A Christmas Tree twinkled, sending dancing shafts of coloured
lights across the threesome cuddled on the couch.
'This is called Jesus' Christmas Party', and it was written by Nicholas Allen.'
Josiah's low voice rumbled out and the two little boys looked at him expectantly.
He settled more comfortably in his seat, a child on each knee and began to
There was nothing the Inkeeper liked better than a good night's sleep.
But that night there was a knock at the door.
Four years earlier..
New Years Day
Damn but it was cold.
Josiah Sanchez leaned forward and threw another log on the fire, taking a
quick glance out the window at the swirling snow before going back to his
book. Team 7 had had a particularly rough series of cases. They'd been working
for months without a real break and finally Orrin Travis had ordered the
whole team to take a well earned vacation, running from Christmas Eve to
The whole group had gathered, as usual, at Chris's ranch house for the holiday
They had had a mad day trying to keep the hoards of toddlers from eating
the Christmas decorations or throwing up on every surface, horizontal or
vertical. They had even manage to prevent them from killing each other as
they fought for possession of the much sought after cardboard boxes the expensive
gifts had packed in.
Nathan and Rain, Kezzie and Angel, the medically inclined of the family had
been kept busy exercising their skills.
At one point Nathan had held tight to a squirming Sarah Wilmington while
Kezzie attempted to remove the pretzel shoved up her nose by her twin, Alexandra.
At the same moment, Angel had been bandaging Liam Dunne's head where Ellie
Standish had clocked him a good one with the toy trumpet given to her by
her 'Big' cousin Billy. Meanwhile, Rain had been trying to keep Adam Tanner
awake, after he'd slipped and cracked his head on the wet bathroom floor.
He and his sidekicks, Joey Jackson and Vince Larabee, had decided that perhaps
Mary wouldn't like the decorative lines they had painted with stripy toothpaste
all over her bathroom and gone a bit mad with the water trying to destroy
Fortunately, ten year old Billy Travis and newborn Christo' Tanner, were
remarkably trouble free. The other seven, all toddlers, were more than a
match for their parents and Josiah, as doting Uncle, had sat back and watched
the entertainment, free from the responsibility. He loved all those kids,
and his brothers and sisters, he'd couldn't ask for more.
After a heavy night - if the hangover he had this moring was anything to
go by since he couldn't recall much of the latter part of the evening - he
resolved to spend the first day of the new year quietly at home, with a book.
Josiah sipped at his whiskey and reached to turn the page.
There was a pounding on the door.
No point in calling it a knock, it was definately pounding.
Putting his book aside he headed across the living room of his 'seen-better-days'
cabin and cautiously opened the door.
A young woman stood on his doorstep, shivering uncontrollably. Liquid brown
eyes looked up at him from under the sodden tendrils of black hair and she
whispered, 'Sir, please, help me...'
Catching her as her legs buckled Josiah drew her into the warmth of the cabin,
casting a quick look up and down the empty street to check for danger, or
perhaps another victim of the hellish snowstorm.
Wrapping the woman in his blanket and setting her before the fire, he hurried
to the kitchen, returning with a steaming cup of cocoa. Easing the shivering
form prone against his chest as he sat on the rug he enouraged her to sip
at the hot fluid.
After a while the woman stopped shivering and looked at him with grateful,
almond shaped eyes. 'Thank you.'
'Sister, you are very welcome to whatever assistance I can offer you. Right
now perhaps you had better change from those wet clothes and take a hot shower.
I'll get the water running and see if I can find you something suitable to
wear.' He shifted from behind her and disappeared into the single bedroom.
Sorting though the clothes he kept in his house for his colleagues, left
over from the times when they needed watching, he dug out a pair of JD's
jeans, a warm sweatshirt that he thought was probably Chris's since it was
black, a t-shirt of Vin's and some of Ezra's thick socks.
Having started the shower and made sure it was running warm, he returned
to the fireplace and helped the girl to stand, handing her the motley assortment
of clothes. 'Shower and change, I'll make you some hot soup and you'll be
feeling better soon.' He held up his hand as she began to speak, alarmed
that she suddenly jerked backwards. He let go of her arm and said gently,
'I won't hurt you, but don't talk yet, it can wait until you've eaten. Go
now, the water won't last too long.'
The woman looked at him, fear and hope in her eyes, and then turned to do
as he said when he made a shooing motion with his hands.
Thirty minutes later saw the huge man and the small woman sitting in comfortable
silence at the small kitchen table, empty soup bowls between them.
'Would you like some coffee?' Receiving her assent he ushered her towards
the couch and made their drinks.
She looked up at him as he handed her a mug emblazoned 'I drink, therefore
I am' which had been a gift from Nathan and Rain.
'My name. Josiah Sanchez.'
She smiled at his tenacity. 'Very well. Josiah. I am Li Pong.'
'Pleased to meet you Li, or is it Pong? I am never quite sure with Chinese
'Li Pong Mai. As you are Josiah, I am Li Pong.'
'Ah.' Josiah sipped at his coffee and watched her in the flickering firelight.
'I am sorry for intruding on you. I have had some difficulties which I am
trying to deal with and I am grateful for your kindness.'
'Perhaps I can be of further assistance?'
'No. Thank you. My problems are of my own making, I must deal with them myself.'
'Are you sure? I can be a good listener, Li Pong, perhaps it would be better
to have it out in the open. A problem shared is a problem halved.'
The black hair fell across her face as she shook her head, eyes focussed
on the dancing flames in the fireplace. There ensued a long companionable
silence, disturbed only by the crackling and spitting of the burning logs.
Eventually she lifted her head and looked at her host, searching his face.
She sighed heavily.
'I will trust you.'
Josiah smiled at her encouragingly.
'Josiah Sanchez. You understand that sometimes, by wishing something is one
way, one cannot see that which really is? If one looks only for good, one
can be blinded to the evil that is all around?'
Josiah nodded thoughtfully.
'I come from an Asian community in San Francisco. As in any community, there
are many evil men there but I was naive to them, protected by my family.
One day a rich man came to our restaurant and offered employment, good jobs
in the travel industry, to myself and my cousin, Mei Ling. We both wanted
to believe and we foolishly left our home and worked for this man, against
the wishes of our parents.'
She sat silent and Josiah patiently waited for her to continue.
'For a while we did secretarial tasks, translating Chinese into English and
back again. We were happy to be together, away from our home, free. Gradually
we realized all was not as it seemed. Mei Ling wanted to leave, she feared
that which we did not fully understand. I... I was... curious. I needed to
know what was going on. You have a saying, 'Curiosity killed the cat.' She
cast her eyes down. 'It is wrong. Curiosity killed Mei Ling.'
Looking up, Li Pong searched Josiah's face but saw nothing but compassion.
'I am sorry,' he rumbled and she nodded.
'We did not really find anything. It was as smoke, shifting, elusive. We
could not see clearly. Every time we reached out to grasp, the pattern would
change. One day, at my urging, Mei Ling entered the office of our boss, to
'dust'. We had been forbidden to enter his room. He caught her looking through
his desk. I was in another office and when I returned I was taken to see
my cousin's beaten body. I could not escape. Even if I had, I knew there
was nowhere to go. I had seen enough to know they had protection from the
police. I was forced to live on the premises, to act as assistant to the
man who had murdered my cousin. On the surface he is a powerful Chinese American
businessman dealing in imports and exports to China. It is all a facade.'
'Ki.., this man, he is an importer, Josiah, that is true. But his shipments
'He is involved in illegal immigration?'
'Not exactly.' Li Pong regarded him sadly. 'People pay their life savings
to come to America, for a new life. The new life they have is one of slavery
and degredation. I have seen the factories, the workers, some just young
children, who produce cheap goods for the American market. When the label
says 'Made in China', sometimes it just means 'Made by Chinese'.
'The man began to beat me and I feared for my life. A week ago I managed
to slip free and I ran. He is hunting me. I cannot return to my family, I
know that they are watched. Tomorrow I will leave here and move on. I do
not wish for you to do anything, I tell you my story only because of your
kindness, and because you asked. You are indeed a good listener.' She smiled
softly at him.
'Li Pong, I am grateful you feel able to talk to me, and I appreciate your
trust. Will you trust me to help you?'
'Josiah Sanchez, I do not wish for you to endanger yourself...' She looked
quizically at him as he gave a deep rumbling belly laugh.
'Little woman, endangering myself is something I do all the time. I work
in a dangerous field, but I am good at what I do, please, trust me to help
'Josiah, you have a powerful chi, but are but one man. I could not ask you
to risk your life. I will manage.'
'I may be but one man, but I have six friends who can be very dangerous men.
They also possess powerful chis. We work for the government, our work means
taking down men just like the one you described to me. May I introduce them
Li Pong gaped at him. 'A group of seven, with chis to match your own? Perhaps,
Josiah Sanchez, it was fate that led me to your door. I will meet them. We
will talk again but I must decide if we fight or if I run. Do you agree?'
'Sister, you will make the right choice.' They shook hands and lapsed into
The Larabee Ranch
'Brother Chris, good to see you. Is everyone here?'
Chris looked curiously at the young asian, but didn't comment beyond showing
them into the hall.
'Yes, the boys are all here. Rain, Bella and Casey are babysitting all the
Kids at the Tanners while Mary, Angel and Kezzie hit the sales. Those three
shopping together gives me chills.' He shivered dramatically and Josiah laughed.
All the assembled Agents looked up as Li Pong and Josiah were shown into
the Great room. The dainty chinese girl closely examined each man.
Closest to her, on a couch, an African American smiled at her with soft brown
eyes. She studied his face. He was a carer, but a fierce opponent when it
came to protecting his friends, she decided.
At the far end of the sofa was another large man, handsome with a broad moustache
and a twinkle in his eyes. He winked at her. This was a man driven by his
heart, loyal and strong. A defender of the weak. She could see that he would
be often drawn into conflict to protect the innocent.
Between the two sat a much younger man, dark bangs falling into his big brown
eyes. Still with the restlessness of youth, he displayed intelligence and
honesty, determination and drive.
Lounging on the floor was a wiry, scruffy cowboy with wise eyes. She ran
her glance over the square jaw and saw a survivor, toughened by experience
but with a guileless beauty of spirit and a quick mind. Behind the twinkling
blue eyes she detected a wicked sense of humor.
The last man, the only one to have risen to his feet as they entered, was
small and compact. His face seemed blank and she had to look closely to see
his chi. Emerald green eyes watched her keenly. This man was smart and cunning,
but selfless and sensitive to emotional pain.
She turned back to the man in black, their host. His chi seemed to match
his clothing. This man was strong, a leader, quick witted and lethal. He
was fiercely protective of his loved ones and cared deeply when he allowed
his emotions to lead him. Not a man to be crossed she perceived him to be
the most dangerous of them all.
Li pong turned to Josiah. 'You are correct, Josiah Sanchez, you have power
in this group and great strength in your oneness.'
Chris raised his eyebrows at his profiler who shrugged.
'Boys, this is Li Pong. She has a problem we can help her with.' He went
on to explain how Li Pong had arrived on his porch and the story she had
told him the previous evening.
Chris sat silent during the telling and watched his team for their reactions.
'We can do something for the little lady can't we Pard?' Predictable
'Ain't exactly our territory Chris, but that never stopped us before.'
Nathan, Championing of the underdog.
'You can clear this with Travis right Chris?' JD, always believing Chris
could do anything.
'Perhaps some further research would be advisable.' Ezra, always needing
all the facts before committing himself.
Vin just raised his eyebrow and smiled lopsidedly. Come on Cowboy, let's
hear the plan.
Chris took control.
'Okay. Li Pong, we need the name of this man and any further information
you can give us, the names of his associates, businesses, any small details,
even if you think they are unimportant. Talk to Buck and Josiah, give them
what you have. JD, get on the computer and see what you can dig up. Ezra,
Vin go to the store and find some clothes and stuff for our guest. You've
been married long enough to know what to get. I think she'd be the same size
as Kezzie.' Ezra looked at the girl in the oversized clothes and nodded.
'Nathan, she's been through a hell of an ordeal. Perhaps you'd better check
Team 7 rose as one and went to work.
Josiah smiled down at his guest who gazed back stunned. 'They don't even
'Li Pong, my friends are good men. They would not want to see their own womenfolk
suffer the way you have and they are good at what they do. Let them help.'
By the time the Mary arrived home with Billy, Vince and a car load of packages,
a plan was in place to destroy Kim Chow Sung. They had Three days left of
their vacation before they had to tell AD Travis anything.
Mary was insisting that Li Pong stayed at the ranch as their guest.
'Josiah, Li Pong needs somewhere to stay, she can't go home with you, you
only have one room and we have plenty of space.'
'Mary, my dear.'
Li Pong smiled. 'Thank you. Mary, I really would prefer to stay with Josiah,
I am a liability. Kim Chow could find me and your children could be put in
danger. It is better.'
'She's right Mare.' Mary glared at her brother-in-Law at the diminutive.
'Mr Tanner, why is two syllables so difficult?'
Vin ignored him. 'Neither of ya should go ta Josiah's - She may have bin
follered.' There was a pause as they considered this. 'I still got the apartment
in Purgatorio. Ya can use that as a safehouse. I kin git the kids ta keep
a watch out, see if'n any strangers appear.' Vin's old apartment was used
by a gang of teenagers as a base, keeping them off the streets. They were
Vin's own 'gang' and he usually managed to steer them away from serious trouble.
Mary was non-plussed.
'That would be good brother, thank you.' Josiah placed his hand under her
elbow. 'Li Pong?'
'As you wish Josiah. I am concerned though that your brothers may need your
assistance. I am sure I will be fine in Mr Tanner's apartment, you do not
need to watch over me all the time.' Josiah's role in the 'case' was to protect
'I think Josiah would rather ensure your well-being, my dear, and we will
be better able to perform our assigned tasks without having to concern ourselves
with your safety.'
Eventually they were able to persuade the young woman that they were able
to function without their Profiler's presence and the couple left.
As they stepped out into the snow Josiah turned to Chris.
'You will keep me informed of your progress brother?'
'Don't worry Josiah. We'll let you know what's happening every step of the
way. You just look after that little girl.' Josiah nodded and joined his
guest in Vin's old jeep.
Vin's Apartment, Purgatorio
Li Pong sat at the window staring out into the snowy night.
The big profiler approached and stood leaning against the windowframe.
'That was a fine meal Li Pong.'
'I grew up in a restaurant Josiah.' She grinned at him. 'You expected roasted
Dog? Only the Koreans still eat that.'
Josiah laughed. 'So tell me about yourself, are you American born or an
'I am American born. My father was an American soldier, he left my mother
pregnant after the War. She decided to come to America to find him and I
was born shortly after she arrived.'
'You aren't Chinese are you?' Josiah knew the answer before he voiced the
'No. I am from Vietnam.' She looked up into the profiler's face. 'There were
many mixed race children, and they were not kindly treated. My mother wanted
more for her child. She arrived destitute and was taken in by a family of
immigrant Chinese. They accepted us as their own and became our family. I
have seen you with your 'brothers', you know better than most how an adopted
family can be.'
Josiah smiled ruefully. 'I do indeed. Though I seriously doubt that there
any any others out there like mine!'
Li Pong laughed. 'Let's hope not.'
Josiah moved to the kitchen and poured them each some coffee. Handing her
the mug, he folded himself into the tatty old couch.
'So what happened to your mother?'
Li pong sighed. 'She never found him and she never married. She is only 40
years old but she still loves my father. She will not even consider moving
on with her life.'
They lapsed into silence, both lost in memories.
'I was in Laos. I wasn't a soldier, I did missionary work, flying an aid
helicopter. I saw quite a lot of action over the border though and I helped
out with airlifting the wounded from both sides whenever I could.' He smiled
at his companion. 'Those were dangerous and chaotic times. Many men found
comfort and love with local girls, only to be torn from them by death or
duty. Perhaps your father was one of those.'
'Perhaps. Did you... I mean...'
'Did I have someone special? Yes. We were separated in the confusion. It
was a long time ago.'
There was a soft knock at the door and a call of 'Chris coming in.' A rattle
of keys followed and the door opened to admit the rest of Josiah's team.
Everyone piled into the room and found themselves somewhere to sit, taking
the beers handed out by Buck. Josiah and Li Pong waited for everyone to get
settled and then looked at them expectantly.
'Well?' He boomed.
'That was quite a piece of work you got yourself mixed up with Miss.' Buck
smiled at the young asian.
'Was, Mr Wilmington?'
'Ya can call me Buck darlin', and yeah, was. No two bit slave dealer was
a match for 'The Magnificent Seven'. We are the best of the best ya know!'
'You're so full of crap Buck. Sorry Ma'am.' JD apologised for his language
even as he dodged the cuff on the head from Wilmington. He was getting better
at that, he'd had lots of practice. Unfortunately he didn't see the look
that his mentor had exchanged with Ezra and was startled by the clip round
the ear from the undercover agent.
'Thanks Ez.' Buck chuckled at the expression of satisfaction on Standish's
'Hey you can't do that by proxy!' JD was indignant.
'Sure I can kid. That's what brothers are for!' JD scowled Buck before turning
to glare at Ezra who grinned back disarmingly.
'I will admit that being propelled kicking and screaming into this bizarre
family has had it's benefits. I can comprehend you reasons for the constant
physical repremands, Mr Wilmington, that was very therapeutic.' Ezra grinned
at JD who gaped at him.
'Ez. You're not gonna keep doing that are you? Buck is bad enough.'
'I believe once was enough Mr Dunne.' JD's expression of relief was short
lived. 'However, perhaps our compatriates would like to sample the experience.'
JD blanched and swallowed. 'God I hope not.'
'Chris, what happened?' Josiah ignored the 'kids' and focussed on Larabee.
'It's over Josiah, everything went exactly according to plan, for once, except...
Standish what was that whole thing with the card game?'
'Mr Larabee, on discovering Mr Sung's penchance for games of chance, we indulged
in a straightforward hand of poker..'
'Ez, We've played poker with you. And nothing you ever do is straightforward.'
'Mr Jackson I resent the implication...'
'Ya always do Ez. Jest tell us how much ya took 'im fer.'
'My winnings are none of your concern Mr Tanner.' Standish fiddled with the
cuffs of his jacket causing the others to get even mose suspicious.
'Ezra don't make me shoot you.' Chris mock glared at Ezra. Damn Southerner
could sniff out a poker game in a nunnery.
'Mr Larabee, my profit was not monetary, and, as I informed you, is none
of your concern. However,' Ezra gave in to the inevitable and spilled his
guts, 'they may be of some interest to Miss Li Pong.' He turned to the little
dark-haired woman who looked at him questioningly.
'Did you perhaps leave something behind when you effected your emancipation
from the nefarious Mr Sung?'
Li Pong looked confused. 'I don't think so. What do you mean?'
Ezra reached into his pocket and extracted his cell-phone. Flipping it open
he dialed. 'Kezzie, my darling, could you please bring the package up to
Mr Tanner's apartment? Thank you.' He flicked his phone closed and smiled
smugly. Holding up his hands he motioned that they should wait. Ezra moved
to stand by the door.
Presently the sound of movement came from beyond the confines of the apartment.
The door opened to admit Ezra's wife.
'Hello, Babe', she kissed her husband. 'Boys.' They all nodded to her. 'You
must be Li Pong. I'm Kezzie Standish. My husband gave me something to keep
safe for you.' Smiling at the other woman she moved further into the apartment
and looked expectantly towards the open door. 'You can come in now.'
Everyone turned to look.
There in the doorway stood another girl, approximately the same age as Li
Pong, blue-black hair swinging in a shiny bob.
'Mei Ling? MEI LING?'
Li Pong rushed across and hugged her cousin who winced.
'How? I mean..' Li Pong, along with everyone else looked to the undercover
agent who now sat with his wife on his knee.
Ezra smiled as he carded his fingers through Kezzie's own black locks. 'I
won her in that card game. It seemed that she had been moved to one of the
factories as a 'worker' once she had regained her strength from the beating
she had endured. When you were shown her body, she was just unconcious.'
'You kept this to yourself?' Chris glared at Standish.
'That's my Ezra. More than just cards up his sleeves.' Kezzie giggled as
her indignant husband tickled her ribs.
'Keziah, are you casting aspertions upon my stellar reputation?' Kezzie giggled
'Yeah Right Ez.' Tanner grinned at his friend.
'Little Brother, you are always full of surprises.' Josiah looked at the
two happy young women. 'Don't ever change.'
Ezra acknowledged him with his trademark two fingered salute and went back
to tormenting his wife.
'Sisters, would you like to call your family? They must be very concerned
for your welfare.' He handed over his cell and indicated that they should
move into the bedroom to complete their call privately.
By the time they returned only Josiah remained. Li Pong gave him a long searching
look, as if seeing him for the first time.
The profiler shook off the uneasy feeling of being under a microscope.
'If you ladies are ready, Chris and Mary are expecting us at the ranch.'
They gathered their belongings and headed out to the car.
For the first part of the trip Josiah focussed on the snowy roads. The two
youngsters sat in the back prattling on at each other in Chinese. Josiah
felt more than saw the continuous looks thown his way.
During a lull, Josiah asked, 'How are your parents? I expect they were relieved
to hear you are safe.' He watched in the rearview mirror as the two exchanged
'My mother and Mei's father will be flying to Denver in the morning to get
us. They want to thank you all personally for your help.'
Josiah briefly turned his head to look at Li Pong. 'We don't need...'
'Please Josiah. We will collect them from the airport and bring them to the
Ranch, if that is alright with Mr and Mrs Larabee. If you could arrange for
everyone to be there, we would be grateful.'
'I expect that would be alright. I'll talk to Brother Chris when we get there.'
As the old suburban, with it's four passengers, pulled
up in the yard a cry went up.
'Billy! Vince! Adam! Joey! Sarah! Alex! Liam! Ellie! Lunchtiiiiime!' Mary
Travis Larabee stood on the step of the front porch with her hands on her
hips and yelled for all the kids to come in to eat.
Eight laughing, bedraggled kids in wet snowsuits approached. They were followed
by four equally grinning bigger kids.
'Round the back all of you. Take off those wet things in the mud room. Aunt
Bella and Aunt Casey will help you. Hurry up all of you. Grandma Evie made
Chicken and dumplings and Grandma Nettie made peach pie for dessert.' There
was a sudden stampede for the back door.
Mary looked over the heads of the wet men at their guests.
'Li Pong, Mei Ling. You made good time,' Mary turned to the older people.
'Welcome, I'm Mary Larabee and these yeti's are my husband, Chris Larabee,
and his brothers, Vin Tanner, Buck Wilmington and JD Dunne.' Each man nodded
as she introduced them. 'Please come inside and meet the others.'
Turning on the men who made to follow through the front door she frowned
at them. 'Not you heathens. Round the back. Go on all of you. Don't give
me that look JD. Just do as I tell you.' Four sheepish trained killers obeyed.
The visitors laughed as they moved inside.
Li Pong Laughed. 'Just call them all by their first names mama. Believe me,
it will save time!' She turned to Mary and introduced her mother and Uncle.
Mary helped her guests off with their coats, hanging them with the wide
assortment already in residence, and retrieved Josiah's car keys. 'Follow
me please. Everyone is waiting to meet you.'
Making their way into the Great room Mary was surprised to find all the men
and their wives present. Ezra read her expression.
'Grandma Evie and Grandma Nettie decided that we were superfluous to
'You mean Vin and JD were trying to eat the kid's dinner again.' Angel Tanner,
as usual sitting on her husband's lap on the rocking chair, grinned at the
spluttering sharpshooter and poked him in the chest.
'Angel! Cut it out. I'm not one o' the kids ya know!'
The women exchanged knowing looks. 'That's what you claim!'
Mary cleared her thoat. 'Children!'
Honestly, sometimes being married to 'Dad', made her honorary 'Mom' to this
motley group of kindergardeners. Billy and Vince were angels in comparison
to the big kids.
'We have guests.' Mary moved aside to admit the four newcomers.
Josiah choked on his whiskey and Nathan dutifully pounded him on the back.
'Careful there Josiah. You should drink it not inhale it.'
Josiah coughed and wiped his tearing eyes. He didn't look at the medic pounding
a tatoo on his back but watched as the older asian woman, Li Pong's mother,
crossed the room towards him.
The other three smiled at his startlement.
'Hello, Joe Zai Ah.' She pronounced his name as three individual parts, as
if he too had a Chinese moniker.
'Chin Lo?' Josiah rose to his feet and towered over the dainty woman as he
took her in his arms and hugged her. She hugged him back equally hard.
'I thought you were gone, I prayed for your soul.' Josiah took a step back
and held her hands.
'I come to 'Merica. I long time look for you. Now I find you by mistake.'
She smiled at him.
'Never a mistake. I Loved you.'
'And I you, Joe Zai Ah.'
The reunited couple smiled at each other and there were sighs from the women.
'Then Li Pong, she's...?' Josiah looked across at the younger woman who regarded
them with tears in her eyes.
Josiah held his hand out to his daughter who ran to him and was swept into
his arms. Hugging her and then setting her back on her feet he looked from
his daughter to her mother and back again.
'Did you know, when you arrived on my doorstep?'
'No. It was yesterday, when I called mama to tell her that we were Okay.
I told her I had been rescued by a big blue eyed American with a powerful
chi, and when I said your name she nearly deafened me with her shouting!'
She looked at her parents, seeing them together for the first time. Her quiet
mother, tiny and gentle, and the huge bear of a man she could now call father.
'I never thought this day would come. I was fated to find you and bring you
'Uncle Joe, that's the second time someone has dropped out of your past,'
Bella smiled at her godfather.
'It is becoming increasingly apparent that you are destined to experience
an excess of serendipidous encounters, Mr Sanchez.'
Everyone gawped at Ezra.
Chris laughed, looking slightly confused. 'Ez, that was a mouthful even for
'Er, Kez?' Kezzie looked over at Vin. 'What's that in English?'
'He has more than his fair share of chance meetings Vin.'
'Jez, why didn't he just say that?' JD shook his head at Ezra.
'See, ya do know some little words.' Ezra poked his tongue out at Vin childishly
and Vin replied with a hand gesture which meant the same thing, if crudely.
'Look Ez and Vin are doin' the silent communication thing!' Buck.
'Oh God. it's contagious!' Nathan.
'I can quarrantine them in the barn if you think it's necessary Nathan.'
Chris grinned evilly at his Agents who turned on him, proving just how many
hand gestures they had in their silent vocabulary.
'Yes Chris, but you'd be out there with them!'
Chris looked up at Mary. His submissive 'Yes dear.' and saucy wink set everyone
Meanwhile, Josiah had drawn Chin Lo down beside him on the couch.
'Is it... I would still like to... make an honest woman of you, Chin Lo,
if you'll have me.'
''You ask me before to Marry you Joe Zai Ah. I not change my mind.'
Josiah looked down at Chin's hand and saw the small diamond he had placed
there himself more than twenty years before.
'Papa?' Josiah looked up from the book to see his daughter
standing in the doorway.
'They are both asleep. Mama sent me to get you. Here let me take Samuel.'
Li Pong gently took her son from his grandfather's lap. 'She is waiting for
you in the den.' She disappeared up the stairs, the sleeping child draped
over her shoulder.
The big man sat silently for a while, enjoying cuddling the remaining child.
Eventually Chin came to find him.
'Joe Zai Ah.'
He started and looked up guiltily. 'I know Chin, I know. I can't hold him
all night. It's just that I missed so much with Li and he's growing up so
Chin stepped forward and eased Nathaniel from his father's arms.
'Go to the Den, Joe Zai Ah. I need to talk with you.' Smiling to soften her
words she padded up the stairs to put the three year old to bed.
Josiah was not surprised to find the room alight with candles. His wife preferred
to light her life with flickering flame than with harsh unnatural light.
He was, however, surprised by the bed made up on the floor in front of the
He turned to Chin as she came up behind him and wrapped her arms around his
'I not getting younger Joe Zai Ah. I think if Nathaniel is to have a playmate
we need to get to work.' Smiling at his lustful expression she dropped her
eyes and began to slowly peel off her clothes.
It wasn't until much later that the profiler remembered that, considering
his family, young Nathaniel was never short of playmates!