Dinner and a Show
Disclaimer: I don't own any of them, just using them for fun.
Notes: This is for my sister whom I curfew. And thanks, Gem!
Many of you may recognize this plot from an old A-Team episode, Without Reservations, enjoy!
JD Dunne looked around the office at his fellow agents. He had told Chris he'd be helping out at Mancino's tonight, and hoped to convince his fellow agents to stop by. He became friends with Carla and Sal Mancino a few months ago, and offered to help them out at their restaurant once in a while. He'd waited at a restaurant back in Boston while he worked his way through school, and could always use some extra spending money for Casey. Chris didn't mind his infrequent moonlighting as long as he remained on call.
Vin Tanner and Ezra Standish had decided they could use a break, and when they heard JD would be working, decided that Mancino's would be just the place to have a nice relaxing dinner. Chris, Buck, and Josiah were going over to Buck's place to watch the game, while Nathan was to be out on a date with Rain.
"So what do you suggest, JD?" the sharpshooter asked. The two agents had sat in their favorite booth where each could keep their eye on the place.
"Everything's good, but Carla spent a little extra time on her lasagna tonight," the youngest answered.
"Sounds good ta me," Vin decided, as he returned the menu.
"And I as well," agreed the Southerner. "I'd also like a nice Merlot, and a side Caesar salad."
"Great! I'll get your order in."
JD walked toward the rear of the bistro to place his friends' order. Sal was standing at the bar counter, talking angrily on the phone, but hung up when JD approached. "We're now short a cook," he told the young agent. "Guido's called in sick." The older man looked around at the nearly empty restaurant. "Every Monday it's the same thing. The football, she comes on, the customers, they stay home."
"What about the pizzas, Sal?" asked Sal's wife, Carla, coming out from the kitchen. "I can't make the dinners and the pizzas."
"Hey, JD. Do you know how to make pizzas?" the owner asked.
"Heck, I was born in a pizza parlor," the youth replied cockily.
Sal smiled, "There's your pizza man if we get in a rush, eh?"
JD turned to a man approaching the counter. "Would you like a table, sir?"
"Yeah, that one," he said pointing to the center of the restaurant. "My party will be joining me shortly."
"Right this way," JD said, leading the red-haired man to a center table. "I'll come back in a few minutes." He handed the man a menu and left one at the empty place setting. On the way through, he asked the young couple he had seated moments before if they would like any drinks. Then he continued to the bar, telling Sal, "The couple over there want a vodka martini and a club soda."
He watched his boss make the drinks and leaned over to say, "Hey, you know what you should do? Get a small TV for over the bar, then you could get some customers back on football nights."
"That's why I like you, JD. You got good ideas. Know where I can get one for about fifty dollars?"
"Yeah, right," JD smiled. He took the drinks and delivered them to the couple, passing a tall, gaunt man, who joined the redhead at his table. The acting waiter walked over to the table of the two men, taking out his order pad.
"Good evening, gentlemen. Could I get you a couple drinks before dinner?"
"Just water," answered the thin man.
As JD wrote it down, the redhead was leaning over to pick up a napkin he dropped on the floor, and the young agent spotted a large handgun tucked into the man's waistband. "What, uh, what kind of water would you like?"
"I don't care tap water," snapped the redhead.
"Right away." The young man hurried to the bar. There he grabbed a basket of breadsticks and went to his friends' table.
The youthful Bostonian set down the breadbasket and took out his notebook. He leaned in, pretending he was discussing their order. "You see those guys sitting in the middle?" he asked quietly.
"Yes," answered both his comrades.
"Big tippers?" Ezra asked.
"No, big hitters. I just saw the guy in the dark suit reach over the table. He has a .357 Magnum tucked in his pants."
"How do you know it's a .357?" the sharpshooter asked.
"Because I've seen you carry a .357. Look, there's been some robberies in this neighborhood and I think these guys are getting ready to come down on this place."
Standish looked over at the men again, with a practiced eye. He surreptitiously watched the marked men as they checked their watches and looked toward the entrance. The slender man said something to his redheaded companion that made him laugh uproariously.
"Might they be officers of the law, Mr. Dunne?"
"Cops don't dress like that." He appealed to his friends, "What do you say?"
Ezra contemplated his friend's request. "Perhaps we should contact the proper authorities."
"Uniforms might spook 'em," the sharpshooter added.
"And I don't want Sal or Carla getting hurt. C'mon, help me out here," JD pleaded.
The Texan glanced quickly at the men. "I don't like 'em."
Ezra faced his tablemate. "Since it seems Mr. Tanner and I are of the same opinion, let us take care of this particular problem." The Southerner leaned in and conferred in a low voice, "Mr. Dunne, why don't you go and fill that gentleman's water glass?"
JD looked confused for a moment until understanding dawned. He smiled widely, "I believe I should."
Vin watched the young agent travel to the kitchen. He nodded to his companion. "I'll take care of the gunman. Can you handle his friend?"
"I assure you I'm quite capable of rendering that miscreant harmless."
The Texan winked and rose as he saw JD returning with the water pitcher. Vin started strolling toward the restroom.
JD walked over and "accidentally" spilled water onto the lap of the gunman. The man jumped up to pat down his pants and started yelling at the agent, making a move to grab JD's throat. Immediately, Vin was there. The sharpshooter punched out the man with his left hand, grabbing the gun from the man's waistband with his right as the man fell.
The fallen man's companion reached inside his jacket, but was stopped by the feel of cold steel against his neck. "I would recommend you remain seated," drawled the Southerner. Ezra looked over to see his partner grinning.
"Piece of cake," Vin smirked, holding the confiscated gun out to the side.
Ezra heard a soft shot and watched Vin stagger backwards, wearing a look of astonishment, before falling to the floor. He whipped around, confronting a stocky, balding man with a silencer-equipped gun pointed at the undercover agent. "I suggest you put your gun down if you don't want to join your friend," the newcomer sneered. The young woman in back shrieked, and Carla came out of the kitchen to see what happened. "I want everyone to shut up and be quiet, now!" the man shouted at the people in the restaurant, waving his gun.
Ezra relinquished his weapon and moved to join JD on the floor next to Vin. JD had taken some napkins and tried to stem the flow of blood from Vin's wound. "I think it's bad, Ez," JD murmured worriedly. He pressed down on Vin's upper chest, eliciting a groan from the injured man. The Texan tried to push away his friend's hands, but his attempt had very little force behind it.
"Hold still, Mr. Tanner. We need to stop the bleeding." He turned to the man holding the gun on them. "This man requires help."
"Tough," replied the criminal.
Ezra tried again. "He needs a doctor without delay."
"He won't need a doctor if he's dead," countered the man, pointing the weapon directly at the sharpshooter's head. Ezra remained silent at the threat to his partner. "Angelo," the leader shouted to the man Ezra had threatened. "Check these guys out!"
The felon patted down the agents, finding both Vin and Ezra's badges and Ez's cell phone. Vin had not been carrying his phone, and his gun had already been seized.
"Hey, these guys are feds!" accused the slender man.
The balding man grabbed Ezra by the lapels, "What are you doing here; who knows you're here?"
Standish strove to remain calm as he watched the blood flow from his partner's wound. "If this man dies, you will be charged with the murder of a federal agent."
The man hit Ezra across the face. "I asked you a question," he snarled.
"My companion and I were merely enjoying a night's repast when we saw this waiter being accosted," nodding at JD.
The man's focus was changed. He confronted the young waiter, "And you are?"
JD thought fast, using his friend's cover story. "I'm just the waiter."
The man in charge pushed JD away, then turned and directed his comments at everyone. "I have a job to do. Once that is accomplished, you may all leave and return to your dull and boring lives. Until then, you do as I say, or you will die." He glanced around at the patrons before fixing his gaze on Ezra. "Any questions? No? All right. Take the hero to the back. I want everything looking normal, and don't want him scaring away the customers."
Vin became aware as his friends lifted him. Trying to limit their friend's discomfort, Ezra and JD stretched Vin's arms across their shoulders, and began to carry him into the kitchen. The sharpshooter could feel the wound pulsing, and sense the blood rolling down his body. Vin tried his best to help JD and Ez move him, but his legs didn't seem to want to work properly.
"Angelo. Wake Eddie up, then you check around. You make sure no one noticed this fiasco."
"Okay, Victor." Angelo bent over his buddy and slapped him across the face. The redheaded partner roused, looking around in confusion.
"Eddie," that bald man snapped, as Angelo marched out the front door. "You watch the customers here while I take care of the hero and his friends."
"Yes, boss." The redhead shook off his dizziness. He trained a watchful eye, and his reclaimed weapon, on the people.
Carla had asked permission to go ahead to the kitchen, and she placed some tablecloths on the floor for them to lay the wounded man upon. She brought over some more tablecloths and started ripping them into strips for wrapping Vin's injury. The Texan collapsed onto the pallet of cloths with a moan. His fellow agents slowed his descent, and Ezra checked the gunshot wound.
"The bullet's still in there," he announced. They rewrapped the wound with the tablecloth strips.
"I never even saw that guy," gasped Tanner.
"Neither did I, my friend," admitted Ezra.
Vin wheezed, "Chris is gonna kill us."
"I'm sure Mr. Larabee will know it was not our fault," Ezra commented.
"Oh, it never is." Vin chuckled; the sound quickly became a groan of pain.
The Southerner noticed the owner's wife standing by. "Mrs. Mancino?" She came and knelt by the wounded agent. "Could you please place your hand here," Ezra said moving her hand over the bandage. "We need to keep pressure on the wound." Vin fell into unconsciousness with a moan at the force on his injury.
Victor watched the fuss with amusement. He was planning on killing everyone here tonight anyway, but the best way to keep control was to let them have the illusion of helping their friend. He walked over and checked to make sure the rear door was locked; he didn't want any more surprises. On the way back, he ripped out the kitchen's phone. "All right, that's enough. I want you in the front with the rest."
"He needs looking after."
"The woman can stay. You've wrapped his boo boo; he'll be fine. Out now," he reiterated with a wave of his gun.
Ezra and JD reluctantly left their friend. Vin tried to smile to ease their minds, but he was having a hard time breathing, and it was all he could do not to yell out in pain. His partners saw his struggle, and each vowed to end this predicament soon. Mr. Mancino was directed to clean up the mess the agents had made. Ezra was motioned to his booth, and JD was told to stand behind the counter. Eddie was instructed to go and stay in the kitchen, while Angelo returned to his center table and kept watch over the Southerner.
Victor stood next to JD at the bar counter, giving him instructions. "If anyone calls, you will tell them Mancino's is closed for a private party with one exception." He pointed down the reservation list at a name. "This person calls, you will confirm his reservation, and let him know all is well."
Dunne's eyes widened when he viewed the name. "You can't be serious. You'll never get away with hurting him."
"My dear boy," Victor uttered, "I don't plan on hurting him, I plan on killing him."
The criminal announced to everyone in the place. "I want you all acting normal; you're out to dinner having a great time. Anyone tries anything you're dead." He gestured with the gun to make his point.
JD worked hard to contain his panic. In less than an hour, Judge Travis and his wife were going to walk through those doors and die. This was all his fault; he had to do something. Just then, his salvation walked through the front door: Buck Wilmington. The ladies' man was wearing headphones, listening to the ball game as he strolled to the front counter. "Hey, kid. I need a large pizza to go."
"What do you want on it?"
Buck looked at his roommate curiously. "Lots of everything," he answered.
"No problem, I can do that."
Buck watched JD enter the kitchen, then went to sit with Ezra at the booth. "Hey, Ez, how's dinner?"
Ezra observed Angelo seating Sal at the table behind Buck. The felon took out his gun and pointed it at the old man in a silent warning to Ezra. "Dinner has been unusual."
"Mr. Tanner is in the lavatory." Buck nodded and replaced the headphones in order to keep track of the game.
JD went into the kitchen and stopped to check on Vin. The Texan was still unconscious but he was shivering, so the young agent snagged his coat from its hanger and placed it over his friend.
Eddie leaned over, watching him work. "What's going on out there?" the felon questioned.
"Some guy came in and ordered a pizza," JD answered.
"Well, give him one already made." Eddie backed off, munching on some breadsticks.
"He says it hurts when I press on this," Carla said to JD, nodding at the bandage.
"I know, but it's necessary. Where's the other pizza?"
"There's a plain one on top of the counter," she told him.
The young agent moved to the counter and, while he stared at the cheese-covered pizza, he got an idea. He threw some pepperoni and ham on, and then grabbed some anchovies, placing them around the pie. He hoped his roommate would notice his message. He stuck the pizza in the oven for a few minutes to melt the cheese. He knew Victor would be expecting some kind of signal, so he decided to give him one. Keeping an eye on the man watching him, he snatched a stack of napkins; writing on the bottom one, "Call police."
JD placed the pizza in a box and put the pile of napkins on top. He nodded to Angelo as he passed. Pushing open the door, he smiled and tried to catch the eye of his roommate, but Buck was too intent on listening to the game on his headphones. "All right, baby. Broncos are trouncing the Lions by twenty! Too bad you guys aren't coming to watch the game." He saw JD coming with the pizza and stood to meet him. Noticing the stack of napkins his partner had brought for him, he chuckled. "Hell, JD, I ain't that messy!"
Victor saw the young man trying to convince Buck to take the whole thing. "Why don't you leave those here, then. I'm sure the Mancinos wouldn't like to waste their money." He took the mound off and laid it on the counter while Buck paid his tab.
"Thanks, JD. See ya, Ez." And without another thought, the mustached man walked out of the establishment.
When Buck was gone, Victor backhanded JD. "And what is this?" he asked holding up the written-upon napkin. "I told you not to try anything; maybe I should teach you a lesson. Should we see if your friend would like another hole in him?"
"No," JD whispered, aghast. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Ezra start to rise before being shoved back down by Angelo as he moved from the table behind.
"I guess I can allow you one error," Victor magnanimously decided. "But that was it. Next time, your friend won't need an ambulance...he'll need a hearse."
Buck raced home, hoping not to miss any exciting plays by the Broncos. He'd been drafted to go pick the pizza up after losing a round of 'rock-paper-scissors.' He was pretty certain Chris and Josiah had conspired against him, but with no proof, he was doomed to be the delivery boy.
He practically ran into his and JD's place and threw the pizza onto the coffee table, yelling at Josiah and Chris to update him on what he missed. They started to relay some plays, while he snaked a piece of pizza. He bit into it distractedly, eyeing the television. Seconds later, he spit out the piece, cursing, "Dammit! JD knows I hate anchovies!"
Josiah, sitting perpendicular to the two on the couch glanced at the box sitting open on the table. Then he did a double take and brought his friends' attention to it. "Buck, that's not a mistake it's a message." He grabbed the piece back from the ladies' man, replaced it, and turned the box around so it could be seen. Spelled out in anchovies was the word, "HELP."
"Let's go," Chris commanded.
"No one's moved since I was there," commented Buck as he looked through a pair of binoculars at Mancino's Restaurant. The three men were parked across the street in Josiah's Suburban, down the road from the restaurant.
The ex-preacher remarked, "Seems our brothers may be in a bit of trouble."
"When aren't they?" Buck grinned.
Chris took the binoculars and looked through. "It's not natural," he said on the patron's fixed positions. "But you wouldn't notice unless you were looking for it. No sign of Vin?"
"Not a one," answered the scoundrel, a frown quickly replacing his smile. "Come to think of it, I didn't see him when I picked up the food either."
"He's down," Chris stated, with certainty. "We've got to find out what's going on," he continued, and flipped open his cell phone. He dialed the restaurant and watched through the binoculars as JD was motioned to answer it, and a man held a gun on Ezra.
"JD, it's Chris. What's going on?"
"Good evening, Mr. Travis. Your reservation for nine-thirty is confirmed; we'll have your table ready."
"It's a hit on Travis?"
"Yes, sir. That'll be no problem."
"The pizza isn't all that good tonight, I'd recommend the lasagna."
Chris' gut tightened at the verification of his fear. "Got it." Larabee watched as the man signaled JD to hang up. "We're coming in, be ready."
"Very well, sir. Good night."
"Well?" Buck questioned as soon as his boss hung up.
"Vin's hurt bad, and it looks to be a hit on Travis." Chris looked over at his teammates. "There are at least two suspects, and we've only got until nine-thirty. Buck, try to get a hold of Travis and warn him off. Josiah, I'm going to need you to get the two of you in through the back door."
"No problem. I'll go start now." He met Buck's gaze as his friend tried to reach the judge on his phone. "I'll see you in back." The large man reached under the seat and brought out a small pack, which he took with him. He ran across the street, ducking behind the nearest building.
"No luck, amigo," Buck hung up his phone. "Travis is unavailable. How do you want to play this?"
"We've only got fifteen minutes until the judge is supposed to show, and no telling how Vin is holding up. We've got to do this now." The blond quickly outlined his plan and sent his oldest friend on his way, before climbing into the rear of the Suburban. He changed into an old jogging suit of Josiah's, bunching it up to fit, and stuck his gun in the back waistband of the pants. He started to jog along the street, waiting for his agents to make their move.
For the first time tonight, JD had hope. He'd been enormously thankful to hear his boss' voice on the phone, and worked hard to keep his relief from showing. He relayed what information he could before he was warned off the phone.
The thugs were celebrating the fact that Travis was headed here and the plan was working wonderfully. Over their happiness, JD managed to catch Ezra's eye and mouth the word, 'Chris.' Ezra nodded that he understood. "I'd better to check on the injured man," the youngest agent announced.
Victor looked up from where he resided at the center table. "Okay, you were good on the phone, I'll give you a break. Go ahead."
JD entered the kitchen and knelt next to Vin. The Texan was still hot. The young agent checked his friend's vitals and found his pulse racing dangerously fast. He hoped Chris and the others would hurry, while checking to see that the bleeding had slowed. Vin was mumbling, but JD couldn't decipher what was being said. He tried to reassure his friend but knew he could do little. "I'm sorry, Vin," he whispered. He ensured Carla was continuing her care of the sharpshooter, and returned to his position at the bar.
He motioned to Ezra and the undercover agent nodded in return. Neither man knew what their teammates were going to do, but they both knew to be ready for anything.
Josiah managed to silently pick the lock on the backdoor of the bistro, and nodded to Buck. The tall agent moved forward with gun drawn to back up his partner.
"Where'd you learn to do that?" he asked.
"I wasn't always a man of God," was the chuckled answer. Reaching into the bag he had with him, Josiah removed a thin line of cable with a miniature camera mounted on one end. "Let's see where we stand." He maneuvered the cable under the doorframe and swung it around the interior. Watching on the small monitor they could see the inside of the kitchen. The kitchen counter blocked most of the room, but they spotted an armed man standing near the interior door to the restaurant.
"What's the plan?" asked the profiler.
"If we can get him near the door, we can knock him out with it." Josiah agreed, so Buck started to scratch lightly on the door with his fingernails.
Josiah watched through the camera as the man came closer to the door. He made sure the cable was situated out of sight and reported to his friend, "He's almost here."
The scoundrel then knocked lightly, alternating the taps between the top and bottom of the door. While the man stared at it in confusion, Josiah signaled when it was time. "Now!" he whispered furiously.
Quick as lightening, Buck turned the knob and slammed the door into their adversary. The unexpected force knocked the man into the wall and he slid down, unconscious. Carla jumped up in shock, containing a shriek when she saw the agent's familiar face peeking in. "Mr. Buck, Vin needs you," she said quietly. Josiah entered directly behind Buck and went to check on their downed friend.
Buck moved silently, easing himself to the inner door, listening for a sign that they'd been detected while Josiah crouched down next to Vin, checking the injury. His friend's pale face and sweat-covered brow did little to ease the preacher's concerns. "You did real good, Mrs. Mancino," the profiler told the woman. He answered Buck's unasked question with a shake of his head.
Josiah stood up and walked next to his friend. "We've got to do this fast," the grey-haired agent whispered. He opened his cell phone and called for an ambulance.
Buck grinned without mirth, "We'd better be done by the time the medics show, or else they're gonna be pissed." The ladies' man moved over and placed handcuffs on the unconscious gunman. Then he took a strip of the tablecloth and gagged him, to make sure their entrance remained covert.
Josiah returned to Vin's side. "Mrs. Mancino, we need you to leave out the back."
Buck and Josiah exchanged a look of surprise. "What do you mean 'no'?" the ladies' man asked.
"I am not leaving my husband, nor am I leaving this poor boy who tried to protect my place," the older woman stated emphatically, smoothing Vin's hair off his flushed face. "I'm staying."
Buck shrugged, "Call Chris and tell 'em we're starting." Josiah made the call, reporting Vin's condition and letting him know there was an ambulance on the way.
The scoundrel picked up a fork off the counter and moved to one side of the kitchen door, while Josiah took the other. They readied themselves, and Buck tossed the utensil lightly against the oven.
In the dining room, the clatter could be heard echoing through the quiet restaurant. Managing to catch Ezra's eye, JD knew what he had to do. The dark-haired operative moved from behind the bar. "I'll go check what that was." He started to head to the kitchen only to be stopped by Victor's threatening voice.
"Hold up." The balding man stood up with his weapon pointed at the kitchen door. "Eddie!" he called. When no answer was received, he motioned to Angelo. "Check it out." He pointed at JD and told him to move away from the door. He kept his pistol trained on the agents as his man cautiously stepped through the swinging door.
Outside, Larabee watched as the gunman moved to the rear of the eatery then made his move. He headed straight for the front door and yanked it open. Ezra had seen his leader's approach and was poised to strike at the felon standing across the aisle.
Chris' arrival coincided with Angelo's exit into the kitchen. Victor spun around at the sound of the door, his gun tracking with his body. The blond feigned surprise and threw his hands into the air. "Whoa, whoa. I just wanted to get a bite to eat, mister. Be cool."
Ezra tried to control his shock at seeing his leader dressed as a harmless jogger; he'd never seen Chris look so non-threatening.
Victor sized up the new arrival and dismissed him as a threat. "Sit down over there now," he ordered, gesturing at a booth with his pistol. Chris did as directed and, as he bent over to enter the booth, he covertly removed his gun from concealment.
"Angelo, what's going on in there?" the felon called. "Angelo?" When no answer was received, the warning bells went off in his head. Unfortunately for him, it was already too late. When he whipped around, he was confronted by Chris Larabee, and the ATF leader was in a decidedly bad mood.
The blond revealed his gun, which was directed at the bald man. "I suggest you put down your weapon and step back, or I will be forced to tell the ME how many bullets I emptied into you."
In the kitchen, Josiah was restraining an unhappy Angelo, as Buck heard his oldest friend's command. He opened the kitchen door announcing, "It's me, Pard," and covered the last remaining gunman from the rear. Buck took in the scene promptly, seeing both that his roommate was fine, and that Chris was involved in a standoff with the last remaining gunman.
As the second man emerged from the kitchen, Victor eyed his position, still hoping for a way out. He swung his gun around and trained it on the undercover agent. "Let me go or he dies."
Chris glanced at his agent, who was shaking his head sadly, saying, "I'm afraid you're out of luck, Victor. The gentleman that you shot is a good friend of Mr. Larabee's, and I don't believe he is in the mood to bargain." The Southerner relayed his concern to his leader, desperation starting to show on the poker face, "We need to get this done, now."
"This asshole shot Vin?" snarled Chris.
No longer caring whether or not the criminal held a weapon, Larabee stormed up to him, and placed his gun barrel against Victor's temple. "Drop it or die."
A clunk sounded on the carpet as the man released his hold on his pistol, and everyone in the restaurant began breathing once again. Sal Mancino raced into the back to check on his wife. The young woman at the table started to cry in relief, while Larabee tossed his handcuffs to Ezra, snapping, "Take care of this trash."
Chris marched over to where Buck was talking to JD. The agent saw his arrival and answered his leader's question before it could be spoken. "He's bad, Chris, but the ambulance is on its way, and Josiah thinks he'll be okay."
The leader nodded to indicate he'd heard and continued his journey to the kitchen. He passed the reunited restaurateurs and knelt down beside Vin. The sharpshooter still hadn't regained consciousness, and Chris gazed down at his too-pale best friend. He stared at the amount of blood collected on the pieces of tablecloth, and met the eyes of his profiler. "He's gonna be okay?" he whispered hoarsely.
"I'm not as skilled as Nathan, but I think if we can get him to the hospital, he'll be fine." Josiah was about to suggest that Chris go and wait for the ambulance, but realized that would be a futile request. Nothing would move the man from his friend's side, so the large agent decided to check for himself to see if the paramedics were there yet. He patted his leader's shoulder and walked through the swaying doors.
Just as Josiah saw the flashing lights of the emergency vehicle, Judge Travis and Evie strolled through the front door of the restaurant.
"What the hell is going on here?" bellowed the judge after surveying the chaos. His wife slapped him on the arm for his coarse language, as Ezra stepped forward and volunteered to explain the entire situation.
Josiah beckoned to the medics, and led them to the injured man. Vin was quickly loaded onto a gurney and transported through the restaurant into the waiting ambulance. On his way by, Chris acknowledged the judge, asking Josiah and Ezra to stay behind and get the mess sorted out. Buck told JD where the Suburban was parked and had to hurry in order to keep up with the young agent.
"Come on, Buck," demanded JD as he belted himself in the front seat.
"Vin'll be fine, kid. Don't fret."
JD nodded as if he understood the statement, but continued to bounce in his seat, anxious to reach the hospital. Both men remained silent until Buck pulled into the hospital's parking lot.
"It was my fault," the raven-haired agent said, voice barely above a whisper.
"What?" asked Buck.
"I said," JD stated louder, "it was my fault."
"What was your fault?"
"Vin getting shot."
"That's bullshit," Buck tried to joke his friend out of his mood as he parked the car. "You know that Texan has a bullet-magnet inside 'im."
"It's not funny!" JD yelled back. "We shoulda called the cops. It wasn't our place to handle it. Chris is probably furious with me."
"You all are federal agents who suspected a crime was going to be committed. You didn't shoot Vin." Buck said this last phrase to an empty seat because his roommate had already exited the vehicle, hurrying inside. "That boy is gonna drive me to drink," mused the mustached man.
Team Seven's leader was pacing in front of the doors to the surgical suite when the young agent arrived on the floor. JD took a deep breath and marched forward, as if into the lion's den. "Will he be okay?" he asked Larabee.
Chris turned toward his youngest agent and shrugged. "They seem to think it was a good place to be shot," he said scathingly. He continued his explanation when he saw his oldest friend's approach. "The bullet missed any vital organs, but he was bleeding on that floor a long time."
The blond stalked to the waiting room and sat on the nearest chair, followed by his agents. "The only thing we can do now is wait."
JD started to pace as the two older agents sat. On his fourth trip around the room, the young lawman was told to go find some coffee for them. As soon as JD left the room, Buck shared his concern with his friend.
"The kid feels responsible."
Chris seemed confused. "For what?"
"All of it."
"That's ridiculous. Ezra and Vin attract trouble no matter where they go."
"Yeah, but JD asked for their help, and now Vin's shot. He's also worried that you'll be pissed at him."
"He's an idiot."
"Well, now, Pard. This moment probably wouldn't be the best time to tell him that," Buck grinned.
"Yeah." The green-eyed leader lowered his voice when he heard his agent returning with the drinks. "I'll take care of it."
The three agents sipped on bitter coffee and waited for word from Vin's doctors. Josiah and Ezra arrived after securing the chaos at the restaurant. The two newly arrived agents found their counterparts and told what had been discovered after the interrogation at the site.
"Apparently they were out-of-town muscle hired by Ed Graham as payback," Josiah explained.
"What did they hope to accomplish?" JD asked.
"Letting the cretins in the underworld know that Graham would not be bested. Although, in this case, that will not be accomplished." The undercover agent sat down next to the ladies' man. "Any news on Mr. Tanner?"
"A nurse came out a few minutes ago and said the doctor would be out shortly to let us know how he is," the leader told his agents.
As if summoned, the doctor strode through the room to stop in front of the men. The five men jumped up and moved toward the physician. "Well?" Larabee's men, pressing in to hear the announcement, quickly surrounded their friend.
The doctor held up his hand to ward off the men's assault. "With a bit of rest, Mr. Tanner should make a complete recovery. Whoever wrapped the wound did a good job at looking after your man. We were able to remove the bullet and restore some of his lost fluid. He'll be in recovery for a while, then you can see him."
Smiles and chuckles were released at the report, and the men started to relax. Chris continued his watch, not able to be completely happy until he could see his best friend in the flesh. JD also persisted in blaming himself, not celebrating with the others.
Larabee had gone to see Tanner in the recovery room. Josiah and Ezra had gone home after being reassured about their fellow agent's health, promising to call Nathan and let him know about Vin. Buck tried to persuade JD to return to their place, but the young agent insisted he apologize to Vin. Chris' voice rang out across the waiting room. "Vin wants to see you, JD."
The young agent nodded his head and started to walk very slowly to the room where his friend lay, shot because of his mistake. He leaned against the doorway, knowing he had to get this over with, but hoping the sharpshooter would be sleeping so he could delay the inevitable.
"Ya gonna stand there all day?" came the raspy whisper.
"No," JD softly replied. He walked over to the side of the hospital bed and looked down at the equipment attached to his friend, and the stark white bandage peeking out from under the covers. "I'm so sorry, Vin," he sighed.
"You should be," the ex-bounty hunter replied. He watched the young man flinch as if struck. "I never got my lasagna."
"What?" asked the youth.
"I said you owe me big I never got my lasagna."
JD stared down at his friend, not understanding, and then laughed in relief. "I'm really sorry, Vin."
"Nothing to 'pologize for. Chris told me about the pizza; ya done good, kid. Ya kept yer head and no one else got hurt."
"You did," JD reported mournfully.
"True, but after my tenth visit to this place, I get frequent-injury miles." Vin laid his head back down on the pillow and closed his eyes. "So I figger I'm ahead of the game."
The young agent smiled down at his friend, "You're so full of crap."
"I'm feeling a mite tired, why don't you go tell Larabee to take his old, wrinkled ass home and get some sleep. I'm fine."
"Yeah," JD scoffed. "That'll happen."
"I can dream," the sharpshooter yawned. He moved his head a bit and settled down, succumbing to the drugs in his system and his body's need for rest.
JD knew he should probably go get Chris, but looking down at his injured friend, he decided to stay and keep watch, just for a while.
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