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 43

Denver Memorial Hospital

Private waiting room

Thursday August 18th 3:00pm MST

The medical reports were not encouraging, Ross Anderson’s leg had been amputated above the knee, Katrina Santos was in a coma, and Greg Ramsey was in critical condition after sustaining serious internal injuries from the blast. Mark Westin had a compound fracture of the left arm, a broken clavicle and shrapnel removed from his right arm had left him with thirty-two stitches to close the wound. He also sustained first degree burns to both hands. All of them were facing a long stay in the hospital.

No amount of arguing would sway Director Travis’ decision. He understood his agents’ desires to stay and stand watch over their teammates, but he was firm in his insistence that they leave the hospital. Paul, Gunny, Pam and Vin were release with less serious injuries, and instructions to watch for signs of concussion. Nathan refused to be admitted after his broken arm had been cast and was determined to stand with the rest of the team.

Orrin was adamant. “All of you will leave now!” He looked at the determined faces around the room. “MCAT took a direct hit today and was the specified target of this attack. Most of you in this room are presumed deceased by the rest of the world and I plan on keeping it that way until I am convinced that the threat to this unit has passed. My order is that you stand down until further notice!”

“With all due respect sir, I request that you reconsider that order.” Tanner spoke for all of them. “Buck, Ezra, JD, Kel, and Mallory were not injured. Pam is okay enough to work communications for us and Paul, Nathan and I may be a mite beat up on, but we are still standin’. Our team may be damaged, but we are not out of the game, and we deserve the chance to search for Chris and take Donner down ourselves.”

Travis was not ready to give in. “I will take your request under advisement, and you will have my decision in the morning. In the meantime ALL of you will be escorted to the ranch and under the protection of Kerrigan’s men for the night. Your rides are waiting for you, and your personal vehicles will be taken care of, end of discussion.”

Nathan knew the director was through talking for now. “Paul, you can stay with us tonight.”

“I will be staying with Max, Pam you are welcome to join us.” Gunny volunteered.

JD was slower to read Travis. “What about Greg, Kat, Mark and Ross, shouldn’t some of us should be here for them?”

“According to the doctors, it is not likely that any of them will be awake tonight, but Bones is staying the night in the staff lounge just in case. They have been admitted under assumed names, I have trusted agents assigned to guard them and I am having their family members brought in by private jet. There is nothing you can do for them, son.” Orrin laid a hand on JD’s shoulder to soften his words. “Trust me to see they are taken care of, go home.”

Tanner was willing to give Travis until morning, and then if he did not agree, he would have to resign and look for Chris on his own. “Pam, Gunny and Linda, you three take the first vehicle. Nathan Rain, and Paul, y’all follow in the second one. Buck, JD and Ezra will ride with me and Kel in the last one. Orrin, we’ll talk later.” Vin nodded to the director and took Kelli’s arm. He had his own plans and would see them through with or without Travis’ blessing.

Mission Viejo, California 5:00pm PST

Travis had called Mallory while she was in route to California and gave her an update on the teams’ condition. Agent Sandoval accompanied Mallory and Selina to the Mission Regional Trauma Center without stopping at the hotel. Although for different reasons, both women were anxious to get to the critical care unit, a father and a husband were there in immediate need of the strength that family love could offer.

Selina rushed in through the double doors a few step ahead of Mallory and Alex. Josiah met her at the door to her father’s room, placing his large hands on her shoulders to offer support to the young woman. “Selina, he’s hanging in there and the doctor said he was slightly improved. He’s not awake yet, but talk to him, your voice is one he needs to hear.” Sanchez opened the door and escorted her in.

Taking Raphael’s hand in her own, she looked back at Josiah with tear filled eyes. “Thanks, I’m just going to stay here a while.”

Mallory was waiting for Josiah, she ached to think about how horrible it must have been for him to watch the news and believe that part of his family was gone in an instant. When the door opened and her husband stepped out, she opened her arms to him and they came together for the comfort they both needed.

Josiah squeezed her harder. “I thought…God Mal…I love you.”

“Love you too, big guy.” She kissed him and then they sat as she began to give him all the details of the day’s roller coaster ride of emotions.

Larabee 7~ 5:30 pm MST

The wild bunch had gathered at the Larabee home to wait for the family and team members to arrive. Mallory had filled them in on what she knew when she stopped to tell her children that she was leaving for a few days. Inez assured her that Joanne and Adam would be fine and told her not to worry, just hug Josiah for all of them and take care. Fortunately with Walter and Max’s help, the children had no idea of what had transpire today and saw nothing unusual about having a family dinner planned on a weeknight.

Linda, Gunny and Pam were the first to arrive and Inez met them at the door with baby Grace in her arms. She thought Linda would need to hold her daughter as soon as possible and she was right. “Thanks Inez, you have no idea how much I needed this.” Linda fought back the tears as she hugged Grace with such intensity that the baby grunted in protest.

“Nettie, Barbara and Casey are working on dinner for everyone, so you just relax and spend time with your daughter.” Inez hugged the emotional blond and welcomed Pam while Gunny went over to join Max.

Nathan, Rain and Paul soon joined them and Terrell was thrilled when his dad scooped him up with his one good arm to hug him. With watery eyes Nathan held onto his only child and whispered, “I love you, son.”

“Welcome home Nathan.” Inez smiled at the beauty of the father and son moment. “Paul, please make yourself comfortable, dinner will be ready soon.”

“Dr. Jackson says that you both should get off you feet for a while. “ Rain ordered both men.

Squeals of delight from the children outside as they descended on their fathers, signaled the arrival of the others.

JD hurried inside to find his wife and then the two of them grabbed up Lilah and Daisy for a family hug, giving thanks that they had the chance to spend more time together. Casey released the tears she had held onto all day and allowed her pent up tensions to dissolve. “Welcome home sweetheart, we love you.”

“God, you three are a beautiful sight.” JD had a difficult time letting go. “I love you Casey.” He cupped her cheek and kissed her lightly, and then the girls decided that they wanted daddy to play.

Casey smiled. “They want their daddy, you stay with them and I’ll help finished up dinner…but stay close.”

“Yes ma’am.” JD’s eyes twinkled with amusement as he sent up a prayer of thanks for the special girls in his life.

Inez stepped out the backdoor to see three kids hanging onto her husband. Sarah, Maria, and Caleb were giggling as Buck took turns tickling each one. He looked up, met his wife’s eyes and smiled because he knew she was checking him out for any sign of injury.

“Look there kids, isn’t that the most beautiful women you have ever seen? Buck grinned, telling her he was okay. “How bout I go let her know it. “With the kids cheering him on, he walked over swept Inez off her feet and kissed her passionately, much to the children’s delight. “It’s good to be home darlin’.” When Inez laughed he felt it all the way to his soul. Turning to his young audience, he smiled.” Come on kids, let see about some dinner, I’m starved.”

Tanner had his own hands full with Jason and Andi, and he loved every second of it. This morning he thought his life was coming to an end without the chance to see his family again. Any pain he experienced from lifting them was minor compared to that, and holding onto them was good medicine.

Kelli knew how important it was to Vin to be with the kids, but she did not want him to overdo. Exchanging a look with Ezra she decided to intervene. “Hey, you two want show Uncle Ra where Miss Barbara is?

“Sure, we’ll show him.” Jason said between giggles and laughter.

Andi took Ezra’s hand and tugged, “This way Uncle Ra.”

Vin straightened up barely avoiding an audible groan and then turned to the three agents that had driven them out here. “Y’all are welcome to eat with us and then our security foreman Walter Andrews will show you what we have set-up, It’ll make your job easier.” The Texan took Kelli’s hand and did not look back to see if the agents were following them.


After dinner Walter took Kerrigan’s agents on a tour of the property and helped them set-up for their night duty assignment. Gunny and Pam walked with Max over to her house. Rain insisted that Nathan was going home to rest, they used Rain’s car and Paul drove after promising to meet Tanner in the morning for a team meeting at his house.

Buck sat down next to Vin. “Inez and I thought since we already have Joanne and Adam at the house, we might as well make it a fun night with Jason and Andi too. I know it’s been a tough day and tomorrow don’t promise to be much better but they won’t be far if you need to see them.”

“Hell Buck, your house is a second home for ‘em anyway, and I know where you live.” Vin exhaled wearily. “We’ll have the team meet at my house in the mornin’. I’ve already called Beth Michaels and let her know that Justin is okay and warned her not to talk to nosy reporters. I also placed a few inquiries out there with some people I have contacts with, but you should know…don’t matter what Travis decides, ‘m going after Chris one way or another.”

Placing his hand on Vin’s shoulder, Buck made his position clear. “Not alone you not, when you go, I’m going too.’

“We’ll see what Orrin says first.”

“That’s fine. You and Kel need a ride?”

“No, we’ll say goodnight to the kids and then I think we’ll walk home. I need to work a few things out in my head.” Tanner stood up and joined Kelli and the children. Not surprised to hear that they were fine with staying the night at the Wilmingtons.

Kelli hugged Jason, and then Andi. “We’ll see y’all in the mornin’.” She stood with Vin and watched them leave with the Wilmington bunch.

“Barbara and I are headed over to the house, if you want to ride with us. “Ezra made the offer, but truth being told, the day’s events were catching up to him and Standish needed some time alone with his lady.

Vin shook his head no, “Y’all go on we’ll be there in a bit.” Tanner wanted to go over a few things with JD in Chris’ home office before they left. It was time to see if Dunne’s home version of Cassie could work as well as her now destroyed counterpart that lay in the ruins of what had been the MCAT office.

While you and JD put your heads together ‘m gonna help Nettie with the clean-up in the kitchen so Casey can get the twins ready for bed.” Kelli leaned over and kissed her Texan. “Come find me when you are ready to leave.”


Barbara had kept a close eye on Ezra all evening and decided that he was not as cool and calm as he wanted the rest of the family to believe. She was beginning to read her southerner very well and the more she saw of the ‘real’ Ezra the more she loved him. Over the last couple of weeks he had bared more of his true self to her and had begun to lower the walls of defenses that he had spent a lifetime building. Standing here on the Tanner’s deck watching the stars with the fantastic man beside her it was hard to believe that they had almost lost their chance for a future simply because they could not communicate, when now even unspoken words flowed freely between them.

“Are you listening?” Ezra smiled gently at the woman next to him.

“I…no. I’m sorry.”

“I said, that we should probably be able to move back home by the first of the week. I believe that threat for MCAT is over, but I want to be sure.” Ezra was slower to get the next words out, but what he had on his mind was too important to mess up. He found though that it was becoming easier to be open with Barbara than he had ever believed possible. “Barbara, I realize that is in not normally in your nature to stay in the background, but I appreciate you taking the week off and coming out here with me. Knowing that you were safe has made it easier for me to concentrate on work. It won’t always be this way, it’s just…”

“Ezra, stop, you don’t have to explain. When I agreed to be a part of your life, I also committed myself to trusting you. You said that me being here was important to you and I understand.” Barbara smiled. “There will be times in the future I may ask the same of you when my work is involved. That is what being an ‘us’, means.”

“Us,” Ezra grinned. “I do like the sound of that.” Drawing her close he wrapped his arms around her, inhaling her scent and just enjoying the feel of her close to him. “God, we could have lost so much today.”

“We don’t know how much time any of us have in this life. That’s why it’s important to not waste the time we do have. Although I like being around this wild bunch and have no problem spending time with Kelli and Vin, I will admit that I miss being ‘in the trenches’ every day. But Ezra, I would not trade one minute of the last week out here with you, for a hundred times that anywhere else. I love you Standish, get used to it.”

Tiling her head to look into her eyes, Ezra knew her words were spoken from the heart. “I am indeed a lucky man.” A passionate kiss between them left Barbara with no doubt that this man loved her and his next words made her heart race.” Shall we retire early this evening?” He ran his hand down her sides and was pleased to see her reaction to his touch.

Barbara shivered in anticipation of the lovemaking to come, and smiled up at Ezra with desire etched in her eyes. “Most definitely, love.” Arm in arm they walked to the bedroom, and closed the door, shutting out the rest of the world.


Casey was bathing the twins, and Kelli took over the remainder of the cleaning so Nettie could help her. She had just put the last clean dish away when Vin walked into the kitchen.

Vin was more than ready to get out of the confines of solid walls; he needed to be out in the open. Taking his redhead by the hand he led her toward the door. “Let’s get out of here.”

“We should tell Linda that we are leaving.” Kelli was just as ready as Vin was to go, but she knew she had been harsh with her friend today and wanted to try and smooth things over.

Stepping out the back door into the night air was like taking a breath of fresh air after almost drowning, it was heaven. Vin stilled for a moment and Kelli could physically feel the renewed energy flow through him. As much as she wanted to be alone with him, she forced herself to stop and speak to Linda. “I wanted you to know that we’re going home.”

Linda had been sitting on the deck for a while with Grace. She had not been able to bring herself to be separated from the baby for more than a few minutes since she had been home. Holding Grace was as close as she could get to holding Chris and although she was thankful that no one was killed today, she was too worried about Chris to think about how bad it could have been. Thinking over what she had heard today, had only convinced her that there was a hell of a lot more going on with her Cowboy than was being said. From the angry words Kelli shouted to what Orrin Travis was not saying in his explanation, it all screamed on thing. Chris was in trouble.

In the last year a demented serial killer that sliced skin off like butter had kidnapped Chris, then that madman beat the hell out of him and then he disappeared again when Jack came in the picture. On top of that he almost destroyed himself with pills. I can’t handle much more of this…You shouldn’t have to Linda, Damn it! You have enough money; you and Chris could go anywhere and do anything. Find a good Nanny to stay with Grace and convince Chris to get out from under this madness.

Drawing back from her thoughts, Linda looked over at Vin and Kelli. “Could y’all hang on for a few minutes? We need to talk.”

Tanner leaned against the railing, keeping his wife close. Kelli had sensed Vin’s reluctance and was very much surprised when he agreed. “For a few minutes, what’s on your mind Linda?”

“I’m not good with apologies Vin, as Kelli can attest to, so I’ll just say I’m sorry for being such a pain in the ass the last couple of weeks and leave it at that. That said I do need to know some things. Chris is in trouble. How bad and what are you doing to help him?”

Vin chose his words carefully, deliberately being evasive. “I’m not sure and everythin’ I can.”

“I don’t buy that. I’m not asking for details of your damn case. Hell Vin, you always know what Chris is doing or thinking, don’t expect me to believe that you don’t know now.”

“This time, I don’t know, but I will find him, and I will bring him home.” Vin snapped. “As far as what Chris is thinkin’ I reckon that you’ll have to ask him.”

“You refuse to tell me, fine! But you’re the one that has been in charge and if something happens to Chris, you are the one I’m holding responsible!”

“Linda, you are way out of line!” Kelli was ready to jump to Vin’s defense, but he stopped her.

“As soon as I know anythin’, you’ll know, too.” He straightened up. We’re leavin’, thanks for dinner.’” Not waiting for a reply, Vin turned and led Kelli down the deck stairs.

Linda saw them go with anguish in her heart. Vin always knew what Chris was feeling, always! Why was he saying he didn't know? What was going on? Why did they all feel this need to keep things from her as if she wasn't worth to be told? Hugging Grace closely once again she felt the deep fear that her daughter might be the only thing she had left from Chris and it scared her to death. No matter how much she loved her baby, it was Chris she wanted, needed. She wanted him back, here, with her. She wanted their life together back and to be happy again.


The Tanners walked in silence for a while, giving the Texan time to think. He wasn’t ready to talk to Kelli about how it felt to come so close to losing their life together. Those feeling were still too raw and he needed some time before he could express them. He knew that they both would need to discuss it, but not now. Mentally he took an account of where the team stood. There were five agents in the hospital, one missing, one still undercover, and four more with injuries. Only Josiah, Buck, JD, Mallory, and Ezra were all in one piece, with Kelli just returning to work after recovering from her own attack. Great job Vin, only six healthy agents available to work out of a team of seventeen.

Kelli silently observed the man that that she loved and had almost lost today. The light breeze tousled his long hair and soft moonlight silhouetted his salient profile against the darkness of the night. Vin was a dangerous force to be reckoned with when the situation called for it, and two of his greatest strengths were his deep-rooted sense of justice and his compassionate nature, but those strengths were what had left him vulnerable tonight. She knew that he was trying to find someway to sort out the events that had led up to today’s catastrophe and reconcile with himself how his actions or inactions may had caused pain to people that he cared about. The last four months had been hard on all of them individually. Vin had not only taken on his part, but in the last few weeks he had also carried the weight of responsibly for the entire unit on his shoulders, under difficult circumstances.

“It’s not your fault, you know.” She said softly.

Vin stopped walking and turned to face her. “Maybe Linda is right. I was in charge and I am responsible. Five agents are laying in the hospital, four of ‘em in critical condition because I did not do my job right. Chris is out there somewhere, maybe hurt or…dead… I failed to protect him, too.”

Kelli saw the deep pain in his eyes and could not stand to see him doubt himself. “It’s time for a reality check Tanner. First off, if you had not had the foresight to close the lab and keep some of the agents out of the office, it could have been much worse. You set the protection into motion that has kept their families safe. You insisted on all that extra training that helped Greg, Kat, Pam and me. You could not stop what happened today, but you did shrink the target considerably. Victor Donner is the one that is responsible for all those attacks, and that grenade launch, NOT you!

Second, Chris Larabee is over forty years old, and like it or not, you are NOT responsible for his decision to ignore reasonable orders. You did everything humanly possible to bring him out, even going out to California to try and talk some sense into him. Even you CANNOT help someone that refuses to be helped! You also are NOT responsible for HIS decision to go rouge or what that doctor in Mexico did or HIS decision to take the pills that he knows he is not suppose to take! You are NOT responsible for his still being out there, but you WILL be the one responsible for bringing him home!

Third, Raphael made his own decision to stay with Chris. He knew the risks that his decision could cause him. If you had been in his shoes you would have done the same thing.

Fourth, I could have lost you today, and I refuse to stand here and let you second guess yourself or beat yourself up over the things that transpired that were out of your control! You did what you believed was right to do. That is all that can be expected from any man. It’s time to move forward Vin. Chris needs all of us, and Victor Donner needs to pay for his evil. There are a lot of people dependin’ on your leadership to help them do both those things.”

Standing here listening to Kelli’s outburst did pull Tanner back into reality. Vin cocked an eyebrow and smiling, he shook his head in amazement. His fiery redhead had hit all the right chords during her little tirade and had managed to bring things back into a more balanced perspective. “Reality check over?” he pulled Kelli closer needing to feel the vibrancy of life that flowed though her.

Kelli sighed deeply and leaned into him. “For now,” she spoke quietly. Her tirade over, all she wanted was to be close to Vin, perhaps in a few days she would tell him how scared she had been today, but not tonight.

“Good, let go home, I need to get a good night’s sleep, if ‘m gonna take on the world again tomorrow.” Vin had a firm hold around Kelli’s waist as the walked together up to their house, and he sent up a silent prayer of thanks that they still had a tomorrow.


Over and Over and Over! How many goddamn times are they gonna show it? Chris could not reach the television set, but if he had been able to, it would be smashed to pieces. The handcuffs prevented him from pacing and the sharp pains in his gut made sitting still impossible. All the while the news kept showing those damn pictures from Denver… over and over and over!

Chris Larabee watched the announcement and was convinced that he was in hell. His family, brothers…daughter…team…gone. All this time Larabee all you could see was what was happening to those kids. Did you consider for one minute what might be happening at home? Hell no! Vin tried to tell you, Buck tried to tell you, Raphael…God! He’s dead because he would not leave you out here alone. You should have been there with them. You could have saved them Chris!

Eight agents are listed among the causalities including the senior members of the team.” Orrin’s words echoed through his head Eight agents…senior members of the team…his team…his family…brothers…friends…gone. Chris felt the wave of sickening emotions well up inside him and could not stop the resulting wail of pain that erupted from his soul.

Chapter 44

Friday ~ August 19th

Tanner home 5:00am

The Texan tossed and turned in his sleep as imagines of an injured Chris lost in a maze floated through his dreams. Vin was trying desperately to reach him, but an immovable object barricaded each path he attempted to take. Then the maze would move and he would have to start over again at the beginning, always ending at the same solid wall that stood between him and his brother.

“Vin…Tanner, wake up.” Kelli sat on the side of the bed and gently placed her hand on his shoulder. She had lain awake watching him, and was willing to let him finish the battle he was fighting in his sleep, but when his bandages became soaked with blood she decided to intrude.

Tanner was immediately awake. “Kel, what’s wrong?”

“You’ve thrashed around so much, some of the bandages have pulled loose and your wounds are bleeding. Sit up, and let me see to those cuts, I’ve got fresh gauze, tape, burn cream, and some peroxide.”

“Damn,” Vin cursed at the pain in his ribs as he slowly sat up and tried to shake the frustration of the nightmare that had invaded his sleep.

Now wide-awake, he leaned against the headboard as Kelli began to clean the areas that were bleeding. Watching her, he was aware that she had forced herself to control her emotions and be strong for his sake since yesterday. Tumultuous emotions and fears were there, just below the surface, waiting for her resolve to weaken. Her touch was gentle as she ministered to his wounds, but she still avoided looking into his eyes. Vin knew that she had to come to the realization that the crisis was over and it was okay now to let go. Okay Tanner she was there for you, now it’s time to help your woman deal with her uncertainties.

He was thoroughly enjoying the view her loosely tied silk robe revealed and smiled as he decided the best way to get through to his redhead. “I’ve never had an almost naked nurse work on me before.” Vin slipped his hand inside her robe, leisurely traced his fingertips across bare skin, and grinned roguishly “But it works for me.”

“You are an incorrigible flirt, Tanner.” Kelli winced when she had to pull a stuck piece of tape off his bare skin to replace the last bandage.

A mischievous grin framed his next comment. “That I am baby, but you love me just the same.” The Texan did not miss seeing the beautiful smile his words elicited from his wife. Patiently he waited for his light-hearted teasing to help her to let go of her disciplined control.

Kelli had another quip ready to fire off, but when she looked up and caught sight of the love and concern in Vin’s eyes, her self-imposed control began to crumble. “I know you wouldn’t leave me voluntarily, but…I was scared that you might not have a choice.”

Reaching out, he brushed her hair back from her face with his fingers and spoke softly. “It’s time for another reality check, Kel. Fate and faith have brought us to where we are, and given us one helluva great life. I’ll admit that when that grenade hit yesterday morning’, my faith waived a bit, but we made it baby. We are together, our kids are safe, and we are gonna let go of the fears and doubts that ran rampant yesterday. Today we’re gonna move forward, and trust that fate has many more years planned for us to be together. One way or another we’re going to find Chris safe and bring him home. Donner is going down tomorrow, and then this nightmare case will be over.” Vin drew her into his arms, holding her close. “I don’t know what the future holds, but whatever it is we’ll find out together.”

California ~5:00 am

Chris was caught in a collage of memories that took him on a trip through both the heaven and hell of the last ten years of his life. He could see Sarah smile up at him as she presented their new son to him at the hospital. He also saw the fire that consumed them both and could almost feel Buck pulling him away from it. Then the nightmare of that next year reared its ugly head, the despair and grief of that time consumed him and then…

Pictures flashed in his mind of the start of the ATF team. Buck was there with Josiah, Nathan and a young sharpshooter.” Name’s Tanner... Vin Tanner” Chris actually thought he heard Vin’s voice. Then JD and Ezra came along and they became more than a team.... they were brothers and partners. The ranch that he spent so many years alone on became Larabee 7 and marriages, followed by Sarah, Joanne and Maria came along…life was beginning to feel good again…

As the years rolled forward he saw Orrin call him in to his office… team seven is being disbanded… command positionnew unit will be called MCAT… a new beginning happening...I’m Linda Dubois, and you are... memories we make will have to sustain the one left behind…Kel and I are getting married…Josiah …we want to name our son Adam …Nathan…our new son…Terrell…JD…my new girls Lilah and Daisy…Kelli…she’s your daughter Chris…I never missed a pill, but we are having a baby…Mrs. Chris Larabee….May I present… Grace Addison Larabee…Full circle.

Memories soon turned into nightmares as chills took over his body The stables are burning…Linda is still inside…GOD, not again…Josiah was shot, he is the hospital…It’s Vin…hit and run, he won’t wake up…Buck was involved in an accident…critical condition…Hypothermia….her temperature is well below normal…Demerol Chris…nectar of the Gods... Withdrawal…you’ll have to go cold turkey… Another explosion…Vin? It’s Ezra, someone rigged the Jag. Jason on the phone…mom needs help…JD is being life flighted to the hospital now… They’re gone Chris, most of your brothers are gone. Explosion at the Federal Building in Denver, eight team members lost…and…

Finally the worst of the evils of the last year paid him a visit to torment his confused mind and add to the convulsions cause by withdrawal... Hired assassin…Lady Ice…we are alike you know…Skins his victims alive…name is Brad Cleaver…rats God, the rats…Paul Madera, mercenary.Philip Deveraux…welcome to hell Larabee….…Jack…I know what you want brother…take it… needle being thrust in his arm... nectar of the Gods.... … Child trafficking, kids being raped and sold to the highest bidder…Raphael shot…Victor Donner…Chris Larabee will rue the day he fucked with my business! Pleasant dreams Agent….

Drenched in sweat and trapped in nightmares of the past, Chris sat up quickly trying to orient himself to his surrounding. The blaring television across the room did nothing to stop the pounding in his head it only made it hurt worse. Looking at the pictures of Denver that flashed across the screen Chris began to sort things out in his scrambled mind and as his thoughts became clearer to him his anger grew.

Damn it Vin, how did you let this happen? All you had to do was take charge and listen, you could have waited for me, but no…you had to push the issue. Maybe I should have realized that you were not ready to lead the team, but I’ll have to live with my mistake. The others had to die for yours! I knew what I was doing and you should have trusted me, if you had…Tanner this entire mess is your fault. What in the hell happened to the famous Tanner instincts? You should have waited Vin…I could have taken Donner down and everyone would have been fine. But you wanted more didn’t you? You wanted the credit for this one and now I see that you wanted my command too. That’s it isn’t it…you sonofabitch! You were after my job! None of this is my fault…their deaths are on your hands Tanner and if you died, I hope you have an eternity in hell to think about that! If you’re still alive, then I’ll find a way to send you there myself!

Larabee felt some better, he had worked it all out in his drugged, confused mind, and he felt like he understood now. One image kept burning in his mind. Vin, taking him down and shouting at him… Vin, who had let it all go to hell.

Costa Mesa, California

Police Department ~Friday ~9:00 am

Chief Blaine had his special officers gather in his office for a little celebration. Billy Ray Hackett took one of the few chairs in the room and made himself at home in it. He leaned back against the wall, long legs stretched out in front of him and his body positioned in a slouch reminiscent to the first day he had entered Blaine's office.

Captain Jeffries took his usual seat next to the Chief’s deck propping his feet up on the windowsill and Shipley leaned against the back wall to keep an eye on the door. Hackett worked to keep himself in check. There was too much riding on the MCAT investigation for him to do anything or say anything that would give his true identity away. So he kept up with the laid-back 'good ole boy' charade and waited to see what it was that Blaine had called him and the others into his office to talk about.

“Well boys, it appears someone did us a big favor in Denver yesterday.” Blain pulled a bottle out of his drawer and slid four glasses across the desktop. “This calls for a toast.”

“Well, alright...celebrating is something I can do anytime of the day." Billy Ray exclaimed, rising up from his seat to pick up one of the glasses that Blaine provided and holding it for his boss to fill.

Filling his glass, the Chief grinned. “You’ve manage to fit in right good around here Hackett. We’ve decided that it’s time to cut you in on some of the extra action.”

Billy Ray felt his heart speed up, even as he gave an abashed smile for the praise from Blaine and said," Is that so?"

“Yep,” Blain filled the other glasses. “But first, a toast, ‘to all them damn MCAT agents, may they rest in hell’.” Blain downed his drink in one gulp, Jefferies and Shipley followed. Hackett was a little slower to move, but joined them all the same.

"MCAT, what the hell is MCAT?" Hackett asked, after he had downed his drink.

Jefferies set his glass down and explained. “A bunch of Federal pains in the ass that tried to come in here and interfere in our business.” He laughed. “But no more, we’re moving full speed ahead on smooth waters.”

"Hot damn, sounds like a good enough reason to celebrate to me!" Billy Ray exclaimed, slapping Jeffries on the back. "The only good Fed is a dead Fed.

Shipley snickered. "Hell, are you sure you ain't kin to the Chief?"

"Not that I recall....but then, who knows?" Hackett said with a Cheshire cat grin in Blaine's direction.

Blaine laughed, too. "Don't matter; you're part of our family now. Boy, how would you like to make 5 g's for a few hours’ work tomorrow?

"Are you shitting me?" Hackett's grin grew wider."5 g's for a couple of hours work?"

"A ... an associate of ours requires some clean-up work to be done. All you need is one piece of hardware and the guts to use it."

"Then I'm your man." Hackett was quick to assure him.

"I figured you would be. We'll meet him at O’Mara warehouse #32 tomorrow morning at nine. All the rubbish should be ready to disappear by noon and then we go to work. Oh, and be sure the piece you bring is clean and disposable."

"You got it."

Billy Ray lazily walked out the door to his desk. His stomach felt as if dinosaurs were playing a game of football inside. But this is what he came here for and no matter how hard it was to pretend he was one of those deplorable bastards in the other room, he was now one of them. He picked up him cell phone and sent out a text message. Tomorrow…they would find out first hand that paybacks were a bitch.

Larabee 7 ~10:30 am

Tanner Home

The remaining members of the MCAT team were sitting in Tanner’s den waiting for Orrin Travis to arrive. JD, Buck and Nathan had already had conversations with their respective wives to prepare them for what they hoped would be a team deployment. Barbara knew as well that Ezra was going to go to California, with or without the team. Vin had been on the phone most of the morning obtaining updates on their injured teammates, contacting his sources for information and making contingency plans in the event Travis decided to keep the unit on stand down status.

Looking over the group Vin shook his head and grinned at Buck. “We may have been knocked down, but by the determined look on those faces, I’d say we are a long way from out.”

Buck agreed. “Hell Vin, you know that and I know that, I just hope Travis knows it.”

“Travis knows more than you give him credit for gentlemen.” Orrin spoke from behind them. Seeing the surprised look on Vin’s face, he explained. “Kelli let me in. Are we ready to start?”

Tanner recovered quickly. “We are now.”

This was Orrin’s meeting and he had his own agenda to follow. He had spent most of last night weighing his options and considering the future of his MCAT unit. Following several discussions with himself and a few hours of sleep he had made his decision.

“After checking with several doctors this morning, I can give you an update on our absent team members. Ross Anderson is still listed in critical, but stable condition. His wife is with him and his doctors are optimistic about his recovery. Sadly however his future in law enforcement is questionable at this point in time. His right leg was amputated and he will be required to have several months of physical therapy and then learn to walk again with an artificial leg. Katrina Ramos’ condition is unchanged, she remains in a coma and her doctors say the only thing to do now is to wait and see.

Greg Ramsey suffered massive internal injuries, but his condition has been upgraded from grave to critical. His doctors are cautiously optimistic that he will continue to improve and eventually make a full recovery. Mark Westin is in good condition, but will have limited use of his arms in the next few weeks and his hands need to heal. His doctors do not foresee any permanent damage from the broken arm or clavicle, and he should be back with us soon. Raphael Cordova improved slightly overnight and later today we should have a full update on his immediate prognosis.

Last, but certainly not least Agent Chris Larabee has been listed as officially missing. An APB has been issued to all law enforcement agencies and a toll free number has been set-up for any information that may come in about his location.”

“Isn’t that taking a big risk sir? Some law enforcement agencies may not want Chris to be found.” JD said worriedly.

Travis quickly replied. “It is a risk we have to take. The faster we get a lead on his whereabouts, the better chance we have of finding him alive.”

“Y’all let the man finish before you start askin’ question.” Vin interjected.

“After careful consideration of all that is involved, I have made my decision. This unit is outstanding and I believe all of you have the right to see this case through to the end. We will proceed with our original plan with only a few minor changes. My administrative assistant, Suzanne Mills will be in charge of PR and see to any further arrangement that will be needed for the agents that stay behind and their families. I have also made arrangement for three of Kerrigan’s’ agent to stay as additional protection for your families here at the ranch. Tanner, I realize that most of the MCAT equipment was lost yesterday, if you prepare a list of what you need, I will see that you have it.”

Vin already had a list prepared and passed it to Travis. “I had it ready, just in case.”

Orrin raised a brow. “Just in case, huh? Captain Tanner, are you also prepared to outline specifics on this plan?”

“Yes, sir,” Vin stood and outline the details for tomorrow. “Michaels sent me a message just before you arrived, and we now have a time set for nine in the morning, which means we have to be in place by daybreak. Homeland security agents will be at the docks ready to seize and board the ship to search for illegal contraband and for any sign of Chris. Senator Hansen is under surveillance as we speak and you sir will be executing his arrest warrant at his office in Santa Ana. The rest of you that were originally assigned to this operation will be with me at the warehouse, hopefully before the loaded trucks pull out for the docks. We have good reason to believe that Donner and Zimmerman will be there as well as four members of the Costa Mesa PD.”

Nathan was concerned about where he fit in this plan, and spoke up. “I thought I was supposed to be with homeland security at the dock?”

Vin looked doubtfully at Nathan’s cast. “I’m not sure that is a good idea.”

“I am not gonna be left behind on this one Vin!” Nathan was ready to argue the point if necessary.

“I’m going too.” JD spoke up. “You’re shorthanded and I can do the job.”

“Relax JD, Director Travis said a few changes had to be made and I know that Vin can count.” Kelli looked directly at her husband. “I doubt than any of us will be left behind.” When she and Vin had discussed the issue, they had agreed that whenever possible both of them would not be in the field at the same time. Kelli knew she should not challenge him when it came to work; however, she had no intention of staying in Denver on this one and wanted to make certain that he knew it.

The Texan could think of a number of reason to say no, but not a single one that related to work, Vin’s blue eyes met her gaze and held it. The room fell silent waiting for Tanner to respond. “All available team members will be workin’ this operation. Pam, we need you here on communications, if you’re up to it.”

I’ll manage sir.” Pam answered.

Vin acknowledged her and moved on.Buck, you will team up with Josiah, he will meet us at the hotel, while Mallory stays in Mission Viejo to guard Raphael. Nathan, you will liaison with homeland security at the docks, but as an observer only. Paul, are you well enough to join us?”

“Try and leave without me, sir.” Paul grinned.

“Okay, then you will be with JD. Ezra, you’re with Kelli. Since we are supposed to stay under the press radar, I suggest we leave after dark.”

Travis agreed. “I will make arrangements for us to leave at seven tonight and have the lodging information to you this afternoon. Your equipment will be there for you and your additional back-up from the U.S. Marshals office will be on stand-by in California, waiting for your instructions. Unless, you can think of anything else, I will see all of you tonight.”

“That’ll do it for now. Go home, pack for a minimum two days, and spends a few hours with your families. Meet back here at six to leave for the airfield.” Vin dismissed them and waited until they had all left to speak to his wife.

Kelli was prepared for the coming conversation. “Vin, I’m sorry to put you on the spot in front of everyone. But we didn’t exactly have time to discuss it and I really need to be there…not just to find dad, but...”

“Kel stop.” Vin walked over and placed his hands on her shoulders. “We all need to be there, to find some sort of closure to this damn case. You included, so let it go.” He smiled. “Next time though, give me a little warnin’ so the Captain part of me will be ready for your insubordinate comments.”

Kelli sighed deeply. “I’ll try, but sometime I react first and regret later.”

Tanner laughed. “That, baby, is all too familiar Lar’bee trait. I believe I can handle it.” Drawing her close, Vin flashed a playful grin. “I know I can sure as hell handle you.” The Texan showed her that even injured, how true his words were, leaving her breathless. “Why don’t we talk about it before we go to collect the kids?”

“Sounds like a plan to me, Tanner.”

Santa Anna, California

True to his word Travis had replacement equipment waiting for them and MCAT’s private jet had them touching down in California before nine, pacific time. Two unmarked paneled vans transported the team to Santa Ana where Suzanne had made accommodations for them. She had them booked into a motel that had kitchenette facilities so they would not have to take the chance of being seen in public. Josiah Sanchez was anxiously waiting for them for them to arrive.

Two vans pulled into the motel parking lot and parked in spaces side by side. The MCAT bunch looked a little worse for wear as they climbed out of the two vehicles. Vin had driven the first one with Kelli beside him, and Nathan and Ezra in the back. Buck drove the second van with Travis, Paul, and JD. They climbed out of the vans and gathered into one group as Sanchez appeared out of the dark corridor that led off to one side. His blue eyes traveled over one face and then another of his family members, teammates, and the director, silently saying a prayer of gratitude that they were all alive, and relatively in one piece.

"You are all a sight for sore eyes." he said gruffly, unable to keep the emotion out of his voice.

" an understatement." Vin said calmly. "Battered is even better...”




"Enough..." Travis said, with a smile.Trust me Josiah; they look a helluva lot better than the office does.”

"As I recall, Director, you had stated previously your desire for us to relocate our unit to a more suitable location," Ezra said, "It was the general consensus that we were being given time to consider your proposal... it is fortuitous that opportunity has presented itself to align with your plans. I find that it is always best in our profession to be adaptable in the worst of circumstances."

Travis glared at the wily southerner. "Sometimes Standish you logic amazes me."

Ezra shrugged his shoulder. "I do try sir."

"We all do." Buck said with a chuckle.

Josiah felt a lightness fill him, despite the seriousness of why they had all gathered at this motel....despite the fact that one of their brothers was missing. He stepped forward and swept Kelli and Vin up in a bear hug that caught both Texans by surprise...not an easy thing to do.

"Watch...the ribs...Josiah." Vin gasped out at the larger man's exuberance.

Sanchez let them go and slapped Buck cheerfully on the back, practically pushing him into Nathan's bad arm. JD was the next brother to be swept up in the larger man's arms and hugged, both Vin and Buck called out, "Turn him loose, Josiah. He's turning blue!"

With a sheepish smile Josiah told JD, "Sorry, brother..."

"It's alright...” Dunne remarked as he took in a deep breath.

Josiah turned toward Ezra who quickly side stepped out of the older man's reach.

“Although I am exceedingly happy to see you brother, don't even consider wrinkling the suit.”

Nathan prepared himself for Josiah's expected hug, turning slightly to avoid his broken arm any further injury. "I'm ready." Jackson grinned as Sanchez threw his arm around his shoulder.

Josiah left no one out of his reunion, and Paul soon found out what a Josiah bear hug really felt like. Sanchez turned to Director Travis who wisely spared himself some sore ribs by asking. “Sanchez, are our rooms ready?"

Slapping the older man on the shoulder Josiah smiled. "It would seem sir that there was a slight communication snafu. We only have two rooms available to us. But don't worry; none of us snore...much."

Ezra barely refrained from letting out an undignified gasp at Sanchez's words. “That’s preposterous! That’s nine of us in two small rooms! Certainly, other arrangements can be made!"

Buck grinned good-naturedly. "Come on, bad can it be? It'll be just like having a sleepover."

Standish cocked and eyebrow at Wilmington. “I don't even want to think about the ramifications of those words."

Vin chuckled, placing an arm around Kelli's shoulders. "You could always sleep in one of the vans...Ezra."

"Mr. Tanner...I do NOT find that in the least bit amusing." Standish told him flatly.

JD grinned. "Yeah Ez, just think, it could have been only one room. Aren’t you the one that said in our profession we must be adaptable to any circumstances?"

"Good Lord, now the youngster listens to me.” Ezra sighed." Lead on."

"All kidding aside,” Tanner spoke up. "We need to go over our plans for tomorrow so that everyone is clear on what their job is. I suggest we take this gathering inside, get the sleeping arrangements situated, and then rehash everything."

Once inside the suite, sleeping arrangements were quickly settled, Josiah and JD took one queen-size bed while Nathan and Paul took the other; a rollaway bed was provided for Travis. In the adjoining room, Buck and Ezra took one side; Vin claimed the other queen-size for him and Kelli.

Orrin provided the blueprints of the warehouse that he had faxed to the motel earlier from the city registrar’s office, and soon everyone was gathered around the table to look over tomorrow’s target. Everyone listened as Tanner laid out his plan for the team and they worked well into the night.

“Takin’ ‘em by surprise is the key to us bein’ successful.”

Chapter 45

Santa Ana, California~ Saturday August 19th

It was in the predawn hours of the next morning that found the team already working to make their last minute preparations for the raid on the warehouse. Tanner had studied not only the blueprints again, but the intelligence reports on Donner’s warehouse that the U.S. Marshals had done on a past attempt to bust the corrupt man. He found the information adequate enough, but Vin wanted to check out the location himself and take down his own observations. He would not take MCAT into a location that he hadn’t personally checked out. Since he would be maintaining a position on the floor during the entire raid, Coulter went with him. As the other sharpshooter in the unit, she would take this opportunity to scan the warehouse for possible places that she could take up a firing position to cover all of the agents on the ground.  

With Kelli at his side, Tanner left to go scope out the warehouse. He took one of the vans and drove it up to a location that looked down upon warehouse row where Donner’s warehouse was located, and their observations wouldn’t be easily detected. He crouched on the hill and used high tech binoculars to make his observations to Kelli, who jotted them down onto a notepad that she held.

“The warehouse is two stories high as the Marshal’s Intel indicated, but there is only one floor. There are two double doors in the front, large enough for a tractor-trailer rig to maneuver through. In addition to the main entrance, there are three additional entrance/exit locations. One each face the east and west side, and the other is at the back of the buildin’. “Vin dictated to her.

“What do you make of the interior floor plans?” Kelli asked.

Vin peered carefully into the infrared nightscope and adjusted the telephoto lens so that he could get a much better view of the interior of the warehouse, via the cracked windows. “Mostly it’s one large main room with a collection of packagin’ materials that consist of crates, bindin’ ties, some heavy machinery. On the east side of the building there is a set of smaller rooms, which must be offices, and a bathroom…possibly a holdin’ area for their ‘human’ merchandise or our missing brother. “

Kelli jotted down this information as well. “Can you make out how many men are in the facility?”

“There are two heavily armed men, one inside and one outside the front entrance, and one apiece on the interior side of the other doors. Two more thugs are guardin’ one of the rooms an’ I’m guessin’ that means my assumption of there bein’ merchandise in there is true. I can pick out at least five additional men in the main room of the warehouse. That’s twelve men that we are goin’ to have to subdue in any means possible. Donner will most likely have Willis, and at least one or two other men with him. Justin reported that besides him, Blaine will also have two other men with him, officers’ Jeffries and Shipley, So that makes a total of about nineteen or twenty suspects that were goin’ to be up against when we take the warehouse.”

“The odds aren’t great, but they could be far worse.” Kelli stated seriously. Vin passed her the scope so that she could peer through it into the warehouse. She carefully studied the layout of the rafter’s assemblage, noting a couple of places that would make ideal perches for her to provide cover for the agents on the ground. When she was finished, the two MCAT agents maneuvered themselves off of the hillside and back over to the van and climbed in. “A two- to-one ratio, I reckon. Guess all your hand to hand trainin’ is about to pay off.”

“We’ll soon find out.” Tanner remarked as he started the van and headed it back in the direction of the motel where the others were waiting.

Back at the motel

There was an anticipatory air in the motel room, when the Tanners arrived back with their updated information on the warehouse. Vin looked over the assorted MCAT members, and U.S. Marshals that would be backing them up on the raid, his blue eyes steely with resolve.

“First off, do not forget that we have two men in there undercover and a missing agent, you have their pictures, memorize ’em. No one makes a move until I give the go ahead and MCAT will take the lead, y’all Marshals are here to back us up. Make sure your radios and headset are workin’ properly.” Vin was helping Kelli put on her vest as he spoke. “I don’t plan on losin’ any of y’all out there today so double-check everythin’.”

Tanner finished with Kelli’s vest and moved over to the plans on the table. “Gather around everyone." Tanner said to the assorted MCAT agents and U.S. Marshals that would be providing back up for them. “I’m goin' to go over the details of the plans only one more time." Their plan was fairly simple; the agents would hang back out of sight. Justin would text Tanner when all the players were present. Then they would move in, hoping to catch Donner and the others off-guard. “There are four entrances to the single level warehouse. The front entrance is the double door set up that you would see in most warehouses or barns and is the one that Donner, Blain and their people will be arriving at the location through. Three other, single door exits exist. All of them have guards staged on the interior side of them, except for the main door. That door has a second man on the exterior side of it as well. “

He glanced up from the drawing momentarily, to make sure that everyone was following him so far. When he was satisfied that everyone was following, he continued. “The warehouse consists mostly of one large common area that is littered with heavy machinery, crates, packaging materials. Along the east wall, is a row of additional smaller rooms, the largest one is guarded by an additional two guards and is most likely where their ‘human’ merchandise is located. Kelli and I did a count up of the odds that we are goin’ up against and it looks to be like two-to-one with Donner and Blain on the premises with their people. “

“Not bad odds…” Wilmington commented.

“No…” Tanner agreed, “However, these men are not goin’ to settle only for a gun battle. They are all facin’ some serious time for the crimes that they have committed, and stand to lose everything they value. They are goin’ to be lookin’ to do anythin’ and everythin’ that they can to avoid prosecution. So be ready for anythin’.”

“Don’t worry Vin, we can handle ourselves.” JD assured him.

“Even so it will be prudent if we remember all of the extracurricular training that Agent Tanner bull-doggedly insisted that we all take part in.” Standish spoke up, looking at Vin with a wide grin.

Tanner heaved a resigned sigh and shook his head at the sound of laughter around the room. “Y’all laugh, but when this is over we’ll see how you feel about it then.” Turning serious again, Vin began to give orders. “Agents Sanchez and Wilmington, you will be posted at the east side; Agents Dunne and Roberts the west. Agents Coulter and Standish will be comin’ in from the back. I will be kickin’ down the front door with U.S. Marshals, Williams, Majors, Wright, and Philips. Those Marshals’ names I did not call out will be providin’ backup for everyone else on the front line of the raid. Again remember, we have two men undercover in there and possibly a hostage; I do NOT want any of our people down due to friendly fire. When all of the suspects are in place, we will move in on my signal only. Those of you who are comin’ from the sides and back, you will take out anyone who poses a threat and converge on the main part of the buildin’. Is everyone clear on what they are supposed to be doin’?”

There were a round of nods and “Affirmatives”.

“Okay, “Vin said.” Gather up your gear and be geared up to head out in fifteen minutes. Everyone needs to be in position before daybreak. Be prepared for a long wait.”

Warehouse Area 

It did not take long to reach their destination. Experienced team that they were, everyone stealthily moved into their assigned positions and listened for the signal that hopefully would lead them to a conclusion to the nightmarish case that had dogged them for so many months. Before the sun’s rays hit the ground they were ready for whatever lay ahead. The activity around the warehouse increased as the hours passed. Two tractor-trailers pulled into the loading zone and crates began to be loaded by Victor’s crew. Zimmerman and Vance were the first suspects to appear and by eight-thirty Donner had arrived, too.

JD felt the anticipation building inside of him as he and Paul waited on the west side of the building, bodies plastered against the walls to make themselves as invincible as possible in the little walkway between the two warehouses. It was more than the usual rush that he got before a bust, because of all that was riding on this raid. Foremost, in all the brothers’ minds was finding their missing member, Chris Larabee. Regardless of whether or not Larabee had gone rogue and endangered the lives of all of them by his actions, he was family and none of them wanted to discover him dead. Next to finding Larabee, every single MCAT agent wanted some retribution for all the chaos and harm Donner and his cohorts had caused them.

Wilmington and Sanchez were biding their time, hunched down into position along the east wall, listening intently to the sounds of the activity going on inside of the warehouse, especially that of the sentry that was guarding their entrance. They both had to quickly shift out of sight twice, as the door had opened far enough for a stream of brown chewing tobacco to rain down upon the asphalt. As soon as the door was closed again, they would return to their previous positions.

Ezra and Kelli were well concealed by the backdoor. Standish passed the time mentally playing poker, while Coulter relaxed her breathing and concentrated on her rifle. Pushing out thoughts of home, kids, and family to be ready to act when necessary, both of them had only one thing on their minds. Kelli’s focus was to cover her teammates and Ezra’s was to cover his partner.

Vin stood inside the bank of windows within the warehouse adjacent to Donner’s warehouse. He had chosen to utilize the warehouse as a staging point for his entrance position, and those of the U.S. Marshals who would be following him in, while the others fanned out toward the other three doors to cover the other MCAT agents’ backs. He did not worry about his team accidentally shooting one of the Marshals as they came in behind him, because they were all aware of the backup team’s part in the raid.

Tanner had been waiting for just the right moment to spring their trap, and now that the message from Justin came through confirming that all of the players had entered the warehouse, it was time to put their plan into motion. They did not have to worry about the guard on the exterior side of the double doors, his squad’s entrance point, because he had disappeared inside with the others. He radioed the others that the raid was a ‘go’ and led the Marshals across the short distance between the two warehouses, releasing his weapon from its holster, he signaled to Marshals Williams and Majors to grab the two door handles and give them a mighty yank.

Simultaneously, all four doors were wrenched open and the MCAT Agents and U.S. Marshalls converged on the warehouse from all sides, yelling “Federal Agents!" Tanner quickly dispatched one of the guards at the door that was aiming a gun at him, with a shot that disabled the man, and ducked just in time to avoid being hit by the other’s fist. That assailant dropped to the ground from a wound to the neck fired by one of the Marshals. Sanchez and Wilmington had easily taken down their guard, and moved rapidly forward, their focus on taking out the hoods guarding the ‘merchandise’ and ensuring the safety of the victims. JD and Paul were equally efficient in dispatching the man by their door and found themselves almost instantly engaged in hand to hand to combat with a couple of other men.

Standish had fired the shot that took out the guard on their door, and he and Coulter moved forward in the warehouse, Kelli’s eyes scanning the interior for an ideal place in which she could scale the rafters and provide cover for the agents and marshals on the floor. She had just found the ideal spot, when she heard Ezra yell her name. Kelli ducked in time to miss being garroted by a scythe, and found herself in a fight for her life. Standish was likewise occupied with a burly man twice his size. It took a few minutes, but both of them disposed of their immediate threats with practiced defensive moves and as Kelli ascended to her selected perch, Ezra gave her cover to reach it.

Michael Welch after months of pretending to be corrupt FBI agent Vance now had the pleasure of taking down his ‘partner’ Agent Robert Zimmerman. “You are under arrest Zimmerman.” Seeing the stunned look on his face when Michael told him he was under arrest and handcuffed was priceless.

When the doors swung open, Blain’s officers from Costa Mesa thought they would have the advantage in this fight, after all they were lawmen too, and whatever side won they could believably claim their allegiance to. However they were in for a rude awaking. Billy Ray Hackett had let out a loud, "Shit!" as the front doors to the warehouse burst open and Federal Agents rushed in. He dove to the floor, drawing his gun and taking aim at what Blaine assumed was one of the interlopers, but instead Shipley fell to the floor.

Justin got off another shot, nicking Jeffries as the other man dove into Blain and took him down to the ground. Movement to his right made Justin turn in time to see one of the other suspects in the warehouse with a gun pointed at his head. He stared up the muzzle of the gun and saw the man's fingers twitch on the trigger, but the sound of a high-powered weapon echoed through the cavernous warehouse and the man fell forward onto him, dead. Quickly recovering Justin leveled his gun at Blain and said, “Asshole, you are under arrest.”

Kelli let out a breath as she sighted down the scope of her weapon again, watching as Justin pushed the man she had just shot off of him and regain control of the situation.

Across the warehouse Josiah and Buck had their hands full with three of Donner’s men. Sanchez took out two of them when he knocked their heads together, and the third when he shoved the two dazed men into the man wrestling with Buck.

“Thanks Brother Josiah,” Buck grinned and immediately turned to face their next threat.

JD and Paul worked their way through the warehouse, eager to assist their teammates. JD let out a grunt and fell to his knees as he lifted a hand to touch the back of his head, and it came away with blood. As the man who had snuck up on the unsuspecting MCAT agent readied the shovel for another hit, Paul leaped at the man to protect his partner. JD rolled onto the floor in a furious movement and shot his assailant in the chest, before Roberts could reach him.

“You okay?” Paul asked, as he helped JD to his feet.

JD felt his head swim a little as he stood up. “Yeah…Buck always said I had a hard head.”

Roberts chuckled and turned in time to see two men with guns directed at him and JD. He froze in place, and JD paled a little. Both MCAT agents’ lives flashed before their eyes, and then suddenly their two assailants let out cries of pain, and crumpled to the ground to reveal Buck and Josiah standing before them.

“You two looked like you could use a hand.” Wilmington commented.

“I’ve never been happier to see anyone than the two of you.” JD exclaimed, as he and Paul sighed in relief.

“Thank us later when we’re all out of this in one piece.” Wilmington said as the four agents paired off again as the battle continued.

JD took the lead as he and Paul maneuvered their way through the maze of crates, making sure none of the bad guys had taken up shelter there during the battle. He came out on the other end to a sight that froze him in his place and had him instinctively raising his weapon up to fire


Kelli had not hesitated to look for another target and felt her heart sink to her stomach as she caught sight of Vin in hand to hand combat with Donner. The way they were moving made it difficult for her to cover the Texan from her position. Heart pounding and hands steady she waited for her chance to shoot, praying that she would get it. Fear coursed through Kelli as she watched the deadly change of events happening regarding her husband, and she tried desperately to get a clean shot, but couldn’t without the risk of hitting Vin as he charged Donner. A dark headed figure appeared on the floor near where the scene with Donner and Tanner was playing out, and instinctively Kelli maneuvered her gun to target the man. It took a moment for her to realize it was JD, and she said a silent prayer that Dunne had a clean shot at Donner if necessary, because she did not.

Vin swept Donner’s legs out from under him, sending the other man falling hard to the floor. The furious Texan advanced on the other man, eager to unleash more of his wrath onto the man that had been responsible for all the attempts on the lives of his brothers, his wife, and the other MCAT agents. The same man that was responsible for ruining the lives of countless juveniles and damaging scores of others.

As he felt his feet fly out from under him, Donner flailed out with his hands to try and brace his fall, but connected hard with the ground anyway. When he landed, Victor felt the fingers of his right hand graze against something hard and metal. He felt renewed hope that he would see another day fill him as he grabbed up the fallen revolver and brought it up to bare on the charging Texan.

Vin froze in mid lunge, his heart pounding in his chest, and his thoughts on Kelli and their children as he stared down the muzzle of the gun that Donner was holding. He didn’t fear death; he feared leaving Kelli, Jason, and Andi alone. He flinched as he heard the sound of a gun being fired and waited to feel the impact of the bullet plunging into his chest and flinging him backwards onto the cold asphalt floor. The sensation never came. Instead, he watched as a stunned expression came over Donner’s cocky face, and the gun he held clattered to the ground. Donner brought a hand up to touch the widening bloody stain on the front of his shirt, as if not quite believing it was real, before his eyes closed and his head hit asphalt with a resounding thud.

Tanner turned to see an obviously shaken JD standing a few feet away, his gun still aimed at Donner. Vin nodded his appreciation to JD and then accounted for each member of his team as he confirmed that all the suspects were detained. He still had one more piece of business to take care of before he saw Kelli. Striding over to where Justin held onto Blain, Vin propelled himself into the man knocking the Police Chief to the floor of the warehouse. As Tanner drew back his fist he growled. "That redhead agent you so disrespectfully harassed and tried to kill is my wife.”

Blain taunted the Texan. "The bitch deserved everything that she got! Thinking she could come into my town and act like the boys, when all she is, is another piece of tail for the taking!"

The deadly snake that had been coiled up until then, quickly unwound itself and struck, as Tanner's fury was let loose and Blain lost his breath when Vin rammed his fist into his gut. The Texan straightened just as Kelli reached him and he felt her eyes scan over him for any sign of injury. Taking her arm to steer her away from the man writhing in pain on the floor he gave Justin an order. “Get this piece of garbage out of here, Michaels.”

“My pleasure sir,” Justin hauled Blaine to his feet and into the waiting hands of the U.S. Marshals.

“Buck, you take inventory of the suspects and let the Marshals take ‘em downtown. Ezra, you and Josiah get someone to help y’all and open up those trucks, let’s see what Donner was shippin’, look for anythin’ that might tell us where Chris is.” The rest of you make yourselves useful and check out the crates in here. Vin stopped in front of JD. “You okay?”

JD took a look around at all the suspects being hauled off by the Marshals and then set his eyes back on Vin. He had been certain that Donner would shoot the Texan before his own bullet could stop him and for a few moments the fear for his brother’s life had overwhelmed him. The young agent felt good that he had proven his ability to be an asset in the field again and that he had saved Vin’s life at the same time. “Yeah…yeah I’m better than okay.”

“Good work Agent Dunne…and thanks for savin’ my hide. Make sure you have the medic check out that head wound.” The Texan squeezed JD’s shoulder and then pulled out his cell phone to give the go ahead to Travis and Jackson.

The entire team was disappointed not to find any sign of Chris on the premises or in the trucks. However they were gratified to find out that they had saved twenty-four young girls from being transported in one of the containers to a ship waiting to take them to parts unknown. In the law enforcement game this operation would definitely go into the win column for the MCAT Unit.

Santa Ana, California~ 10:00am

Orrin Travis stormed into State Senator Bryant Hansen’s office with two U.S. Marshals’ in tow.

Hansen stood up. “Who in the hell are you?”

“Bryant Hansen, you are under arrest for, human trafficking, conspiracy to commit murder, and federal tax evasion for starters. You have the right to remain silent…”

“I know my damn rights and you have made the biggest and last mistake of your career!” Hansen was livid.

Travis grinned. “Tell it to the judge.” He tuned to the man behind him. “Marshal, will you escort this man to the federal building please.” Orrin then stepped aside to allow internal revenue agents to seize the Senator’s financial records and personal files.

Costa Mesa Docks~10:05am

The moment Nathan received Tanner’s message he gave the go signal. Homeland security agents swarmed the Turkish registered ship and found the Captain, informing him that his vessel was in the processed of being searched. Thirty operatives began on deck, working their way down to the cargo hole. It was a slow process as they checked the identification on each crewmember. Jackson had to stand back and wait, knowing that it could take hours before this task was finished. He did keep the radio frequency open so he could at least monitor the activities.

The radio crackled. “Agent Donavan, this is Conner, I’m in the crew quarters and need a translator for Columbian Spanish.”

Donavan acknowledged. “I’ll find one and send him down to you.”

Nathan wondered what in the hell a Columbian was doing on a Turkish ship. Over an hour later he finally reached Josiah by phone to get all the details and a list of injured from the bust at the warehouse. Jackson heard the disappointment in his Josiah’s voice when he had to tell him that there was no sign of Chris having ever been at the warehouse. He felt the pain when Sanchez told him about the young girls they had rescued and only hoped that they had found all the girls that Donner had planned to ship out. Ending his call and slipping his cell phone in his pocket, he saw one of the senior agents approaching him.

“Agent Jackson, you’re needed below deck, please follow me.”

Having no idea why his presence was requested, Nathan followed the agent into the bowels of the ship to a small area isolated from the crew’s quarters. It was dark, hot and smelly, but as they got closer to the door that was the entryway to their destination Jackson heard several voices inside. One he unmistakably recognized!

Pushing his way through the other agents surrounding the yelling man, he almost collapsed with relief. Chris was alive! That relief was short-lived when he realized that Larabee was out of his head with a fever, combative, and hallucinating. Nathan had seen him like this one other time…when he was going through withdrawal last February.

“Stand back!” Nathan ordered. “Let me handle him. How soon will the paramedics be here?”

“ETA is six minutes, sir” One of the agents answered. “Sir, he has already injured one of our men, with your arm…”

“I said I will handle this, you just get those paramedics here ASAP.”

“I’ll get them down here as quickly as possible.”

Nathan turned his attention to Larabee. Speaking softly he moved closer to him. “Chris…it’s me Nate. Let me see to you, that arm looks kinda bad.”

Chris tried to focus, he recognized that voice, but Nathan was dead. Wasn’t he? “Go away, you’re one of them. Get OUT!”

“One of who Chris?” Nathan was sure that Larabee had recognized his voice, why… and then it hit him. The television meant Chris had heard what happened in Denver and Travis’ statement; Chris didn’t know that any of them had survived. To him he was one of the ghosts, like the ones that had plagued him before when he was recovering. “Chris, please listen to me. I’m here, really here, you need help.”

Breathing heavily, it was becoming more difficult for Chris to stay on his feet. The room was spinning and it was hot. Damn hot! But that voice kept talking. “Nate? You …you made it out?” Stomach cramps had him doubled over in pain, “Nathan I…” Suddenly Chris collapsed.

Jackson rushed over to him and it only took a matter of second to know that Chris needed to be in a hospital. He sat with Chris’ head in his lap and scanned the room, glaring at the other agents that stood around doing nothing. “Don’t just stand there! This man is a federal agent and he needs to get to a hospital, NOW!”