Part 6 of The Physical
"Anyone seen Vin this morning?" Buck Wilmington asked as he walked into the offices of the ATF building the following Monday morning. He and Vin had some surveillance reports to write that were due by the middle of the week and Buck preferred to get these things over and done with before the 11th hour. He glanced at Vin�s desk and found it absent, which was odd, because the sharpshooter was extremely averse to taking days off. If there was one thing every member of Team 7 could rely on, it was seeing Vin Tanner as his desk every morning, promptly at nine. The man was religious about such things.
"I don�t know," JD shrugged without giving Buck a second glance as he worked on whatever was on his computer screen while at the same time, finishing two doughnuts and a steaming cup of coffee that only succeeded in reinforcing Buck�s need for a cup himself. Rising from his desk, he strode past Ezra Standish�s desk on the way to the coffee machine and found the gambler having a rather heated conversation on the telephone.
"What do you mean, you do not know who she is?" Ezra demanded, turning a shade red as he spoke to the person on the end of the receiver. "Is it beyond your intelligence to look in your guest list and give me a name as to who occupied that table?"
"What�s with him?" Buck whispered to Nathan, who occupied the desk opposite the rather harassed ATF agent at the moment.
"He�s trying to get a bead on the woman who bid on him," Nathan replied. "He�s going crazy trying to figure out who she is."
"The one that ran out on him?" Buck whispered. He did remember the lady in question enough to know that she had been a stunning beauty and quite appreciated Ezra�s desire to find her. Besides, there was nothing more tantalising to a man than a gorgeous redhead with an air of mystery about her.
"Her name is Allison Lockley?" Ezra declared and straightened up in his chair, his face filtering with annoyance and skepticism as he informed the person on the other end why it was impossible that the lady was the said Mrs Lockley. "I suppose you are certain of this piece of intelligence?" He frowned and then informed the man with typical Ezra superiority. "My good Sir, if I am correct, Allison Lockley of the Philadelphia Lockleys is a 65-year-old woman who does not like to leave her native city. Aside from the fact that the lady at the fundraiser was extremely beautiful and young, the only way you would have Mrs Lockley attend a fund raiser in New Mexico is to miraculously circumvent the laws of physics and transport the entire hotel into that principality for the evening!"
"My goodness," Buck said with a grin. "He is determined."
"I ain�t seen him this bothered about anything other than a card game since I met the man," Nathan answered in fascination as he continued to observe Ezra with the same amusement that Buck was presently displaying. "She must have been something." Nathan smiled, having not paid much attention that night to anything since he had been fighting off the attentions of the matron who had bid for him as the woman had some very strange ideas about African-American men and their stamina.
"No," Ezra continued his debate with his unseen opponent. "I am not being rude, merely pointing out the defects in your so-called logic."
"Oh, that�s going to work," Buck said sarcastically and knew what was coming even though Ezra did not.
"The cretin hung up on me!" Ezra exploded, which was of no surprise to anyone who had chanced to overhear his conversation with the cretin in question. "He had the audacity to refer to me as being less than gentlemanly."
"Can�t imagine that," Buck muttered under his breath, exchanging a look with Nathan as the two men tried to hold in their sniggers. "So no luck with the mystery lady?" Buck asked, clearing his throat and forcing away the smile that was threatening to steal across his face at Ezra�s obvious annoyance.
"I am dealing with a woman leaves a trail of smoke," Ezra grumbled, easing back into his chair, even though his manner indicated that he was anything but at ease. "No one has any idea who she is because the tickets for the fundraiser were purchased over the phone but picked up in person and paid in cash. There is no paper trail to follow. If I did not know better, I would say the lady was covering her tracks for some illegal venture."
"Like the robbery at the hotel," Buck pointed out.
"Not at all," Ezra steadfastly denied the possibility. "This was a woman with breeding and class, I assure you, she would not be associated with anything so tawdry as the robbery of a hotel safe."
"Ezra, have you read the report on the safe that was broken into?" Nathan exclaimed, not wishing to burst his bubble especially when he had fabricated such a wonderful fantasy about the woman, but he had to be made aware of the fact that she was most likely a criminal. "Its not just some hotel safe. The contents included a very expensive painting that was in transit with its owner. The safe was absolutely the most expensive piece of security equipment of its type on the market and whoever broke into it didn�t even leave a mark on the finish. I�m telling you, if your mystery lady did break into this thing, she is no regular burglar. We�re talking about a professional who is very good at what she does."
"I refuse to believe it," Ezra sighed as he rested his chin on his hand and contented himself with happy thoughts about red hair that sparkled like copper and the most angelic face he had ever seen in his life. He had to find her, somehow.
Seeing that they were not going to get any sense from Ezra Standish until he found his lady, Buck moved onto a more pressing issue, or at least one that could be satisfied without too many romantic delusions. "By the way, did Vin come in yet?" Buck asked Nathan, hoping that the former medic would be more assistance than JD on this subject.
"Not yet," Nathan replied. "I ain�t seen him all morning which is kind of strange now that I think about it."
"The boy did leave the fundraiser with Doctor Styles," Josiah remarked after looking up from the paperwork he had been busy completing this morning.
"That�s right," Buck thought with a smile of pleasure at that particular portion of the evening. While Vin had displayed his obvious shock at the turn of events, Buck was none the bit surprised even if he had to admit Doctor Styles could have chosen a less public arena to make her true feelings for the sharpshooter known. Still, the entire episode had provided much amusement for the rest of Team 7 throughout the night. Now that Josiah had made the insinuation, the more sense it made where Vin was at this moment and Buck would not think of interrupting him for anything. "Well I�m sure he�ll come up for air some time, that is if they don�t kill each other first."
"Has anyone seen or heard from him this weekend or heard from him at all?" JD poked his head from his screen long enough to ask the others.
Everyone had to say no.
"Well it's about time," Buck shook his head, hoping that it was as Josiah insinuated. "She�s about the first woman Vin�s shown any real interest in."
"You think he�s gone off with her for a long weekend?" Nathan smiled, agreeing with Buck on that much any way if it were true. Vin was always shy around women even though he had no reason to be, even though every member of Team 7 had seen women throwing themselves at Vin enough to know that he had no reason to be so uncomfortable around the opposite sex. However, Vin Tanner was not a person who thought highly of himself and had never so much as reacted to a female until Alexandra Styles had walked into his life.
"Why not?" Buck grinned and was about to add something further when suddenly, Chris Larabee emerged from his office wearing a storm cloud on his face. The leader of Team 7 looked decidedly unhappy and for a moment, the men under his command were somewhat reluctant to inquire the nature of the problem, since it was likely to get their head bitten off. Finally, Buck decided that he would be the sacrificial lamb and boldly made the inquiry of what had inspired Chris�s ire so intensely.
"Something wrong Chris?" Buck ventured to ask as Chris went to get himself a cup of coffee. Just seeing the way that Chris had it was enough to send warning bells for him to stay away. When Chris Larabee had strong black coffee with nothing in it, that was never a good sign of his mood.
"Nothing that�s going to go away in a hurry." Chris fairly growled and Buck wondered if he ought to continue this line of questioning.
Against, his better judgment, Buck felt it his responsibility as Chris�s oldest friend to try anyway. "Want to talk about it?"
Chris smouldered as he raised his steel coloured eyes to Buck and appeared as if he might just bite the agent�s head off when surprisingly enough, he answered quite calmly if somewhat bitterly at the same time. "Apparently, some journalist is going to be spending a week with us."
"A journalist?" Buck retorted, more puzzled than anything else.
"Yeah," Chris swallowed a large sip of coffee and nodded. "It's some public relations crap cooked up by the higher ups. Must be near appropriations time or something, Christ only knows," Chris continued to grumble.
"Are we to assume that we will be place under glass for a week?" Ezra asked, his distaste apparent in the sound of his voice. "How are we supposed to function? Did you not try to explain to the authoritarians that came up with this brilliant scheme that our business works best when the tricks of our trade are not open for public scrutiny?"
"No I didn�t tell them that," Chris retorted staring at the gambler and about to boil over. "It would never occur to me to bring that up," he said sarcastically.
"Okay take it easy Chris," Buck said, pacifying him before things got out of hand and it was getting there quite fast. Chris in this sort of filthy mood was never to be underestimated and his patience was starting wear very thin with everyone in general. "When is this journalist getting here anyway?�
"She," Chris fumed with even more annoyance, "is arriving tomorrow."
"She?" Buck responded immediately, reverting to baser instincts the minute he heard a woman was involved.
"Yes she," Chris replied, sharing everyone�s resignation when he noticed Buck�s sudden curiosity and decided that it was best he return to his office before his mood became any worse. He was almost to the door when he turned back and added the only piece of information he knew about their visitor tomorrow.
"I think her name is Travis," Chris responded. "Mary Travis."
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