Part 1 - 4 | Part 5 - 9 | Part
10 - 14
No more shots peppered the afternoon. The sun hung low in the sky, never
reaching its true zenith, as if it took too much effort. The snow sparkled,
glittering in the softened light of a winter sun.
Josiah , Nathan and Vin gathered up their gear and scurried their way from
tree to tree skirting the edge of the clearing, heading toward Larabee and
Vin, like the others, ran hunched over, rifle in hand as he quickly picked
his way along the haphazard trail left by Chris, Buck and JD.
The men who had been hunting Standish had slid deeper into the forest and
simply disappeared. Though the urge to chase them down was strong, the need
to reunite with the team pulled at them with greater intensity.
Hey boys, Vin whispered out as he slid into the tiny stand of
trees that Chris and the others took protection behind.
You all right? Larabee asked, scanning the three men that quickly
sidled up behind trees of their own.
Aint none of us sporting any extra holes, Tanner answered.
Ey Ez? Figured youd be half way to Cairo by now.
Circumstances have a habit or rearing their ugly heads, Standish
answered back rubbing at his hat with a mittened hand. The wool material
was sometimes distractingly itchy.
Nice outfit, Tanner smirked appreciating the insulated overalls
and coat that Standish wore. Vin suspected the undercover agent appreciated
them as well for their warmth and durability.
Ezra held up one mitten hand. Vin could imagine the single raised digit under
Nathan, hes been hit, Larabees statement had twisted
itself around into an order.
Nathan let out a heavy sigh, Big surprise there.
The healer dropped down next to Standish while slipping off his pack. He
eyed the blood on the jackets arm. You hit just in the arm?
Ezra pulled his gaze from the base of the tree trunk nearby and stared at
Nathan while Jackson rooted through his pack with an air of exasperation.
Standish simply nodded. He settled heavier against the tree feeling the snow
slowly work its way through the insulated overalls he had taken from the
truck just the day before. Somehow, it didnt really bother him. The
others were here, they would take care of everything. Responsibility for
his own safety lifted from his shoulders like a heavy yoke being removed.
The undercover agent couldnt resist the smile that twitched on his
face. It was good to back in amongst the group. Even if it was out in the
middle of Gods country.
He snapped out of his malaise when a candy bar hit him in the chest. Standish
stared mutely at the Three Musketeer bar that lay in his lap. His stomach
Eat that and Ive got some water for you. Nathan said as
he once again started rooting through his pack.
Standishs stomach growled. The gnawing hunger that had been stifled
under fear and a constant surge of adrenaline roared to the forefront. His
mouth suddenly watered and his hands shook as he came to realize just how
famished he was. With shaking hands, he pulled off his mittens and ripped
into the wrapper. He couldnt get the paper off quick enough as he tore
a large bite from the candy bar. He had it eaten and gone before Jackson
put his knapsack to the side.
Nathan pretended not to notice the way Ezra gulped down the candy. He gave
the man privacy in the small clearing that offered none, in a situation that
prevented such amenities. Standish was so calorie deficient it would take
more than a few meals to get his strength back and muscles healed.
Jackson pulled one glove off with his teeth and chuckled as he fingered the
white stuffing of the carhart jacket that was tinged with red near the upper
It bleeding badly? Nathan asked as he tried maneuvering the sleeve
of the coat to get a better glimpse of the wound that lay hidden below.
Dont think so, Ezra answered honestly. Sitting back against
the tree, with the protection of the others around him, Standish felt the
dregs of exhaustion drape itself over his frame. The candy bar only stimulated
his appetite, exposing the raw teeth of hunger. His stomach gnawed on itself,
impatiently urging for more food.
Nathan let go of the coat sleeve and nodded as he sat back on his heels.
He slapped Ezras bent legs. A grin spread on his face and clearly spoke
of the relief at finding the undercover agent alive and relatively unscathed.
Ezra returned the smile weakly and shut his eyes once again resting his head
back against the tree trunk. The comforting drone of voices around him, lulled
him into a soft twilight of peace and contentment.
Nathan? Larabees inquiry pulled Jacksons attention
Hell survive, Nathan said. Ezra grunted in disagreement,
without opening his eyes.
Jackson shook his head and pushed himself to his feet using Standishs
good shoulder as a guide.
He scanned the area and the others who stood leaning against various trees
keeping vigil. Wed all be a lot better if we got down off this
mountain and some place warm with some food. The medic walked the short
distance to Larabee and kept his voice low, I dont want to try
n take his coat off or the sweater he has under it, Jackson turned
and looked at Standish who lay sunken back against the tree, and Im
thinkin hed fight us on it, Jackson turned his attention
back to Chris, not that I blame him. Were in single digits up
here and itd do him no good to get any colder than he already is, best
thing is to get some place with some heat. Nathan paused, It
aint bleeding bad from what I gather. It looks like a graze.
Chris stood hipshot staring out across the clearing and then back to his
men. Vin stood on guard against a tree. His rifle at the ready, watching
JD squatted beside Ezra joking with the undercover agent. Dunnes exhaustion
made itself evident when the young boy slowly sank to his butt in the deep
snow. Buck stood near the two men tossing out his own insults while scanning
the area for any danger, his gun at the ready. Wilmington met Larabees
gaze and held it. Buck offered a grin and then broke eye contact and nudged
with his knee with just enough force to knock Dunne over onto his side into
the snow, just to be irritating.
Josiah watched the meadow. His large frame leaning heavily into the tree
he sought protection behind while tracking any movement with his eye and
Nathan bind up his arm, Chris turned his attention back to Jackson
and then over to Ezra, and if he gives you any crap, Ill
Ezra cocked an eyebrow but the effect was hidden by his wool hat. I
see Mr. Larabees attitude has improved with the weather.
Hell Ez, its just his way of sayin he loves ya, Vin
chuckled, never letting his eyes stray from the forest across the clearing.
Yes, well Hallmark says it with more finesse, Ezra
Larabee ignored his two men and turned his attention to his youngest agent,
JD get on that computer of yours and try and figure out where we
Well, Hell, Mr. Larabee, I can help you with that, Ezra huffed
with barely concealed sarcasm.
Chris stared at his agent expectantly.
Ezra sighed with a put-upon expression and spoke slowly and clearly as if
speaking to a very small child: Were in the middle of a frozen
wasteland miles from any civilization.
And why is that Ezra? Chris asked turning his full attention
to his undercover agent, leaving Vin and the others to watch his back.
Ezra once again skewed his face as if Larabee had lost his mind, Because
civilization hasnt reached this far.
Brother, Josiah spoke out in a warning tone, never taking his
eyes from any potential danger that might lurk in the surrounding forest.
He had to concede that perhaps the danger lurked amongst them, if Ezra
didnt learn to edit his own sarcasm.
Ezra, just answer the damn man, Nathan intoned softly as he squatted
down beside the undercover agent and began the daunting task of removing
the mans coat.
Ezra grimaced at the undue movement but held still when Larabee narrowed
Well, I havent actually tried to converse with said gentlemen,
they seem more intent on doing bodily harm to myself, than parleying.
Ezra pulled his knees up as his arm rang with stinging pain when Nathan tried
to peel the jacket off from around his shoulder. The sweater and bibbed overall
suspenders impeded Jacksons efforts.
What a surprise, Vin mumbled out, a smile splitting his face.
Yes quite unexpected I assure you. Ezra ignored the returning
sarcasm that seemed directed at him.
You dont know why theyre after you?
They dont want witnesses? Ezra remarked with raised eyebrows.
His tone clearly stated that he no more believed it than they did. His pursuers
could have just left him up in these mountains and good odds lay that his
body wouldnt have been found until late spring.
Could be, Chris grudgingly agreed but felt no reassurances by
Or it could be the ledgers they think I have in my possession.
Standish offered with a catch in his voice when Nathan moved the injured
Ezra, Chris warned, not wanting to have to wait for the whole
Accounts of course, written documentation of financial exchanges, and
of course there is the small matter of the diary. Ezra gasped and swatted
at Nathans hands as the medic tried to push the sweater sleeve up high
enough to expose the wound. It wasnt going to work.
Whos diary? Chris asked between clenched teeth.
The toothy, wolfish grin he got in return sent his blood boiling. Why did
his men have to be so irritating. Ezra, Chris ground out again,
in inquiry and in warning.
Mr. Soldans, of course. Ezras smug cocky airs dipped
a little when he yelped as Nathan took a pair of scissors to the arm of his
Have you read it?
That wouldnt be polite Mr. Larabee, Ezra returned with
So that means you read it, Buck answered.
Yes, Standish answered with a sigh and then whined, Mr.
Jackson please stop trying to help me.
Shut up Ezra, Nathan retorted as he laid gauze over the deep
furrow that needed stitches inside and out.
Ezra, the diary. Chriss anger grew with the dropping daylight
He kept detailed notes Mr. Larabee, just as he did with the ledgers.
Its all in black and white
.well blue and white to be exact, but
his business dealings, both financially and personally. Ezra turned
his eyes back to his arm and was dismayed at the torn sweater sleeve and
the sight of his own blood.
Where are they?
Ezra un-tucked his sweater from his insulated over alls and lifted it up
part way. There, taped to his midsection, were two small books, not the true
ledger books Chris was picturing. He switched his attention over to Dunne.
Chris watched as JD dug his computer out of his pack and then pulled a gnarled
nest of cords and a tiny electronic chip.
With his breath billowing in soft white rolls, JD sat back on his haunches
and dove into the task of setting up his computer. Dunne launched himself
into a world he was comfortably familiar with and ignored the conversation
going on around him.
Larabee envied the younger agent.
Until he heard the ahh shit.
Chris cocked an eyebrow at Vin who in turned offered a disinterested shrug,
never turning his full attention from the surrounding area. JD and his computers
and the world of electronics were beyond Tanner and he did not have to feign
disinterest in it.
Larabee sighed and shook his head. Whats wrong JD?
Its the cold, JD muttered out, breathing repeatedly into
cupped bare hands. The fingerless gloves he wore under his mittens actually
covered his fingers, making it near impossible to type.
Nothin new there kid, Buck chuckled out wiping his nose
on the sleeve of his coat as he reached down to hold the second layer of
gauze in place on Ezras upper arm while Nathan reached for more tape.
Blood slowly seeped through the white gauze. Ezra having seen where Buck
wiped his nose, tried to create a little distance between himself and the
Batteries dont want to work, its too cold. This is takin
forever, JD breathed into his red tipped fingers again as he nodded
repeatedly. Once we get somewhere warm, itll be back up and running
a whole lot quicker, he added without looking up from his computer
screen, and still blowing on one hand, he deftly danced his fingers across
the tiny key board with the other.
Larabee sighed and shook his head. Do what you can JD.
Miracles are Josiahs department, Chris, Vin spoke out quietly
taking some of the pressure from JDs shoulders.
Larabee merely nodded and turned his attention back toward the clearing.
The sun slowly moved across the sky, lengthening shadows.
The temperature would soon be dropping again.
+ + + + + + +
If theyre out there they aint movin, Vin said
as he hefted his rifle settling it cautiously over his shoulder, careful
to protect the thousand dollar scope. He pushed away from the tree he was
leaning against and with a satisfied smile slid into line behind Larabee.
The others followed, hefting packs, readjusting the weight across their shoulders
and backs and shuffled into the familiar single file march. The one difference
was the extra man. Standish slid into line behind JD, who in turn followed
Vin. Buck stuck close to Standishs heels.
The undercover agent carried no pack, his arm was trapped in a make shift
sling which he made a show of disliking but easily capitulated to Nathans
demands once he realized how painful it was to let his injured arm fall to
The line moved out slowly, filtering between the trees, weaving in amongst
the shadows of mid day. With practiced sense of pacing, with the anxiety
of searching for a missing man diminished, the seven men threaded their way
through the slowly darkening forest, hoping to find shelter and avoid the
Eyes nervously searched the surrounding forest, tense muscles never relaxed,
and the fear of an attack only seemed to heighten with the passage of time
Chris led them down slope angling back toward the river. They would parallel
it for a few miles then veer North. North seemed counter intuitive to the
hobby rancher. It was as if it would force them to go upslope. Larabee knew
better, knew that North did not mean uphill, but he still felt uneasy about
the course direction.
JD, however, was sure. The young agent carried his pack with a new sense
of strength and determination. He worked the miracle. Dunne had gotten the
frozen computer to work. JD knew where they were, electronically speaking
and was confident in his information.
Josiah and Nathan could plot their course on a map and trace their trail
across a folded, grid marked paper, and they felt secure.
Buck had lifted Standish to his feet with one arm, and now shadowed the
undercover agent, certain in his ability to protect him.
Vin kept his rifle easily accessible, comfortable with his capability to
shoot anything within a few hundred yards of his team and friends. The tracker
followed behind Larabee ever vigilant and with the easy step of confidence.
Larabee led his men through waist deep snow kept at mid shin level with snow
shoes. His quadriceps burned each time he bent his knees to take another
step. Chris walked with the heavy determined step of a leader, wishing he
was back amongst his city streets, back on his mountains, his terrain. Though,
he would never trust his mens safety to anyone else, there were times,
like now, he wished their safety did not rest so heavily on his shoulders
and depend so trustingly on his decisions.
With swift sliding steps, Larabee skimmed through the snow, eager to put
as much distance between himself and the men who had somehow managed to disappear
into the forest. With a quick stride, he cut through the snow hoping to hit
the old abandon cabin that JD had miraculously found through his satellite
hook up. And hopefully, just hopefully, the weather would hold long enough
for a helicopter to come carry them out.
For three hours the group traveled silently through the forest with the river
gurgling unseen to their left. The team skiffed down slope toward the Big
The cabin was built by trappers and loggers and those that ventured forth
into the far back reaches of the mountains, away from civilization. Chris
knew of a few cabins like the one they headed too. They were usually stocked
with can goods, blankets and cut fire wood. It provided shelter for those
that found themselves lost or stuck out in the mountains when weather turned
foul or injury struck the traveler. Those that used the cabin would replenish
what they used for the next weary traveler and hopefully prevent any unseen
misfortune from developing into a tragedy. The log buildings were sturdy,
their roofs sure and the walls thick. The people that worked to maintained
the small cabins did it out of love for the outdoors and the knowledge and
respect that mother nature and Murphys law sometimes worked hand and
The Big Fork cabin would serve them tonight and tomorrow affording them a
place to rest. With luck, JDs computer would be warmed up enough to
send a signal and hopefully call for a helicopter.
Chris caught movement from the corner of his eye. Standish stumbled yet again,
only to have Buck grab his arm and keep him from going down. The undercover
agent had discarded the sling long ago. It was impossible to keep his balance
with one arm trapped. Even now with two arms free, the relentless cold, the
hunger and the wound were taking their toll.
Cold and hunger were gnawing on his own reserves, just as surely as it was
snipping away at his men.
Chriss anger continued to boil. A blast of wind buffeted him full in
the chest, making his eyes water. The sun lay just above the peaked horizon,
a pale yellow in a greyish white sky. Low cloud cover rolled in from ahead,
from the North. The promise of more snow threatened to dump down on them.
The wind picked up strength moaning and weaving its way through pine trees,
battering the weary men and seeping in between the seams of their clothing,
chilling the sweat that drenched their inner clothing.
Chris felt the bite of the wind on his cheeks, felt the tip of his nose tingle
with the bitter chill. His eyes watered and his nose ran. Sweat dotted his
back and ran in tiny rivulets along the creases of muscles under tight skin.
It had become a race. His team slid through the forest single file, trying
to beat the brewing storm and avoiding the men that hunted them.
From the corner of his eye, he watched as Buck, once again latched onto
Standishs arm, though this time it took the combined effort of Josiah
and Buck to get Ezra back onto his feet.
They were all tiring. Dangerously battered.
JD followed mutely behind Vin, his head ducked down to his chin, whether
to shield his face from the slicing wind or because he was too exhausted
to lift his head, Chris could not be sure. His men were exhausted.
Chris was getting tired of being hunted.
Through the haze of swirling snow and behind the silhouettes of towering
pines stood the dark outlines of the cabin.
Larabee signaled his men to a halt. One by one they ducked behind trees,
shielding themselves from any possible gunfire that might erupt from the
If they knew about the small oasis, they had to assume that those that hunted
them did too.
With caution and stealth honed through stringent training, Chris, Buck and
Vin slinked their way toward the small cabin. Nathan, Josiah, JD and Ezra
spread out amongst the trees within sight of one another and watched the
others, guns at ready, to cover Chris, Buck and Vins backs should lead
With agonizing slowness, heightened by the gale like winds and bitter
temperatures, the four men watched their three teammates appear and disappear
like shadows through the blowing curtain of snow in the darkened forest.
+ + + + + + +
Vin shouldered the thick log door open, keeping his pack between his shoulder
and the nail tips that studded door. He tripped over his snow shoes when
the door suddenly gave way. He toppled inward, careful to avoid stepping
on the small door stoop. Wind and snow piled in behind him in a deafening
roar of confusion and noise.
He scanned the dark open room. Satisfied that no one lay in ambush, he waved
an all clear and ventured back into the storm to help his teammates,
closing the heavy wooden door behind himself.
A few moments later the door burst open again with men, blinding snow and
piercing winds all tumbling into the cabin.
Chris was already shouting orders over the crescendo of the storm, Josiah,
Buck get a fire going, Vin secure the door and check for any kind of weapons,
JD get that computer of yours on line and get us some help. Nathan...
Already on it Chris, Jackson answered as he and Ezra stumbled
out of the way, skirting to the far side of the large wooden table and heading
for one of the homemade chairs that sat between the three sets of bunks lining
the west wall.
Larabee leaned his shoulder into the door with Vin, fighting against the
wind and rushing snow. With their combined effort they got the heavy door
closed, muffling the sounds of fury that raged across the mountainside and
beat against the small shelter. A few scattered inches of snow lay at their
feet, un-melting in the frigid cold of the cabin.
The one room cabin lay in dark heavy shadows. The heavy smell of must and
disuse quickly made itself known. The little cabin had only two small windows
each with thick wood block shutters on heavy iron hinges. The shutters were
swung closed and latched from the inside. Large nails had dotted the outside
of the shutters, just the same as the nails that had graced the welcome
mat and most of the door front. The visitors and amateur architects
of the small cabin understood how to keep curious and marauding bears from
looting their supplies.
The members of Team Seven quickly started on their assigned tasks, all the
while wary that the unknown gunmen still lurked out beyond the log walls
of their little haven.
Larabee rooted through the large wood storage boxes that lined the East wall
closest to the only door. They were filled with canned goods, blankets and
matches. He found a slingshot in amongst the items, shrugged at the curiosity
and tossed it to the side, in the middle of the floor. He lifted a thick
wool blanket and paused. Dynamite. Six sticks of dynamite.
He smiled and caught Vins attention, as the sharpshooter came up empty
handed in his search for any kind of weapons.
Must use the dynamite to clear trail or something, Tanner said,
walking over to Larabee as he inspected a stick of explosives.
Larabee merely nodded, placed the dynamite back, and worked the box away
from the wall and into the center of the room next to the sling shot.
+ + + + + + +
A fire crackled and snapped in the large fireplace. The roar of the chimney
fire a half hour before had burned itself out quickly as Sanchez stoked the
fire into a blaze. The old abandoned nests that had blocked the chimney had
gone up in a blaze and burned themselves out.
The cabins one room was cast in a flickering of grey shadows that wavered
and trembled with each fierce blast of wind that battered the cabin and sliced
its way down the chimney.
The storm raged outside, buffeting the building.
JD sat at the table, his back to the fire. His white long-john shirt had
finally dried and was now warm to the touch. His coat and sweatshirt were
draped over a chair to dry along with his snow pants. He had kicked off his
boots and had set them near the fire with the other boots.
The young agent once again tried to coax his computer to do the impossible.
Buck fingered the dynamite and the sling shot and occasionally threw a glance
at the undercover agent. Ezra for his part, stared at the makeshift ledger
and diary that he had placed side by side on the table and ran a finger along
a column in the ledger as he turned pages in the diary. He still wore his
sweater, with its cut sleeve, refusing to part company with all his outer
layers. Larabee stood over Standish, resting one hand on the table and the
other on the back of Ezras chair, and scanned the pages of the two
books over Standishs shoulder.
The shorthand and column headers made no sense to Chris and the more he puzzled
over them the more his anger rose. Can you make heads or tails of
this? he asked, his frustration audible.
Ezra slowly nodded, running a thumb over his lower lip, Actually,
yes. Ezra kept his attention on the books. He was too tired to swivel
slightly in his chair and meet his bosss eye, Mother taught me
different strategic accounting practices as a child
.it is sometimes
prudent to mask ones gains if others might perceive them as ill gotten.
Standishs smile reminded Larabee of a confident Used Car Salesman on
the scent of a buyer with more money than brains.
I dont want to know Standish
.just decode this and make
it make sense, Chris ordered with a tired sigh.
Vin chuckled quietly to himself as he leaned back in a chair resting it against
one of the bunks. He diligently cleaned and oiled his rifle. Josiah squatted
down in front of the fire and slowly stirred the contents in the thick cast
iron pot that hung over the small cooking flame.
Nathan sat in a chair near the shuttered window with his Sig in hand, keeping
watch without being able to hear or see anything outside the cabin. The wind
howled and moaned as it coursed around the small cabin.
Got it, JD piped up from his computer.
JD, Chris replied, asking a question with merely the name. He
straightened up and turned his attention to Dunne.
Cant get much range, Dunne started and then continued still
typing away, Got a hold of a Search and Rescue unit down in Eimidae.
If the storm breaks, they can be here by morning with a chopper, hopefully
big enough for all of us. Theyre contacting Travis and the locals.
Theyll keep their eyes out for anyone suspicious.
Is there any way I can get in touch with Travis myself? Chris
asked pushing himself to his full height and heading over to JD and his computer.
Can try, the batteries are low, the cold really did a number on
satellite link up is weak because of the storm, but I dont
see why not, JD slid out of the chair and let Chris sit at the keyboard.
Larabee hated it when JD did that. The young agent assumed everyone on his
team was as competent at computers as he was. The kid still couldnt
grasp that his skill with electronics was as special as Vins skill
with a rifle, as Ezra skill at undercover work, Bucks ability at setting
up surveillance, or Nathan with all things with a razor edge or Josiah and
profiling. It sometimes irritated Larabee that Dunne failed to see his own
JD, connect me to Travis, Larabees impatience caused Buck
and Nathan to snicker. Standish smirked and shared a look with the other
two. Vin smiled and kept his eyes on the barrel of his rifle and Josiahs
outright laughter competed with the storm outside.
Umm, sure Chris, JD leaned over Larabees back and hit a
few keys. Chris waited as a little hourglass sat in the middle of the screen.
The screen went black.
Ahh shit, JD quietly muttered.
Ahh shit what JD? Chris asked, dreading the answer he knew was
Batteries died. Dunne sighed and shrugged. The small twinge of
guilt that settled on him were audible in his voice, sorry.
Larabee merely nodded and gently pushed the computer a few inches toward
the center of the table.
You sure theyre coming JD? Nathan asked. He gazed up from
sharpening one of his knives. The blade caught the fire light and reflected
it in a tiny flare.
If the storm quits theyll be here, JD reassured as he took
a seat beside Buck and dragged his computer closer to him to start packing
it away. Least thats what they said. The guilt of not being
able to offer solid reassurance tainted his voice.
The others ignored it.
Nathan? Josiah asked tilting his head in the direction of the
Sanchez had pulled a chair from the table over closer to the fire and stirred
the pot of beans and beef. The cabin was warm enough that they had all shucked
out of their gear and draped it about in a semi circle around the fireplace
Nuthin a few good hours of rest and a couple of good meals
wont cure. The arm couldve used some stitches and it bled more
than is good, but what he needs most is some solid sleep.
Gentlemen, it may be surprising, but not only am I in the room, I do
have my faculties about me, Ezras peeved tone matched the exhaustion
that shadowed the hallows under his eyes.
Thats been debatable, Buck grinned. Standish threw him
a snarled, sarcastic glance.
Nice woolies ya got there Ez, Vin chuckled out.
Ezra plucked at his white double wool long-johns and smiled. Though the grin
was genuine, exhaustion draped over the agent like a second skin. It laced
his thickened drawl drawing syllables even further, Only the best Mr.
Tanner, only the best.
Good thing too, Nathan remarked, hearing the fatigue in his
friends voice and feeling the same exhaustion tug on him, kept
your lily-white southern ass from freezing to death out there the last few
Id like to think it was my skill and ingenuity that sustained
me. Tired green eyes twinkled despite the greyish bags that creased
the skin below them.
Hell Ezra, even a blind sow will find an acorn, Josiah intoned.
Chris shook his head, a smile bending the lines on his face as Vin laughed,
placing his rifle to the side, resting it against the bunk.
JD and Ezra shared a confused look. Dunne frowned and shrugged. His shoulders
burned in protest at the careless movement.
Standishs eyes fell on the open box in middle of the floor near the
door, Is that dynamite? A small smile slowly blossomed into a
dimpled grin. Fatigue faded.
The smiles around the room slowly transformed into worried frowns.
Oh no. Nathan groaned and rested his head against the wall and
closed his eyes.
Buck nodded and held up the sling shot. He and Ezra shared twin grins.
+ + + + + + +
The cabin was quiet as the seven spooned beef and maple sugared beans down
in hearty gulps. The meal which would have turned stomachs and given rise
to polite excuses, was eaten with relative gusto.
Those that thought they were too tired to eat, or too nauseated to suffer
the meal, ate with new found vigor when empty bellies got their first taste
of solids. Hesitation disappeared as spoons scraped tin plates, trying to
scoop up the very last morsels of food.
The pot was scraped clean and JD licked his spoon of the last remnants of
visible food. Chris pushed the blue tin with white decorative flakes away
from himself. We need to set up a watch tonight.
The others merely nodded, wishing they had more to eat and drink. The call
of the bunks was like a sirens song: exhaustion settled heavily on
the men as the warmth of the fire finally found its way deep into their bones
and the warm food filled their bellies.
Nathan, you take first watch, Ill be next, then Ezra
Chris held up his hand to stall Jacksons argument. He then turned to
Standish, You up to takin watch tonight? If not let me know.
Ezra met Larabees piercing hazel eyes and understood that he could
graciously back out of his turn on duty if he felt too tired to pull his
share. Falling asleep on watch was an inexcusable offense. Knowing that,
but somehow feeling responsible for their predicament, Standish inclined
his head slightly, I am capable of doing it.
Chris let his eyes lay on the undercover agent for a moment as if measuring
the mans mettle. Standish merely quirked an eyebrow, daring his boss
to push him, to challenge him. Larabee chuckled and shook his head,
Alright then, Buck you follow Vin, then Josiah and JD.
The men nodded their agreement and pushed from the table. The dirty dishes
were piled at the far end. There was not enough fresh water to clean them.
The dishes could wait.
+ + + + + + +
In the crackling fire light, near midnight, Chris Larabee sat with his chair
tilted back against the kitchen table while he watched the flame dance and
stretch its way up the chimney. The smoke would act like a beacon and bring
the gunmen to their doorstep. Of course, the trail they had left would have
been easy enough to follow, - at least it was until the storm hit.
The fierce wind and blowing snow would easily hide their tracks. Chris even
dared to hope that perhaps the tumultuous winds that buffeted the cabin and
scoured the land would disperse the thin spirals of smoke that rose from
the chimney, then cease just long enough for a helicopter to venture out
after them in the morning.
Larabee did not plan on making any bets.
Twisting his wrist toward the fire, Chris checked his watch again. He should
have woken Standish an hour and a half ago. He didnt and had no intentions
of doing so, never did. He had only wanted to avoid an argument.
Larabee turned his gaze from the shadows cast by the flames when he heard
movement from one of the bunks.
The tracker slowly extracted himself from the area closest to the wall and
climbed down from the upper bunk using the foot boards as a makeshift ladder.
JD lay curled, in the opposite top bunk, under his sleeping bag unmoving.
Below, Standish slept somewhat sprawled on his back, his good arm flung out
while his injured one was kept close trapped between his body and the wall.
The undercover agent had kicked free of his sleeping bag. He had grown accustom
to the biting cold to some extent and the heat of the cabin plus a sleeping
bag had become too much. Wilmington, in the other lower bunk, had kicked
his feet free and had his head and shoulders buried under the down sleeping
Nathan had commandeered the third lower bunk for himself as Josiah snored
in blissful oblivion on the top bunk. Chris eyed his men for a few more moments,
enjoying the quiet. Dread seeped in as he contemplated how he would get them
out of the mountains without getting killed.
Tanner nodded as he strode across the room and checked the latched door and
window shutters. Chris slowly pushed himself to aching legs and walked slowly
toward the vacated bunk. He didnt think he would manage to get any
sleep, but he would try.
+ + + + + + +
Chris was thrown against the wall by a brutal force. He tried to scramble
from his bunk but suddenly found his world turned upside down and himself
trapped within the confines of his sleeping bag. Flashes of light and flames
seared across his darkened vision and panicked voices pierced the early morning
JD! Bucks voice bellowed through the ruckus and the confusion
as another forceful blast rocked the small cabin.
Chris was thrown from his bottom bunk, his head slapped off the floor.
Where the Hell is Chris?! Vins voice cut through the din
as men scrambled about and hollered for one another.
Ive got him!, Ive gotim! Nathan shouted back
as he reached Larabees jerking sleeping bag and pulled it down. Chris
shucked the bag while he searched for his gun. His heart settled and control
surged through his veins when his fingers curled around the comfortably familiar
grip of his gun.
Josiah?! Buck screamed out as another blast hit just outside
the small cabin.
Dust and chinking cascaded down from the walls and beamed ceiling. Pots clanged
to the floor.
Here, Brother, Sanchezs voice sounded tight with anger.
Larabee couldnt help but think Josiahs infinite patience was
Another blast rocked the cabin. A wooden chair fell over, the heavy table
jumped and an empty bunk rocked back from the wall.
Anyone gut Ezra? Bucks voice had men pausing. Vin stopped
loading his rifle for a brief moment. Nathan looked to Chris as if Larabee
should know and Josiahs temper seemed to falter for only a moment before
raising another notch.
Hes here, JD piped up.
The room snapped back into action. Larabee shook his head in exasperation
when he heard JD speaking again: Comen Ez, time to wake up.
Another blast lambasted the cabin. The thick wooden shutters blew inward
in a shower of splinters. People hit the floor covering their heads as wood
chips and chinking rained down on them. The thick wooden door was torn from
its hinges and skipped across the log table overturning it and knocking it
to the floor.
Comen Ez quit screwing around, we gotta go, JD covered
his head and turtled his neck when automatic rifle fire filled the morning.
The solid thunk of bullets hitting wood sent shivers of fear down Dunnes
Larabee and Nathan crawled toward the open doorway. Buck and Vin flanked
either side of the blown in window.
JD! Chris hollered over his shoulder as Nathan and he alternated
shots. Get Ezra and those damn ledgers and git the Hell out of here!
Ezra had rolled from his bunk and was in the process of kicking free of his
sleeping bag. Both he and JD stared back at Larabee, protests on their lips.
They would not run off and leave their friends behind.
Another blast shook the small building. Men were thrown about like tops.
A large piece of the stone fireplace fell away from the wall. Early morning
daylight filtered in through the hole.
Larabee wiped dust and small splinters from his face and eyes. He turned
and saw Standish and Dunne still standing rooted to the floor with the beginning
of protests on their lips. NOW! he hollered at the top of his
JD hastily grabbed the books and shoved them under his shirt while Ezra grabbed
handfuls of something from the box that Buck had rifled through the evening
before and shoved them into his waistband and clothing.
The two men scrambled for the escape adjacent to the stone chimney.
Ezra shoved JD through the hole sending the young agent sprawling in the
grey ash littered snow. The undercover agent gave one last look at the back
of his teammates.
Buck and Vin traded shots out the window, working in tandem without hesitation.
Nathan and Chris mirrored them from the opened doorway. And between the two
groups Josiah ducked and dodged adding an element of surprise to keep their
attackers from discovering a pattern to the return firing.
Chris felt the gaze on his back and turned his head. He spotted Ezra pausing,
half in and half out the small hole created by one of the blasts.
Go Ezra, watch JDs back, Larabee spoke quietly, nodding
his approval and condoning the retreat of his agent.
Standish couldnt say he truly heard Larabee but the undercover agent
understood the body language. Standish simply bent the rim of an imaginary
hat and started to withdraw from the rent between wall and chimney.
Another blast hit.
The force threw the undercover agent away from the cabin, searing his leg
and peppering it with wooden shrapnel. Standish cartwheeled through the snow
landing face up at an apparently strange angle.
The pale blue morning sky held very few clouds.
A face suddenly obscured his view. JD.
Ezra couldnt hear JD screaming, but he could see the shear panic and
unadulterated fear in the young agents eyes. JD was screaming, had
to be screaming, his mouth was open, his eyes wide, but Standish could hear
He lay in the snow staring at the younger agent who stood with a cloudless
light blue sky in the background. Tree tops danced in the periphery of
Standishs vision as heat licked at his body. He could only hear ringing.
JD was still screaming, hollering, tears rolled down the young mans
features. Things were moving in slow motion.
Ezra tried to move. Nothing seemed to work.
Large tendrils of black smoke spiraled toward the sky, marring the blue colors.
Suddenly time snapped back. The ringing dissipated while the roar of a fire
loomed from somewhere yet unseen.
Standish tried to sit up but found he couldnt coordinate the strength
or the motion. He rolled onto his belly and pushed himself to his hands and
knees. He sunk to his elbows and his knees punched through snow deeper than
his shins. His left leg cried in protest.
JD stood to his right, still shouting. Moving back toward the flames Ezra
still couldnt see, but felt with a vehemence. The undercover agent
grabbed for Dunnes pant leg. JD tried to pull free but Standish used
the younger mans momentum and solid frame as a means to struggle to
JD couldnt ignore a friend in need. Realizing Ezra needed his help,
JD stopped his mad rush back to the remains of the cabin and instead hauled
the undercover agent back to uncertain feet.
Together the two men stared at the carnage.
The chimney remained standing as did the North wall. Everything else that
was not burning lay scattered in the snow or the ruined floor of the cabin.
Ezra thought he could make out a the smoldering forms of a few bodies. His
eyes watered as his heart careened against his ribs. Smoke tickled the air,
as if testing its freedom. With each passing moment, the tendrils of smoke
stretched higher and bolder into the crisp blue sky.
Rifle shots snapped through the roar of the fire. A chunk of stone was sheared
from the chimney.
Standish grabbed Dunne and hauled him toward the tree line.
JD fought him. He struggled against the hands that pulled him away from Buck
and the others. He should have been in the cabin. He should have been with
Ezra struggled and stumbled pushing and pulling JD toward the thick stand
of trees that stood behind the cabin.
Bullets whistled past them. Chunks of bark burst into the air at head height.
JD continued to fight. He had fought all his life. He had fought the kids
at school that had picked on him for having no father. He had fought beside
his mother as she battled her terminal illness. He had fought for a place
on the Boston Police Department and he had fought for his place on Team 7.
JD had fought for everything important in his life. He had never run from
anything. He had never backed down from a fight.
JD would fight, he would fight for his friends, he would fight insurmountable
odds and he would go down guns blazing.
He struggled even harder to free himself from Standish. To stop fleeing the
scene of destruction. He would not flee, not turn his back on his friends.
Not like Ezra
.with that thought in his mind, he turned on the undercover
agent with displaced hatred and anger, knowing it was wrong but unable to
A solid jab met his jaw and sent Dunne reeling into the snow.
Blood streamed from JDs mouth, as he glared angrily at Standish.
Start thinking Mr. Dunne, Ezra hissed out. The undercover stared
hard at his young friend, feeling the accusation in the glare and knowing
it held some truth.
Standish pulled the wrist rocket slingshot from his waistband and dug a stick
a dynamite from his shirt.
A crooked humorless smile seared his face, pinching in a dimple.
JD narrowed his gaze and felt the cold tendrils of revenge. His rage and
hatred shifted targets.
The swift shear of a bullet passing through the air had JD ducking his head.
The soft thud of a body hitting the snow filled JDs ears.
He opened his eyes and found himself staring eye to eye with Ezra. For a
brief second JD had thought Standish had dove for cover.
Ezra blinked once then twice. He pulled his hand from his side and stared
at the fresh blood that dripped from his fingers. He sighed and softly muttered
into the snow, Good Lord.
Chris could not get his mind to wrap around what had happened. He could smell
smoke. He could see the shell of a house. A kitchen or more of a sink area.
A sharp blue sky
.no roof. His heart raced. Adam and Sarah? He rolled
his eyes to the left and found Buck laying unmoving under a partially collapsed
Someone should call 911. He needed to move, to get help. What had happened?
Larabee tried to move. Pain shot up his left side. He heard someone cry out
and wondered if it was himself.
The sounds of movement to his right had him rolling his head carefully. Vertigo
slammed into him with the force of a locomotive. Larabee groaned. The pain
in his chest registered.
To his right he found Nathan. Jackson lay face down, unlike himself. His
eyes were partially open. Blood smeared Nathans teeth and dripped from
his nose. Chris could have reached out and touched him, if he could have
The medics slow breathing gently rocked the smoldering wooden chair
that lay across his back.
Nathan was not a part of Sarah and Adams lives. Nathan was never with
Foot steps crunched through the blackened debris. Thin spirals of smoke twisted
their way toward the blue sky. The roof still was missing. His house had
had a roof at one time. Didnt it?
Foot steps crunched, angry voices carried over the crackle of small fires.
Debris was lifted and tossed away. Things crashed to the floor.
Larabee wanted to move but couldnt quite formulate the ability.
They were looking for ledgers. They wanted books? They were searching for
an accountant. Who were they?
Chris had to think hard. His team didnt have an accountant.
Someone shouted. Then bullets were fired. Hurried footsteps snapped debris
and quickly disappeared.
Chris lay staring up at the sky. A heavy section of wall rested across him.
He hadnt been home when Sarah and Adam had burned. He hadnt been
home when his life, literally, went up in smoke.
He hadnt been home.
Larabee closed his eyes.
He wasnt home now either.
Rifle shots pierced the morning. There was a pause and then an explosion.
Dust cascaded down on top of him. The ground shook.
Somewhere close by someone moaned. It sounded like Buck. Where were Vin and
Josiah? The others? Was Nathan close by? They might need his medical skills.
His men needed help.
Larabee began to move in earnest.
+ + + + + + +
JD hauled Ezra to his feet. Standish let loose with a string of curses that
had JD staring up at him in curiosity.
Gun fire whistled through the early morning air forcing the two agents to
duck. Standish gripped the sling shot and loaded a stick of dynamite.
JD flicked a lighter.
The dynamite had deterred their attackers for only a moment. The men who
chased Team Seven had survived the first blast hurled at them unscathed.
The hunters slowed their progress and hounded the fleeing men with more caution.
Dunne and Standish struggled and waded through the snow. They limped and
slid deeper into the trees desperate to lose their pursuers.
They headed to the North, swinging around the perimeter of the cabin keeping
to the trees. Dunne was not willing to leave his teammates behind and neither
JD, Ezra gasped out, holding his hand tight to his side with
the sling shot clutched firmly, while his right arm was draped over Dunnes
shoulder and his wrist grasped securely in JDs hand.
Only a little further Ez, JD panted. He never felt the exertion
or the undo pain that tore through overworked muscles. Adrenaline protected
That copse of trees over there, that should do, Ezra whispered
out between clenched teeth.
JD merely nodded his head and half-dragged, half-carried the wounded undercover
agent toward the small stand of trees that was marred by criss-crossed fallen
JD leaned Ezra against one of the partially fallen trees and then turned
back to the smoky remains of the cabin.
The charred door frame had withstood the blast but the walls on either side,
where Chris and Nathan had held position, were gone.
Buck and Vin had been standing at the window that no longer existed.
JDs heart lurched, nearly pausing in its beat. His stomach rose and
boiled in his throat
He was going to be sick. Dunne kept his eyes from Standish, hiding his own
weakness and was afraid of bearing witness to Standishs misery.
Now is not the time, Son, Josiahs deep voice had Dunne
swinging around bringing his service revolver up to bear. The Sig barrel
Just me JD, Josiah said as he stepped from the shadows of the
trees. His face was smeared with soot, blood trickled down his neck and a
slight limp marred his one time easy gait.
The big man laid a gentle hand on the undercover agents sweaty shoulder
and shook his head sadly. Disbelief marred his countenance. Disbelief that
the others might be gone truly gone
..that he had survived and not sure
if he wanted to if the others were actually gone.
Marvelous, Ezra hissed, revenge coloring his anger. He clutched
at his side, fisting skin and cloth in a bitter grip. Blood pooled and seeped
around his fingers. Standish tried to ignore the feel of his own blood -
instead he dug furiously through his pants pocket looking for the lighter
he had given JD. He padded his pockets searching out for a means of extracting
Here, Josiah handed Standish another lighter, Just dont
blow us up, the older man chastised quietly. Neither man met one
anothers gaze. Neither agent wanted to take notice of the expression
of loss that was sure to mar their faces.
The undercover agent merely nodded. He curled cold reddened fingers around
the small Bic lighter which carried the blackened soot of the carnage across
the small clearing.
JD watched them for a moment and then turned back to the cabin. His eyes
watered as frustration boiled and bubbled from deep within himself. A black
tide of anger began to build and grow within him. JD stared hard at the charcoal
remains of the cabin, noticing the one set of bunks that stood near the chimney.
He saw the door frame that still stood a sentry with no door or walls on
either side. Small spirals of smoke stretched from the wreckage in haphazard
spots across the floor.
JD stared at the remains, detailing it, committing it to memory.
Debris next to the door moved. Something was lifted. JD leaned forward squinting
Someone was moving down there. Theyre alive! JD nearly
hollered. He turned quickly to look at Josiah and Ezra.
Sanchez paused in examining the wound to Standishs side and peered
over his shoulder at JD.
.Look! JD nearly shouted. He reached
over and latched on Josiahs torn shirt trying to pull the larger man
closer to the rim of the debris covered clearing.
Sanchez ignored the young agent and watched the house. When the cabin had
exploded he had found himself in the snow by the side yard. He had been on
his feet, walking. He didnt know how he had managed it, couldnt
remember the first few moments. He only knew that he was up and walking and
a house was burning behind him. Nothing else had registered until he had
seen JD and Ezra stumbling through the snow and trees.
Things had then slammed home for the ex-preacher, and the sudden return of
his memory brought the harsh reality that some of his friends might have
He squinted his eyes and watched the house. There it was. Movement. Someone
Praise the Lord, Josiah muttered out, slowly getting to his feet.
Weve got to go help them. JD stated, torn between abandoning
his friends here and going to his friends still in the remains of the house.
Hold a second JD, Josiah said carefully. He scrutinized the
JD shifted weight impatiently from foot to foot.
Josiah ignored him and surveyed the clearing and the trees that loomed all
around the cabin.
Ezra? Sanchez spoke while his eyes still searched the forest.
JD sighed in relief. Finally they were going to help.
Ezra lifted an eyebrow at the mention of his name. He rested heavily against
the fallen tree, clutching at the makeshift bandage Josiah had fashioned
to stem the bleeding. The bullet had torn a chunk of skin and muscle from
the flank of the undercover agent. Painful and inconveniencing but not life
threatening if treated properly.
You think you could hit anything with that dynamite of yours?
Mr. Sanchez, Ezra breathed out, trying to keep frazzled nerves
under control, the beauty of dynamite is, one doesnt have to
hit what they are aiming at
.just come close. A soot dimpled smile
punctuated his statement.
Josiah let a toothy grin spread across his face.
You ready JD?
+ + + + + + +
Chris stood up just as a two bodies ran at him hollering.
Git down!, Git down!
Get down! Get down!
They sounded suspiciously like JD and Josiah. Larabee painfully straightened
up and tried to gaze around. The dizziness lessened slightly. He had finally
gotten his equilibrium.
He turned and noticed Josiah sprinting straight at him.
Oh shit, was all he managed.
Larabee was knocked from his feet with a flying tackle. The two men landed
with twin groans.
Rifle fire cracked through the air. Bullets dug chunks of wood from the door
frame right where Larabees head had once been.
Keep your head down, brother, Josiah ordered as he slapped his
arm across Larabees chest pinning his boss to floor of the cabin.
Josiah what the hell is going on? Larabees terse question
was cut short by the whistling snap of more rifle fire.
They found us and blew up the cabin.
An explosion shook the ground.
They still have explosives? Chris asked trying to get his bearings.
Dont think so - thats Ezra, Josiah answered trying
to figure out if that was a relief or not.
The rifle fire ceased.
JD? Josiah whispered loud enough to be heard across the charred
Im ok, Dunne answered back in the same whispered tone,
they dont look too
good though. The relief in JDs voice was laced with panic. To
lose them twice would be unbearable.
Can you reach the sleeping bags? Josiah asked. The set of bunks
near the chimney had survived the initial blasts. Three sleeping bags laid
partially scorched across the amazingly undamaged beds.
JD scrambled to his hands and knees and crab crawled the best he could through
the heavy debris that marred the blackened floor.
Rifle fire pierced their surroundings as small chunks of floor exploded where
bullets missed their marks.
A few seconds later another explosion rocked the landscape.
The trees swayed with the vibrations sending showers of snow from their burdened
Whos got the damn explosives? Larabee hissed out as he
and Josiah gingerly but quickly moved debris off of Jackson.
Ezra, Josiah said as he felt for a pulse on Nathans bloodied
neck. He found one and sighed in relief. Thank God
You think that was a good idea?
Another explosion rocked the back woods forcing Josiah and Chris to cover
their heads as they bent and covered Jackson. Josiah grimaced as chunks of
snow dropped down on and around them.
No, Josiah chuckled out, but sometimes you have to rob
Peter to pay Paul.
You make no Gawd damn sense preacher man, Larabee spat out in
frustration as yet another explosion shook the ground, nearly knocking them
off their knees. Larabee leaned over Jacksons legs covering the medic
with his body as large pieces of snow and debris pelted his back.
His damn undercover agent had an explosive fetish.
JD hauled the sleeping bags off the bunks and dragged them over toward Vin
and Buck while crawling through the carnage that had once been a well built
Dunne quickly unzipped one of the bags and then stared at the blackened and
bleeding features of Buck and Vin. How was he going to get them into the
Buck was already shivering. His lax features were blackened, his eyebrows
appeared missing and blood covered his face. JD hoped Buck was shivering
and not trying to go into convulsions. His right ear was coated in drying
blood, his left hand was swollen and a few fingers appeared to have extra
knuckles. JD diverted his gaze. He didnt want to see the injuries.
Not now, not when he couldnt do anything to help them.
Dunne quickly began working on getting Wilmingtons feet into the unzipped
bag when something in Bucks ankle ground together and JD froze trying
to block out the sensation. Suddenly a second pair of hands were there helping
JD looked up and found Chris beside him. You give Ezra the dynamite?
Larabee hissed as he worked the sleeping bag up around Bucks waist
and lower back.
Dunne paused for a brief second and then shook his head, No, he already
You sure? Chris interrogated again.
Another blast rocked the area just to the North of the cabin. JD and Chris
dove over both Buck and Vin.
Course Im sure, JD bit out as he straightened up. Dust
and snow slid down his hair and shoulders in a bizarre camouflage. Hell,
Josiah gave him the lighter.
Oh he did, did he? Larabee moved away from Buck and started to
work on Tanner.
Tanners features were slack and half covered in congealing blood and
ash. His eyelids were partially unsealed but no sign of consciousness was
evident. His right side just below the ribs bled and Chris tore Tanners
shirt open to inspect the damage. The bleeding wasnt bad but the deep
bruising and strange swelling around the area didnt bode well.
Together he and JD managed to ensconce Vin into a sleeping bag. Larabee shoved
the third bag into JD and sent him to Josiah who waited beside an unconscious
Chris squatted down between his two men and kept his eyes open for any intruders.
Another blast hurled snow into the air, this time from the south side of
Larabee dove over his two prone men and covered his head, trying to protect
himself and his men from falling debris.
Apparently Ezra had better eyes than any of them at the moment. .
In the background the sounds of a chopper could be heard.
Ezra held off on his last stick of dynamite, saving it for just in
case. He was going to need something else to use as a weapon if his
last stick was not enough. The undercover agent scanned his immediate area
and found a neat pile of rocks. They were not near as damaging or as powerful
as explosives but they were better than nothing.
The pile rested under an old pine that aproned out as its branches neared
the ground. Some of the rocks were large, piled here purposely. Perhaps they
had been rejects from the chimney. In amongst the large chimney type boulders
lay smaller more manageable projectiles.
Standish moved stiffly toward them. His vision swam and sparks of light danced
in the periphery.
The sound of chopper blades beat in the near distance.
+ + + + + + +
The pilot slowly eased the giant bird down toward the remains of the cabin.
He had come alone. Seven men needed rescuing, and though the situation might
have been dangerous, danger was his middle name.
Tate smiled at his own bravado as he maneuvered the helicopter over the tree
tops. Perhaps he would write his memoirs sooner rather than later.
Rescues. He could write a book highlighting his exploits at rescuing travelers
who found themselves in over their heads.
Kind of like today. Hell, maybe today could be a chapter alone in his book.
How he rescued seven federal agents from the perils of the wild wilderness.
Seven men plus himself didnt leave much room for anyone else, besides
it was said this group of men he was picking up had their own medic.
What were city slicker cops doing way out here in the middle of his mountains
was something he couldnt figure. But then again he made his money on
saving the sorry asses of modern day city born mountain men who
thought they could survive the rustic life of the great outdoors.
Truth be told, Tate had a lot of fun saving these pansy ass city folk from
themselves. Hell, half of them get fifty yards from their cell phones and
With a tired sigh, and confidence in his ability Tate gently lowered the
large helicopter down into the clearing.
He saw the burned out cabin and noticed the missing walls. Frank Moore and
his crew were going to madder than stepped on wet hens when they got wind
of what happened to the Big Fork Cabin.
Damn city folk. Cant do nuthin right.
Tate let the bird settle down on the ground and waited.
Tate watched as three men stood from the wreckage of the cabin. The smaller
one waved at him.
Tate lifted one hand off the dash of his copter before letting it fall back
+ + + + + + +
Josiah and Chris each grabbed an end to Bucks sleeping bag and then
quickly shuffled their way out toward the helicopter.
Larabee kept an eye out for their assailants and any flying dynamite his
undercover agent might want to lob over them for their protection.
How much dynamite did Ezra have anyway?
JD followed behind them at a slower pace, dragging Vin and his bag across
the snow, forever weary of the next bullet.
It seemed like no time before Chris was at the other end lifting up
Tanners feet and helping JD carry the sharpshooter into the copter.
JD didnt notice the pilot and trotted after Chris when Josiah worked
to secure Vin next Buck on the floor.
Chris and JD slogged through the snow with Nathan. JD struggled to hold onto
the sleeping bag at Jacksons feet. He was tired and the exertion was
making him nauseous.
He cursed and waited for the hard piercing shove of a bullet between his
shoulder blades; knew it was coming, feared that it would cause him to fail
Nathan and the others. He was afraid he would end up dying choking on his
own blood. JD didnt dare look up. He fearing hed see red blossom
across the front of Chriss blackened shirt.
Dunne shuffled his legs through the snow trying to hurry their progress.
They finally reached the helicopter. Josiah dragged Nathan across the floor,
the sleeping bag making it easier for the big man. JD leaned against the
side of the copter while Chris scrambled around to the front door.
JD dug up enough energy to haul himself into the bird and sit at the entrance
of the cargo doors.
He rested his head against the side of the doorway happy that this mission
They had made it. This was their safety zone.
He was brought from his reverie when a bullet buried itself into the side
of the helicopter.
JD snapped his head up.
Another rifle shot hit the open cargo door.
Holy shit! JD hollered and rolled back into the copter.
As he pulled his feet into the door of the bird, he watched as a smoking
stick of dynamite sailed in a lazy arc over the charred remains of the smoldering
cabin and descend in its own unhurried fashion toward the ground. It detonated
just on the inside of the ring of trees.
Wood, snow and pine exploded into the sky.
JD fell backward as the helicopter jerked into the air.
+ + + + + + +
Ezra watched relieved as Chris and JD carried and hauled Buck, Vin and finally
Nathan from the cabin. The undercover agent fingered his last stick of dynamite
as he scanned the forest surrounding the cabin.
He stood on unsteady feet as he made his way slowly from the safety of the
trees and into the clearing. He heavily favored his left leg.
Dried blood pulled and cracked from the waist band of his pants where it
had congealed from the wound in his side. He felt light headed and flashes
of lights sparked at the periphery of his vision. It seemed difficult to
keep his balance and he felt unsure of his aim.
The undercover agent slowly made his way toward his transportation home and
his team when he heard the sounds of rifle fire.
Ezra shook his head in dismay and lit his last stick of dynamite.
People never learned.
+ + + + + + +
The pilot pulled back on the yolk lifting the copter off the ground.
The rotating blades lifted snow into the air creating an artificial white
out in the few yards that surrounded helicopter.
Put it down! JDs holler from the back roared its way toward
the cab of the big bird, Put it down! Ezras still down there!
We gutta go back! The panic in JDs voice had Chris lifting his
head off the glass of the copilots window, leaving an oily, bloody
soot covered print on the glass. He wordlessly slid his Sig out from its
holster and aimed it at the pilot.
Put it back down.
The pilot stared that the bleeding and charred man who sat slouched in the
copilots seat with only one working eye and blood dripping from a multitude
of seen and unseen cuts.
Larabees blond hair was plastered to his forehead with sweat and blood.
His right eye was swollen closed and deep purples and bright reds circled
out from his swollen eye to encompass part of his nose, forehead and chin.
Blood still ran from the deep furrow that lanced his temple just above his
ear cutting a haphazard path through the ash that caked his face. One nostril
still dripped blood along his upper lip and down the side of his mouth.
The pilot pulled his gaze from the unwavering gun to the sheet of snow that
billowed and lifted under his blades.
There standing in the small clearing was a lone dark figure waving one arm
The pilot realized his passenger never looked out the window, never broke
his gaze from his target at the end of the barrel.
Put the bird back down.
The stark lethal voice brought a sweat to the pilots brow, and sent
his heart racing. He was going to die today. There was no doubt. Whether
it was from a bullet or an avalanche, he was going to die. The pilot stared
at the blood shot hazel eye that bore through his soul with unadulterated
animosity. The pilot turned his attention from the menace that sat in his
copilots chair to his controls.
Hed never get a chance to write his memoirs or tell of his numerous
hair raising daredevil escapes. Hed leave a population of adventure
readers without fodder to satisfy their appetites. He needed an excuse, he
couldnt die up here, not like this, not within the midst of these madmen.
its too unstable. The whole field is about
to go, The pilot stammered out looking down through his feet at the
slab of snow that sat at a sharp incline a few yards below the runners of
A winters worth of snow quivered with built up energy, ready to unleash itself
and flash downhill. It just needed a little more urging, just a little push,
a small trigger to unleash millions of tons of snow and earth.
Anything would be a good enough excuse to cut loose a deep sea of snow. The
mountain was more than willing to shed the heavy mantle of snow. It was ready
to set loose and crush anything in its path. Anything, man, beast or
even a helicopter.
The pilot recognized the danger and feared it.
He knew a simple touch could set off an avalanche. He watched the figure
below him, partially obscured in the flying snow created by his rotor blades.
Any trigger would do, like the jumping up and down of the maniac waving his
arm below them, or the tender touches of the helicopter skis.
The helicopter angled slightly away and climbed.
The Sig was cocked back.
Jeeesuz! Go back! Youve got to go back! Chris, we forgot Ezra!
JDs frantic shout reached the cockpit with stinging clarity over the
thump of the rotors.
You land this fuckin bird or youre dead, Larabee
let a tight smile tweak his marred cheeks. Bloody teeth glittered from between
split lips in a mocking promise to kill.
The pilot stared from the steady barrel of the gun to the one open hazel
eye and read the murderous intent as clear as he read a fuel gage.
This mans tolerance had run out.
The pilot shut his eyes and swallowed. Gawd damn he didnt want to die.
I cant! The ground is too unsteady, The pilot broke eye
contact and stared at the ground below swirling in a mist of snow. If
we land, the snow s gonna give and well die.
Way I see it, we can all go together or you can go first,
Josiahs rich baritone voice filled the cockpit as the big man leaned
through the small hatch way.
The pilot swiveled his head to face the new threat. The bloody distorted
visage of an older gentleman filled the small hatchway. Josiahs large
hunched form blocked the view of the casualties in the back of the copter.
Josiah? Can you fly this bird? Chris asked with a hoarse voice.
In my sleep. Josiah smiled a toothy grin at the pilot, exposing
blackened and reddened teeth. The blood that caked the side of his face had
crusted. His right hand appeared swollen and distorted but the fattened blackened
and burned fingers bent and moved. He appeared no less than a demon from
Hades. The cold grey eyes only intensified his brutal appearance.
Alright, alright, the pilot capitulated. Sweat ran down his face
under his helmet.
A loud Bonk brought all their attention to the windshield. Then
another bonk hit this time leaving a mark.
What the Hell? the pilot muttered out.
Larabee stared down through the glass, through the swirling snow and watched
as Ezra raised his arm, took aim and let loose with another projectile. A
rock slammed into the glass of the cockpit window, just at the level of
Larabees head. A chunk of glass was pitted and fell away.
Son of a bitch, Chris mumbled out as he watched his undercover
agent pick another rock from the satchel Buck had found earlier the night
before, load the sling shot, take aim and let loose with another missile.
Larabee involuntarily ducked when the rock came dangerously close to where
his head rested against the glass.
It seems our brother is a might upset with us, Josiah chuckled
as yet another rock hit the window causing the pilot to duck and the glass
to crack. The crack grew and spidered out from the point of impact.
Get this thing down. Chris hissed out, dont let the
skis hit the snow. Larabee turned his attention to Josiah, git
his slow ass on this copter as soon as were close enough
get that Gawd Damn slingshot away from him.
Sanchez grinned and nodded dropping back from sight into the cargo area.
Ezra aimed another rock and let it fly. It smashed into the metal frame of
the big bird. It ricocheted off and hurled back at the under cover agent,
forcing him to turn and duck.
Ill killim, Larabee hissed out between bloody teeth.
The pilot merely nodded his head as he guided the helicopter back down to
Chris lost sight of his agent when snow was kicked angrily into the sky by
the swirling blades as they drew closer to the ground. A white out encompassed
Oh my God! Its going! JDs terrified cry had Larabee
searching out his window unable to focus on anything but the frantic, frenzy
of whipping snow.
Through the white blizzard created by the rotating blades, Chris swiped at
the window trying to clear away a patch of condensation. He squinted and
dimly made out the outlines of his agent.
Chris watched as Standish suddenly lost his balance.
At first he couldnt see any reason for Ezra suddenly going to a three
point position and then seem to struggle, unsuccessfully, to keep from sliding
a few feet down slope. Then the shadows created by rolling snow highlighted
the massive solid shift in the compact snow, lifting up its own dustings
With a groan, a giant slab, cracking and breaking in different areas, began
to cascade down slope. It began slowly at first, a few small chunks here
and there, then a few more, slowly building, gathering momentum, threatening
and warning at a bigger shift to come.
In the middle of it stood Standish. Chris squinted his eyes, as he watched
as snow slid and rolled past his man, creating tiny wakes as it washed around
Ezras legs cascading and tugging down around Standishs shins.
Get down there, Chris growled as he turned his attention and
service revolver back on the pilot, get down there or you die now.
Larabee raised his weapon just a hair, to keep the barrel aimed at the
The pilot merely nodded and worked to get the helicopter level and as close
to the snow as he could without touching the rolling surface. He relied on
his instruments - the frenzy of flying snow stole all depth perception away
Chris didnt watch through the window at his struggling agent, he
didnt witness Standish nearly disappearing under the onslaught of slow,
heavily moving snow. Instead, Larabee kept his gaze and Sig, leveled evenly
at the pilot.
Feedback would be great