In Your Father's Name

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Epilogue

Part 3


Vin chewed another bite of his burrito, watching evening settle into his neighborhood. From his jeep hood vantage point, he watched his neighbors emerging from their sweltering apartments and small fans to enjoy the cooler evening air. The residents gathered in small groups, catching up on each other’s day. Two preteen girls shot baskets while their mothers visited nearby. A car radio blended with someone’s TV, while window air-conditioners droned annoying, off-pitch hums, all signs of a good night in Purgatorio.

Chris called early in the morning from Kansas with the devastating news of no new leads in discovering the whereabouts of their missing team member. The red Chevy, identified as the vehicle the kidnapper used to abscond with JD, was located at the site of the fire but an old van, a brown cargo van that sounded eerily like the one from the airport surveillance tape, and had been parked in one of the other buildings, was missing. The brown van evaporated again, and with it, JD. With no leads, the men had no idea where to search. Had the mystery man taken the youngest agent south to Oklahoma and down into Texas, headed east into Missouri or north toward Canada? About the only place they figured not to look was right here in northern Colorado. Kid, where are you? Looking toward the rising moon, Vin promised. ‘Kid, I’ll search to the end of the world to find you.’ A lone tear escaped and made a slow journey down his cheek.

The abandoned meal sat beside him but he ignored it. How could a hospital loose a patient and why didn’t someone stop the kidnapper before he vanished?

“I should have known he was trouble.” The women’s conversation drifted toward the agent. “First he didn’t want to order, then he sat there like he didn’t have a worry in the world.”

“Why did he leave?” asked the other mother.

The first shook her head, “I don’t know. One minute he was sitting there all alone and the next he’s tearing out the door, like the devil himself was on his tail! He tied up one of my tables for over an hour and then he runs out without paying and gets himself killed.”

One of the girls made another basket, rattling the chain net. “Good shot, Rosie!” the shorter of the two girls yelled.
Vin turned to watch them, recognizing both girls and smiled. Most youth would be chilling in front of a fan or air-conditioner but these two often spent the evenings practicing free throws. Juanita and her mother, the waitress, lived over the cantina around the corner. Rosalietta, who would rather be called Rosie, and her family, lived in his apartment building on the floor above him. Both girls hoped to earn a spot on the city junior high league basketball team.

The two mothers approached his Jeep.

“Good evenin’ Senoras.”

“Senor Tanner,” Rosie’s mother grinned at the lanky young man. “Nice to see you.” She pointed to the two girls, “Not even this heat keeps them from practicing.”

He nodded in agreement. “They keep it up and they’ll have a good chance to make the team.” He looked at the other woman and saw the sadness on her face. “Something wrong, Senora Gunsallus?”

“No, it’s been a long day,” She shut her eyes and sighed. “I’ve had a headache since the accident this morning and standing out here in this heat isn’t helping.”

“Accident? At the cantina? Did someone get hurt?” he asked.

Emma Gunsallus nodded. “One of the breakfast patrons suddenly ran out the door and into the street. Right into a delivery truck.”

“The poor driver; he never had a chance to avoid that man. The street was closed for over an hour,” the other woman added.

“Someone from the neighborhood?” Vin asked, concerned that the grieving family might need assistance. He slid off his vehicle and stood next to the women.

“A stranger; never had seen him before. Somewhere a family is grieving the lost of their papa.” Emma added, the sadness of witnessing the death evident on her face.

Looking at the two girls, Vin offered. “I’ll watch them, see ‘em home when they’re done practicing. Go on now, go back inside where it’s cooler.”

Both women nodded. “Gracias, Senor Tanner. Your mama would be proud of you, such a good son.”

The two girls giggled as they saw Vin approach the makeshift basketball court. Even at the tender age of twelve, both girls shared a huge crush on the lawman.

“Evenin’ ladies. Told your moms I’ll hang around while you’re practicing. Let them go inside, cool off.” He snagged a deflected shot and easily swooshed the ball through the chains. As the sun descended, the twilight limited the view of the basket. The nearest streetlight didn’t work, leaving the court in near darkness.

“Time to call it a night, Rosie, Nita.”

Later, Vin stood in his bathroom, looking at the full moon illuminating his neighborhood. In the distance a dog barked, blending with music with a heavy Latin beat from someone’s open window. The words of a song filtered through his mind, ‘Somewhere, out there, we’re staring at the same full moon’. Was JD able to see the moon tonight and thinking about his friends here in Denver? He shuddered to think about himself being locked in a dark boxcar. Where was the kid now? Hidden away in another black hole or was he able to see the moon and the night sky?


Chris Larabee sat at his desk, holding his head. The pain of loss felt like a millstone around his neck. He hated seeing the extreme suffering in Buck’s eyes. The two men returned from Kansas during the night, after an exhausting search of the outlaying countryside around Dodge City. How could a hospital loose a patient; have him disappear right under their noses? The FBI had no new leads and the local law, though extremely helpful by discovering the kidnapper’s abandoned red vehicle at the site of the burned trailer house, offered them no new clues to pursue. Where was the brown van and where was JD?

The team leader sighed deeply, himself unable to cope with the heartache of loosing one of his men, one of his brothers. JD was too young, all spitfire and energy. He’d fought hard and won a coveted spot on Team 7, and now was such an essential part of his magnificent group of misfit lawmen!

The memory of JD’s struggle to become a member of his elite ATF team brought a slight smile to the distraught man. Dunne showed up at the interview, requesting an opportunity to be considered the best choice for the job. The man definitely met all the criteria but how could someone who looked as young as he did be considered a serious candidate. The kid stood toe-to-toe with Larabee, glaring into his face. He could still hear JD demanding, “A man looks up to you. Wants to work with you.” He was so determined to work for Chris Larabee. It didn’t matter the kid had no family, no home or any money. The boy possessed drive and wouldn’t take ‘No. Go home’ for an answer.

Voices raised outside his office door distracted his musings and he looked at the horse sculpture clock sitting on the corner of his desk. Ten to eight. Director Travis asked to meet with his team at eight this morning when Chris called him last night to up date his supervisor with the discouraging news. Chris phoned the rest of the team a second time, telling them he expected all of them in the office by eight for a meeting with Director Travis.

As the volume raised, he knew friction was building and dividing the team.

“Once again, the FBI has proved their incompetence.” Standish’s voice came through the wall, loud and clear.

“Just cause you got burned with the bunch from Georgia, don’t mean the whole pack of them is bad. Can’t go judging ‘em all on account of few rotten apples.”

Was that Vin, squaring off with the southerner over the FBI? Chris walked to the doorway, ready to intervene if the two men didn’t cool their tempers soon. Usually the Texan and Southerner teamed up to spring pranks around the office, keeping the rest of the team on their toes. Today, each looked ready to step over the invisible line. He didn’t need any fisticuffs today. And over the FBI?

Josiah sat with his back to the two verbal combatants, engrossed in reading something, something that looked much like his favorite book in time of despair, his well-worn Bible. At his partner’s desk, Nathan watched Vin and Ezra. He looked like he was almost rooting for their fists to fly; he was ready to pounce on both of them.

Chris’ eyes drifted towards the third pair of desks. One chair was empty, the constant reminder of their loss. Buck sat on the other side of the desks; his shoulders slumped dismally. Despair surrounded the normally jovial man like a barricade; insulating him from the sight and sounds of his team’s infighting. He knew the pain Wilmington felt because even though he often had to reprimand JD and Buck boisterous antics in the office, JD was one fine agent. One that would be greatly missed in this office. Stop it Larabee, a voice screamed in his brain. JD isn’t gone; he is alive. You and this team need to pull yourselves out of this pity party and get back to some old-fashioned detective work.

Before Larabee could reprimand the men, the elevator chimed, and an exhausted old man exited the car. When had Director Travis aged? What was he about to share?

“Tanner, Standish. Now. Conference Room 3. Judge is here. Let’s go. Nathan, Josiah. Tell the judge, Buck and I’ll be there shortly,” Larabee ordered, his voice a tone that left no room for argument.

“Buck,” Chris said, his tone soft, cautionary. “Travis is here, waiting on us. Let’s go.” He shuddered when Buck looked up, his eyes red and swollen. “Come on, Buck.” He gently rested his hand on Buck’s shoulder. He felt the tension as the man pulled himself together.

“OK, I’m ready, I guess. Chris,” he turned his red-rimmed eyes, “I won’t ever be ready ta accept that…”

“Stop right there, Buck Wilmington. We aren’t giving up on him. Come on. Let’s go hear what Travis has to say.”


Vin stared at the eyesore across the street from him. Though no one claimed ownership of the abandoned garage, the vehicles and spare parts littering the lot seemed to exist with a life of their own. Right now he identified three vehicles that hadn’t been in that lot last week. One van reflected the late afternoon sun back towards the agent sitting on the retaining wall. He could almost see the distant mountains reflected in the mirror-like windows.

The morning visit from Travis hadn’t helped the somber mood in the office. Standish wasn’t talking to him since he supported the use of the FBI in the search for JD. The southerner had no time for his former employer or any of its agents. Buck refused to talk to anyone, willing the phone to ring telling him his missing roommate had been found.

Whoever had taken JD was a chameleon, disappearing into the landscape and leaving no trace, no trail for them to follow. Was there a tie to the mystery letters received by Travis? The man looked old, almost frail as the stress took its toll.

“Mister Tanner?”

“You OK?”

The two preteen girls stood on the sidewalk in front of the cantina looking at their neighbor. He brushed the moisture from his face with the back of his hand and choked down the catch in his voice. “Missing a friend, Juanita.” He looked at the girls’ innocent faces, framed with their dark hair, but saw his missing team member. “I was remembering a good friend of mine.”

“How come your friend went away?” Rosalietta always asked questions while Juanita absorbed all details around her.

“Don’t pester Mr. Tanner, Rosie. Sorry we bothered you.”

Giving the girls his famous grin, though it barely reached his eyes, he said, “You girls aren’t bothering me. Going to practice basketball?”

Both girls nodded, their matching ponytails bobbing in rhythm. “Want to come watch us, Mr. Tanner?” Rosie asked.

“Mama’s inside.”

“With my mom,” Nita finished the sentence.

Vin stood and tossed the remains of his sandwich in the trashcan. “Sure, ladies. Go tell your mamas. I’ll wait here for you.”

The girls practiced hard, running drills, practiced passing and worked hard on making free throws. Vin snagged two bottles of water from the back of his Jeep and tossed them to the youngsters. They downed the refreshment and smiled. “Thanks, Mr. Tanner,” both replied, before going back to shooting more baskets.

The agent reclined on the front stoop where he could still keep an eye on the girls but his mind wandered back to the tension in the office. Buck struggled to work but the rest of the team knew his mind was constantly reviewing the evidence, a grey-haired man, red car and brown van but no new leads. The FBI Missing Persons unit officially spearheaded the case but they included the six members of the well-know ATF team in any new developments. Was Ezra correct? Did the mystery notes sent to Director Travis have anything to do with their missing team member?

“Rosie, you know what will happen if’n your mama catches you.” Nita shot another lay-up before passing the ball to her partner.

“But it’d be perfect. Nobody goes in there. There’s this new one, a big brown van. Just kinda blends in with rest of the junk. Few days it will look like it’s always been sitting there.” Rosalietta countered.

“I don’t know. Mama said.”

“That was for when we were little; we’re in Junior High now. I wish our moms would trust us. I’m mean, look at us. We can’t even shoot a few hoops at night without our moms babysitting us like we were four year olds. If it wasn’t for Mr. Tanner, either your mama or my mom would be standing out in the heat when they could be inside, sitting with their feet up, resting. After all, what could happen to us here? Who’d want to hurt us?”

“Don’t be in such a hurry to grow up, Rosie. You either Juanita.”

Both girls jumped at Vin’s remarks. How much had he overheard? “But it’s not fair. The boys in our class get to play pick up games all the time. They don’t have their mamas standin’ right beside the court, like that would keep danger away.” Nita said, defending her friend.

“Your mothers love you girls too much to take a chance on trouble findin’ you. Don’t go inviting it to visit. Ready to quit for the night?”

“Can I walk Nita home?”

Vin nodded and the trio headed back towards the girl’s home.

“Mr. Tanner, when you were eating, before we went to practice; you were missing someone. Sorry we disturbed your reminiscing.” Nita said. She slipped her petite hand into the longhaired man’s and smiled. Maybe he was right. Maybe building a secret fort for girls only in the abandoned junkyard was a dangerous idea.

Before Vin answered Rosie asked, “Is your friend far away? Will he be back soon?”

“Rosie, that’s personal. You shouldn’t ask him that.” Nita whispered loudly, reprimanding her friend.

They crossed the busy street and started down the block toward the cantina. “That’s ok, girls. One of my partners; where I work. He’s missing. Don’t know when I’ll see him again.” Vin’s voice choked as he replied. Or if he’d ever see JD again went unsaid.

“Is it Mr. Standish, the fellow with the fancy car?” Nita liked to watch the well dress agent perform the card tricks.

“No, it’s JD, Agent Dunne.”

“The one that fixes your computer? He’s missing? Who’s going to keep it working?” Nita questioned. “Right, Rosie?”

“Yeah, right,” the other girl answered quietly.

Vin and Rosie watched Juanita climb the steps to her apartment before retracing their steps back to their building.

“You’re pretty quiet, Rosie. Don’t you worry now about JD. We’ll find him; we’ll find him,” he repeated, more to convince himself than the girl at his side.

“Mr. Tanner, can we sit outside for a few minutes. It’s too hot to be inside.” Rosie pulled her protector down beside her on the steps of the apartment building. “Did Mr. Dunne disappear today?”

“Rosie, don’t worry about that. I shouldn’t have shared it with you girls,” Vin said, apologizing.

Rosie glared at him, waiting for an answer, “Please, I need to know.”

He shook his head, “JD went missing over a week ago. We thought we had him back few days ago but.” He shook his head, unable to voice the words.

“I, I think I saw him,” she whispered.

“Rosie?” Vin questioned, unable to see the girl’s face in the vanishing light.

She took a large breath and sighed. “Nita and I wanted to have a place, a secret place, where we don’t have to be under our mama’s watch. The girl glanced at her neighbor. Was telling him going to get Nita and her in trouble?
Sensing the girl’s hesitation, Vin calmly prodded, “Go on.”

“My brother, Tobby, and his friend Walt and Walt’s cousin Felipe. They built a fort from a bunch of boards and stuff in the lot behind Walt’s building. Mama gave him some old pillows to sit on and Felipe’s brother helped them put a roof on it. Looks cool from the outside but they don’t allow any girls. Sometimes I hate being a girl. There’s so many more things a boy gets to do and girls aren’t allowed to do, because it’s too dangerous.” She added the last part in a high sing-songy voice. “Boys get to play basketball whenever they want; girls have to wait their turn. We have to finish chores before leaving the house.”

“Rosie,” Vin interrupted, knowing it was time to see the girl to her door.

She ignored the subtle hint and continued, “We thought, well, it was my idea, to find a place in the junk yard. Nobody ever goes there anymore. Two days ago, when that guy was killed in front of Nita’s, and the street was closed, I cut through there.” She pointed at the dark collection of vehicles, “and there it was, a big old van. It was real dirty but that was the best part cause it didn’t look new and inviting. It wasn’t rusty or wrecked but there it was, parked between a smashed truck and a funny looking pickup.”

“You know better than to cut through there, Rosalietta,” Vin admonished his young neighbor. “Just because you don’t see anyone doesn’t mean the place is safe. Someone might have been hiding there and no one could help you or know to look for you, if’n you were in the scrap piles. What if someone was hiding the van there and came back to get it when you or Juanita were inside? Promise me you won’t ever use the lot as a shortcut to Nita’s? Promise? OK?” he demanded from his young neighbor.


“It’s time for you to go in, to go home.” He stood and grabbed her basketball.

“OK,” she agreed, disappointed. “But that’s where I saw the guy, the one that looked like your friend. The man in the van had long, dark hair.”

“Rosie, you saw someone in the van, the one you want to use as a fort? Saying you saw JD ain’t something to joke about.” Vin scolded as they climbed the steps.

“But I did see him, or someone who looks a lot like him. He started yelling at me. I ran, figuring he was going to hurt me or something. I didn’t recognize him. The guy had greasy hair and he hadn’t shaved for a few days. I was so scared, I ran all the way to Nita’s, ‘fraid he was chasing me, but then I saw the dead guy, laying in the street, I forgot all about the man in the van, till you were looking so sad earlier. I’m sorry, Vin.” Rosalietta took her basketball and walked into the family’s apartment.

The girl’s tale bothered Vin. Was someone hiding in there?

“Vin,” Rosie said, popping out her door. “The van, it was brown, the kind plumbers and such use. It still had its license plate but it wasn’t from Colorado.” Just as quick she disappeared back into the apartment.

The young agent froze on the steps at the girl’s words. Brown van? Had she seen the news mentioning the vehicle on the airport surveillance tape? No! No, the kidnapper wouldn’t have returned to Denver, would he?

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Epilogue

Carol P 2006