ATF Idol

by Lyn

Disclaimers: Don’t own them, can’t afford to buy them. But thanks go out to all the writers, actors and creators of this show that has given so many of us so much…..inspiration?

And many thanks to Mog for the creation of the ATF playground.

Vin had no idea how he had gotten himself into this mess.

Yes he did. It was all Buck’s fault. Buck and several beers. Six weeks ago. And he was still in the situation.

It had all started innocently enough.

The seven members of Denver’s ATF Team Seven had dropped in at their usual Friday night haunt, The Saloon. But it just so happened that on that particular Friday night six weeks ago, Inez was sponsoring ‘The Saloon Idol’ contest, a take off on the TV show American Idol.

The group had sat around at their usual table, drinking beer and unwinding after an unusually stressful week, and listening to the hopefuls that had shown up at The Saloon trying to win a singing contest. The proud finalist at the end of six weeks of competition would win a weekend stay at one of the nicer Denver hotels, a dozen CD’s provided by a local radio station, and the honor of being the best of all the singers that showed up at The Saloon.

Weariness and beer worked their magic and before any of the night ended, Buck had thrown out a challenge to anyone willing to take it to get up on stage and try out their voice. Vin no longer remembered what the wager was, but before he knew it, Ezra, Buck and himself were heading toward the stage to perform. Acapela no less.

Buck had been first up, doing some Elvis number, with much swiveling of hips and pelvic thrusts. But Elvis and no music just hadn’t cut it. Or maybe it was Buck being distracted by a cute little blonde in the front row. Either way, Buck was asked to leave the stage. But he did go home that night with several new numbers to add to his little black book.

Ezra was up next. His voice was surprisingly pure and pleasant, but his choice of singing a song from Les Miserables was likely his downfall and he returned to their table in time to watch Vin climb the stage.

Figuring he had nothing to lose but his dignity, and not really caring much about that after four or five beers, Vin sang the only song he could remember all the words to at that moment, a Celtic song he had learned sometime in childhood called The Minstrel Boy.

For some reason that shocked all the men at his table, and Vin himself, he had been selected one of six finalists. When he sobered up the next morning he had called each of his teammates, and Inez, to verify that his memory wasn’t playing tricks on him. He had been wishing that his memory had been wrong.

But Vin wasn’t one to back down once he started something. He dug in and did his best over the next weeks of competition, finding the perfect songs for his slightly raspy tenor. Each week required a new song, one the singer could select themselves following certain guidelines, which would determine who was eliminated that night. Week two asked for a song from the 1950’s and Vin pulled out a classic Sinatra song, and moved on.

Week three they wanted something from the 1970’s and Vin rocked them with some Rolling Stones.

He was moved on to week four, where they wanted a song from either a movie or musical play. Vin sang a song from Rent and was moved on to week five.

Week five the singer was allowed to chose a song with no guidelines other than they needed to respect the singer’s work. Vin sang a Garth Brooks ballad.

His friends had shown up every week, more than a little surprised at how well he could sing and therefore razzing him at first, then being very supportive. He refused to rehearse in front of them, even though they all offered to be a trial audience. But he was more comfortable only subjecting himself to an audience once each week.

And now he found himself in week six, up against just one other singer, and they would both be singing the same song. And of course the organizers had chosen THAT song. The song that the finalists on American Idol had both sang. The song that was now a single release for the winner, A Moment Like This.

He was nervous, truly nervous for the first time this whole competition. And the case of nerves was due to the song. It didn’t help that he was up against an amazingly talented female singer, one male and one female contestant just like the two finalists of the TV competition. But the song also sounded best with a wide range and a strong voice. And Vin just knew that the judges and the audience would be comparing their performances to Kelly Clarkson’s, the American Idol winner.

Vin didn’t care about winning. He did, however, care about doing the best job he could, and seeing the competition through to the end.

But he was nervous. It had been a very long week, with their newest case keeping them working till the wee hours of the night all week, so he hadn’t had much time to practice. He barely had the words memorized.

And to make matters worse, he had woke that morning with a scratchy throat and cough, likely the result of several nights surveillance out in the elements during the rainy season, and a tightness in his chest that forewarned a bad cold coming on. Nathan had given him several cure alls, which had eased the scratch but not cured it and had decreased the congestion. The overall result was that his voice had an even raspier quality than normal and was much deeper.

And he had to sing THAT song. With a scratchy throat and congested chest.

Damn Buck, too much beer and stupid bets!

He listened from what served as back stage as his competitor belted out the song. Listened as the crowd applauded. Enthusiastically.

And then it was his turn. He swallowed the last of the tea and honey Inez had made for him and stepped up on stage, microphone in hand. He had no confidence he could hit the notes needed, just knew his voice would crack, or fade away all together. He would just accept that he had done the best he could and hope that his voice at least managed to finish the song.

The music began and Vin closed his eyes. He would do his best and it would be good enough. He opened his mouth…and sang.

He had no idea if he sang the right words. He barely even remembered hearing the music. He didn’t know if his voice was holding up or whether he sounded like sand paper, or worse, nails on a chalkboard.

What he did know was that three minutes later, he closed his mouth, the music ended, and a roaring sound filled his ears. His eyes, which he had apparently opened again while singing, focused on the audience: a packed crowd for The Saloon. And they were standing.

He glanced over at his friends as he stepped from the stage. They, too, were on their feet, hands clapping loudly, stunned and disbelieving looks on their faces. Vin was worried for a moment, that the song had been truly horrible, but people swarmed him as he made his way to his table, his friends moving to surround him as he drew close. Nathan handed him a cup of warm whiskey laced tea with some honey in it and he sipped it gratefully.

"That was some singing there Junior," Buck said as he clapped Vin on the back.

"Dang Vin, I didn’t know you could sing that low!" JD gushed.

"Cain’t," Vin croaked, his voice dissolved into no better than a raspy whisper.

"Son, I haven’t heard singing like that in a long time," Josiah rumbled.

"Mr. Tanner, that was a truly inspired performance," Ezra added.

Chris stood there, a silly grin on his face. "Good job Pard," he said with laughter in his voice.

Vin suffered through the awards presentation before collapsing tiredly into a chair at the table with his friends and breaking into a fit of deep, rumbling coughs. Shortly after the Seven left, with orders from Chris for them all to get some sleep, and with a bottle of cough and cold medicine slipped into Vin’s pocket by Nathan.


Vin walked into the office Monday morning, eyes swollen and puffy, nose red and irritated looking, with no voice but deep coughs announcing his approach. Feeling as poorly as he did he was almost at his desk before he noticed the changes. The entire surface was covered. Multiple copies of Kelly Clarkson’s single CD were displayed. A large plastic version of a Golden Globe award stood next to a handmade version of the MTV Music award. Congratulation cards and telegrams were scattered amongst the clutter along with bottles of Nyquil, Dayquil, Tylenol Cold, Alka-Seltzer Plus and Robituson.

The topper was a life sized cardboard cut out of Kelly Clarkson standing next to his desk with a text balloon added to it that read "Vin, you’re MY American Idol!"

Vin turned slowly as snickers were heard behind him. Snickers that quickly turned to laughter at the sight of a red nosed, runny-eyed Texas sharpshooter. But before anyone could make a comment, Vin Tanner got his revenge. He took a step toward his so-called friends…

…and sneezed on them.