Vin arrived at the academy at his usual time and waited in the classroom. He looked at his watch and it said 7:50 am. The rookies walked in and he smiled. Foster came in shortly after and faced the class.
"Don't get comfortable children," he said. "We're going to go down the hall and you get to show me what you've learned so far. We're going to run a scenario of a drug bust. Inside the room is 10 kilos of cocaine. The perp has hidden his stash and you're going to have to find it. You're also going to have to secure any evidence you find in the room. There are fifteen of you in the class so I'm going to break you into five groups of three. Each team will be isolated from watching the others go throw the exercise. The teams that go first get to watch the others. So let's go, they're waiting for us."
Vin was relieved there wouldn't be any writing for this test. He could handle stuff like this. When they got to the room Foster broke them into groups. Vin got the one he had dubbed the "know-it-all" and one of the women in the class. Foster said they would go last.
"OK Tanner this is how were going to work this," began Mitch Hawkins. "I'll be team leader."
"Who elected you king?" askedYolanda Phillips.
Vin sighed as they started bickering between them who was in charge. He decided to just do his own thing. He figured they would get points taken off for not working as a team. When it was their turn Hawkins was the first one into the room with Phillips close behind. The instructor at the door shook his head and Vin picked up the evidence case they had left behind and walked in. He put the case down, opened it, and pulled out a pair of surgical gloves and pulled them on. As he was doing that he surveyed the room. The first thing that caught Vin's eye was the two-way mirror on the far wall. He smiled and saluted Foster, then looked at the rest of the room. There was a body lying on the floor with a gun close to its hand. The first thing he did was pick up the gun and unload it. He dropped the bullets in one of the bags he had taken from the evidence case. The gun he put in another. He then began to check the body. He checked for a pulse and played along that there wasn't supposed to be one. Vin rolled the body over to reveal Corporal Jenkins. He started going through his pockets when Hawkins noticed what he was doing.
"We're supposed to be looking for cocaine not checking a corpse," he said.
Hawkins came over to stand by Vin as he pulled papers and a key out of Jenkins pockets. Hawkins grabbed the key from him. Vin noticed he didn't have on any gloves and shook his head and continued to search the body. He opened Jenkins mouth to look inside.
"What the hell are you looking for Tanner?" asked Hawkins. Phillips had joined them while Vin was looking through the pockets.
"Piece of string," Vin answered.
"What?" Phillips asked confused.
"He could be a mule," answered Vin. "They swallow balloons full of cocaine that are attached to a string. When they get to their destination the stick their finger in their mouth to throw up. At the same time they pull on the string to pull the balloons out of their stomach."
"I think I'm going to be sick," stated Phillips. Just then Jenkins sat up and clapped Vin on the shoulder.
"Thanks Tanner," he said. "Now I don't have to lay on this floor any longer. I wish Foster had sent you in first. I'm not a mule. The cocaine is hidden in the room. Oh and I'll take my gun back, thank you."
"Sorry, can't have it," Vin smiled. "It's evidence."
Jenkins rolled his eyes and took his gun and bullets out of the evidence box. He headed for the door and went out. Phillips and Hawkins started looking in the cabinets. From his position sitting on the floor Vin looked around the room. It was a kitchen complete with cabinets, frig and a table. Vin noticed something odd under the table. He got up and walked over. He bent down to find a 9mm taped to the underside of the table as well as brick of cocaine. He pulled them off and placed them on the table. Phillips noticed and nudged Hawkins.
"Great job, Tanner," he said as he picked up the gun.
"Don't you think you might want to put on a pair of gloves," Vin said disgusted.
He cursed and went to the box to get a pair of gloves. Vin ignored him and put the cocaine in a bag. Hawkins had taken the gun with him and was heading back to the table pointing it at them. Vin grabbed Phillips and pulled her out of the line of fire then grabbed the gun from Hawkins.
"What the hell did you do that for!" he demanded.
"Because it's loaded, asshole," Vin said angrily as he dropped the clip and ejected the round from the chamber.
He then noticed the gun didn't have a firing pin and felt like an idiot. He wasn't about to tell that to Hawkins. He put the gun in a bag and continued his search. The others went back to looking in the cabinets. Vin walked away from the table to survey the room again. That's when he noticed the glass of water on the table. The water in the glass wasn't level. He smiled and picked up the small crowbar from the box and walked back to the table. He pushed the table out of the way and looked at the floor. He noticed some of the boards weren't even and put the crowbar under these and pulled. Hidden in the floor was the ten kilos of cocaine. Just as he found the hidden compartment, Foster walked in with the rest of the class.
"Well done," said Foster.
"Thank you sir," puffed up Hawkins.
"Not you idiot, Tanner! Out of this whole class he's the only one that found the cocaine. Furthermore, he's the only one who checked the body! Granted there was nothing useful on Jenkins, but you always secure the guns away from a suspect. What if he had still been alive? He would have shot you all. I can see you all still have a lot to learn. So your assignment for tonight is to write me a report on the proper way to secure this room. All except Tanner he did it right today."
"I just have one question," said the other female rookie.
"What's that rookie Holland?" asked Foster.
"What gave it away that the coke was hidden under the floorboards?" she asked and they all looked at Vin.
"The glass of water on the table," he answered and got blank looks from the class. "The water wasn't level in the glass. I played a hunch that the floor wasn't even. The secret space caused the boards to warp."
"Oh man and we were supposed to notice that," complained one of the students.
"Yes, if you plan on being a cop," said Foster. "Class is dismissed"
They all started to file out the door and Vin followed.
"Hold up Tanner," called Foster. He waited for the rest of the class to file out before continuing. "That was very well done. You passed with flying colors."
"Thank you sir," Vin said pleased. "Not like yesterday's disaster."
"Does Chris know you're dyslexic?" he asked. Foster could see it in his eyes that Chris didn't. "It's not something to be ashamed of Tanner."
"How did you know?"
"My son has it," he smiled. "He does the same things you do. Memorizes things, writes slowly and doesn't take notes in class. I think you better tell Chris. I know him and it won't make a difference. I doubt he hired you for your writing skills."
"No sir, he didn't," Vin laughed. "Thank you, sir."
"Any time, Tanner," he said. "You better get over to your next class. You're already late."
When Vin's next class was over at noon he grabbed a bite to eat before heading over to the range. He was supposed to meet over there at 1:00 pm. At ten to one he pulled into the lot at the range and parked his Jeep. He walked inside and saw McBride with a group of rookies. When he saw Vin he waved him over. He walked over and stood off to the side. He listened as McBride explained what was expected of them. Vin looked over the rookies and could tell some of them were nervous. He noticed a young man toward the front pull out his gun. He watched as he checked to make sure the safety was on. Vin could see that it was, but something wasn't right. He had a bad feeling when instinct made him dive for McBride as the shot was fired. The bullet embedded in the wall where McBride had been standing. Vin got off him as officers from all over converged on the scene.
"Y'all right?" Vin Asked as he helped McBride stand.
"Thanks to you," he said. "Who the hell was messing with their gun?"
Vin could see the young rookie was scared. He was standing with his arms wrapped around his body. The gun was at his feet. Vin watched as McBride angrily strode over to the kid and was about to get in his face when Vin spoke up.
"Hold on Sergeant," said Vin. "I don't think it was his fault."
Vin walked over and picked up the gun. He unloaded the clip and ejected the bullet from the chamber. He then took it apart. McBride watched as Tanner disassembled the gun and noticed what Vin was getting at. The safety for this particular gun was defective. It looked like it was engaged when it wasn't.
"See Sarg. It was an accident," Vin said holding out the gun.
"Damn!" he swore. "Alright all of you very carefully take out your guns and unload them."
Other more experienced officers came over to help. The checked each of the guns but didn't find another defective one. Vin noticed the kid that shot the gun was about to cry and he pulled him away. He took him over to a bench in the corner and they sat down. Vin sat with him until he got himself under control.
"Name's Vin what's yours?" Vin asked.
"Hank Forester," he said as he wiped his eyes. "I didn't mean it."
"Hey, it was an accident. The gun was defective, it wasn't your fault."
"I just feel so stupid."
"First time handling a gun?'
"Yeah," he laughed. "Can you tell?"
"Here, take mine." Vin said.
He pulled out the Sig from the small of his back. Vin popped the clip and ejected the round from the chamber. He handed it to Hank. The kid took it reluctantly and held it.
"Go on play with," Vin said. "Pull it apart. Get the feel of it."
Vin took it back from him and showed him how to take it apart and put it back together. McBride watched Tanner with the young man. He saw the kid begin to gain confidence under Tanner's quiet direction. After fifteen minutes Vin handed him the clip. He watched as the kid hesitantly took it and loaded the gun. Vin told him to keep it pointed towards the floor. McBride shook his head in wonder as he watched the kid relax and handle the gun.
"Thanks Vin," he said, handing the gun back. He noticed Vin was bleeding when he gave back his gun. "Damn, your bleeding."
"Your arm. It's bleeding. I'll get the Sergeant."
"Hold on kid, it's all right," Vin said as he checked his arm.
He ripped his sleeve to get a better look. The bullet had grazed his right bicep leaving a three-inch wound. Vin saw it was still bleeding.
"Sargeant McBride!" the kid yelled before Vin could stop him.
"What's wrong?" he asked and Hank pointed to Vin's arm. "Damn! Saunders! Bring me the first aid kit!"
"It's not that bad," protested Vin.
"It's bad enough. It's still bleeding," argued McBride.
"I've had worse shaving," added Vin.
"Just shut up, Tanner, and let me take care of this," he growled.
Corporal Saunders brought over the first aid kit. McBride opened it and pulled out the peroxide and some gauze and cleaned the wound. Tanner had been right, it wasn't that bad. He finished cleaning it and placed a bandage over it
"I told you," said Vin.
"Yeah well I still gotta do the paper work for it," he growled. "So are you children done playing games now? Can we get started."
The group followed McBride over to the counter. He handed out protective gear to everyone. Saunders came over with a new gun for Forester. He took it and inspected it like Vin showed him. He loaded a clip and pulled back on the barrel and loaded a round in the chamber. When he was done he smiled at Vin. McBride paired them together and they got started.
"Alright, boys and girls, this is the first test for qualifying as a federal law enforcement officers. The first part is to see if you can handle your weapons on a stationary target. You will be given five magazines and five targets to shoot. The targets will be set at 25,50,75,100, and 150 yards. You will be graded on how well you hit the target center mass. Are there any questions?"
"Which hand?" asked Vin.
"What?" asked McBride confused.
"Left? Right? Both?"
"For you, Tanner, whichever one takes your fancy. For the rest of you whichever hand you write with. This isn't a contest to see how fast you can shoot. This is one based on accuracy. You can get started when you're ready."
Vin let Hank go first. The kid did fine on the closer targets but as they got further away he wasn't as good. Vin felt guilty for what was going to happen. He sent out his first target and quickly emptied the magazine into the target. Vin got a perfect score.
+ + + + + + +
Chris was going over some papers when there was a knock on his door.
"Hey boss," Josiah said coming in and taking a seat. "Our snitch gave us a possible lead."
"That's great," said Chris. "You and Nathan want to check it out?"
"Just was coming in to tell you we would be heading out," smiled Josiah. "Where's Buck?"
"He went downstairs to the FBI to pick up some files."
"All right, we'll be back as soon as we can," he said as he walked out. Just as he left Buck walked in.
"Hey, Chris, that kid can't even stay out of trouble down at the range."
"What are you talking about?"
"I was downstairs and I heard some people talking. Seems Vin saved McBride's life. One of the rookies' gun went off and he pushed McBride out of the way."
"Was anyone hurt?"
"The bullet grazed the kid's right arm but he's fine."
"Did you call to confirm this?"
"Yup just got off the phone. McBride said he sent them all home. Vin got a perfect score. Hey, are we going to go watch him tomorrow? I have to see how this kid handles those moving targets."
"You mean you placed a bet on him."
"Of course," Buck laughed.
"Yeah we'll go watch him."
"Oh yeah, McBride gave them the rest off the day off so I doubt he's coming back here."
"Thanks Buck, Oh, Josiah and Nathan are checking out a lead they got from a snitch. Now I don't have tell Vin he can't go down there."
"Hope they get something because w might have to if they don't."
Chris watched out as he went out and closed the door. He knew Buck was right but didn't want to admit it.
+ + + + + + +
It was only 3:00 pm when they had finished at the range so Vin decided to go down to the wharf and look around. He parked the Jeep by one of the warehouses not under suspicion by the FBI. He got out and went around back to pull down the fire escape. He entered the building and couldn't believe nothing had changed. Some of the squatters watched him suspiciously but said nothing. Vin watched as an elderly man came out of a room and stopped when he saw him.
"Vin Tanner? Is that you?" he said.
"Yup, Malcolm it's me," he said as he walked closer.
"What brings you here boy?"
"Looking for some information. Was wondering if there has been any activity in some of the warehouses lately?"
"Looking for a bounty?"
"Well the one over on Williams has had people in it."
As they talked Vin failed to notice someone watching them. He talked with Malcolm until 5:00pm then headed out.
He got in his Jeep and headed home.
While Vin had been talking with Malcolm the eavesdropper had made a phone call. They followed Vin to his apartment. Vin parked the Jeep around the corner and walked. As he went past one of the adjoining buildings, he was pulled into the alley. He spun around to face five men.
"Howdy boys," he said. "Can I help you?"
"You can stay out of our business."
"And that is?"
"We have something going on down at the wharf and we don't need company."
They surrounded Vin and pressed their attack. Vin took one out with a swift kick to the solar plexus. He was holding his own until one got behind him. He was a bear of a man and he pinned Vin's arms at his side. The leader of this merry band came over and viciously bunched him in the ribs. Then punched him in the face making Vin see stars. He was about to hit him again when he heard a deadly voice behind him.
"Don't even try it," Chris growled.
The man turned to see someone aiming a gun at him. He looked in his eyes and knew he meant business. He signaled them to drop Vin. The bear did as he was told and Vin dropped to the ground. They picked up their fallen comrade and slowly backed down the alley. Chris advanced until he was standing next to Vin who was slowly getting to his feet. He grabbed Vin's right arm and he hissed in pain but was back on his feet. Chris lowered the gun when Vin's assailants had left the alley. He holstered his gun and looked at Vin. He was holding his right side and his arm was bleeding from where Chris grabbed him. He took Vin's chin and turned his head so he could look in his eyes.
"You all right?"
He never finished as Chris watched his eyes roll back in his head and he slumped towards Chris. He swung the younger man over his shoulder and carried him to the apartment. As he got closer Carlita saw who he was carrying.
"What happened?" she asked.
"Some men were beating on him in the alley."
"Take him to his apartment 704. I'll meet you there.
Chris got off the elevator on the 7th floor and started walking down the hall. He went to reach for the knob and realized it was probably locked. He was about to put Vin down to look for his keys when Carlita walked off the elevator.
"It's not locked," she said.
"What!" Chris demanded.
"He never locks it." She explained as she opened the doors. "The kids come and go all the time to use his computer."
Chris just shook his head and followed her inside. Sure enough there was a young man sitting at the computer.
"What happened?" he cried as he came over and helped Chris lay Vin on the couch.
"Some men were beating him up in the alley," said Carlita. "Good thing Senor Chris came along when he did."
"Good thing. Considering there were five."
Carlita clicked her tongue and told Hector to get some soap and warm water. Chris pulled off his boots and loosened his pants. He helped her get his shirt off. Already a bruise could been seen on Vin's right side. Hector came back with the soap and water and Carlita sent him to get some ice. Chris ran his fingers along his ribs to see if any were broken. Vin moaned and opened his eyes.
"Oh man. What hit me?"
"A Mac truck," said Chris.
"He was certainly big enough," smiled Vin as he tried to sit up.
"Hold on there, son, just take it easy," said Chris as he pushed him back.
"I'm fine," protested Vin.
"Yeah you look fine. You got a lump under your left eye the size of Texas and a matching bruise on your ribs. I think I better run you over to the hospital to see if any ribs are broken."
"No, they're fine. I've had them broken before. So trust me they're not."
"Who were they?"
Vin didn't answer and looked at Carlita and Hector. Chris got the idea and let her finish cleaning and dressing the various bumps and bruises. When she was done she took Hector and they left.
"Now you want to tell me?"
"No, not really," Vin confessed. "You'll only get mad."
"You didn't?" asked Chris but knew Vin had. "God damn it!!!! I told you to stay away from the wharf. That it was too dangerous."
Chris got up and started to pace the room. Vin carefully sat up and he glared at him.
"I'm sorry, Chris. I know it was stupid but I knew I could get the information we needed."
"Not if it meant you being beat up," he snarled.
"Oh leave off Chris," Vin said just as angrily. "It's not the first time I've been beat up."
"I'm not surprised! You're the most bull-headed person I have ever met! What were you thinking? Oh never mind you weren't thinking, were you? You could have blown almost six months of fieldwork in one night! Not only that, you could have gotten yourself killed! Why I ever thought a street punk bounty hunter could work on my team I'll never know!"
Chris regretted the words as soon as they were out. He took one look at Vin. At the shocked expression he wore and he was sorry. Chris watched as the expression turned to anger and Vin jumped of the couch swinging. He landed a right cross to Chris's jaw before he could get out of the way. He staggered back and Vin went to take another swing and hissed in pain. Chris grabbed him as he sank to the floor and got him back on the couch. He sat next to the younger man and felt his lip with his tongue. Vin looked at him and started laughing but stopped when it hurt.
"We make quite a pair, don't we." he smiled.
"Yup, we do," agreed Chris. "You have one nasty right cross."
"No, I'm sorry. I didn't mean that. I was just angry."
"Pissed is more like it."
"So what did you find out?"
"They're working out of the warehouse on Williams. Malcolm told me they move their stuff every so often, but right now there on Williams."
"Good!' said Chris. "Why don't you go take a shower and I'll make us something for dinner?"
"All right," Vin agreed.
"Oh, and if you pull a stupid stunt like this again. I'll kill ya."
Vin smiled as he went into the bedroom. He felt good. Yeah, he had been beaten up, but for once he had someone who cared what happened to him. He vowed he would never let Chris Larabee down.