MCAT: Turbulent Transition #6
Chapter 1 -
3 | Chapter 4 - 6 | Chapter 7 - 9 | Chapter 10 - 12
Chapter 13 - 15 | Chapter 16 - 18 | Chapter 19 - 21 | Chapter 22 - 24
Chapter 25 - 27 | Chapter 28 - 30 | Chapter 31 - 33 | Chapter 33 - 36
Chapter 37 - 39 | Chapter 40 - 42 | Chapter 43 - 45 | Chapter 46 - 49
Characters: Chris, Vin, The rest of the seven~ Orrin Travis ~ Casey, Nettie, Inez, Rain, plus OC.
Rating: FRT, Profanity, Het, some violence. MCAT case deals with a sensitive subject matter.
SIZE:Approx. 1.25 Megs
Disclaimer:This is entirely a work of fiction for entertainment only, based on the characters from “The Magnificent Seven.” I don’t own them, but if I did I would run away with ‘em and never be seen again. CBS and Co., Trilogy Entertainment, and MGM had ‘em first and do not want to give ‘em away. I only play at this for fun and do not make any money doing it. No infringement of any copyrights is intended. This is strictly a piece of fiction; any references to real places are only for fictional story use.
MCAT AU: MCAT (Major Crimes and Acts of Terrorism) is under the leadership of Commander Chris Larabee. It is an independent, versatile, responsive, and respected premier Federal law enforcement agency, demonstrating excellence in all aspects of its operations. In the last year, this MCAT unit has done outstanding work on a number of cases. Most notably, this unit has neutralized three terrorist’s threats, halted at least two assassination attempts of high ranking officials, taken on serial killers, public corruption, computer crimes, and formed several specialized task forces to thwart major criminal activities.
Chris, along with three members (Vin, Buck, Nathan) of his extended family of brothers, and their families, reside on the Larabee 7. The seven men work together, and jointly own the ranch, where they are raising thoroughbreds, quarter horses and children. Ezra lives in town, while Josiah and JD reside on adjoining properties to the ranch, with their families.
This first series establishes relationships and provides background for the characters in this AU. ‘Additions and Apprehensions’ is sixth in the series.
Story: By the time May rolled around Chris felt as if his life was finally on track again. He was looking forward to all the new additions that were coming into his extended family, the most special one of all being the birth of the precious new life that he and Linda had created together. Little did he know that within four short months, a chain of events would unfold that would rip apart his team, cut through the heart of his family, and leave him alone to face a questionable future.
Acknowledgments: My thanks go to my friend and co-writer Wendy for her beta work and her great advice. It has been a fun experience to share writing this story with her. Tonny thanks for you editing and great feedback. Also to Stormm, and Barbara, I appreciate your input. Linda Clara, it may have been thirty-seven years, but I have never forgotten our friendship. Your life was cut way too short, but this is for all you would have done if given the chance. My thanks also go to the gracious readers that took the time to send me feedback for Transitions, Decisions, Past Transgressions and Illusions... Sherry
I fell in love with this creative new AU for the Seven the first moment I read Transitions...and then the subsequent stories that followed that drew me further into the lives, relationships, and intriguing cases of the Seven. I'm grateful for the opportunity I had to work on this story with Sherry, because along the way, I've found a new friend. ..Wendy
Notes: Any mistakes are ours. The original characters I have created for this series are mine. I created ‘em and really like ‘em (most of them anyway) so, while you are welcome to borrow them and encouraged to play in this AU, keep them around and no slash pairing please.
Characters from the first six parts of this series:
Pamela Walton: Computer genius that worked for the Justice Department, 30 years old.
Kelli Coulter: Degree in criminology/criminal justice, worked New Orleans PD, State of Texas Criminal Task Force and the DEA, 26 years old.
Justin Michaels: Former homicide detective with Denver PD and then worked with the State Police investigations in Colorado, 43 years old.
Mark Westin: Excelled at the Police Academy, worked LAPD and California Highway Patrols, 26 years old.
Paul Roberts Worked Atlanta Metro police departments with excellent records, 31 years old.
Ross Anderson: Came from the Detroit Metro police departments, career until then focused on inner city crime, 34 years old.
Raphael Cordova: DEA fifteen years, military veteran, pilot, age 43.
Mallory Sanchez-: Former ATF team leader/left to have baby when MCAT formed/Returned to train on CASSIE age 43.
CASSIE: (Collaborative Analysis System for Sensitive Information Engineering) is a state of the art computer system, and is a valuable team member to the unit.
Dr. Robert (Bones) Metfield, Chief of Forensics, Caucasian, medical examiner, born Dumas, Texas ME Tarrant County twenty-five years, 10 years as Chief Medical Examiner, six county area Amarillo, 62 years old.
Greg Ramsey, forensic investigator, Native of New York, 37 years old.
Katrina Santos, Latin American, certified medic, forensics investigator, coming from the Taos Police Department and the DEA, 31 years old.
Non-agents in MCAT office
Drusilda Gunny Montgomery is administrative assistant to Commander Larabee and Captain Tanner.
Judy Mullins is a data typist/ computer assistant 21 years old.
Suzanne Mills is administrative assistant to Director Travis.
Other non-agents added to series
Linda Dubois co-owns the Southern Breeze with her brothers and is now married to Chris Larabee.
Mathew Glen Dubois is one of Lindas Brother and a veterinarian.
George Ramos is the ranch foreman for Larabee 7.
Ben Watson is the ranch foreman for the Southern Breeze.
Walter Andrews was a San Antonio police detective, retired after 25 years, previously served ten years in military.
Barbara Lindsey is an attorney. She specializes in cases involving children, and is actively involved in CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates).
Maxine (Max) Bowdrie is Gunnys sister 55 years old, spent 20 years in Navy as a nurse, retired as Lt.
Selina Cordova is Raphaels daughter and a Denver Police officer.
Additionally: Of course, the children.
Journal Entry May 12
The last two weeks have been busy both personally and professionally. Personally, my repeat tests for AIDS and hepatitis both returned negative, thank God. Linda is in the last few weeks of her pregnancy and is very uncomfortable, but that is expected. I know she is apprehensive about the impending birth of our first child; but according to Dr. Ryder, she is doing well. I know she will do just fine and about this time next month we will be settled with our new baby.
Barbara wasted no time in moving forward on the adoption proceedings for Jason and Andi. She and Ezra even postponed their special weekend together to have the adoption completed first. Ezra understood Barbara's decision and was as eager as the rest of us, to see the children's future secured. Since it was a kinship adoption, with pre- approved applicants, things moved quickly, and as of this morning at ten, it is official; Jason Cameron Tanner and Andria Nicole Tanner are legal. The Tanners put their status as foster care parents on hold for a while and Vin is working hard on the plans for their new house. I expect they will be breaking ground to build anytime now. The kids are excited about the new house and they are looking forward to helping Vin build it. They have come a long way in the last few months and have definitely made themselves comfortable in their new surroundings.
Last weekend the Tanners celebrated their first wedding anniversary on the seventh and Vin’s May tenth birthday a few days early with the kids. Then Linda and I had Jason and Andi overnight to give the Tanners some time alone at their cabin. Buck made a point of letting them know that they are not newlyweds anymore, and now that the children have come into their lives they are an old married couple like the rest of them. Somehow I don’t think Vin and Kelli will ever settle into their marriage like the rest of the brothers and their wives have. Their relationship is unique, I expect they will continue to keep it as fresh, new and exciting, as it was when it started, and will give Buck plenty of ammunition for his good-natured teasing.
MCAT turns a year old in the next week. We have certainly given people something to sit up and take notice of for sure. Our cases are more distinctive and challenging than any others that we have tackled in the past, but that is what this unit is designed to handle. Josiah has come into his own as a profiler and his work is respected throughout law enforcement. Our team is tight and they work together well. The younger agents listen to and respect the experience of our original seven, and I couldn’t be happier with the way the unit has turned out. Our success rate in clearing our cases is at 98% and we are no doubt the best tactical response unit in the country.
Of course, some times we take on cases for political reasons, which is, I suppose, all part of the price we have to pay for MCAT existing. JD has been grumbling about getting out in the field again and I have decided that he deserves to get out from behind that CASSIE desk once in a while. He is a good agent out in the field, as well as behind a desk. The next opportunity for his skills to come into play I will send him out. The forensic team that was established as a part of MCAT is extraordinary and I believe they are one of the reasons we have such a high conviction rate for our cases.
Nathan is expanding his role of medic and has enrolled in some forensics classes at the college. He has always been compulsive about staying on top of the latest techniques in emergency care and wants to be on top of this part of the investigative work as well. Having him liaison between the unit and Bones has proven to be effective and bonded both sides of our investigative unit, making our team even stronger. This weekend we will celebrate our MCAT Anniversary with a team barbecue on Sunday here at the ranch. I guess that catches me up and since I am meeting Vin early in the morning to ride I will close now.
Larabee 7 Ranch
Sunrise was still twenty minutes away when Chris and Vin rode out. The sky overhead was soft lavender infused with strips of orange and pink through out, as the sun slowly broke from its nighttime resting place and prepared for its daily responsibilities. Peso and Pony were more than ready to be liberated from their confinement; and refused being reined in until all of their pent-up energy was expelled. They raced across the property side by side; their riders slouched over in the saddles, taking as much delight in the vigorous ride as the two horses were.
Finally, the two geldings complied with the commands of their individual owners, and slowed to a walk. Vin patted Peso on the neck, whispering words of affection to the black horse, in a soft tone that only the animal could hear. He straightened up in the saddle and turned towards Chris, to see the blond man rubbing Pony’s neck affectionately. The sharpshooter flashed his best friend a wide smile.
“Whew!” Vin exclaimed, “That was one hell of a ride!”
“That it was.” Chris agreed whole-heartedly.
They rode in companionable silence for a while, enjoying the serenity of unspoiled nature around them uninterrupted. From time to time, Chris would glance over at Vin when he knew the Texan wasn’t looking, and thinking on how much the man had come to mean to him. He didn’t want to think of how close he had come to losing Vin’s friendship and respect a few weeks earlier because of his stubborn pride getting in the way of his admitting he had a problem with the painkillers.
Tanner didn’t acknowledge the fact that he was aware of the glances that Larabee had cast his direction periodically throughout their ride. He had an inkling of the train of thought Chris’ mind was moving in, and decided to put his best friend at ease once and for all.
That’s water under the bridge Cowboy…
Chris met Vin’s blue eyes with his own and held them. He didn’t see any of the recriminations he felt inside him reflected in the Texan’s eyes. He only saw only understanding, warmth and friendship in the blue orbs.
“Vin, I…”Chris began, but Vin cut him off.
“Let it go, Chris…I have.”
Chris nodded after a moment, and the two men set their horses into motion once more. On the way back to the house, they stopped at the parcel of land on Larabee 7 that Vin and Kelli had selected to build their house. The Tanners had decided to build a log and stone multi-level on the slope of a hill that would afford them a spectacular view of the mountain meadow where they were married. It would also give them an excellent view of the sun rising over the mountains.
“It is a great place to build Vin. Are your blueprints finished?” Chris knew how much the Texan loved this particular place on the ranch and was not surprised that he had picked it to build on.
“Pretty much, we’ll end up with over 3500 square feet of space. It will be a two-story hillside with five bedrooms, room for more if we need ‘em, three and a half baths, wraparound deck and a two-story wall of windows. We’ll have a daylight basement for at least two of those bedrooms, guest quarters, recreation room, storage area, and my office. The main floor will have a family room, utility, dinin’, and kitchen area, along with Jason, Andi’s, and mine and Kelli’s room, plus a few extra spaces. I plan a loft area for the kids’ playroom, and with good weather permittin’ we should be able to move in before August.”
“You have put a lot of thought into the plans Vin.” Chris said. “But do you think that Jason and Andi are ready for their own rooms?”
“Yeah, I do.” Vin said, turning his attention off of the land before him and onto his best friend. “They made the transition from sleepin’ together to twin beds okay, and Kelli and I’ve talked to ‘em about having separate bedrooms. They both get to choose how they want their rooms to look, and we promised ‘em any type of mural they wanted. Jason wants mountains on one wall of his room and Andi wants clouds on her ceilin’ with the moon and stars. I also promised ‘em that there would be no solid closet doors anywhere in the house. I’ll use batwing, bi-fold or louver doors instead.”
Chris had a flash of a memory about Andi screaming when Jack locked her and Jason in the closet. “Not just anyone would have considered that. They seem so well adjusted now that I sometimes forget what they have been through in their short lives.” Larabee mentally shook off the unwelcome reminders of his brother and his cruel treatment of his own children.
“They are doing great.” Vin agreed. “Kel is livin’ proof that early childhood trauma can influence your adult life and cause pain for a long time. I want Jason and Andi to have all the advantages that we can give ‘em, to compensate for what they were subjected to. That’s somethin’ that Kelli never had and she paid for it in too many ways.”
“I think they have the right parents to make sure they don’t have to pay the same price.” Chris knew that fate had intended Jason and Andi to be exactly where they were now. “With the records of the adoption sealed and them using the Tanner name, no one outside the family should be able to connect them to Jack. I’ m glad the judge agreed with us on that one.” I should have been there to help Kel the way you two are helping Jason and Andi.
Vin read where Larabees’ thoughts were taking him and changed the subject. “I seem to recall a few pledges from you and the others to help when we were ready to build. I’ve already arranged a schedule for the foundation to be set, the plumbin’ laid and the materials will be delivered in a few days to get started on the rest of it. I plan to do as much as I can myself, but I have some outside help coming in to get the exterior work done as quickly as possible.”
“Count me in for whatever you want me to do and if you need some time off you have more than a few days coming to you.” Chris grinned, “You gonna leave that hot tub for us to use?”
“Get your own Lar’bee. I have a private area planned off the master bedroom and Kel would have a fit if that hot tub wasn’t on it.”
“I’d bet she wouldn’t be the only one that would miss it.” Chris laughed because he was well aware that Vin would not give it up either.
“Damned straight,” Tanner grinned.
Race you home, brother.
No contest, but you can try, Cowboy.
Jason and Andi loved to explore and always seemed to find something new that caught their attention. Kelli and Linda sat on the deck and watched the kids enjoy what was turning out to be a beautiful day.
Linda had been waiting for an opportunity such as this one to talk to Kelli in private. “It’s hard to believe that you have two children now, while I am still waiting on one, but you appear to be very happy about it.”
Kelli smiled, “I am. When we walked out of that courtroom yesterday and I realized that it was all over I felt so relieved. I still have to pinch myself to make sure it’s not a dream.”
“Then tell me something,” Linda leaned forward to watch Kelli’s reaction. “Why haven’t you and Vin tried to have a child of your own?” She was determined to find out the reason the Tanners had always insisted that they were not ready for kids yet.
Silence reigned between them while Kelli decided if she wanted to tell Linda the truth or not. Finally she made up her mind, “Jason and Andi are ours, regardless of the fact that Vin and I didn’t create them. The reason why Vin and I haven’t had a baby yet…” She broke the sentence off, not sure of how to end it, then took a deep breath and tried again. “We have been tryin’ since we were married, but it just hasn’t happened. Accordin’ to the doctor…it might not happen at all.”
“Oh Kel…” Linda thought about all the joking and comments that had been made over the last year by the other members of the family they found themselves a part of. “Why haven’t you said something instead of listening to all that damn teasing about it?”
“Because I would rather hear the damn teasin’ than give everyone an explanation.” Kelli had thought it would get easier to accept as time passed, but it hadn't. “I have some internal scars from the abuse I received as a child that are causin’ problems. My doctor said that even if I was to get pregnant, it would be risky and recommended surgery, but I am not ready to give up completely…not yet anyway.”
Linda wrestled with her emotions and lost. She felt the tears forming as her own baby kicked, and placed a soothing hand on her stomach, even as she felt a profound sense of loss for her sister. “I’m sorry, I know it must be hard for you and I guess I haven’t helped any with my own comments.”
Kelli knew that if she looked at Linda and saw her crying she would start and kept her eyes on the children. “You had no way of knowin’, so don’t be sorry.”
She laughed to lighten the mood. “Of course Vin gets the worst part, between all the emotions he’s released in me since we meet each other, together with my damn hormones bein’ so out of whack lately. I cry a lot lately, mostly over nothin’ at all, but he understands nevertheless. He says it’s because I know I have a safe place with him to let go and he doesn’t mind. But the last few months with the stress over all that’s happened, the uncertainty over the kids and the pressure from the doctor to have the surgery, he is getting’ more than I think he bargained for.”
“I don’t think he sees it that way Kel and I’d bet that he doesn’t mind at all.” She had another thought, “Does Chris know?”
“He knows. I had to tell him when Nathan kept pushin’ to update my medical records at work. He knew I was seein’ another doctor and wanted me to sign a release for him to add ‘m to my file. Chris was the only one who could override Nathan’s request, but I had to tell him why. I asked him not to tell you so don’t blame him for keepin’ it a secret. I don’t care if you tell him you know, but I would prefer not to share it with the rest of the family.”
“Chris is the only one that I will say anything to, but if you need to talk, I’m here.” Linda reached over and squeezed her hand. “Maybe it’s time we find you a different doctor, too.”
“You might be right about that and I have considered it. I have cried more in the last few months than the previous twenty years combined and I don’t particularly like it. You think modern medicine has a cure for I emotional overload?”
Linda smiled, “If they do I haven’t found it yet. Poor Chris, between my mood swings and the tears he’s not sure what’s safe to talk about anymore.”
Kelli finally looked over at Linda and they both had the same thought about what Chris and Vin had to put up with in the past couple of months as their husbands.
They both burst into a fit of uncontrolled laughter at the same time, coinciding with Larabee and Tanner’s return from their ride.
Chris bent forward and kissed Linda hello. “You two seem to be having fun.” If he didn’t know better, that Linda wouldn’t drink while she was pregnant, he could have sworn that Linda and Kelli had been dipping into his stash of whiskey. “Vin, I don’t think these two should be left alone without a keeper. “He sat down next to his blond.
“Hell, I don’t think they even heard the kids yellin’ at us when we came up from the barn.” Vin put his hand on Kelli’s shoulder and had her move forward on the lounge chair so he could straddled the chair and sit behind her. Pulling the laughing redhead back to him, the Texan wrapped his arms around her waist, kissed the back of her neck and whispered. “Miss me baby?”
“Always,” Kelli gained control of her mirth and relaxed cozily into Vin’s strong embrace.
“The love patrol has arrived! Keep that up and I’ll have to cite you.” Buck’s booming voice was laced with amusement as he came up the porch stairs with Inez.
“I have two words for you Bucklin and it ain’t thank you.” Vin growled.
Chris snickered. "Bet I could guess what words they are."
"Me, too," Kelli commented. "By any chance do they start with 'F' and 'Y'?"
"Yep, those be the ones..." Vin acknowledged.
"You’re awful ornery this morning Vin, did you get up on the wrong side of the thorn patch...uh...bed this morning?" Buck asked with a mischievous twinkle in his blue eyes.
Kelli narrowed her blue eyes at Wilmington. "And just what do you mean by that?"
"Uh...just meant that Vin isn't his usually chipper self this mornin'...you holdin' out on him?"
"Buck!" Inez elbowed her husband in the stomach. "I can't believe you just said that."
“Why?” Buck said, turning to face his wife. “Kelli and Vin know I’m only funnin’ with them
Tanner grinned, “That may be somethin’ you might have to worry about Bucklin, but not me.”
“You have the right to remain silent Buck. I suggest you use it.” Kelli smiled, “Beside I would be crazy to cut myself off from my Texan’s amazin’ lovin’.”
Inez shook her head at her husband. “You are impossible.”
“I know… but you love me anyways.” Buck said, kissing her soundly on the lips.
Inez smiled back at him. She could never stay mad at him for long.
“You just as well quit while can Buck; you don’t stand a chance in hell when the Tanners start double teaming you.” Chris enjoyed the banter.
“Reckon you’re right.” Buck said with a wide grin as he and Inez seated themselves in vacant chairs.
“Linda, we don’t want you to have to worry about a thing for tomorrow, so we came over to prepare for the barbeque. The rest of the family will be here soon.” Inez explained what they were going to do, “You just let us do all the work.”
Linda laughed, “I have no problem with that, truthfully it takes all my energy to get up from this damn chair”.
“Only a few more weeks to go though, and then watch out, she’ll be back to her normal self… full speed ahead.” Chris rubbed Linda’s back as he spoke. “She will stay plenty busy after the baby arrives and then get back to working with the horses. This beautiful blond plans to keep the Larabee 7 running the way she did the Southern Breeze and I expect we’ll all benefit from it.”
“What do you need us to do Inez?” Tanner asked.
“I think since you and Kelli usually end up in the middle of whatever all the kids are doing, watching them will be easy for you. Also, it’s good practice for the newest parents in the family.” Inez laughed. “Chris, your job is to take care of Linda.”
“I think I can handle that.” Larabee grinned, “At least I won’t have to chase her down like one of the little ones.”
Kelli stood up and offered her hand to Vin. “Come on Tanner, by my count we have four of ‘em to keep busy with more on the way over with Josiah and JD.” It did not take long for them to find something to keep the kids occupied.
Buck watched the Tanners interact all the kids. “Chris, you would have been good with Jason and Andi, but I think you made the right decision about them. You know a year ago Kel would never have come back at my teasing; now she’s downright sassy about it. She is one hell of a young woman and a daughter you can be proud of. Vin is gonna be a terrific dad to those kids, and together, I’d say they make a damn fine family.”
Chris got up and laid his hand on Buck’s shoulder.” For everything there is a season, this is their season. It’s all in the timing Buck. A year ago would have been too soon for Kel to take on being a mother, a year from now would have been right for me and Linda to adopt. For now though, this is how it was meant to be, they were in the right place in their lives at the right time and the kids will be the ones to benefit from it.”
The remaining members of the wild bunch arrived and quickly went to work on the preparations for tomorrow. Ezra however had a different agenda on his mind and asked to see Chris alone. They closed themselves up in Larabee’s home office for privacy.
“What’s on your mind, Ezra?”
“While administrating my responsibility as legal representative for Larabee 7, a situation has come to light that requires your consideration.” Standish retrieved an envelope from his jacket and handed it to Chris. “This was included with the correspondence intended for Larabee 7, once I was aware of its contents; I began to investigate the claim.”
When Chris opened the envelope and read the letter inside he still had no idea what it meant.” Confused, he looked to Ezra. “I have never rented a storage unit in Denver. What did your investigation turn up?”
“It appears that…”Ezra deeply inhaled before continuing. “ It appears that Jack rented this unit in your name three years ago. The fee was paid in advance, once a year, and when a check failed to come this year, and with no response from letters to the primary address on the lease, it was sent to the secondary address.
“Let me guess, the Larabee 7 address,” Chris sighed. “I assume that you have been in contact with the manager of these units?”
“I have. I also took the liberty of making arrangements for you to view the contents of the storage facility. Chris, I know you…as well as the rest of us are not eager to dredge up painful memories. However, the contents of this storage unit are all that remain from your brother’s life and he set it up so that you would be notified in the event that he was unable to continue paying for it. It may be nothing but inconsequential items or it may contain a legacy for the children.”
Chris still held the letter in his hand, caught up in the memories he would rather forget.
“If you prefer, one of us will do this for you. I would have taken on the matter myself, but I felt that you should have the final say-so in the disposition of this issue.
“I’ll do it,” Larabee said softly.
“Very well. This is the name and phone number of the manager. He has a key waiting for you at your convenience.”
“Thanks Ez; I’ll handle it from here.”
Once Standish left the room, Chris mentally prepared himself to make the call. You can do this Larabee, you need to do this, if for not other reason but to prove that Jack has no further claim on your life.
Picking up the phone receiver, he dialed the number Ezra had given him. It was answered on the third ring. “Denver Storage Solutions, may I help you?
“My name is Chris Larabee…”
Chris made an arrangement to meet the manager of Denver Solutions that afternoon. He had no idea of what may be waiting for him, but he was certain that this was not a trip he wished to make alone. Rejoining the rest of the family he mulled over his options. He finally made the decision to include Vin and Ezra on his excursion to the storage facility. Vin would not only keep him balanced, but he also would represent the children’s interest in whatever their father had left behind. Ezra needed to be there not only as a friend and brother, but as a legal representative as well.
Larabee found them both surrounded by children; the youngest ladies in the family were keeping Tanner and Standish busy with a board game of Candyland. The girls were winning, much to the amusement of the other family members.
“I do hate to interrupt your playtime, but I need to borrow your Uncle Ezra and Uncle Vin for a while.” Chris grinned at the girls and addressed the men. I need you two to run an errand with me.”
Ezra answered quickly. “Of course, excuse me ladies.” Standish stood up and Barbara, who had been observing the fun slid into his spot. “Thanks love, I’ll be back soon.” Much to the delight of the children, Ezra kissed Barbara good-bye, while the girls giggled.
Vin called Jason over to take his place in the game and laid his hand on the boy’s shoulder. “Just try and keep ‘em entertained for me.” He turned to Chris, “Give me a minute to tell Kel ‘m leavin’.”
Chris told Linda he would be gone for a bit and Ezra explained to Vin where they were going on the way over.
You okay with this?
Ask me that when we are finished, Vin.
Charlie Williams, the manger of Denver Solutions, met them and unlocked the unit. “I will be in the office if you need anything.”
Larabee took a deep breath and then open the door. Memories, that took him to another time and place flooded over him like a cold rain, Chris stood still for a minute, Vin and Ezra waited patiently for him to make the first move.
It was not a large space. Inside there were only six boxes arranged neatly into three separate columns. Chris made himself move forward into the unit and found on top of the first box, in the column closest to him, an envelope with his name scrawled across the front of it. He picked it up and apprehensively pulled out the single sheet of lined paper inside.
The fact that you are reading this says youre still here and Im not. Look around you and you will see my life, at least the parts of it that I considered important anyway. I prepared this while I still had some rational bits of thinking left in me. I dont know what happened to me, but I would guess that you do so I will try not to get too maudlin with this.
I do not have to ask you to look out for my children because I know you will make certain that they are safe and hopefully with someone that can love them the way they should be loved. The first box contains what most people consider important paperwork, my will, insurance policies, bank accounts, medical information and family records. Dont worry; none of the money is from illegal gains. I never touched Carols life insurance; I figured that belonged to the kids. I could not bring myself to do anything with it though so maybe you can see that it gets to where it should.
The second sets of boxes are filled with memories from my life with Carol. Hell, you would have liked her; she stayed on my butt all the time and tried to make me a better man than I though I was. She was by far the best thing that ever came into my life and for a while I believed that maybe I could find a way to the kind of happiness that you found in yours.
Inside are pictures, Jasons baby book Carols journal and. more memories as she called them that Carole put aside for him and the new baby. I tried to do the same for Andi, but I wasnt a good substitute for their mother. Someday Jason and Andi will want to know about these things and as I am sure that you know where they are, please let them know that their mother was special and loved both of them very much. I did too.
I really tried after Carol died to do right by Jason and Andi, but there are certain things that some men just cannot handle. Losing her was my downfall and I just could not force myself to go on and now find that I dont care to. I have set my course on self-destruction and if I know me I will succeed.
The last box is about us, you and me. I know it isn't much, but then, there wasn't much I wanted to remember from our childhood.Sometimes I think it might be the same for you and that maybe we should talk about it all one day. But then I just get too mad and tell myself I'll do it,just not now. If you are hereI guess that talk probably never happened after all. These mementos from our childhood should let you know that I did remember my big brother and a part of me did want to change things.
I screwed up my own life and regardless of what I may have done (or will do), deep down I knew I was responsible for all the terrible things I did. Funny, I could never admit that to anyone while I was alive, but knowing that Ill be dead when you read this makes it come easier. I am leaving this storage space as is and I will not be back, so no matter what happens from this day forward, please remember that these boxes represent who I am, not whatever I become.
See you in the next life brother,
Tears trailed down Chris’ face as he passed the letter to Vin. He attempted to mentally steel himself for opening the cartons, while he waited for Tanner and Standish to read the letter.
“Chris, you don’t have to do this now.” Vin placed a comforting hand on his shoulder. “There’s nothin’ in these boxes that can’t wait. Hell they’ve been sittin’ here for almost three years already.”
Larabee shook his head, “No, let’s do it. Ezra you take the box with the paperwork first, then Vin can check out the ones for the kids and I…I’ll take the last one.”
Ezra quickly sorted through the papers and found that Jack had taken the life insurance money on Carol and placed it into an account for the children along with the money from two accounts that he had closed. None of it had been touched since the day it went in there. The medical records and other family papers Standish set aside for Vin to keep with the children’s information.
“The bank accounts are in the children’s name, but I can have the monies transferred to the same accounts that are presently in use for them with no problem.” Ezra explained.
“Take care of any details that need tending and then you and Vin decide the best way to handle the money for the kids.” Chris instructed. “Vin, what did you find?”
“Obviously Carol considered memories important, she wrote a letter to Jason and her unborn child…Andi. Jack included some of her jewelry for Andi and lots of baby pictures of Jason as well as ones from their life together along with a few other mementoes. Most of this probably should wait until the kids are older and can understand better, but there are a few pieces I think they should have now. It will mean a lot to Jason to have a picture of his mother and the baby blankets she crocheted for both of ‘em would be somethin’ special for ‘em.”
Vin was happy for the kids that they would have a few memories from their mother, but he felt overwhelming sadness for the woman that could not be here to see what great children they had become. He vowed to love them extra for her and to raise them in a way that would make her proud.
“You are right, Jason said once that he couldn’t remember what his mother looked like any more.” Chris wondered why he could remember that so clearly and not all the other things that happened during that time. “You and Kelli decide what to give them now and when the right time is to share the rest of it with them. I’ll make sure you also have a copy of his original letter to me, maybe someday…it might help them to know that he tried.”
Vin and Ezra picked up the five boxes that they had opened. “We’ll take these to the Ram and let the manger know that this unit is available again.” Vin waited until Ezra was outside. “Take your time with that last one Chris; we’ll wait for you by the truck.”
Chris knelt down and removed the lid from the last box. It contained only three items, but it sent a loud message from his brother. Inside was a worn picture of the two of them together, taken just before their mother passed away. It was evident that Jack had carried it in his wallet for a long time. Chris had to laugh at the second item, a worn catcher’s mitt, one which they had used together many times. The last item was the baseball Chris had given to Jack on his sixth birthday. He remembered how Jack always badgered him to play catch and how much fun they had doing it. Good memories…to replace the bad ones.
Larabee slipped the picture in his own wallet, took the mitt, slipped it on his hand and decided that with a little work it would be in good condition again. He would use it and the ball to play catch with Jason, while he told him stories about his dad as a kid. Walking out the door without looking back, he threw the empty box into the dumpster and headed for the truck.
You okay with this, Cowboy?”
Yeah… yeah I am.
Sunday Morning ~ May 14th
Larabee 7 Ranch
The Texan hung up the phone and turned to Kelli. “That was Chris, he wants to take the kids out this mornin’ to play catch. I told him to come on over for breakfast, and he’ll be here in a couple of minutes.”
“No problem, it will be nice to visit, I don’t talk to him nearly as much as you do. And I would like to see for myself that he is okay with yesterday’s revelation. By the time we finish here the kids should be up and ready for their day.” Kelli smiled when Vin came up behind her and drew her into a loving embrace.
Tanner kissed the back of her neck. “We could just say to hell with breakfast and go back to bed.” He whispered softly in her ear, “But I promise we won’t be sleepin’.”
Kelli smiled, thoroughly enjoying his caresses. “And just what will we be doing, Tanner?”
“Before you answer that, be warned that dad is in the house.” Chris smiled as he walked in, grabbed a cup and poured himself some coffee.
“Ignore him Kel, he’s just a figment of our imaginations,” The Texan continued to nuzzle his redhead’s neck.
“Vinnnnnnn! Andi is being stubborn again!” Jason’s call from the bedroom effectively ended whatever Tanner had in mind.
“Sorry hot stuff, it sounds as if you are needed elsewhere.” Kelli yelped when Vin swatted her butt, as he grinned and left to rescue Jason.
Chris shook his head and laughed. “Vin is one of the most dangerous men I know with his hands or any weapon, and you have a hell of a track record with a gun. To see you two playing like kids though, no one would ever believe it.”
“That’s all part of our plan to stay young.” She smiled, “Dad, how is Linda feelin’ this mornin’? Are you okay with the way things turned out?
“I let her sleep in because she is exhausted, but then she stays that way lately. Fortunately we only have a few more weeks to go though. As for me, I feel as if I am finally free of the last few months of hell. Oh, I almost forgot.” Chris set his cup down, reached in his pocket for an envelope and gave it to her. “It’s a copy of Jack’s letter.”
Kelli slipped it into her own pocket. “Someday the kids will appreciate seein’ this. We plan to give them their blankets and pictures when we move to the new house; it will be a special gift from their mother. Hopefully it will make the transition to their own rooms easier for them.”
A head nod was the only acknowledgment Chris gave. “Now, what can I do to help?”
“You cook the bacon and I’ll do the eggs.”
“You got it.” Chris started cooking the bacon and then hesitated slightly before he spoke. “Linda said you told her about your pregnancy challenge. Are you doing okay?”
Kelli sighed, “Yeah, I guess so. My doctor keeps pushin’ me, but for now I feel fine. However my hormones are doing some strange things lately and I cry a lot. Vin is the one that’s really sufferin’ though, not a day goes by it seems that he doesn’t have to listen to my out of control emotions go off the Richter scale.”
“Vin is not sufferin’; he is right where he wants to be.” Tanner walked in on the tail end of the conversation and stopped in front of Kelli. “I love you Kel, my job is to keep you happy and ‘m very good at it.” He grinned and winked; “Besides, I like doin’ all that lovin’ it takes to get you in a good mood.” The Texan drew her closer and was willing to demonstrate his methods.
“Okay you two, breakfast…kids…remember?” Chris smirked.
Jason and Andi ran in yelling in unison. “Uncle Chris is here!” They both received their expected hug from their favorite uncle.
“Yep and as soon as we finish breakfast, I am going to teach you both how to play catch. So let’s get this show on the road.”
The children helped set the table, and it did not take long to finish cooking and have the food on the table. Chris was pleased that the kid’s appetites had increase dramatically since they first arrived on the Larabee7. Watching them today, it was hard to believe that only a few short months ago their lives had been so different. He had to admit that most of the credit for that went to Vin and Kelli, of course they were good kids to begin with, but they needed the love and attention they found here.
Chris also knew that if he had been himself in the beginning and not high on drugs, maybe he could have played a bigger part in helping the children adjust. He was extremely grateful that the children had not suffered because of his reckless behavior with prescription drugs. Besides, now he had the luxury as an uncle of spoiling them and letting their new parents deal with the results of it.
Breakfast was finished shortly, the dishes were washed, and the kids were ready to go outside to play catch with Uncle Chris.
“Hold it a minute, baby girl.” Kelli stopped Andi before she got to the door. “Aren’t you forgettin’ somethin’?”
Andi scrunched up her face and did not know what the redhead was talking about. “Uh uh.”
“Shoes, baby, shoes, you can’t go out barefooted. “Kelli watched as Andi ran to get her forgotten footwear.
Chris and Vin exchanged knowing looks, and then burst out laughing. Kelli shot them each a glare in return, knowing what had instigated their laughter. Neither man was scared into silence by her heated glare; in fact it only made them laugh harder. “You think it’s funny just because I occasionally forget my shoes?”
“Occasionally baby? Try half the time.” Vin was grinning.
“It’s okay, Red, you know what they say. Like mother, like daughter.” Chris was still chuckling. “Kids, I think we should leave now. We’ll see you two over at the house…later.”
Take your time, Vin
Plan to, Cowboy.
Tanner put his arm around Kelli’s waist as Chris left with the children. Before she realized what he was going to do, Vin had swept her off her feet. “Where were we before we were interrupted?”
Kelli wrapped one arm around his neck; the other at the back of his head.” About right here,” she tilted her head back. His mouth came down on top of hers, and he kissed her with a passionate hunger. The kiss was wet, hot, wild and thoroughly arousing.
“I remember now.” Vin carried her to the bedroom. Kelli smiled up into his handsome face and the intensity of the feelings that raced through their bodies was overpowering. The Texan kicked the bedroom door shut with his booted foot.
Each time that he and Kelli made love; Vin felt as if he had died and been reborn and today was no exception. Although the Texan had no explanation as to why he and Kelli belonged together; he just knew that they did. He needed Kelli the same way he knew he needed air to breathe. He was certain that they had always been lovers and that somehow they had found one another again in this lifetime. He drew her closer and whispered softly, “Love you baby. “
His redhead snuggled closer into his arms, content in the afterglow of the lovemaking. “Love you too.”
It was much later when they joined Chris, Linda and the kids at the house.
All of the family had gathered at Chris’ for the team barbeque. The rest of the agents and their families or guests would not begin arriving for another hour and the preparations for the event were finished. For some reason Buck herded everyone into the Larabee living room.
“All right Buck, you got us all in here, now tell us what’s on your mind.” Chris was interested to see what his old friend was up to now.
“You just hold your horses there, stud. I don’t get to do this often and I plan to do it my way.”
“Buck…now.” Inez sent him a warning look.
“Yeah… right darlin’.” He grinned at his wife and then faced the group. “I have an announcement to make. He waited until he had everyone’s attention before continuing. “I got my next Christmas present a little early this year and sometime in December all of you will be able to see it too. Because Santa’s gonna bring us another baby. We’re pregnant again!”
Congratulations came from everywhere and Buck beamed like a proud papa was entitled to. Inez flushed under all the well wishes that were showered on her and Buck from their family members.
Kelli hugged Inez and kissed Buck on the cheek, “Congratulations y’all.”
Vin kissed Inez on the cheek, and slapped Buck on the back. “It’s about time you figured out that it’s kids that keep you young, but in your case it may already be too late.” Tanner grinned when Buck tried to elbow him in the ribs.
“Well now we’re one up on you so you’ll just have to try harder to catch up.” Buck smirked.
“That will be my pleasure Bucklin.” Vin assured him.
Linda watched Kelli. Ever since the redhead had shared her revelation with her the day before she worried about all the teasing Kelli would have to listen to so the blond directed the attention away from the Tanners.
“Hopefully by December I will have had this little one and be able to help you out. Sometime I think I will just stay this way forever.” Linda laughed.
Inez laughingly agreed, “It does seem that way, but trust me there is an end to it… it only seems like forever.”
While the three women talked the rest of the family drifted outside and the first of the other team members began to arrive.
Chris and Vin stood on the deck and observed the other members of the unit as they intermingled.
“Look at Ezra trying to get Linda to tell him if we’re having a boy or a girl.” Chris smiled.
“Hey, you could tell me, the bettin’ pool is over a thousand dollars now.”
“Like hell, Linda would kill me. She wants it to be a surprise.”
“Yeah, excuses, excuses.”
“Who would have thought that Gunny had a sister named Max? Chris grinned, “Former Navy Lieutenant, and retired nurse. She has the same no nonsense attitude that Gunny does.”
“Yeah, I have been watchin’ her; she is damned good with kids. She’s the type of person I would feel comfortable babysittin’ our kids. She would be better than some sixteen year old teeny-bopper any day.”
“So, why don’t you ask for her phone number? She lives here in Denver now.”
Tanner smiled, “Kel already did.”
“Mallory told me she is looking to go back to work; she may need someone like Max to help with Joann and Adam.” Chris had been surprised when Mallory had told him, and he had promised her that he would keep his ears open if anything became available at her old security level.
Chris looked over the guests and thought about the last year. “We were lucky with team seven. I wasn’t sure we could pull it off a second time. It is damn amazing that with the exception of Reed, we have all our original members and the newer one have fit in well.”
Vin shook his head, “Cowboy, luck had nothing to do with it. Your leadership pulled team seven together, the same way you did with this unit. Don’t underestimate that Lar’bee charm.”
“Charm my ass,” Larabee laughed and then became serious again. “MCAT hasn’t been tested yet Vin. We have had some difficult cases, but not any that have hit at the heart of this unit.”
“I disagree Chris, the last year ain’t exactly been a picnic for any of us, especially for you.”
“I’m not talking about personal pain, I’m talking about principles. You know as well as I do that this is a dirty business and we haven’t hit the dirtiest part of it yet. There is still a case out there that will make everyone here question why in the hell they do this kind of work for a living and when it comes, it will be a rough ride for all of us.”
Tanner thought about some of the things he had personally witnessed in the past and realized Chris was right. This was a tight team, but most of their assignments had been cleaner than the worst that was out there.
“You’re thinking too hard.” Chris laid a hand on Vin’s shoulder. “Just for the record, you have done one hell of a job yourself this last year. You are just as responsible for the success of this team as I am. Now I think that as their Commander and their Captain we need to go let them know how good they are.”
“Whatever you say, Boss.”
Thursday ~May 25th
Chris was immersed in paperwork, expense reports, and requests for MCAT assistance with cases from law enforcement agencies from coast to coast. It seemed that his unit had become the go to agency when things got a little difficult in an investigation .An aggravated Larabee pushed the folders across the desk and sighed deeply.
Vin stood at the office door and watched his best friend. “You really need to find a way to relax before you explode.”
Looking up at him Chris had to smile, “What in the hell makes you think I’m not cool and calm?”
Tanner chuckled as entered the room and sprawled in the chair before Chris’ desk. “Hell Chris, you get any more irritable and you’ll have to go into hibernation…or we will.”
“Okay, maybe I have been a little touchy this week” He read the look of incredulity on Tanner’s face. “All right I’ve been a real sonofabitch! It’s all this!” He waved his hand across the pile of papers. “Every jackass in the country wants us to bail them out of their stalled investigations and it makes me wonder if anyone is working out there, except us.”
“There’s nothin’ new about that Chris. Is that what ‘s really botherin’ you?”
“Yes…no…partly, hell this is aggravating, but I guess it’s the waiting for the baby that has me so damned ornery. I remember how it was with Sarah, but Linda seems to be having a more difficult pregnancy. It seems that I cannot do or say anything right, right now. I know she is miserable and we are almost there, only a couple of weeks to go.”
Vin read what Chris was not saying. “They are going to be fine, Chris. By this time next month you will be holdin’ that little one and wonderin’ what in the hell you were so worried about.”
It still amazed Chris that sometimes Vin knew better than he did what he was thinking. “I just need it to be over and know they are safe. After everything that has happened in the last year I…” He found it hard to admit his fears about their wellbeing.
The Texan grinned, “When you drag yourself in here half asleep from walkin’ the floor all night with that baby, I’m gonna remind you of this conversation.”
“I just bet you will at that.” Larabee smiled. “Now make yourself useful and help me go through these requests for our assistance.”
A knock at the door drew their attention.
“Enter,” Larabee yelled.
Ezra walked in. “I do abhor interrupting, however it is significant that I remind you that I am departing for my three day weekend.”
“You and Barbara deserve the time together, enjoy your mini-vacation Ezra.” Chris acknowledged. “We’ll see you on Monday.”
“Take care Ez.” Vin added with a grin. “Take care of Barbara, too.”
“Adios amigos,” Ezra grinned as he walked out the door.
Once Standish was out the door Larabee and Tanner went back to work, with a little luck they might get to leave this place on time for the first time in two weeks.
“All I know is that you said pack for warm weather and bring a swim suit. Are you ready to tell me where we are going?” Barbara loved the mystery, but her curiosity was strong.
“Mexico love, we have a private villa awaiting us and three days to be together.” Ezra smiled and stole a kiss from his beautiful brunette.
Barbara grinned, “Alone with you, the sun and the sand for three whole days. What more could a woman ask for?”
Ezra held out his hand, “Then shall we?” Together they walked to the boarding area.
Sunday ~ May 28th
“Ezra this has been the most romantic weekend that I have ever experienced.” Barbara reached over to kiss him. “I love spending time with you like this.”
Standish filled her wine glass. “I believe it is your turn my dear, to tell me something about yourself.” They had played this game for three days, each taking a turn at divulging a bit of their lives that the other did not know.”
“Let’s see, you already know that my parents are rich socialites, old money of course, that would rather see me on the front page of the lifestyle section than working in a small law office in Denver.” Barbara counted off the things she was naming on her fingertips. “ That I attended private schools, all girls, I love my work, Italian food, Jackie Chan movies, and my grandmother is my favorite relative…what else… Okay, I love to play card games, but I suck at it, I can’t bluff worth a damn outside of the courtroom. Now it’s your turn.”
“Hmmm, you know all the sordid details about Maude, my unorthodox upbringing, my work …What you may not know Ms. Lindsey is that I find myself lost every time I look into your beautiful hazel eyes.”
Barbara looked up quickly. My eyes? What about those gorgeous emerald orbs of his?
Ezra knew that he had caught her off- guard with his remark and sought to take full advantage of it. Drawing her close to him he whispered, “We have five hours before we leave this paradise. Let’s not spend it talking.”
“Who needs to talk?” Barbara leaned into Ezra for his promised kiss and lost herself to the man that had already stolen her heart and Ezra felt as if he had found home at last.
Tuesday~ May 30th
“Vin I need to borrow your wife for the night." Ezra Standish said without preamble, as he walked up behind the lanky Texan.
"Come again?" The Texan said in a soft voice as he turned away from the coffeemaker, mug in hand, to face Standish. His blue eyes narrowed into fine slits as he gazed at the undercover agent as if he had sprouted two heads. “You want to borrow my what?
The bullpen had suddenly grown quiet as all activity near the food and beverage area had stopped, and all eyes were focused the two men to see what would happen next.
“This is going to be good.” JD commented to Buck, Paul and Ross, whose desks were all located nearby.
“I’m interested in seeing how Standish talks his way out of this one.” Buck said, and a wide grin formed on his roguish features as he watched his fellow MCAT agents with undisguised amusement.
“Uh...Vin...that isn't what I meant." Ezra back-pedaled, realizing how his sentence had sounded to Tanner. "I want your wife..."
Tanner took a menacing step towards Standish.
“If I were you, Ezra, I would start talking faster. Vin looks about ready to throttle you.” JD called out from behind the CASSIE consol.
“I’d take JD’s advice, Ezra.” Tanner growled. “And start explainin’ why you want to borrow my wife for the night.”
Standish grew flustered, something that was very uncommon for him to do. "I acquire female companionship to assist me in perfecting an undercover persona that will secure my position with the sordid associates of a particularly nasty and devious perpetrator."
Vin's eyebrows shot up at the words, giving the Texan and almost comical expression, where there had previously been a menacing one. "Ezra, what the hell are you talkin' about?"
Ezra chuckled, feeling relief fill him as Tanner’s initial anger seemed to diminish at his words. “I need Kelli to go undercover with me to carry off the identity I've created so that the deviant and his companions will...respect me."
Vin looked intently at Ezra. “Respect you?”
“As you know our illustrious leader has committed me to yet another mundane operation, not worthy of my talents. Be that as it may, I find myself cleaning up an ATF operation concerning an old associate of mine.”
“You’ve already made contact with Morales then?”
“Yes, and if he runs true to form, he will insist on a few evenings of entertainment before we can get down to business. I prefer to bring my own lady, rather than have him provide superfluous female companionship to entertain me.”
Tanner laughed, “I guess Barbara has changed your outlook on that part of the business. Talk to Kel and set it up. Meetin’ in the war room at eleven Ez, have your plan ready to present.”
The chatter in the room was loud and boisterous as the MCAT agents waited for their bosses to make an appearance. Mark was just about to get even with Buck for putting him in a headlock when Larabee and Tanner entered the room. Larabee and Tanner exchanged exasperated looks in regards to the shenanigans of the rest of the members of their unit.
“Boys and girls, if we may, I would like to get started.” Chris waited for them to settle.
Buck was in a jovial mood. “Go big dog, we’ll behave.”
“Director Travis received a request from the ATF for our assistance.” Larabee had to wait for the groans and laughter to subside before he could continue. “We will honor this request.” He glared them into silence. “Most of the ground work has been finished and the suspect is a gun dealer that our old team seven has encountered before, Enrique Morales. Ezra is familiar with this man’s methods and has a way in as a buyer. Standish, tell us what you have planned.”
“Mr. Morales is a strange man and he has some unusual superstitions, but he knows me as Emerson Sellers and he trusts me. Nevertheless he adheres to a specific routine before a transaction and he insists a woman be present at all meetings. Therefore my partner, Agent Coulter, and I will be assuming new identities and I have already arranged our first meeting for tomorrow evening. Morales usually insists on two nights of social contact between him and any associates he does business with before he will agree to set a time for a buy to go down. Our first meeting will be at Club Metro to experience some of our fine city’s nightlife. The second destination is to be determined by him then. When we are successful we will be taking two hundred Ak-47 assault rifles off the streets of Denver.”
“JD set up communications for us. Where do you plan to stay?” Chris questioned.
“The Brown Palace of course, Emerson Sellers has already reserved a suite of rooms for his arrival tomorrow.” Standish answered.
“Rooms Ez?” Buck grinned, “You only need one.” He waited for the expected reaction from Vin.
“Rooms, Bucklin, the man has to have a bodyguard and this bodyguard don’t plan on sleepin’ in the same room as Ez, he snores.” Vin smirked.
“I do not!” Ezra was not surprised that Tanner would appoint himself as his bodyguard. He was the logical choice.
Buck chuckled, “Just whose body is he gonna be there to guard? Yours or Kelli’s?”
“Excuse me; I thought we were all professionals here, not juveniles. Do you find somethin’ funny about assault rifles hittin’ our streets, Buck?” Kelli was not amused by Wilmington’s attempts to goad Vin with his comments.
“Assault rifles no, you and Ez as a couple? Hell yeah!”
Chris decided to end Buck’s harassment. “Wilmington set up two teams for surveillance. That’s it, dismissed.” He motioned for Vin to come with him and led the way to his office.
Larabee closed the door once they were in his office. “Are you sure about working this one, Vin?”
“Who else is believable as a bodyguard that has experience with undercover work?” Vin said. “You do, but you need to be with Linda. Kelli would strangle Buck within a few hours because you and I both know he can’t help but run his mouth about this one. Raphael could, but he’s in Boulder for the birth of his new grandchild and won’t be back until Friday. The others are not that familiar with this type of operation or how Ezra works and I don’t particular want to put an inexperienced agent out there for a trial run since Kelli won’t have her weapon, so…”
“You’re right. Nathan, Paul and Ross have next to zero experience in undercover work. Mark has the same problem as JD; they both look too damn young to intimidate anyone. That only leaves Justin or Josiah and both of them are a little older than would be believable on this one.”
“I’m not that crazy about us both being undercover on the same case because of the kids, but I don’t see that we have a choice.”
“The children can stay with us for the next two days, that’s not a problem. Just don’t let this be a problem for you.”
A knock on the door interrupted whatever Tanner planned to reply.
“Enter,” Chris yelled.
Ezra came in and explained his presence. “I plan to take Kel shopping this afternoon, to acquire the appropriate wardrobe for this task You do of course, appreciate the fact that appearances are everything in this type of operation.”
“I know what your interpretation of shopping entails Ezra, lots of hours and money. Just remember Linda’s baby shower is tonight and Kel is expected to be there, as well as Barbara.” Chris directed. “Take Vin with you, after all, your bodyguard needs some news duds, too.”
“Of course, and we shall return before five.” Ezra assured. “We are prepared to leave at your convenience Captain.”
Tanner sighed, he had not thought about clothes for himself when he opened his mouth about playing bodyguard. However, if Standish was taking his wife shopping, then he damn well planned to be there...he knew what Ezra considered fashionable and he knew Kelli hated to shop. It was a certainty that she and Ezra would be arguing before the afternoon was over without someone to run interference.
“Be ready to leave in ten minutes and we’ll take my truck.”
The afternoon shopping expedition from hell started off bad and just got worse. Ezra took them to several boutiques that specialized in the latest fashions and was top dollar. Kelli was not impressed with any of them, and insisted that the current boutique that they were in was the last stop. She hated the numerous changes of clothes, and was not thrilled about Ezra’s choice.
“Explain somethin’ to me Ez? How come the less material it takes to make a dress, the higher the price tag?” She held up the last dress the proprietor had given her that was not much bigger than dinner napkin.
“Sex sells, Kel, and that’s what Morales expects to see. He appreciates the beauty of women and believes that their presence brings him luck.” Standish explained. “Now, please try a few of these on.”
“If I wear any of these and spike heels, the man will be lucky if I don’t kill him.” Kelli mumbled on her way to the dressing room
“Ez, you are walkin’ on thin ice here. If Kelli doesn’t try to shoot you before this day is over, I might.” Vin decided that he did not like this place or the choice in clothing available. However, as much he was enjoying watching his wife parade around in these skimpy outfits for the last few hours, he did not particularly care for the admiring looks she was receiving from other male patrons in the boutique.
Kelli walked out wearing the first item Ezra had chosen from the rack. It had a neckline that plunged to her waist, no back except for some flimsy straps, and just a few inches of cloth that started at her hips and traveled down to a few inches below her panty line.
“Over my dead body! Hell, she wears more than that to bed and that’s not sayin’ much.” Tanner vigorously shook his head no.
Ezra laughed, “Try the next one.” Standish had decided that if he had to do this, at least he could have some fun irritating his brother.
The second selection was one that showed an equal amount of Kelli’s back, her smooth stomach, and was attached from bodice to skirt on the side by only a thin piece of material.
Vin growled at Ezra. “I think I'll just shoot you now and save us all the trouble.”
“Fine! You think you can do better, be my guest.” Standish ended his statement with an annoyed wave of his hand.
The Texan knew that his redhead would have to dress out of the norm for her, but he also knew she could be sexy without going bare. He looked over the selections and chose three sexy dresses for her to try on that he could live with her wearing, for her to try.
“Here Kel, any of these outfits should be a reasonable compromise.” Tanner handed them to his wife; she accepted them and then proceeded to model each one.
Ezra had to agree that all three were acceptable and grudgingly admitted that Vin did know what looked good on her. All three outfits showed more cleavage and bare skin that he or any of the others agents were used to seeing, but then they all were used to her wearing jeans or slacks and sweaters or loose fitting blouses. The slits in the sides were sexy, yet added a hint of mystery to the lady and the colors choices were perfect for her.
“Very well Kelli, I must defer to the Texan’s taste in clothing for you. He does seem to have more than one hidden talent.” Ezra turned to Vin, “Mr. Tanner, it’s your turn to transform.
“Aww hell Ez, I’m just gonna be a bodyguard not a damn player. I can get by with jeans and a jacket.”
“Not and represent me you won’t.” Ezra snapped. “However, if you cooperate I might let you off without having to wear a tie.”
It was Tanner’s answer that sounded like something between a bark and a growl that convinced Standish that he might be pushing the man too far.
Kelli laughed, “If I have to take part in this charade so do you Vin.” She moved closer so only he could hear her. “I’ll make it well worth your while when we get home.”
Tanner grinned and a relieved Standish knew he owed his partner for getting the Texan to agree. They finished their shopping quickly and returned to the office.
Larabee 7 Ranch
The women were finishing the preparations for Linda’s baby shower while the men continued their jokes about the upcoming assignment. Buck of course was just getting wound up and the next three days promised to be long ones.
“I hope you ladies stay on schedule. Kel has to get ready for her date with Ezra tomorrow night.” Buck grinned at the numerous glares aimed in his direction.
Chris walked up beside him and said in a low voice, “Buck, if Vin or Kelli don’t shoot you before this is over, I think I will.”
JD criticized, “Why do they always come to us when they can’t do their jobs? I thought the ATF was better than that.”
Nathan laughed, “Apparently when we all left, they lost the best, and can’t operate without our help.”
“I for one will be exceedingly content once other agencies refrain from requesting MCAT to execute the duties that they should accomplish. This type of operation ranks far below my performance level.” Ezra groused.
“Hell Ez, you think we like cleaning up after them? At least this time we can have some fun with it.” Buck retorted.
“Yeah, at our expense,” Kelli complained. “Y’all best remember, I may not have my gun on my person for this assignment, but I damn well know where to get one if I need it.”
Buck chuckled, “You won’t have it because there’s no place to conceal it in those outfits you bought today.”
“She can always borrow mine Bucklin.” Vin voiced as he rounded up his children and kissed his wife. Goodbye. “Linda, have a good time, ‘m taking the kids home.”
“Excellent suggestion Vin,” Rain smiled and urged them the men, along with the kids out the door. “Gentlemen if you will all retire to the Tanner home with the children we may get started.” Once the men were gone Mallory and Rain took over.
Mallory explained to Linda. “Since we still don’t know if we are having a girl or a boy, we all tried to find something that would suit either. If anything needs to be exchanged just let me know.”
Linda spent the next thirty minutes opening baby gifts. “I thank you for the gifts, but more importantly, for being my sisters. The last few months have been hard, but not near as hard as they could have been without y’all being here.”
“We all signed on for the duration with this wild bunch and you are welcome. Now, before we have cake…games.” Groans were heard around the room when Rain pulled out the baby shower game book.
It was quite a sight at the Tanner home, all the tired children had found a spot to snuggle and as Chris looked around the room he had to smile. His brothers, all lawmen that were capable of being extremely dangerous men, had children draped all over them. JD had the twins’ snuggled one on each side of him on one end of the couch, while Nathan had Terrell over his shoulder on the other. Josiah sat in the recliner with Adam asleep on his lap as Joann lay cuddled in Ezra’s arms on the floor.
Sarah and Maria shared Buck’s stomach as a pillow as they all lay on the floor watching Beauty and the Beast. Vin sat in the rocker with Andi asleep in his arms and an almost asleep Jason at his side.
Chris picked up Jason to carry him to his bed, which allowed Vin room to get up and carry Andi to hers. “Thanks Chris, I thought I would be stuck in that rocker until mornin’ or at least until Kel got home.” Tanner grinned.
“No problem.” Chris smiled when they had both children in their respective beds. “They are so angelic when they sleep even though you know they are only recharging their batteries to run you ragged tomorrow.” Suddenly Chris was anxious to hold his own child safely in his arms. Thankfully Linda only had another week to go.
“Chris, I thought Kel and I were as happy as two people could possibly be when it was only the two of us, but since these two arrived it’s even better than I could have imagined.” They walked to the door together. “I just want ‘em to feel comfortable enough at some point to accept us as their parents and ‘m lookin forward to hearing ‘em call us mom and dad.”
“It will come; look how long it took Kel to call me dad.” Chris patted him on the back. “You are right not to insist on it though. Trust me; it’s worth the wait for when it does happen, it’s the best feeling in the world.” Larabee knew that it would happen; Vin and Kelli showed the kids too much love for it not to.
Vin took one more look at the kids before he turned the light out. “It’s gonna be a long couple of days and hell not seein’ ‘em.”
“I promise they will be in good hands, Inez is going to help with them and it’s just until Saturday. Think ahead, school will be out in a few days and your house is coming along on schedule. You have a great summer in store with the kids teaching them how to camp and fish, all that good stuff”.
Chris thought about the upcoming assignment, “Just promise me one thing.”
“What’s that Cowboy?”
“Try not to shoot Ezra before this assignment is over.”
“I won’t, “Tanner grinned, “At least not before we get the guns off the street.”