Disclaimer: The Magnificent Seven do not belong to me.
Archivist's Note: This fic was previously hosted on another website and was moved to Blackraptor in September 2006.
Vin stood in front of the bathroom mirror in his temporary lodging at the Cuoco residence. He had taken off the bloodied, gray Henley he had been wearing and thrown it in the trash. Bare chested, he went through the bathroom and found a first -aid kit, he then cleaned the wound on his arm. Once cleaned, it didn't look too bad, but blood was still oozing alerting Vin stitches were necessary. He had heated the sewing needle, which he had found in a small sewing kit, in the kitchen. Resting the needle on the edge of the electric coils until it glowed red hot. While it cooled he sprayed the black thread with some antibacterial spray he had found in the first aid kit. Carefully he inserted the thread through the needle. The pain as he pierced his skin near the edge of the cut was welcoming. In and out he deftly stitched, thinking about the numbness which had come over him. He should have done something more for JD. Doubts and 'what ifs' crept into his mind. This never happened when I worked alone, thought Vin. It's only been one year. Had working with the team changed him so much, making him doubt and not trust himself? Ten stitches later and a lot of built up guilt, Vin finished. The door flew open, from his view point in the bathroom Vin could see Eli had barged into the apartment. He was rubbing the knuckles of his right hand.
Those goombahs at the gate didn't think letting a stranger in the compound was a reason to alert anyone," Joey sighed. "I know I only want them to use the head sets in case of emergency," he explained further although Vin wasn't paying attention, "anyone could be listening." Eli shook his head, "But, they told me they don't like to wear the head sets. They think they are uncomfortable, well they are uncomfortable now." The enforcer chuckled and threw some fake punches. "Frankie's gonna be at the gate covering for awhile until the guys come back." He then screwed up his face as he noticed Vin tying off the stitches, "Ouch, that's got to hurt."
Vin carefully placed a large bandage over the cut. Eli was reacting as if he wasn't the cause of the injury or of hurting JD. A red haze descended over Vin. "Yep, you son-of-a-bitch," Tanner's pent up rage toward Joey erupted. In two steps Vin tackled Eli, grabbing him behind his knees, causing Joey to land in a heap on the floor. Vin was thankful that Frankie, his shadow, had been reassigned for the night. Instantly Tanner sat on top of the enforcer pinning him to the ground. He crossed his wrists, and brought his hands to clamp down on the collar of Eli's striped shirt. Slowly he started to pull the cottony material and watch as Joey's stunned expression turned to alarm as his face grew red. Vin could hear the sharp slam of Eli's shoe against the hard wood floor, he could tell the man was trying to gain some leverage to buck attacker off. Vin was determined to exact some sort of revenge on Joey. The sharpshooter felt the pounding of Eli's pulse against his hand, and it felt good to know Eli was helpless, the same way Tanner had felt when JD went down. Vin pulled the material again and this time his knuckles brushed against a chain which Joey wore around his neck. Vin had been wearing a chain earlier. He had broken it off and gave it to JD to save his life. He had to trust the team would come through. He couldn't loose his head now. Abruptly, Vin broke the hold, unclenching his hands from the shirt. He stood up and went to the kitchen, looking at his hands, chafed from the exertion. People were depending on him. He had to finish this job and make sure Eli paid for what he had done. He filled a glass with water and brought it to Eli, who had moved himself so he was propped up against a wall. Harsh redness from where his shirt was choking him made a ring around his neck. He was taking in deep breaths of air, shakily he accepted the offered glass. After a few sips he spoke,
"Nice to see your performance tomorrow won't be affected," Eli said with a raspy voice gesturing to Vin's arm. The bandage had spots of blood on it.
"Tomorrow?" Vin was trying to ground his mind and concentrate on what Joey was telling him. He placed his hand behind his neck longing to feel the chain that was there. There would be no way to contact the team. He would have to take down the Cuoco family himself or trust that what Ezra described as his impeccable timing, had rubbed off on the rest of them.
Normal color had returned to Eli's face and he attempted to stand, putting out his hand to Vin. Tanner grasped the hand and pulled up the enforcer. Joey didn't let go and looked Vin straight in the eyes. "I'll let you get away this time-let's just say you were blowing off some steam."
Vin nodded, coolly staring back at the larger man. He just had to keep it together awhile longer.
Eli patted Vin on the face and gestured to the door. "Let's take a walk." Eli waited at the door, moving his neck around while Vin grabbed a shirt. He buttoned it as they left the apartment. Silently they descended the stair case and made their way to the rear of the main house.
Vin's patience was wearing thin, even the night sounds which he usually found so comforting were unnerving him. "You gonna fill me in?" he finally drawled out.
In a low voice Eli answered him going down a list of information. "Your hit takes place tomorrow morning at 11am. There will be two limousines. The first one will contain Junior and myself. In the second one is your hit. He will be the second person exiting the limousine wearing a red carnation."
Mentally, Vin memorized the data. He paused and stopped in mid-stride, "A red carnation?" A disbelieving look crossed Tanner's face though he kept his thoughts to himself. 'What the hell is this, some bad 40's gangster movie. Is he going to be carrying a violin case as well.'
But the other man misinterpreted his associate's expression as confusion. "It's one of those fluffy flowers." Eli waved his hand, "It doesn't make a difference. He will be the only one wearing a flower on his lapel. He always wears it."
"Does the man wearing the flower have a name?"
"You don't need to know. Trust me." Joey smiled and continued with the rest of the plan. "You will be stationed on the roof of a four story building across the street. You go in there on the pretense you are the air conditioner repairman. You take the shot and your out, vehicle waiting in the back."
"Aren't you forgetting something?" Vin was surprised Eli had forgotten the most important part in his plan. Maybe the great strategic planner was slipping.
Eli laughed, "I thought I would let you pick your vacation destination." The enforcer was referring to Vin supposedly having to leave the country after the hit. Vin found they had walked to the entrance of the dome that housed the swimming pool. "I know what you mean Tanner, and we are taking care of that right now." They entered the dome and made their way to the cabana. Eli closed the door, and moved some boxes in a corner. He then pushed a button previously hidden by the cartons. The floor in the corner began to move, revealing a lit stairway. Vin followed Eli down the steep stairs the door closed behind him giving Vin a moment of apprehension. He was not fond of closed places. But anxiety turned to amazement as Tanner found himself in a large concrete room filled with semi-automatic rifles, shotguns and pistols.
"Pick what you'll need and it will be waiting for you in the morning."
Vin was astonished at the storehouse of weapons. He would have never have found where they were located if it wasn't for Eli. On racks and in crates Vin saw, Heckler and Koch sub-machine guns, AK40's, Remington shotguns and Mausers, Glocks and Colts. Not wanting to act suspiciously Tanner choose his weapon for the hit and settled on a H and K MSG90, which he handed to Joey.
Eli nodded appreciatively at Vin, happy with his decision. He placed the MSG90 in a bag. Quietly, Eli escorted Vin back to his apartment. His guard was still on gate duty, Vin actually wanted to see the man's flat features, at least if he did he would know the other men had returned from depositing JD in Purgatorio, and delude himself everything had worked out.
"Get some rest," Eli stood at the threshold to the door. He held up the bag, "See you in the morning," and left.
In bed Vin stared at the ceiling noting how the moonlight patterned the ceiling with shadows. He couldn't get to sleep, everyone was asking for his trust. He had to trust Eli on the hit, he had to trust the team to come through. He punched his pillow in frustration and tried instead to think about the red carnation. He had seen it somewhere recently-but where? Every time he tried to think about it he saw JD's crimson blood on his hands.
They had arrived at the twilight of the day when grayness began to shroud the area, before the darkness of the night. Josiah, Ezra, Buck, Nathan and Chris watched as JD had climbed into the truck and driven off towards the Cuoco compound. Larabee had told the young man to be careful and the words resonated through the woods as the remaining part of the team climbed up a hill to a heavily shrubbed area. The land which bordered the Cuoco property had been deemed conservation area. When Dominic Cuoco Senior could not purchase the land he asked his political cronies to pull some strings, and what should have been land for affordable housing had been made into unused, protected land. Unbeknownst to the Cuoco family the FBI had set up surveillance cameras which watched the access road below, making the federal agencies aware of the comings and goings of the residents. It was those pictures Chris saw everyday, looking for Vin Tanner to no avail. Now he was searching the road for his young agent. Chris had almost wanted to halt the mission. *Almost* though his need to find out about Vin had over ridden his head. An hour later he watched as Buck paced again, kicking up the dead brown pine needles in his wake.
He stopped and whispered loudly, "It's been an hour! Where is he?"
Ezra was leaning against a tree he had deemed would not cause harm to his suit jacket. He glanced at his watch. "Actually, it's only been 45 minutes."
Chris was lying on the ground next to Nathan, who was looking at the compound through high powered binoculars. Larabee turned and looked at his unconcerned, undercover agent. "Strange how someone who never shows up to work on time is suddenly so exact about it."
Ezra pretended he did not hear the comment and went to stand next to Josiah. Chris knew Standish was only trying to help lessen the anxiousness of the group, but Larabee's patience was wearing thin these days.
"I can't believe he made it in." Jackson said again. They were all shocked when he had gotten into the compound, but as the minutes ticked by, he never came out. Each minute Chris had felt he had signed the young agent's death warrant. Chris had gotten careless with the life of another, all because of his relationship with Vin. The sharpshooter had made him human and less the mechanical person he had turned into after Sara and Adam's death.
"Can you stop saying that Nathan." Buck gritted out through clenched teeth. Buck shared a familial relationship with JD. Chris hated to see his old friend go through the same worrying Larabee himself had been going through the past two weeks, fighting the unknown was a strenuous fight.
Josiah interrupted, his large form coming forward holding the tracking device as if it were the holy grail. "Chris, the signal is going off." He bent down so Chris could see the green light blinking in staccato rhythm. Chris's heart was pounding to the same beat. 'What the hell is happening down there.' He calmed himself down before giving his orders.
"Nathan, run down and get your laptop so we can see if Vin is moving." The box only made them aware someone had set off the signal, but via satellite link they would be able to track his location. Nathan exchanged the binoculars for the tracking gizmo and took off in a run down the hilly terrain. It would take Jackson awhile to return. The Dodge was about a half a mile away, well hidden off the side of the road. Chris began making another sweep with the binoculars. Minutes ticked by and Chris kept scanning the area. He saw a yellow blur and zoomed in, "Buck's truck is leaving the compound."
Wilmington raced to Chris's side, squinting to make out his vehicle in the distance. "What's going on? Is it Vin and JD?" Buck's voice was filled tension.
Larabee kept the binoculars fixed on the truck, trying to see who the occupants were. Finally he was able to make out a form through the olive colored hue which the glass of binoculars bathed everything in. It was JD sitting in the passenger side seat. Relief flodded through him. "JD's in the truck." He said to a worried Wilmington. Buck got behind Chris as if he was going to be able to see the young man through the binoculars too. Larabee went back to searching, he took in one more glimpse of Dunne before shifting to see who the driver was. Maybe it was Vin? But, he had missed the oppurtunity, the truck came up on the road below, obstructing the view. Once the truck had passed all he could see was the back of two heads. A dark sedan followed close behind the Chevy. Both continued on their way. "I don't know who else is in the truck with JD," Chris announced to the awaiting men.
Suddenly breaking through the trees breathing hard came Nathan, "The signal is in the truck." He had overheard a part of the conversation. He opened up his laptop and showed Chris the diagram of the road in front of them and the moving blip representing Vin's signal.
"Let's go boys!" Hurriedly the team packed up what little equipment they had brought and made their way down the hill towards Chris's vehicle. Buck stayed close to Nathan and watched the screen, as if the screen could tell him what had happened to his friend. Nathan gave them updates.
"They just got on the highway."
Once they made it to the Ram they quickly got underway, making it to the main road in no time, weaving in and out of traffic as the tail lights of the other vehicles shimmered.
"They are heading to Purgatorio," Nathan said from the passenger side next to Chris, disbelief evident in his voice. Buck was sitting in the middle of the back seat flanked by Ezra and Josiah, he stuck his head forward in between the open space between the front seat.
"What in the hell is going on?" He excentuated each word.
Chris didn't answer and the others offered no explanations. They had entered Purgatorio, Vin's home. They had all tried to dissuade Tanner's choice of residences. Purgatorio was a place that sapped the character out of a person's soul. Gangs, drugs and poverty abounded. Vin had endured though and had brought some change to the community. 'Why Purgatorio?' Larabee thought and other questions no one voiced entered his mind. 'Where was Vin?' 'Was JD okay?' 'What trouble had they gotten into?'
The black clad leader pulled over as he noticed the truck and the sedan had stopped a distance ahead. Buck had already taken his seatbelt off in plans to exit the vehicle. Chris turned around and gave him a steadying glare. "Wait, we want to keep our distance, and see what happens." Waiting, he seemed to do a lot of that with these men in the year since they had been together. They watched in horror as they recognized JD's inert form. Chris could hear Buck trying to get out of the truck, Ezra and Josiah were holding him in place. They watched the scene unfold before them as two of the Cuoco family's henchmen pull out some plastic and moved Dunne's body to the driver's seat. They broke the windows on each side of the truck, grabbed the bunched up plastic and within moments were driving off, their deed done.
Chris started the engine and without looking pulled out to the street, with a screeching halt he stopped at Buck's parked vehicle. Nathan was already out, the opened door gave Chris a view of JD. A piece of the shattered glass was still hanging on to the rim of Buck's car door window, but it did not hamper the view. Dried blood painted Dunne's passive face. His eyed were closed and his newsboy hat askew.
Nathan had opened the vehicle door, the glass which had been perilously perched shattered to the pavement with a crash.
Buck was at his side, a paleness had come over his features. He reached out and touched the young man's shoulder careful not to disturb Nathan as he made a precursory examination. "Come on JD. Wake up! I am not gonna be mad about the truck!"
Ezra, Josiah and Chris had stood back not wanting to crowd Buck and Nathan, but equally concerned with JD's condition. Nathan unbuckled Dunne and began to pull the young agent out of the vehicle. They rushed forward to assist him. As they got the top part of his body out, the chain with the Saint Jude charm fell to the ground. Ezra bent down and picked it up,
"Seems Agent Tanner was somehow involved in this." Ezra held up the necklace for them to view. They gave it a precursory glance, not having time to think of Vin and what this all meant. There would be time later. They focussed on JD.
Josiah had effortlessly removed JD from the truck and stood cradling him in his arms, being careful to support the injured man's head. Nathan filled them in on his discoveries, "He's breathing. I don't know the extent of the injuries, or about this blood. There is a graze and a lump on the back of his head "
Ezra pocketed the chain and pulled out his cell phone. He was in the midst of dialing 911 when Chris placed a hand on Standish's forearm and stopped him,
"In this neighborhood it would be faster if we took him ourselves. Ambulances don't rush down here."
Ezra nodded, noticing none of the areas inhabitants had come to the scene to check on the commotion. It was if someone being disposed of in Purgatorio were a common occurrence.
Nathan added, "Call the hospital instead and tell them to be ready," as Josiah gathered Dunne in his large, brawny arms and got into the Dodge. Buck entered in right beside Sanchez, hesitantly reaching out to remove some hair which had fallen into the young man's face. He seemed to think twice about it, not wanting to disturb the blood which had crusted on JD's dark hair. Finally Buck let his hand rest on Dunne's shoulder. Nathan got in beside Buck, Ezra in the front seat, phone to ear telling the hospital they would arrive in ten minutes.
The tender scene Chris had witnessed prompted him to drive faster, being careful to avoid any bumps in the road which may jar the injured man. There was silence in the car intermittently broken by Buck whispering to JD in a soothing voice and pleading with him to open his eyes. At the hospital Sanchez deposited his bundle gently on the awaiting gurney. The beleaguered team followed the gurney as the automatic doors to the hospital opened wide. They raced after their friend as the bed crashed through the emergency room doors. The harried nurse, who had been running with the gurney turned toward them.
"You can't come in here." They all stopped as the doors swung shut in front of them. Four men stood looking through the small windows as the doctors and nurses worked on JD. Another nurse came forward from the desk,
"There's a waiting room over there and the doctor will come out as soon as he is finished." She pointed to a small open room with garish, green vinyl chairs. Josiah gently pulled Buck away from the doors and guided him to a sofa. Wilmington was holding JD's hat in his hands, clutching it as if it were a life line to his friend, They all sank down into the seats and prepared to wait. Ezra fidgeted and took out the necklace he had placed in his pocket. The fluorescent lights in the waiting room shined on the chain pointing out the stains of blood which were intertwined in the gold.
"Vin let this happen." Buck said as his eyes watched the chain wave back and forth in Ezra's hands.
Standish stopped swinging the chain and closed his hand over the cool metal. "Buck, don't go making allegations. Agent Tanner cares just as much about our injured friend as the rest of us. I am sure if it were within his power he would not let anything befall JD."
Buck shook his head. "That's not good enough Ez. I want answers."
"Not now Buck," Chris answered. "Remember, Vin's risking his life undercover with those thugs." Larabee did not want to deal with this now. He couldn't figure out what had happened, he was hoping JD would be able to fill them in, but he didn't like what Buck was insinuating.
"Right, undercover with a guy he knew from way back." Buck looked at the other men planting the seeds of distrust in their minds. "What the hell do we know about him?" Wilmington exhaled sharply as if mocking the man who was not in their presence. "He was raised in foster families, in the military, a former bounty hunter. It's all kind of sketchy."
Chris stood up glaring at his oldest friend, shocked at his hostility towards Tanner. "That's enough Buck. You're feeling guilty and taking it out on Vin."
Wilmington lept off the couch. The others got up from their seats ready to break up a fight which looked imminent between the two friends. Buck saw the reaction of the team and stayed in place. "That's right I shouldn't blame the almighty Vin." Wilmington put a hand to his head as if to pretend he had acted foolishly. "I should blame you. You shouldn't have sent him in." Buck stormed off to position himself by the doors which separated him from JD.
Chris felt the weight enter his shoulders. Buck was right, as team leader he took responsibility for these men. He had thought going out to the compound would be a quick diversion for the team and JD would be turned away at the gate. With this team he found himself beginning to enjoy his job again, like he used to before...before he lost Sara and Adam. Now his rash decision may have ramifications for two more people he cared about, JD and Vin. Chris swallowed his guilt to add to the rest he had absorbed over the years. He went to follow his old friend to try to console him, but felt a hand on his forearm holding him back.
"Leave him be. Ezra's tending to him." Chris saw the fashionably dressed agent was next to Wilmington talking softly to him.
Larabee looked at his remaining men wondering what kind of impact Buck's words had made on them. "What do you think about Vin?" He asked the large man.
"I don't know." Josiah sighed. "You can't be touched by darkness and not come through unscathed." Sanchez was alluding to the time when Vin was caught in fevered delusions-trying to escape something, screaming with a desperate voice filled with fear. "I think Vin has some explaining to do."
Chris nodded, accepting the man's opinion and wondering how this would effect the team, and its future. He had to make some decisions on the next course of action concerning the Cuoco assignment.
Nathan interrupted pointing to the trauma room doors. "Look, the doctor is talking to Ezra and Buck." A gray haired man was in deep conversation with the two agents. Chris watched as the lines of tension which had momentarily slackened in Buck's face tightened once again. It was not going to be good news, though Chris. Josiah and Nathan waited with him, Chris did not want to intrude on Buck. He saw Ezra nod and then walk towards the waiting men.
Ezra went directly into what the doctor had told him. "They stitched up the graze, about 15 stitches. They did a CT scan and it came out negative. He has a concussion."
Nathan's concerned voice interrupted Ezra. "Is he awake?"
Standish green eyes flickered to the ground. "No, which has the doctor concerned."
Nathan explained to the others understanding the medical ramifications of JD's state. "The longer he stays unconscious, the more likely he will stay that way."
Ezra closed his eyes and nodded his head in agreement. He then turned to Chris. "Buck is staying here for the night."
Larabee nodded, knowing there was no where else he expected Buck to be. He would be giving Wilmington space tonight. Plus he had work to do and so did the others. "We are going to have to do some surveillance."
They nodded understanding their leader. "Josiah and Nathan, I need you both on the first shift tonight. I want to know about any movement at the Cuoco compound. Ezra and I will relieve you in the morning."
Ezra, Josiah and Nathan went to join Buck as JD was wheeled out from the emergency room in preparation to being settled into a private room for the night. Chris stayed back eyeing the young agent as he lay oblivious to the world around him and the trouble brewing. Buck was at his bed side immediately taking in the sight of the injured man. Larabee took a last look before turning and heading for his vehicle. The others would grab taxis to take them back to their cars. He had to get to the office where maybe he could figure out what Vin was up to.
Ezra arrived at the federal building at the ungodly hour of 5:30 am. A pair of Oliver Peeples sun glasses helped to dim the light of the rising sun. He slipped into his parking space noting Chris's Dodge was there, probably since last night and Cuervo, the unruly cat, was curled up under the front tire asleep. Perhaps today the feline would spare his Jaguar of his usual pawing. He saw her tail flick back and forth, not likely. Ezra shook his head, thankful that he now carried a chamois cloth in his vehicle for these occasions. Next to Larabee's Ram was Vin's beat up Jeep patiently waiting for its owner, or had Tanner truly found greener pastures? All that money and power was tempting. It had influenced men of stronger constitution through out history.
With his elbow Standish pushed the elevator button. In his hands he carried two travel mugs of coffee he had brewed himself at home. He hadn't been able to sleep much last night. Once Nathan and Josiah had seen JD safely ensconced in his room they left for their surveillance. Ezra decided to stay and keep Buck company. Mother would be horrified at his good deed, but he felt a strange closeness to this team which he hated to admit to. Another one of Mother's important lessons: You can only depend on yourself. He stayed until Wilmington had fallen asleep holding the young agent's hand. The boy had remained frighteningly still in the bed.
The elevator door swished open to the eleventh floor which housed the team. The office was dimly lit except for the glow coming from down the corridor which led to the office of Group Supervisor, Chris Larabee. He walked in unannounced and placed one coffee before the weary, blonde man. Lines seemed to have carved themselves around his eyes over night. He was glaring at a folder, until he heard the thump of the cup hit the desk. He looked up, a little surprised, and checked his watch giving Ezra a lopsided grin.
"If I couldn't smell the coffee, I would believe you were a ghost." He took a sip of the dark liquid. "I would have picked you up at six. You could have slept in a bit."
Ezra sank down into the guest chair. "After last night, sleep was difficult." Standish ran a hand through his dark hair. "JD's condition is unchanged."
Chris nodded. "I know. I keep checking with the nurse's station." He took another sip of coffee. "Buck's awake."
Larabee always seemed to amaze Ezra. He always knew where his agents were. No wonder Vin called him a mother hen, that's what probably gave him those wrinkles. He was worrying about three men, Buck, JD and Vin, and their effect on the team. Standish noted the tab on the file the leader had placed on his desk.
"Trying to discern the loyalties of Agent Tanner?" Ezra's green eyes flicked over the name on the folder.
Chris sighed opening the file again. "There are a lot of areas blacked out." Larabee was referring to special ops missions which required high clearance. The fact that even the blonde haired man could not find out what Vin had been up to during his military service gave Ezra a sinking feeling. Chris continued, "The rest is stuff I already knew about him."
Larabee took another sip of the coffee and grabbed his jacket signaling it was time to go and relieve Nathan and Josiah. Holding their mugs, they waited for the elevator to arrive.
"Agent Tanner is going to have quite a welcome." Ezra's statement had a double meaning. He knew Chris and Vin had bonded, and Larabee wanted him back into the fold. However, the fold would want some answers. Standish himself hadn't decided. The quiet agent wasn't what mother would call 'acceptable' for her son to associate with. He had grown up on the wrong side of the tracks. Yet, Ezra did admire the man. He had welcomed the undercover agent without hesitation, not caring about the supposed stains on Ezra's past. But, was that because he was hiding his own nefarious former life? They were risking their lives for him too. If they were caught, even in the vicinity of the Couco compound, the retaliation from the mobsters would be deadly.
Each man was left to his own thoughts as they drove to the surveillance area. Jackson and Sanchez were delighted to see their replacements after a long night spent in the woods.
"All yours," Nathan said handing a set of binoculars to Ezra. "It's been real quiet. No one has come in or out."
Josiah reiterated the same to their leader. He stretched his large frame and yawned. "You'll find me at home if you need me."
Chris nodded and they stepped into the greenery which quickly enveloped them.
Hours ticked by, the dark roast coffee was long gone. Nathan and Josiah had left bottled water for them. Ezra took a deep breath of the fresh air. He did not consider himself an outdoorsman and this sojourn into the woods was not entertaining. He had spent some time in the great outdoors especially with Maude's husband number 3 or was it 4? His hobby was hunting. He was a Scotsman and rich, a prerequisite for Mother. When Standish was home from boarding school during those two years, the Scot would take him out in the moors to shoot some helpless animal..
Ezra looked at the rocky terrain. It was hell on his Gucci loafers. He was wearing his dark, Brioni suit today. He looked over at Chris wearing the same clothes as yesterday-dark pants, a non-descript, button down shirt and dark sneakers. They were extremely mismatched, yet he appreciated the man who had brought them all together into a cohesive unit. Ezra had never been a part of a team. Truthfully, he like to consider himself on the fringes and left it up to the others to be The Musketeers, or whatever they were called.
Intermittently Chris would make phone calls to check on JD, whose condition remained unchanged, otherwise the binoculars were an extension of his eyes, constantly searching. His tenacity though finally brought results, "Three o'clock," he said suddenly. Ezra brought up his binoculars. A white van emerged through a thicket of trees, overhanging the road. Quickly, Standish saw Vin was a passenger. "Let's go," Chris said, hurriedly picking up the area so there would be no evidence of their presence.
From a safe distance they followed the van, using the same road they had been on the night before. While Chris drove, Ezra telephoned Josiah, "We have a sighting. We'll let you know when we know more.. .Yes . . .Fine. . .See you soon." Standish put down the antenna on his Star Tac phone. "Josiah is going to pick up Nathan and then go and retrieve Buck."
Chris took his eyes off the road and gave Ezra a questioning look at the mention of Buck.
"He wants in." Wilmington's need to stay with his friend was overridden by his want of justice. Standish just hoped Buck would control himself around Vin.
They entered the business district of downtown Denver. The van pulled to a stop in front of a four story brick building. They watched as Tanner, wearing blue coveralls, alighted the vehicle and slid open the side door. He took out a tool belt, wrapping it around his waist. He then grabbed a large, black, duffle bag. He said some words to the driver and entered the building. Ezra watched, there was going to be a resolution to this drama today.
Vin was able to charm his way past the young, curly haired, receptionist. He explained he was with the air conditioning and heating people and gave her a smile. A woman once told him he had, 'a smile that made your mind stop thinking and your heart beat a little faster.' He always hated when people said things like that to him. He was there to do the yearly required maintenance, he added. Her eyes dropped to his left hand, noting he was not wearing a wedding band and slipped him her phone number along with permission to enter the premises. With a quick, 'thank you miss' he entered the elevator. It was a quiet building, he had missed the morning rush and was there before lunchtime. From the fourth floor he found the stairs and exited to the roof. It was a clear day. The blue sky went on forever, perfect conditions for a sniper. Vin took off his tool belt, placing it by the door in a heap, and next peeled off the coveralls. Underneath he was wearing the same outfit he had worn when he had met Eli two weeks ago. He wanted to be comfortable in his own clothes. He unzipped the black bag, and carefully lifted out the MSG90, inspecting it closely. Eli had cleaned and oiled the gun. He took out the sun glasses which had also been placed in the bag. They cut down on the glare he would get from the asphalt. He went to the edge of the building which was facing his target area. He lay down on his belly and unfolded the legs of the rifle. He took out an elastic he had placed in his pocket earlier and pulled back his hair. He felt the stitches in his left arm tighten slightly with the motion, and tried to relax. He scanned the area through the scope, preparing to make any final adjustments to the sight in preparation for the hit.
When he saw Chris's unmistakable, black, Dodge Ram on the corner he let a slow smile form across his lips. Ezra was with him in the passenger seat. He looked through the scope and moved it around to see if the other men were in the vicinity. A few minutes later Sanchez's Explorer pulled up. Vin could make out Josiah, Nathan and Buck in the back. He felt even more relieved at seeing Wilmington. If JD were seriously hurt then Buck would not have left his side. JD must have woken up and told the team Vin expected something to happen soon. Vin felt the knot which had settled in his stomach, untie a bit. He had been ready to do what he needed to do to get the Cuoco family, but now the calvary had arrived. Woohoo! He wanted to say out loud. Maybe there was something to having some good men watch your back. He checked his watch, only fifteen minutes to go and this would be all over.
He heard the minutes tick by in his head. He didn't need to look at his watch again. He had one of those internal clocks which was never wrong. A dark sedan pulled up to the curb followed by the first limousine. Eli came out of the limo first, looking around and then nodding to the occupant of the vehicle. Dominic Junior, wearing pinstripes as usual, came out and was quickly surrounded by his men who had arrived in the sedan. They walked him into the glass enclosed foyer of the building. Vin could see he was talking to his men inside.
Tanner fidgeted as the other limo came into view. It seemed to be moving in slow motion, making its way to the high-rise building. It stopped, pulling closely to the rear of the other limo still parked. A huge, older man got out of the vehicle and looked around suspiciously. He was wearing a gray suit, Vin zoomed into the lapel-no carnation.
The back of Tanner's mind was still trying to figure out where he had seen the carnation. The red carnation! He remembered where he had seen it. In the slide Ezra had shown him when he decided to take on the mission. The hit was on Dominic Cuoco Senior, he was the one who had been wearing the flower. Junior wanted to kill his father. The mob leader exited the vehicle squinting in the sun, a red carnation prominent on the lapel of his black suit. Vin's shot rang out, and all hell broke loose.
Vin's shot went exactly where he wanted it to go. The tinted, passenger side glass of the limousine shattered. Dominic Senior's henchman covered his boss's body, to protect him from anymore gunfire. Then he began firing at Vin's location. Tanner could hear the bullets chipping the masonry. Then suddenly it stopped and Vin peeked over the edge to see the limo speeding off. The large six door vehicle went around Josiah's SUV which was attempting to block the road, and escaped. Chris's Dodge Ram blocked off the other route. Larabee, clad in black and Standish jumped out, Chris had his gun drawn and yelled, "ATF!" The occupants of the foyer did not like the new players and came out guns blazing. Vin watched as the team found cover: Ezra and Chris by Larabee's Dodge and Josiah, Nathan and Buck by Sanchez's vehicle. Vin stayed put, watching their backs. Tanner didn't see Eli getting away from the group and head towards the four story brick building across the street. He was too busy putting a bullet in the arm of one of the mobsters who was trying to take out Nathan.
In the background Vin could hear sirens. The Denver police were on their way. In the meantime the team was holding their own, forcing Junior's henchmen to fall back. Tanner was about to provide some more assistance, but then heard the cocking of a gun behind him. He closed his eyes, and drop his head against the rifle. 'How could he let someone sneak up on him.'
"Turn around Tanner and roll away from the gun," said the man he had lived with for two weeks in a gravely tone.
The sharpshooter did as he was told. He rolled away from the gun, the chips of cement sticking to his suede jacket. He was laying down facing a pale enforcer. "Joey, I missed." Vin said, shrugging his shoulders, stating the obvious.
Eli squinted his eyes, "I noticed." He took a few steps so he was closer to Vin. "You have anything else to say?"
"You don't have to pay me." Vin spoke calmly, giving himself some time to slowly move his left hand down his leg to his boot which contained the knife.
Eli face flamed red with aggravation. "Years of plans ruined!" He yelled at Vin. Then he spoke more rapidly about his plan, "One chance to get only those loyal to Junior and who would support a takeover at the compound while the old man was away. I was going to be an caporegime." He explained, "I was going to be head of my own family! We were going to make it look like one of the other families had done it. There would be confusion-the best time to gain more power." Joey crinkled his face with disgust. "I shouldn't of trusted you. You never had the heart of a blood thirsty son-of-a-bitch. "
Vin had moved into a sitting position during Eli's revelations. He had bent his leg and could feel the hilt of the knife against his hand. "Yep, Joey and you were always a sick bastard." Tanner said matter-of-factly.
"Bye Tanner," Vin heard the shot go off and threw the knife. He knew he hadn't been fast enough and waited for the impact of the bullet. It never came. He saw the knife had hit Eli in the shoulder. Joey stood, his eyes glazed looking at Vin and fell forward, allowing Vin to see Chris holding a smoking Glock. Vin dropped his head back and looked up glad he made it through another day without getting shot. Still looking up he spoke to Larabee.
"Thanks Pard," Vin tipped an imaginary hat towards Chris. He also noticed there was silence down below on the street, no gunfire.
Vin brought his head back and watched as Chris collected the bag, coveralls, and the MS690. "Guns are at the compound, in a hidden room under the cabana."
"We'll take care of it." Chris motioned for the sharpshooter to stand up. "Come on Vin."
Funny, he thought he would get a warmer welcome. He wanted to ask about JD, but he guessed Chris wanted to play it serious. Of course Larabee was usually very serious all the time. Sometimes he would let himself have fun, and Buck would always let them know,
"That's the Ol' Chris I know."
Vin didn't know if that was to remind them all he was Larabee's oldest friend or to tell them all that Chris was a nice guy. Tanner didn't care, he liked Chris Larabee the way he was, the past made no difference to him. So, he would wait until he was debriefed to ask his questions and follow his boss's lead. They went down the metal fire escape, their footsteps echoing. This must of been how Chris had come up unnoticed. Buck was there waiting at the bottom, watching them making their descent.
Buck looked at Vin grimly, but only for a second before diverting his attention to Chris. "We got them. They're being mirandized right now."
"I need to go an arrange a warrant for the compound." Chris gestured to Vin. "He needs to be mirandized too, and Eli Guiseppe is on the roof -dead." Buck nodded. Larabee settled his blue eyes on Buck ,"Can you handle it properly Agent Wilmington?"
"Not a problem." Buck answered. Tanner and Wilmington watched as Larabee left them to tend to the other details of the bust. Vin wasn't expecting Buck to jerk his arm behind his back roughly, "You have the right to remain silent, if you. . ."
The sharpshooter hadn't expected to be treated with kid gloves, but weren't they all acting a little strange. They had done that whole pizza stunt to make sure he was okay and now he was being man-handled. What the hell was going on? Buck was leading him to a van. When they reached the open doors, guarded by two uniformed police officers, Vin could see Junior's men were inside. The same men he had shared meals with and gotten to know. Tony, who had shadowed Vin at the compound spoke to him.
"Eli?" He had noticed the enforcer was no where in sight.
"Dead," Tanner replied.
Tony stood up and started to come at the door, yelling at Vin.
"You set him up!" The other men joined in and began stomping their feet. One of the police officers banged a club against the floor of the van telling them to be quiet, while the other pushed Tony back in. Buck propelled Vin towards the step of the large vehicle. He wanted to put him in the van with the other men. Vin twisted his head to look at Wilmington, no one can be this stupid, Tanner thought. I'll be dead by the time we reach the federal building. Buck was a fun guy, but when came to his job he was serious. If this was a joke, Vin was not finding it funny. The door of the van suddenly slammed shut, muffling the men inside. Josiah stepped forward.
"Buck, I'll take him off your hands." Josiah put his hand on Vin's arm. "He gets special accommodations."
Wilmington stepped back, as if to gesture 'he's all yours.' He walked off to where Ezra was talking to some police officers.
Tanner looked at Sanchez and nodded his head in thanks. Side by side they walked in silence to an awaiting police car. Vin could see Dominic Junior was also getting special treatment. He was seated in another police car in front of he police car Sanchez was directing him to.
Josiah opened the back door and gently pushed down on Vin's head. He sat back against the black vinyl seating looking at the plastic screen which partionned him off from everyone else.
What had he done to tick Buck off?
Vin had paced the length of the interrogation room as he recounted his story of the last two weeks. Chris had taken it all in, but still hadn't answered his question. Did Chris really think he had gone bad?
Larabee glared at Tanner as if he was trying to see into the man's soul for the truth. "Can anyone back up your story?"
Purposefully Vin walked over to where Chris was sitting, and bent down to look at Larabee directly. "Well you killed one of them, and the other one is unconscious. Guess you are going to have to take my word." Vin slapped his leg and stood up, still not believing the situation he had found himself in. "Is that good enough?"
Chris stood up slowly. Tanner finally taking in the leader's disheveled appearance. Unblinking he looked at the sharpshooter. "Vin, it's good enough for me." He put his hand out for Vin to shake. Tanner clutched his right hand, hesitant to extend it. He had always gone with his gut instinct, had trusted these men. In the situations they had been placed in you had to, but damn, had they really thought he had gone over? Maybe now Chris had regretted his actions, but Tanner wasn't so sure he could forget it. He was confused. Part of him just wanted to let it go the other part of him was so angry he wanted to hit someone or something.
A knock at the door, diverted each man's attention, and Chris dropped his hand back. Through the small window Josiah's head could be seen. He entered when he received a nod from Chris. Vin noted Josiah was looking at the two men trying to gauge if they were friends or enemies. "JD is awake, and asking for us."
Chris smiled and looked at Vin, who felt relieved at the news. "We're coming," Chris replied.
Josiah nodded, "Buck and I are heading out. Ezra and Nathan plan to catch a ride with you." Sanchez filled his supervisor in on the rest of the bust. "Team 3 went in and found the guns at the compound." Chris reached out and patted Vin on the back as if to say 'good job' or maybe that was some sort of signal to let Josiah know all was well. The sharpshooter shook his head as if to brush off the praise. Josiah continued, "The rest of them have been booked on possession of firearms, conspiracy and racketeering." Sanchez turned to Tanner, "Good job Vin. There has been no sign of Dominic Cuoco Senior."
"Thanks," he answered plainly. Josiah opened the door and Chris followed. Vin stayed put.
Larabee went to make a comment to the sharpshooter and noticed he had stayed behind. Chris stopped and turned around, "You coming?"
Josiah had also stopped at the door's opening and waited for Vin's response. "You all want me around?" Vin crossed his arms in front of him. "I mean Buck's trying to kill me and all."
"Come on," Chris glared at him, as if to say, just let it go. "You know Buck when it comes to the kid and then he started running off at that mouth."
Vin wanted to know more. "And the rest of you believed him?" He directed his question to Josiah. "Doesn't seem like it was just Buck." His eyes flicked to Josiah as if to ask Sanchez if the older agent really believed that Vin would go in with Joey.
Sanchez sighed. "Vin, I'm going to be honest," Josiah took a step inside the door. "Buck made us think, and we were still making up our minds, waiting to see what you would say."
Vin closed his eyes and shook his head. He would except it for now. Truthfully he wanted to see JD and make sure the kid was alright. The rest could wait till he had a chance to think on it.
Josiah went out ahead and Vin could see Buck waiting by the elevator eager to see JD. Tanner stood next to Larabee who signed him out, and handed him a plastic baggie with his belongings, including his car keys and ATF badge. In silence they made their way to the garage where Nathan and Ezra were waiting by the black Dodge Ram. Nathan was first to break the silence,
"Nice to see your back in one piece." Jackson looked him over from top to bottom to make sure he had no bullet holes.
"Yep," Vin knew he was just making small talk until they could find out what had happened from Chris or himself. He knew they were going on the assumption that if Chris had let him out then everything must be fine.
Ezra smiled and drawled, "Glad you are amongst us once more."
Vin again replied tersely "Thanks," and went to the back door of the black vehicle. He was not going to be glared at by Chris Larabee on the drive over to the hospital. Ezra looked surprised. His green eyes glancing from his leader back to Vin, finally he opened the front door and got in without a word.
They left the garage and Nathan turned to Vin, opening his mouth to talk to the sharpshooter. He then saw Jackson's eyes drop to his left arm. Nathan frowned and looked from the fresh blood to Vin's eyes catching his attention. "What happened?"
Vin shrugged his shoulders, looking at his sleeve realizing when Buck shoved him he must have popped a stitch. "Nothing, it's fine."
Vin felt the Dodge slowing down. Chris must have heard the conversation. "What's going on?" He didn't look back, but Ezra did and received an explanation from Nathan.
"Vin has blood on his sleeve," Jackson said to Standish.
Ezra looked at Chris, then smiled at Vin. "May I suggest you have Nathan look at the wound so that our leader can concentrate on driving us to the hospital."
Vin sighed audibly and rolled up his sleeve on his gray t-shirt to reveal the cut on his bicep. Gently Nathan placed his hands on Vin's arms and examined the wound carefully. "Nice stitches."
Tanner looked down at the neat, black stitches he had made yesterday, "Thanks."
Jackson's head jerked back. "You?"
"Yep, no one else to do it." Vin looked away, out the window. Yesterday his only worry was how long it was going to take for him to be killed. Hell, he had risked his life for them and they repaid him with mistrust. Now there was all this concern for him.
Nathan had found the problem. "You popped one."
Tanner was still focussed on the scenery as it past, mostly non-descript buildings and cars. "Figured as much."
Ezra reported the discovery to Chris. "Seems as though Agent Tanner has another hidden talent as a tailor. He gave himself a few stitches. Nathan has surmised one of them has become dislodged. I believe due to the altercation with Agent Wilmington." Out of the corner of his eye Vin could see Chris tighten his hands on the steering wheel. Ezra looked from Chris to Vin's arm and then to the marksman himself. He sighed and then turned around.
Nathan offered some advice, not knowing what else to do since Vin had taken care of it himself, as usual. "Should clean it."
Vin worked the sleeve down his arm. They had pulled into the hospital parking area. "I'll do that."
Buck quickly exited the elevator and made his way to JD's room. He was a few steps ahead of Josiah, who had driven them to the hospital. Sanchez had tried to tell Buck about Vin but Wilmington did not want to hear about it. JD was awake and was going to be fine; Tanner could just wait. Buck couldn't quiet the nasty little voice that kept telling him it was all Vin's fault anyway. He was just damned lucky the kid had woken up. Buck hit the door of room 2103. A huge grin broke out on his face as he saw the young agent; his forehead swathed with white gauze, propped up in bed, eyes open.
"Kid, it's about time!" He exclaimed as he went to the bed. Buck contained his exuberance and decided to let JD off with just a pat on the shoulder. "You had me worried," he added seriously, only to allow the grin to return a moment later. "I'm just glad you have a hard head."
Wilmington knew the young man didn't like all the attention. The times Dunne had been injured in the past he always said the others made him feel like a little kid.
JD shrugged off his friend's protectiveness. "I'm fine. Listen. . .," his dark eyes focused intently on Buck. The older agent couldn't help but notice the change in demeanor and knew something was wrong; he picked up the switch to call the nurse.
JD snatched the wire away, "It doesn't matter now, just listen. . ."
Josiah walked in, a smile on his face too. "Already giving orders JD?"
"Hi, Josiah, and no, I am not giving orders, just trying to do my job." Dunne accentuated the last few words. Buck stepped back, allowing the young man some breathing room and reminded himself that JD was an ATF agent too, not a child that needed to be coddled.
"Vin said it's going down soon," JD swallowed and brushed his hand against the bandage on his forehead. "That guy, Eli, is crazy! He shot me! I thought I was a goner. Last thing I remember was Vin pushing me...how did I get here?" The thoughts came out in a rush; an intelligent brain processing memories, situations and needs faster than his mouth could coordinate them.
The door opened again and the rest of the seven came in. The last person to enter was Tanner. Buck's smile dropped from his face when he saw the man and he unconsciously moved back next to JD's bed.
"Hey kid, nice to see ya." Vin drawled, looking happy and more than a little relieved to see the young man.
JD pushed himself up further on the pillows, blinking at Vin. "What's going on?" Dunne turned to Wilmington for an explanation. "What have I missed?"
Buck wanted to go into his version of the events. Might as well make the kid understand now that Vin had almost gotten him killed.
Chris interrupted, "I think Vin can explain it."
All eyes went to Tanner, except for Buck's. He kept his focus on JD.
In a detached manner, Vin relayed his story again. Finally drawing to a close in the same soft drawl in which he started, ". . .convinced Joey to change his plan and take you to Purgatorio, figured the team would find you once I put the signal on ya."
JD sat back against the pillows. "The signal was meant for you." Dunne shook his head. "But you're here, so it all worked out?"
Vin blue eyes stared intently at Buck. "Yeah, you could say that."
JD hadn't missed the stare nor the cool temperature in the room. The kid always knew when something just wasn't quite right with his family. "What's going on?"
Vin spoke up, but not in answer to Dunne's question. Rather, he responded more as if he hadn't heard it at all. "You get your rest, JD. I gotta go check on my apartment. The kids. . ." He slapped the younger agent on a foot that rested under the hospital sheets and slipped out before anyone could speak.
But before the door shut completely Buck uttered a soft curse and followed on his friend's heels, catching him in the hall.
Tanner stopped but didn't turn, forcing Buck to come further down the empty hall to face him. Vin didn't say anything, just gazed levelly at his teammate, waiting for him to say what was on his mind. Buck shook his head and stared for a moment at the gray Berber carpet beneath his feet, before finally meeting Tanner's eyes.
"Sorry, Vin, it's just when I saw JD and all. . .well..." he trailed off his apology and wondering, if he were Vin, would he take it. He realized he had become as stubborn as Chris. He didn't want to see the possibilities 'cause the kid was involved, and no one could take care of him like ol' Buck. He had found an innocent man guilty and at that moment it dawned on him - he wasn't sure how that man was going to react.
Tanner dropped his head slightly and did not make eye contact with Wilmington. "Yeah, Buck I understand."
Vin started again for the elevator but Buck called out to him as he left. "Watch your back. Cuoco's men know your involved and you never know."
"Why don'tcha wait, I'll give ya a ride."
"You could quit buggin' me and get back in and see JD." Vin had never stopped walking down the hall. Buck watched him walk away. How would he feel if when he came out of undercover he had been hit with his so-called friends not trusting him? Wilmington shook his head and quickened his step back to room 2103.
As soon as Buck had left the room JD scanned the faces of the men around him.
"Is someone going to tell me what is going on? What the heck did I miss?"
The others seemed reluctant to speak so Ezra took it upon himself to elaborate.
"There were...doubts raised as to Vin's connection to and dealings in...shall we say, nefarious activities associated with Eli Guiseppe."
"You thought Vin was crooked?!"
Josiah responded in a soft tone, "We weren't sure what to think, son. Finding a friend unconscious and bleeding hardly helps the brain work as clearly as it should."
JD was still having trouble digesting what he was hearing. "He put the medal on me. That didn't give you a clue that maybe he was willing to risk himself."
Nathan attempted to explain, "Now, JD, Buck was only-"
But Dunne cut him off, "Buck is always trying to-"
At that moment Wilmington popped back into the room and JD continued his train of thought onto the object of his irritation.
"What's the matter with you Buck? I can take care of myself, and I trust Vin; which is why I volunteered. And the rest of you-what did you guys do? I'm out for 24 hours and everything falls apart. We are cops, and cops need to trust each other - at least that's what I learned in Boston."
Buck was caught off guard by the tirade thrown in his direction. "Whoa, whoa, hold up there, kid. You're right. You're right. I was stupid - and I just told Vin that same thing. . .and now I'm telling you." The look in Buck's eyes made it clear he was offering his apology for being such a horse's ass.
JD stared at his friend for several seconds before shaking his head in mock disgust and letting a smile cross his tired face. "You owe him a beer."
"Ya owe me one, too."
"I can do that."
Chris spoke up, "We better get Buck outta here before he ends up owing us all."
Ezra cocked an eyebrow, "You say that like it's a bad thing."
Larabee ignored the southerner's comment, addressing JD again as the others made for the door, "We'll let you rest. We've got paperwork to do."
"Wait!" exclaimed Dunne, "You're just gonna walk out of here and not tell me what the heck I slept through?"
Buck exchanged a look with Chris and the team leader silently gave Wilmington permission to hold off on his own report writing for a bit longer.
The others, knowing that Buck would stay, filed out, tossing back a few more comments as they left.
"We'll let 'the great exaggerator' there, fill ya in," offered Nathan.
"Take notes, JD," Josiah added, "you could have some screenplay material by the end."
Buck attempted to look wounded, "Just 'cause I know how to tell a story-"
"Tell a story', Agent Wilmington? I have heard people lie in front of a Federal Grand Jury and still be based closer in reality than your tales."
As the door closed behind Ezra the sound of a plastic cup hitting it caused Standish and his teammates to smile. "Apparently, his aim is about as accurate as his recollection of the truth."
He had not gone back to the house after almost being killed. He went to a safe house the family kept in case there was a war between the families. Evidence was pointing in that direction. There had been peace for so long now, who would want to tip the scales? The Dicicio's or maybe the Rantini family. If it wasn't for Nunzio, his most devoted man, being there. . .Then they arrested his son, and when he got home, he had decided not to hide from anyone, he found some ATF pezzonovante, big shot, waiting for him. The agent kindly escorted him to the federal building. The family's consigliare, Peitro, joined him. Pietro was Junior's age, he looked unruffled with his brown hair slicked back and immaculate navy blue suit. He knew nearly everything about the family's operations. He knew the Don so well that there is no need to speak. Pietro kept the faith.
The Don let his eyes flicker to the two way glass and shook his head. Did they think making him wait would intimidate him? He would wait and listen to what they would have to say, maybe they would give him some information on his son. Silence is golden, in fact the code of omerta or of silence was part of the oath a man took when he became part of the family. Dominic already had his consigliere talking to the federal judges that owed them some favors. Junior was being held on weapons charges, easy enough to sweep under the rug. It would all work out. He tapped his gold pinky ring against the dark, formica table.
A blonde man dressed in black came in to the interrogation room. Was this guy supposed to scare him? He grinned at his right hand man as if to say, 'Look another pezzonovante.'
"Special Agent Chris Larabee of the ATF." The man did not offer any handshake. He wanted the Don to know he did not respect him. He sat down, still not looking at Dominic. He opened a folder. "We found quite a lot of weapons on your premises."
As consigliare, Pietro was also one of the family's lawyers. "The house is not held by Mister Couco."
Larabee flicked through the folder in front of him, not looking up, "Whatever." Then he snapped the folder closed and looked at the Don. "Your son is currently being held for conspiracy to commit murder, specifically *your murder.*"
Pietro laughed, "Premeditated murder? Agent Larabee where do you come up with these charges?" The consigliare relaxed back in the chair. "Father and son have an ideal relationship."
Chris smiled at the slick lawyer, "We had a man on the inside..."
Pietro loved a challenge and bent forward to meet Larabee, "Entrapment, tsk, tsk."
Larabee continued, "Not exactly. Our agent Vin Tanner saved your employer's life." He directed his comments to the Dominic, "Seems as though your son wanted your alleged job and hired my agent for the hit."
Pietro was about to answer, but Dominic touched his arm. He had to think about this. . . Figlio di buttana, son-of-a-bitch! Him and that enforcer of his, Eli Guiseppe. He never liked the man. They planned this. Greedy bastards going against their padrone. And my son, my own son. . .It would have been all his one day, the young ones, they are all the same. They want it now. Ahhh, figlio mio, my son, you are going to get it. . .
The blonde man could see the Don was thinking about what had been said, "Let me assure you he is a crack shot and the shot at the window was a warning."
The Don tapped his lawyer on the shoulder to signal he was going to talk, "What do you want?"
Chris smiled to the angry Don, "Your assurances no one will harm Vin Tanner." Menacingly he added, "If my man even gets a paper cut, I will make your life a living hell."
The Don nodded his head. He owed this man, Vin Tanner, his life. Plus he knew if this Chris Larabee started a personal crusade against the family there would be problems, "Done, you have my word."
Larabee accepted and stood up, "You are free to go."
Dominic and Pietro stood up and headed for the door. The Don turned back to the agent, "The house is held in trust, with my son as trustee." His consigliare looked shocked. He had just hung his son out to dry. This meant all family support would be taken away from Junior. He was no longer part of the family. The Don no longer had a son.
They closed the door behind them and headed toward the hallway, "Pietro look into buying a television studio. Maybe we will start producing westerns. I need to relax."
Chris entered the viewing room which was attached to the interrogation room, feeling a little lighter in his step. JD was going to be released today and he had just prevented Vin from ending up on the Cuoco family's hit list. His agents had watched the whole discussion and were waiting for him. "Nice job, Chris," Josiah said patting Larabee on the back.
Jokingly Ezra added, "Junior seems to have found himself in quite a predicament."
Chris looked for the sharpshooter, expecting the relieved man to step forward. Tanner wasn't among the group. "Where's Vin?" He asked his agents.
Nathan coughed, Ezra cleared his throat, Josiah looked at Buck who answered looking at the ground and very uncomfortable, "He never came in."
Larabee felt his anger rising, "You called?" He thought Vin was going to let the situation drop and go back to work. Chris didn't know who he was getting angry at, Vin for not coming to work, Buck for causing this whole mess or himself for not seeing this coming.
Buck met the leader's fiery eyes, "No one answered."
"He didn't call in," Nathan added wanting to dilute some of the tension between the two old friends.
Ezra must have had the same thoughts, "I fear Agent Tanner has taken grave offense of our treatment towards him."
Chris looked at his agents, and tossed the folder at the two way glass. "You blame him?" Larabee left the room, slamming the door behind him.
Ezra turned to Buck, "Did your apology have a tone of sincerity?"
Wilmington frowned, and his voice was tense with anger ."Yes, it did." He opened the door, and threw back to the others, "At least I apologized." The others looked at each other guiltily and followed.
Nathan caught up to Buck "We all messed up."
In his office, Chris looked at the post-its note on his phone. 'Gone to Nettie's. Need some time to think. Be back soon. -Vin'
He saw his agents leave the room, and he opened the door to tell them the contents of the note, and heard Nathan's comment. "Vin's taking a breather," he held up the note. But, Nathan was right they had f***ed up the whole situation with the sharpshooter.
Note: Due to reader interest there will be a continuation of this story