Vin watched as Chris pulled away in the Toyota. Why Chris thought that particular car wouldn't stick out in this part of town made Vin wonder. He glanced at the cars on the street. Most of them were over seven years old and fairly beat up. The Toyota was only a year old so had stuck out like a sore thumb. Vin wandered back to the lot and helped clean everything up and put the ladders away. Most of the younger children had been taken inside for dinner while the older ones hung out. Vin told them to keep out of trouble and headed for his apartment. He turned the doorknob to find his door unlocked. He wasn't surprised when he walked in to find Hector at the computer.
"Hola Senor Vin."
"I will only be a few minutes. Just finishing up my history report for school tomorrow."
"No hurry, I'm going in to take a shower."
"Good idea Senor," laughed Hector. "Considering your hair is purple."
Vin smiled and walked into the bathroom. His hair wasn't only purple but a few other colors as well. Good thing he decided to get water based paints. He started the shower then stripped out of his clothes and got in. He tried to clear his mind of everything as the hot water hit his shoulders. The only problem is he couldn't. Chris's offer of joining the ATF kept popping up. Vin had a funny feeling that Chris knew how much he wanted to join. It was an opportunity of a lifetime. He would actually be able to get bigger scum off the streets than the small-time hoods he brought in. He had always wanted to join some kind of law enforcement agency. When the Denver Police had come to the job fair during his senior year in High School he asked them all sorts of questions. When they said he would have to get a degree he knew he didn't stand a chance. He knew he didn't have the grades to get into college let alone the money. Then Marietta had been killed and all that was left to him was to join Army. Now Chris Larabee walks into his life and offers him his childhood dream. He didn't want to seem too eager so had told him he would think on it. Hell what was there to think about? The only thing he was worried about was the fact that he would have to go to some classes at the academy. That, he knew, would be pure torture. He was pretty sure he would have a hard time hiding the fact that his reading and writing skills were barely on a high school level. All these thoughts were running in his head when he felt the water in the shower start to get cold. Damn landlord. You couldn't even take a long, hot shower to relax. He turned off the water and stepped out of the shower. He grabbed a towel and wrapped it around his waist. He took another one and dried his long hair. Once that was done he wiped the steam off the mirror and took a long look at himself. Across his chest were a number of scars from the knife fights he had gotten into in high school. On his left arm was a short thick scar from the time he had broken his arm and the bones had broken through the skin. The medics had done their best, but they only had a field dressing available until they got back to base. He sighed wondering what Larabee had seen in him to want him on the team.
+ + + + + + +
The next morning Chris was in early. He told the guards at the desk that he was expecting a visitor some time today and to just let him up. He got out of the elevator and went to one of the empty desks across from Buck. He pulled a nameplate out of his brief case and put it in the desk drawer. Just as he was closing it Josiah walked in carrying a coffee.
"Morning Josiah. What brings you here so early?"
"Buck never arrives before 9:00 am. This is the best time to get work done," Josiah said with a smile.
Chris laughed and headed for his office. He sat down at his desk and made a phone call.
"Kincade? Larabee. I need to enroll one of my ATF team into a few of the classes at the academy. No he has no previous background in law enforcement. Right. So he's going to need the classes on police procedure. Great, you know which ones he needs. He'll also need to qualify on the federal gun range. No, that's one thing he won't need any training on. Fine, send me all the information when you get it together. Thanks, Kincade."
Chris smiled to himself. Now all he had to do was wait for Tanner. Chris knew he would take the offer. He had seen the look in the younger man's eyes when he had asked him yesterday. He knew he had wanted to say yes right then but decided to play it cool. Chris looked at his watched and it said 8:15 am. He figured Tanner would be there before 11:00 am. He picked up a file on his desk and started flipping through it.
+ + + + + + +
Vin hadn't slept that well. At 6:30 am he decided to just get up. He put on a pair of sweats and a T-shirt and went out to the kitchen. He grabbed a sports bottle and filed it with water, grabbed a towel and headed down stairs. He wasn't surprised to find Carlita and a few of the kids already up. The bus would be coming to get them for school in a little while. He gave Carlita here morning kiss on the cheek and went over to the cement slab on the abandoned lot. He put his water next to the fence and hooked his towel through one of the links. He needed to clear his mind and decided a little Tai Chi would do the trick. He started with the simpler moves to loosen up. Vin always drew a crowd when he practiced outside, which was all the time. The apartment was just too small. Vin swayed to the simple moves and slowly started to work up to the more complex ones. He could hear the whispering of the children but he was at complete peace with himself and paid it no mind. Once he was satisfied he was sufficiently warmed up he practiced his katas. He knew this was what the kids liked to watch and he heard their disappointed "ohs" when the bus beeped its horn. Some thought they might get away with staying but Vin gave them a look with out even stopping what he was doing. They sighed and followed the others. He continued until he had run through all the ones he knew. When he was finished he grabbed the bottle and took a long drink of water. He put the bottle down then did some stretching exercises to cool down. When he was finished he came and sat next to Carlita on the steps.
"The children were disappointed they had to miss that," she commented. "You haven't done your practicing out here in awhile."
"I know," he said. "I'll make it up to them. They should be due for another lesson of their own."
"You spoil them," she chided.
"No I don't," he said defensively.
"Yes you do," she smiled patting his cheek. "Now come inside and I will fix you breakfast."
"Did you make some of your fry bread?" he asked hopefully.
"Don't I always," she said. "Now come. Help an old women up."
Vin took her hands and pulled her up. She linked her arm in his and they went to her apartment for breakfast. As always she tried to feed him too much until Vin told her he had an appointment and had to go. He went back to his apartment. He rummaged in his closet for something to wear. He sighed when he realized all he had were jeans or sweats. He had wanted to make an impression on Larabee but decided who was he kidding and just grabbed some jeans and a faded denim shirt. He went in to take a shower. When he came out the clock read 9:45. He grabbed a brown suede jacket out of the closet. He stuffed his wallet in his back pocket. He clipped on his Sig and the Magnum but left the knives behind in the safe located in his closet. The children knew not to go into his room. He grabbed his keys off the counter and headed out the door. Once down stairs he jumped in his jeep and headed for the federal building. He parked in the visitor lot and headed for the door. When the guards saw him they told him to put away the permits and to just place the guns on the counter. He did as he was told and emptied his pockets and walked through. He didn't set off any of the alarms this time and they handed him back his guns. They told him that Chris Larabee was expecting him. He scowled. He should have realized he hadn't fooled the man. He headed for the elevators. He waited with a small crowd until one came to the lobby he got in and went towards the back. He saw that the 11th floor was already pushed and took the ride up. He noticed one of the ladies watching him. When he looked at her she smiled. He nodded in greeting then quickly looked away. His was the next stop and he made a hasty exit when the doors opened. The outer office was busy. Vin figured that since it was Friday everyone was trying to get things finished before the weekend. He headed for the ATF office. He walked in and saw the three men sitting there. When he stepped in they looked up.
"Well if it ain't the kid coming to pay us a visit again," smiled Buck. "Bring in someone else we haven't heard about yet?"
"Nope, just here to see Mr. Larabee."
"You better start getting used to calling me Chris if you plan to work in this office," he said as he walked out of his office.
"Work here?" asked an astonished Buck.
"That's right gentlemen," said Chris as he walked over to one of the empty desks. He opened the draw and pulled out a nameplate. It said 'Agent Vin Tanner, ATF'. He placed it on the desk.
"How did you know?" asked a surprised Vin.
"Knew yesterday when I asked you."
"Damn, Chris, you think you might have told the rest of us?" asked Buck. "How do you know he can even work within a team structure."
"I'll admit that's going to take some getting used to," confessed Vin. "I've only depended on myself for so long it going to be odd knowin' I got someone to back me up."
"Gets a little lonely by yourself after awhile," commented Josiah.
"I reckon," smiled Vin.
"Come on Vin, let's get you down to personnel to fill out some paper work," said Chris.
He watched as the younger mans eyes got a panicked look. The others didn't seem to notice and he wondered why he could read this kid like a book. Vin followed him out the door and down the hall.
Buck watched as they walked down the hall. He didn't know what it was about this kid but Buck saw the way Chris acted towards him. He was the first person Chris had shown any interest in since Sarah and Adam were killed. Buck also noticed the silent communication that seemed to being going on between his friend and the new addition to the team. He decided to keep an eye on him. If he hurt Chris he was going to be sorry.
I must be out of my mind Vin silently screamed. How was he going to fill out paper work in front of this man? He didn't know why, but he wanted Chris to respect him. He didn't think he would when he found out his writing skills were horrible. He silently followed the pale-haired agent down to personnel. When Chris would introduce him to people he smiled and shook their hands. He hoped Chris had a lot of people to introduce him to so he could delay the inevitable.
Chris could feel Vin getting agitated. Maybe this was a mistake he thought. Then a feeling deep down told him no, this was definitely right. There was something about this quiet Texan that would be valuable to the team. It didn't matter that his writing and reading were horrible. They could work around it. Chris wanted Vin for his skills with weapons not because he could fill out a report in triplicate. He decided that was the first thing he was going to have to tell this quiet young man. They finally made it down to personnel and Chris stepped inside.
"Hello Margaret," said Chris. "Do you have that packet ready?"
"Yes I do Chris," she said handing him a thick manila envelop and a pen. "He can have a seat over there and fill them out."
"That's alright Margaret, we'll fill everything out back at the office. I still need to show him around."
Chris took the envelope and they headed back. He knew Vin had been relieved as soon as he had spoken. They walked back into the office. Chris asked Josiah if he could take all his phone calls. He was going to take Vin into his office and help with all the forms he had to fill out. He was also going to explain more about what would be expected of him. Josiah told him no problem. Vin followed Chris into the office. He could feel Buck's eyes follow him and he knew Buck was suspicious. Chris told him to take a seat. He sat down facing the desk while Chris walked behind it. He sat down and pulled the papers out of the envelope and handed them to Vin. He looked up to meet the older mans eyes.
"You know, don't you," stated Vin.
"And you still want me on this team?"
"I didn't want you for you're writing skills. I needed a weapons expert. Doesn't mean you won't have to file reports like the rest of us. Besides no one will ever have to read your chicken scratch. Everything is done into the computer anyway. You do know how to work one?"
"Yeah, I know how."
"Good. Now I'm not saying this is going to be easy. I will warn you now. When Buck finds out, and he will find out, he is going to tease you mercilessly. If I read you right I think you can handle anything Buck has to offer."
"I can handle Buck," Vin said with a smile.
"Good now lets get to filling out these papers. They're a real pain in the ass for someone who's never worked in the government. Why they have to make everything so complicated is beyond me. Take your time we've got all day."
Vin picked up the pen and carefully began to fill out the papers. Chris watched in satisfaction. He knew he had made the right decision when he chose this street-wise kid. Chris went back to his computer and did his own work. Vin had been filling out the papers for about four hours when he asked what a beneficiary was. He hid a smile; at least he wasn't too stubborn to admit when he didn't know something. Chris explained that if he were killed on the job, that person would get his life insurance policy.
"I can put anyone down for it?" he asked in his Texas drawl.
"Yup," said Chris as he watched him fill in the Denver Orphanage.
"All right, I think I'm done," he announced.
Chris took the papers and looked them over. The kid had worried for nothing Chris could easily read his handwriting. He had seen worse. He told Vin he would bring these back to personnel and that he could get to know the others better. They went back out to the main area. Chris headed out the door and Vin had a seat at his desk.
"I see you survived the first test of the federal government," smile Nathan.
"Barely," he laughed. "They love their paper work don't they?"
"Yes, the government can't survive with out killing a few trees," answered Josiah.
"A few," disagreed Vin. "You mean a forest."
"So Vin, what kind of schooling do you have?" asked Buck innocently.
"Chris said you'd find out sooner or later so I might as well just tell y'all. I never went to college. I got thorough high school by the skin of my teeth. I wasn't exactly ranked last but I certainly wasn't first. It's a good thing computers have spelling and grammar check now a days."
"That doesn't seem to help Buck," laughed Nathan.
"Very funny," he answered. "So what did you do after high school?"
"Well I didn't have the grades let alone the money to go to college so I joined the Army."
"Really?" asked Josiah. "What unit."
"Rangers, 1st battalion."
That got a whistle from Buck and a nod of respect from the others. The 1st Battalion was a well-known unit of the Rangers.
"So what did you do with them?" asked Nathan.
"I'm afraid I can't really tell you," apologized Vin. "I can tell you I was the weapons expert and sniper."
"That's plenty, son," said Josiah.
"No wonder you're used to working alone," said Buck. "They even had you doing it in the Army."
"I had an occasional spotter but for the most part I worked alone."
"Far behind enemy lines, too, I bet," added Nathan.
"I can't" he didn't finish.
"Tell us. We know and we won't ask any more questions," smiled Josiah.
"So are they done giving you the third degree?" asked Chris when he came back in.
"Yeah we're done," smiled Buck.
"Well, Vin you're all set," said Chris. "Now comes the part I like. Stand up and raise your right hand."
Vin did as he was told and stood in front of Chris with his right hand raised.
"Do you, Vin Tanner, swear to uphold the laws of the United Sates and to protect the Constitution from foreign as well as domestic threats, so help you God?"
"Welcome to the ATF, Agent Tanner," said Chris holding out his badge with a smile.
"Now that calls for a beer," declared Buck. "Come on Chris what do you say? It's close enough to quitting time. Lets go down to Inez's."
"All right, but Vin can't stay too late. He has to be to class at the academy early tomorrow," stated Chris.
"Look out kid it looks like you have a new mother," teased Buck.
"I reckon," Vin smiled.
Chris hit Buck in the head with the file he was holding and went to his office to get his coat. They headed for their vehicles and went to Inez's. Inez greeted them as they walked inside. They introduced her to Vin and they got down to some serious drinking. Chris decided to be designated driver and let the others have some fun. He noticed that Vin was drinking the Tequila along with Buck but didn't seem to be getting drunk, whereas Buck was quite happy.
"Brother Vin. I would appear you have a hollow leg," observed Josiah. He had also noticed Vin wasn't getting drunk.
"Nah I just grew up on this stuff. It's like drinking water for me," he answered. "Well I best be heading home."
"You sure you're alright to drive?" asked Chris.
"I'm fine," he assured him.
"OK, we'll see you tomorrow," he said. "Oh damn I forgot something for you out in the Ram. Come on I'll walk with you."
They went out to Chris's Ram. He opened the door and grabbed a bundle of folders and things and handed them to Vin.
"Inside are the directions to the academy and some things you're going to need. Don't forget these kids are going to be fresh out of college and somewhat ignorant of the real world. So play nice."
"I'll try," he smiled. "Should I leave my guns home?"
"Why?" Chris asked. "You're an agent of the ATF you have every right to carry a gun. The classes you need are in the morning then you can come over to the office."
"Alright, I'll see you then," he said and started to walk away but stopped. "Chris, I just wanted to say.."
"You're welcome," Chris smiled. He knew exactly what the younger man wanted to say.