by tannertexaslady

Chapter 1 - 3 | Chapter 4 - 8 | Chapter 9 - 13 | Chapter 14 - 17 | Chapter 18 - 22
Chapter 23 - 28 | Chapter 29 - 34 | Chapter 35 - 39 | Chapter 40 - Epilogue

Day Two
Chris came in early, only to find several of his team members here ahead of him. Pam was at her computer and Josiah and Nathan were on the phone. Waiting for the rest of his agents to arrive, Chris gave Linda a call and managed a ten-minute conversation before duty called him away. Tanner walked in and showed him the cartridge casing he had just picked up from the lab.

“Yugoslavia M-76 7.92 x57. Long-range caliber, our boy knows what he’s doin’." Vin sat opposite Larabee. ”Whoever it is, he…or… she is serious about killin’ their mark." Tanner waited while Chris answered his phone.

Larabee hung up and sighed. “Number two just took a hit, but we are lucky. It’s not a fatal wound and Judge Connors is expected to recover. Conference room in ten minutes… oh yeah… two of our mares foaled last night and tell Kelli, Lady Bri had a healthy filly at five this morning." Vin simply nodded and left to tell her, while Chris went in search of Josiah.

“Josiah...Wait up a minute.” Chris caught him before he entered the conference room. “How is Mallory this morning?”

“She’s tired, but has been that way for the last two weeks.”

“You okay about working while you wait?” Chris smiled, recalling how he felt when he and Sarah were waiting for his Adam’s birth.

“I am fine, but she is a little stressed waiting. Inez has set up a schedule and she, Casey, Rain and Linda are taking turns keeping her and Joanne busy.” Josiah laughed, “Actually, I think Joanne is keeping them all busy.” By the time, they had finished talking they were inside with the other agents.

“I know some of you have already been hard at work this morning. Who wants to go first?”

“I did some background on the names Agent Wilmington gave us last night and they do have several interesting associations. I made several copies.” Pam handed some folders to Larabee.

“Good work, now go find me a connection to Judge Ryan Connors. He was shot about forty-five minutes ago, but is expected to survive.” Larabee looked at the information as Pam went back to her computer.

Picking up one of the folders, Buck said, “Mark and I will get on this right away, if there is a link we’ll find it.”

“I have a list of the incidents that were reported by security at the locations we talked about. Already have them sorted by time and dates.” Nathan had been at it since six.

“JD, you and Justin work with Nathan and Paul. I believe somewhere in those incident reports, we will find some answers. Kat help them follow up.” Larabee turned to Josiah.

Before he had a chance to ask, Josiah was already talking. “Already set it up, Chris. Anderson and I leave for the prison in fifteen minutes. The warden has put our men in isolation until we interview them.” Sanchez stood to leave. “We should be back here by four this afternoon.”

“Ezra called to tell us that one of his people contacted him and asked for a meet. He set it for nine and then he will be in touch after that,” Tanner continued, “I want to follow up on that M-76 and see where the trail leads.”

“Watch your back and meet us at the federal courthouse at two. First, Kelli and I are going to see what Saunders has found at the shooting scene.”

+ + + + + + +

FBI Agent Saunders was expecting Larabee to show up and this time he was ready to answer his questions. It galled him to have to cooperate, but his supervisor had been very direct with his orders. The attack on this Judge happened outside his home, the same as Matthews and just like yesterday, the driveway was the crime scene. He waited for Larabee to get closer to acknowledge him. “Agent Larabee.”

“Tell me what you know.” Chris wasted no time on a greeting.

“Same scenario as yesterday, Connors was leaving for the courthouse and was hit just as he entered his car. The only thing that saved his life was the car door bouncing as he sat down. The bullet grazed the side of the door and hit him in the shoulder instead of the head. We have already secured the site where the shooter waited. It would appear to be the same as before, of course, I only got to see that one after the evidence was taken,” Saunders sent his best glare to Kelli. “I bet you thought you were being cute with that note.”

“Actually, I thought I was doing your job, any rookie should have been able to find and secure that site within fifteen minutes.” She smiled as she walked off.

Saunders watched her walk away. “Since when do you have a woman partner and is she single?”

“Agent Coulter is on my team and no, she is not single, but I’ll be sure and tell her husband you were interested to know.” Larabee had a wicked look in his eye and grinned. Tanner had tangled with Saunders a time or two and it was not pleasant for the FBI agent. Chris knew what was coming and waited.

“No, don’t tell him. You know what they say, what he doesn’t know won’t hurt him. Maybe I’ll just see for myself just how married she is.” Saunders started to go talk to her, but Larabee’s words stopped him.

“Oh, I’m sure Agent Tanner would find your interest in his wife, worth mentioning.” Chris laughed as the agent in front of him paled slightly and swallowed hard.

“On second thought, I better go get your report ready. It will be in your office by two.” With that remark, Agent Saunders headed in the other direction and Chris went to retrieve his partner. She was studying the mark on the car door.

“Why do you suppose the sniper would wait until the man was in his car to take his shot? He had a clear target from the front door of the house to the edge of the driveway. He could have taken him out at any time.” Kelli was probing, expecting Larabee’s opinion.

“Good question. Yesterday, he managed to hit three moving targets.” Larabee looked thoughtfully at the place the man had waited for the Judge. “Unless … we have two different shooters and this one needed a stationary objective.” Chris considered this idea for a minute. “I’ll meet you at the truck in a couple of minutes. There is something I need to do first.”

Chris was back in less than five minutes and ready to leave. Kelli wanted to ask, but did not. She decided to wait until Larabee shared his opinion voluntarily. They went back to the office to check on the lab results.

+ + + + + + +

It was almost two when they reached the courthouse and Tanner was already there. Chris wanted to check out the security procedures again and see it they could find any sign that the building was under observation.

“I already checked the likely places a sniper would set up.” Vin explained, “Only one of ‘em gives the impression that someone could have been there recently.”

“What about the rifle?” Chris asked.

“Two were ordered on the internet and shipped to Colorado, one, here to Denver. I just got the address and will check it out when we finish in there.” Vin continued, “Of course there could be dozens we don’t know about out there on the black market, but a least it’s a place to start.”

“You won’t go without backup.” Larabee knew Vin would take off on his own, if given the opportunity. “We’ll go with you when you do. Something else for you to think on, the shooter used a .308 today instead of the 7.92 he used yesterday. We might be dealing with two snipers, not one.”

“Damn, as if one ain’t enough.” Vin sighed, “There are eight-seven different types of 308’s.”

They went inside and talked to the head of security. He walked them through all the safeguards that were in place and advised that his people were on high alert. “If anyone attempts to get in with any explosives, we will be able to intercept them.”

“Don’t take any chances, double security until the end of the week.” Larabee gave his instructions and then left the building. Once outside he took a deep breath of fresh air to clear his mind. “Something doesn’t feel right about all of this. Too damned many diversions, we’ll go check out that address and then make our way back to the office. Then we will start from scratch and go over everything, one piece at a time.”

When they came up with nothing at the address the gun was shipped to, Chris pulled in a favor from the DPD and ask them to keep an eye on the place. As soon as someone showed up, he would be advised.

+ + + + + + +

By five, all the agents were back in the office reviewing information and exchanging ideas. Forty-three hours away from the imposed deadline and frustration controlled the mood in the room. The only thing they could agree on was the fact that they still had more questions than answers. After two hours, they still were no closer to a solution than when they had started.

“The men that were convicted for inciting the riot are not the cream of the crop, but so far we have found nothing to link them to the threats.” Josiah was disappointed that their interviews had produced no new leads.

“All of the incidents we tracked down apparently have no common denominators, either.” Nathan was so sure they would find something and was let down when they didn’t.

“The FBI has not been a big help, according to them they have no way of protecting all the judges in the Denver area. They will not even attempt to cover just the Federal judges, much less their families. They suggested we try the U.S. Marshall’s Office.” Larabee was aggravated with all of the agencies that only wanted to pass the problem to someone else, taking no responsibility.

“Well, the street is definitely zipped up on this one. No one can or will say any more.” Ezra’s contacts were suddenly deaf, dumb, and blind.

“Dammit!” Buck jumped out of his chair so fast it turned over, hitting the floor with a loud crashing noise. “This is bullshit!” He began to pace the length of the room, ignoring the surprises looks on the faces of his fellow agents.

“Brother, is something wrong with your chair?” Josiah waited for his question to pierced Buck’s anger.

“What? ... My chair? ... No …no, I just… hell, everything connects to something, but none of it connects together. I feel like I just got off one of them rides at the amusement park. You know the one that spins you around until you don’t know up from down.” Buck picked his chair up and sat back down.

“I think we all feel the same way, Buck, maybe we all need a break.” Chris rubbed his hand over his face, “Everyone go home. We start again at seven in the morning.” When no one moved, he tried a different tactic. “Go! We need fresh minds to tackle this quagmire and to find the right answers.” Slowly the agents began to file out of the room.

Ezra caught up with Katrina. “Miss Santos, I wish to express regret for my conduct last night, permitting my anger to direct my behavior was deplorable.” Ezra apologized.

“We all have been a little stressed, next time I’ll listen more and talk less. Okay?” Katrina accepted graciously.

“Perhaps next time, we both will.” Ezra smiled and shook his head when he realized how easily he accepted that there would be a next time.

The last one out, Chris moved to the window and looked out on the city. Somewhere out there was the next target and someone had the answer to the big questions. They knew the what, when and how, they just needed to know who, why and where.

Two more days and counting, Larabee.

Day 3

By the time the clock read seven, most of the team had been in the office for hours. Sleep was elusive for most of them and mysterious questions summoned them back to the office. There were twenty-nine hours left to find a way to stop a tragedy. Who was behind this? Why were they doing it? Where was it going to happen? Finding the correct response to just one of these inquiries could direct them to answers for the others.

“Conference room, fifteen minutes.” Larabee issued the directive to the team. He was already there when they began to file in the room. The case board had his full attention and he studied it, committing every detail to memory. His gut told him that they had what they were looking for, but just had not connected it to the right piece of information, yet. Once the agents were all together he made his opening statement. “We start over from the beginning. What do we know and what have we done?”

“I guess I can start,” Josiah shifted in his chair. “The release or non-release of Carl Watkins will allegedly trigger what happens tomorrow. We have been unable to find any connection to either the group supposedly responsible for this or either of the judges. It appears, at this point, to be coincidence that three of the men the Judge sent to same prison may have ties to a terrorist group.”

“We also suspect that there are two different snipers involved. One using a foreign made weapon, which would indicate a professional and the other less skilled and using a .308.” Vin didn’t have much more to add concerning the shooters.

“All of the street sources indicated something is out there, but either fear or lack of knowledge has kept them from sharing details.” Ezra sighed.

“Every building, we have checked on, has implemented strict security measure since 9/11. Follow-up on the incident reports for the last two weeks, has not given us anything to go on.” Nathan added, “We still have a few more to go through and should finish today.”

“The Judge’s records do not show any cases with the same defendants and no connection to PAL or to each other.” Buck had been through them all, at least once. “I do plan to go back over them all in detail.”

“Justin and I have interviewed all the members of the People’s Army for Liberty and still believe they are just a harmless group of good old boys with big mouths.” JD felt they had covered each one thoroughly.

“We also know that the FBI agent investigating the crime scenes resents our presence on this case.” Kelli added, thinking about yesterday.

Chris stared at Coulter until she started to feel uncomfortable. He was thinking about yesterday, too. An idea was forming and he wanted to see if he was right before he shared it. “Bear with me on this, but I need to ask a personal question. Does what happened with Saunders yesterday happen often for a female agent?” Chris was sure he already knew the answer, but wanted the others to know.

“Well … Yes ...too many times, unfortunately.” Kelli was not sure where Larabee was headed with this question. However, her instincts said he had thought of something important.

“What happened?” Tanner leaned forward. “What did Saunders do?”

“Nothing serious, he just did what most men do around female agents. He saw the female and did not see the agent. How many times do you see someone refer to a male agent in a report or hear it when they speak? They don’t, it is simply Agent, with us though, it is always female attached to the word agent. Sometimes that can work to our advantage, like in an interview or a confrontation, being underestimated can help, but most of the time it’s a pain. The same thing happens with a suspect, I know it is not intentional, but male and female offenders are seen differently. Most men don’t feel as threatened by a woman.” Coulter explained.

“It is a reality that comes with the job. Always has been, always will be.” Katrina added.

“The truth is most men overlook the fact that a woman can be just as dangerous as a man.” Pam had seen it happen too many times in her career.

“Larabee, I assume there is a point you are getting at here.” Buck was interested, he knew this was leading somehow back to the case.

Chris threw out his next question, “Where is the background report on Rebel, aka Marlene Procter?”

“Rebel? Oh, you mean the woman who runs the bar where that group meets. We only did a check on her criminal history, but not a detailed background report. She did not seem to be the type…Damn! We did the same thing, didn’t we?” JD, as well as Justin just realized their error in judgment. “Pam see what CASSIE comes up with.”

“CASSIE? Who in the hell is CASSIE?” Buck asked.

“Collaborative Analysis System for Sensitive Information and she is our information system. Pam and I programmed her with predictive analog programs and she can retrieve specifics faster and more thoroughly than any system anywhere. We were given access to the most advanced programs out there and put them together in CASSIE. Some of them, the higher ups, are still debating on who should use them, but we have them now. She talks, analyzes and has all of us in her memory banks. There is not much she can’t do.” JD was proud of what they had managed to do in such a short time. Cassie was state of the art and damned near human. “CASSIE can even help you find the perfect gift for Inez’s birthday, which according to Cass, is in two weeks, in case you forgot.”

“Dammit! Two weeks…” Buck was writing a note to himself so he would not forget again.

Pam began working the magic of her keyboard immediately and already had information. “Rebel aka Marlene Procter, applied for a liquor license using a social security number that belonged to man who died twenty years ago. The only records that prove her existence began to appear six months ago. That bar has been open for business …let’s see … for four months."

Katrina had a thought strike her. “What did this woman look like?”

Justin and JD both looked uncomfortable, but JD bravely moved forward. “She was very attractive, maybe 5’6’, mid thirties, green eyes and blond hair.” Santos shook her head affirmatively and left the room

“Chris, you think there might be something to this?” Nathan was curious now.

“Maybe.” Larabee was noncommittal.

Katrina came back in the room with a picture, “Could this be her?”

“I don’t know … maybe…her hair wasn’t brown and the eyes are different. Rebel’s were green not blue, but yeah I guess it could be her. Where did you get this picture?” JD passed the picture to Chris.

“That picture came from Interpol, but when I saw her she had brown eyes and black hair. Of course, that was several years ago while I worked on one of my first cases with the DEA.” After seeing the confused look on Justin’s face, concerning the change of appearance. Katrina explained, “Hair dye and colored contacts.”

“Who is she?” Ezra was curious, now.

“She is probably the first shooter, she has a dozen different identities and disguises, but she is one of the best professional assassins out there. If she is involved, you can bet someone is paying the big bucks for her services. Playing games and diversionary activities is what she enjoys doing, almost as much as killing.” Katrina sat down and waited for Larabee to say something.

“A woman ‘hit man’?” Mark Westin was having difficulty imagining a woman as a professional killer.

“She is simply known as ‘Lady Ice’ and that is her term, not mine. She has laid claim to over fifty kills and demands a very hefty fee for her services.” Chris added, “Very few people have actually seen her, but she does have a reputation for playing games with her opponents.

“How did you know, Chris?” Buck asked.

“Since yesterday, something has been nagging at me, until a few minutes ago I was not sure what it was. Guy Saunders is an ass, but he is a good FBI agent with fifteen years experience. When Kelli was talking, I realized how easily he dismissed her yesterday as just some rookie female. He never considered, for one second, that she could be deadly with a weapon. All he saw was an attractive female. If he could miss that with his experience, so could one of you. This Rebel knew about PAL and finding the name of a prison inmate would be easy. I remembered what Vin said about this feeling professional and personal. When I saw that she was the only person we had no background on, things started to fall into place.” Chris was now positive this was what they had missed.

“So now we know who she is, but how does that put us any closer to knowing what the target is?" Justin asked.

“I would be willing to bet, Matthews was a paid hit. Connors and whoever is today’s target are just a diversion. Tomorrow is the final act in her little play.” Larabee picked up the phone and called Travis, asking him to come up. “Buck pulled everything on Matthews and we will all go over it. Orrin was a close friend of his and he might notice something. Whoever her target is, tomorrow is the final hit and what better diversion is there than to have a building explode, to get away unnoticed.”

Orrin joined the agents and Chris explained their theory about a professional hit. He agreed to go though Matthews’s files with them and see if he could offer a link to anything they already had, “If you are right, then whoever the target is today will be shot with a .308 and survive. Is that correct?”

“That is my best guess, yes.” Chris answered and as they went through the files, they waited for the phone to ring.

They had been at it for two hours and were working on a box of personal files from Judge Matthews’s office when Orrin jerked back. Holding a picture in his hand, he paled slightly.

“Orrin, what is it?" Chris was concerned by the look on his face.

“I forgot all about this. I have known…knew Harold for over thirty-five years and we were good friends. However, in all those years we worked together only one time. Fifteen years ago, we did one term on the State Parole Board committee together. We must have made decisions on over one hundred petitions for parole. Not everyone was always happy about our decisions.” Orrin recalled those days.

“Who is the other man in the picture?" Chris was afraid he already recognized the man.

“That is the third person on the committee. Then a Judge, now Governor of the state of Colorado. Also, the same man who will be in Denver, tomorrow.”

“Pam, you and Buck pull every case that came up for review during that term. Nathan, get me a copy of the Governor’s schedule and Ezra, back on the street, you know who you need to talk to.” Larabee ordered, as Travis’s phone rang.

When Travis hung up, he sighed. “Judge Ira Stevens was wounded at his home and is on his way to the hospital. The FBI is on the scene now, so it appears you were correct, Chris.”

“Correct, only if the cartridge is .308. Tanner, I want confirmation. Josiah, go with him.” Chris felt his instincts screaming at him. “Sir, you need to call the Governor and convince him to change his schedule. It’s better to be safe than sorry.”

“I know the man, he won’t do it.” Travis hesitated, “I am suppose to spend the day with him and he has at least four appearances on his agenda, plus a luncheon.”

“One of those stops could have a surprise waiting for both of you.” Larabee advised.

“Chris, I have faith in you and your team, you won’t let that happen. Now let’s start with that list of parole petitions.” Travis began to sift through the request.

“In that case, sir, consider yourself in protective custody, as of now.” Chris picked up some files while Orrin mumbled a few choice words.

4:00 p.m.

With less than twenty hours until the designated deadline, priorities had been set. Travis consulted with the Attorney General’s office. The FBI and ATF were chosen to sweep the buildings along the Governor’s route for explosives.

“Buck, I want you to set up and coordinate those efforts and you tell the others how you want it done. The AG has given us controlling authority in this case, if they have a problem with that, give them the number for the Attorney General and they can argue with him. Orrin scheduled a planning session with the other agencies for five-thirty; take Mark, Nathan and Paul with you.” Larabee knew Wilmington would not take any shit from the FBI or the ATF.

“As for the rest of you, MCAT is responsible for stopping and if possible apprehending the sniper, one way or another.” Chris looked them over, “What we need is a plan.”

They worked well into the night and sometime after midnight, felt they had covered all the details necessary to protect the Governor and Travis. A plan was devised to trap ‘Lady Ice’ and with any luck, they would be able to identify the person who hired her.

One day left, Larabee

Day four - 6:00 a.m.

The teams of federal agents had spent all night sweeping the buildings along the route the Governor would travel. With the use of bomb sniffing dogs and heat sensors, they had located and deactivated three devices set to detonate by one that afternoon. A cargo van, at an additional location, held bags of explosives hidden under sacks of fertilizer. They were discreetly off loaded and then replaced with bags of sand. Security was set into place to prevent further infiltration. Confident that the threat of a blast had been neutralized, the focus shifted to containing the sniper and the safety of the intended targets.

“Chris, I think this is overdoing it a bit, I assure you two body guards are unnecessary.” Orrin was a bit irritated after spending the night at a hotel with Sanchez and Anderson. “I already agreed to wear this wretched vest. Isn’t that enough?”

“Sir, with all due respect, until the assassin is apprehended or dead, you will follow my orders.” Chris smiled, “The governor is under the same directive, so just grin and bear it. Agent Sanchez and Agent Anderson will be at your side all day.” His smile turned into a grin, “I am confident that you will find a way to get even with me later.”

“Who do you have with the Governor’s security detail?” Travis asked.

“Agent Jackson and Agent Roberts will stay with them until this is over. Now, if you will excuse me we still have work to do.” Larabee left Travis and joined Tanner in the conference room. Building blueprints were spread across the table and the rest of the agents were studying their assignments. “How does it look?”

“Goin’ by the time the bombs were set for and the best vantage point for a shooter, it has to be this buildin’. A professional would go with the place that would give ‘em the best shot and a chance for a quick exit. This place meets the criteria for all of that.” Tanner explained, “Plus, this is where I would be if I wanted a clean kill and a way out.” Vin smiled. “Hell, even CASSIE says the probability of this being the right place is 98%.”

Chris trusted Vin’s instincts more than the computer because the Texan was rarely wrong, when he listened to his gut feelings. “Tell me.”

“The hotel is open to the public, which makes it hard to control who or what comes in. The room for the rally is the grand ballroom and is open with three levels. At the top is a security catwalk with a full view of the room. There are several small conference room on the second and third level, which we will have secured and locked. The rally begins at one and the crowd will be allowed in startin’ at noon.” Vin gave him a quick rundown.

“Saunders’ team will cover the exits from the outside. Where is everyone else assigned?” Chris knew the tactical side of this plan would not miss a thing. When it came to assessing strengths and weaknesses of positioning agents, Buck and Vin were the best.

“We should all be in place by eight and set in to wait. Buck and Mark will be here, above and to the left of the podium. JD and Justin will be on the right side. I’ll be up top. Ezra will be at the head table with the Governor’s guests and will be in my line of sight. He will be in good position to observe the crowd and if he sees somethin’ and can’t use the headset, he can signal on of us. Katrina will be at the entrance. Once the doors are closed, no one else will be allowed in the room, at least from there. ”Vin showed Larabee positions on the blueprints as he gave him the verbal descriptions.

Chris agreed with the layout, but that still left one agent unassigned. “Aren’t you forgetting someone?” Larabee was puzzled by the quiet chuckles he heard and the grins his agents were wearing.

“We reckon you will be all over the floor of the rally, so Kel’s assignment is to stick with you.” Tanner grinned, “You do have a tendency to move around a bit and somebody has to cover your butt when you do. We won’t be able to without showing our positions, but like you told Travis grin and bear it.”

“Very funny, I don’t move around that much.” Chris stopped when Buck, JD, Ezra and Vin lost their battle with laughter. “You just do your job and my partner and I will do ours.” Larabee could not stop his own smile though, they knew him too well. He would be all over the place checking on his team and they knew it. Just don’t forget that second shooter might show up, too. Wear your vests and watch your backs.”

Waiting was a bitch. The agents were all in place and had been for the last three hours. Headsets were working and the banter between them was in high gear, a lot of it to break the tension. Admittedly, some of it was just to annoy Larabee and it was working.

“We know the damn thing works! Now, we test radio silence for a while and that is not a suggestion!” Chris was wound up and tired of waiting. In five minutes, those doors would open and soon over six hundred people would swarm this room. Sometime within the next hour or so Lady Ice would make her move, if they were right. If they were wrong … Larabee did not want to consider that possibility.

Chris’ headset crackled, “Heads up, the doors are open.” Wilmington’s voice warned.

Twenty long minutes passed watching the crowd and waiting for any sign of something amiss. Suddenly, the headset carried the excited voice of JD Dunn. “Second shooter in custody, .308 confirmed.” They had caught the man trying to break in one of the conference room.

“One down, one to go. She’s here, I know it.” Chris could feel it. But, would she use a rifle or something less predictable? “Keep your eyes open, she could be anywhere.”

“Eagle has a flash of red crossing the stage.” Vin saw it only for a split second, but knew it was a laser. “Floor level, front right side… there it is again.”

Larabee, Coulter and Santos scanned the crowd looking for the source. The agents moved to the front right quadrant of the room, from three different directions. Ezra, Josiah and Nathan were ready to move Travis and the Governor on Larabee’s order.

“Two o’clock, old woman with video camera.” Buck was sure it was her, “Blue dress… the camera!

Chris and Kelli crashed into her at the same time, one from each side, the camera began to fall and the woman stepped back. She found her way blocked by Katrina.

“Lady, your game is over.” Chris placed her in handcuffs while Coulter retrieved the camera.

“Killer video.” Kelli pulled the facing from the camera to reveal a gun, a laser scope replacing the lens.

“You may have me, but this city will pay dearly for it.” The assassin hissed. “You are not as smart as you think.”

By this time, they had moved away from the crowd of onlookers. Chris corrected her erroneous statements. “If you are referring to the big bang, it has been canceled. What we have on you, Lady, will get you the death penalty and it won’t be too difficult to connect you to Matthews’s death either. The only way you might get a reprieve is to tell us who hired you.”

She watched the clock pass one and when no explosions were heard, she realized Chris was not bluffing. However, she knew this day might come and was prepared to bargain, she had kept very detailed records. After considering her options, she made her demands.

“I want that guaranteed in writing from a federal attorney and immunity from prosecution of any alleged crimes that may come to light concerning my … profession.” She gave an evil smile, “Do that and I will name all my employers, past and present.”

Larabee knew they would get no answer as to who had hired her until she made her deal. Therefore, he signed over custody to the U.S. Marshals that were waiting to transport her to jail. The MCAT team returned to their office.

Pam met them as they walked in the door. “Josiah, I have an urgent message for you.” She smiled as she handed it to him.

“Chris … Mallory … Baby… I got to go.” Sanchez stumbled on his words.

Larabee squeezed his shoulder and grinned, “Relax, we got you covered. The rest of us will be there as soon as we finish here, give Mallory our love.” Chris nodded to Nathan while the other brothers smiled. A flustered Josiah was something you just did not see everyday.

“How about I drive? Then we can wait together.” Nathan guided his friend out the door while the remaining agents worked to finish reports.

“Okay, Buck, tell us how you knew it was her.” Katrina had not worked it out and it was driving her nuts.

“Easy, it was her hands.” Buck smiled, “She may have disguised herself as an old woman, but the hands holding that camera belonged to a much younger female.”

“Leave it to Buck, married or not, he notices everything when it comes to women.” Chris commented.

“Except now, I only look not…” He was interrupted when Travis sweep into the room and he was not alone.

“Forgive me, for barging in, but I insisted on coming to meet the team responsible for stopping the attempt on my life. You were not bogged down in red tape and did what you had to do without any loss of life. You all have my heartfelt appreciation. I intend to personally convey to the Attorney General my recommendation that this unit receive a commendation for exceptional work.” The Governor then thanked each one individually before he left.

Travis remained, “Congratulations on a successful end to your first case. This unit did what it was designed to do and did it well. As soon as you finish your reports, I want you all to go home and don’t come back until Monday. You have earned a three day weekend.”

One by one, they all left until it was only Larabee, Tanner and Coulter. Chris noticed how quiet his partner was. “You handled yourself well on this case, Kelli and should be happy with the results. Why aren’t you?”

“Maybe because I know, once that woman gets through dealin’, she will most likely walk away with a slap on the wrist. The information she knows will be too good for the U.S. Attorney to pass up.” Kelli sighed, “Just doesn’t seem fair.”

Chris exchanged a look with Vin before speaking. “You’re right, its not, but we can’t change the entire system, only our part of it. With this unit, we have an opportunity to make a difference. We can cut through all the BS and red tape and do what we are good at. Sometimes it may not end up all fair, but with the authority that we have been given we can level the playing field. The AG has given us the freedom to do what needs to be done without tying our hands in the process. Today, two men are alive because we did our job and who knows how many others could have died in an explosion. That is enough for me, besides, you have to admit it felt good to see FBI Saunders squirm and have to work for us.”

“Yeah did.” A slow smile started, “I think you enjoyed makin’ him squirm, too”

“You’re right, but not half as much as Vin did.” Chris laughed, “I am glad I sent Josiah with you, Tanner or I might not have heard the whole story.”

“Just what did you do to him, Vin?” Kelli had not thought about his reaction to Saunders statements.

“Later, at home we’ll …talk about it.” Tanner grinned and winked at his wife.

Chris shook his head and smiled and then he reached for the light switch. "You two behave. Right now, we have a baby to see about.”

Denver Memorial Hospital waiting room.

There were so many people anticipating the delivery of the Sanchez baby, they got their own waiting room. Josiah was in the labor room with Mallory. Buck and JD took turns pacing the floor and the woman watched with great amusement. Ezra had arranged for a nanny to stay with the children, so everyone could be here and he sat satisfied just to watch his family.

Nathan managed to stay calm until Buck reminded him that his turn was coming. When he looked at Rain and realized they would be next, he wanted to reassure her now. “I hope you know I will stay calm and cool, you don’t have to worry about me.”

“I am not worried, besides, I plan to be too busy to notice.” Rain smiled. “How about you Casey, you worried?”

“Not me.” Casey grinned when the question hit JD and he realized this is what they had to look forward to soon.

Linda watched and listened, but did not join in the conversation. Then she saw Chris walk through the door and her whole day brightened. “Hello, stranger.” He came over and sat beside her, taking in the situation around the room. “No news, yet?”

“No, still waiting.” Linda gave him a smile. “What did you do with Vin and Kelli?”

“They got sidetracked, but should be here in a few minutes.” Chris grinned, “They made a stop at the gift shop and Vin got carried away. Kel was trying to drag him out when I left them.”

Just then, Vin came through the door carrying a huge flower arrangement with blue balloons and blue streamers. Kellie held on to three stuffed animals and three pink roses.

“Son, I hate to tell you this, but there is only one baby coming, unless you know something we don’t.” Buck waited to hear Vin’s explanation.

“Chris and I reckoned the flowers could be from all of us to Mallory and the blue balloons and the streamers are for little Adam.” Vin watched Chris for any reaction to the name as he sat the arrangement down.

“Then why have the pink roses and stuffed animals?” JD asked. “You don’t think she could have more than one, do you?" The possibility of twins had not crossed his mind, until now. He looked at Casey and felt the need to sit down.

“These are for the three young ladies that had to stay at home.” Kelli handed them over to Inez for safekeeping and was pleased to see the appreciation in her eyes.

Buck grinned, “And here I thought you might have you own announcement to make.”

“Not yet.” The Texan smiled as he walked up behind Kelli and wrapped his arms around her waist. “It’ll be my pleasure to work on it though.”

“Just don’t start working on it here or you may get us all thrown out.” Chris tried to sound stern, but the mischief in his eyes gave him away. “But... now it is your turn and then … I suppose Ezra is next.” The sound of Standish strangling on his latté was too much for Chris and he burst out laughing.

Everyone was amused, except for Ezra. He was ready with a good comeback when Josiah walked in carrying a small bundle in his arms. A hush fell over the room.

“Mallory is sleeping, but may I present to all of you, Master Adam Josiah Sanchez. Adam this is your new family.” Josiah was beaming with pleasure. “8lbs 7oz and 21 inches.”

After everyone got a good look at the beautiful baby boy, Josiah walked up to Chris. “Would you do the honor of being the first Uncle to hold him?”

Chris only hesitated for a moment, “I would be pleased to do so.” Holding his Adam’s namesake, he felt the tears form and was sure they would soon fall, but he was okay with that. Surrounded by his family, he felt the love and support from all of them and it was then that he understood what Vin had tried to get him to understand. Sometimes, memories are all we have left and if they are good ones, they will sustain us through anything. He had made good memories with his Adam and he would make new memories with this one. When he raised his head, he caught Linda’s moist eyes and smiled.

+ + + + + + +

After leaving the hospital, Vin took his wife out to dinner. He had thought about inviting Chris and Linda, but once he was satisfied his brother was okay with his emotions, he change his mind. He needed some time alone with Kelli and this was a good place to start.

“You gonna tell me about Saunders or make me wonder?”

“Not much to tell, I just made sure he thinks twice before he decides to hit on any female agents in the future.” Vin watched her, “No I didn’t hit him, but I wanted to.” Tanner had warned him, about showing respect for their female co-workers and he was sure Saunders got the message.

Their meal came and for a few minutes, they did not talk. Truth was, Kelli was lost in her thoughts about this Texan who charged into her life and captured her heart and soul in the process. She was anxious to get home and show him how much he meant to her.

“You know, if you plan on havin’ dessert, you need to get your mind on eatin’ and off what you’re thinkin’.” Vin could read Kelli as well as he could read Chris. “Besides, when we leave here, we’re goin’ shoppin.”

“What makes you believe that ‘m not thinkin’ about dessert?” Her eyes sparkled with amusement. “And maybe I don’t want to go shoppin’.”

”Baby, I hear your message, loud and clear, but first we go shoppin’ and I promise you won’t regret it. So behave yourself and finish your dinner.” Vin was still amazed he had such a mesmerizing effort on her.

"Okay, Tanner, but I want dessert at home and … soon.” She smiled, “You owe me for all that teasin’ today at the hospital and I intend to collect.”

Vin did take her to a shop, not far from the restaurant, that specialized in the type of outfit she wore the first time they went out to dinner. They laughed and played around looking at some outrageous clothes and accessories she would never wear. Then she was surprised to find that her Texan had another hidden talent, he had a good eye for just the right colors that complimented her features. In the end, Vin chose several long skirts and low cut blouses she would be comfortable wearing. Kelli hated to shop and was more than happy to let him do the selecting, in fact, she even wore one outfit home.

“I’ll admit that wasn’t too bad, it was even fun, but why the sudden need to add to my wardrobe?” They had finally made it home and she was past ready to hear him explain.

“Pure selfishness on my part and you can put the blame on that damn yellow shirt. I have become very fond of that shirt and the enticin’ effect it has.” Vin pulled her close, reached under her skirt and ran his hand across her bare leg. “Now, it will be easier to do somethin’ about it.” The Texan had another purpose, one he wasn’t ready to admit to. Kelli needed to experience the pleasurable part of doing some things just for the helluva it. She had missed having that kind of freedom in her life and now she was secure enough to let go and learn to just enjoy some frivolous fun.

Kelli began to laugh, “Tanner, your reasonin’ amazes me, but you didn’t have to do all this.” She drew him close enough to whisper, “All you had to do was ask.”

“Damn, why didn’t I think of that?” He grinned and then became serious, “Kel, today got me to thinkin’. I know when we first talked about it, we agreed to wait for a while to start our family. We needed to be us first and discover each other. But we have come so far since then, maybe we should reconsider. How do you feel about us being next?”

Vin would be a wonderful father and their children would never have any doubts or insecurities about belonging or being loved. She looked into his eyes and saw the love he offered so freely, the commitment she knew she could count on for a lifetime. “I think we should begin workin’ on our first one, right away. In fact, now would be a good time to start. Don’t you think?”

“Yes ma’am I sure do.” Vin drew her in his arms and whispered, “Te quiero, Tejas.”

“I love you too, Tanner.”

+ + + + + + +

Chris and Linda also had a quiet dinner, only theirs was on Larabee’s deck, under the stars.

“I have missed you this week.” Linda admitted. ‘It seems like it has been a month since we sat down together.”

“You know this was actually a short case, some of them will be much longer.” Chris watched to see her reaction. “Sometimes we may be gone for a couple of weeks and some cases could take a month or two to finish up.”

“I understand. I have managed to stay busy, between your horses and mine there are six new foals this week. I have had a lot of family business to tend to and even had a chance to go shopping a time or two.”

“You have been busy.” Chris was happy she was handling his work so well. Maybe now they could settle into a more relaxed relationship.

Linda watched him, “I have no regrets about the choices, I have made and I just want to spend time with you when we can.” She smiled, “I know I will worry about you when you are on a case, but I can learn to live with that.”

“That is good to know, Lady, because I like being with you and want us to spend more time together.” He was relieved to know she was not having second thoughts and was accepting what he had offered with no regrets.

“I want you to think about something.” Chris decided just getting to the point was easiest. “Think about spending your weekends here with me, I know the family is around a lot, but they are part of my life, too. I would like to know that we have something to look forward to each week, instead of wondering if we might see each other.”

Linda masked her disappointment, she was sure he was going to ask her for something more permanent, especially after seeing him with little Adam. “I think I can arrange that.” She would take weekends and given enough time, maybe he would be ready for more.

“You do know this is a three day weekend?” Chris grinned and pulled her onto his lap.

“What holiday are we celebrating?”

“No particular holiday, but I am sure we can think of something to commemorate. Chris kissed her passionately, leaving her breathless. He lifted her into his arms and headed into the house. The only sound in the night was the closing of the door.


The sun was rising over the distant mountains and the warm gentle breeze felt good after the colder mornings of a week ago. Chris Larabee, coffee in hand watched as a new day began and reflected on the last two months of his life. He took out his journal and began to write.
Two months is sixty days or eight weeks… It does not seem long, but I find it hard to take in all that has happened during that time. I never did like change, but the changes that have occurred around here are mostly good ones. The family has some new additions and the newest is Adam Josiah Sanchez, born yesterday. When Josiah and Mallory came to me and asked about using my Adam’s name for their son, I had mixed feeling. They counted themselves lucky that at their age, they had one baby girl, but when Mallory found out she was pregnant again at forty-three, they felt it was a special blessing and he needed a special name. So, I said yes and then when I held him for the first time, I knew it was the right decision.

JD and Nathan are just now beginning to realize how quickly life can change. Waiting for little Adam to be born brought home to them, the fact, that in a few short months they will be waiting on their own babies to come into this world. Little do they know that their life will never be the same again.

Buck shared with me yesterday that he and Inez are talking about having another baby. They hope to have a boy, but I know Buck and he would not mind being surrounded by all females. Another girl would be more than welcomed.

Ezra, though, is still the stable one. Did I really just write that? His life continues to amaze and amuse me, but one of these days, he will surprise the hell out of all of us and let his last defenses fall. When he does, some woman will be there to catch him.

Vin, I suppose has made the biggest personal change and I had to laugh when I read my last entry. I said he was shy and insecure about relationships with women. Tanner did surprise the hell out of me when he found the woman to share his life. He knew within days of meeting her that she was the right one for him and set a tenacious plan into motion, to win her heart. He brought Kelli into the family when they married two weeks ago. As usual, Tanner’s instincts are right on and I know they will be good for each other.

Larabee 7 has twelve new foals, three belong to Kelli, as her horses now reside here. She and Vin were given a winning race horse for a wedding present and My Texas Lady has brought some good publicity to our ranch. Our foundation stallion, Hunter, also has a famous winning relative and that has put a good boost into our breeding program. We did have a fire a few weeks ago, losing five horses and two stables, but the rebuilding is almost complete and will be even better than before.

There have been two big changes in my life, the first concerning work. Travis called me into his office to tell me team seven was history and I felt like a loved one had died. Then he had the nerve to offer me a new position doing something that had never been done before. Starting a completely new type of law enforcement unit with a whole new set of standards. Well, my first impulse was to tell him to go to hell, but then I listened to what he was telling me and I wanted to hear more. The idea intrigued me and when he said the boys could stay on with me, I was hooked. We had six weeks to put it together and just finished our first case as a team. With MCAT, we have an opportunity to accomplish more than we ever imagined. The freedom to work cases the way they should be, the resources to do it with and the authority to override the red tape that has kept us tied down. Team Seven was and still is the best quick response team in the country and now we are training more agents to be just as effective. Damn good agents, too! I am looking forward to what the next weeks and months will bring.

On the personal side, the change has been even more dramatic. I did not think I could find love again, but I did when I met a woman that now shares a big part of my life. Linda accepts me for who I am and understands my needs at this point in my life. She has filled a place that I never realized was so empty, until now. I missed the presence of a woman in my life to love and share things with. As I write, she is asleep in my bed and last night we shared a fantastic night of love. I think I will let her sleep for a while, to rest us for later when we can have some more time alone.

I do not know what the next few weeks have in store, but with a new lover, a family like mine and a new team to work with I know it will not be dull or boring.

Continues in MCAT SERIES # 2 Connections by Tonny