Summary: This time, for Vin, they bad guys have made it personal.
Feedback: Positive and constructive
*Bang* *Bang* *Bang*
"Señor Vin, Señor Vin, Please Señor Vin."
Vin awoke instantly at the hard knocking and desperate voice calling his name. He jumped out of bed and hurried to the door, grabbing his gun from the night stand as he went. He flipped open the lock, turned the knob, and pulled open the door.
"Theresa, what's wrong?!" Vin asked, recognizing the girl who lived one floor down, with her brother.
"Señor Vin, I didn't know what else to do." The teenager cried.
Vin ushered the teen into his apartment, offering her a seat on the couch. "Take a breath and tell me what's going on," he said gently, kneeling in front of her and taking her hands in his.
"It's Antonio and my brother, Pedro. This afternoon they heard a rumor that something was going down on Warfield in the old Acme warehouse. Antonio told Pedro that he heard Griffen was meeting a new supplier. Señor Vin, you know how Antonio feels about Griffen, especially after his sister was hit by that stray bullet during the shoot out Griffen had with the 'Ravens'. Antonio still thinks it was Griffen's bullet that hit her. But they have been gone for hours; they should have been back by now. I know they should have. Señor Vin, I love Antonio and my brother. I don't want anything to happen to them. Please you have to do something Señor Vin, Please." The sixteen year old girl pleaded.
"Theresa, I want you to stay here and lock the door. Don't open it until Pedro, Antonio or I come back. If I'm not back in an hour I want ya to call my friend 'Larabee'. He's on my speed dial as #1." Vin explained.
Getting a nod, he stood and went to his bedroom. Grabbing the jeans he had thrown in the corner just a few hours before, Vin looked down and smiled. Sure glad I put on my sweat pants 'for I crashed earlier. Never thought I would be thankful for a headache neither. Glancing at the clock he realized it wasn't really that late. He had lain down around 7pm and it was now only a little after 9. Vin dressed quickly, then grabbed extra ammo clips. Retrieving his cell phone from the nightstand he headed for the door, pausing for a second to stare at the phone is his hand. Tanner knew the guys would still be at Ezra's for their Wednesday night poker game and decide it might be best to give Chris a heads-up, just in case. He figured it would be better to catch Larabee before he headed out to his ranch and save his friend the drive back into town if there was a problem. He hit the speed dial before he could change his mind.
"Hey cowboy. How's the poker game going?"
"Ezra's winning, as usual. How's the headache?"
"Better. You gonna to be there a while?"
"I was just thinking about calling it quits and heading home. Why is there a problem?" Larabee asked, hearing something in Vin's tone.
"Maybe, don't know yet. I'm gonna go check it out. Need to retrieve two kids that are overdue from what I've been told. Hopefully they're just hiding out and watching, but just in case wanted to give ya a heads-up. I told Theresa to give ya a call if I wasn't back in an hour and if she does I didn't want ya thinking the worst."
"Want me to come over and go with you?" Chris asked.
"Nah, better if I go alone. I can slip in and out, won't be noticed. Theresa's here at my place. Told her to stay put till I or the boys get back, or to call ya in an hour which ever happens first." Vin explained, walking down the hallway into the living room.
"How about I come over and keep her company until you show back up." Chris offered.
Vin realized, all though it sounded like Chris was just suggesting, he was coming over either way. He knew that tone too well. "Sure, I'd appreciate you watching after her till I get back. Pedro is all the family she's got, and her boyfriend Antonio is a good kid. She's mighty torn up and scared at the moment. Someone being around would probably make her feel better and she's seen ya with me."
"I'm on my way." Chris stated, then hung up.
Vin turning toward Theresa closed his cell phone. "I'm gonna to go find'em now. You stay put and don't open the door for nobody but Chris. You remember what he looks like, right?"
Theresa, looking wide eye and scared, shakily nodded yes.
"Good, he's coming over to keep ya company till I get back. So you just sit tight, ok?" Vin assured the teen, giving the girl's arm a squeeze.
Vin opened the door and slipped out into the hall looking back at the frightened girl before pulling the door closed behind him. Upon hearing Theresa turning the lock, he moved quickly to the stairs and descended to the ground floor and in no time found himself in the street.
Jogging for a few blocks, Tanner slowed down as he started to make his way across the different gangs' territories. He knew how dangerous it could be at night when the gangs were out and more active. Slipping down alleyways and side streets, sticking to the darken areas, Vin made it through both the 'Diablos' and the 'Blades' territory without being noticed.
Reaching the Raven's area he worked his way carefully to the warehouse which Theresa thought had been the two young men's destination. Tanner let himself into the building next to the warehouse and went up to the roof of the old building. He knew this area and these buildings. He had actually been here just a month ago. Sure hope it's still there. Slowly opening the door to the roof, he looked for any sentinels that Griffen might have placed on lookout. Finding none Vin sighed in relief, Good thing for me that you ain't that bright, Griffen.
The sharpshooter moved to the side of the roof that ran parallel to the warehouse and smiled that his luck was holding. The metal vent pipe still lay stretching out from one building to the other, over the alley below. Easing up close to the pipe he took his time scanning the roof of the adjacent building making sure no one was hiding in the shadows. Once he was convinced no one was there acting as sentry, Vin carefully walked across the expanse, reaching the other side. Going to the roof's access door, quietly easing it open, Vin listened for any sound. Satisfied it was clear, he began his way down the stairs, checking the doorway at each level for anyone who might give his presence away.
Finally reaching the main floor, Vin again eased the door open a sliver, stopping to listen. The movement he heard alerted him to the fact that at least one person was close by. Peering out through the crack of the door, he spotted the lookout standing approximately a foot away. Leaning back he considered his options. Looking strait up, then back up the stairs he had an idea. Vin reached into his jeans pocket and pulled out a ten dollar bill. Crumpling it slightly, he tossed it onto one of the steps behind him where it could be easily seen. The sharpshooter jumped, grabbing the steel rafter above the door. Pulling himself up he crouched on the rafter. He reached down with a booted foot and gently pushed the door causing it to swing open slightly, just enough to get the lookout's attention. Within a second the door swung open wide with light flooding into the landing and the barrel of a gun poking through the open door.
Keeping his breathing soft and shallow, Vin watched as the man slowly made his way into the landing. Checking first behind the door, he then leaned forward slightly and looked up the flight of stairs. Vin knew the moment gang-banger saw the money. Tighten his grip on the rafter in front of him; he waited for just the right moment. Swinging down on top of the man, Vin hit him, knocking him out cold. Tanner picked up the lookout's gun and slid it into the back of his waistband. Grabbing the teen's arms, Vin dragged the unconscious boy back under the stairs where it was dark.
Easing the door open once again, he looked around searching for any other gang members who might be close. Vin could hear the soft murmur of voices not too far away but no other sentries were around, at least not in this section. Slipping out the door and staying well into the shadows against the decaying walls, Vin carefully made his way to the outskirts of the warehouse floor. Looking around for a vantage point from which to observe what was happening, Vin noticed a stack of old crates off in the corner. It was perfect since most of the area was in the shadows. Quickly making his way over, he climbed silently to the top, lying flat as he took in the scene before him.
"Damn," Vin swore to himself. Guess I shouldn't have turned down Larabee's offer. There was a major deal doing down. Griffen must not trust this guy too much. Guess that explains why there weren't more lookouts. Griffen had them all with him.
Seeing the open crate of guns, Vin looked carefully but could see no ammo. Changing his focus he searched the area for where the two missing teenagers could be hiding. Sweeping the area again he saw a shadow move. Watching intently, Vin realized that what he had seen was the top of a head that had raised for a second as the boy shifted his position.
His attention was drawn back to the deal being made when the voices became louder and angrier. Taking in the situation, Vin knew the deal was going south and tempers were about to fly. "Gotta reach Antonio and Pedro and get them outta here before Griffen explodes and this place becomes hotter than the devil's breath." he thought.
Vin knew of one sure way to cause a distraction. He couldn't risk making a sound, not even whispering. Vin mentally thanked JD for programming their cell phones with speed dial codes for emergencies. Not worrying about the address, thank goodness for GPS, JD would figure that out. Vin hit the required sequence of numbers on his cell phone. Hitting send, he slipped the cell back into its holder and then quietly made his way back down the stacked crates.
Tanner slowly worked his way toward the boys, staying well within the shadows as he listened to the deal going down. It was obvious that the 'seller' was becoming aggravated as well. Gaining Vin's full attention when the man suddenly growled, "Look, Mr. Walters doesn't come to the deals himself, and he's the only one who can change the price. The price is set, either you want them or you don't."
"Yea I want them, we need them." Griffen growled.
Vin could tell the deal was about to come to an end. Griffen was either going to pay . . . or do something stupid, like just take the guns.
'Ah, Hell!' Tanner caught the subtle hand signal that Griffen flashed to his men. "Reckon that gives me 5 or 10 minutes tops before all hell breaks loose."
+ + + + + + +
*Knock* *Knock* *Knock*
Theresa jumped at the sound of knocking at the door. Slowly she eased her way over, physically shaking as she reached the door and leaning against the wooden closure. "Who's there?"
"Theresa, its Chris, Chris Larabee, Vin's friend. He told you I was coming, remember?"
Turning the locks but not removing the chain, she opened the door and peeked out. Chris anticipating Theresa's caution was prepared with billfold in hand displaying his ID and badge for her to see.
Assuring herself it was indeed Señor Vin's friend, Theresa closed the door to remove the chain then pushed it open for Chris to enter. The teen gasped as five men follow the ATF agent into the apartment.
"It's all right my dear; there is no need to be alarmed. We are associates of Mr. Tanners'. Due to our mutual inquietude toward his currant activities, we concluded our attendance was a prerequisite." Ezra assured the frighten girl.
Theresa appeared to relax, as the fear on her face was quickly replaced with a look of confusion as her eyes followed the fancy dressed man.
Buck gave the young lady his most charming smile, "It's okay little darling, half the time we don't know what ol' Ez is saying either."
"Not all are as unskilled in verbal communication as you find yourself, Mr. Wilmington. This young lady is in need of reassurance that we are indeed gentlemen, and as such trustworthy. Not heathens, as your manner might suggest."
Theresa smiled for the first time all night, relaxing in the company of the men that Tanner called brothers. Approaching Chris she asked, "Have you heard from Señor Vin?"
"No I was hoping you had. How long ago did he leave?" Chris asked the girl, as he guided her over to the couch to sit down.
"Right after he talked to you, he left right away," the worry obvious in the teen's voice.
Chris turned toward the window and gazed into the dark night, his stomach churning at the possibilities. Taking a deep breath he turned to face his men and saw his concern and worry mirrored on their faces. "Theresa, I know Vin said to wait an hour but it's been forty minutes already. I need you to tell me where Vin went. We need to be there in case he need's help."
Theresa's head nodded in understanding. "Señor Vin went to the old warehouse on Warfield. That is where Griffen was rumored to make some kind of a deal . . . a big deal. Pedro, my brother, told Antonio this would make Griffen very dangerous. That is why they went to the warehouse. To see if the rumor was true," the girl eyes glimmered with tears and her lip began to quiver.
"Shhh now, my dear. I'm sure our Mr. Tanner has already located your young man and brother." Ezra said, kneeling in front of Theresa patting her hand.
"Ezra, you stay here with Theresa. It's best not to have you seen around the warehouse. Wouldn't want anyone there recognizing you," Chris stated, meeting Ezra's understanding gaze. The undercover man's talents may be needed later in dealing with the seller, or it might be an organization that he had infiltrated in the past. Chris wanted to keep his options open. "The rest of you, let's ride." Chris ordered as he walked out of the apartment, quickly followed the others.
Chris stopped once they reached the vehicles. "Buck, JD, you ride with Josiah. Nathan, you're with me. We don't want a bunch of cars drawing attention. Josiah, you know where the warehouse is?"
Josiah nodded, "Yes, it's on the far end of the street where St. Paul's mission located."
"Ok, you come to the warehouse from that direction. I'll drive in from the opposite way. Park as close as you can across the street from it. We'll park same side close to the alley. Turn your cell phones to vibrate, if you need to send information use the code on the pager. We're only going in to find Vin and those boys, nothing else unless we have to. We go on my signal." Chris laid out the plan and the others nodded their understanding.
Nathan climbed into Larabee's truck as Buck, JD and Josiah climbed into the suburban. Chris went strait at the corner and Josiah turned right.
Luck seemed to be with them as they caught the lights and were making good time when Chris felt his cell phone vibrating. Grabbing it, he held it up looking to see who was calling. Instead of a name, a text message came across the screen. "What the Hell!"
"What is it Chris?" Nathan wanted to know.
"Vin, he wants us to come in hot," Chris replied. The confusion in his tone soon replaced with understanding. "It must be big or bigger than Vin expected and he needs the distraction and confusion the sirens will cause. Call Buck; tell him we're going in with sirens and lights and knocking on their front door, Vin's request. Then call the 17th precinct and ask for Capt. Haynes, tell him I'm requesting back up."
Nathan had just finished briefing Capt. Haynes when he realized they were getting close. Chris flipped on the siren and lights and punched the accelerator. Nathan braced himself as the Ram squealed around the corner and came to a screeching halt in front of the warehouse. The suburban mimicked their actions from the other direction.
Larabee jumped out of his truck using the door for cover and grabbed his mic. Flipping on the switch for the PA system his voiced boomed from the speaker, "Come out with your hands up."
Seeing the questioning looks Buck and Josiah were giving him, Chris shrugged. "Don't know what's going down in there. Didn't know if saying ATF would help or just make things worse."
Several police cars, lights flashing, pulled along side the two vehicles and men jumped out to join the ATF agents, as shots were heard from within the building.
Vin silently crept closer to the boys keeping their location insight as well as the deal that was going down. Seeing a chance, when Antonio looked in his direction, Vin moved out of the shadows long enough to hold a finger to his lips and gesture for the boys to stay down and hidden. Antonio nodded his understanding and sunk back down behind the crates.
"Hey Griffen, there's some one behind them crates." One of the gang members told his leader.
"What! Where?" Griffen demanded looking around. Turning back to the seller he accused, "What's going on, did you set me up?"
"No, my boss doesn't work that way. Must be a rat problem. Jake, take care of it." The dealer ordered one of his thugs who had been standing in the shadows.
Vin couldn't see the man's face, only his basic shape and size. What he could see was the automatic that was now aimed at the boys' hiding place.
Vin's gun was in his hand and pointed without thought. Before he was able to pull the trigger, all hell broke loose, as the sound of sirens and screeching tires vibrated throughout the warehouse. Then a voice boomed, "Come out with your hands up."
Vin stayed hidden in the shadows, but upon seeing the man with the automatic raise his gun to fire, the sharpshooter let off a volley. The area where he had been standing was soon riddled with bullets, but Tanner was no longer there.
+ + + + + + +
"Larabee, what have we got?" Capt. Haynes wanted to know as more gunfire was heard within the building.
"One of my men is in there along with two teenage boys. They've stumbled on to some kind of deal going down. Not sure what. We've got to get in there now. Josiah, Nathan, J.D., the front door is yours. Buck and I will take the door in the alley. Haynes, your men have got the other side and the back. Make sure everyone understands my man and those boys are in there, anybody gets trigger happy and they'll answer to me." Larabee threw the last over his shoulder as he and Buck headed for the alley.
Never stopping as he spoke into his radio, Capt Haynes ordered his men to their assigned areas and stresses Larabee's warning. Finishing he switched off the radio and followed Larabee and Buck in through the side door.
Following the sound of gunfire they soon found themselves in the thick of things. Diving behind a pile of crates they returned fire.
"Do you see Vin?" Buck asked, as he shot toward the gang members.
"No, but judging by the bullet holes riddling that stack of crates, I have a good idea where we'll find him." Chris pointed to their right as another shot came from the makeshift cover.
+ + + + + + +
"Jake, we need to get out of here. Now! And we need to report back to Mr. Walters, he isn't going to be happy." The front man exclaimed.
Jake turned toward him and shot twice, sufficiently silencing his associate. Ejecting the empty clip from the automatic he took a full one from his jacket pocket and reloaded. He turned, firing at the crates, cutting down everything in the bullet's path. He disappeared into the shadow's a smile on his face.
+ + + + + + +
Vin had let out a relieved sigh as he moved within a few feet of the teens and realized they were unharmed. The boys, upon seeing Vin both started to stand, but Vin gave a negative shake of his head and motioned for them to stay down.
The sound of automatic gunfire accompanied by several whooshing thuds had Vin crying out, "NO!"
+ + + + + + +
Before they could move, three more of his gang fell. Standing and firing a volley, Griffen and what was left of his men ran across the floor in a desperate attempt to reach one of the side exits. Noticing a movement to his side, Griffen turned in time to see Jake execute his partner and reload his gun.
"Someone is going to pay", were the gang leader's last words as the bullets came, ending his and his gangs time on this world.
+ + + + + + +
Chris and Buck using crates as cover, worked their way to where they assumed Vin was hiding. They watched as a group of gang members broke cover and ran across the floor toward a side exit.
"Let them go Buck, the officers outside can catch them. We need to find Vin," Larabee ordered as he continued forward.
"What the . . .? Chris get down!" Buck yelled, grabbing Larabee's arm and pushing him against a pile of busted crates and barrels.
Chris brought up his gun and searched the area trying to determine what had caused Buck's reaction.
The two ATF agents and the Captain watched in horror the loan gunman opened fire cutting down the gang members that had been trying to escape. Suddenly, they realized that the metal barrels were not stopping the bullets but rather they passed through and into the stack of crates behind.
"Shit, they're armor piercing rounds," Hayes voiced what the other two were thinking, as yet another volley was fired in the direction they believed Vin to be hiding.
A voice filled with rage and pain rang out from behind the makeshift cover. "NO!"
"That's Vin," Buck cried.
Chris and Buck both broke cover firing at anything that got in the way of them reaching Vin. As luck would have it, the man with the automatic had backed into the shadows and disappeared from sight. The shooting had stopped, so they knew he was gone.
"Chris where's Vin? Is he all right?" Nathan demanded as the two groups of agents met.
Not answering, Chris and Buck kept moving in the direction of the cry. Nathan, Josiah, JD and Capt Haynes followed with their guns still drawn.
Captain Haynes radio crackled, "Captain, we have 3 in custody. A sweep of the back end of the warehouse found nothing. A dark Buick was seen speeding away, but we couldn't get the tags."
"Take them in and book them on accessory to murder charges, I'm sure we'll have more to add to that later. Oh, and get some ambulances on the way, but don't send them in until you have this place secured." Haynes ordered, the sounds of the injured and dying quite obvious now that the gun fire had stopped.
It was a gut feeling but Chris knew the gunman who had shot his own man and the gang members was in that car. All they could do was hope one of the 3 men they had outside knew something and would talk, but he would worry about that later, now he needed to find Vin.
Rounding the corner of the stacked crates and debris, they stopped in there tracks at the scene that lay before them.
One teen lay 6 ft. away, obviously dead. To the right sat Vin Tanner, covered in blood and holding the other boy. Vin had removed his shirt and one hand was holding the blood soaked shirt on the boy's chest keeping pressure on a wound. Vin's other hand held a ripped off shirtsleeve to the boy's neck, keeping pressure on that wound as well. Tanner was rocking slightly and pleading over and over, "Hang on Pedro. Please, hang on."
Nathan pushed past the others and dropped beside the boy. Trying to move Vin's hand, he found he couldn't. Looking up Nathan knew Vin was focused so hard on keeping pressure on the boys wound, he didn't register anything else and probably wouldn't unless it was a threat.
"Chris, I'm going to need your help with Vin. Josiah, I could use your help here too. We need to get the boy laid down so I can see what we're dealing with. Buck, we need an ambulance crew here as quick at possible. We have to get him to a hospital," Nathan ordered, as the medic in him took control.
Chris knelt down beside Vin. Reaching forward he gently lifted his chin, making eye contact with his friend.
Finally seeing Chris, Vin realized that help was there. He became aware of what he already knew subconsciously. Nathan was there and he would know what to do. Tanner allowed Josiah to take the boy from him and gently lay him back of the floor, as Chris but an arm around him and helped him stand.
Vin took a shallow breath as he looked over at Antonio's lifeless body. Forcing his eyes away he looked back to Nathan working on Pedro. Vin felt his emotion start to choke up in his throat as he fought for control. Everything started moving too quickly, as if in a vacuum. Chris pulled Vin further away as the paramedics arrived. Vin became oblivious to everyone and everything as the memory of the shooting played over and over in his head.
+ + + + + + +
It wasn't until they were sitting in the surgical waiting room at the hospital that Vin snapped out of the trance. One moment his hands were empty, the next a cup of coffee, the steam rising from it, seemed to appear from nowhere. Taking a sip of the hot liquid, Vin looked up into the worried eyes of Nathan and nodded his head in thanks. Bringing the cup to his lips for another sip he glanced around and took in his surroundings. Chris was sitting beside him, Buck and JD where on the couch to the left watching TV. Nathan had gone to join Josiah and the two were quietly talking off by the window to his right. Vin lowered the cup, holding it in both hands between his knees.
"Did ya call Theresa?"
"Ezra's with her, they should he here any minute." "Chris answered, his voice gentle, realizing Vin was strung tight at the moment.
"Any get away?" Feeling drained, he still needed to know.
"Yeah, the man shooting the AP rounds slipped through. The captain at the 17th Precinct is holding 2 gang members and one of the 'heavies' from the deal. The rest are on their way to the morgue. Buck and Josiah will head over to the Precinct and see what they can get out of the three just as soon as we get word on the boy." Chris informed him, leaning forward his elbows on his knees.
Turning his head, Chris looked at Vin, but before he could say anything else a commotion at the door of the waiting room drew all their attention.
Vin dropped the coffee in the waste can as he stood up with the others and turned to face Theresa. He took the first blow, then the second never defending himself. The accusing words she screamed at him, hurting far worse.
"How could you Señor Vin, you promise to protect them. How could you let this happen? You promised, you promised!" Theresa repeated, tears streaming down her face as her fists pummeled Tanners chest. Even as Josiah gathered her in a bear hug and led the distraught girl to the other side of the room her words still stuck at Vin's heart.
"I'm sorry. I had aspired to escort the young lady here, thus allowing the compassionate Mr. Jackson to explain her sibling's current status and news of her young man's passing. Feeling the news would come much gentler with Mr. Tanner here to lend his support and comfort. Alas, that was not to be. An officer at the nurse's station divulged the brutal information before I could stop him. The man is sorely lacking tact." Ezra reported.
Buck and JD joining them and all five watched as Nathan came back with a nurse. Josiah still held the girl, trying to calm her as the nurse gave her a shot in the arm. The big man lifted Theresa in his arms as she slumped against him then followed the nurse out the door and down the hallway.
Nathan moved to join the others and explained. "I had the nurse give her a sedative after explaining what had happened. They're giving her a room down the hall for now. It'll be at least another hour or two before we hear anything from the doctor about the surgery."
"Vin you know this wasn't your fault! You didn't know about the deal going down or how big it was. Those boys went in there without telling you or asking you about it first." Buck expressed, trying to get Vin to see the truth.
"I don't understand why there wasn't more security, or look outs if this deal was so big." JD questioned, not realizing he said it aloud until it was too late.
"Because Griffen thought everyone was scared of him. So scared they wouldn't do anything to cause him to retaliate. He also figured he was safe because the deal was going down on his turf." Vin answered without emotion, his voice flat.
Chris figured some distraction as well as a few answers would do them all good. "Josiah, Buck go on down to the 17th Precinct and get what you can out of those 3 men Haynes' officers brought in. JD get on the phone and get the inventory and count of the weapons that were confiscated, I want to know where they came from. Nathan go down stairs to the coroners, we'll need the bullets to match to the guns that were used. Ezra, take Vin home so he can shower and change his clothes."
"No, I ain't leavin'. Not until . . . I jist ain't leavin'." Vin said quietly.
"Vin I understand how you feel, but your clothes are covered in , well you need to change."
"I know what I got all over me Larabee. I know Pedro's blood is covering me; it's even on my arms, my face, my hair. And all the showering ain't ever going to take it off my hands." Vin yelled, his emotions rolling across him in waves.
"I took the liberty of bringing Mr. Tanner some of his own attire from his wardrobe. I am quite sure Mr. Wilmington could be persuaded to work some of his, so called, charm for the good this one time instead of his usual misguide ventures. Mr. Wilmington, could you procure the use of the staff showers for Mr. Tanner so he will not have to leave this establishment?" Ezra requested, smiling at the team's ladies man.
"Why sure, Ez, I'd be glad to get one of these lovely ladies to let Vin use a shower . . . while I'm getting her phone number. I was just thinking about going and talking to the beautiful blond that sashayed by a few minutes ago. I'll be right back." Buck happily announced, joining in Ezra's attempt to lift the tension. Turning he left the group heading for the nurse's station.
"Sorry, Cowboy, didn't mean to yell at ya."
"Vin you don't owe me a apology. I know you're upset." Chris rested his hand on Vin's shoulder and gave it a reassuring squeeze.
Vin nodding his understanding, then turned toward Ezra. "Thanks, Ez."
"Mr. Tanner . . . Vin, you would have done the same for me," Ezra replied sincerely. Turning to Chris he continued, "Now Mr. Larabee, what task am I to be assigned?"
"Ezra, check with all your sources, see if you can find who's making deals in Purgatorio, with armor piercing bullets to boot. Find out if there are any new players in town."
"What was that Vin?" Chris wanted to know, confusion showing on his face.
"Walters. The seller told Griffen that only his boss, Mr. Walters could change the price."
"All right, Ezra, see what you can find out about this Mr. Walters." Chris ordered.
Buck's laughter announced his return, accompanied by a pretty nurse. "Miss Mindy here said she has a shower that you can use. She went out of her way to set this up, so you just follow her and do what you're told, Junior." Kid'll never turn down the offer now, not if he thinks someone has gone out of their way to arrange it. Buck smiled with his thoughts, rather proud of himself.
Nodding, Vin took the bag Ezra offered and followed the smiling woman down the hall.
"Mr. Wilmington, my hat is off to you, sir. Nicely done. Now if you gentleman will excuse me I have information to gather." Ezra tipped his head, touching an imaginary hat as he gave his customary two-finger salute as he too headed out the door and down the hall.
+ + + + + + +
Larabee was alone in the waiting room. His team was off with their separate assignments and Vin was showering, now seemed as good a time as any. He went to the nurse's station, leaving a message with the head nurse to tell his agent he'd be right back. Taking the elevator to the main floor, Chris got off and went outside to the area designated for smoking. Opening his cell phone, Larabee put in a call to AD Travis. It never registered how late the hour as he stared up at the stars.
"It had better be damn important to be calling me at 1 o'clock in the morning." Travis' sleep filled voice demanded.
"Sorry sir, I didn't realize what time it was." Chris apologized before filling his boss in on everything that had occurred along with what his men were doing at the moment.
"Sir we want this case. We need to get this supplier fast. We have enough trouble without this shit getting on the streets."
"Agreed, you have a go on this Chris. Keep me posted on your investigation. Tell Vin I hope his young friend will be alright." Travis stated.
Chris hung up and slipped the phone back into his pocket. Larabee looked up at the stars one more time before heading in. He hoped the anxious feeling, that had started in his gut a few hours ago, was only concern for the young friend of Vin's who was now fighting for his life, and not a premonition of something yet to come.
+ + + + + + +
Vin had just left the interns locker room, freshly showered and changed, and was preparing to head back to the waiting room when he heard someone call his name.
"Mr. Tanner, I was told I would find you here. I was wondering if you would accompany me. I'm Dr. Kemple the surgeon who worked on Pedro Meclizine. I was told that you are a friend of the family. I'd like you present when I talk to his sister." The Dr. explained.
Vin, nodding his agreement asked. "How is he?"
"I am only allowed to give that information to Miss Meclizine," the Doctor explained as they approached the room where Theresa rested.
They found Theresa sitting up on the bed, her knees tucked under her chin. Looking up, the fear clear in her eyes, she stared at the two men as they entered.
Vin took a step toward her to offer comfort. He felt his heart in his throat when she withdrew more, scooting back as far as the head board would allow.
"Miss Meclizine, I'm Dr. Kemple. I operated on your brother. He made it through the surgery, but I'm sorry to say, he's still in critical condition." The doctor stopped, allowing the girl to process this information before continuing. "Your brother sustained two gun shot wounds, one to the upper part of the chest and one to the neck. The first missed his heart by a mere inch. It broke a rib going in and did considerable damage, all of which has been repaired. He has a chest tube to help drain the fluid filling his chest cavity. Although this was serious, it is the other wound which has me concerned and is the reason for the critical status. The bullet passed through the side of his neck, nicking the artery. If not for Mr. Tanner, who I understand kept pressure on the wounds, your brother would have bled to death. Instead, thanks to his quick actions, he kept him alive long enough to get him here. However, your brother lost a considerable amount of blood. The bullet also ni cked his windpipe, I have repaired the damage but at this point, it is just too early to tell if he will survive or if there will be any permanent damage physically or mentally, considering the lack of blood flow for such a period of time during his transit here." The doctor told her compassionately, but truthfully.
Theresa's eyes welded with tears that soon over-flowed as she sobbed, her fears overcoming her.
Vin moved to Theresa, putting his arms around her and pulling her to his chest.
As she cried into his shirt Theresa's fists started to pummel Vin's chest, "Why? You said you'd protect them. You said you'd bring them home safely. You lied, you lied, you betrayed them, and you betrayed me. Nooo I can't lose Pedro." The girl wailed hitting Vin not only physically on his chest but her words pounding at his heart as well.
Dr. Kemple called a nurse and prescribed another sedative. He gave Theresa the shot and as it began to work eased the distraught girl down onto the bed and pulled the covers over her shivering body.
Vin moved to the hallway and laid his forehead against the cold wall, closing his eyes against the weight he felt pulling on his heart.
"Mr. Tanner, I'm sorry, I know that had to be hard on you. You realize that Miss Meclizine is in shock, you understand this it is the fear and hurt talking. Without you, that young man would now be dead." Dr. Kemple reassured.
Vin pushed away from the wall and glanced toward the doctor without meeting his eyes. Nodding his understanding, Vin walked away disappearing into the stairwell.
+ + + + + + +
Chris sat in his office and watched as the team arrived at work the next morning. The only problem . . . the one he wanted to see had not walked through the door. He wished Vin would call or something just to let him know that he was all right.
When he had gone back up to the surgical waiting room Vin was gone. He kicked himself that he had not been there when Vin returned from his shower. Checking at the nurse's station, Chris had met Doctor Kemple. The doctor explained that Vin had gone into the room with him to talk to Theresa and her ensuing reaction, and the fact that Vin had left using the stairwell. The doctor last words had Larabee calling Vin's cell phone, driving over and checking his apartment, and finally calling each of the guys hoping that Vin had gone to one of them. Chris had told them to stop for the night, get some rest, and not to worry about getting into the office late since it was 2am now. Hanging up after the last call he closed his eyes hearing once again the Doctors voice, "I tried to explain, but I'm afraid Mr. Tanner took what she said to heart." Chris knew he had, without a doubt. That hardheaded Texan is thinking he let Theresa and those boys down, that he should have protected them. Chris felt a tightening in his chest. It was as if he could feel his friend's pain.
Chris caught a movement in the corner of his eye. Looking up he realized it was Ezra coming in. Larabee glanced at the clock on the wall, 9 AM. Even though he had told them to get some rest and come in late, they had all showed up on time, even Ezra was on time for once. Standing up, Chris walked into the bullpen.
"Have you heard from Vin yet?" Buck asked.
Chris didn't have a chance to answer as his cell phone rang. Grabbing it quickly, "Larabee."
"Chris, Capt. Haynes here. I've got a prisoner here you might want to interrogate. He was Antonio Gillentrabi's body guard and problem solver. He was picked up in Purgatorio according to the arrest report. He was in a fight, 3 to one odds. We suspect he was settling up the score on a hit. His name is Sharpe, Vincent Sharpe. But you better hurry before Edward Stanly gets here. The phone call Sharpe made was to him, don't know if Stanly's his lawyer, accountant, or bail bondsman. I just know he said it'd be an hour before he got here. That gives you maybe forty-five minutes."
"Haynes, what in the hell are you .? Did you say you have Vincent Sharpe in custody?"
"Yes Vincent Sharpe, but you better hurry if you want a shot at him. I don't know if this Edward Stanly is the type to be here when he says, or late."
"I'm on my way." Chris informed the Captain ending the call. "Josiah, hold down the fort."
Heading for the elevator, Chris gave instructions as he went. "Ezra, Edward Stanly is going to be at the 17th Precinct in about 45 minutes to get Vincent Sharpe out of jail. He'll either have bail or some kind of legal representation. Buck you're with me. The rest of you keep looking into last night. When I get back we meet in the conference room with everything we have."
Once in the truck, Chris filled Buck in on what he suspected and how he wanted to play it as they drove from downtown Denver to the south side police department on the outskirts of Purgatorio. They parked in the visitor's space and headed for the front desk.
"Captain Haynes called, told me you had a Vincent Sharpe in lock up. I want to see him." Larabee demanded.
"Yea, and who are you?" The desk sergeant asked snidely.
"Larabee. ATF." Chris answered flashing his badge. "This is Agent Wilmington, he's on my team."
Buck showed his badge as well and the two men waited as the desk sergeant picked up the phone and made a call. "Capt. Haynes said to have you shown to the holding cells. Reynolds, take Larabee and Wilmington downstairs to holding."
Officer Reynolds buzzed open the gated door, letting the two agents in. He led them through a hallway then down some stairs, they went through several more doors before finally reaching the holding cells.
Chris scanning the semi crowded cells stopping midway through his search. Staring for a moment at the man leaning against a wall, head down, face hidden in the shadows. Chris knew without a doubt this was his man, "Sharpe!"
The man lifting his head slightly, glanced in their direction, and then dropped his head back down.
"Sharpe, get over here I want to talk to you." Chris ordered.
The man never moved, not even a muscle twitched in acknowledgement of the order.
Sharpe's cell mates seem to sense that the man in black was not someone to aggravate as they all moved so as not to be between the obviously dangerous man and the one called Sharpe.
"Do you want me to come in there and drag you out, Sharpe!" Larabee growled scaring the other prisoners even more.
Pushing away from the wall, the man in question sauntered over to the bars, stopping a few feet from them. He stood staring back at Larabee with a coolness the other inmates found impressive, and also something to be feared. He didn't speak just stood waiting.
"I'm Agent Larabee of the ATF."
"Good for you, cowboy." Sharpe replied sarcastically, drawing out the last word.
"Why you . . . get him out of there so he and I can have a little chat," Larabee demanded.
"Don't wanna talk to no Fed . . . don't wanna talk to you, so go away," Sharpe shrugged.
"You aren't going to have a choice, boy."
"Chris, calm down. You don't need another assault charge." Buck stated, grabbing Larabee's shoulder.
"That punk isn't going to talk to me like that. He is however, going to answer my questions." The statement was not a threat, but a promise.
"Cute, playing good cop, bad cop. But I ain't leavening this cell until my lawyer gets here. That's my right and I'm holding to it." Sharpe told them. Giving the agent a dismissal look he went back to leaning against the wall, his head down as if he was falling asleep.
"I said, I want him out of there! NOW!" Larabee bellowed.
"Officer, you will kindly move the obnoxious, bore of a man away from my client." A voice announced coming down the cellblock.
Chris, Buck and the officer turning around, saw two men coming toward them.
"Who are you?" Officer Reynolds wanted to know.
"I'm Mr. Stanly an acquaintance of your prisoner and this is Mr. Roberts, he is Mr. Sharpe's lawyer. Mr. Sharpe has been released. So if you will please move out of the way, we would like to collect him and be on our way." The man informed them.
"You can't get him out just like that." Buck replied.
"I assure you sir, I can and I have. Mr. Sharpe was brought in on a small charge of damage. Since the assault was due to a fight he did not start, it was dropped to self-defense. The damage to said establishment has been taken care of so all charges have been dropped." the lawyer reported, handing Renolds the release papers.
The officer looked over the document and gave an apologetic look to the ATF agents. Unlocking the door, Sharpe moved out into the hall. Throwing a smirk in Chris direction, he turned and walked away with the men who had affected his release.
+ + + + + + +
It had been hard enough waiting at the office for Ezra or Vin to contact him. He finally gave up and headed to the ranch, but now as he finished feeding the horses, he still waited. He had rushed to the barn door with every arriving car, only to find it had been one of the other guys showing up. One by one they had all gathered for the same reason, waiting to hear something.
The others had all moved to the house, but Chris had decided to stay outside and do chores, not being able to handle the idea of being around anyone while waiting.
Chris petted Peso on his neck, "There you go boy, eat up." Moving out of the stall, locking the padlock, he leaned against the gate for a moment.
"Hey Cowboy, he give ya any trouble."
"Not any more than his owner," Chris replied, turning around slowly and giving the man a once-over. "Are you all right?"
"Yea I'm fine."
"Good. Now you want to explain to me about this hair-brained scheme?" The worry in Chris voice being replaced with frustration and anger for causing such worry.
"Yea, but how about we go on up to the house to do this. I saw all the cars, so know the guys are here. Ez should be here shortly."
Putting the feed bucket back on its hook, Chris walked over to Vin. Putting his hand on his friend's shoulder and taking a good look at his tired face, Chris saw all the emotions swirling around in the blue eyes. "The doctor told me what happened Vin, I'm sorry."
"Don't blame her, she was countin' on me to bring them home safe. I let her down, got Antonio killed. And Paulo . . . still not sure if he'll be all right or even make it."
"Vin, you didn't let them down. It wasn't your fault. You're the finest man I know. If there was anyway to have brought them home safe, you would have done it. I know that to be the truth, just as sure as your name is Vin Tanner."
Vin looked into his friend's eyes and saw the absolute honesty reflected there. "Thanks Chris," Vin whispered from his heart.
They reaffirmed their friendship with the unique handshake that was all their own and which signified their strong bond before turning to head back to the house.
Chris gave Vin a quick once over as they walked, "So how are you? Really. Fighting three men, I'm sure you ended up with a bruise or two."
"Naw, not a one."
A look of surprised crossed Chris features before he noted the mischievous glint in Vin's eyes. "All right, I give."
"What?" Vin asked, innocently.
"Tell me how it is, that you fought three men and walked away without so much as a scratch. For that matter, how did you get Haynes attention without any of the other prisoners or officers seeing?"
"Haynes arrested me. Call came in on his way home. He responded . . . " Vin reported with a shrug.
Climbing the steps to the deck Chris came to an abrupt halt. "The arrest was a fake. Admit it. You two cooked the whole thing up," Chris accused.
Vin's answer was a grin as he turned and walked through the back door.
Chris shook his head and followed Vin into the house and to the den where the rest of the team had gathered.
"All right Ezra, Vin and Chris are here, so tell us what the hell is going on." Buck demanded.
"Patience, Mr. Wilmington, patience," Ezra stated in a calm voice.
"I swear Ez, if you and Vin don't start spilling the beans real quick, I'm gonna show just how much patience I have." Buck growled, doing his best imitation of the Larabee glare.
"Settle down, Buck." Chris calmed.
"Ez, go ahead and tell 'em 'fore Buck has his self a fit." Vin drawled softly.
"Very well Mr. Tanner. As know, I was assigned the task of gathering information on the new suppliers currently seeking buyers in Purgatory, as well as facts on one Mr. Walters. Upon hearing the name I felt that it had a familiar ring. Checking with one of my associates, I discovered that a Mr. Walters was seen as 'up and coming' in the Colorado metropolitan area slightly over 18 months ago. He had recently begun conducting business with a number of the bigger bosses in the Denver area, one being a Mr. Gigonio. I returned to the hospital last evening in time to spy Mr. Tanner's appearance through the emergency exit. Once Mr. Tanner was seated in my Jag, I informed him that while undercover in Mr. Gigonio's organization, it was Walters who made an offer for my services should I ever choose to leave Mr. Gigonio's employment." Ezra turned, directing his explanation to Chris. "Walters was impressed when I was able to save him $50,000. As luck would have it, a third party attem pted to sell the merchandise at triple the price I had quoted. It was my hope to entice him into the deal and thus include him in our coming bust. However, while Mr. Gigonio did not mind taking the cretins money he did not want him involved in his business."
"So you know this Walters." Nathan questioned.
"As I have just stated, yes I have made his acquaintance."
"Ok so how did Vin wind up being arrested under an alias?" Josiah wanted to know.
"As previously stated, I informed Mr. Tanner of my discoveries. He asked if there was a way to direct Mr. Walters attention to him, perhaps even gain him employment. Mr. Tanner would pose as Vincent Sharp, the late Mr. Gigonio's bodyguard/enforcer until he was asked to protect myself aka Mr. Edward Stanly. I explained that we would need a plausible reason for our names to be circulated in the criminal circle" Ezra replied.
"If you knew Vin was in Jail, why didn't you say something this morning?" Buck yelled.
"Cause he didn't know Bucklin. Ez told me to rest and we'd talk in the mornin'. He dropped me at my building and 'for I could go in Capt'n Haynes pulled up. Stopped to say he's sorry 'bout Antonio and Pedro since he were in the area to break up a fight at the Wooden Nickel Bar, just around the corner. Well that fight gave me an idea. I asked the Capt'n if he could put the gang members in a holdin' cell away from the general population and the dealer's men that were arrested. When he said it was possible, I told him I wanted him to arrest me. Man looked at me like he thought I were nuts 'til I explained. Told him to arrest me under the name of Vincent Sharp and to let on that the fight at the Wooden Nickel was 'tween Sharp and 3 other fellas. Told him to rumor it was something to do with a payment for a hit. Haynes worked it all out himself just so no one did any talkin' and blew my cover. Told him to make that call to you, that Ez would catch on fast." Vin completed his ta le.
Chris gaze fell on Standish, "So who was the lawyer?"
"Mr. Roberts was on retainer as Mr. Gigonio's lawyer in Boulder. Just one of the many lowlifes he kept on his payroll. Roberts jumped at the chance to fly to Denver and lend his assistance in gaining Mr. Sharp's freedom. I do believe that Mr. Roberts has aspirations to find employment with my future employer."
Chris noted the look of astonishment in the face of the other men for Vin and Ezra's quick thinking. He had to wonder why they seemed so surprised. They all knew that when ever the 'dynamic duo' put their minds together, things could get downright scary. Add to that how important this was to Vin. That alone probably swayed his decision on whether to lecture Vin, or back his play. Chris knew it was never really a decision for he would always back his friend.
"All right, so the word is out that Sharp and Stanly are looking for employment. So what else do we have, JD what did you find out?"
"20 cases of 9mm Auto Sigma, 10 case of assault Auto rifles and 10 cases of ammo, 5 for each one. They were all armor piercing mercury tips. According to the serial numbers, they were part of a hijacked military shipment on the boarder of Colorado and New Mexico. I had them fax me the inventory list of every thing else that was taken. It's a real long list . . . has everything from guns, grenades, and mortars to pressure minds and ground missiles. There was ammo and shells for every thing as well as several cases of C-4." J.D. fingers continued to dance across the keys of his laptop.
"Shit if any of that hits the street, there's going to be a lot of deaths." Nathan swore.
"Hopefully with last nights loss, this Walters will lay low before trying to set up any more deals. When he does . . . he'll want to dump it all, quick money and less chance of being caught. We work it right and we'll be the buyer. Buck, Josiah what did you find out from the men that were arrested?" Chris demanded.
"I questioned the gang-bangers while Josiah questioned the dealer's man. Once I told them there leader was dead and the only hope they had of not landing in prison for the rest of their miserable lives, was to tell me what they knew. They rolled right over. Shoot Chris, they were kids, 13 and 14 year old brothers. There job was to watch the side exits for cops or to report if the dealer had backup. Said Griffen didn't trust the 'man' cause he was sending a lackey to do business rather than deal with him personally. Seems the deal was set up a couple weeks ago and rumor was the 'man wasn't happy but it took Griffen and his gang time to come up with the cash. They were collecting protection money from the local businesses as well as prostitution, drugs, and some illegal betting. Ol' Griffen was an enterprising man; he was systematically driving out the other gangs and taking over the whole area. Kids said he killed the leader of the Blades five nights ago and not only took o ver the territory but gave the membership the opportunity to join his boys. Next morning, Griffen personally visited all the businesses in the Blades territory and put the squeeze on them too." Buck just shook his head, remembering his conversation with the two scared boys.
"Vin wouldn't you have heard if the Blades' leader was dead." JD asked.
"Would'a been the next day 'fore the rumors or talk started. By then we were getting ready for the Callaway bust. From there I went strait over to help Team 3 as a second sharpshooter. Hadn't really been around until last night." Vin said softly.
"Chris, I asked them to keep the boys in a private cell, till I could talk to you. I wanted to see if maybe we could get them into some kind of program, like community service or something. There underage, shoot there just kids. They didn't have any weapons; they were just recruited about 3 weeks ago, and it wasn't by choice. Griffen pushed their mom down a flight of stairs and threatened to do worse if they didn't join his gang. I checked out their story and the boy's mom is still laid up with a broken leg and wrist, 2 cracked ribs and a badly bruised hip. Got a neighbor who's helping out as much as possible, but she can only do so much being close to 70 herself." Bucks voice filled with compassion for a scenario that they saw far too often. He couldn't help but think of Vin on the street at that age an no one there to help him.
"Brother Buck, you've got a good heart, if Chris, Captain Haynes and the juvenile judge agrees, I have a program down at the mission that might work. The mission works with a gym on the same street, keeping the kids off the street, learning boxing, building and repairing, all supervised naturally. We even have it set up to where some can earn some money, which might help these boys out with taking care of their mom." Josiah added.
"I'll call Travis in a bit and see if he can pull some strings, give those boys a second chance, but no promises." Chris reassured his long time friend, before turning to Josiah, "So what did you find out from the dealer's thug?"
"He wasn't talking Chris. He could be a peon or a real player, but he isn't talking. Well, except to tell me where to go. It's clear that jail doesn't scare him. Which means Walters must scare him more," the profiler supplied.
"Damn, does he have a record?"
"His finger prints say no, but by his tattoo's . . . I would have sworn he did. Has one on his forearm of a snake wrapping around a blue knife on fire."
All eyes swung to Vin. "Yea, he was in the cell with me. Was a 'Viper' years ago in Purgatory. Vipers' are all in prison, dead, or like him working for some other piece of bad news. But there ain't many of them left. Most didn't live past 19 or 20. They were the worst Purgatory ever saw. Man didn't say nothing to me, but he was listening real close when ya were there yelling at me and especially when Ez showed up. If he was processed this morning and got out on bail, then Walters has heard of Stanly and Sharp by now."
"Nathan anything on the bullets or ID's of the dead 'front man'." Chris wanted to know.
"Most of the bullets were armor piercing. Only a handful were regulars. So one man you saw did most of the killing. Griffen and his boys only made 3 or 4 kills. Daniel Kellis was the 'front man' or so the fingerprints say. He had a degree in pre legal, Tax accounting and book keeping as well as marketing. No criminal record, he had been bonded by the government to set up a book keeping program at Peterson A.F.B. in Colorado Springs. That's why his prints were in the system." Nathan related.
"Well, guess we know how Walters knew when a shipment was going to be moving." Buck grumbled.
"I better call Travis and let him know what's going on, that we're making Walters our next case. He has contacts in the military; I'll let him inform them about the program Kellis must have installed. It needs to be shut down to ensure Walters can't get anymore information. Why don't one of you call Tonie's and order several pizzas, this could take a while." Chris threw the last over his shoulder as he headed to the den to call Travis.
Nathan literally growled his disapproval. "You need to get something healthy in you Vin, after spending all night in jail and then most of the day making sure you were seen as Vincent Sharp."
Buck had the number of the pizza place on speed dial and before Nathan stopped speaking could be heard saying, "Yes, I need 8 large supreme pizzas. That's right, with everything, but leave off those salty fish, yep anchovies that's it. Nope don't want no fish on our pizza just lots of veggies and meat. Oh, and extra cheese on 6 of 'em. Names Larabee and we'll pick'em up. Thanks, I'll be there shortly." Buck flipped his phone shut before smiling at a sputtering Nathan. "What? You said healthy, that's why I ordered supreme. They're loaded with vegetables and you always said vegetables were healthy."
Nathan threw his hands up and wandered into the kitchen mumbling about 'lost causes' and 'not knowing healthy if it jumped up and bit them in the butt'.
Buck and J.D. headed out to pick up the pizza, while the rest of the guys settled down to watch the end of an old western that was playing on the television.
+ + + + + + +
J.D. and Buck returned with the food at the same time that Chris returned from the den with the news that Travis had given them the 'go ahead' on the Walter's case.
The team planned their strategy as they ate, and it was soon decided that Vin and Ezra would need temporary living arrangements befitting their new identities. J.D. would set up a phone number for 'Lloyds Investments', knowing that no one would ever question Ezra for having a 'Broker' or checking in regularly with the man. A second number would be used for Vin to call, 'Pete's Ammo and Arms'. Just incase their phones ever fell into the wrong hands, it would assure there cover wasn't blown. With the basics set in motion, the men finished their quick meal and called it a night.
+ + + + + + +
Josiah stepped off the elevator and walked into Team 7's bullpen. He wasn't surprised to find Vin already there, sitting at his desk and deep in a phone conversation. The profiler grabbed a cup of coffee from the pot on the warmer and added a healthy amount of hot water to the brew. Josiah could see the frustration and worry clearly on Vin's face and asked, "How's Pedro and his sister?"
"Don't rightly know, Josiah. New nurse on the floor won't tell me nothin' and Theresa won't let me anywhere near. Get's real upset when she see's me. She's all alone Josiah." The concern was evident in Vin's tone. "She ain't got nobody. Don't know about Pedro, not even if he's makin' signs of wakin' up."
Reaching out, Josiah squeezed his young friends' shoulder, "I'm sure Theresa will come around and realize you did everything humanly possible. If you could have stopped Pedro from getting hurt, you would have."
Vin nodded his thanks to Josiah and then glanced up to see two new arrivals. "Chris? Ezra? Did something happen?"
Vin wasn't surprised to see Chris, but Ezra? Considering Ezra was not only out of bed, but in the office at this hour something had to be wrong.
Before Vin could say any more, Chris explained, "Ezra had some ideas. First he called and asked me to arrange for regular updates on Pedro's condition. He is, after all a witness in a major crime. Second, we know how worried you are about Theresa being at the hospital alone, so he contacted Nettie Wells."
"Ms. Wells was gracious enough to meet me at the hospital. I had the opportunity to introduce her to Theresa and she took over from there. The young miss never knew what happened. She was soon on her way to her brother's apartment. From what I was able to overhear the plan was for a shower, fresh clothes, a good meal and some much needed rest. It would seem that Ms. Wells will be staying with Miss Theresa for as long as needed. I was soon dispatched to purchase provisions. I tried to enlighten Ms. Wells of the early hour and that most markets had yet to open. She would hear none of it and sent me to the Super Wal-Mart on Ninth Avenue. I tried to explain to the lady . . . suffice it to say, I now know why Mr. Tanner never argues with the lady. I managed to procure all items on her list, without being seen by anyone of standing while in the loathsome establishment, and deliver them to her capable hands. I was then persuaded to remain for breakfast while she created these fro sted oatmeal raisin cookies for you. She wished that I convey to you, not to worry about the young lady, that she would contact you later today with information on Theresa's well-being." Ezra offered Vin a large saran wrapped plate of cookies.
Vin stared at his friend, amazed at the lengths he had gone. "Thanks . . . I . . . I mean . . . you don't know . . ."
"Mr. Tanner . . . Vin, you are most welcome," Standish said with a smile.
"Theresa will be fine now with Nettie lookin' after her, cowboy. And you'll be kept informed on Pedro, I know it'll be hard, but try not to worry. We'll get Walters and the scum that shot the boys." Chris reassured keeping Vin's expressive eyes locked with his.
"What's going on? What's happening?" Buck booming voice broke the silence as he J.D. and Nathan walked into the room.
"Nothing happened, Brother Buck." Josiah answered.
"Well I didn't see a big bright star shinning up in the sky on the way in to work. Heck, we all know that it would take a miracle of that order to get o'Ez out of bed and into work this early. So what's up?" Buck quipped.
"Naw Bucklin no miracle, Ez just likes to keep ya wonderin'." Vin grinned taking the wrap off the cookies and offering the goodies to his friends.
Ezra headed to his desk while taking a bite of the savory morsel. Ezra stopped in his tracks, "Ms. Wells should allow me to market these delicacies for her. I could insure her quiet a comfortable living off the proceeds from their sales."
"Just enjoy them Ez. Miss Nettie would tan your hide if ya tried to get her to go into business with ya." Vin laughed as he took a bite of one of the cookies.
Going on about their business, they settled at their desk. Josiah setting a cup of coffee in front of Ezra, said softly so only he could here. "You did good brother. Real good." Smiling, he left the blushing undercover agent to his work.
+ + + + + + +
Several hours later, Chris came out of his office announcing he had to go up to Travis's office, the alias/ID's were ready. Travis had called in a favor and the backgrounds had been created so only he and Team 7 would know they were fake.
Vin's phone rang and everyone stopped, including Chris before he could go out the door, all eyes drawn to the sharpshooter.
"How's Pedro, Doc." After listening for several moments Vin replied, "I 'preciate you taken the time to call."
Hanging up he met Chris' eyes the pain still evident in his gaze. "No change yet."
"I'm sorry cowboy." Chris reached out squeezing his shoulder in support.
Vin nodded his thanks, and turned back to his work as Chris headed once again to Travis's office.
Vin read over the old case reports of Gigonio's bust which was written by each member of the team. He looked up as a Big Gulp was set down in front of him.
"I ran across the street to the deli to get one for me and I thought you might like one too." JD shrugged.
Grinning up at his friend, "I was just thinking about one of these, thanks." Taking a deep drink, Vin sighed with contentment.
JD smiled and went back to his desk and the research he had been doing. He was in the process of trying to find properties belonging to Mr. Walters. Properties like an estate or warehouses, places where large stock piles of weapons, ammo and explosives could be kept.
The office ran quiet for a while, except for the sound of the printer periodically printing out the information or the occasional chair rolling over the carpet to retrieve the printed information.
Something didn't seem right. Buck sat back and looked around the room trying to pin point the problem. From what he could see, there was nothing wrong with anyone; they were all hard at work. Well, except for Vin who still looked worn out with the combination of hurt and worry that he carried on his back. Wilmington had just opened his mouth to say something . . . anything to break the smothering silence when the outer door swung open.
The black cloud that was Chris Larabee burst into the door. "Stupid bureaucratic morons, I should'a shot them the last time around.
Buck laughed, "Finally, things are back to normal."
"What the Hell are you babbling about Buck!" Larabee glared.
Ezra just shook his head. He had known exactly what Buck had meant. "What seems to have provoked your person to such a degree, Mr. Larabee? Did something amiss occur in Mr. Travis' office?"
Chris ire swung from Buck to Ezra, his eyes narrowing as if sighting in a target. Standish noted that the vein on Larabee's forehead was standing out. The rest of the team could see it also and knew that it was a sure sign the man was about to blow.
Vin's chair squeaked as he pushed it back and stood, catching Larabee's attention. Vin met Larabee's hot glare with a twinkle in his eye. He slipped his thumbs into the belt loops, leaned against his desk and with a soft drawl asked, "What's got your pantties in a twist, cowboy?"
Stun silence reigned for a few moments as all starred in slack mouth silence at the Texan. Four men wondering if he had finally lost his mind, another deciding he had a death wish and was baiting a pissed off grizzly. However, the sixth man, the man in black, after the initial shock, knew what he had done.
Larabee took a deep breath and let it out slowly. Thanks
Can't believe you said that to me
Why? It's a simple question.
Smart assed, mouthy Texas mule!
"Will you two stop doing that! It's down right spooky." Buck growled, looking between the two men.
"Willing to take the chance that you might get ticked again . . . Chris, why not tell us what happened." Nathan suggested.
"All right, bring everything you've found so far into the conference room. We'll go over everything and see what we have. Josiah, see if Martha's at her desk, if she is tell her to stop anyone from coming into the office unannounced." Chris ordered, heading to the room.
The others exchanged glances before gathering their files and following their leader.
Ezra stopped to answer his phone and sat down grabbing some paper and a pencil to take notes as he spoke. The call lasted only a few minutes. The undercover man grabbed his notes and files and followed his teammates into the conference room and took his seat.
Chris looked at his men seated around the table. "It seems that FBI and ATF teams are being paired in an effort to encourage information sharing between the two agencies. Team 7 was requested to participate and Travis reluctantly agreed."
"All Hell Chris, can't we say no." Buck groaned.
"No. Travis made it clear that this was important for the two agencies to bury the bad blood between them."
"Can we at least ask them to wait for the next case? This one's just to important," Vin said, looking up at his boss and best friend.
"No I asked Travis, reminding him how important this case was. He told me all cases were important and that the FBI would be here some time this coming week. Beside us Team 3 and Team 8 will be working with FBI agents as well. I'm not sure if we'll have 1 or 2 agents. Travis made it clear that we are to treat them and I quote, 'decent and respectful'."
"What about how they treat us?" JD wanted to know, remembering the last time they dealt with the FBI and how badly it had gone.
"I told Travis we would treat them with the same respect that they show us. As long as they understand I'm the head SAC of the team and they do as they're told . . . There won't be any problems. However, the first time they screw up, they're gone. If they endanger the case or get somebody hurt, I'll shoot them myself."
"Bet that went over real well, brother." Josiah rumbled.
A smirk touched Chris lips, "Yea, well Travis said to contact him before I load my gun and let him handle it. I asked why he should have all the fun. Depending on where we are in the case when they show up, will affect how much we actually allow them to be involved."
"On that note might I inform you that a door of opportunity might have just opened." Ezra announced.
Standish received a nod from Larabee to continue.
"Just moments ago, I received a call from an acquaintance of mine. It would seem a Mr. Walters has been probing for information on Mr. Stanly and Mr. Sharp since yesterday. It would appear he is trying to discern if the two are employed and if so by whom. I was also informed that Mr. Walters will be making an appearance tonight at the opening of 'Freedom's Life' art exhibit. It is being publicized as a very vibrant and breathe taking exhibit, which should be the highlight of the art season. I myself had decided to make an appearance to evaluate this notable collection."
"Do you think it's wise to run into him there? You always go to art exhibits what if someone recognized you." Nathan frowned.
"I'll be perfectly safe within the show. Though I attend regularly I never give my surname. Any person, who might be an acquaintance from previous shows, shall only know me as E.P. A habit I started the first time my name was requested. Knowing no matter which alias I use, the initials would work." Ezra assured his friends.
"Maybe we should still set up some kind of surveillance on the art show, just so you'll have back up." Josiah suggested.
Their obvious concern warm Ezra's heart, reminding him not only how important he was to them, but how important they were to him. "Though I truly appreciate your concern, surveillance will be unnecessary. This evening will only be a meet and greet affair. As I am sure Mr. Walters will assuredly have other plans already laid out for after the opening. As I am sure he will assume the same of my social calendar."
"What time is this art opening?" Chris wanted to know, still not happy about Ezra going in unprotected.
"Its opening is 6:30, but the true art connoisseur does not appear until approximately 8:00."
"OK just in case he wants a number or in case he has you followed. Here is your new phone, ID's, license plate and keys to your temporary home. Vin, here's the same for you. When we are finished here you need to go grab some clothes and check out your new places. They've already been set up with any thing else you might need and so they look lived in. The addresses on your ID's are where you'll be staying. Ezra I want you to check in using the Brokers number tonight as soon as you leave the exhibit. I'll have it forward to me."
"Mr. Larabee, it will most assuredly be very late when I return to my new home." Ezra protested.
"Ezra either you will call or I'll have Vin over there dragging your butt out of bed at the crack of dawn and drinking his coffee. Since you two are suppose to know each other it won't matter if he's spotted." Chris tone left no room for argument.
"On second thought Mr. Larabee, a quick debriefing at that late hour will ensure a body sleep better." Ezra backpedaled, having experienced the joy of waking up at Vin's hands once too many times.
"Good, now that's settled let's see what we have." Chris smiled
The men took turns sharing the information they had found; the location of properties under Walter's name or alias which were large enough to hold stock piles of stolen goods and all military or government weapons that had come up missing or stolen. It was discovered that there were no arrest records on Walters that matched the age or description of the man. One of Ezra's snitches had reported that someone was slowly taking over the local weapon selling competition. It seemed that several of the small time dealers had either left or disappeared. Each time before a disappearance, it seemed they had met with the same man; 6 foot tall, white/blonde hair, and cruel with a taste of blood.
Suddenly Vin's head snapped up. "Jake!" That was the name he heard right before the man was killed by his associate in the warehouse.
"That's right brother, that's the name they heard." Josiah agreed, surprised to hear Vin say the same name that had been mentioned by several of the homeless he had talked to.
At Ezra's questioning glance Chris quickly explained. "He was the one in the warehouse who shot his own man, the gang, as well as Antonio and Pedro.'
Calling the meeting to an end and reminding Ezra to call when he left the art exhibit, the group headed back to there desks with the exception of Vin and Ezra who let to get acquainted with their new homes.
The remainder of the afternoon had crawled by slowly, but finally Chris appeared at his office door. "Pack it up, boys."
"Hey stud, how about we all meet over at the saloon for some of Inez' enchiladas, fajitas and hot wings."
"Sounds good." Larabee agreed.
"I'm in," J.D. chimed in.
"Count me in, Brother."
"Rain's working the late shift, so sounds good to me"
Soon all the computers were closed down and desks were locked as the men called it a day.
+ + + + + + +
"Damn Buck! Are you trying to kill us?" Josiah gagged.
"Why you think I moved when he started on his second plate of hot wings and enchiladas." JD groaned.
"Hey, I ain't that bad." Buck grumbled.
"Oh yes you are." JD laughed.
"Buck if the oil company could bottle that. We'd never have to worry about a fuel shortage again." Nathan teased.
"Now that's mean Nathan." Buck had the grace to blush.
"But true," Chris grinned.
Inez brought another tray of beers and set them on the table. Sniffing the air she frowned, looked down on the floor and checked the bottom of her shoes. The men at the table did their best to hide their grins and to keep from laughing. Shaking her head and taking the now empty tray, Inez left the men and headed back to the bar. The whole time she looked down and around, trying to figure who had tracked in the 'dog'. Finally the damn burst and laughter washed across the room from the 4 men and Buck did his best to 'shush' them before giving up and joining in with a belly laugh of his own.
J.D. and Buck soon decided to challenge two members of Team 8 to a game of pool and Nathan had gone to visit with a friend whom he hadn't seen since they had both attended paramedic school.
Chris and Josiah sat quietly for a while before Josiah asked, "What's bothering you Chris?"
Chris looking up from the beer he had been staring into. "Take your pick, this case, the FBI being shoved in our faces. One good kid is dead another one is barely clinging to life."
"Brother Ezra, who might try to push to hard and fast tonight?"
"Maybe if he sees an opening, but he won't risk making Walters suspicious." Chris wasn't sure who he was trying to reassure, Josiah or himself.
"And then there's brother Vin."
"Yea, he's the most even tempered, tranquil and strongest man I know. He's known so much hurt his entire life and now he has more with Antonio's dead, Pedro's life hanging in the balance and Maria pushing him away."
"Are you worried how he's going to handle being undercover this time, or are you worried what it'll do to him if Pedro dies?"
"So am I." Josiah murmured softly.
Nathan returned to the table with Buck and JD following shortly thereafter crowing about their victory at the pool table.
"Buck what time is it getting to be?" Nathan wanted to know.
Buck glanced at his watch, "10:50."
"Well I'm off then. Rain will be home in about 40 minutes and I'd like to be there to greet her."
"Can't say I blame you, she's one fine lady." Buck smiled.
Chris and Josiah opted to call it a night and J.D. and Buck headed out the door with them. Saying good night at the cars, they all were soon on their way home.
Chris arrived at the ranch and pulled into the garage, shutting off his truck and climbing out. He was soon punching in the security code into the keypad to stop the alarm from ringing. Entering the house he reset the alarm and headed straight for his bedroom. Chris kicked of his shoes and grabbing a pair of sweat pants he headed for the shower.
A short time later, Chris lay in his bed glancing through a magazine when the phone rang. "Lloyd's Investment Brokers."
"This is to inform you of my safe return to my new abode, per request." Ezra's soft southern drawl, oozed from the phone.
"Was he there?" Chris got strait to the point.
"Yes, we had a very enlightening conversation, renewing our acquaintance. He stated his plan to set up a 'chat' so that we might deal with business in a less social arena than tonight's gathering.
"Ezra it's late! Are you saying he's interested in you joining him?"
"I do believe that is what I just said." Ezra huffed.
"Ez, call me tomorrow. Now go to bed like a good boy and get some rest." Chris sighed, the smile softening his tone.
"What no bedtime story?"
"Yes, well good-night Mr. Larabee." Ezra knew when he was pushing it.
"Night Ezra, you did good." Chris told him hanging up.
The sound of a car pulling into the driveway pulled Chris out of the barn and away from his self assigned task for the day. Looking across the yard he saw Buck pulling in and waved before returning to finish cleaning the tack.
"Hey Chris, been trying to call you all morning."
Chris eyes never left the saddle he was working on. "Left the phone on its charger, something important you wanted to talk about."
"I ran by the office this morning to pick up the kid's helmet, got his bike back from the garage this morning and can't ride without it. Anyway, I was on the elevator about to leave when Susan from the answering service walked up. She wanted to know if Ez had ever gotten a hold of you. He kept calling in on the special number. Seems the computer was set to forward his calls last night, but this morning it reset and was ringing at the office. Said that there were at least 3 messages and the last was for his 'broker' to check into buying stock in P.U.B. Jacob Corporation in Texas. You're to let him know what you find by 5 today."
Chris stared at Buck for a moment and then it hit him. He knew what Ezra had been trying to tell him, "What time is it?"
Chris took off for the house with Buck keeping pace. "Ezra must have gotten a call from Walters this morning, Breakfast meeting or something. I'm guessing Walters must want to meet 'Sharp'. P.U.B Jacob Corporation is Jacob's pub. 'In Texas' means Vin and it's going down at 5 this afternoon. Call J.D. and see if he can get us some micro-cameras and mics that we can set up without anyone noticing. I'll call Josiah and Nathan and tell them to meet us at the office."
Buck called J.D. on his cell and filled him in on what they would need and that they would meet him at the office.
Meanwhile Chris was finishing up his conversation with Nathan. The man was to check out a surveillance van, something nondescript that would blend in. He then called Josiah and told him to head to the office. "Nope don't worry about how you look, Buck and I are on our way and J.D. and Nate should be there soon.
By the time they reached the federal building and stepped off the elevator, they found the others had already arrived.
"Nathan what did you find to use?" Chris wanted to know.
"A used UPS truck, the bureau picked it up a couple of months ago at an auction. It's already fitted with everything we need for surveillance." Nathan informed.
"JD what about the cameras and mics?"
"I got everything you wanted, Chris, two small cordless cameras and three mics. I stopped by and took a quick look through the door of the pub to get its layout. Figure one mic under the lip of the bar and a second on the wooden Indian on the left side of the room and the other across from there. The cameras are small and with a bit of sticky gum on the back so I figure one on each side of the room on an angle to cover as much as we can. Course if one of us is going in we can rig a camera so it can be sat on the table and turned as needed." J.D. explained in a business-like manner.
Chris looked at the men around him; they would never be more prepared than they were now. "All right, it's a little after two now. Josiah and I are going in. I figure that with our work clothes on we'll look like we just got off work from a construction site. I want the rest of you in the truck. Buck, see if you can find a uniform that will pass as a UPS driver, just in case you need to make an appearance. Grab some boxes to make it look official. Josiah and I will go into the pub first at approximately 3:30. I want you to park the truck as many blocks away as the mics will allow, then slowly move in closer. Make it look as if you are just out doing deliveries." Chris looked into the faces of those around him. He would trust them with his life. Actually he already had, more times then he liked to count.
As Buck went on a search for the items he would need, J.D. started to explain the working of the micro cameras and the microphones to Josiah and Chris, explaining how to place and turn them on. Nathan had retrieved the receivers that the two men would be wearing in order to stay in contact with the agents in the truck and giving it a run-through to verify that they were in working order. By the time they had everything ready, Buck came back through the office door. He was wearing a brown uniform that could easily pass for that of an UPS driver.
Josiah's suburban was soon pulling into traffic and the others loaded up in the UPS truck which pulled out just a few minutes later.
+ + + + + + +
The men walked into the bar and found a table off to the side, but with a clear view of the man they had come to see. Taking in their surroundings they noted that two other tables were occupied, however it was the man at the bar that held their interest. They watched him for a short time before Walters commented, "He doesn't look that dangerous, but then I've learned that looks can be deceiving."
"I assure you Mr. Walters; Mr. Sharp can be very deadly when the occasion calls for it. I have had the privilege to see this first hand ever since Mr. Gigonio assigned him as my personal bodyguard. I dare say if Mr. Gigonio's had taken Mr. Sharp to the meeting rather than his first Lieutenant, He would be here today."
"Still say he don't look like much, just a weak low-life. Looks like a girl could take him easy; much less hold his own against a man. Look at him; he can't even sit up straight. Looks like a puff of wind would blow him over." Jake sneered, as he stared at the man in the leather jacket hunched over the bar, a beer in his hand.
"We shall see Jake, we shall see." Walters calmed his man, and then nodded to the three men setting at a table nearby before returning his gaze to the man at the bar. He waited.
Ezra caught the subtle signal and the feral grin that spread across Jake's face and felt his stomach turn. Ezra had assumed that when Walters had asked about meeting with Sharp that it would be to talk to the man. Now he saw that Walters was planning to test him. Ezra needed to warn Vin, "Gentlemen, allow me to procure some libation for your enjoyment during the upcoming demonstration."
Walter's gave a cold smile before replying, "Yes, I think a double scotch while we see if this Sharpe is as good as you say he is."
Ezra walked up to the bar and called the bartender over. His voice was just loud enough to get Vin's attention. Vin's eyes darted to the mirror behind the bar. Ezra met his gaze and blinked 3 times, then tilted his head ever so slightly to the left.
Vin picked up his beer mug by the handle, something he never did, preferring to wrap his had around the cool mug. This action let Ezra know that Vin had received the hidden warning and was ready.
The bartender sat two double Scotch on the bar and Ezra handed him a twenty. Returning to the table he placed Walters drink in front of him as he sat and took a drink of his own.
"Hey, you didn't get me a drink!" Jake complained.
"I was unaware that you were in need of any refreshment. You did not speak up when asked." Ezra just shrugged it off.
Jake grumbled under his breath and rose to get himself a beer.
"Jake sit down." Waters spoke softly, looking toward the bar. Jake knew an order when he heard one and returned to his seat.
"Hey punk, you're in my seat." The man yelled at Vin approaching him from behind.
Vin took another sip of his beer and ignored the man.
"I said you're in my seat."
"Go away,' came the soft Texas drawl.
"What are you, a half wit? I said, YOU'RE IN MY SEAT!"
Turning slightly and leaning against the bar, mug in hand Vin told the man evenly, "Don't see no name on it."
"You're a dim wit boy. Me and the fellas are going to stomp some sense into you."
"Reckon you'd be happier if you just walked away."
"Why you piece of shit." The man sneered as he grabbed Vin's jacket sleeve.
Vin instantly turned the tables, pulling his arm back and grabbing the man's hand he bent it back, bringing the loud mouth to his knees while swinging his beer mug into the head of the man advancing on his right. The third man was subdued by a swift kick to the side of his knee, bringing him down, followed by one to the side of his head which knocked him out cold. Turning his attention back to the man he had held in place by the painful bend of his hand, he looked into his eyes with an icy stair that sent chills of fear down the man's spine. "Wanna live? Go away."
The man's head bobbed in quick agreement, rubbing his wrist when Vin released him. He helped his two accomplices up and they all stumbled out the door, anxious to be away.
Throwing a couple of bills on the bar, Vin casually walked over to the table where Walters had sat watching the attack. He stopped and stared at Edward Stanly with the same cold gaze the exiting men had received.
"There a reason those three tried to pick a fight?"
"You knew it was a set up?" Walters asked calmly, looking up at Sharpe.
His eyes moved over the man that spoke as if measuring him and finding him lacking. "They've been sittin' here paying me no mind for over an hour. You three come in and sit there staring a hole through me. Stanly there knows me, but won't make eye contact even when he's up at the bar. Then those three start up . . . any fool would know it's a set-up. So tell me why?"
"Won't you sit down and join us?" Walters invited ignoring the question.
Vin didn't move, he just stood and met Walters gaze head-on and waited.
"The man told you to sit down," Jake growled.
Vin flicked his eyes over to the man and then dismissed him. His gaze returning to Walters and waiting.
"Why you . . ." Jake snarled, hating the fact that this man showed him no respect.
"Jake be quiet," Walters snapped.
"Vincent," Vin's attention swung to 'Stanly' who smiled and explained. "Mr. Walters would like to speak to us about future employment. Have a seat and join us."
Vin once again looked toward Walters meeting his gaze. He held if for a few moments longer before nodding slightly and taking a seat next to Ezra. Vin kept his back to the wall as his eyes swept the entire room, including the doorway.
"I understand you were in a fight last week and were arrested."
"Not arrested, just held for a bit," was the terse reply.
"Yes that is what Edward explained, that he was able to free you before you were actually charged with anything. However, I understand that you attacked some men. Something about a hit that went bad or a disagreement about money owed."
Vin heard the underlying question in Walters's tone, "Neither. Heard someone was being questioned by the feds. Rumor was he planned on blaming Gigonio's widow for everything, sending them after her. I made a promise to the man that I would always protect his wife and kids. I keep my promises. She never had no part in his business, Gigonio made sure to keep the two separate. I just wanted the guy to know that if anything happened to her or the kids, well I'd find him. Just let him know exactly what would happen."
"So it was only one man. Edward said it was three." Walters frowned, looking at Ezra.
"His two friends thought they could help out, they thought wrong." Vin shrugged.
"You think you're a bad ass, don't you." Jake spat.
Vin just ignored Jake and calmly kept his attention directed to Walters.
Walters took a drink of his scotch and studied Vin. He noticed that the man's eyes never wandered from his face, but without a doubt he knew the location of everyone in the bar and everything that was occurring.
"Edwards has stated that he thinks I should hire you."
"For what?" Vin asked quietly.
"I would like Edward to handle my business for me, publicly at least as well as other items. He however had heard that I lost my last man and feels the need for protection." Walters explained in a round about way.
Vin cut to the heart of the issue, "You want him, he wants to work for you, but don't trust the security you have to offer. That's where I come in. He wants you to hire me to watch his back. So what happened to the man who Mr. Stanly here is replacing?"
"He met with an untimely end."
"Other words, whoever you had watching him didn't do his job."
"I do my job just fine." Jake shouted angrily.
"If that was true, he'd be alive, or you'd be dead," was the cutting reply.
"So what do you say Mr. Sharpe, will you take on the job of Edward's bodyguard?"
"Reckon I'll think on it."
"You're turning down Mr. Walters?" Jake demanded.
"Nope, said I'd think on it."
"Vincent, when might you arrive at your answer so I might inform Mr. Walters of your decision? You know it is not good business to keep a busy man like him waiting." Ezra asked, unsure why Vin was stalling.
Looking first at Ezra and then to Walters, Vin answered, "24 hours. Need to check on someone, make sure they took my warning about Mrs. Gigonio seriously." Though talking to Ezra, his eyes never left Walters.
"That sounds fair. I must say that I respect a man who sees his work though to the end." Walters nodded, giving Vin a slight smile along with the praise.
Vin turned to Ezra, "Edward, you have my number if you need to find me 'fore tomorrow night." With that he left the table and the bar.
"Mr. Walters, you can't really be wanting that low life to work for you." Jake whined.
"Yes, I think I do. I can understand why Edward here would want him for a bodyguard. Vincent Sharpe appears to be loyal to a fault. Gigonio is dead yet he keeps his promise to protect the family. He knew he was being set up here and yet all he demanded to know was why. Most would have come over fighting; instead he waited to hear Edward's reason. He decides to join us and I foresee business running much smoother with him and Edward on board." Walters explained.
"Thank you for you confidence, Mr. Walters. I am truly touched and agree that with Vincent along, I will be able to keep my entire focus on the handling of your business without worry." Ezra smiled pleasantly at the man he couldn't wait to bust.
"I do have one question. Why did you choose not to inform Vincent about my small stipulation? The fact that those in my employ live in my compound and are not allowed to leave without supervision until I deem them trustworthy."
"Because that won't be an issue. If Vincent takes the job, I'll never be out of his sight. He takes his job very seriously, which is the very reason I requested him. Any business associate I might encounter on your behalf, which might possibly attempt any conflict or harm upon my person or the merchandise, will be dealt with swiftly.
"He still has to live by the rules at the compound. You better make sure he understands that I tell him what to do and when," Jake postured.
Ezra's eyes never wavered from Walters, "Vincent and I, should we take the offer of employment, will follow only the direct orders of Mr. Walters. He will be our employer."
Ezra knew he was taking a chance of blowing the whole deal.
"Edward is right Jake. Unless I give you an order to assist or take care of them, you will leave them alone while they are under my employee. I don't want anymore accidents, understood." Walters agreed to Ezra's stipulations while warning him that he would be 'taken care of' should the need arise, as well as warning Jake to control himself.
"Agreed then, I shall contact you as soon as Vincent calls. That could possibly quite late, or should we arrange a time to talk tomorrow morning?"
"Monday morning at 10 o'clock," Walters replied.
"Very well then gentlemen, until Monday morning." Ezra stood, shaking hands with Walters before leaving the bar.
"You're not really going to let that pansy wait on that lowlife to make up his mind, are you? I could follow him, catch him alone and make sure he accepts your offer." Jake told his boss.
"I want Edward to join my organization because he's good at what he does, but for him to do his best work he needs to join willingly and not due to force. As for Sharpe, there's something about him that intrigues me. Man of honor who Stanly trust's completely to keep him safe. He took out three of your best men without even breaking out a sweat. He's good. I want Stanly and Sharpe both, so you are to leave them alone, Jake. Do you understand me?" Walters tone brooked no argument.
"Yes sir, I understand," Jake stated reluctantly, his anger simmering just below the surface. Fine, I'll leave him alone . . . for now, but once he's in the compound . . . Sharpe is mine!
The two men stood up and left the bar, their unfinished drinks still on the table.
+ + + + + + +
The last two patrons of the bar finally spoke as the one lifted a hand to his earpiece, "Were you able to record everything, both video and audio J.D.?" Chris queried.
"Yea he got it all. Junior sure does have some moves, don't he." Buck's voice came over the wire, the pride evident.
"Brother Vin knows how to take car of himself," Josiah said for both Buck and Chris. Hoping it would help reassure the leader who currently had a worried look on his face.
"Let's get out of here. Buck, return the truck and everyone meet back at the ranch. JD, bring whatever we need to review all of the information that you recorded." Chris ordered in a soft voice so as not to be overheard by the bartender.
Chris and Josiah worked to quickly remove the cameras from the pub. There actions were easily covered by a slightly 'drunk' Josiah, stumbling about, until Chris was able to help him out of the establishment.
+ + + + + + +
"JD, you got the tape and audio ready yet." Chris asked, as he paced back from the window where he had been standing watch for Vin and Ezra.
"Almost ready, Chris," JD replied without looking up from his laptop.
"Chris, what's up and don't tell me nothing. Junior and Ezra have been undercover before, but you've never acted like this before." Buck commented as he watched his old friend pace.
Chris looked at Buck and debated telling him that nothing was wrong, but he knew Buck wouldn't buy it. "I don't know, it's different this time. I have a bad feeling. Maybe due to the fact it isn't a normal case. It's one we've taken on because of Vin. I keep thinking he shouldn't be under this time, it's too personal." Chris tried to explain.
"Yea Cowboy, it is personal, but I'm not going to mess up and let them get away. I won't risk Ezra either," Vin's quiet voice stated from the doorway.
"Damn it. Boy, you have got to stop sneakin' up on people like that. You took 10 years off my life." Buck yelled, grabbing his chest dramatically.
Chris met Vin's gaze and nodded his understanding, his eyes showing his trust in his friend's ability to do his job. A smile quirked the leaders lips, "Buck, didn't you say if he snuck up on you again you were going to put a bell around his neck?"
"Are you nuts, Chris? After watching him bring down 3 men in a matter of minutes. I'd rather try putting a bell on a mountain lion," Buck laughed.
"Chris, it's ready," J.D. called.
Seeing Ezra standing by Nathan and Josiah, Chris wondered, "How did you two get here? I've been watching the driveway."
Ezra volunteered an answer to that very thing, "After leaving the meeting, I received a call from Vin. Once we had agreed upon a plan, I went to visit and an acquaintance that lives at the Astoria Condo Towers. A wonderful woman how sadly seldom leaves her home since the untimely death of her husband. She allows me the appearance of staying the night. I then slip out using the spare Porsche that she keeps in a separate garage. At a later date I will take her out for a nice dinner and perhaps gift her with something tasteful that sparkles. But I digress. I then met Mr. Tanner at the deplorable structure that Ms. Wells owns running along side your property. Mr. Tanner keeps his jeep there and once I arrived we used it to ride over the imaginary road that Vin claims is there. The extra precaution was most likely unnecessary, for I know that I was not followed, as I am sure Mr. Tanner would also concur. However, we agreed that it would be far better to err on the side of safel y, due to the unpredictability of Walters' man, Jake."
"Ez, that is an old road that Vin used. It's an old stage coach road that has been there since the 1860's." Nathan, a history buff shared with the group.
"Mr. Jackson, The stage coach like the dinosaur before it, is now extinct, much like that old goat trail should be. My constitution shall take days to return to its normal delicate condition after traveling that nightmarish, prehistoric, uncivilized excuse for a road." Ezra punctuated his tirade by flicking a spot of lint from the sleeve of his silk shirt.
"How about two-fingers of 12 year old scotch, think that will help, brother?" Josiah smiled as he offered the tumbler to his teammate.
"Why yes, thank you. I'm sure that it will help in settling the tension that has settled in my muscles, medicinally speaking." Ezra accepted the glass gratefully.
"Good reasoning . . . medically speaking," Nathan agreed before he and Josiah began laughing.
"All right, everyone over here. J.D. do we need to watch it on the laptop or can you run it through the TV?" Chris asked.
"Give me a second and I'll plug my laptop in through the TV, it will just act as an exterior monitor," J.D. responded.
J.D. grabbed an extra cable he had in his equipment and soon the action appeared on the large screen TV. They watched the afternoon meeting from Vin's arrival to Walters and Jake's leaving the bar.
"Wow Vin! Can you teach me to fight like that?" J.D. asked excitedly.
"Sure J.D. I can help you train in hand-to-hand combat," Vin replied.
"Damn, I was hoping Walters had said something incriminating against himself or his man, Jake. Looks like we got nothing,' Chris frowned. Although they had heard most of the discussion while the meeting was occurring, he had hoped that hey might have missed something that would help to bring the men down.
"Don't worry, Mr. Larabee. I am sure that once Mr. Tanner and I are on the inside it won't take long to gather enough evidence to put Mr. Walters out of business and behind bars permanently," Ezra assured.
"You two had better keep your eyes on that Jake fella. He's a powder keg with a short fuse," Nathan insisted.
"Fear not Mr. Jackson. As we all heard, Mr. Walters has ordered him to leave the two of us alone." Ezra stated, but without true conviction.
"Nope, first chance he gets he'll be messing with us, I know his type," Vin commented.
"Why? He'll only make his boss mad?" Buck questioned, though his gut agreed with Vin.
"He's top dog and sees me as a threat cause I didn't back down, and toward Ezra 'cause he made it clear that he didn't trust him to do his job and protect him." Vin explained.
"On top of that, Walters basically said he was interested in your ability. Jake sees you as a very deadly threat," the profiler added.
"Okay Ezra, you're suppose to call on Monday. How do you think it will go from there?" Chris queried.
"Mr. Walters will invite us to the compound and we will be settled in to our new accommodations. We will then no doubt, be given a tour of the compound and appraised of his rules. It is a large estate a few minutes north of Denver. From what I have been able to learn, he keeps all points of entrance heavily guarded and has a state of the art security system with cameras that cover most areas of the grounds. As you have all heard, he keeps his employees there, virtually prisoners. No one is allowed to leave without an escort until he trusts you implicitly. At the moment, only Mr. Walters himself and Jake, have the ability to come and go at will."
"Are you saying that there is no way we can meet once you and Vin have entered the compound?" Chris demanded.
"I do believe that is what I stated, as well as Mr. Walters own words on the tape. However, we will still be in contact periodically, I just need to give you some pointers on stocks and how a broker might speak, should Mr. Walters appear and wish to speak to my broker to ensure that is indeed to whom I am speaking." Ezra was unfazed by the icy glare that came his way.
Nodding his acceptance, the team spent the rest of the evening going over possible ways to work Walters and actually draw him into a meeting that they created. Ezra not only taught Chris what stocks were good and which ones showed promise, but how to read the counters so he could keep up with the information needed before every call made or received. For added precaution, Ezra documented everything he and Chris had discussed on paper as a back up, if needed.
It was soon decided that everyone would just spend the night, for no one was willing to leave as the tension build. There was the sense that this would be the last time that they would be together for a while. The group stayed up late drinking, joking and just enjoying each other's company.
+ + + + + + +
Easing up to the fence, he dipped his head, knocking the man in the shoulder.
"Good morning to you too, mule," Vin said softly and with affection as he reached out and rubbed the strong head and neck of Peso. Reaching in his shirt pocket he pulled out a sugar cookie. He kept a stockpile of them in Chris' cabinet for just this purpose. Vin held out the morsel for Peso to take. This horse known as a cross between an alligator and a pissed off rattler by everyone that knew him, was also known for biting with those wicked teeth. He now took the cookie as gently as a baby. True he showed his temper with everyone else and even sometimes had with the hand that now fed him. These two had been together a long time and Peso could sense his friend's emotions and pain.
Vin gave him one more cookie and scratched behind his ears, then went back to staring off toward the mountains and waiting to see the sun rise over them from the east. Know matter what he was feeling or dealing with, seeing the rising sun's rays as it peeked over the mountain always gave him a sense of hope. He remembered his momma telling him once, 'It doesn't matter what has happen or what was said, as long as the sun rises, there's always hope to fix it or make it right.'
"Thinking awfully hard there, cowboy," Chris said, stepping up beside him and leaning on the fence as well.
"Just waitin' on the sun to come up," Vin stated simply.
Standing in silence, the two friends waited and watched as the sun slowly started with a soft glow. Climbing and brightening until her light reached out like fingers caressing the land, showing life was there now with the darkness pushed away.
+ + + + + + +
"Did you find your accommodations acceptable Edward?" Walters asked as Ezra and Vin were shown into his office.
"Yes, very acceptable; I shall be very comfortable in my suite. I should also like to express my appreciation on the suite being two bedroom, thus allowing Mr. Sharpe to be close should I need him." Ezra smiled his approval.
"I thought I would personally show you the house and it's layout as well as some of my employees you will be seeing on a regular basis. While we walk I'll explain the rules that I expect everyone to honor." Walters announced coming around his desk.
Walters gave the two men a complete tour of the mansion. Stating how many bedrooms, suites it contained and that the left wing, which was a jointed to his office, was his private area and thus off limits. They toured the library which Ezra and Vin both admired and a music room that besides having a state of the art stereo included several instruments as well as a grand piano. The surveillance/security room was manned by 8 men, four being responsible for the outside, one on each floor of the mansion and the remaining two acting as floaters. Vin and Ezra studying the room with out being obvious, made note of how the cameras panned outside and from what angles. Both were relieved there was no tracking satellite system for wireless phones. All cameras also contained audio with the exception of the dinning room and kitchen. In these two rooms the panning did not appear to cover the entire room. The bedrooms at least appeared to be free of both. However, they would not take any chances in the bedrooms until they were certain. Walters then showed them the theater room and an observatory. To Vin, the observatory felt like he was inside a jungle. Walters continued the tour as they went through a door into a state of the art gym, followed by the living room and dining room. Their last stop being the kitchen of the huge estate.
"Ms. Holt, this is Mr. Edward Stanly and Mr. Vincent Sharpe. Edward, Vincent this is Ms. Teri Holt and her son Shaun. Ms. Holt is my cook. If you have any special request, please inform her. "
Looking toward the young woman and nodding their hello the men noted the haunted and frightened look in her eyes. Instantly Vin and Ezra knew she wasn't there by choice. Walters either had something on her or was some how forcing her to work for him. Her son, a boy who looked about eight years of age, stood stock still beside her. The absolute fear on the boy's face easy to read.
Their tour moved to the outside grounds, which contained an Olympic size pool and stables, in which contained several fine quarter horses. On the other side of the stables Walters pointed to several different buildings scattered about and explained that most were barracks for his men and a few were used as storage for machinery and other items essentials for the running of such a large estate. The estate sat on approximately 100 acres and was surrounded by a large black fence. The white fencing was for the horses. The men were allowed to go anywhere on the property as long as they never crossed over the black fencing.
"Along with never crossing the black fenced area, you need to know that I tolerate no fighting on the grounds among those in my employment. Anyone starting a fight will be punished immediately and publicly." Walters warned.
"What is the punishment for acting in an uncivilized manner?" Ezra asked, wiping away dust from his sleeve from a four-wheeler going by.
Walters pointing to a post standing at the edge of the yard. The post stood 6ft. high with a big metal ring attached to the top. "Any person who breaks my rules is tied to the post. A first offense receives 3 lashes with a whip, the second offense 5. Luckily we have never had a second offense. It only took two occurrences for the others to decide that it was best to live by my rules."
"Yes I can see where that would discourage temperamental outbursts among the ranks. But I must wonder how you can be truly sure who started an altercation. For I would fear punishing the wrong individual could cause more harm than good." Ezra stated looking toward Mr. Walters.
"You forget the security cameras Edward. I always know who throws the first punch." Walters assured "I only have two other rules. First, that no one leaves the compound without speaking to me first and then only accompanied by my men. You may go any where here you like, but for the first few weeks tell me or my security staff where you're going. I do NOT want any misunderstandings between us, am I understood? Secondly, my cook, Ms. Holt isn't to be touched improperly, she isn't entertainment for the house. Are there any question?"
"Any kind of security locks on the suite doors other than simple keys? I like to run around sunrise while Edward is a sleep. Won't do it if there isn't some kind of security on the suite I trust." Vin commented.
"I'll tell security to give you whatever you need to set up security you deem proper on the doors and windows, is that good enough?"
"Good enough." Vin nodded.
"How far do you run Vincent?" Walters inquired.
"Normally 5 miles. But until I get the lay of the land and get the security set-up I want on the suite, I'll probably keep it down to a mile."
"Vincent truly loves his workouts. I am sure he will be in his element with your gym. I must say this is a very impressive establishment you have Mr. Walters. I do believe I am going to be very comfortable in your employment." Ezra expressed.
The men headed back into the house and to Walters' office. He asked that Edward sit and he would brief him on some of the smaller working of the business and of what types of buyers he was hoping to find.
Vin bowed out, explaining that while Edward was safe with Walters, in his office, he planed to go to security and get plans for the upgrade to the suite security started.
Vin soon found the room and walked in taking with the man in charge of estate security. He explained that he wanted a keyed entry, which also required an access code be entered in order for admittance. The device would be programmed by him and the code known only to Mr. Walters, Mr. Stanly and himself. The man nodded and told him that there would be someone in today to work on it and it would be ready for programming by that evening.
Vin requested to stay and monitor Mr. Stanly and Mr. Walter's meeting. While appearing to focus on the single monitor, Vin was able to familiarize himself with every function in the room and the camera timings. He soon realized that there were several hidden cameras and ascertained their location. One was in the stable above the first stall and able to capture the entire area in the stable. He also knew that there was definitely one on top of the pole they had seen. It had the ability to pan 360 degrees and could zoom approximately 300 yards with an infrared lens, from the images he had seen. Looking at the cables and wiring there had to be a generator for this room alone. He would have to search the surrounding rooms and outside to determine where it might be hidden. He nodded his thanks before leaving, saying he was going to familiarize himself with the lay of the building. Checking the surrounding rooms he decided they must be bedrooms for the security staff. Upon enter ing the kitchen he unintentionally caused the woman to jump, causing her son to drop a glass of milk in his hand.
"Sorry 'bout that, pard. I should have knocked before I came in." Vin had kneeled in front of the frightened child who appeared frozen in place.
"Mr. Sharpe, I'm sorry, let me clean that up and I'll be happy to get you whatever you need."
"No Ma'am, I caused your boy to drop the glass, seems only fair that I clean it up. If you'll just toss me a towel," Vin smiled, bending down and picking up the broken pieces of glass.
The boy snapped out of his frozen state, "I'm sorry, I'll clean it," the boy said, dropping to his knees.
"Hold up there, Pard." Vin scooped up the child and plopped him down on his lap. Feeling the boy tremble, Vin continued, "Sorry if I spooked ya, didn't mean to. I was just worried you'd cut yourself on the glass. Tell you what, I'll hold my hand out, you pick up the big pieces and put them in my hand. Don't worry none about the little pieces, they might stick ya. That sound good to you?"
The youngster looked at Vin and then to his mother. Seeing the encouraging smile on her face he nodded that Vin and said, "Ok."
Vin held his hand out for the pieces of glass while keeping the other loosely around the boy in order to keep him from slipping off his lap and onto the floor.
The child picked up the large pieces and carefully laid them in Vin's palm. Once they had them all, Vin leaned to the right and dropped the glass into the trash can.
Using the towel Ms. Holt handed him, Vin moped up the milk and little slivers of glass. Standing with the boy he placed him gently on the kitchen island top. Vin shook the towel over the trash can and then took it over to the sink to rinse with water. He left it draped over the middle divider of the sink.
Vin retrieved two glasses out of the cabinet and sat them on the island by the boy before moving to the refrigerator to grab the milk. Filling the two glasses he returned the milk to the fridge. The man spied the cookie jar off on a side counter and opening it, grabbed a couple of cookies. "Oatmeal raisin, my favorite." He said wiggling his eye brows at the young boy. Vin leaned on the island next to the child and held out two of the cookies. Upon receiving an encouraging nod from his mother, he slowly accepted the treats.
Vin dipped his cookie in the glass of milk and then took a big bite. He had to smile as the child followed his example and then gifted Vin with a shy smile.
"My name's Vin," he said casually, taking another bite.
"Mine's Shaun." The boy answered.
Vin had already known the youngster's name, but had hoped to help the boy relax and feel safe around him by letting him volunteer the information.
"Ma'am I didn't mean to cause no mess. I just came down to ask if you'd make sure not to make anything with celery or celery salt. My friend's real allergic to it. One bite and he'll blow up like he's gotten into a bee's nest." Vin winked at the youngster causing him to giggle as he puffed out his cheeks as a demonstration.
"I'll see to it Mr. Sharpe." Ms. Holt assured, meekly.
"It's Vin, Ma'am."
"No sir. Mr. Walters would be upset." She informed looking worriedly toward her son.
"Tell ya what, when no one's around and we're in the kitchen, it's Vin. I guess when others are around I'll live with that mister business, alright?
Ms. Holt staring at his face for a moment, finally nodded.
"Good, now if ya'll excuse me I'm going to wander about and get a feel for this place."
"Shaun, would you go out to the laundry room and see if the machine has stopped, please." His mother asked sweetly.
Vin sat the boy down and he headed out the back door.
Once she was sure her son was out of hearing. "You don't seem like the type to be around long."
Vin had been about to exit the room, but turned slightly and looked at the woman waiting for her to continue.
"You don't have the same cruel streak, and you don't seem dangerous."
"I am ma'am. I'm very dangerous. I've killed a lot of people. Just not folks like you." Vin said trying to keep his tone even but he couldn't keep the brief flash of sadness out of his eyes. He turned and left the room.
Ezra looking up from a list of merchandise wanted by the buyer. "Mr. Walters, the buyer listed here is some one I think you might want to think twice about dealing with. He is only a middle man, never the end buyer. Once he purchase said merchandise. He then tells whom ever he was buying for, that the seller has increased the price and shortens the products count. When I was in Mr. Gigonio's employment, he tried to pull the same thing with him. Oh course Mr. Gigonio didn't want his good name ruined for cheating prospective clients. He sent a few of his associates to express his deep disappointment. Unfortunately we discovered another problem with this individual. He was skimming merchandise to sell later. He took explosives because he liked to blow things up, mainly humans. When ever he is in town, before he sets a buy or even lets it be known he's in the area, the man booby traps where ever he'll be staying, what he's driving, the area he has already picked for the deal a nd even himself. Between the possibility of receiving an undesirable reputation or losing key reliable employees, I'd advise not to do business with or involving the cretin. However, I would suggest you keep track of his dealings and locations on the chance we ever need to redirect attention from your business. We can use him as a fall guy." Ezra explained.
"This is why I wanted you Edward. Not only thoroughly informative and saving my business future problems, but you always turn a possible problem to an advantage."
"I do try to please, Mr. Walters."
"So do you have any other suggestions from what you've seen so far?" Walters wanted to know.
Ezra pointing out different possibilities of handling merchandise, as well as targeting new buyers for their products. For the next couple of hours they sorted through several different areas.
"Look at the time, why don't we stop for the day. Dinner will be shortly. I'm sure you would appreciate a little time to unwind." Walters replied.
"That is a fine idea. I do believe I could do with a little exercise. I think I shall go see how Mr. Sharpe is fairing." Ezra stood up stretching.
"I'll join you on your way down. I'd like to ask Ms. Holt what is for dinner so I may select an appropriate wine to accompany the meal." Walters commented, as he too prepared to leave.
Leaving the room, their first stop was the security to check on Mr. Sharpe's activities. They were informed that Mr. Sharpe had requested a coded security lock and it had been installed. Sharpe had spent the remainder of the afternoon walking the house as well as the grounds. He spent some time in the stables, then returned to program the code for the suite locks and had taken the 3 keys for the key pad.
"Where pray tell is Mr. Sharpe at this very moment?" Ezra requested.
"He just left the observatory and it looks like he is heading to the dinning room." The man watching the monitor replied.
Leaving security and going down stairs, they found Vin was indeed entering the dinning room.
"Vincent, how was your perimeter evaluation?" Ezra asked. The two agents had planned this discussion ahead of time. Even though Walters had said they could go anywhere, they wanted the man to think this was how they always did business.
"Found some problem spots."
"Oh really such as?" Walters asked curiosity in his voice.
Vin looked Walters in the eyes, "First, some of your men are trained well enough to stand up in a fight, but many are out of shape and might not react fast enough in a surprise attack. Those same men don't have the first clue in taking care of their weapon. I saw a lot of guns that might jam or worse. Who knows the last time they were cleaned. Second, your weapons storage building. Other than the cameras you have on the grounds there's no security on it. Probably stuff being stole on a weekly to daily bases, I'd say. They're hiding it well by spacing out how often they take things."
"How do you know Vincent? Maybe it is just the way things were stacked. How can anyone take anything with out the camera catching them as they come out of the building." Walters frowned showing his concern.
Vin lifting up his shirt pulled out two 9mm's from his waist band. Sliding a hand down his sleeve, he pulled out a grenade. Doing the same thing to the other sleeve, he placed the C-4 beside the others items on the table.
"What do you suggest?" Walters demanded, angry that someone might steal from him but impressed that Vincent was so through in his methods.
"First do an inventory on the building then lock it down and put two guards on it, 6 hour shifts 24/7. Every time someone checks something out have them sign-in with a date and timestamp as well as listing what they are checking out. On the men, divide them up into small groups. The ones that are in good shape and seem to know what there doing, have them take 6 to 8 of the ones that need work. Put in an obstacle course for them to run. Make it mandatory to take their guns apart, clean them and put them back together. You need to tighten up your weak links before you get into any major skirmishes. Or endangering Edward before using them for any kind of protection and fight."
"Thank you Vincent, I had left the men and running of the compound up to others. But I'll give it my full attention now." Walters assured, patting Vin's shoulder.
"Now you can see why I was resolute about Vincent being so valuable.
"I was going into the kitchen for a glass of tea. Would either of you like a glass." Vin said, as he headed to the kitchen.
"We were headed that way ourselves." Walters answered.
Vin entered the kitchen to find a scene that boiled his blood. "Get out of my way woman. I'm going to teach that worthless boy a lesson." The man had a bruising grip on Ms. Holts arm.
"Let her go," Vin growled, his anger swiftly coming to the surface.
"Jake! Unhand Ms. Holt this moment." Walters ordered.
"Mr. Walters, I was just stopping her from getting in the way. I was trying to get to the boy before he caused any more trouble."
"What trouble?" Walters demanded, as he watched Ms. Holt gather her terrified son in her arms.
"He didn't obey when I told him to stay out of the buildings and out of the way." Jake explained.
"That's not what you said. You said you were going to teach him a lesson for not moving fast enough'." Vin stated.
"Jake, you know Ms. Holt and her son are off limits. If there is a problem you come tell me." Walters reminded. Looking at Ms. Holt and the boy he informed them in the same tone. "Ms. Holt, your son is only allowed in the side yard, stables and the house. No where else, is that understood."
"Yes sir Mr. Walters, we understand."
"Good. Now that we have that settled, what is for dinner tonight?"
"I um, I prepared your favorite sir. Roast Pork basted in butter rum, wild sage and sweet basil. With sour cream mashed potatoes and sweet butter peas."
"Ah Ms. Holt, I am so glad I acquired you as my cook." Walters nearly drooled at the thought.
"Mr. Walters if you'll excuse us, I'll have Vincent explain the new security system at our suite." Ezra expressed, knowing he needed to remove Vin from the room. He could feel the tension rolling off his friend.
"Oh yes, of course. I'll see you both for dinner. It's 7 sharp." Walters said.
Ezra and Vin left the room and didn't speak a word all the way to their suite. Vin punched the code into the system as Ezra watched, memorizing it instantly. He then inserted the key and turned it, then opened the door. The two men stepped into the room then shut and locked the door behind them.
"We're clear in here. While they installed the coded lock, I was in the security room. There is no camera or audio in here. Double checked with the hand held J.D. sent with us." Vin reported.
"Are you all right?" Ezra asked, concerned about his friends emotions.
"Yea I'm fine. Sorry Ez."
"There's no need to apologize my friend. I too have trouble controlling myself when it comes to a boorish bully, but unfortunately we must try. I fear we may not have much time to do all we need after spending the afternoon reviewing Walters' files, books and papers. I've learned that the reason he has not drawn attention is because he doesn't stay in on location long enough. Mr. Walters has several estates on this continent as well as Europe, Asia and South America. It appears he moves into one of the estates, stays for approximately 3 months, checks up on his business, and sets up some sales of his merchandise. He leaves key people, such as the man I'm replacing to take care of things in his absences. That is why he wants someone who not only can handle the business for him, but also already has knowledge and contacts of the area involved. Basically they take all the risks, all leads will lead to them, and Mr. Walters can claim that he is just a business man who travels. If any federal agents come after him, he claims no knowledge of what his employees have been up to since he had left them in charge while he was out of state or country. From what I found out today, he has already been here for a little over 2 months, which means we only have a window of a few of weeks."
"Shit, don't give us much time." Vin signed
"No it doesn't, but it is doable. With some of the information I have discovered from Walters and names I have seen, I have a few ideas. I know how he is going about finding buyers. I might ask though, why did you point out so many flaws to Walters. Won't that work to our disadvantage? Ezra queried.
"Nah, busted up his good people so there with some of the bad ones make the odds tip in our favor. Some of these guys will take months to get into shape or be able to think like they aught to. I figure that puttin' in an obstacle course will keep'em busy diggin' and buildin', and outta our hair. The guns aint' really bein' stolen, but figured if Walters thought they were he'd make it impossible to get at, and doubt his own men. That works in our favor as well.
"Yes I can see your point. So let me tell you how I think we can work this out given such a short time period, all thanks to the help of our Mr. Walters."
"I trust ya Ez, I'll just listen as you tell Chris so ya only have to say it once." A smile lit Tanners face, "I guess you better call your stock broker."
+ + + + + + +
"Lloyd's Stock Brokers."
"Hello Christopher, how are my stocks doing in my absences?"
"Fine Mr. Stanly, just fine. They're are up a point and a half and the forecast says they will climb higher by mid week." Chris's voice came across sounding like a true broker.
"That's good Christopher you sound as if you know what you are talking about." Ezra commented.
When he received no response he figured Chris was keeping quiet just in case.
"It is all right Vincent and I are in a secure area and there are no wireless tracking system here. It is best thought to keep this short, for we do not wish to be late for dinner and draw suspicion. So to summarize today's events; Walters has a very impressive set up as well as quality and quantity of merchandise. Unfortunately our window of opportunity is very small. We only have a few weeks before he will leave state or the country. Vincent has impressed Mr. Walters greatly, so he has ideas about how to handle the situation inside the compound. I would not be surprised if within a week Mr. Walters made him head of security."
"I don't image Jake will like that. Tell Vin to watch his back real close with that guy around looking to take him down." Chris stated.
"Yes he's well aware of Jake's mentality. There is an associate that loves the ladies and lively atmosphere. You can find him mostly at 'The Revue'. He's 5'10, slightly over weight and balding with coppery brown hair on the sides. He can easily be heard across a room by his laughter, he sounds like a baying mule. He always has a buxom blond on his arm and spending money like its water. His name is Arthur Rundy. He should be at 'The Revue' on Thursday. Make it known on the street that Charles Hanly is looking for a large quantity of goods. Arthur should hear about him by Thursday latest. Find him and tell him you heard he was the man to talk to about finding other business men like yourself who might have product to sell. The man has an ego and enjoys being known. If he asks, tell him you heard his name when you did business with the 'Border Militia'. I saw Hanly's name in Walters' papers today. He's used him before on many occasions for information in helping to find buyer s. When I make the call in about 5 to 6 days hunting for buyers of Walters' supply of military weapons, Arthur should have your name ready to supply. Tell him you run a small band or individuals with military background that deal with problems here and abroad and that you're looking to restock your supplies that have dwindled from your last excursion. You prefer automatic's, explosives of all types, as well as any kind or heavy artillery. If you mention military issue or items at this moment I fear Walters might be leery to do business with you as an unknown."
"All right, we'll start circulating the name to night. Ezra, tell Vin that Pedro's condition hasn't changed, but he's still holding his own." Chris volunteered before continuing. "When should I expect to hear from Mr. Stanly again?"
"I am unsure at the moment. To be on the side of safety, we need to be available to Mr. Walters and the staff as much as possible and only retire to the suite for sleep." We shall try to call Friday to verify if you have made contact with Hanly. If necessary we will use our standard code." Ezra tried to plan for all situations. "Now we must attend dinner. It would not due to be late on our first evening."
"Ok, watch your backs."
Hanging up, Ezra turned to find Vin staring out the window. "Our benevolent leader has informed me that Pedro 'is holding his own'." He saw Vin's shoulders tense, the only sign that he had been heard.
Vin felt his friend come up behind him. "I'm fine Ez, I'm just watching the guards changing going off duty and their replacements, down in the yard. Trying to get their patterns down is all."
"Well it's time to leave the comfort of our room and join Walters for dinner."
Vin nodded and the two men left their suite, stopping only long enough to engage the door security.
Luckily dinner was a quite affair, with mostly Walters and Ezra talking about fine art and quality wines. Once dinner was finished and Vin and Ezra had given their compliments to the cook, the men moved into the living room for an after dinner drink.
"Vincent can I get you a scotch along with Edwards and mine." Walters requested.
"No thank you, sir."
"Well how about something else." Walters smiled as he poured his and Edward's drink.
"I won't be drinkin'." Vin answered calmly.
Jake stopping mid pour and looked at Vin with a smirk. "Know you drink, you had a beer at that bar. So who you trying to impress or can't you handle a man's drink."
Vin glanced toward Jake, letting his eyes show his disinterest in the man's option. He leaned back in the chair, before allowing his eyes to meet Walters. He could see the question on the man's face.
"No offense to you Mr. Walters. But I don't know your people or the area yet. Drinking can make you slow or sloppy. Until I'm more familiar with both, as well as knowing the vulnerable areas of the security around your home and I have dealt with them, I won't be letting down my guard."
"There are no weak spots in my security. My men are on top of everything." Jake snarled.
"I am afraid you are mistaken, Vincent already did a perimeter check this afternoon and has found some of your men lacking, which he already explained to Mr. Walters and myself." Ezra stated smoothly, taking a sip of the scotch Walters handed him before sitting down across from Vin.
"True his screening this afternoon was very knowledgeable, Jake which I want to discuss with you later. There are some changes I want started immediately."
"What changes?" Jake asked impatiently.
"I want you to break the men up into groups of 6 to 7. The more experienced men should be put in charge of each group. Have them start working out as well as weapon care and maintenance. I want all the men in shape and better to handle any situation. We need 2 guards around the clock on 6 hour shifts guarding the compound's weapons shed. No one goes in without signing in on a form, time and dated and a list of what they are removing. Inventory will be done first thing in the morning and once a week thereafter. I will be choosing who will be doing the inventory, " Walters informed him.
Vin and Ezra both watched as Jake's face became angrier by the minute as Walters informed him of the changes he wanted.
"Mr. Walters my men are already in good shape. Setting up calisthenics will take them away from what I have them doing." Jake complained.
"It's what I want done Jake, starting first thing tomorrow." Walters ordered in a firm voice. After a few moments he continued, "There are other changes that will be applied as well, but we will discuss them in the morning. Edward, Vincent after breakfast we'll meet in my office with Jake and go over plans to not only get the men in better shape, but better security measures around my compound. And Jake, you will not complain or argue about the changes. Vincent's insights are professional and reasonable, and I want them. Now gentleman, it has been a long day, why don't we all retire and get some rest for the night."
Getting up the 3 men headed up the stairs, Vin noticing Jake instead of following had headed back to the bar and was pouring himself more whisky.
+ + + + + + +
Vin stopped and informed security that he was going for his run and in which direction. He also asked that they start to keep a time stamped tape recording of the hallway and door out side his suite until the time he returned. He planned to pick up the tape and review it after his run. The officer in charge assured Vin that it would be done. It seemed that Walters had left a standing order that they do whatever Vin requested.
Vin left the house starting his run. For over an hour studied all he saw and devised ways of getting around the security on the grounds. Making his way back he slowed down as he reached the firing range. He stopped beside an older man who was watching two of the younger men shoot. The man shook Vin's hand and introduced himself as Carl. He asked what Vin's job was for Mr. Walters having seen him arrive yesterday. Vin volunteered that he was Edward Stanly's bodyguard and that Stanley was Walters' middleman. After watching a few minutes Vin approached one of the shooters. He pointed out a problem with the way he was holding the gun as well as commenting that it needed to be cleaned. He explained what he could and told of the dangers if his precautions weren't taken. The younger man listened intently and watched as Vin pulled out his own gun from his shoulder holster. Holding the gun as he had just explained, Vin fired off several rounds. The other three men stood in amazemen t at Vin's accuracy and ability to tightly group his shots within the center of the target. Carl explained to the men that if they followed instruction, practiced and took care of their weapons, they too might some day be just as good.
Vin explained some of the new directives that dealt with gun care and conditioning. Carl could only smile as he nodded his agreement.
Vin said his good-byes and headed back to the house. He was about to enter by the back kitchen door when Jake stepped in his path.
"Listen up dirt weed. I don't care who you think you are. I'm the boss around here. You had better remember that and stay out of my way."
Vin responded calmly, "Mr. Walters is the boss, you're just hired help. No better than me."
"Why you piece of trash, I run things around here. I'm the one the men take orders from." Jake yelled.
"Maybe that's why they're in bad shape." Vin responded never raising his voice. He realized that the calmer he was, the madder Jake would become.
"I should just beat the cramp out of you right now."
"I would think that even an obnoxious, egotistical, pathetic example of the human condition, with an intelligence rivaling that of the common variety garden slug would know that Mr. Walters would not take kindly to his own man starting a fight. I'm sure it would cause him untold grief." Ezra's smooth voice floated out from the now open door directly behind Jake.
"You threatening me?" Jake demanded.
"No he isn't. He was just stating a fact." Walters glared as he pushed the door further open, so Jake could see that he too had overheard the discussion.
"He started it, Mr. Walters." Jake told him
"Edward and I saw Vincent coming and were about to open the door when you stepped in front of him. You are the man who dispenses my orders around the compound, however you do not run things, nor are you the boss to these men. I told you Jake, you are to leave Edward and Vincent alone. Now I am ordering you to do so. They are here to work for me and I will not tolerate you interfering with them in any way. Do you understand me?" Anger was evident in Walters' voice.
"Yes sir." Jake answered.
"Good, now go set up the guards I want on the weapons shed." Walters dismissed him. Turning to Vincent he replied. "I'm apologizing for Jake's behavior. He has his uses; he just isn't accustomed to anyone speaking up to him. I must say you showed great restraints in not shoving him out of the way or taking a swing."
"He wasn't worth the wasted energy." Vin shrugged. Looking at Mr. Walters he asked, "If Jake had taken a swing and I defended myself. What would have been your punishment?"
"If you are asking if Jake is above my rules, No he isn't. If your asking would I have had the same punishment for you for defending yourself. No. I've seen the type of man you are. You would only do enough to protect yourself, you won't risk getting yourself hurt and not being able to protect Edward."
"Mr. Walters, if I may ask, if you have doubts about Jake listening to your rules, should I be concerned since he was the man with your last business associate before he died." Ezra asked
Sighing for a moment then looking at Edward, Walters smiled. "No Edward you don't need to be concerned. With Vincent here protecting you, you'll be safe and I'll have a very long, private conversation with Jake later this morning. He won't be a problem for either of you. Now enough of that, let's go have breakfast. Vincent, we will wait for you to shower and dress. I'll tell Ms. Holt we would like her fabulous blueberry waffles this morning, so it will take her a bit to prepare, for she makes them from scratch."
Nodding his head in agreement, he started to enter the house then stopped and looked at Ezra.
"Don't worry Vincent, Mr. Walters and I will be having our coffee in the dining room as we read the morning paper." Ezra assured.
Vin following them back into the house and then went upstairs and to the suite. Taking a quick shower and dressing, Vin was back down stairs before breakfast was served. Looking on the table at the small china coffee cups, Vin mumbled something about a real cup and went on into the kitchen, hearing the two men chuckle at his words.
"Morning Ms. Holt, can you tell me where the coffee mugs are?" Vin asked.
Smiling the woman pointed to the cabinet by the sink. "If you don't like the European coffee being served I have regular coffee here in the kitchen pot."
"That would be great ma'am. Never liked that fancy stuff, prefer regular old coffee." Vin commented, pulling out a mug, and filling it with coffee from the pot. He added two large spoonfuls of sugar before taking a sip. "Oh ya, now that's coffee." He saw Shaun standing to the side of the room, "Hey pard, you going to have waffles too?"
The boy looked up at Vin and smiled as he nodded his head yes.
"Well that's good, I bet your mom makes the best ones"
"Yea she does, they're really good." His smile grew, remembering this man had not only been nice to him but he had yelled at that mean man who as hurting his mom.
"I was thinking about going out and looking at that fancy horse on my lunch break, you wanna come and look too? That is if your mom says its ok." Vin causally asked the boy.
"Can I mom!" Shaun asked excitedly.
"Are you sure it won't cause any trouble?" The woman's concern was evident.
"No ma'am, he won't be any trouble." Vin answered softly.
Ms. Holt noticed the hope in her son's eyes, something she hadn't seen in such a long time. "Yes, you may. But you listen to Mr. Sharp, and do as he says, all right?
The boy almost bounced with excitement, causing Vin to think about what J.D. must have looked like as a youngster. Vin grinned at Shaun before saying, "I'll meet ya here at 11:30 then."
Vin returned to the dining room never realizing that Jake had been listening at the back door.
Smiling and walking away from the door, Jake thought to himself. 'Ha, you'll get yours now Sharp. You'll see what happens to those who mess with me. That horse will be the last thing you'll ever see.'
"Vincent, I see you found some of that domestic coffee you like." Edward said, as Vin joined them.
"Yep, good too." He grinned.
"How was your run this morning, Vincent?" Walters asked.
"It was all right, you have a real nice piece of property here Mr. Walters."
"Did you see anything that you think would work for that obstacle course you suggested yesterday?" Walters asked. The more he had thought about it the more he liked the idea.
"Saw an area that would work, I think. I only saw it as I ran past, need to go look at the whole area. Make sure there are know hidden problems like sink holes and such. It's far enough away that any explosions set up for the training wouldn't scare your horses." Vin explained.
"Could you draw a plan showing what should be built and where? We need to know how a good one is set up and with what equipment?" Walters queried
"I could draw up a basic plan with enough direction I guess."
"Good, how about after breakfast, while Edward and I work in my office you could join us using the extra table in there."
Shrugging, Vin nodded his agreement.
Ms. Holt arrived with a large serving platter filled with waffles, link sausages, bacon and a serving bowl of strawberries in there syrup. Stopping by each person, she held the platter as the men filled their plates. She placed the platter on a serving buffet with the extra food and went back into the kitchen returning with a tray that held two pitchers of syrup as well as a bowl of fresh whipped cream. She placed it on the table in front of the men. "Will there be anything else, Mr. Walters?"
"Yes, some fresh juice please."
Returning once more with a large pitcher of fresh orange juice she filled each of their glasses and placed the pitcher on the buffet. She then left the men to their food.
After breakfast the men headed up stairs to Walters' office. Vin told them he would be right back and then went to the security room. Asking for the tape, the man pulled it out of the machine and handed it to him. Vin took the tape to their suite and placed it on the couch with a thread just under the front corner. If someone entered their room and moved it, they would know. That done he went to join the others in the office.
Walters and Ezra going over inventory sheets of items stock-piled in the compound, as well as what Walters had hidden at a different location marked only as depot 1. Ezra was disappointed he couldn't find, or that Walters ever offered the location. He was not only very impressed, but highly concerned when he saw the mass quantity of weapons Walter had at depot 1. What also concerned him was that all most all of the weapons were military; US, German, Japanese and even Russian. Though his face showed nothing he could tell Vin knew something was wrong by the glances he kept sending his way..
Using the excuse to stand beside Ezra when a man knocked and entered through the door Vin leaned over asking "You ok?"
Walters follow the man over to the window and looked to where the gentleman pointed.
Receiving a nod and a slight tilt of the head Vin knew Ezra meant he'd tell him later.
The man soon left and Walters returned to his desk.
"Is there a problem, Mr. Walters?" Ezra asked.
Seems one of the men had their gun explode when he fired it on the range. Killed him. Kelly said the gun sent pieces flying back and hit the man in the throat, died in minutes. I told him that all firearms are to be taken and cleaned immediately. Top priority. You were right Vincent, it was an accident waiting to happen."
"Thanks to Vincent's insight and your orders, the problem is now solved." Ezra announced, wanting to get Walters attention back on the business at hand.
"Edward, Mr Walters, would you like some tea? I'm going to go down and get me a glass."
"Yes thank you Vincent, I am feeling a bit parched." Ezra smiled.
"Yes that would be nice." Walters answered sitting down his focus going back to the paper work on his desk.
Vin left them to walk to the kitchen. He took 3 glasses from the cabinet and filled them with ice and tea. He was placing the tea back into the refrigerator when Ms. Holt walked in. "Ma'am."
"Mr. Sharp." She replied and then noticed that no one else was around.. "Vin, I was hoping I'd see you. Shaun has a bad stomach ache and he won't be up going with you to look at the horse."
Vin looking at her worried if it was a stomachache or something else. What if Jake gotten a hold of the boy.
Ms. Holt easily read his worry explained, "After breakfast, Shaun came back in the kitchen and ate several more waffles along with all the whip cream and strawberries that was left. He loved it, but his stomach didn't. He'll be feeling better by this evening, I'm sure."
"All right, tell the little fella I hope he gets to feeling better and we'll do it later when he's up to it." Vin told her. Picking up the glasses he headed back upstairs.
He handed the tea to Ezra and Walters. The man followed him to the table where he had been drawing. He looked at the plans Vin had been making, easily understanding the different items from rope ladders, water trenches to live fire and explosions. "This is good Vincent. I'll have my men start building it as soon as you decided if the area you saw will work."
"That's fine. I'll look it over today."
Going back to work for several more hours, the men finally broke for lunch. Walters had Ms. Holt sever out on the patio and they enjoyed a light meal. Walters noticed Vin and Ezra looking toward the stable. "If you're looking for the thoroughbred, he's out in the corral behind the stables. I though some fresh air and room to move around would do him some good."
"I must say from the glimpse I saw of him, he looked to be a magnificent animal." Ezra replied.
"Yes he is. His blood line is pure winners. Would you like to take a better look?" Walter smiled, elated that he impressed them with his taste and property.
"Yes that would be delightful." Ezra retuned the smile.
They walked through the stable and out the back door. "Horses we just walked past are pretty nice too." Vin commented.
Just then the gate to the corral swung open and the thoroughbred came charging out, heading strait for the men.
Vin pushed Walters, who was standing right in the stallion's path, out of the way. Ezra had already moved out of the path of the frightened horse. Vin whistled and called to the animal that had slid to a halt. It was now rearing and attempting to stomp on anything within reach. Vin stayed calm and started talking in a soothing, soft voice. For several minutes he stood still and just murmured softly until the stallion finally started to calm. Once Vin was confident that the animal was settling down he slowly moved up to it slipping his hand in the horse's halter and then walked it back into the corral, petting the animal and running his hands up and down his legs, back and rump. Vin turned and left the corral pulling the gate closed behind him. He heard Ezra and Walters walk up behind him as he studied the corral latch closely.
"Vincent, thank you, you saved my life." Walter breathed heavily still in a bit of shock.
"Edward I know you moved out of the way, but are you all right?" Vin asked, turning around and looking him over.
"Yes Vincent I am fine. Primarily due to your fast thinking in calming the beast."
"Weren't his fault, he has a welt on his rump where something hit him."
"But how did he get out, is the catch broken?" Walters wanted to know.
"No it isn't."
"That boy was playing around here. He probably did it." Jake informed as he walked up looking mad.
Vin stared the man down, trying to keep his temper in check. Keeping his voice calm he said, "No he wasn't. The boy's been in bed sick all morning with a stomach bug. Ms. Holt told me when I went down for the tea." Vin didn't know how Walters would react if he knew the boy had overeaten so he kept that information to himself.
Walters glared at Jake, "I told you to leave Ms. Holt and her son alone. That includes putting the blame on them for things that you and your men are responsible. I won't stand for this anymore. From now on I want Mr. Sharp to be in charge of the men. Vincent, will you look over and work with the men, decide who should be in charge of which groups. I'll leave the obstacle course to your discretion also. Jake, I want all the men to know that I will tolerate no more carelessness." With that Walters stormed off in the direction of the house for a much needed glass of Scotch.
Jake glared at the look in front of him, "This is all your fault."
"Nope, you turned the stallion lose after hitting him on the hope of him running me down and blaming the boy. You were listening at the door this morning when I was talking to him." Vin reported coldly.
"You can't prove anything. You like that brat. That piece of trash is nothing, just like you. If I can't get to you, maybe I'll take it out on him." Jake sneered
"Go near him and you'll regret it." The tone was deadly but the look in Vin's eyes was colder that death.
Jake though shaken by the look, glared at him and stormed off toward the storage buildings.
"Vin, are you all right?"
"Yea, were just going to have to keep a real close eye on that one."
+ + + + + + +
"Has Chris heard from Ezra or Vin?" J.D. asked Josiah as he sat down at his desk.
"Not as far as I know. But by his actions I'd say he hasn't" Josiah answered.
"Why, what'd Chris do?" J.D. looked to his teammate, his brows furrowed.
Josiah threw a glance at Nathan, both men shaking their heads nodded to Larabee's door.
J.D. looked at the door to Chris office but saw nothing amiss. "What? Chris usually has his door closed when he's in his office."
"J.D., you might want to take a closer look."
"Doing as suggested J.D. approached the door, but still did not see what the other two were talking about, until the door started to swing opened. It wobbled as it moved and his gaze swung to the bottom hinge. It was completely unattached from the door itself. Buck exiting the office was being extra careful to support the door as the top hinge was threatening to release its hold also.
"Chris ripped the door off its hinges?!" J.D. exclaimed.
"Lower your voice, Kid. Chris is in a real bad mood. He hasn't heard from Vin and Ezra in days. On top of that, the Doc called and Pedro has developed a bad fever, doesn't know if he'll make it what with his already weakened state. Chris didn't rip the door off the hinges; he kicked the hell out of it after he talked to the Doc. He's worried what it'll do to Junior if that boy dies especially while he's undercover. He doesn't want to have to tell Vin that kind of news, afraid it will distract him and someone will get hurt," Buck explained. "Nathan, you might want to check Chris right foot when you can get near him. He's limping a bit."
"I'll call maintenance and get them up here to fix the door. Is he going in alone tonight to try and meet this, Arthur Rundy?" Nathan queried, reaching for his phone.
"I don't know. We'll need to discuss how to set up surveillance and recording for tonight, guess we'll hash it all out then." Buck shrugged his shoulders and went over to his desk.
Nathan called maintenance and explained what was needed, putting a rush on the request. He hung up the phone and returned to placing red marks on a city map of every place Walters owned. Those he was suspected owning were marked in blue.
Josiah sat a glass of tea on Nathan's desk and had just sat down at his own when the maintenance man walked in.
"I'm here to fix a door."
"It's the door to Larabee's office. Hang on, Chuck is it? I'll let him know you're here." Buck rose from his desk and approached Chris office. Knocking first before carefully opening the door a crack he stuck his head in. "Chris, maintenance is here to fix the door."
"Fine, tell them to get it done." Larabee growled never looking up from his desk.
Buck moved away to let the man go about his work.
Chuck took one look at the door and huffed in disgust, "What idiot kicked this door. Don't you big wig collage boys know that isn't the way ya open them?"
Buck turned back quickly in an attempt to prevent the man from bringing hell itself down upon his head. He knew he was too late as the door was thrown open.
The workman looked up rather suddenly into the dark storm that was Chris Larabee staring at him. Swallowing hard he wondered if he was going to wind up like the door. Deciding he wanted to live he offered, "I'm sorry Mr. Larabee, sir. The whole door is going to have to be replaced. There is no way I can reattached the hinge to the splintered wood, sir. I'll get a cart to carry this door away and be back tomorrow to hang a brand new door, sir. If there is a specific style you would like, just call the secretary in maintenance and let her know. I'll make sure you get it, sir." Chuck babbled as he backed out of the Team 7 offices.
"Well damn, Stud. You're scaring them off now without even saying a word." Buck grinned at his long time friend.
Chris turned his glare on the men in the office, "Get back to work, Buck. Meeting in 15 minutes to go over plans for tonight's meet."
"Excuse me Mr. Larabee, I was told to bring you this." One of the secretaries from upstairs interrupted handing Larabee a sheet of paper and then quickly leaving.
Chris read the paper a frown furrowing his brow. Suddenly Chris burst into laughter and muttered, "Smart ass, Texan."
"It's from Vin," Josiah asked.
"Yea, seems he called 'Pete's Ammo and Arms' this morning and left a message with Sherry.To: Senior Manager,
"Ringo, need to find a Hair-pin Trigger, thought you'd have one.
Butt Trigger won't work, neither will a Glare Trigger.
It has to be one of your Hair-pin Trigger.
"Are you sure that's from Vin? Who are Josh Randall and Ringo?" J.D. wondered.
"Kid, Josh Randall was a bounty hunter on a show called 'Wanted Dead or Alive'. He had this sawed off shot gun that looks a lot like Vin's and Ringo is that guy in the movie, 'Tombstone'. The one that Vin is always telling Chris he looks like." Buck smiled.
"But what's it mean? Do you want me to figure out the code, Chris?" J.D. volunteered.
"No J.D., I got the message." Chris grinned, going back into his office.
Josiah , seeing the confusion on J.D.'s face filled him in. "JD, it isn't a hidden message. It's just Vin knowing Chris would be worried and most likely growling and snapping at us. So he was telling Chris in his own unique way that they're all right and to put his 'hair-trigger' or temper under control, that a 'Butt trigger' being an ass wouldn't work, and neither would a 'glare trigger or stop glaring at everyone."
"You got to love Junior. Even when he's not here, he's here." Buck smiled going back to work.
Chris walked out of the office, his mood much improved. "Bring what you have and let's get this plan hashed out for tonight."
As the men took their seats around the large table they couldn't help but look at the 2 empty chairs as the tension settled back over the group like a blanket.
"Nathan, what did you find out about 'The Revue."
"It's like an old Jazz club out of the 30's and 40's. It's mostly patronized by either middle-age men of questionable business practice or men who like to think of themselves as gangsters. I watched the place the last two nights and saw a lot of familiar faces from our files but no one that should recognize you."
"Josiah is 'Charles Hanly's' name out on the street?"
"Oh it's out there. Last night I checked the missions and homeless shelters. There were several different ones warning me about this 'Hanly'. I heard everything from he's a crazed killer, a terrorist, the devil himself, to the leader of the deadliest mercenaries that take on jobs against any country or enemy. He doesn't care as long as the money is good." Josiah's straight face lasted until Buck's uncontrollable laughter rang out.
"All right Buck, stop laughing. What did you and JD find out about Arthur Rundy?"
J.D. slid the pictures across the table of the man in question. "Arthur Rundy, 53 years old, lives in the Highland Hills Condos. He's been arrested twice, once in his 20's for running markers for a racketeer and once about 10 years ago. He was brought in on a sweep of a business that proved to be a front for illegal firearms. He was never convicted on either charge. Rundy owns several rental properties, including a bakery/Deli which his nephew runs for him."
"The nephew's clean, he don't have a clue about what Arthur does. Thinks his uncle is just a rich business owner," Buck added.
"Arthur seems to have connections with a lot of people though. I pulled up his phone records for the past year and had the computer give me the list of the most frequent numbers he called, as well as a list of who was calling him. Chris, you wouldn't believe some of the names on those lists. Some of the oldest crime families around." J.D. reported excitedly.
"So he's been doing this for a long time. He doesn't bother to get his hands dirty, only helps getting the two parties together. The seller gives him a percentage or a finder's fee." Chris stated looking at the picture of the overweight balding man and making a decision. "Buck, find a date and socialize as a customer. Get there about 8, so you can watch for him to come in. When he does find an excuse to go by his table and set some mics in the area. I figure we don't want to risk more than 3. I don't want to chance having one on me in case he has somebody with a scanner to check me out. I'll be alone as far as he'll know. I'll go in about 9. Josiah, Nathan, and J.D., you'll be in the van listening. Josiah, dress for the club just in case you have to come in. You three need to be already parked and set up by 7. Keep track of goes in and out of the club tonight."
The group was interrupted as the conference room door opened and two men in suits walked in.
"Can we help you gentleman?" Nathan requested.
"I'm Agent Simms, this is Agent Kline, were with the FBI. You've been briefed on our arrival." Simms explained with an air of superiority.
"Travis told me about the pairing of the two agencies, to encourage information sharing. He also said he informed you that I am head SAC. You'll follow orders as everyone else." Chris calmly informed the two men as he stood up and joined them at the door. Chris held out his hand, doing as Travis had asked, showing courtesy to the men but at the same time setting down the law. The FBI agents took the offering shook his hand before the man walked out of the room and to his office.
Introductions were made round the table and the men shook hands before continuing.
"There are two empty desks you can use over by the break room." Josiah gestured with his hand as the group move to the main room.
"What about these two close to Larabee's office?" Agent Simms frowned.
"I'm sorry but those are occupied." Josiah explained.
"I heard Standish was on your team. Since I don't see him I can assume you finally learned he's trouble and untrustworthy and got rid of him. Larabee should have listened to our boss and never offered him a place on your team to start with." Simms smirked
Agent Kline not noticing the faces of the men around him added, "I heard Tanner was on this team too. Guess you decided to let him go as well. I met the no brain, hick, Texan once, the man was no better than the low life trash he brought in. He undercut my team and brought in a guy we were after, don't know how he did it, he couldn't even put together two syllables."
Kline suddenly found himself slammed up against a wall. Looking over to his partner for help, he saw Simms being held against another wall by the giant who said his name was Sanchez. He looked into the black gaze of the man whose forearm was currently cutting off his air supply. It was like staring into twin lasers of pure hell. "What?" he wheezed.
"Don't let me ever hear you talk about my men like that again, are we clear?" Larabee asked, in a voice of steel that would scare the devil himself.
"Yeah, sure," the man agreed.
Buck placed a hand on Chris's shoulder, "Let him go Chris, he ain't worth it. You know Junior would be upset if you let a idoit like him, get you in trouble.
Chris took a breath and stepped back allowing the agent to sag against the wall.
"I should report you for assault! What's your problem, Larabee? I didn't say anything about your men, just the idiots you got rid of." Kline yelled. The man suddenly backed against the wall upon noticing the look of Team 7's faces, especially the anger on Larabee's.
"Ezra Standish and Vin Tanner are two of the finest agents in the ATF. I would suggest, for your own safety, you remember that during your time here." The normally restrained Jackson said standing nose to nose with the man.
"If you can't remember . . . leave," Buck stated angrily.
"We are a team, you're against them then you're against us." J.D. stated flatly.
"I'm sure the good Lord will help you see the error of your ways, if not . . . we will." Josiah preached with a promise.
"Say or do anything to my men again or put them into any danger, and I'll take you apart myself." Larabee stepped forward, his glare putting fear into the eyes of the two agents.
"I can have your badge for threatening us." Simms finally spoke up, trying to sound confident.
"What threat, it's a fact." Larabee growled, giving them one last disgusted look.
Chris left the Team office and caught the elevator, getting off the car when it stopped at the requested level. He headed strait to Travis' office. Knocking once before opening the door he looked at his boss and stated, "We have a problem."
Inviting the obviously upset man in, Travis asked what was wrong and then watched as Chris paced back and forth as he explained the meeting moments before. "With their attitude toward Standish and Tanner, I don't trust them and neither does the Team. I want them gone before they do something to get my men hurt.
Travis sympathized with the man but explained, "I'm sorry, Chris. I understand your feelings on this. I'll have a long talk with them and their supervisor, but they have to stay for now. I'll see if I can trade them to one of the other teams and see if other Agents are a better fit, but I have to do this very carefully and through channels. The FBI supervisor set up where each of his agents went to which team."
Chris looked at him for a moment before curiosity caused him to ask, "Do you know this supervisor?"
"Because one of the comment's Simms made was that his boss had told me Ezra was untrustworthy and I shouldn't hire him. I had heard the rumors about Ezra but no one said anything directly to me except a desk jockey and he told me Ezra was a good agent that was being railroaded. I'm wondering who this supervisor is and why he sent agents who already had a grief against my team. If you were trying to mend bridges, wouldn't you try everything to avoid conflict?"
"Yes I would. I think I'll take a closer look at this supervisor. I'll let you know what I find out. Until then don't kill the two agents, send them up here. When I'm finished with them and they return to your office, give them something trivial to do like research for now." Travis told Chris.
"All right, but they better understand their best bet is to keep their mouths shut." Nodding he got up and left Travis' office.
Walking into Team 7's office he found Simms and Kline in a stand off with his men. He told them to report to Travis office immediately, and then he waited until they were on the elevator and the doors had closed. "J.D., pull up the old Carson case. Doctor the dates and make it look like were working it now. Take out the conclusion; leave the original suspicion made by the DEA helicopter that flew over and saw the activity."
"Chris, what's going on? You know that turned out to be nothing but a bunch of good ole boy hunters that meet a couple of times a year." JD questioned.
"Travis said they have to stay for now and to give them something trivial to do. I figure surveillance on the house out in the middle of know where should be trivial enough. And if old man Jekin's calls the local law on them, well we all know how long it takes that county sheriff to call and check on ID's. What was it Buck, three days before you could make a phone call." Chris smiled.
"Yea about that, but Chris it wasn't the sheriff's fault. It was the weekend that his granddaughter was getting married." Buck returned the smile.
"Ok JD set it up, and leave the file open and on your desk. I figure they'll target you first since they don't know what a good agent is and will figure you're young and inexperienced. Nathan, Josiah talk low but where they are sure to over hear. Say how this should be a really big collar and worth a commendation. That should get them jumping for the surveillance. Buck, go put the word out to the secretaries and Team 8 and 3, so they'll know the score and not let anything slip about the Carson case. As far as tonight, Nathan, leave before 5 and park your car some where close. Walk back and get the surveillance van, pick up JD and Josiah where ever you 3 agree. Buck, do your normal when we all leave, brag about your date tonight but don't mention the club by name. We all leave like normal saying will see the others in the morning. Those two assholes are not to know anything about the Walters case, so lock everything up in your briefcases and take it home with you each night . JD when you get finished fixing the Carson case, see if you can put some kind of lock on our computer system so when we leave we won't have to worry about them coming back and getting in. Everybody, get back to work and look busy, I don't know when Travis will send them back" Chris informed the others.
JD worked to fix the Carson case files. Every so often one of his teammates would walk up and make suggestions causing him to laugh or grin.
Josiah had picked up subs and chips and Team 7 was just finishing with lunch when Simms and Kline reappeared. "Agent Larabee, we'd like to apologize for our rude behavior earlier in discussing two of your agents." Simms reluctantly offered the apology.
"Don't let it happen again. Were all agents on the same side and should act like it." Chris told the two men, firmly.
"Yes you're right, of course. So what would you like us to do?"
"At the moment we're just starting a case and we're still in the Info gathering stage. Nathan, give them the area and let them research it. Look for any possible caves, old line-shacks for storage and any old or off the beaten trail roads leading on to the property in the area that is under suspicion." Larabee ordered. Walking away a touch of a smile quirked his lips.
The rest of the day passed quietly as they all worked at their assigned tasks. It wasn't until J.D. said he was going to records that things got entertaining.
Kline, in an attempt to be sly, walked to the printer and on the way back to his desk he did a bad imitation of a trip and 'accidentally' knocked the file off the corner of J.D.'s desk. He shuffled J.D.'s papers in amidst his own and walked casually back to his desk. It was easy to see he was excited by what he was reading. Kline called Simms over to show him a cave he had found on the map but instead showed him the file he had lifted.
At a nod from Josiah, Nathan followed the profiler into the break room. They had hardly crossed the doorway when Josiah started to 'whisper'. "Nate, this case has the potential to have some big players, we are sure to get commendations from the director himself when we break this wide open." Nathan agreed. They returned with fresh cups of coffee to help hide their smiles over the excitement now showing on the FBI agents faces.
"Hey Chris," Nathan called from Larabee's doorway. "It's 4:30 and I need to pick up Rain, remember." He said calmly but was smiling at the ruse.
"Yea go ahead, I'll see you in the morning Nathan."
Thirty minutes later Chris came out and told everyone to shut it down for the night. They would start fresh in the morning. Shutting down the computers and locking their desk, the group boarded the elevator and headed down to the garage with Buck talking nonstop about his upcoming date.
The boys watched as Simms and Kline met the FBI agents currently assigned to Team 8 and climbed into the dark sedan and drove away.
"Did you see those two? They were practically drooling after overhearing you two." Buck crowed.
"Yep, I say by tomorrow night they'll be out of our hair, when they volunteer to do surveillance for us." Chris grinned.
"I'll see you in the club tonight, Chris." Buck assured as he and JD climbed into his truck.
Chris and Josiah were soon pulling out of the garage in their respective vehicles and headed home to prepare for the evening. The men could only hope that as they finally became more involved in the case that the bust to would soon have Walters and Jake behind bars and Vin and Ezra back home where they belonged.
+ + + + + + +
"Head's up guys, Chris is heading towards Rundy now." Buck said into the mic that was hidden on the collar of his date, Christine a member of the Denver PD. He had filled her in on the basics of the 'Carson case' and what tonight's plans entailed and she had volunteered to be his date. The mic had been set up in such a way that Buck would be appearing to whisper in her ear, when in reality he would be talking to J.D. in the van. The receiver was in her ear under the cover of her hair.
"JD says the mic's are picking up Rundy really well and he should be able to record everything." Christine whispered.
"Come on darling, let's dance." Buck laughed as he stood up and held his hand out to Christine. They'd watched as one of the men Rundy had talked with, walked past their table.
Going out on the dance floor anyone watching would think their eyes were only for each other. However in reality Buck watched the man as he moved to the bar before walking over to another table and joining the group there. Continuing around the dance floor but move his 'date' to a position where he could see Chris clearly.
"Yes, I'm Arthur Rundy. Do I know you?"
"No, we've never met, but we have some mutual friends. The Border Militia used your name when I did some business with them." Chris stated coolly.
"And you are?" Rundy requested.
"Names Charles Hanly"
"Ah yes, Mr. Hanly. I've heard things about you." Rundy smiled readily, seeing half the rumors he heard about the man were true. He did look like he could take on the devil and win. "Won't you sit down and join me?"
"Thanks." Chris replied, sliding into the booth across from the man.
"So what can I do for you Mr. Hanly?"
Chris looked at the woman snuggled tight against Rundy's side. "I prefer to talk without an audience."
"Yes, I can understand that. Barbie will you see if the cook has prepared anything special tonight that might be to our taste?"
"Sure thing, Sugar Bear."
Chris stood up, allowing the woman to slide out of the U-happed booth. He wasted no time and got right down to business as he slid back into the booth. "My last job used up a large amount of my supplies. I find myself in need of replenishing my stockpile and I need a supplier who knows how to deal in quantity as well as quality.
"Anything specific?" Rundy queried.
"Automatic's, grenades, explosives of any kind, as well as heavy artillery and anything unique that might come in handy when you have a large group to silence."
"That is quite a list." Rundy expressed, giving Chris a once over.
"Used more supplies than I thought I'd have to on my last trip. I've had another job offer and need to restock as fast as possible."
Rundy had no problem understanding exactly what was NOT being said. This Charles Hanly was the leader of a group of mercenary as the rumors had stated, of that he was sure. He thought this would be the perfect opportunity to help Walters sell the military stock that he was so anxious to have disappear. "I might be able to help you Charles. I think I know a business associate that might have what you need. Do you have a number where you can be reached?"
Chris grabbed a napkin and jotted down a number, sliding it over to Rundy. "I have until Monday to inform my prospective employer if I plan to accept the job opening.
"I'll see if I can reach my associate in the morning. If he thinks he can help, he'll call you." Rundy explained.
"All right, but in the mean time you'll understand if I keep looking around. I heard there was someone else who could possibly help. A man by the name of Collins, I believe." Chris told the man.
"Yes, I know of Collins. For the sake of future business between us, I must warn you about the man. His prices tend to double at the last moment, allowing him to make as much as the seller. He also has a very distasteful habit of blowing up anyone who tends to complain of that practice." Rundy frowned, worried he might lose this connection as well as generally disliking the thought of Collins blowing someone else up.
As Chris stared at him, Rundy knew that man was deciding if he was being truthful or just stringing him along in an attempt to prevent him from seeking out other sellers.
"All right, I wait twenty-four hours to see if your associate calls. After that I look elsewhere. So we understand each other, I need to verify with my prospective employer on Monday." Chris stated in a firm voice.
Rundy's gut told him to take this, Charles Hanly at his word. "Understood, Mr. Hanly."
Chris nodded at the man then stood and disappeared into the crowd. He made eye contact with Buck as he walked past the man and his date on his way out of the club.
"Chris just left and the pigeon is making a phone call." Buck said softly as he appeared to nuzzle Christine's neck.
Christine relayed J.D.'s message loud enough for others to hear, "Oh honey, we should go back to your place."
"Well let's go honey." Buck smiled, pulling her close and heading for the door. Once outside the club they headed strait to Christine's car and drove away. Shortly thereafter, a van down the street from the club also pulled away.
Buck's phone rang and J.D. informed him that Rundy's call was apparently made to an answering machine and that Chris had said to call it a night and they would meet in the morning at the office.
Buck gave Christine his most charming smile, "Well darlin' it seems were off duty. What say we go get some dinner for real?"
Christine returned his smile, "Sure Buck, that sounds great."
+ + + + + + +
The FBI agents walked into the Team 7 offices early the next day. As planned, they were the first to arrive. They took there time rifling through the file and anything else that could be found on the men's desks. When their search turned up no information they tried to access the information on one of the computers. They turned on the machine and waited for it to boot up. Soon the screen flashed to life and a circus bear began to walk across the screen. Reaching the center it turned it's head as if to look at the men before turning and pulling down it shorts to moon them. He would then pull the short's back up and walk off the screen. A few seconds later it would start all over again.
"What the hell is that?" Kline growled.
"Some kind of lock, turn it off and let's go check Larabee's office. His door hasn't been replaced so it's not like we're breaking in." Simms commented.
Shutting down the system, the two men went into Larabee's office and looked through anything they could find. They had no better luck than they had with the other men's desk and were preparing to leave the office, when Larabee's phone rang. Looking at each other, Simms shrugged his shoulders and picked up the phone.
"Routing a call for Llyod's Stock Broker," came an automated voice.
Simms expression changed as he heard a 'click' and then, "Hello."
"Hello? I am looking for my stock broker at Llyod's"
"You have a wrong number buddy." Simms growled, hating the waste of time.
"Is Christopher there?"
"No Pal. I told you, you have the wrong number. This isn't Llyod's Stock Brokers." Simms yelled and slammed the phone down.
"What the Hell have you done?" Larabee growled rushing in and grabbing the man. "You stupid ass, that call was one of my men."
Josiah and Nathan rushed in. Josiah pulled Chris off the man and then he ushered them out of Larabee's office and into the conference room.
"Sit." Josiah ordered and the two obeyed. The men new that to defy an order now could get them thrown out or worse if the look on Larabee's face was anything to go by.
"Chris calm down. Ezra's smart, he'll know something wasn't right and try again." Nathan attempted to reassure Chris and himself as well.
The words were scarcely out of Nathan's mouth when the phone range once again.
"Llyod's Stock Brokers, Christopher speaking."
Nathan let out a sigh of relief as he exited the office and went to tell Josiah that Ezra had called back. However, he made opted to stop at his desk and call maintenance first. Nathan left little doubt that the door was to be installed on Larabee's office immediately and if it wasn't the man himself would be down to personally find out why.
Josiah walked up, just as Nathan was hanging up the phone. After telling Josiah that Ezra was indeed on the phone with Chris as they spoke, the two men decided what should be done with Simms and Kline. After agreeing that Chris was most likely going to do something they would all regret the two men came up with a plan.
Moments later the two men entered the conference room each carrying an extra cup of coffee for the condemned men.
"You two are in so much trouble. What possible reason can you give for not only being in Larabee's office, but answering his phone?" Nathan demanded.
Having had time to get their stories strait, Simms answered. "We heard his phone ringing and though it might be important, so I answered it."
"It takes two of you to answer a phone? A phone you knew you shouldn't answer?." Josiah asked.
"Look were sorry, at our office we answer phones for each other, and Kline was just standing there, because we were just walking in when it started ringing."
"Well Larabee will be 'ringing' you real soon when he comes in." Nathan stated.
"Nathan, Chris doesn't need to be in any trouble right now, especially with this Carson case going on." Josiah said frowning.
"Well you got any suggestions where we can put these two before he gets off the phone and comes in here." Nathan asked sarcastically.
"We can let them do the surveillance on the Carson's property."
"What! No! Buck and JD are going to start that later today. You know how important this surveillance is." Nathan bellowed.
"Well do you have a suggestion that will have them out of Chris' sight for a day?" Josiah demanded.
Nathan stared at Josiah for a few moments before saying in a defeated tone. "No I can't think of anything."
Josiah turning back to the two men, "Listen up you two, we're going to let you do the surveillance only for today on this case. You are not to make any contact with anyone on that property, and you are to stay far enough back that you only see who comes and goes. We're close to closing this down. Do you understand?" Josiah ordered.
"Yes we understand. Don't worry; we'll take care of the surveillance." Simms agreed, trying to hide his smile but failing miserably.
Simms and Kline grabbed their coffee and quickly headed out the door and to the elevator. They never heard the laughter that exploded from Nathan and Josiah.
+ + + + + + +
Vin entered the suite, having finished his run, to find Ezra sitting in an overstuffed chair reading some papers.
"How was your run?" Ezra asked.
Vin shut and locked the door," Good, the experienced guys are scattered all over the property and the men close to the house are so green, that they won't be a problem. They're learning to take their guns apart at the moment."
"Ah, that should keep the troops busy. I spoke with my stock broker today, as a matter of fact, I just hung up. If I had known you were on your way back, I would have kept him on line a little longer."
"It's ok, they all right?" Vin replied.
"Yes. When I first called I thought there was trouble. Some cretin answered, telling me I had the wrong number. I called back immediately and Christopher answered. He explained that the guests we had been expecting had arrived and had burnt their bridges on the first day. Seems they were snooping in his office this morning. They now understand that the Carson file is very important and are attempting to take it over and receive full credit. Perhaps they hope to embarrass Christopher."
"Carson file Ol' Jekins?"
"Yes they thought it best to find something to keep their two guests out of their hair, and out of Christopher's reach before he did un-rectifiable damage." Ezra grinned.
"So they pissed him off and he sent those two out to no man's land, knowing they'll probably be stuck there for the whole weekend. That'll teach them." Vin returned Ezra's grin.
"I was to tell you 'thank you'. I take it you sent him a message yesterday."
"Yea, before my run, figured he'd be climbing the walls and biting everyone's head off. Left a message at Pete's Ammo and Arms," Vin admitted.
"I can only imagine what you had to say, but we need to talk about my recent discussion. Christopher made contact with Rundy last night. And Arthur had already heard of him, so his name was well circulated on the street. He said he has an associate that would be interested and a good match for the product needed. Christopher gave him 24 hours before looking for another seller. Seems Rundy made a call and left a message. So I expect that when I meet with Walter at 10 today he will mention it. I informed Christopher. . . "
"Would you just call him Chris, Ez."
"I find it is easier to stay in character and have no possible slip-ups while I am in this position."
"Ok Ez, I'm sorry. Go on what else ya say."
"As I was saying, I explained to him what we have been doing all week." Seeing the worried look on Vin's face, Ezra assured. "I didn't mention about Jake turning the stallion loose, nor about you having words with that cretin two days ago. I also didn't tell him about almost being hit by that tractor, digging up the field for your obstacle course, yesterday. I did tell him about you dividing the troops and endearing yourself to Mr. Walters, as well as I have. That you have discovered two lapse in security on the property, allowing hidden excess and exits. I gave him the location on the east wall as you had reported to me. He's going to have Nathan and Josiah take a run past it today to see if they can spot it. Just in case something appears that we aren't expecting. He wants to make sure where the escape route is. I explained I haven't seen where Walters might have the merchandise stored. The moment I do, I would let him know. We are to convince Walters that it would be in his best interest, to sell off all the military stock pile. I told him we would do the best we could."
"Yes, I'm sorry to have to tell you Vin, but Pedro has developed a fever. The doctors are staying on top of it. I know it's hard with you being here but try not to worry." Ezra watched as Vin's face filled with both worry and guilt and he moved grasping his friend's shoulder. "Vin, we will bring those responsible to justice and ensure they never harm anther innocent ever."
Nodding, Vin took a deep breath and let it out in an effort to get control of his emotions. He knew the only way he could help Pedro at this point, was to bring Walters down and make sure Jake never saw the light of day again, except from behind bars. "You're not meeting with Walters till 10?"
"Mr. Walters is having his weekly massage at 9, so I was instructed to meet him in his office at 10 am."
"I'm going to jump in the shower, then head down to breakfast. Do you want me to bring you up some of that fancy coffee, since you only have a 3 cup cappuccino machine in here." Vin said with a smile as he walked into his bedroom.
"No thank you. I'll have a shower in a moment as well and meet you down at breakfast."
Vin jumped into the shower and cleaned the sweat from his body and hair allowing the water to sooth sore muscles. He was soon dried, dressed, and pulling his hair back and putting a band around it as he had all week. Soon Vin was headed out of the suite and down the stairs.
Reaching the door which lead to the dining room, Vin heard a voice from within, "Your nothing but trash boy, I should beat you to death and rid the world of your worthless hide."
Vin burst through the door with a growl, "Get away from him Jake, and don't ever speak to the boy or even go near him again."
"Or what? What are you going to do, go tell on me like a snitch? There ain't no cameras in here, you can't prove anything. So I can say or do whatever I want to, too this brat and nobody can stop me. Walters won't be around until 10, so I got hours." Jake smirked.
"Shaun, don't you believe anything he says, you're a good boy and I'm proud of ya. You go on into the kitchen now."
The boy turned slowly to leave shaking with fear, when Jake yelled. "I told you not to move you worthless brat, I'm the one you obey."
Vin moved farther into the room, "I told you to leave him alone. He doesn't need to hear your lies." Vin's tone dripped ice.
"What's the matter Vinnie, does the little brat remind you of yourself as a kid. Were you a wimpy piece of trash too? Or maybe you weren't even that. Maybe you were nothing." Jake sneered.
Vin tried to keep the old feelings from rising up as Jakes words had brought back memories long buried, but some stilled showed in his eyes.
Jake seeing the look in Vin's eyes, kept going. "You were a nothing, weren't you Vinnie. Nobody wanted you. Your mom probably even left you. She couldn't stand the sight of you, could she?" Jake could tell he was pushing Vin's buttons. He saw Vin's jaw clench with the anger he was trying to hold back. Pushing harder, Jake went on. "I bet the other kids' probably called you Vinnie too. Yea they probably called you Vinnie Winnie, because you was such a loser wimp."
Vin felt his whole body tighten at the remembered taunts when he had been thrown into the orphanage. Fighting against the smothering feeling it was creating and the anger that was building dangerously high, he tried to refocus on Shaun. Knowing that the first priority was to get him safely away from Jake, but before he could say anything, it was too late.
Jake grabbing Shaun by the back of his neck, he twisted the boy around so he was looking up at him. "You hear that loser, your hero here was nothing but a wimp, his own mother didn't want him, and she left him. And you're just like him. You're nothing but trash and your mother will leave you too. She'll be glad to be rid of you." Jake evilly taunted.
Vin lost control of his temper as he watched the cruelty toward the boy. A low grow came from deep within his own hurt soul. Lashing out with lightning speed he grabbed Jake's wrist and applied pressure causing Jake to gasp and release his grasp on Shaun. He twisted Jake around and flipped the man, who landed with a thud on the hard floor.
Vin pushed Shawn toward his mother who stood in the kitchen doorway, shocked and with tears streaming down her face. "Go on Shaun, you protect your mom and get her out of here. Everything he said to you was a lie and I'm very proud of you."
With a smile at his hero, Shawn disappeared through the kitchen door.
"You're a dead man when I'm finished with you and the kid will be next," Jake threatened.
Ezra came down the stairs looking forward to another of Ms. Holt's fabulous breakfasts, but stopped dead in his tracks at the dining room door. He knew that he had to do something to diffuse the situation in the other room.
Ezra stepped into the room just as Jake yelled his threat. He stepped up onto the chair at the head of the dining room table and placing both of his hands on the table he kicked off doing a perfect hand stand. He then began to walk the length of the long table, sufficiently grabbing both men's attention.
"Mr. Sharp, you know it is time for my yoga exercise. Mr. Walters expressed that this morning I could use this table, since he wasn't going to be down until late. You also know how much I detest an audience during my exercise, so please do your duty and clear this room. Then fulfill your duty guarding my privacy as I do my daily routine." Ezra eloquently ordered, while still standing on his hands and bicycling his legs in the air.
Vin and Jake both stood staring at the man on the table.
Vin was barely able to keep his face neutral as he watched Ezra, amazed that the man still had the ability to shock him. He would have to thank Ez for helping him gain control of his temper and he was able to usher Jake out the door.
Not liking the turn of events, but knowing there wasn't anything he could do with Mr. Stanly in the room. Jake decided to wait and watch. For now he went out the door slamming it.
Jake smiled though, he had called his brother last night. An enforcer on the east coast. Robert had said it could be several days before he could get away, but as soon as he could he'd be there to help take care of Sharp. Jake thought maybe once they had dealt with Sharp, he would see what Robert thought about taking out Walters and taking over the business. Smiling at the idea he left the house.
"He's gone." Vin said softly, feeling out of sorts for allowing Ezra to step into a dangerous situation, as well as allowing his past to interfere with his job.
Ezra held onto the end of the table and brought his feet down until they were back on the floor. He stood up and straightened his sleeves. "Vincent, I heard some of what occurred and I must say that you showed great restraint. You couldn't stand by and allow him to harm the boy."
"I put you in danger, because I lost control. I shoulda found another way to get Shaun out of the room. I should have just ignored the asshole." Vin continued to chastise himself.
"Like you should have saved Antonio or Pedro from getting hurt? Vincent . . . Vin, you're human the same as the rest of us. All we can do is to try and do our best. Luckily, most of the time we win but some times, know matter how hard we try, we don't. When that happens, those we care about are hurt. It isn't our fault, it isn't your fault. All we can do is to do what's right." Ezra comforted his distraught friend.
"Thanks friend," Vin said, letting his eyes show his true feeling.
The two walked into the kitchen and found Ms. Holt sitting on the floor in the corner, with her son in her lap. The two were holding on to one another.
Vin and Ezra went to them and knelt down beside the upset woman.
"Ms. Holt, its all right Jakes gone, he isn't going to hurt your boy," Vin reassured her.
Ms. Holt looked up at Vin as she rocker her son, tears rolling down her face. "For now," she whispered. "What about next time?"
"There won't be a next time. I'm going to tell security to install cameras in here and the dinning room, and right outside the bedroom door. There will be no place where Jake can hide. Pard, I hate to ask ya, but can you promise me just for a little while not to go outside or anywhere, without your mom or me with you? Ma'am if Jake comes near you anywhere, yell 'no' at the top of your lungs. It gets everybody's attention. Jake is a bully, he don't want witnesses." Vin explained in a gentle voice trying to calm the boy.
Shaun turned and looked up at Vin, "Did your mom really leave you because she didn't want you?"
Vin swallowed hard and met the boy's eyes telling him the truth. "No Shaun, my mom died when I was a little fella, littler than you. But everyday all the way up till she was gone, she told me she loved me. I did have kids later on tease and pick on me and it hurt. But no matter what, they couldn't take that away from me, they couldn't take my mom's love away from me. You're a good pard Shaun, don't you listen to anything that Jake said. It wasn't the truth, none of it. You're worth more to your mom than anything, and I'm real pleased you see me as a friend."
"I must agree, Master Shaun. I think you're a wonderful boy and so very helpful. I've seen you help your mother with all the chores. Your mother is a very lucky lady to have such a wonderful son and don't you worry, I'll be speaking to Mr. Walters about Jake." Ezra agreed
Ms. Holt looked at the men, "Thank you, both of you."
"Here dear lady, let us help you off this cold floor." Ezra offered
Vin eased the boy out of her arms and lifted him up, as Ezra gently helped Ms. Holt to her feet. Vin carried the boy over to the Island and set him down on top of it. He grabbed a cold can of ginger ale from the refrigerator to help calm the boy's stomach down, from the stressful morning.
"You two don't belong here. You aren't what you seem." Ms. Holt whispered soft enough that her son could not hear.
Ezra studied the woman for a moment then replies just as softly, "You my dear, are a kind and gentle woman and you do not seem to belong here either."
"I don't, but I don't have a choice. My husband ran the horse ranch that once stood here. Mr. Walters appeared with the deed saying he had bought the place from the Martin's. He said that Hank, my husband could still work the horses and I could still work as the cook. We lived in the little house that Jake lives in now. At first it was all right working for him, and then he put in more buildings around the property and then the security. Then more men started arriving. That's when Jake started working for Mr. Walters. Hank saw something one day, told me at first he thought that Mr. Walters was building a tornado shelter or a bomb shelter. But he said it was to far away from all the buildings and house to be useful in a storm. Hank asked Mr. Walters about it in front of Jake, because it was in the area of the best spring grazing for the horses. Two days later Hank was dead, they say he fell off a horse he was training and broke his neck. Hank was an excellent rider and trai ner, I know he didn't just fall off a horse, but I couldn't prove anything. I was going to leave when Mr. Walters told me as long as I stayed here and cooked for him, that Shaun and I would be safe. But if we left . . . well who knew what could happen to a small boy out there in the world. I can't leave. I can't risk anything happening to Shaun." Ms. Holt explained.
"What do you do when Mr. Walters leaves, does he take you and your son with him?" Ezra asked.
"No, if he leaves for a month or more he takes Jake with him, but every one else stays. Mr. Kellis wasn't too bad, he was quiet and polite. We only saw him at meals and when he was leaving or returning. Jake had always left us alone until a couple of months ago, when he and Mr. Kellis started arguing. When Mr. Walters returned and Mr. Kellis would take his issues with Jake to him. Jake would then be called into the office and get yelled at. .
Vin voice the question on both men's minds, "Did your husband ever tell you exactly where they were digging and building this bomb shelter."
"Yes, it's out in the southern part of the property where the two hills form a ' V '. Hank said while standing in the V they dug into the hill on the right. Who are you two, really?"
"I'm sorry dear lady, but for your own protection we can't say. Just know we are here to help. We will protect you and your son and help remove you from this prison." Ezra replied.
"Just hang in there for a little while Ms. Holt and keep Shaun in sight, so Jake can't get at him again. Like I said, if he does come up to ya, yell your head off. He doesn't want Walters knowin' what he's doing, so he'll back off quick not wanting to get caught." Vin reassured the housekeeper.
"Okay, but I need to get breakfast ready. Mr. Walters wanted it served at 9:30 sharp."
"We will retire to the dining room to read the newspaper and enjoy a cup of that wonderful coffee, thus allowing you to go about your duties." Ezra smiled at her.
"Hey Edward and I are going out to the table to read the paper, wanna come read the comics with me for a bit." Vin looked at Shaun with a twinkle in his eyes.
Shaun looked to his mother and received a smile. He nodded yes and hoped down.
Grabbing coffee on the way out, the tree settled around the table; one reading the business and art section, while the other two read and laughed at the comics.
+ + + + + + +
"Edward, it would appear that I received a call last night from an associate. He left a message on my machine, which I returned early this morning. Arthur informed me that he has found a buyer in need of a large quantity of merchandise. This buyer needs and answer in 24 hours in order to guarantee some business on his end. Seems he's the leader of some mercenary group. Poor Arthur described him as a man who could scare the devil himself." Walter's laughed at the thought of Rundy being scared of anyone.
"Mr. Walters, I'll deal and make a sale with the devil. Just as long as he has the cash to back up the sale. Did your associate have a name for this 'spawn of Satan?" Ezra smiled.
"Yes, his name is Charles Hanly. It seems he has had dealings with the 'Border Militia.'"
"I've dealt with them before, a boorish group but always good customers of Mr. Gigonio. When would you like me to contact Mr. Hanly, I assume your associate retrieved a phone number."
"Contact him now and set up a late lunch meeting for 2 at Tonio's restaurant."
Ezra took the offered piece of paper and dialed the number then turned on the speaker phone, "Hello, may I speak to a Mr. Hanly please."
"This is Hanly."
"We have a mutual associate who has informed us that you are looking for several products, which we can provide. I was wondering if you would care to meet, say at 2 p.m., at Tonio's restaurant on Ninth Avenue?
"Yes, that'll be fine."
"Oh, please make a list of precisely what you are looking to obtain, thus allowing us to more accurately fulfill your order if the transaction should occur." Ezra smoothly requested.
"That's fine, but I'll need an answer right always. If you can't I need to make contact with some one else I heard about."
Walters hit the mute button on the phone and explained quickly, what Arthur had told him about that conversation. Once he was finished he turned the mute off.
"Yes I heard you were going to make contact with that cretin. I also understand that you were informed or his being untrustworthy as well as his habit of blowing up his clients or anyone else who might disagree with him."
"He wouldn't be a problem to take care of, if need be." Hanly answered flatly; there was no brag in the voice just simple fact.
"I do believe you mean that sir. So 2 o'clock Mr. Hanly, the reservation will be under Edward Stanly." Ezra replied then hung up.
"Very good Edward, very good. You handle that perfectly."
"If you don't mind sir, I'd like to make a few calls and do some research on this Hanly, just to be on the safe side." Ezra stated to the man for the effect. He already knew that there would we a water-tight background set up on one, Charles Hanly.
"No need Edward, I had my securty men do that right after I talked to Arthur," Walter announced, handing him the papers on the man. "As you can see he has an extensive military history until he received a discharge. They knew he was hiring himself out and stealing the weapons and explosives right from the base, but they couldn't prove it. He is suspected of involvement in the hostile take-over of several small countries, as well as assignations and sabotage here in this country. The man is good and I'd bet his men are just as good. If we set this deal up right, we may have a permanent customer that will be very lucrative for us." Walter's greed showed clearly on his face.
"Yes, as well as someone we can use to eliminate the competitions should it become a problem," Ezra added.
"Yes, I see this as a win, win situation."
"Mr. Walters I hate to put a damper on your good mood, but I would like to request you send someone other than Jake with Vincent and me to this meet."
"Something else happen I need to know about?" Walters frowned.
"At any opportune time he has taken to terrorizing the Holt's after assuring that no one is around to witness his actions. He has used this method in an attempt to push Vincent into attacking him and thus receiving the punishment which would occur as a result. Luckily Vincent is a very controlled man. All of the accidents which have occurred this past week, there is no doubt he was behind then. I'm sorry Mr. Walters, I do not wish to tell you how to handle your employees, nor do I presume that you trust Vincent or me enough to let us go alone. That is why I am requesting for you to send someone else with us, to ensure we make the meeting on time and have a productive meet without any possible trouble occurring."
Walters stared at him for a few moments thinking, "That isn't an unreasonable request. Actually it's an understandable one. Jake has been a little more aggressive lately. I think he fears Vincent might take his place and in all honesty, I have consider that possibility for down the road. However, for now I do still need him. As for the meeting today, I'll accompany you as well. I'll go in before you with Jake and sit in the booth directly behind you so I can hear everything. If there is a problem or you question anything, just call my cell and I'll already have an answer."
"That is ingenious, Sir. With you along I won't have to worry about any other problems appearing." Ezra smiled.
Though he had said it tactfully, Walters knew he meant Jake causing any problems and he had to agree. Walters thought that just possibility after he sold all the stolen military weapons, from the hijacking. He'd give Vincent permission to get rid of Jake permanently. However, for now he still needed Jake to retrieve and move the merchandise from the storage vault upon sale. It did hold promise. Warming to the idea, Walters decided to think on it seriously.
At 2 pm Ezra was sitting inside the booth with Vin sitting beside him on the outside edge. They had chosen the booth against the wall, as Vin did not want anyone to be able to approach from behind.. Walters was sitting in the booth beside them with Jake.
A tall, well built man walked up to their booth with the waiter showing the way.
"Ah Mr. Hanly I presume." Ezra said, holding out his hand.
"Yes, and you must be Mr. Stanly." Chris grasped Ezra's offered hand in greeting then looked at Vin, "And you are?"
"Nobody," Vin answered, his eyes shifting slightly in the direction of Walters and Jake.
Chris caught the subtle signal that they weren't alone and were being watched. "I understand. I also have a 'nobody' here watching my back."
The men sat down and waited for the waiter to take their drink orders and walk away.
"Mr. Stanly, here is what you requested." Chris handed Ezra a folded piece of paper.
Ezra opened the paper and looked over the items listed, "A very extensive list I see, but it shouldn't be a problem. I will need to check on some figures before quoting you a price."
"My time is limited. If we can agree on a price I would need the items before Sunday noon. How fast can the items be delivered or can we pick them up?" Chris queried.
"Mr. Hanly, I will quote you a price by late this afternoon. If we come to agreement I assure you that we will make your deadline." Ezra promised.
"Fine, I see no reason for me to stay then. I'll wait for your call and expect it no later that 6 pm." Chris stood and prepared to leave. Looking over toward Vin he commented, "Your quiet, but your smart. You've kept your eye on everything going on in this place, bet you even spotted my 'nobody'."
Vin nodded, "Over by the kitchen, front table acting like he's waitin' on a date."
"Like I said, you're good. You ever get tired of playing bodyguard, let me know." With that Chris left.
"Vincent it would appear you have impressed someone, yet again."
"Not to worry Edward, I told you I'd be your bodyguard. My words good." He answered as Walters and Jake joined them.
Ezra handed the list to Walters, who had just finished telling Jake not to say a word when he started to address Vin.
As Ezra and Walters discussed prices and totals, Jake sat staring at Vin a touch of a smile quirked his lips. Little did they know the man was contemplating the arrival of his brother and all the plans he had made.
Vin knew by the look on Jake's face that he was up to something, he just hoped it would not occur until after the 'buy' took place. By then it wouldn't matter, Jake would be behind bars.
Upon returning to the compound Ezra and Walters headed straight to the office and began to cross-check their supply list with the items Hanly wanted to purchase. A price was placed beside each group of items until they finally arrived at a selling price.
"Mr. Walters, now that the financial total has been made what about delivery and pick up. Mr. Hanly stated he needed to leave midday Sunday. Although I'm sure he will be taking a good portion of the items on their next project, I am also sure he will be leaving some at his storage facility. It is a given that he will want to do an entire inventory upon exchange. Since we desire to keep him as a client, I feel we should allow him to bring his own transportation to where the merchandise is stored thus allowing him to do his count as it is loaded. Instead of using your manpower to load and unload we allow him to take responsibility of loading and transportation. It could prove beneficial to all on many levels as well as save time." Ezra suggested.
"It sounds like a good idea. We could conclude the whole sale by tomorrow. However, there is one problem. The merchandise is here on the property in an in-ground storage facility."
"Is it close to the main house or outer buildings, or are there perhaps other access roads leading to it that we could direct Mr. Hanly to, thus keeping him from seeing the main part of this facility and giving the impression that the merchandise is being stored out in the middle of nowhere?" Ezra asked calmly as if he was just thinking of a way to help his boss while in reality, having the deal here would put the last nail in Walters' coffin.
"Yes there is a back access road, which winds around through the woods. I suppose we could have him arrive that way." Walters answered slowly, thinking carefully about the situation.
"Mr. Walters, I'm sure you have cameras as well as audio on the location, this could work out. You could sit in the security room and monitor the whole sale. We could be linked via the cell phone should we need to speak, you would see and hear everything with out being seen yourself." Ezra stated.
"You know Edward, the more I think about it I like it. I've never been to a sale. I've always relied on an employee to take care of it for me. Watching one might help me see how it truly runs and not on second-hand information. Yes. Yes, if Mr. Hanly agrees to the amount and can have it ready by tomorrow, will set the meet just after dark. I'll want the men arranged up down the road leading to it as well as several around the storage it self." Walters instructed.
"Vincent is checking on the improvement of your men as we speak, I'll call him and ask for his presence at once," Ezra informed as he reached for the cell phone and hit speed dial. "Vincent will be here momentarily."
It had been agreed that Vincent's attendance was not necessary while Edward was working in the office with Mr. Walters, but when Edward left the office or was otherwise alone he would contact his bodyguard via his cell phone.
"Let's call Mr. Hanly before we have Vincent plan the strategy for the men." Walters told Ezra.
Picking up the phone and dialing Mr. Hanly's number, Ezra once again turned on the speaker phone.
Hanly answered and soon he and Ezra had agreed upon a price. Hanly assured he would have the cash ready within hours. Arrangements were made for the pickup and transport of the merchandise. The time was set for 9 pm the next evening. Ezra cautioned Hanly that he would be met halfway down the designated road and led the rest of the way. With the agreement finalized they concluded their phone call.
"Why have him met along the road?" Walters asked curiously.
"Because I've told Edward to always check out who's coming before they reach the meet. It's safer that way." Vincent voice came through the doorway as he walked in.
"I do like the way you think Vincent. After this sale is over I'd like to talk to you about something." Walters smiled.
"Sir?" Vin questioned.
"I've come to the conclusion that Jake is out of control, a loose cannon which could be a severe liability in this business. We'll discuss this after the sale tomorrow. On Sunday we can sit down and I'll explain what I'm proposing." Walters explained
"Alright, as long as Edward is included," Vin accepted, realizing that by Sunday the man would have a whole different opinion of Vincent Sharp.
"To the business at hand, I need you to set up the men to watch the arrival of Mr. Hanly as well as the loading of the weapons." Walters explained. He showed Vincent the map and where Hanly would be entering the property along with how far on the road he would travel to the weapons storage.
"Do you have any overhead shots of your property that can be used?" Vin asked.
"Matter of fact I do. The previous owners had detailed aerial shots taken just two months before I took over the property." Walters gladly offered, pulling out a large surveyor's map of the property as well as a huge file of 12 x12 photos.
Vin rolled out the map, picking up a pencil he drew a large rectangle on the map. Inside the area was the beginning of the road which led to the weapons storage. "Mr. Walters let me take the map to the security room and mark where the cameras are in this area. I'll be right back and with the use of the photos we can lay out what should be the best locations for your men and where to stop Hanly."
Walters watched Vin leave with the map. "I do believe you're right Edward. This is going to work well all the way around. Not only will I be able to watch the sale, but I'll be seeing just how well Vincent works with the planning and security. Yes, a good idea indeed," Walters grinned.
"It should be a wonderful, lucrative weekend, Mr. Walters." Ezra agreed. Thinking they needed to come up with a plan, using that surveyor's map, to get the ATF teams there without being seen and how to arrest Walters without him knowing they were coming.
Vin soon returned and rolled the map out on the table. Looking down Walters and Ezra could see little red 'x' scattered within the penciled rectangle. Vin explained those were the cameras as he spread out the aerial photos. He studied each one before either setting it off to the side in a pile or placing it on or along the map. After quite a bit of time, he looked up and asked, "Do you have any color pencils? They work better because you can erase whatever you need to."
"Yes, I do believe I saw a box of them over on the filing cabinet." Ezra stated as he went to collect the pencils.
Ezra watched as Vin picked up each picture he had laid on the map and a color pencil. He made marks that represented men either standing in the open or hidden, as well as what that man would be caring for weapons. Though he had seen Vin and Chris do this very thing before, it always amazed him at Vin's ability to make a tactical plan so quickly and accurately as well as thorough. However he was slightly confused. What Vin had planned could very well stop any attempt of the ATF busting the sale.
"Vincent this is an excellent plan, so thorough." Walters exclaimed as he saw it come together on the map.
Vin nodding his thanks then looked to Ezra. And gave him a little grin, letting him know not to worry he had a plan. Looking back down at the map, Vin picked up a picture of the V hills, "Where is the opening to the storage?"
Walters pointed it out, Vin marked it on the map. He was shaken from his thinking when a knock came at the door. "Sorry to disturbed you Mr. Walters, sir. But we have a slight problem. Mr. Sharp told us to install cameras in the dinning room and kitchen this morning."
Walters looked grimly at Vin and Ezra.
"I'm sorry sir, I should have asked. But I was trying to prevent future problems" Vin stated meeting his eyes.
Walters looked over to Ezra, "Edward?"
"Yes, as I said this morning about Jake. We happened upon him terrorizing Ms. Holt's child. I mentioned to Vincent that I was afraid without video proof that it would only be our word against his. Vincent was helping assure that he would not have a blind spot in the house in which to offend your cook or her child." Ezra reported.
Walter nodded his understanding and his appreciation of Vincent foreseeing a way to fix the problem while staying within his rules. "I understand, but inform me next time. I know today we have been busy and it probably slipped your mind Edward, but next time come tell me immediately. Now George, what is the problem?" Walter asked the man at the door.
"We were installing the cameras in the kitchen while Ms. Holt started dinner, and well Jake came in he saw us and ordered us out of the room. I tried to explain to him that we were order to install the cameras by Mr. Sharp. He's really angry sir, I thought it best to come and get you."
"You didn't leave him down there alone with Ms. Holt and her boy." Vin growled.
"No sir. I left the other two men down there and told them to stay, that I'd be back with Mr. Walters." As the man finished, he moved out of the way as Vin, Walters, and Ezra went quickly to the kitchen.
Entering the room they found chaos.
Vin moved fast to gather Ms. Holt, her son clutched tightly in her arms, and basically shoved her toward Ezra whose arms surrounded them. He spun them around and out of the door the men had just entered. Ezra then moved to stand beside Walters as they watched Vin in action.
After shoving Ms. Holt and Shaun to safety Vin spun around diving forward and knocked a workman's feet out from under him. The man dropped to the floor a camera flying past and missing his head by inches. Vin forward motion did not stop as he rolled and shoved another man out of harms way. The last of his momentum was brought to an end as he grabbed Jake by the arm and shoulder, spinning him toward the wall and at the same time kicking the back of his legs bringing the man down to his knees his face pressed against the wall.
"Jake what the hell do you think you're doing?" Walters demanded angrily.
Vin let go of Jake and stepped back but remained ready just in case he tried something.
Jake stood up and glared at Vin then turned to face Walters. "I was protecting your interest. Vinnie here has been ordering a lot of changes. Putting cameras in here and the dining room, telling the men in the compound who to work with and where. He's trying to take over behind your back." Jake yelled.
"No he isn't. I told him what to do. He was acting on my orders, and if you had come and talk to me you would have know this. Instead you went off half-cocked making a mess. Why were you throwing that camera?"
"I wasn't, I yanked it out of Sam's hand when I told him nothing was being installed until you said so, but it slipped out of our hands and went flying across the room."
Walters, as well as everyone else in the room knew it was a lie, but he didn't want to start anything until tomorrows deal was complete. "Jake, I want you to go to your place and stay there until tomorrow morning. Then you and I will discuss a few things in private when we're both calmer." Walters ordered.
"What about Vincent, he broke your rule of hitting." Jake sneered.
"Mr. Walters although Vincent did bring the events to a halt, I'd like to point out in his defense he never hit anyone." Ezra stated seriously.
"Like Hell! How did I get on the floor facing the wall?" Jake growled angrily
"Mr. Walters and I watched the entire incident. Vincent insured the safety of the Holts and then helped the men out of the way of possible bodily harm. Finally he set about to stop the catalyst of the problem. Yes he did touch you by grabbing your shoulder and arm, and he did push on the back of your knee to bring you down. However, at no time did he hit or fight with you." Ezra informed the irate man.
"Edward is right. Vincent was acting on my wishes to stop the chaos that was ensuing in this room. He didn't break the rules Jake. Now go do as you were told," Walters ordered.
Jake stormed out of the room and let the house, slamming the back door on his way out.
"Sam, go up to the security room and follow Jake, make sure he goes strait to his place. Monitor his house. I want to make sure he doesn't leave." Walters ordered.
"George, get some help, finish installing the cameras and help Ms. Holt clean up this mess. I'd like to have dinner before I go to bed."
George walked over toward Vin and offered his hand. "I'd like to thank you for getting me out of the way. That camera would have taken my head off."
Vin shook the proffered hand and nodded to the man who went back to where the wires still hung from where the camera had been mounted.
"Ms. Holt, are you all right?" Walters asked as they stepped into the kitchen.
"Yes sir, we stayed out of the way as much as possible once Jake came into the room," the woman explained.
"That was very smart of you ma'am." Vincent replied.
"Yes it was. I would like to have some type of dinner tonight between 7 and 8 o'clock. Under the circumstances, will this be possible?" Walters asked, looking at his watch and seeing it was already 6:20.
"Yes sir. I'm sure I can have something ready no later than 7:30."
"Very good. Edward, Vincent, shall we get back to business?"
The men left the room and headed back to the office where Vin went back to marking the map. By 7 o'clock the plan was finished. Vin had carefully explained every point.
"Excellent Vincent. To ensure that there are no problems in carrying out this plan, I have planned a trip to the city tomorrow morning for a fitting of my new suits as well as some shopping for a trip I'm planning in the near future. I'll take Jake with me. On our return trip I will explain that he will be staying with me in the security room during the transaction. That should allow you the majority of the day to arrange the men as you see fit and to explain their part in your plan. I know you will have everything ready for the arrival of Mr. Hanly." Walters explained.
"Now why, don't we go freshen up since our dinner is sure to be ready shortly?"
"Mr. Walters, I'd like to take the map and photos back to the suite with me. I'm sure I didn't miss anything but I'd like to double check, and add a few more men at different points, if necessary." Vin requested.
"Yes, go ahead. Add men anywhere you think it would be most effective," Walters smiled. He admired a man who paid attention to details.
Vin gathered up the map and photos and then followed Ezra to their suite.
Ezra used the handheld scanner to insure that no mics had been placed in the area since they were last there.
"So what is the real plan, Vin? I know you left some hole to allow for the arrival of our associates."
Vin gave Ezra a grin and blew on the corner of the map. "Thought the survey map was awful thick, when I went to the security room to look at the monitors. I tested the corner and sure enough, there are two of them. They've been rolled together so tightly for so long that they sealed on to each other. After supper, we'll look over the aerial shots of the area I told you I found the lapse in security. I have a plan, but we'll have to call your stock broker tonight to give him time to set up." Vin smiled at Ezra with a twinkle in his eye.
"All right, let's clean up and join Mr. Walters for his last supper, so to speak. Then we shall retire for the evening to work out your plan and contact my stock broker." Ezra smiled, enjoying the thought of Chris ever being something as sedentary as a Stock Broker.
The two prepared for dinner and soon were on their way down to join Walters.
"Mr. Walters, what time are you planning on leaving in the morning?" Vin asked, after taking a sip of tea.
Walters sat down him fork and wiped his mouth with the napkin before replying, "I was thinking about 8 am, why?"
"I was going to ask if you could take me to the weapons storage so I could take a look around the area and the set-up." Vin commented.
"Yes I can see where that would be important. I'll tell George to take you out there so you can look around. What time would work for you?"
"I usually leave for my run at 5, if that is too early we can go whenever if works best for him," Vin answered calmly.
"No I'm sure that will be fine." Walter assured.
The men helped themselves to a meal of wild sage and cinnamon baked chicken, creamy scallop potatoes, balsamic & basil sauted tomatoes and mozzarella balls.
Ezra realized that once this was all over he would have to see about finding Ms. Holt new employment, preferably where he could enjoy her wonderful cooking from time to time. Yes, it was definitely something he needed to give some serious thought.
The ATF agents made their excuses after the meal was finished. Ezra commented that Vincent was a perfectionist when it came to planning and wanted to get back to the maps and photos. Walters waved them on stating that he was tired and after talking to George was planning to call it an night himself. With that the men said their goodnights and headed to their rooms.
At 10:00 pm, Vin looked up from the new map he had made, after explaining his plan to Ezra.
"You are a very inventive man, Vincent, very deviously inventive."
"Yea well, takes one to know one." Vin teased.
"Well it's time to call my stock broker." Ezra grinned
Placing the call, they waited as it was routed thought to Larabee's cell phone. "Lloyd's Stocker Brokers, Christopher speaking."
"I'm going to miss hearing you say that, I must say." Ezra informed him.
"So I take it you two know something. So we have a plan?" Chris wanted to know.
"Yes, Vincent has come up with an ingenious plan so I will turn the phone over to him." Ezra replied, handing his cell phone over.
"Hey Cowboy, are the others there? So you figured we might. Good, put me on the speaker since all of ya are in the office."
"Ok junior you're on," Buck's voice through loud and clear.
Vin couldn't help but smile, he had missed the guys. "JD you need to pull up a survey map, the filing numbers on it is 44735-CIT-4743. I'll tell ya what to mark on it once I explain the plan."
"Give me a second," they could hear the click of J.D.'s fingers flying across the keyboard as he pulled up the survey map and sent a copy to the printer. "Should be here shortly, I told them we needed it brought to the office ASAP."
Vin explained to his teammates the way they would be able to get on the property without being seen. It seemed that there were no cameras or any type of security within 500 yards from the area. "Guess Walters, must have figured that with the sinkhole there against the property by the road it wasn't a risk. You need to go past the sinkhole and follow the edge around. There is a sizable ledge that you can use." Once on the property he gave directions of where they should head, laying the whole plan out, including Walters' men and where they would be.
"You are a devious man, Vin Tanner," Josiah laughed.
"That's what Ez said."
"What about Walters and Jake?" Chris wanted to know.
Vin laid out his plan of arresting the two men and it was agreed that it should work. Team 5 and Team 3 would be involved in the bust with Team 2 acting as backup if needed. It seemed that all of the ATF teams had found other activities for their FBI counterparts.
"So have ya heard anything from the FBI agents?" Vin asked humor in this tone.
"No, but the sheriff called, said he though he caught those burglars that were seen in his area. Told him we'd be down some time Monday. Sheriff said that be fine, that he had a fishing tournament this weekend and didn't want to be waiting on us." Chris told him
Vin could hear them all laughing in the background. It was with a bit of dread he asked, "How's Pedro?"
"He still has a fever, but he's holding his own." Chris answered. Little did Vin know that Chris was leaving out the fact the doctors were discussing the chance of Pedro going back for more surgery to see if they might have missed a small fragment.
"See ya tomorrow, Cowboy."
"Count on it Vin." With that they both hung up.
+ + + + + + +
The next morning, Vin met George by the stables. The jumped into one of the trucks and headed to the storage areas. Once there, Vin walked up and down the hills and then around them before going inside and checking the stockpile of weapons. Only when he was convinced he had seen everything did he climb back into the truck for the ride back to the house.
"Have all the group leaders meet in the dinning room at 9 o'clock sharp." Vin informed George as he climbed out of the vehicle.
"You got it. I'll wait until I see Mr. Walters leave to tell them. He told me last night he didn't want Jake to hear anything until after they returned." George answered
Vin nodded at the man and then headed to the house. There was still one thing that was bothering him. Upon entering the kitchen he realized it was a little before 7 o'clock. Fixing himself a cup of coffee he headed up the stairs to the security room. Glancing at the numerous monitors he realized that one view was missing.
"Sam what happen to the camera that was suppose to be set up out side Ms. Holt's room?"
"We never got to it, after the incident in the kitchen. We just finished that one and the dinning room and called it a night. Figured we would do it today." He answered.
"No we have too much going on today. Wait until tomorrow when things have calmed down," Vin reasoned.
"Sound good to me."
Walking up to the suite, Vin started to form a small change to the plan. He thought it might just fix what was bothering him. He opened the door and found Ezra already up and dressed. "Morning Ez."
"Morning Vincent, how did the site look?"
"Just like I thought it would. George is going to have the men in charge of each group meet us in the dinning room at 9. We have a problem, but I think I've come up with a solution."
Ezra's head snapped up, "What problem?"
"Ms. Holt and her son."
"Go on," Ezra encouraged.
"We need to get them out of the house, it would be too easy for them to get hurt or be used as hostages. I checked with Sam just now and because of Jake's little episode last night they never got the camera installed to watch her hall or door, so I told him to just wait until tomorrow. I figure that way we can talk to her without anyone seeing. Shaun can fake being sick early this afternoon, that way if no one sees them after dinner they won't think anything about it."
Ezra just nodded his agreement and encouraged his friend to continue with his train of thought.
"We need to get Walters to eat early today. We can tell him we don't want to be rushed getting to the storage facility, checking on the men and seeing that everything is set up. So if we convince him to eat around 6 o'clock we can leave at 7:30. One of us will need to go to the security room and have them run a check on all the cameras involved for tonight. No close-ups except on or around the entrance of the weapons storage and inside. I'll have the truck parked right next to the back door. If I'm in the security room then you'll need to be in the kitchen standing in front of that breezeway coming from Ms. Holt's bedroom hallway and going outside. If Ms. Holt is carrying Shaun she can slip by and hide between the wall and truck. It'll be tight when you open the door since you'll only be able to open it halfway but that should be enough."
Ezra did little more that nod his encouragement for Vin to continue as he filed away all the instructions in his head, realizing that one slip-up could cause all their plans to fall apart.
"I'll be down as quick as possible then when you do open the door, pause and fuss at me about my parking ability and then get in, that should give them enough time to slide in and stay on the floor board. I'll have the seat pushed all the way back so there should be plenty of room. There'll be an extra pair of green army fatigues and a hat, she can slip that over her clothes and hair so she'll blend in with the men later on. I got that big ole duffle bag on the floor too so once we get away from the house we have Shaun wiggle into it. The secret is to keep their heads down so the cameras along the way don't give them away."
A smile lit Ezra's face as he realized that Vin's plan actually had a good chance of working. Not that he would ever doubt him.
We'll drive to the back entrance of the facility first. I'll call a bunch of the men over and you just stand by the far side of the truck, leaving the door open. Ms Holt can slip out and with the men facing me she can join in and look just like one of them. We'll get back in the truck and when I back up I'll make is seem the truck is hung up, right next to that big tree. With the truck blocking the camera you get out an act like you're checking out the back of the truck, but in reality you will have the duffle bag with Shaun in it. Just place it a bit behind the tree. I'll get the truck moving and you can jump back in. Then I just have to yell at everyone to get into position and Ms. Holt will go to the tree. She can stay there until told otherwise and be pretty much out of harms way. Once Chris drives the truck through, everyone will be moving inward except for the lookouts that will stay at the back gate. We won't be able to tell her the whole plan until were in the truc k driving, but as long as we can give her enough direction to get out of the house, I think she'll be able to do it." Vin finished explaining the elaborate plan.
Ezra stared at Vin and wasn't sure which amazed him more, how much talking Vin had just done or how quickly the man was able to come up with a solution for getting the Holt's out of the house. "Vincent, my friend, I think you have missed your calling." Ezra chuckled. "As I have said before you are an inventive man. Shall we go to breakfast and see Walters off and perhaps I can make the suggestion of an early dinner, thus getting this little plan underway."
"Good idea Ez. We need to be there before he leaves so he can tell us any orders he might have."
The two men were about to leave the suite when Vin stopped abruptly and looked at Ezra. "Laundry!"
"I beg your Pardon?"
"Ez, you're going to have an accident at breakfast. Spill something on your shirt and then comment that this is your 'lucky shirt' and it's one of a kind. Insist that is has to be washed and pressed today."
"Vincent I have several shirts of this color and make, they all look the same." Ezra looked at Vin, confusion clearly on his face.
"I know that and you know that, but know one else does. You go up and change and I'll take the shirt to Ms. Holt in the laundry room. There are no cameras. I can give her a quick run down how we plan to get them out of the house. When she returns the shirt a couple hours later, make sure it's in front of the cameras and if possible other people. She can apologize that it took so long 'cause Shaun is so sick." Vin explained.
Ezra just shook his head, "As I said, most inventive."
+ + + + + + +
Breakfast was going as planned. As Walters stood to leave, explaining that he needed to pick up Jake in front of his house, Ezra too stood and reached forward to shake his hand and promise that everything would be ready upon his return. As Ezra started to sit back down his sleeve caught on his glass of juice and it overturned splashing juice on his shirt and pants. From that point everything went as planned.
Vin took the shirt to Ms. Holt and quickly explained that she needed to leave and they had a plan. He still couldn't tell her who he and Mr. Stanly really were, but she saw the honesty in his face and soon agreed to the plan. Vin handed her a bag with Ezra's shirt as well as a set of fatigues and hat. Vin saw the worried look on the woman's face but gave her a reassuring wink and was on his way.
Ezra had returned to the dinning room by the time Vin walked in. He and the group leaders were waiting with the map spread out across the table. The men were all assigned positions along the road as Vin explained how the transfer of merchandise would take place. As Hanly's truck passed, each group would fall in behind and work their way toward the storage facility. Midway the truck would be stopped and they were all to be in place covering it in case there were any surprises planned by the buyer. Once the truck was cleared, they were to continue following the truck all the way to the facility. Some of the men would help with transferring the weapons to the truck and some would be used as guards. A handful with radios would stay hidden at the back gate and would not leave their positions until an hour after the truck had left the compound. They were to maintain radio silance no matter what, unless others tried to enter.
The men stated that they understood and headed out to show their teams were they would be stationed. All would meet at 1 pm at the firing range. Vin had requested that all men spend time practicing with the group leaders going last. Distracting the less experienced men with a friendly competition could work in their favor. The odds were that several of the men who were still out of shape or green would not remember to reload or take extra ammo in their rush to reach their positions, especially if the competition ran a little long.
As the men left the house, Ezra and Vin bent low over the map, their heads close together and appearing to discuss the layout of guards for the cameras benefit.
"So far, so good," Vin said
"Yes, we can only assume our counterparts are in tune with ourselves."
"They are," Vin's voice held assurance as he stared straight ahead, a glazed look in his eyes.
"Buck is right, it is very eerie when you and out illustrious leader know what the other is doing," Ezra grinned.
Vin returning his grin and shrugging, "Whatever works."
+ + + + + + +
Walters and Jake returned at 5 pm and everyone could see the man was steaming with anger, but whatever Walters had said to him was working. The man stayed silent and at Walters side. Ms. Holt brought Walters a glass of tea and reported that the prime rib she had made for dinner would be ready at 6 o'clock, as requested.
Appearing weary, Walters's asked her if there was a problem and she explained that her son seems to have caught a stomach bug and was running a fever. Walters agreed that it would be best if she stayed with him once dinner was cleaned away, and if he needed anything that one of the security men could handle it. Nodding her thanks the woman left to set the table.
Vin and Ezra passed Ms. Holt on their way into the room and happily reported that everything was in place. They would be doing a last minute check as they headed for the storage facility, driving first to the back gate and checking the men there, and then working their way to the storage facility.
Walters was impressed with the extra effort that his newest employees were going to make this a successful transfer of goods.
+ + + + + + +
Ezra and Vin had excused themselves to clean up for dinner and were now prepared to leave the suite. "From here on out we have to do it by the clock." Vin reminded.
"Yes, this will be the last evening Mr. Walters or Jake will enjoy as free men. Shall we raise the curtain and start this production?" Ezra smiled.
+ + + + + + +
Walters spent the meal discussing the suits that he was having made and promised to set Edward up with his tailor for an appointment. Throughout the dinner Jake didn't utter a word but sat and glared at Vin. By 7:15 the dinner was over and the table cleared. Walter, Ezra, Vin and Jake moved to the security room to do a check on the camera system.
Upon entering the room Ezra seemed to develop a tickle in his throat. He coughed a few times and then attempted to clear his throat only to start coughing again. "Excuse me Mr. Walters, I need to return to the kitchen and retrieve a glass of tea to help moisten my throat and drive away this annoying cough. Vincent do not look at me like that, I will be right back and I shall be very safe in Mr. Walters's wonderful home."
Ezra left the room and headed straight to the kitchen. Pouring himself a glass of tea, Ezra stood beside the refrigerator blocking the breeze way. Continuing to cough, he began drinking the tea. A slight breeze on his back the only sign that the Holt's had successfully moved through the opening. Putting the glass down on the island, he headed back up to retrieve his partner.
Walters was sitting comfortably behind the men running the cameras and monitors with Jake standing behind him by the door. Vin appeared to be studying the storage facility from all the different angles. He turned and addressed Walters, "Sir, everything looks ready, but I'll feel better if I personally do a last minute check. Edward and I will head to the back gate and then work our way back to the storage facility."
"That's fine Vincent, I appreciate your attention to details. This is going to be a wonderful event gentleman, just wonderful," Walters boasted.
Jake followed as Vin and Ezra stepped out side the room. "You think your taking my place, think again drip-weed. When my brother gets here, we'll be taking care of you. So enjoy the few days you got left," he sneered in a tone so low that only they could hear. Knowing that Walters was watching he added in a normal tone, "Don't disappoint Mr. Walters and mess up this sale."
"Jake, come back in here and have a seat." Walters ordered.
Vin and Ezra headed down the stairs and out the kitchen door. They were soon on their way with Ms. Holt and Shaun safely in the truck.
The men never looked down but appeared to be talking to each other as they explained the next step of the plan and what was expected to their two passengers.
Pulling up to the back gate, Vain stepped out of the truck. He called a group of men over and as they gathered Vin looked up into a pair of familiar blue eyes. "Ya have any problems getting in?"
"Nope, followed the way you said. Although J.D. forgot to watch were he stepped." Buck answered with a grin, his head tilted down so the cameras wouldn't see.
"You didn't tell us horses had been in the field," J.D. commented, keeping his face in the shadow of his hat.
Suppressing his smile, Vin asked. "Did you get them all?"
"Yea, like you planed we were already here when they came back from target practice. They sure are out of shape and green. Took them out easily, before any of them knew what was happening. Since you had them hiding back off the road there were no cameras to see what happen. Everyone's been accounted for out here including the group leaders. Team 3 and Nathan are at the storage facility. The other teams are in the middle and back here with JD and me. Josiah is coming with Chris in the truck. Everyone knows to avoid looking directly into the cameras and to keep their hats pulled low." Buck reported.
"Got us a little change in plans. Don't turn around and draw attention but a woman, Ms. Holt just blended in with ya. Her son is still in the truck in a duffle bag. They've been held hostage here for a while. Needed to make sure they were out of the house, so as not to get hurt or worse. Got it all worked out so you just need to play along. J.D. you and Ms. Holt come help Ez when he calls for some help. Once we pull away I'll tell ya to get into position. Give us time to get to the next stop. Security should be focused on us and it'll be good and dark with no moon. That's when you move the duffle bag back into the trees and get Ms. Holt and her son someplace safe. J.D. the boy will probably be scared of ya, he's had it ruff. You tell him that you and me are pards." Vin explained the whole time pointing in one directions and then another so that it appeared he was giving last minute instructions.
Buck nodded his understanding, Vin and Ezra climbed back into the truck. The plan worked perfectly and they were soon on their way to the next stop. At each check point they gave the same instructions to keep hats low and avoid looking directly into the cameras. They finally reached the storage area and walked in as if they were checking the cases that were to be loaded into Hanly's truck. Vin waved one of the men over and pointed to something outside. They were unsure if the cameras in the storage area were fitted with audio as well.
"Hi Vin, everything went off without a hitch. George didn't give us any problems. We had him call out two at a time and replaced them. I had to tell them that you ordered fresh guards for tonight. They are tied up and hidden under camouflage netting on the other side of that hill. I told them there was a truck waiting for them." Nathan chuckled, "Never seen a bunch that didn't question anything but just took it as an order and left."
"Told ya, 'greenhorns'," Vin answered.
Going back into the facility, Ezra informed them that Mr. Hanly had arrived with one of his men. His cell phone rang again he listened intently then hung up. "Mr. Hanly's truck has past inspection and the midway stop. He will arrive momentarily."
The truck arrived and was soon backing up to the storage facilities doors and sufficiently blocking the outside camera. Chris and Josiah climbed out of the truck and move inside. They went through all the process of conducting the buy as normal. Once money changed hands the loading started.
Ezra called Walters explaining that Vincent and he would be heading back to the house with the payment, allowing the security to oversee the remaining loading of merchandise. They would also follow the truck back to the gate to ensure its departure.
Ezra could hear the excitement in Walters voice as he agreed wholeheartedly, thoroughly enjoying all that he was seeing on the monitors.
Chris and Josiah stood off to the side of the truck out of the view of the camera counting the items and checking them off the ledger as they were loaded. In reality the voice that Walters heard calling off the items as they were loaded was the leader of Team 3.
Vin and Ezra had climbed into the pickup and were headed back to the house. They were clearly visible as they based every checkpoint camera. What the camera did not pick up were the other five members of ATF Team 7 who were along for the ride, sitting rather uncomfortably under a tarp in the back of the truck.
The truck pulled up in front of the house and Ezra and Vin walked in the front door just as Walters was coming down the stairs. "Edward, Vincent, well done! I haven't enjoyed myself that much in a long time. Why don't we have champagne to celebrate?"
"I thought you might enjoy looking at your profit first, Mr. Walter." Ezra exclaimed as he handed the briefcase over to the man.
Jake walked down the stairs looking just as angry as when they had seen him last.
Walters took the case and sat it on the bar. He opened it and looking at the money, smiled and it was at that moment that several things happened at once.
"ATF, you are under arrest. Freeze!"
Walters stood at the bar, a stunned and confused look on his face. "Edward, Vincent?"
Gunfire erupted as Jake pulled a piece and headed back up the stairs with Vin and Ezra racing after him. Moments later the remainder of Team 7 followed as other ATF agents arrived and took custody of Walters and anyone else they found in the building and surrounding area.
Jake moved down Walters' private wing, an area that neither Vin nor Ezra had ever been. Slowly making their way along the corridor, they split up when they came to a set of doors.
+ + + + + + +
Vin moved through the door, coming out beside a railing that was part of the back staircase that led into the library. He saw the movement too late to get completely out of the way and the statue came down giving a glancing blow on the side of his head. Jake grabbed the stunned man and hit him in the stomach. Vin fought back as best he could. Luckily, self-preservation was ingrained so strongly that his movements were almost automatic. Jake however was slowly getting the upper hand and landed a lucky punch to the same area that had so recently been hit with the statue. Vin's went down and his world spun around him. He blinked to keep the black spots at bay as he was hauled up by Jake and pushed against the railing.
Jake pulling a knife, taunted, "I'm going to enjoy killing you, just like I did everyone at that last job. I know you're connected to it some how, Fed." Jake spit the word as if a curse, "I heard one of them survived, not for long. When I'm done here I'll go take care of him next. I'm gonna gut you, and then go gut that whiny kid down stairs. You couldn't protect him from me before, and now you won't be around save him."
As Jake brought the knife down in a swift arch, a shot rang out. Jake's head snapped forward as Vin slipped out of his gasp and to the side, the momentum sending Jake over the railing and down to the library floor below.
"Vincent, are you alright?!"
"It's Vin, Ez. You can start calling me Vin now."
+ + + + + + +
Sunday morning found all seven men in the office finishing up their reports. The last page had just been grabbed off of the printer and Chris had begun to collect the documents as Travis walked into the room.
"Chris, boys, I came down to congratulate you on a job well done. Vin, I heard you had a concussion, shouldn't you be home resting?"
"I told him, the doctor told him, Nathan threatened him, but he said he wanted to get his report finished first. He didn't want any loopholes that might let Walters walk." Chris explained exasperation in his voice.
"Calm down Cowboy, Doc said it was a mild concussion."
"Only because you have a hard head." Chris glared back.
"Director Travis, how is Ms. Holt and her son?"
"They're fine. Evie was with me when I received word last night. When she heard about the mother and her child, she insisted I have them brought to her. Poor woman doesn't know what to think with Evie mothering them both. Before you ask, I contacted a friend who called in a favor and the document has been checked out. You were right Ezra. The original owners of the estate left it to Mr. & Mrs. Holt and their son. They had no children of their own and saw the Holts as their family. No true record or bill of sale can be found for the estate. It appears Walter tried to buy it, but the owner wouldn't sell so Walters had them killed and just moved in. Made it look like an accident.
Mrs. Holt has agreed to testify against Walters and tell about him keeping them prisoner along with anything she over heard."
"That's good, she and Shaun deserves some happiness. Doubt they'll keep the place, to many memories." Vin said tiredly.
Chris reached out and placed a hand on Vin's shoulder for support. "It turns out Vin, the doctor says Pedro's fever broke and he's doing better, even woke up. And now Ms Holt and Shaun can have a normal life, you did well."
Vin glanced at Ezra, their eyes meeting, before tilting his head up to Chris and nodding.
In that split second that their eyes had met, Ezra knew that it would be quite a while before Vin felt he had done well, especially after seeing how Shaun had reacted to any of the men that came near him.
"Gentlemen, the other reason I came down was to tell you to get your paperwork completed and filed before Wednesday evening so you can have a 4 day weekend. However, that work includes freeing the two FBI agents that were arrested on Carson's property. It seems they were mistaken for burglers." The last comment was directed at Larabee.
"I'll call the sheriff in the morning and have him send them directly to you, sir."
"That'll be fine. I had a friendly chat with the Washington Director. I found some interesting information about this area's supervisor. Ezra, it seems you have worked with the man in the past. He was in charge of your old FBI team and may be the source of the leak that plagued your group. The Director has expressed his gratitude for the information and as of this past Friday noon, it has been turned over to their IA. They think the man was behind missing money and drugs as well as evidence disappearing. It's fairly obvious that you were used as a scapegoat by the man. I think the FBI is rethinking their decision to let you transfer to the ATF, but I told them that we weren't giving you back, even though you can be a pain in the behind." Travis smiled and shook Ezra's hand.
"Thank you, sir. I... You don't know ... Thank you," Ezra finally managed to get out.
"Well Hell, we finally found something that could make Ezra speechless." Buck laughed, breaking the emotional tension.
"Yes, well don't forget to have those reports on my desk by end of Wednesday. Then I don't want to see any of you until the following Monday." Travis commented over his shoulder as he walked out the door.
Chris noticed that while Vin seemed truly happy for Ezra, there was still something causing his friend to hurt. "Hey, since we're going to have four days off, how about a camping and fishing trip?" Chris hoped some time spent with nature would help Vin work through whatever was bothering him.
"That sounds real good, Cowboy," Vin answered wearing his first real smile of the day.
It was soon decided that everyone would meet at Chris' by 5 am on Thursday to get an early start.
+ + + + + + +
The man arrived just as the sun was peeking over the horizon. He noticed someone over by the corral carrying a sack of feed. "Where is everyone? I figured there would be someone around even thought it is Sunday.
"No sir, nobody is here except John and me. Our boss runs a ranch down the road a way. An ATF agent stopped in late last night and asked if he could send some people up to take care of the horses. John and I arrived at 5 o'clock this morning and there were ATF agents carrying out all kinds of boxes. We overheard one saying that this was one of the biggest busts ever. Heard something about undercover agents worked a sting on Walters, the owner of this spread. Seems Walters right hand man, a Jake . . . something or the other was killed. They kept saying that Vin Tanner's plan worked per . . .."
The man never finished his sentence as the stranger struck faster than a rattler, the knife plunging into the man's heart. The rage he felt never showing on the cold expressionless face. "Vincent Sharp, right. Vin Tanner, you'll pay for killing my brother . . .."
Who Is, Who Isn't