Crossover The Sentinel
Chris looked up as Jim Ellison came in the door. "How's Blair?"
"He's good. He'd like to see all of you, if you care to"
Chris looked around at the others members of his team. Vin nodded.
"I, for one, would enjoy communicating with the young scholar. Blair is an exceptional young man. His grasp of language and his vast knowledge are always a source of amazement to me. I found him quite fascinating on our last get-together."
Ezra stood and straightened his jacket. Vin and Nathan joined him. "You are most fortunate to have such a man at your side, Detective Ellison."
Jim smiled and nodded. "I believe you're quite correct, Ezra. I am." The three men stood in the doorway, waiting for Ellison to join them.
Chris stayed seated. "Jim, if you would tell Blair that I'll come by later, I would appreciate it. I would feel better if I stay close for Buck."
"The boy isn't doing well?" Jim asked.
Chris frowned. "He hasn't come around, yet. Buck's worried and that makes him unpredictable. This boy is his world and he's pretty off balance right now."
Josiah stood at the window and turned with Chris' words. "Brother Buck is adrift without his rudder and that would be JD. JD is the lamb to Buck's lion. They are complete by themselves, but together they are more than complete."
Jim smiled. Standing near the door, he nodded. "I can understand that perfectly. If you had told me something like that three years ago, I'd have thought you crazy, but since I met Blair.." Jim paused, trying to phrase what he wanted to say. "I'm a good police officer and Blair is an amazing professor, but when we work together, the results are astounding. Truth is though, even if he didn't help with the police work, I just feel ..'right' when he's around."
All six men nodded. They knew that Buck and JD were the same way. The silence grew long and heavy, much like their thoughts. Vin clapped Ellison on the back.
"Come on , Capt'n, time to go see how that partner of yours is doing."
The four men left the room and Chris heard Jim tell Vin, once again. 'Call me Jim, Slick.'. Tanner's voice drifted softly down the hall. 'Sorry, Cap, it just doesn't feel right.'
Larabee heard the chuckles of the men as they moved away.
Josiah moved back to stare out the window. "Blair told me JD talked to him about what happened Monday. Said he had decided to come home when they got back to Cascade."
The team profiler turned to Chris. "Buck's carrying a big load of guilt over this, Chris. JD don't make it, we're going to have big problems."
Chris rubbed his eyes with the heels of his hands. "Yeah, I know Josiah. Buck thinks the world of that kid. And he blames himself for him leaving like he did. But I think I have a big share of that blame." Chris stood and walked over to the window, alongside the other man. "I just have to believe that the kid will be okay."
Josiah studied the blond's profile for a minute, seeing the worry and fatigue in his face. Finally he smiled, "Chris, I'm going down to hall to have a serious talk with God. Why don't you go check on Buck? He's been alone in there for quite a while."
Standing with his arms crossed over his chest, the smaller man cocked his head and smiled. "Sounds like a good plan."
The two headed for the door. As they parted and went opposite ways at the hallway, Larabee called to Sanchez.
"Josiah? Send my prayers along with yours, until I can get down there." Chris requested. Josiah nodded in acknowledgement.
Chris entered the room quietly, expecting to see Wilmington in his usual position next to the bed. He frowned when he found the chair empty. He scanned the room, but saw no sign of the man.
Chris crossed the room, intending to check on the injured youth. As he came near the bed, a scuffing sound drew his attention to the other side of the bed. He saw the dark hair and went around to see Buck sitting on the floor, his knees pulled up with his arms resting across them. Buck's head hung between his arms. A sheet of paper was hanging limply from one hand.
Chris squatted down and gently touched the man on the shoulder. Buck raised his head and turned tear filled eyes toward the man beside him. If Chris had not already checked on the boy, he would suspect the worst. He still took a quick glance at the unconscious form and looked at the monitors. He turned back to haggard face of his long time friend.
Wordlessly, Wilmington held out the paper to him. Chris frowned as he took the document. He sat back against the wall and started to read.
I thought I'd better get this done before the light quits working. Blair is out again. He's had a fever for a couple of hours. I think the cut is infected. We ran out of water a few hours ago. I'm afraid that if the mountain doesn't get him, the fever will. Or the lack of water. He was so sure that Detective Ellison was coming. I think he believes Jim may be dead and now he's giving up. If someone doesn't show soon, it won't matter. The mountain is coming down, soon.
Don't worry, Buck I'm not scared. I'm just sorry that I left the way I did. I know that you ain't mad at me, but I really wanted to say that I'm sorry. I came up here to talk to Blair. He was great. He listened, but didn't judge. He started telling me this story about why he is so wise. Pretty funny.
Heck, I already knew I was coming home, needed to talk to someone. I kept my key. I knew we could work it out. Not to sure how Chris was going to react. I was thinking if he wouldn't let me come back, that I could get a job in computer programming like in Boston, before I joined the BPD, but I'll talk to Chris first.
Anyway, I need to say this. I know we said that it doesn't count if we don't both say it, but I don't think we're going to get that chance. I want to thank all of you. I've learned so much from each of you and I never told you-any of you, so I tell you now.
Josiah taught me gentleness doesn't make you weak. I've seen him soothe a crying baby or coax a frightened puppy to come to him. And I've seen him take down a bad guy with one punch.
Nathan showed me how to be compassionate. He endures all the grief we give him and, still, he fixes us up and doesn't complain. At least, not too much.
Ezra showed me that wariness don't mean suspicion, it means you just take everything with a little caution. You just need to listen to people, learn to tell the difference between listening and hearing.
Vin, he taught me patience. I think Vin could sit and watch the seasons change without ever scratching his nose. Or anything else for that matter.
And Chris, well he taught me to love. The kind of love that he has for his family, even though they're gone. And for his job and us. He won't say it, but he shows it all the time. But you already knew that. I guess that's why you fought so hard to keep him safe, 'til he was ready to be loved again.
But you Buck, you taught me to live, to take every day and everything with an open heart and enjoy it. You got a heart as big as the whole outdoors. You opened your house and your heart to me. You showed me 'family'. Don't get me wrong, Mama was my family and we loved each other, but it was a small family and we didn't have many friends. You opened a whole new world for me, 'cause I found out that blood doesn't make you a family. Love and respect, that makes a family. And that's something you and I have. You toss in the guys and we got us a 'hell' of a family, Buck.
The time that I spent with you and the guys is the best time of my life. I thank you. I love you like a brother or a father or better yet, a best friend. Good bye, Buck. Be good and take care of everyone for me. Could you tell Casey I love her. I called her a couple of days ago. We had a good talk. I hope she remembers me fondly in the years to come . I hope you all will.
John 'JD' Dunne
Chris couldn't move, he couldn't think. The sheet of paper shook slightly from the tremors in his hands. Tears welled in his eyes and he swiped angrily at them. He turned toward Buck. The man had not moved since he handed off the letter.
"Stupid little shit." The big man put his hands on the floor and pushed himself up angrily. He stood, rigid with emotion, looking across the room, but not the form on the bed. Chris scrambled to his feet and stood by him.
"Buck, he thought he was going to die. He knows how we feel about him."
Wilmington turned eyes full of rage on the blond. "You sure about that, Chris? Why would he write that 'remember me' if he knew? You explain that to me, Chris. Am I totally incapable of showing my feelings? Or is he that clueless?" Buck started to pace. As he moved, his voice rose.
Chris stood and watched. Buck needed to talk through this. Chris was willing to let him, as long as he remained in control.
Buck continued, oblivious of Chris, his voice smoldered with anger. "I can not believe he would write that. 'Remember me?' Like we could forget him? Hard-headed little pain in the ass. Runs in and takes over my house and my office, my life." He turned his eyes to boy." Hell, you wormed your way into all our lives, didn't ya?'
Buck had walked over and gripped the rails on the bed. JD never moved, showed no signs of hearing any of the man's tirade. Buck shook the bed slightly.
"Wake up, kid. I think you and me need to have to talk about your role in my life."
Buck quieted for a moment, watching for any sign. Chris came up behind him and placed a hand over Buck's. The anger erupted suddenly and Buck shook the bed violently. Chris pulled the white knuckled hands from the railing. He tried to pull Buck away from the bed.
"Wake up, JD" he yelled. "I ain't saying good bye. You don't get to write that shit and die on me. You hear me, boy?" Buck struggled with Chris.
Chris got between the boy and man, pushing Buck away from the bed. At first, he attempted to calm the upset agent. But, Buck simply got louder and started to push back, moving back toward the bed.
"Buck, you need to calm down. He can't hear you." Another mistake.
"Oh, he can hear me," Buck yelled over Chris' head. "he just thinks he can ignore me. Well, you are not going to get away with it. You open those eyes and talk to me."
Chris pushed the large man back to the wall and, hopefully, the door.
"And that good bye crap. You were right before. It don't count if we don't both say it. Dammit, JD, wake up."
Chris flinched when the door was shoved open from outside. Jim Ellison entered the room with Nathan at his heels. Chris glanced at them and nodded his head.
"Help me get him out of here."
Jim and Nathan each grabbed an arm and dragged the man out into the hall. Ezra and Vin were standing on either side of the door and Josiah was cajoling a nurse down the hall. Buck continued to struggle against the restraining hands. Chris ran his hands through his hair, trying to calm himself. He took a deep breath as he listened to Nathan and Vin talking to Buck. Chris didn't hear the words, but he could see their effect on the man.
Anger radiated off Wilmington, but he clenched his hands and struggled to regain control. A few minutes passed and Buck finally relaxed his hands and brought his head up to survey the men around him.
"I'm sorry. I guess I kind of lost it in there." The normally jovial eyes were dull with pain and worry.
Ezra reached over and gripped Buck's arm. "You have nothing to apologize for, Mr. Wilmington. Mr. Dunne is important to each of us. His condition has left us feeling inadequate in our valiant efforts at rescue. If I am correct, we each would relish the opportunity to revive him, in any manner that would prove successful."
Jim cleared his throat. "Buck, you have an unorthodox bedside manner, but I think it may have worked."
It took a moment for the words to sink in, but then six men moved as one to the door.
Buck and Chris approached the bed, while the others gathered behind them.
Buck leaned over the bed and placed a hand of the boy's arm. "JD?"
Black lashes fluttered as the youth attempted to open his eyes. "Buu..uck?"
The man sagged with relief. His eyes were bright with tears, but his smile was dazzling.
"Hey, kid. How are you doing?"
"What.. what are you yelling about? Weren't you yelling?" The boy had pried his eyes open and squinted up at the two men. "Chris, why's he yelling? Did I do something wrong?"
Chris shook his head. "No, you didn't do anything wrong, son. You know how Buck gets. You just rest and we can talk later."
"Okay." JD shut his eyes, but opened them again to look at his partner. "Buck, you okay?"
The man wasn't sure of his voice, so he smiled and nodded. He still gripped the arm of his young friend.
"Okay. Do me a favor?"
"Anything, kid." Buck whispered.
"Don't yell anymore. My head's killing me." JD closed his eyes and settled into the bed.
Wilmington glanced upward in a silent prayer. He felt Chris at his shoulder and the others behind him, but could not tear his gaze from the boy in front of him.
Chris inclined his head toward the door as he told Buck, "We're going to go down to the waiting room for a while."
Buck nodded. Glancing over his shoulder, he told the others thanks and made a mental note to make amends later to the very loyal group of men.
+ + + + + + +
Chris and the others sat in the waiting room. He had placed a call to Judge Travis and informed him of the day's events. Orrin asked Chris to send the his regards to Ellison and Banks for their assistance. He told Chris to let Buck he was relieved that JD had been found and would apparently be alright.
After a few minutes, Chris hung up and turned to the others. The blond's face was still streaked with dirt and grim from the digging earlier. Chris could not hide the fatigue he felt. Sitting with slumped shoulders, he addressed the rest of his team.
"Judge asked me to send you four back as soon as possible. Team Eight caught a break in the case we were working on with them. They need us back." Chris sat forward in his chair, his arms draped over his knees. Tired as he was, his eyes conveyed a silent apology to the team.
"I know you're tired, but we have a job to do. Josiah, you're in charge of Team Seven, until I get back. Should be sometime tomorrow. Judge's plane is still at the airport. He said to make use of it to get home. Then meet tomorrow morning in his office to go over the strategy with Kelley and his crew."
"You staying with Buck and the kid until tomorrow?" Vin asked quietly. "Yeah. Just want to make sure they're alright and then I'll head home. Doubt I could get Buck to leave JD here, so I won't even try. When the kid's ready, we'll come back and get them both." Chris smiled a humorless smile. "Have to talk the Judge into parting with his jet again. That way, we can bring that bike home also."
Ezra chuckled. "Yes. I would imagine it would be quite difficult to convince young Mr. Dunne to leave that death machine here. He would more than likely want to journey home astride it. I would envision that Mr. Wilmington would have a fair objection to that."
The thought of JD trying to mount the motorcycle with Buck dragging him back off it brought smiles to the weary men.
Nathan shook his head. "Shame that 'donor cycle' wasn't in the cave with them. Boy is going to kill himself on that thing if he isn't careful."
They all nodded except for Tanner, who sat with his thumbs hooked in his waistband, his legs stretched out in front of him. He simply cocked his head to one side and raised a single eyebrow. "JD is a safe rider. It's the cars you have to worry about. You people drive like you got a grudge against us." Vin's statement was so drolly delivered, with a hint of a smile, that it drew laughter from the four men around him. And the laughter grew. They realized the depth of their relief from the day's events when something mildly amusing had sent them into gales of laughter. Each one wiped tears from his face as they sat laughing together at the stupidity of the outburst. But weak as the joke and silly as the laughter might have been, it felt good to be able to do it.
Chris stood, a smile tugging at the corners of his mouth, and twisted his back to work out the tension. "Guess you boys better be on your way. I'll see you tomorrow."
The group rose and, after shaking hands, departed. Chris followed them to the door and stood watching until they disappeared. He turned and headed back to room 1109 to check on the last two members of his team.
Buck sat and watched the boy as he slept. He still found it hard to believe that the young man in the bed was still so insecure in his position with the team; and in their home, for that matter.
The words 'remember me' ate at his soul. As if he could 'forget' this gift that God had graced him with. JD Dunne was the best thing that had ever come Buck Wilmington's way. He thought the dark haired agent knew that. But apparently, Buck was not as transparent to the kid as he was everyone else.
Wilmington stood when he heard JD start to stir. He stood, leaning over the railing, as the young man's eyelashes fluttered. Hazel glints showed for a moment and disappeared. But Buck could be patient. That patience was rewarded a few minutes later when the lashes once again fluttered and the eyes slowly opened.
JD blinked and glanced around. "Hey."
Buck reached out and pushed errant hair from the pale forehead. He smiled down at the sleepy face that gazed up at him, the eyes blinking slowly. JD licked his lips. It was Buck's cue to reach for the water glass sitting on the table. He bent the straw and placed it close to JD's mouth. The boy drank greedily.
"Whoa, there, kid. There's plenty. Don't want to make yourself sick."
Buck frowned at how weak the boy's voice was. But he was alive and Buck decided that was all that was important at the moment.
"Huh?" He struggled to open his eyes again.
"You feel up to having a little talk?"
"I guess. I'm kinda tired."
Buck patted his partner's arm. "That's okay, kid. We'll talk tomorrow. You rest."
"..k.." He was asleep before he finished talking.
Buck stood and watched the boy sleeping. He rubbed his hand along the boy's forearm, taking comfort in the contact. "Tomorrow, son. Tomorrow, we talk."
+ + + + + + +
Chris let the door slid closed silently. He felt like an intruder in the roommates conversation. He knew Buck needed time with the boy. They needed to repair the damage done to the relationship earlier in the week. Chris was confident that the problem would be resolved. He knew the feelings they had for each other. Buck and JD had never been able to stay mad at each other for too long. They just needed some time.
Walking down the hall, Chris found himself in front of Blair Sandburg's room. He stopped when he heard the soft murmur of voices from within. He knocked softly.
Jim's voice called for him to enter. Chris pushed the door open and walked into the room. "How are you doing, Blair?"
"Hey, Chris. How's JD?" Blair asked. He was sitting up in the bed with a his leg propped up. Though the normally energetic young man looked tired, he looked good for the ordeal he had been through. Chris was heartened by student's appearance.
"He's been awake a couple of times. He's not really alert yet, but he's talked to Buck and that's encouraging."
Blair nodded as Jim watched. The Sentinel kept a close monitor on his guide's stats. He was pleased that Blair had gotten off with as little damage as he had.
Chris stood where he could be seen by both men. "So, how are you?" he asked again.
Blair sat up straighter and pushed hair away from his face. "Hey, I'm good. I slept through most of it all. JD did all the work."
Blair glanced over at Jim, and then continued. "He's a great kid, Chris. I'm not telling you anything that you don't know already. I just have to say it out loud. He worked really hard to get us out and he took good care of me. He only got hurt because he was trying to make sure I was safe first."
Chris listened silently to Blair's praise of JD's behavior. Blair was correct when he said that he wasn't telling Chris anything that he didn't already know. Larabee was well aware of the asset that Dunne was to the team. Then he remembered the letter that the boy had written and marveled at the loss of confidence the act on Monday had instilled in the boy.
Chris stood up to the intense look from Blair for a few minutes, but he finally glanced away. He had the feeling that the grad student was looking right into his soul.
"So, what's the matter? Is it something with JD?"
"He..wrote a letter to Buck." Chris shook his head as he thought of the words he had read.
Blair studied Larabee's face. "I don't know what he wrote, but I am sure that he thought hard about what he said. He thinks the world of you guys. He felt that he let the team down by walking out. He was ashamed."
Chris shook his head. "Damn kid. He has no idea what he means to us."
Blair pinned Chris with an intense blue gaze. "He knows that you all love him. That's what counts."
Chris finally smiled. "He damn well better know it."
The next morning found Buck asleep in the chair next to JD' s bed. JD had awaken to the sound of snoring. He pushed at the veil of sleep that tired to reclaim him. Before turning his head, he knew what he would see. Buck. He reached over and tapped the boot that rested on the bed. He giggled as the foot crashed to the floor and Buck jumped.
"Hey, is that any way to wake a soul?"
"Only if that soul is snoring."
Buck leaned forward. He eyed JD before speaking. "How are you feeling today?"
"Head hurts, but better. How about you? You look tired."
"Hell, kid, I'm fine. You're the one in the hospital."
JD fell back into the pillows. "I .." He took a deep breath. Turning to the older man, he sat up. "Blair.. is Blair okay?"
Buck reached over and placed a hand on JD's arm. "He's fine. He just down the hall. Chris checked on him last night. Jim is keeping an eye on him."
"Jim? He showed up? Blair was so worried. He kept saying Jim would come, but the longer we waited, he seemed to lose hope after a while."
"Ellison called Chris and we headed up. We might not have found ya yet, if not for him."
JD nodded. "Are the guys here?"
"No, sorry, kid. They had to go home, but" Buck saw the disappointment on the boy's face. Gripping the boy's arm to get his attention, "but, as soon as you get released, they'll be back to accompany us home."
Buck saw JD's face struggle to hide his disappointment.
"Son, we need to talk.. about the letter."
The hazel eyes widen and then he looked away for a moment. When he looked back, those eyes glistened with unshed tears. "I wrote it in case..you know.. they found us too late. I had planned on throwing it away if I got out okay."
"JD, do you have any idea what you do for all of us? What you mean to us?"
The dark hair lay in stark contrast against the white pillowcase. When the kid shook his head, the straight lengths slipped from the material to curl toward the pale face of it's owner. "Buck.."
"No, I'm not finished yet. You are an important piece of the team, JD. You can't be replaced. You have to know that."
"No I'm not, Buck. I'm just a kid. I got the job 'cause I'm good at what I do, but there's nothing special about me. Anyone could do the same thing. What do I do that any of you guys can't do?"
Buck grinned. "Hell, kid. You can fix the computers when we screw 'em up."
"Yeah and so could any computer repairman."
"Okay. You help Vin and me with our reports."
"And so do Ezra and Josiah."
Buck's grin dropped some. "You're helping Vin to read better."
JD's head shook. "Ezra is helping also, doing a better job at it, too."
"How about how you help Chris with the stock?"
"And going to the shelters with Josiah?"
"Nathan and you both go down there. Nathan even helps out when Josiah can't go. And he takes Rain with him." JD one-upped Buck.
Buck's smile turned to a frown. "Dammit, boy, why do you have to be so stubborn? You help me at the house. You do laundry and cook and run errands."
"All of which you did before I came, by yourself or by hiring someone."
Buck opened his mouth to say something, but JD's raised hand stopped him.
"And I know what you're going to say. And all the guys watch your back. Just like you watch theirs. There isn't anything special about me."
"Yeah, you're right about one thing, kid. Anyone can watch our backs and help me at home. Anyone can help with reports or computers or teaching others or help at the shelter. But how many people can do ALL those things, JD?" Buck watched as the young man considered what he had said. The look of doubt remained on the young face. "I just don't think that.." Buck jumped to his feet, startling the young man. "Dammit, JD. That's your problem. You DON'T think. Hell, son there ain't nothing special about me, either. "
The anger Buck had displayed flared in the youthful face before him.
"Don't you ever say that to me. You're the most special person I know. You aren't afraid afraid to be yourself. You let your feelings be known about anything important to you. And the hell with what anyone else thinks. That makes you real special, Buck. There isn't another person like you anywhere."
Buck stepped forward and placed his finger on the boy's chest. "And the same goes for you, too, JD." Buck's voice was low and whispered. But he could not have gotten his point across any better if he had screamed it.
JD's face flushed and his mouth opened and closed a couple of times as if he couldn't get the words to come out. Buck's face relaxed and he sat with one hip on the bed as he placed a hand on the kid's chest.
"JD, you are special. You are my family. At this point, you are the most important person in my life. I'm not saying that will always be. Things change whether we want them to or not. But believe me when I tell you-you will always be special and irreplaceable in my life. The same applies to the others as well. You brought a light into all our lives, not just mine. Chris opened up to others after you came. Vin relaxes around you more than any of us. Ezra trusts more now. And Josiah and Nathan, well, they count you as a little brother, just like the others."
Reaching up, Buck placed a hand on the red tinged cheek and wiped away a tear that ran along the narrow, turned up nose. "Don't try to tell me who is and isn't special, son. Not ever again, cause if you can't see how special that you are to us.. well, just take my word for it . you're one of a kind, kiddo."
JD sat quietly for a moment. Then he sat up and wrapped an arm around the man he looked to as the best friend anyone could have. And he had him. "Sorry about walking out like I did" JD started. He was stopped when Buck placed a hand over his mouth.
"Don't. What you felt and did were honest emotions. I was the one scared to admit being afraid. I never thought about what you were feeling. I wasn't a very good friend. But not anymore. I'll try to listen more closely." Buck told him. "I got checked after you left. It wasn't cancerous. Doc removed the mole with no problem."
JD looked at the man sitting next to him. He raised the head of the bed and motioned Buck closer. Buck leaned forward. JD reached up and punched the man on the arm.
Buck jumped off the bed, gripping his arm. "Damn, JD. What did you do that for?"
"What for? For all the trouble you caused. You could have had that test done weeks ago and saved us both a lot of trouble."
Buck laughed when he saw the anger on JD's face. "Sorry, kid. You're right."
He reached over and extended his hand. JD took it and was pulled into a big hug. "Welcome back, kid."
"Buck, I can't breathe." But the giggle belied the statement. The two roommates pulled away from each other.
"Welcome back, kid."
The ten men sat around the camp in various stages of repose. Team Seven of the ATF had been invited to Cascade for the weekend. Jim and Blair had arrived at the campsite a day early and gone fishing. The two men wanted to be sure to have plenty of fish for the dinner the next day.
JD lay under a tree with his ankles crossed and his hands supporting his head. "Man, Blair, Jim was right. You are a fantastic cook. That's the best fish I've ever had."
"I'd have to agree, Blair. Outdoor cooking is an art. You, sir, are an artist." Vin told the smiling grad student.
Jim, walking past, grabbed the younger man by the shoulders and gave them a squeeze. Blair hunched down, trying to escape the firm grip.
" Oww. Watch the hair, man." He flipped some curly hair back as he danced away from the detective. "You do not want to mess with the hair." Josiah called out from his relaxed position leaning against the tree that shaded JD. "Boy has always had a fetish about that hair."
"Hey! My mom always loved my hair" the young man protested.
"She's your mom, Chief. She would lie to you." The detective stated.
Blair's gap mouthed expression brought laughter from the rest of the group.
"Alright, alright. This is just another example of police harassment. Ganging up the civilian observer." Blair ducked as he was pelted by wadded up napkins and little twigs.
The men all lounged and enjoyed the leisurely day. Chris and Simon discussed procedural differences in their respective offices. Jim and Vin reminisced about their time in the service. Buck and Ezra along with Nathan were engaged in a friendly game of chance. Blair and Josiah talked about Naomi and her current location. JD slept.
The afternoon was still early when the youngest member of Team 7 stood and stretched. He glanced around, locating Blair.
"Blair, you ready?"
The anthropologist jumped up and approached. "Yeah. Let's go."
Jim Ellison's and Buck Wilmington's heads snap around to the departing backs of their young friends.
"Where do you think you're going, Chief?" the detective called out.
"JD and I were going climbing."
"Climbing? You don't like heights, Sandburg. Or have you forgot?"
"Noo" the guide called back. "We were going part way up. I'm not going to the top."
"I didn't think so." The Sentinel smugly said.
"JD's going to the top."
Buck laid his cards down and leaned forward. "The hell you are."
"I'll be careful."
That comment drew a guttural noise from Chris, not unlike a snort. Buck glanced over and caught sight of superior smile on the man's face.
"And just what the hell was that sound for?" Buck asked belligerently.
"He's an adult, Buck. You can't tell him what he can or can't do."
"Chris, he just came off medical leave from the last time he was here. I don't think he needs to be climbing around some mountain, hanging from a rope."
"Oh, I'm not going to hang from a rope, Buck. I was going to try free climbing."
Buck jumped up and placed his hands on his hips. "Oh, no. Free climbing? Or you crazy?"
"No. I'm not crazy. Just thought it sounded like fun. Besides, Vin's going to show me how."
That brought Larabee to his feet. "The hell he is."
Now it was Buck's turn to snort. "He's an adult, Chris."
"Shut up, Buck." Chris looked at Vin. "If you think I'm going to let you two trouble magnets go off into the wilderness with Cascade's number one trouble magnet, you're as mistaken as Ezra thinking I'm okaying payment for that behemoth he drove up here."
This brought Ezra into the discussion. "Correct me if I am misguided in stating, Mr. Larabee, that we discussed renting a vehicle in which to travel to this forsaken location."
"Yes, Ezra, we discussed renting a vehicle. Not a 45 ft land yacht, complete with a satellite dish and fully stocked bar."
"Surely, sir, you do not expect me to sleep in a bag in a canvas cocoon?"
Vin and Blair and JD looked at each other.
"Fully stocked bar?"
"The NASCAR race is on."
As one they made a bee line for the RV. Their dash was unnoticed until they were almost to the vehicle.
Ezra noticed them first. "NO! I am responsible for that motor vehicle and you are not about to trash it." Ezra took off in a sprint to intercept the three. He didn't make it.
They dove inside and locked the door behind them.
"It will do you no good, as I have the keys in my possession, Mr. Tanner."
Ezra stood in front of the large windshield, dangling the keys in front of the trapped men, smiling in an arrogant manner. The smile disappeared as he saw the feral grin on Vin's face. The sharpshooter sat in the drivers seat and dropped down below view.
"Mr. Tanner, do not even think about hot wiring that vehicle. I have assured the rental agency that no harm will come to this coach."
Vin's head popped into view. His expression had cold chills running up Standish's spine.
"Vin, you damage that steering column, and you will pay for the deposit and all repairs."
From inside, Ezra heard Tanner call out, "You can't blood out of a turnip, Ez." And the engine turned over and purred into life. JD and Blair could be seen through the windshield, lounging in the back, their feet propped on the couches.
Vin dropped the vehicle into gear and slowly moved forward, forcing Ezra to back up and finally step out of the way.
The team undercover agent fumed as the slow moving vehicle lumbered down the road. Ezra stamped his foot and took off in a trot after the motor coach and the men it contained.
"I may not be able to get blood from a turnip, but I can certainly get blood from a Tanner."
The six remaining men shook their heads as they watched the scene play out.
Buck turned to Chris. "Well, at least they ain't climbing a mountain." Chris nodded. Jim stood beside him, smiling. Behind them, someone coughed.
Simon spoke softly and pointed down the road with his cigar. "Jim? Isn't that road the one that has a washed out bridge?"
Jim, Chris, and Buck turned to look first at Simon and then the vanishing RV.
"Oh, hell." Buck whispered.
Nathan and Josiah were laughing hard, making it necessary to hold each other up, while Simon shook his head. Four men running after a RV. Why didn't they just get in Jim's truck?
Children make you crazy, he decided.
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