MCAT: Turbulent Transition #7
Chapter 1 - 3 | Chapter 4 - 6 | Chapter 7 - 9 | Chapter 10 - 12 | Chapter 13 - 15
Rocky Meadows, Colorado
November 4th~ 5:30am
The RMR compound was nestled down amid a hundred acre parcel of fenced-in land located 9.2 miles west of the city limit sign of Rocky Meadows. It was set up to resemble a small village from mid-evil times that sprawled out around the castles of old. Instead of a clay and mortar structure, the main building was a massive two-story log cabin that housed offices, a medicinal facility, classrooms, and a communal dining area. Married men lived with their families in cottages that were dotted across the acreage that led up to the main building. Most of the members were married, and the few that were not, were required to find lodging in town.
Not visible to the casual observer, underground storage areas and tunnels that crisscrossed the property served a dual purpose. Enough provisions and ammunition were stored beneath the main building to sustain them for months in the event that they were held under siege and cut off from normal supplies. As a last resort, escape routes were in place that led into the mountains where caches of food and water were hidden, along with cash and new identifications.
Karl Chambers and Anson Ricter stood on the training ground that had been set aside for preparing their soldiers for the war they were continuously waging to carry the message of their cause. Their enemies were the government, whose authority their movement did not recognize and all the non Aryan people that sat back and allowed this country to be taken over by inferior blood.
“Are you certain that this Slater is the right man for us to allow in, Karl?
Chambers shrugged a shoulder. “He checks out as the real deal. We’ll see how he handles this group of new recruits. If he is the badass he supposed to be we’ll see soon enough.”
“What if he’s not?”
“Then you can kill him.”
Dusty arrived early to the RMR training grounds, but Chambers and Ricter were already there. Yesterday afternoon he had used the directions that Anson had given him and scoped out the area. Unseen, he had observed the comings and goings for hours and committed the terrain to memory. He was satisfied that he could now find his way around there blindfolded if necessary.
Approaching the leader of the movement Dusty thought about how different Chambers was from Chris Larabee. Chambers ordered all the dirty work to be done, but kept his own hands clean. Chris never asked his men to do anything he was not willing to do. Men followed Chris because they respected him. These RMR members followed Chambers because they feared him.
Not me, you sonofabitch. I plan to take you down with the rest of these lunatics.
“Mornin’,” Dusty nodded at Chambers and ignored Ricter. He already knew that the man did not like him and that was fine by him. Karl was the one that had kept the resistance alive in these men and he had a long reach with his established contacts. Anson was a wannabe leader; he thought he was smarter and tougher than Chambers, but Dusty was certain that Ricter wouldn’t last a week before he was challenged, if he were put in charge. Karl Chambers was the madman behind the RMR, and once he was convicted for his evil work in a court of law, and put behind bars the RMR would fall apart. Until that happened though, his influence within the movement should not be underestimated or ignored. Chambers may appear easy-going, but was a dangerous man and it would take permanent imprisonment to strip him of his power.
“Did you get situated in town, Slater?” Karl watched the younger man as he prepared for the training with warm-up stretches.
“Do you ever answer a question with more than one or two words?” Anson huffed. “The man wants to know details!”
Dusty stopped his stretches and shot a glare at Anson before he looked over to Karl. “Start work Monday at four, Bubba offered me a room in back of the bar, moved in yesterday.”
Karl was amused by the exchange between his second in command and this newcomer. “Bubba’s a good man.” Chambers nodded to the men approaching. “Here come your greenhorns. They’re eager, and think that they know it all.”
Dusty sighed, “They always do.”
“Men I'd like you to meet Dusty Slater...he'll be in charge of training you in hand to hand combat and weapons.” Chambers introduced the new man to the group.
“He sure doesn't look like much.” One of the recruits said to another, in a voice that was meant for both Chambers and Slater to hear. “I bet I could take him.”
A slow predatory grin spread across Dusty's face in reaction to the men's response to Chambers's introducing him to them. “Want ta give it a try?'
The young man with the big mouth grinned back at him and moved forward. “What kind of fighting are you…”He never finished his question. Dusty had the young man sprawled out on the ground with one deliberate movement of his leg knocking the young man off his feet and was prepared to attack him, almost before the words were out of his mouth.
“Rule number one. Expect the unexpected.” Dusty slowly took off his jacket and weapons and dropped them into a pile beside him. “Next?”
“Hey! That wasn’t fair. He wasn’t ready!” A blond kid about eighteen-years-old yelled. “But, I know now what to watch for.” He cautiously moved forward.
Dusty watched the boy approach, studying his movements, and waited for the teenager to get within reach, before he swept the kid's legs out from under him. “Obviously ya weren't payin' attention the first time I spoke.”
He turned to the others and asked, “Anyone else?”
Anson had stood in the back with the more experienced soldiers and smiled at the men surrounding him that he had previously trained. “Think it’s time I showed this boy how it’s done.”
Slater knew that Anson would not be able to resist showing off and mentally prepared himself for a little pain. “Bring it on Ricter.”
“My pleasure,” Ricter replied stepping forward.
His movements were experienced as he advanced toward Slater, alerting Dusty to the fact that the man had martial arts knowledge. What kind was yet to be seen. A lot of the earlier stances in most forms were similar to the one he was demonstrating now. As soon as he stepped back into his first move, Slater went into action. He went into a whirlwind of roundhouse kicks and punches combination that kept Ricter on his toes defending himself. The man squeezed in a few punch and jab combos that Dusty had to work to block, and felt one of the punches connect with his jaw. The hit stung, but it did not distract him from defending himself. As he tasted the coppery tang of blood in his mouth, he set himself into another series of movements that allowed him to get a couple of really good shots in at Ricter.
Ricter glared at him, his face flushing with heat that indicated his anger at Slater, but Dusty only smiled back at him. One of the first rules of martial arts, or street fighting was not to allow yourself to get angry or flustered, because it distracted you and made you careless. It also gave your opponent an advantage over you. Obviously Ricter hadn't paid close enough attention in class, because as he lunged forward Slater used his momentum to his own advantage. He reached out and grasped the elbow of the arm nearest to him, while at the same time he used his right foot to tuck itself under Ricter's knees, buckling them.
Dusty twisted to the side, bringing the arm that he held up at a jagged angle, and was prepared to pop the elbow out of place when a voice yelled. “Stop!”
Karl Chambers was impressed with what he was witnessing, but he felt that his man needed a rescue before he ended up wearing a sling for the next two weeks. He stepped up to the two men.” I think you have proven your point Slater. I am certain that these young men will be paying attention to whatever you plan to teach them.”
Slater released his hold on Anson and then waited to make sure that Ricter was listening to his leader. He watched as Anson walked off without saying a word. Satisfied that the fight was over, Dusty nodded to Chambers and then turned to the young men that were still slightly shocked by what they had seen. “Let’s start with somethin’ easy.”
For the next two hours Dusty worked the young men in pairs and taught them how to take advantage in a street fight. They learned that the second rule was that there are no rules. If you wanted to win against a savage attacker, you had best be willing to fight dirty, and you had best be ready to do so immediately.
The last three hours were spent on the gun range where the targets were cut outs of black men. Dusty saw each recruit in action, and knew that none of them were anywhere near the skill level that Chambers wanted. He also made certain that his own skills were not put on display. That was a card he was not ready to play…yet. When he finished, Chambers was waiting for him.
“Let’s walk.” Chambers wanted to talk to Dusty away from the rest of the group. “Anson is a hothead, but he is dependable. Try not to put him out of commission for a while. I need him healthy for the next few weeks.”
Dusty grinned as he walked beside Chambers. “That’s up to him, but I’ll try not ta break him ‘til yer done with him.”
“Fair enough, but he doesn’t trust you, you know.”
“He shouldn’t. Trust will get ya killed in this war.”
“Are you saying that I shouldn’t trust you either?” Karl waited for Dusty’s answer.
“I’m sayin, that if ya want a job done, ‘m yer man. But if yer lookin’ fer a faithful lap dawg, find someone else.”
Karl nodded, that was the type of answer he was looking for. He did not stay in command of the RMR by making friends and trusting anyone. Slater was a man that understood that to win this war you had to have men that were willing to break the rules and get the job done, regardless of the consequences. “I think you’ll do for what I need.” They had walked back to the compound and Chambers told Dusty to follow him to his office.
Dusty walked behind Chambers. Karl was in his mid-fifties, six feet tall, and in excellent physical condition for a man of his age. The only sign of his aging were streaks of grey hair at his temples. Walking into Chambers’s office, Slater immediately took note of a large project board like the one MCAT kept in the war room. He took in as much as he could see of it before Karl blocked his view, and flipped the board over.
“Sit down Slater.” Chambers sat in his big leather chair and once Dusty was sitting opposite him he began to explain a few things. “We have two weeks to get those new boys in shape. Some of my associates have already begun a hate crime wave across Colorado and we will be joining them soon. In the meantime you should know that I fully expect the feds to be poking around Rocky Meadows, and I plan to let them snoop, within reason. While we are preparing for our part of this battle we have a few loose ends to snip off.”
Slater shifted uncomfortably. “In my experience, a snoopin’ Fed usually means trouble.”
“Don’t worry; they won’t be looking for you.” He stood again and flipped the board back to its original position pointing to a row of photos.” We have two feds that need …to be erased. Anson is taking care of it, but I expect we will be looked over when it happens. They usually come around anytime something happens to one of their precious bull dogs. We can handle the Feds, but what I need from you is to make certain that our boys are prepared to create some hell in the next few weeks. Can you have them ready to do that?
Dusty masked his reaction when he saw the pictures on the board that Chambers had previously blocked. Nathan and Paul’s faces were there with a big red X covering them He knew that the X meant that both men had been marked for execution. Any doubts that he may have had about the RMR being involved in their attacks were gone. He moved his mind away from the faces of his fellow agents and back to Chambers’s question.
“I can have ‘em ready ta jump off the Empire State Buildin’ if ya want.”
“That won’t be necessary, but I do want them to be prepared to terrorize a few niggers.”
“Ya got it.”
“Keep the same schedule we had today. After noon each day, you head back into town and do some respectable work at Bubba’s. The closer we get to the time the mission is to commence, the more specifics I’ll give you” Karl stood. “I’ll see you in the morning.”
Dusty knew that he had been dismissed and took his time exiting the compound. It seemed that his schedule was to be a repeat of today for the immediate future. When he started work Monday at Bubba’s, he was hopeful that he would be able to pick up additional tidbits of information in the bar. Most of the members heeded the directive to keep their mouths shut about RMR activities, but after a few drinks, even the most disciplined men tended to brag. Ricter was the man that concerned him the most. Anson may be an ass, but Dusty knew that he could be a deadly ass and the sooner he could get word back to Denver about the hit that was ordered for Nathan and Paul, the better he would feel.
Nathan paced and ranted while Rain sat quietly on their couch. He was damn tired of no one listening to him and dismissing his warnings. Waving the ominous letter they had received in the mail today through the air, he cursed.
“Damnit I told Vin, then Buck, and finally Chris. We should be investigating these bastards! You’d think that after what happened to Paul and me that I would not have to beg for them to pay attention to what is going on in our own back yard! Now the sonsofbitches are threatening us openly!”
“Honey, no one denied that these men were dangerous. In fact I believe that is what Vin said when he insisted that we go into protective custody.” Rain tried to get Nathan to see reason. “Buck and Chris both explained why MCAT was not taking the investigation on, and even you have to admit that it makes sense. The last few months have been hard on everyone and you don’t even have all of your agents back yet. Why deliberately make yourselves a target for this hatred if the FBI can handle it?”
Nathan quit pacing. “That’s just it Rain, I haven’t been able to find one source at the FBI that knows anything about this investigation. My own sources tell me that The RMR is gearing up for something, but they’re not sure what. I guarantee though that I will be finding out. Chris may not want to take this on, and Vin has deserted us, but I’ll find enough proof that will damn sure get somebody’s attention.”
“Are you positive this is the right way to go about this?”
“Rain, this letter makes it damn plain that those racists have no intention of letting this go. I have no other choice.”
Larabee 7 ~ 4:00pm ~Chris’s home
Chris was tired of arguing with Linda; it seemed that all they did lately was disagree with one another. Grace was with Max this afternoon because Linda had a headache and did not want to hear her cry. They had been arguing about Linda taking her over there while he had gone to the feed store for the last hour. His wife had now quit talking about Grace, and was using their disagreement as an excuse to point out all the things he was doing wrong in her opinion. Chris had tuned out her ridiculous rant, and he thought back to a conversation they had not long after they had become lovers.
“I had already been in college, law, can you believe it? I thought it would be a great career; I got these dreams about courtroom dramas like in the movies. Turned out things were quite boring, and finally I didn't even finish. I hung around at the ranch after that, but there is nothing like a father and four brothers trying to protect you as their little one, to get your hair standing up! At least, for me there isn't. I felt smothered and the police academy, well, I guess a lot of my desire to go there was rebellion against all those protective men. Choosing a dangerous job was just the thing to do!”
“And now you're right back in the arms of an older man who wants to do just the same! Protect you in every way.”
She told you then Chris that she was spoiled, bored easily, and wanted adventure, but you were too wrapped up in lust to really hear what she was saying.
“You’re not listening to a word I have to say Chris! We have some serious problems and I damn well think we both should be talking here, not just me!” Linda stomped her foot to emphasize her point.
“I am not quitting my job, and I am not moving off the Larabee 7.” Chris sighed wearily. “Linda, you knew when you married me what I did for a living, and what this ranch means to me. You also knew about the Wild Bunch and my brothers. What makes you believe that because I am not willing to write off that part of my life that it has anything to do with how I feel about you?”
“It has everything to do with me Larabee. If you love me, what I wanted would be the most important thing in the world to you.” Linda decided that it was time to play her ace. “It’s decision time for you Chris. We are having another child and I promise you, either I come first as your wife and the mother of your children or you will regret the day you ever crossed this Dubois woman. “
Chris was stunned. “What did you say about another child?”
“It’s not difficult to understand Cowboy. I’m pregnant again and you might as well know that I am not happy about it. I expect no arguments about hiring all the help I will need in addition to the housekeeper we already agreed on. Besides, I do not like the idea of Max keeping Grace at the Tanner’s. If she cannot be here exclusively for our daughter then we need a new caretaker anyway. We will have a full-time live in Nanny for Grace and this baby or you can quit work to stay home and do it yourself. I want a new home built on our own property, so if we have to buy out the rest of the family’s share of Larabee 7, we will do it. I also want you here at regular hours, no more late nights or days working on a case where you don’t even make it home. If I am going to be pregnant and miserable then you can be miserable right along with me!”
“Linda, you are being unreasonable…”
“No, I am standing up for myself for a change. I will have this child Chris, but if you don’t meet my demands by the time it’s born, then you can damn well raise your children on your own because I will not be here!”
“Damnit Linda!” Chris felt his blood pressure rising. “Being married works two ways, when are you going to start being a loving wife and mother?” You cannot use our children to blackmail me into doing what you want!”
“Watch me Larabee, and until you decide to be MY husband first and foremost, you can damn well move into the guest bedroom. This discussion is over!” Linda went into the master bedroom and slammed the door.
Although Chris was excited about the prospect of having another child, he wished that the timing had been better. It was fast approaching a point that he would have to make some serious decisions where Linda was concerned. He was who he was, and no matter how he felt about his wife, there were some things in his life that he was unwilling to change even for her. The problem was that it was not just his and Linda’s lives that were affected by her absurd demands. Grace… and now another little life depended on him to at least try to keep their marriage together.
The pressure from work is nothing compared to the stress of trying to sort out your personal life with Linda, and it’s enough to drive any man to look for some relief. It’s a good thing you have your head on straight about the pills now Larabee, or you would be sinking back into that muddled hell all over again. No matter how bad it gets Chris, you will not ever be repeating your walk down that road.
Kelli had spent most of the day running with the kids and although she hated to admit it she was exhausted. She was making every effort to stay as calm as possible, but the stress of worrying about Vin was taking its toll on her health. It was going to take every ounce of patience she could muster to make it through the long weeks ahead, and right now she had no idea how she was going to manage that.
Jason was setting the table while Andi ‘helped’ with dinner. “It feels weird, just setting three places at the table. How much longer before Dad comes home?”
“Not for a while yet, Jason,” Kelli answered and saw the worry cross her son’s face.” Hey, the time will pass quickly, and tonight you, me, and Andi will have dinner, make some snacks, and then watch The Lion King.”
“Max, too?” Andi asked.
“Not on Saturday Andi, you know that!” Jason reminded her. “It’s just us on the weekend unless Mom and Dad have to work!”
“Me forgot,” Andi’s voice trembled. She did not like it when Jason yelled at her.
Kelli shot Jason a look that said ‘fix’ it.
“That’s okay Andi, we all forget sometimes, sorry I yelled at you."
Andi smiled back at her brother, “Okay.”
“All right gang, lets eat, we have a movie waiting for us.” Kelli moved the food to the table and sat down.
Five minutes into the meal ‘Vin’s phone’ rang. Kelli answered it on the first ring as she moved to the other room. “Hey Baby.”
“I’ve only got a minute, Texas. Tell Chris that Nathan and Paul are both on a hit list for the RMR and to expect serious trouble soon. Anson Ricter is the man that’s coming after them and he is damn good at what he does. Hug the kids for me, and remember I love you. I’ll try to call tomorrow.”
“Love you too.” Kelli disconnected the call and stood there for a while fighting her emotions. Then the agent part of her kicked in and she reached for the home phone to make a call to Chris.
“Larabee,” he growled into the phone.
“Chris, Vin just called, we have a problem.”
“I'll be right over.” Larabee hung up the phone and let out a sigh. His leaving was not going to go down well with Linda, but what could he do? He considered knocking on the closed door to his and Linda's bedroom, but then thought better of it. She could stew in her own juices for awhile; the outcome of her latest temper tantrum wasn't going to change his mind in the least in regards to work, the ranch, or his family. Nevertheless, he jotted down a brief note to her that he would be back in a little bit as he headed out the door, and left the note lying on top of the kitchen counter where he was sure she could find it.
Kelli was waiting for Chris by the front door when he arrived, while the kids were watching the movie. She let him into the house and led the way into Vin's home office, telling the children that she had something to discuss privately with Uncle Chris, and closed the door behind them.
“What did Vin have to say?” Chris asked her as soon as the door was closed.
“Nathan and Paul have been targeted for execution. Vin didn't know the specifics, only that a man called Anson Ricter is comin' after them and he's damn good.” Kelli revealed.
“Damn.” Larabee stated, his mouth tightening into a thin line. “Those bastards have another thing coming if they think they are going to get away with attempting to murder two of my Federal agents again.”
“I understand that Chris. But they have probably already killed Abbot and now Tanner is in there. What do you plan to do about it, and how are you goin' to keep Vin’s part in this concealed?
“Just as we have been doing,” Chris told her.” No one except for you, Buck, Ezra, and I are to know that we got this information from Vin. We will tell the others that either an anonymous caller gave us the info, or that one of Ezra's informants passed on the details to us.”
“You think Nathan will cooperate?”
Chris shook his head. “He will. I will not lose him due to his own stubbornness, even if I have to kick his ass to get him to listen.” He squeezed Kelli’s shoulder. “Listen to me Kel; I won’t do anything that will jeopardize Vin’s life either. We’ll find a way to bring down these bastards and make certain that Vin makes it home. I promise.”
Kelli nodded, trying to keep her emotions under control. “I'm goin' to hold you to that promise.”
“You do that.” Chris told her.” I've got to pick up Grace at Max’s, and then head on back to the house. Will you be all right?”
“I'll be fine.” Kelli assured him.
He took her at her word and the two of them exited Vin's office and moved back out into the living room where Chris spent a few minutes talking to Andi and Jason before leaving.
And that's a promise I intend to keep. You hear me Vin? Chris thought to himself as he exited the Tanner's house to pick up his youngest daughter and head home.
MCAT Office ~Monday~ November 13th ~9:00am
Chris sat at his desk and ran his hands over his face. The last week had been hell and it did not look to be any better this week. His discussion with Nathan was volatile for sure, and that was an understatement. Jackson had dug in his heels on this one and had refused to just trust Chris and let go of his determination that MCAT become more involved in this investigation. The lab found no usable evidence on the threatening letter that had been sent to Nathan’s home either. The only things he did agree on was keeping Rain and Terrell at the ranch, and doubling the guard on Paul, but he balked about protection for himself.
Vin’s reports had been sporadic and short, which had Kelli on edge even more than Chris. He was concerned about his eldest daughter, she looked tired and the stress of Tanner’s undercover assignment had her snapping at everyone. Between working here, trying to pretend that all was well with Vin’s new job, the kids, and Nathan’s constant jabs, he was afraid that Kelli was set to explode sooner rather than later.
Home life had not been a picnic either; Linda was complaining about feeling sick most of the time and would not even discuss a compromise on her demands. He did find out that their new baby was due sometime around the last part of May, but she even refused to allow him to accompany her to the doctor’s office. Grace’s presence was the only thing that was making it bearable for him at home these days.
The good news this week was that as of today all his injured agents, with the exceptions of Paul and Ross were back on active duty and it was beginning to feel like the old team was ready for some action.
Buck walked in without knocking and slumped into the chair closest to Chris’s desk. “I don’t know about you stud, but Nathan’s attitude is really starting to wear on my nerves. What’s more, if we don’t watch it, Kel is liable to shoot him if he keeps making cracks about Vin walking out of MCAT.”
“I know Buck. That’s why we’re going to work on some of these nuisance crime sprees that some of the other hate groups have instigated.” Chris tossed a file to Buck. “It’s mostly minor stuff, but it will hopefully keep everyone’s focus away from the RMR and satisfy Nate that we are at least doing something.”
“We can hope that it satisfies Nathan.” Buck replied. “I'd really like to know what crawled up his ass and started him on this whole 'holier than thou' crusade of his.”
Chris stood up and grabbed the folders that Gunny had prepared. “I don’t know Buck, but we’ll soon find out. It’s time for our team meeting.”
MCAT War Room
Nathan sat sullenly in his seat at the table and waited for the rest of the MCAT members to enter the War Room. Kelli was next, followed closely by Ezra who had appointed himself as her conscience for the day. It seemed that his partner was being far snippier than she usually was and the Southerner was concerned about her. Standish was afraid that at any moment, one of Nathan's thoughtless remarks about Vin was going to send her over the edge. They seated themselves together and Kelli flashed a blue-eyed glare across the table at Jackson.
The rest of the agents were finally seated in place and the tension in the room was so thick that you could cut it with a knife. Chris did not delay in beginning the meeting.
“First off, welcome back to Raphael and Greg. It’s good to see you both sitting there. With Kat coming in last week, and Mark now training with his new K-9 partner, Bandit,” he looked at the German Shepherd laying next to Mark’s chair, “we now only have two agents out on sick leave. All the reports on Ross are good and he sends his hello to all of you. Paul’s condition is still critical, but stable. We’ll keep a close watch on the progress of both of them.”
“We shouldn't be just keeping a watch on him, Commander Larabee; we should be taking down the racist pigs that put him in that hospital bed.” Nathan spat out.
Larabee's jaw clenched as he fought to control his anger.” Everyone on this team is well aware of your extreme displeasure about the way that Vin and I have handled that issue. You are entitled to your opinion; however, by vocalizing that opinion over and over again it is getting quite old Agent Jackson. Enough is enough. Reel in your emotions and start conducting yourself like a Federal agent, or else...”
Nathan threw his own folder on the table, and shouted, “Or else what Chris? While Vin, and now you have had us sitting around on our asses doing nothing the RMR has been recruiting their own specialist! They have a man now that is reputed to be the best damn exterminator in the business! If you don’t believe me then check it out for yourself! Their man, Dusty Slater killed two black men in Texas after organizing a wave of hate crimes that resulted in injury to dozens of my black brothers! Bastards like him deserve to die a painful death!”
Kelli stood up, her face turning a deep shade of red, and her blue eyes flashing fire at Jackson. “That's it! I've heard about all I'm goin’ to take about you badmouthin’ Vin’s decisions! You have no idea what he's thinkin’ or doin’, you are just so all fired to believe the worse of him and he's...
Ezra reached out and placed a soothing, warning hand on her arm, alerting her to the fact that she was very close to spilling the beans.
Kelli realized how close she had come to revealing what Vin was really doing and scrambled to cover her mistake.” Vin made the right choice for this team and so has Chris. How dare you compromise this unit by going behind Larabee's back and doin’ your own investigatin’!
Nathan opened his mouth to respond, but Larabee beat him to it.” Coulter, sit down! Jackson, unless you want to find yourself on suspension for insubordination until hell freezes over, you will sit down and shut up!”
Instead of sitting down Kelli made a hasty exit and a worried Larabee motioned for Mallory to go after her.
JD had watched the byplay of words in awe, but he reached out to take a look at the folder that Nathan had thrown on the table after recognizing the name Dusty Slater. “Chris?”
“What JD?” Larabee snapped.
“Isn’t this the same name you…”
“JD now is not the time for more questions.” Buck interrupted. “Let Chris talk.”
Larabee decided that he had heard more than enough. “Jackson, I want to see you in my office, now! The rest of you, we're going to take a break, dismissed.”
Mallory followed Kelli to the ladies room and as soon as she entered she realized that the younger woman was sick. She waited for Kelli to come out of the stall and handed her a wet paper towel.
“Are you sure that you’re okay?
“Yeah…I just.” Kelli rubbed the cool towel over her face and sighed. “Hell, I don’t know…I haven’t been sleepin’ well. I miss Vin, the kids are havin’ a hard time adjustin’ to him bein’ gone, and then Nathan throwin’ one hissy fit after another is wearin’ on my nerves big-time. I reckon the stress of the last couple of weeks is catchin’ up to me.”
“Kel, are you sure that’s all it is? You look too damn pale, and I’m almost certain this is not the first time you’ve been sick. Maybe you should see your doctor; I’ll go with you if you want.”
“I…damn…” Kelli ran back into the stall and was sick again.
Mallory pulled down some more towels and ran them under cold water. After handing them to the redhead she waited again for Kelli to come back out. When she was certain that Kelli was over it she simply stated. “Okay lady, call your doctor and make an appointment. If you don’t, I’ll make that call myself.
“I appreciate it, but I’ll be fine, really…”
“No arguments. If Vin were here, he would insist that you go and you know it.
Kelli reluctantly agreed. “Okay Mal, I promise to make that call.”
Commander Larabee was seething and gave Jackson no quarter. “I don’t know what in the hell has gotten in to you Nathan, but it stops NOW! You were ordered to back off, you didn’t. I am in command of this unit and I expect my orders to be followed. You are not exempt from that! You will cease any and all investigating of the RMR immediately! You’re damn digging marked you and Paul as targets and I will not have my unit’s safety jeopardized because you can’t follow a directive!”
“Chris, this is important to me and you can’t blame me for what happened to Paul.” Nathan started to argue but Chris cut him off with a fiery glare.
“Either you will follow my orders or you can get the hell off my team! Key word there in case you missed it is TEAM; No one works their own agenda here! I told you that I would handle the RMR; if you don’t trust me to do that, then you request a transfer and I’ll sign it! Otherwise get the hell out of my office and get back to the work that has been assigned to you!”
Nathan stood up angrily. “Fine, you handle it, but if anyone dies because you did not listen to me, their blood will be on your hands, not mine!”
Buck and Ezra walked in as Nathan stormed out and they closed the door behind them.
“That was too damn close in there. You think Nathan will back off?” Buck sat down opposite Ezra.
“Indeed, I fear our young sister has had enough, she seems to be in a rather snippy mood today. “Ezra commented.
“She’s not the only one!” Chris snapped. “Nathan’s digging could come back to haunt all of us, especially Vin. The last thing we need is Nathan spouting off at one of his damn meetings about Dusty Slater.”
“Since we have not been able to identify the source that passed on the information about Nathan and Paul, it could be disastrous.” Buck agreed. “I’ll talk to JD too and make sure he knows that Dusty Slater is a closed subject.”
A soft knock on the door stopped their discussion.
“Come in.” Chris bellowed.
Kelli entered the office. “I just wanted to apologize for leavin’ the meetin’ the way I did, but I had to get out of there or break somethin’.”
Chris studied his daughter and did not like what he saw. “You don’t look so good. Are you okay?”
“Yeah, but I did promise Mallory that I would make an appointment with my doctor. I called and I’ll see Dr. Weeks at three, if it’s okay for me to leave early.” She noted that Chris narrowed his eyes at that statement. “I’m fine really, ‘m just tired. I haven’t slept well and it’s been a rough couple of weeks.”
“When you’re not used to it, sleeping alone takes some adjustment.” Chris knew all too well how difficult it was when you had been used to a warm body next to you at night.
“I wouldn’t know about that. I share our bed with a four-year-old tornado, a seven-year-old cover thief, and an Australian Shepherd that thinks he needs half the damn bed.” Kelli explained. “Tracker has stationed himself on the bed every night since Vin left, and then Andi was havin’ problems sleepin’ so I would lay down with her, then once she was asleep, I’d go to our room, twenty minutes later she’d be in there too. Jason would hear her get up, and then he’d end up in bed with us. After a couple of nights of that routine, we just skipped the pretense of tryin’ and they have been sleepin’…well in Andi’s case bouncin’ around in our bed ever since.”
“No wonder you look so damn tired.” Buck grinned. “I know from experience that they may be small, but kids have a way of taking over the entire bed and they suddenly have ten elbows and extra feet that always seem to find the softest parts to jab.”
“That’s our Andi, for sure.”
“I will gladly offer my services to escort you to your appointment.” Ezra proposed.
“Thanks Ez, but I think I can manage.”
“Buck, instead of resuming the unit meeting, I want you to pass on the new assignment to the team. Ezra, you see if we can nail down that source for us.” He waited for Wilmington and Standish to exit the room. “Kel, you crash on my couch for a while, and no arguments, it’s plain to see that you need the rest. I’ll wake you in time for your appointment and then drive you there myself.” Chris reached into the cabinet and tossed her a pillow and blanket.
“Chris, is Vin in more danger with Nathan pokin’ around about Dusty?” Kelli had to know.
Larabee was not sure how to answer that. “I don’t know. We don’t want to call undue attention to Dusty Slater, but I did run his name through CASSIE and I am confident that his cover is tight. I also have it set that if anyone runs Vin’s prints through AFIS that the identity will come back as Dusty Slater.”
Kelli simply nodded, truthfully she felt too bad to do more and that couch looked very inviting. Accepting Chris’s offer she laid down, making sure to keep the cell phone close by.
Larabee pretended to be interested in the paperwork on his desk while he was actually watching Kelli. It only took her two minutes to fall into a deep sleep, but he had no doubt that if that cell phone rang, she would be wide awake. Vin’s mission was a difficult one and the type of assignment that wore on the nerves. Chris had no doubt that it was hard for Tanner to be stuck in the middle of a nest of militant racists. Mentally he needed to stay sharp and he knew that talking to Kelli could help the Texan stay balanced. Stress was also taking its toll on her and the kids, and it alarmed him how quickly it appeared to be affecting his daughter’s health. Chris planned to keep a closer eye on them until Vin returned home. Positive that Kelli would sleep for a while, Larabee decided that he needed to try and find some answers to diffuse the tensions in the office.
Silently exiting his office, Larabee’s eyes searched for Josiah and found him standing by the water cooler. With a slight movement of his head he signaled to Sanchez that he wanted to talk, and moved toward the smaller conference room.
Josiah shut the door behind him and joined Chris. “Mallory told me that Kel was ill, is she feeling better?”
“She’s resting in my office and has an appointment to see her doctor at three.” Chris sat down opposite Josiah. “I need a sounding board.”
“I’m here and listening.”
“First, do you have any idea what Nathan’s problem is?”
Sanchez had already given it a lot of thought and had a quick answer. “Basically, survivor’s guilt is motivating his actions now. Even though Paul is not dead, what happened to him was horrific. Nathan on one hand is relieved that he was spared, but on the other hand feels that he owes it to Paul to somehow find justice for him. Our brother was already having difficulty finding his balance after this last case hit so close to home for him. Caleb’s recovery jolted Nathan into the misguided frame of mind that somehow he had been taking his heritage for granted, getting too comfortable so to speak, and not paying attention to the issues that many Black Americans were facing.”
“You’re telling me that our Nathan is having some kind of identity crisis?” Chris asked in disbelief.
Josiah chuckled. “Why is that so hard to believe Chris? We have never made Nathan feel black; he is our friend and brother period. Race has not been, and never will be an issue for us, but seeing Caleb’s situation up close and personal made him think that maybe he should be better informed and involved in matters that affect black men and women every day. Admittedly he may have carried it a bit far, but if this racial attack had not happened I believe he would have worked it all out and found a good balance for himself.”
“So what do we do about it?”
“Nothing until he is ready to talk, Nathan will have to find his own way on this one. Hopefully Rain and Terrell will help him to focus on what is important, but you of all people should understand that he has to be the one to set things into motion. It’s not something we can force on him.”
Chris thought about his own situation with the pills and nodded. “Yeah, stubbornness can blind a man if he’s not careful.”
“You said Nathan first, so I assume that there is something else on your mind.”
“Hypothetically and totally off the record.”
Josiah understood, “Absolutely.”
“If…I were to send someone into the RMR, and if they were successful in infiltrating that group of lunatics…What kind of mental stress would this person be experiencing, and how long could he or she hold up to it before it became a problem?”
Sanchez studied the man in front of him. Chris Larabee did not deal in hypothetical’s or what ifs. He was asking for a specific reason and Josiah was beginning to think he might just know why. “In your hypothetical situation…is this person a man or a woman, and is he or she working with a partner? Is contact outside that group available?
“Male, experienced, and no backup; some contact would be available.”
Josiah was starting to piece together a picture that concerned him. “In practical theory it would depend on the man, but for our conversation let’s say the man you are speaking about was…Vin or someone like him.”
Chris nodded, “Go on.”
“Someone who is experienced as Vin will go into a scenario like the RMR already conditioning himself to handle his exposure to any and all experiences he may have while involved with such a group. The person that he is will take a backseat to the persona he has become, and that closing off of himself will be a safety net so that he doesn't fully indulge in what his persona will have to see or do. Regardless of one's experience in handling such situations, there is no way that one can come back unscathed by what he has seen, heard, or done. There will be some mental and emotional damage done, although it might be of a percentage a lot less detrimental than it would be if someone inexperience had been sent in.” Josiah told him.
“What type of time frame are we talking about Josiah, days, weeks, months?”
“Damage done to a person's psyche, Chris isn't in absolutes. There have been cases where a person has experienced one traumatic episode in their lifetime, and fell apart. Others have lived through many, and while they do suffer some detrimental effects of the experiences that they have lived through, they have survived and come out stronger in the long run. Such is the case of our resident sharpshooter. Out of the seven of us, Vin has perhaps the most varied background.”
Chris frowned. “All of Vin’s experiences were not the best, Josiah.”
Yes, but his diverse childhood, and military training can help with his mental defenses. For example, we know that after his grandfather died he spent time in a variety of foster homes, and then he was on the street by the time he was a teenager. He faced life basically on his own until Nettie latched onto him, and then he went into the army the day after he turned eighteen. As a sniper for the Rangers he took on missions that he has never been permitted to talk about, then bounty hunting, two years with the U.S. Marshals, and that was all before he came to us in the ATF. Until he joined up with us, he met most of what life threw his way head-on and alone, but he was a survivor, and you just take a good look at the man he is now. All of the defenses that he's built up over the years would serve him well in a mission such as this hypothetical one.”
“Thanks, Josiah. If I were going to send someone in at least I have a better idea of what to watch for.”
“Anytime brother, and Chris?”
“I am available twenty-four-seven, just in case you, or… someone needs me.”
Chris grinned. “I’ll keep that in mind.”
Kelli had been awake when Chris returned to his office and he insisted that he would take her to her appointment. It had been too long since he had been able to do anything fatherly with his eldest daughter and he hoped that this might help them to get their relationship back on even footing again. The ride over had been quiet until they reached the doctor’s office.
“Chris, I don’t think they will let me take the cell in with me. Would you… Hell, I’m not ever sure Vin will call but…”
“I won't let it out of my sight.” Chris assured her as they got out of the car and approached the entrance to the doctor's office.
“Thanks, hopefully this won’t take long.” They went inside and Chris sat down to wait while they took Kelli straight in. Once in the exam room, the nurse took her vitals, and then handed her a sterile paper gown to put on after she undressed
Dr. Weeks did not make her wait long and joined her within five minutes. She closely monitored all her patients that were in infertility therapy, and considered any change in their health noteworthy. “Hi Kel, I understand that you don’t feel so hot.”
“I think it’s probably stress, but I haven’t felt good for the last week or so. Of course those damn shots you have me takin’ always make me feel different each time I get ‘em so that could be it.”
“I don’t think so, since you’ve missed the last two appointments to have them.” Dr Weeks began her examinations and continued to talk. “Where is the stress coming from?”
Kelli bit her lip, “It’s mostly work related and I'm really not at liberty to tell you much more than that.”
Dr. Weeks chuckled. “I assumed as much. Well, I'll make sure to run a full battery of tests so that we will have a clear idea of what is going on with you.”
“Sounds like my kind of fun.” Kelli grumbled.
Twenty-five minutes later Kelli was dressed and waiting for Dr. Weeks in her office.
When the doctor walked in she smiled and told Kelli to remain seated. She sat down at her desk with Kelli’s medical records in front of her. “Is Vin here with you?”
“No, he’s out of town due to work. He won’t be back for a few more weeks and it’s difficult for me to contact him.”
“So you came in alone?”
Kelli was beginning to feel uncomfortable.” No, my dad is in the waiting room. Look, Dr…Helen, if something is wrong, just tell me, I’m a big girl and can take whatever you have to tell me without someone holdin’ my hand.”
“Nothing is wrong.” Dr. Weeks smiled. “Congratulations Kelli, you are pregnant.”
Kelli was stunned. “I can’t be! Vin isn’t here! I mean… of course I can be but…”She started to cry.” Vin is supposed to be here for this…”She cried even harder and uncontrollably.”
Helen Weeks was used to an array of emotions being displayed in her office. Most of the couples that came to her had been told that they would never have children. That was the reason she chose to go beyond obstetrics to become an infertility specialist, and her practice was dedicated to women such as the one that sat before her. Women told that they should have major surgery that would end any possibility of ever bearing children, or that getting pregnant was too risky. The couples that came to her were more than patients, they were her extended family. She understood Kelli’s desire to have Vin here for this announcement, and stood up to move around her desk to hug the younger woman.
“You cry all you want to honey. I know you’ve had more than your share of disappointing tears, enjoy the happy ones.” Helen Weeks empathized with her young patient, and was prepared to see her through whatever challenges the upcoming months may present.
Kelli could not stop the tears; she was thrilled to be pregnant, but she needed to share this with Vin. She knew she could not tell him until he was safely back at home, but… What if something went wrong and he never knew? “I’m sorry; I’m not usually this way I just…Damnit!”
The doctor laughed. “Whatever you usually do just flew out the window. I feel safe in saying that in the months ahead nothing you do will be usual, but we do need to discuss what we’re going to do to see you and your baby safely through this pregnancy. You said Vin would be gone for a few weeks… Do you want me to ask your Dad to step in here so he can hear what I have to say, too?
Kelli tried to think through her storm of emotions. What would Vin want you to do?
Tell him. Came an unbidden voice in her head. Vin would want her to tell Chris, since she didn't have him there with her.
After a few moments more of silence, Kelli wiped the tears from her face and said. “No, I think I would like to tell him myself. What do I need to know about this pregnancy?”
“You are due July 14th, which means that you are only a month into this pregnancy. I will schedule an ultrasound and then be able to tell you more specifically, but I would like to hold off on that for a couple more weeks. It appears that you are going to be one of those ladies that experiences morning sickness all day, and early. I’d like to see you in my office once a week so that I can keep a close eye on your progress. Getting pregnant is only half your battle, now we want to keep you that way, and get you through at least thirty eight weeks. You should begin taking prenatal vitamins right away. Try to reduce as much stress as you possibly can from your life, eat right, drink plenty of milk, and make sure you get enough rest.” Dr. Weeks told her writing a prescription for the prenatal vitamins and gathering pamphlets for her to read when she got home. “Call me day or night if you have any problems or questions.” The doctor knew that not much of what she was saying was registering right now and urged Kelli to go home to give it all a chance to sink in.
Kelli walked out of Dr. Week’s office in a dazed state, not quite believing the last hour was really real. Chris stood up as she entered the waiting room.
Larabee took in the reddened eyes and stunned expression on his eldest daughter's face and braced himself for whatever it was she was about to tell him. He moved silently towards her and placed a hand on the curve of her back as he guided her out of the doctor's office. He knew that if she was going to tell him anything, it would be in a place where they could be alone.
He waited until they were both seated in his truck before he turned to her and said, “What is it Kelli?”
The first part of whatever she said was drowned out by tears. He heard the words, “Vin, baby,” and something about timing.
It took him a moment to understand her cryptic message, but when he did a delighted, relieved grin appeared on his face. “A baby? You and Vin are finally going to have that baby you've been wanting?” Chris was elated for his daughter and brother. I’ll take care of them for you Vin.
“Uh huh,” Kelli could not stop crying. “But…what if…Damnit I hate to cry! Why now when Tanner is completely out of reach? I can’t tell him… ‘til he’s home safe and…”
Larabee leaned over the seat and pulled Kelli into his arms and held her. “It'll have to be your decision on when you tell him, Kel. What is important is that you take care of yourself, and I’ll be here for you if you need me. Of course this means that you are desk bound for the duration. But when Vin does come home, he's going to have something so special to hold on to that all the ugliness he has experienced during his time with the RMR will be nothing more that a faint memory.”
For Kelli, it was as if the last few turbulent months had been erased. The Wild Bunch was great, and she and Chris had made small steps in the right direction in the father-daughter area, but most of her experience with a parent offering support was still new territory for her. Chris may not have been there when she was growing up, but right here and right now she needed her father more than she had ever thought possible. She gave in to her emotions, and let go completely.
As he held his weeping eldest daughter in his arms, Chris thanked fate that he had his daughter back in his life again. Kelli was lost to him as a baby and he fervently hoped that this new baby would be the catalyst that would help form a permanent bond between them as father and daughter. He did have to smile though when he thought about the irony that he was not only going to be come a grandfather for the first time, but his new son or daughter was expected only weeks before Kelli would be delivering her and Vin's baby.
You wanted to reclaim your life Larabee and you’re just about there. You just didn’t know that fate had so much waiting for you did you?
Larabee 7 ~November 16th~ 1:00am
Rain Jackson had been in bed for hours, but Nathan was still awake and sitting at the kitchen table. He had been trying to make some sense out of Chris’s refusal to listen to what he had to say. They had disagreed before, but Chris had never declined to hear him out. In fact all of his ‘brothers’ had turned their backs when he began to talk about racial issues, the RMR, or the outrage that he had about Paul’s fate. Why now? Why after all these years had their attitudes about color changed?
Did they change Nathan? Or have you? Why are you so angry with the men that have stood beside you and watched your back time and time again? Prejudice is nothing new to you; it has been a part of your existence for your entire life? Every day since you saw Caleb sitting in that office though, and read the report that the director of that children’s home wrote, you have been an angry man. You have ranted and railed about injustice, but why to those who have never been unjust to you? When did your life become so complicated, damnit?
A loud noise coming from the front of the house drew his attention. Running out the door, Nathan was met with the sight of a cross burning on his front lawn and one side of his home was in flames. Grabbing the water hose he screamed for Rain, and as he began to spray water on the house he felt a burning pain in his side before a blow to his head caused him to black out, and hit the ground.
Buck was never quite sure what had awakened him, but when he looked out their bedroom window and saw fire he knew what he had to do. Throwing on his clothes as he ran outside to his truck, he yelled to Inez to call the fire department and the rest of the family. It only took a few minutes for him to reach Nathan’s home, and he was out of his truck before it had even completely stopped. He saw an injured Nathan on the ground, but no sign of Rain or Terrell.
Making a split-second decision he ran into the house yelling for Rain as he entered. He saw her trying to make her way down the hall to the baby’s room. Buck took a deep breath and rushed over to her grabbing Rain around the waist and then pushed her toward the front door.
“You get out, I’ll get Terrell!” Wilmington did not wait to see if she was following his instructions.
Rain stumbled down the hallway, using the wall to guide her, coughing harshly as she fought to catch a breath. She made it as far as the living room and then collapsed onto the floor. The air was only slightly better at ground level, but it was enough to get her up on her hands and knees. She grasped out for something to help her raise herself up into a standing position once again, and felt a masculine arm slip around her waist as Buck had made it back into the living room carrying a crying Terrell.
He was met at the door by Larabee, who scooped Rain up into his arms and carried her out the door with Buck following closely behind with the baby. From her position on the ground, the distant sound of tires squealing to a stop, and the voices of other family members arriving on the scene to help, reached Rain's ears.
Kelli knelt down beside her with Terrell in her arms. Buck had handed the baby off to her; so that he could go help the others fight the fire that was trying to devour the Jackson home.
Josiah leaned over Nathan holding a towel to stop the flow of blood around the knife that was still imbedded in his side. Even as he checked his vitals, and tried to rouse him with his voice, sirens sounded in the near distance.
Nathan heard the deep baritone voice calling his name and tried to respond through the pain in his head and right side. “Rain… Terrell…inside…”
“They are both safe brother, you stay with me, help is on the way.” Josiah said a silent prayer of thanks that his friend was still with them.
“I’ll try,” Nathan’s voice was weak but his pulse was strong.
The EMT’S arrived first and one of them took Josiah’s place to tend to Nathan while the other one checked on Rain and the baby.
Mallory arrived having left Adam and Joanne with Max at the Tanner’s home, and to her it appeared that the men had the fire just about out before the fire truck came in behind her. Fireman took over the task of making certain that the Jackson home was checked out thoroughly. There was more damage done by smoke and water than fire, but it was necessary to confirm that there were no smoldering areas left undetected.
Chris stood back and looked over the scene. Somehow the security for the ranch had been breeched, and it had almost cost the lives of the entire Jackson family. He intended to know how, and by whom. “Walter, get me the video from the perimeter cameras and put together a patrol for the rest of the night. I don’t think they’ll be back, but you never know. We will set up at…” Chris knew that Linda would throw a fit if their house was used, “…at Vin’s house. Buck, call forensics, Greg will have the lead on their investigation. Have him get a team out here, if there is any trace of useable evidence they’ll find it. Also have Justin and Alex meet the ambulance at the hospital. They are to stay with Nathan and Rain until I can arrange for another security team to relieve them.”
Josiah walked up beside him. “The paramedics are going to transport Nathan to the hospital, he’s stable and they think he will be okay. They also want to take Rain in as a precaution; the baby seems to be fine. Mallory and I will follow them in and keep you posted, while you try to find out who the bastards are that did this.”
Kelli heard what Sanchez had to say “I’ll take Terrell to our house. Max said Adam and Joanne are back to sleep so they’ll be fine.”
“We’re going to set up at your house Kel. Ask Max to put on some coffee, it is going to be a long night.” Chris thought about Grace. He may not like the Nanny that Linda had hired, but he knew that the woman would at least take care of Grace if she woke up while he was gone. “JD is on his way over and will probably need access to Vin’s office to get to CASSIE.”
If Josiah had any doubts left about what Tanner was actually doing, the fact that CASSIE was still accessible from Vin’s office erased them. Looking over to where Nathan was being loaded into the ambulance he shook his head. Brother Nate, you had better be okay because you are going to have to eat crow and do some apologizing soon.
“No problem Chris. Do you want me to call Ezra now or wait ‘til morning? “Kelli asked.
“Better call him now, the sooner he knows what is going on the more information he will have for the insurance company.” Chris was ready for some answers and began the first in a series of phone calls.
The report from the hospital was good. Josiah said that Rain was fine and that Nathan’s rib had deflected the knife blade that was plunged into his side, allowing for only minor damage that was easily repaired with stitches. Katrina waited at the hospital to claim the knife as evidence and rushed it to the lab. Jackson did have a concussion, but the doctor’s felt confident that he would be released within twenty-four hours. Their home was another matter; it would take a while for all the damage to be fixed enough to make it livable again. In the meantime Nathan, Rain, and Terrell would be staying with the Sanchez family.
It had been a long night. Once forensics had left the scene, Buck went home to check on Inez before joining the others at Vin’s house. JD had been hard at work on CASSIE, and Casey brought over some diapers and essentials for Terrell. Ezra and Barbara arrived around two-thirty, and with Standish helping the others sort out details; Max and Barbara kept the coffee going and prepared a huge breakfast for everyone; while Kelli helped Jason and Joanne get ready for school.
Chris outlined their morning. “Gunny, Pam, and Mark will hold down the
office. Justin and Alex are staying at the hospital with Nathan, while Josiah
and Mal bring Rain home. Buck, you and Kel will meet with the principle at the
kid’s school to insure that she understands what we need. Travis has already
talked to the school superintendent and received a verbal okay for Raphael to
station himself there during regular hours. He will pick up a written consent on
his way over to meet you at Mrs. Ross’ office by eight. When you return .we will
all go over these videos again and work out a defensive plan for the ranch with
“You think the children are at risk? JD questioned.
“I would rather play it safe JD. Right now we don’t know how far these bastards will go to get to Nathan. Paul is out of reach to them, so all their efforts will be directed to Nate.” Chris sighed. “I’m going to go check on Grace. We will all meet back here at…ten. That should allow everyone a chance to shower and change.
Buck nodded. “I’ll run to the house and hustle Caleb and Sarah along. Tell Kelli that I’ll pick her and the kid’s up in thirty minutes or so.” He also wanted to see how Inez was doing. She had less than a month to go before Tannis arrived and this pregnancy had been more exhausting for her than the previous two.
“I’ll stay here Chris, and work from Vin’s office…unless you want me to disconnect his CASSIE link. Do you?” JD was not sure why Chris had not thought about that, but he was not going to push him to do it.
Chris studied JD; his question was a good one and reasonable given the circumstances. “Leave it for now JD.” He knew that Dunne would not ask for an explanation.
“Whatever you say, boss.” JD grinned and took off toward Vin’s home office.
“We brought a change of clothes. I will speak to the insurance adjuster and arrange a time to meet him at the Jackson home. Barbara called in to take a personal day off so she can help out with the children.” Ezra elucidated.
“I’ll be back.” Chris headed over to his house. Wondering as he walked, what new revelation might be waiting for him there.
Chris had a dull headache and was hoping that for once he would be able to walk into his home without a confrontation with Linda. His hopes were dashed when he entered the kitchen to find not only their regular housekeeper Louisa, but another unidentified woman in his house.
“Good morning Mr. Larabee.” Louisa greeted him. “This is my niece Mila; she is going to help me prepare your home for the Thanksgiving holidays. Ms. Linda said to expect company and we want everything to be perfect.”
“Company? She didn't talk to me about inviting anyone over for Thanksgiving.” Chris replied, feeling his anger start to stir. This was certainly the last thing he needed to hear right now. After some unknown number of racist assassins had breached the Larabee 7's security system and burned a flaming cross in the Jackson's front lawn, catching their house on fire and nearly killing all three family members. He and the others still had to gather at the Tanner's home to discuss what had happened, go over what evidence that Greg and the others on the Forensics team had managed to dig up to try and piece together who was responsible and what their next step was going to be, and Linda was planning holiday parties? He didn't think so.
Chris made a fast exit and went in search of his wife, expecting her to be in bed. He came to a sudden stop though when he found her in the living room directing two men to remove all of the furniture.
“Linda! We need to talk…NOW!”
“Do you have to bellow at the top of your lungs like an enraged bull, Chris!” Linda snapped back, annoyed that he had interrupted her as she was directing the furniture movers.
“What in the hell do you think you are doing?”
Linda glared at her husband before taking him by the arm practically dragging him into the bedroom. As soon as the door was closed she lit into him. “I am running my household! My family will be here for the holidays and we need new furniture.”
“And just when did you make this decision?” Chris snapped back.
“You promised that since we did not have a big wedding that I could invite my family to come to the ranch for a get-together. Well they are coming over the holidays and I expect you to at least pretend to enjoy it!”
“Don't tell me what I'm going to do, Linda! If it was any other time then I would be more than willing to entertain your family since I really haven't met any of them except for Matt, but having them here right now is out of the question!” Larabee exploded. “Furthermore, we are not getting rid of any of my furniture! I like it and so do the boys!”
“With you there is never a right time Larabee! Besides, in case you haven’t noticed the boys don’t live with us! They have their own damn homes and it’s about time they started using them!”
“Linda, while you slept peaceably through the night, the Jackson home almost burned to the ground taking Nathan, Rain, and Terrell with it! Until we find out who started that fire there will be NO extra bodies allowed on the ranch! That includes your family!”
“I don't know what the hell has come over you Chris Larabee, but you certainly aren't the man I fell in love with and married! That man would have never taken his work and family over me! He wouldn't consistently knock down any of my attempts of making this house more my own, or balk at trying to incorporate more of what's important to me into our relationship!”
“You are unbelievable! I just told you that Nathan, Rain, and Terrell barely escaped death last night, and you want to make this argument about our relationship.” Chris said incredulously.
“I’m sorry about what happened, but I don’t see why it is our problem. My family is coming and you will just have to fix it where it’s safe for them to be here!” Linda started to leave and then turned around. “We are getting new furniture, too!”
Larabee reached out and grabbed her by the arm to halt her progress from the room. “You are not getting rid of the furniture, and your family is not coming to the ranch until this all blows over and that's final Linda!”
Linda recoiled from his touch, “Fine Chris. You can forget Thanksgiving, my family can stay at the Southern Breeze, at least there they are welcomed, and that is where I will be spending the holiday. Don’t you dare invite one member of that Wild Bunch into my home until my kin are welcome here, too”
“The Wild Bunch also happens to be part of MCAT, and there may be times in the weeks to come, that one or more of them will be in this house Linda. You need to get it through your head once and for all that you are not going to dictate to me who I can and cannot associate with, what is going to happen in my house or on my ranch, and that includes getting rid of all the extra help that you hired .”
Bristling with anger Linda retorted. “Don’t take that attitude with me Larabee. You want to see your precious agents, go to the office, or go to that secret place you built, but do not bring them here! As long as I am pregnant, I am not getting rid of the extra help either. You do remember that I am pregnant don’t you, or has that slipped your mind along with everything else I have said?”
“Damn straight I remember! You just make sure you remember that that is my child too, and regardless of how you feel about me, you will not use this pregnancy as an excuse to do everything you want to!
Linda refused to respond to him and slammed the door as she left the room.
Chris sat on the bed after she stormed out and ran his hands through his hair, exclaiming aloud. “Damnit! Why does every thing always have to turn into an argument with her? Why can't she just support me for once and not make it seem like I'm ignoring her?”
Wearily he stood up, he still had to take a shower, change clothes, and try to put his house back in order, before he had to meet the others at ten.
Rocky Meadows, Colorado
RMR Training Grounds
Vin knew that something had happened last night, and that Karl was not happy about it. Several of the men had been dressed down, and he was giving Anson hell. He was only half way paying attention to the conversation until he picked up on the words, ranch, failure, and Jackson. Tanner stealthily moved closer to the arguing men to find out more.
“Damnit Anson, you should never have sent inexperienced men to do a job that important!” Chambers yelled.
Ricter argued, “They did a helluva job sending our message, Karl. Jackson may still be alive, but that is one nigger that is shaking in his boots right now. In fact everyone on that ranch now knows that we can get to them anytime we want to. Their damn cameras, alarms, and fences are not a problem for my men. Fear and intimidation are stronger weapons than death sometimes. Isn’t that what you have always said?”
“Sometimes Anson, but make certain that you know the enemy you are dealing with. Failing to kill the man is one thing, but that woman and whelp of his made it out too. You need to teach Johnson, Stevens, and Bellows the right way to kill rats if you want men to fear your power. Now that you have started, do not let up on any of them; let the residents of the Larabee 7 know that there is no place safe for them to hide, and that we can always reach them…or their families. We may not be able to touch that black buck in the hospital, but men do seem to pay attention when you rattle their cages with threats to their offspring.”
“Even the white ones?”
“If they are willing to live on the same property with a black man, then they are to be treated no differently than him.”
A cold chill ran down Vin’s spine when Chambers told Anson to threaten the children. Those were his kid’s they were talking about, along with his nieces and nephews. A silent rage was beginning to build inside him. It was bad enough that they were teaching the children that lived on the compound that only the white race counted, and that killing any non-white was acceptable, but they had just made one helluva mistake to target his family. Vin knew that Larabee would not be intimidated, but he planned to make a phone call as soon as he was away from here to warn him anyway. Tanner’s grip on the gun he was holding tightened as his resolve to see this through, and to bring these bastards down strengthened. Whatever it takes Chambers…you are going down.
Larabee 7 ~Tanner Home
Chris, along with his brothers, daughter, and Walter had gone over several plans to strengthen the ranch’s defenses. They had been watching the videos from every camera stationed around the Larabee 7 for over an hour. One thing was becoming very clear; there were only a small number of places on acres of ranchland that anyone could breech without being detected, and one of their most vulnerable areas was on the side that bordered the Southern Breeze, and it appeared that was where three men crossed onto the Larabee7 property
“Damn they’re good. They found our weakest point and took advantage of it. Almost like special ops.” Buck observed.
“That is how they train Buck. The same way we were trained in the Seals. To them this is a war, and nothing is spared in preparing them to fight. As far as the paramilitary are concerned, we, meaning the government, are the enemy. For the supremacy members, anyone that is not white, straight, and anti-government, or those that sympathize with inferior races are their enemy. Put the two together and you have a dangerous group with a lethal attitude, and that pretty well sums up the RMR.” Chris explained.” We will have to be better, stronger, and smarter than they are to beat them.”
“Clearly we will need to speak to Matt about supplementary security from the direction of the Southern Breeze.” Ezra stated “Perhaps that is where we should concentrate our efforts, and money.”
“I will be talking to Dubois, but we also need to look at the Well’s property. We are secure enough between us and them, but they have an exposed area on the side of Nettie’s property that does not border the Larabee 7.” Chris pulled out a map of both properties and pointed to three areas. “These are the places we should be looking at.”
JD saw the weaknesses. “Chris, do you think that they will try to get through our land to get to Nathan?”
“I think they will try to get to any of us they can reach, JD. We have to be ready for anything.”
“For now Raphael is at the school, but…should we pull the kids out?” Kelli asked. “I mean, surely they would not go after our children, would they?”
Josiah had joined them after he dropped Rain and Mallory off at his house. “Hate knows no boundaries Kel. Age, color, or status will not stop men that exist to spread hatred, and they are not afraid to use violence to do so. Although we may be acting prematurely if we pull the children out of school at this point”
“We are going to spend the next twenty-four hours fortifying our defenses here. While we do that, we will continue our protection detail on Paul, Nathan, our families, and at the school until we are certain that a threat no longer exists. We won’t have any lab results for a while so we will have to wait on that, but I want to know what we have scheduled for any family member over the next week.”
“Tomorrow morning at nine, Inez and I are scheduled to be in court for the final adoption hearing on Caleb.” Buck reminded everyone.
JD listed some of the upcoming events. “Saturday, we planned a joint birthday party at our place for Lilah, Daisy, and Terrell. Nettie and Casey already have most of the arrangements made. We were going to do it on Sunday, but Buck said he was taking Caleb and Jason to the Bronco game.”
“Right, I’m supposed to go with them, Okay, what else?” Chris answered.
Kelli spoke up,” Max and Nettie have helped me plan a Thanksgivin’ dinner here. It will be an open house, Gunny, Pam, Mark, and Katrina already said that they were comin’, and I extended the invitation to any of the agents that had no family here to celebrate with. Raphael said he and Selina would be here because Alicia is going to her in-law’s house that day with her husband, and Greg said he would let me know. I even asked Bones if he wanted to come.”
“Did I miss this somehow?” Chris asked
“I reckon you must have. Mallory, Casey, Inez, Rain, and Barbara agreed it was logical to have it here. Inez needs to take it easy, Casey is handlin’ the birthday party, Rain said it was fine for them, and the rest of us will be off work, so it only seemed fair that we all pitch in. I also thought it might be easier for Jason and Andi to have family here since…well... I’m sorry I thought you knew.” She did not state the obvious reasons for not asking Linda to host the dinner.
“Did you tell Linda about your plans?”
“I haven’t talked to Linda in weeks, but Inez told her, so I’m sure she knew.”
Chris nodded thoughtfully; he knew Linda would not have offered to have the Wild Bunch in their home. “We’ll be here.” He cleared his throat. “If that’s it then we make certain that we have everyone covered”
“Barbara and I will be at the courthouse with the Wilmington’s in the morning, and I am assuming that we will all be at the birthday party on Saturday.” Ezra looked around at the nodding heads. “Then we need to examine your agenda for Sunday and the holiday festivities for Thursday.”
“The kids are out of school from next Wednesday to the followin’ Monday.” Kelli added. “I’m sure that if goin’ to the game is a problem, Caleb and Jason would be happy to watch it on TV.”
“We’ll see…” Chris was interrupted by Kelli’s ringing cell phone. She knew that it was Vin and her heart raced as she grabbed it, and immediately moved out of earshot of the others in the room.
“I heard about what happened, is everyone alright?”
“Basically, Nathan will be in the hospital another twenty-four hours, Rain is with Mallory and Terrell is here. Their house was damaged by the fire, but it could have been much worse. How did you know?”
“The bastards were talkin’ about it this mornin’. Kel, I need to talk to Chris.’
“Everyone is here. We were just finishin’ a meetin about what happened. I’ll get him for you.”
“Wait a minute. It’s not safe for y’all baby. I want you to be extra careful, and keep the kids with you as much as possible. Do not drop your guard for any reason until I tell you too, understand?”
“Yes I understand. Vin I…” She wanted to share their miraculous news with him, but stopped herself. He had enough to be concerned about right now without her adding more, and she could not tell him on the phone. “I love you Tanner, and when you do get home ‘m not lettin’ you out of my sight for at least the next fifty years or so.”
The Texan smiled and she could feel it over the phone. “I’ll hold you to that, baby. I love you.” He sighed.” I’m short on time, go ahead and put Chris on.”
Kelli motioned for Chris and handed the phone to him when he walked over. After Larabee took the cell from her, she rushed off to the bathroom to have a good cry.
“Vin you okay?”
“For now I am. Listen Chris, the three men that hit you last night are Robert Johnson, Charles “Chip’ Bellows, and Michael Stevens. Ricter sent them, and Chambers gave him the go ahead to continue their campaign of intimidation against y’all. The sonsofbitches are plannin’ to use the kids to get their message across if necessary. They know that Paul is unreachable so expect them to come at you with every dirty tactic they know, and trust me they know most of ‘em. Just …keep my family safe for me please.”
“You know I will Vin. Kel and…all your children are under my protection, and I promise you I will not let anything happen to them. I do need you to figure out a way to get me a map of the compound though; in case I have to come after your ornery Texas ass.”
“I know, but right now I can’t get anythin’ out…I’ll work on it though and see what I can come up with.”
“Tanner if you need to haul your butt out of there we’ll manage to get them another way.”
“Are you orderin’ me out, Chris?”
“Larabee hesitated before he answered. “No, your cover is good, but if I say the word I expect you to move your ass and come home, but you can abort anytime you want to.”
“Not yet Chris, they have somethin’ bigger planned and until I know what it is ‘m stayin’. I need another week, maybe two, but definitely by the first of December I should know what it is. I gotta go before someone sees me usin’ this phone…Keep Kel safe, and watch your back.”
“You too, Vin, and if you need me, I’m listening for you.”
“That’s good to hear…brother, ‘m open on this end too. Take care.”
Chris held onto the phone, even after Tanner hung up, ”m open on this end, too. Only a few words, but to Larabee it was the final piece he needed to reclaim all that he thought he had lost forever with Vin. Closing his eyes and concentrating; he could almost feel that invisible door in his mind swing open, allowing him to reestablish that unexplainable connection that had always flowed effortlessly between them, …a friendship older than this lifetime, …brothers by choice.
Reconciliations II: Revelation