Team Retreat

by Heather

ATF Alternate Universe


"Hello boys," he intoned pleasantly. He dropped the cheerful facade. The Judge had informed him that two of the men could read people extremely well, the Judge just neglected to pinpoint who those two might be. He received various greetings from genuine 'hellos' to sarcastic grunts. Cummings ignored it. "Did you have an enjoyable day?"

He surveyed the group of men. He knew Dunne did in fact have fun on the obstacle course, that much was evident through the binoculars. Tanner seemed pleased with the turn of events as well, though neither would openly admit it. Standish leaned back in his chair a half smile on his face. DC watched Jackson through the window reflection. The EMT kept himself in good shape and handled the course easily, and he had faith in the others. Well all except the southerner, Cummings could not be sure of the reason for the unrest but saw that it existed. Wilmington had a one track mind and the day's events only proved to be a distraction for his wandering mind. He watched out for the kid almost to protectively but Dunne did not appear to mind. Larabee, as he had said, washed his hands of leadership. He had shown no interest in controlling his men, except when he had scaled the wall for the second time after Standish. Cummings did not know what had been said but it must not have been to supportive because soon, the southerner was scurrying like a mouse in maze until he slid over the back side and climbed down free of support in a hasty manner. DC had held his breath, until the gambler's feet touch solid ground. He had grimaced when Jackson had tackled the unobliging man to the ground. Things had gone steadily down hill from there. It would be amazing if they did not kill each other before the week was up. This was the first day here and already a fight had broken out. Not a good sign. He would forge ahead, do as the Judge asked and try to mend crumbling bridges. It seemed futile at the moment.

"After dinner tonight the time is yours. We do have a few rules that we would liked observed." He waited for the groans of discontent and worried none were forth coming. "First we ask that you not leave the premises, there is no alcohol, and no gambling." This last statement he nailed the southerner with a warning stare. Standish raised an innocent eyebrow.

+ + + + + + +

"Ok guys go ahead," JD whispered, leaning out the driver's side door of the confiscated Bronco. Josiah, Buck and Vin started pushing on the tailgate. Within a few brief seconds the sound of crunching gravel could be heard. JD wrestled with the steering trying to keep the wheels straight. As the three men pushed the truck gathered it's own momentum making the task of moving it forward easier. Standish waited a few yards down the driveway keeping an eye out. As the Bronco hit the lip of the down hill drive it began to pick up speed, suddenly the sound of running feet could be heard, doors opened and people silently scrambled into the truck.

Dunne manhandled the wheel as the Ford wove it's way down the gravel tree lined drive. "OK JD you can turn her over," Buck said from the passenger seat. His date with Brenda had become a bust. DC had called a meeting of his associates. Wilmington, one not to let a good time pass by, planned with Tanner to pull of this charade.

It did not take much convincing to get the others to go along. They invited Chris but Larabee declined, instead he would rather enjoy the solitude of the evening. Besides he had had enough of the other six men. They were headed for trouble and someone would have to bail them out. As much as Chris did not want play leader he felt it a need to watch out for them. Just as they felt an overwhelming desire to get into trouble.

The plan had been simple. Tanner picked the locks to the office, Dunne absconded with the keys and the rest they say was history. Chris was surprised Standish decided to go out. The man was obviously feeling under the weather. The flush color to his cheeks and lack of appetite clearly indicated he was not a hundred percent. Chris chuckled as he picked up his book. When the director had made a point to nail Standish with a warning stare, he had cinched the undercover agents decision. Like the rest of his men, Ezra would go to his grave defying authority he did not recognize. Larabee knew without a doubt had he given the declarations then all six men would be here boisterously harumphing their cruel and undo punishment. Chris smiled he would enjoy the peace in quiet because it would not last. Buck would inadvertently be attracted to a married woman. Tanner's long hair would standout and label him as a bunny hugger, in this logging community, and Ezra would swindle the biggest guy in the bar.

They were doomed from the beginning. Maybe Nathan and Josiah would prove to be a stabilizing force. Chris chuckled again, not likely, Josiah could be more trouble than a room full of badgers and Nathan well Nathan would detach himself and let the others go. Chris just hoped they kept JD safe. He maybe in his twenties but he was still a little brother.

Four hours later, Buck draped his arm around a slender blonde. In just one simple move he claimed a minor stake in already claimed territory. Ezra leaned nonchalantly against a pool cue scanning for his next shot. His opponent had yet to shoot during this game and had begun to smell a con. JD sat at the bar watching Standish play, Ezra learned the game pretty quick. He lost miserably the first few hours and now he cleaned house. Tanner sat beside JD wondering how long it would be before Buck or Ezra inadvertently started a fight. Josiah and Nathan shared a table, both men having already consumed more than their fair share of whiskey.

Two things happened simultaneously. First the blonde's husband noticed the possessive arm draping across his wife's trim's shoulders was not his. Secondly the man being soundly whipped at pool, not billiards as Ezra had informed JD, figured he was being cheated. Who shouted first, who swung the first punch the police reports still disagree. The fact remains, Buck ended up on the receiving end of a very angry sawyer's haymaker. Standish found himself being shoved backward by an enraged mark. Buck went down, but bounded right back up like a sand filled punching bag. Ezra allowed himself to be manipulated over toward Josiah and Nathan. Standish had finally admitted to himself he had a cold. His endurance suffered. His fellow pool player took a swing at the smug southerner. Standish ducked just as Sanchez climbed to his feet,sensing trouble. The fist landed solidly on the older man's clenched jaw. The brawl erupted in earnest.

Vin, JD and Nathan being marked as outsiders found themselves drawn into the fray. The combatants, who were just about all the occupants of the "Korner Klub", did not hear the sirens did not see the flashing lights. Suddenly the "house" lights came up illuminating the floor. Bodies struggled, and punched, fell and slipped. Standish found himself hurtled threw the plate glass window. Thankfully the owner had the foresight to have 'protective glass' installed so it broke in tiny rounded pieces and not long shards. Standish regained his feet only to be knocked back down by the flying body on a one JD Dunne. Josiah stuck his head out the broken window, no glass remained in the frame, "You boys all right?" He appeared woozy and his speech slightly slurred. JD waved him off and hauled Ezra to his feet.

The boys in blue poured out of their cars. County sheriffs cars, Standish happened to notice, three in total, probably the whole force, he mused. JD made to re-enter the fray but the undercover agent stopped him and stepped aside as the sheriff deputies raced into the bar. Suddenly Vin was unceremoniously deposited out the window onto the sidewalk. Both JD and Ezra helped him to his feet. The tracker swayed unsteadily. Neither ATF agent could be sure if it were from the alcohol the long haired agent consumed or some unseen injury. The lopsided smile indicated it was the beverage.

"How nice of you to join us Mr. Tanner."

"Whadda ya guys doin' out here?" Vin asked trying to maintain his balance on an apparently rapidly rotating earth.

"Just needed some air," JD answered. Soon Buck, followed by Nathan exited head first through the window. The others helped them up. "'Ey pards'" Vin greeted cheerfully. The Fivesome leaned heavily on the hood of a patrol car awaiting Sanchez's departure. Josiah climbed through the window like a lumbering giant trying to maintain some assemblage of balance.

"Ahh brothers, there you are." Josiah staggered over to them and enveloped Vin and Ezra in a giant embrace.

The six men pushed and pulled each other toward the white and green Bronco that had been parked in the bank parking lot across the street. They slowed their steps when they noticed an overly large uniformed officer waiting for them with arms crossed leaning leisurely against the passenger door of the truck.

"Howdy boys," he drolled out evenly.

Saturday early morning

Chris Larabee woke to the sound of a returning vehicle. He checked his watch three am. The boys were out a little late. The leader of team seven was about to roll over when the unmistakable flash of police lights grabbed his attention. Larabee let out a chuckle, his team never disappointed him.

Chris stood on the porch of the bunk house dressed in jeans, untied hightops, t-shirt and his short oil skin coat. His short 'duster' as the others called it. His blondish hair stood up on end and his hazel eyes were blood shot.

The early morning was cold, and the sky was still black with stars starting to wink out with the approach of dawn in an hour or more. The grass and everything else had a thick coat of dew.

Larabee leaned against the porch railing as the two squad cars came to a rest just in front of him. The back doors opened and men spilled out of them. Vin, again in his haste to exit the enclosed environment shoved Ezra out before he could get his legs out. Josiah oblivious to the tangled mess on the ground stepped out from the open back door onto Tanner and Standish tripped and tumbled onto the downed men. In the other car, Buck tried to untangle himself from the confines of the car with JD shoving him. Wilmington made it to his feet and stood unsteadily but successfully until Dunne shoved him out of the way. The triumphant smile disappeared from Buck as he hit the gravel. Nathan exited the vehicle with some decorum but soon disappeared as he caught his coat on the door latch got hung up, uncharacteristically ripped it free. He lost his balance as the material gave and hit the ground dragging JD with him.

Chris pulled his eyes from the sorry array of bodies that made up his crack team and turned his attention to the officer approaching him. He was a large man, no stranger to working out. He stood well over six feet with a muscular build that easily filled his frame. "Mr. Larabee?"

"That would be me," Chris answered descending the three short steps, holding his hand out in greeting. Both men matched amused glances and shook with firm grips. Both had been down this road before, though they had just met. "I'm Sheriff Salisbury, Craig Salisbury," he introduced himself turning to face the six men who struggled gamely to their feet. "I believe these boy's are yours?" The amusement in his voice was not disguised.

"They tell you that?" Chris asked, eyeing his men and then the sheriff.

"Well the young one did, the others didn't want you involved in this, so to speak," Salisbury informed.

"I bet," Chris answered as the two imposing men made their way over the drunken mass that made up Team 7.

"All right, who started it?" Chris asked his voice low but sharp. He was prepared for the barrage of voices that assaulted him. "Shut up," he said. Noone listened. "Hey!" he raised his voice bringing the others to a slow silence.

Standish leaned precariously over to a wobbling Tanner and whispered loudly but seriously , "It would seem to me Mr. Sunshine, might need that group hug after all." Tanner and the others tried to contain their mirth, few choked snorts escaped then full blown laughter as the men leaned on one another for support.

The sheriff crossed his arms ,bowed his and tried to hide his smiled. He had accessed the files on the ATF team, they were not detailed but the record of the Team itself was impressive. After reading the slight condensed blurb on the team he wanted to meet the man that ran the unit, especially after he met the unit in all it's glory.

"Ezra shut your trap," Chris said stepping forward a bit threateningly. Standish took a step back and behind the hulking form of Josiah.

"Oh noo ya don't," Sanchez drawled out and dragged the sulking gambler out from behind him by the scruff of the neck. There was no way Josiah was going to get caught in the cross fire.

"All I want to know is who started it, Buck or Ezra?" Chris asked again, tightening the confines of his question.

A chorus of Buck's and Ezra's rang out from different sources. Chris stared up at the Sheriff. Salisbury stepped forward. "According to the witness. That one over there" He pointed toward Wilmington, "Buck?"

Chris nodded in confirmation. The sheriff continued, "was giving undue attention to Marcelle Sijohn, Mrs. Marcelle Sijohn." Craig stressed the Missus part. Chris made a threatening sound, but the sheriff stopped him when he continued, "and your southern friend over there, hustled half the bar at the pool table, but unfortunately marked Frank Michaels."

"I have been maliciously maligned," Standish said taking an unsteady,but defiant step forward. Buck followed suit and said

"Yeah what Ezra just said, me too."

"Shut up both of ya," Chris hissed out taking a minute step forward. Both agents having a better sense of self preservation took involuntary steps backward.

"What now Sheriff?" Chris asked tiredly.

"Well damages have to be paid for at the Korner Klub," Salisbury said. He hoped this would go smoothly.

"Ezra how much you win tonight?" Chris asked.

"Who me?" Standish asked innocently taking another step backward but again Josiah placed a large restraining hand on his neck. "One must pay for the wages of sin, brother," the preacher's son intoned.

"Why me?" Ezra complained plaintively.

"Cuz yer always scammin' someone," Vin drolled out.

"Ezra?" Chris warned.

"I won nothing. Really it was a deplorable night at the tables, my luck was down. A very bad showing, a colossal waste of time. Honestly" Standish answered trying to squirm out from the giant hand that held him.

Salisbury watched the fast talking southerner and spoke to Larabee, "Today was pay day for the loggers and the mill workers."

"Ezra I swear I'll turn ya upside down and shake it out of ya." Chris took another step forward and Standish tried to shrink back.

"Ok ok." Ezra reached into his pants pocket and removed a roll of bills. He handed it to Chris. Salisbury let out a low whistle. Larabee was not impressed

"All of it Ezra," Chris said waiting with his hand out.

"This is really unfair you know. I earned this," the gambler muttered reaching into his other pocket and removing another roll of bills. The sheriff merely raised his eye brows.

"Your boots Ezra, give me what's in your boots," Chris said as he handed the rolls of money to the sheriff while still watching his undercover agent.

"There's nuthin in my boots," Standish complained still trying to back up. Josiah merely tightened his hold.

"Then you won't mind if Sheriff Salisbury strip searches ya, right here." Chris stood his ground with dog determination and did his best not to laugh at the pure look of horror that crossed the clean shaven face.

"You wouldn't dare," Ezra said, still trying to keep hold of his last remnants of his dignity and winnings.

Salisbury saw his cue and took a threatening step forward. All six men stepped back.

Standish tried to bend over and reach into this boot but a sudden wave of dizziness hit him and he was forced to sit on the gravel. He pulled up his pant leg and reached into the front of his boot. He pulled out a third tightly rolled wad of cash. He handed it up to the sheriff with a defiant glare, it would have worked except the alcohol induced nystagmus did not fool Salisbury.

"Thank you."

"Oh don't thank me," Ezra sputtered regaining his feet with some ataxic difficulty, "Thank my illustrious leader."

Chris ignored Standish and took in the rest of his men. Nathan leaned on Buck from one side, and JD from the other and both inadvertently kept the lady's man on his feet. Josiah still firmly held the gambler by the nape of the neck and Vin steadied himself by resting on Standish's shoulder with a forearm.

"Get inside," he ordered. He stepped aside as the six men staggered and wove their way toward the bunk house grumbling. A sordid remark was uttered and Chris warned, "Ezra!"

An annoyed southern drawl counted back, "It wasn't me."

Larabee turned his attention back to the amused sheriff. "Thank you." He held out his hand again and Salisbury gladly accepted it.

"Not a problem." He turned to go and then stopped, he held up the three rolls of money, "there is probably more here than is needed."

Chris paused on the porch steps and said, "Then donate the rest to a children's fund or something"

The sheriff nodded and both men returned to their duties. One more willingly than the other.

Saturday am

JD wished for unconsciousness or at least the comfortable numbness of sleep. Chris was yelling and pulling blankets off bodies. Moans and protests echoed softly from the others. Dunne was afraid to open his mouth, somehow he believed it would not be words that shot from his film covered mouth. Gawd his stomach and head hurt.

"Let's go girls," Larabee shouted as he walked up and down the row of bunks waking his groaning men. It was six am. "Six am ladies, calisthenics time. Don't forget our morning run." The pillow Buck threw at him missed by a mile. Larabee smiled and knocked his oldest friends feet off the bunk.

"Up and at'em Buck." Chris watched bemused as Josiah and Nathan peeled themselves from their bunks and wobbled into the bathroom. Vin scowled at Larabee as he gingerly slid past his boss. Even with a hangover the sharpshooter moved with a fluid grace. The only ones not moving were Standish and Dunne. "JD get your butt out of that bunk or I'll drag you into the shower." The unquestionable impatience was not missed on the youngest.

Larabee then turned his attention to the unmoving mound of blankets that made up Standish. A leer crossed his face. He would enjoy this, payback. Mr. Sunshine/ Duster boy was about to wreak his revenge. The cold pitcher of water hung conspicuously at his side.

Larabee glowered at the sleeping man. His congestion was very audible, but Chris really did not care. The dark brown head was the only thing visible under the three blankets. "Ezra get up." No response. The leer slid back into place. "Ezra get your arse out of bed." He punctuated this by a sharp shove to the shoulder. This earned a moan, shift in position, and then he settled back down. "Ezzzraa," Larabee singsonged out. He held the pitcher over the sleeping man's head. He slowly up ended it spilling a few splashes of water on the exposed head. Nothing. Damn, Chris thought the man slept like the dead. Chris poured more water on the sleeping form, taking great pleasure in the discomfort to come. Vin and Buck watched from the shower room entrance. Both men wore only towels and smirks.

Larabee watched with growing anticipation as the gambler rubbed the side of his head that had started getting wet. The water continued to drip persistently. He let out a scratchy moan and buried himself deeper under the blankets.

With pure vengeful delight Larabee pulled back the blankets and poured the ice cold contents over the undercover agents head and shoulders.

Standish felt as if he had been hit with a live wire. Suddenly his warm dark world, had become overwhelmingly bright and freezing. He did not realize he was soaked until he hit the floor with a resounding thud. His breath caught in his throat as he back pedaled from the assault.

Chris did not bother hiding his joy, nor did Buck or Vin. "Time to get up Ezra," Larabee repeated, to the wide eyed opened mouth southerner. Chris did not bother waiting for a remark but removed the blankets and pillow preventing the obstinate gambler from climbing back into bed, and headed back down to his bunk.

Standish growled and grumbled the whole way to the shower. Buck and Vin stepped aside, not daring to touch the fiendishly angry man. "'Ey Ez how come your all wet?" JD asked. Standish nailed him with a caustic stare and raised his index finger in warning. Dunne stepped back against the wall, giving the infuriated man his space.

The six men waited outside in various postures of discontent and lethargy. Some leaning on the railing, some leaning against the outside wall of the bunkhouse, and some just standing with chins dropped. Andy and Richard waited in the yard, well aware of the events from the night before. The bronco had been towed back just a few minutes ago. Then the early morning was shattered by a southern, "Who the hell used my tooth brush?!"

JD moved closer to Buck.

The morning calisthenics consisted mostly of five grown men laying on their backs in the grass complaining. Leg lifts and crunches did not mix with hangovers. Nathan gamely pushed himself and Chris sarcastically encouraged his ailing men. Vin and Ezra had both dozed off during the push-up segment.

The three mile run had been stretched to four at Larabee's insistence. JD vomited on mile number two. Ezra kept scanning for a car in hopes of a ride, and as usual Nathan was so far ahead noone saw him. Josiah plodded along beside Vin both contemplating ditching into the woods for a shortcut home. Chris kept a keen eye on them. Buck lagged behind with JD in the appearance of aiding his suffering friend but they all knew he had reached his limit of endurance. Chris figured he would sweat the booze from their systems.

Breakfast was met with scowls and snares. JD and Chris both dug into their meals. Dunne was surprised at how good he felt after his stomach emptied itself. The others watched disgustedly as the young man shoveled maple syrup laden pancakes into his mouth. The other five sipped delicately on coffee. Standish leaned his head on his right hand rubbing his right ear absently. He muffled a few coughs trying to prevent the burning in his chest and keep what little food and coffee that found its way to his stomach down.

The ten am meeting at the lodge was a fiasco. DC had intended on reprimanding the misguided team but instead found six very capable men lying about the furniture in various states of despair. They would address the problem later. Instead he would redirect their ailing forms on the twelve mile hike into the surrounding mountains. The more they groaned and balked the more he smiled.

The forced march, as Ezra had come to label it, dragged on he began to feel worse. At first he marked it up to the combination of the incessant hangover and loss of his earnings from last night. As the day progressed and the others began to feel more human he slipped further up the misery meter. Not only did his muscles ache, and his throat burn but his ear ache had begun to make itself known in earnest. He would not succumb to a cold.

Chris brought up the rear making sure all his men kept going forward. It would not be above one of them to suddenly drop back and discreetly make their way back to the ranch. He cleared his throat a couple of times in warning when he noticed the tracker taking side glances off the trail into the waiting forest. Tanner merely turned his attention back to the task at hand. The summer sun hung heavily over head but the light cumulus cloud cover offered some respite. He noticed Standish dogged behind the others and kept his head tilted to his right shoulder. Larabee had originally figured it was the lingering effects of a hangover, he could not be so sure now.

JD and Nathan quickly recovered from last evenings festivities. They actually enjoyed the hike. Josiah climbed out of the dregs of malaise by noon and even pulled out a camera. Buck sidled up next to Brenda coaxing her into a friendly banter. Tanner shortened his stride and matched pace with Chris.

A few hours into the hike they came to a rocky plateau that over looked a large open meadow surrounded by trees. A white water river ran behind and through the trees. The nine hikers stopped to enjoy the scenic view that lay a few hundred feet below them. Cattle meandered through out the hundred acre natural field. Chris watched them for a moment Hereford Angus cross from the looks of it. Tanner surveyed the area with a practiced eye, it really was a box canyon. The cliff wall they stood on actually wrapped it's way around the meadow on three sides. White capped mountains could be seen in the distance.

Josiah snapped off a few pictures standing back trying to get as many of the others in the photo as he could. Standish simply lay on the ground, curled slightly in a ball with his eyes closed. JD stepped as close to the edge as he dared, which was to close to Nathan who admonished him for his foolhardiness. Tanner pointed out two horse back riders to Chris and Buck as the riders rode at a walk through the herd apparently checking them over.

Andy and Brenda felt they had a long enough rest and started the hike back up again. Buck softly nudged Standish with a knee to get him up and moving. The southerner grumbled and climbed slowly to his feet with Josiah's aide.

Saturday Night

Dinner was met with much more enthusiasm than breakfast. Steaks, baked potatoes and mixed vegetables were on the menu. The men dug in heartily. Nathan watched as once again Standish pushed his meal around with a disinterested fork. Jackson held his tongue, the gambler was not in an agreeable mood. His blood shot green eyes did not welcome any conversation. Josiah crossed broached the subject. He had noticed throughout the day the slow but steady deterioration of the gamblers normal proper posture. "How's yer cold Ezra?"

"Fine," the short raspy replied came out. Standish took another tentative bite of his potato, why could it not have been mashed? Nathan and Chris exchanged glances. Jackson would pin the conman down later.

DC entered the dining room when dinner was just about complete. He now would have his chance to address last nights activities. The others Ezra, Vin, Chris and Josiah saw him enter through the kitchen. Buck, Nathan and JD had to rely on the reflections from the windows behind the tracker and the gambler. "Here comes trouble," Buck whispered to JD. Cummings heard the comment and smiled briefly.

"Gentlemen, I just wanted to inform you that the vehicles are now under lock and key and the location of the keys have changed, so please do not bother rifling my office searching for them again. As for last nights unscheduled festivities," He paused hoping to see looks of apprehension. There were none forth coming. They were a tough group of men that dealt with deadlier people than himself on a monthly basis. DC almost smiled. He had informed the Judge of the fiasco in town and Travis said he would look into it. Larabee should be hearing from the Judge sometime soon and Cummings was hoping to be there for it.

"Don't worry Mr. Cummings, the boys will be staying with me tonight," Chris informed everyone at the table. He eyed everyone daring them to make a comment.

"That would be convenient Mr. Larabee I'm sure Sheriff Salisbury will be very appreciative." Cummings turned his gaze to the pale southerner. He must still be suffering from the lingering effects of last nights binge.

"Mr. Standish there is a billiards table in the next room." He switched his gaze to Tanner, "I'll have Andy unlock the doors so you will not have to exert yourself Mr. Tanner."

"There was no effort involved at all, I assure you, Mr. Cummings," Ezra said speaking up for the quiet tracker. Tanner merely grinned.

"'Ey Donald where's the liquor kept in this place?" Buck asked, more to irritate the man than anything else. Larabee through Wilmington a warning glare.

"As I have said before there is no alcohol or gambling allowed while you are guests of the ranch," Cummings reiterated with tried patience. He wished Brenda and Andy had pushed them a little harder on the hike they seven still had to much fight left in them. Cummings sighed he was suppose to make them the cohesive trusting unit again, and if he had to do it by making them face a common enemy, namely himself, then he would. He also knew that was not the way to get things accomplished, because once the common enemy was gone the infighting would just re-emerge. Cummings did not know how else to reach them. They were volatile men and worked in a hostile environment, quiet times were hard on them but it had started affecting their performance on the job. Travis wanted a miracle. Donald began to think maybe The Judge should have sent them to a religious retreat.

"Good night gentlemen," DC said bidding the seven trials before them a quiet evening.

+ + + + + + +

Buck leaned on his pole cue waiting for Vin to take his shot. "Hey any one see Ezra? I figured he'd be here trying to recoup his loss from last night."

"You mean this morning," Josiah corrected. He leaned against a stool half standing half sitting. He and Tanner verse Buck and Chris in eight ball 'slap shot' style. They did not have to call the pocket.

"He's just a might ticked off all his hard work had to rebuild the bar," JD answered, he tried juggling the spare playing balls that lined the ball holder on the wall.

"Who could blame him. That was a lot of cash Chris asked him to cough up," Jackson answered from across the room waiting for his and JD's turn to play the winners.

Chris smiled, "He still made out pretty good." This caused the others to glance up at their leader in question.

Chris sighed, "He only emptied one boot, and never checked the inner pocket of his jacket." Knowing smiles graced the features of the team. Larabee had figured Standish had earned some of the winnings. Besides the smart mouth southerner did not normally throw the first punch, he might goad someone into doing it but he himself normally tried to avoid physical activity that might get him marred or dirty. Chris did not think that the whole burden of monetary retribution should befall the gambler. He was simply a product of his upbringing and environment.

Nature verses Nurture. In the Ezra's case he did not stand a chance ,gambling and conning were in his gene pool, a variant chromosome probably found only in the Maude Standish lineage. Chris could not completely blame him but would hold him answerable to a serious degree.

"Where is he anyhow?" Buck asked as he took a shot at the one ball and missed knocking Josiah's fifteen ball into the side pocket.

"Nice shot" JD remarked as he dropped two of the balls he tried to juggle. Wilmington curled his lip in a snare.

"I think he went to bed," Vin answered. Buck and Chris were going to lose this game. Tanner smiled and shook his head, Ezra just won another five dollars and he was not even present.


Comments to: