MCAT: Turbulent Transition #6
Chapter 1 -
3 | Chapter 4 - 6 | Chapter 7 - 9 | Chapter 10 - 12
Chapter 13 - 15 | Chapter 16 - 18 | Chapter 19 - 21 | Chapter 22 - 24
Chapter 25 - 27 | Chapter 28 - 30 | Chapter 31 - 33 | Chapter 34 - 36
Chapter 37 - 39 | Chapter 40 - 42 | Chapter 43 - 45 | Chapter 46 - 49
Wednesday ~May 31st
Kelli slammed the drawer shut and mumbled a soft curse. Vin was not helping, the more she angrily stomped around the bedroom the more he laughed. She should have read that damn dossier yesterday, but she had put it off until this morning because of Linda’s baby shower. Ezra Standish would be a lucky man if he survived the next few days. She continued to slam things around as she packed their suitcases.
“It’s not that bad, Kel.” Vin was still chuckling over the profile that Ezra had set-up for the now furious redhead. “It could be worse.” He leaned back against the headboard and enjoyed watching her stomp around wearing nothing but a silk chemise.
“Not that bad! How can you think that? That…that…person is not me! I have been undercover before and I know you have to pretend, but Standish is crazy if he thinks that I will play the empty headed little bimbo he has described in that file! Hell Vin, he makes this Gina person sound as if she is fifteen years old and has only one brain cell!”
“Ezra knows what Morales expects, trust him.”
“Fine! You just remember this when you have to watch me parade around half-dressed and actin’ like a shameless hussy tonight.” She stomped her foot the same way Andi did to make a point. “And just so you know, when you go undercover it had better be as a priest because if you ever get into a situation like this with another woman. I will strangle both of you!”
The Texan grinned, rolled out of bed and caught her as she crossed in front of him. “Kel, all you have to do is to be attentive to Emerson Sellers and pretend you are not as smart as I know you are.” He pulled her close, “And I promise to tell Chris I can only go under as a priest because I have a jealous wife.” He possessed her mouth with a long passionate kiss and then lifted his head slightly. “Baby, I may enjoy lookin’ at other women, but there is only one female that I lust after and that’s you.”
Tanner received a loud sigh as an answer.
“I’ll be there and I know that the woman out there tonight will not be my wife, but some sexy hussy named Gina.” Vin grinned as he held her closer, “The kids won’t be up for another hour yet. You wanna be shameless with me?”
The amusement in Vin’s eyes melted her anger and she had the start of a wicked grin. Kelli caught him off-guard and pushed him backwards. The side of the mattress hit the back of his knees and he ended up sprawled across the bed. Kelliplayfully pinned him down and then she rained butterfly kisses across his bare chest. Kelli nipped at his shoulder and then softly whispered in his ear, “I’m feelin’ absolutely shameless.”
After what seemed like an eternity to the Texan she attempted to reposition herself and Tanner then made his own move. Suddenly Kelli was on her back with Vin leaning over her and she was at his mercy. The Texan grinned and spoke softy, “My turn baby.” The silk chemise vanished when he slid it off her body and tossed it over his shoulder.
Wrapping her arms around his neck Kelli smiled and pulled him closer. Then she whispered softly, “It took you long enough Tanner.”
A husky growl was all she heard in responseas Vin began a trail of kisses at her throat, he had planned to tease her as she had him, but his intentions dissolved when he raised his head to look at her face. Kellie’s eyes revealed her boundless love, along with an intense desire that he knew exclusively belonged only to him. Tanner reached up and stroked his fingers through her hair and then with a gentleness born out of love they joined together and found their own piece of heaven.
Breakfast with the kids was bittersweet. Knowing that they would be gone for the next few days and not be able to see them was painful for Vin and Kelli. However the children took the news well when Vin explained to them that what he and Kelli had to do was work related. Being away at times was an adjustment that they all were going to have to lean to live with. Knowing that it was a necessary part of their work however, did not make it easier for the new parents.
Vin sat with an arm around each child. “We have to follow orders from our boss and sometimes that means being gone for a while.”
“You come back right?” Andi asked
“Yes princess. And we’ll work on the house this weekend.” Vin assured her, hugging the blond-haired child.
Jason looked at them both. “Y’all will call every day?”
“Yep. While we are gone either Aunt Linda or Aunt Inez will be with you.” Kelli did notice his use of the word y’all and smiled.
“Okay, but just until Saturday.” Jason relaxed, and graced them with a lop-sided grin.
“You got it pard.” Vin saw no further tension in the child and was relieved; Jason trusted them to keep their word.
Vin handed Jason his backpack. “Let’s move out, school is waitin’ for you and Aunt Inez is waitin’ for Andi.”
Once they dropped the kids off Kelli brought up an issue she had been thinking about.
“Vin, ‘m gonna talk to Gunny’s sister about her gettin’ to know the kids better. In the future if we have to both be gone, I’d rather have someone stay with them at home. With Inez pregnant, Mallory thinkin’ about going back to work and Linda with a new baby, I think we need a backup plan.”
“You talked to Bowdrie at the barbeque, what did you find out about her?
“She hasn’t been in the Navy for a while now. She retired after twenty years as a nurse and since then has been a nanny, a home healthcare worker and taught at a daycare center in Georgia. She is the baby in their family. Ms. Bowdrie prefers to be called Max, not Maxine. She has never married, has no children. She is in her mid-fifties and lookin’ for the right position to settle into here in Denver. I like her and I think you would too.”
“Didn’t find out much huh?” Vin laughed. “We can see how it works for the kids. Let’s invite her out to the ranch on Sunday and then we’ll see what happens from there.”
Tanner set the two suitcases and garment bags in his office. They didn’t have to be at the hotel until one and he was in no hurry. His main goal for this morning was to keep Kelli from strangling Ezra for her Gina profile; and Buck, who was sure to have a running dialog of jokes going all day.
“Good morning, Captain Vin. Is there anything special that you require for this operation?” Gunny asked.
“Standish has it all covered, thanks. “ Vin started to walk away and then remembered the earlier conversation with Kelli. “Gunny, we would like to get to know Max better and see how the kids are with her. Could you bring her out to our place Sunday afternoon?”
“Affirmative sir. Would 1300 hours be an appropriate time?”
“That will be fine; we’ll have lunch planned for y’all.” Tanner walked over to Kelli’s desk and sat on the edge of it. “Gunny is bringin’ Max out Sunday for lunch at one.”
“That will work for me.”
“Captain, phone call for you, on line two,” Gunny interrupted them.
Vin picked up the phone on Kelli’s desk and punched two. “Tanner,” he listened. “Don’t worry about it, I got it covered, just take care of Linda.”
Kelli could not help but overhear. “Is Linda in labor?”
“No, that was Chris callin’ from the doctor’s office though. Linda’s blood pressure is high and Dr Ryder is sendin’ her home with strict instructions to stay off her feet and rest. Rain is gonna stay with her and Chris will be in later.”
“I’ll call Inez and let her know so she can take the kids tonight. Chris will have his hands full with Linda.” Kelli picked up the phone and dialed.
The Texan stood. “I’ll see you later.”
Kelli was watching for Ezra to arrive; she had a few things to discuss with him. It was ten-thirty by the time he stepped off the elevators and she moved to intercept him before he had a chance to sit at his desk.
“We need to talk, in private.”
Standish placed his briefcase on his desk. “Of course, come this way.” He headed to the smaller conference area or conflict room as they all called it that was seldom used.
Once inside Ezra turned and asked, “I presume that you have a precise cause for this assignation.”
“I want us to get a few things straight. We are partners correct?
“Yes that would be accurate”
“First off I do not appreciate you goin’ to Vin to ask his ‘permission’ to borrow me. We try very hard to keep our work and personal life separate; here in the office he is my boss. I have been in law enforcement for almost ten years, askin’ his permission for me to do a job is the same as me callin’ your mother or Barbara to see if it’s okay for you to work. “
“It seemed appropriate at the time considering the mission.”
“Well it’s not! Second of all I know you hate these clean-up operations. You know what? I hate ‘em, too, but that is part of the job. I am not against havin’ a little fun either, but you went too far with this bimbo Gina person you created. I know you did it just to express your feelin’ about takin’ this assignment, but you did it at my expense. Partners don’t do that to one another.”
Ezra retorted, “This is not the sort of work that we should be responsible for and you know it.”
“Hell Ez, I do know that. My strong suit is with guns and field duty, but I still work the assignment that I am handed. It’s too late to make any changes on this one and I will do my part. However if you cannot respect my abilities as an experienced agent and treat me as a partner, then perhaps we should not be workin’ together.”
“You were not my intended target with this, but you are the one that will have to listen to all the jokes. For that I apologize and I assure you that it will not be recurring in the future. I will seek an alternate way to communicate my antipathy for this sort of assignment. “Standish extended his hand, “Still friends?”
Kelli sighed and accepted his handshake. “Yes, we are still friends, but a word to the wise. You don’t really want to push Vin too far on this, as you tried to do at the boutique. If the situation was reversed and I was him…you would be history already.”
“Point is taken…partner. Now shall we try to salvage at least some amusement from this dreadful task that has been set before us?”
Kelli laughed, “I presume that you have a plan.”
“Tanner was willing to give them five more minutes and if they did not come out by then he was going in. The last thing he wanted just before an undercover assignment commenced, was for two of the operatives to be at odds with one another. Vin was relieved to see both Ezra and Kelli emerge from the conflict room intact and presumably with their differences resolved.
More often than not, Ezra and Kelli worked well together and had a good understanding of one another. Tanner was certain that Standish enjoyed the challenge of working with Kelli, she kept him on his toes, was a good agent that had no problem standing up to him, and she always said what was on her mind.
They approached the Texan and Ezra began talking.” I believe it would be advantageous for us to test our communication devices at this time. Perhaps you and my partner could prepare as well. We are to obtain possession of the limo at exactly twelve thirty and we may require some additional time to complete our checklist beforehand.”
The elevator chimed and a fatigued looking Chris emerged, approaching the small group standing in front of his office
“How is Linda?” Kelli asked anxiously.
“Unhappy, scared, angry and tired. Any or all of the above would describe her about now. Neither of us got much sleep last night and we met Dr. Ryder at her office at six thirty.
Buck joined them, “You should have stayed at home stud and let us handle this.”
“I’ll keep that in mind,” Chris sighed.” I have my cell on, if she needs me, but for now…she asked me to leave, said I made her nervous.”
Tanner laughed, “If you went into the famous Lar’bee mother hen mode, ‘m not surprised.”
“Gentlemen, I hate to change the subject, but the time.” Ezra pointed at his watch.
“Kel, use my office and start transformin’ into Gina; I’ll be there in a few minutes.” Vin directed.
“Gina? This is gonna be fun.” Buck grinned outrageously.
“Buck, you get the surveillance team ready and tell JD to bring the transceivers so we can test them.” Chris ordered. “Where is Josiah?”
“Right here, Boss.” He walked up dressed as a chauffeur. “The limo will be ready on time.”
“Don’t drag your feet, Tanner. Go change into Calvin Jamison, lethal guardian” Chris laughed at the frigid blue glare sent in his direction.
“Knock before y’all come bargin’ in to make sure Kel is dressed.’ Vin yelled back as he entered his office.
“Ezra…” Larabee turned to him.
“Emerson Sellers, reporting for duty.”
Calvin Jamison and Gina Danvers identities were almost completed when there was a knock on the door.
“Come in” Vin yelled.
Larabee was the first to enter, with JD on his heels. “Damn, I thought you were dressed Kel.” Chris had to remind himself that the woman he was looking at was not Kelli, but Gina; still he was not prepared for this particular situation. The redhead that he knew was gone replaced by a young woman that obliviously was as far removed from the world of responsible law enforcement agent as possible. The bright, bold colors with a liberal amount of skin showing and unruly hairstyle was completely opposite of her normal attire, and she did not look a day over seventeen.
Kelli stated irritably. “What you see or don’t see is it. Gina is a bad girl accordin’ to Emerson over there.” Kelli stated, gesturing at Ezra Standish, who had slipped into the room and she was not about to let him hide behind Chris.
“It is different, I’ll give you that. Now if both of you hand over your wedding rings to me for safekeeping your new identities will be complete.” Chris held out his hand palm up.
After brief hesitations from both Vin and Kelli, the two Texans removed their wedding bands and Vin handed them to Chris
Larabee took the rings, placed them in an envelope and then into his pocket. “Success or failure all comes down to the details. JD, are the transceivers ready?”
“They are right here,” JD said, opening up a black case and removing several items. “Since Ezra and Vin will be checked for communications I have modified their watches to hold microscopic microphones so they can talk to us, without giving themselves away. However, they will not be able to hear other communications. The chip that I used cannot be detected and they should have no problems. On the other hand, we do not expect Morales to pay much attention to ‘Gina’ so her devices will be able to send out as well as receive messages from us. I adapted the earrings she will be wearing so she can hear us and this one will pick up all conversations within ten feet.” He gave her the earring to put on and held up the tiny gadget that would allow them to monitor what was going on.
Ezra added. “I have made arrangements with the club owner, who owes me a few favors, to use their video cameras that are already in place.”
“Mark and I went in early this morning and rerouted them to our recorder so we can keep an eye on what is happening at all times.” JD explained.
“So how does this thing ‘m suppose to wear work, JD?” Kelli was getting impatient.
JD moved over to Kelli, scanned her outfit and flushed. There were limited possibilities of where he could attach the device. He was considering his options when Vin did run out of patience.
“Give me the damn thing,” Tanner took it and fastened it on the inside of the redhead’s bodice. “Test it!”
Kelli jumped and grabbed at her ear. “Don’t yell! I can hear fine, too fine. JD, can you turn the volume down?”
Dunne made a few adjustments, and soon had everything working to everyone’s satisfaction.
Ezra looked at the time. “If we are all satisfied,” He aimed his question to Chris who nodded his answer. “Then I suggest that we commence this operation.”
Emerson Sellers and party checked into the Brown Palace precisely at one. Once they were safely ensconced in their suit, the threesome went over the details of the case so that Vin and Kelli would know what to expect from Enrique Morales. The Tanners called the Wilmington home and talked to both Jason and Andi before departing for the evening.
Ezra did indeed keep events interesting. Whenever Emerson was apparently whispering sweet nothings into Gina ear, it was a continued recitation of Shakespeare’s ‘Taming of the Shrew’. In the surveillance van Buck and JD were in tears from laughing so much. By the second evening Gina was ready to strangle Emerson for his atrocious sense of humor; Vin had watched too many men dance with his wife, Buck had enough ammunition for jokes into the next century and Kelli’s feet were killing her from the spike heels that Standish had insisted she wear.
“Emerson, the last two days have been delightful. I believe we will be able to do business together.” Morales laughed. “Your taste in women has improved, but should you find yourself tiring of this lovely young lady’s company, I will be happy to …”
Emerson interrupted him, taking Gina’s hand as he spoke, “What is mine, I keep. However, I am prepared to meet you for our little transaction. You name the time and the place; I will have your funds.”
“Very well, I will have your packages with me tomorrow afternoon. Three o’clock at this address.” He passed the directions to Emerson. “No weapons will be allowed, please inform your bodyguard and bring your lady with you.”
Emerson stood and helped Gina to her feet. He placed a protective hand on her waist and turned to Morales, “It has been a pleasure Enrique, until tomorrow.”
Morales lifted his glass, “Until tomorrow.”
Friday ~June 2nd
The MCAT team was in place early. Chris positioned himself to be the first agent through the door. He was aware how much his team disliked this sort of assignment, he did too, but he also had to admit that they had fun with this one. The entire team was in good spirits and ready to act on his signal. Larabee hoped that it would be a long time before they again had to take on a case to appease someone higher up. For now though, they were here in front of an old warehouse waiting for the action to begin.
The crackle of his headset brought him back to the task at hand. “Vehicles are approaching from the east, looks to be Morales and his men.” Chris glanced at his watch; it was a quarter ‘til three and Standish’s group would be arriving soon.
Chris observed as the limousine arrived with his agents. It nagged at him that Morales had specified that he would not allow them to have weapons. However, it should be a simple deal, Standish would show him the money and when Morales handed him the keys to the truck carrying the weapons, the team would then move in for the arrest. Unless the information MCAT had gathered was correct and there was more to this sting than a simple arms transaction.
Josiah stayed with the car and Kelli, while Ezra and Vin went inside the warehouse. JD had set it up so the team could hear Ezra signal when he was ready.
“Emerson, right on time I see.” Morales spoke as his men checked the newcomers for weapons or wires. “Where is your lovely lady?”
“I had her wait in the car. She’s quite frivolous my money, but I see no need to enlighten her with how I obtain it.”
Morales stepped forward. “I really must insist that you have her join us. I always have a woman present when I make a transaction and I will not make an exception, even for you.”
Ezra sighed, “Jamison, bring her in so we may proceed.”
‘Calvin’ went out to retrieve the lady as ordered. As he assisted ‘Gina’ out of the car, he slipped a gun into his waistband at the small of his back and whispered. “It’s show time, Kel.” Returning to the warehouse with ‘Gina’ no one searched her or him again for a gun, which was what he had anticipated.
“Now, may we proceed?” Emerson said with a hint of impatience.
“Of course Mr. Sellers, as soon as I see my money, you may examine the merchandise.”
Jamison took the briefcase and opened it, showing that their end of the bargain was fulfilled. Morales snapped his fingers and had one of his men open the back of the truck. Instead of finding crates of weapons, though, six armed men appeared.
Instinctively expecting trouble, Ezra, Vin and Kelli hid behind some crates as Chris had given the team the orders to move in. A short gun battle ensued and within minutes; Morales was in handcuffs and several of his men were dead, while the others were captured.
Chris hurried to check on his agents. “Everyone okay here?”
“We’re fine Chris,” Vin assured him.
Morales strained against the handcuffs, livid, at having been deceived by Sellers and arrested. “I did everything just as I always have. How did you know it was a trap?”
Ezra smiled, “You forgot one small detail. You sir, are a creature of habit. When you failed to make certain I would be bringing my own truck for this exchange, I knew that you did not plan for me to be leaving with the merchandise. Also, we arrested your accomplice yesterday and he was very cooperative in providing us with vital information that would assist us in apprehending you in order to make a deal for himself.”
Chris finished the explanation. “You knew all along that that Emerson Sellers was really an undercover agent because former Agent Lawrence Grimes told you. He was also was the reason that the ATF was always one step behind you. You planned to kill my agents and take off with the money before we could stop you. By the way, the man that was supposed to kill the chauffeur is dead, too.”
“We suspected from the first evening that we spent with you that this was planned.” Josiah made an appearance. ”Your mistake was having an accomplice that has a disgraceful work record that got him fired and a drinking habit that made him a braggart. He used his old connections to cover your ass and then could not keep his mouth shut.”
Larabee chucked, “Besides, you can’t con a con and we have the best one there is on our payroll.” He signaled to the officers that were waiting. “Take him away; I believe the federal prosecutor in the U.S. Attorney General’s office has a few questions that he would like to ask Mr. Morales.”
Vin walked into Chris’ office and handed him a stack of reports. “They’re all finished and everyone has gone home except you, me, and Kel.”
“Morales will be going away for a long time and his cache of weapons has been confiscated. I’m glad it’s over and the bad guy is going to jail, but I am damn tired of other agencies counting on us to do their work.”
“The entire team had some fun with this one and they needed it after the long hours we’ve been puttin’ in on other cases. We knew going in that we would have this one over with quickly and it will go down as a win for MCAT. Maybe it will keep the political hounds off our backs for a while.” Vin was tired and ready to go home.
“It’s too bad all our cases can’t be this easy.” Chris said. He put the reports in his in box for Gunny to take care of in the morning. “I’m just sorry that you all had to waste the last three days to get him to make his move.”
“Hell Chris, it wasn’t a total waste. I did get to spend two wild nights with Gina.” Tanner grinned. “Shameless hussy that she is, it was… more than interestin’.”
“That reminds me.” Chris unlocked the side drawer of his desk and retrieved an envelope. “This belongs to you.”
The Texan opened it to find the two wedding rings Chris had taken for safekeeping. “Thanks,” Vin slipped his on. “Gina was fun, but ‘m happy to have my Kel back, I don’t have to share her with Ezra.” The twinkle of laughter danced in his eyes. “I best get this ring back where it belongs pronto and then we have some kids to see.”
“Hang on; I’ll leave with you.” Chris turned off his computer, stood and was ready to walk out the door with Vin when his phone rang. “Damn, almost free.” He picked up the receiver and shouted in frustration. “Larabee!” He listened for a moment and then said, “We’ll meet you there.”
“Get Kel and let’s go. Rain is taking Linda to the hospital. It’s baby time.”
Denver Memorial Hospital
Dr. Susan Ryder was familiar with the ways to calming worried parents-to–be, but all her experience was put to the test this evening with Chris Larabee. She asked him to walk out into the corridor with her.
“Chris, she is doing fine, the baby is not in distress and has a strong heartbeat. Linda is in the early stage of labor and my only concern at this point is her blood pressure. We are monitoring her closely and if anything changes we will know immediately.” Dr. Ryder patted him on the shoulder, “Relax, this is a mission you cannot take charge of, let me direct this one.”
She was right and Chris knew it, but he was still anxious and would be until he held his baby in his arms and knew for certain that Linda was okay. “All right Susan, this is your show, but I have to warn you that I am not a patient man.”
Susan Ryder laughed. “I would have never guessed that from talking to you.” Her eyes filled with amusement, anyone who spoke with the man for more than a minute knew he had little patience and was used to being in charge. “You may stay with her, but try not to let your anxiety show so much, I need her to remain calm. Give the nurse a few minutes before you go back in.”
Chris decided to let Vin and Kelli know what was happening while the nurse was in with Linda. He found them in the waiting room along with Ezra, Barbara and Rain.
Tanner recognized the signs of worry that Chris thought he was not showing to the world. “Hey Cowboy, how is she?”
“It seems that our waiting is about to be over soon. Dr. Ryder wants to keep an eye on her blood pressure, but the baby is fine and now I suppose we wait some more.” The blonde ran his fingers through his hair.
Vin laughed, “Relax Lar’bee it’s gonna be a long night, you don’t want to tire out before Linda does. We called the family and most of them are on their way up here now.”
“Gunny and Max have volunteered to stay with all the kids so Inez, Mallory and Casey can be here, too.” Rain smiled, “If they survive all of those kids and we may take them on permanently.” She was pleased to see Larabee smile, too.
“Just remember we had Gunny first at MCAT and I don’t want to break in a new administrative assistant.” Standing in the mist of family, Chris felt some of his tensions disappear.
Kelli walked up and gave Chris a hug. “We’ll all be here dad; you concentrate on Linda and my new…brother or sister.”
“Were you able to talk to Jason and Andi?”
“Yep, we both did. We told ‘em we would be there in the mornin’ when they wake up and they are fine with it. They were not expectin’ to see us until tomorrow anyway. Kelli stood with her arm around him. “Tell Linda we love her.”
“I will. I suppose the nurse should be finished by now so I’m going back in with her. As soon as I know something I’ll send word out to you.” Chris turned to leave and stopped. “Knowing that my family is out here makes it easier, thanks.”
They all watched him hurry back to the room with Linda.
Ezra commented, “Our brother appears to be somewhat tense.”
“Babies are born everyday and most of the fathers survive the experience.” Rain commented amused to see the normally unshakable Chris Larabee so unnerved by the prospect of impending fatherhood. This was a side of him that only a few knew existed.
Kelli noticed that Vin had withdrawn from the group and was standing alone by the window. She went to see about her Texan. Vin was waiting for her and slipped his arm around her shoulders.
“You okay, Tanner?”
“Yeah, but I was just thinkin’ that if that was you in there I’d probably be in the same condition Chris is in or worse.”
“Chris will be fine and if we are ever lucky enough to be in their position, you will be fine too.” Kelli leaned into Vin. “Fate and destiny Tanner, we can’t control it but we can put our faith in a higher power to direct it for us.”
Vin smiled and hugged her, “Are you always gonna throw my words back at me?”
“Every chance I get Wise Eagle, sometimes you need remindin’ about your own advice and it’s my job to do that, especially when you are right.”
“Wise Eagle huh? I guess that makes you Mrs. Wise Eagle then? In case I forget to mention it, I love you.”
“You never forget, but I’ll take it anyway. Love you, too.”
Three hours later, Chris was ready to snap someone’s head off. Dr Ryder happened to be the next person to enter the room. He was long passed the point of even pretending that he had any patience. If he had to watch Linda suffer thought the pain much longer, he was certain that someone was going to answer for it.
“You need to do something! Linda is miserable and nothing has changed!”
“Mr. Larabee, you need to calm yourself. I am here to examine my patient and then we will talk.”
She addressed Linda. “Okay mom, let’s see what is going on.” The doctor began her examination.
Once she was finished she spoke to them both. “We are not making much progress on the contractions and Linda your blood pressure is not coming down. My recommendation is that we reduce your stress as quickly as possible and we can do that with a c-section.”
“That’s major surgery isn’t it?” Linda tightened her hold on Chris’ hand, really frightened for the fist time since she began having labor pains.
“It is and right now we do have a choice, we can wait a while longer to see how you progress, or do the c-section. However, I must tell you that if we do wait, your blood pressure could escalate and complicate things. The decision is yours to make, but I’d just as soon avoid an emergency situation later on if we can. If your blood pressure rises or fails to reduce in the next two hours I will have no choice because it would put you at risk for a stroke. I have no intention of letting that happen.”
“If we wait, how much does the risk increase for the baby?” Chris asked, squeezing Linda’s hand tightly.
“I won’t lie to you, if we find ourselves with no choice it could be a high risk to the child.”
“Can Chris still be with me?”
“Absolutely and we can have your baby in your arms within the hour.”
Linda and Chris exchanged a long look that said a hundred silent words. “We will not add any risk to our baby’s health. Set up the surgery and tell me what I need to do.” Linda answered for them both.
A nurse came out to the waiting family and told them about the change in plans. She promised to let them know as soon as the baby arrived, and left a very concerned wild bunch to wait some more.
Vin leaned comfortably against the window with Kelli next to him. He watched his nervous brothers’ actions and commented. “I may have to direct the pacin’ in this room before, Buck, JD or Nathan rear-ends someone.”
Kelli looked at her watch. “Looks like baby Lar’bee has waited until after midnight so it is officially a June third birth date.”
Ezra sat quietly with Barbara and the other wives smiled each time the pacing men growled at each other. Josiah tried to gage everyone’s mood in case he was needed to help de-stress someone.
When the nurse entered the waiting room, members of the wild bunch immediately surrounded her. She held up her hands for silence. “The surgery went well; mother and child are doing just fine. Dad may need a little support, but he said to tell you that he would be out soon.”
“Who won the bet on the date of birth?” Relieved, Buck now turned his thoughts to more trivial matters.
Rain was amazed. “You actually had a betting pool going on the birth date?”
Ezra explained, “We do have a few wagers on the date of birth and sex of the child. All in the spirit of fun I assure you.” He looked at his notes. “JD, you sir have the correct date, if the child is male, you will be our winner. If not then the winner will be…Vin, he picked June second and said it would be a girl.”
“Sorry Vin, but this time your instincts are wrong,” JD grinned. “It’s a boy, I just know it”
Tanner merely smiled and said, “We’ll see JD.”
“JD, when will you learn? Vin has a special connection with Larabee girls, first, Kel and then Andi. If he says it will be a girl; you had better say goodbye to your winnings.” Buck smirked.
Twenty minutes later Chris came in carrying the newest Larabee in his arms. “Linda is tired, but okay. May I present to you Miss Grace Addison Larabee, She weighs seven pounds and is the most beautiful baby girl born on this planet today. Linda insisted on Addison because it is the female version of Adam and Josiah you are responsible for her first name. You said and I quote ‘God’s grace is the only thing that leads us through the darkest part of our lives’, we have traveled that road and this little one is our Grace.”
“That is a beautiful name and most fitting.” Ezra spoke first.
“Kelli would you like to be the first family member to hold your sister?” Chris came to stand in front of his eldest daughter.
“I would love to.” She took the baby in her arms and studied her face. “Hello Grace, welcome to the world.”
Chris watched his two girls together for the first time and decided that he was indeed a very fortunate man.
It was late when the Tanners arrived at the ranch, but they picked up both of their sleeping children from the main house and put them in their own beds at home before retiring to theirs. It was now six in the morning, but a habit of early rising had Vin and Kelli awake.
Vin smiled as Kelli snuggled closer. “Keep that up and we may never get out of this bed.” The Texan’s response to her touch was immediate and he demanded her attention.
“It feels good to be here in our own bed, with no Gina or Jamison to keep track of and no Ezra in the next room.”
“You feel damn good, here, there or anywhere.” Vin nuzzled her neck, nipping at soft skin.
“Are you sure that you don’t prefer bad girl Gina?”
“Not a chance in hell baby, in fact she could learn a few things from you.” Vin rose up enough to lean over his redhead and was prepared to show her what he was talking about when he heard young voices whispering on the other side of their bedroom door. Reluctantly, he shifted his position. “We’ll have to take this up later, Texas, I think we are fixin’ to have some company,” He sat up against the headboard, thankful that Kelli still had her gown on and that she had insisted that he wear at least his shorts to bed since the kids came to live with them.
The voices were becoming louder and argumentative. Andi insisted that they should just barge in and Jason was trying to convince her to wait.
“We’re awake, come on in.” Vin yelled and quickly settled the brother-sister dispute. That was all the invitation two small tornados needed.
Jason and Andi ran into the room and jumped onto the bed. “You’re home!” Jason shouted as he climbed between them and snuggled under the covers.
“We all home!” Andi bounced herself next to Jason and snuggled as well.
With both children between them Vin met Kelli’s eyes above them and they grinned. “You know what I think Kel? I think… these two have missed us as much as we missed them.” Tanner began to tickle Jason while Kelli took on a giggling Andi.
After a few minutes of giggles and laughter they were all ready for a peaceful surrender.
“Are we gonna work on the house today?” Jason asked once he had his laughter under control.
“We can or we can go see your new cousin. Aunt Linda had her baby last night and your Uncle Chris stayed at the hospital with her.” Vin gave them the news.
“She had a boy right?” Jason desperately wanted another boy in the family. As far as he was concerned there were already too many girls
“Sorry pard, it’s a girl and her name is Grace.”
“Shoot, we’re gonna drown in girls.” Jason pouted.
Kelli laughed, “You say that now, but in a few years you will change your mind.”
Tanner decided to change the direction of this conversation. “How about we have Tanner specials for breakfast?”
“Yeah!” Andi shouted. “We help.”
“Then breakfast it is.” Kelli made the first move to get them all going.
Denver Memorial Hospital
Sunday-11:00 am ~June 4th
“She is beautiful.” Linda could not get over their little miracle, as she gazed lovingly down onto the small features of her daughter.
“Yep, just like her mother, blond headed and beautiful.” Chris sat on the bed with them.
“When Matt saw her this morning he swore that Grace was a carbon copy of me, but I think that she looks more like you.” Linda told him.
“I have to agree with your brother about that.” Chris said with a smile. “She has her mother’s great looks, but I would be willing to bet that she has the Larabee temperament.”
“Chris, according to Dr. Ryder it will take me longer to recover with the surgery and all. How am I going to do that and take care of Grace?”
“I’ve been thinking about that and I believe Max is our answer. Vin told me that they are considering hiring her to be a family caretaker for them. They want her to be with Jason and Andi when they can’t and handle some of the household duties. Maybe we can get her to stay a couple of weeks, you know to take care of the household and assist you. That way all you have to do is take care of Grace.”
“I assume they checked her out and I believe I heard her say that she was a nurse, too. Ask Vin what he knows about her and then we’ll talk to her.”
A light knock on the door announces visitors. “Come in,” Chris did not yell, but made sure whoever it was heard him.
Vin walked in and handed Chris a bag. “We brought you a few things that we figured you would need.”
“Thanks, but where is Kel?”
“She is down the hall with the kids. The nurse said they are allowed to visit, but to get your permission first. We won’t stay long, but the kids want to see their new cousin and Kel is anxious to see Linda.”
Linda answered, “Of course they can visit. Go get them.”
Tanner left for a few minutes and returned with the rest of his family. Linda let each child see the baby and then asked Jason if he wanted to hold her.
“Can I wait ‘til she grows some?” He took a step backwards.
Chris laughed, “Yeah, she is kinda small and it’s scary to hold her, but we’ll wait until you’re ready.”
Linda thought to ask Kelli about Max. “Do you think Max should help us out for a couple of weeks?”
She received her answer from unexpected sources. “Max is cool. She used to be in the Navy and she tells some great stories.” Jason obviously liked Max.
She cooks goooood!" Andi added. "Oh! Oh!" She was hopping up and down in excitement now. "She plays games too! Lots a games!"
“It sounds as if Max has passed the kid test, I’ll guess we need to talk to her.” Linda smiled at the two youngsters.
Kelli wrote the number on the hospital notepad. “Call her, she made a good impression on the children and her references are great.”
“We’re gonna take the kids home and work some on the new house. See you in a few days, Cowboy.” Vin lifted Andi to carry her.
“Dr. Ryder said that I can take them home Tuesday, so I’ll be back at work Wednesday.”
“Take all the time you need, I’ve got your back at work.” Vin walked with Chris to the door while Kelli said goodbye to Linda and Grace.
Kelli joined them with Jason, “Grace is beautiful dad, enjoy every moment with her.” She hugged him before they left.
When the door close Chris went back and sat with Linda, taking Grace in his arms and whispered softly to her. “You have so much family waiting for you; I promise each of your days will be filled with love.
Larabee 7 Ranch
Tuesday June 6th
Chris Larabee was a happy man as he drove up to the ranch with his wife and new daughter. He remembered how it was bringing Adam home from the hospital, but did not feel the stab of pain that usually accompanied those memories. Grace truly was a new page in his book of memories, the older pages were still there to revisit when he needed to, but now they would be to reminisce about the good times and pass that beautiful part of his life onto Grace.
Max met them at the door; she had a comfortable place fixed for Linda to rest. “This way mom, after that long ride home you need to get off your feet. Your lunch will be ready in fifteen minutes so you have time to settle in first.”
“Thanks Max.” Linda watched as Chris took little Grace into her new room for the first time. Her emotions overflowed as she observed her husband introduce their daughter to her new surroundings. The room that they had lovingly prepared for her was now complete and love for her family filled her heart.
We took the long way to get here Larabee, but it was worth every rough spot along the way. Grace is our rainbow, the storm is over.
Wednesday ~ June 14th
Chris had been back at work for a week and between short hours of sleep at home and the aggravation of dealing with an insistent Director his temper had reached the boiling point. Travis had just handed him another fluff case and he informed him that this was the last one that he would subject his team to. Larabee stormed into his office and slammed the door.
Tanner felt the walls shake and decided it was time to brave meeting the lion in his lair. Somebody had to do it and he was the Captain so…
Vin coming in, Cowboy.
Enter at your own risk!
“If I had my hat, I’d throw it in first, but I don’t, so I reckon I’ll take my chances.” Vin walked in and took his usual place in the chair next to Larabee’s desk.
“Damnit Vin, Travis is bound and determined to keep pushing and I’m about ready to tell him to…”
“I got the idea, so what does he want us to do now?”
“This has got to stop. He wants us to take some off the wall case in California, working with the locals and the FBI as a favor to one of his old friends. Specifically he wants Ezra to help them out with another undercover job, except this one is all set up for him.” He slid the folder across the desk to Tanner.
“Hell, Ez will love this.” Vin kept reading. “Accordin’ to this, it not only is what he would call clean-up and unnecessary, his cover is set. He has no control over who he is and has to play by their rules.”
Chris sighed, “Yeah, I know. JD has been biting at the bit to get back in the field for a change and on this one he’ll get his chance. I’m sending him in as Ezra’s assistant. I reckon Kel could go as back-up and liaison with the other law enforcement, or we could send Justin.”
“This would be good for Kel, especially after that Gina thing. She does her best work with a gun in her hand and it will make her feel more accepted by the others.”
“What makes her think she isn’t accepted?” Chris had difficulty believing that she felt that way.
“Maybe that word is too strong, but it has been difficult for the guys to recognize her expertise with weapons and they still treat her as a woman agent.”
“Vin, she is a woman agent. I would have thought you had noticed that detail.” Chris grinned.
“I noticed,” Tanner laughed, “But that’s just it Chris. She is an experienced law enforcement officer that is more than good with a gun. Yet she still has to fight to be accepted as …an MCAT agent not a female agent, simply an agent. Ez asked me for permission to use her undercover, even you hesitate, holdin’ her back on some assignments. She is willin’ to take the same risks as any male member of this team, but all of ‘em are guilty of tryin’ to protect her.”
Chris thought about what Vin was saying and realized that most of it was true. “I suppose that some of it can be attributed to the fact that she has not had the opportunity to prove to them that she really is as good as we know she is. I am partially to blame for that because I have not given her the same level of involvement I have her male counterparts. I’ll work to correct that in the future. But it’s hard to separate who she is from what I know she can do.”
“Hell, I understand that better than any of y’all, but I know firsthand that she has damn good abilities for this job. Her skill with a rifle is second only to me in this unit and her experience is varied enough to hold her own with any assignment. We all have to remember that the position of sharpshooter is a new one for her though and this will be her first solo outin’. I also have to remember to respect her enough to let her do it without me hoverin’ over her. I never claimed that it way easy, sometimes it’s damn hard and now that we have the kids it’s even harder.”
“As difficult as it may be, it would be worse if she was working somewhere else. At least here we know where she is and that she has the best of the best to back her. That fact alone helps me sleep better at night.” Chris knew that the only agents he fully trusted were his.
Vin nodded, “I know what you mean, but she would never stand for it if she believed she was treated differently for who she is. All she wants is fair and equal treatment.”
“I’ll make sure that she gets it. Now, shall we go break the news to Standish about his next road trip?”
Larabee 7 Ranch
Saturday ~June 17th
The group gathered early this Saturday morning. It was Grace’s debut with the entire wild bunch at the weekly get-together, plus three members of their family were leaving later this afternoon for California and everyone wanted to give them a good send off.
It felt good to Linda to be outside and to know that life was beginning to get back to normal or as normal as it was going to be with a new baby. “Lord it’s great to be out here with everyone again.” For her it seemed that there was never any time left for herself anymore.
Inez laughed, “It hasn’t been that long, and it just seems like it.” She looked over at Chris. “The new daddy apparently has made the transition to fatherhood again with no problem.”
“Chris dotes on Grace. He spends every available minute with her when he is home and I swear she knows the second he’s home. She can zero in on Chris’ voice as if she had radar.”
“It’s that father daughter thing. Sarah and Maria know when Buck is on his way before I do most of the time.” Inez watched her girls play while she and Linda talked. “Grace will be the same way with Chris.”
“Has Sarah forgiven Chris yet for bringing Grace home?” Linda smiled thinking about the child’s reaction when she realized that she had to share her Uncle Chris with another girl.
“Not quite yet, but she’ll come around. Look how long it took Joanne to accept that Adam was staying in the Sanchez household. Besides, she can’t stay mad at her favorite Uncle forever.”
“Between Jason being upset that Grace was not a boy and Sarah not wanting to share her uncle, Chris definitely has some fence mending to do with those two. But I have to say, Grace has helped him get passed the turmoil that Jack put him through. Chris has finally been able to put the first part of the year behind him and I know that the problems that came of it are gone forever and he can handle anything.”
Josiah and Nathan relaxed, stretched out on the ground, observing all the activities around them. Adam and Terrell were on the blanket between them. The two old friends smiled at the antics their sons were providing to entertain them.
“They get along so well that you would think they are brothers.”Josiah smiled while watching the two babies.
“I supposed they get that from us.” Nathan grinned. “I can hardly remember a time when we weren’t friends”
“It’s been many a year brother.” Josiah mentally calculated. “Sixteen…no it’s been seventeen years, where does the time go?”
“You think someday they will sit around watching their kids and ask the same question?” Nathan could only hope that his son found good friends the same as he had in his life.
“We never know what the future holds, but as Ezra would say, some things are a certainty to bet on. If I were a betting man, I would put my money on those two to have a long, lasting friendship.” Josiah felt blessed with his circle of brothers and hoped that Adam would find the same type of friends in his future.
Ezra and Barbara did the obligatory time with the family but now separated themselves from the wild bunch. Since the trip to Mexico there had been a delicate shift in their relationship. They spent more time with one another and Ezra knew that what he felt for Barbara was very different from what he had felt for any woman in his past. He hated to leave Denver at this time for two reasons. One, he thought that the case was an insignificant, and any one of a hundred agents could do what they were asking of him. And more importantly he wanted to be here with Barbara.
“When I return, I believe we should both take some time off and go on an extended vacation.” The three days they had spent in Mexico was simply not enough in Ezra’s opinion.
“I do have that case in Arizona coming up, but after that, I think I could arrange some vacation days.” Barbara wanted to spend more time with Ezra too.
“Then plan on it. As soon as this trivial matter in California is over, I’m all yours.” Ezra pulled her into his arms and they sealed their agreement with a hot steamy kiss that left them both panting. Ezra growled. “If it weren’t for this damn trip, I’d throw you over my shoulder, carry you to the hay loft and we’d make wild passionate love.”
Barbara smiled saucily. “When you return, I’ll make it if to you.” Pulling Ezra’s head down to her, she left him with a sizzling kiss that he was not likely to forget anytime soon.
“JD, you’ve been behind that keyboard for over year.” Buck slapped him on the shoulder and grinned. “Are you sure you remember how to work the in the field?”
“Buck, it’s not like we’re gonna play shoot-em-up at the Ok corral. This is a routine case; all I have to do is carry a laptop and say yes sir to Ezra as his assistant. No big deal.” JD sighed. “Besides, just because I sit at a computer doesn’t mean I’m not qualified as an agent.”
“Of course you are, but it’s been a while and hell… Just be careful, kid.”
“He will Buck, the girls and I will be here waiting for him and he knows it.” Casey took JD’s hand and smiled. “I already have his private homecoming planned.”
JD grinned, “Now the thought of that is worth going away for a few days.” He drew Casey into his arms for a searing kiss that left both of them a bit out of breath when it ended.
“You’ll do fine JD.” Chris was confident about involving JD in this assignment. He needed to be in the field more often, besides he had Ezra and Kelli to back him.
Chris held Grace while he watched his eldest daughter and grinned. Kelli was taking advantage of every minute she could spend with the kids before she left. He had to admit he was hesitant at first to send her on this mission so soon after adopting them. Vin was the one that had actually convinced him that it was right for her to be there as a backup agent for Ezra and JD. Sending two of his agents into a situation that they knew little about made him a bit nervous, but knowing that Kelli would be there to watch Ezra and JD’s backs, eased it a bit. However, the father in him still worried.
“She’ll be okay Chris.” Vin leaned against the railing of the deck watching his wife and their two children… his family. “Kel knows this is part of the job and it’s somethin’ we have discussed with the kids, they’re fine with it.”
“Hell, I’m more worried about you playing Mr. Mom.” Chris laughed. “You sure you can manage for a week with the kids on your own?”
“I made it on my own for a lot of years; I can handle a few days with two children.” Vin knew he would be okay taking care of the kids, but his solitary days were definitely over. He already missed Kelli and she had not even left yet, but that was something he was not about to admit, not even to Chris. “You wanna worry so much, then you worry about Ez, you know that he’s not thrilled about this case.”
Larabee cut his eyes to where Ezra was sitting with Barbara. “Ezra is a professional; he will do his job, besides this case is low risk and they will all be back here before the end of the week.”
All too soon dinner was finished and it was almost time to leave for the airport. Vin took Kelli by the hand and escaped to an empty room for a few minutes. Although on several occasion he had to leave for a few days, due to work, he felt comfortable knowing that she was home safe and sound. He was certain that Kelli was capable of handling herself without him, but that was what his head knew, his heart was an entirely different matter. They had spent the early hours of the morning making love and saying their own special good-bye, but it wasn’t enough for the Texan.
Vin held her close and leaned his forehead against hers. “You can call me a chauvinistic, possessive sonofabitch Kel, but right now I’m wishing like hell that it was one of the other guys going and not you.”
Kelli knew that his words should upset the independence side of her, but she could not find it in her to get angry. “Tanner, you make it damn hard to get mad at you when you’re holdin’ me like this.” It never ceased to amaze her how Vin so effortlessly could turn her on and it was rapidly getting hot in this room.
“Good, then you’ll forgive me for being so irrational.” Actually it was more than that; Vin had one of those feelings that he was having trouble shaking. Some little voice inside him was screaming at him to ask Chris to call this whole thing off, but another part of him said it was just a husband reacting to his wife leaving and to let it go.
“I love you Tanner, and I promise to be careful, no unnecessary risk taking, no bending the rules, nothing. I have too much to come home to.”
Chris pounded on the door. “Two minutes, JD and I are ready to leave. Ezra and Barbara have already left.”
Tanner yelled back. “Hell, they just wanted some alone time to do what I’m doing. Hold your horses Larabee; we’ll be out in a minute.” He swore he heard Chris laughing as he walked away.
The Texan drew his wife into a heated passionate kiss before letting her go. “That’ll have to hold you for a few days.”
Kelli grinned. “That won’t make time move any faster, but it guarantees you some interestin’ phone calls, of the hot and bothered kind.”
“I’m countin’ on that Texas and lookin’ forward to ‘em.” He took a deep breath to regain his composure, and then took her hand again. “Come on, the kids are waiting to say good-bye too.” Vin and Kelli had decided that it would be easier on the children and for them, if he stayed at the ranch with the kids, while Chris took her and JD to the airport.
The trip to the airport was uneventful, and after a half-hearted attempt to keep up conversation they each fell silent thinking about family. JD and Kelli about the ones they were leaving and Chris about the ones he was sending off. Once they had checked in they still had another hour to wait, but Larabee stayed until their flight was called
Chris has a brief moment of uneasiness as he watched their plane depart, but then he always felt a heavy burden anytime he sent his agents out without the entire team to support a mission.
Hell Chris, it only a few days and California is not the end of the world.
Costa Mesa California
Wednesday- June 21st
Agent Kelli Coulter shimmied her way up the wooden beam, her rifle slung over
one shoulder. She reached the crisscrossing rafters a few moments later and
shifted her position onto it, laying along the thick beam and bringing her
weapon into a comfortable firing position. She placed her eye up to the sights
of the high-powered weapon, and used it to locate the places where her fellow
MCAT Agents, Ezra Standish and JD Dunne would be, on the warehouse floor below.
"I have a bad feelin’ about this." she muttered aloud, unable to shake off what her instincts were telling her about the entire situation that had brought her so far from Denver, a certain Texan, and her newly adopted children.
All week long she had felt that something was off; that there was something bigger than drugs going on in this little coastal town that had local authorities so damned determined to prevent her from doing her job as an MCAT agent.
Costa Mesa did have her secrets and until today had held them close to home. However those secrets were about to explode, unleashing a path of destruction that would affect every member of the MCAT family and change the course of several lives.