Chapter 1 - 3 | Chapter 4 - 7 | Chapter 8 - 11 | Chapter 12 - Epilogue
"Chris will be back in a little while Tanner, he walked Linda down to her car." Kelli talked to Vin as she stroked his temple and intertwined her fingers in his hair. "You might not be able to talk for a bit, but that's okay, I just want you back with me, where you belong. You are the one that told me that as long as we are together, we can do anythin' and 'm holdin' you to that because 'm sure as hell not ready to let you go yet."
She checked the ice packs that the nurse had placed on the worst of the bruised areas. "It's cold, I know. I told 'em you wouldn't like it, but it's supposed to help. As long as they keep the blankets comin' I guess we can manage." She felt the tears starting to form, "I love you, Tanner and 'm tryin' to be strong, but Lord Vin, you have to wake up because you are scaring the hell out of me. You are too much a part on me now and I can't go back to who I was before I met you because that woman doesn't exist anymore. You made sure of that when you tore down those damn walls I built and made a place for me in your life. I promise that I'll do whatever I can to help ease your hurt and I will wait right here for you to come back, however long it takes."
The nurse entered the room and Kelli stepped back to allow the woman room to take vitals and mark Vin's chart. An orderly joined her and together they were going to remove the icepacks and change the sheets on the Texan's bed. Kelli moved over to the window that overlooked the parking lot, and looked out.
Suddenly she saw movement near Chris' truck and a body laying on the ground next to it. Shouting, she began to give orders to the nurse, "Call security now! Tell them that there are two Federal Agents in distress! There is an assault in progress in the north parking lot, black Dodge Ram, two victims, one perp probably armed. Send medical assistance because it appears one of them is injured." Her first instinct was to run down and help, but it might be just what some one wanted her to do. No, she would not leave Vin alone up here, all she could do was watch helplessly."
The nurse hung up the phone and turned to Kelli, "Security is on the way and the police have been contacted."
"Thank you. I need to stay here and see what is going on, could you pull the phone over here please." Once she could reach it without losing sight of Chris and Ezra, she called Buck praying that he would answer.
+ + + + + + +
"I have been waiting for you, Larabee."
"Well, I'm here."
"You are a difficult man to get close to."
"So I've been told."
"You don't need to sound so hostile, in different circumstances; you and I might have been friends."
"There is something about having a gun to my head that tends to set off my ugly side." Chris started to move.
"Do not turn around, just listen. If you want the man responsible for hiring Reed and Madera, I can help you. However, I need something in return from you, take this and it will explain everything. I will contact you tomorrow for your answer." Chris caught the folder that was dropped over his shoulder. "Make no attempt to follow me and your friend lives." Suddenly the gun and the assailant were gone, consumed by the darkness of the night.
Chris stuffed the file inside his jacket as he dropped down on one knee to help Ezra. Relief poured over him when he found that the Southerner was still among the living. He heard footsteps running in their direction and saw the flash of uniforms. "Over here!" Larabee shouted at the officers and was happy to see the emergency medical personnel with them
"Are you alright, sir?" The senior officer asked him.
"Yes, just take care of my friend; he was hit on the head and out cold for about ten minutes." He watched as they placed Ezra on a gurney.
"Can you tell me what happened?"
"I'll fill you in, when we get inside." Chris was already in motion, marching to the emergency room doors.
Ezra was alert and complaining, "I assure you that I am fine and have no need to remain as a patient of this establishment!"
A frustrated doctor attempted to reason with him. "Mr. Standish, you may have a concussion and it would be to your benefit..."
"Might as well, give it up doc, Ezra has a head harder than a brick and is twice as stubborn as a mule." Chris smiled, because he knew a complaining southerner was a good sign.
The doctor sighed, "Very well, but at least take this for the headache that you say you do not have." He held out two capsules of Tylenol.
Chris stood up and gave Standish the 'look', "Do it." He was satisfied when Ezra swallowed the pills. A disturbance at the front desk drew his attention and hearing Buck's voice he knew what was going on out there. He stepped to the door and yelled at Wilmington. "Down here."
Buck reached the door in record time, eyeing Chris for any injury. "You okay, Stud."
"Better than him," Chris tilted his head in Ezra's direction. "How did you know?"
"Kelli, she saw the whole thing from the window. While she kept her eye on you two, she had the nurse call security and then she called me." Buck relaxed, "She probably is having a fit, worrying about both of you."
Chris nodded pleased to hear that Kelli had used her head and stayed with Vin. "Let's move this discussion to Tanner's room. You ready Standish?"
"Absolutely, lead the way." When Ezra stood he was unsteady on his feet, Chris took one arm and Buck the other to help him upstairs.
+ + + + + + +
Buck pushed the door open, met the business end of Kelli's Glock 22, and stopped. "Whoa, girl it's us," he did not move until she lowered the gun.
"Sorry," she holstered her weapon. "You don't look so good Ez," she moved. "Why don't you put him on the extra bed?" She visually checked Larabee over and was satisfied that he was okay.
"I assure you..."
"Shut up Ezra." Buck and Chris said at the same time, while helping him to the bed, before they sat down.
"How is he? Chris asked about Vin.
Kelli shook her head, as she answered, "No change. They took the ice packs off for a while, but he is still unconscious."
Chris was silent for a few minutes trying to reach the Texan and for just a moment, he thought he felt something, but then it was gone. Kelli watched his face and knew what he was doing; she prayed that Chris would be able to tell her that Vin was talking to him. Larabee looked into her eyes, the pain she saw tore at her heart and her emotions threatened to overtake her, but she pushed them back.
"Larabee... Chris!" Buck was talking, trying to get his attention and finally, the blonde looked his way. "You gonna tell us what happened out there?"
He pulled the file from his jacket pocket and gave it to Buck, "I read it while I waited on Ezra, you two read it and then we'll talk." The envelope addressed to him, he kept.
Buck finished reading, lowered the folder and passed the last sheet of paper to Ezra. "Damn! You believe all that, Chris?"
Chris shrugged his shoulder, "I've thought about it and it makes sense."
"Gentlemen, let me make sure that I understand this correctly. We are expected to believe that one person, yet unnamed, is responsible for hiring Madera to wipe out the leadership of MCAT, start a street war that has taken 17 lives, placed Agent Reed in the Unit with the express purpose to sabotage our operations, killed off all connections to him and put a hit on Director Travis." Ezra was astounded. "All this executed, to have control over MCAT and CASSIE, for a foreign country?
"Yep, that's about right." Chris answered.
"You know who that was in the parking lot, don't you?" Buck saw the truth on his face before Chris answered. "Who and why would this person offer you proof?
Chris took a deep breath, "Lady Ice, as to the why it should not surprise you that this man does not want any loose ends. He made sure she served no time in jail, so she would be out in the open."
Ezra shook his head, affirmatively, "So he could put a hit on her. If she gives us proof and we arrest, as well as prosecute this man then she only has to eliminate the one person that holds the hit contract on her. However, if he is free he can keep sending someone after her until eventually they are successful. That part makes sense, but what does she want for this proof?"
Buck answered, "A free pass."
"Pretty much, a twenty-four hour head start to get out of the country, after her 'business' is concluded." Chris added.
Kelli was listening more to what was not said, "You mean she will give you the proof to bring this man down, once you do she plans to kill him and then slip out of the country. That is the only way she will have complete freedom, without lookin' over her shoulder for the rest of her life. You can't agree to that."
"Why in the hell can't we?" Buck shouted, "We are talking about the man that is responsible for trying to kill Vin and Chris. I would expect you to be the first one to agree. That bastard put Sarah and Maria in danger! I want him taken care off for good!"
Larabee answered, "Because, if we agree to that it makes us no different than the people that want MCAT to use for their own purposes. We cannot condone murder, no matter who it is and don't fool yourself because that is exactly what that woman had planned."
"Perhaps there is another way." Ezra offered, "Fear works both ways, what if find him first and we made him think we already have the proof?"
"You're forgetting something, we don't have a name." Buck reminded him.
Chris saw where Standish was heading, "No, but we have dates, incidents and a common denominator. If CASSIE cannot come up with a name with that, she is not half as good as we think she is. Call JD and then meet him at the office, bring in whoever you need, but do it now. Lady Ice will be contacting me tomorrow for an answer; I want to know who this man is before she calls."
"JD is at the penthouse with Casey, it will only take him ten minutes to get to the office. I'll call Nathan to come stay here and then we'll go meet the kid." Buck was planning.
"No, you go now, we'll be fine, besides I have the backup I need with Kelli here." Chris ordered. "I have my laptop so tell JD to send me whatever you can find. Now go."
Buck hesitated at the door, "Madera and his 'soldiers' are still out there."
"We have it covered Buck, just make sure Ezra doesn't get dizzy and fall on his face."
"I would never, sir." Ezra protested.
Buck took him by the arm, "Come on Ez, we won't stay where we are not wanted." He gave Chris a serious look, "Take care and let us know about Tanner."
When Buck and Ezra left, the room was suddenly very quiet, except for the whish of the machine that was breathing for the Texan. Chris and Kelli settled in, one on each side of Tanner's bed, waiting for him to wake up. Neither of them spoke, but as the time passed, Larabee knew that the young woman was almost to a breaking point. He watched as she restlessly moved around, tucking the covers over Vin, stroking his brow, combing through his hair with her fingers, and watching each breath that he took. After two hours of this, he felt he had to do something.
Vin you can wake your Texas ass up anytime now. You have had enough beauty sleep and we are here waiting for you. I told you that I would stand-in for you, but what that girl needs is to see those baby blues of yours open.
"You should try to sleep a couple of hours," Chris said softly.
Kelli shook her head, "No, you go ahead if you want to ... I...'m fine."
Chris laughed. "Did Tanner teach you that or does it just come naturally?"
She got up and walked over to the window without answering. After a few minutes she hesitantly asked, "Why can't you reach him?"
Larabee sighed, stood up and joined her by the window. "It's not something I can explain, I would if I could, but the only thing I can tell you for sure is that I know he will be all right." He reached out and turned her to face him, "Kel ...I know it in here." Chris placed her hand over his heart. "Just as sure as we are standing here, I promise you he will come back to us." His words unlocked a place deep inside Kelli and he actually felt the wave of emotions that washed over her as uncertainty and fear uncharacteristically took command of her actions.
"Dammit ... Lar'bee ... I ...d...didn't want to do this." She tried to stop the hot tears that rolled down her cheeks, but it was too late. Once she started, she could not stop, emotions that she had managed to hold back for the last fifteen hours rolled to the surface and refused to go back into hiding. The only thing Chris could do was to give her a safe place to shed her tears; he wrapped his arms around her and just held onto her until she could gain control again.
Larabee felt good that Kelli was able to trust him enough to let him see her emotional side. He was sure not many people had, but from his own experiences, he understood her need to protect herself. Not letting anyone in was his specialty; at least it was until Tanner came along. Giving her shelter somehow felt right, not just, because Vin would expect him to watch out for her, but also for who she was herself. She cried for over fifteen minutes and Chris never said a word, he just let her get it all out.
Kelli finally pulled away from Chris and apologized, "I'm sorry ... I usually don't do that."
"No apology needed," he gave her a handkerchief. "Feel better?"
She shook her head, "Yes ... yes I do," she then looked up at him and froze. Chris had a strange expression on his face, but before she could ask him about it, alarms began sounding off all around Vin. "OH GOD!"
Kelli started toward the bed as nurses rushed into the room but Chris held her back, "Wait, give them a minute, it's okay, trust me." Just as suddenly as they started the alarms stopped. Larabee moved in closer with Kelli right beside him.
The first thing she saw were Vin's piercing blue eyes probing his surroundings in search of... what she wasn't sure, something to anchor to maybe? "Tanner?" The sound of her voice drew his attention, her heart soared when that penetrating gaze fixed on her and settled. It was good that Chris still had a hold on her arm because as immense relief poured over Kelli, her body gave in to emotional fatigue and she needed the strength that he transmitted toward her to remain standing.
Easy Brother, do not pull on those damn tubes, I will explain everything, just be still. Nathan is fine and you are going to be, so relax before those damn alarms go off again. You cannot talk right now so do not even attempt it, just listen and stay calm.
The nurse was talking, "Mr. Tanner, please don't pull on the tubes, you will just make it harder on both of us. I have paged the doctor and he will be in to see you soon. Try not to set off those alarms again." The nurse moved away from the bed
Vin was not listening to the nurse, but to Larabee, never taking his eyes off Kelli as she rushed to the bed. She laid her hand on his cheek and with her voice breaking with emotion; she whispered huskily, "Tanner, I love you." Chris may 'hear' his thoughts, but everything Vin was thinking she could read in his eyes, and Lord could those eyes talk. She easily understood the same message written in those beautiful blues.
You can see for yourself that Kelli is okay. You're gonna be fine, but right now that tube is helping you breath and you damn well better not touch it. You just concentrate on this woman beside me. I know you scared the hell out of her, not to mention me and everyone else. There is plenty of time to talk later, now I just want you to stay quiet. The doctor will be in here within a few minutes and he will check you over. As soon as I know the doctor is on his way, I'm gonna call the others and let them know that sleeping beauty decided to wake up from his nap.
The Texan's hand weakly reached out to Kelli, she gently grasped it and held on. Once he was touching her, Tanner's eyes shifted to Chris for an explanation as to how he got here. What happened?
Bottom line, someone tried to kill you and failed. You will have time to hear the whole story later.
I reckon. I don't seem to be going anywhere.
Never believed you would, Vin...never believed you would.
MCAT Office 4:00a.m. - Thursday
"JD, talk to me and tell me what you found." Buck said impatiently, Dunne had put all the agent's reports into CASSIE along with the material Larabee gave them.
"A helluva lot more than we were looking for, that's for sure." JD pulled the sheets from the printer. "We need to get this to Chris, but not through the computer."
Ezra read and commented. "Gentlemen, we must proceed with caution. This conspiracy extends much further than we envisioned and if we are to be successful in our endeavors, we will need a steadfast plan. We must execute it with precise timing and use only the personnel that we deem trustworthy."
Buck stared at Ezra. "You know what's scary? I understood you and agree with what you said."
"If all this is accurate, we cannot chance sending this over the Internet. We have to assume that all our actions are monitored and that is how Vin's e-mail was compromised. This man must be getting anxious with Chris and Vin still alive. According to this his time to deliver control of MCAT is running out." JD added, "I can set up some safeguards and Pam is great with the government network, between the two of us we should be able to secure some communication lines."
"Get her in here and start on it now, Ezra and I will take this over to Chris, also send out a message to the team, I want everyone in here by six." Buck ordered, "We should have something worked out by then."
Ezra and Buck started for the door, but the ringing of the phone stopped them. "Wilmington...YES! ... We are on our way over now, we need to talk." He hung up and turned with a big smile on his face, "Vin's awake! "
Denver Memorial Hospital
Chris hung up the phone, "Buck and Ezra are on their way and they must have found something."
The door opened and Dr Landers walked in moving toward the bed to examine Vin, not speaking until he finished. "Welcome back, Mr. Tanner. Let me tell you where we are, the tube I want to leave in until later today. The swelling around your throat is reducing, but I want to make sure we give it enough time for your airway to completely open. I know it is uncomfortable and we can keep you sedated if you wish." He read Tanner's expression and laughed, "Yes, I suppose you have had enough time sleeping, you have some deep contusions and it may take some time for them to heal. As with any concussion, I want to keep a close watch on you for a few days, if you experience any memory loss, blurred vision, headaches or nausea, I want to know about it. Your stats look good and I will be back this afternoon to see about losing that tube. You are indeed a fortunate man that your injuries were not as serious as they could have been."
Any questions?" He looked to Kelli and Chris.
Tell him it's Vin.
Chris answered for them, "We're good and doc it's Vin, not Mr. Tanner."
"Very well," He placed a hand on Tanner's arm. "I am leaving you in good hands and I will see you later, Vin."
"Thank you, Dr, Landers, for everything." Kelli said softly.
"You are welcome, and for the record, I think Vin is a lucky man in more ways than one, you make a good patient advocate Kelli." With that said, he made his exit.
He is right, you should have seen the hell she raised in the emergency room, Tanner. Chris felt the heat from Kelli's glare and hesitated,I will tell you later.
Vin squeezed her hand, That's okay Cowboy, I know her well enough to imagine what it was like.
"Are you two through discussing me?" Kelli complained. "I may not hear you, but your expressions give you away."
Larabee laughed, "Relax Kel, you are among family that loves you and I'm damn proud of how you behaved."
Before she could comment, the door opened. Buck and Ezra came in with an armload of file folders, handing them over to Chris, while they took a minute with Vin.
"Welcome back son, glad you decided to join us." Buck grasped Tanner's free hand. "JD said to tell you that he'll be up later."
"Indeed brother, it is good to have you with us again," Ezra smiled. "Your presence was missed."
Vin may not be able to speak or move his head, but both men read the brotherly love in Tanner's eyes.
Buck answered with a raspy voice, "Yeah, us too."
Chris was already into the third folder and drew their attention, "Damn, are these figures correct?"
"Yep, JD checked twice, that is a lot of money which means someone is desperate to get this takeover completed." Buck explained.
"Ezra, call Travis and get him over here, he wanted proof and it will please me a great deal to give it to him."
Standish hesitated, "We must assume his phone calls at home are being monitored, also."
"You need Travis?" Kelli saw the affirmative nod of Chris' head and picked up the phone, making the call. "Orrin this is Kelli Tanner, you said if I needed anythin' to call you and I...well it's Vin... I'm afraid it's not good and the doctors won't listen ...if Chris were here ...no he's not ...Oh thank you ...yes sir, twenty minutes."
The men in the room were silent. Chris stared; he had never heard Kelli sound so helpless before and was already thinking about Travis' reaction to this ruse. He caught the twinkle in Tanner's eyes and smiled when he realized that the Texan was the only one in the room not surprised by Kelli's act. Obviously, he still had a few things to discover about the abilities of his young agent.
Kelli was uncomfortable with the silence, "What? You said that you needed Travis and he is on his way."
"Yes, we need him here, but you might want to stay in the background until we can explain a few things to him." Buck offered helpfully.
"Let's get busy and have this worked out before he gets here." Chris started writing as they discussed their plans. They talked for the next twenty minutes and finally were satisfied that they had something together that would give them the best chance of being successful. It definitely was going to be a challenge, but not impossible.
Orrin Travis rushed into the room exactly twenty minutes after Kelli's phone call and when he encountered a roomful of agents stopped still, waiting for the explanation he expected Larabee to give.
"Sir, I am sorry we had to get you here under false pretense, however there is a possibility that your phones have been compromised. Once you hear me out I believe you will agree it was necessary." Chris started.
Travis put up his hand," I am sure you have a good reason and I will hear it, but first I will see Agent Tanner." Orrin moved to Vin's bedside assuring himself that his agent was indeed back with them. "It is good to see you awake, Tanner, you had us worried son." He then sat in the chair next to the Texan's bedside. "Okay so tell me why I am here at five in the morning."
Instead of answering Chris gave him their notes to read and waited. When Travis finished reading, he stood and walked over to the window, standing still and silent for a few minutes looking out into the darkness. With a heavy sigh, he turned and addressed his agents. "I asked you for proof and you have given it to me. I know you are positive of your facts or we would not be here, although I am disappointed with what you found, I appreciate your tenacity. I trusted this man and now he has betrayed not only me, but also this country. This is one case I will not watch play out from the sidelines; I want to see this bastard pay for what he has done and I will be there to see him arrested. Tell me what you need me to do."
Chris knew this was a blow to Orrin, but he also knew that Travis was a man of great integrity and would see this through, all the way. "We have four arrests that need to be made simultaneously; we need warrants and can only use people that we know we can trust. We cannot prove the link to the murders, but we can prove the link to Reed, Lady Ice, and Madera, and by doing that we have evidence of a conspiracy. The money trail leads us to the source and the assets will be frozen immediately after their arrest. The fact that the Congressman was the driving force in this makes no difference, the U.S. Attorney was in his pocket and the CIA agent handled the dealings overseas. The Major he planned to replace me with would do his bidding, also."
"We will use your team, plus special agents from the Department of Homeland Security. I will have the warrants sealed and filed one minute before we move in. When you plan to arrest a congressional representative, a high-ranking military officer, a U.S, Attorney, a CIA agent and are charging them with espionage as well as conspiracy to commit murder, we will not be taking chances."
"I will need two agents to take Lady Ice into custody when she contacts me and Madera will have to wait for now." Chris noted.
"How can you be so sure she will contact you and have the proof with her?' Travis asked.
Chris gave him the letter she had written for him stating her faith in his need for revenge and her confidence that he would look the other way when she carried out her plans. "Evidently she believes all the garbage about me that the media put in that damn TV special. She will meet me and bring the other proof we want. The other contents of that letter are enough to charge her with the murder of Judge Matthews and the attempted murder of you and the Governor. "
Travis read the letter and commented. "She has no clue about who Chris Larabee really is."
"The rest of the team will be in the office by six, Chris we will keep you posted." Buck planned to keep Larabee out of sight.
"Nice try Buck, but as soon as we get someone here for Vin, I will be in the office." Chris corrected.
Chris, you need everybody, the only person I need here is Kel.
No, Vin she has not had any sleep and you aren't in any shape to help if Madera sends someone after you again.
Go Cowboy, we will be fine. If it makes you feel better post a DPD officer outside the door."
Larabee hesitated, caught Vin's intense look and sighed, Okay, but you get hurt again and I will personally kick your ass.
Deal and watch your back, Lar'bee.
"Kel, I will have an officer outside the door if you need him, take care of that cantankerous Texan until we can get back here."
War Room 9:00 a.m.
"Okay let's go over these assignments one more time. Raphael is already at the airfield preparing our new helicopter and Nathan is on his way to the hospital to stay with Tanner. Buck, you, Mark and Nathan will serve the warrant on the U.S. Attorney, Robert Braden. Josiah, you, Paul and Ross will take Major William Gentry and be sure he knows that the job he was expecting as MCAT Commander is not open".
Chris went down the list, "The team from homeland security will take down CIA agent Frank Kellerman in Washington and Orrin, Justin and I will have the honor of arresting Congressman Zimmerman at his home here in Denver. Ezra and JD will coordinate everything from a mobile control over secured communication lines, while Pam feeds the information to us from here in the office and she will freeze their bank accounts once we move in. All targets are under surveillance by homeland security agents so we know where they are and we will move at noon. Go to your assigned locations and wait, nobody starts anything before noon."
Chris stopped Ezra before he left the room." Ez you have time before you need to meet JD, right now you and I have a date with Lady Ice, these two Marshals will be joining us." Just as Chris expected, she had contacted him and arranged to meet at 10:00 a.m., three blocks from the Federal Building. "Orrin, I will meet you and Justin before noon."
+ + + + + + +
At an outside café three blocks from the Federal building, Chris waited. Ezra and the Marshals were out of sight and they would not move in until Larabee signaled them. Lady Ice did not keep him waiting.
She sat opposite Larabee. "I knew you could not resist taking revenge for what they tried to do to you and your friend. You know Larabee; it is too bad that we could not have met under different circumstances. I think we have much in common and could have been very good together."
"I agreed to your terms, you have what I want?"
She sighed, "Of course, here is your proof and a map of where I need you to have the Congressman so I can take care of my business with him."
"It's a disk, how do I know it isn't blank?
"And I thought you trusted me." Ice reached in her bag and pulled out a small laptop. "Somehow I knew you would insist on viewing it." She pushed the laptop to Chris and he inserted the disk. Satisfied with what he saw he removed the evidence and put it in his pocket." By doing so, he signaled the others to move.
"This is the map and you are to have him there at ten sharp Monday morning. I will take him out and then we will be done."
"Don't think so." Chris watched Ezra come up behind her.
"Remember me? I am the one you graced with the headache from hell. You are under arrest for the murder of Judge Harold Matthews, the attempted murder of Deputy Director Orrin Travis and the Governor of the State of Colorado." Standish was pleased that he was the one to handcuff this woman.
"YOU LARABEE ARE A FUCKING BASTARD!" Lady Ice was livid as the Marshals took her and began to read her rights.
"So I've been told." Chris nodded to the officers to take her away.
+ + + + + + +
Exactly at noon, four teams of Federal agents moved in to serve the arrest warrants. By twelve fifteen, all four men were in custody and Orrin Travis had the proof in his hands that they had all accepted money from a terrorist controlled country for their cooperation, conspired to commit murder and instigated a street war that cost seventeen citizens their lives. The fallout would reverberate throughout Washington D.C. and another threat to the security of this country was over.
Travis sat in Chris' office a few hours later. "You should feel good about what was accomplished today. This type of work is why MCAT was set up in the first place." Orrin chuckled, "Of course no one expected MCAT to be a target. Seeing how you, your team and CASSIE put this together makes me proud of what you have accomplished in such a short time. My only regret is that this threat came from one of our own that sold out his country and the trust of its citizens for money."
"I'm sorry that it was someone you trusted."
Orrin sighed. "So am I, evidently he had this planned from the beginning. Reed was supposed to discredit you enough that there would be no choice, but to replace you. When that failed, he ordered your death. After Lady Ice supposedly killed me, Zimmerman expected to take my place, with him as Deputy Director and his man replacing you they could control MCAT along with CASSIE. They were paid enough to do whatever was asked of them and with CASSIE'S help, they could compromise National security measures as well as access any government program. Of course when Reed failed to kill you, they used Madera as a last resort, hoping you and Tanner would die, and then their leadership could come in and take over."
"We're not through with this yet Orrin, Madera is still out there.' Chris reminded him.
"Do you think he will still come after you and Vin, even after he finds out his employer has been arrested?"
"Count on it, after seeing his profile I know Madera will take this as a personal failure. Sooner or later he will try to finish what he started."
+ + + + + + +
Paul Madera was furious, "NO ONE DENIES ME MY VICTORY AND LIVES!" He paced and ranted for an hour after he received the news about the arrests. His aides and soldiers tried to avoid their Commander until he could calm down. "Captain Hudson you will report for duty now!" He shouted for his officer.
The Captain was there immediately. "Yes sir."
Madera stopped in front of the man. "We have a new mission. Begin preparations for our next operation."
"What would that be sir?"
"Operation Larabee, "Madera lowered his voice, "The only thing that has changed is the name of your employer. As of today, you work for me, I want you to pick two good men to stay with us and pay off the rest. When we get rid of their leaders, the rest of that team will fall apart and take months to regroup. Choose one of the men and then make a new plan to take out Tanner in the hospital. The other one will go with me tomorrow to finish this game. He may not know it yet, but Chris Larabee is a walking dead man."
Penthouse - Friday
Chris woke to the feel of soft kisses on his shoulder. Linda never missed an opportunity to show him that the she loved every part of him, even the scars he still wore from where the doctors had to apply new skin. After the late night at the hospital visiting with Vin, he had decided to stay at the penthouse with Linda and that was proving to be an enjoyable experience.
"Keep that up Lady, and I will never make my meeting with Travis on time." Chris returned her kisses with new passion. Larabee had no problem admitting that he was hopelessly in love with this wild blond and addicted to her loving attention to him. Mornings like this made him wish that they could stay wrapped up together forever, leaving the outside world, along with his past behind.
"Breakfast will be here at six-thirty and your meetin is not until eight. That gives us plenty of time, Larabee. Now shut up and kiss me again." He did, taking them to a place of pleasurable bliss that belonged to only them.
Both blonds took time to recover from their morning session before time became the doorway back to the outside world. Chris kissed the top of Linda's head, rolled out of bed and headed for the shower, reluctantly leaving their place to prepare for the workday ahead.
Chris was just stepping out of the shower when the knock on the front door told them breakfast had arrived. "I think since I am at least wearing a robe, I should get that." Linda took one more look at her naked Cowboy and left the room to answer the door.
Nathan was already there, ""I got it Linda."
"Thanks, are the others up yet?"
"Rain is sleeping in, but I heard JD moving around as I passed by their door."
"Someone mention my name?" Dunne entered the room alert, refreshed and full of energy. "Ah, breakfast."
"Help yourself JD, I ordered an assortment for everyone. Is Casey joining us?' Linda asked as she poured some coffee for Chris.
"Nah, she is enjoying this vacation too much and decided to sleep in."
Chris came in and took the offered cup from Linda. "Thanks, babe," he grinned at his beautiful blond and gave her a quick kiss. "Nate, you talked to Vin's doctor yesterday. Is he really doing okay or does he just want us to think that?" He sat down to eat with the others.
"Considering that when that car hit him he was thrown into the air, slammed into a parked car, landed ten feet away on the sidewalk, and was unconscious for fifteen hours, he is doing great. All the tubes are out, he has no broken bones and as long as he gives his throat a chance to heal, he should have no permanent damage. Other than the pain from those deep bruises, a hoarse voice, some stiffness in his movements and a slight headache, he is doing fine. Doc says he can come home tomorrow as long as someone keeps a close eye on him for a few days."
Linda laughed, "I don't think that will be a problem, Kel won't let him out of her sight, not that I blame her. I have just never seen this part of her before; usually her emotional side is not so transparent. Judging from what I saw last night, that has evidently changed."
Nathan commented, "Vin was lucky and I think we all know it, it could have easily been much worse. When I saw that car hit him..."
Chris clasped Nathan's shoulder, "Try to forget that part, he is still with us and we will deal with the man that put him there."
"I noticed that the police officer was not there last night either. Does that mean you think the threat is over since we arrested Zimmerman?" JD was still concerned.
"It means that we cannot officially assign someone to protect him since the arrests have been made. Ezra stayed over last night so Kel could get some sleep, but I do not want to take any chances until I know Madera is either dead or out of the country." Chris answered. "As soon as Buck finishes his report he will go stay the rest of the day at the hospital with them."
"Well, you guys work it out I have a homecoming to plan, Mallory and Inez will be back with the kids tomorrow in time for the entire family to welcome Vin home. Rain and Casey are going to help with the preparations, although staying here has been fun, it's time to go home." Linda said wistfully and gave Chris a kiss, ""I'm going to dress and finish packing; I'll leave you to talk shop and see you tonight."
"I will meet with Travis this morning, while the team finishes the paperwork on the arrest sweep, Orrin and I will complete the report for the Attorney General " Chris grinned," The good news is that MCAT is no longer on trial status as of five o'clock yesterday afternoon. By making it through the first six months successfully, our official classification is now listed as permanent".
JD whooped, "Yes!"
"Orrin will make an official announcement at our celebration next week, but you can unofficially pass the word, JD." Chris was positive that JD would make sure everyone knew." I will stop by the hospital about noon and Nathan, I will meet you are the airfield at one-thirty. Raphael has the bird ready and will take us up, while you get an opportunity to make sure the medical equipment you requested is in working order.
"I will be there," Nathan smiled.
Chris pushed his plate back, "I'm off, see you two later."
Denver Memorial Hospital
Larabee finished his meeting with Travis early, picked up some lunches and went straight to the hospital. When he entered, he found Vin and Kelli were making good use of their time alone. "It's a damn good thing that I'm a friend and not one of Madera's men. As wrapped up in each other as you two are, how in the hell would you hear them coming?"
Kelli answered, "First of all, Tanner knew it was you and second, we weren't that 'wrapped up', as you put it. It's kinda hard to do that in this place and third, Vin had the door covered." Chris shook his head and grinned when the Texan pulled his gun out from under the blanket.
"I hope you brought some decent food, Cowboy." Vin rasped.
Chris set the cartons down, "I wasn't sure what you could eat so I brought you some of that chicken noodle soup you like from the Deli, enough for all of us."
No problem, Vin.
The three of them ate while Chris caught them up on what was going on with Travis and the unit. "Still no word on Madera, so don't let your guard down, Buck will be here in a little while to spend the afternoon with you."
"You do know that it is not necessary to have someone here, we can manage. I have my gun and Vin has his and I am fairly certain we know how to use them" Kelli liked Buck, but knew she and Vin would not have a moment to themselves while he was here, without being teased about it.
"We will be fine on our on, Chris." Vin squeezed her hand, knowing what she was thinking.
"Don't be so damned stubborn about this, until I know where Madera is, no deal, beside it will make me feel better because if you get hurt I'll have to kick you ass." Chris was firm.
"Who's watching your back?" Tanner shot Larabee an intense glare.
"Tone down that look, Vin, in about thirty minutes it will be Nathan and Raphael. Until then, I suppose I am capable of making it to the airfield by myself, as much as you two are capable of managing until Buck gets here."
Kelli watched the two men," You are a stubborn man, Lar'bee, but you had better be right. I do not want to fight with Tanner about him leavin' here to keep an eye on you. You get hurt and I suppose we'll both have to kick your ass, besides it will make us feel better." She gave him back his own argument
Vin wore a smug look on his face and his eyes gleamed with amusement, making it plain that he agreed with Kelli's statement.
"Shut up Vin," Chris looked at Kelli. "I will take precautions, you make sure that ornery Texan stays put. I will see you both later this evening."
Chris had only been gone twenty minutes when the phone rang, Kelli answered. "Buck hi... no he's left already ...no, that's okay, we aren't goin' anywhere, see you later."
Vin waited for her to tell him. "Buck is tied up at the office and cannot be here for another hour. So, Mr. Tanner we are on our on and I know just what we will be doing." She saw the change in his eyes and laughed. "Not until we get home, but close. One of the nice things about havin' this private room is that the bathtub is big enough for a portable whirlpool and that is where you are going. It will help take some of the soreness out of that gorgeous body."
Tanner gruffly whispered, "Only if you go with me." He reached for her and urged her closer for a kiss, his voice might be hoarse, but nothing was wrong with his hands and they were busy. When it became clear where his thoughts were leading them, she stopped him.
Kelli pulled back with a sigh, "You don't play fair Tanner, now behave yourself, while I call the nurse and get her to set it up." She reached over and pushed the call button. When the nurse came in Kelli explained what she wanted.
"No problem, I'll get it started and it will help more than you can imagine." The nurse went to pick up what she needed and had it set up within fifteen minutes. "If you need assistance, just push the emergency button in there and one of us will be right here."
"Thanks, I can handle it from here." Kellie helped him to sit up and hesitantly stand; taking their time, they made it the bathroom, one slow step at a time. Locking the door behind them she helped Vin undress and ease into the warm water, then turned on the machine to allow the soothing whirlpool to work its magic. "Feels good doesn't it?"
"Damn good, you should join me." Vin splashed just enough water to get her shirt wet and grinned.
Kelli leaned over the side of the tub and splashed him back. "Think I'll wait until we have our own tub, we did agree to install one for our six month anniversary and maybe we can just have it put in three weeks early."
"I'll start on it as soon as I get home." Vin pulled her closer in for a long lingering kiss until finally Kelli leaned back.
"Like hell, you will not be doing anythin' of the sort. You will heal, Tanner and let me take care of you; beside I plan to keep you busy with matters that are more important. We will pay to have someone else put in the hot tub."
Vin leaned back in the tub and enjoyed letting the hot water work out the soreness in his aching body. Sighing with resignation he said, "Since it's appears all we are going to do is talk, tell me about those important matter while I soak."
"That, I can do." They talked for at least thirty minutes, Kelli knew Vin had been in long enough and was getting tired.
Kelli helped Vin out of the water and complained, "Dammit Tanner I am almost as wet as you are and if you're not careful you'll get your clothes wet, too"
"Hell, half the people in this hospital have seen me naked; I don't see what difference it makes if I walked out of here without 'em."
She continued to help him dry off. "It makes a difference to me, I don't like sharin', let them get their own Texan to look at."
"Ah, possessive as well as sassy, I like that." Vin smiled, "Since you don't plan on doing anythin' else you had better let me get my clothes on, woman."
Kelli unlocked the door and after checking the room, she helped Vin slowly move back to his bed and then... she changed into her own dry clothes.
Raphael landed with ease, allowing his two passengers to depart the helicopter and wait for him, while he took the chopper to the hanger.
"Everything checked out perfect, that equipment will save someone's life one of these days." Nathan was extremely please with the medical equipment and supplies stocked on board their new acquisition.
Chris agreed, "Yep and Cordova is one hell of a pilot, I'm impressed. Having that helicopter available will be a good addition for the Unit."
Both men were walking across the field toward the terminal, where they had agreed to meet Raphael in twenty minutes. That would give him time to refuel and put the new helicopter to bed as he put it. Suddenly they were not alone.
"Both of you keep walking to the next hanger and do not turn around; someone is waiting to meet with you Commander Larabee.
"What if I refuse?" Chris felt the gun at his back.
"Then your friend dies first." The man produced a second gun and aimed it at Nathan's head. "I assure you I can make the shot. Would you care to test me?"
Chris did not answer, just kept walking to the hanger, and once they were inside the unknown man stepped back.
"Welcome Commander Larabee and good to see you too, Agent Jackson. I want both of you to slowly remove your guns and throw them on the floor, along with your phones. Please do not think about doing anything foolish Larabee, because my associate still has a gun aimed at Agent Jackson's head."
Chris nodded and both he and Nathan placed their guns on the cement floor. "I did not expect you to give up Madera. I just did not believe you were such stupid man. You could be long gone by now, back to your own country, but here you are still on American soil, fair game for arrest and imprisonment."
"You have turned out to be a worthy opponent, Larabee, but I never lose and you will die here along with your friend" Madera sneered.
"If you are going to kill us why wait?"
Madera gave an evil grin and explained, 'Killing you is not enough; I am expecting a phone call that will confirm that your friend Tanner is dead. I want you to know that before you die. Now both of you sit and we will all wait for the news."
Chris felt Nathan start to react and put out his hand to stop him.
Paul Madera laughed, "Good thinking Commander, Agent Jackson is expendable and I will not hesitate to kill him."
Any member of my team dies, and you have signed your own death warrant, Madera. Killing me will make no difference, the others will find you and you will lose."
"SILENCE! You have less than thirty minutes left of your life; think about you dying friend during that time.
Denver Memorial Hospital
The hot water helped with the soreness, but Vin was exhausted and knowing that Buck would be here in ten minutes or so, he felt comfortable dozing while they waited on him. Kelli sat where she could watch the door.
Captain Hudson had a simple plan, slip into Tanner's room unnoticed, let him know Larabee was a dead man, shoot him using a silencer and be long gone before anyone discovered what had happened. After all, he witnessed the hit and he was the one that reported to Madera about the failure to kill Tanner. The man could not possibly put up any kind of fight because after he had watched that car strike him and saw how he landed he knew the agent had to be seriously injured.
The hospital corridor was almost empty and Hudson saw his window of opportunity. "You stay here and watch for interference." After giving the order to his man, he pushed open the door to room 407 and stopped, having the business end of a gun aimed at him was not in his plan.
Thinking quickly he aimed his own gun at the man in the bed. "Looks as if we have a standoff, put your gun down lady or he dies now."
Kelli lowered her weapon. "Okay, I am puttin' my gun down, just don't shoot him."
Captain Hudson relaxed and smiled as he shifted the direction of his gun," Then I guess you get to die, first." His took aim at Kelli, never even hearing the shot Vin fired that killed him or the shot that rang outside in the corridor.
The door pushed open and Buck was standing there, gun drawn. "I was on my way down the hall to your room when that idiot outside pulled a gun on me. That was a big mistake on his part. You two okay?"
"Yeah, but I think these sheets have had it" Vin showed him the hole his shot made when he fired his weapon from under the covers.
"We had better get hold of Chris and warn him, if they came after you, they will be looking for him .too."
Kelli picked up the phone and dialed, counting the rings until finally Chris' voice mail picked up. "Chris is not answering."
Dammit, Chris where are you?
Chris and Nathan sat silently, listening to Paul Madera boast about his plans. When Chris' phone stared ringing, Madera became more anxious. Chris felt Vin trying to reach him and he knew Nathan still had his knife. When he saw a slight movement at the window, he knew what he had to do.
"Madera, you should have left while you had the chance, Tanner is not dead and unless I miss my guess your men are."
"Shut up Larabee!"
"Go ahead, call them, you don't have to believe me." Chris stood up, taking a step forward removing himself from in-between Nathan and the second man. "Call them! Maybe you can't call them, maybe you know they failed."
"Stop it!' Madera was pacing now.
"You failed with Soledad and now you have failed again." Chris kept taunting the man, drawing his attention.
"I said shut up!" Madera raised his gun aiming it at Chris. As he heard the sound of a gunshot, Nathan jumped up and threw his knife at the second man, turning in time to see Madera drop to the floor. Raphael Cordova stepped out of the shadows gun in hand and knelt down beside the assassin.
"He's dead." Raphael confirmed.
Chris looked at Nathan, "How did you know?"
Nathan shook his head, "You are not the only one that trusts our teammates to be there and... I saw him, too."
Chris picked up the phone to call the hospital and smiled when Tanner answered the phone.
Larabee 7 - 7:30p.m.
Vin insisted he was going home and when Dr. Launders heard about what had happened he did not argue with the Texan. The doctor warned him about not overdoing, gave him a list of things to watch for and made an appointment to see him on Tuesday. By five, the Tanners were home and Vin was exhausted again. Kelli convinced him to take a nap by promising to wake him in a couple of hours.
Kelli gave him over two hours to sleep before she left him alone for a few minutes. She made her way back to the bedroom carrying two cups of hot coffee. "Good, you're awake. How are you feelin'?"
"Lonely, you have been gone exactly fourteen minutes." Vin sat up in the bed and took both cups, setting them next to the bed. His voice was still raspy, but strong.
"How would you know, you were asleep when I left?"
Ignoring her protests about hurting him, Vin pulled her down across his lap, wrapping his arms around her. "You should know by now that I can sense your presence and anytime you leave, I feel your absence." She sighed, leaned into him and with her fingers lightly traced the still visible scar on his forehead. Shivering at the thought of how close she had come to losing this man only a few days ago. "Don't go there, baby, we are on a journey that we'll be takin' the rest of our lives and we still have a long way to go, 'm fine, we're together and we can take on anythin' life wants to throw at us."
"I know that's true Vin, but...dammit I was so scared that you...that we..."
"Uh-Uh, it's over, 'm still here and hell, except for being a little sore 'm okay. However, I seem to remember a promise you made about what we would do once, I was home.
"Tanner, you know that I always keep my promises, but I don't want to do anythin' that will cause you more pain."
The Texan grinned," Baby, 'm healin' just fine and if I can survive four tons of movin' metal slammin' into me, one sassy little redhead is not gonna hurt me."
"Sassy little redhead? We'll see about that, Tanner." Kelli reached up and ran her fingers through Vin's hair, pulling his head down close enough for a long slow kiss, leaning back she looked into his eyes and what she saw made her heart skip a beat. Without words, she felt his love pour into her soul, she knew that he was telling her with absolute certainty that the worst was over and that whatever difficulties they might face in the future, the spirit of their love was safe, in a sheltered place. With a voice laced with emotion she whispered, "Message received."
"Good, now, about that promise..."
"Okay, but this time it's my turn, my rules, let me show you how much I love you, tomorrow it can be your turn." Gently, Kelli started with a soft kiss to the scar on Vin's forehead and worked her way over every bruise and scrape on his body, carefully protecting his injuries. With warn kisses and soft touches she showed him how much she loved him and two loving souls reacquainted themselves.
The Tanners spent the rest of the evening enjoying their time of just being together, adding one more page to their book of memories.
One week later
Chris groaned when he saw their destination, one of the most glamorous restaurants in the city. He should have known, he should have seen this coming from the moment he heard Linda had been a part in organizing this.
Or when she'd insisted on formal wear for them all....
A valet came running the moment he and Linda got out of the Ram. "Keys please, sir?" the young man asked, looking with a bit of disdain at the big, muddy truck. Chris scowled at him, not wanting to give his beloved Ram over to someone who could not appreciate the sturdy vehicle. Another valet was standing close by.
"Hey!" Chris yelled. "YOU!" When the boy looked over hesitantly, he tossed him the key. "You can park my truck." Giving the first young man, who was gaping in astonishment a last glare, he strode away towards the door of the restaurant.
"Chris!" Linda hissed beside him. "Be nice! You did not need to be so rude! And leave that tie alone, it's fine the way it is!"
When they entered the copious room set aside for the MCAT celebration, Chris knew he was facing a hell of an evening. The whole set up had 'formal' written all over it, from the round tables with white damask table cloths to the slight stage at one end of the room. Stage?
"Why is that damn stage there, Linda?"
"What do you mean, Chris? With formal parties like this that is where you make ceremonial announcements," suddenly she was coughing. Coughing! He knew this woman! She was hiding something from him!
"You're talking speeches."
Oh God, he had the feeling there would be more than speeches going to happen. He suddenly wished he could be the babysitter for the kids instead of one of the guests. That at least would have been fun. Absentmindedly he put his finger between his tie and his neck again.
"Chris!" Linda hissed.
Hey pard, you don't seem too pleased. What's up?
Nothing, get your ass up here.
Uh... you know, I'm feelin' kind a weak all of a sudden. Maybe I'd better go back home to...
OH NO YOU DON'T! You've been home for over a week, hell, you've been feeding the horses again for the past two days! No way are you gonna leave me alone with this!
See for yourself, Tanner!
A steady pulling at his sleeve brought his attention back to Linda. For a moment, her stunning looks distracted him from the whole set up of this evening. That dress sure brought out all the curves of her gorgeous body.... Hell, why wasn't he at home enjoying those curves instead of here for whatever she had planned.
"Look," she called out. "There are the MCAT tables. Let's go over there. Half the team is already seated." The excitement on her face once more brought home to Chris how Linda thrived on occasions like this. She endured all the quiet times at the ranch he cherished, he could get through this for her, he really could!
When he saw where Linda was pointing, his hackles rose again. Damn! Their tables were right in the front, right there where it would be impossible for them to sneak out when all the speeches became too boring. Also, wasn't that Sheppard, the congressional representative they had saved a few months ago during one of their cases?
He heaved a deep sigh while he followed Linda to the front table, right smack in the middle. If people from that high up were here tonight, he knew formal was the name of the game.... Oh no, the governor was here, too!
Linda was going to pay for this! She was going to make it up to him big time! Just as soon as he could decently drag her out of here, they were leaving.
"Hey stud, we're over here!" Buck yelled loud enough for everyone to hear.
Leave it to Buck to make sure that they were the center of attention, Chris thought in disgust. Damn, couldn't the man have laryngitis for once? He enjoyed these shindigs way too much and... hell, here comes JD, the kid was almost as bad as Buck. Casey was looking around a bit uncertainly and Chris decided to have pity on the young couple and at least be civilized to them.
Nodding at them, he asked "JD, Casey, are you both having a good time?"
"I... I guess," Casey said, looking around her obviously impressed. "This is awesome."
"This is cool! Someone had a damn good idea about this celebration. Food, a wet bar and all these VIP's to meet, fantastic." JD was too damn excited.
Immediately Linda was beaming and it took Chris' breath away. He even forgave the two youngsters their enthusiasm about the whole stupid thing. After all, it wasn't a wonder they were still taken in by the glamour of it, they weren't old enough to know that this was a trap where they lured you into hell and then blocked your escape.
"Yep they sure did," he answered JD, looking at the beautiful blond at his side And I am going to have a good time making her pay for it! Vin where are you, dammit?
Be there soon, 'm kinda busy right now.
Linda grabbed Chris' hand and steered him towards the table with the Wilmingtons. It was clear she wanted to sit with them, so she could talk to Inez. Just great! That put him next to good old Buck, who was inescapably going to be his entertainment for the evening, Chris thought sourly.
"Hey Chris, that is a happy face if ever I saw one!" Buck smirked when they reached the table. Chris could hit him, especially when the bastard started to praise the whole mess into high heaven. "Man, Linda you did a great job on setting this up and I have the best seat in the house. I can watch all the fun and never have to leave my chair. Look, there's Raphael and that gal he's with, hell she's as young as Kelli. Speaking of which, you seen her yet? Vin is gonna have his hands full, just trying to keep up with her tonight."
"Why is that Buck? Is something wrong with Kel?" Linda started looking around for her friend.
"No, I'd say Blaze is living up to her name tonight." Buck smirked, "Vin is the one with the problem."
Damn, where are you, Vin? Chris thought again. I need some sanity here!
If Vin was smart, he was hiding, exactly like he himself should be doing. Chris reached up to his collar again.
"Chris! Leave that collar alone!' Linda snapped.
"Good evening, gentlemen, may I introduce Miss Sandra James, my companion for tonight's gala. Sandra this is our Boss, Chris Larabee and his Lady, Miss Linda Dubois. And this is ...Good Lord!" Ezra was staring at something or someone behind Chris.
Chris turned and for a moment was speechless, There you are Vin, Damn! How in the hell did you let that happen? He watched as Vin and Kelli took the seats on his right and struggled to find the correct words to say. Linda beat him to it.
"Kelli you look great, and you don't look half bad either Tanner. Formal attire suits you."
Chris grinned when he saw the dirty look his friend sent Linda for her remark and then the finger that went between his collar and his neck. He looked at Kelli again.
Kelli's dress was a shock to the men who normally saw her in blue jeans, shirts and a jacket. It was...daring, and low cut, showing a remarkable amount of bare skin, a lot more than they were used to seeing of their backup sharpshooter. Definitely, something he wanted to see Linda in, Chris decided.
Ezra recovered first. "You look stunning, Kel and may I introduce you to my friend Miss Sandra James, Sandra, Kelli and Vin Tanner."
"It's nice to meet you, Miss James." Kelli answered.
"Selina, It's good to see you, girl!" Kelli stood up and hugged the young lady that had walked in with Raphael. "Selina Cordova, my husband Vin, and that's Chris, Linda, Buck and Inez. Here are some empty chairs, y'all sit with us." Everyone said their hellos and Raphael ended up sitting across from Chris.
"Dad told me he was working with you again Blaze and I volunteered to come with him tonight hoping we'd get a chance to catch up with one another." Selina had a beautiful smile, "I think we have just missed crossing paths at least three times in the last couple of years."
Chris observed Raphael as he listened to his daughter talk and could see the pride and love he felt for her written on his face. At least Cordova would be enjoying his evening in this place. While the young women talked, Larabee's thoughts went back to Kelli and that dress, Whatever possessed her to pick something that...revealing...that...
Yeah, I know and she didn't I did. Hell, Chris when she tried it on in the store she looked so damn sexy that I insisted we buy it. It just didn't register with me at the time that every other man that saw her in it would think the same thing.
You probably were not thinking about that part of it at all Tanner. I am sure that your mind was ... elsewhere.
You'd be right about that! So now, I just have to make it through long enough to sneak out of here and go home.
HELL NO! If I gotta stay so do you Captain Tanner! Suffer just as much I am.
"Rain, you look lovely, Nathan I am afraid your wife outshines you tonight." Linda smiled. "Join us, almost every one is here except Mark and ...there's Josiah and Mallory now." Linda waved to them and they started over to the table.
Looking around and trying to hide the boredom that was already setting in, Chris saw all of his team had arrived, proudly occupying the first row of tables. They were not the only ones in the forefront. There were Orrin and Evie sitting with the governor ... and hell, he knew that guy, someone from the Attorney General's Office.
Buck leaned over, grinning. "Hey stud, you're looking as if you've seen a ghost or something."
"No, worse, see that guy next to Evie? Dammit, if he gives a speech it is going to be a helluva long night. And did you see who else is here? Those government men never know when to shut up! Hey, where's Mark?" Buck nodded. "Here he comes, stud. Yep, now they can start serving the food!"
Buck was actually rubbing his hands in anticipation. Chris shook his head. "You know they serve food with portions only big enough to keep a small rabbit alive in places like this, don't you Buck? And don't tell me you're looking forward to all those boring speakers. Thank God, we don't have any awards coming up! What are you smirking about?"
"Now Chris... don't be that way. Just relax and enjoy! This is supposed to be fun, you know. Mark, glad you're here!"
"Hi Buck, everyone!"
Mark took the only available chair, the one next to Selina and struck up a conversation. It made Chris grin, seeing the young man trying to get cozy with her. He saw a certain look start in Rafael's eyes and he was getting the feeling Mark was going to be in for a nasty surprise.
Chris, you are mean, you at least ought to warn the kid!
Mean? Hell, why should you and me be the only ones in misery?
You got a point there, Cowboy.
"Chris, you need to relax or you won't be able to enjoy your meal and I made sure it would be something you like." Linda patted his arm. Chris suppressed a sigh and even managed to smile at her. When she was looking at him with those shining eyes, he just couldn't tell her that he would rather be dragged through a mud mire and stomped on by a bucking horse than be sitting at this table. So he manly suppressed a groan when one of those salads with nine different types of lettuce, half of which he'd never heard of before, arrived at their table.
Larabee, if you look any meaner you're gonna scare that lettuce back into the ground.
And you are doing better because?
Hell, at least I know what I'll be getting once I get home, You tick off Dubois and you'll be doing without for a long dry spell, brother.
Vin, the only reason I'm still here is because I love that woman and she damn well better know it.
Right, and she knows it because?
Vin, eat your rabbit food and quit smirking.
Finally, the main course! Only desert after this and come hell or high water, Chris vowed to himself, he would find a way out of here with Linda. She would just have to understand. Being a reasonable woman, she just had to! He raised his glass of water and took a healthy swig, when suddenly Buck leaned over and said, "Hey Chris, I heard earlier that MCAT is gonna get some kind of recognition tonight." He broke out in laughter when Larabee started coughing.
Linda glared at Buck, while Chris got over his coughing fit, "Are you okay?"
Chris shook his head, he spoke to Buck, but his eyes were on Linda. "What kind of recognition?" Everyone at the table stopped eating and waited for Wilmington to answer.
"Oh, you know, a job well done, great record, that sort of thing."
Kelli stood, "Linda would you go with me to the ladies room?" She wanted to rescue her friend from her obvious distress and this was the only way that she could think of. Linda wasted no time in agreeing and both women left the table. Although for different reasons, Chris and Vin both closely observed their departure.
Chris could kick himself! He should have known, all evening little things told him there was more going on then a celebration, but did he listen to himself? NO! Now his team members had those silly smiles on their faces and there was no way that he could duck out of here without disappointing them. Trapped! Linda had a hell of a lot of soothing to take care of when they got home!
Linda and Kelli did not return until after dessert and the first speaker was ready to be introduced. They quietly slipped into their chairs as the lights dimmed and Congressman Sheppard began to speak.
"Ladies and Gentlemen, I have a story to tell..." and he did, all about how MCAT was responsible for stopping an attempt on his life. Chris was sure the man would talk into next month.
Next was the man from the Attorney General's office. He spent thirty minutes talking about the war on terror, crime and how the MCAT Unit was the model for others to come. Then he called each team member by name on stage to present him or her with a commendation from the President. Most were pleased, Chris had to smile when he heard, 'aw hell' from Vin's direction and a 'good Lord' from Ezra's. He was amazed, yet relieved that he got away with only a handshake and no speech.
That was not as bad as it could have been and for the first time since he stepped through the front door of this place Chris really relaxed. At least until the Governor and Travis took the stage together. The Governor praised the MCAT team for saving his life and preventing the explosions that could have killed a multitude of people in the city of Denver.
Okay, the team deserved that and Chris was happy for them. Then Orrin began to speak. Larabee was fine as long as he was acknowledging the team's accomplishments, but then he became more specific, talking about the driving force, team unity, and great leadership. It was then that Chris felt his tie choking him and that he knew what was coming....
"The man responsible for leading this unit is Commander Chris Larabee and it is my honor...damn... to recognize his great leadership by naming him 'Law Enforcement Man of the Year' and presenting him with this plaque. Chris, would you come to the stage and say a few words...."
It was early and Linda was still in bed. After last night Chris figured she probably needed the extra sleep, she had spent hours soothing Chris' mood once they got home from the 'celebration'. When the coffee finished Larabee grabbed a cup, filled it and then sat down at the kitchen table. He opened his journal and scanned his last entry, picking up his pen he began to write.I promised myself I would be more diligent about writing, so here I am again. Two more weeks and it will be November; the weather feels more like winter every day. It has only been a few short weeks since my last entry and I did not think I would have much to write about, but I guess that I do. The time may have been small in the grand scheme of things, but what has happened will have long-term effects.
Family is always a good place to start. Sarah celebrated her third birthday and I tell you, Buck had better stay in shape to keep up with that one. JD and Casey announced at our last bar-b-q that they are having twins, which means two more girls will be joining our growing brood. Rain is home until after the Jackson baby makes his entrance and the rebuilding of the clinic is finished.
We discovered who was responsible for the attack against MCAT or more specifically to me and to Vin, but we paid a high price for the information. The man hired to do the dirty work dared to attack my family. Nathan and Rain were trapped after the clinic was bombed and an attempt was made to kill Ezra and Kelli. Even Maria and Sarah became involved when a siege took place at the ranch. We almost lost Vin when the same people made an attempt on his life by running him down with a car, but thank God he survived.
I was angry that they targeted my family, but I also learned how much strength abounds in this wild bunch. Nathan and Rain recovered quickly, The Wilmingtons took a little longer to get over their scare with the girls though. I also discovered that Kelli has more inner strength than I gave her credit for before. She fought hard for Vin, when he couldn't fight for himself and refused to allow anyone a chance to hurt him while he lay unconscious in the hospital. I also gained enough of her trust for her to let down some of her emotional barriers, usually something she only does for Tanner.
There were many decision made in the last three weeks. MCAT now has permanent status and we control our own destiny with the unit. I decided to add a new man to the forensics team and I think Greg Ramsey is an excellent addition. I also requested and received a helicopter for the unit. The agent I decided to choose to fly it has already found his place on this team and saved my life when Madera tried to kill me. Raphael Cordova is a man that I can respect as well as like and I am proud to have him join us.
Mark Westin decided to specialize in explosives and Buck is his trainer. I decided to send Ezra to anti-terrorism training and I know I made the right choice. Katrina decided forensics was the assignment that she wanted and she is furthering her education in that field. From now on, we decide which operations we take or reject. Next week I am sending Tanner, Dunne, and Standish to Seattle to do some surveillance work on a new case. More soon...
Continues in MCAT # 4: Past Transgressions