Early Warning

by Hercat

Crossover with Early Edition

Description: When Team Seven goes to Chicago on a case, they get a surprise in the form of a local bar owner who seems to know more than he should.

Disclaimer: I’m a student. I don’t own anything.

Vin Tanner lay on the rooftop, and methodically scanned the front of the warehouse. He would be relieved to leave Chicago. Denver might be just as ‘city’, but at least they all had places there. Living out of a hotel room always made him feel unsettled, never mind that he’d done it for years. Deciding that he had the best vantage point possible, he adjusted his cap to shade his eyes, and settled into place.

Over the radio he could hear JD’s chatter from the surveillance van parked in the loading bay of the warehouse across the street. < …pair of vultures, each with two dead rabbits, and the stewardess goes up to them and says ‘Sorry, only one piece of carry-on per passenger.’ Get it? Carrion, get it?> Vin knew that in a few minutes Chris would stop the chatter, but there was still over an hour to the meet, and it helped settle everyone.

A few years ago he would have laughed at the idea that a teammate’s bad jokes could be calming, but now he nearly took it for granted. It was a symbol that all was well with the new family he trusted to watch his back.

He began to drift into what he thought of as his ‘sniper mind’. Emotions were pushed aside, his breathing began to slow. He could stay like this for hours with nothing happening and still react in a split second. This was what separated a sharpshooter from someone with good aim.

Chris on radio - listen - not important.

Seagull going by - not important.

Something…was wrong.


All over the city of Chicago, people prayed for more time. Sean Perris prayed for his boss to forget about the progress report until tomorrow. Jean Manning prayed for her sister to survive another day in the ICU. Ben Loman just prayed for another 10 seconds to change the Internet address before his mother saw. . .oops, too late.

Gary Hobson was desperately praying to be on time. He did this a lot now, usually because there were lives at stake. Not because he was a policeman or fireman or doctor, or any one of a hundred urgent but normal, jobs. He looked at the newspaper headline again.


He didn’t bother to look at the date above the headline, a date anyone else would dismiss as a typo. Of course, he now knew better. Four years had given him plenty of time to accept the fact that every morning at 6:30 AM a cat brought him tomorrow’s newspaper. For whatever reason, Fate, Destiny, or whoever was in charge of it all had decided that he, Gary Hobson, deserved a chance to stop everything bad that was going to happen in the next seventeen and a half hours.

Usually he was successful. He stopped the deaths, muggings and rapes, and in return got to watch the damming headline rewrite itself before his eyes.

Sometimes he failed. He carried those names with him every day, an invisible burden, but one he knew he would never put down, not even if the paper stopped coming. They were what kept him going when he was hurt, when he was lonely, when he was just too damn tired.

He glanced at the paper again and picked up his pace. He would do what he could to avoid adding Vincent Tanner, ATF agent, to the list. It was too damn long already.


Chris Larabee, leader of ATF team 7 shifted restlessly as he scanned the area for the hundredth time. There was still another three-quarter hour before Standish was due to meet the gun runners for the bust. The ATF had known for months that Norman Bently, a small time hood from Denver had been selling weapons. Unfortunately, it had been nearly impossible for them to find his buyer. Finally, they’d busted Bently’s old supplier, forcing him to turn to a new one, Standish, or Edward Stanton, as he was currently being called. The undercover agent was playing a distributor of military quality arms in search of a new market. ‘Stanton’ had refused to sell to a middleman, and with Bently’s buyer breathing down his neck, the hood had finally agreed to set up a meeting, which unfortunately had led to them relocating to Chigago. They’d been about to take down Merchason, when it had suddenly been revealed that he too was working for someone else.

Chris had nearly had a heart attack when Standish had flat out refused to deal with Merchason, insisting on meeting his boss. The undercover agent had talked around the dealer-bodyguard so smoothly that even the local ATF office, initially miffed at the intrusion had been impressed. Chris couldn’t help a grin as he recalled some of the comments he’d overheard. It was a nice change from snide remarks about the man’s credibility.


Gary panted as he ran. If only that gas leak hadn’t forced him to detour around the barricades! He didn’t even know exactly which roof he wanted. He wished for the hundredth time that the articles all came with exact times and locations.

Reaching the right street he started quickly walking, looking up. He was just in time to see a man in dark clothing climbing a fire escape, nearly at the top. The article said the agent was shot and then thrown from the rooftop. I’ve got to catch the guy before he reaches the top. And this guy’s just first on his list. After he gets him, the paper says he takes out four others. With luck, preventing this murder will stop the rest. Ignoring his burning lungs Gary threw himself at the ladder and climbed as fast as he could grab rungs.


Vin felt an icy finger trace its way down his spine. Something was wrong. He shifted into position and grabbed his rifle. No movement below. Still. . . he spoke into the radio.

"Eagle to base"

<Base here. What’s up?>

"Maybe nothin’, but I got a feelin’ somethin’s screwy." Vin had just finished speaking when he heard a quiet scrape behind himself. Hand still on his rifle, he began to roll over onto his back. As if in slow motion, he could see the gunman aiming at him start to tighten his finger.

And he knew without a doubt that he wouldn’t be able to get his weapon around in time.

"SHIT!" The sound of Tanner’s profanity reached the rest of his team a split second before the sound of the gunshot.


Gary saw the gunman raise his arm, presumably holding a weapon, and knew he was out of time. He threw himself gracelessly at the man’s back as the weapon went off, and collapsed to the ground trying not to pass out. He barely heard the second shot over the roaring in his ears, and when the corpse fell next to him with half its head blown off, it was sheer reflex that made him throw himself away from it.

Unfortunately for Gary, he’d been right at the edge of the roof, and the scream he made as he fell was the third loud noise to pierce the morning air.


Team leader Chris Larabee didn’t even remember climbing the fire escape. Hell, he didn’t even remember breathing till he got to the top of the old warehouse and saw the closest person he had to a brother alive. Vin was looking over the side and completely ignoring the corpse lying next to him with most of the head missing. Pain in the ass to ID that guy if the prints aren’t on file he thought absently.

"VIN. Why the hell didn’t you answer the radio?" He demanded of the sharpshooter.

"What?" Responded Vin in a voice slightly louder than normal. He turned to face Chris who winced at the sight of blood pouring from the cut on his friend’s head. He took in the slightly dazed expression and concluded that he had a concussion.

"Nathan, get your ass up here, Vin’s concussed." He absently noted the reply as he pressed a handkerchief against the wound and alerted the rest of both teams of possible hostiles in the area. Vin winced and tried to shift away. Suddenly he seemed to remember something and moved towards the edge again. Chris quickly grabbed hold of his shoulder and forced him back onto his seat.

"Chris, he went over. Jesus, I don’t even know the guy and he saved my life." Vin shrugged off Chris’ grip and leaned towards the edge, more slowly this time. Larabee leaned over himself to look down himself, but didn’t see anything below except cement and a half-full dumpster.


Gary winced as he quickly limped along the street. Thank god the dumpster had been relatively soft. Falling off a roof was hardly a way he would have chosen to get down, but at least he wasn’t under arrest downtown. The last thing he needed was a bunch of Feds asking him questions he couldn’t answer.

He tried to shove the image of the dead man from his mind. Reminding himself that the man was a would-be mass murderer didn’t seem to help. He kept seeing the body fall to the roof in slow motion, half the head missing like a smashed egg. His breath caught in his throat, and he shuddered. Not now. He could break down later, after he’d finished the day’s rounds. He still had lives to save.


Chris Larabee sat quietly, listening to the story his brother in arms had to tell. They were still at the hospital, though Vin would be released into Nathan’s care shortly. The rest of the team was at the 98th precinct with the native Chicago ATF team. All the rest but one. Ezra Standish had never shown up at the location, and neither had the gun runners. Chris had the sick feeling that something, somewhere had gone very wrong. Vin was disjointedly explaining all that had happened on the rooftop that morning.

"…so I heard this scrape, an’ I started to swing around. Rifle too. Saw this guy, didn’ know him. Had a gun aimed, started to trigger it. Rifle was too long, took too long to move. Knew I wouldn’ make it." Chris felt a stab through his gut at those words. "Next thing, this guy just comes out of nowhere, barrels inta him. Shot hit me I think. Oh, yeah it musta done. Anyway, I pulled at his head, got him. Other guy’s on his hands ‘n knees. Body falls, an’ the guy who saved me jerks back, goes over the edge. Things get sorta foggy, an then I’m lookin’ down, over the edge an’ there’s no one there. He musta split."

"After falling four storeys?" Chris asked incredulously.

"Huh?" Sighing with frustration, Chris wrote out his question. The ringing noise was less, but anything quieter than a shout was apparently still not getting through. Jackson said it would be another day or so before Vin was back to normal. At least they all had adjoining hotel rooms, so they could take turns keeping an eye on him. Vin read the notepad. "He coulda fell in the dumpster an’ climbed out." He apparently didn’t need to hear to read the expression on Chris’ face. "Dammit Chris, I’m not makin’ this up! He was wearin’ a brown leather jacket, jeans an he had brown hair. I’m tellin’ you this guy was there!"

"Easy cowboy" he said trying to calm his friend down. "I don’t doubt you." Tanner read the expression on his face, if not the words and settled a little. He obviously couldn’t wait to get out of there.


Gary shivered as he squelched down the street. Diving into the duckpond after that toddler probably hadn’t been the best idea, but by the time he’d reached the park it had been too late to do anything else. He sighed as he flicked green stuff off his jacket. At least the mother had been grateful. As he waited for the light to change, he leaned on a post box and tried to straighten up. The chill seemed to be getting worse, and the fact that his back was stiffening up already didn’t bode well for tomorrow. Just one more, he told himself. One more save, and he could rest for the day. What sort of idiot keeps a full grown alligator in their basement?


Ezra Standish stared impassively at Paul Merchason as the bodyguard handcuffed him, threading the chain through one of the pipes on the warehouse wall. The hole from the bullet that had broken his leg throbbed in time to the headache that was starting between his eyes. He’d received the former moments after he had finally met the arms boss, George Kirkendale, who’d taken one look at him and declared ‘That man is an ATF agent.’ Standish sincerely hoped his face was not becoming common knowledge among the criminal set. By now team Seven would know something was seriously wrong. Unfortunately, he doubted they’d be able to find him in the god-forsaken section of Chicago they’d moved him to. If they were even alive. Kirkendale had said something about ‘sending them a high present’. That couldn’t possibly be anything good. When you added in the fact that a team removed from their city was also removed from their resources, the informants and contacts that took years to cultivate, his situation was not looking good.

Merchason started kicking at Ezra’s broken leg, an absent look in his eyes.

"Do you mind?" demanded Standish irritably.

"Sorry," said Merchason in a surprised tone of voice. Then he stepped forward and brought all his weight down on the break. Stars exploded behind Ezra’s eyes and he passed out.


Even sitting in a warm café with his hands wrapped around a cup of coffee, Gary couldn’t seem to stop shivering. At least the last rescue hadn’t taken long. The woman hadn’t even threatened to call the cops when he’d told her what had found its way into her basement. She’d simply said ‘always knew that beast would get away from him someday’. Gary had been beyond relieved when she’d phoned animal control and bullied them into responding after the operator had laughed at him. He wouldn’t want to be in her neighbour’s shoes.

He could see one of the other customers staring at him. ‘Sniff’. Yup, the pond gunk was starting to smell. He probably would have been more upset by this if he wasn’t so miserable. He still felt like ice, and his back was throbbing. With his luck, he’d done some permanent damage.


Josiah deftly resorted the tray he carried as he exited the elevator. Four coffees, one spring water for Brother Nathan, and a hot chocolate for Brother Vin, who was stubbornly in attendance. They had a missing man, and that took priority over everything else.

"Anything?" he queried as he entered the room.

"Nope" replied Buck despondently. "Forensics hasn’t got anything helpful yet, no visual ID on the body, ‘cause his head’s mostly gone, and the fingerprint program aint workin either."

"I SAID, ‘Does that look better?’" Across the room JD hollered at Vin, who was helping put together a composite of the mysterious ‘man from the rooftop’, currently their only lead.

"I take it Brother Vin’s hearing is still not up to par"

"It’ll likely be another few hours, if not tomorrow. Rang his chimes but good this time." Answered Nathan absently as he dialed another number. He was calling local hospitals in hopes that the mystery man had come in for treatment. He was also alerting them to be on the lookout for a man answering Standish’s description being brought to the hospital, or God forbid, the morgue.

Chris was looking at the picture JD and Vin had put together, and came over in search of caffeine.

"Alright Buck, take this to the boys downstairs and see if they can’t ID this guy."

"Brothers," interrupted Josiah "I believe this wayward lamb may be a great deal closer than we think. While I was across the street gathering our drinks, I noticed a young man matching this picture quite well." There was a second’s pause, then a rush as the entire team grabbed their coats.

"WAIT" bellowed Chris. Everyone paused. "Buck, get downstairs, let them know what’s going on, get us an interrogation room, and see if they recognize the pic. JD, get that goddamn fingerprint system up and running now. Vin, go with Buck." Chris strode off toward the stairs, and was almost at the first floor before he noticed Vin with them. "What the hell did I just say to you?"


"Nevermind" muttered Larabee. It obviously wasn’t his day.


Gary glared at the employee as the man threw him out. It obviously wasn’t his day. He gasped in pain as his back spasmed. Finally a Taxi pulled over. At last he could go home, go to bed. As he reached for the handle he heard a voice behind him say ‘I don’t think so’. What felt like a freight train barrelled into him and shoved him against the side of the vehicle. He howled in protest as his arms were wrenched behind his back and cuffed. He could hear someone yelling in the background as he was towed across the street into the police station. No, the day was not improving.


"Hey Chris, guess what, most of the guys round here know this guy on sight. Turns out, he keeps turning up at hostage situations and jumpers. That aint’ all either, just today some lady said he dove into the duckpond after a kid."

"That would explain the vegetation on his clothing." Josiah commented.

"And the fact that he’s borderline hypothermic." Nathan added. "If you’re trying to make him nervous by leaving him in the interrogation room, you can abandon the idea now. He’s sleeping like a log in there right now, despite a badly sprained back."

"From falling off the roof?"

"Most likely. Frankly, he’s lucky he didn’t break his neck. How he managed to move so quickly this morning is beyond me."

"Where is Brother Vin?" asked Josiah, looking around the room. The vein in Chris’ forehead throbbed and he moved towards the interrogation room where Hobson was handcuffed to a table. Buck moved to block him, the only one of the seven who would have risked that manoeuvre.

"Easy pard, I’m sure Vin can handle him. Aint like the guy even tried to hurt him in the first place. ‘Sides, we should be lookin’ for another lead. Talked to a Detective Anderson, says the guy’s never talked about his inside info before, not even when he was facing a murder rap." Buck responded to his friend’s disbelieving stare. "Yep, murder. Hobson was cleared, an’ there’s a whole whack of other stuff too. You guys gotta see this file. Reads like one of junior’s bad movies." JD came through the door in time to hear this.

"Buck! Just ‘cause I watch movies where the woman’s shirt stays on. . . Oh, the database is up again, and we got a positive match. A sniper for hire named Snell. Here’s his sheet."


When Ezra Standish regained consciousness it was to the disconcerting spectacle of his hands tightly handcuffed around a pipe. The events of the previous few hours quickly came to mind, and he shifted to take weight off his wrists, wincing as the leg made itself felt ‘That’ll keep you from running’ Merchason had said. No doubt true, but there were always other options, you just had to find them. Observing himself to be alone, he began attempting to extract the lockpicks from the back of his belt.


"Hey, Mr Hobson, can I talk to you for a minute?" Vin quietly asked, gently prodding the sleeping man. He couldn’t hear the incoherent response.

"Go ‘way Chuck. Done with the cat today." Continued prodding was rewarded with a bleary stare. "Oh. Hi"

"Hi Mr Hobson, my name’s Vin Tanner. Just came in to say thanks. You really saved my bacon this morning. Thought for sure I was a goner." Some of the strain Gary’s eyes eased. People rarely bothered to thank him for his work. He’d seen the article was gone, and assumed he’d been successful, but it was nice to see the evidence with his own eyes.

"I’m glad to see you’re okay. What happened to your head?"

"Huh? Oh, the bandage. Got grazed. Nothing serious, mild concussion. Can’t hear so good, mostly ringing. Nate says I’ll be fine by tomorrow. You took a real big risk, chargin’ in there. Coulda been shot yourself." The only response Gary could give to that was a shrug. Frankly, he hadn’t had time to worry about that. "How you feeling?" Another shrug, with a wince. At least he was warm now.


Ezra Standish, undercover agent extrordinare (or so he told himself) shivered as the concrete beneath him continued to leach heat from his body. At least his leg was mostly numb now. He tried not to look at the odd angle his pants made. He’d made almost no progress with the belt. His arms were simply not long enough to reach the picks, and his head was spinning. He hadn’t managed to bandage his leg, and suspected that blood loss would soon become an issue.

At least he’d managed to gather some information on his captors. It seemed that Mr. Kirkendale was a former acquaintance of Mr. Tanner’s. When Standish had turned up, recognized from the research Kirkendale had done into Mr. Tanner’s life, he’d decided to get revenge. Not even to be killed on my own behalf, but someone else’s. Such is the penalty for having friends. Of course, my only chance for escape will likely involve them also. What a curious balance.


"Where the hell is my agent?" snarled Larabee, hands gripping the man’s collar, his face inches away. "Tell me, or you’ll regret it."

"If you don’t put me down I’m going to pass out, and then where will you be?" Chris blinked at this calm statement. By this point, perps were usually falling over themselves to confess. He slowly returned the man to his chair. "Thank you. Sterling citizen that I am, I would just love to answer any questions you might have. Starting with that last one, I cheerfully state that I have absolutely no clue. Next?" At this Larabee nearly grabbed him again, to be prevented by Josiah, his partner in the interrogation.

"Remain calm Brother Larabee. Brother Nathan mentioned that the combination of exhaustion and painkillers would affect his thinking." The team leader took a slow breath.

"What is your connection to Joseph Snell."


"The man killed on the rooftop" supplied Josiah.

"I’m sorry that he’s dead." Hobson said softly.

"How well did you know him?"

"Didn’t." at Larabee’s disbelieving stare he slowly shook his head. "Don’t have to know a man to be sorry he’s dead. I’m sure all he was to you is a crook who tried to kill your friend, another piece of society’s garbage to be removed without thinking twice." Gary’s eyes suddenly met Chris’, and to his surprise the fierce leader found he couldn’t look away. "Well he was more than that, whoever he was. He was a human being, and maybe more. Maybe he was someone’s father, or brother or husband or even boyfriend. He was certainly someone’s son. Did you ever think about that? That maybe there’s a mother out there tonight crying because her son is lying dead on a rooftop?" Suddenly he seemed to deflate and rested his head on his forearm as his shoulders shook. Somewhat shocked, Chris looked over at Josiah, who shook his head gently, indicating he didn’t think they’d get anything useful out of the man for now. They quietly left the room.

"That," said Chris, "is a man with problems." The profiler and priest slowly shook his head.

"Not of the type you think. He feels responsible." Chris focused on the large man. His insights into a person’s personality were seldom offered, but usually invaluable. "Not just for the death of Snell, but also for Vin being wounded, for Ezra being missing and more. A man with a heavy weight on his soul." Josiah added absently.

"So you think he’s involved?"

"If that man had anything to do with this I’ll eat my boots without sauce." Larabee nodded. A firm answer, and a place to start.


Standish could have screamed with frustration. It took all his years of practising control to maintain a poker face. He had just finished relieving himself, an awkward and painful process in his position as the guard returned. It had come to him in a blinding insight so clear he could have banged his head against the wall. You can’t reach the back of the belt to get the picks, so TAKE THE FUCKING BELT OFF! Of course, by the time he realised this, the guard was back in the room watching him. Kirkendale entered the room.

"Mr. Standish, I’m sure you’ll be glad to know I’ve found a way to use your presence here. The good news is that you’ll be reunited with your team, the bad news is that you’ll all be dead. Of course my success depends on Mr. Larabee being untrusting of the Chicago ATF. Not a bad bet."

"You mentioned earlier that revenge against Mr. Tanner was a dangerous proposition. How much more so when you include the rest of my fellow agents in the bargain. Why alter your position now?"

"Why money of course. I’ve found quite a few gentlemen willing to pay, and pay well for the removal of the ‘Magnificent Seven’. Mr. Standish, as a gambling you should appreciate that the money has now reached a point where it outweighs the risk."

"I would never gamble with a multiple murder charge."

"When the odds are this good it’s hardly a gamble."

"What do you intend?"

"Let’s just say I’ll be conducting a sting operation of my own. You’ll just have to be surprised by the results along with everyone else." Kirkendale started to leave and then paused. "Oh, and Standish, as you seem to have forgotten, Paul took your lockpicks hours ago."


". . . known associate of George Kirkendale. Here’s a picture of him." JD passed around the mug shot the database had finally coughed up.

"Damn" said Vin "I know this guy. Brought him in a few years back, large bounty. Had a different name then. Don’t imagine he was any pleased with me. Managed to dig him out of a real nice hidy-hole. Guess he sent Snell after me, but why now? Says he’s been out of the clink four years now."

"Standish" said Chris bluntly. "He must have connected the two of you, and decided it was you or him."

"Fits. He was always a real cool customer. Made him dangerous. He’d sit and think a problem over bunch a ways before moving if he could. Scary bit is if he didn’t have time, he usually just started killin." No one could think of a response to this.


Gary shakily took a gulp of water from the pitcher on the table and tried to relax. He still found it hard to believe he had totally lost it. It was probably a result of the injuries. Or the lack of sleep. Or the stress. Nearly dying always made him jumpy. Suddenly the interrogation room door cracked open. He looked up, but no one came in. With a sense of dread he looked down at the orange tabby now sitting beside his foot.

"Look cat, you can stop staring at me right now, because whatever it is you want, I can’t help. I’m handcuffed to this table. See?" He gave the handcuffs a tug to demonstrate to the animal that he wasn’t going anywhere.

They came off.

Gary stared at his now free wrist for a minute before heaving a heartfelt sigh and forcing himself to his feet.

"You owe me at least one day off after this." He headed towards the stairs at a slow walk, following the cat. He ran into Officer Mitchell, who was very friendly, but in spite of Gary’s lack of knowledge about police departments, he doubted the man would ever graduate out of traffic detail. He’d been glad to hear that Gary had been released (‘because you’re such a nice guy’) and happy to give him back his paper and wallet.

He was stopped at the door by the healer who had so thoughtfully provided him with Tylenol for his back.

"Don’t even think you’re going to walk out of here on us." Gary thought about how much he’d like to go back to the room and sit down. He looked at the cat he’d never bothered to name. It met his eyes. There was a message there he couldn’t ignore.

"I need to talk to whoever is in charge." Within seconds he was in an office staring into the frightening visage of Chris Larabee. The expression he was wearing reminded Gary of the one Detective Brigatti wore when he’d done something stupid.

"What do you want, and how the hell did you get out of the cuffs?"

"I need to leave."

"Like hell."

"If I don’t leave now, someone will probably wind up dead. I wish I could explain it to you, but I can’t."

"Listen, you luntatic. . ." Finally Gary found the story he’d been looking for.

"Ezra Standish." Chris stopped dead.


"The name of your missing agent, correct? An undercover agent investigating George Kirkendale?"

"You said you didn’t know anything about that. Oddly enough I believed you."

"Yeah, well, things change." Gary muttered to himself. "Unless you let me leave right now he’s going to wind up dead. And no, that’s not a threat. It’s a fact. I’d like to help you get him back in one piece, but I can’t do anything locked up here."

"Say I believe you and don’t throw your ass in lockup. What do you want?"

"A lift to the warehouse district would be nice. I promise I’ll come back. After all, I have a bar to run. I’m not going anywhere."

"Sorry Hobson. Lockup is the only place you’re going. Give me an address though, and I promise to check it out. Unless, of course you can give me a real good reason to let you go with my men, and frankly, it’d have to be a doozy." Gary looked at the man standing in front of him. He told himself that he was crazy to do this, but then Chuck had been telling him that for years. No hedging would work with this man, no equivocation. He looked the man in the eye and asked him one simple question. One that he, of perhaps a dozen in the world knew the answer to.

"What would you do if you knew, beyond a doubt, what would happen tomorrow?"

"Dammit, the last thing I need right now is some sort of half-assed philosophy of life from some. . ." Gary began to read aloud from the paper.

"Officers responding to a desperate call for assistance were met with a gruesome scene yesterday when they arrived at the junction of Fifth and Lawrence at the heart of Chicago’s warehouse district. . ." Gary went on to describe how the bodies of four members of the famous ‘Magnificent Seven’ were found at the grisly scene, along with those of several known associates of George Kirkendale, suspected arms dealer. "Agent Ezra Standish was rushed to hospital, but was pronounced DOA. It is believed that Agents Wilmington and Larabee are in search of the perpetrator of this heinous crime. If you see either of these men, please contact the police department." Gary looked at a now pale Chris Larabee, and handed him the article. "It can be changed" he said quietly, "but unless you do something different, that’s tomorrow’s paper."

"Chris!" Boomed Buck as he pushed the door of the office open, "What the hell are the both of you doing in here. Been half an hour." Suddenly Wilmington took in the stunned look on his friend’s face. A look he hadn’t seen for years. "WHAT THE HELL DID YOU SAY TO HIM?" Buck demanded throwing Gary against the wall. The whole team came rushing in to see what the fuss was about.

"Buck. BUCK! Put him down now." At his leader’s statement the man gradually calmed. "The last thing we need is you hospitalising our best chance of getting Standish back." There were quite a few raised eyebrows at this. As the men ran to gather the supplies they would need, Gary tapped Larabee on the shoulder.

"What is it now Hobson?"

"You can’t tell anyone."

"I know." With that they headed towards the van they would use. As the seven men piled into the van, and JD helped Gary with his vest Josiah leaned towards their leader, who was driving and quietly said

"It appears Brother Larabee, that I shall need to purchase a new pair of boots before I eat the last pair."

"No Josiah, you got it exactly right." And so quietly the other agent had to strain to hear "Thank God I don’t have his job."

"Amen to that, Brother Larabee."

"What!" Said Chris startled. How had Josiah found out?

"You would make a lousy bartender Chris." None of the men in the back knew why their leader, usually so sombre, would start laughing at this tense moment, but it was good to hear.


What a perverse parody of a briefing Ezra mused as Kirkendale sent his men to their positions around the area. His sick plan was all too clear at this point. It revolted him to know that his life would be the cheese to lure the rest of his teammates into a deadly trap. From Kirkendale’s remark about Larabee’s paranoia he surmised that the man would be warned there was a dirty agent or cop at the precinct. It might even be true. Back in Denver it wouldn’t have been a problem. They knew the other teams well and trusted them. Here, especially after the failed bust it would be different. Ezra had nothing but the highest admiration for the skills of the six men who would undoubtedly try to save him, but it would be a slaughter. He could think of no way of getting loose without being instantly killed, and while his death was not of primary concern to him, dead he was no good to his friends. So he watched and waited as the machinery to crush his family was set in motion.


As Vin climbed the fire escape, silently moving into position, he mused how the day had come full circle. From one rooftop to another. This time however would be different. He had Buck with him, backing him up, and this time he was not in search of action on the ground, but the other rooftops. Vin tried not to think about what would have happened if they had just come in guns blazing. How could Hobson have known there were going to be snipers? And how had he known what route to get past the sentries? It had been bizarre, moving down the streets with the man suddenly telling them to hide moments before a sentry came into view. Chris had told them to listen to the guy, but Vin had overheard Chris talking to Gary right after leaving the van. ‘I know what you can do Hobson, and I am holding you personally responsible for the lives of all my men. One of them gets so much as dented and I’ll make the rest of your life a living hell. Before I have you arrested and stuck in a cell with a guy named Bubba who wants to get to know you real personal. Get me?’ Tanner had been more than a little surprised that Chris had come on so strong. I mean it wasn’t like the guy was psychic or anything.

As he reached the top of the building they’d chosen as a starting point Vin quickly took a glimpse over the edge. Perfect. He quietly snuck up behind the ‘sniper’ who was smoking a joint looking over the far edge of the building. Buck stuck his gun in the guy’s back while Vin silently removed the man’s headset. They quickly cuffed and gagged him, leaving him attached to a convenient radio antenna. This was one of the highest buildings around and Vin and Buck were able to quickly relay positions for most of the other men to the rest of the team.


As Vin an Buck relayed positions, JD in the van marked them on a local map. It was easy to see a pattern, and he quickly drew in a couple positions on the map that probably had people out of line of sight. After he had relayed this to Chris and the rest of the team JD looked up to see that Hobson had vanished from the van.

"Chris, Hobson just left the van."

"Damn" the team leader muttered quietly. "Idiot never stays where you put him. Don’t worry about him JD, we’ve got bigger concerns right now." As if to punctuate this statement, there was the flat crack of a rifle being fired. Then came three more, and the sentries they were stalking came to alert. They noticed the presence of the ATF agents and opened fire.


Ezra Standish raised his head when he heard the first shots. It was harder than it should have been, and he could tell that the puddle of blood was even larger than before. The cold that seemed to have sunken into his bones was changing to a comforting warmth, and even addled Ezra knew this was a bad sign. Kirkendale was yelling into the radio, and what he was saying was giving Ezra new hope.

"What the hell are they doing here? How’d they find us? It isn’t like we left directions. I haven’t even called them yet. . . Well, hold them off. I’ll be out in a minute." A small grin traced Ezra’s face. His team was coming for him. Kirkendale clicked off the radio and turned to his bodyguard. "Go get the car, Larabee’s blown my plan all to hell. We’ll try again later." As Merchason left the room Kirkendale walked towards Ezra, drawing his gun.

"At this juncture it is becoming increasingly obvious to me that you will be apprehended. Adding a murder to your list of crimes is hardly intelligent."

"Probably," the arms dealer admitted "But frankly, I’m pissed off enough to do it anyways."

"If you do this my team will never stop looking for you."

"That’s okay, I’ll be hunting them meanwhile. This way next time Larabee’ll know to take me seriously next time. Maybe at the funeral . . ." Kirkendale smiled at the idea of using a cemetery as a killing field. He raised the weapon, his finger tightening on the trigger.

Suddenly, above their heads there came a sound of cracking wood and a descending yell. Ezra winced as a cascade of wood and person landed on his would be murderer. The gun went off, blowing a hole in the wall inches from his head. As the dust settled he let out a slow breath, then the sound of a groan from the pile spurred him into action.

Kirkendale’s hand, complete with weapon was protruding from the pile, and after a few attempts he managed to use his uninjured leg to fish it into his grasp.


As Chris burst through the doorway of the warehouse he was greeted with the unlikely sight of Hobson and Kirkendale lying in a pile of debris. He swore softly as he saw his undercover agent take several seconds to recognise him and put the gun down. There was a large puddle of blood under his leg and from the caution of his movements Chris could tell the man didn’t trust himself with the weapon. Nathan brushed by him, and Chris was incredibly relieved to see he had his first aid kit with him.

"Chris. Merchason is around back. Something about a car." Larabee nodded his thanks to Ezra.

"Glad to see you’re in one piece. Well, mostly." He headed towards the back of the warehouse, radioing Vin to meet him, as Josiah and Nathan tended to the wounded man.


Nathan swore softly as he took Ezra’s pulse and felt the coolness of the skin. He was clearly well into shock due to bloodloss and the temperature of the warehouse. Josiah took his jacket off to drape over Ezra’s shoulders speaking comfortingly and asking JD to get an ambulance.

"Actually Josiah, I want you to help me move Ezra onto your lap. This floor is freezing, and it isn’t helping."

"Mr. Jackson, I assure you. . ."

"Ezra, If you can tell me honestly that you can even feel your leg I’ll let you be." At the lack of response Nathan nodded at Josiah and they gently shifted their friend. Ezra shuddered at the motion and seemed to become semi-conscious. Josiah moved his jacket so that it was covering Ezra’s chest, while Nathan cut the blood soaked pants open. Ezra’s only response to this abuse of his attire was to mutter ‘warm’ and close his eyes.

"Well, at least there’s no shortage of material for splints." Jackson tugged a spar out of the pile and suddenly realised that he’d been so focused on Ezra he’d forgotten about the two men buried in the debris. Pausing briefly he quickly put a pad over the wound, and used a splint to keep the whole mess in place. Propping the leg gently on a chunk of siding, he threw his jacket over Ezra’s lap and started to dig out Hobson.


As Josiah Sanchez sat in the hospital room, slowly flipping through the pages of the Chicago Sun-Times, his mind was elsewhere. The team had emerged far more unscathed than it had any right to. Buck had gotten creased by a bullet while he and Vin were in the process of removing the snipers. The fact that his injury and Ezra’s were the only ones was nothing short of a miracle, the whole situation at the warehouse had been a deathtrap. Josiah bent his head to gave thanks, and added another prayer for the man lying unconscious in the bed. Delayed shock, Brother Nathan had said.

What motivates a man to risk his life like that for people he doesn’t even know?

Any of the Seven would have done what Hobson had, it was part of what made them special, but Josiah already knew what motivated them. What drove Hobson?

To the team’s profiler, this was not a question he could leave unanswered. He’d read a copy of Gary’s files from the station. The detectives had been reluctant to give them up. After reading through the material, he could understand why. Brigatti, Armstrong, and so many others. To owe another man your life was a heavy burden, and one no honourable person could ignore. It was part of the glue that cemented Team Seven together, though by no means the largest part.

The man carried a heavy weight. A burden of guilt?. .No. There was a sense of determination, and some guilt, but that was not enough. More of a burden of knowledge. Yes. A burden of responsibility. A task that could not be set down, for there was no one to take over. No one else who could be trusted to finish the task.

Josiah’s mind drifted back to a CO he’d had in Vietnam, one of the best men he’d ever met, but certainly not the best officer. He’d died making sure their flank was protected, a job he should have trusted to another. He added this information to the profile he was building of Gary Hobson.

A groan from the bed interrupted his train of thought. He looked up to see Gary blink in confusion, then suddenly jerk into wakefulness. He looked at Josiah, who started to reassure him, but was cut off.

"What day is it? I mean what time, how long have I been…" The panic in his voice was obvious, and Josiah hoped they hadn’t missed some sort of deadline.

"Just a few hours Mr. Hobson, it’s three in the morning." Hobson flopped back into the hospital bed like a marionette whose strings had been cut. Suddenly he jerked upright again.

"I need to see the paper" he insisted. Josiah knew that asking the man to lie down would be pointless, so he passed over his copy and started to raise the head on the bed. Hobson glanced at the copy and started to shake his head, wincing at the pain. "No, I need the other one, I mean the copy I had from before." At Josiah’s inquiring glance he continued. "It has some stuff, extra stuff in it." The nurse had mentioned something about the man always wanting his particular copy of the newspaper when he woke up. Moving to the closet he pulled the mangled copy out of the back pocket of Hobson’s jeans. He glanced at it. "NO" yelled Hobson, but it was too late. Josiah had seen the date at the top.

"Good Lord above!"

"Well, that’s Marissa’s explanation for it anyway." Gary muttered to himself, gently tugging the newsprint from the large man’s grasp. He started to scan the paper, efficiently moving section by section. "Is anyone hurt?" It took a moment for Josiah to focus his thoughts.

"Nothing that won’t heal with time. How. . . how is this possible?" he asked gesturing at the confusing document.

"Listen, if you’ll give me a lift back to the bar I’ll explain everything I can on the way. You can’t tell anyone, and even if you do, they’ll think you’re nuts. Should have heard what my shrink said to me when I told her."

"You can’t be serious Brother Hobson. You’ve fallen a total of six stories today. I’m surprised you’re not dead."

"Don’t get off the hook that easily" Gary muttered. "Look, in a couple hours, tomorrow’s issue’ll turn up, and frankly I’d like a chance to get changed first."

"How can you even plan on that? You can barely move."

"What do you suggest I do? Take a sick day? Sit here, relax and count the bodies. Yeah, right. Sorry, Mr Sanchez, but this job doesn’t come with an off switch."

"Your injuries could keep you from moving quickly enough to save someone. It could cost them their life." Hobson paused as he was painfully shifting his legs of the bed. Josiah could see the pain in his eyes, and knew that most of it wasn’t physical.

"Don’t you think I know that? It’s Hobson’s choice, and I’ve made it."

"Hobson’s choice; a choice that has no real alternatives."


"You have alternatives Gary. Seven of them. Will you let your pride, your insistence that you are the only possible saviour cost someone their life?"

"What are you suggesting?" Gary asked warily.

"Team Seven owes you. Two of us know the truth, and the rest will help regardless. We’ll be here for another few days. Rest. Heal. And let us do the hero bit for once."

For the first time in a very long while Gary Hobson was speechless. Shocked at the notion that for once, he didn’t have to do it alone. For once there was someone who could take over. If he could trust them to do the job right.

"I’ve been doing this for four years. It isn’t easy." It was meant as a caution, but Josiah, used to listening to men who took ‘stoic’ to a new level heard a different message. ‘Help me’.

"Then it’s high time you had some help." Gary looking slightly bewildered leaned back in the bed and quickly drifted off.


All in all, it had been an interesting two weeks. Ezra was still wearing a cast, and Buck’s sling wouldn’t come off for another couple days, but they’d done a good job on both fronts. On the ATF side Merchason, Kirkendale and several of their lackeys were tucked away waiting for their trials.

On the newspaper side, the seven had done a job anyone would be proud of. Nathan had borne the brunt of the work, with two heart attacks and a poisoning. Buck bid goodbye to a charming lady he’d rescued from a mugger-rapist. Vin grinned at the memory of how Detective Brigatti had reacted to Buck’s come on. He’d never heard the ladies man back-pedal so quickly before.

Josiah was chatting with Hobson, who’d celebrated their help by sleeping for a full day. Vin was pleased to see the connection the two had formed. The profiler would probably give some profound explanation for it, but Vin figured they just had a lot of personality traits in common. He guessed it was a friendship that would last, and it seemed to help the profiler to spend time away from the violence that was so common in their line of work.

As they drove away, headed back to Denver, he turned to see Hobson glance at his paper, and stride off.

He looked happy, Team Seven was too, and in the end Vin supposed that was enough. Enough for today, enough for tomorrow.


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