And Then There Were Seven
Summary: Chris finds his sniper
Comments: Thanks to TAE for the beta job and to Blackraptor for housing these tales.:
Chris Larabee stared at his supervisor and blinked. "You've got to be kidding me! If I have to have security, why can't my own team provide it?"
Assistant Deputy Director Orin Travis had known that Larabee would not take this well. "You are the only one that actually witnessed Tim getting killed by Carlos Ramirez. That makes you the key witness at the murder trial of a federal agent. Not to mention that this is the first time we've actually caught him at something, even if it's not the drug and arms running we know he does. The prosecution feels you should be protected until after the trial; considering that you have already received death threats concerning this case, the DA agreed."
"Fine. All I'm asking is that if I have to go into hiding, let my team be the ones on protection duty. I know them!" Chris responded sharply.
"Witness protection falls under the authority of the U.S. Marshals and they'll be handling it. I don't like it either; but there's nothing I could do about it. In the interest of as few people knowing what's going on as possible, your team will be told only that you've been put under wraps until the trial is over and will be assigned desk duty until then. A team of Marshals are downstairs in the parking garage waiting for you, right now."
Chris knew a losing battle when he saw one. "Can I at least tell them what's going on?"
Orin looked sympathetically at the other man. Team Seven had finally been complete, Standish and Dunne had been with them only six months, and they had been meshing together into a close-knit team when disaster had struck. They were reeling from the murder of their sharpshooter, Agent Tim Paulson, three months ago and now their leader was going to be gone as well for an indeterminate length of time. "I'll explain as much as I can and make certain they know that you WILL be returning."
Chris nodded, it was the best that he could do for his team, and his testimony was what would put that gun runner and drug dealer, Ramirez, away for life. It was the least he could do for one of his own who had fallen. There would be time afterwards to rebuild his team. JD was the main one he was worried about and Buck would see to him.
"Will I at least be able to take a laptop along so I can start sorting through the applications for a new sniper?" Chris asked. If he was going to be stuck in a safe house, he could at least use the time to get caught up on the never-ending administrative tasks involved in running a team, the most pressing of which was to get a new sniper in as quickly as possible.
Travis answered in his usual direct, no-nonsense way. He felt for the SAIC of his lead team, but Chris liked things plain and to the point. "Cell phones, laptop, or anything electronic of that nature could be used to get a location. You'll have to be incommunicado and off-line until the case is done."
Chris sighed. Basically, he was looking at at least a week, most likely longer, of wasted time with nothing to do and he couldn't even use it to get caught up on his never-ending electronic paperwork. Lovely.
"Send him in," Chris heard the judge speak into the phone and realized that he had missed something. He mentally kicked himself for letting his mind wander like that; he hated playing catch up, especially when he should have been paying attention!
He blinked at the young man who came in. He might have been in a suit, but he screamed cowboy. Yep, those were boots under those razor creased pants. And he was willing to bet that there was another pair at home that were well worn and faded by mucking out stalls, tromping through mud, and had seen too many horse rides to count. He was about average in height, maybe a little shorter than the blonde was, and lean, not unlike Chris himself. He wore his brown hair long, and had blue eyes. He looked young, but there was something about him that gave you the impression that he was older than he looked. He was totally calm and at ease, yet there was a repressed energy and intensity to him that reminded Chris of one of his barn cats stalking a mouse. Whoever this guy was, he was a man of contradictions. Something told Chris that if the situation warranted it, this man could and would be absolutely lethal. He was betting his life on it.
"Tanner, U.S. Marshal," The man introduced himself, showing his badge and ID to both of the other men.
"Assistant Deputy Director Travis, I appreciate your help in this. I was told that Danielson would be the one coming for Agent Larabee."
"He's in court on a case that's taking longer than expected, he wasn't able to come, so as second in command, I came. The rest of the team are in the garage, waiting. I apologize that you were not informed of the change," Tanner explained.
Travis nodded; he understood how that kind of thing went. "I expect to be informed of any and all changes in the future."
"Yes sir, I'll see to it that the appropriate people are reminded that you are to be kept up to date."
Chris watched the exchange with interest. He had a hunch that Tanner hadn't been the one who forgot to enlighten the judge that someone different was coming for the pick up; but he hadn't even blinked at the reprimand. Somehow Chris had a feeling that Vin would be sharing this moment with whoever it was who had not called the judge and told him to expect a stranger.
"Agent Larabee, I'm Marshal Tanner," the man turned his attention to the blonde, and held out a hand.
Chris took it, and met the eyes of the man on the end of that hand. He couldn't explain what followed, expect that it was similar to when Adam had discovered static electricity and gleefully 'zapped' everyone and anyone that he could. Judging from the look in his eyes, Tanner had felt it as well. "Make it Chris."
The younger man gave a half smile. "Name's Vin."
Travis sent a prayer of thanks heavenward; this had gone better than expected. Chris Larabee generally got a failing grade when it came to playing well with others, yet somehow, he and Tanner had connected at least well enough to be on a first name basis.
Handshakes and good lucks were exchanged all the way around, and Chris followed Vin out the door.
Orin watched them go and prayed that when all the dust from this fiasco of a case settled he would not be regretting to inform five men he considered friends working one floor below him that they had not only lost their second friend in three months, but their leader as well.
Chris looked around the bedroom that he would be occupying until Ramirez had been sentenced and sighed. He supposed as safe houses went, this wasn't bad, although a lot more isolated than he cared for. Who had ever heard of Green River, Wyoming? Well, it couldn't be worse than the time he was forced to use a place in Socorro, New Mexico. Isolated and crowded both had their pluses and minuses for protecting people and he had used both. Still, something did not feel good about this.
He missed his comfortable and familiar ranch house, as well as the men on his team. He wanted to hear Nathan passing on some fascinating tidbit of information he had learned to Josiah. And the large profiler telling some crazy story that no one could quite see a point to but that was interesting in and of itself. He wanted to see JD bouncing around like Tigger on speed in his tireless enthusiasm for everything; and hear Buck's laughter as he pulled yet another prank on the kid. He even missed Ezra reprimanding the others for their uncivilized and uncouth behavior, in a way that had them wondering if they had been praised or insulted.
Sitting on the bed was a duffle bag of clothes in his size; looking in the closet he, found a suit that was also his size, and close to what he would have chosen for himself style-wise. The bathroom, when he looked in, had a basic shaving kit that would cover his personal hygienic needs. The basic necessities of life that were supplied to anyone in protective custody and nothing more, no wonder people went crazy living protected lives.
Putting his new clothes away, he opened a drawer and found a plastic bag of magazines, crossword and sudoku puzzles as well as a book of logic problems. There was also a deck of cards and some of the latest bestsellers. He had a feeling Tanner was behind this offering to his sanity.
There was a knock on the door and the bright young kid who had ridden in the backseat with him entered. "Glad you're settling in, sir. I'm sorry, but Agent Danielson said that I was to relieve you of your weapon while you're under our protection.
Chris glared at him. "Excuse me!"
"I I don't understand either, I was just told by SAC Danielson that I was to get your weapon," the kid stammered apologetically.
Before Chris could answer, Vin came in and joined them.
"Everything okay, Jonesy?" Vin asked.
"Boss said I was supposed to take Agent Larabee's weapon."
Vin raised an eyebrow. "When did he say to do that?"
"About five minutes ago, he called to check in, and told me to make certain that I took his weapon."
"Why didn't he talk to me?" Vin asked, mostly to himself. It was odd that the team leader would call in for an update and speak to the junior member of the team, but neglect to even touch base with his second in command who was heading up the assignment.
"I don't know, he was in a hurry, though, and said not to forget to take Agent Larabee's weapon," the kid was nearly whimpering, looking from one of the older men to the other.
"You head downstairs and I'll get this straightened out. It's a misunderstanding of some kind since I don't think the Marshals have pissed off the ATF enough that we need to worry about Larabee going on a rampage and shooting us all," Vin said.
"Not yet," Chris smiled at the pair, leaving them in no doubt that his gun would be given to them over his dead, buried, rolled over and decomposing body, and they would be occupying the graves next to him.
Jonesy looked at the blonde, gulped and dove for the door.
Vin smirked and shook his head. "Ain't bad for a kid, but a bit excitable."
"Got one like that, myself."
Vin sat down on the bed and pulled out his cell phone. Chris leaned against the dresser he was standing next to and listened in.
"You can't expect Larabee to give up his weapon without a reason!" Vin informed someone. "Since when is that policy?" Vin sighed.
Chris listened to a bunch of "Yes's," and "No's," before the younger man closed his phone.
"Danielson isn't available, and the kid handling the office is convinced that there's some policy about protected witnesses and firearms. I'm sure I can get it straightened out as soon as I can get hold of Danielson."
Chris tilted his head.
"I'm asking you to give me, not the U.S. Marshals, your weapon until this gets sorted out. You have my word that you'll not need it, and that I will keep it in my personal custody." Vin met his eyes.
Somewhere, the world had come to an end. Chris nodded and handed his gun over to the younger man. He should have been nervous as hell, but somehow he knew that when Vin relieved him of the means to protect himself, he was taking personal responsibility for his safety.
Chris yawned and stretched as he exited his bathroom. It had been a long and boring day. There was a television downstairs if he wanted to watch it, but daytime television had proved hazardous to his health. It left him wanting to shoot himself and end his misery, except that Tanner had his gun. The books and logic problems had proven the most diverting. If he asked, Tanner would likely be willing to pick up more for him.
Chris instantly went on full alert. Laying on the bed was a gun with a note. The gun was not his pistol, and it had not been there when he decided to take a shower.
He took the gun and slipped it under the second pillow, the one he wouldn't be using, and read the note.
L - Something's not right. Try not to shoot anyone. Got your back. - T
The writing was sloppy, but legible. Evidently Tanner was as mystified by Chris being asked to surrender his sidearm as Chris himself had been. It also appeared that he was not satisfied with the answers he had been given. Well, at least if his hiding place had been found, Chris had some means of defending himself again.
Chris did a walk around the room, checking everything as carefully as if he was locking down his house for the night. Nothing was amiss. Tanner must be the secret son of Houdini, there was no other way to explain how he had gotten in, left the note and gun, and was gone without alerting anyone to his presence.
Well, sitting awake wouldn't do anything except to ensure that when whatever was 'not right' hit, he would be fighting his own fatigue as well as whatever or whoever was after him. One of the first lessons he had gotten in the military was that sleep was a weapon, and a smart man used it.
Chris changed from his boxers into a pair of light sweats and a t-shirt and went to bed. If trouble came, he was not going to be fighting it in his undershorts, to use his mother's term for them.
The night, thankfully, was a quiet one.
Hearing his door open and footsteps approaching his bed, he waited. When the person was standing almost over him he opened his eyes and brought up the gun.
"Morning to you too, Sunshine. You mind pointing that thing in a different direction, or better yet putting it away?" Vin gave a half smile and set a mug of coffee and a McDonald's bag on the bedside table.
Chris fell back in the bed. It was morning, and Vin had been kind enough to bring him coffee and breakfast.
Sitting up, Chris sipped the coffee, and choked. "You ever think of selling that stuff at the morgue?"
Vin chuckled, "Have been told I make it a bit strong. Got ya some food too. Perkins likes to cook and insists on doing it, but unless you want the trots all day do NOT eat anything he makes."
Chris winced at the idea of that and nodded his appreciation of the warning as he cautiously took a second sip of coffee. This stuff could even get Ezra moving in the morning, assuming the man would drink it.
Vin pulled two of the four breakfast sandwiches out of the bag and sprawled himself into the chair next to the bed, leaning a wicked looking rifle against the chair in easy reach.
Chris sat up, and pulled out a sandwich himself. "What did you find out about my gun?"
Vin tilted his head thoughtfully, "Haven't been able to get through to Danielson at all. Same boss that usually micromanages us is suddenly either unavailable or so busy that when he calls in he gets his status reports from Jones, who's still on probation."
Chris stared, agog. That would be like him taking a situation assessment from JD, the kid was good but lacked the experience to be trusted with that. "Danielson stupid?"
"Nope, can't accuse the man of that," Vin gave an ironic smile. "Kind of makes me wonder though, how it is that both of the kids ended up on the same shift, and when he does call it's at strange times."
"Sounds like you might have a security issue," Chris commented.
Vin just nodded and slowly chewed the bite in his mouth, then swallowed. "Got some feelers out to try and locate where the leaks are. Best if you stay in here as much as possible, and stay ready. I've got a feeling when trouble hits, it'll be hard and fast."
Chris nodded his agreement. "Think Danielson's bad?"
Vin thought for a moment, "No, not bad, but he's six months from retirement and coasting. He doesn't know what's going on half the time."
"I thought you said he micromanages you guys?" Chris commented on the contradiction.
"He does, just doesn't do anything with the information."
Chris had had a few superiors in the Navy like that, short timers that checked out before they actually left. They gave him two headaches and a half. "Thanks for the package you left yesterday."
Vin grinned cheekily at him, "I thought it might help you relax a bit."
Chris grinned back.
Vin got up with the lazy effortlessness of a large cat. "Might want to stay clear of the windows."
Chris raised an eyebrow. That was a standard warning to anyone in protective custody.
"Get a guest you shouldn't and it might get a bit messy over there."
"You're a sniper," Chris tilted his head towards the rifle that Vin held relaxed, but ready.
"Yep," Vin confirmed, nodded and left the room.
Chris sighed, nothing to do but finish the food, shower, shave and settle in to wait. He well and truly hated waiting and did not do it well, but there was nothing else for him to do right now.
Chris opened his eyes; the hair on the back of his neck was standing straight up. There was no light in the room, so it was dead night. Something was not right; he just had to figure out what it was. Keeping still, he moved his eyes, scanning the room.
Gunfire, there was gunfire downstairs.
A shadow moved in a corner.
Chris swore under his breath. He brought up his gun and fired. Instinct was to empty it into a target, but years of training enabled the blonde to stop at three shots. The man was almost certainly not alone.
The door burst open and two men came storming in.
There was a loud bang, a shattering of glass, and a third man fell through the window and into the room. Another bang followed close on the heels of the first dropping the first of the intruders as Chris simultaneously shot the second.
Chris scrambled out of bed. He had once again slept in his sweats. He stood listening, the gunfire was gone. Everything was silent. Slipping bare feet into running shoes, he worked his way into the hall and down the stairs, gun raised, touching nothing. He was almost sick. Jonesy, the bright and eager kid that reminded him so much of JD, was laying in the hallway. He had obviously been protecting Chris's door. The other two agents: Perkins, who liked to cook but couldn't, and Stephens who made up for his lack of originality in solid and dependable devotion to duty. They had all seemed like good men and deserved better than this. He reached the front door, it was still wide open from the attack, and he bolted through into the darkness outside. He had no idea where Tanner was, except that it was unlikely he had remained where he had been when he had taken out the invaders.
Chris leapt in the air and spun around, gun raised.
Vin appeared next to him where there had only been darkness. Maybe he was the illegitimate son of the invisible man?
The Marshal tilted his head and Larabee nodded. Vin set a good pace as they disappeared into the darkness, but he was able to keep up. Blindly following another into the unknown was not in Chris Larabee's nature. Following, period, was not his way; he was a born alpha and had always led. Right now, however, his best bet at survival was to follow the man in front of him.
As they scrambled up yet another steep hill, Chris vowed for the umpteenth time since this nature hike had started that he was taking the stairs at work from now on. He had lost track of how long they had been tramping over, under, and through the wilderness. If there was a path of some kind they were following, he sure as anything didn't see it. Vin had point, though, and he seemed to know exactly where they were headed.
A black SUV sat in the far end of a crowded bar's parking lot. It looked just like a million other such vehicles that one saw. Vin motioned for Chris to climb in the passenger's side as he opened the driver's side door and got behind the wheel.
Both men sat catching their breath as silence descended.
"Now what?" Chris asked.
"Dive in a hole and start gettin' answers. Someone is payin' fer that!" Vin growled.
"Lost people before?" Chris asked, looking over at the other man who suddenly was looking a lot older than he had few days earlier in Travis's office.
Vin nodded. "Had a few missions go bad in the Army due to bad intel and officers that wanted glory instead of results. Never anything like back there, though."
Silence fell again.
Vin started the Ford Explorer and pulled out of the parking lot.
"Got a hole in mind?" Chris asked as they eased into traffic.
"Place I can go no questions asked where no one would think to look."
"Safer than that place?" Chris asked.
Vin nodded. "Not an official place. ATF or Marshals have a mole somewhere. Just have to figure out where."
"I need to call Travis and contact my team."
"We're not calling or contacting anyone until we figure out who to trust," Vin responded tiredly.
"Won't vouch for the entire ATF, but Travis and the men on my team can be trusted," Chris stated.
Vin said nothing.
"And the men on my team could be trusted, but they're dead and until I know what side the leak is on we're not contacting either group," the younger man finally said.
"Got a plan? If you do, I'd like to hear it." If Vin wasn't planning to contact anyone, then hopefully he had something else in mind. Sitting and dong nothing while they figured out who to trust would not get them anywhere.
Vin looked over at him. "I've got some ideas, figured we'd look at our options when we got where we're going and decide then."
Chris nodded. "So where are we going?"
Chris stared at him. "Denver's where the people trying to kill me are based out of. They sent me out to Green River to get me away from Denver."
"Easier to hide you in Denver. Not real likely to look for you there," Vin explained his strategy.
Chris smirked. He had to admit that the idea had merit; you generally did not hide someone right next to the people looking for him.
"Hard to look at options when we don't know anything, you have a way of getting information?" The blonde asked.
"Perkins was the computer and info man," Vin said softly.
"JD's mine, I trust him as much as you trusted Perkins," Chris replied.
Vin looked ahead as he got on the freeway leading to the place they had started from.
"You've lost the people you trusted; I still have the ones I trust. We need to use them," Chris reiterated.
"I read up on you when I found out that we had been assigned to guard you," Vin began.
"Always good to know the players in a situation, person tends to live longer that way." Chris would have done the same if their positions had been reversed.
"You as good as they say?" Vin looked over at him.
"How good do they say I am?"
"Hear 'em talk, you'd think you were some kind of genius when it comes to tactics and strategies," Vin tried to hide his yawn.
"I'm that good," Chris wasn't bragging, just stating a fact. He had not gotten to the places he had in the SEALS, SWAT, and then the ATF on his people skills.
"I can lead a team and I can come up with a plan, but my specialties are shooting and tracking."
"Strategy and tactics are mine. The first thing we need is my people. I trust them and I know what they can do. We also need to at least let Travis know we're okay," Chris told him. For the first time in days he began to relax. He was finally doing something.
Vin yawned again.
"When was the last time you slept?" Chris asked. Vin looked like he had been ridden hard and put up wet every day for a month. He knew the man had been pulling regular shifts at the safe house, standing his watch and heading his team. He had also had no doubt been returning after his scheduled shift to sit quietly in the shadows, unseen, waiting for the trouble he knew would come.
Vin snorted, "Do naps count?"
"Sleep's a weapon," Chris began.
"And a smart man uses it, so get your food and rest when you can because you'll never get enough of either," Vin finished, grinning at the other man. "Reckon the Army Rangers teaches ya a thing or two, too."
"Pull over, I'll drive." Chris doubted that Vin could or should stay awake for the drive. Besides, he had been sitting around doing nothing while Vin had been surviving on coffee and cat naps.
Nodding, Vin pulled over at a gas station. They got out and changed seats. Vin grabbed a duffle bag from the back as he came around to passenger seat. Grabbing money and a thermos out of it, he handed some of the cash to the blonde and tilted his head towards the convenience store. Chris nodded and began fueling the SUV. They were far enough away to make a stop, but it would have to be quick.
Vin exited a few minutes later with a couple of candy bars and cold sodas and the thermos full of coffee.
Chris headed in then, paid for the gas and they were ready to go
Chris looked over to see what was being given to him. It was his pistol. Chris took it and put it back in its accustomed place in the holster on his hip.
Blinking, he saw Vin pull out a Colt Python 44 and slip it into a holster he wore. "What is it with you and Josiah and your mini cannons?"
"Gets folks attention," Vin quipped. Personally he would have liked to carry a 45, but law enforcement considered that overkill, so he settled for the 44 that was allowed with a waiver.
Chris chuckled as he pulled out on the road. Looking over he saw that Vin was already asleep. Reaching one arm in back he snagged a blanket and tossed it over the other man. What would it take to get him to transfer to the ATF?
An hour out of Denver, Chris pulled into an all night truck stop and diner. He hated to wake Vin up, but he didn't know where they were headed, except that it was in Denver. The sleep had done him good, but he looked like he could use about another three days worth.
The meal was quiet as they both ate their steaks and fries. It was a comfortable silence, though. Neither one felt the need to talk just to fill up time and space. Some of the tables had games sitting at them and theirs had a chess board. Chris won both games, but Vin proved to be a good, if unconventional, opponent.
Vin took the wheel as they continued the drive to Denver. When they headed downtown Chris had to agree that wherever they were going was not where anyone would expect to find them. He got really curious when they went into underground parking in the high end district.
The ATF leader blinked when he saw the accommodations. It was safe to say that no federally-owned safe house would be this nice. It was the luxurious penthouse suite of one of the best hotels in Denver. Well, at least Ezra wouldn't be complaining when he and the rest of the boys were called in.
"How did you get this place?" Chris asked, as he began exploring their new digs. He had to admit that not many people would look for a cowboy like Vin in a place like this. No one would think to look in a place like this for him, either.
"I know someone in the company that leases this place for employees that are in town on business. He lets me use it if I need it," Vin answered. His tone made it clear that further questions about that would not be answered.
Chris settled on the couch and turned on the early morning news. It might have something about what had happened back in Green River.
Vin headed to the master bedroom, Chris had taken the other one, and saw a bag on the bed. Dumping it upside down on the bed he found an ID with his picture for Kevin Briggs, three credit cards with no limits, two thousand in cash, and five throw-away cell phones. Vin scooped the items back up and deposited them in the bag.
Vin sat down and took a deep breath. He needed to call Michael. He had really come through when Vin had called him, completely out of options. Taking one of the phones out of the bag he called his father.
"VIN!" Chris called out ten minutes later as Vin ended his phone call.
They stood listening to the reporter giving what little information was being released about the federal agents murdered at a house in Green River. Tests were still needing to be done, it appeared that one Christopher Larabee might be responsible as his gun was believed to have been used in the killings.
"Imagine they'll feel a mite stupid when ballistics doesn't match the gun they have as yours," Vin said. He almost smiled, imagining how Danielson, his boss, was going to explain all this. Especially the leak to the media when nothing was known.
Chris looked at him. "Could they have used my gun?"
"Nope, they never had it. I asked you to give it to me, and I kept it until I gave it back to you," Vin assured him.
Chris stared at him. "Then what gun do they have that they think is mine?"
"Went to a gun store I had heard about and told them I was wantin' a hand gun and had heard that Berettas were nice. Sold me a real nice one just like yours. Didn't ask for my ID or even mention background checks or waiting period. Walked out the door with it. You ATF boys should really do something about folks like that," Vin smiled.
Chris smirked, "I'll get right on it."
"Tossed that gun in a bag, marked it as yours and threw it in my desk drawer. Wondered how long it would stay there. Made sure it was clean and there's nothing tying it to either of us," Vin told him.
Chris nodded. Thanks to Vin, they were both covered for the killings. Now they just had to figure out who had set them up and prove it. There was also the small matter of his staying alive long enough to testify, assuming they could get him to court.
The Marshal tossed him a disposable cell phone. "Reckon best call Travis and see about your men."
Chris said nothing, but opened the phone and began dialing.
"Orin, it's me," Chris began.
"Where the hell are you? First we heard you were killed, then nobody knew if you were alive or dead because they couldn't find you or your body and now the news is saying you killed those Marshals. I assume that Tanner is with you?" Orin Travis almost leapt through the phone.
"I'm fine. We got set up. Vin's team died doing their job, protecting me. The three bodies in the upstairs bedroom were trying to kill me. Vin got me out and we're holed up in Denver," Chris explained.
"DENVER!" Orin roared. "Taking you out of the area didn't work, we'll try hiding you under their noses." The former judge turned ADD might not be a tactical wizard like Larabee, but he was no mental midget.
"Tanner's with me. Our plan is to get the others and then go mole hunting," Chris told him coldly. If there was one thing he could not stand, it was dirty cops and agents.
"Understood. Let me know if you need anything from me. As far as the ATF is concerned you're among the missing and your boys took off with no notice to find you."
Chris had to smile. If he really had gone missing, that's exactly what they would do. "I'll get the word to them and keep you apprised of any developments."
"Good enough. And, Chris? Good hunting." Orin didn't like traitors much, himself.
Chris looked over at the other man. Vin still looked like ten miles of bad road. He had stood guard on him round the clock back at the supposedly safe house and Chris would not soon forget that.
"Get some sleep, Vin. Contacting the team will be easy, but getting them rounded up here will take time, especially since I'm sure they'll have a shopping list of things they have to get before arriving."
Vin tossed the bag of goodies at him. "Have 'em come here first, cowboy. We got financing that can't be traced to us."
Seeing the items, Chris blinked and nodded. Someone was feeling generous. It solved a few of the immediate supply problems at least. "You just call me a cowboy?" Chris gave Vin a dangerous smile.
"If the reputation fits," Vin replied before heading to the master bedroom and closing the door. The blonde no doubt knew about the complaints in his file referring to him as a cowboy who took unacceptable risks. That was one of the kinder things said, but no one could argue that he got the job done and rarely lost one of his men.
When Vin emerged from his room a few hours later, he stepped into command central. A large dark haired man was sitting on the couch tweaking what looked like audio and visual surveillance bugs. A young man who didn't look out of his teens was typing away on a computer and printing out stacks of paper. A tall black man and a slightly graying older man were parked at the dining room table, each looking through one of the multitudinous piles of papers. Through a door, Vin could see Chris in one of the other bedrooms reading a smaller stack of papers. Lastly, a chestnut haired man was parked on the love seat going through his papers.
Vin grinned. The planning and research phase of a case, he knew it all too well.
Seeing him, Chris closed the file he was reading and came into the main room.
"Vin, this is ATF team Seven based out of Denver. Guys, This is Vin Tanner with the U.S. Marshal's office. He's partnering with us on this case."
Vin nodded to the men, who all smiled or nodded back.
"Buck Wilmington's our explosives and surveillance expert," Chris introduced the large man on the couch tweaking equipment.
"Howdy," Buck smiled broadly and came over to shake hands.
Vin was reminded of a big gregarious mastiff type dog. He had no doubt that, like that mastiff, if he saw Vin as a threat to Chris or anyone else on the team he would shred him limb from limb.
"You get hurt in that trouble you two got into?" Buck asked seriously as he saw the bandage Vin had slapped on his arm before going to bed.
"Just a graze, didn't even really notice it until we were here. Lost some hide, nothing more," Vin assured him.
"Nathan," Chris called and nodded towards Vin's arm.
The tall black man was already across the room and taking Vin's bandaged arm.
"Nathan Jackson, I'm the team's EMT. Let me look at it, I'll just put some stuff on it for infection to be safe."
Vin sighed, resigned to his fate, and Nathan quickly and painlessly peeled off the bandage. Reaching into the bag he had automatically carried with him, the medic deftly covered the wound in antibacterial ointment and re-bandaged it.
"Thanks," Vin told him. He had been handling his own injuries long enough that he was certain he had done just fine, but he appreciated that the stranger was concerned.
"Glad to help, it's not bad, but that stuff should help it heal a little faster," Nathan informed him as he collected his things and went back to his place and its paper stack.
"Good to see you again, brother Vin," Josiah boomed as he nearly leapt across the room and gave the younger man a crushing bear hug.
"I've missed you too, Josiah," Vin smiled as he returned the affectionate embrace.
Chris looked from one to the other. Josiah was a large and very physical man. Vin had not struck him as one who was all that physically affectionate.
"Josiah and I know each other," Vin explained. No need to go into the fact that he had met him at a food shelter he was too scared to go into while he was living on the streets at fifteen. Or that Josiah was serving food and, seeing him, had brought food out to him. He had helped get him into the Center where he lived in exchange for staying in school and out of gangs or drugs. He had helped out there and eaten at the shelter where he had washed dishes or helped serve. If it had not been for the big man, Vin likely would not have made it off the streets.
"Does this mean you're coming back to Denver?" Josiah asked hopefully. He had missed his surrogate son.
"Still based out of Cheyenne," Vin told him.
Chris smiled to himself. 'We'll have to see what we can do about that,' he thought. Chris had found his sniper, all he had to do was lure him away from the Marshals and into the ATF.
The blonde now turned to the impeccably attired man on the love seat.
"Ezra P. Standish, and might I say how delightful your temporary abode is?" The man introduced himself.
"Thanks, not really my kind of place, but I can stay here whenever I need to," Vin returned the greeting.
"And, this is JD Dunne, our computer and surveillance man," Chris introduced the last and youngest member of his team.
"Hi. Um, Chris, we may have a problem," JD told him.
"What kind of problem?" He asked. It wasn't like JD to barely acknowledge an introduction, so whatever he had found was big.
"Ramirez is two floors below us. It seems that his company rents out a floor as well," JD was almost vibrating.
"This could get ugly, and I do hate ugly," Buck commented.
"Aw hell," Vin sighed. "Reckon we need to find another place."
"We came here on the theory that they would never look for me in Denver, they sure as anything won't look for me in the same building," Chris suggested.
"I don't know if right over the enemy's head is what I would call safe. Not much room for maneuvering, here," Vin said slowly.
Chris could see he was turning things over in his mind.
"Any chance that Ramirez's people saw any of you coming in?" Vin asked, looking at the men.
"We all used the service elevator," Josiah told him.
"That'd still leave the security cameras," Vin said.
"Took care of it before we came in. I hacked in and put the camera on a continuous feedback until we were here," the young tech explained.
Vin turned towards Chris. "Someone is with you and armed at all times."
The blonde nodded. Vin was still determined that he would be kept safe until the trial.
Five men stared wide eyed. No one dictated terms to Chris Larabee and lived.
"Conference," Chris called. Vin needed to be brought up to date, so it was as good a time for all of them to touch base as any.
Each man collected his notebook and they gathered in the living area of the suite, pulling over chairs for those who were not on the couch or loveseat. Josiah handed Vin a notebook and pen.
Nathan did not have a great deal of information as of yet. Josiah felt that the killers were likely paid and had nothing against Chris personally. Ezra had some feelers out, discreetly, of course. Buck was looking over the evidence from Tim's death three months ago and the raid to see if there were any similarities.
JD went last.
"This is a list of names of people that knew about the safe house. Is there anyone else you know of?" JD asked, showing the list to Vin.
Vin looked at it. Chris and Orin were the only ones listed on the ATF side. The Marshal's side was considerably longer. The ADA was listed with a question mark.
"DA didn't know where we had him, only that we had him and he was under guard. If Travis is anything like our ADD, then his secretary likely knew." Vin told him, handing the sheet back.
"Thanks," JD jotted the names on the sheet and returned to his computer, fingers flying over the keys as he added the data.
"Never good to forget the invisible people, they are at times your best friends," Ezra smiled, showing a gold tooth.
"Gotta pile ya want me ta start with?" Vin asked. At this point, all they could do would be to start finding out everything available about the people involved and hope to find a connection.
"Right there," Buck pointed at one. "Fridge is fully stocked if you're hungry. We ate about an hour ago."
Vin made some coffee (the pot was empty) and toast. Then took a corner of the couch and started reading. Funny how TV and movies never showed that law enforcement was about ninety-five percent reading, researching, and phone work.
Chris smirked as he saw Ezra pour himself a cup of coffee as well as filling a mug for Vin and taking it over to him.
"GOOD LORD!!!!!" The southerner nearly spewed the brew back out.
"Nothing like good strong coffee," Vin smiled.
"Indeed, and while strong, this is nothing like good coffee," Ezra informed him.
"There's a bag of the yuppie stuff you like in the cupboard over the machine," Josiah informed him, taking a sip of the fresh batch, himself. He smiled appreciatively. Finally, someone else in the group knew how to make real coffee.
Ezra poured the contents of the coffee pot in to the thermos and made a fresh batch of Peet's Major Dickinson's blend.
"Vin, are you in contact with anyone from the Marshal's Office?" JD asked.
"Something you need to know from them?" Vin asked.
"If we could find out if the attackers bodies have been identified, then we could see about them in and look for a connection."
"Reckon I had best call Danielson and let him know I'm still alive and on the job," Vin sighed.
"You still sure he's not the mole?" Chris asked.
"Doesn't make sense if he is. He'd be risking a lot and he doesn't have money or health problems. I'm thinking that he simply has no clue what's going on. He's just coasting until he retires in six months," Vin answered.
"Go ahead and call him," Chris said.
Vin picked up the disposable phone he had used the previous night. He saw that six others now were in evidence with names on the backs.
"Hey, kid, get Danielson for me," Vin instructed.
"I'm fine, no I can't say where I am, just get the boss."
The team listened to the conversation.
"Danielson ain't in the office," Vin sighed, hanging up.
Vin picked up the phone and dialed again.
"Might I enquire whom you are attempting to reach out and touch?" Ezra asked.
"Coroner, reckon I can at least get the names of the bodies without raising interest, since I'm involved in the case they hit."
"Hey Don, it's Tanner, ya got names for me on the DB's from Green River?"
"Ain't in the office, can ya just tell me? All I need is the names. Gabriel Aznar, Ferris Ryan, George Mylonas, and Terry Smith. Okay, thanks," Vin hung up.
Nathan looked up from where he had been scribbling the names down as Vin had said them.
JD was already at the computer bringing them up.
"Green River?" Buck asked, staring at Vin.
"Wasn't my idea, I was thinking Kansas City, Salt Lake, maybe even Vegas. I sure wasn't wanting a mining and tourist town of thirteen thousand. New folks stick out in places like that," Vin replied.
"Who's idea was it?" Chris asked.
Vin swore long, loud and in languages even Ezra was not familiar with. "JD, Try running Terry Smith as an alias of Stephen Tulles."
JD's fingers flew. "This guy has more names than Buck has in his black book."
"Hey!" Buck protested.
Chris and Vin both came over to look at the picture that came up.
"That's the man in the shadows. You know him from somewhere?" Chris asked.
"Oh man, he's a Marshal," JD gaped.
"He's one of our office people. He sets up the safe houses," Vin explained. "We did fugitive recovery a few times together, Terry Smith was a name he used. Thought it was familiar from somewhere."
"A friend?" Buck asked, sympathetically. It always stung to find out someone you knew was dirty.
"Not really, just someone I had worked with a few times. He wasn't really bad, just that everything he did someone else could do better and faster. Eventually they tossed him in the office after finding there wasn't a place for him in the field."
Nathan shook his head, he knew people like that. Mediocre was about all they would ever be, no great natural ability and lacking the drive and dedication to better what talents they did have. Or maybe just going into fields that they were totally unfitted to. Sometimes they were content in the roles they landed in, but other times they would do something like this, trying to be somebody. He had set them up and got what he deserved, but Nathan could not help feeling that when that line was crossed, a life was wasted.
"I'll let Travis know," Chris said, leaving them to make the call in the privacy of a bedroom.
"I'm going to go prowl a bit, see what options are out there if things get interesting here," Vin told them.
"We shall remain present and armed," Ezra assured him.
"Mind company, brother?" Josiah asked.
"A second set of eyes never hurts."
Josiah followed the younger man out. The printer could be heard as JD made hard copies of the newest information and the others could be heard settling into to compare data in hopes of finding links.
An easy silence descended between them as Vin slowly walked down the hall towards the elevator. Their floor only had three other suites on it all of them were rented out by the Coldsmith Corporation.
Josiah watched as Vin took in every nook and cranny. His brain automatically transferring the place into a battle ground. Where were the best defensive places? What could be used to advantage? What was best avoided? His soldier and law enforcement training instinctively sifted through it all. Vin had the curiosity of twenty cats and it served him well in situations such as this. If the enemy came, Vin would be ready and have the best places scoped out for all the others as well. Chris would normally be part of this, but as long as he was under Vin's guard he would not be getting out here unless they were making a run for it. Again.
"I've missed you, son," Josiah told him.
"Missed you too, Preacher," Vin smiled at him.
"Chris is looking for a sniper; be real nice to have you on the team," Josiah nudged. Ezra would no doubt cringe at his attempts at subtlety, but then Vin was a plain spoken man who like things laid out.
Vin was originally from Texas, but had spent his formative teenage years here in Denver. He had arrived as a barely fifteen year old runaway and left at eighteen for the Army. He hadn't really been back, since. Texas was what he considered to be home. And yet, of late it was Denver that had seemed to be calling to him. The last time he had felt like this he had left the Army and a promising career there to study law enforcement and join the U.S. Marshals. He hadn't ever figured on leaving the Marshals, but then he hadn't thought he would leave the Army, either.
"I'll ponder on it. Like it where I am, though," Vin told him.
"You never did say why you left the Army. From everything you said you were doing well, right on the verge of making sergeant," Josiah said as they took the elevator to the roof.
"Can't say, really, guess I just got the sudden urge to move on," Vin shrugged.
"Nothing wrong with a man moving on, done it a lot in my life. Were you moving towards something or running away?" Josiah asked. As far as he knew Vin had stopped running, but one never knew and he worried about Vin like the son he had never had.
Vin was quiet as he poked and prowled about.
"Towards, nothing bad for me to be running from. Charlotte, maybe, but that would have been transferring bases, not leaving the service," Vin finally answered.
Josiah nodded, he had known about the short and passionate affair and how badly it had ended. He and Vin had talked about it more than once as he had worked his way through the pain of the break-up that had been best for both of them.
"Don't know, really, feeling restless again. But, things aren't bad, and I'm short listed for commanding my own team. I'd be stupid to leave, but, well ... " Vin petered off.
"You don't want to stay?" Josiah asking, probing.
"I don't know, I'm not really wanting to leave, but I'm starting to feel like I'm getting closed in," Vin said, trying to explain his recent moodiness. "Either way don't reckon I'll do anything right now."
"I think this is one of those halt times," Vin looked at him while leaning against a vent.
"Hungry, angry, lonely or tired. Times you don't make a life changing decision or have a difficult conversation," Josiah quoted, remembering when he had been trying to drill that into Vin as a reactionary teenager.
"Seeing as I'm three out of the four with my people killed like that, I figure that I'll hold off on any major decisions."
"Sure is good to have you home," Josiah said, hugging him once more.
Vin returned it and the two headed inside. Josiah was the closest thing he had to family; at the very least he was going to make sure that he made the hour and a half drive from Cheyenne more often.
They had been at it two days and were no closer to finding answers. Vin sat down with his coffee and picked up his notebook. Again. There was something he was missing, something that would give him a clue as to where the leak was. He just had to find it. He looked up and saw the whiteboard JD was using. Maybe the diagramming of data was a computer tech thing? Jonesy had done the same thing. He tried not to think about how much JD reminded him of the junior agent.
They would be burying him today. Tomorrow would be Perkins, and two days after that Stephens. They were his men as well as his friends; he should be at their funerals. What galled him was the idea that he was not and the mole likely would be there expressing his sympathy to their parents, widows, and children. When this was over he would explain to their families why he had not been there and maybe would even be able to give them some answers. Help them if he could.
The suite had three bedrooms, so they had had to double up. Vin and Chris had taken the master bedroom with Buck and JD in another and Nathan and Ezra in the last. Josiah was using a fold out bed. That had surprised Vin, since Josiah was tall enough that most beds were not long enough for his 6'3". Then the first night hit and he remembered about Josiah's snoring. A bull moose in rutting season would be quieter.
"What's so engrossing, Junior?" Buck asked, landing next to him on the couch.
"Just thinkin'. First of the funerals was today. I can't even be there to apologize to their families and see if they're needing anything," Vin explained.
"Been to a few funerals in my time," Buck sympathized. "You might not be there for the burying, but you're helping catch the mole. When we get him, then at least their deaths will have had some meaning. And we'll make sure Chris gets to that hearing in one piece so he can testify against Ramirez. Seeing the job done doesn't bring back the ones you lose, but it makes it a little easier that at least they didn't die for nothing."
"Not getting real far on that, either, right now." He sighed.
"Oh, we'll get him," Buck assured him coldly.
"Keep feeling like I'm missing something that I should be seeing," Vin muttered, staring at the data spread over the whiteboard. There were a few lines connecting people, but never in a way that worked for the massacre.
"Might Tulles have been the mole?" Buck asked.
"I don't think so. He couldn't come up with a plan if his life depended on it and he was never good at thinking on his feet. Following orders was what he did best. Blind, brainless, obedience. Useless in the field, but not bad for the office.
"So he was obeying the orders of the mole," Buck reiterated, leaning back against the cushion.
"Yep, but can't figure out who," Vin sighed. This was where he had started.
"Hey, they're talking about the case on television!" JD hollered from the bedroom where he had been watching the game and doing still more background checks on the computer.
The other men entered the room to watch the news blurb.
"All I can say at this time is that Agent Larabee is still very much alive and still scheduled to testify at the hearing of Raul Ramirez. The deaths the three Marshals is a tragedy and our hearts go out to their families. We are still looking into the causes of the deaths. Thank you," an older gray haired man said as he left the federal building in Cheyenne.
"And we have now seen the sacrificial lamb," Ezra commented as the game was resumed.
JD looked at each of them, confused.
"With this much publicity, they'll want to be seen solving this quickly and dealing with the one responsible. That was my boss, Danielson, and since this happened to his people on his watch, he'll be the one publically falling on his sword," Vin explained.
"But, it's not his fault, it's the mole's," JD sputtered.
"Politics, JD. They can't wait for however long it takes, the public is screaming for blood, so they'll make sure someone takes responsibility for the mess," Nathan said quietly. He hated that side of things. The higher ups would be pressured to resolve it quickly so someone would be found that even if he was only guilty of ignorance would then be sacrificed to the public to satisfy the spotlight.
"Are you sure that he wasn't the mole?" JD asked.
"Doubt it, six months from retiring with a pension, he'd be risking an awful lot and I don't know of any reason for him to do that that makes sense," Vin replied.
"Well, he does have a lot of financial trouble and well, there's his family," JD mentioned.
"JD?" Chris asked.
"He's double mortgaged the house and used up most of his savings and 401K. Looks like he had a son that's been in and out of trouble with the law for most of his life and then his grandson has severe autism."
"A veritable plethora of financial difficulties," Ezra broke the silence that followed JD's announcement.
"I also found out that Rhonda, the woman filling in as Travis's secretary, went through a divorce about a year ago and is trying to raise three kids on almost nothing," JD continued.
"Okay, I'll handle any calls to Travis, if any of you do need to contact him, you call his direct line. Vin, I'm sorry, but for right now, our best bet is Danielson," Chris informed the team.
"Reckon we got a motive that would make sense, now; still don't feel right, though," Vin replied.
"We haven't told anyone where we are, so at least neither one of them could send gunmen after us," Buck pointed out.
"Travis knows we're in Denver and so does Danielson. You want to risk moving?" Vin asked Chris.
"They don't know where in Denver we are, so we stay put for now, but we sleep in shifts. If someone finds us, we're not going to be sleeping," Chris instructed.
"Boys, I want to know more about Danielson and Rhonda then their own mothers do," Chris smiled.
Five men almost collided diving out the door. They knew that tone, Chris wanted information and he wanted it yesterday. Vin was right behind them when he turned. Why did it feel right to stay when all the others were scrambling out the door to follow orders?
"Close the door, Vin. We need to discuss what kind of positions we should take if we end up in a shoot-out. You know that hall and the roof, I don't. We also need to figure out a fall-back safe house in case we need one," Chris told him.
Vin nodded, left the room, and returned minutes later with two mugs of steaming coffee, a city and state map, as well as a sketch he had made of the hallway and the roof.
Spreading everything out, the two men began to confer.
Chris looked over at Vin, who was looking at the city map. Somehow making plans with Vin at his right hand felt right in a way that nothing had since he lost Sarah and Adam.
Sitting on the roof and leaning his back against the elevator shaft, Vin scanned the night sky. Somehow, star gazing had always helped him think. Actually, being outside period often did that. This case was like a Rubik's Cube and he almost had the solution. It was sitting just out of his grasp.
"Might I join you?" Ezra asked, stepping out of the elevator and onto the roof. He did not even blink at the 44 magnum pointed at him.
Vin said nothing, but lowered the gun and moved over.
"You, too, felt the need for air," Ezra commented.
"Needed some quite fer thinking," Vin replied.
"Yes indeed, we each have our thinking places," Ezra commented, pulling out a deck of cards and shuffling them.
"I've almost got it figured out, but ..." Vin sighed.
"It would appear that we are both in the same predicament. While I turn to cards, you find logic and order in the stars?"
"Yep, still remember learning the constellations. Loved the stories that went with them," Vin confessed.
"Mister Sanchez is indeed a most adept story teller," Ezra agreed.
"First camping trip we went on we laid on our backs and he pointed out all the constellations. Told me the stories about them. Way he went on you'd have thought they were real."
Ezra smiled at the man obviously enjoying a pleasant memory.
"What is the question that your mind keeps coming back to with this case?" The southerner asked.
"Something you said," Vin smirked at Ezra's look of surprise.
"Invisible people. Who are we missing or discounting because he or she is invisible?" Vin asked.
"Ain't Danielson, he's anything but invisible. Sides, I'd have noticed something if he was dirty," Vin said.
"So, it's not Danielson, I agree," Ezra turned over a King of diamonds. "From your ease at Mister Larabee's side I might assume that you were Marshal Danielson's right hand and the one really running your team?"
"He's a short timer, already gone for the most part." Vin answered as the jack of diamonds magically appeared next to the king.
"And so, who is the queen, referring to the left hand that the right hand does not know," Ezra asked sliding the queen out from behind the king.
Vin swore as he leapt to his feet.
"What just happened there?" Ezra sputtered, rising effortlessly to his own feet, the cards gone as mysteriously as they had appeared.
A shot rang out.
Vin dove for a fire escape with Ezra directly behind him. They could hear the battle in the hall.
At the window of an empty suite, Vin scrambled though after pushing it open. Ezra was directly behind him and through the suite to the front door faster.
Ezra nodded that he had the Texan covered as Vin kicked the door and it flew open and dove into the fight.
"Nice of you to join us," Buck called out from his place.
"Misplaced the invitation," Ezra shot back as he scrambled to his designated place while covered by Vin.
Vin said nothing, but took out two men almost immediately.
Looking over, Chris swore as he saw Vin take a hit and fall.
The man who hit him was dead before he could change his aim.
It seemed like hours, but was only minutes before the fight was over.
"Vin," Chris was by his side before the smoke had cleared.
"The kid. Invisible," Vin informed him.
"Just hang on, help is on the way," Josiah said, joining them. He had seen Buck calling it in almost before the last shot was fired.
Nathan quickly and quietly removed Vin's bloody shirt and began triage by putting pressure on the wound and preparing him for the ambulance. He had called for the paramedics at the same time Buck had called in the police.
"I believe, Mr. Larabee, that he was saying we should give the junior associate a closer scrutiny,"
"His name," Chris requested, looking at Vin while Nathan made him as comfortable as possible.
"Chad Sorenson," Vin whispered.
"JD!" Chris bellowed.
"On it," the young tech hollered back, running for his computer.
Nathan stepped aside as the paramedics took over, lifting Vin onto the stretcher. Nathan and Chris went with Vin as he was taken out. Buck had taken over and was briefing the cops who had come in with the paramedics. A couple of the attackers were known to be on Ramirez's payroll.
"Vin?" Chris asked as the man began shuddering slightly.
He calmed into a peaceful and easy sleep once more.
An hour later his blue eyes blinked open to meet green ones.
"Looked like you were having a nightmare, earlier. The last week would give a man one," Chris commented.
"Not that, same ones I always have trying to sleep in a hospital," Vin said, yawning. "Mama died when I was five. I was staying with the neighbor and she had brought me over to see her. She had stepped out for a minute and when I took ma's hand it felt wrong. Next thing all the machines are going crazy and nurses and doctors are running in. I got shoved in a corner until a doctor noticed me and sent me out of the room. I got so scared I just ran, got turned around and next thing I knew was completely lost. Nurse found me and got me back to Mrs. B. but I still have nightmares when I'm sleeping in hospitals about running up and down halls with no way out," Vin shuddered.
"Help if I stay?" Chris asked.
"Not your problem," Vin told him.
"Nope, but I was planning on staying anyway, just wanted to know if it would help," Chris smirked.
"You were right about it being the kid. Seems he has a real weakness for easy money. He had gotten hold of your cell phone log on a hunch and saw that you had called the Coldsmith Corporation. He knew we were in Denver, so he called their office and explained that he was new and supposed to be staying in the Denver suite but totally forgot the address. The receptionist was very helpful. He sold the information to Ramirez. Just like he had told him where the safe house was. Danielson knew nothing about it; just like you said. He's being let off the hook for the most part, but he's being demoted effective immediately," Chris brought the younger man up to date.
"Glad he's not loosing his pension by six months, of course if he had been doing his job, none of this might have happened," Vin sighed.
"Depends on how good the kid was at covering up. You didn't pick it up either until the end," Chris pointed out.
Vin nodded. The kid had had then all buffaloed that he was just a not too bright but efficient enough office worker bee.
"This whole thing started when I lost my sniper. I'm still looking for one. You interested?" Chris asked.
"Mean transferring over to the ATF," Vin said thoughtfully.
"You've got a bachelor's degree in law enforcement plus six years as an Army Ranger, and four as a Marshal. You more than qualify," Chris assured him.
"You guarantee I'll be on your team?" Vin asked.
"Yep, and second in command," Chris informed him. Buck was the only other one with the experience for that, and while he was capable, he preferred to let others lead as long as they knew what they were doing.
"I have to admit that I like my job. And I'm not sure I could afford to move here."
"The guys and I'll move you, free," Chris countered.
"That wasn't the problem. I gotta horse and I haven't seen many places here I could afford that would let me keep him in the back yard. Tell you what, you find a place I can board my horse free and I'll stay, cause that's the only way I can see being able to swing my rent and Peso's," Vin said.
Chris grinned. "Pack up, cowboy."
Vin stared at him.
"I board horses and will do yours for free if that's what it takes to get you on the team."
"Then I reckon you've got yourself a sniper," Vin agreed.
The two men clasped wrists as Vin's hand was wrapped, due to cuts from flying debris in the gunfight.
Vin chuckled as Chris pulled transfer papers out of a folder he was carrying. He was coming home to Denver and his new family of six brothers.