Simple, Perfection

by Q'Mar

Notes: Follows Partners, April 1998

Disclaimer: The Magnificent Seven belongs to Mirisch Entertainment Inc., with all rights and privileges thereof. This work is a work of fanfiction, for the amusement of the author and fandom who have nothing else to do since they aren't making any more episodes of the show. No money or other renumeration has exchanged hands, this is just for fun, guys!

April 1998
Kansas City, Missouri Police Department
Drug Enforcement Operations, Station 4

Nathan Jackson put his feet on the little metal box that he used as a footstool. It had been a long, but satisfying day. Four dealers would no longer be selling their 'junk' out on the streets. It might not be much in the war against Drugs, but they wouldn't be out there poisoning kids. He looked around the department. Johnson and Williams were frowning at him again. Jackson glared back. It wasn't his fault, and he was tried of hearing about it. Even the Lieutenant, Barrons, had said so. The thing was a tragedy, that was for certain, but if they were willing to put a kid in play, he'd better be stable. Brinkhurst hadn't been.

His own partner, Selman, looked at him with disdain. But since they were temporarily assigned to each other, he didn't feel the necessity to explain himself. He'd done the right thing and he wasn't going to be told differently by any one of them. Selman, Johnson, and Williams were the old type of Cop, 'old boys' network and all of that. They'd probably advanced quickly never having to struggle, whereas everything for him had been a fight. It was just like he'd always seen, If you wanted something, you kept at it until it was yours. And if there were people who wouldn't play fair, it was the responsible man's job to fight until it was fair, for everyone. Nathan looked at his watch. It was almost time to go home for the day. Maybe he could get some work done on the first aid kit that his friend, Josiah Sanchez, was giving to the soup kitchen. Maybe, that was, if his sister, Zipporah, would let him.

She'd been on his case again about not being like their father. Nathan revered his mother, but he and his father had a strangely remote relationship. Although there were no loud arguments, old Obediah Jackson was not happy with him, no sir! The twelve children of Obediah and Dinah Jackson were all professional people, successful, Lawyers, Professors, Bankers, even a Fire Chief. He, himself, was a Police officer, a Detective and was working toward his M.D., though it would probably take years. Nathan had his EMT license, and his department used him a lot for medical reasons. As a first responder, his training had saved lives, though by the way some people behaved, they weren't very grateful for the fact. Jackson wasn't worried about it, he never let himself worry about it. There was too much to do, too much to work on, to make fair, to worry about a bunch of 'dinosaurs' stuck in the past. He'd have said, though politely, that they had a problem with his race, but the unit's token Native American, Joseph Two-Deer, didn't like him much either. Jackson had made various attempts to get Two-Deer on his side, to make friends, but the man didn't like him at all.

Other members of the division, including the Lieutenant, thought very highly of him, so he wasn't much worried about what the rest thought of him. He was here to do the job, to take care of the need, nothing else mattered. Nathan wanted to do it right, whatever he was asked to do, and he put himself into his assignments wholeheartedly.

His contemplation was interrupted by the arrival in the bullpen of two men, obviously Feds. They were both white, taller than the average, and wearing suits. Although it was common for detectives to wear suits, they just felt like 'Feds.' The first one had short cropped blond hair and was dressed all in black, and his suit had a very western feel to it. Even the dress shirt was black and Nathan was certain that he must be dying of heat in it.

The second man was black haired with bright blue eyes and a mustache. He looked around the room with a guileless expression that told Nathan that he wasn't that innocent. Probably a practical Joker, Jackson decided. His suit was ill fitting and showed signs of being badly ironed recently. Both men wore their badges on cords around their necks and were definitely armed from the bulges in the lines of their suits. They met with the Lieutenant for a couple of minutes in his office. Nathan noticed that most of the detectives in the bullpen suddenly found something else to do with themselves.

"People," Lt. Barrons, a short African-American, said, coming out of his office with the Feds in tow. "This is SAC Larabee, from Denver, he and Agent Wilmington are here to investigate the Simpson case. They need a local guide to help. Do I have any volunteers?"

"Lt.?" Selman, Nathan's partner called. "Why don't you put Jackson on it? We just finished the Griswald case, and I've got to go to the dentist tomorrow, so he's going to be free." Barrons looked at Selman for a moment. The detective flashed his boss an innocent look. The other detectives in the room were all very 'busy' so Barrons didn't have a choice.

"Nathan. Why don't you come into my office and meet with the Agents?" He said, giving Selman a glare. The detective gave him a puzzled expression. Jackson shrugged and got up. Going into the office, he found that the two agents were studying him appraisingly. Neither man had an unfriendly expression, though the SAC, Larabee, had the look of an angry man.

"I'm Chris Larabee, this is my partner, Buck Wilmington." He said, extending a hand to Nathan, who took it. They shook hands. Jackson then shook hands with Wilmington, wondering about the kind of parents who would name their child 'Buck.'

"Pleased to meet you," he said. "Nathan Jackson. I don't know much about the Simpson case, but I grew up here and know the area pretty well."

"Great," the man called Buck said. "It's almost the end of your shift isn't it?"

"Yeah." Nathan answered curiously.

"We just got in from Denver and I'm starving. Do you know someplace we could get something decent to eat? I've been living on junk food for the past week."

"You always live on junk food, Buck." Larabee laughed, and Nathan could see that the two were friends and that there was nothing derogatory in the teasing.

"Junk food really isn't good for you." Nathan said. "If you're interested there's a great little restaurant around the corner. Bisby's. They've got a big salad bar, and make a decent steak, if you eat meat."

"Sounds good." Larabee agreed. The tall man in black stretched and continued. "We've been going for the last 48 straight. How about we get some food, and review a little of what we need to do here? Would you like to join us, Detective Jackson? Or do you have plans?"

"No plans." Nathan asserted firmly, thinking of Zipporah. He led them out of the office, pausing to grab his coat. Jackson noticed the attitude of the other detectives, especially the ones who didn't like him. They were somehow smug that he'd ended up babysitting the Feds, but Nathan felt that it was fine. After all, what point in doing a job, unless you plan on doing it well?

+ + + + + + +

They were early for Bisby's dinner crowd. Alice, Nathan's favorite waitress, got them seated in a comfortable area. None of the rowdy bunch would end up over here, and the furniture was in better condition than in the rest of the diner. Someday Bisby would get the remodeling done, but since he'd been at it a while, it might take forever.

The two Feds were fairly tired, Nathan noticed. If it had been up to him, he'd have made some changes in their diets. For one thing, both of them drank too much coffee, and they both ordered the largest meat available. Larabee had a steak, with all the trimmings, Wilmington had a burger, but one that took up the whole plate. Nathan wished that Bisby wouldn't make his portions so large, but the man said that that's what people wanted.

Jackson had a large salad with spinach soup. Since neither of his two companions said anything and they didn't even give him a derisive smile, they were very strange as far as Nathan was concerned. His 'eat to live' philosophy hadn't endeared him to the rest of the department, and it had gotten worse after Brinkhurst died. Nathan found that both men were formerly Navy SEALs and that they'd served together on Denver's police department. Why such men had become ATF agents was a question the detective-medic would dearly have loved to ask, but one look at the somber face of the 'man in black' made him keep his mouth shut. Aunt CC had always told him to never push a man too far and it looked like pushing Larabee could be fatal.

The food was excellent, so much so that all three men lingered over their meals. Both Federal agents were very tired, he could tell it in their faces.Whatever the Simpson case was, Nathan wasn't sure it couldn't wait until morning. However, Larabee wearily leaned over and pulled the file out of his jacket. Alice came over with the check and both men ordered dessert.

"I'd like some of that pie there, Miss Alice." Wilmington said pointing at the case. He gave Alice his best grin and she blushed charmingly. Larabee just shook his head and gave Nathan a commiserating look. For his part Nathan was astonished. Alice was older than his mother and worn out from working in Bisby's for more years than he could remember. For a moment her face seemed to lose years and she looked like a young girl. Agent Wilmington flattered and flirted with her as if she were some great beauty.

Nathan looked at the other Agent. Larabee had an amused but tolerant expression on his face as if he were used to his partner's behavior. When Alice had a moment from the charming Agent's attentions, Larabee ordered the cheesecake, causing his partner to gently rib him about his choice. Looking at the man, Nathan was sure that teasing him was a bad idea, but Larabee seemed quite resigned to it. When Alice had brought their desserts and left to attend to other customers, Larabee opened the file.

"We need to go to this area. Your C-O thought that we were crazy, but there are a lot of unanswered questions about the Simpson case." Larabee pointed to a map. Nathan looked at it closely. It appeared that they needed to go into the worst parts of town. Maybe he should ask Josiah to tag along. The big preacher was very well known by the street people and could probably get more information out of them then either Federal Agent.

Larabee laid out the Simpson case in plain terms. On the surface it seemed to be another case of someone being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Theresa Simpson was a secretary in a small manufacturing firm, Keeler's, located in the most rundown area of town. The firm had been in business for more than one-hundred-and-twenty years, still in the same brick building it had begun in. Simpson usually left the office at 6:45 P.M. under the watchful eye of the security guard. Keeler's was very protective of it's employees and hired round the clock security for their parking lot for their employees's safety. Each employee was clocked out as they left the lot, after having been personally escorted to their vehicles.

Theresa Simpson's old Volkswagen was still in the lot on the 19th of February of 1996 after all of the other daytime employees had gone. Second shift Security guard, Alan Rossem had called the police when a search of the building failed to turn up Theresa any where on the premises. Three days later Simpson's body turned up in a city park on the other side of the state line.

None of Keeler's many security cameras had picked up Simpson leaving the building, though her arrival at the firm was logged and she had been checked in by the day shift Security Chief. The most likely situation was that Simpson had used the exit that the smokers used to take unauthorized smoking breaks. Somehow she'd wandered out of the firm and had become the tragic victim of a robbery, at least that was the official view. Larabee wasn't sure and said that there were more holes in the official report than in his fishing net back home.

Nathan listened intently. He'd lived in Kansas City almost all of his life and he'd never heard of the case. The attention that both Larabee and Wilmington gave it however impressed him. Most people would have accepted the official version, made a few notes and gone on with their lives closing the case. Somehow he knew that these two wouldn't do that. Larabee, for certain, seemed like a dog with a bone.

Both Federal Agents were hiding yawns by the time they'd gone over the extensive list of places Larabee wished to go and the even longer list of people he wanted to talk to. Nathan got the feeling that he'd get his conversations whether or not anyone actually wanted to talk. Agent Larabee seemed like a force to be reckoned with. Wilmington's eyes blazed, Jackson wondered why either of them would take the case so seriously. He liked it about them, but it confused him. In his experience, Feds were people who wanted to get a power trip about ordering people around, doing very little work themselves. Maybe it was because they were ATF, but then again, why would the ATF be investigating a murder that had no connection to alcohol, tobacco, or firearms?

After Wilmington yawned for the fourth time, Larabee called a halt to the meeting. Nathan was again surprised when Larabee asked him to meet them at their motel and to join them for breakfast before setting out on the investigation. The blond agent had even paid the entire check, an act of generosity that Nathan couldn't object to. Maybe these weren't the loudmouth Feds that his co-workers were always griping about. These men seemed very goal-oriented and intent about doing the right thing. It impressed him, and Nathan Jackson didn't impress easily.

+ + + + + + +

Zipporah was waiting for him when he got home. She was not happy and told him so in no uncertain terms. Although she kept her voice down, Nathan saw the older of his two nephews, Ephriam, poke his head out and then withdraw back into his room. They didn't like it when Zipporah fought with him. He listened as long as he could handle it, blowing up only when Zipporah hit that oh so sensitive issue, their father...

As soon as his sister's tirade wound down to it's usual disgust Nathan retreated to the sanctuary of his room. It was the only calm place around for him, everywhere else was full of argument and the need to struggle. His room was just as he liked it, just as safe and ordered as the rest of the world was not. He took his jacket and hung it on it's hook. Beside the rack there was a bookcase. Nathan noticed that his copy of Corrie Ten Boom's 'The hiding place' was due back to the library on Monday. Taking this in, Nathan noticed some disorder, slight, but recognizable.

Orderly was how he liked his room, his sister called it obsessive cleanliness, but Nathan was certain that Zipporah was being overly critical, after all his room was immaculate, usually, so she had to find other things to complain about. No one would ever find anything wrong in his room. It was the kind of place where a man could get away from the world and think about things.

He tripped over another book, one in the middle of the floor and unexpected. Nathan picked it up. "Something wicked this way comes" by a Ray Bradbury. His nephews had been hiding in his room again. It ought to worry him, but neither of them made messes or damaged any of his belongings. Looking at the book again, he frowned at it's colorful cover. The illustration made no logical sense. Zipporah should be giving them important things to read, not this nonsense.

Placing the book on the shelf next to "The hiding Place", Nathan stretched his stiff shoulders. Sitting with the Federal Agents had been more tiring than he'd thought. Maybe he'd write a little in his journal, read his chapter on dealing with drug overdoses, and if he wasn't too long about it, he'd look at a couple of those tempting pages of research that had just come in...

Nathan picked up the Kente cloth bundle that contained his journal and the box with the precious Zulu pen. His teacher in African American studies, Professor Bowman, had given it to him, a gift to a kindred soul the man had said. The Zulu didn't write before the coming of the Europeans, but after...They'd learned Western ways as a kind of self-defense. Professor Bowman said that it was a warrior's pen, a man that had learned magic, a kind of traditional "Witch Doctor", in the late 19th century. Jackson would have loved a complete history, but the Professor was busy right now, especially since the college was thinking about cutting two of his African History classes.

He was saving the pen, not wanting to use it for anything less than something important, so he wrote in his journal with a cheap Bic. One day maybe he'd have a nice pen, but what was the use of spending money on something expensive when something cheap would do the job with half the trouble? Sometimes Nathan just didn't get people. Too many folk were spending money like it was going out of style and too many people needed more to get by than they had.

Finishing his chapter, he resisted his research and finished his medical kit for Josiah. If the Agents were intent on going to that area, he could give it to his friend at the soup kitchen. Nathan was sure Josiah would be able to help the investigation...if they could get him not to speak in parables. The new minister at the mission, Reverend Hayward, was making it difficult for Josiah to continue to serve. Maybe they should skip going to the mission...Don't want to rock the boat, Nathan thought, don't need to make things harder for his friend.

The last thing before going to bed, Nathan said his nightly prayers as a matter of form. He wasn't sure about God, but his father's intensive faith-based life had caused all of his children to follow the form, even if they didn't acknowledge the being he worshiped. After his prefunctuary observance, he opened the window and silently called to the winds the way his mother taught him. Feeling at peace with his world, Nathan went to bed. After all, tomorrow he'd be leading the Agents all over Kansas City.

+ + + + + + +

Larabee was an early riser, Jackson found as he pulled up to the little motel the Agents were staying at. Why they weren't in a better hotel downtown, Nathan didn't want to ask. Buck, again that name!, was still in the shower. The senior Agent invited him into the motel room to wait. It was easy to see which Agent had which side of the room. Wilmington's side looked like he'd been living in the room for months. His partner's side looked like the maid had just cleaned. Recognizing Larabee as a kindred soul at least as far as cleanliness went made Nathan smile. Agent Larabee just smirked in response, obviously guessing Jackson's train of thought.

Buck came out of the bathroom, naked, and dressed as if the two men weren't uncomfortable with him at all. Nathan tried hard to keep his jaw from dragging on the carpet. He'd pegged Wilmington as kind of carefree, but walking around mother-naked in front of God and Country? He was shocked. Larabee just looked at him with a small laugh.

"That's just Buck, Detective. There's only two ways to deal with it. You either get used to him, or you go screaming insane." He said softly, giving Nathan a sardonic glance over the rim of his coffee cup.

"I don't want to go insane." Nathan said after a moment's watching of the oblivious Buck. "No, sir. He's really...uhm... un-inhibited." Jackson added after a moment's careful thought. Larabee almost choked on his coffee.

"That's one way of putting it, I guess." Larabee said finally. He gave Nathan a measuring glance. It made the Detective a little uncomfortable as he wondered what Larabee was looking for.

+ + + + + + +

The two Agents ran a massive amount of Interviews. They'd breakfasted at Bisby's and had the smitten Alice bundle up some sandwiches for Lunch. Both men still ate more red meat than Nathan privately thought was good for them, but they kept it balanced with other things. Running around to each location, taking pictures, interviewing old witnesses and former co-workers of Teresa Simpson, was exhausting. Nathan was used to running, he marathoned every time he could, but these two were running him into the ground.

They'd met with Josiah at the mission. Sanchez hadn't been able to talk much because of the new Reverend, but he'd been able to point them in a different direction. Connections that they were able to make started making the Simpson case look a whole lot more familiar to the Detective. There was a drug connection and Jackson found that he could identify both the dealers the people mentioned and the different distribution groups. Both Agents picked his brain for information, seemingly disconnected but eventually Jackson was able to see a dim pattern in the background. Nathan found the investigative techniques each of the Agents used fascinating. One might easily write Wilmington off as a light-weight, but there was a sharp mind under that genial exterior. Larabee was more than sharp, he was brilliant. The man seemed to look right through you and see what you were hiding in the darkest corner of your heart. Amazing.

Nathan left the two at their motel going over their notes and went back to the station to check in with the Lt. Barrons wanted chapter and verse on both men. Jackson knew that the man was just concerned about having Feds on his turf, but the questioning didn't sit well with him. For the first time he found himself holding back information from his superior officer. The questions he answered made him feel as if he'd been wiggling on a line of ethics. Larabee might be white but he'd certainly given Nathan no attitude. In fact, Nathan thought that the man didn't seem to see his skin color as much as he seemed to see Nathan himself. After a couple of rounds of questions, Barrons let him leave for the squad room. Selman wouldn't even speak to him, his cheek all puffed up from the dental visit. The other detectives either wanted to know everything about the "Horrible Feddies" or wouldn't speak to him at all.

Eventually the other detectives left finished for the day while Nathan had his reports to file. Joseph Two-Deer hung behind for a moment. He looked at Jackson as if he wanted to say something but wasn't sure he should. Finally he cleared his throat. Nathan looked up at him, wondering what Two-Deer wanted. The man usually couldn't stand him.


"Yes?" Nathan asked while trying to remember how many interviews he'd watched the Agents do.

"Listen." Two-Deer said. Nathan looked up at him. "Larabee has a reputation."

"For?" Nathan frowned at the other detective. He did not want to hear that the man was dirty. This was the first time he'd been part of something where the color of his skin didn't seem to matter.

"It isn't that kind of Rep, Jackson. It's just that...Well, if there's corruption within a dozen miles, Larabee will find it out and bring it down. It's just the man's way. My cousin works out in Denver and knew him when he was on the force there. He's just like that. Every bad apple blows it with him around. He's a scary man."

"So?" Jackson wasn't particularly sure where this was leading, but since it was the longest he'd ever spoken with Two-Deer without the man getting mad at him, he figured he'd stay with it.

"Jackson. Just keep your nose clean." Two-Deer said. Nathan bristled, but before he could say anything the detective continued. "You've got potential, but you're the biggest jack ass I've ever had the displeasure to have to deal with. Get your head out of the racial whirlwind you think you're riding and watch your step. You're not dirty, but you aren't a choir boy either. The boys are already shaking around the man. He'll find them out, always does...That's just his way." Two-Deer shook his head at the fuming Nathan. "The world's full of illusions, and it's easy to be blinded by the lure of 'he's just like me, we have the same skin and because we do we've both suffered the same... Jackson, don't blow it. You've got a chance to save yourself. Be straight with the man and don't fall for anyone telling you to betray his actions." The retort Nathan was raging to give died before he could utter a sound. Many of the questions he'd been asked by the members of the division had felt uncomfortably close to betraying the man. Larabee hadn't asked him to keep what he and Wilmington were doing secret, but he'd expected Nathan to respect the privacy of the investigation and the security of the process.

Jackson had come perilously close to talking about some of those grey areas with the Lt. But Barrons was a fellow cop, wasn't he? And he did have a right to be worried because the Simpson case was developing some angles with the local dealers. Drug enforcement was what this division was all about and those dealers were scum that they needed to take off the streets....but for some reason he'd felt uncomfortable enough not to tell his C-O about Larabee's new angle on the case.

+ + + + + + +

Three days of the heaviest work load Nathan had ever endured ended with the arrest of one of the security personnel from Keeler's. Theresa Simpson had accidentally discovered the guard's supply line of cocaine into the country through the packages for the raw material Keeler's used in it's manufacturing. The Simpson family had flown into Kansas City and had been embarrassingly grateful to Nathan. He'd been chagrined to find that instead of being pushed to the sidelines, both Larabee and Wilmington freely acknowledged his participation in the case, even perhaps exaggerating his help as well as mentioning Josiah's assistance.

Lt. Barrons was going to put him in for a commendation. When he'd told Zipporah she'd been less than thrilled. Josiah had been curiously quiet as well, but that was usual with Sanchez. Several Federal Agents had arrived in Kansas City to look into clearing up the whole pipeline. A couple of them had arrived for some high level meetings with Larabee. They'd actually used the Chief's office and Old Chief Laine didn't move for anyone... Nathan had been interviewed by several of the Agents. He'd really found them likeable, not at all what he thought Federal Agents would be like. One of them, an Alex Welch, had really been interesting. Jackson wondered if he'd been noticed. He'd never considered himself for a Federal Agent....However, hard work and drive seemed to be the qualifications and working with Larabee and Wilmington had made him look further than his current job. There was a lot of potential to change things in the world. Look at how these Agents had tackled a 'closed' case and found a hell of a lot more than a murderer. The family had justice now and knew that the killer wouldn't be taking any more lives. It was a great feeling to have taken down the whole mess.

"There's one thing I don't understand." Nathan asked as he led the way to the car. Larabee and Wilmington were taking him to a celebratory dinner at Bisby's.

"What's that?" Larabee asked.

"You guys are from ATF right?"

"Right," Wilmington answered with a curious look.

"What did the Simpson case have to do with Alcohol, Tobacco, or Firearms?" Nathan asked watching both men closely.

"We're ATF, Nathan, but we're assigned to the RMETF which handles all Federal Cold Cases." Wilmington answered with a chortle. Larabee was smirking, Nathan could see. He glared at the man in black.

"Was wondering when you'd get around to asking." Larabee said. Nathan bit down his annoyance, both men were obviously teasing him and he found he liked it. It was nice to just be one of the guys instead of having to worry if the friendship was racially or politically motivated. These were just the guys.

Nathan decided to ask it, it wasn't going away. "RMETF?" This time Wilmington began to laugh really hard and Larabee cracked what might have been the beginning of a smile.

"Regional Mobile Enforcement Task Force." Larabee said. Wilmington was laughing so hard he was doubled over.

"What's that mean?" Nathan asked. Enforcement Task Forces sounded ominous.

"Not a damn thing. It just looked good on paper." Larabee chuckled. Wilmington stopped laughing and looked at him. "I asked Wiley about the guy who wrote the proposal. It seems he couldn't find an official enough sounding title that had enough punch. Cold Cases aren't a priority with a lot of people. He wanted the teams to have the ability to get in and get the case going. We don't handle Cold stuff exclusively but we do enough that it would be easy for us to be dismissed by the locals. He came up with the name. It's worked so far. Most people don't ask what it means. They just assume that it's a Federal division that they don't want to tangle with and go with it. It's correct after a fashion, but it's interesting to see what people think we do. Your Lt. Barrons thought that we were the Crime Lab."

This put Wilmington into another fit of the giggles. They reached Nathan's car. He looked at his watch, they could pick Josiah up in about twenty minutes... Both Agents had insisted that he be included as he'd helped out in the case. This was going to be a very nice evening, Nathan decided.

He was still thinking that when the first bullets struck his car. Larabee pulled him down, cursing as he was grazed. Wilmington cried out as he was struck in the arm. Nathan dashed around the car, ignoring Larabee's worried cursing as the man laid down cover fire. Jackson struggled with it but he managed to get his kit out of the back of his car. Wilmington had been hit and was apparently in the shooter's view. Not thinking too clearly, just concentrating on getting the Agent to safety, Nathan pulled him behind another vehicle. Other Agents and Cops boiled out of the department and began firing at the various shooters. Nathan just concentrated on Wilmington. The injury was bad, not because of the damage but because he couldn't get the bleeding under control.

Nathan was so involved with Wilmington's injuries that he wasn't paying attention to the rest of the firefight until a bullet struck the gas tank of his car causing it to explode. He covered Wilmington to shield him from the shrapnel. Looking quickly around he found that several of the others were wounded and Larabee was lying still on the pavement. There wasn't any sign of blood, but the man was now in the line of fire as his partner had been. Wilmington was stable for the moment, so Jackson drew his sidearm and ducked around the burning vehicles to assess Larabee. The older agent was unconscious, probably a concussion from the blast. He'd been nicked a couple of times, but they were grazes and not life threatening. Putting a Cervical Collar on his patient, Jackson slipped the mini backboard under Larabee and dragged the man to safety.

After a little the firing stopped, but Nathan's concern was with his patients. He monitored both men, listened to their complaints, Larabee having regained consciousness shortly after being pulled to safety, and tended their injuries until he was 'forcibly' relieved by the first ambulance crew.

+ + + + + + +

Both men were taken to the ER and Jackson rode with them. They were admitted, over their very loud and demanding objections. Nathan stayed with them during their 'medical imprisonment', both cheering the men up and spelling the overwhelmed hospital staff. He'd had several long conversations with both men about life and everything, mostly with Larabee though since Wilmington spent so much time flirting with the nurses. Alex Welch, one of the Agents who'd come after the Simpson case had been solved, came around to inform them that they'd broken a major interstate drug ring.

Jackson noticed that the man kept looking at him when he thought he wouldn't be caught. Nathan smiled. More of the junk was off of the streets. Fewer supplies to poison kids with. Welch told him that he should head home for a while, that the Agent would look after the 'dynamic duo'. Larabee was scheduled to be released later in the day and Wilmington in the morning, much to the relief of the hospital staff. Getting the feeling that the men wanted to talk without his presence, he gave the excuse that he needed to go see Josiah. It wasn't much of an excuse. The big ex-preacher had been in to visit both men and had asked to see them again out of the hospital.

Leaving the hospital, Nathan Jackson was pleased with his world. His patients were going to fully recover. He'd helped to break an important Federal Case, and maybe he'd been noticed. Larabee seemed quite pleased with him . . . A Federal Agent. There wasn't one of those in the Family, yet. Zipporah was wrong, he was his own man, and he didn't have to be some echo of their father. Life was good. Maybe he'd take Josiah out tonight to celebrate. It was a better world that he was working for, he just had to do his best. It was simple, Perfection.

If Nathan had waited a moment longer he might have heard a very important conversation . . .

"They're dumping almost the entire station. Rotten through and through. Barrons ran a damn poor ship." Alex Welch told the men at the end of his briefing about the drug ring.

"Who are they keeping?" Buck asked, rubbing his wounded arm.

"Selman, Two-Deer, Johnson, and Williams. They weren't part of the corruption so they aren't part of the house-cleaning."

"Not Jackson?"

"No Buck. He wasn't part of the conspiracy but he wasn't on the side of "Good" either." Alex frowned.

"Damn, That man has a lot of potential. Shame to waste it."

"Buck, I know what you are trying to do. And I agree, but it's not going to be that easy." Chris frowned. "I don't think that Alex likes him." Welch nodded. "There's a lot of baggage here. He wasn't involved in the drug ring but he worked that department. The men they're keeping were all known to be on the outs with Barrons and so were never under suspicion of being involved...They were too upright to be anything other than clean. Jackson wouldn't have been involved, but he was the Lieutenant's 'pet' or at least that's how most of the department thought of him. He wasn't dirty but he was fooled. That's a lot to carry into Federal service, Buck. And there's more. This Brinkhurst situation counts against him. There was no need for it. He's got a lot to learn about the world and how people work. If we end up with a white undercover agent . . . That's a situation, I'm not sure I'm equipped to deal with. He's good, that's for certain. He kept us alive in the middle of that firefight . . . but I'm not sure I can keep tap-dancing around the Judge. Travis wants the best of the best. Nathan is good, Damn good, but he's also a liability."

"He needs a second Chance, Stud. Isn't that what this thing is all about? A second Chance to work a dead case and bring Closure? It was a second chance for you and Damn straight it was for me."

"A second chance? Buck, are you trying to recruit me a bunch of problem children?" Larabee grinned. "Is this the way you intend to get back at me for the SEALs? Pard, there's a statute of limitations on the sentence of 'Mother-hen Larabee.'"

"No way, Pard, that's a Life Sentence, a long life." Buck teased and then looked at Chris seriously. "At least think about it. That guy is in for a hard fall. It isn't necessary. He's good. A fresh start and this whole thing will work out. I know it. It's what the big guy, that friend of his said "Destiny."

"You're an incurable optimist Buck. But maybe not without cause...." Alex Welch put in with a partial smile. "One of his co-workers, Joseph Two-Deer, just about begged me to take him on, to transfer him to someplace where he could do some good. If Two-Deer can see beyond the mess Jackson made with Brinkhurst, perhaps there's hope for the man. But Buck, putting him into the RMETF. I don't know. It seems like a mistake. What do we do if you're wrong?"

"How often am I wrong?"Buck said looking at Chris. Larabee moaned a little knowing where this was going.

"Not often." Larabee admitted. He looked at Alex with a slight frown."Buck's right, he's too good to waste in the firestorm that's going to land on that department.We'll give it a shot. Even if it's only temporary. If he doesn't fit in, we'll find him someplace he will. Alex, start the paperwork. Nathan Jackson is now a member of Team Seven. He may be a pain, but he's our pain." Chris turned to glare at his best friend. "But Buck, Let's just try not to recruit too many Pains in the Ass, OK? I'm not sure my heart can take it."


Continues in Avoiding Crows