I have not found much time to write in the last three months and here it is, almost the end of September already. After I returned to work in July, our caseload has kept me busy. Personally, my family life has been full of activity. Linda is spending more time with me at the ranch and I find myself looking forward to seeing her here at the end of the workday. Our relationship is getting stronger with each passing day and I feel the time is fast approaching that I will have to decide what our next step will be. In spite of what my head tells me, my heart seems to have a mind of its own where Linda is concerned. I can feel the ties to my past loosening and I am more inclined to spend my days looking to the future. I do wish she had a better understanding of how Vin and I communicate, but given enough time maybe that will change and she will realize that Vin’s connection to me is no threat to us.
Rain and Casey are keeping Nathan and JD on their toes, too. With both of them pregnant, it makes for lively conversations at the family dinners. Inez has her hands full with the girls and Mallory has a challenge with Joanne’s jealousy of her new brother. Kelli seems to be adjusting to having family around and she and Vin are very good for each other.
Five months after the inception of MCAT, the all important six-month review is looming just around the corner. MCAT survived the attempt by Reed and his backers to take over and our team is stronger because of it. Politics and jealousies still surround us, but we are proving to everyone that this unit is here to stay. Our reputation is growing and I am pleased with our accomplishments. I am enjoying my position as Commander and Vin has found his comfort zone as Captain. Ezra remains an essential player with his people skills and legal expertise. Buck is in his element working with the younger agents and JD has made CASSIE an effective member of our team. Josiah is in demand for his profiling abilities after all the publicity we had on the last three cases and Nathan is spending most of his time coordinating our new forensic department with Dr Metfield’s help. Gotta go meet Travis, more soon.
Chris closed his journal and left for work.
"Chris the unit has performed beyond expectations and that is wonderful."
"I hear a but in there, what is it?"
"Reed. What he did only highlighted the attention MCAT is getting, good and bad. There will always be an interest in MCAT for both good and evil purposes. We have proven the need and effectiveness of this unit, now we must find a way to protect it.”
Travis sighed, "Yes, damn politics. Although I must admit you have flair with your tactics for handling the press and those with political interest." Orrin smiled, with some resignation, remembering the tactless way Chris had responded to the press during MCAT’s second case. "We need your ...uh talents concentrating on the unit. Our six-month mark is approaching and we need to make some decisions.”
“Your point is, Orrin?”
“My point is that you and I need to be on the same page when our review comes up. How is all this publicity affecting the team?”
Larabee sat in thoughtful silence before he answered. ”Truthfully, it has made our job harder. We came into his with the intention of taking on cases too hot for the other agencies to handle. Now they want us for any case they do not want to deal with and the requests for Josiah’s profiling skills are mounting as we speak. We have to guard what we say about CASSIE and keep her capabilities a secret. If we are to function at our best we need to stay independent and chose our cases carefully.”
Travis sighed, “I agree, right now I have at least fifty requests for our help and over one hundred applications for a place on the team. You have had time to think about this and access the potential of this unit. To stay effective what manpower do you need and what limits are necessary on case selection?”
“Manpower may fluctuate, but should never exceed eighteen field agents. We should only take high priority cases that either poses a threat to national security or for the welfare of the public, other cases, we should examine individually. All media access should be with press releases that we approve and we stop loaning out help to other agencies.’ “
Orin was sure that there was more, “What do you need to make it better?”
Chris decided to lay out all his preferences. “We can be the best ready response team in the country, but to do so we must make that our only focus. I need time to work with the agents I have, not have them spread out on six different cases where our presence is not essential. We do not need to loan out our agents to anyone, not of our choosing. I want the authority to decide what we take or do not take. I also want our own helicopter with a trained agent as a pilot.’
Orrin stood up and passed two stacks of folders to Chris. “As of now you have it, these files are the request for MCAT help and the applications for a place on your team. Chose your next case, find the new agents you need and are satisfied with, I will take care of the rest.” Travis was pleased with Chris’ assessments and ready to let him run with it. “From now on I will handle the press and if you need anything else, let me know.”
“Why do I get the feeling you just set me up for this?”
Travis grinned, “Because you are a smart man and ...I did.”
Orrin watched Larabee head to the elevator and had to smile. Chris did not know yet that the Attorney General declared MCAT a major success and there was no longer a question of its worth. Larabee was the reason for that success and deserved credit for it. Orrin planned to make sure he got it, but it was going to be special and would take some time to make the proper arrangements. The six-month celebration, for this MCAT team would be one to remember. Travis picked up the phone to call Linda Dubois for assistance in planning the event.
Chris entered the bullpen and went straight for the war room, indicating on his way for JD and Vin to join him. Dropping the files on the table, he started with Vin. “We need Nathan and Metfield in here for this, ask them to join us.” Tanner turned on his heels and went to get them.
“JD, you know more about that computer than I do, can it sort applications by skill?”
“Sure, CASSIE can rate them any way you want her to.” JD explained, “I’ll get Judy to put the info in and let CASSIE do the rest of it. Just tell me what you want.”
Vin walked in, “They’re on their way.”
“Good, these files are requests for our help on cases. Tanner, you and I are gonna go through them and decide which one we want to take and send our regrets to the rest.” Chris pushed a chair out with the toe of his boot. “Take a load off and start reading.”
Tanner eyed the stack of files and shook his head. “Damn, Chris, we’ll be here til midnight, you sure know how to wreck my plans for the evening.”
Chris laughed, “I know what kind of evening you have planned. Since when did time or sleep interfere with you and Kel having…fun?”
The Texan grinned, “Hell, I’ll take lovin’ over sleepin’ anytime.”
“Vin the whole family knows how you are when you miss your playtime. “JD smiled.” You tend to get a bit irritable and a cranky Texan is something we don’t want, so CASSIE and I will help you.”
Before Tanner had a comeback, Dr Metfield and Nathan came in. Larabee was quick to get to the point. “Bones, you stole one of my agents for your team and I plan to keep the rest of them. Tell JD what qualifications you need and we’ll find you another one.”
“Kat is damned good and ‘m keeping her, as to a second one I already know who I gettin’.” Dr Metfield threw out his challenge to Larabee. “Greg Ramsey, now workin’ in New York, I trained him and they don’t come any better.”
“You get him here and I’ll interview him, if he is as good as you say I’ll know it.”
“Fine, tomorrow soon enough for you?”
“Two o’clock and Bones…don’t promise him anything, yet.” Chris smiled as Dr Metfield grunted his answer and left. “JD…”
“I know, background on Ramsey. What else?”
“Take these application, we need a good agent that can also pilot a chopper. Don’t limit your search to those applications.”
“You got it Boss and then I’ll help on your case files.” JD was off and running.
Nathan’s eyes sparkled, “Helicopter? Outfitted for medical care, too?”
“Yep, start making your wish list and I’ll get it to Travis.” Jackson was already on it.
“Damn Chris, you’re on a roll. Meeting with Travis go that good? Vin smirked, “Or did Linda get you in that mood?”
“Both, Travis was so agreeable, it scares the hell out of me and Linda…well it was a great morning.” Chris smiled, “You know Vin I feel good about the way things are coming together. Sending Ezra to that anti-terrorism training was a good move; he was the best choice and will be one hell of a force to deal with if we need him to negotiate. Josiah has been terrific as profiler; JD and Pam have made CASSIE practically a team member. Buck is training Mark on explosives and Kel has proven to be a damned good investigator. Justin, Paul and Ross have established themselves, too. Our record of success is outstanding and now we are in control of our choice of agents and cases.”
“All of the agents are good, but without your lead they would still be struggling. You made it happen, Cowboy.”
“You ain’t done so badly yourself Captain. Now enough of this let’s get to work.”
For the next few hours, they worked in comfortable silence with only an occasional interruption. They sorted the files and then ran them through CASSIE to check on connecting cases. Finally, they were down to fifteen possibilities and JD was printing out all available information on them.
Kelli came through the door with an armload of bags; Vin took some and set them on the table. “I knew y’all would lose track of the time and not think about eatin’, everyone else is gone, so I brought you dinner, before I go home. Sandwiches from the deli and you can spring for the drinks, Lar’bee.”
“Thanks, Kel, I guess we did lose track of time.” Chris smiled at the young agent that just happened to be married to his best friend. He had liked her the first time he met her and was pleased to have her as part of his family. “It’s past time for a break, anyway.”
Chris went to get the drinks from the machine down the hall and JD excused himself to call and check on his Casey pointedly saying, “I’ll be gone at least ten minutes.” That gave Vin and Kelli a few minutes of privacy.
The Texan did not waste the opportunity and pulled his redhead close, “Missed you today.” He reinforced his remark with a fiery kiss that ignited a spark of desire that could have consumed them both, if they had been truly alone. Instead, they took their few minutes of mutual enjoyment; the loving Texan, allowed time for a few tender caresses over her soft curves and unbuttoned her blouse to lay a hand on her firm breasts, while Kelli was content just to feel the touch of the man she had missed all day. The rest of their feelings would have to linger until they could be together with no interruptions, later. Vin, pulled her blouse together and whispered to her, “Chris is coming, but hold on to those pleasurable thoughts you’re havin’, til I get home.” Tanner gave one last pat to her backside and pulled away.
Larabee walked in a minute later and grabbed a sandwich. It still amazed Kelli when Vin and Chris ‘communicated’, but she was grateful that Vin had a friend like Chris in his life. Her only regret was that her best friend, Linda, did not share her view on that relationship. For Kelli it represented the kind of trust that she knew was hard to come by and it did not bother her in the least that Vin was close to Larabee. In fact, she liked, as well as respected the man immensely and was even getting used to the brothers’ strange connection. When JD returned they ate until all the food was gone.
“I’d better go so y’all can get back to work, just don’t forget Vin, we still need to find a present for Sarah’s birthday. Her party is Saturday and a girl doesn’t turn three everyday.” Kelli got up to leave.
Tanner stood up and took her hand. “I’ll walk you to the truck, ‘m sure Lar’bee can do without me that long.”
“Just make sure walking in all you do, I want to go home, too.” Chris exchanged a grin with JD as Vin gave him a silent hand gesture for an answer, as he walked out the door.
Chris went back to reading until, fifteen minutes later; JD laid three folders in front of him. “These three are your best candidates for a new agent. All three have flight experience and good work records. Everything I could find on them is in their file.”
“Thanks JD, how many more cases does CASSIE have to run?”
JD checked as Vin came back. “Five more Chris and then we are done.”
Chris slid the employment files to Vin, “Set up interviews with these three as soon as possible. Tanner nodded in the affirmative as an answer. “This pile we don’t touch, they don’t need MCAT’s abilities and these we might take a second look at to see what we can do.” Larabee separated the files.
“Hey guys, I think CASSIE may have found something, take a look at this.” JD passed some printouts to Larabee and Tanner.
Chris read and then looked up, “JD, I want everything CASSIE can find on this file, as of now, this one is our priority. According to what CASS came up with this one, it has trouble for Denver, written all over it.
Larabee 7 -Friday
Chris took one more look at the woman in his bed. *I do not know how she did it, but she made it through all those barriers I built around my heart. Now I find myself more and more thinking us, instead of me. God if feels good to be in love again.* He moved on to the kitchen for coffee, letting her rest, aware of how much she enjoyed sleeping through the sunrise. Larabee shook his head and smiled, thinking how she made up for it with those long loving nights. Grabbing a cup on his way out the door, he put a lid on it, so he could enjoy it on the way to work. Outside he saw Vin and Kelli were ready to leave, but they stopped long enough to make another memory as Tanner called it.
“Okay, you two, break it up, work calls.” Chris grinned at the young couple and could not resist teasing them. “If I didn’t know better I’d swear you both were sex-starved adolescents, instead of two grown-up federal agents.”
Vin did not answer immediately, but finished kissing Kelli first. “Them that can… do, them that can’t, nag the rest of us.” The Texan smiled, gave his wife another kiss and a loving swat to her backside. “Come on, Kel before the principal decides to give us detention for being late.”
“Lar’bee, you’d miss having us to pick on in the mornin’s, if we weren’t here.” Kelli smiled, “What are you gonna do when we grow up and leave home?”
Chris became serious, “This is home young lady and don’t ever believe otherwise.”
“Does that mean I get to drive this mornin’?”
“Hell no!” Chris and Vin answered at the same time.
The three of them left for work with Kelli still mumbling that there was nothing wrong with her driving. Both Chris and Vin long ago decided that she drove too fast for their comfort zone. Vin didn’t mind her off-road excursions so much, in fact they were fun, but she did not always switch her mind back to city traffic.
Kelli drove with the same enthusiasm that Linda shopped with, both looking for adventure, just from different sources. They were both good at their chosen ‘sport’, but that did not make it easier for the men to handle. By the time they reached the federal building, she forgave them both for the insult to her driving ability and was ready to face another workday.
They were early, but Wilmington was already there and because Buck was seldom the first one in the office that could only mean one thing. He and Inez were having a serious disagreement.
“Morning Buck, what brings you in so early on a Friday?”
“Chris, you tell me what is wrong with buying a three year old a pony.”
Larabee took a large swallow of the coffee Kelli just handed him. “That depends, Buck. What kind of pony are we talking about?”
“A pony, you know one of them little ones like Linda brought to the party that time. Hell, it’s small enough that Sarah could even bring it in the house, but Inez is dead set against it. She says Sarah is too young for a horse, but she would have a ball with one of those midget horses.”
Chris looked at Vin for help, but the sharpshooter put up his hands and backed off. *”M not touching that one, Cowboy, you’re on your on.*
Kelli shook her head at the two men. “Buck, maybe it’s the idea of havin’ the pony in the house that Inez doesn’t like. Why don’t you compromise and instead of buyin’ a pony, bring Sarah down to ride with one the adults until she gets her confidence. Let her pick one of the colts that she likes to be hers and then they can grow up together.”
“I’ll call Inez and talk to her about it, thanks.” Wilmington left to call his wife.
She looked at Chris, “What? I don’t have to read your mind to know what you were fixin’ to say. Tellin’ him he was crazy for expectin’ his wife to welcome a pony into her home without raisin’ hell would solve nothin’. Now, you have an opportunity to teach Sarah to ride.” Kelli went to tackle the paperwork on her desk.
*Vin, are you sure she can’t read minds or am I that easy for her to read?*
*I wonder about that myself sometimes, she seems to read you almost as good as she reads me.*
Buck came up and slapped Chris on the back, “Inez loves the idea and between you and me we’ll have Sarah riding in no time.”
“That’s great, now can we get some work started around here?”
Larabee and Tanner headed for their respective offices, while Buck settled in at his desk. He had plans to make, teaching Mark about explosives would be a challenge, but the boy was smart and willing to listen. Wilmington had several learning guides for him to start on and when he was ready, Chris had already approved his training time. Now all he had to do was convince Mark that his teaching started in the classroom. Grabbing the manuals, he dropped them on Westin’s desk.
“This is to get you started.”
Mark looked at the stack and winced, “All that, why can’t you just show me in the field?”
Buck sighed, “Mark, if you make a mistake with explosives, you don’t get a second chance. You will learn the right way and then when you are ready, we’ll go into the field together. Start studying.”
“Thanks Buck. I do appreciate you backing me on my decision to specialize in explosives. I promise you will not be sorry that you agreed to help me.
“I’m gonna hold you to that, kid.” Buck was smiling as he walked away because Mark had already immersed himself into reading.
An hour later, Vin came out of his office and once assured that everyone was busy went to see Chris. He was on the phone so Tanner made himself comfortable and waited for Larabee to finish.
“Okay, keep trying and if you run across anything, let me know.” Chris hung up, “Dammit, how did that sonofabitch just disappear off the face of the earth?”
Vin knew who he was talking about, they both had been searching for this man for months. “I don’t know, but my sources can’t get a line on him either. As much as I would like to get my hands on the bastard, I can only hope that he is dead and gone. What he did to Kelli was bad enough and I pray he never got a chance to hurt another child. Maybe the Devil already took him to hell and we weren’t meant to find him.”
“So we give up?”
“Hell no, not until I have proof the bastard’s dead.”
“I didn’t think so.” Chris smiled, and moved on, “Okay, what have you got?”
Tanner handed him the three folders from last night, “I talked to all of ‘em, they all sound good, but my money is on the last one, Raphael Cordova he’s 43, with the DEA fifteen years, Marine pilot, veteran of Desert Storm. He learned to fly from his dad and soloed at the age of twelve, he can fly anything that has wings. I set up interviews with all three for Monday.”
“Good, I talked to Morgan at the Colorado Bureau of Investigations. He heads up the Major Crimes Division and is the man that asked us to take on this case. Initially we do a Security Threat Assessment and then go from there. This is the background that he gave me, but JD has twice that much already set up in the war room.” Chris passed Vin a folder. “I told Travis that we wanted to take this one first and put the Seattle case up second. That one can wait a couple of weeks, this one we get started on ASAP.”
“Fine, herd ‘em in.”
There were at least twelve different conversations going on, while the agents waited on Larabee and Tanner to tell them what was going on. The seasoned seven listened with amusement as the newer team members speculated on their next case. All chatter ceased when the Captain and the CO entered the room.
“Okay boys and girls, I know you are all anxious to get started so let’s begin. JD and Pam have already put background together for us and you will find it in the folders they are now passing out. For now we are only to do an STA, once we can confirm the facts, then we move to step two. The Colorado Bureau of Investigations has asked us to take this on. Our contact there Special Agent Morgan will coordinate information with the following law enforcement groups: The DA’s Gang Unit, Denver Police Gang Bureau, Rocky Mountain Safe Street Task Force/Metro Gang Unit and NAGIA, which is the National Gang Intelligence Center.”
“Gang? Isn’t that a little off what we do?” Buck wanted to make sure he understood.
“Gang activity is not just limited to street gangs anymore, Buck. They have gone national and with all the attention to terrorism have slid under the radar and flourished in both large cities and rural communities. Drugs will always be associated with them because that is how they finance their business and it is a business. They use new technology just as we do and have the money to keep up with anything law enforcement can get. However we are not taking on all the gangs out there, we are looking for evidence of one in particular. ‘The Soledad’.”
Ross whistled, “I know about them, but I thought they ceased doing business five years ago.”
“So did everyone else, but the CBI thinks they might be trying to resurrect here in Denver. First we find proof they are here and then we make sure they stay dead.” Questions bombarded Chris. “Hold it. Ross is the closest we have to an expert in this area so let him explain.”
“There are several bad boys out there, but the fastest growing are the OMG’s or Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs. The Soledad was or is one of the deadliest. In addition to drugs, they were responsible for murder, bombings, arson, assault, extortion, weapons trafficking, home invasion, prostitution, money laundering, insurance fraud, kidnapping, robbery, and contraband smuggling to names a few of their enterprises. The gang was thought to be wiped out five years ago in Detroit, I was there and I can tell you no one mourned their passing. If they are back, this means big trouble because the first thing they will do is try to eliminate the competition and they do not care who gets hurt in the process. Boss, if there is any chance this rumor is true I want to be on the front line. I saw what they did in Detroit and I sure as hell don’t want to see that repeated here.”
“Here is how we start, Ross I want everything you know about their activities in Detroit and any ideas on who might be trying to bring them back. Bones, I have forensic reports from known murders they committed five years ago, I want you to compare them to several unsolved we have had in the last few weeks. Ezra, I want the word on the street from your sources and take Kel with you. Buck, you and Mark on the street, Paul you go with them. Josiah work with Ross and give me a profile of who their new leader might be. Vin, take Nathan and Justin, hit Purgatory see what the word is there, I’ll join you after my interview with Ramsey. JD and Pam keep CASSIE going on this. Remember, first we need to find out if it is true and then we plan from there. I want every one of you back here no later than five o’clock. Hit the streets.”
Dr Metfield approached Chris, “Larabee, Ramsey is in town, if you want to see him earlier I can have him here in twenty minutes,”
“Do it and I assume you want in on the interview so come with him, just in case I miss a question or two.” Chris grinned.
Ramsey and Metfield hit Larabee’s office in nineteen minutes; it took less than fifteen minutes for Chris to decide to hire him. Bones had his man and now the forensics team was complete with the addition of Greg Ramsey. He was to report to work in two weeks, enough time to find a place to live and have his things moved.
When Rain Jackson went to medical school, she did not have a great design to change the world, just a small part of it. The Jewel Avenue Clinic was a place where she knew that she could make a difference and feel good about it. Being pregnant with her own baby only made her more determined to help the children that had to grow up in Purgatory, they called it that because once you were here it was hell to get out. Gangs, drugs, poverty and violence, all called this area home.
“Honey, listen to me. If what we hear on the street is true, you may not be safe working here. Please think about taking off, as least until our son is born.” Nathan pleaded with Rain to consider it.
“Rain, I understand how you feel about helpin’ these people and you know ‘m the first one to defend this place, but this time I have to side with Nate. At least for a couple of weeks you need to be away from here, you have a choice the people that live here don’t.” Vin did his best to persuade her, too.
She looked at both men and the third one she did not know as well. “That is exactly why I need to stay, these people can’t leave and they might need me.”
Justin watched and he had been married long enough to know when a woman had made up her mind. He did not blame Nathan for pleading with her; if it were his wife, he would be doing the same thing. He just could not see her changing her mind for anyone.
“Dammit Rain, this could get very dangerous fast and what about our son?”
“He’s right.” Chris joined them. “I have lost a wife and son and I do not want to see Nathan go through that. You have until Tuesday to tie up loose ends and then you will be out of here. No arguments.”
Dr. Jackson met Larabee’s green eyes, hesitated, and after a minute of thought responded, “Okay, Tuesday.”
“Nate, you stay here with Rain, we can’t do anything until we get the hard files from Detroit and after Monday I won’t guarantee you two any time together. I’ll see you both at home, later.”
Nathan walked out with them. “Thanks Chris, I know that was not easy to bring up, but I appreciate you getting through to her.” Chris just nodded and kept on walking. “Vin, Justin, I’ll see you guys later.”
MCAT Office - 5:00pm.
“Okay, most of your reports indicate that we have more than rumor. We still have time to do this right; I will alert The CBI and Travis. Monday we go on the offensive and we will have a hard job ahead of us. Take the weekend with your families; it may be the only free time your have for the next few weeks. You are all welcome at the ranch on Sunday, open invitation, bar-b-q served at two. Now go home.” Chris watched them leave, he knew the next couple of weeks would be hell, but he also knew he had the right team to face it.
“That goes for you too, Chris. There is nothing we can do until Monday, let’s go home, Linda made a special request for us all to have dinner together and you don’t want to disappoint her.”
Tanner’s words brought Chris back for his musing, “Right, some kind of announcement and with Linda you never know where that could lead.”
As soon as they got home, Vin and Kelli went straight to the barn to tend to the horses. Chris was ten minutes behind them and with a little luck; they might have some time for themselves before dinner was ready.
“You have any idea what this announcement will be?” Tanner poured the oats, while Kelli refreshed the water for the horses.
“Nope and knowing Linda it could be anything from buying a jet to findin’ a new litter of kittens on the ranch.” Kelli laughed, “Is Chris worried?”
Vin shook his head and smiled, “Nah, I think he likes the element of surprise that Linda has brought to his life.” He put down the empty bucket, walked up behind Kelli and circled her waist with his arms. “Just like you have to mine,” he kissed the back of her neck. “You may not be as impulsive as Linda, but you did manage to surprise the hell out of me.”
Kelli leaned back against him.” How did I do that?”
He rested his chin on top of her head and sighed, “When I first laid eyes on you in that restaurant, I thought if I set my mind to it that we might get together, have a few nights of wild lust and move on.”
“Well, you were half-right, we did get together and we have had more than a few wild nights. That wasn’t such a surprise was it?”
“Maybe not, but the rest of it sure as hell was. “He turned her to face him, “The last thing I expected to find was a beautiful, spirited, and stubborn to the bone, redhead that would be able to steal my heart, start a never-endin’ fire inside me, and bury herself deep in my soul before I knew what hit me. Until you, I didn’t believe that kind of life changin’ love existed.” Long lean fingers trailed through her hair and down her cheek.
Like drawing water from a well, Vin’s words reached deep inside her and drew her emotions to the surface. It never ceased to amazed Kelli how this Texan set her spirit into motion so easily, with a look, a few words or a touch. He tore though every defense and all the walls she had spent a lifetime building with no difficulty and then took her to a place that she had never believed was destined for her. Vin filled all the empty spaces within her, wrapped her in the security of his love and changed her life forever.
Her voiced rough with emotion she questioned softly, “You think they would miss us if we skipped dinner?”
Vin kissed her tenderly and then in a husky voice answered, “Yeah, Lar’bee would be beatin’ on our door, but… we still have twenty minutes and ‘m willin’ to share a shower, if you’re interested.”
Kelli’s heavy emotions lifted and her eyes filled with mischief, “I never could resist a wild, wet Texan. Come on, I’ll race you home.” She pushed off his chest and took off running.
They raced across the yard reaching the house at the same time, then they practically fell though the open front door, laughing. Vin shoved the door shut with his boot and leaned back against it, while his hands took a firm hold on Kelli’s hips, pulling her close. “A beautiful woman and a wild, wet Texan can make a helluva combination.” He claimed a hungry kiss that fueled the desire that had been building between them. Kelli willing melted into him, rubbing herself seductively against his hard body.
Vin ran his hands upward over her hips and came to rest on her breasts that were calling to him. Kelli sucked in her breath and huskily whispered, ‘We’ve got all night for slow Tanner, you need to do somethin’ about this fire you started, now.”
“My pleasure, baby, time’s wastin’ and I hear that shower callin’ our name.” Vin grabbed her hand, led her to the bath, turned on the water and then they quickly finished undressing. The water was hot, but when the two Texans started washing one another, they produced their own heat that proved to be hotter. With the water cascading over their bodies, Vin pushed her up against shower wall and entered her with one powerful stroke.
Kelli called out his name as she wrapped herself around her wild, wet, Texan, gripping his shoulders as each hard thrust brought her more pleasure. The impending explosion between them spread rapidly until Vin huskily growled, “Now baby.” She felt the waves of ecstasy roll over them as they entered that special place that existed just for the two of them, every time they came together.
They were only five minutes late for dinner.
Larabee 7 - 6:00.m.
Linda had dinner planned for the four of them and was anxious to share her news, but it could wait until after they ate. Chris arrived first and the moment he laid eyes on her his concern about the case disappeared, other thoughts took over instead.
“Hello beautiful,” he slipped his arms around her. “Dinner looks great, but you look even better,”
“You don’t look so bad yourself,” Linda leaned into him and kissed him, with a fierce passion that made him consider canceling dinner altogether. “It won’t be ready for another thirty minutes or so, How about a cold beer?”
“I’d rather have you, but I suppose that will have to wait. Thirty minutes should give Vin enough time to take care of business and get his butt over here.” He smiled, Tanner had already tuned him out, but Chris had a good idea about what he was doing.
Linda gave him a strange look, “You can’t….I mean,” she blushed.
“No and neither can he so just relax.” Chris took the offered beer and stole a quick kiss. “You worry too much.”
“Well, hell, Larabee how am I supposed to know these things? This is all new for me; don’t you have a list of rules or something that goes with this connection thing?”
Chris laughed, “No, it just is… it’s not something for you to be concerned over and has nothing to do with us, ever. I love you Linda and that is more important than anything or anyone else, remember that.”
Thirty-five minutes later, the Tanners joined them. Both were in a great mood, and wet hair along with a few passion marks left little doubt as to what they had been doing before they arrived. Linda still had a few reservations about this connection business, but she was not going to let it ruin their evening. They enjoyed a leisurely meal and moved to the den for desert and coffee.
“Okay Dubois, you have made us wait long enough, what is this announcement, you’re so hot to tell us about?” Kelli decided to push her.
“Well, yesterday, I received a phone call from Orrin Travis. He is such a nice man, you are all so lucky to work for a man like that and his wife is a doll…”
“Linda…the phone call.” Chris interrupted.
“Oh yes… well you know the six-month anniversary for MCAT is coming up and, he asked me...do you believe it…me, to help plan the celebration. This is going to be so much fun; I can see it all now. I was thinking maybe a formal ball or maybe something historical. Anyway I just wanted to share with all of you and I promise it will be an event to remember.”
Kelli answered first. “That’s great, Linda.” * I hope Travis has a big budget.*
“Good for you, Linda.” Vin added. *Aww hell, formal.*
Chris offered his enthusiasm, “I’m glad he recognized your talent, sweetheart.” *Orrin, do you know what you are getting yourself into?*
Dinner was finished, the Tanners said goodnight, the kitchen was cleaned up and Chris was ready for some loving from his lady. He may not know everything there was to know about this woman, but he did know they made magic every time they came together. He took her hand and pulled her close to him, “I may have to share you with the rest of the family this weekend, but tonight it is just you and me.
A moment later, they were in the den together, huddled on the big couch. With a fire roaring in the fireplace and the wine on the coffee table, it was a great start to the weekend, Chris thought, taking Linda in his arms. She snuggled against his chest, eyes on the fire and a deep sigh of contentment escaped her.
“I do hope this new case will leave you some time for us, for this,” she murmured, trying to dig in even deeper.
Chris grinned and kissed the top of her head. Slowly he opened the top buttons of her blouse and soon his hand was inside, caressing her. “I’ll sure try and make time,” he whispered in her ear, blowing softly to make goose bumps rise all over her body. He grinned wickedly when he felt her shiver. “And at least we have this evening and tonight. Come closer, I want to kiss you.”
Linda tilted her head so they could share a deep kiss. Without breaking contact, she turned around in his arms and started to unbutton Chris’ dress shirt. “Time to get you more comfortable,” she murmured without taking her lips of his. The kiss deepened again and her hands started to push the shirt off, when the phone rang.
“I can’t… OH!” It was difficult to think with Linda’s hands all over his body and her teeth nibbling his ear. Hell, couldn’t they do without him for just one evening? He decided not to take it and see if it was really urgent. If it was, his cell phone would be the next to ring.
The phone stopped and Linda had just started to trail kisses down along his body, when his cell phone started to play the Star Spangled Banner. It made Linda giggle.
“Buck,” Chris sighed. “When did he get his hands on my phone this time? At least this is a decent tune. Sorry Linda, I really have to take this, you know that.” She pouted prettily but let him get up enough to grab the phone from the coffee table. He frowned when he saw the number display.
“Chris, is something wrong?”
“It’s Buck. I hope there’s nothing wrong with the kids that can put a dent in Sarah’s birthday tomorrow.” Hastily he punched in the receiver button.
“Larabee, and Buck, this better be damn, damn good!”
“Chris? Chris, old buddy, thank God you picked up! I was afraid you’d already hit the sack with that lovely little lady of yours and had thrown out your cell!”
“I was almost there, Buck.”
“Really? Listen, I’m real sorry but I’m in a big, big jam here and I need your help! It’s Sarah’s birthday present….”
“Her present?” Chris suddenly had a feeling of doom. “Buck, what did you do? We talked about the pony, didn’t we?”
“We did and nope, I didn’t sneak one in, honest! I just… I bought something really great for her, the next best thing to a pony, but uh… I’ve got some trouble with it.”
“Where’s Inez?” Chris wanted to know, still suspicious.
“Uh, hm, she uh… sort of said I was on my own with this one...”
Chris groaned. What on earth had Buck gotten himself into now?
“I’m not going to take sides against Inez with you, Buck, you know that! Damn, what did you do?”
“Nothing, it’s a grand toy that I bought, it’s from the age of three up, so I don’t see the problem! I just … I didn’t get it assembled and I could really, really use the help!”
Chris felt Linda’s arms snuggle around him once more and felt her kisses trail his chest and abdomen. He knew he did NOT want to get involved in whatever hair brained scheme Buck had thought up now.
“Damn it, Chris! I’ve been there enough times for you and I do need help here!”
“If you’re going for emotional black mail you’re really desperate.”
“I AM! Now will you come and help me? Please?”
If he wanted to, Buck could make a stone melt with his pleads. Something Sarah and Maria had already picked up flawlessly. Chris heaved a deep sigh. “I'll be right there.”
“Good, you better come directly to the garage, I’ll be in there.”
“Garage? Buck, whatever did you buy Sarah?”
“A car,” Buck stated, the pride evident in his voice. “A real car, ain’t it just grand?”
“A CAR? BUCK! BUCK, WAIT….” Too late, the connection was already gone. Chris swore profusely and would have thrown his cell phone in disgust, if Linda hadn’t stopped him. She was grinning up at him mischievously.
“Sorry, Linda, I’d better get over there, Buck….” A hand on his mouth stopped him from talking. Linda’s eyes were dancing with repressed joy.
“Don’t, Chris. Come on, let’s go and save Buck. This sounds like fun!”
“Oh yes, I can’t wait to see what he’s done. A car? Oh, this I’ve got to see!”
“Linda, you have NO idea how Inez can be when she’s mad, can you?”
“Nope. But I don’t care. It won’t be me she’s mad at after all!” The mischievous smile was still there. “Come on, chicken, I’ll try and intermediate between you two strong men and Inez. Let me grab my coat.” When she walked away, Chris thought he heard some suspicious noises coming from her. Was she snickering?
He was going to kill Buck!
Wilmington’s resident - 9.00 pm.
“God, Buck, is this a car?”
Chris had marched directly towards the garage, ready to give Buck a piece of his mind, but the scene that greeted him when he opened the door had stopped him immediately. Buck was sitting on the ground, some kind of bookwork beside him and a lot of unidentifiable objects spread all over the garage floor. One of the things Chris noticed was that a very great number of those objects were pink, not a soft pleasing pink, but about the harshest and brightest pink he’d ever seen. What wasn’t pink was a bright shining silver.
It was ghastly.
“Chris, will you move on? Let me see!” Linda called out from behind him. Reluctantly Chris entered the garage and walked over to his long time friend.
“WOW!” he heard Linda exclaim behind him. Buck was looking up at them with a big, goofy smile under his mustache.
“Chris, thank God! When I bought this, I didn’t know it would come in so many pieces! I’ve been trying to figure it out for ages and I still didn’t get any further than the wheels and the underside of the thing!”
“Nice color,” Chris couldn’t help from commenting.
“Yeah, it is, isn’t it? You know how the girls just love pink! Look, this is the picture, isn’t it absolutely adorable? And it can go up to five miles an hour!”
Chris winced. It really WAS a car…. Only taking in half of Buck’s ravings about rechargeable batteries, gas pedals and steering capacities, he took up the instructions and looked at it.
“I’d better go talk with Inez,” Linda said, clearly not wanting to be involved. “I got the impression from Chris’ side of the phone call she’s not thrilled with this gift.” Seeing Buck’s face turn crestfallen, she grinned at him. “If it’s any consolation, I love it! I think she’ll have a ball with it, Buck!”
“Inez thinks it’s way too dangerous for a wild three year old,” Buck said, looking at it somberly. “Do you think you can convince her it’s no more dangerous than a bike?”
Now Linda had to laugh out loud. Shaking her head, she disappeared to the house.
Chris sighed and looked again at the instructions. “You couldn’t buy it assembled?”
“Hell Chris, I was too glad I finally found something worth while, you know, after the pony was vetoed by everyone. So I just brought it home. I thought I’d have enough time to assemble it this evening. Never thought it would be like… this!”
“Or that Inez wasn’t going to give a hand. Well, let’s start, big dog.”
“Yeah, let’s make this work, stud!” The grinned at each other and very soon were immersed in the job at hand.
“First we have to put this in here.”
“Are you kidding? That can’t be right Chris! See, how can we stick this in, if you’ve got that up there?”
“Buck, I don’t think that should go there.”
“Oh, but something has to go there!”
“Yeah, but what? Give me those instructions.”
“Why? I’m reading here!”
“Oh alright, alright, have it your way, see if you can do better….”
“You called me, remember?”
An hour later, when Linda came in with some coffee and cookies, the whole get up was starting to look like a beautiful little pink truck. “Oh yes,” she nodded, “I definitely like it! Buck, you bought her a truck, way to go!!!”
“Yeah! I wanted her to be able to cross all through the field. Hey, pretty soon she’ll be driving over to you by herself, Larabee! Uh… Linda, how’s Inez now?”
“Still pretty angry, Buck and I don’t think ideas like Sarah driving on her own to the ranch house would make her feel better about this.”
“You two enjoy yourself. Good luck with all those parts still laying around.”
“Oh no, Chris! No way I’m going to help with that! Buck is your buddy, you have fun with it! Why Buck didn’t have it assembled in the store is beyond me….” Hastily she left. They could hear her laughter all the way to the house, again.
“Women,” Buck muttered.
“Speak for yourself! Me and my woman were doing just fine until you called!”
Another hour and no more parts were laying around. What was even better, the little car worked. Two proud men were standing there, watching it with silly grins on their faces, when the door of the garage opened again. The two men had their arms around each others' shoulders and didn’t notice anything, all their attention was on the little whirling truck.
“Ain’t it grand?” Buck sighed.
“It’s a ghastly pink, Buck; no way can it be grand! Damn, that’s one hell of a birthday gift, pard. She’s gonna love it!”
“Yeah, she will, won’t she? Oh Chris, I can’t wait to see her face when she finds this.”
“You still gotta gift wrap it, Buck.”
“Are you kidding? How am I gonna do that? No way I’ve got enough paper, it was a lot smaller disassembled in a box! Just look at it though….”
“Yeah! Glad you got one that stops as soon as her foot gets from the gas pedal though.”
“Yep, I specifically wanted that. It’s pretty safe Chris, really. Damn, but it feels good to see it standing there!”
“Yeah.” Chris didn’t say it, but it was clear for the silent watcher peeking through the door that both men had had fun. Not only the grins were giving them away, but also the proud looks they were giving the small, one child truck with its big wheels, sturdy frame and handsome steering wheel. Both men loved what they had wrought here.
“Yep, she’s gonna love it,” Buck repeated his friend and Chris nodded.
Silently Inez left again, walking back to the house, shaking her head.
Wilmington’s residence - 11.30 pm.
After having said goodbye to Chris and Linda, Buck quietly entered the kitchen. There he hesitated, not knowing what to do. His eyes sought hers and Inez sighed.
“I won’t bite, Buck.”
Well, you were pretty mad...”
“I know, I’m still not that thrilled about it, but Linda has convinced me to give it a try. She says it’s not rated from three years old and up for nothing, that toy manufacturers know what they do.”
Immediately Buck’s face lighted up. “They do, Inez, they do. It’s really safe, you’ll see!”
Inez tried not to smile, but if there was one thing that had finally won her over to get serious with Buck, it was the rogue’s boyish enthusiasm. The big, happy smile on his face while talking about his gift for their eldest melted her heart. She took pains to keep the devastating effects that smile and that enthusiasm had on her hidden, knowing full well Buck wasn’t above taking advantage of them if he knew. So she hastily took another sip of her orange juice and avoided looking at him.
Good, he sounded uncertain again. Schooling her face, she looked up with a frown. “Yes, Buck?”
“Inez, I didn’t want to make you mad or do something you hate. I just thought it was the perfect gift for Sarah and when I saw it was for three year olds, I was so happy to have found her something.”
She sighed. “One of the things I hate about a big gift like this is wondering what you’ll do next year, Wilmington, when you will try to top this one. They are little kids, they don’t need grandiose presents. They get a lot of presents on their birthday from the family as well and enough is enough Buck.”
“I… Oh … I hadn’t thought about that…”
She looked at him in earnest now. “Do think about it Buck. Please, think very hard about it. At this age it doesn’t matter that much yet, because they are living in the moment … happy in the moment. But next year Sarah will be four and she will start to expect things. If she gets bigger and bigger presents on her birthday, pretty soon she won’t be happy with little things anymore. Then what do we do?”
“Shit, you are right. I… I’ll remember that Inez, promise. It’s just… it's such great fun to give them something you know they’ll love...”
“It is.” Inez smiled at him. “But she would have loved something smaller just as much, Buck. She doesn’t even know that these cars exist. All I ask is that you think about the effects of spoiling and that we talk these things over first. It’s not like we should never give them big presents, it’s more that I want us to think before we do.”
“That you want ME to think before I do.”
Now she had to grin. “Yep, I guess that’s it. Oh, come here, silly!” Hastily she rose up and walked over to him, taking her third child in her arms. Buck was the most wonderful man she knew, with the biggest and warmest heart she knew, just look at what he’d always done for Chris, how he had never abandoned his friend. He would also fight to the death for them all, but deep in his heart, he was still a kid, a very playful, fun loving kid.
She loved it; she loved the combination of everything that made Buck… Buck. Pulling his head down she gave him a resounding kiss. “Let’s do some celebrating right now,” she whispered. “And tomorrow… tomorrow we’ll just enjoy our daughter’s birthday. We’ll go back to thinking mature after that, deal?”
“Deal, definitely,” he breathed, deepening the kiss. Then he took her in his arms and laughing with joy ran with her to the bedroom. Once there they quickly undressed, fell onto the bed and gave their passion free rein. “Darlin’ you are one hot mama,” Buck trailed kisses down her neck to her beautiful breast, indulging himself with the taste of her as his hands caressed her silky thighs and firm ass.
“You’re pretty hot yourself, lover.” Inez immersed herself into the feel of her man and caressed the rock-solid muscles on his back and shoulders, before moving lower. Searching with her fingertips, she found the hard shaft she was seeking. When she touched him, he groaned in response and she smiled, stroking her treasure she whispered in his ear, “But not as hot as you are going to be, before this
night is over.”
Wilmington’s residence- 9.00 am. - Saturday
A horn sounded as soon as Chris, Vin, Linda and Kelli got out of the big black Ram. Looking up in surprise, they saw a pink and silver explosion flying straight at them. Sarah was inside it, squealing with delight and Buck was running after her, shouting at the top of his lungs for her to stop immediately.
“What the hell,” Vin stammered, looking at the strange scene. “Damn, that’s a real car! What did Buck do now?”
“Yep,” Linda smirked. “She loves it, Chris, she definitely does!”
“I wonder what Inez is thinking right now,” Chris sighed, still a bit apprehensive despite Linda’s reassurances on the way home last night. This didn’t look like the thing to put Inez in a better mood about Buck’s gift.
“Uncl’ Chris, Uncl’ Vin, look!” Sarah was yelling, still aiming for them unerringly and coming at full speed. “Look! I have a car!”
“SARAH CHRISTINA WILMINGTON, STOP RIGHT THIS MINUTE!” Buck hollered. Sarah didn’t pay him any mind and didn’t stop until she could do it right before her uncles’ toes. She was giggling when she looked back at her father.
“Daddy! You are too slow!”
“I am not! You get out there and race with me girl, then we’ll see who’s too slow!”
“YEAH!” the happy girl screamed, jumping out of her little truck. “Uncl’ Chris, come! She ran off immediately and her father spurted behind her with a groan. Chris smiled and ran after them. Just when Buck was ready to grab his girl and tickle her mercilessly, Chris caught up, picked Sarah from the ground and ran away with her.
“HEY!” Buck roared. “Damn it Chris, not fair, I’ve been running all morning! Vin, stop them!” Vin grinned and jumped in front of Chris, arms held wide. Green and blue eyes flashed at each other, Chris tried to avoid the inevitable, but soon there was a heap of three men and one little girl on the ground. Chris tried vainly to keep the others from tickling the giggling birthday girl and soon got the full load himself. This made Sarah pound on Buck and Vin relentlessly.
The group didn’t stay a foursome very long. With a loud “Me too!” a little whirlwind jumped right into the fun.
“OUCH, MARIA, my nose!” Buck could be heard yelling and then none of the onlookers could make head or tale from the whirling arms and legs. In the end, they all ended tickling Buck, Chris and Sarah on one side of him, Vin and Maria on the other. The rogue started to sound desperate when finally Inez took pity on him and moved in to save her man.
Soon they were all standing around, the women brushing grass and dirt off the men and the girls dancing up and down, yelling for more. Inez was firm though. “No ladies, first we’re going to drink something, I think these guys need coffee, badly. Besides, maybe they have a present for you, Sarah?”
“Nah,” Vin teased. “The little girl has a car. Figured she didn’t need any other present.”
“OOOH!” Sarah squealed. “OOOH! Aunt Kelli, he should give me a present, yes? He should! Or,” her little face crunched up and solemnly she stated, “Or you can not have a piece of my birthday cake. And it’s the bestest birthday cake. I know, ‘cause Aunt Nettie made it herself! So there!”
“Aaah,” Vin gasped, grabbing with two hands at his heart. “A birthday cake by Miss Nettie? Oh, you have to give me some, you have to!” The girls started giggling again. “Oh, alright, you want a present before I can have some cake? Here it is!” Vin opened the back door and got out a flat present, wrapped in silvery paper and tied with a pink bow.
Buck grinned when he saw it. “See stud?” he whispered to Chris. “Pink and silver, it’s all the color for little girls. Vin and Kelli don’t seem to think it’s ghastly.”
“Buck, it’s ghastly!”
Sarah didn’t pay them any mind, she was tearing off the paper, despite Inez’s admonition to wait until she was inside. Her mouth formed a big O when she saw what was inside and for a moment, she was speechless.
It was a pink and silver princess’s dress, with lots of lace, a little crown, a necklace and even a little ring and slippers. The little girl stared at it with reverence, then she carefully put it on the ground and before any of the adults knew what hit them she had kicked off her shoes and ripped her dress over her head.
“Sarah, stop that!” Inez gasped. “Buck, do something!”
“Me? Why me?”
“Because she does this kind of thing only after she’s seen you running around the house naked! Stop her!”
“She only wants to put on her new dress!”
It was true; Sarah was trying to see how to get the dress out of the plastic package, her eyes shining. She hadn’t heard a word her parents had been saying. “Come here and I’ll help,” Vin smiled. “You can open it here, see? Now, I think this is for the back….”
Sarah and Maria immediately started to giggle. “Silly Uncl’ Vin! That’s not the back! Look, it has flowers there! The flowers must be in the front!”
“Really? The flowers in the front?”
“Vin, please, just get her dressed before someone else gets here,” Inez told him a bit pertly. “She’s taking her clothes off way too easy as it is!” A glare went in the direction of Buck, who wisely decided to ignore it. Soon the proud little girl was standing before them in a long, flowing pink robe, with lots of silver lace and tiny silver flowers. A silver crown with pink roses rested on her long, brown hair, a necklace gleamed around her throat, a big pink ruby adorned her hand and on her feet, she was wearing pink and silver slippers. Buck had disappeared for a while, but now he was back with a whirling video recorder, muttering something about JD getting his ass over here so he could take over the camera.
Sarah was oblivious to the camera and so was Maria, who was staring in adoration and clearly jealous of her older sister. When Sarah threw her arms wide and twirled around in front of the amused adults, her lower lip started to quiver. Everyone shared a concerned look and then Vin hastily crouched next to her. “Hey,” he whispered, “You didn’t think I’d come here to a party and not bring you anything? So, me ‘n Kelli got something for you too.”
“W… weally?” the little girl asked.
“Really,” Vin nodded. “Here.”
Out of a bright blue paper came a lovely bear, about 14 inches tall, with a big nose and an adorable grin on his furry face. “OH!” Maria yelped and then she hugged the bear tight.
“I love him,” she told Vin with shining eyes.
“You know, this ain’t just a bear, it’s a special bear.”
“Yeah. This here bear can sing ‘n dance. You just have to squeeze his paw. Come on, let’s see.” They put the bear down and soon they all stared at the wiggling and singing toy. The two girls gazed on in admiration, the adults in a kind of horrid fascination.
“Uh… can he do more than one song, Vin?” Buck finally asked after the fourth repetition.
“Nah, don’t think so. It’s just this one, ain’t he adorable?”
Buck groaned and Inez sighed. “You do realize we’ll have to listen to that same tune thousands of times during the day now, don’t you?”
Vin looked up at her with big, innocent eyes. “Aw, Inez, I know you and Buck won’t mind that! Look how she loves it!” Then he grinned impudently.
Buck scowled, but Inez suddenly smiled. “Maria, dear, you really love your bear, don’t you?”
“Oh, yes!” the one year old nodded vigorously, while she squeezed the paw again for the song and dance.
“So the next time you are staying with your Uncle Vin, we will bring him too, alright, sweetheart?”
“OH YES! YES! Uncl’ Vin, please?”
Vin suddenly looked a lot less smug while he assured the little girl that the bear could come too. Happily, the little girl squeezed the paw yet again and Vin looked a bit disgruntled at a smirking Kelli. “Hell, you’ll be around that bear all day as well, Kel, so I don’t see what you gotta laugh about,” he grumbled at her. The smirk grew.
“I think I’ll be VERY busy with the horses, Tanner,” she replied archly.
“Traitor,” Vin murmured.
Now Chris approached Maria with a packet as well. “Hey girl, I’ve got you something too,” he smiled. Anxiously the little girl put down her bear, squeezed the paw so it would sing again and tore up the paper.
“A BABY!” she squealed. “A baby like aunt M’lory!” She was holding a little carrier basket with a plush baby doll under a blanket. When she pulled it out wildly to give it a hug, a plush milk bottle, a diaper and a little plush teddy bear showed up. “Oooh, a bear. Baby has a bear like me!” Immediately she held out the baby doll to her bear.
“Look Bear, a baby!”
“This is great for her!” Inez smiled. “You’ve all noticed too how she adores Adam? Maria, shouldn’t you say something?”
“Maria! You should say thank you! Come on, say thank you to your uncles!”
“Thank you,” she mumbled, not looking up at her two proud uncles, but busying herself with placing the baby doll back in its bed with the little teddy in its arms. “He’s Adam,” she stated proudly. Then she took her own bear in a fierce hug and looked at the adults with shining eyes.
“Give it up, Inez,” Linda laughed when she saw the frown on the beautiful brunette’s face. “She’ll learn. Maybe.”
“Yes, well, maybe we now really should get inside and I’ll get you all some coffee.”
“But… but Mom….” Sarah started, looking a bit forlorn.
“I… I…,” Sarah looked helplessly at her mother and then at her uncle Chris. “I….”
Chris smiled and knelt down, so he was at the same level with her. “You were waiting for a birthday present from me?”
Vigorously she nodded, all lessons from her mother about not asking for gifts totally forgotten.
“Well, I DO have something for you,” Chris teased. “But I don’t know…. It’s in the back of the truck and you being such a lovely princess right now…. I guess you couldn’t climb in there anymore.”
Immediately Sarah started to open up her dress, all ready to take it off again, determination on her face.
“OH NO YOU DON”T! CHRIS LARABEE, IF YOU WANT TO HAVE A PLEASANT STAY IN THIS HOUSE, YOU ARE NOT GOING TO STIMULATE THIS KIND OF BEHAVIOR!”
“Uh… alright Inez, sorry.” Ignoring the snickers around him, Chris took his niece in his arms and walked to the back of the Ram. “I’ll help. Here you go. It’s under that blanket.” Soon he was with her in the back of the truck, helping her to remove the blanket and the rope binding it around whatever was laying there. When they finally had gotten it uncovered, a long wooden cage could be seen, lying on its back with the legs sticking out towards them. Between those legs a bale of straw and a bale of hay were resting. Sarah was staring at it in wonder.
“Do you know what it is, Sarah?”
“M… maybe….” Huge eyes were looking at him imploringly; the little girl was clearly stunned and also a little frightened that she might have it wrong.
Chris smiled at her. “Perhaps something is still missing from it, don’t you think?”
“M… maybe…,” Sarah stammered again. Chris ruffled her hair and leaned over the side of the truck, where Linda stood ready to give him something. He turned back with a box in his hands. Carefully he placed it before the little girl. She looked at it and then she looked at him.
“Come on, little munchkin, you open it,” he whispered.
A small nod and then her hands carefully opened the top of the box.
“OH,” she breathed. “Oh….”
“You can take her out, she’s very tame.”
“I… I can?”
“Yes, and when you take her out everyday, pet her everyday, then she will stay tame and she will become your best friend. But only if you don’t forget to take her out and pet her. So, why don’t you try it?”
Her hands went into the box eagerly. Chris directed her. “This one here see, so you can take her up and then you put your arm under her, here. Easy, you have to cuddle her very, very gently.”
“Oh!” Sarah breathed again. Then she plopped down, holding the little dark gray rabbit carefully in her lap. “Oh!” Softly she caressed it and soon the little animal relaxed enough to start sniffing at her.
That brought forth a happy laughter. With shining eyes, Sarah looked up at her uncle and stated, “I think she likes me!”
“See?” Buck had sidled up to his wife, who stood gazing happily at her two little girls, so he could whisper in her ear. “I told you they always find ways to top our presents? And the others haven’t even arrived yet!”
“You could’ve thought about a rabbit yourself, lover boy,” Inez whispered back, with a mischievous grin on her face. “Just a little rabbit, instead of immediately wanting to buy her a pony! It doesn’t always have to be big to be appreciated!”
“Really?” he was nuzzling her neck now. “That cage is pretty damn big, though. You knew he was gonna do this, didn’t you?”
“You never buy an animal for a child without consulting the parents first!”
“No one asked me!”
“I was going to talk with you about it and then you came with that stupid pony plan! It riled me up good and I completely forgot about it. When Chris called to ask if we had thought it over, I decided that someone who wanted to bring a pony in the house wouldn’t mind a tiny little rabbit.”
“Aw, lady, and you just wanted me to pay a little more. I’m still not completely off the hook, am I?”
“Nope! But you can make it up to me tonight!”
“I thought I did that last night?”
“OH NO! That was for the car! You still owe me some more for that Pony. Now, when are you all going to tell her about the riding lessons?”
He grinned. “Chris wanted to do that tomorrow, during the barbecue, spread the wealth a little. Seeing what he brought now I can understand why. Man, he needs to get a child of his own again or he’s going to spoil ours rotten!”
“Like you are any better! Or Vin!”
“Well…. Do you think we can get her away from the rabbit long enough to celebrate the rest of her birthday?”
“Why don’t you say ‘car’ to her and I’m sure she’s ready to race us all to the house!”
“I can’t believe you just said that! You hate that car.”
“Well, it does take some getting used to…. But, as long as you are the one running behind it to see that everything goes all right, I guess I can live with it. And she truly loves it, I have to admit….”
A moment later, a speeding pink and silver truck with a happy pink and silver princess in it was racing towards the house. Her laughing dad jogged behind it, with his second little girl on his neck, who was holding on tightly to a bear and a baby carrier. Before the others started walking after them, Inez pointedly looked from the departing trio to the box in Chris’ hands and shook her head.
“And I’m going to keep these kids from becoming spoiled brats, how?” she asked with a sigh. Chris and Vin only grinned wolfishly at her and hastily followed the birthday girl with her father and sister.
“It’s a losing battle,” Linda stated. “You don’t know how many addresses we’ve been to so Chris could find just the right rabbit for her!”
“And all those toy stores! I don’t ever want to see the inside of a toy store again!” Kelli added. “Nope, you ain’t got a chance in hell, Inez.”
“Not even a small one,” Linda agreed.
Inez threw her hands up in surrender. “And look, there comes the rest of the cavalry. Oh, I can at least go and see what they have thought up for the little princess!”
Wilmington’s residence- 2.30 p.m.
“Maria’s finally sleeping,” Inez sighed, rolling up on the couch beside Buck and putting her head in his lap. “With her bear tightly in her arms and her baby on the dresser next to her bed, so she can look at it. And you can’t begin to imagine what a hard time I had getting her to take off the bracelet Casey and JD gave her.” She smiled looking at their now three year old, sitting in the middle of the living room in her princess’s dress, the crown beside her on the ground, surrounded by her new toys.
“Buck, do you think the computer games JD gave her are really suited for a three year old?”
“Don’t worry, I’ll test them first.”
“I bet you will! All night long probably!”
“Nah, not all night long,” he leered at her. “Never all night long. Got something else I wanna do then.”
She swatted him. “Buck Wilmington, you will never change!”
“And that’s what you love about me!” He grinned impudently and wagged his eyebrows at her. “It was a good day, wasn’t it? Everyone had a great time.”
“Yes, it was. And did you see Joanne? Mallory is very worried, because she still ignores Adam, pretends he isn’t there. She can get very upset when Mallory has to take care of him or wants to spend some time with him. It’s almost half a year now and she still doesn’t seem to change her attitude. But today she was playing with Maria’s baby doll and she took real good care of it, like she really adored it!”
“Maria was hovering over her and yelling at her the minute she did something wrong,” Buck smiled, remembering. “I think you were busy in the kitchen just then. It was so funny, our little girl hovering over big three-year-old Joanne and telling her she shouldn’t do certain things or she would hurt the baby, or upset it! You know what Joanne said? She said, ‘I don’t care, I don’t like babies’ and Maria hit her, just punched her in the nose and took away her doll, telling it that she did love it.”
“Was that why Joanne was crying?”
“Yep. But Josiah didn’t want me to interfere. He was hoping Maria would get through to Joanne, where they couldn’t. I don’t know if it worked, but she did play with the doll later on.”
“Mallory is going to buy it first thing Monday,” Inez said softly. “I hope it helps. Buck, I’m really glad that Sarah never reacted that way. But what if they do when we have another child? We’ve been talking about it for some time now, but what if they get jealous this time? I don’t really think Sarah will, she accepted Maria without problems, only, how about Maria?”
“Honey, the way that kid was doting on her baby doll and is trying to hold Adam, pet him and help take care of him if she gets the chance even as small as she is, I think you’d better worry about her not trying to take over your mother role,” Buck laughed.
“She is doting on Adam, isn’t she?” Inez agreed. “Maybe that is getting even more through to Joanne then the baby doll. You know, maybe it’s not such a bad idea to have Maria stay a day over at the Sanchez’s from time to time. When Joanne sees Maria with Adam a little more, she might notice a baby brother can be fun.”
Buck took her lips in a sweet, long kiss. “You are something else, lady. I think it’s a wonderful idea. Why don’t you propose it to Mallory tomorrow, at the barbecue?”
“I will.” She answered his long kiss with a passionate one of her own. For a moment they were lost in each other, but suddenly a little body squirmed her way between them. With a happy sigh, Sarah made herself comfortable. The two adults grinned at each other.
“Was it a good day, munchkin?” Buck asked, ruffling her hair.
“DAD! Not a munchkin!”
Buck grinned. “Alright, little princess. Now please answer me, your highness, was it a good day?”
Sarah giggled. “YES!” she said with fervor. She sagged against them and closed her eyes. “Tired?” Inez asked softly.
“Oh no!” The brown eyes flew open immediately. “No, mommy, I’m not tired! Really!”
Inez smiled at her and ruffled the dark hair. “Don’t worry, sweetheart, you don’t have to go to bed. Hey, you’re three years old now!”
“Yeah, I’m BIG!”
“Sure you are, munchkin,” Buck grinned. “And, is there something you’d like to do right now?”
“Eat some more cake?”
“You know it’s all gone.”
“Ride my car!”
Buck snorted. “You’ve ridden it so often today that the batteries are empty, that’s why it stopped. It is in the garage now until the batteries are full again.”
“Oh.” Sarah clearly didn’t understand a word he said, except car driving was out. She fell silent, a look of longing on her face.
“Sarah? What is it, dear?”
“Well, I… I thought…. Mom, now ever’ one is gone, can I sit with my rabbit? Uncl’ Chris said I have to hold it real often, ever’day! So we can be good friends.”
“He said that, huh?” Inez asked, frowning.
“He told me too, Inez. A rabbit’s brain is so small that if you don’t hold him everyday, he forgets you eventually and turns wild again.”
An eyebrow raised in the handsome face of the feisty brunette. “Is that a fact?”
“Oh, alright! I will look it up though, to see that you two aren’t spinning me a tale so I let her hold it as often as she wants. It is a rabbit, not a dog!”
“Mommy, please? It’s so cute!”
A moment later Sarah was sitting on the couch, holding the tiny, grey rabbit and petting it, talking softly to it. Buck and Inez were quietly cleaning the house around her.
“I call her Pony,” the three year old suddenly stated.
“P… Pony?” Buck managed to get out without choking.
“Yeah. Pony is Chris’ most loved animal in all the world, even if he is old now. And this is my most loved animal. So I call her Pony too.”
“Oh, yeah….” Buck looked helplessly at Inez who just grinned. Children’s logic was hard to fight.
When the house was completely neat and tidy again, Inez kneeled before her eldest, who was still holding the little rabbit. It was lying quietly, contently in her lap, clearly not minding the soft, endless petting.
“I think it’s time to put her in her rabbit hutch outside, Sarah.”
“OH! Oh no, she will be so lonely there! You can’t put her in there all alone!”
“Sarah, it’s a beautiful rabbit hutch, with lots of hay and straw just like rabbits want it! It’s the best place for her, her own little house.”
“I don’t care, its mean,” Sarah told her stubbornly.
“It’s a rabbit, sweetheart, not a dog or cat! It’s not meant to be inside!”
“MOM! Dad, Mom wants to put Pony all alone outside!”
“Buck, don’t you dare side with her in this! Buck?”
That night a very happy three year old went to bed with a beautiful pink truck standing beside her bed and a big rabbit hutch filling up one wall, where until then a dresser had been standing. In her arms she was holding her dancing Dora the Explorer doll and between her and the wall a big, stuffed dog was squeezed. A beautiful princess dress was hanging on a hook.
When they looked in on her before going to bed themselves, the look of utter bliss on the face of their sleeping eldest made the wonderful day complete for Buck and Inez.
The best way Vin knew to start off a Monday morning was to make love to his wife. Kelli was used to the feel of Vin’s body spooned behind her as they slept, but the sensation that woke her so early was something else. Ripples of pleasure shot though her body and she realized that a wide-awake Tanner was responsible for the heat she felt building inside her.
While his hand massaged her breast, she felt his warm breath lightly touching against her neck, trailing to her ear. In that soft sexy drawl she found so irresistible, he whispered to her, “You feel like some early lovin’ Texas?”
She smiled and turned in his arms to face him, “Only if you are servin’ the special this mornin’, Tanner.” With one hand, she grasped a handful of firm Tanner ass, while the other sought out the source of heat between them. Kelli began to caress him with a soft stroking motion and was delighted to hear his sexy groans in response.
Vin answer her in a raspy whisper, “Count on it, baby.” He slid his hand from her breast to fondle her hot wetness below, just before he claimed her mouth with a hungry kiss. For several minutes, the only sounds heard were soft moans of pleasure from both of them. He felt her response and knew she was ready to take him. Her body welcomed him and matched his movements as he made love to her with a slow tempo that set them both on the pathway to their own special heaven.
The Texan held on to her for a long while afterward, not wanting to give up the intimacy they had created with their morning’s love session. In the end, the clock refused to stop the time and they reluctantly decided they would have to leave their private world to face the day
“Chris is going in early and that means, you and I get the horses this morning.” Tanner coaxed his woman out of bed with a kiss and the promise of another ‘Tanner special’ later tonight.
Josiah had been in the office since five and was no closer to an answer now, than when he had started. He had read everything he could get his hands on concerning ‘The Soledad’ and it just did not made sense that now, after five years they would be back. If there had been any survivors, it was only logical that a comeback would have been much sooner. Nevertheless, facts were fact and there was definitely something on the horizon, but he felt he was missing a piece of the puzzle, a very important piece. The ding of the elevator told him he was not longer alone, looking at his watch he knew it was Chris.
“Josiah, you spend the night here?”
“I came in early to get some work done. I wanted to get a head start on this if I could, but so far ...” Josiah shook his head in frustration and sighed. “I did map out incidents that happened over the weekend that might be related to this OMG, but nothing conclusive.
Chris laid a hand on his shoulder, “Don’t rush it, we’ll check them out and see where it takes us.”
The elevator ding sounded again and Vin and Buck made their entrance, quickly followed by the other agents. There was laughter and a lot of talk about the barbecue they had all attended the day before at Chris' ranch house. Number one on the list to discuss was JD and Casey’s announcement about having twins and number two was Ross’s apparent fear of horses.
“Ross, you want me to set up riding lessons for your kids, too?” Buck grinned and could not resist a new target to tease.
"No! I still cannot believe you are going to let your little girl have riding lessons already. Was that a serious birthday present?" Ross asked Buck. He shook his head. "No way will my girl ever be allowed on one of those huge, dangerous animals!"
Buck slapped him on the back and grinned. "Spoken like a true city boy, Ross, spoken like a true city boy! I swear I saw you blanch when we showed you all the stables and you realized some of them actually had horses inside. And were you really trying to keep your kids from petting them?"
"He didn't have much luck with that," Justin grinned. "As soon as you weren't paying attention anymore Ross, they snuck off with my youngest to get inside the stables again."
"They did? Why, those disobedient brats!" Ross shook his head. "What ever do they see in those frightening monsters?"
Laughter and teasing followed his statement. However, the banter only took as long as was needed to get the first coffee for everyone. All were eager to work on the new case and waited anxiously for their assignments. Once they were all settled Vin made an announcement. “We meet in the war room at eleven, until then work your sources and gather whatever information you can.” He turned to Chris, “First man is ready to interview whenever you’re ready.
“Bring him on, let’s get this done.” Chris kept walking as Tanner called the first man into Larabee’s office. The meeting was brief, although the man was certainly qualified, Chris just did not see him fitting in with this team. The same was true of the second candidate that came in wanting to be a part of this unit. Vin came in as the last man left. Larabee sighed, “Okay where is this guy you told me about?”
“He still has twenty minutes to get here. I didn’t expect you to go through the first two so quickly.” Vin smirked, “You were kinda rushed with the first ones.”
“I know, but I just don’t see either of them making it with this bunch.” The two men stood outside Chris’ office. “I hope this other guy is better suited for us than the last ones were. What’s his name again?”
“Cordova, Raphael and I think you’ll like him… that must be him, now.” Vin stopped as he observed the new man enter the bullpen. He was lean, but well built, dark features and was what most people would call good looking. The man halted at the door and scanned the room; suddenly he smiled as he recognized someone he knew. Moving quietly, he walked up behind Kelli and tugged at her hair, she quickly turned ready to do battle when she stopped and grinned. Neither Chris nor Vin could hear what was said, but it was obviously friendly banter.
*She did have a life before you met her, Vin, probably knows a lot of people you don’t.*
*Yeah, I reckon.*
Chris smiled, Tanner may not exactly be jealous, but he was definitely interested in knowing more about the man his wife seemed to know rather well. “I supposed you plan to sit in on this one.” He saw Kelli point towards them, directing her friend to the right office.
Raphael Cordova approached them, Chris held out his hand introducing himself and Tanner. “Come on in and we’ll get started.” Vin leaned against the credenza and said nothing, leaving the questions for Larabee to ask. Raphael sat opposite Chris apparently at ease with himself and the questions.
“I have read your record and Captain Tanner gave me a report on your phone interview. I know you are forty-three years old, a damn good pilot, have been with the DEA fifteen years and are a Marine Veteran. Tell me what I do not know. Why do you want to be a part of this Unit?”
Raphael studied the man in front of him. “Probably for the same reason you do. I want a chance to make some kind of difference out there and have the resources to do it. We do good work at the DEA, but we will never get rid of the drugs coming into this country. The best we can do is slow some of it down and in the process save some lives, but not enough unfortunately. I want to be able to make the future safer for my children and I believe MCAT can help do that. I have already tendered my resignation to the DEA and if you don’t want me then I will retire because what I am doing now is not enough to keep me going another twenty years.
Chris liked this quiet spoken man for some reason, but before he said anything definite he wanted to head off any potential conflict.” I noticed that you already are on familiar terms with one of my agents. How do you know Agent Coulter?”
“Blaze?” He grinned, “Six years ago I was assigned a case in the south part of Texas and got a redheaded, hot-tempered rookie to work with that did not know the first thing about the DEA or how we operated. That did not stop her though, she jumped in with both feet, she was good with a gun, but quickly found out she was in over her head with the rest of it. It did not take me long to find out that rules and regulations were not part of her vocabulary and neither was the word quit. For that reason, I decided that I either had to teach her how to survive in that kind of operation or see her get killed trying. I was hard on her, but she learned to follow the rules at least some of the time and turned out to be a damn good agent. Besides, she reminded me too much of my own daughter and I just could not see her hurt, without at least attempting to get through that hard head and teach her how to stay alive.”
“You have a daughter?”
“Actually, I have two of them; Selina is twenty-four and is with the police force here in Denver. Alicia is twenty-two, married and lives in Boulder, with her husband and my one-year old granddaughter. I lost my wife twelve years ago and it has been the girls and me ever since. I want to safeguard their future, as well as my grandchild’s and they are the reason I applied to be part of your unit.”
Chris nodded and exchanged a look with Vin. “We have a helicopter coming by the end of the week; it will be your baby. Do you have any questions?
“Just one,” he turned to address Tanner. “Are you satisfied that I’m not interested in your wife for any thing other than friendship?” Sensing Vin’s discomfort he added with a smile,” She told me. In fact she was quiet please to point out her fearless husband, a legend with any rifle."
The Texan blushed and smiled, “Yeah ‘m satisfied and ‘m glad you took the time to teach her how to stay alive. But, Blaze?”
Raphael gave him a slow grin, “She hates it, but it fits with her hair and her temper,”
Chris stood up, “Welcome to the team. When can you start?”
“I’m ready, as soon as you do the paperwork. I told you I either would retire or work with MCAT, I moved here to Denver over the weekend to be closer to my girls whichever way it worked out.”
“In that case, find an empty desk and start filling out the papers in this packet for personnel. I’ll take care of the rest.” Chris handed him the documents and watched him walk out. “Hard to believe he has grown children, he is only a year younger than me.”
“I hate to break it to you Cowboy, but you are old enough to have grown children, too.”
“Yeah, I guess so... If I started as young as Cordova evidently did then, yeah, I could. Adam wasn’t born until I was almost thirty and he would have been fourteen this year.” Chris had a faraway look in his eyes.
Vin decided to bring him back. “We got a pilot, now get Travis moving on that bird so he’ll have something to fly.”
“Right, I want to check on what he has Linda doing anyway. Move them to the war room in ten minutes and ask Rafael to join us.”
As the agents sat and waited for Chris, they could not help but notice little pin makers on the big map on the wall and several crates sitting on the floor. Curiosity mixed with a tingle of excitement kept them alert and ready for the next step.
Larabee walked in, “First a couple of announcements, By Friday we will have our own helicopter and we now have a new agent that will also be our pilot. Raphael Cordova this is your new team. Take your time with the names, but feel free to ask any of them for help if you need it. Now, we move on to other business.” He had folders prepared to hand out and was ready to put the agents to work with their assignments. “Over the weekend there were several incident reports that could be related to our OMG. We are going to take a second look at each one. Buck, you and Mark take this mornings’ multiple homicide in Aurora; Bones, as well as Kat are already there, see what you can find. Nathan, take Justin and check out the clinic break in Commerce City, reportedly a large quantity of drugs disappeared. Ezra, you and Kelli take a trip to Eldorado Springs, home invasion with injuries. Ross, Paul, you two will work with Josiah and go through these crates of files. They hold hard copies of every reported crime attributed to The Soledad in Detroit. JD and Pam will load the information into Cassie, but I want human eyes on it first. We meet again at four, let’s roll out!”
“Raphael, Captain Tanner will show you around and get you settled in. “Chris went back to his office to make some calls.
Buck and Mark made it to the scene before the coroner finished preliminaries on the bodies, identifying themselves to the detectives in charge. Bones had already claimed jurisdiction and the DPD was not happy about it at all. The senior officer on the site appealed to Wilmington to reason with the good Doctor.
“Well see, I can’t do that. First, he has the right to call this scene and second, I am taking over this investigation. You can help or get out of the way.” Buck waited for the officer’s answer, while Mark smirked in the background.
“Shit! I suppose next you expect us to take directions from you?”
“Talk to your Captain and then let me know.” Buck walked off leaving the detective reaching for his phone and joined Bones for his report.
Bones was ready for him. “Three males, dead less than two hours, probable cause of death gunshot, but I think this will interest you.” He knelt by the bodies, “Come on they can’t hurt you, they’re dead.” Buck reluctantly knelt down beside him. “All three had the same thing attached to their bodies,” he pulled their coats back.
“Holy mother of God! Bones, I want you to back up with me now! Mark, clear the area and don’t be slow about it!” Buck pulled the doctor along with him and when he reached the other officers issued more orders.” Call the bomb squad and clear every one for a five-block radius. NOW! Each of those men has a belt of explosives attached to their waist, enough to do some serious damage”.
Nathan and Justin tracked down the director of the clinic and had a list of the items stolen. “You don’t seem to be too upset about losing this many drugs.” Justin observed.
“We just count ourselves lucky that is all that happened.” The director answered.
Nathan stopped walking. “What does that mean?”
We are the tenth clinic that has been hit, some were vandalized, some trashed pretty badly and two had female employees that were raped. That’s why we were lucky to only lose some drugs.”
“There are no reports on any of that with the police. Why not?”
“I guess, because they are smaller clinics that work with volunteers and because they were warned not to. They did not leave us a warning and due to insurance requirements I had to report ours.”
Jackson felt a chill run down his spine, “I want the names of every one of them, now.” The man started making a list.
“Mr. Madera, we will need to speak to the young lady that was here when the incident occurred.” Ezra requested.
“You would be wasting your time, as I explained to the local police, it was all a misunderstanding. The girl that works for me just panicked here by herself. She overreacted to some boisterous coworkers of mine. I assure you it was nothing, I am sorry you made this long trip for no reason, but I am glad to see that law enforcement responds so promptly to possible crime.” Madera tried to shepherd them toward the door.
“It was a long drive, do you mind if I use your facilities before we head back to Denver? Kelli asked sweetly.
Paul Madera hesitated for a moment and then said,” Of course, upstairs and to your left.”
Ezra kept the man engaged in conversation as he watched his partner slip towards the back of the house. He hoped that she knew what in the hell she was doing, but just in case she did not; he planned to give her a long lecture on the way home. After five minutes, he saw her coming back and distracted Madera long enough for her to make a noticeable entrance from the stairs.
“Thanks, we’ll be on our way now and sorry to have bothered you.” Kelli smiled, “Come on Standish, maybe this time you’ll let me drive.”
Ezra held back his remarks until they were outside. “Just what do you think you’re doing? We were not through with him.”
“Oh yes we are and we need to leave, now. I’ll explain once we get away from here.” She urged him to hurry.
Inside the house, Paul Madera made a phone call. “Two federal agents were just here. I DO NOT want them to make it back to Denver alive. It must look like an accident with no ties to me. The car is a late model, emerald green Jag XKR, Colorado plates, license number 542-ICC.
Vin came into Chris’ office.” Buck just called, they ran into a problem in Aurora, three DB’s and all of ‘m have an explosives belt attached to ‘em. Bomb squad is there now and they evacuated five city blocks. As soon as they give the all clear, Bones is gonna take ‘em and try to identify the bodies. Buck will go to work tracin’ down the source of the explosives. I told Bucklin to make sure he keeps his ass in one piece out there.”
“Damn, have you heard from Nathan or Ezra?”
“Nate is on his way in; he said he had some information that looked promisin’. There is still no word from Ezra and Kel.”
Chris picked up the phone, “I’ll coordinate with Buck while you get on the other line to find Ezra. I have a bad feeling about all this.” Both men began to call.
“Mark, dammit, what in the hell do you think you are doing? You plan on dying today, son?” Buck reached the younger man and dragged him back behind the line. The fierce look he gave him made sure he stayed there, while he answered his cell phone, putting an end to that irritating musical ring. ”Wilmington!”
“Buck, what the fuck is going on down there?”
He took a deep breath and counted to ten before he answered. “Chris, we’ve got it covered. The business owner was tired of being harassed and sat in his store all night with a twelve-gage shotgun, waiting. Our three perps showed up at six this morning and he blasted ‘em. I don’t know what they had planned, but all three had explosives strapped to their bodies. The bomb squad has removed the belts and neutralized the threat. As soon as I get the particulars from them we are headed in, Bones has already transported the bodies and will try to ID them.”
“Before you come in find out how many other businesses in the area are having the same problem and not reporting it. Watch your back.”
“You got it, Boss.” Buck called Mark over and shook his head over Westin’s eagerness. “Relax junior, now we do some old fashioned foot work and start interviewing the other business owners on the street.”
“What about the explosives?” Mark asked, disappointment written all over his face.
They will still be there when we finish. The sooner we start the sooner we move on to tracking down the sources.”
“Do you at this time have an inclination to enlighten me as to the reason for our premature departure? Ezra was clearly irritated with his young partner.
“You don’t really believe that bull that Madera was givin’ us.” Kelli countered.
“No, however, by engaging the man in dialogue we had the potential to reveal his true intent.”
“Maybe, or we could have ended up the same as the young woman that called the police.” She dug a plastic bag out of her pocket. “If we find her body, I’d bet you anything this blood will match it.” In the bag was blood evidence she collected.
“Where did you find this?”
Kelli grimaced, “In the same room that had enough firepower in it to start a small war. I tell you Ez that man has a million bucks worth of firearms in that back room, state of the art stuff. Not somethin’ your traditional hunter or collector would have, nor likely to be missed by criminals lookin’ for loot to steal.”
“Call Chris, have them start running a check on Paul Madera, the man is definitely a major player in some illicit enterprise. You did not happen to confiscate his prints did you?”
She smiled and produced another bags, “Well, as a matter of fact, I picked up his glass from the coffee table on my way out.” Kelli tried the cell and got no signal. “We’ll have to call when we get away from these mountains.”
“You do realize that you threw the rule book out the window?” Truthfully, Standish had no problem with it, but did not want Larabee or Tanner to think he was corrupting Coulter.
“Rule book? You mean we are supposed to follow rules. Hell, I suppose you’ll have to tell ‘em to me as we go along. I’ve never been to keen on rules and regulations.”
Ezra laughed, thinking maybe he had someone to work with that saw things from his own point of view. When he glanced in the rear view mirror, he stopped laughing. “We have company, make sure you are buckled up and hang on.” He stepped on the accelerator and the powerful engine roared, pushing the Jag for more speed.