Hatchback Hell

by Joy K

Author’s Notes: Thanks to Nancy for suggesting that I turn my "injury" into a story and contributing the initial ideas. Special thanks to Ronnie and Chris for walking through the ideas with me and contributing greatly to the final product.

Chris stared in disbelief at his team. His 'crack' ATF team. How could such a simple task wreak so much havoc? He shook his head as the small car sped away, leaving the remains of Team Seven in its wake.

Assistant Director Orin Travis rested a hand on Chris' shoulder in apparent sympathy. The smirk on the AD's face revealed his true feelings.

"Damn foreign cars," Chris muttered as Travis chuckled. If he hadn't seen it with his own eyes…


Stephanie King was retiring and moving to Maine. She had served the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms well, serving her entire thirty-seven year career with the agency, the last year and a half as Chris Larabee's secretary. She had survived the Team leader's famed impatience with bureaucracy and had been a ready match for his sometimes gruff demeanor. She had survived Team Seven's demented pranks, becoming an innocent victim to many of them when she had inadvertently stepped in the way of mischief aimed towards her blond haired, green eyed, hunk of a boss.

If only she had been a few years younger…

… Okay, decades younger.

Stephanie smiled. Being the accidental victim of the jokes did have its benefits. Team Seven went above and beyond the call of duty in occasional make-up gifts. Ezra Standish, in addition to his adorable southern accent, had impeccable taste. The secretary knew that he had been appointed on many occasions to pick the perfect gift to smooth things over. And she was grateful. Thanks to him, she now had a complete set of Speigelau hand crafted Grand Palais Bordeaux glasses, and was well on her way to completing a set of expensive champagne glasses. JD Dunne, Vin Tanner and even the lovable Buck Wilmington made sweet attempts, but their gift selections paled in comparison.

However, the pranks had been her undoing. No administrative personnel should have to keep an extra set of clothing on hand, let alone two sets, for the frequent mishaps perpetrated by Team Seven. Stephanie had planned to take retirement, but seven men had upped her timetable. After the series of shenanigans two weeks ago, she had announced her retirement. No amount of money or gifts was worth the constant aggravation and the high blood pressure.

She had taken the first strike in stride. Young JD Dunne had perpetrated the oldest joke in the book in an attempt to get even with Vin. However, the cute electronics wizard had not planned on Stephanie volunteering to get a cup of coffee for her boss. Being doused by a wastebasket of water falling from the door of the break room had been a shock. The office had suddenly gone silent and young JD looked as if he would faint. She almost felt sorry for him… almost.

Mr. Larabee had growled his displeasure at the event and everyone was suddenly working very hard on his report. He had apologized profusely for the incident and offered her the opportunity to take the rest of the day off. Stephanie, coming from the work ethic of working a full day for a full day's wages, had politely refused and taken a set of her spare clothes and cleaned up in the women's restroom.

She should have taken Chris up on his offer. JD had apologized upon her return and offered to have her clothes laundered for her. The men had been quieter, trying to rein themselves in, but the team was coming off a difficult case and had adrenaline to burn. Just after lunch, the second strike occurred.

She should have guessed when the handsome Vin Tanner kept leaning over watching the elevators that something was up. The young man could get away with almost anything with that soft Texan drawl and the mischievous blue eyes. And those freckles! Stephanie sighed, wishing again that her timing wasn't a generation off.

She had gone to JD's desk to retrieve a file that needed to be returned. As she sat in JD's chair she heard that Texas drawl shouting, 'No!' but it was too late. The chair tipped over backward taking her, the file and JD's can of Pepsi with it. From the way Vin hovered over her, apologizing, there was no doubt the scruffy Texan was guilty of loosening the back of the chair. Unfortunately, apologies didn't remove Pepsi from a silk blouse.

Changing into her last remaining outfit, Stephanie was on her way back to the office when Chris Larabee emerged from the elevator. He took one look at the plastic bag of clothing and growled. Stephanie followed in his wake as he stormed into the office.

"There will be no more pranks!" he declared.

He received 'Yes, sirs' from all but one agent. That agent was stammering, "Mr. Larabee… Chris… uh…"

"Uh-oh," said Nathan.

Nathan was such a kind man, always considerate of the others and concerned for his teammate's health. He was very intelligent and quite the conversationalist. Stephanie enjoyed talking with him.

"Something tells me that our esteemed colleague had something in the works before Chris laid down the law," Josiah whispered to Nathan.

"No more!" Chris ordered.

"Mr. Larabee…" Ezra was almost pleading. "I didn't… I…"

Chris slamming the door to his office cut off his words. Moments later he bellowed, "Ezra!"

Stephanie almost laughed when the southerner muttered, "I'm a dead man."

At least this prank had missed her...

...or so she thought. The spillage of Mr. Larabee's coffee due to the joke had thoroughly soaked a series of files and reports, necessitating reproducing many of them, creating a lot of extra work on her part.

As sweet and handsome as they all were, Stephanie was through. She handed in her paperwork for retirement the next morning. The only thing left to do was to finish up two weeks and attend her retirement party. Well, there was one other thing to take care of, but that would require some work on her personal time.


Stephanie smiled again as she took in the bounty on the table in front of her. Evidently the rest of Team Seven had sought Ezra's advice on retirement gifts, though she wasn't sure how a couple of them could afford the expensive glassware. She carefully packed the champagne glass back into its box.

"Thank you all," she said sweetly. "These gifts are just too much."

"They pale in comparison to all you've done for us, Mrs. King."

Stephanie nearly rolled her eyes at Standish's flattery. He certainly was a smooth talker.

"How ever will I get all this home?" she asked, innocently batting her eyes.

Chris glared at his team. "The boys will help you, Stephanie. Won't you boys?" He was still a little miffed at the latest antics, almost certain they had led to Mrs. King's retirement announcement. He would miss her competent work and hated the thought of trying to break in a new administrative assistant.

"Oh, yes Ma'am!" said Buck, offering his arm to Mrs. King. "I'd be glad to escort you to your car. The 'boys' here will be happy to carry your things." Buck smirked at the remaining team members as Mrs. King accepted his arm and they walked happily towards the elevator with the handsome rogue.

She didn't believe a word of the flattery the dashing Buck Wilmington dished out, but it was still nice to be doted on.

"The boys will be happy to carry your things," mimicked Ezra sarcastically behind Buck's back. His next comment was cut off by Larabee's hand resting on his shoulder.

"You will  be happy to help."

JD and Vin scooted quickly to the table and began collecting boxes to carry. They had no trouble reading Chris' unspoken message of blame.

Nathan and Josiah chuckled as they picked up boxes. Chris was playing this for all it was worth.


"Where's your car, Ma'am?" asked Buck as they stood in the parking garage. He looked for the familiar 1986 yellow Cadillac.

"Oh, my car is in the shop today," said Stephanie as the rest of the Team and AD Travis joined them. "I had to borrow my grandson's car. It's over here. He's in college, you know."

The bailing wire holding the passenger door closed on the early seventy's Datsun 510 should have been a clue to the unsuspecting team.

She held out the keys. "He calls it 'Christine'," she chuckled. "Can you imagine that? Naming your car?"

Ezra snatched the keys, eager to be done with the chore of loading the car and to be on his way home. He walked over to the rusted blue hatchback, fumbling for the lock in the poor light of the garage. He bent closer to the car, finally finding the lock and inserting the key.

"Careful, that hatch comes up..."

Ezra turned the key and the hatch sprung open, smacking him in the jaw.

"...fast sometimes," advised Mrs. King, a little too late.

"Oh dear," she added in sympathy as Ezra's knees buckled but he managed to hold on to the box of glassware.

Josiah held up the hatch with one hand and deposited his box in the back of the car with the other. He took Ezra's box and placed it in the car. Nathan slid his box in next to Josiah's, and then turned to check the undercover agent.

"You all right, Ezra?" Nathan asked as he lifted Ezra's chin with a finger. The watering eyes and the trickle of blood from his lower lip gave Nathan his answer, but Ezra was not one to leave anything unsaid. As Josiah and Nathan stepped away from the car, the stunned southerner found his voice.

"I'm fine for someone who has just been attacked by a…"

"Lady present," admonished Vin when foul language threatened to spill out. "Sides, Ez, if ya'd been watching what yer doing, ya wouldn't have got hit," the sharpshooter added with a smirk.

"You know, I had a car like this once," said Josiah with a wistful smile. "Spent the summer driving across country in it."

Buck left Mrs. King in Chris and AD Travis's care and leaned against the wall next to Josiah and Nathan.

"I have fond memories of times in that car," Josiah reminisced.

"I have fond memories of the backseat of that car," said Buck, chuckling, and then wincing as Nathan elbowed him.

Vin leaned into the car, placing his box inside. He had to shove Nathan's box to the side to make his box fit, jostling the car in the process.

"Watch it, son, that sometimes..."

Vin yelped in pain as the hatchback smacked him on the back of the head.

"...Doesn't stay up..." Again Stephanie's warning was a moment too late.

"Go…Da…" muttered Vin as he angrily shoved the hatch up.

"You were saying, Mr. Tanner?" said Ezra with a grin that made his lip start bleeding again.

Vin turned away from his grinning friends, cradling the back of his head, trying to refrain from swearing relentlessly in front of Mrs. King.

"You know, that hatch was recalled due to failure of the hydraulics," informed Nathan as Buck and Josiah snickered. "I read it in Consumer Reports."

"Thanks for the warning, Nate. Great timing," muttered Vin rubbing the back of his neck.

JD snickered as he held the hatch and slid his box inside, amused at his teammates' misfortune. Letting go of the hatch, he turned toward his wounded friends. "If you'd been watching what you were doing, you wouldn't have got hit." JD grinned as he echoed Vin's words to Ezra.

"Yeowww!" JD yelped, snatching his fingers away from the beastly hatchback, which had just succeeded in pinching them on its way closed.

Buck winced in sympathy as JD shook his hand and started to swear.

"Lady present!" he laughed.

JD kicked the tire in frustration, only succeeding in injuring his toe. He hobbled away from the car muttering to himself.

"Oh dear, dear," said Stephanie. "Christine seems to have a mind of her own today. I hope you boys are all right."

"Fine, Ma'am," said Vin, massaging his aching neck.

"Just peachy," answered Ezra, dabbling at his lip.

JD just sucked on his throbbing fingers.

Chris shook his head in disbelief. Those three could get into trouble just tying their shoes. He looked at Stephanie and could have sworn he saw a momentary glint of humor.

"Well, I suppose I should go before the traffic gets bad."

Chris smiled cordially and walked her to the car, past his ailing agents, retrieving the keys from Ezra. "Thank you, Stephanie. I appreciate all your work."

She smiled brightly as she slid into the drivers seat and Chris closed the door for her.

"It has been… a pleasure," said Mrs. King with a smile that didn't quite match her words.

She turned the key. Nothing happened.

"Oh dear," she sighed. "It doesn't seem to want to start."

"Buck, you want to get the jumper cables out of my truck?" called Chris.

Buck held up his hands with a grin, shaking his head. There was no way he was approaching the death trap of a car.

"I'll do it," grumbled Vin, retrieving the cables.

"Ezra, grab the hood," instructed Chris, since Ezra was closest to the front of the car.

Ezra frowned. He had no intentions of getting dirty. A glare from Chris sent him to the front of the car. Clearly Mr. Larabee blamed him for the departure of Mrs. King.

He fumbled for the hood release, stepping back with a smug grin as the hood popped up and he dodged it, escaping a second attack from the car.

His eyes widened and the self-satisfied grin disappeared as the overconfident agent stumbled over the curbing behind him, landing on the concrete floor with a smack.

Nathan peered around the car, instinctively concerned for each teammate's health. Ezra was gingerly holding his backside as he struggled to his feet.

"Standish, zero. Christine, two," said Josiah in a voice just loud enough for Nathan and Buck to hear. The three struggled not to laugh out loud.

"Move over," said Vin, pushing Ezra to the side as he propped the hood up. He leaned over the side of the car and connected one side of the jumper cables to the battery. As he connected the second clamp to the terminal the horn blared. Vin jumped, banging his already aching head on the underside of the hood.

"GO...SH....DA...RN!...SON OF A B....GUN!!!"

"Oops!" said Stephanie. "I'm sorry dear." Her tone was less than repentant.

Chris turned away quickly, hiding his smile. They deserved every ounce of it. He walked to his truck, connecting the cables to his battery and starting the engine.

"Try it now," he called.

Mrs. King started the engine.

"JD, get the cables," said Chris.

"Huh-uh! Not me. I ain't going near that thing!" said JD before popping his injured fingers back in his mouth.

Chris looked at the his three senior agents, giggling like school girls at the younger agents' misfortune. "Would one of you mind?"

Josiah shook his head. He walked over, disconnected the cables, lowered the hood and walked to the driver's door.

"You're ready to go," he said with a grin.

"You're such a sweet man," said Stephanie. "Thank you." Of all of them, she would miss Josiah's company the most. His wonderful smile and unique stories were always refreshing.

She put the car into reverse, with Nathan, Buck and Josiah all jumping back a step to avoid injury as she backed up quickly.

"Bye, bye, now!" she called as she squealed the tires and pulled away. No one would ever know that she spent two weeks looking for the perfect revenge. They wouldn't know that she convinced her grandson to wait a week to take 'Christine' into the shop for repairs, or that nothing was wrong with her beloved Cadillac. The members of Team Seven all thought she loved them, but in the end… she got even. Just wait until they met the woman she recommended as her replacement. Kathleen Bates was the admin from hell.

Chris could swear he heard her cackling as she drove away leaving the remains of Team Seven in her wake.

Assistant Director Orin Travis rested a hand on Chris' shoulder in apparent sympathy. The smirk on the AD's face revealed his true feelings.

"Damn foreign cars," Chris muttered.


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