Vin Tanner woke to the sounds of gunshots around the apartment building. He rolled on to his back and sighed. He'd have to make sure none of his kids were involved. He sat up and stretched to get the kinks out. He checked the clock and it read 7:30 am. He headed for the bathroom to take a shower. When he was done he exited with a towel wrapped around his waist and headed for the dresser. He slipped on a pair of BVD's and let the towel drop. He grabbed a pair of worn Levi's and pulled them on. He padded to the kitchen in his bare feet and started some coffee. Once that was going he took a seat at the computer and logged into the Denver Police. He smiled and had to remember to thank Hector again for hacking into the site. It had provided him with a lot of clues, which had helped in his bounty-hunting job. The bounty he was after this time was for Angel Alvarado. He had been arrested for drugs but was suspected of being an arms dealer. He had jumped bail and disappeared. Vin had a lead on him. He knew he would have to stake the area out for a few days and had packed a bag the night before. When he couldn't find any usefully info on the site he logged off. He went back to the bedroom and pulled on a white T-shirt, socks and his worn cowboy boots. He also armed himself with his Sig Sauer automatic, a Magnum 357 and a snubbed nosed .38. He went back to the kitchen and filled a thermos with the coffee and packed some food in a bag. He headed for the door and grabbed another bag on his way out. Inside this bag was some clothes and his rifle. He pulled the door shut behind him and locked it. He didn't know why he bothered. Hector had a key and Vin had said the kids could use the computer for schoolwork. He pocketed his keys and headed for the elevator. He got out at the lobby and headed outside.
"Como esta, Senor Vin?" asked a familiar voice sitting on the steps.
"I'm fine Carlita," he said as he bent down and kissed the old women on the cheek.
"Going hunting?" she asked with a smile when she saw the guns.
"Yup," he said as he went over to his jeep and pulled out a bag of cat food. He poured some into the bowls by the side of the building.
"You shouldn't feed them," she said. "They become a nuisances."
"Yes but they also kill the rats," he said as he petted one of the alley cats. "I heard some shooting this morning."
"Do not worry it was the Diablos over on Rector St. Your little gang would never get involved with something like that. They know you would be very angry with them."
"They also know I'll kick their asses," he smiled.
"Yes that too," she chuckled.
"Can you do me a favor?"
"Tell Hector I'm going to be gone for a few days. Tell him to keep an eye on things for me."
"Si, I will tell him."
"Gracias, Carlita." he said as he got in his jeep and drove away.
+ + + + + + +
Vin had been staking out the warehouse for two days. He was thinking his informant had given him bogus info. He decided to give it one more day when he heard voices. He grabbed his rifle and exited the crate he had been 'living' in. He looked around some boxes to see Angel and a black man talking. Vin figured it must be a drug deal and waited to see what would happen. After a few minutes the black man picked up a case and opened it. Inside it was full of cash. Vin watched as Alvarado smiled and accepted the case. Then all hell broke loose.
"THIS IS THE ATF! DON'T MOVE YOU'RE UNDER ARREST!"
"You set me up!" Alvarado screamed and pulled a gun.
Chris watched in horror as the suspect pulled a gun on Nathan. He couldn't get a clear shot because Nathan was in the way. A shot rang out and Chris watched as Alvarado fell to the floor. Buck and Josiah came running in when they heard the shot. They all watched as a young man dressed in jeans, cowboy boots and a tan duster stepped from behind some crates. He had a rifle over his right shoulder and held his left hand away from his body.
"Howdy boys," he said with a smile.
"Just hold it right there," Buck said as he trained his gun on him. Chris watched as the blue eyes turned hard.
"It's OK Buck," said Chris. The young man swung his gaze on Chris and nodded.
"What do you mean its OK!" yelled Buck. "He comes out shooting and we don't even know who he is."
"That's easy to fix. The name's Vin Tanner. I'm a bounty hunter."
"But son, how did you get in here?" asked Josiah.
"Got a tip that Alvarado was using this warehouse for his deals. I've been here for two days staking the place out."
"Two days," said Nathan. "No wonder we didn't see him. He was already here when we closed off the building."
"Where did you sleep?" asked Chris. The younger man looked back at him and Chris was surprised at the connection he felt to him.
"There's a big old crate over in the corner," he answered. "I've lived in worse. At least it was dry. Look I need a report from you guys stating that I took Alvarado down."
"Don't worry you'll get it," said Chris coldly.
"Look, I have to make a living to," he stated looking at Chris.
"Come by the Federal Building tomorrow and I'll make sure you get it. Ask for Chris Larabee," He said. "OK boys let's wrap things up here. Buck call the coroner."
"The name's Nathan. I just wanted to say thanks," he said holding out his hand.
"Any time," Vin smiled and shook his hand.
He watched as the ATF agents went about their jobs. Vin watched the blonde agent. There was something about him. When he had first looked into those pale blue/green eyes he felt a spark of recognition. Vin didn't know what it meant. He went back to the crate and gathered his stuff. It would be good to get home and take a shower.
+ + + + + + +
Chris sat typing his report about the Alvarado case. It hadn't gone as planned but he couldn't complain. They had still gotten an arms dealer off the street. He was also intrigued by the bounty hunter. Chris was grateful he had been there. If he hadn't Nathan would be dead. Chris finished the report stating that Vin Tanner was the one responsible for taking down Angel Alvarado. He saved the file and logged on to find information about the bounty hunter. He started with DMV and it listed him living in a part of town the police dubbed Purgatorio. It was one of the worst neighborhoods in the city. The only other information DMV offered him was his age, type of car he drove and the color of his eyes. Chris already knew what color they were when the young man had stared at him. Chris was about to check his bounty hunter license when Buck walked into his office.
"Don't you ever knock?" asked Chris.
"Nope," he said with a smile. "The others wanted to know if you wanted to have a few drinks over at Inez's."
"Not finished," he said.
"Yeah right," Buck laughed as he walked around behind Chris. "You type faster than all of us. So what are you really doing?"
"You are so nosy," Chris accused.
"Yeah but you love me anyway. So let's see Tanner, Vin huh? Checking out that bounty hunter?" Buck asked as he read over Chris's shoulder.
"Take a look at this. He's brought in some heavy hitters."
"Damn! He's the one that brought in Cordone. Man, that was talked about for weeks. Jeez look at the list."
"Yeah he goes for the heavy pay-offs also. Cordone jumped a $100,000 bail. Bounty hunters get 10% of the bail."
Buck whistled and continued to read the list
"This kid must be loaded," Buck said. "Where does he live?"
"Would you believe Purgatorio?"
"You're kidding. Whatever for?"
"I guess he must get a lot of info from people in the area."
"Why are you checking up on this kid anyway?"
"I'm not sure, there was just something about him."
"Well his records will still be here tomorrow," said Buck. "Let's go get a beer."
"You're right," agreed Chris as he shut down the computer. "Let's go."
+ + + + + + +
Chris came in early the next morning to find out more about Vin Tanner. A plan was starting to develop in his mind but he needed more information. He was able to find out that he was born in a small Texas town called Tascosa. Orphaned when he was five with a whole string of fosters homes listed. He couldn't find any records from the age of eight to fourteen until he reappeared, registered for school here in Four Corners. High School records showed him as a C student. He graduated and joined the military. When he pulled up his military records he found Tanner had received two purple hearts and a commendation for valor. All other military records were listed as confidential. Except for the fact that he received an honorable discharge at the end of his four-year tour at the age of 21. He became a bounty hunter after leaving the service and had been doing that for the past four years.
Chris looked over his record as a bounty hunter again. Most of his jobs came from the DA's office or from private sources. He decided to call Michael Richards over at the DA's office. He dialed and waited for him to answer.
"DA's office. Michael Richards speaking."
"Hey, Mike, it's Chris Larabee."
"I know this ain't a social call, Larabee. What can I do for you?"
"What can you tell me about a Vin Tanner."
"The bounty hunter?"
"How many Vin Tanner's do you know?"
"Don't get testy with me, Larabee. You're the one that called me. What do you want to know?"
"Everything? Damn you don't want much do you? OK let's see. He's brought in a few big bail jumpers for us. He's damned good at what he does but personally I think he's wasting his talent."
"That's two of us."
"What a minute Larabee. I can hear those rusty gears in your head moving from here. What are you up to?"
"Nothing. What else can you tell me."
"Uh-huh, right. Well he's definitely a lone wolf. He worked with a partner once until he messed up a bust and got Tanner a broken leg. Ever since he's worked alone. I don't think he would make a team player."
"What makes you think I'm looking for another member for my team?"
"Because you are looking for the best and Tanner's one of them, except for being a loner."
"Keep this under your hat OK, Mike? I have to talk the Judge about this."
"I'll keep it under wraps, but I can tell you this, Judge Travis admires one Vin Tanner."
"Thanks Mike," said Chris as he hung up the phone.
He dialed the Judge next.
A little after 1:00 pm Vin pulled into the visitor parking lot of the federal building. He parked his Hog with the other motorcycles. He pulled off his helmet, tucked it under his arm, and headed for the front doors. He was dressed in black jeans, black T-shirt and combat boots. He also had on a short black leather biker's jacket. A few people looked at him as he headed for the building. Vin knew getting into the federal buildings was worse than getting into Fort Knox. Heck, he didn't blame them, not after the bombing of the Alfred A Murrah Federal Building. Vin waited patiently in line. He had pulled out his bounty hunter's license and the permits for the guns. When his turn came, he handed the documents to the guards.
"Howdy," he said. "Here's my ID and the permits for the guns."
The guard took them and scanned them. He looked up at Tanner to see if the picture matched the ID. When he was satisfied that it did. He handed back the documents.
"Sir if you could remove the guns and place them here on the table.
Vin did as he was told. He carefully removed the Magnum 357 from the shoulder holster and placed it on the table. He then removed the Sig from his right hip and placed it with the other gun.
"Who are you here to see, sir?" asked the second guard.
"Aright, please step through," said the guard.
"Just a minute," Vin said. He flicked his left wrist and a knife dropped down and he placed it next to his guns.
By this time a crowd had formed and watched as he stepped through the detectors. He set off the alarms and the guards told him to empty his pockets. He pulled out his keys and some change, dumped it in a basket and tried again. He set it off again and one of the guards pulled him off to the side and checked him with a hand held device.
"Make sure you check him good," suggested a voice. "He's a no-good bounty hunter who grabs other people's suspects."
"Do I know you mister?" asked Vin.
"No, but I know you. You think you're hot shit don't ya?" the man said, getting in Vin's face, "bringing in all those high-profile bounties. Well let me tell you something, punk. I worked damn hard finding Rodriguez and you collar him right from under my nose."
"Just making a living," Vin answered, turning his back on the man.
"Don't you turn your back on me, boy," he yelled as he grabbed Vin and threw him against the wall.
One of the guards picked up the phone and called the ATF office. + + + + + + + Buck was sitting at his desk going through some files for his next case when the phone rang.
"Hello?...What?.....OK we'll be right down."
Chris was working at his computer. He had tried calling the Judge but he was in a meeting. Buck burst though the door and he looked up angrily.
"Buck! How many times do I have to tell you..."
"That Tanner kid's in the lobby getting into it with an FBI agent."
They headed for the elevator and Chris punched the button. The doors opened and they got in. The other passengers in the car gave Chris a wide space when they saw the look on his face. The doors opened on the lobby to reveal a crowd watching the spectacle. Chris pushed his way through to find FBI agent William Harding screaming in the bounty hunter's face about him ruining six months of hard work. He looked at Tanner and could see the blue eyes going cold. He could tell Tanner wanted to punch his lights out. Chris was impressed the kid was holding his temper, which seemed to enrage Harding more. He was about to take a swing at Tanner when Chris grabbed his arm.
"What the hell is going on Harding?" demanded Chris.
"This punk was causing some trouble and I stopped him," answered Harding.
Buck had moved next to Tanner to make sure he didn't do anything stupid. He was surprised when the kid just shook his head and leaned back against the wall. Buck joined him and leaned towards the kid whispering.
"This is going to be fun," he smiled. Tanner just looked at him and raised an eyebrow.
"That's not what I heard," Chris said quietly. "The guard's called and said you confronted the kid for no reason."
"No reason!" Harding yelled. "That punk cost me a commendation when he bagged Rodriguez!"
"From what I hear you weren't even close to finding him."
"Damn you Larabee!" he screamed, getting in Chris's face. "You think you're so high and mighty putting together that new team of yours. Well let me tell you something. You're nothing!"
"Don't ever threaten me." Chris warned as he stared at Harding with his steely gaze.
Harding realized he had gone too far when he looked into Larabee's cold eyes. He decided not to push the issue and backed towards the elevators. Chris ignored him once he started to leave and turned towards Tanner. He was leaning on the wall next to Buck. Buck laughed and elbowed the kid in the ribs. Chris watched as Tanner smiled and made a comment that made Buck laugh harder. He walked over to them and scowled.
"Hold on a minute," Tanner said and walked back over to the guards. They handed him his helmet and his weapons. He put the weapons back in their holsters.
"You always walk around with that much hardware?" asked Buck.
"You never know when you're going to need it," he answered.
"I like how you think Tanner," smiled Buck.
They got in the elevator and Chris pushed the button for the 11h floor. He turned to look at Tanner. He looked like a troublemaker dressed in the biker jacket and combat boots. He could also see that he was completely relaxed after his encounter. Somehow Chris knew the kid really wanted to punch Harding's lights out but hadn't acted on the impulse. Vin could feel Larabee looking at him. He turned to the older agent and smiled. When he looked in his eyes he could see his approval on how he had handled himself. Vin didn't know why but it felt good to know that Larabee thought he could handle himself in tense situations. They got off at the 11th floor and Vin followed them to the office. When they entered Nathan and Josiah looked up from their desks.
"Boys you remember our friend here," said Buck in his jovial manner. "Tanner let me introduce you to Josiah Sanchez and Nathan Jackson."
"Mr. Tanner, pleased to me you," said Josiah holding out his hand.
"Just call me Vin," he smiled and shook Josiah's hand.
"It's a pleasure to see you again Vin," said Nathan shaking his hand.
"Well at least y'all are glad to see me. I didn't get a very nice welcome in the lobby."
Chris watched how his men reacted to the younger man. Buck seemed to hit it right off with him; but then again he always got along with people. He could see Nathan was concerned and asked Vin what happened. As Vin related his story Josiah laughed at the description he gave of agent Harding. It wasn't very flattering but it did describe the agent perfectly. Chris saw that Vin seemed to fit right in with the others. His easygoing nature made him easy to like. Buck of course took over the conversation and Vin sat back to listen. He knew Chris was watching him and turned to lock eyes with the older man. When those blues eyes locked on his Chris felt that something that had been missing in his life had been found. Vin smiled and went back to the conversation. Chris wasn't sure what to make of the feeling and decided to ignore it.
"Well it's been nice but I need to be going," he said as he stood up. "I'll just take a copy of that report and let y'all get back to work."
"All right," said Chris "I'll get it."
Chris went to his office and opened the file on Alvarado. He hit a few buttons and the printer spit out the report. He went back out to the main area to find Tanner had moved away from the others. He was sitting swinging his feet on one of the empty desks. Chris walked over and handed him the report.
"Thanks," he said as he got up to leave.
"Aren't you going to read it?" asked Chris.
"Nope," Vin answered quickly. "I trust you. See ya around."
Chris watched as he walked to the elevator. As soon as the elevator door closed the secretaries started talking. Chris smiled. He knew exactly what they were talking about.
+ + + + + + +
Vin could feel the older agent's eyes follow him to the elevator. When the doors closed he leaned on the wall with a sigh. He didn't know what it was but every time he looked at Larabee he had the disturbing feeling he was reading his mind. When Larabee asked if he wanted to read the report he was sure the man knew he was in a panic about his reading skills. He just decided to make a hasty retreat. Vin read the report slowly on the ride down. He stuffed the report in his pocket and zipped up the jacket as the doors opened. He headed out the doors and nodded to the guards. He walked over to his Harley and swung his left leg over the bike. He put his helmet on then stood on the starter and jumped down. The bike roared to life with that Harley trademark rumble. Vin pulled out of the parking lot and head for the DA's office. He pulled into the court's parking lot and parked close to the door. He went to Mike Richards' office and knocked.
"Come in," he said as he looked up and saw Vin. "Ah, Tanner. Come to claim your bounty?"
"Yes sir," Vin answered. "How did you know I was coming?"
"Larabee called yesterday to let me know. I cut your check last night."
"Thanks," Vin said as he took the check Richards held out to him.
"I don't know Tanner. You should have enough to retire on now."
"Nah. I'd be too bored. Thanks again."
"Always a pleasure doing business with you Tanner."
Vin walked back to his bike. Next stop was the bank. He deposited half the check and had the other half put into a cashier's check made out to the Denver Orphanage. After leaving the bank he drove to the orphanage and delivered the check. The women behind the counter just thought he was a deliveryman for a wealthy benefactor. Vin never corrected their assumptions. He smiled to them as he handed them the check then left. He drove the Harley back to the apartment.
+ + + + + + +
After Tanner left Chris went back to his office to try the Judge again. Chris got his secretary and she placed him on hold while she transferred him.
"Judge Orrin Travis," said a familiar voice.
"Ah, Mr. Larabee, what can I do for you?"
"I found another person to add to the team."
"No problem. Just give me the agency he works for and I'll pull the right strings."
"He doesn't work for any agency."
"I believe you know him. His name's Vin Tanner."
"I know him, Chris. He's a lone wolf. I don't think he would make a team player. Where did you hear about this kid?"
"Sort of ran into him on the Alvarado case. He shot him before he could get Nathan."
"So you think you owe him something?"
"Nope, there's just something about him. I can't put my finger on it."
"I'd have to pull a lot of strings to get him on. He never went to college. That's going to be a tough one to get past, but if you want him I'll see what I can do."
"I want him."
"Alright, let me make some calls and I'll get back to you."
Chris heard the receiver go dead and he hung up the phone. He knew the Judge would agree. When he agreed to form this team he had demanded carte blanche when it came to picking its members. So far, Tanner had been the only one not associated with a law enforcement agency. Chris knew the team had been missing a sharpshooter. Someone who could watch all their backs. He just needed to find out a little bit more about the young man. He decided that tomorrow he would stake out Vin Tanner.
The next morning Chris signed out a car from the motor pool. He took a beat up Toyota and headed for Vin's apartment. He arrived early and parked a block away. He pulled out a pair of binoculars and scanned the parked cars. Tanner's Jeep was no where in sight. Chris took a good look at the apartment building. He noticed a few new windows, fresh paint and the abandoned lot next door was cleared. There was an unusual amount of kids hanging around the lot. He also noticed ladders leaning against the wall of the apartment house. Just then a cheer was heard from the children as Vin drove up in his Jeep. A teenaged Hispanic boy got out of the passenger side. The two of them started to unload paint, drop clothes and brushes. Chris watched as the children swarmed around grabbing the paint cans and running for the side of the building. He took a closer look and he noticed the vague outlines of a mural on the building. The shout from the children brought out, what Chris assumed, were some of the mothers. They carried pitchers of lemonade, and plates of snacks. He watched as Vin's attention was demanded by some of the younger children. He went down on his knees to be at their level and listened to them. Chris just watched in amazement as Tanner grabbed the littlest ones then got everyone organized to start painting.
Three hours later Chris could see the mural taking shape. It was desert scene complete with cactus, coyotes and a blazing sun. The older kids were up on the ladders painting the sky and the sun, while the younger ones got the cactus. Chris watched as one of the older boys came down the ladder and whispered in Vin's ear. Suddenly he looked up and directly at the car. Chris shook his head at the scene through his binoculars. Vin Tanner was smiling at him and waving him over. Chris sighed and got out of the car. He felt like he was walking to judgement day as everyone watched him approach. When he got close Vin smiled and held out his hand and everyone relaxed.
"How long did you know I was there?" Chris asked shaking his hand.
"Saw you out there this morning," Vin laughed. "The kids probably would have noticed when you parked but they were distracted.
Most of the children had gone back to painting but a few stayed by Vin. Some of the older ones watched Chris suspiciously. Vin noticed and said something in Spanish and they left reluctantly.
"Your bodyguards?" Chris asked.
"I reckon," he smiled. One of the mothers walked over with a pitcher and some glasses.
"Senor......" she said holding out the glass.
"Chris," he said taking the glass. She smiled and poured him some lemonade. "Gracias."
"Da nada," she said and went back to watching the children.
"Is he a bad man?" asked a small voice down by Vin's knee.
"Do I look like a bad man?" asked Chris as he bent down. He noticed two identical faces peering out from behind Vin's knees.
"No you look like an angel," said one of the girls.
"But he's all dressed in black," said the other.
"Lupe, Carmen! Come leave them alone," called a female voice. They watched as the two of them ran back to the other children.
"Is this a normal occurrence around here," Chris indicated the painting.
"Nah, I had promised the kids I would help them paint after they cleaned up the lot."
"Who paid for all this?"
"I did," he said with a smile. "You didn't come out here to see how I spent my money. So what do you want."
"Take a walk with me," said Chris as he moved away from the party. Vin followed and they stopped by the end of the lot. "I have proposition for you. How would you like to join my ATF team?"
"Me?" he asked surprised. "You're joking right?"
"I don't joke."
"I'm not surprised. I thought you needed a college degree or something to join the ATF."
"Normally you would but the team I'm putting together is rather unconventional. I'm looking for the best at what they do. I need a weapons specialist and a sharpshooter."
"How did you find out about that?" Vin asked suspiciously.
"The judge who helped put together the team had your military records pulled. Don't worry they would only tell us you were a weapons specialist."
"What would I have to do?"
"You'd have to go to the academy."
"Ain't I a little old to be going back to school?" he smiled.
"Not the full academy, just some of the class. The ones that would explain the workings of a federal agency and maybe police procedure. You don't have a background in law enforcement and you would have to learn the procedures for securing a crime scene. Things like that. Also you would have to qualify on the federal gun range."
"I don't know, I'd have to think on it."
"All right, take a couple of days," Chris smiled. "Could you use an extra pair of hands? I think I still remember how to color inside the lines."
Vin laughed and they walked back to join the fun.