Atlantan Legacy XVI - When a Holiday's Not a Holiday - Labor Day

by Squeakypeep

Disclaimer: Not Mine.. no profit.

Acknowledgements: Mog’s Universe - Thank you.

For Lyse – who pointed out that one short story has become a very long series – and for Katherine who suggested the bit at the end. Also, with heartfelt thanks to all those who regularly send feedback – you know who you are. I find myself eagerly awaiting your comments every time I submit a story. Quite a few new people have written recently about this series, it is great to get your notes – how about some more suggestions? Are you running out of ideas, people?

Labor Day Weekend
Monday Morning
The horses snorted in turn, seemingly engaged in their own equine conversation. Above them, the high-decibel chatter of the child drowned out the continuous chirp of the crickets, the rustle of the breeze through the trees, the steady thud of the horse’s hooves… and just about anything else that tried to make itself heard.

The two most taciturn Agents of ATF Team 7, astride their muscular blacks, exchanged looks of amusement at the ceaseless monologue. They were not at all fazed by having no opportunity to speak, despite the fact that they usually enjoyed each other’s company in near silence. Sometimes, their little surrogate niece was so much a chip off the old Standish block it was almost uncanny. Trying to get a word in was like trying to thread a sewing machine when it’s running.

Not that Chris Larabee or Vin Tanner would ever come within three feet of such an unfamiliar appliance.

It was with a sense of relief to the adults, therefore, that the threesome finally arrived at their destination, a small, sunny pool with a waterfall, on the Eastern edge of the Larabee property. The child immediately stopped talking and slid down from the saddle to explore, making a beeline for the water as children invariably do.

‘Rorie!’ Tanner called her back. ‘You fergot ta tie yer pony.’

The little girl flashed her dimples as she grinned unrepentantly at him. ‘She won’t go anywhere Uncle Vin, not with Pony so close.’ Rorie’s little mare and Chris’s large gelding had formed a peculiar friendship. You rarely saw one without the other these days.

The Texan sighed. ‘That ain’t the point. Ya gotta do it right, pumpkin, ta git inta the habit, otherwise one day when yer ridin’ some other horse ya’ll fergit an’ have ta walk home.’

‘Oooo…kay.’ She sounded like she was doing it just to appease him but dutifully tied her pony to a low branch. Vin regarded her intricate knot and shook his head. They’d have to allow extra time to undo the damn thing before they could leave. Rorie grinned at his expression of disgust. He rolled his eyes, sure the complicated tangle was deliberate, and unsaddled both their mounts.

After stripping down to swimwear the two men ventured into the water. The source of the spring was high in the mountains and the water was refreshingly cold after the heat of the Labor Day Sun. Rorie threw off her clothes with abandon, scattering them across the grass in a trail towards the water’s edge as she hurried to join her Uncles.

Mix any of the seven with water and you were guaranteed to have fun.

The little girl was perfectly at home in the watery environment, although she was far more comfortable under the surface than on it. Like a little pink turtle, her nose and mouth would appear at intervals as she took great gulps of air before disappearing again for long anxious moments, only to resurface somewhere else.

They played for well over an hour, splashing around and playing catch until the child decided to further explore under the water. Chris would occasionally dive down with her, Rorie clinging to his back like a human limpet, until she discovered she could sit upright, and thereby keep her head above water, if she held onto the waist of his trunks. The third time she exposed his backside he surrendered and climbed out, relaxing on a sun-warmed boulder as he watched the tanned Texan and the small Southerner frolic in the pool.

It was interesting to observe the tracker enjoying the innocent childish pleasures he’d missed out on in his own youth. Whenever the sharpshooter played with the little girl, the latent kid in him came to the fore and it was like having two kids to watch over.

Tanner was making up for opportunities missed.

Vin allowed himself to be dunked several times, much to the amusement of both his companions, before tackling the child and throwing her over his shoulder to land with an impressive splash in the middle of the pond. This lead to a game of ‘toss the munchkin’, which lasted for about 20 minutes before he announced that his arms were tired. The two then joined the older man for a picnic lunch in a flat, shaded spot set back amongst the trees, close to the horses and out of sight of the pond.

After eating, and all the fresh air and exercise of the morning, the contented child soon dropped off to sleep, curled up on the picnic blanket with a half eaten Oreo clutched in her hand.

The two men left her to her nap and moved back to the water’s edge, where they sat in comfortable silence, watching the dragonflies play chase over the reeds and the sunlight bouncing off the water tumbling down the rocky incline.

The noise of the churning water must have drowned out the approach of the three gunmen.

Vin was the first to sense their presence, silently signalling to his boss that there was something wrong. As they began to turn to look behind them there was the sound of a shot. Larabee jerked and grunted.

‘What the fuck?’ Tanner rapidly gained his feet, pivoting on his bare toes as he swivelled to face the threat.

‘You must be Tanner.’ Vin paused, poised to attack, weighing his chances against his opponents. He knew Chris was hurt, but not how badly. He didn’t look at his colleague and hadn’t seen where he was struck but he knew without a doubt that his partner had been wounded.

The three men, all dark and stocky, were too far away for him to strike, particularly since he was unarmed and dressed only in swim trunks. He narrowed his eyes at them and relaxed his stance slightly, waiting for an opening and hoping to appear less threatening and thereby lessen his chances of just being gunned down.

‘Reckon I must. Who’re you?’

‘Perhaps Mr Larabee would like to tell you?’ The man in the center looked at Chris with black eyes.

Vin glanced down at his companion for the first time, making a quick assessment of his injury, before refocusing on the threat.

The ATF Team Leader sat staring calmly at the three men. His face betraying none of the pain he must be experiencing from the oozing wound in his thigh. Tanner knew from experience that the slow rate of bleeding probably meant the bullet was still in there.

Damn. This just kept getting better. He just hoped Rorie had enough sense to keep her head down.

‘Do I know you? The tracker wasn’t looking at his boss but grinned inwardly at his insolent tone. He was still showing that infamous Larabee belligerence. Good sign.

‘You bastard. You cost me 12 years in Yuma.’

‘Obviously wasn’t enough.’ The man’s finger tightened on the trigger and Chris held his breath.

‘Jimenez. Narcotics bust. Remember now?’

Chris cocked his head to the side, apparently frowning in concentration. After a long moment his brow cleared. ‘Yeah.’ He glanced at his second-in-command. ‘From when I was in the DPD.’ The cold green glare swivelled back to Jimenez. ‘I shouldda shot you through the brain, not the shoulder, and saved the tax payers money.’

‘Purty small target Cowboy.’ The man ignored Tanner’s jibe, remaining focussed on Larabee.

‘You’re gonna wish ya had.’ The man turned to his friends. ‘If either tries anything, shoot the other. Henkle, get the kid.’

‘No!’ Both Agents spoke together.

Tanner took a pace forward even as he shouted his denial and all three guns were suddenly pointed at Larabee. He stopped. ‘She ain’t got nothin’ ta do with this. She’s jist a baby.’ It was obviously no good trying to pretend Rorie didn’t exist, they already knew there was a child with them.

‘She’ll be useful to keep you both in line. At least until Mr Wilmington joins us.’ He grinned at Chris’s involuntary expression of surprise. ‘Thought I’d forgotten about him did you? You were both responsible. You will both pay. As for you,’ he indicated the Texan with a tilt of his chin, ‘you should choose your friends more carefully. You’d live longer.’

Both Agents’ hands were securely bound behind them with duct tape as they waited for Henkle to return with Rorie. They couldn’t fight back, not with an armed man out of sight and a vulnerable child at his mercy. They would have to wait for an opening when they could be sure of protecting the girl.

After what seemed like an age, the luckless Henkle returned empty handed. ‘Can’t find her. Looks like she took one of the horses and bolted.’

Chris and Vin exchanged glances.

‘Shit!’ Jimenez fumed, glaring at the two lawmen. They smiled at him.

‘Don’t worry about it. She’s just gonna get lost. Like he said she’s just a baby, can be more than three at the most.’ The third man spoke for the first time, in a heavy Mexican accent. Vin mentally labelled him ‘Pedro’.

‘Yeah, that’s true. Kid’ll probably die out here. Okay git em on their horses. We can be at the cabin in an hour and then Mr Larabee and I can get re-acquainted.’ Chris raised his brows at the menacing look but otherwise didn’t react.

But even he couldn’t control his reaction when their mounts appeared. He gaped.

‘Shit!’ Tanner was horrified. In front of them stood Pony and… Cleo.

The small pony’s reins had clearly been cut with a knife. Obviously the knot had defeated the gunman as well as the child. Which meant…

Rorie was on Peso.


There was no way she could have saddled him.

Tanner took a steadying breath. If that damn bad tempered mule hurt that kid he’d be glue within a week.

An hour later the five horsemen arrived at a small, ramshackle cabin at the end of a little-used dirt track. They were pulled from the horses and hustled into the damp, gloomy interior. The single room was sparsely furnished. There were two chairs and a table in the middle of the room and an old, stained mattress on the floor in one corner, to the right of the fireplace and directly beneath the window.

The two bound Agents were pushed over to the rear wall and forced to sit on the filthy floor, no hardship for Chris who was having difficulty maintaining his balance on the injured leg.

‘Henkle. You go down into the town and call Wilmington. Get him to meet you at the truck stop. Tell him if he tries anything Larabee and Tanner will be killed and that you are expected to check in regularly. If you miss a check-in we will cut up the child and return her in small pieces.’

‘We haven’t got the kid.’

‘He doesn’t know that you idiot. When he arrives take him to the second safe house. Once we are certain you haven’t been followed we’ll move to the rendezvous point.’

Henkle left and the four remaining men stared at each other in the ensuing silence. Jimenez smiled and pulled a wicked looking knife out of a sheath on his belt.

Meanwhile, several miles West, Rorie was making very rapid progress.

She clung desperately to Peso’s mane and bridle, gripping the ornery horse galloping beneath her as hard as she could with her bare knees. She wasn’t so much riding him as being taken where he wanted to go. The big black was in complete control. She knew if she fell off she’d be in serious trouble, not least because she was only wearing a small pair of shorts and knowing Peso he’d probably toss her into poison ivy or something.

‘Please, Peso. Please be good. Don’t let me fall off, don’t let me fall off.’ Her eyes were tightly shut as she prayed aloud, reassured by the sound of her own voice, although it was jarring disjointedly with every bounce of her little body on the broad, muscular back. Her heart thundered loudly in her ears, keeping time with the pounding hooves of the powerful horse. She cried out and was nearly unseated as Peso came to an abrupt halt. He snorted and pawed the ground.

Slowly opening her eyes the small child was astonished to find herself at the door of the Larabee barn. Gathering her wits she slowly slid down Peso’s neck until her feet touched the ground. She held onto his foreleg for a moment as she tried to steady her wobbly legs.

‘Good boy.’ She patted the animal’s sweaty neck.

He made as if to bite her shoulder but she ducked out of reach.

On still unsteady legs she stumbled towards the Ranch house, fishing the spare key from behind the water trough as she passed.

She let herself into the kitchen and looked at the phone. Her mind went blank. She couldn’t remember any numbers. Coming to a decision, she speed dialled a random number. Her finger fell on 3. She didn’t know who would answer but it must be someone…


‘UNCLE BUCK? You gotta come. It’s a ‘MERGENCY!’

At the other end of the phone Buck winced, holding the handset further from his ear as he was nearly deafened by the frantic bellow coming over the receiver.

‘Rorie? Calm down. What’s the matter?’

‘Someone shot Uncle Chris!’

The ladies man jumped to his feet, startling the group sitting at his table, JD, Casey and his date, Alison, and earning curious glances from the other diners.

‘Buck?’ He held up his hand to Dunne, signalling for silence.

‘Where’s Vin?’

‘They got him too but they wanted you! You gotta come and bring everyone! Hurry Uncle Buck.’

‘Listen Short Stuff. Take a deep breath and tell me exactly what happened, slowly.’ He listened as Rorie explained the events of the last hours.

‘You’re there all by yourself?’


‘Okay Lil’Darlin. I’m gonna hang up and call 911 to send someone to be with you. Don’t open the door for anyone except a cop or one of us, you understand?’

‘Okay. Are you coming quick?’

‘Quick as lightening Darlin’. I’m gonna hang up now. Remember, only a cop or one of us.’ He disconnected the call and dialled 911, telling the operator that there was a small child alone after a Federal Officer had been kidnapped and asking for a uniformed officer to be sent to the child while the rest of the team got ready to go after their team mates.

Ezra and Inez, having been visiting antique and curios stores in nearby Four Corners, arrived at the Larabee Ranch first, closely followed by the rest of the team.


‘Honeybee, are you unharmed?’ Ezra knelt in the dirt of the yard and caught his daughter as she flew towards him. Two uniformed cops stood on the porch and it was they who answered for the hysterical child.

‘She’s fine. Just worried about her Uncles. You’re her father?’ Ezra stood, bringing Rorie with him. He nodded.

‘Ezra Standish, ATF Team 7. My companion, Miss Recillos. Thank you for your care and assistance Gentlemen.’ The two cops nodded in acknowledgement, both of his statement and his professional status. They, like all law enforcement in Denver, both knew of and respected the reputation of the most Elite ATF Unit in the State.

Ezra ran his hand over Rorie’s bare back and arms, checking her for injury and offering the reassurance and comfort of his touch at the same time. He turned as three more speeding vehicles arrived in convoy, screeching to a halt in the driveway. Four more Agents poured from the cars. ‘The rest of the Team, Agents Sanchez, Wilmington, Jackson and Dunne.’

The two cops watched as the new arrivals began pulling an arsenal of weapons and equipment from their vehicles. Ezra hugged his daughter, spending some time calming and reassuring her before reluctantly handing her to Inez.

‘Go, Ezra, we will be fine.’ Inez stroked Rorie’s hair as the sticky little body cuddled up against the pretty Senorita’s shoulder. Standish nodded, placing a gentle kiss on each of their cheeks, and went to assist his team-mates.

Before long, five horses were saddled and ready to travel.

Buck knelt before the little girl, who was still visibly distraught and clinging to Inez’s hand. ‘So they took them from the clearing at the waterfall and said they’d be ‘at the cabin in an hour’?’


‘That narrows the field. Which direction did they go in?’

‘Downhill. The other way from where we arrived.’

Wilmington nodded, familiar with the terrain within the Larabee property. ‘East.’

Ezra winked at her. ‘Good girl.’ She smiled at his praise, but it was a mere shadow of her usual gamine grin.

Buck pulled out a map. ‘Riding, for an hour would take them somewhere about…’ He paused and Josiah leaned over his shoulder and placed a finger on the map.

‘That’s the most likely area. There’s a track with a building at the end. Secluded enough to be away from prying eyes but within easy reach of the town.’

‘Yep. I think you’re right Okay let’s…’ He was cut off when his cell began to ring.

‘Wilmington.’ He listened. ‘Okay. I understand. Yes. I can be there in two hours. No I can’t get there any quicker asshole, I’m in Garnet Springs. It’ll take me an hour to get to Denver and another hour to get to Four Corners. Okay. No, no cops. Don’t do anything stupid. What condition are they in? How’s the kid holding up? Okay.’ He rang off.

‘They claim to have Rorie too.’ He winked at the little blonde. ‘They don’t know just how slippery our little monster is do they? Okay boys. Let’s move. I’ll fill you in as we go.’

Inez, Rorie and the two DPD Officers watched from the porch as the five heavily armed horsemen disappeared up the trail in a cloud of dust.

In the cabin, Vin watched helplessly as Jimenez tormented his friend, making shallow cuts across his bare chest with an evil looking stiletto and kicking repeatedly at his wounded leg, seemingly just for his own sick sense of amusement. Chris occasionally winced, or sucked in a breath, but otherwise remained impassive, fixing his torturer with an icy green glare.

Vin attempted to distract him.

‘Does it make ya feel more like a man, Jimenez, ta be able ta beat the crap outta a man with his hands bound? Cain’t face him on equal terms? Too scary fer ya?’ The stiletto moved towards the Texan.

‘Shut up Vin. Poor guy’s been in Yuma for twelve years. Can’t be much man still in him. ‘Cept what other’s have left.’ Chris chuckled and the bloodstained knife swung back his way.

‘Is that the problem? Didn’t like bein’ someone’s girlfriend, Asshole?’

‘Shouldn’t that be someone’s asshole girlfriend?’ Vin laughed at Larabee’s sick joke.

There was a snort from ‘Pedro’. Jimenez glared at him.

‘Shut the fuck up, both of you or I’ll cut out your tongues.’ Jimenez couldn’t believe they were goading him. He was the one with the power, the ability to snuff out their lives, and they were laughing at him. They were both crazy.

He turned the blade back on Tanner, slicing a nick in his earlobe as he ducked to avoid being slashed in the face. Blood began to trickle freely down his bare chest. The Texan winked at him. Chris sent him a warning look.

Jimenez’s entertainment was interrupted by the sound of an approaching vehicle. Both gunmen immediately took up positions on either side of the door, weapons pointed at the two agents. The door opened to admit Henkle.

‘What are you doing back here? I told you to wait for Wilmington.’

‘He’s gonna be a while. Has to come from Garnet Springs.’

Chris and Vin exchanged quick, discreet glances. Buck wasn’t in Garnet Springs. He was double dating with JD downtown. The boys were obviously already en-route but they had no way of knowing where their missing men were. Unless…

Chris and Vin glanced at each other as their brains clicked to the same conclusion at the same moment, their eyes met with twin expressions of relief.


They were fairly sure the child must have reached safety and summoned assistance. Now they just had to stay alert and alive until help arrived. The pair still looked for the opportunity to gain the upper hand but the urgency was no longer there.

The Cavalry was coming.

Time passed slowly for the five men in the cabin. Young Henkle paced backwards and forwards and Vin followed him with his eyes until it started to make him dizzy. He wished the idiot would just leave.

‘For God’s sake Henkle stop pacing! You’re driving me nuts.’ Jimenez looked at his watch. ‘You’d better get back to Four Corners and check there isn’t any extra police activity around. When you get there call Wilmington again and tell him you’ve changed the meet to Nero’s Grill. That way if they’ve set up a sting you will be able to see them moving into new positions.’

Henkle nodded and left, the door of the cabin swinging shut behind him. They listened as the roar of the engine filled the silence outside the cabin, fading as the vehicle got further away.

There was a tense silence.

Tanner’s chin came up abruptly and Chris gazed curiously at him.

Vin tilted his head to the side and listened.


A good nothing.

There was complete silence now, where earlier the sounds of the forest could be clearly heard. They were in the middle of a densely wooded area, and despite what many city folk are inclined to think, Tanner knew that the forest is never so naturally quiet.

Unless the animals and birds are keeping a low profile in the presence of a predator.

Like man.

Or men.

Chris watched Tanner’s expression and body language and knew without words that the rest of the team were present. The two waited to see what would happen.

A half hour passed and finally Jimenez’s phone rang.

Clicking the cell shut, he grinned and motioned that they should get to their feet. He kept his weapon pointed at them and watched impassively as Chris struggled to stand.

Sensing his friend’s difficulty, Vin leaned a shoulder into his side, providing what little support he could with his hands bound behind him.

They were marched out into the clearing directly in front of the cabin.

Both bound men glanced around surreptitiously, blinking in the glare of the afternoon sunset, waiting for the signal to move.

Jimenez urged them towards a van across the clearing with the barrel of his gun.

There was a birdcall from the trees and Tanner abruptly swivelled, simultaneously ducking the weapon aimed at his own back and kicking out at the gun levelled at Larabee.

Chris dived right, rolling into the hard dirt of the track, wincing as the sharp pebbles gouged deeply into his bare skin.

‘Freeze ATF’

There was the sound of four shots, so close together they were almost indistinguishable.

Jimenez and ‘Pedro’ were both propelled backwards, dropping their weapons to clutch at the fresh wounds. Four ATF Agents materialized from the cover of the woods, firearms pointed unwaveringly at the luckless criminals.

‘Howdy Boys. Heard you fellas needed a ride home.’ Buck grinned at Tanner as he helped him to his feet and ripped the tape from his wrists, taking a considerable amount of hair with it. Vin scowled at him and rubbed his abused hands together, trying to get the circulation going. They both moved over to where Nathan was examining Chris.

‘Hold still! I need to see to your leg wound and get those cuts cleaned.’ Nathan grabbed Chris’s calf and sat on it, effectively pinning his leader to the ground since his hands were still tied.

‘Untie me Buck.’ Jackson shot Wilmington a warning look.

‘Not until Nathan’s finished, Stud. I know better than to come between Nate and his patient.’ Wilmington grinned in the face of the familiar Larabee glare.

‘You fools. You have signed the death warrant for the child.’ Jimenez and Pedro, having been secured by JD and Ezra, were being cuffed and read their rights. ‘Our partner has Larabee’s daughter, she will be sent back in an envelope.’ He smirked at the man he despised, hoping to negotiate his release with the bluff. ‘The call I received informed me that our friend has found your kid and he…’

‘Sorry Jimenez. Your information is wrong.’ Chris climbed to his feet with assistance from Nathan and Vin and hobbled over to their prisoner. ‘I don’t have a daughter.’

Jimenez laughed a little uncertainly. ‘And the little girl? You forget her so easily? You try to convince me otherwise but I know she is yours.’

‘Actually, I believe you are referring to my progeny.’ Standish stepped forward. His gold tooth glinted in the sunshine as he grinned at the confused Mexican. ‘She may appear to be little more than a babe in arms but she is remarkably resilient and extremely resourceful. Perhaps you should consider how it was that we came to be aware of your location? And as far as your partner is concerned,’ he nodded to the track where a second vehicle was approaching, ‘Your threat carries little weight since he is already in custody.’

Josiah parked the car and climbed out. Henkle was clearly visible in the back, handcuffed and seemingly out cold. Chris raised his brows.

Josiah shrugged. ‘Wouldn’t stop talking. Didn’t have a notebook to take down his confession and after I heard it for the fourth time, I’d had enough.’

The others looked at each other. ‘Went a little Old Testament on him did you, Josiah?’

The big preacher grinned, unabashed. ‘Brothers, I think we’d better head to Four Corners hospital.’

Everyone but Wilmington climbed into the vehicles, Nathan fussing over Chris in the back of the van. Ezra was driving and Vin rode shotgun. Josiah and JD took the three trussed up criminals in the second car and Buck remained to collect all the horses and take them home.

Tanner looked up as a cell phone appeared in front of his face. He looked at his roomy.

‘Rorie is waiting to hear from you.’

Grinning, Tanner accepted the phone and dialled the number for the Ranch.

‘Hey Pumpkin!’

‘UNCLE VIN! ARE YOU OKAY? DID THEY RESCUE YOU? WHERE ARE YOU?’ The tinny screech was audible to every passenger, even over the noise of the engine. The Texan winced comically.

‘We’re both fine. Yep they did. We’re on our way ta git checked out. We’ll see ya later. And Rorie?’


‘I haven’t fergotten ya took Peso. We WILL be talking about that later. Be ready.’ He clicked the phone shut on the blustering.

‘She rode PESO?’ Ezra was furious. ‘What the HELL was she thinking?’

‘She’d tied Cleo up good and probably couldn’t get the knots undone.’ Chris sucked in a breath as Nathan poked at the cuts on his chest. ‘Easy Nate!’

By the time both injured agents had been treated and Chris had had the bullet removed from his leg, it was dark. Ezra and Vin left the hospital once their leader had regained consciousness following the surgery, to collect Inez and Rorie and head home. Tomorrow was the first day of the new semester for the child and the seven were due back in the office after the long holiday weekend.

The pair arrived at the Larabee Ranch in a squad car. Rorie came dashing out to greet them. She leapt at Vin who caught her against his chest and returned the enthusiastic hug.

‘Uncle Vin, I was so scared.’

‘Me too, pumpkin. Ya shouldda taken Pony iffn ya couldn’t git Cleo untied.’

‘No.’ He raised one brow at her. ‘I mean yes, I know I should have taken Pony but I wasn’t scared of Peso, well perhaps a bit, but I was more scared for you and Uncle Chris.’

‘Whilst I understand your concern for your Uncles, I fail to see how that excuses riding Peso when you know that you are strictly forbidden to approach that disagreeable animal.’ Ezra sat down on the porch step and Vin settled beside him with Rorie sitting across his lap, facing her frowning parent.

‘I tried to get Pony to come but he wouldn’t leave Cleo.’ She gazed up at the Texan. ‘I’m sorry Uncle Vin. I know I’m not allowed to touch Peso but I had to do something!’

The tracker nodded thoughtfully. ‘Ya did the right thing. It was very brave. But that don’t mean ya kin go near m’ horse again. He’s still a mean, bad tempered cuss an’ the rules still apply.’

Rorie nodded, satisfied. ‘I don’t get punished?’ She glanced up through her lashes at Ezra. He shook his head and smiled at her.

‘Not in this instance. Since there were extenuating circumstances, I believe we may overlook your disobedience, just this once.’

Both Agents smiled at Inez as she approached from inside, carrying two cold bottles of beer. She sat down next to Ezra and he put an arm around her shoulder. The four sat in comfortable silence watching the sunset before heading home.

Team 7 Offices
Wednesday Afternoon

Chris exited the elevator and headed into the bullpen, manoeuvring his crutches like a seasoned pro, which was as it should be considering how many prior occasions he’d been forced to use them. Rorie followed on his heels, chattering nineteen to the dozen about her day at school.

‘Hey Chris, how’s the leg? Hey Sugar Plum.’ The medic was the first to notice the new arrivals.

‘Fine, thanks Nate.’

‘Hello Uncle Nathan. Uncle Chris picked me up from school and said we could come to the office for a little while. Hey Uncle Everybody! I’m here!’ The smiling agents around the office returned her exuberant greeting. Rorie trotted over to the Undercover Agent’s desk. ‘Hello Daddy.’

‘Good Afternoon Honeybee. How was school?’ Ezra leaned back in his chair and lifted the little girl up, kissing her forehead as he set her on the edge of his desk.

‘Okay. I like my new teacher. I got a man teacher this year so he won’t be telling anyone how handsome you are.’

Behind her, across from Ezra, the wiry Texan snorted into his coffee cup. Standish glared at him. There were chuckles around the office as the child continued to relate her day, oblivious to the adult humor at her father’s expense.

‘There’s a letter in my bag again, Daddy.’ Ezra sighed and she hurried to reassure him. ‘I don’t think I’m in trouble, I think it’s about the scholarship test I did in the summer.’ He nodded. ‘You know Mr Wilson? He’s Head of Music. He says I can learn another instrument. I think maybe I’ll choose trumpet,’ she grinned at her father, ‘or tuba?’

‘Tell me ya don’t gotta practise at home!’ Vin sounded horrified and she glanced at him over her shoulder.

‘Course I do!’ She grinned, knowing he knew full well she wasn’t serious.

‘What would you really like to try?’ She looked back into the emerald green eyes watching her with amusement.

‘Violin?’ He nodded.

‘Good choice.’

‘So how are your new classmates?’ Buck sauntered over and leaned against the wall behind Standish.

‘There’s eight of us, including me. There’s another little girl who’s six, I think we can be friends. Most of the others are Okay too, except Taylor Dunwoody. He’s eight and yucky.’

‘And what did Master Dunwoody do to earn such a disparaging description?’ Ezra raised his coffee to his lips and took a sip.

‘He likes me.’

‘Is that a bad thing?’

‘Too much! You know what I mean?’ She nudged his knee with her foot, a look of childish disgust on her face. ‘He wants to sit next to me all the time and keeps trying to hold my hand. He gives me soppy looks, like when Uncle JD looks at Casey…’

There was a series of snorts and stifled laughter around the office. JD was scarlet and flapping his mouth like a guppy. Ezra looked horrified.

‘…he even told everyone he was going to marry me!’

‘And what did you say?’

‘I told him that my Daddy has a gun!’

Ezra joined in the laughter.


‘Yes honeybee?’

Her voice was a loud whisper. ‘Do you think he wants me to play birds and bees?’

Ezra choked on his coffee and Buck made a quick exit.

The End

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