Additions and Apprehensions

by tannertexaslady and Wendymypooh

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

Chapter 22

Friday-July 28th 5am

The tensions on the Task Force kept mounting all week. Whether it was the longer stakeout time of twelve hour shifts, the added training that Vin insisted on or the fact that just waiting for action that had everyone one edge, who knew…or cared.

“What in the hell are the bastards waiting for?” Buck was restless and irritated. He and Kelli still had two more hours of surveillance duty and so far there was no sign of their ‘buyer.’ “Damn it, I was certain that they would act by now.”

“Buck, they will move on their schedule, not ours. Are you sure we didn’t miss anythin’ from earlier today?” She heard paper shuffling in the darkness and saw Buck trying to read with a small penlight. Kelli shifted in her seat to try and get comfortable. Her muscles ached from the extra training Vin had put them through the last few days. It was so hot that she and Buck had taken off their bulletproof vests and had laid them in the back seat.

“Aside from the normal or should I say abnormal shit that goes on in there, the only thing that happened today was a delivery of two crates by a local delivery company. They checked out as legit, and the bill of lading indicated that the crates contained an order of…sheets? Who gets sheets delivered in a crate? A laundry truck maybe but… shit!”

“What is it?”

“Those two crates were shipped from California Wednesday afternoon. Not even these slime balls would put a kid in a crate…would they?”

“It’s possible, I know there have been incidents reported where they have found kids in dog carriers, boxes, dresser drawers, and…hell Buck to them it only a commodity, not a live human bein’. The way they see it, if the lose one or two, it’ a cost of doing business.”

“So they ship two in case one…doesn’t make it ...Damn it, I hate this fuc…freaking shit.”

Kelli laughed, “You don’t have to censure yourself when we’re workin, and it gets to me, too. In fact, accordin’ to my other partner, I curse in at least three or four different languages.” She grinned, “Ezra says, ‘m supposed to have a temper too, but between you and me, I think he is exaggerates.” She hoped her outrageous remark would help Buck ratchet down his irritability a notch or two.

“Like hell, you have your old man’s temper, and after watching you in training this week, I’d say you are capable of kicking some ass, too.”

“Only when provoked,” Kelli smiled. “I tend to not start things, but …I have been known to finish a few skirmishes. When I lived with Jake I spent a lot of time on the rodeo grounds and trust me, a gal learns real fast how to take care of herself around all those testosterone-laden cowboys. Hell, some of the females were just as bad or worse about startin’ crap. I managed to hold my on though, with all of ‘em.”

Buck laughed, “I just bet you did. You only go to watch or did you compete?”

“I entered a few events, team ropin’ and cuttin’ horse competition mostly. I tried ridin’ a bull bareback a few times at home, but Jake caught me the third time I did it and I spent the next two months muckin’ out stalls. I never tried that again, for sure.”

“Like I said, you take after your old man ‘cause that is something he would have pulled. I remember one time that Chris had too much to drink and decided to ride at three o’clock in the morning. The only problem with that was the horse he wanted to ride had never allowed anyone to put a saddle on him. Talk about two stubborn mules squaring off… well he eventually rode him, but to this day I can’t figure out why that damn horse didn’t kill him.”

“If it was anythin’ like me and that bull, I’d say it had to be pure dumb luck.”

Buck sighed. “Are you doing okay with all this? I mean it must be difficult after…Hell, Wilmington, stick your foot in it why don’t you?”

“I’m okay, Vin gives me plenty of opportunity to vent when I need to and he keeps me grounded. I really don’t remember anythin’ that happened to me, only what I’ve read later in police or doctors’ reports. I used to have some crazy mixed-up nightmares that never made much sense, but even those are gone since Vin found out the truth about all of it for me.”

“I’ve noticed that I crowd my girls more than I used to, but I can’t help it after hearing all this crap.” Buck wondered if he would ever be able to give Sarah and Maria the freedom they would need as they got older. After this experience he wanted to wrap them in cotton and hang on to them forever.

“I know how you feel; I want everythin’ to be perfect for Jason and Andi too.” Kelli hesitated before continuing. “Being abused happened to me, but it did not, nor will it ever define who I am. Knowin’ that who you are and what happens to you are two different things; it is probably the most important thing a child can learn. Jason and Andi have had to learn that the hard way already, but we intend on givin’ ‘em enough love that they never doubt it for one second. Just love ‘em Buck, that the best gift you can give ‘em.”

“That I do, I…” The radio headset crackled and Brett Jacobs’ voice interrupted whatever Buck intended to say. “Head’s up, our suspect just drove to the eastside entrance of the house. Late model, blue Lexis… Colorado license plate echo, x-ray, bravo 399, calling in now for APB and instructions for assistance. “He is inside and the deal is going down…hell, he gave them the money in cash and they’re giving the kid…I hear some shuffling and…poor kid, stand by.”

“Okay boys and girls, we wait until he is away from this neighborhood before we stop him. Whatever it takes, we do not lose this guy.” Buck spoke into his headset. “Talk to me Jacobs, tell me what you can see.”

After a two minute break Brett was back “Suspect is loading a…pet carrier? ...into the rear seat of the Lexis and is closing the door. He is now entering the driver’s side and has started the engine. He circled the drive and is headed west on Carlyle Avenue.

“We have him in sight, stay with the van, we’re on it.” Buck started the engine and followed from a safe distance, while Kelli coordinated with the DPD on her cell phone.

“A patrol unit should intercept him three streets up and attempt to pull him over. The vehicle is registered to a Marshall Sorenson local resident.” Kelli gave Wilmington the information.

Switching the radio to the DPD frequency, Buck was able to monitor the activities of the patrol car ahead of them. “Unit has him spotted…damn it he gonna rabbit…the sorry sonofabitch isn’t stoppin.”

“Don’t lose the bastard Buck!” Kelli shouted.

Buck increased his speed, turned on the flashing lights and caught up with the original patrol unit that had now been joined by several others. The Lexis roared down the city streets at speeds up to one hundred miles per hour. Obviously the driver knew Denver well, but Buck knew it better.

“Hang on! “Buck turned at the next intersection on two wheels and increased his speed again, hoping to cut off the rapidly accelerating Lexis by taking a short cut. Wilmington came out on the next street just ahead of the Lexis and pulled in front of it, forcing the driver off the road and into a telephone pole. The expensive silver car ground to a halt. The engine was still running when Buck and Kelli jumped out of their vehicle with their guns drawn and directed at the car.


Buck took the driver’s side, while Kelli came up on the passenger side of the Lexis. Four other patrol units screeched to a stop and suddenly there were several Denver Police officers everywhere with their weapons drawn. The driver of the car did not respond.

“EXIT THE CAR WITH YOUR HANDS IN THE AIR NOW!’ Buck ordered again, and he began to move toward the car.

“GUN!” Kelli yelled and Buck dropped to the ground just as the suspect fired at him. She discharged her own shot into the car through the passenger side window and the man screamed in pain as the bullet shattered the bone in his raised arm, forcing him to drop his weapon.

Buck quickly made it to the driver’s side door, opened it and pulled the screaming man out of the vehicle, to the ground. Pulling the man’s wallet out of his pocket, allowed Wilmington to confirm the man’s Identification. “Marshall Sorenson, you are under arrest for … attempted murder of a federal officer. Wilmington did not hesitate to handcuff the injured felon as he read the man his rights.

Once the suspect and his gun were secured, Kelli holstered her weapon and opened the rear passenger door. Inside was a medium sized pet carrier, which she opened, only to find a small child inside.

“I‘m a police office, and you’re safe now.” Kelli spoke softly to calm the frightened child. “Are your hurt?” Receiving no answer she slowly reached inside and gently took the child’s hand. “My name is Kelli and ‘m not goin’ to hurt you, but I need to make sure that you are okay. Can you come to me?” She heard sirens in the distance and knew that the EMTS would be here soon. The child hesitantly moved a bit and she waited patiently. Kelli would not force the youngster to come out and was prepared to wait until the child voluntarily came to her.” I’m just gonna sit here and hold your hand, when you’re ready, I’ll be here.”

Buck stood by close enough to hear the conversation, and he made certain that no one interfered with his partner or her method of coaxing the child out. The ambulance arrived and the EMTS went first to the injured suspect asking for the key to the handcuffs so they could examine him.

“The cuffs stay on him, do what you can.” Buck ordered and glared at the medic. No one argued with him. Several Denver police officers stood behind Wilmington backing him up, in silence, waiting to see if his partner could get through to the scared child inside the carrier. They had no sympathy for the injured suspect and they were also not leaving until they knew the child was okay. A blanket was passed through the mass of policemen that shielded the car from the sight of onlookers that had gathered to gawk.

It was a long five minutes before Kelli felt the child move again and she saw a head covered with curly black hair slowing emerged from the carrier. ”It’s okay, no one will hurt you, I promise.” The child was a young boy; maybe five or six years old, he was drenched in sweat, had light chocolate colored skin and dark eyes. Without saying a word, he allowed Kelli to wrap him in the blanket that had mysteriously appeared and was passed to her by an unknown hand.

A female paramedic stood off to the side of the car and waited for a signal that would allow her to examine the child.

Kelli held the boy and whispered softly to him. “Can that nice lady come over and look at you? She just wants to see if you need a doctor, I’ll stay right here with you.” The small head nodded yes, but the grip on her hand tightened.

The paramedic was quick and gentle in her examination; but it was obvious that the boy was dehydrated and it was imperative that he be seen by a doctor as well. She stepped back and allowed Kelli to exit with the child. “I’m not going to start an IV here, but I think you will need to stay with him, at least until we transport him to the hospital.”

“This child is in my protective custody and I will stay with him even after we reach the hospital, but he is not goin’ to go in the same ambulance with that man.” Kelli corrected the young woman.

A senior ranking Denver police officer stepped forward. “Your partner will ride in the ambulance with the suspect and I will have one of my men bring your vehicle to the hospital. I will gladly give you and the young man a ride there also.”

The paramedic started to protest, but the determined look on Kelli’s face stopped her. “We’ll meet you there then.”

Denver Memorial Hospital

Buck handcuffed Sorenson to the hospital bed and made a few phone calls while Dr. Landers worked on the man’s other arm. His first call was to Chris, giving him a quick rundown of events and setting up a guard detail on the prisoner. The second phone call was to Barbara Lindsey, she would locate a counselor trained to deal with this type of situation and meet them at the hospital. He looked at his watch and could not believe that it was only seven in the morning; it seemed as if it were much later.

Wilmington stepped outside the examination room for a few minutes and looked up to see Brett Jacobs and Selina Cordova coming through the double doors.

Brett held his hands up in a surrender posture. “Before you say anything sir, Rick and Jose relieved us early. We followed the chase on the radio and thought you might need some extra bodies to help out down here.”

Nodding his head in agreement, Buck gave his orders. “Jacobs, go in there and stay with that bastard. Do not let him out of your sight, no matter where they take him and he contacts no one! No notes, no phone calls… no anything! If any one argues with you…hell shoot ‘em if you have to, but the suspect stays with you. Selina, you’re with me.” Buck took off down the hall to find his partner and see how the boy was doing.

Kelli showed more patience with the child than most people gave her credit for having at all. The boy refused to let go of her hand, and she did not argue with him. However, no amount of coaxing would make him talk, not even to say his name. She stayed quiet while Dr Gifford, at her request, examined the boy. Having explained to the doctor what had happened to the child beforehand, she knew that he would be thorough and was relieved when he indicated that there was no evidence of sexual abuse.

Dr. Gilford declared that in spite of his rough treatment the only thing he could find wrong with the child was moderate dehydration. He had the nurse hang a bag of solution and start an IV. He then explained to Kelli what was going to happen” Given the circumstances you outlined and his test results I will begin with restoring his electrolytes, but after this bag is empty I believe it will be safe to treat him with ORS or oral replacement solutions. Make sure he rests and monitor his liquid intake for the next twenty-four hours. That you can do at home so he should be ready to leave in a couple of hours. Young man,” Dr Gilford made sure the boy was listening to him. “You can trust Kel, listen to her and do what she says.”

“Thanks Doc, I appreciate you takin’ care of him.”

“It’s not a problem for one of my favorite ex-patients. Take care of yourself too, young lady.” He patted her on the shoulder before he walked out the door. Buck waited for the doctor to leave and then motioned for Kelli to come out into the hall.

“If you want to speak to me Buck, you’ll have to come in here and talk to both of us. My new friend prefers for me to stay with him.” She turned to the boy with a smile on her face and said. “These two are friends of mine. The pretty one is Selina and the big one is Buck, but don’t let his size fool you, he’s just a big old teddy bear with a moustache.”

Selina moved over closer to the bed and took the child’s other hand. “Can I stay with you for a few minutes while Kelli goes outside the door and talks to some people?”

The child narrowed his eyes and looked at woman he held on to. “I promise that I will be just outside that door and I will come back to stay with you.” Kelli waited patiently while the boy decided. A nod of his head and a release of her hand was his answer. “I’ll be back soon; you take care of Selina for me okay?”

Kelli slipped out into the hallway. She was surprised to find that while Dr Gilford had spent extra time examining the boy, Chris, Vin and Barbara had arrived at the hospital.

Chris and Vin both appeared to be angry, but at least her husband spoke to her. “Are you okay?” The Texan demanded crossly, but even as he spoke his eyes swept over his wife for his own assurance that she was all right.

“Yeah, ‘m fine, Tanner. You want to tell me why you’re so ticked off?”

Buck answered, “It seems partner that we neglected to use our vests this morning and two somebody’s are a bit upset about our little oversight.”

“Little oversight? You both could have died out there!” Chris shouted, but was stopped from continuing when his daughter grabbed him arm.

“Lower you voice! We screwed up on the vests and you can yell all you want to about it, later. But I will not allow you to raise your voice and upset that child in there. He has been through enough already.”

Chris could not believe that Kelli wasn’t in the least bit repentant about not following procedure and was telling him to be quiet. “Young lady…”

Barbara interrupted the potential argument. “How is the boy?”

“Considerin’ that he was abducted, tossed into a crate, apparently without food or water for two days, shipped like a damn piece of freight from California to Colorado, then stuffed into a dog carrier, and then was placed inside a vehicle involved in a police chase that was traveling at speeds over a hundred miles an hour before it slammed into a telephone pole…he is pretty fair shape. Doc is gonna released him in a couple of hours. He refuses to speak so I don’t know his name yet, but I will.”

“I have a counselor coming to see him.” Barbara advised. “Carmen Johnson should be here within the next half hour.”

“Fine, I know Carmen and she’s great with kids. As long as you understand that he is in my protective custody and I’m not lettin’ anyone take him until I can hand him over to his parents.” Kelli dared any of them to argue with her. “And just for the record Lar’bee, he wasn’t wearing any damn vest either.”

Buck just smirked and gave Chris that ‘I told you so look.’

Tanner decided that he could give his wife hell later for taking chances, but he saw an even bigger problem looming on the horizon. Kelli was already in full protective mode with this boy and the likelihood of her being hurt emotionally was far greater than the risk of being shot without her vest on. He remembered that according to the doctor’s report Kelli did not speak for months after she was found, this boy might not open up to her at all. It could take a while to find his parents too, unless an amber alert had gone out on him or they got lucky.

I hear you Vin Chris had come to the same conclusion after listening to his daughter’s passionate outburst.

The Texan moved closer to his redhead. “You gonna introduced us to this new man in your life?”

Realizing that her battle was won, at least temporarily, Kelli relaxed. “Come on in.” Vin and Chris followed her into the room, while Buck stayed outside with Barbara.

Neither man missed the child’s reaction when he saw Kelli come back into the room. He apparently had been watching for her and the look of relief on his face was obvious. It was also obvious that the boy was not Caucasian. That was something that neither Buck nor Kelli had mentioned. Probably because as far as either of them was concerned, the fact that he was a different race was not important.

“I told you that I would be back. I brought some more people for you to meet. The man with the beard and the set look on his face is my dad, Chris. This one is my husband Vin and we have a little boy that is just about your age named Jason and a girl that’s three named Andi.” She allowed the child to take her hand. “You know it would be nice to know your name, too.”

The boy studied the faces of all the adults in the room and then he made a decision. He motioned to Kelli to lean down and then he whispered in her ear.

Kelli smiled, “I think that is a great name. Y’all, this is Caleb.”


When Carmen Johnson arrived and she found out how many people Caleb had seen since he was at the hospital, she decided to delay her interview with him.

“It would be best if I talk to him away from here. Where do you plan to take him when he is released?”

Chris did not hesitate. “We’re taking him to our office. Once he’s there we hope that he can tell us more about what happened to him. We’ll take care of finding him a place to stay until his family can come for him.”

“Very well, I’ll talk to him after you move him there.”

“I’ll make it happen, Ms. Johnson.” Chris nodded his head. “Now, if you will excuse me, I have a suspect to look in on.”

Larabee had several thoughts racing through his head as he rode the elevator to the sixth floor. Granted, they had only rescued one child, but it would be a boost to the spirits of the entire team. He exited the elevator and saw Buck waiting for him outside the door to Sorenson’s room.

“Can he talk yet?”

“Only enough to demand a lawyer,” Buck said angrily. “I had the phone removed from his room and gave instructions to the nurse that he was to speak to no one. Kellerman and Womack are taking first watch on him, and I can go back to having one unit per shift on stakeout now that we have the bastard .That gives me enough manpower to keep him covered. The orthopedic surgeon still needs to look at his x-rays.”

“I’ll talk to Travis about keeping him sequestered.” Chris touched Buck’s arm. “Walk with me.” The two men took the elevator down, and reaching the main floor exited through the double doors to the outside. “Tell me why you didn’t follow procedure this morning.”

“Hell Chris, there’s no excuse. It all happened fast and I guess the only thing we had on our mind was getting the kid out safely. It was my responsibility as senior agent and team leader to make sure Kel was wearing a vest and I fucked up. I have to tell you though, she had me covered and her warning is the only reason old Bucklin is still here, I didn’t see the damn gun.”

“Still Buck…”

“I know and I’ll make sure that it doesn’t happen again.”

“Consider this conversation as your official warning.” Chris knew Buck well enough to know that he would not repeat this particular mistake any time soon. “It’s your team, so you handle it with Kelli, but don’t make it easy on her. I’ll expect an official explanation in your report.”

“You’ll have it.” Buck slapped his old friend on the shoulder. “Let’s go see if we can find that kid’s family.”

MCAT Office

It was almost one by the time Kelli had young Caleb checked out of the hospital, and was at the federal building. Vin had stayed with her and was surprised that the young boy easily accepted his presence. It was probably because he connected with the redhead and she made certain that the child knew she trusted the Texan.

Vin carried Caleb into his office and while Kelli settled him in with a DVD and the lunch they had bought him at McDonalds, Tanner went in search of some answers.

Chris was waiting for him and when Vin walked into his office, the blonde silently handed him the report Pam had found.

“Damn,” Tanner scanned the pages and he did not like what he was seeing. “What do we do now Chris? We can’t send him back yet and hell, you know Kel won’t turn him over to just anybody.”

“I know, but first things first.” Chris hit the intercom. “Gunny, ask Agent Jackson step into my office.”

“You gonna have Nate check him over?”

“Yes, if Caleb will let him. I want to make sure we take good care of him, he’s the only witness we have.”

Nathan knocked on the door and then walked in, not waiting for an invitation.

“I want you to check on the kid, and make sure we have everything needed for him. Vin can tell you what the doctor said.”

Tanner dug some papers out of his pocket. “It all here Nate, these are his discharge papers and follow-up instructions. That counselor lady will be here to talk to him in about fifteen minutes.”

“Is his family coming for him?” Nathan asked.

“There is no family. Caleb Evans, who turned six years old three weeks ago, and another boy…Danny, a five year old…were snatched from a group home in California Tuesday afternoon. Both boys were up for adoption. In fact, Danny, the one we don’t have, had a family coming to pick him up today, they were only waiting for a judge to sign the papers.”

“What about this one…Caleb, you said?”

“The director of the home seems more concerned about us finding Danny than hearing about Caleb’s recovery. The woman said that it was harder to place him because of his…mixed race and background.” Chris noted the confused look on Nathan’s face. “His father was African-American and his mother was Hispanic. Both parents are deceased. His mother died of a drug overdose when he a baby and his dad was killed while committing an armed robbery a few weeks earlier. Caleb has spent most of his life in one group home or another.”

“Tough break for a kid that’s so young, I’ll go check on him now.” Nathan left the room.

Vin stood up and walked over to the copier. “Carmen will need this information before she talks to him.” He sighed while the copies printed. “I reckon I’ll tell Kel while the counselor is in with him.”

“Better you than me brother. Knowing my daughter, I have a feeling that Caleb may be a guest on the Larabee 7 until we find him a permanent place and God help anyone that tries to stop that from happening.” Chris grinned. ”It a good thing you planned on moving this weekend, you’re gonna need the extra room.”

“Amen to that.”

Chapter 23

MCAT conference Room

Chris sat silently and watched his daughter read the report on Caleb from California. They had gathered in the conference room to decide on their next move. Carmen Johnson had been in with the child for twenty minutes, giving Tanner an opportunity to share the information with his wife. Nathan had stayed to watch, out of simple curiosity; he wanted to see Kelli’s reaction to the news for himself.

Tanner did not need to wait for her reaction; he already knew that Caleb would be coming home with them. Chris could call it protective custody, sheltering a material witness or whatever he wanted to, but Caleb would stay until they could find him a real home. He was also certain that his redhead would have a few choice words about the director of that group home. The woman had as much shouted her own prejudices in every word she wrote and Vin was positive that she was one of the main reasons that the young boy had not been adopted.

“You’ve got that look Kel.’ Vin stated.

“What look?”

“You know which one…the one that says you’d like to kick someone’s ass.”

“Well…the woman that wrote this certainly deserves it. The test results listed here for Caleb shows that he is bright, imaginative, and has an above average intelligence. Her report paints him as a slow, difficult, aloof child that would have a hard time fittin’ into a family unit. Hell, it’s no wonder no one has tried to adopt him…she marked him before he had a chance.”

“I read the same report Kel and according to those records he has had to be disciplined many times.” Nathan spoke up. “Maybe she knows something about him that you don’t.”

“That’s bull Nathan. That child is no troublemaker and believe me I was enough of one as a kid myself to know if he was.”

Chris smiled. “You…a troublemaker, I had you pictured as the sweet angelic type.”

Kelli frowned at her father, “Not by a long shot.”

“All I’m saying is that for a kid like him, not just anyone could understand how he feels and that could be interpreted by labeling him as a discipline problem” Nathan tried to explain.

“A kid like him Nathan? What in the hell does that mean?” Kelli narrowed her eyes and gave him a challenging glare.

“He’s a child of mixed color. It’s bound to present problems for him.” Nathan clarified. “He doesn’t belong with you and Vin, or any white couple; he needs to be somewhere else.”

“And just where is this somewhere else?” Kelli asked icily.

Tanner interceded before his wife had a chance to add some scathing comment. ”Nate, he’s just a kid and like any other child, all he needs is someone to love him. Besides, that’s our problem now because he’s goin’ home with us until we can find him a permanent home.” Vin had already decided and the subject was not up for discussion.

Carmen Johnson has stood silently at the door and heard most of the conversation. After talking with Caleb she had come to a few conclusions about the kind of care he had received in the group home and was not happy about it. She understood that Nathan was concerned about the boy knowing his African-American heritage, but first and foremost he needed love and acceptance for who he was.

“I’ll be more than pleased to assist you in finding Caleb a good home. He is a delightful young man and I’m sure that given some time we can find the perfect family for him.” Carmen stepped into the room. “He and I talked some, but he was not willing to discuss his abduction yet. He seems more concerned about the fate of the other boy…Danny…is there any word on him?”

“Not yet, Buck is going over the audio tapes from the wiretap now and he should be able to tell us something soon.” Chris answered.

“I left Caleb with a young woman named Selina. I do hope that was okay. He knows her from this morning and he seemed to like her.” Carmen looked to Larabee for his approval.

“That’s fine; she is a policewoman so he’s in good hands.” Chris knew that the counselor had overheard their previous discussion. “The boy is in protective custody. Do you foresee any problems with the Tanners taking Caleb in for a while?”

“None whatsoever,” Ms. Johnson answered firmly. “I do wish to speak to him again, and often, he has to work through talking about what has happened to him.”

“That’s not a problem; just say where and when and he’ll be there.” Vin assured her and noted Nathan’s look of disapproval.

Buck walked in and threw the latest transcripts on the table. “The second crate was a diversion, in case anyone checked, it was full of sheets. Keats made a call to an untraceable prepaid cell phone. The other package arrived at its destination intact.”

What does that mean?” Nathan asked.

“It means that the other boy…Danny… was shipped somewhere else.” Chris was hoping that the boy was here in Denver. “I’ll make sure the AG keeps the alert out on both boys. We are not letting anyone know that we have Caleb.”

“So where is Danny?” Nathan looked to Buck.

“My guess, about right now he’s in a living hell.” Buck retorted angrily. “It gets even better, our suspect is headed for surgery to repair the damaged bone in his arm and we probably won’t be able to talk to him before Monday”.

Carmen touched Vin’s arm. “If Caleb asks, tell him the truth. I know that you two did well in my class on fostering troubled youths; you should be able to handle it. If you need me call anytime. I’d like to talk to Caleb again and see how he is settling in. I’m aware that you are moving this weekend so I’ll come by your house Monday morning to see him.”

“Max will be with the kids then, we’ll let her know to expect you.”

Chris waited for Ms. Johnson to leave before saying anything. “We stick with surveillance only on the house for now. Buck, I talked to Travis, he is arraigning isolation for your suspect. Vin, you and Kel take off and get the boy settled. I’ll cover for you at your training class tonight.”

Vin nodded, “Okay, we have two full days until Monday to work with him and then Max will take over for us during the day.”

Kelli spoke up. “Actually, I can be with all the kids full-time until Thursday.” She looked over to Buck. “I’m takin’ the three day suspension without pay in lieu of a reprimand in my folder for not followin’ procedure this mornin’.”

Chris was surprised, he didn’t think Buck would actually do it, but he was okay with the way he handled it, and he would back his decision. “Three days is fair.”

“That’s all well and good, but I still reserve the right to give you hell over it.” Vin affirmed. “Until then, let’s get Caleb taken care of, we need to stop on the way home and buy him somethin’ to wear, along with a few essentials. I remember the shoppin expedition you and Ezra made for Jason and Andi… this time ‘m in charge.”

“I’ll get Caleb. You can call Max and give her a head’s up.” Kelli walked out, while Vin opened his cell phone and the room cleared, with the exception of Larabee.

“I’d say that this is going to be an interesting weekend.” Larabee commented. Nathan’s silent censure of Vin’s decision to shelter Caleb was evident, and Chris could only hope that it was a temporary condemnation.

Tanner closed his phone. “Max has been a busy lady today; she has stocked our new kitchen, finished packin’ the boxes to move, has a schedule set-up to have the movin’ finished by two ‘clock and planned a picnic for after we finish tomorrow. She said also said that Caleb would be a welcome addition.”

“I was certain that she would have no problem with Caleb.” Chris laughed. “As for the rest of it, you can take the woman of the military, but you can’t take the military out of the woman. I bet she will have you all settled in and shipshape before Monday rolls around.”

“No bet Lar’bee, Max runs a tight ship and if she says we’ll be done by two, we will be. Besides Gunny will be there and between the two of them I just dare anyone to mess with their plans.”

Chris grinned, “Lord, help us all.” Larabee then brought up a more serious concern “I’ve been thinking about what you said earliest this week, about these guys playing hardball. Since this is my last weekend at the ranch for a while and I know your work schedule will be full, I want to set up some extra precautions. I think we should have George put on some extra men and have our own security patrol on the property.”

“It would sure lift one worry off my mind. I have a feelin’ that things will be breakin’ sooner, rather than later and you’re right, the ranch could become a target. In fact with the cases we’ve been handlin’ and will be taken’ on in the future, it might be a good idea to make it permanent.” Vin smiled as a new thought struck him. “And I know the person that would be perfect to be in charge of Larabee 7 security.”

“Who do you have in mind, Tanner?”

“Walter Andrews. Kel told me that Walter is comin’ to visit and to meet the kids. She also said that he couldn’t find enough to do with all his free time. Hell, he was a cop for twenty-five years so we know that he’s qualified.”

“If he’s willing to relocate, it could work out to be a perfect solution for all of us. I’ll talk to Ezra and find out what we can afford to offer him as a salary and then we can call Andrews over the weekend.” Chris knew he would feel better with someone like Walter being around when the rest of them had to work a case. The safety of their families was too important to leave to chance and manpower from the unit was not always available cover the ranch.

Kelli walked in with Caleb. “We’re ready when you are Tanner.”

“He’s all yours Kel; I’m cutting him loose from here and covering him for training today.” Chris grinned. “Caleb, I’ll see you later.”

“Take it easy on the class tonight; I know your definition of a workout, Cowboy and most of ‘em couldn’t keep up with you.” Vin smirked

Chris threw a wadded up ball of paper at Tanner. “Get the…heck out of here.”

Larabee took a few minutes alone after Tanner left with Kellie and Caleb. He ran his hands over his face and frowned at the itchy feeling his whiskers produced. The frustration of waiting for something to happen was not exclusive to the rest of the unit. Chris was ready to ‘get this show on the road.’ He was more than ready for Adam Carmichael to take on O’Mara Enterprises. All the waiting had produced a large amount of apprehension, anticipation, and keyed-up tension in Chris.

The Commander made a decision and stopped at Gunny’s desk on his way to his office. “Gunny, I’m conducting the work out session today and I want to get started early. Have the entire unit meet me in the training room in forty-five minutes.”

Chris smiled as he continued on to his office. He knew how to work off frustration and after today’s session …so would his agents.


When Kelli realized that Vin planned on doing their shopping at Wal-Mart, she felt a profound sense of relief. She was aware that she could not avoid the mall forever, but she was in no hurry to go back there anytime soon. Vin knew exactly what he was after and wasted little time gathering what he considered essentials for Caleb. She managed to stay quiet about the extra purchases he had added, until it was time to checkout.

“Okay Tanner, the clothes, personal care items and the duffel bag to carry it all in, I can see. But since when are a teddy bear and a special blanket necessary purchases?” She spoke softy so Caleb would not overhear their conversation.

“Since when we move tomorrow, we are givin’ our kids the blankets that their mother made for them; I figured Caleb needed somethin’ special, too. I bought the bear because every little boy needs somethin’ to cuddle with at night.” The Texan grinned and whispered, “Big boys, too.”

Kelli shook her head and smiled as Vin’s attention turned to the cashier.Leave it to Tanner to make sure Caleb doesn’t feel left out. Of course that’s one of the reasons you love him Kel, because he does think of things like that.

Once they were at the truck, Vin carefully packed the duffel bag for Caleb. He gave him the bear after setting the blanket aside for later. The way Tanner looked at it, every child should have something that belonged only to him or her. The young boy was asleep before they were halfway home, holding his new teddy bear.

Larabee 7~Tanner Home

For Tanner, making it home before five o’clock was early, but today had warranted special circumstances. Since Max had given them the news, Jason and Andi were excitedly watching from the window for the Tahoe to pull into the drive. The truck had barely come to a standstill when two little blurs raced out the front door to greet their parents and meet their new houseguest.

“Y’all are home!” Jason ran to Vin first for his usual greeting. The Texan did not disappoint him, easily catching the child and lifting him onto his shoulders.

Andi ran around the truck to meet Kelli. “You here!” Kelli has not seen either child since yesterday morning, having worked a twelve-hour shift on stakeout last night. After receiving her expected hug, Andi’s curiosity took over. “Where’s…Ca…what his name again?”

“Caleb,” Vin answered. He assisted Jason back down on the ground, and then he opened the back door of the truck. Caleb jumped out, not forgetting to grab his new bag and his bear. “Jason, Andi, this is Caleb and he’ll be stayin’ with us for a while.”

“Hi Caleb. It’s great to have another boy around here, but I gotta warn you.” Jason moved over next to the newcomer and smiled. “We have a whole bunch of girls on this ranch, so stick close to me and tomorrow I’ll show you around.”

Andi looked over to her brother, Caleb, and then at her Dad. A new realization crossed her mind, she and her mom we now outnumber by the guys. “Mom, we need ‘nother girl!”

“That’s okay baby,” Kelli grinned. “We can always ask Sarah or Maria or Joanne or Lilah or Daisy or Grace to come visit.”

Satisfied with that thought, her next question did get Jason’s attention. “Can they all come now?”

“NO! …I mean not all of them at the same time. Right dad?” Jason anxiously responded with his own question.

Vin laughed, “At least not tonight. Now how about we go inside and let Caleb meet Max?”

Max had dinner waiting for them. “You must be Caleb, I’m Max. Welcome aboard, son. Jason, would you show our new young friend where he can stow his gear?”

“Aye, aye, Max.” Jason answered with a giggle. “Come on Andi; let’s show him where we’re camping tonight.”

Kelli turned and questioned Max, “An early dinner and campin’?”

“We have a busy day ahead tomorrow and you young lady have not had any sleep going on how many hours now? Thirty-six? You need to eat and then rest. As for the camping, most everything is packed and ready to move, so we set up three sleeping bags for them, and for tonight they are ‘roughing’ it. I realize that it may be a hard night for Caleb so I am going to sleep in the room with them and we’ll be up bright and early. Gunny plans to be here by seven and breakfast will be served at seven-fifteen.”

“Max, you seemed to have though of everythin’, thanks.” Kelli was tried, but she wanted to try and hold out until the kids were asleep before she crashed.

“Not a problem. Now you two go cleanup, we eat in fifteen minutes. I’ll cover watching the kids ‘til then and after dinner we’ll review the schedule for tomorrow.” Max literally pushed both Vin and Kelli out of her ‘galley’.

Vin mumbled on the way to the bedroom. “Why do I feel as if I just left the principal’s office?”

“Complain all you want to Tanner, but you know Max, she runs a tight ship from stem to stern.” Kelli smiled at her grumbling Texan. “Besides, she just gave us fifteen minutes of quiet time to regroup. I want to try and stay awake at least until the kids are settled for the night and we’re certain that Caleb is okay with bein’ here.”

Tanner put his arm around her waist as they walked to their room. “I think Jason has appointed himself as Caleb’s guide into the Tanner household. He and Andi seem pleased that they can help make Caleb feel welcome.” He sighed and looked at the time. “I wonder how Chris is doin’ with the class.”

MCAT –Training room

Larabee smiled as he stood at the front of the training room and listened to the rumblings of the other agents as they entered, and then took up positions on the mat. He knew that despite their moans and groans about the extra training, that all of the agents were aware of just how beneficial the new moves that Tanner had been teaching them could be in saving their lives on this case, or future cases.

“All right, settle down.” He called out to the agents. “I’m not anymore thrilled about having extra hours being taken away from my home life, but I agree one hundred percent with Tanner that these mandatory training sessions are necessary.”

“Says who?” Buck commented from the back row.

“I do.” Chris said shooting Wilmington a warning glare.

Buck only grinned back at him and Larabee resisted the urge to knock that smirk off his face.

“Since Tanner isn’t here, we aren’t going to do any new moves.”

A cheer went up from the room of agents at his words, and he suppressed the chuckle that rose within him. Chris waved his hands to quiet them all down again.

“Cut it out already…the less serious you all are in doing this, the longer its going to take to get through all of the moves and holds that Tanner already taught us…and then means more time away from your families.”

“Maybe you can tell me why Kat and I are here.” Greg mouthed off from the back of the room. “We’re in forensics; the crime is a done deal by the time we arrive.”

Chris zeroed in on the voice of Greg Ramsey and with one crook of his finger called him to the front of the room. When the met face to face, Larabee whispered in a low deadly tone saying, “You are here because I said so.” Larabee then moved so fast that no one in the room saw his next action coming. Ramsey landed on his backside on the floor with his Commanding officer leaning over him and yelling in his ear, “AND BECAUSE YOU NEED THE TRAINING! NOW GET BACK IN PLACE AND PAY ATTENTION!”

Silence settled swiftly in the training room. “Let’s get to work.” Larabee started them all out on the preliminary stretches and exercises, before moving them into the holds that Tanner had taught in the first couple of sessions. They practiced those moves for about a half hour before moving onto the next set of lessons. By the time they were finished going over moves that the group had practiced in the last session, Chris wasn’t the only one that was worn out. He dismissed the group and spent a few moments cleaning up the training room, before disappearing into his office.

He took a refreshing shower, and was preparing to leave the office for the night, when his phone rang. He debated about not answering it and letting his voice mail pick up the message, but then thought that perhaps it was Linda calling him and moved back across the room to his desk.

“Hello?” he said into the phone, and fought down the disappointment that settled over him, when he realized it was Suzanne Mills, Travis’ secretary, on the other end of the line. “What can I do for you Suzanne?”

“Director Travis would like to see you in his office before you leave the building, Special Agent Larabee.”

Chris inwardly groaned. He should have let the answering machine pick up the phone. “Can’t this meeting wait until morning?”

“No…Travis is insistent that you come to his office tonight.”

“Tell him I’m on my way.” Larabee said and hung up the phone without waiting to hear the secretary’s reply.

Larabee 7

Once dinner was finished Max cleaned her galley and Vin took on the boys for bath time in the main bathroom, while Kelli bathed Andi in the other one. Caleb had remained quiet, but was well behaved and cooperative. Tanner was certain that given some time to adjust and with Jason and Andi’s encouragement that the child would open up soon. He was pleased with the way his children had accepted Caleb’s presence and of their efforts to make him feel at home.

Within thirty minutes, three clean, ready for bed children crawled into their sleeping bags for a night of inside camping. The skylight let them see the stars and Vin promised to leave the small nightlight on, just in case it got too dark for them. All three were sound asleep before Tanner could finish reading even one bedtime story.

The adults gathered in the living room, Vin on the couch with Kelli and Max in the chair opposite them.

“I know that you two have a full plate of things that need your attention. I made a schedule and took care of some little details to make this move easier for you.” Max picked up her clipboard. “Linda and Inez will have breakfast ready at the Larabees’ by seven-fifteen; everyone else should be here by then to help. All the boxes are labeled, numbered and assorted by the rooms they go to. The children and I took care of most of their gear earlier today. We also went grocery shopping and stocked your new pantry and freezer, so you don’t have to.” She handed Vin some papers, including the receipt from the grocery store.

Vin read them and laughed before he passed them to Kelli. “I’ll write you a check to reimburse you and ‘m sure the list will be helpful.” The papers listed each box by a number and gave details of what each one contained.

“Organization is the key to success. Your new kitchen is operable, you can always rearrange it the way you prefer, but at least it’s ready to be used. Your phone is also working at the new house, and that special delivery your requested Vin, is completed and ready to turn on.”

“Special delivery?” Kelli was half listening until she heard that.

“You’ll find out about it tomorrow, baby.” Vin was not going to tell her that he had a new hot tub installed on the private patio that connected to their bedroom. Max wanted one and when she made Tanner an offer on the one that was already here, he agreed. That was one less thing to be moved and the new one he had special ordered.

Max changed the subject. “As I was saying, organization is the key to a successful project. Gunny will be here to direct the move on this end, while I direct it on the other end. We will finish no later than two and with help from Mallory, Rain and Casey we will have a barbeque picnic ready to be served by three. I assure you that by this time next week everything will be in place and you will be enjoying the comforts of your new home.”

“We appreciate what you have done Max. Not just with the move, but with the kids too.” Vin had to admit the lady was amazing. Max’s military training was evident in whatever she did and after years in the navy; her vocabulary was sprinkled with naval terms like galley instead of kitchen or shipshape instead of clean. She was great with the kids and her natural compassion and caring attitude that made her a fantastic nurse, also made her the perfect caregiver for the children. When she decided to do anything she gave it her all and nurturing his family was no exception.

”You are welcome. You don’t worry about a thing; you just take care of those babies and let me take care of you two.” Max laughed and rose to retire for the night. “I think one of your babies may need your assistance to make it to her bed. I will see you in the morning.”

“Goodnight Max.” Vin smiled when he saw that Kelli had fallen asleep during Max’s organization talk. Actually she had lasted longer than he expected her to. After locking up the house, he turned off the lights in the room, and then carried his redhead to their bedroom.

Tanner lovingly undressed his wife, and put her to bed without waking her. As he prepared to join her he took a good look at his surrounding. They had made many memories in this room and tonight was the last night he and Kelli would spend in it. Tomorrow they would take another step into their shared future.

The Texan turned off the last light and crawled into bed, wrapping his arms around his wife. Physically her smaller size molded into his perfectly, mentally they were on the same page, at least most of the time, and spiritually…it just felt right for them to be together. Vin inhaled the barely detectable aroma of sandalwood, a rich, sweet, woody fragrance from the perfume she wore, one of Kelli’s favorites. Buck may tease them about their physical activities, but as good as they were together sexually, it was the quiet times they were together, such as this that Vin loved as well. His thoughts drifted down the hall.

Was it just a few short months ago that we were worried about having a family? Jason and Andi were the unexpected blessings in their lives and Vin could not imagined life without them. They may have been mistreated in the past, but both of them had compassionate spirits. Tonight, seeing them interrelate with Caleb was heartwarming and he was damn proud of both children.

Tanner, fate has taken your life one helluva wild, unpredictable ride the last fifteen months and face it, you would not change one second of it. Whatever the future brings, you and this lady will see it through together, and you can’t ask for more than that.


Chapter 24

Larabee 7~Saturday July 29th

Chris looked over at the clock and saw that it was only five. Damn Larabee, between this case and Travis, you may never catch up on your sleep. His mind replayed his conversation with the director yesterday. As if you don’t have enough to think about right now, Chris. Although he agreed with much of what Orrin had to say, his idea was not one that would happen overnight, but it could be discussed. Yep, start with the brothers, let them bat it around and then, after this case is finished, well pursue it in earnest.

Linda stirred in her sleep and Chris reached over to brush a strand of blond hair from her face. It amazed him how much his wife had changed since Grace was born. Motherhood seemed to have made her more assertive, she was still impulsive, but more in control and self-assured than she had been before. She knew what she wanted and was damn determined to get it.

Chris, how will she handle you being gone though?

Since making his decision to take an active part in this case he had some small doubts. Thinking about Linda and that green-eyed infant in the next room they came to the surface again.Larabee, how can you separate yourself from this woman and that beautiful new daughter of yours? Aren’t you doing this to help create a better future for Grace’s world? Yes damn it, but…But nothing Chris, you committed yourself and now you have no choice but to go through with it.

“We’ll be fine, Chris.” Linda’s soft voice floated through the darkness. “I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t worried, but I do understand why you need to do this. Beside, I’ll have the chance to introduce Grace to my side of the family while you’re gone.” Linda you made a promise to him, now try to keep it. This time will be different than the last disaster.

“Try not to let the Dubois arrogance rub off on her.” Chris laughed; Linda had told him about her brothers that he had not met. She planned to visit all of them while he was in California.

“Grace will be okay. You just make sure that her Daddy stays in good health.”

Chris pulled her closer to him. “Don’t worry. You are going to have me around for a long, long time.” He captured her mouth with a hungry kiss and ran his hands down her back. Passion flared between them and all thoughts about being separated were pushed aside. They still had two more days together before Linda left for Louisiana, and Chris planned to enjoy every minute of those days with his family. Now though, it was time to make love to his wife.

Their daughter had other plans. Her cries started off softly, but escalated into full-blown wailing within two minutes. Chris sighed and gave Linda one more kiss before he rolled out of the bed. “I got her.”

Linda smiled as she watched her husband quickly throw on some clothes and pad barefoot into the nursery. Grace darling, you and I need to talk about your timing.


Max was at the ranch house by six with Buck, Inez and the girls arriving by six -thirty. While Linda, Max and Inez prepared breakfast, Chris and Buck sat on the deck and watched the girls play. Grace was snuggled securely in her daddy’s arms.

“How are you really holding up, Buck?”

“Hell, you know me Chris; I can pace myself and just like the energizer bunny, keep on going and going.”

Chris shot his old friend an aggravated glare. “I’m not taking about physically and you know it.”

Buck hesitated and thought carefully before he answered. “It’s tough…real tough. Listening to that shit on the tapes and knowing what those young girls are going through…It makes me want to beat the crap out of somebody. The problem with that is…I don’t know who the all the bad guys are yet and that frustrates the hell out of me.”

“It may take some time, but I promise that we will find the bastard responsible for this.” Chris vowed and was surprised to find his temporary doubts were gone, replace with a strong conviction to succeed.

The Sanchez family arrived next, Mallory went inside to help the ladies and the kids joined the girls, while Josiah poured himself a cup of coffee.

“Good morning Brothers.”

“Morning Josiah,” Chris responded as he stood. “I’ll be back in a minute, this little one is out to the world and I’m going to put her down for a while.” Larabee went inside with his precious cargo.

Buck looked up and saw the Tanners walking across the yard. “You know Josiah; if you had told me five years ago that Vin would end up so blissfully domesticated I would have called you an idiot.” Buck laughed, “But just look at him now.”

“Vin has always had a good rapport with kids and Kelli is good match for him.” Josiah watched as Andi sat on Tanner’s shoulders, while Jason and Caleb walked on each side of the Texan. “Vin is still a dangerous man to get on the wrong side of, and anyone that forgets that is in for a hard time.”

“Hell, I know that Josiah, I’m just glad he’s on our side.”

“You’re glad who is on our side? “ Chris asked as he came back outside.

“Vin,” Josiah answered. “Buck seems to think he’s turned domestic on us.”

Chris laughed. “Yeah, like a rattler lazing in the sun. Leave him alone and you’re safe. Rile him and look out.”

“Damn, that’s why you two get along so well. It takes one to know one.” Buck smirked.

Josiah laughed, “Careful there Buck, you don’t want to annoy that green-eyed rattler.”

Vin and Kelli walked up the stairs, and then leaned on the railing to keep their eye on Jason, Andi and Caleb. The trio had stayed in the yard to play with the other kids.

“How is Caleb doing?” Buck had worried about the child all night, wondering if he would be permanently scarred by his ordeal.

“He seems to be okay. Jason has taken him under his wing and Andi is practicin’ to be a junior mother hen.” Vin smiled. ”Together they make one helluva team.”

Chris leaned on the railing next to Kelli. “Hey Red, I have a question for you. You took your suspension pretty calmly. Why? I expected you to protest loud and long about it.”

Kelli sighed, “I deserved it. There was no excuse for not takin’ the time to wear my vest, no matter what the circumstances.” She looked at the children playing. ”When it was just me, that was one thing, now that I have Vin and the kids, I have too many reasons not to take unnecessary risks. It won’t happen again.”

Shaking his head in acknowledgment, Chris looked over his daughter to Vin,

You give her hell?”

Nope, she seems to be doing a good job of it herself.

“You know, I really wish you two wouldn’t do that.” Kelli huffed. “It’s unnerving, not to mention impolite.”

Vin laughed and hugged his redhead. “Don’t take it personal, baby.”

Chris grinned and tugged at her hair. “We still love you Red.”

Ezra pulled into the driveway; driving a nondescript rental car until he could have the Jag replaced. He left the vehicle running and walked over to the deck.

“Hey Ez you forget to kill the engine on that thing.” Buck yelled before the southerner could make it up the stairs.

“I am well aware of that sir. I have a delivery for Vin that requires the use of air conditioning.” He addressed the Texan. “You are more than welcome to acquire possession of the package in question at any time, preferably now.”

Vin shrugged his shoulders.” Now is as good a time as any I reckon.”

“I’ll keep the children distracted while you take care of their surprise Tanner.” Kelli went ahead of the men and over to where the kids were playing. Vin went with Ezra to his car. Curious, as to what they were up to, Chris, Buck and Josiah followed them.

Tanner retrieved his ‘delivery’, hid it under his shirt and walked over to join Kelli and the kids. Four smiling uncles stood behind him and waited to see Jason and Andi’s reaction to their gift.

“Jason, Andi, come over here for a minute please.” Vin called to them. They responded quickly, but they were not alone; the other inquisitive children came along, too.

When the children had gathered around the Texan he knelt down and spoke to them. “I have a little friend here that is kinda scared about comin’ to a new home. You think you can help him not to be afraid?”

Jason saw his dad’s shirt move and warily said. “I guess so.” Andi stood beside her brother and enthusiastically nodded her head yes.

“Well then, meet my friend.” Vin reached inside his shirt and brought out an Australian Shepherd puppy. “He doesn’t have a name yet and he’s only eight weeks old, but he’s lookin’ for a family. You reckon we can help him out?”

Jason’s eyes grew wide and he asked in amazement. “We can keep him?”

“Yep, but remember, he’s still a baby and needs lots of care and a name.”

Vin let Jason hold the pup while Andi excitedly jumped up and down next to him.

Jason gently held the bundle of fur and called out to Caleb. “Look, we can keep him! You want to help us name him?”

Caleb hesitantly petted the wiggling ball of fur. “It’s your dog, you should name him.”

Andi went into junior mother hen mode and said. “You live here too, and we s’pose to share.”

“She’s right, and I can tell you now, it don’t do no good to argue with her. Andi can be a bit stubborn.” Jason could attest to that fact firsthand.

“He doesn’t have to have a name right this second. The three of you think it over, and take your time.” Kelli suggested. “He has his own special place waitin’ for him at our new house. We can take him over there so he’s not underfoot while we move.”

“Jason, you hold on to him until breakfast and then afterwards we’ll take him to his new home.” Vin was certain that Jason would be gentle with the puppy. While the children were eating breakfast, Vin would place the dog in his carrier.

The children were fascinated with the new addition and sat on the ground to keep the new pup company, while the adults keep an eye on them all.

Josiah waited until they were back on the deck and then commented. “Well done Vin. Now instead of being anxious about moving, Jason and Andi have something else to focus on.”

“That was the idea when we decided to get the puppy, although at the time we didn’t know about Caleb.” Vin explained.” Earlier this morning we also gave Jason and Andi a picture of their mama and the blankets that she made for ‘em before she died. I know it’s not the same, but we bought a special blanket for Caleb so he wouldn’t feel left out.

“Doesn’t matter, Jason and Andi have shown Caleb acceptance and he will respond to that. I think it will work out well for all three of them.” Josiah answered.

Chris smiled as he watched the children. “Kids are amazing aren’t they? Those two haven’t had much good to remember until they came here and now they are trying to help Caleb.”

“It is because of their background that they can help him. “Josiah said. “They understand how he feels and their concern he can accept easier than from an adult.”

Buck shook his head, “It’s that fate thing again. The right place at the right time.”

Vin grinned and looked at Josiah. “I think he’s finally getting’ it.”

JD, Casey, Nettie and the twins arrived with Gunny right behind them. The ladies headed inside with the twins and JD found a comfortable place to sit.

“I must say JD, you are looking well.” Ezra remarked.

“Casey and Nettie have been taking good care of me and I’m well enough to come back to work Monday.” Dunne grinned. “I still can’t lift much, so it will be limited duty. But I’m here today to cheer you guys on while you work and to make certain Vin’s CASSIE computer connections get transfer properly.”

“That is good to hear JD, we’ve missed you, and thanks for coming today, too. With Max and Gunny pushing us we need all the support we can get.” Chris smiled at the younger man. Having JD back at work would make the nightmare of the last few weeks easier to get past. For a while Chris had been uncertain if JD would ever be back.

“By the way Chris, I do have the information that you requested, perhaps we can have a Larabee7 meeting later this afternoon and discuss our options.” Ezra suggested.

“That will work. This may be our only opportunity for a while for all of us to be together.” Chris answered.

Max walked out and made an announcement. “Breakfast is buffet style, eat up and then report to me for your assignments. We have work to do gentlemen so let’s move it.”

“Yes ma’am. “Buck grinned and slapped Chris on the back, “Reminds me of our old days in the Navy.”

“I heard that Wilmington.” Max yelled over her shoulder.

“You had better behave Buck or Max will have you on report.” Vin laughed as they began to prepare the kid’s plates. “A word to the wise, don’t mess with her schedule.”

Rain and Nathan came in just as everyone was finishing breakfast. “Sorry we’re late. We were having a discussion and lost track of the time.” Rain glared at Nathan. Obviously whatever they were discussing, they were not in agreement on the outcome.

“No problem Rain, grab a plate and join us.” Linda offered.

“Thanks, I will.” Rain answered and grabbed a plate for herself and Terrell. Nathan was left on his own.


Max did have everything organized, right down to the last box. The women, with the exception of Gunny went to the new house to unpack and tend to the barbeque. The kids played on the mini-playground that Vin had built and the men were designated by teams to move everything.

Gunny supervised the order of the move from the old house amid the grumbling of the men. Chris and Vin worked together well and soon had a system going. Josiah and Buck also had an easy time of it, but the last team worked against one another.

“Nathan, if you don’t wish to participate kindly say so. “An exasperated Ezra chided. “Otherwise try to concentrate on the task at hand so we may finish.”

“Quit bellyaching Ezra, I’ll do my part, but you may have to get your hands dirty.” Nathan’s mind was still on his argument with Rain and not on working.

“Mr. Jackson, the sooner you cooperate, the sooner we will terminate this menial labor.”

“Fine Standish,” Nathan grabbed two boxes and loaded them on Chris’ truck.

“Methinks all is not well in the Jackson household this morning.” Buck observed.

‘I’m sure they’ll work it out, whatever it is. “Josiah said as he watched his friend. He knew something was bothering Nathan and only hoped that he would talk about it soon, before it boiled over.


Kelli gave her sisters a tour of the house while Max and Nettie became better acquainted and unpacked boxes. From the downstairs bedrooms, and recreation area to the attic loft specially designated for the kids, she was pleased to show them the detailed woodwork Vin had personally added to their home. The southwestern colors of sienna, tans, and beautiful greens were evident throughout the house. They had an almost complete tour, except for the master bedroom. She had promised Vin not to go in there until he was with her. Whatever his surprise was he wanted to be the one to show her.

“I think Vin did a wonderful job with the plans and there is so much room. There is not much he hasn’t thought of, but why no solid closet doors?” Mallory asked.

“Andi,” Kelli answered. “Jack too often locked her and Jason in the closet and it terrified her. Vin promised her that she would never have to worry about dark closets again.”

“I had forgotten about that. They are both are so well-adjusted now it’s hard to believe they had so many hardships before they came here.” Mallory shook her head. “How can anyone do that to a child?”

Kelli stood at the wall of windows, as Tanner called it, watching the kids laughing and having fun. JD and Casey sat on the swing keeping tabs on all of them. “I don’t know, but it happens, that and much worse.”

“Buck told me a little about Caleb.” Inez knew how upset her husband was because he rarely talked about their cases with her. Last night he had talked for hours, most of the conversation centered on the child they had rescued.” How is he doing?”

Kelli turned to answer Inez. “Fine so far, he hasn’t talked about what happened to him, but I think he will with a little time. Once he feels secure again, he’ll be okay.”

“If that’s what he needs, then he’s in the right place.” Inez agreed. “He will find acceptance and shelter here on the Larabee7.”

“What he needs is a permanent home with parents that love him. Vin and I hope to help find one for him.”

Rain sat quietly and listened to the conversation around her. Nathan was against Caleb being placed here, but she didn’t understand why. From what little she knew about his circumstances, he needed a safe place. Caleb was a beautiful child, polite, respectful and he seemed to get along well with the other kids on the Larabee 7. She knew also that Vin and Kelli would take good care of him and see that he got the counseling he needed. She thought back to the argument she and her husband had this morning.

When Nathan told her what he wanted to do she was stunned. She always thought that if, God forbid, anything should happen to them, that Josiah and Mallory would be the ones to take care of Terrell and that was the way they had set it up after he was born. Now he tells her that he has reconsidered and wants to name his brother as Terrell’s guardian in that event He hasn’t talked to his brother in over a year. What is that man thinking? Regardless, he has not heard the last of this.

“Rain? Earth to Rain, come in,” Linda tried to attract her attention.

“What? I’m sorry, I wasn’t listening.”

“I said, Kel promised not to look in their room, but we didn’t. You want to go with me and snoop?” Linda laughed.

“Linda Larabee! If I can’t look, then neither can you.” Kelli knew her friend was up to something.

“Mute point ladies, here come the men now.” Mallory smiled at her sisters.


Max was pleased, they were ahead of her schedule and the move was finished. It would take a while to get the new house in order, but there was plenty of time later for that. The kitchen, bathrooms and bedrooms were all set. The rest would follow in due time.

“That is the last of it. The food will be ready in one hour, in the meantime take a well-deserved break.” Max ordered and smiled when no one argued with her.

Chris made an announcement before everyone dispersed. “We have a couple of things to discuss and I would like to have a short meeting with all the brothers. We’ll meet out on Vin’s deck in ten minutes.”

Vin took the time to show Kelli what he had bought. “Close your eyes and come with me.” Vin took her hand and led her through the bedroom to their private patio. He had spent many hours on the plans for their room. It was important to him that they had their own space that cultivated the right atmosphere for their relationship. The room was large with a separate sitting area, fireplace and spacious walk-in closet. One gun safe was in the back of the closet space as well as another downstairs. The bathroom was a roomy indoor spa and had duel sinks, twin showers, a sunken tub that was big enough for two, with a therapeutic whirlpool and an open skylight there and in the main part of the bedroom. He also had allowed enough space to add a nursery, if they were fortunate to need one.

The patio was completely enclosed by a stone wall with had a rock waterfall in one corner. They was a raised deck to sit on with morning coffee and watch the sunrise or for late night moon watching. Vin also had the foresight to include a retractable cover that would keep out the Colorado cold winters, but was transparent so they could still see the stars.

“Now you can look.”

She opened her eyes and smiled when she saw the new hot tub. “I though we said the old one would have to last us for a while.” Kelli leaned into Vin circling her arm around his waist and hugged him tightly.

“We did, but that was before Max decided she wanted one and bought it. I took the money, added some to it and ordered this one special, just the way we wanted it.” It included an audio system and controlled lighting, was larger than the old one and was surrounded by a beautiful deck.

“I love it and can’t wait to try it out. I reckon we’ll have to though, won’t we?”

“At least ‘til everyone goes home” Vin slid an arm around her waist and they walked out together. He laughed when he noticed that JD had installed their miniature traffic light doorbell at the entrance to the bedroom. ”JD thinks of the important stuff, too.”

Once outside they were going separate ways. “This meeting shouldn’t take that long. I’ll find you when we finish.”

“I’m gonna help with the barbeque, so find the food and I should be around close.

Tanner grinned and kissed her. “The food, I think I can locate with no problem.”


Chris waited until everyone had found a place to sit. He knew that the time for them to be together was limited. Although he wanted to have a strictly family weekend there were some things they needed to discuss. He noticed that Nathan sat away from the others and was concerned, but he would not pry, at least not yet.

“OK, I hate to do this now, but after this weekend it may be a while before we can all be together again.” Chris started.

“If it’s about the horses, I though we had that settled at our last meeting. We all agreed that Linda could work her magic with the thoroughbreds and you and Vin would be working with the quarter horses.” Buck wasn’t sure what else there was to decide.

“We did, but another matter has come up concerning the ranch. Vin’s little speech last week got me to thinking. We are handling tougher cases with tougher bad guys. I want to know that our families are safe here on the Larabee7.We need our own private security patrol, especially now after what has happened in the last couple of months. I don’t want to have to worry about our wives or children becoming targets for what we do at work.”

“Chris is right. We can’t always be here or count on havin’ the extra manpower available to send out here to secure our families. Vin added.

“We can also include Josiah’s land and the Well’s ranch since both properties border Larabee 7. I asked Ezra to calculate how much we could afford to spend on security.”

Ezra explained. “We have had a good year and have done well with the sale of our young thoroughbreds. Mostly due to the fact that we gained good publicity with Texas Lady’s winning races and the fact that our stallion, Hunter is of the same bloodline as a certifiable winner. His stud fee has tripled and his colts have increase in value. Our quarter horse mares are also garnering attention for some of the top breeders in the country.” Standish passed out proposals sheets. “This is the plan I have worked out that would allow us to hire a security expert and the additional manpower needed.” He passed out copies of the proposal he had written.

“We can afford this much?” JD was amazed.

“Yes, we can.” Ezra replied. “If we all are agreed, I would like to propose that we follow through and hire a security expect as quickly as possible. I believe that a name has already been mentioned.”

Chris noted the nods of approval. “Then we go with it. The man we would like to consider is Walter Andrews. He’s a retired police detective with twenty five years of unblemished service. He is also the detective that found Kelli in San Antonio so many years ago and he never gave up on her case even after he retired.”

“I had the privilege of meeting him in Texas when I accompanied Vin there and I have spoken to him on several occasions since then. I would have no problem with us offering him the position.” Ezra stated.

“I’ve met him and Kel keeps in touch with him. In fact he is plannin’ on a visit anyway to meet the kids. He will be here in the next week or so. Accordin’ to what Kel tells me he has no family ties and is bored with retirement.” Vin said. “I would feel comfortable offerin’ him the job.”

“Hell, I say go for it.” Buck looked around at the others who were nodding in agreement.

“Good, I’ll call him this evening and see if he’s interested. “Chris saw that some of the brothers were ready to leave. “We do have one more matter to discuss, so hold on.”

“What now Chris?” Nathan spoke for the first time and sounded aggravated.

Larabee waited for a moment and then made his announcement. “The director called me into his office after training class yesterday. Travis wants MCAT to move.”