Chris got Vin settled into the passenger seat of his truck and went to climb
in the driver's side. He remembered he had to stop and get some supplies
for Vin and wondered what would be the best place to go and also wondered
if he needed anything else. Probably could stand to hit the grocery store
but didn't know how much stamina Vin had so wasn't sure it wouldn't tire
him out too much. Maybe that was something he could ask one of the boys to
do. They had offered to help, after all.
Chris pulled into the parking lot of a busy drug store and managed to convey
to Vin what he was doing there and that Vin should wait for him in the truck.
Vin sat and watched as Chris entered the store.
People came and went and Vin watched them passively. He tugged with aching
fingers on the necktie, trying to loosen the strangle hold he felt like it
had around his neck. Finally, he got it loose and let it hang slack around
his neck. Vin didn't notice the white van that had pulled up beside the building.
He didn't notice the face of a man he knew, a man who had taunted him, laughed
at him. And from where he sat, he couldn't see the gun resting on the man's
Chris came out of the store and got back in his truck after dropping his
bag of purchases behind his seat. He smiled at Vin as he started up the car.
It was early afternoon and traffic was heavy with people returning to work
from their lunch hours. Chris tried to find the least congested route to
avoid the worst of the tie-ups. At first, he thought the white van with the
out of state plates behind him was following him because, with his government
plates, they figured he'd know the best way to get around but the officer
in him began to think the worst when they stayed behind him a little too
long. He picked up his cell phone and hit the speed dial button for Buck's
phone. With the stop he'd had to make, his team should have made it back
to the ATF offices by now.
"Buck, I've got a little problem in my back end ..." Chris spoke the code
phrase. Since cell phones were not secure methods of communication, Chris
didn't want the van to know he was on to them, if they were listening. "I'm
gonna stop at the shop."
"Okay, Chris. I'll make sure the mechanic is waiting for you." Buck hung
up the phone and called to his teammates. "Chris has picked up a tail. He's
coming into the garage. Let's go." The men rushed into action and checked
their weapons as they headed for the elevators down.
Chris had to discretely turn around since the federal building was not in
the direction he was headed. The white van stayed with him, following a couple
of car lengths back. Chris kept a wary eye on the rear view mirror as he
worked his way back to the federal building.
Vin knew something was up. He could tell by Chris's posture. He wouldn't
be able to help, he knew that, he just hoped he wouldn't be in the way.
Chris pulled into the parking garage at the federal building and noticed
some of his team members poised just inside, waiting with guns at the ready.
He held out his hand with two fingers raised, telling his men that the second
car behind him was the one in question. They nodded that they understood
and watched for the vehicle.
The white van slowed at the entrance and began to make the turn in but then
swung sharply back out. They sped up, racing down the street as Josiah stepped
out into the open, trying to read the license plate. He shook his head angrily
as it got out of range before he got the complete plate number. He only got
four digits. He couldn't even identify the state the plate was from. He slapped
his hand on his thigh as he turned and headed back inside.
Chris pulled into his parking spot and jumped out. He hadn't pulled his weapon
out from under the seat, knowing his men would have them well covered. As
he rounded his truck, the rest of the team jogged up to meet him.
"They turned off," JD informed him.
"You see who they were?" Nathan asked.
"Naw, they never got that close, just were always there. Might have been
nothing but I had a bad feeling."
"Better off being safe than sorry," Josiah counseled.
Vin watched from inside Chris's truck as the ATF team congregated near the
tailgate. Without knowing what they were saying, he had no way to tell what
had happened, though he had his suspicions. He knew the drill. He knew that
Chris probably reacted differently because he was with him and he once again
felt like he was a burden to his friend He turned around and sank lower in
the seat, thinking maybe they should have left him in the hospital.
It was several minutes later when Chris opened the passenger door on his
truck and leaned in to release the seat belt on Vin. He tried to make his
smile look reassuring as Vin looked him in the eye, but he wasn't sure he
succeeded. Vin stepped out of the truck and followed along as the group headed
for the elevators that would take them up to their offices.
Once the elevator doors opened, Chris rushed Vin through to the team's offices,
hoping to avoid too much interaction with other people, interaction he wasn't
sure Vin was up to. Once inside, the doors were closed and the men collected
at the nearest desk, Josiah's.
"So, what do we do?" JD asked.
"Not much we can do. I only got four numbers from the plate and it wasn't
a Colorado plate which will make tracking it down even harder."
"You think they were after Vin?" Buck posed.
Chris looked over at his friend who stood off to the side of the group. "If
we were being followed, then yeah, I think they were after Vin. He's the
one in the hot seat right now."
"Then we need to protect him. You think it's safe at your place?"
"As safe there as anywhere, I guess, but I'm gonna need backup. You boys
available?" Chris smiled just a little at the last part, knowing nothing
would keep his team from being there.
"I think we can work something out," Buck smiled back.
******* ******* *******
The afternoon crept by slowly as Chris sat at his desk. He looked over
periodically and saw Vin was still asleep on the sofa. After the initial
concern over being followed had passed, Chris had led Vin into his office
and sat him down. The man looked drained but Chris kept him awake for a while
longer as he cleaned and redressed his hands. The wounds were a week old
but still looked ugly and covered a large area of his hands and forearms.
Chris wondered at the force that Vin had to have hit the pavement with to
do such damage. Once he had re-secured the splints in place and given Vin
his pain medication, he allowed his friend to lay down and rest. He was glad
he hadn't taken home the pillow and blanket he had stashed in his office.
He'd only used them once before and had just about decided they didn't need
to take up space there, where storage space was at a premium.
Chris was pulled from his thoughts by the ringing of his phone. "Larabee,"
he said sharply.
"Chris, this is Travis. I can squeeze you in now for fifteen minutes if you
can make it."
"On my way, sir." Chris hung up the phone and stepped out of his office.
"I've got a meeting with AD Travis. Keep an eye on Vin," he voiced to his
team as he passed through the outer offices on his way to the elevators.
No one had a chance to respond before Chris was out of earshot. The men watched
him leave and then turned their eyes into his office, to the sleeping man
on the couch.
Twenty minutes later, Chris returned and, after casting his eyes into his
office for a moment, he gathered his team around him in the bullpen.
"We're passing the DeBreezie case off to team 12. Travis okayed us for 'round
the clock on Vin until the trial's over but he wants at least two of us to
man the office. I'm gonna keep him at the ranch and I want at least two of
you there with us at all times. If anything turns up or any of you have the
slightest suspicions, we'll arrange for a safe house but I think it'd be
better for Vin to be somewhere familiar. I've made an appointment for him
to see one of those doctors but the earliest we could get in was Thursday
morning." Chris shook his head. "That doesn't give it much time."
"Who do you wish to accompany you first?" Ezra asked.
"Doesn't matter to me. I'll leave it to you boys to work out whatever works
best for you."
"JD and I could be ready to go in half an hour," Buck offered. It was true.
Their townhouse was closest to the federal building and they could get there
and back with whatever they needed to spend the night in the quickest time.
"But you two spent last night there," Nathan complained, not wanting the
two to shoulder too much of the load.
"But last night, we were there as friends. Tonight, we'll be there as body
Josiah shrugged as Nathan looked to him. He knew they would all get their
turns out at the ranch.
"Fine with me," Chris said, effectively deciding for the group. Buck nodded
and he and JD headed out.