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16 - 18
"About time you boys got finished flirting with them women," Buck teased as Brick and Vin joined them. "The kids are all ready to play."
"Well lets get started," Vin said as he grabbed a bat.
The kids cheered and the teams ran out onto the field. The teams were made up of both adults and children of both sexes. This gave the parents a chance to play with their kids. The coin had been tossed to see who would be in the outfield first and Vins team had won the toss. They chose to be in the field first. Chris was the pitcher; Vin was second base with Brick next to him as short stop. Tommy Little, the neighborhood little league champ, was on first with JD covering third. Buck, Ezra, Nathan and the rest of the kids were in outfield while Josiah was the catcher. The first batter up was a little girl who couldnt be more than five. Her mom stood behind her and helped hold the bat. Chris lobbed one in nice and easy and they swung. The ball was hit and the mother told her daughter to run to Tommy. The little girl did while Josiah pretended he couldnt find the ball even though it was right in front of him on the ground. The little girl made it to first and hugged Tommy.
"Now where did that ball go?" Josiah asked looking in the sky.
"Here it is," said the next batter up as he handed the ball to Josiah causing everyone laughed.
The game progressed in this matter for the rest of the early afternoon. Finally Vins team was the last one up in the last inning of the game. Bases were loaded with Josiah on first, Brick on second and the five-year-old Lydia on third. Vin was up to bat and the pitcher got down to business. If all these runs came in Vins team would win. The pitcher was determined that wouldnt happen. He threw the ball and Vin hit it for all he was worth. The ball was a high fly ball. Everyone held his or her breath to see if it would be caught. When it wasnt Brick began to run. Lydias mom yelled for her to run too but she was too slow compared to Brick. Brick came up behind her and scoop her into his arms and continued running. Everyone laughed as Josiah caught up to Brick and picked both of them up and headed for home.
"Run, Josiah, run!" Vin yelled when he saw the ball was thrown towards the pitcher.
Josiah made it home just as the catcher caught the ball. The umpire declared them safe and everyone cheered. Everyone broke up to have some thing to eat before the adults would get down to business. Everyone was still laughing as they gathered around the picnic tables for hotdogs and hamburgers.
"Nice game," one of the women said. "I really liked that team effort towards the end."
"Never realized just how strong Josiah is," another laughed.
The food was eaten with everyone talking and having a good time. The men playing in the next game didnt eat too much so they wouldnt be sluggish for the game. Except for Vin. He ate with his usual gusto and Brick was surprised by how much his brother could eat. Chris was drinking a coke when he noticed Mary Travis walking towards them. Billy saw Chris and ran over to him.
"Hi, Chris," he said as got closer.
"Hey, Billy, come to watch us play?
"Yup, mom's doing a story about the game."
"Figured it would make a nice human interest story for the paper," Mary commented as she got closer. "Figured if I highlighted the game was for charity more people would donate."
"Good idea," Josiah said.
"Mary, Id like to introduce you to someone," Vin said and grabbed his brother. "This is Brick."
"Oh my God!" Mary exclaimed when she saw the two of them side by side. "Chris told me about finding your twin but it was kind of hard to believe."
"I know," Brick said. "I still have a hard time believing it myself."
"Except for your hair you could each be mistaken for the other," Mary said staring.
"I know its kinda weird seeing an image youre only used to seeing in a mirror," Vin laughed.
Finally the time came to start the game and Vin asked Brick if he would escort Mary to the bleachers. Brick agreed and helped Mary carry her equipment over. Rain helped also and went with Mary. Billy wished Chris and the others good luck as he followed his mother. Team 7 walked over to their dugout to find an argument going on. Mitchell Crowhorse was arguing with his brother Ben.
"You cant play with a sprained ankle!" Mitch yelled.
"Its not that bad," Ben argued.
"Whats going on?" Chris asked.
"Ben sprained his ankle playing in the game with the kids," Mitch said.
"Let me see," Nathan said a knelt next to Ben. Nathan manipulated Bens ankle and he hissed in pain. "Your brothers right, you cant play on that."
"But youll be short a player," Ben said.
"Maybe not," Vin said and went out to talk to the umpire.
Vin explained to the umpire what happened. The umpire called over the captain of the other team and they discussed options. At one point Vin pointed towards Brick. The captain of the other team agreed and went back to his dugout. Vin walked over to where Brick was siting.
"Hey, Brick," Vin called.
"One of our team sprained his ankle. You wanna play?"
Brick climbed over all the people and over to his brother. Linda saw Vin and called out to him to beat the other teams ass in Spanish. Everyone laughed and the game got under way.
Mary enjoyed the game as she took pictures and made notes for her article. She did notice a slight difference from the fun kids game earlier. The adults game had more of an intense feel. With all the male testosterone flying around she wasnt surprised. But the game between the Purgatory Panthers and the K Street Knights seemed more volatile. Mary asked a few questions of some of the women spectators and found out there was a rivalry between the two teams. She knew baseball wasnt a contact sport but so far the two teams had used every dirty trick in the book. Mary glanced to second base as she heard Vin taunt the next hitter. She smiled knowing that Vins teasing was harmless. Vin liked to play for the fun of the game and not to win. Brick, on the other hand, wanted to win. Mary listened as Brick taunted the members of the other team and just shook her head. The batter finally swung on a pitch and the ball went screaming between second and third. Vin leaped for the ball and caught it getting the batter out. The runner from first was almost to second where Brick had moved to cover Vins place. Without thought Vin tossed the ball to Brick who caught it just as the runner plowed into him forcing him off the base.
"That had to hurt," Rain said in sympathy.
"Stupido!" Linda cried. "This will cause a fight."
Mary thought the girl might be right. She watched as Vin ran over to his brother. Brick was on the ground gasping for breath. Nathan was there as well and just kept telling Brick to relax and try to breath. Vin hovered like an expectant father and only relaxed when Brick gulped in a lungful of air. Chris was arguing with the umpire that knocking Brick off the base was un-sportsman like. The runner kept yelling that Brick was guarding the base. Ezra seemed to be the only one who noticed the subtle change in Vin. Hed seen that look in Vins eyes only when he had a target lined up in his sights while protecting the team during a bust. Ezra sensed when Vin was about to pounce but he was barely in time to keep Vin from pounding the runner into the dirt.
"What the fuck do you think you were doing, Rick!" Vin yelled trying to break free of Ezras arms. "You could have broke his ribs or worse."
"Then teach your copy how to play a base," Rick taunted.
"Besse me culo, joto" Vin said.
Rick tried to go after Vin but was stopped by Buck and some of his team. Vin seemed to be just as enraged and it was taking all of Ezras strength to hold him back.
"A little help here!" Ezra cried desperately.
Josiah moved in to help and Vin had no chance of getting away. Nathan had never seen Vin like this. Usually he was the calm one and would have been breaking up the fight. Now he was the one starting it.
The roar got everyones attention and they all quieted. Chris stalked between Vin and Rick and just glared. Rick swallowed hard and quelled under the blondes look. Vin was unfazed by Chris as he walked closer.
"Dont make me throw you out of the game," Chris said quietly to Vin. "Because I will if you dont stop this bullshit."
"Fuck that, Chris, he started it!"
"And Ill finish it!" Chris said grabbing Vins shoulder and squeezing hard. "You all elected me captain of this team and I WILL forfeit if you dont calm down."
"God damn it no!" Vin growled as he struggled in Josiahs hands.
"Come with me Vin!"
Josiah hastily stepped back as Chris took charge of Vin. Chris grabbed Vins arm and pulled him away from the others. He didnt stop until he had Vin in the outfield where no one could hear them.
"Wow, Ive never seen Vin like that before," JD said.
"Me neither," Buck laughed. "Im just glad hes on our side."
"Its because of me," Brick said as he got to his feet. "Hes trying to protect me."
"Your observations are correct," Ezra agreed.
"Think I should go talk to him?" Brick asked as he glanced toward his brother.
"Dont think that would be a good idea," Buck said as he started walking to the dug out.
"You dont want to get between Chris and Vin when they are going to have a discussion," Nathan said.
"Yeah it could get ugly," JD said following Buck.
"And we do hate ugly," Josiah said with a smile.
"Can I assume we are calling a time out?" the umpire asked.
"It would be prudent," Ezra said as he followed the rest of his team.
"For how long?"
"Until one of them kills each other," Nathan said and walked away.
When Chris felt they were far enough away that no one would hear them he came to a stop. He released Vin and waited for the younger man to take a swing. Vin just stood there and did nothing. Finally Vins anger left him as quickly as it came.
"What got into you?" Chris demanded.
"I dont know," Vin sighed. "When I saw Brick lying there I "
"Lost it?" Chris teased.
"Yeah guess I did," Vin smiled. "Dont know why."
"Yes you do. You were scared. Brick was down maybe hurt and you didnt want to lose him."
"But Chris its crazy! I hardly even know him and Im ready to start a fight because what happened to him."
"Hes your brother. Its only natural."
"I guess," Vin agreed. "But its still crazy."
"Yeah it is," Chris smiled. "You ready to get back into this game?"
"What did you say to get Rick all pissed off?"
"Told him to kiss my ass," Vin answered. "Then basically joto means fairy or queer."
"Geez, Vin," Chris laughed. "Your lucky he didnt kill you."
They both walked back over to the infield and both teams joined them. Vin apologized to Rick and shook his hand. Rick did the same to Brick telling him he was one tough hombre to take a hit like that. Brick laughed and said the mule back home had kicked him harder. Everyone laughed and the game continued. Mary was just glad things had worked out. She hated having to report that a fight broke out at a charity event.
Their game was the last to finish and the other spectators and team came over to watch the end. The game was at the bottom of the ninth inning with bases loaded. The score was 3-2 and there were two outs. The K Street Knights thought they had the game in the bag. The next batter up was the fancy pants gringo. Ezra stepped up to the plate and stared at the pitcher. The pitcher threw a fast ball that Ezra didnt even try to hit.
"Damn it, Ezra, if you dont get at least JD in Ill kill ya myself!" Buck yelled.
"Patience, Mr. Wilmington."
"Strike two!" was called as Ezra let a curve ball go by.
Ezra ignored the antics of his teammates. Out of the corner of his eye he could see Josiah holding back Buck. He concentrated on the pitcher as the ball was released and headed for home. Ezra swung and there was a satisfying crack. Everyone watched as the ball sailed past the mark for a home run.
"Woohoo!!!" Buck screamed as he ran out and lifted Ezra into the air. "You did it!"
"Yeah Ezra I didnt think you had it in ya," Nathan said.
"Im hungry and tired," Ezra said as Buck put him back on the ground. "You didnt really expect me to run did you?"
"Whatever wins the game," Buck laughed.
Both teams congratulated themselves on a good game. After all the backslapping was over it was decided they would all head over to Inezs for diner. Carmen corned Vin and warned him she expected them for breakfast and to not be late. Chris smiled as Vin cowtowed to Carmen as easily as he did to Nettie. All the gear was gathered and everyone headed for his or her cars. Rain tried to excuse herself from dinner but they all refused and said she was welcome. Billy wanted to go as well but Mary said no. Billy still had homework to finish and that the men wanted to celebrate without a little boy around. Chris promised to take him fishing and Billy went with his mother reluctantly. Mary wished them all a good night and they headed out for a good time.
Brick lay in Vin's bed unable to sleep. The noises from the city were something he wasn't used to. At one point during the night he could have sworn he heard gunfire. Vin was sleeping on the couch in the living room and Brick didn't want to disturb him. During the night hed wandered into the other room only to be confronted by a wide-awake Vin asking if anything was wrong. Brick learned quickly that Vin was a very light sleeper. He was glad when he finally heard movement from the other room. He rolled out of the bed and headed for the living room. Vin was folding the blankets and looked up when Brick walked in.
"Didn't sleep, huh?" Vin asked.
"Not really," Brick said as he dropped on the couch. "It's so noisy."
"Takes getting used to," Vin agreed. "Do you want to stay with Buck and JD?"
"No, it's alright," Brick said rubbing his eyes with the heal of his hands.
"Why don't you shower first," Vin suggested.
Brick took him up on the offer and went to get his stuff. He went into the bathroom and started the shower. The water was warm but never really got hot and Brick finally got in. He quickly washed his hair then let the water run over his shoulders. After a few minutes the water started to get cold and he tried to regulate it. When the water only got colder he turned it off and got out. Brick went to get out of the shower and jumped back from the biggest roach he'd ever seen. When the bug scurried under the cabinet he got out and got dressed.
"Damn you've got the biggest roaches I've ever seen," Brick said as he came out toweling his hair.
"Most of these old buildings have them," Vin shrugged. "You get used to them. I'll have to call the landlord and let him know it's time to spray again."
"So what time do we go down for breakfast?" Brick asked. "It's only seven."
"Oh anytime," Vin said. "Carmen's up. I'll just jump in the shower quick and we can head down."
Brick grabbed the remote and took a seat on the couch. He barely finished surfing the channels when Vin returned. "Damn that was fast."
"Boiler doesn't work that well," Vin explained. "The water goes cold fast this time of morning with everyone awake an all."
Brick watched as Vin went over to the door and pulled on his worn cowboy boots. As he watched he realized Carmen had been right Vin was skinnier than he was. He was happy to note they both had the same tastes in clothes. They were both dressed in faded jeans and a T-shirt. The only difference was Bricks shirt was red while Vin's was white.
"Ya just gonna sit there gawking or ya comin' with me?"
Brick smiled and went into the bedroom to get his hiking boots. Vin was waiting for him by the door and they walked out. Vin locked the door then led the way down to Carmen's. She was on the first floor towards the back. Vin knocked on the door and waited.
"Es tu, Vin?"
Brick could hear a couple of locks and a chain being taken off the door before it opened. Carmen stepped back and they came in.
"Buenos dias," Vin said as he kissed her on the cheek.
"Good morning to you both," she said as she led them to the table. "I have all of Vin's favorites. Brick if you don't like anything just let me know and I'll cook something else."
Vin sat down and poured them both some coffee. Carmen disappeared into the kitchen and returned a few minutes latter with a tray loaded with food. As soon as she put it on the table Vin dug right in. Brick saw a few things he never expected to see at breakfast. The first thing Vin took was a fried piece of dough that Brick had never seen before. He watched as Vin poured honey all over it and took a bite.
"Muy bueno!" Vin sighed as he took another bite.
"Eat, Brick, before Vin leaves you nothing but crumbs," Carmen said as she went back into the kitchen.
"What is that?" Brick asked as Vin popped the last bite of the dough into his mouth.
"Sosapillas," Vin sighed in pleasure. "No one makes them like Carmen."
"But what are they?"
"Everything thats bad for you," Vin said as he dished fried eggs and chili onto his plate. "It's just dough deep fried then you put honey or whatever you want on them."
Brick gave one a try and realized Vin was right, they were very good. Carmen came back out with bacon and smiled when she saw both of them with full plates. She was happy to see Brick enjoyed the typical Mexican breakfast. Carmen joined them and they talked about the baseball game the day before. After eating two plates Brick was finished. And sipped at a cup of coffee. Carmen pushed the platter towards Vin and he took another helping.
"How can you eat so much," Brick asked astonished.
"Don't know," Vin mumbled around a mouth full of Sosapillas.
"So what are you boys up too today?"
"It's Sunday," Vin said as if that explained everything.
"So what do you do on Sundays?" Brick asked.
"We all go out to Chriss and watch the game," Vin answered.
"Alright," Brick said in approval.
"But first we clean," Vin said smiling as he grabbed the plates off the table and headed for the kitchen.
Brick followed Carmen as she protested. Vin insisted and she reluctantly let him have his way. Leigh would never let Brick clean since he usually broke the dishes. Vin washed while Carmen dried and in no time they were finished. Carmen insisted they take the plate of Sosapillas. She knew that JD liked them as much as Vin.
"Now you boys stay out of trouble," Carmen said as she walked them to the door.
"Dont I always?" Vin asked innocently.
"Nada!" Carmen said pushing him out the door.
"Dont worry, Carmen, Ill watch him," Brick offered.
"And who will watch you, querido? Now go, enjoy the game."
They went back to Vins apartment to get his keys. They walked out of the building and Brick was surprised by the amount of children playing in the lot next to the building
"They all live here?"
"Most of them," Vin said as he walked towards his jeep. "Some are from the other apartments."
As they walked past the fence a bunch of the children called Vins name. He waved but didnt stop. Brick noticed a bunch of teenagers standing in the corner wearing bandannas of different colors. They all seemed to be getting along but Brick could see they werent happy about it. Vin noticed the group also and handed the plate of Sosapillas to Brick.
"Ill be right back."
Brick watched as Vin walked over to the group. Two boys stepped forward and Vin greeted them with an elaborate handshake. He talked with them for a few minutes then made a fist and banged it down on the ones the boys made. Brick thought it looked like they were using one potato, two potato to chose sides in a game.
"What was that all about?"
"The lot is neutral territory," Vin explained as he continued to his jeep. "The gangs can hang out here and not have to worry about rivalries. I just wanted to remind them."
"Does it work?" Brick asked as he climbed into the passenger seat.
"Not always, but we try," Vin said as he got in and put the key in the ignition. "Denver PD gives a hand and makes this one of the stops on their patrols. It keeps things quiet."
Vin turned the key and the jeep roared to life. He pulled into the street and he waved as he passed the playground. Brick loved the jeep and wondered if he could convince Jack to get one. Vin said they had to pick up some beer and other snacks before they headed out to Chriss, except the stores couldnt sell alcohol until after twelve. They had an hour to kill so Vin drove Brick around Denver. They were stopped at a light when a convertible, with four girls, pulled along Bricks side.
"Well hello," one of the girls called.
"Hi," Brick said smiling.
"Hey, hes cute," said one.
"Ill say," agreed another.
Vin turned to see who Brick was talking too and shook his head. His twin seemed to attract the girls. He was also able to talk to them better than he was.
They all laughed as they light changed and Vin pulled away. The convertible kept pace until Vin turned at the next light. Brick could hear the girls disappointment and he waved.
"Damn, Vin," Brick said giving his brother a dirty look.
Vin just smiled as he pulled into the parking lot of the grocery store. They went in and got beer, pretzels and other junk food. Vin also grabbed a package of Snowballs.
"Argh, you eat those?" Brick asked disgusted.
"Yeah theyre good."
They paid for everything and headed out to the jeep. Vin secured the bags under a net in the back of the jeep but not before he took out the snowballs. Brick watched in horror as Vin bit into one of hostesss crazier confections. Snowballs consisted of chocolate cake with marshmallow and coconut topping.
"Theyre good," Vin mumbled around a mouthful as he started the jeep.
Vin headed out of town. When he got on the highway he exceeded the speed limit and Brick could see he was enjoying himself. The wind whipped Bricks hair all around and it was starting to get annoying. He figured Vins longer hair was driving him crazy but when he looked his brother seemed to be oblivious to the whipping strands. The area outside Denver wasnt all that different than where he was from in Bend, Oregon. Vin finally pulled off the highway and Brick felt like he was back home on the small back roads. They drove for another fifteen minutes when Vin turned down another small road. The tree-lined drive was shady and very quiet. A short distance from where they turned off Vin made a right at a black mailbox with the number 7. The drive was long with corrals on the right. Brick could see some horses down by the barn. Vin beeped his horn and one of the blacks looked up. They continued to the house and pulled in next to Chris's black ram. Josiah's suburban was parked in the shade of a huge maple close by. Ezra's jaguar was parked in the sun so no leaves or anything else could fall on it. Nathans Cherokee was besides Josiahs. Buck and JD had yet to arrive. Vin grabbed the two cases of beer while Brick took the bags full of goodies. Vin headed for the door and balanced the beer on his knee as he opened it.
"What kept ya?" Chris asked as he came to give Vin a hand.
"Couldnt buy the beer until after twelve," Vin shrugged. "Came as soon as we got it."
"We also just got finished stuffing our faces with fried eggs, chili and Sosapillas," Brick added.
"Did someone say Sosapillas?" JD asked as he walked in.
"Dont worry Carmen sent some for you," Vin assured JD.
"Just what the boy needs," Buck growled. "More sugar. Hes already bouncing off the walls."
"It only lasts a few hours," Nathan said.
"A few hours too many," Ezra grumbled.
For the rest of the day and into the night Brick was treated to a Team 7 BBQ and football game. Brick was glad they were all comfortable having him there. Buck was especially great since he teased and ranked on him as much as he did Vin and JD. He learned Ezra had a wicked tongue and usually won all the arguments as well as the bets. Josiah and Nathan were laid back and easy going. The only person he still wasnt sure of was Chris. That was until the football game started. It was the Dallas Cowboys vs. Rams. He learned Vin was a loyal fan of the Cowboys and nothing could shake him from hoping the team could win. Even though it was highly unlikely. Brick watched in amazement as the enigmatic Chris Larabee teased his best friend mercilessly.
"No! No! No! No!" Vin wailed as the pass from the cowboys was intercepted.
"You throw that bottle and youll be sorry," Chris warned.
"God damn Ref!" Vin yelled jumping to his feet as the Cowboys were also given a penalty.
"Here, Vin," JD said handing him the foam rubber can cooler.
Vins throw was accurate as it hit the ref in the forehead then fell to the floor. Chris gave JD a dirty look. "Hey its better than something hard," JD shrugged.
"How about these," Ezra said holding up the bag of cheese doodles.
Vin went to grab them and Chris pulled them away. "Oh no not again! It took me forever to get the orange color out of the carpet from the last time."
"Junior why do you get yourself all worked up?" Buck asked. "You know The Cowboys dont stand a chance."
"Yes they do!" Vin yelled. "All they have to do is get rid of the stupid coach."
"And half the players," Brick said.
Vin turned to his brother with a wounded look in his eyes. "Youre from Texas! You should be routing for them!"
"Sorry, brother, but I dont usually bet on losing teams," Brick smiled.
"Et Tu Brute?" Ezra asked looking at Brick. "But you are very reasonable in not siding with the Cowboys."
Vin plopped back on the couch and crossed his arms. Brick wasnt sure if Vin was mad at him for not routing for the team he liked. Sometimes he got mixed signals from his twin making him hard to read. Buck saw the apprehension on Bricks face and patted his knee.
"Dont worry, Squirt, Vin aint angry with you," Buck said.
The game continued with the Rams scoring another touch down. Vin rained curses on the refs and anyone else he could think of. The ball was kicked to the Cowboys and by a fluke they carried it down field. Vin jumped to his feet, as the runner was un-aposed. Next thing you knew the Cowboys had made a touch down.
"YES!" Vin yelled as he jumped up and down. "See I told ya they could do it."
That seemed to be the last of the Cowboys luck as the game finally ended with a score of 21 10. Even though his team lost Vin was still in a good mood. It was the highest score they had all season and Vin was proud. They sat around watching the post show and finishing off the food. Around eleven they all decided to head on home.
"What are youre plans for tomorrow, Brick?" JD asked.
"Well since you guys have to work figured Id just explore the city."
"Ill leave you the jeep," Vin said. "Buck can come pick me up."
"I can?" Buck asked surprised.
"Yeah you can," Vin smiled.
"Sounds good to me," Brick said. "I can meet you after work."
"Alright!" JD said. "How bout that Italian place?"
"We dont have to decide tonight," Nathan said as he headed for the door.
"Well everyone have a safe trip home," Josiah said.
"I just wanted to say thanks," Brick said.
"For what?" Nathan asked.
"For making me feel like Im a part of the group."
"Hey your Vins brother," Buck said. "Youre family."
"Yeah and we do anything for family," JD added.
"Almost anything," Ezra added with a smile.
"OK, well thanks," Brick said smiling.
They all went out the door and headed for their respective cars. Chris watched from the door as Vin and Brick climbed into the jeep. It still amazed him that Vin was a twin. They looked so much alike you could easily mistake one for the other. Vin beeped as he drove up the drive. Chris waved as the others followed Vin.
The next morning Vin woke early to go to work. He moved around the apartment quietly so he wouldnt wake Brick. Again he had let his brother sleep in the bed while he took the couch. Just before he was getting ready to leave Vin checked on Brick. He slowly opened the door to see his twin sound asleep. Vin smiled as he pulled the door closed and went down to wait for Buck and JD. Some of the kids were up early and got Vin to play a game of hoops while he waited for his ride.
Buck pulled up to the curve and saw Vin playing ball. He looked at his watch and shook his head. It wasnt even 8 oclock yet and Vin was too awake for his tastes. Buck honked the horn and everyone turned to look. The kids all moaned as Vin threw them the ball and headed for the truck. Vin opened the passenger door and climbed in.
"Dont you know its not healthy to get all worked up so early?" Buck asked seriously.
"Oh?" Vin asked turning to Buck. He was breathing hard and was wiping the sweat from his face on a napkin from Bucks breakfast.
"Yeah, youre supposed to take it easy in the morning," Buck chided. "Take things slow."
"That the way you do it with the women?"
"Depends on the woman."
Buck laughed as he saw Vin roll his eyes. Traffic was light and they made it to the federal building in a few minutes. JD had gone in early and taken his motorcycle. They both went up to the eleventh floor and parted company once they got off the elevator. Buck walked into he bullpen and sat down at his desk.
"Buck did you forget someone?" Chris asked as he looked up from where JD was showing him something on the computer.
"Nope, Junior decided to play a little one on one while he waited for me," Buck answered as he turned on his computer. "He went down to the lockers to take a shower."
"Anything to get out of writing his report," JD smiled.
They had just finished another successful bust and all that was left was the paper work. Josiah and Nathan were already started on theres. JD had finished and was checking out new armor on the Internet. Chris had been asked to evaluate new equipment and make recommendations for their purchase. Hed given the assignment to JD as training in acquisitions and contracting. Ezra showed up with coffee and pastries for everyone. After the food was given out they all sat behind their respective computers and got to work. Vin walked into a rare scene at the Team 7 area. Everyone was quiet and doing work. Vin sat at his desk and smiled when he saw the large coffee and equally large cinnamon bun with extra icing. He saluted Ezra with the coffee then turned on his computer. As he waited for the computer to come on he sighed. He really hated this aspect of police work. Maybe he should have taken Brick up on his suggestion of playing hooky today. Vin just knew his brother was going to have more fun than he was.
After Vin left the basketball game continued. Linda came down around 9 oclock and sat watching. The players werent being all that serious and the game broke up shortly after. The players came over to join Linda.
"Got a smoke?" she asked.
"Broke again?" Thomas asked as he pulled a pack of cigarettes from his pocket and handed them to her.
"So what else is new," she growled as she took the offered cigarettes and took one out.
"Anybody ever see that car before?" Tito asked.
They all knew better than to make it obvious they were looking at the car. They milled around talking and laughing until they each got a good look at the car in question. It was a broken down black sedan that had the drivers door painted with gray primer. It wasnt an unusual site for a car to be in that condition in the neighborhood but this car wasnt familiar.
"Nope never seen it before," Victor said.
"Me either," Thomas added. "New drug dealers?"
"Could be," Tito nodded. "Lets get a closer look."
The car wasnt parked that far from the basketball court. The teens left the court dribbling the ball and passing it to each other as they walked passed the car. There was a single man sitting in the drivers seat that none of them recognized. Thomas checked the licensee plate and memorized it. They continued down the block and around the corner. When they were out of sight of the car Thomas wrote the licensee number on a piece of paper and stuck it in his pocket. If the car was still lurking around later hed give the number to Vin so he could check it out. Now that their community watch duties were over they all headed over to the High School to hang out.
Jean-Pierre LeBroc sat watching the old apartment building wondering when his victim would come out. Ever since the "Magnificent Seven" had shut down his operations at the RenFaire he was determine to get revenge. It hadnt been hard to find out which ATF team had taken him down. Chris Larabees team had quite a reputation. He called in some favors and found out where each of the seven men lived. By process of elimination hed determined Tanner would be the easiest one to take out. The others lived in well to do neighborhoods that would have noticed the kidnapping. LeBroc also knew that Tanner had a close friendship with Chris Larabee. And anything that hurt Chris was fine with him. LeBroc sat smoking a cigarette when a group of teens passed his car arguing over who was a better player Shaq or Hardaway. They didnt even take notice of him sitting there or they didnt care. LeBroc figured it was the later. Hed just pulled in the last drag and crushed out the cigarette when his intended prey stepped out of the apartment building. Vin Tanners hair was shorter than he remembered but it was definitely him. LeBroc watched as he stopped to talk to an old woman sitting on the steps. When Vin was done he waved to the woman and climbed into the jeep and pulled away from the curb. He waited a few minutes then followed.
Brick had finally rolled out of bed around 10 oclock. Vin was already long gone but hed left a note for Brick on the kitchen table. Next to the note was a set of keys.
These are the keys to the Jeep and the apartment.
When you leave lock the dead bolt on my room.
Ill explain why later. You take care of my jeep and Ill call later.
Brick picked up the keys and went back to the bedroom. He got the rest of his stuff and went out pulling the door closed behind him. Brick found the key that worked the dead bolt and did what his brother asked even if it was kinda odd. He went back to the living room and got his wallet off the end table then headed out the door locking it before he left. As Brick stepped outside he saw Carmen sitting on the steps.
"Good morning, Brick."
"Si," she said smiling. "I see Vin left you the keys to his beloved Jeep."
"Yeah he did," Brick nodded. "I wasnt expecting that."
"He doesnt let just anybody driver her."
"Si," Carmen laughed. "When ever Vin talks about his Jeep he refers to it as her. His motorcycle is a he."
"Motorcycle?" Vin asked surprised.
"Its in the shop," Carmen answered. "Not sure which one he loves more."
"Well it was nice talking with you," Brick said. "Im gonna go check out the city."
Carmen waved as Brick climbed into the Jeep and pulled away. A few minutes later she noticed a black car with the drivers side door painted gray follow Brick down the street. She didnt give it a second thought as she stood up and headed back inside.
LeBroc followed Tanner round town and was getting pissed that the agent hadnt gone anywhere with out crowds. So far theyd gone to the museum and other tourist areas. He thought it was odd that someone who lived here would be visiting these spots. LeBroc cursed again as Tanner pulled into Burger King. The black car rolled to a stop as he sat and watched Tanner order at the drive through. He waited as the old Jeep pulled back into traffic. A few cars passed before he merged with the other cars. LeBroc saw the Jeep pulled into the mall and cursed again. Hed had enough of this shit. He followed as Tanner parked the Jeep in the three-story garage and head into the store. LeBroc parked next to the Jeep and decided to grab Tanner as he came back out. Who would notice in a parking garage?
Brick had a great morning cursing around Denver. The Museum was great but he decided he wanted to get Vin something for letting him stay at his apartment. The teenager at Burger King had given him directions to the mall and he figured he could find something here. The lots were crowded so Brick decide to just park in the garage instead of fighting looking for a space. He pulled into a space and climbed out. There was no way to lock up the Jeep and Brick shrugged. He doubted Vin had anything of value in it. When he entered the mall he headed for one of the directories. He didnt feel like wandering around all day and read the name of the shops of the list. Half way down the line he saw one that caught his eye. "The Hitching Post" was listed as a gift shop and Brick decided to give it a try. He wandered down to the store and wasnt disappointed; it was exactly what he expected. The sore was loaded with Old West looking items. It had everything from expensive one of a kind furniture to cheap little kids popguns. Brick wandered around the store when he saw exactly what he was looking for. Hanging on a wall was a shadow box that had antique badges displayed. Brick looked closer and could see one from the Texas Rangers as well as Pinkerton. One in particular made him smile. It was a badge for a bordello inspector and thought that would suit Buck better.
"May I help you?"
Brick turned to see a pretty brunette standing next to him. "Yeah I was interested in the badges."
"They are pretty interesting," she smiled. "The ones in this particular case are authentic and rather expensive."
"Really," Brick said disappointed.
"As a set they are," She explained. "But we do sell them separately with a letter of authenticity saying where they were from and possibly who wore them. Would you like to see some?"
"Yeah that would be nice," Brick said.
She led him over to a showcase and walked behind it. Brick looked down to see individual badges on display. "Any particular one you might be interested in?"
"How about the Texas Ranger."
She pulled out the three Texas Ranger badges and placed them on the table. One looked very old and dated from the first year the rangers were formed. Unfortunately it was five hundred dollars. The others werent much better the cheapest being two hundred. Finally Brick told her what price range he could do and she smiled and moved to the middle of the case. She pulled out three badges that were priced from $75- $100. The badges on the counter were Dodge City Sheriff, Arizona Ranger and one of the Bordello Inspector badges. Brick laughed as he pushed the Bordello inspector to the side.
"You dont like that one?"
"It would suit my brother's co-worker better than him," Brick picked up the Arizona Ranger badge.
"That one dates from the 1890s," she said reading off a card. "Theres not a full name of the barer just a fist initial of V and last name Tanner."
"What did you say?" Brick asked surprised.
"Says it was worn by a V. Tanner in the Tucson area but nothing else," She said. "Thats why its only $75. It couldnt be tracked down to a more specific area or time."
"Its perfect!" Brick said in excitement.
The badge was in its own small frame with all pertinent information on the back. Name of the person who wore it and where. Brick stared at the name and couldnt believe his luck. He hoped Vin liked it. The sales woman asked if he would like it gift-wrapped and he said sure. While he waited he wandered around the store. It had some great stuff in it and decided hed come back again another day since he was running out of time. He looked at his watch and saw it was 4 oclock. He figured Vin must get off at five and deiced to meet him at work. Brick thank the woman and headed out of the mall. He exited the mall and into the parking garage. Since the sun was on the other side of the buildings the area was in shadow and the lights in the garage were the only illumination. Brick noticed at black car parked next to the Jeep but paid it no mind. He walked to the drivers side and turned his back to the black car. Brick felt a hard blow to the head then remembered no more as he slumped across the drivers seat. The small package he carried in his hand bounced to the floor of the passenger side and was hidden under old newspaper.
Vin couldnt wait for the day to be over. After a bust it was nothing but paperwork and briefings. At least he didnt have to go to the meetings. That was Chriss job, while the rest of team was forced to write reports. Vin pecked away at the keys and enviously watched JD surf the Net. JD always finished reports quickly so Chris assigned him something else. Vin turned back to his screen and saw all the red and green lines indicating mistakes. He ignored them and saved his latest paragraph. JD had finally drummed it into his head to save the document frequently. Vin just had to sum up his role in the bust and he would be finished.
"Hey has anybody decided where were going for diner?" JD asked.
"Not yet, Kid," Buck said throwing a crumpled piece of paper at him.
"I was just asking," JD said catching the paper.
Vin ignored the banter and continued typing. He came to the end, hit save and leaned back.
"Finished?" Buck asked.
"With the typing," Vin confirmed. "Now I just have to hit spell check."
"Your computer should receive extra compensation for that," Ezra commented from across the desk.
"Ha, Ha, Ezra, very funny," Vin hit the command for spell check and the screen went blank. "No! No! No!"
"What happened, brother?" Josiah looked up from his own desk.
"Its gone!" Vin growled as he hit a couple of buttons.
"No, Vin, dont do that Ill find it," JD offered and rolled his chair over to Vins desk.
"Oh wait," Vin said as the screen opened again. "There it is."
"How did you do that?" JD asked surprised.
"I dont know," Vin shrugged. "But maybe you better finish this for me."
JD nodded as Vin rolled out of his way. Vin watched as JD typed quickly and the screen began to clear of the red and green. Ezra just smiled at Vin then went back to his own report. Chris returned to find his whole team gathered around JDs computer and cheering. The two youngest were competing against each other in a racing game.
"I take it youre all finished?" Chris asked sarcastically.
"Oh yeah," Vin said not taking his eyes off the screen.
"So where are they?"
"On your desk," JD answered as he hit the button on the joystick to keep from hitting the wall.
"Uh huh," Chris said as he walked towards his office.
As he walked away he smiled. He knew the reports would be on his desk waiting. Chris went behind his desk and took a seat. He skimmed each one then put them in an envelope address to AD Travis then joined the others around JD's computer. When the game was over they all decided on this Italian place that Ezra was fond of. Vin tried to call brick on his cellphone but got no answer.
"He must be out still," Vin said.
"We can wait," Buck said. "Care to try to beat me again?"
Vin tied again twenty minutes late but still no answer. He shrugged and figured Brick just forgot and left another message on his voice mail. After an hour past he started to get worried. Chris could see he was trying to hide it but he was good at reading Vin.
"Why dont you go to the apartment and see if hes there?" Josiah suggested.
"Yeah maybe I better go check," Vin said grabbing his coat.
"You forget something?" Buck asked.
"OH yeah," Vin said sheepishly.
"Ill take you?" Chris said.
"Call us," Nathan said.
Chris followed Vin to the elevator and down to the garage. The trip to Purgatory went fairly quickly for a workday afternoon. Chris parked the Ram and Vin got out and looked around. He didnt see the Jeep anywhere. He asked some of the kids and they told him they hadnt seen Brick all day. Vin went up to his apartment but found nothing. He turned to Chris with a worried look in his eyes.
"Where is he?"
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