Over the past three weeks Vin had gotten into a routine. He would wake up around 6:30 am and exercise. He'd take a quick shower then run over to the academy for class at 8:00 am. This morning was no different. He pulled into the lot at the academy and parked. He grabbed his leather jacket and put it on to cover his guns. He walked to the classroom and had a seat in the back. He was always the first to arrive and he dozed while he waited for the others At five to eight the rest of the class started to walk in and take their seats. They never seemed to notice him sitting in the back and he preferred it that way. He didn't like to draw attention to himself. The others talked amongst themselves until the instructor arrived. He was a retired FBI agent named Larry Foster. Vin guessed he was in his fifties. He was a fair teacher and Vin liked him. When he walked in, he scanned the class to see if everyone was there. He noticed Vin in his usual place at the back in the corner, which gave him a clear view of both doors. He looked at the "rookies" in the class talking with each other and shook his head.
"If you ladies are through gossiping," he growled and they got quiet. "First things first. Today we're going to have a little quiz to see if you've learned anything. So clear your desks."
He watched them as they cleared everything from their desk and started to hand out the papers. Foster noticed a subtle change in Vin when he handed him the paper. He walked back to the desk and took a seat.
"OK children you can begin."
Damn! Vin cursed to himself. He knew things were going too good. He read the first question and smiled. Maybe this wouldn't be so bad after all. He carefully started to print the answer to the first question. After fifteen minutes Vin was on question three when the teacher said they had fifteen more minutes. Vin panicked. There was no way he could answer six more questions in fifteen minutes. Aw hell he cursed and did the best he could. The fifteen minutes were up way too quickly. Foster called for the papers to be passed forward. Vin couldn't let the others see that so he got up and walked to the front and placed the test face down on Foster's desk, then went back and had a seat. Foster saw Vin put the test on his desk and walk back to his seat. He could tell something was wrong. He picked up the test and was surprised. Tanner had only finished half the test. He looked towards the back and met hard blue eyes staring at him. Foster could see he was mad. There was nothing he could do about it now and continued with the class. At 10:00 am the class was over and Foster was about to call Vin. He wanted to talk with him about the test. He looked up and saw he was gone.
+ + + + + + +
Chris was reading through a file on their next case. They had been asked to help the FBI with a case they were working on. The FBI had been trying to take down a large smuggling ring working out of the warehouses down at the wharf. They found out Vin was a valuable source of information about the area. Buck had asked him how he knew the layouts of the various warehouses. Vin was reluctant to tell them but finally he did. He told them he had been a squatter in a few of them when he was a kid. Chris had guessed he had lived on the streets for awhile but never in such a bad area of town. This investigation had brought another surprise to light. Vin could draw detailed plans of a building he had been in. He provided plans for the three warehouses the FBI thought the smugglers were using. Josiah had been impressed and asked Vin where he had learned and he had told him in the Army. Chris was going over one of the plans when the phone rang.
"Hey, Chris, it's Larry Foster."
"Foster, what can I do for you?"
"It's about Tanner. I gave a quiz this morning and he didn't finish."
"You should have warned me Chris. The questions he did answer were all correct and to the point. Nothing flowery like these other rookies. I think he was worried that I couldn't read his handwriting and was being careful. There's something else. I noticed he doesn't take notes in class and now I know why. The thing that amazes me is he has been memorizing everything I said. You could probably take him to a crime scene and he could do a better job of finding and securing the evidence than the guys who have been doing it for years."
"Then what's the problem?"
"I just wanted to let you he was pretty mad when he left. He also didn't show for his next class."
"Damn! Thanks, Larry, I'll......."
"Chris!" Buck called bursting in. "McBride just called. Vin's down at the range using his Sig as paper shredder."
"Larry, we found him. He's down at the range taking out his frustrations."
"Figures. It should have been the first place I thought of."
"Getting old there, partner," Chris teased his old teacher.
"I can still kick your ass. See ya Chris."
Chris hung up the phone and followed Buck out to the main office. Josiah and Nathan looked up from their desks.
"So what's up?" asked Nathan. As he watched Chris head for the elevator.
"Vin's down at the range taking out his frustrations on some innocent targets," answered Buck.
"I'm glad I'm not one of those targets," said Nathan.
"Amen, brother," agreed Josiah.
+ + + + + + +
Chris walked into the range and saw McBride standing by the window observing the shooters. He noticed a small crowd had formed by one of the windows further down the line.
"I take it that's Vin," Chris said indicating the crowd.
"That's him," said McBride. "He's been here for about an hour and has been putting everyone to shame. That bunch over there are some of the new rookies. I just hope they don't get any ideas that they can shoot like him."
"Has he been causing any trouble?" asked Chris.
"Nope, but I could tell he was madder then hell when he walked in here. I just thought you should know."
Chris grabbed a pair of safety goggles and ear protection from behind the counter. He put them on and went to talk to Vin. He opened the door and even with the ear protection on Chris could hear the gunfire. He stopped by the sharpshooter and watched. Vin was reloading the Sig and his Magnum. He loaded a paper target on the rack and pushed the button. Chris noticed that most people had stopped it at 50 yards or 75. Chris watched Vin send his to the end of the track at 150 yards. He picked up the Sig and began to shoot. Chris watched as he methodically shot until he was empty. He then picked up the Magnum and shot the six rounds. Once it was empty he put that gun down and pressed the button to bring the target back. As it got closer Chris could see that he had shot the Sig center mass in a tight circle. The Magnum he had emptied into the head region of the target. He pulled the target off and turned to smile at Chris. He came closer and picked up one of the many targets scattered at Vin's feet. They were all the same. Chris looked at Vin who was reloading the Sig.
"Think you could add a little variety," yelled Chris over the noise.
Vin gave him a mischievous smile and finished loading the gun. He hooked up another target and sent it to the end of the track. He pulled back on the Sig to load a round and put it back in its holster. Chris turned to see a crowd had formed again behind Vin's window. He also noticed McBride had joined the crowd. Chris turned back to Vin. Lightening quick he pulled the gun and began to fire. when he was done he replaced the gun back in his holster and pushed the button for the target to return. Chris just shook his head. Vin had made a smiley face on the target.
"You watch way too many movies," smiled Chris.
Vin laughed and began to pick up the targets and his spent shells. Chris turned to see McBride had covered his eyes with his hand and was shaking his head. The rookies behind were all excited. Chris couldn't hear what they were saying but he could guess. Vin was about to rip down the smiley face target but he stopped him. He took the target and rolled it up. He saw that Vin was finished putting the spent shells in the bucket.
"You ready for lunch?"
As they went out McBride met them at the door. He took the bucket and the protective gear from them as they went by.
"Thanks Tanner," he said. "Now I'll have all those damned rookies trying that stunt."
"Sorry," said Vin. McBride was surprised to see he meant it.
"Not a problem kid," he said. "I won't let them get away with it."
Vin followed Chris out to the parking lot. He told him to follow him and fifteen minutes later they pulled into a small Mexican restaurant. They went inside and the owner greeted Chris. He showed them to a table. He offered Chris the wine list and he declined. Vin didn't look at the menu. He turned to the owner and started to talk to him in Spanish. The owner smiled and went into the kitchen. Vin looked at Chris and smiled.
"Do you trust me?" he asked
"Do I have a choice?"
The owner came back with the chef and Vin talked with him for a few minutes then he went back inside. Twenty minutes latter he came back out with two sizzling pans and placed them on the table. He went back to the kitchen and brought out some soft tortillas, diced tomatoes, onions, sour cream and guacamole.
"Gracias," said Vin.
"Da Nada Senor."
Chris picked up one of the tortillas and began to fill it with the meat and vegetables. He rolled and took a bite and was pleasantly surprised. He looked at Vin and he could tell he was still upset.
"Want to talk about it?"
"What's there to talk about? I didn't finish the test. I'll do better next time."
"Vin, do you take notes in class?"
"Tried but I kept getting left behind. Figured I was missing too much so I just listened."
"If you haven't been taking notes then how do you remember the material?"
"No secret," Vin laughed. "I saw that Nathan has a lot of books and I asked if he had any I on what I was taking. He had two so I been reading them at night. Don't rightly know all the words but I knew enough to get by."
"Foster said you know the material and you got the questions you answered right."
"He was able to read it?" asked Vin.
"Yup, so you have to quit worrying about your writing skills. Most cops have the worst handwriting. Foster liked that you answered the questions to the point and didn't add any flowery words."
"That's cause I don't know any," smiled Vin.
Chris smiled and they finished their lunch. They headed back to the office and pulled into the garage and parked next to each other in their assigned slots. They got in the elevator and went up to their floor. Chris was carrying the target when they entered the office.
"So did you boys have fun down at the range?" asked Buck.
"Yup," said Chris as he headed for his office.
"I reckon," smiled Vin as he took a seat behind his desk.
Vin didn't offer any other information and turned on his computer. Buck looked at the others and they shrugged. They all went about there assigned tasks. Two hours latter Chris stuck his head out the door and called them all inside. Buck was the first to enter and he saw the target hanging behind his desk. He started laughing.
"Your handy work, Pard?" he asked Vin as he entered.
"He said he wanted some variety on my targets so I made him that one," answered Vin.
"That's variety all right," smiled Josiah.
"OK gentlemen, the FBI haven't been able to get anything out of the local snitches about these smugglers. So we're going to have to do a little investigating ourselves. Any suggestions?"
"We could roust our own snitches and see what they have to say," said Buck.
"I have a feeling it won't work," disagreed Nathan. "I think these smugglers are paying off the local boys to keep their mouths shut."
"I have an idea," said Vin quietly. He was still reluctant to offer info to these more experienced agents.
"Well call it out boy!" said Buck in a boisterous mood.
"Sorry, Buck, we just aren't all as full of hot air as you," smiled Vin.
"You're beginning to vex me kid," snarled Buck as he took a punch at him.
Vin easily blocked Buck's punches until they heard Chris clear his throat. Vin stopped immediately put his hands in his lap and looked at his feet. He felt like a fool. Here he was acting like a kid in front of everyone. He looked up to see Chris's stern face looking at him. But when he looked in his eyes he knew Chris wasn't mad.
"Your suggestion Vin?" Chris asked.
"I still know a lot of folks down by the warehouses. I could go down there and see if they know anything."
"No, it's too dangerous."
"Oh come on, Chris. They know me," protested Vin.
"I said no," he said in his deadly voice.
Vin just stared at Chris and didn't back down. Josiah suggested they look into contacting some of the snitches and see what they had to say. Chris agreed and the meeting was over. Nathan and Josiah went out first. Vin took one last look at Chris and followed the others. Buck stayed behind to talk to Chris.
"He's right and you know it," Buck accused.
"It's too dangerous," Chris said.
"Look, Chris, I know this kid somehow got past that thick skin of yours, but you can't hold him down. I've seen how you two look at each other and a whole conversation is going on but you aren't saying a damned thing. He's good at what he does, Chris, and you know it."
"And what is that, Buck?" Chris asked.
"He can get the street people talking. They know him and trust him. He's also damned good with firearms," said Buck pointing to the target.
"I can't send him out there alone Buck," Chris confessed. "If it were you or Josiah or even Nathan but not him. Why is he different?"
"Because he made a crack in your armor and sent an arrow straight for your heart. He's the first person you've cared about since Sarah and Adam were killed. Lord knows I tried break through that armor but you wouldn't let me in. Not like you used to. I'm just glad this kid showed up and brought back the old Chris I used to know. Granted I was suspicious of him in the beginning but I'm not anymore."
"God, Buck you're right. I don't know why, but he knows me. I don't know how and I can't explain it. Half the times I think he can read my mind. I just don't want him to get hurt."
"I know Pard, but you can't hold him down. I have the feeling he's cooking up a way to go ask those people on his own. If you tell him OK at least he'll have back up."
"I'll think on it Buck."
"Don't think too long."
Chris watched Buck leave and he turned to look at the target. What was it about this kid he wondered. He knew Buck was right. He knew Vin was going to go ask them on his own as soon as he got up the courage to go against him, which wouldn't be long.
Buck went back out to the main area and had a seat at his desk. As soon as he sat down a terrible noise could be heard.
"Damn Buck!" cried Nathan. "Go do that in the men's room!"
"It wasn't me!" cried Buck defensively.
"Sure sounded like it came from your direction," said Vin.
Buck got up from his chair and looked under the cushion. Someone had placed a whoopee cushion under the seat. He pulled it out and shook it at his co-workers.
"I told you it wasn't me," he said. "Now which one of you put this on my seat?"
A chorus of, 'not me' and 'I don't know' were his answers. Buck sat back down at his desk and opened the drawer. When he did five snakes popped out and went all over the office. One hit Chris's door and he came out to see what was going on. He saw the old fashion snakes-in-a-can lying around the office. Someone had obviously booby-trapped Buck's desk. The others denied it and Chris just smiled as Buck tried to get them to confess.
"Children," called Chris. "It's time for one of you to go home."
"I'm not finished questioning him," said Buck.
"I told you Buck those things are older than I am," said Vin. "I don't even know how they work. Maybe you should asked Josiah."
"Thank you brother Vin," scowled Josiah. "Are you implying I'm old?"
"No," stammered Vin. "I mean, Aw hell I don't know what I mean."
"Vin don't forget tomorrow after classes you go to the range," Chris reminded him.
"Right," he said as he grabbed his coat and keys.
Chris watched as he went out the door. Buck was arguing with Josiah about the snakes. Vin turned back to see how everything was and he caught Chris's eye and winked. Chris just shook his head. Vin was going to make life interesting around here.