t...I guess we’re goin’ to have to classify this unsolved mystery along with Amelia Earhart’s disappearance and Steve Forbes’ presidential bid.”

“It’s not like you to surrender so easily, Mr. Tanner. Perhaps a change in venue is in order.”

Vin waited for the other expensive, burnished-leather designer shoe to drop.

“You do realize how morally wrong this is,” the knavish man reminded him.

“Quite aware, pard. But I’ll live with the scar if this itch gets scratched.”

Ezra placed his index finger on the side of his nose and winked. “Bring your tools, Mr. Tanner. We have an apartment to break into.”


Thinking better of the suggestion, the two conspirators consented to involving JD’s roommate in their nefarious scheme, soliciting the keys to their duplex while Buck agreed to keep the young agent occupied at Inez’s saloon. Amidst the morass of discarded clothing, computer game manuals and assorted action hero toys that made up the better part of his room, the two highly-trained federal employees sought any clue that could unravel the mystery of JD’s missing middle name. Then, with a war cry, Vin pulled a book from the haphazardly-constructed wall unit and dropped down on the bed.

“You’ve discovered somethin’, Mr. Tanner?”

“His high school yearbook.” He rifled through the pages, cursing at a paper cut, then triumphantly cracked the book’s spine back on the desired page. “Dunne,” he proclaimed. “Shit!” He looked up forlornly at Ezra. “John D.”

The southerner harumphed and went back to inspecting the contents of JD’s computer desk.

“Spanish Club, Computer Club, Track Team.” A laugh bubbled from Vin’s lips. “Voted ‘Cutest Boy’ and ‘Most Likely to Become a Teen Idol’. Well, that’s something we can use in the future.”

“I’m cloudin’ with despair at ever solvin’ this riddle, Mr. Tanner. Whatever tracks his middle name was upon have been very cleverly concealed.”

“Hmmm.” Vin bent his head closer to the book. “‘Dear JD, You are the darling of my heart and I will always cherish our year together. Love, Veronica.’“

“Personally, I always preferred Betty,” his companion mumbled.

“‘To my darlin’...spelled with an apostrophe,” Vin emphasized. “...Johnny. You are truly the epitome of your namesakes’ poetry.’ Epitome?”

Ezra smiled. “He’s a sweet boy.”

“‘Your sugar baby, Tammy.’” Vin shook his head. “And it goes on like that. ‘To JD, darling. Our freshman love will be remembered well until my senior years. Amy.’ ‘To the darling Dunnester, Our love will last until the stars turn cold. Beth.’” Vin shivered. “Ez, ya got any insulin on ya? I’m going into a diabetic coma here.” When no response was received, the Texan tore his eyes away from the scrawled pages and looked up at his silent confederate. “Ez?”

“Tell me somethin’, Mr. Tanner. When the truth is revealed, how do you suggest we inform our friend?”

Vin shrugged. “With champagne and a kick line, I dunno. Why?”

Ezra pivoted around, extending two picture frames towards his friend. Vin lay the book down and grasped them with anxious hands. One was a photo of a petite, dark-haired woman whose eyes held the same sparkle that was apparent in her son’s own deep brown orbs. The other was of Casey Wells and both held the same salutation.

“I believe the mystery has been solved, Mr. Tanner.”

“Hell’s Bells, Ezra. No wonder he wanted to keep it a secret.”


“We don’t need another pitcher, Buck, ‘cause I don’t think you can afford to lose any more at the pool table, and they’re going to be putting crime scene tape around the darts area if you play again!” JD ignored his roommate’s crestfallen expression and turned to the others at the table. “Are you with me on this?” He removed his newsboy cap and swept up the bangs that fell into his eyes, trying to cool off his forehead in the humid atmosphere of Inez’s packed bar. The cap was then replaced on his head, backwards.

“Well, what about when Ez and Vin arrive? What are they going to drink?” Buck combed down the sides of his moustache with his fingers.

Chris drained the remaining few drops from his beer glass. “Since when has Ezra ever taken anything except sparkling water from a pitcher.”

“I don’t know why we’re waiting on them. It’s eleven thirty already. They’re not coming.” JD stood up and flapped the hem of his Buffy/Angel T-shirt to catch a breeze.

Josiah began to nod his agreement, then caught himself. “They’re here.”

Five pairs of eyes turned to the batwing doors that encompassed the interior entryway of the aptly-nicknamed ‘saloon’. Vin and Ezra strode slowly through the crowded room, their faces masked, their steps measured.

Ezra raised his fingers to an imaginary hat and saluted his greeting. “Gentlemen.” He regarded the pitcher of beer with distaste and signaled to Inez while bringing over a vacant chair from a nearby table. He stretched out his legs when he sat down and regarded the others insouciantly.

“What’s up, boys?” Nathan inquired. “As my daddy said, a cat could hide a face full of cream with less cunning.”

Vin remained standing. “Christopher Michael...Nathan Hemings...” In turn, the lean sharpshooter took the hand of each friend and shook it firmly. “Josiah, etc.,...Buckingham None...” He paused triumphantly. “John...Darling...” Vin held the young man’s hand solidly as JD’s jaw dropped at the statement of fact.

“How? Damnit, how?” JD sank into his chair as Vin released his grip.

“I’d suggest that the more pertinent question is why?” Ezra snorted.

“I changed it on my social security card, my driver’s license. Hell, I’m even in the process of removing it from my birth certificate. Now I know you haven’t seen that!”

Vin nodded, then a flash of recognition crossed his face. “Access denied...”

“...Pending approval!” both he and Ezra shouted at the same time.

“So, is it a family name?” Nathan followed up.

JD squirmed in his seat and glared his response. “No.”

“Not your father’s name?” Chris asked quietly.

“No,” the youth replied solemnly. “Mom never gave me his name.” He paused when a waitress brought a round of shots for the table and his friends waited patiently as JD collected his thoughts.

“You don’t have to tell us, pard.” Vin contemplated his shot glass. “Maybe there are some things that should remain a secret.”

“Not from family.” JD smiled warmly, gathering his resolve. “The reason she chose it, she told me once was...well, she never thought she’d have kids and when I was born,” he winked impishly, “she thought she couldn’t imagine a more darling gift from God.”

To their surprise, the tee-totaler then knocked back a shot and barely contained the tickling cough the burning liquid demanded. “And I’ve been trying to live it down ever since,” he choked out.

Ezra raised his glass and motioned for the others to follow in kind. “Gentlemen. I give you Ms. Dunne.” They drank to her with sober grace.

“So for the mother’s sake the child was dear, and dearer was the mother for her child.”


The black-clad man shook his head. “Samuel Coleridge. ‘Sonnet to a Friend Who Asked How I Felt When The Nurse First Presented My Infant To Me’.”

JD wiped moist eyes with his wrist. “Thanks.” Then he turned to Vin with a smile that didn’t reach beyond his lips. “You’d better not tell anyone else. And if you ever do anything like this again, I’m gonna hand in my badge and go medieval on your ass.”

“Just one more thing,” entreated Vin. “Why’d you tell all your girlfriends?”

The Easterner just grinned back at him. “I never did.”

“That’s my boy,” Buck proclaimed proudly.

“Perhaps we should call it a night, gentlemen. Get a fresh start in the morning.” Chris rose deliberately, then rested a firm hand on Vin’s shoulder. The Texan winced at the painful grip. “Because I marvel at the thought of what we could accomplish if you applied your prodigious deductive skills to the real work at hand.”

The senior agent headed towards the door, murmuring, “Buck Buck Bo Buck Banana Fana...”