Warnings None. Just a little mayhem!
Comments I borrowed ideas from Blind Faith by Enola Jones and Hostage by KellyA for Ezras cases. Loved those stories! The character of Ryan Kelly was borrowed from Heather F.
Chris Larabee arrive at work early and he wasnt happy. He muttered to himself as he made coffee.
Why had Judge Travis asked him to come to his office first thing this am? Asked? No ordered. He hadnt seemed angry but something was up.
Larabee be in my office at 7:30 am, sharp! Travis had said the night before, right at quitting time. And then he hung up, not giving Chris a chance to ask any questions.
Chris leaned back in his chair, feet propped up on the edge of his desk, spinning the silver spur he kept there. He couldnt think of any reason for him to be summoned to the Judges office. Their caseload had been running smoothly. Nothing out of the ordinary. Had Buck and JD gotten into some mischief? Had they toilet papered the FBI cars again? He frowned.
He heard the coffeepot beeped that it had finished brewing as he headed for the break room. He poured a cup and then came back to his office and stared out the window. A light snow had begun to fall. He liked looking out over the city, especially this time of the morning when hardly anything stirred. Chris smiled ruefully. He would never have believed 3 years ago that he would have been happy again. After his wife and son died, he thought he had died too. But after putting together this team , he had found meaning to his life again and another family he never dreamed had been possible.
He heard the elevator bing. He knew before he turned around who it would be.
Hey cowboy. A soft voice drawled, What cha doin in here before me? Vin Tanner stood at the door to Chris office.
Chris turned to see Vin leaning against the door jam. Vins cowboy hat tilted back on his head, a slight smile on his face. Vin had been the first member of the team Chris recruited though at the time Chris hadnt even known he was recruiting.
I wanted a decent cup of coffee. Chris said smiling back and raising his cup.
Vin laughed. Now that aint nice! Gotta have a good cup of coffee to start the day. Most important meal as Josiah says.
He meant breakfast, not coffee. Chris shook his head still grinning. Vins idea of a good cup of coffee was a strong Starbucks blend with a couple shots of expresso.
Same thing. Vin grinned as he headed out to get his coffee cup.
+ + + + + + +
Chris glanced at the clock. 7:15am. Vin was usually the first to arrive. Work did officially start until 8 but he and Vin usually arrived early. Both liked to start the morning slowly. He wandered out to the break room again where Vin was starting the espresso machine.
So pard, what brings you in earlier than me? Vin asked again as he filled the machine with water.
The Judge wants to see me.
Vin turned to look at Chris, a slight frown on his face. Fer what?
Chris shook his head and leaned against the counter. Dont know. He didnt give me a chance to ask.
Vin grimaced. Well that dont sound good. Buck and JD up to something?
A quick smile crossed Chris face. First thing I thought of. Nah, I cant think of a damn thing. Things have been running pretty smooth.
Chris glanced at the clock over the coffeepot. Well I better head up to his office. Wish me luck.
Good luck pard. Hollar if you need backup. Chris grinned as he gave Vin a little salute and headed for the elevator.
Chris arrived on the 14th floor and headed down the hall to Judge Orin Travis. Travis was actually the Assistant Director to the ATF (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms ) and an ex-Federal Judge. Travis was the man who picked Chris Larabee to head Team 7, known around the building as the Magnificent Seven.
Judge Travis secretary was already in and looked up from behind her desk when Chris came in.
Hes expecting you. Go right in. She reached down and hit a buzzer on her desk and Chris walked to the door. He knocked and walked in.
Orin Travis sat behind a large wooden desk. Though it was usually neat, now it was piled with folders.
Sit down Mr. Larabee. Judge Travis nodded to a chair in front of his desk.
Judge, Chris began but Travis raised a hand to silence him.
In a minute Chris.
The intercom buzzed at that moment and Travis picked up the phone. Yes? He paused. Good, send him in.
Travis got up and walked to the door. In walked a tall, thin man carrying a large attaché case.
Mr. Harrison, Travis held out his hand. Im Assistant Director Orin Travis. Please have a seat.
Mr. Harrison sat in the opposite chair from Chris, his briefcase in his lap.
Mr. Larabee. This is John Harrison. Hes from Mutual Insurance. He is here to, Judge Travis paused, to ask you some question.
Well, Chris thought. As Ezra would say this is a mighty unexpected development.
Harrison pulled out several thick stacks of papers, hesitating and looked up at Travis. Travis nodded towards the edge of this desk and Harrison piled his papers there. He pulled a clipboard out of his briefcase and turned towards Chris.
Mr. Larabee, he began, Are you the leader of Team 7?
Harrison made a note on his clipboard. I have here Mr. Larabee many, he stressed the word, insurance claims that I would like to discuss with you.
Insurance claims? Chris was confused. Just what was this all about?
Yes, it seems Mr. Larabee...,
Chris was getting annoyed with the way this guy said his name. Kind of like cowboy and not in a good way.
...you have made quite a name for yourself in my office. Larabees maladies. Your team has had more claims than any team in the history of the ATF! Harrisons voice rose.
He flipped through some papers and continued.
Gunshot wounds, broken bones, concussions, comas, blindness, he paused, twice? I have here reports of wrecked vehicles, blown up vehicles, he paused again and looked up, vet bills for a cat?
He put the papers down. Mr. Larabee I am here to investigate these claims and see to the validity of them.
Validity? Chris voice also raised and he stood up. Just what the hell are you getting at?
Chris, please. Travis said quietly. Chris sat back down.
Chris, Ive authorized Mr. Harrison to monitor your team for awhile.
I dont understand.
Think of it as an audit. Harrison is going to ride along with your team as an observer.
Observing what? Comprehension was starting to dawn on him and he didnt like it.
We need a first hand account of the routine of your team. How a typical day would be.
Harrison smiled over at Chris but the smile froze at the look he saw in return.
Judge Travis decided it was time to end this meeting.
Mr. Larabee, that will be all. Mr. Harrison will join you tomorrow morning. He will report directly to me. He glared at Chris, his meaning clear. That is all.
Chris Larabee was dismissed.
He said nothing. He nodded to Travis, stood up and stalked out of the office.
He stood at the elevator, jabbing the button. Observer? What the hell was this all about? An audit of injuries? What were they doing, counting Band-Aids? Aspirins? They were a tactical team damn it. They worked hard, played hard. Accidents happened. Larabees maladies my ass.
The other members of team 7 were in various areas of the office. Buck sat perched on the edge of JDs desk showing him his latest rubber chicken. This one squawked when you shook it.
Nathan was showing Josiah the latest first aid kit hed assembled for his car. It looked like a giant fishing tackle box with many drawers and compartment.
Vin and Ezra sat leaning back in their chairs laughing at Bucks antics and JDs efforts to shake Bucks chicken which the taller man kept out of the kids reach.
They all jumped when they heard a loud thump coming from the elevator. Two seconds later the door opened and Chris stepped out, rubbing his knuckles.
In the conference room, he barked as he stormed past the men.
All eyes darted around the room, trying to determine what had caused their leaders anger. All eyes settled on Buck.
What? He said defensively. I aint done nothing. Honest! He looked at JD.
Dont look at me! JD said his voice getting higher.
They all jumped again as Chris came striding out of the break room, banging the door to the conference room open.
All eyes fidgeted again as they sat around the table waiting for Chris to speak. All eyes settled on Vin this time. He sighed and cleared his throat.
Whats up cowboy?
Chris ran his hand through his hair. We are being audited.
Audited? Josiah asked slowly in his rumbling voice. The IRS?
Confused looks traveled around the table this time but Buck sighed loudly in relief.
Thank God, Buck thought, it aint about me.
No, Chris began to pace. No, not really an audit but, his hands went back through his hair. Some damn paper pusher at Mutual Insurance is going to ride with us. Check us out.
Mutual Insurance? Nathan asked frowning.
Ride with us? Vin sat up straighter in his chair.
Some guy selling insurance? JD looked at Chris, then at Buck.
No kid, Buck began grinning. I doubt he is selling insurance. He playfully slapped him in the head.
Do you mean Mr. Larabee that the higher minds at the insurance company doubt the sincerity of our asseverations?
What? JD know looked from Ezra to Chris.
The insurance company says we have the highest amount of claims in the entire ATF. They didnt come right out and say it but I think they think we are lying. They wanna check up on us. Chris paced some more.
Lying? Vins normally quiet voice got louder. Whadda they want, to check out our scars?
Chris shook his head slowly. I dont know Vin. But Judge Travis said we gotta do it. The guy starts tomorrow. Everyone, he glared at Buck and JD, is to be on their best behavior.
Buck held his hands up in surrender. JD looked hurt and glanced at Buck.
Back to work.
+ + + + + + +
The next morning was cold and windy. The light snow of the day before had turned into six inches, which for Denver was normal.
Chris got in the office right after Vin. He shook his head as he parked next to Vins battered jeep. At least Vin had put the soft top on, usually Vin left the jeep topless.
He found Vin sitting in the break room watching the coffee drip.
Morning cowboy, Chris said breaking Vin out of his trance. A slow smiled crossed Vins face.
Morning yourself. Maybe it will be quiet.
Chris had been hoping the same thing. Maybe they would have a quiet week but what would that prove? That they had filed false claims?
Chris grinned back. What are the odds?
Vin laughed. Nothing Ezra would bet on. The filled their cups and went to Chris office to wait for the day to start.
Got a plan? Vin asked, sipping his coffee, sprawled in a chair. Both he and Chris had their boots up on the edge of Chris desk.
Been thinking on it all night. Dont know what this guy is after. Have to play it by ear I guess.
They both sighed. Playing it by ear was not always a good thing with these guys. Who knew what would come up? Their ponderins were interrupted by a knock on the door jam. Chris rarely closed his door since no one paid much attention to that formality. There stood Mr. John Harrison. Attaché case in hand, snow still clinging to the shoulders of his overcoat.
Both men rose. Chris sat down his cup and held out his hand.
Mr. Harrison, come in. This is Vin Tanner.
Harrison shook both mens hands.
Coffee? Vin offered.
No, thank you. I do not consume intoxicants.
Vin and Chris shared a look. Sounded just like Ezra. They grinned slightly.
Well, I got things to do. Vin nodded and left.
Have a seat. Chris motioned to the chair that Vin had just vacated. Harrison sat primly down, perched on the edge.
Id like to start out with some interviews, Harrison began abruptly. There are some questions I have on certain cases.
Alright, Chris stated slowly. That might not be too bad. Just how long do you intend on being here?
As long as it takes Mr. Larabee.
This statement brought another frown to Chris face.
How about we set you up in the conference room? Chris said as he stood up.
That will be fine.
He led the insurance man down the hall.
Anything you need, you let me know.
Harrison nodded and started to unpack his case. He pulled out a sheet of paper, which he handed to Chris.
Here is a list of people I need to speak to and in the order I require.
Chris groaned inwardly. First on the list was Buck Wilmington and JD Dunne.
+ + + + + + +
It was like watching a silent movie without subtitles. Six men huddled near Chris office trying to look casual while spying on Buck. They were trying to figure out what case he was being questioned on.
I bet its the OShea case. When he got shot in the butt," Josiah said.
Buck was pacing back and forth, gesturing behind him.
Nah, Its about that time he got knifed in the chest and shot in the shoulder, Vin stated.
Buck was waving his arms around wildly.
Maybe its when he shot the jukebox at Inezs and that guy punched him.
All turned to stare at JD.
What? He looks like hes dancin dont he?
Head flicked back to the conference room in time to see Buck heading for the door. They scattered.
Finally it was noon. Chris was thinking that time had stopped for awhile there. He figured hed take the guys out to lunch to make up for the uncomfortable morning.
Chris groaned. Harrison stood at the door.
I need to stop by my office. My vehicle was dropped at the mechanics this morning. If someone could accompany me?
Mister Larabee, if I could be of assistance?
Ezra had come up behind Harrison. Well, Chris thought. That should be all right. He nodded.
Delightful. Ezra smiled his gold tooth winking. This way sir. Ezra bowed and swept his hand as Harrison left.
Never fear Mister Larabee. Ezra touched the brim of an imaginary hat and left.
Would this day ever end? Chris wondered.
+ + + + + + +
Very impressive car you have Mr. Standish.
Why thank you.
A little expensive for your salary isnt it? Harrison eyed him suspiciously as he got in the Jag.
Uh, well. Ezra started the car and headed for the exit.
Harrison glanced around the car. He reached into the back seat.
What is this? He held up a much chewed catnip mouse.
I have no idea. Ezra mumbled, staring straight ahead.
You have a cat?
No, some flea bitten feline that prowls this garage sneaks into unsuspecting vehicles if the windows are ajar.
A cat. Harrison sneezed. I am allergic to cats.
Nothing to worry about sir. Ezra looked frantically around. He noticed paw prints on the hood. Damn feline.
Harrison sneezed repeatedly. I dont have my inhaler.
Asthma. Harrison wheezed.
My Lord. Ezra rolled his eyes.
Hos, hosptial! Harrison choked.
Ezra accelerated. Mister Larabee is going to kill me.
+ + + + + + +
The 5 remaining members sat around their desks discussing the day so far. Buck and JD were still upset over their meeting with the insurance man. The rest tried not to laugh as they explained their conversations. "He tried to tell me my gunshot wound wasn't work related!" Buck's voice rose and he talked with his hands as usual.
"Well Buck, that was sort of your fault." Nathan said soothingly.
"My fault? MY FAULT? How do you get that?"
Remember Buck you were showing me how to twirl my gun and get it in the holster. That's when it went off and shot you in the foot," JD said and stood up to demonstrate.
"Shut up kid!" Buck knocked JD's hat off, distracting him from his demonstration. Everyone laughed.
"I seem to remember something along those lines Brother Buck," Josiah's low voice chuckled.
Buck flushed. "Yeah but we had just arrested those guys on a drug bust. It WAS work," Buck grumbled.
The rest of team 7 were just grabbing their coats to head out for lunch when they heard the yells coming from Chris' office.
NO.....NO....I'll send Vin to pick him up.
Chris slammed the phone down. How did Ezra always managed to get in trouble?
Vin shook his head and turned around.
Want us to wait?
Nah go on. I'll catch up. JD nodded. But the rest stood where they were. They weren't about to leave until they heard what happened.
Chris turned from the window as Vin came in.
I need you to go to the hospital and pick up Harrison.
Harrison? What happened?
Seems he is allergic to cat hair and Ezra left his window down. Cuervo paid him a little visit, left behind some evidence and Harrison had an asthma attack.
Vin tried hard not to grin.
It isn't funny! Go vacuum out your jeep and pick him up.
WHAT? Why me?
Chris went to the door and stuck his head out. Hey, I want you all vacuuming out your cars before you go to lunch.
Chris turned and gave Vin "the stare".
Okay! He stomped out the door and the group grumbled down to the garage, Vin filling them in on the way.
+ + + + + + +
How ya feeling? Vin led the insurance man out to his jeep. His nice, clean, hair free jeep.
Better, thank you. Some what hyper. Vin thought he sounded a little winded.
The snow had finally stopped. Though the wind continued to blow it around in drifts. Vin headed towards the Mutual Insurance building where Ezra had been taking him. BANG! Suddenly the jeep started to fish tail. Vin fought to keep it under control and off the road. THUMP! Vin didn't know what that sound was but finally managed to stop the jeep. He glanced over at John Harrison and instantly knew what that thump was. Harrison had blood running from a cut over his right eyebrow. He had hit his head on the passenger window, which was now cracked.
Are you okay? Vin reached over, handing him a handkerchief.
I...I think so.
Vin got out of the jeep and looked around. His rear tire was flat.
Shit, he groaned. He already knew without looking that he had no spare. His had taken it off to repair it and put new rims on and had yet to replace it. Filled with an awful sense of dread he pulled out his cell phone.
+ + + + + + +
The other six men were at their usual table. Ezra just finishing his side of the story.
How was I to know the man would have a severe reaction to cat hair? Or that Cuervo had been in my car. He quickly added.
Everyone smirked. They had seen Ezras window down in his Jag and the various cat toys in the back seat.
It was not my fault Mr. Larabee.
Never said it was Ezra.
At that moment Chris cell phone rang.
He closed his eyes and pinched the bridge of his nose.
Jesus Christ Vin! His voice started to rise.
Is the ambulance there yet?
Every eye at the table was riveted on Chris and his side of the conversation. They all exchanged glances and shrugs.
Are you waiting there for the wrecker?
No. Ill go to the hospital. Chris sighed. Ill see you at the office. He snapped off his phone.
Well Ezra, seems Vin had to top your travesty.
I resent that!
Everyone snickered until Larabee turned the glare on.
Well? Said Buck. You gonna fill us in on what happened to Junior?
Chris picked up his tea, took a sip and leaned back wearily in his chair.
Seems that while Vin was taking Harrison to his office, he had a blow out. Harrison busted his head on the window and needs stitches. Vin has no spare and is waiting for a tow truck.
Dead silence met this and then five men burst out laughing. Not even the famous glare could stop them. Chris found himself grinning despite himself.
+ + + + + + +
Chris was surprised when John Harrison decided to come in Tuesday. He figured the man would need at least a day to recover. But there he sat in the conference room, papers scattered and a butterfly bandage on his forehead. Seemed stitches werent necessary.
Chris had forbidden anyone to kid Harrison about the day before. He had snatched the rubber mouse that Buck and JD had been tossing back and forth as it sailed past him.
Leave the man alone. He snarled as he stomped back to his office. Everyone snickered and each squeaked their own rubber mouse as his door slammed.
Ezra used every ounce of patience he had and mentally counted to ten. He smiled slowly, his gold tooth shining.
As Ah have explained Mr. Harrison, his southern drawl more pronounced. The first incident occurred when I was struck in the head. You can verify this with Mr. Travis as Ah was in his office at the time. The second incident was when Ah was undercover. Super glue was placed in mah eye drops. I was pretending to be blind at the time.
Harrison looked up from writing. The look he gave Ezra left little doubt to whether he believed him or not.
Are you doubting may word as a gentleman? Ezras voice rose.
That will be all Mr. Standish. With that Ezra was dismissed.
Ezra slammed the door to the conference room. He stalked into the break room where Chris, Josiah and Buck sat.
That, that..charlatan practically called me a liar!
Mr. Larabee, he insinuated that Ah feigned being blind. Twice! His voice rose again.
Calm down Brother Ezra. The truth shall set you free.
Ezra glared at them and stormed out to loud laughter.
The rest of the day passed mercifully quiet. Chris sighed as they all sat at Inezs that evening. How many more until Harrison left?
+ + + + + + +
OK men. Weve been over all the details. Lets do this nice and easy. JD, Mr.Harrison, he nodded where Harrison sat at the opposite end of the table, will be in the van with you. Chris gave JD a look that plainly said keep him out of trouble.
Sure thing Chris.
Alright. Lets get this done. Grab you gear and meet downstairs.
Everyone got up and headed out.
Mr. Harrison, a moment please. Harrison paused. Remember you are an observer. Stay in the van and out of the way. With that Chris left.
+ + + + + + +
All clear JD. Start loading up. Chriss voice came through the headphones JD was wearing. He smiled and took them off.
Well Mr. Harrison, were all clear. You are free to get out and stretch your legs now. JD and the insurance man had been sitting in the surveillance van for close to 2 hours. It wasnt too bad for JD, he wasnt that tall and was use to it but Harrison had been fidgeting for the last thirty minutes.
I think Ill do that.
JD hadnt paid any mind to what the other man was doing, he was checking his recordings and backing everything up when he heard a yell. Turning he saw the rear doors of the van open instead of the side door and saw a crumpled body.
+ + + + + + +
I think you better get over to the van.
What is it?
I think, well you just better get over here.
Chris snapped his phone closed. What now. Just what the hell had happened, NOW?
He stalked up to the surveillance van but he hadnt even gotten there when he saw the ambulance. In the back sat John Harrison. An air splint on his left arm. What the f .
JD. Chris voice rose in just those two initials.
Werent my fault! Geez Chris thought. He sounds just like Buck.
I told him he could get out. I didnt know he would try and go out the back, and we had parked on that incline. And it being kinda dark .
Chris closed his eyes.
+ + + + + + +
Finally it was Friday. Chris had never looked forward to the end of a week so much in his entire life! They had made it through the rest of the week without one mishap. He was hoping, no praying, that Harrison would decide he had been there long enough and go the hell back where he came from.
Chris stood looking out his window again at the snow. Isnt this how I started this god-awful week? He sipped his coffee, waiting for Vin to arrive.
Well cowboy, think we can try and not kill that man today? Vins Texas drawl held a laugh.
Dont know. Chris turned. Maybe we should just kill him and get it over with.
They both smiled.
Dont even think it! Vin laughed holding his hands up. That man is gonna be suing us next.
Dont give him any ideas.
The morning started as usual. Buck and JD loudly entered. Following by Nathan and Josiah. Ezra sliding in late as usual. Harrison in the conference room furiously writing, his left arm in a cast.
Ryan Kelly, leader of Team Eight stuck his head in the door.
Ryan. What can I do for you?
Judge Travis just called from the courthouse. They got some big official making a surprise visit and they want everyone down there.
Dont know. He just said to spread the word. We are to meet him at the back entrance ASAP.
Chris went out to the desks to inform everyone.
Heads up. We all have to go down to the courthouse. That means put your jackets on. And ties. He added looking at Buck just as he opened his mouth to ask.
Damn it Chris. Ties? Do we have to?
Yes we have to. Just got word from the Judge that everyone is due downtown for some government official. He made quote signs in the air.
He left them grumbling as he stopped next at the conference room.
Harrison the Judge wants us at the courthouse. Do you want to stay here? Yes please stay here! He thought. PLEASE!
I think Ill go with you. Let me get my coat.
DAMN IT! That man was more annoying than Ezra when you tried to get him to do something he didnt want to.
+ + + + + + +
Surprisingly the afternoon went by uneventfully. They had all piled back into the van and were heading back to the office when they heard a call over the radio.
Any people in the area. Report of 2 boys falling through the ice on Sledd Lake pond.
Nathan, who was driving, glanced at Chris in the passenger seat. Chris nodded. Nathan turned the van around and accelerated.
Team Seven was the first to arrive. They saw two small boys in about the middle of the lake. The ice was broken and both boys were in the water.
Got some rope. Josiah pulled a coil of rope from the back of the van.
Dont know if that is gonna be long enough. Nathan was mentally measuring the distance.
Im the smallest. I can ease out to them. JD looked scared but headed toward the ice.
No! Buck was right behind him. Well wait on the rescue crew.
Dont know if we have time. Chris stood behind them. They could see the young boys were weakening.
We can make a human chain. Ezra pulled on his gloves.
Yeah, thats a good idea. Vin buttoned his buckskin jacket up.
Chris glanced out at the lake and back to his men. Okay. We take this nice and easy.
Can I help? They turned to see John Harrison standing there.
NO! All seven men yelled.
You stay in the van. Chris told him firmly. You can direct the rest of the rescue personnel.
They tied the rope around JD and he crawled slowly out on the ice. Then Ezra grabbed the rope and ease out after JD followed by Vin, Chris, Buck, Nathan and Josiah. It seemed like they were moving in slow motion. All sound had ceased except the creaking of the ice. JD saw cracks sneaking back passed him but he refused to acknowledge them.
Hang on guys. JD called to the boys. We are almost there.
They had tied the rope to the back of the van. They didnt know exactly how long the rope was until they came to an abrupt halt 10 feet from the boys.
SHIT! Seven voices cried.
But then all of a sudden they had slack. Each looked over their shoulder to see where it was coming from. There stood John Harrison, the rope looped around his waist as he headed toward the edge of the lake.
Harrison! Get back from the edge! Chris yelled at him.
Just reach the boys.
They all sighed and inched their way closer. They could hear sirens getting closer.
Thank god! Eight voices softly mumbled. All was going well until
Sudden the surface of the ice lurched and all eight men were plunged into the icy water.
+ + + + + + +
Ryan Kelly tried not to laugh. Well he didnt try that hard. He could hear loud voices yelling from the hospital ward. At first he thought the loudest had to be Chris Larabee. His voice always overrode everyone else. But no this was a higher voice.
Maniacs! Jinxes! That is what you are! Someone get me out of here!
John Harrisons voice got louder and higher. Ryan peaked through the doors where eight men were laid out in hospital beds. He could see rubber mice and catnip toys flying back and forth from bed to bed along with, what was that? A rubber chicken?
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