Author-Charli & Author-Andi Charleville
I Fought the Law
by Charli and Andi Charleville
Summary: The ATF boys of team 7 follow a lead that leads them to Cascade. There, they meet the Sentinel of the Great City. Will they be able to catch the work together to catch the bad guys? Crossover with Magnificent 7 ATF universe. Rated PG-13 for some language.
Disclaimer: Characters from The Sentinel are the property of Petfly, UPN and Paramount. The characters of the Magnificent 7 belong to Trilogy Entertainment, the Mirisch Group, MGM, CBS and TNN. No infringement is intended. All characters will be returned unharmed. Thanks to Mog for coming up with the Magnificent 7 ATF universe and to Cindy Combs for turning us onto the Magnificent 7 fandom.
“I Fought the Law (and the law won)” was written by Sonny Curtis and performed by the Bobby Fuller Four.
Warning: If you like the Sentinel character of Forensics investigator Cassie Wells, you may not like how she’s portrayed in this story. We don’t like her.
Spoilers for Sentinel episodes Love and Guns, Rogue and Ice Man. We don’t recognize The Sentinel by Blair Sandburg as having taken place.
Friday, 2 pm: Office of ATF Team 7, Denver, Colorado
"Okay, boys, settle down," Chris Larabee said, quieting the conversation between the other six men in the room. The men were members of a crack ATF team, of which Larabee was the leader.
"J.D.'s magic fingers finally persuaded that cranky computer of his to cough up some more information on Doyle." Larabee passed out files to each member of the group that was gathered around the conference table. As the others glanced over the files, their thoughts were focused on their target, one Alexander Doyle.
Larabee's Team, nicknamed the Magnificent 7 by their fellow agents because of their high arrest and conviction rate, were the most proficient ATF team in the Western U.S., if not the entire country. And the "7" had been after Doyle for four months.
The elusive weapons dealer had been suspected in numerous cases over the last decade across country, but no one had been able to get enough information to be able to even arrest the man on so much as a traffic violation, much less send him to trial and get a conviction. The man was smart, sneaky and resourceful. But then, so was Team 7 and they hoped to snare their prey soon.
The team had come close two months previously, but Doyle had managed to slip through their dragnet yet again. Word on the street was that the gun dealer had moved his operation out of Denver, where Larabee's team was based. Several reports had him relocating out of state. The best information they had was that he'd moved his operation to the Pacific Northwest.
"J.D., give us a rundown," Chris instructed.
J.D. Dunne was the youngest member of the team. Although he could have passed for a high school senior, he was over twenty-one, which was required for him to be able to carry a weapon in most states. He'd been recruited straight from the police academy after Larabee, while visiting a friend at the academy, had spotted his proficiency with computers.
Dunne flipped open his notebook. "Okay, first off, as you all know, everything that I can find indicates that Doyle is moving northwest, specifically Washington State. Most of the information is centered in the Puget Sound area, not too far from Seattle. We got some activity in Seattle and Tacoma, but the majority comes from a medium sized city, name of Cascade."
Dunne pulled out a map of Western Washington and pointed out the metropolis on the map. "There's a city map of Cascade and the surrounding county in the files that y'all have in front of you. Several real estate purchases have been made around Cascade that can be traced back to front corporations that belong to Doyle."
"Do we have a good paper trail on those corporations?" asked Ezra Standish in his quiet southern accent. Standish was the chameleon of the group, able to blend himself into any situation, which made him the ideal undercover agent. His performances on past cases had brought in such heavy hitters, that the others gifted him with a fake Academy Award after one particularly grueling assignment.
"Yes, we have all the documentation," Chris replied with a smile. "J.D. has been very thorough." Larabee glanced over at J.D. and winked, giving the young man the respect he deserved for the monumental task he'd undertaken and performed. Chris knew that most people outside the team considered J.D. just a computer geek and therefore not a full-fledged member of the team. Chris, however, knew that his computer skills were just as important as Ezra's undercover work or Vin Tanner's sharpshooting. Plus, JD was a good shot and had a quick mind, all needed traits for an ATF agent.
Tanner caught Larabee's eye and nodded his approval for the praise Chris had given Dunne. Although Vin was just a couple years older than J.D., the team looked toward him as their second-in-command. His youth belied his experience. He was better with his rifle than anyone Chris had ever seen. And his life experience gave him an insight into people that no one questioned. His intuitive leaps were almost as uncanny as Larabee's. And Chris bordered on the psychic with some of the "gut feelings" he'd had in the past.
Chris also had the advantage of prior military experience to draw on. He'd been a SEAL team leader while in the Navy, among the elite of military special operations groups. His strategic planning and quick adjustments to changing situations on previous missions left no question about who was in charge.
Buck Wilmington reached over and patted Dunne on the shoulder, proud of his friend and roommate. And impressed with him all over again. Buck was the first person Chris had recruited to the team. He'd been a long-time friend of the team leader, so Chris was familiar with his background. And although Buck sometimes got on Chris’ nerves with his never-ending talk of wine, women and song, Chris knew that when it came to the job, the ladies' man was dedicated to the team. He often used his charm and easy-going manner to get them the information they needed. And he was immeasurable as an agent. Even though he was a marksman, as often as not, he just charmed his way out of a bad situation.
"Do we have any contacts in Cascade that can help with the local end of things?" asked Nathan Jackson, the team's medic. Jackson was the only black member of the team. When he'd first been approached by Larabee to join, he'd been hesitant. He'd been working as a paramedic at the time and had earned Chris' respect when he'd entered a still volatile scene to treat a member of the team. Later, when Chris approached him to thank him for his help, he'd learned that Jackson had once dreamed of becoming a police officer. Larabee arranged for him to get the training needed to join the ATF and he was immediately placed on Chris' team.
"We don't have any local PD contacts," Chris told them. "I've been in contact with our Seattle office, which would cover the region that Cascade is in. Unfortunately, they are in the middle of a big operation themselves and can't spare anyone. They suggested the Seattle FBI office, which has had some past cases with the Cascade PD, especially their Major Crime Unit, which is who we'll be dealing with. We have a meeting set up for Monday morning at 10:00 at Cascade PD."
The final member of the team, Josiah Sanchez, was carefully reading through the file that JD had provided each of them. "What about weapons?" he asked, continuing to flip through the pages.
"The usual. We'll each carry our individual weapons and Vin will take his own sniper rifle. Everything else will be supplied by Seattle ATF." Vin nodded his head in agreement. As a sniper, he needed to be comfortable with his weapon. He needed to be sure of its performance each time he used it. Lives depended on him being able to hit what he aimed at, so he needed to know every nuance of his weapon. That's why he'd used the same weapon since he'd joined the team.
"Okay, so, we'll meet here Sunday at noon and head straight to the airport. That's it for now. Take the rest of the afternoon off to make sure you’re ready to go Sunday."
"How about we head over to the saloon for a late lunch, or early dinner, or whatever?" Buck suggested. The others agreed since they'd skipped lunch to make the final preparations for their trip to Washington.
"I'll meet you there," Chris said. "I need to check in with DA Travis. Order me a T-bone."
"See ya in a few, pard," Buck called as he and the others filed out.
The seven agents arrived at Seatac Airport on Sunday evening. They were among the last passengers to deplane, since Tanner had to collect his rifle case from the locked front storage area. Once inside the terminal, a sandy-haired young man, not much older than Vin, approached them.
“Agent Larabee?” the man asked, striding up to Chris without hesitation. “I’m Mike Rignelli, Seattle ATF. Sam Alders sent me to drop off the van and equipment you requested,” he said, referring to the Seattle office’s lead agent. Mike and Chris exchanged handshakes. He handed Chris a set of keys and a parking stub. “The van is on the fourth level of the airport garage. I’ve written the space number down on the ticket. Just show your badge to the attendant, and they’ll waive the parking fee.”
Chris nodded. “Were you able to get everything we asked for?”
“Yes, Sir. It’s all in the van already. Along with a few extras that Sam threw in. There’s also a map to Cascade and directions to your hotel. They’re holding three suites for you, as requested. You’re meeting with Captain Banks at the Cascade downtown headquarters tomorrow morning at ten am. Since we don’t have anyone available to accompany you, Sam has arranged for a member of the FBI in Seattle to work as a liaison between your team and Banks’ Major Crime department. He’ll meet you at your hotel at 9 am.”
Chris grimaced, but he knew procedure. It was always best to let a federal agent familiar with the locals act as an intermediary. But Chris hated working with the FBI. Not only did they tend to try and run everything, even when it wasn’t their investigation, but previous run-ins with FBI members and his team had not gone well. All the members of team 7, Chris included, felt that the FBI had left Ezra Standish out in the cold when rumors started that the former FBI agent was corrupt. Since Ezra had joined the ATF team, the few times that they had been forced to work with the FBI had been strained, to say the least. Most FBI agents treated Ezra like a disease, even though the evidence against Ezra was flimsy and circumstantial. The treatment of their teammate raised the hackles of all the members of team 7. They knew Ezra wasn’t dirty. They trusted him with their lives. Chris wasn’t looking forward to this, but he knew there was little he could do about it…at the moment.
He shook off his worsening mood. “What can you tell me about Captain Banks?” he asked the Seattle agent.
Mike smiled. Sam had told him enough about Agent Larabee to figure the man would take his advice into consideration. “I’ve worked with him before. He’s a hard man, but he’s fair and he knows his business. His Major Crimes unit has one of the best records in Washington. He doesn’t have a problem working with feds, as long as he’s not treated like some little peon just because he’s a local. They’ve put away some heavy hitters. Treat him like a professional law officer, and he’ll back you 100%. And if he backs you, his people will back you. They’re loyal to him and he to them.”
Chris smiled. Loyalty was the sign of a good leader. Banks sounded like his kind of man. He hoped Rignelli was right, because this case was too important to risk over hurt feelings. “Okay, thanks. Do we need to give you a lift back?”
“No. I’ve got a departing flight leaving in about an hour.” He grinned in pride. “My little brother is getting married in two days. I’m heading to Louisiana for the ceremony.”
“Congratulations. Thanks for dropping off the van. We appreciate it.”
Mike waved off his words. “Not a problem. Good luck in Cascade.” The agent smiled at the rest of the team, then headed off towards his gate. Chris handed the keys and parking ticket to Josiah. He hitched his carry-on further up his shoulder. “Okay, boys, let’s head out. We’ll get to Cascade, have dinner, then get a good night’s sleep. Tomorrow’s gonna be a long day.”
Monday, 8 am, Major Crimes
Jim Ellison and Blair Sandburg hadn’t even gotten over the threshold of the room that held the Major Crimes unit, when their leader was standing at his office door. “Ellison, Sandburg, may I see you in my office please?”
Jim turned a suspicious glance to his partner and roommate, Blair Sandburg. Blair held up both hands in a gesture of surrender. “Hey, man, I didn’t do anything. I haven’t even been here for the last two weeks, remember. I’ve been busy with finals.” Blair was a graduate student at nearby Rainier University, as well as being a teaching fellow. Last week was the end of the spring semester and Blair had been busy. He not only had three classes he was teaching, but a research paper due and two finals of his own to study for. The past two weeks, Blair had gotten very little sleep and Jim had only seen his friend when he’d been nagging the younger man to eat in order to keep his strength up for the marathon sessions he was dealing with. But Friday afternoon, Blair had posted his grades and taken his last exam. He and Jim had spent a relaxing weekend at the loft they shared and now Jim would have Blair with him at the station for the next two weeks with no school distractions.
Blair’s ‘official’ reason for riding with the Major Crimes detective was that he was writing his anthropological thesis on the “thin blue line” that existed within the police department. Only he, Jim and Jim’s boss, Simon Banks, knew the truth. Blair’s real thesis was on Jim Ellison. Jim was a sentinel, a modern version of ancient tribal guardians that protected their tribes from threats and dangers, found good hunting and warned of changes in the weather. All of Jim’s senses were heightened, making Jim an even better detective than he had been before his senses had gone ‘on-line’ several years ago. He was usually able to find evidence and clues that would take the forensics team days to find or figure out.
“Well, something has obviously happened. You know I don’t like it when Simon gets polite. It’s frightening.” The two men walked past Simon, and he closed the door behind them.
“Jim, Blair. How was your weekend? Would you like some coffee?” he asked, holding up the pot from the coffee maker he kept in his office. Blair and Jim exchanged a glance, before Jim turned back to his boss.
“Okay, Captain, what do you want?”
“What do you mean, Jim?” he asked innocently.
Jim smirked. “Captain, when you offer us coffee from your private stash, it either means that you want a favor or you want me to play nice with someone. Which is it?”
Simon sighed, and rubbed the bridge of his nose where his glasses rested. Sometimes it was a pain having your co-workers as friends. They got to know you too well. “We’ve got a meeting at ten o’clock with some agents from the ATF. They want us to help them on a case of theirs that has led here to Cascade.”
Blair wisely kept silent as Jim’s face darkened. “Oh, c’mon, Captain. You know I hate working with the feds. They play their damn little games at the expense of the people involved. Hell, Special Agent Donohue,” he said the name sarcastically, “is damn lucky I didn’t kill him after the fiasco that happened last time.”
All three men remembered the last case that Major Crimes had worked on with the local FBI contingent. A child had been kidnapped, and standard procedure was to call in the FBI. Agent Donohue had been assigned and was too arrogant in his opinions about the case to listen to Jim’s deductions. That arrogance had almost gotten the latest victim killed. Jim and Blair had shown up where Jim’s leads had pointed, only to find the killer was about to stab the little four-year old girl he’d grabbed off the street. Jim had shot the knife out of the killer’s hand, then tackled him when he refused to move away from his victim. They struggled while Blair raced to free the little girl. Once the suspect was in custody and on his way to the hospital for his hand injury, Donohue had shown up and started to berate Jim and Blair for failing to follow proper procedure. Jim had been furious, but held his temper. Then Donohue had made the mistake of remarking that Jim should ‘go back to busting pimps and druggies and leave the real criminals to the feds.’ Jim had punched the man in the face, breaking his nose, and walked away without saying a word. Just the mention of the man’s name was enough to have Jim clenching his jaw.
“Jim, I know how you feel, believe me. If I had been in your place, I would have punched the man, too. But this is coming down from the top. The chief personally asked that Major Crimes cooperate with Larabee and his team. I assured him that we would help out in any way possible.”
“Larabee?” Jim asked.
“Yeah, Chris Larabee. He’s the leader of the ATF team that’s coming. Word is that his team is one of the best. They’ve got a damn good conviction rate.”
“Great, so we’ll be dealing with bigger egos than Donohue’s. Wonderful, just wonderful.”
“Jim, I personally talked to Sam Alders in Seattle. He’s got nothing but praise for Larabee and his men. You like Alders. Can’t you just trust him and give this Larabee guy a chance?”
Jim sighed heavily. Simon was right. Sam was one of the few feds he actually liked. The man ran the Seattle ATF office with a firm but fair hand and he was a good judge of character. “What else did Sam have to say about this guy?”
Simon’s statement didn’t change, but he knew his last statement had won Jim over. “He said that Larabee and his team work out of Denver. They’ve taken on some pretty powerful names in the gun running business and have gotten solid cases against them. Larabee used to be a Navy Seal. He personally handpicked his team. They’re very effective.”
Jim frowned. “How long ago was Larabee in the navy?”
Simon glanced at the notes he’d made while talking to Sam. "Several years, probably about the time that you were in the Army. Why?”
“Damn. He’s that Chris Larabee?”
Blair spoke for the first time since coming into Simon’s office. “Do you know this guy, Jim?”
“No, Chief, but I know of him. I know his reputation. Hell, even the Rangers have heard stories about Larabee. He was a maverick of sorts. His seal team could get really…creative during a mission, but they always accomplished their objective.”
“Well, it seems that he runs his ATF team the same way. Look, they’ll be coming in at ten. We’ll meet in the conference room and hear about the case. I just wanted to give you a heads up that we are going to be working with them.”
“Okay, Captain, I’ll be on my best behavior.”
“Thanks, Jim. So, Blair,” he said, turning to the younger man, “are you going to be gracing us with your presence this week?”
Blair laughed. “Yeah. I’m completely yours for the next two weeks. No papers to grade or write.”
“Good,” Simon smirked. “Then maybe you can help Jim with his backlog of reports.”
Blair’s face fell. “Is that all I’m good for around here, writing Jim’s reports?”
“Everyone has their talents, Chief. At least you’re appreciated.”
Blair glared at his partner, but joined in the laughter.
"Here's everything the ATF has on their case. Read it over and see what you think," Simon said, hand Jim a thick file.
"Very good, Sir," Ellison replied as he and Blair left the Captain's office.
The members of team 7 had gathered in the room that Chris and Vin where sharing, finishing up the last of the coffee from breakfast, when a knock sounded on the door. Nathan opened it to reveal a short, balding man in a black suit. His already pale complexion seemed even more washed out due to the color of the suit. His appearance screamed “Fed”.
“Agent Larabee?” he asked. Nathan pointed to Chris. He walked over to Chris, ignoring the others in the room. “Agent Larabee, I’m Special Agent Donohue, your liaison. Sam Alders asked me to lend you my expertise in dealing with the local police.”
“Have you worked with Captain Banks and his people before, Agent Donohue?” Chris asked. Something about this man was setting Chris’ nerves on edge. Chris’ innocent question started Donohue off on a tangent that only increased the team leader’s opinion that he hated working with the FBI.
Donohue snorted. “Unfortunately. They’re all a bunch of screw-ups, especially Jim Ellison and that so-called ‘partner’ of his. Ellison thinks he’s hot shit, just because he supposedly survived more than a year as an MIA in some South American jungle.”
“What?” Chris and Buck both chorused, the last statement having gotten everyone’s attention. Donohue smiled as he enlightened the ATF team with his ‘expertise’ of the local police. He was so caught up in his tirade, that he didn’t notice the glance Chris threw at JD. The young agent nodded and quickly booted up his laptop and began typing. Soon, Chris could hear the sound of pages of information being printed out on the printer that they had hooked up to the laptop. Donohue hadn’t stopped his monologue.
“Yeah, the Army claims his chopper was shot down and he was the only survivor. They say he connected up with some local tribe and survived for eighteen months. Sounds like a cover-up to me. He probably connected with some little tribal bimbo is what really happened, but of course they can’t release that. So they make up some story and proclaim him a ‘hero’ and put his picture on the cover of ‘News Update’ magazine.”
“Wait a minute, he’s that Jim Ellison?” Chris asked.
“Hey, yeah, I remember reading that story,” Buck exclaimed. “He was an Army Ranger at the time. He and the local tribe, the Chopick or something like that, held off the rebels down there for months.” The others nodded their heads. They remembered the article, too.
“Hey, Chris,” JD said, “aren’t the Rangers sort of like the elite?”
Chris nodded. “Yeah, JD. They are to the Army what the SEALS are to the Navy.”
Donohue sneered. “Yeah, and like most of them, Ellison thinks that makes him a star.” He missed the narrowing of the eyes that signaled Chris’ displeasure. “And Banks plays up to it. He lets Ellison get away with murder. Like calling Sandburg his ‘partner’. The little punk’s not even a real cop, just some long-haired, hippie college kid acting as an ‘observer’,” he said sarcastically, not noticing the dirty look Vin gave him. “Sandburg’s mother was some drugged out hippie sixties whore of a flower child. She probably doesn’t even know who the little freak’s father is.”
“Hey,” Buck said, “It’s not nice to talk about a man’s mama that way.” He looked like he was getting ready to throw a punch at the man. Donohue just ignored him.
“Sandburg claims to be an anthropology student working on his thesis,” he continued, then laughed. “Anthropologist is just a fancy term for pervert. Someone who gets off on watching people. He probably really likes watching their mating habits.” Donohue continued to be oblivious to the reactions his words were having on the ATF agents. He missed the step that Josiah took toward him. Chris waved Josiah off, not wanting any of his men to get brought up on charges for assaulting the little shit.
“Personally,” Donohue continued, “I think Sandburg’s hanging around to get information so he can warn all his druggie buddies about raids coming down.” Then he smirked. “Of course, Sandburg did move in with Ellison a few years ago, so maybe ‘partner’ is the correct term. Ellison is probably making the little freak pay out the ass, if you get my meaning. Why else would two grown men be living together?”
Both Buck and JD frowned at this remark. After all, they shared an apartment, and they took exception to Donohue’s bigoted opinion. Buck knew that before this was over, he and this fed were gonna have words. Ezra was the next to find fault with the agent’s opinions. His gaze narrowed as his green eyes went cold.
“Then there’s the other members of Major Crimes. Detective Brown, reject from the world of grunge, and his partner, Mr GQ himself, Detective Rafe. That man dresses like he thinks some modeling agent is going to come through the door at any minute and make him a star. Those clothes he wears don’t come cheap. If he’s not taking bribes, I’ll eat my shorts.” Although he was talking about Rafe, Donohue pointedly glared at Ezra, indicating that he knew exactly who Ezra was.
“Yeah, let’s hope you choke on ‘em,” Vin muttered under his breath. Only Ezra was close enough to hear him. He leaned over to whisper in Vin’s ear.
“So far, the only one of us that hasn’t managed to be indirectly insulted by this odious creature's remarks has been Mr. Jackson. Ten-to-one odds say that he will accomplish this task before we leave the building.” Vin shook his head. He was not about to make a bet that he knew he had a good chance of losing. He was thankful that he turned Ezra down as he watched Nathan’s jaw tighten in reaction to Donohue’s next statement.
“By the way, if any of your men get injured during this case, take my advice and don’t let Ellison near them. He was a medic in the army and thinks this makes him capable of treating people. I wouldn’t let someone like that treat me for a splinter, much less anything more serious. I’d probably end up with gangrene.”
“The world should be so lucky,” Nathan mumbled to himself.
Chris took a deep breath, trying to keep from choking the man in front of him and looked at his watch. Hell, it was only 9:30 in the morning and he already had a headache. He broke in before Donohue could say anything more. “We had better get going if we’re going to make our ten o’clock appointment. I don’t want to keep them waiting.” He turned his back to Donohue as he addressed Vin. “I’ll ride with Donohue,” he said, his face showing his less-than-pleased statement at this prospect. “You men follow behind us in the van. Let’s go, Donohue.” As he passed by JD, the young man handed Chris a folder filled with the pages he had just printed out. He kept a second folder with duplicate copies, which Chris knew JD would share with the others in the van. Before they arrived at police headquarters, his team would know everything they could about their counterparts in Major Crimes.
In the black sedan, silence reigned except for the pages being turned by Chris as he read the information that JD had compiled. He looked at Ellison's file, staring at the photo of the detective. He could see the intelligence and determination in the man's face staring out at him from the page. Donohue had tried to engage Larabee in conversation for the first few minutes, but Chris’ one-word answers and grunts had finally convinced Donohue that Larabee wasn’t in a talkative mood. Such was not the case in the van following them.
“Did you hear that jackass?” Buck exclaimed. “Why else would two grown men be living together,” he mimicked Donohue’s words. “What a moron. I’ll tell you, he had better watch his mouth before he finds himself on the wrong end of my gun. Especially if I hear him say anything bad about anybody’s mama. That’s just downright rude.”
“Well, I was not inclined to appreciate his remarks about Detective Rafe, either. Especially since he was less than subtle regarding his true target.”
The others all chimed in with their opinions of Agent Donohue, except JD. Buck finally noticed that his young friend was being awfully quiet.
“JD, you okay, kid?”
“Hmm? Oh, yeah, Buck. Just reading. I don’t know what Donohue’s problem is, but according to this,” he held up the folder, “the Major Crimes unit does a damn good job. They’ve gone up against some major players.”
“Like who, JD?” Vin asked.
“Like Hector Carasco.”
Buck let out a whistle. All the agents had heard that name. Carasco had been a major player in the arms business until his arrest three years before. “Ellison’s the one that nailed him?”
“Yep. He’s also the one that put Lee Brackett on ice.” JD said. “And he captured Karl Zeller.”
Vin had heard of Brackett. Every federal cop knew about the rogue agent. But the other name was unfamiliar to Vin. “Who’s this Zeller guy?”
Ezra glanced up from the pages that he was reading over JD’s shoulder. “It says here that he is the miscreant that goes by the pseudonym of ‘the Iceman’. He’s an international assassin that was handed over to Interpol a couple of years ago. Apparently compliments of the Cascade PD.”
All the agents smiled humorlessly. “And these are the people that Donohue thinks are screw-ups?” Nathan said, shaking his head.
“Yeah,” Buck said. “The country could sure use a few more of these ‘screw-ups’ working in law enforcement.” They all agreed with that statement.
Simon heard the knock at his door. Before he could look up, FBI Agent Donohue was barging in, followed slightly more quietly by a tall, lanky blond-haired man.
“Banks, this is ATF Agent Larabee. I trust you got Agent Alder’s message. You’ll be working for Larabee and his team while they’re in town.”
Banks glared at Donohue with a distinctly sour look on his face before offering his hand to the ATF agent. “Larabee, nice to meet you,” he said.
“Captain Banks, I appreciate your help with this. I look forward to working with your team,” Chris said, emphasizing the working relationship he hoped to have with the police team. Banks smiled at the slight to the FBI man, then led the way out the door to find six men standing in his bullpen.
“Your team, Agent Larabee?” he asked.
“Yes,” Chris said, pride showing in his eyes. He made introductions.
“Welcome to Cascade, gentlemen. My boys are set up in the conference room. We’re pulling together what you sent and the info we have on any locals your man might make contact with. We just got the info a couple hours ago, so I doubt they’ll have much yet.” Banks led the way down the hall and opened the door to the large conference room. He entered, followed by the ATF team and Donohue.
Larabee took a quick look around, spotting Ellison standing in front of a dry erase board talking to a longhaired young man. That must be Sandburg, he thought. Ellison turned and locked eyes with Chris, both recognizing the stature of a man used to being in charge. They nodded at each other. Jim tapped Sandburg on the shoulder and gestured toward the door. The two men walked over.
“You must be Chris Larabee,” Jim said, holding out his hand, which Chris took.
“Detective Ellison. Your reputation proceeds you. I’ve heard good things about you.”
“So, you’ve looked at my file, have you?” Jim asked with a smile.
“I like to know who I’m working with. You live longer that way.”
“I can understand that. Are you as good now as you were when you ran your SEAL team?” he asked, letting Chris know he wasn’t the only one who liked to know his fellow officers.
“Better, but I think it’s the company I keep,” he said, pointing to his team. Jim looked over Larabee's shoulder, a frown suddenly on his face. Larabee turned to see who had drawn his ire, not surprised that the glare was aimed at Donohue.
“I can see there’s no love lost here, huh?” he asked quietly, hearing a snort from the man who stood beside Ellison. Chris turned to get a better look at the man.
“Ever heard the statement ‘if looks could kill’?” the young man asked. “Donohue would be tarred, feathered, crucified, buried six feet under and tossed out an airplane without a chute, just for good measure, if Jim had his way. Hi, I’m Blair Sandburg.” Ellison brought his thoughts back to the man in front of him.
“Ah, sorry. Agent Larabee, Sandburg is my partner. Those two over there,” he indicated a casually dressed black man and a young man whose manner of dress rivaled Ezra’s, “are Detectives Brown and Rafe. They’ll be working with us as well. And the gorgeous blonde in the back ignoring your friend is Rhonda, the Captain’s secretary.” Chris and Vin turned to see a tall man with a mustache trying his best to make conversation with the only woman in the room.
“That’s Buck Wilmington,” Chris said by way of introduction. A little louder, he called out to Rhonda, “It won’t help to ignore him. It’ll just make him try harder. But trust me, he’s harmless.” She turned and smiled at Chris, then looked up at Wilmington.
“Well, you might as well give me a hand then,” she said to Buck. “Come on, I need help bringing up some equipment.”
“Take as many of my men as you need, Ma’am.” Chris insisted. She pointed to Josiah and Ezra and the three men followed her out of the room, while Chris introduced the rest of his team. The foursome came back a few minutes later with extra phones, a copy machine and a large coffee urn. Rhonda pushed a cart that carried a multitude of cups, paper plates, napkins and plastic utensils. She parked it next to the table where she’d directed Josiah to place the coffee urn. Blair walked over to help set up all the computer equipment that was already in place.
“Can I help?”
Blair looked up to see a dark-haired young man standing next to him. “Sure. I'm Blair Sandburg.”
“JD Dunne.” The two men shook hands, then set about turning on all the computers and making sure they worked. Blair directed JD to a table where he could connect his laptop.
“Okay, so what do we have so far?” Donohue asked, stepping up next to Larabee, who turned an annoyed look his way. Catching the look, Ellison didn’t even bother to try and hide his smirk as he directed his comments to Larabee and turned his back on Donohue, dismissing his presence.
“Why don’t I show you what Sandburg has put together, Agent Larabee.” Jim said, as Simon let him take the lead.
“It’s just Chris. All that ‘Agent Larabee’ crap is unnecessary.”
“Call me Jim, then. Blair was marking the building purchases on the map. They all seem to be centered pretty much in one area, except for one. And that one is residential.”
Donohue tried to get a look at the map, but Ellison and Larabee blocked his way with their size. As he tried to work his way to Chris’ left, Vin Tanner slid smoothly in front of him, pointing to the map.
“What type of area are the rest of the buildings?”
“Warehouse district and light industrial. Most of those buildings have been vacant for months, some for a couple of years.”
Donohue moved in the other direction, only to be blocked again, this time by Nathan Jackson, team 7’s resident medic.
“Do any of these warehouses have waterway access?” he asked, not oblivious to the FBI agent’s frustration, just ignoring it.
“Yes, these two,” Ellison replied, pointing out two buildings on a photo pinned on the board. The four men where soon joined by the others, each new arrival pushing Donohue further from the board that was the center of the conversation.
The ATF team and Cascade PD members turned as one to face an irate FBI man. “That's 'Agent Larabee' to you.” Chris asked quietly.
Donohue flushed at the remark, humiliated that he wasn’t given the same courtesy Larabee afforded to Ellison. He momentarily forgot what he intended to say. When his silence continued, Chris raised an eyebrow. “Was there something you wanted to say, Agent Donohue?”
That got the FBI man’s attention and his anger manifested itself as he tried to take control of the situation. “Agent Larabee, I am the liaison here. I demand to be included in all aspects of this case.
“Oh, shit,” Buck muttered as he backed toward the door.
Chris glanced over at Ellison and Banks, who were shaking their heads in disgust. Looking back at Donohue, Larabee took a couple of steps toward the fed, his team moving out of his way. Jim could hear them muttering under their breath about Donohue’s stupidity and the quickest way to raise Chris’ wrath. He even heard the fashion plate place a bet with Tanner, who shook his head and made a counter bet. Larabee continued to advance on Donohue, finally causing the little man to take a step back.
“Agent Donohue, you are here strictly as a courtesy. Since we are not familiar with the area and the Seattle ATF office didn’t have an agent available to assist us, your office was requested to act as liaison because of your previous dealings with Captain Banks and his unit. However, as of this point, I believe Detective Ellison and I can handle it.” Larabee continued to back Donohue toward the door. “Contrary to the disparaging remarks you made about the detective and his colleagues, my own research indicates that they are just the team I need.”
“Yeah, if you want to have your case blow up in your face,” the agent replied with a sneer.
“Why you…” Jim began to march over to take a piece out of Donohue’s hide, only to be stopped by a hand against his chest. Vin Tanner’s hand. The sharpshooter gave him a half-smile and shook his head, then held up a finger and point at his team leader as if to say “just watch, you’ll enjoy this.”
And indeed he did.
“It seems to me that Jim and I are doing just fine. From what I’ve seen, they have a good start in pulling together just the information we need.” Chris continued, not paying attention to the others in the room. He advanced another step. Josiah moved a chair out of Donohue’s path, wanting to be sure the slimy little man didn’t trip.
“So, since Jim and I are getting along so well, we really don’t need a liaison.”
“Listen, Larabee, you might be a hotshot with the ATF, and Ellison might have everyone here fooled into thinking he’s the greatest thing since electricity, but the FBI has a right to know what happens with this case.”
Larabee’s voice got even quieter and his steps slower, but still kept Donohue moving backward. His eyes we ice-cold. “The FBI has the right to know exactly what I feel they need to know, which at this point is absolutely nothing.”
“Now wait a minute here! We don’t even have basic information on this case!”
“Good. Then you can’t interfere. I need a team that can work together, not fight each other. Your obvious hatred for Detective Ellison and his colleagues assures me you won’t be able to work with him…not the sign of a true professional, by the way. And your blatant prejudicial remarks regarding hair length, education and sexual preference only show your ignorance. I don’t really care about anyone’s private life, as long as they do their job and don’t risk the lives of my team. I don’t trust that you can do that. I don’t trust you to be able to find your ass without someone leading you to it.” Two more steps took Donohue to the door, with Larabee just an inch away, nose to nose with the obnoxious agent.
“We don’t need or want your help on this one. So just go back to your little office and stay the hell away from my case.” Chris put his finger against Donohue’s chest and gave a small push, causing the FBI agent to stumble back several steps. Before he could regain his balance, Chris walked away, allowing Buck to shut and lock the door. Chris walked back over to the map and photos. “Now, where were we?”
Silence reigned for five seconds. Then they heard a choking sound. The others turned to look at Blair, who was trying not to laugh out loud. The look of unholy glee adorning Chris’ face perfectly matched the one on Jim’s. Those twin expressions aborted Blair’s efforts and his laughter started the others to chuckle, which turned into full-fledged laughter from all the men in the room. In the hallway, Donohue heard their laughter and knew it was aimed at him. Cursing, he turned on his heel and stalked off down the hallway. Back in the conference room, Banks was chewing on the end of an unlit cigar, satisfaction on his face.
“Damn, Larabee, I haven’t had that much fun in ages. I enjoyed that.”
After the laughter subsided, Chris turned to his youngest member. “JD, be sure to put a security lock on everything regarding this case. I don’t want that asshole able to gain access to any part of our information.”
“Already on it, Chris. I initiated that lock right after we met him.”
“Good man. Okay, Jim, let’s sit down and compare notes.”
Blair was rooting through his backpack, looking for a pack of gum he’d dropped in there the week before, pulling out books and notebooks in his quest. Across the table, Josiah spotted an item that looked familiar.
“May I?” he asked, reaching for a book that Blair had pulled from his pack.
“Huh? Oh, sure. Are you interested in anthropology, Josiah?” he asked.
“Ah, yes. In my younger days, I traveled the world, mingling with lost tribes and indigenous peoples. I dare say, some of those ‘savages’ are more civilized than the majority of the human race.” Josiah flipped through the book wistfully. “The Kazunka tribe. Oh, the memories that one brings back. I was almost betrothed to the Chief’s daughter, only because I had the misfortune of sneezing as she walked by.”
Blair smiled at the older man. He’d remembered making innocent mistakes just because he was ignorant of local customs. Never anything major, but tribes didn’t like it when you trampled on their traditions, intentional or not. “So you’re an anthropologist, Josiah.”
“I used to be,” he said somewhat sadly.
“Oh, you still are. You just study a different tribe.”
“Indeed, Brother Sandburg, indeed," Josiah answered with a smile.
Blair found the gum and pulled a piece from the pack, offering it to Josiah, who declined. He unwrapped the piece and popped it in his mouth.
“So how did you get from anthropologist to ATF agent?”
“Divine intervention, you might say. While working at Berkeley, I was asked to assist the San Francisco Police when one of their cases involved some elements that fell under my area of expertise. While assisting with the case, I became intrigued with the working of the criminal mind. I began to seek out opportunities to get more information, as I hoped to write a paper on the subject.”
“Wait! Josiah Sanchez! You did write that paper, ‘Behind the Eyes: The Workings of a Criminal Mind.’” Blair exclaimed. “I read that article. It was a masterpiece! It’s standard reading for the Psych 101 classes at Rainier.”
“See, Josiah, I told you it wasn’t just gathering dust in college libraries,” Nathan remarked as he sat down, having heard Blair’s critique. “And that article is one of the reasons Chris asked you to join the team."
“Really? Cool.” Blair said.
“Yes. I was so impressed with Josiah’s insights into the criminal mindset, that I asked him to help me on a case.” Larabee interjected. “The rest, as they say, is history. I found his understanding of your basic slime-ball to be incredibly accurate. So I asked him to join my team as a profiler. Although, the fact that he can shoot better than your average cop didn't hurt.”
Josiah was blushing slightly, but enjoyed the warm laughter that surrounded him.
“I must agree with you, Chris,” Simon Banks said from the door of his office. “Having Blair around has helped us in ways I never imagined. His knowledge and observations have enabled us to solve several cases that had come to a standstill.” Now it was Blair’s turn to blush.
“Well maybe we’re onto something here. We should tell every police department to hire an anthropologist.”
He and Simon looked at each other for several seconds, then chorused, “Nah. Why give up our edge.” Everyone laughed.
The next morning, everyone was again gathered into the conference room, going over their notes, when Rhonda stuck her head in. “Jim, I’m sorry to disturb you, but Detective Munson is on the phone. He says it’s important. Line two.”
“Thanks, Rhonda.” Jim picked up the phone and punched the appropriate extension. “This is Ellison.”
“Jim, sorry to disturb you.”
“Not a problem, Stan,” Jim replied, “what’s up?”
“Well, we got a DB down in the warehouse district. The victim has several warrants out for his arrest for various gun charges. I heard that you’re working on a case right now with the ATF, and thought I’d give you a head’s up, just in case it was connected.”
“Stan, hold on just a minute, okay?” Jim turned to Chris. “It’s Stan Munson, one of our Homicide detectives. He may have something.” Jim quickly put the call on the speakerphone. “Stan, I’ve put you on the speaker. Agent Larabee and his team are all here. Repeat what you just told me.”
“Okay,” came the gruff voice out of the phone. “Patrol units found a DB this morning in the warehouse district. He’s been dead about twelve hours. The victim is wanted on gun charges. I’d heard that the ATF was in town working on a case, and I’d thought I’d call in case it was connected.”
“Detective, this is Larabee. What’s the victim’s name?”
“ID says he’s Dixon Harper.”
Chris nodded. “Yeah, it’s probably connected. Harper is a known associate of the guy we’re after. Where was the body found?”
“It’s the old cannery warehouse, down on Vine and Pincer.”
Blair, who had been standing over by the map when the call came in, quickly found the area and pointed it out for the ATF agents. JD quickly compared the address with the list of properties that had been purchased by Doyle’s front corporations. He shook his head at Chris, indicating that it wasn’t on the list.
“Shit,” the team leader murmured. “Detective Munson, Jim and I will be out there in just a little while. Can you contain the scene until then?”
“Can do, Agent Larabee,” came the reply from the seasoned detective. “Do you want me to hold back the forensics people until you get here?”
Chris thought for a second, then replied, “No, go ahead and do your investigation as normal, just don’t let the coroner remove the body til we get there.”
“Will do, Agent.” Munson hung up and Chris went over to study the board. “So Harper was found in this area?” he pointed out the area Blair indicated. “Did Doyle purchase anything around the area?”
JD and Blair consulted their list. Blair indicated one address on the list. “This would be the closest.” He found the corresponding pin in their map. “Right here.”
All the agents moved closer to the board. “But that’s halfway across town from Doyle’s other properties. What was Harper doing there?” Vin asked.
“Don’t know, Vin, but I have a bad feeling about this,” Chris said. He started barking out orders. “Jim, Blair, Vin, Buck and I will go down to the murder scene. JD, you and the others keep digging through the ownership records. Find out who owns that property and the surrounding ones. See if there’s anything that can link to Doyle or Harper. And see if you can track Harper’s movements for the last six months. I want to know where he’s been and who he’s been dealing with.” Everyone nodded their understanding. The group headed out to the murder scene.
Twenty minutes later, the van carrying Jim, Blair and the members of the ATF arrived at the scene. Blair could see the required ‘crime scene – do not cross’ tape strung up around the area. Showing their badges to a uniformed officer, the five men ducked under the tape. They were met by a tall, stocky man wearing a suit. He held out his hand to Jim.
“Jim, good to see you.”
“You too, Stan. Thanks for the call. Stan, this is Agent Chris Larabee of the ATF. Chris, Detective Stan Munson, Homicide.” The two men shook hands and Stan brought them up to date on what he had so far.
Vin and Buck were behind them, trying not to openly stare at the homicide detective. Buck leaned over and whispered to Vin. “What did they say his name was again?”
Blair chuckled, having overheard Buck’s comment. “It’s Munson, but I know what you’re thinking. The first time I met him, I accidentally called him ‘Detective Munster’ by mistake. He does look a lot like Fred Gwynne, doesn’t he?” Blair said, referring to the actor that played Herman Munster in the classic television series.
Vin leaned toward Blair. “Has anyone ever mistaken him for the dead body at one of these scenes? I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone that pale that actually had a pulse.”
Blair laughed. “No, but he did real good last year at the Cascade PD’s haunted house. Scared the hell out of the ladies from the Rotary Club. They thought the morgue had loaned us a real body, til he sat up in his ‘coffin’ and started talking to them. Luckily, the PD had paramedics on stand-by with smelling salts. The mayor’s wife was unconscious for about five minutes.” Buck and Vin both smiled, able to picture the sight.
Stan turned to Blair. “Well, well, if it isn’t the big, bad professor,” the detective said, his sarcastic tone belied by the humor in his eyes. The smile on Blair’s face and Ellison’s relaxed manner told the ATF men that this was friendly joking between the two physically mismatched men.
“Watch it, Herman, or I’ll have Grandpa pull your plugs” Blair quipped. The big man grinned at the name, having been called that many times by his fellow officers. Giving Blair a gentle punch on the shoulder, he motioned to the others. “Let’s head on over and you can verify if this is the guy you think it is.
As the ATF agents followed Munson over to the body, they didn’t notice Jim stopping to look at something on the ground. Blair was right next to him.
“What is it, Jim?” his partner asked softly.
“There’s a cigar butt on the ground here, Chief. Have you got an evidence bag on you?”
Blair rolled his eyes at Jim. Since riding along with Jim, evidence bags and gloves were a constant presence in Blair’s backpack. Pulling out the requested bag, Blair handed it to Jim after the cop had pulled on a pair of gloves. Picking up the tiny portion of cigar, Jim sniffed it. “It’s still fairly pungent.”
Blair took a sniff. “To you maybe. It’s kinda faint to me.”
“That means it probably hasn’t been here long. If the victim’s been dead about twelve hours, then it could have been left real close to the time of death.” Jim put the butt in the evidence bag, then stuffed it in his pocket. He’d give it to forensics later.
Meanwhile, Chris and the others had followed Stan back to the body. They saw a slim, redheaded woman checking the body and the area around it. She looked up, ignoring the strangers and directing her attention to Detective Munson.
“Stan, did you see the tattoo this guy has on his left arm?”
“Yeah, Wells, I saw it. What about it?”
“Well, it’s obviously the sign of a devil worshipper. Maybe this guy was killed by some kind of satanic cult,” the woman said, clearly expecting the detective to agree with her reasoning. Stan just rolled his eyes and shot an embarrassed glance at Chris, as Vin knelt down by the body to get a better look.
“Hell, darlin,” Buck said, “one of my lady friends had a tattoo of a playboy bunny on her behind, that don’t mean she was one.”
The woman turned her head and glared at Buck. “My name is not ‘Darlin’ and who asked you anyway?” she asked with a sneer.
“Is this your partner, Detective Munson?” Chris asked the man.
“Hell, no,” Stan answered, horrified at the prospect. “This is Cassie Wells, our Chief of Forensics.”
“If you aren’t a detective, then maybe you better stick to finding evidence and let the investigators do the theorizing,” Chris told Cassie.
Cassie flushed at the dressing down, but backed down at the look in his eyes. Trying to avoid his gaze, she looked around and noticed Vin near the body. “Hey, get away from there. What do you think you’re doing?” She was about to try and get Vin away from the body, when an arm reached out to pull her back. She turned and looked into Jim Ellison’s eyes.
“He’s doing his job, Wells,” he said softly. “Back off before you make a bigger fool of yourself than you already have.”
She jerked her arm away from Jim’s grasp. “I would expect that kind of remark from you, Jim. What’s the matter, you don’t have enough to do in Major Crime? You have to go sticking your nose into another department’s cases? Or are you just afraid that someone other than you might just solve a crime?”
Jim took a deep breath, trying to get his temper under control. He indicated Chris, who was watching the two of them with narrowed eyes. “This is Agent Larabee with the ATF. He’s in charge here. I suggest you do whatever he tells you, and only what he tells you, because he won’t put up with your interference in his investigation.”
“This is a homicide. Why is the ATF involved?” she asked.
Larabee answered. “That information is on a need-to-know basis. Right now, you don’t need to know.”
“This is my crime scene, so how can you tell me that I don’t need to know?”
Jim threw his hands up in the air, indicating to Chris that he gave up. Chris sighed and motioned Jim and Stan a few feet away. They quietly conversed as Blair tried to talk Cassie into simmering down.
“Cassie, chill out. You can’t just try and butt into their case like you do Jim’s.”
“Blair’s right, darlin,” the ladies man turned an engaging smile on Cassie. “It don’t pay to upset Chris.”
“I told you not to call me that!” Cassie raised her voice. “You feds just come charging in like you own the place, and start ordering everyone around. Then you think you can placate the ‘little woman’ with some charming words and a smile. I’ll thank you to keep your opinions to yourself.”
Vin shook his head at Blair and Buck. His instincts told him that this woman wouldn’t listen, and he was right. Cassie didn’t seem to notice that Chris had stopped talking and was listening to her tirade. The team leader nodded at Munson, who moved off to make a call. Vin knew that Chris had come to a decision.
Chris and Jim approached Cassie. “Ms. Wells, where is the evidence you’ve collected so far?”
“In the box,” Cassie said, pointing to a cardboard box that was sitting near.
“You will leave it here. You will pack up the rest of your equipment and leave. I’m officially removing you from this case. Detective Munson is calling in another one of your forensics people to finish up here.”
“What? You can’t do that!”
“I just did,” Chris said flatly.
“I’m the Chief of Forensics.”
“I don’t care if you’re the Chief of Police. I’m a federal officer. This is my case and what I say goes.”
“Captain Banks will have something to say about this,” she said.
“Feel free to go to Captain Banks, if you wish. But I had better not see you involved in any part of this investigation. You will not in any way handle the evidence from this crime scene.”
“And if I do?” she asked nastily.
“Then I’ll have you brought up on charges of interfering in a federal investigation. As a member of law enforcement, I’m sure you have an idea what the penalties for that are. Vin, please escort Ms. Wells to her vehicle.”
Cassie looked around, but saw no sympathy from the members of the department. Muttering under her breath, she gathered her stuff and stomped to her car. The men watched in silence as she squealed her tires. She raced away, narrowly missing one of the patrol cars parked nearby. The officer standing next to it had to hop up on the hood to avoid being hit.
Blair knew what would happen, but couldn’t resist the dig. “Geez, Jim, have you been giving her driving lessons, or what?” he asked his partner. He didn’t even try to duck as Jim cuffed him up side the head. Blair's chuckle eased the tension that Cassie's departure had left behind.
The next morning, team 7 left their hotel early, stopping by a bakery they’d spotted the day before. They chose a large assortment of doughnuts and muffins to take with them. At Nathan’s urging, Chris doubled the number of the whole-grain bagels that the dark-skinned medic preferred. Nathan had discovered that Blair was just as health conscious as Nathan in what he ate. Nathan figured the young observer would appreciate the gesture. He was right.
“Oh, cool, Delphi’s bakery! Got any bagels?” He searched through the pastry boxes, finally choosing one of the bagels. “Man, these are the best!” he said, taking a huge bite. “Thanks, Chris.”
“No problem,” Chris said, taking a bite of his jelly donut. He absently brushed sugar from his shirt, unknowingly mimicking Jim’s movements, as the detective tried to get the powdered sugar from his own shirt.
“Um,” Vin said, sinking his teeth into a maple-covered pastry. “Good stuff.”
“Do you have any idea what that’s doing to your insides?” two voices echoed in perfect harmony. Everyone in the room stopped, staring at Nathan and Blair.
“Well, hell’s bells,” Buck quipped. “It’s in stereo.”
“Nathan is bad enough,” Vin said, pulling out another doughnut. “But Blair too?” Vin took another bite of his treat, unconcerned with the warnings about his innards.
“Try listening to it 24-7,” Jim said with a smile. “I live with Blair, so I’m constantly hearing lectures about the importance of good eating.”
“So how do you handle it,” Chris asked with a smile.
“He sneaks down to Wonderburger and thinks I don’t know it.” Blair quipped.
“A man’s gotta have some enjoyment in what he eats, Chief. And as good as your ostrich chili is, sometimes I just gotta have a triple deluxe with the works.”
JD’s hand stopped in mid-air, his muffin halfway to his mouth. “Ostrich chili?” he said, a look of horror on his face.
“Yeah, man, it’s great, JD. I’ll have to make you guys some before you leave,” Blair insisted.
“Uh, thanks for the invite, pard…” Buck trailed off, his statement clearly stating that no ostrich chili was gonna make it anywhere near his lips.
“Actually, it’s pretty good, Buck,” Jim said. “You can’t really even taste the difference.”
“I can guaran-damn-tee I won’t taste the difference, cuz I’m not eating ostrich chili. No offense, Blair. And Josiah,” Buck said, eyeing the older man's contemplative statement, “don’t you even think about putting it in your next batch of chili.”
After the laughter had subsided, Chris got down to business. “Okay, everyone, let’s go over what we’ve got.” He waited until everyone was seated at the conference table. “JD, did we have any luck tracking the ownership of the warehouse?”
When the men had sat down at the conference table, Ezra had fallen back into a nervous habit of his and pulled out a deck of cards. He absently shuffled the deck, practicing his palming techniques. The actions allowed his mind to roam and his thoughts usually became clearer. He didn’t notice that his actions had Blair fascinated. He watched Ezra as Ezra watched the cards. But both men heard what was going on around them.
“We traced the company that owns it and the four other warehouses in the area, Chris.” JD explained. “But there’s been no change of ownership for five years. And the company that owns them doesn’t seem to have any ties to either Doyle or Harper.”
Jim had a thought. “JD, you said there’s been no change in the ownership of the warehouses. But what about the companies themselves, have they changed ownership recently?”
JD shook his head. “I thought of that. But there’s been no movement in the board of directors or the company leadership. Nothing in the financial records to indicate any kind of changes like that.”
“What about Harper?” Chris inquired. “What did we find out about his actions for the last few months?”
“He’s been in New York for the last two months, up until last week,” Josiah said. “Then he came out here. Before New York, he'd spent most of the last year in Toronto. We can’t find any evidence that Doyle and he have been in touch with each other yet, but both of them showing up in Cascade at the same time pretty much rules out coincidence.”
“I agree.” Chris said. “So the question is, what was Harper doing at that warehouse and who killed him? What is going on at that warehouse, and why is there no movement at the ones owned by Doyle? And, does Doyle know Harper’s dead?"
“Josiah, have you ever heard of the Krashot tribe in New Guinea?” Blair asked, startling the others with the abrupt change in subject. Chris was about to say something, but a slight movement from Vin stopped him. The sharpshooter was shaking his head, indicating to Chris to let the conversation continue. Chris trusted Vin’s judgment, and hoped Blair’s question was going to lead to something helpful.
“Um, I remember reading about them, but it was some years ago,” Josiah answered hesitantly. When Chris didn’t interrupt, he continued. “Weren’t they a nomadic tribe, constantly moving?”
“Yeah. The tribal elders always planned years in advance where they were going to move. Warriors routinely made, to use a military term, recons, and sometimes ‘supply drops’, at the different sites, preparing for the eventual move. Sometimes they would even put up crude shelters, sort of laying the foundation for future residency.”
“Yes.” Josiah was still unsure where Blair was heading with this and it showed in his statement.
“Okay, hear me out. You guys said that Doyle was extremely intelligent.”
“Yeah, supposedly he’s a genius.” Chris nodded, waiting for the young man to continue.
“Well, with the business he’s in, Doyle obviously knows that he needs to keep moving around. He’ll have a home base for a while, but knows that eventually things are gonna get too hot and he’ll have to relocate. He’s probably prepared for just such an eventuality. He’s probably been prepared for it for years. Laying the foundation, buying properties, residences even. Getting ready for the move he knows he’ll have to make. He probably has several cities that he has set up to move into. Cascade probably isn’t the only one.”
Buck ran a hand over his face. “You think maybe he’s not here? That he led us on a wild goose chase and he’s set up shop somewhere else?”
“No, he’s here,” Vin stated. “I can feel it.”
“I have to agree with Vin,” Chris said. “He’s here. But we’re missing something.”
“But if he’s got places that he already owns, why buy up more? It led us to Cascade.” JD asked.
Once again, it was Blair that provided the clue. Something Ezra had just done with the cards caught Blair’s eye, and his thoughts tumbled out before he could think. “Maybe he’s stacking the deck,” he murmured, staring at Ezra's hands.
“What?” Chris asked in surprise. “What do you mean?”
“You guys have a reputation. Doyle knows that reputation. He obviously figured that your team wasn’t going to give up just because he left Denver. He’d be expecting you to have followed him here and be digging into his business.”
“Reckon so,” Vin said, trying to guess at what was going on in Blair’s mind.
“So what if, knowing that, Doyle was stacking the deck in his favor. He knew you’d be tracking all real estate purchases being made in the area. He makes it difficult for you to find those properties, but not so difficult that’s it’s impossible.” Reaching over to the cards in front of Ezra, he reaches for one of the face cards. “He deals you the king,” he said, throwing the card onto the table, “to let you think you’re getting a winning hand. Doing so, he hopes you won’t notice that ace up his sleeve.” Blair reached over and pulled the ace that Ezra had surreptitiously slipped up the sleeve, the action being what caught Blair’s eye.
He laid the ace down on the table, face up. Everyone stared at it for several seconds. Then a soft exclamation came from the team leader.
“Son of a bitch. He’s been playing us like an easy mark in a con.”
“I disagree, Chris,” Jim said. “If you guys were an easy mark, he wouldn’t be going to this much trouble. He’s doing it because he knows that you guys are a formidable enemy.”
“But why bother to do that at all?” Nathan asked. “If he had things set up, why didn’t he just lay low. We tracked him to Cascade because of those real estate holdings.”
“But if he hadn’t,” Jim asked, “would you guys have given up? Or would you have kept digging?”
“I fear Mr. Sandburg is quite correct in his supposition, gentlemen. Mr. Doyle has proven his creativity in circumventing law enforcement in previous encounters with our counterparts. He left us a trail we could and probably would follow, in order to prevent us from finding that which he is determined to keep hidden.”
“Speak English, Ezra.” Buck complained.
Ezra rolled his eyes. “In terms that Mr Wilmington can understand, you may recall that infernal game with the cups and the nut. You try to figure out which cup the nut is under? Well, invariably, the operator of said game keeps your attention focused on one hand that is shifting the cups around…”
JD finished, “So you won’t notice that his other hand took the nut out from under the cup.”
“Precisely. Slight of hand. It’s the oldest con in the book, and Mr. Doyle has taken it to new heights.”
Vin was still confused about something. “But if he was trying to hide the fact that he owns the warehouses around where Harper was killed, why leave the body of a known associate out where it was bound to be discovered? That would just draw police attention to that area.”
“If I may answer that, Mr. Tanner, that game I mentioned before has three cups. If the nut isn’t found under the first cup and the second cup appears too obvious…”
“Then there’s a third cup, and we’re just not seeing it.” Chris surmised. “JD, you, Ezra and Blair get back on those computers. Get a list of all the buildings in the area and surrounding municipalities that could suit Doyle’s needs. Cross-reference and double- check the name of every company, board member, everyone. Try and find any possible connection to Doyle or Harper, no matter how off-the-wall. The rest of us will go back through the info we already have. I want to double-check every name.”
“You got it, Chris,” JD said enthusiastically. As he rose from his seat, he accidentally bumped Ezra’s arm. Unfortunately, that caused the coffee cup that the southerner was holding to tilt, and coffee spilled down the front of Ezra’s white silk shirt.
“Damn,” the man said, leaping to his feet. He grabbed a bunch of napkins off the table to try and catch some of it, but he knew the damage was already done.
“Gee, I’m real sorry, Ezra,” JD said apologetically.
“Quite alright, Mr. Dunne. Accidents happen. It is unfortunate that I don’t have another shirt with me, though.”
“I’ve got one you can borrow, Ez. It’s in the van.” Buck offered with a snicker.
Ezra raised one eyebrow. “Thank you for your kind offer, Mr. Wilmington,” he said with false sincerity, “But the day I find myself ensconced in any portion of your wardrobe is the day that I will know that the world has ended, judgment has been meted out and I have been delivered to hell.” Everyone laughed at the look on Buck’s face.
“I think he means ‘no thank you’, Buck.” Chris chuckled.
Rafe stepped up next to Ezra. “I’ve got an extra shirt in my locker, Ezra. Come with me and you can change.”
Ezra flashed a grateful smile at Rafe, knowing that anything owned by him was better than Buck’s ‘real-men-wear-hawaiian’ attire. “Thank you, Mr. Rafe. I am greatly appreciative of your offer.”
“No problem,” he said as he and Ezra walked out the door of the conference room. “I’ve also got some stuff in my desk that’ll get that stain right out. I’ll grab it and we’ll set your shirt to soaking…” Rafe’s sentence trailed off as the two men walked out of earshot of the other men.
“Well, if that isn’t sweet,” Buck said. “Looks like Ezra’s found a new friend.”
As everyone turned back to their tasks, Vin leaned over toward Chris. Nodding his head toward Blair, he whispered, “Now I see why they keep the little fella around. He’s smart as a whip.” Chris nodded his agreement. Neither man noticed Jim’s proud smile at the words.
Several hours later
The exclamation from their youngest member shattered the quiet and caught everyone’s attention.
“Did you find something, JD?” Chris asked rather unnecessarily.
“I think so, Chris. Ricer Securities LTD owns the warehouse closest to where Harper was found. The company president is a man named Nicholas Ballentine. Doyle has two brothers, Nicholas and Gregory. And their maternal grandmother’s maiden name was Ballentine.” He looked at Chris and shrugged. “You said however off the wall it seemed.”
“Yeah, I did, JD. Good job. So we have a tie between that warehouse and Doyle.”
“The other brother is named Gregory?” Blair asked, looking at the printout in his hand.
“You got something, Chief?” Jim looked over at his partner.
“Maybe.” Blair said. “There’s another warehouse down near Front Street. It’s owned by Majestic Imports. The president of Majestic is Gregory Summers.”
JD entered some commands into his computer and was rewarded by an affirmative answer. “That’s it. Summers was the maiden name of their paternal grandmother.”
“Good. Blair, where are these warehouses?” Chris asked, going over to their map. Blair pointed them out. Chris was considering his options when a knock sounded on the door and Rhonda poked her head in.
“Excuse me. I’m going to be heading home in about thirty minutes. Did you guys want me to order out for some dinner for you before I leave?” she asked.
Blair, Henri and Rafe all stared at the woman, having been on the receiving end of her ‘I’m the Captain’s secretary, not yours’ lecture before. Only Jim seemed unsurprised by her suddenly helpful attitude. The ATF agents smiled at her, unaware that this was not normal behavior for Rhonda.
“That would be very nice, ma’am, thank you.” Chris said. “Does Chinese sound okay to everyone?” While Rhonda went around taking orders, Blair stepped up to Jim.
“Okay, buddy, talk. What’s got you smirking like a demented canary? If you know why she’s acting like this, tell me,” he said softly.
Jim looked around to make sure no one overheard him. “From what I overheard,” he whispered, “Rhonda happened to be walking behind Rafe earlier when he went into the men’s room to give Ezra his shirt. Rhonda apparently got an eyeful of a bare-chested Ezra and has been regaling the other women about his ‘gorgeous physique, impeccable manners and sexy accent’, I believe was the quote. I think she’s smitten.”
“Oh, man,” Blair chuckled, looking over to where Buck was once again trying to charm the woman. “Buck doesn't have a chance.”
Jim snickered. “Simon’s got a better chance of becoming the Easter Bunny, than Buck does of getting a date with Rhonda,” he said, just before the woman in question approached them for their order.
Once the orders were taken, Chris pulled out a company credit card and handed it to Ezra. “Go with her and help her bring everything back, Ez.”
“Certainly, Mr. Larabee,” the undercover agent replied, taking the credit card and following Rhonda out of the room.
“Aw, Chris, now why’d ya go and do that for? I could have gone with her just as easily.” Buck said.
“I know, Buck,” Chris said with a smirk. “But I’m trying to keep on friendly relations with this department.” He turned to Ellison. “Jim, have you got any informants in town that may have an inside track to what went down with Harper? I’d sure like an idea of why he was killed and who did it.”
Jim nodded. “Yeah. Sneaks would probably know. He hangs around the warehouses a lot.”
“Can you set up a meeting?”
“Yeah, I can do that.”
“Okay. I’d really prefer it if one of my guys went along with you. Will your informant be okay with it if Buck or JD comes with you?”
“Sneaks is pretty laid back. He trusts me. Either one of them can join me. Let me go make a call.” Jim headed out of the conference room.
Chris looked at the two men in question. “Buck, why don’t you go with him. As for the rest of us, I think we need to stake out the warehouse on Front Street.”
“It might be a good idea to also keep an eye on the warehouse where Harper was found. If Doyle is the one that killed him, he didn’t leave the body there by accident. He may be planning to use that property, figuring that we’d believe finding a corpse there would make it too obvious. If we think Doyle won’t go back there, chances are that’s exactly where he’ll be.”
Chris nodded at his profiler, bowing to the man’s expertise. He looked at his watch. It was close to five o’clock. It would be six by the time they finished dinner “Okay. Nathan, you and Henri go to the warehouse on Front Street. Vin, you and Josiah take the one where Harper was found. At midnight, Rafe and Ezra will relieve Nathan and Henri. Buck and JD will take over for Vin and Josiah. We’ll switch again at six am, Jim and I relieving Ez and Rafe. Vin, you and Nathan relieve Buck and JD.” The others all nodded and Chris turned to Blair. “Since you’re a civilian observer, Blair, I’m not gonna pair you up with one of my men, but you can join Jim and I in the morning.”
“I understand, Chris. I’ll be there,” he said, just as Jim returned from making his call.
“You’ll be where, Chief?”
“With you and Chris on stakeout in the morning.”
Jim nodded. “Okay, I’ve got a meet set up with Sneaks at 7:00 tonight. Who’s going with me?”
“That would be me, pard,” Buck said, leaning back in his chair. Blair looked down at Buck’s shoes. They were a pair of brand new cross trainers. Blair had priced them in the store at Christmas and knew they were expensive.
“Uh, Buck, you may wanna change shoes before you go to meet Sneaks. Jim’s got an extra pair in his locker that will probably fit you.”
“Hell, son,” Buck said, looking down with pride at his new shoes. “I just bought these. Don’t aim to leave them lying around while I wear a pair of someone else’s shoes.”
Blair tried again. “Buck, trust me, you don’t wanna wear those to this meeting. Take my word for it. You’ll regret it. Sneaks…”
Buck held up a hand, stopping him. “Blair, if I leave them behind, there’s always a chance that they’ll turn up missing. If they stay on my feet, then I’ll know they’re safe.”
Blair held up his hands in surrender. “Okay, man, but don’t say I didn’t warn you.”
A little while later, Ezra and Rhonda returned with the food. While they were eating their dinner, a pretty black woman poked her head in the door. “Jim, I got some info back on that cigar portion you found at the homicide scene earlier.”
Jim motioned her inside. “Guys, this is Serena Chang, one of our forensic techs.” He introduced her to the ATF officers. “So, what did you find?” he asked, indicating the evidence bag she was holding.
“I broke down the different type of tobacco used in the cigar. This particular blend can't be bought in the US. It’s only sold in a store in Innsbruck, Austria. They won’t even ship it out to other countries. You have to actually go there and buy the cigars. If you can find someone in Cascade that has a stash of these, you can pretty much place them at the scene. And you were right, it probably was left about the time the murder took place.”
Chris turned to Josiah. “Has Doyle or Harper been to Austria recently?”
“Nope. Neither of them has left the continent in the last year.”
“Okay. Serena, did the Medical Examiner determine a cause of death yet?”
She handed Chris a file. “I brought a copy of the autopsy with me. If you guys don’t need anything else tonight, I’m gonna head home. I’ll get started on the rest of it first thing tomorrow. Jim has my pager number if you need anything else.”
“Thanks,” Chris smiled. “I appreciate the quick work. Have a good evening.” She nodded and left the men to finish their meal.
After dinner was finished, they prepared to head out. The ones that had later stakeouts were going to do a little more digging before going to grab some sleep. The others prepared to grab a couple of motor pool cars and take up their posts.
“Chief, you about ready to head out?” Jim asked.
“Actually, Jim, since Buck is going with you, I thought I’d go with Vin and Josiah. If that’s okay with you guys?” he asked the two men. “I’d really like to talk to Josiah about some of his travels.” Vin and Josiah exchanged glances with Chris, then nodded.
“That would be fine, Blair,” Josiah said, laying a hand on the younger man’s shoulders. “I’d like that.” He looked at Jim. “We’ll drop him back off at your place when we’re relieved, Jim.”
As they got into the hall, Jim pulled Chris back a bit from the others. “Do you think Doyle will come back to the warehouse were Harper was found?”
“Josiah’s profile says it’s a possibility. And we need something, because right now we don’t have enough for a search warrant. If we can get positive proof that Doyle is involved, or that guns are being moved, then I can get the warrant. Until then, we’re stuck.” Jim nodded, but Chris suspected Jim wasn’t entirely satisfied and it had nothing to do with the case. “Are you okay with Blair going with them? Cause if you aren’t, I can tell him that I’ve reconsidered.”
“No, don’t do that. It’s just that, even though I consider him my partner, he is still just a civilian. I just feel better when he’s where I can see him. So I’ll know if he gets into any kind of trouble. I know, it probably sounds weird.”
Chris chuckled in consternation. “Actually, you sound like Buck with JD, and me with Vin. Sometimes I swear that both JD and Vin are wearing signs that say ‘trouble magnet – here’s your target.’ They’re both trained agents, and we still worry about them.”
“Now that does sound familiar. But let Blair go with them. He so rarely gets a chance to talk anthropology to anyone besides his students. Josiah’s probably got some great stories, and Blair loves stories.”
“Well, Josiah’s got some to tell,” Chris said as the two men moved down the hall. Neither one noticed the figure that was listening in the shadows.
"So, you actually spent six months with the Takuzi tribe in Africa?" Blair asked his fellow anthropologist as they sat in the borrowed vehicle with Vin Tanner, who was behind the wheel. Blair was in the backseat, leaning forward with his arms crossed over the back of the seat in front of him.
Josiah had been regaling Blair with tales of his years traveling around the Dark Continent. Tanner sipped slowly from a cup of coffee, also listening to Josiah's adventures while keeping an eye on the warehouse. Although Vin didn't contribute to the conversation, he was fascinated with Josiah's interaction with the various natives he'd encountered.
"Yes, six long, glorious months," Josiah replied. "I even joined them on several hunts. Of course, I was much younger then and was able to better keep up with them. I wouldn't want to try that today. I'd probably have a heart attack. I have trouble keeping up with Vin and JD when we go hiking."
Vin's only response was a slight grin as he took another sip of coffee.
"So, Vin, what did you do before you joined the team? You weren't an anthropologist too, were you?" Blair teased.
"Brother Vin studied man, but not in the same way," Josiah answered for the quiet sharpshooter. Tanner chuckled and turned to glance at the curious grad student. Normally Vin didn't talk much about his past, figuring it was no one else's business. But he liked Sandburg. The kid reminded him a bit of JD in his enthusiasm and energy.
Vin looked at Josiah and smiled, then turned his gaze back to Blair who was watching Tanner and trying not to be too impatient.
"I was a bounty hunter," he said simply.
"Whoa, cool! Like in the old west days, "wanted dead or alive" kinda thing? I've never met anyone who ever did that for a living. How did you pick your targets? Did you free lance or work for a bail bond company? Man, oh, man, I have so many questions!"
Josiah's laughter stopped Blair's rambling. He looked up to find both ATF Agents giving him bemused smiles. His face flushed in embarrassment.
"Ah, sorry, I get carried away sometimes. Vin, man, I would love to ask you some questions. Do you think we could talk before you go back to Denver? I promise to keep everything confidential."
When Tanner didn't answer right away, Josiah glanced over to see if the man had taken offense at Blair's request. He found Vin concentrating on the warehouse. Josiah followed his gaze, but didn't see anything—not all that surprising since Vin had the best eyesight on the team.
"What the hell is she doing here?"" he growled. Setting down his coffee cup, Vin reached up to flip the switch on the interior light so that it wouldn’t light up when he open his door. "Come on, Josiah," he said as he climbed out of the vehicle.
"Stay here, Blair," Sanchez said as he followed his teammate.
Blair watched the two men cautiously make their way toward the building. He pulled out his cellphone, checking to be sure it was fully charged. He then climbed into the front seat, feeling for the keys to see if Vin left them in the ignition. Yes, good, they keys were there. Now if he needed to move quickly he was ready. He wasn't sure whom Vin had seen but whoever it was, judging by Tanner's reaction, they were in for a great deal of trouble.
Cassie Wells ducked down when she got to the corner of the building. She didn't want to be seen by anyone inside. She was here for information gathering only. When she had overheard Ellison and Larabee talking about trying to get more intel on the warehouse, she decided to see what she could find out. If she could get some valuable info about what was inside the place, that ATF agent would have to see that she could be an asset to the investigation.
She moved around to the backside of the building, which faced the water. Just as she reached the door, a hand clamped down over her mouth, as another arm wrapped around her waist. Her startled cry was muffled by the hand covering her mouth, as she felt herself being lifted. Two men, the second grabbing her legs, carried her away from the warehouse, while she struggled to break their grip. They dropped down behind a large metal dumpster just as the headlights from a vehicle flashed over their location.
Tanner kept his hand over her mouth as Josiah held her down against the pavement. A large black Cadillac pulled up and parked near the door that Cassie had been near. Three men exited the car and entered the building, leaving a fourth man standing outside. The guard lit a cigarette and leaned against the Cadi, staring out across the water.
Cassie continued to struggle. Vin peeked out and saw the man who had been left to stand watch. He cursed under his breath, taking a quick look around them. There was no where to go without being seen. Another muffled scream came from Wells. Tanner leaned over her prone body, and brought him mouth close to her right ear. "Stop moving and shut the fuck up!" he whispered, the anger apparent in his tone. Her eyes widened at the threat in his voice.
From the van, Sandburg watched the building through binoculars and saw the Cadillac drive up and pull to the rear of the building out of sight. From his location he couldn't see what was going on, but he'd managed to get the plate number as the vehicle drove by. He debated calling Jim, but decided to wait a few more minutes to see if Tanner and Sanchez returned.
Ten minutes later, Blair still hadn't seen either agent or any further movement from the warehouse. He picked up the cellphone and hit the speed dial button.
"Jim, we may have a problem."
"What's up, Chief?"
"Vin saw somebody moving around the warehouse. He and Josiah went to check it out thirty minutes ago and haven't come back yet. And a car pulled up right after that and drove around to the back of the building. It's still there."
"Did you hear anything?"
"You mean like shots? No, no shots, no yelling, nothing. But I think Vin recognized the person. Before they left, he made a comment about what 'she' was doing here."
"Okay, look, I’m at the station now with Chris. We're on our way. Tell Vin to call if he gets back before we get there."
"Okay. I'm at the corner of Beach and Montrose, behind the old brewery."
"I know the place. We'll be there in fifteen minutes. And, Chief…"
"..stay in the truck."
"Just checking. Keep your head down."
"Can't see anything if I keep my head down, Jim."
"Bye, Jim," Blair remarked as he hit the end button.
Picking up the binoculars again, Blair took another look around. "Come on, guys," he muttered to the absent agents. He tapped his fingers on the steering wheel and rolled down the window, listening for any sounds out of the ordinary. Five minutes later, the Cadi drove out from behind the building. He watched it drive away and got back on the phone.
"Jim, that car just left going southbound on Dockside Drive."
"Any sign of Tanner or Sanchez?'
"Nothing. Man, I'm getting worried here."
"We'll be there in about seven minutes, Chief."
"Do you think they got caught?"
"We'll check it out when we get there. Give me a description of the car."
"Oh, man, I got the plate, hang on!" Sandburg reached for the paper he jotted the number on. "It's a black Cadillac, four door, Washington license 442LIT."
"Great. I'll call H and have him run it."
"Okay. Jim, hurry up, man. I don't like this…" Blair yelped as both passenger doors opened up.
"Chief! Sandburg!" Ellison yelling into the phone. "Blair, talk to me!"
"Sorry, Jim, it's Vin and Josiah. Hold on, I think Vin wants to talk to Chris." Blair handed the phone to Tanner telling him that Ellison and Larabee were already on the way. As Tanner took the phone, Blair saw Cassie Wells being pushed into the back seat. It looked like she was wearing handcuffs. Blair's eyes widened and he glanced at Josiah, who just shrugged as he slid in next to Wells.
"Hey, Cowboy, you okay?"
"Fine. We're coming back," Vin practically growled into the phone. His conversation was interrupted by Cassie's indignant whine.
"You have no right to arrest me! Get these cuffs off!"
"Miss, if I were you, I'd be quiet," Josiah advised.
"I will not be quiet! What are you charging me with?"
"Hold on, Chris," Tanner said. Pulling the phone from his ear, he turned around to face Cassie. His voice was low and direct. "Ms Wells, I am going to say this just once. Shut up or I will gag you." He glared at her for several seconds, daring her to open her mouth.
Cassie thought about saying something, but she looked at Tanner and decided not to. She was angry though and planned on making this arrogant federal agent pay for putting her in cuffs. How dare he treat her like a common criminal. And threatening to gag her! Well, we'll just see about that. She knew how Banks and Ellison felt about feds. Once they found out about how she'd been treated, they'd put these men in their place. She tried to catch her breath. The scare that these men had given her was causing her to hyperventilate.
Blair saw the look on her face. "Vin, you might want to take the cuffs off her," he suggested. Tanner turned a cold eye to Sandburg. "Sorry, man, I know you're pissed. But Cassie is an asthmatic. It looks like she's starting to have an attack. She has medication with her."
Vin turned to look at his prisoner, then nodded at Josiah. The big man reached into his pocket for the keys and released Cassie. She immediately pulled her inhaler from her pocket and took a couple quick breaths.
"Do you need to go to the Emergency Room?" Josiah asked in his quiet voice.
Cassie shook her head no and leaned her head against the back of the seat. "I'll be fine, thank you."
When she didn't say anything more, Vin turned back around and put the phone back to his ear. "Chris, we're heading back to the station. Meet us in the Captain's office."
"You sound upset, Vin."
"I reckon I am." Vin didn't say any more and Chris didn't push. He knew he'd get the full story in a few minutes.
"Okay, we'll meet you back at the station. Do you want me to send your relief early?"
“No point in it now. They’ve been here and gone. I doubt they’ll be back tonight.”
“Okay, cowboy. We’ll see you soon.”
Vin ended the call and turned to Blair. "Can you take us back to the station, Blair?"
"Of course." The ride back was silent. Sandburg wanted badly to question the ATF agents, but years of dealing with Jim Ellison had taught him not to press his luck. He'd hear it all when Jim did and he'd just have to be patient enough to wait for answers. As he turned back to start the van, he caught Josiah's eyes in the rear view mirror. The big man glanced at Cassie, then back at Blair and just shook his head in disgust.
Jim and Chris were waiting with Banks when the three men arrived with Cassie. Having zeroed in on Blair's heartbeat as soon as he entered the building, Ellison followed their movement up the elevator from the parking garage. As they walked into the bullpen, he confirmed what the problem was. He'd heard Vin's end of the conversation, having turned his hearing up, wanted to be sure Blair was okay. He hadn't said anything to Larabee since he wouldn't have been able to explain how he'd heard it. So he wanted until he could see them coming down in the door before he said anything.
Chris and Simon both turned and saw Jim looking out into the bullpen. Following his gaze, Chris narrowed his eyes at the sight of the redhead and Simon groaned.
Propelling Cassie toward the office with a hand on her elbow, Josiah followed Tanner and Sandburg, then closed the door behind him.
"Vin, why is this woman with you?" Larabee asked, as Josiah helped her to a seat.
"We found her sneaking around the warehouse."
"Josiah and I followed her to the back of the building. She was trying doors, looking for a way inside. We almost got caught when a vehicle drove up and several guys got out and went into the warehouse."
Chris whirled and glared at Cassie, causing her to jump in her seat. "And you didn't arrest her!?" he snarled.
"Actually, we did. She had an asthma attack, so we took the cuffs off so she could take her medication."
Chris nodded and continued to glare at the woman, who refused to look him in the eye after that first glare scared her so bad. She reached for her inhaler again and took a quick hit from it.
"Has she been read her rights?"
"I was there in an official capacity!" Cassie screamed, jumping from the chair, only to be pushed back into the seat by Josiah.
"Cassie, don't dig the hole any deeper, " Ellison suggested.
"Chris, if you will permit me," Banks interrupted.
For several seconds, Chris didn't acknowledge the Captain, then he took a deep breath and turned to face him.
"If it's alright with you, I'd like to handle disciplinary action in-house on this one. I guarantee that she won't interfere again." He looked over at Cassie. "And if she tries, I will recommend termination," he said, seeing the stunned looked on Wells' face when he said that.
Chris studied Simon's face then turned to his agents. "Vin, you and Josiah were the ones in the line of fire. How do you feel about this?"
"If we'd been thirty seconds later, we'd have been seen. One of the men there was Michael Stanley."
"Stanley? Isn't he one of Doyle's men?" Jim asked.
"Yes," Chris replied. "And he knows Vin, so it would have not only blown the operation, but probably would have gotten all three of them killed, maybe Blair, too." Chris turned to his other man. "Josiah?"
"Seems to me, she had no business being there. Even if she has an official capacity in the department, that capacity ended when the crime scene was cleared. And the building wasn't part of the crime scene."
"Simon, what do you suggest? 'Cuz I gotta tell ya, I'm tempted to just lock her up until we leave town."
"Forensics comes under our Support Bureau. Captain Hank Hanford is her immediate supervisor. I promise we will take your concerns to heart and she will not be allowed near this investigation. We'll make it an official written order if we need to. If she violates that order, it means immediate termination of employment."
"She could have gotten my men killed."
"I understand that and it will be taken into consideration. Let me talked to Hanford. I'll let you know what we come up with and if you're not satisfied, then you can proceed with your charges."
"Captain!" Cassie cried, again trying to get up, only to be forced back down again by Josiah. Banks and Larabee ignored her.
"Would it be possible for your men to write up a quick statement for me?" Banks asked.
"We can do that," Sanchez said. Vin waited until he got a nod from Chris before he motioned for Josiah to follow him out. Larabee walked over and stood next to Wells.
"Listen up and listen good. You were warned once to stay away from this case. You will not be warned again. If I see your face anywhere in the vicinity of this investigation, you will be arrested and charged with interfering with a federal investigation. You will be tried in a federal court, so your Cascade PD position will not help you." Chris lowered his face and bent over, putting his face only inches from Cassie's. "And if my men are put in danger because of that interference, I will shoot you. Do you understand me?"
Cassie raised her eyes to meet Larabee's, but found she couldn't hold his gaze. He had the coldest, deadliest eyes she'd ever seen. Unable to find her voice, she merely nodded. Chris slowly moved toward the door.
"Jim, I'll be in the conference room. I want to see what JD found on that vehicle that the boys saw." Ellison nodded. Chris closed the door behind him.
Nothing was said for a full minute, the tension thick in Larabee's wake. Finally, Simon took a deep breath and reached for his phone. Checking his Rolodex, he dialed Captain Hanford’s pager number and left his number for the man to return his call. He set the phone back down. "Wells, I think you should return to your office. Gather up everything you have on this case and give it to Serena. She'll be taking over for you until I speak with Captain Hanford."
Banks raised his hand. "Not a word, Wells. You screwed up. If I have my way, you'll be taking a bit of unpaid time off. Now get out of my office."
Cassie knew she wouldn't get any sympathy from Ellison, so she turned her gaze toward Sandburg. Blair just shook his head and looked away. She pushed up out of the chair and walked toward the door. Grabbing the knob, she pulled it open.
"I was only trying to help."
"Out. Now, Wells," Banks said reaching for his ringing phone as the forensics chief let the office. He looked at Jim and gestured for him and Blair to leave then answered the phone. "Banks. Yes, Hank, thanks for calling back so quickly. We need to talk about one of your people"
When Vin and Josiah walked into the conference room, the first thing they noticed was two large stocking feet propped up on the table.
"Damn it, Buck, get your stinkin' feet off the files," JD groused, smacking the other man on the leg.
"Really, Mr. Wilmington, I must protest your distinct lack of consideration regarding the air quality in this room," Ezra added.
"Hey, I had to sacrifice my brand new pair of shoes to that snitch," Buck snarled. "And we got some good information. So I am just gonna be comfortable and ignore the both of ya."
"Geez, Buck, did you drag a dead animal in here with you?" Tanner remarked, waving his hand in front of face. "Josiah, maybe you should call in a HazMat team."
"I don't think HazMat will be needed, but we'll probably have to fumigate when we leave. And Nathan may have to make sure everybody's tetanus shots are up-to-date." The others in the room laughed, except for Buck.
"Oh, hardy-har-har. You boys think you're so funny," he said. "At least Ellison and I didn't come back empty handed."
"Neither did we, Buck," Josiah said. "We even made an arrest."
"Actually, not an arrest yet," Chris interjected as he entered the room behind Josiah. "Banks want to handle the matter in house if possible, but is giving me final say-so after he talks to her supervisor. Buck, where the hell are your shoes?" Larabee stood over his oldest friend, a half-grin on his face. Ellison had already filled him in on what happened with the informant. Chris just wanted to see what type of embellishments Wilmington would add.
Buck lay a hand against his chest. "Alas, sacrificed for the good of the team, boss man."
"Buck," Chris said, disbelieving.
"I swear, Chris, that informant that Ellison and I went to see? Well, he won't take cash. He gets paid in shoes! I couldn't believe it when he started asking me what size they were."
"No wonder Blair refused to go," Josiah said.
"You got that right," Sandburg said as he and Jim joined the others. "I lost a brand new pair the first time I met him. I keep a pair of old, beat up tennies in Jim's locker now and change into them whenever we go see Sneaks."
"You coulda warned me kid," Buck growled.
"I tried, but you didn't want to hear it," Blair reminded him.
"Buck, you need to head back to the hotel and get another pair of shoes," Chris told him.
"I will, but first I want to hear Vin's story. Who got arrested?"
"No one, so far," Simon said as he entered the room and closed the door behind him. Turning to Chris he answered the Team Leader's unasked question. "Two week suspension, with written orders to stay away from the station, the case, any of the locations, and anyone involved in the case. Is that satisfactory?"
"Yes, thank you."
"Thanks for allowing me to handle it. She's obnoxious and interfering, but she does know her job…when she sticks to it and doesn't try to do the investigating herself."
"I don't want a repeat of what happened. She could have got my men killed. And herself," Chris reminded him.
"Whoa! What the hell happened?" Buck asked, pulling his feet down of the table. "Who almost got killed? Vin? Chris? What's going on?"
Larabee related the incident that had occurred at the warehouse. The story of Wells involvement was met with some anger, but all were satisfied with her punishment. JD silently apologized to his girlfriend, Casey Wells. Although the two women shared the same name, it was apparent that his girl was a lot sweeter than the one Ellison had to deal with. He nodded as Chris gave instructions to arrest her if she interfered again. She would not get another chance to compromise the case. Banks could only agree.
"Okay, now that that's settled Jim says you got some valuable info while you were out," Chris said as he turned to Buck
"That we did." Buck reached for some of the printouts that had been under his feet. "The man gave us a name that sounded familiar, so when I got back up here, I had JD run it." He flipped through the stack of pages before pulling several from the lot. "Remember, about six months ago, we got a memo from the New York office about an international player who suddenly surfaced?"
"Gunter Heichler, yeah," Chris nodded.
Buck looked at him. "How the hell do you remember that? Anyway, this Heichler guy is supposedly in Seattle looking to meet up with an arms dealer who just came in from Colorado."
"Heichler buys for overseas clients," Vin interjected. "He's suspected of supplying a majority of terrorist groups in the Middle East and North Africa. If Doyle is hooking up with him, he's moving into a whole new ballpark."
"Christ in a hand basket!" Buck spat. "How the hell do the two of you remember so much about a guy we only got one memo on?!"
"Actually, I don't remember the part about the terrorist groups," Chris said, turning to Tanner.
"It wasn't on the original memo," Vin admitted. "I did a little research one day while I was waiting for y'all to finish up some reports. I was curious, since he seemed to pop up outta nowhere."
"What did you find out, Vin?" Josiah asked from across the room where he was pouring himself a cup of coffee. He finished and joined the others as they took seats around the table.
"He's camera shy. No known photos of him and descriptions vary. He either uses disguises or alters his appearance in other ways on a pretty frequent basis. He's been described as blond, red headed, bald; with facial hair and without; stocky, thin; and anywhere from thirty to sixty years old. He reminds me a little of Ezra, the way he changes his appearance for each case. A regular master of disguise."
Ezra nodded at Vin to acknowledge the compliment.
"Did you get any ideas about how he works?" Josiah asked. As the team's profiler, Sanchez was the one who helped put together different scenarios about how their target would react in certain situations. Vin's instincts were good and he would probably have already formed some impressions about how the man worked.
"Well, he's careful; meticulous, well-organized, from everything I've read about him."
"Exactly like Doyle, in other words," Chris commented.
"Yeah. I reckon the two would probably get along well," Vin agreed. "Like two peas in a pod."
"Josiah, do you think we could get someone close to Heichler?" Chris asked.
"Might be tough," Sanchez said looking up from the pages in front of him. "According to this, he's kept the same folks around him since the New York office became aware of him. It could be hard to get someone new into his main circle close enough to get any useful information.” Chris nodded than turned to his undercover agent.
"Ezra? What do you think?"
The debonair, sharp dressed agent took a sip of coffee before looking at their leader. "I would need to speak to the agent in New York before I could offer an informed decision, Mr. Larabee. The tidbits we have gathered are sufficient as far as they go, but I require much more detail before entertaining the notion of attempting to infiltrate such a closed circle."
"Okay. Contact New York and see what you can find out. Then you and Josiah put your heads together and see what you can work up on the guy. If he is the reason Doyle is here, and it's sounding more and more likely, I want to cut their new partnership off at the knees."
"You're forgetting something here, Chris," Buck stated.
"You mean the fact that Doyle knows Ezra?" Chris asked with a small smile, knowing what was on the medic's mind. "I'm not forgetting. But Vin is right. Ezra is a master of disguise. Of course, I would leave the decision up to Ezra."
"I would require some supplies if you want me to alter my appearance enough to fool Doyle, Mr. Larabee," Standish said, warming to the idea of heading undercover once again.
"I could probably help there," Blair spoke up.
"Indeed, Mr. Sandburg? Do you have access to theatrical makeup and costuming?"
"Actually, I do," he said. Jim and Simon just grinned at the look of surprise on Ezra's face. "I teach at Rainier University, which just happens to have a national reputation for having one of the top drama departments in the western United States."
Ezra grinned, light glinting off his gold tooth. "Fantastic, my boy!" he declared, rubbing his hands together. "Do you know if your theatrics department has a collection of prosthetics and body suits?"
"Body suits, yes. I'll have to check on the prosthetics. I'll go give Heather a call." Sandburg got up and walked over to one of the phones on a side table.
"Heather?" Buck leaned his elbows on the table and glanced at Blair, than grinned at Ezra. "Ah, a boy after my own heart. Say, Ezra, I'll volunteer to be your backup when you go visit this stage beauty, Heather."
"Mr. Wilmington, until such time as you attire your lower appendages in proper footwear, I shall keep you at a measurable distance of at least 5280 feet while in view of the general population."
"Huh?" JD sputtered.
"In other words, he wants Buck to find some shoes before he'll be seen within a mile of him in public," Josiah supplied the explanation as Blair returned.
"Okay. Heather has an 8:00 class in the morning. She can meet us a little after 9:00 backstage."
"Excellent, Mr. Sandburg. I'll call New York first thing in the morning and determine if it would be feasible to venture into the midst of these denizens of the criminal world."
“Blair,” Josiah asked, “will this Heather understand the need for discretion in this matter?”
Blair nodded. “Heather’s dad is a detective down in Vice. She understands the need for secrecy. She’ll be cool.”
"Great," Chris said. "In the meantime, JD, you and the others keep going over the research on Heichler and see if you can come up with alternative angles. Maybe we can get more than one agent inside. Jim, did you get anything else from Buck's new best friend?" Chris just smiled at the scowl Wilmington sent his way.
"Yeah. Sneaks also told us that Harper had a girlfriend. Rafe is following up on that, since he and Henri got the same info from their sources."
"Okay. JD, I want you to correlate the info. The usual--try and set up a different board on each person involved. Then we can cross reference everything from there. Jim, any chance Vin could get access to a range?"
"We have a small range in the basement here, but I'm guessing you need the full range at the academy."
"Yes. Vin's our sniper and always brings his own long gun."
"So you just need to zero the weapon?" Jim asked Vin.
"Yep. Turbulent flights sometimes knock the sights off," Vin explained, knowing from Ellison's background that he well understood the need to have the sight properly adjusted.
"Let me contact the range master and set it up. You want to go out there tonight?"
"Morning's soon enough. Shouldn’t take more than an hour."
"I'll give him a call now. If you want, I'll pick you up in the morning and run you over there." Tanner just nodded his agreement.
"Alright. Sounds like that'll do it for tonight. Let's get these files under lock and key, and then eat. Jim, Blair, Simon, if you can point us in the direction of a decent restaurant the federal government will buy you dinner."
"Now there's an offer I won't refuse," Banks said.
"I hear that," Ellison agreed.
"I could eat," Blair added as they all walked out
“Heather,” Blair said, walking up to the stage followed by Ezra and Buck. The pretty blonde girl on the stage turned at the call.
“Blair,” she smiled at him. She gave him a hug. “How’s it going, handsome?”
“Pretty good.” He introduced Ezra and Buck to her. While she and Ezra talked about what the undercover agent would need, Blair laid a hand on Buck’s arm.
“Look, man, while we’re here, I’m gonna run to the office and check my mailbox. I’ll be back in a few minutes.” Buck nodded and Blair disappeared.
Ten minutes later he was back, and soon after the three men were ready to go. Ezra had the costume pieces he was borrowing in a box. Heather turned to Blair. “So, what’s my reward for my letting you guys borrow this stuff, Blair,” she asked mischievously.
Blair laughed and smiled at her, wrapping his arms around her waist. “Hmmm, dinner with me Friday night? Venegoni’s?” he offered, naming a moderately priced Italian restaurant that he knew Heather liked.
“Oh, I do like your style, Blair. Seven o’clock?”
“It’s a date.” He kissed her, then stepped back and released her. “Gotta go. See you Friday.”
Once out the door and heading toward their car, Buck threw an arm casually over Blair’s shoulder. “Oh-we, boy, you sure have a way with the ladies. We must be related.”
Ezra snorted. “Please, Mr. Wilmington, there’s no need to insult Mr. Sandburg. He is, after all, providing us with invaluable help during this case.”
Buck leaned close to Blair and whispered theatrically, “He’s just jealous cuz he doesn’t have our ‘animal magnetism.’”
Ezra rolled his eyes. “Well, at least the animal part is appropriate when one analyzes your dating habits, Mr. Wilmington. Those of a canine come to mind.”
“Now that’s just plain rude, Ezra. I always treat my women like real ladies.”
Ezra raised an eyebrow at this. “Ladies of the evening, maybe.”
“Just because you haven’t had a date in months, Ez…”
Ezra sputtered, offended. “Excuse me? Just because I don’t see the need to enlighten the entire contingent of the ATF with my romantic assignations, Mr. Wilmington, does not mean I don’t have them.” He shifted the box in his hands to a more comfortable position. “Simply, as a gentleman, I prefer to keep my private life private. I feel no need to discuss it like some uncouth adolescent in a locker room.”
Buck leaned toward Blair again. “I think he’s protesting a bit too much, don’t you?” he asked. Blair laughed at the by-play between the two men, but kept silent as he climbed in the back seat of their car. He wasn’t even about to admit to them Jim’s penchant for referring to table legs in regards to Blair’s love life.
Arriving back at the station, Blair detoured to Jim’s desk while Ezra and Buck went into the conference room that the ATF agents were using as a command center. Finding his partner typing up a report, Blair sat down in a nearby chair. Jim looked up.
“Hey, Chief, did you guys get what you need from the theater department?”
“Yeah, Ezra seemed pleased with what he borrowed.” Blair seemed a little distracted, and Jim stared at him.
“You okay, buddy?”
“Well, I stopped by to get my mail while we were there, and I had an invitation to the fundraising dinner on Saturday. Did you know that your dad and brother were both making sizable donations to the anthropology department?” He handed Jim a newsletter about the fundraiser and pointed to two names on the list of contributors.
“Yeah, they both told me they were going to. Why, is that a problem?”
“No,” Blair said, surprised that Jim knew about it. He knew that Jim had started talking more with his father and brother over the last few months, having dinner together and such. But he didn’t realize that they discussed things like this. “I just haven’t seen their names on the list of contributors before, that’s all.”
Jim threw a smile at this partner. “That’s because they never have before.”
“Oh. Then why now?”
“Because of you, Chief,” Jim said softly.
Blair’s eyes widened. “Me? What do you mean, Jim?”
“Both Steve and Dad were impressed with you, Chief. Dad especially, because he knows why you’re really riding with me.”
“Whoa, wait a minute. Jim, your dad knows…”
“Yeah.” Jim looked around to make sure they wouldn’t be overheard. “Remember during that case when I met up with dad again, I told you that I had had my senses as a kid. After the case was over, I mentioned to Dad that they had come back. I told him about what you taught me about Sentinels. He asked if that’s why you were riding with me. He and I have talked about you, Chief, about how much you help me. He wanted to do something to thank you, but I told him that you wouldn’t accept it for yourself. So he asked if making a contribution to Rainier’s anthropology department would be okay. I told him that I was sure you would appreciate something like that. When Steven found out, he decided to make a donation, too.” Jim shrugged. “It’s a good tax write-off.”
Blair was speechless, utterly speechless. He couldn’t believe that Jim’s family would do something like this. Making a donation like this because of him. He just sat there and stared at Jim, totally stunned.
“Blair, are you okay with this?” Jim asked, a little worried at his friend’s silence. Blair being quiet always worried him.
“Wow. I mean, wow.” Jim laughed.
“I guess that means you’re pleased, huh, Junior?” Blair’s grin was answer enough.
“Yeah, Jim, it’s great. Cool.”
"That's not all that’s cool, Chief," Jim said staring at the contributor's list again. “We better go show this to Chris, Chief.”
"This is just like Doyle," Chris said. "He likes to think of himself of an upstanding member of the community. Making donations to the local university is his way of ingratiating himself with the upper crust. He makes friends with rich and powerful people who then sing his praises when he gets tied up in illegal dealings."
"Maybe we can use this to our advantage," Standish remarked.
"What do you mean, Ezra?"
"If Doyle attends this soiree I could, shall we say, re-acquaint myself with him at the same time. Pose as a fellow-philanthropist. Make it known that my organization is looking for some discreet, untraceable weapons."
"What kind of background are ya gonna use this time, Ezra?" Vin asked, putting a toothpick between his lips.
Deepening his southern accent, Standish answered. "Well, Mistah Tannah, I shall portend to be a true son of the south. And as a Child of the Confederacy, I am appalled at the way our once great country has disintegrated over the years, as the government was allowed to get bigger. Every since we lost the Civil War, things have just gone to Hades. Why, we must take our country back from these heathens who have usurped the true order of things. Just the fact that we have allowed inferior persons to take positions of authority has led to the destruction of society as it should be. No offense, Mr. Jackson."
"None taken, Mr. Standish, but only because I know you truly don't feel that way."
"Indeed, Mr. Jackson."
"That just might work with Doyle," Chris remarked thoughtfully. "He's been known to spout racist rhetoric in the past. You may actually appeal to his sense of 'whiteness'."
"Mr. Sandburg, what are the chances of procuring an invitation to this fundraiser?"
"Just so happens, as a teaching fellow, I have four invitations. I can probably get more if I need to."
"Excellent, my dear boy, excellent! I do believe that this little charade will prove successful in finally getting Mr. Doyle behind bars."
"There's Ezra," Jim said, his voice picked up by the earpieces that the others wore. Blair was with Ellison inside the main room at the ballroom. Both were dressed in tuxedos, as they were attending the fund-raiser as guests, not security. Chris and Vin were in the rafters of the room, wanting to get an overall view of the area and be able to keep an eye on Standish.
JD and Buck were in the van monitoring the video feed from cameras they'd set up earlier in the day. Josiah and Nathan were staked out with Rafe and Brown in a Cascade PD van in the rear of the building. No one expected trouble, but they'd all learned the hard way not to take chances. Especially when one of their own was putting himself on the firing line. They didn't know if Doyle would recognize Ezra in this disguise, but they wanted to be sure they were close enough to back him up if needed.
"I don't see him, Jim," Blair said, studying the people who had just walked in.
"He's right there, Chief, the guy that looks like Colonel Sanders’ younger brother."
Sandburg saw a portly, well-dressed man, about fifty years old, with white hair and a mustache, a pair of gold rim glasses perched on his nose. The man carried an ebony colored cane with a silver handle. He walked with a slight limp as he moved further into the room.
"The guy with the cane? Oh, man, he looks great. I would bet his own mother wouldn't recognize him."
"Careful, Blair," Vin drawled. "Ezra would take that bet."
They all heard the soft chuckle coming from Standish's microphone, which was secreted in a small lapel pin shaped like a tiny Confederate flag. They knew that Doyle had been born in Georgia and hoped the flag would grab his interest. The southerner mingled with the other patrons and wandered toward his assigned table, which he knew was along the west wall, under the clock.
Chris had informed him that Doyle was already there. A little pre-event security check had given the team the opportunity to switch table assignments, allowing Ezra to be placed at Doyle's table. He knew his disguise was good and hoped it would fool the gunrunner.
He adjusted his glasses, which concealed an earpiece in the frame, then rubbed a finger over his mustache. Ezra approached the table and spotted Doyle, seated next to a large red headed man. Standish also spotted the telltale bulge of a weapon under the big man's left arm. They knew from past experience that Doyle habitually never went anywhere without two bodyguards. He glanced around and saw the other man, a muscular blonde Neanderthal-looking guy, about 20 feet away, keeping a close eye on the proceedings.
Ezra stopped and glanced around, as if checking out his surroundings. He gave a quick gesture with his hand, which prompted Chris to dial his cellphone. When it rang, Ezra pulled it from his pocket and turned it on.
"What's up Ez?" Chris asked.
"Do you have them both?" he asked quietly.
"Yeah. Vin tagged both bodyguards right off. The huge blonde standing by the exit door?"
"Yes. Any others?"
"No. Doyle came in with "Red". And "Blondie" covered his back trail."
"Very good. Wish me luck."
"Break a leg, Ezra."
"It shall be my finest performance yet, Sir." He smiled as he closed the phone and slid it back into his pocket and moved closer to his target.
In the rafters, Chris settled back down next to Tanner, who lay on his stomach, rifle in hand, keeping a close watch on Doyle and his two henchmen through the scope. If either made a move to harm Ezra or any of the guests, Vin would take them down.
Ezra stepped up the table, searching for and finding the place card with "his" name on it, situated next to the redheaded behemoth. He pulled out his chair and lowered himself onto the padded seat, smiling and nodding at his table companions. The bodyguard ignored him, but Doyle returned the smile, his gaze falling to the pin on Ezra's lapel. But he made no comment.
As other guests joined them, the second bodyguard took his seat on the other side of Doyle. Over drinks, the tablemates exchanged names and talked a little business. Doyle periodically glanced at Ezra, who was going by the name of Edward Stanhope, the owner of an import-export business.
"Do you ship world-wide, Mr. Stanhope?" asked Marcus Clayborne, a local jewelry merchant.
"My company is slowly expanding opportunities. Although we do have customers now in certain European capitals, we hope to further extend our reach into Asia and Africa. We have made some in-roads into South Africa recently and have been received favorably. We have been mostly importing from Africa so far, but have also been in contact with several companies here in the states which are looking to expand their merchandise to a new market. I hope to open up some avenues in China and the Middle East."
Doyle listened closely as Ezra continued to elaborate on his business ventures as dinner was delivered to the table. Another of their table companions, a man who dealt in pre-fabricated housing, asked Ezra's opinion of the viability of his product being useful in other areas of the world. As they talked, Doyle leaned over to his blonde-headed bodyguard, who nodded and left the table.
"Mr. Stanhope, I would be interested in learning more about your company," Doyle told Ezra.
Standish smiled, two rows of pearly white teeth flashing at Doyle. "It would be my pleasure, Mr. …Doyle was it?"
"Red" stood up and moved out of his chair, gesturing for Standish to take the seat. Ezra nodded his gratitude and slid over next to Doyle, while the bodyguard sank into the seat just vacated by the southerner.
"Looks like Ezra has caught Doyle's interest," Buck remarked.
"That man is as smooth as a fish through water," Vin muttered.
The two entrepreneurs talked for the remainder of the night, exchanging business cards and making arrangements to make further contact. The number on the card that Ezra handed to Doyle went to a cellphone that JD now carried with him. Only that card had the number, so that any call coming into it would be coming from Doyle or one of his people.
At the end of the evening, the two men shook hands. Doyle told Ezra that he'd be in touch, then left with his two bodyguards. Ezra stayed for another 20 minutes, then he also left. He was careful driving back to the hotel, making sure he wasn't followed. He knew that Josiah and Nathan, along with Rafe and Brown, would be behind him, also looking for a tail. They had maintained visual contact on his vehicle during the dinner to ensure that no one attempted to put a tracker on the car.
After making sure he was safe, Ezra pulled into the underground garage. He made his way into the elevator and punched the button. Getting off on the seventh floor, he headed down the hall and knocked on a door. After several seconds, the door opened. Vin stepped aside and let him in. Chris, Buck, JD, Jim and Blair were also in the room.
As soon as he crossed the threshold and the door shut behind him, he removed his jacket and shirt, hanging both up in the closet. Vin stayed near in order to help him remove the body suit. As soon as the cumbersome piece of costuming had been removed, he took a deep sigh.
"My Lord, I never thought that suit would be so burdensome." Buck handed him a bottle of water and he took a large drink. Wearing the body suit had drained him and he sat heavily into the settee near the window. JD set a large case onto the table in front of him.
"Thank you, Mr. Dunne," he said, opening the case. He pulled out several jars and some soft towels. He began to remove the make-up that he'd applied to age him for this role. When he finished, he cleaned his hands, then reached into his mouth. Pulling on one of his teeth, he juggled back and forth, eventually removing the cap that had covered his gold-clad tooth.
He looked up at JD who was sitting across from him. "I wondered how you hid that gold tooth," the young man remarked.
"It often is the small things that make all the difference in a con. Camouflage is important in my position."
As Standish continued to lose his alter ego, the men in the room discussed the next steps in their investigation. It had been a long night and they were all tired. So once the major points had been covered they separated and headed off for some well-deserved rest.
Chris and Vin were in the surveillance van, listening as Doyle gave ‘Mr Stanhope’ a guided tour of his warehouse. Chris listened as Doyle tried to impress 'Stanhope' with his set up. Chris surmised that they must have entered another room when he could suddenly hear music. An oldies station was playing, and Chris could hear the lyrics clearly over Ezra’s wire. He smirked as he listened to the lyrics, hoping that it was a good omen for this case. He saw Vin’s fingers start tapping in time to the music.
A-robbin people with a six gun
I fought the law and the law won
I fought the law and the law won
I miss my baby and the good fun
I fought the law and the law won
I fought the law and the law won
A shot suddenly rang out, bringing Vin’s head up and stopping Chris’ breath. Oh, god, Ezra. Had Doyle shot him? Had he seen through Ezra’s disguise and recognized the undercover man? He and Vin waited as the few seconds of silence seemed to drag on forever. But they finally heard Ezra’s voice, his evident amusement telling Chris that he wasn’t injured. The team leader breathed a sigh of relief.
“Music not to your liking, Mr. Doyle?” he asked his host. It was then that Chris realized the song had abruptly ended with the gunshot.
“I hate that fucking song. Always have.”
“Well, I would venture a guess that that particular radio will never offend your sensibilities again,” Ezra said, letting his teammates know what had occurred. Doyle’s dislike for that particular song had lead to the untimely demise of an innocent radio. Chris just shook his head. Why did his team always have to deal with the weird shit?
“Would you like a cigar, Mr Stanhope? A new potential partner of mine gave them to me. He got them from Austria. They’re very nice.” Chris and Vin exchanged a glance, both thinking about the cigar found near Harper’s body.
“Don’t mind if I do, sir. I always enjoy a good cigar with my nightcap before going to bed.”
“Well, have two. I insist.”
Chris had to smile. Doyle may have just given them the piece they needed to tie him to Harper’s murder. And they didn’t even need a search warrant to get it.
After the meeting, Ezra returned to ‘Stanhope’s’ hotel room. Chris and Vin followed, making sure that Doyle hadn’t put a tail on their undercover man. Seeing no indication of anyone following Ezra, they met him back at the hotel. Ezra was already getting out of the body suit. He handed Chris an evidence bag. Inside was a cigar.
“I have every faith that the forensics expert will be able to match that with the cigar that was found by the body of the recently departed Mr Harper.”
“Uh-huh,” Chris said. “But what happened to the other one? Cuz I know you don’t smoke.”
“Neither does anyone else on our team, Mr Larabee. I thought that since we only need one to compare to the portion found at the murder scene, that I could give the other to Captain Banks. The man would probably appreciate a fine imported cigar.”
Chris had to smile. “Yeah, you’re probably right. Just tell him not to smoke it until after this case is closed. I don’t want anyone coming down on him for ‘tampering with evidence’.”
“Indeed. I shall gift him with it when we say our good-byes at the end of a hopefully successful case.”
Ellison and Sandburg were in the van waiting for Chris and Vin, who were running late. Larabee wanted to be on hand in the van when Ezra met with Doyle’s international partner. After several meetings between Doyle and ‘Stanhope’, the gunrunner had finally set up a meeting with the elusive Gunter Heichler. They hoped to catch everyone on site. The judge had the warrant ready and they wanted to have it in hand in case they needed to go in today, so the two ATF agents were going to swing by and pick it up on their way.
Just five minutes earlier, a helicopter had landed on the roof of the warehouse and two men had emerged. They hadn’t been able to get a good look at the men who’d exited, but since Doyle was already on scene, they figured it had to be Heichler. Moments later, that supposition was proven.
“Okay, Jim, you known the drill. You were able to focus on Doyle earlier, so let’s try it again.” The two Cascade men had arrived about an hour earlier and Jim had already been successful in hearing inside the building. They wanted to get as much as they could while they were alone. It would be too hard to focus once the others got there. Not to mention hard to explain.
Ellison closed his eyes and focused his hearing, feeling the touch of Blair’s hand on his back helping to prevent a zone-out. Following Sandburg’s quiet instructions, he filtered out he street noises and listened to the sounds from inside the warehouse. He finally found Doyle’s voice.
“…will be just what we need. He already ships to Europe and Africa, so the routes that you need are already in place.”
“I will want to check him out thoroughly,” a second voice said, with a heavy German accent.
“I’ve already done that,” Doyle insisted. “He’s been running his company for over ten years. My information is that he’s been suspected of illegal activities in the past, but never arrested. I’ve told him what you need and he’s willing to work with us.”
“He gets a discount on the weapons he needs for his organization. Although, I am tempted to give him the discount anyway, considering his cause.”
“And that would be?”
“He plans to make the south powerful once again, a place where a true southerner can live in peace.”
Heichler’s snort of disgust was lost on Doyle. “Ah, here he is now.” Doyle said.
Heichler turned to look at the monitor. Doyle had every inch of his warehouse, inside and out, covered by security cameras. The two men watched as a black Lexus pulled up outside and ‘Edward Stanhope’ exited. ‘Stanhope’ adjusted his glasses and looked around. Heichler’s gaze intensified and he reached for the controls, zooming in on the man’s face as he walked to his trunk and removed a briefcase.
“Shit. Bruno, get upstairs. Tell Michael we’re leaving at once!” Heichler told his bodyguard.
“Gunter, what is it?” Doyle asked, following Heichler as he quickly moved to the steps that led to the roof.
“You imbecile! I can’t believe you were trying to set me up!”
“Set you up?”
“That man is an FBI agent! At least he was when I knew him.”
“FBI, no way! I checked him out personally.”
“Well, Ezra Standish is very good at his job,” Heichler said. As he ran toward the chopper, rotor blades slowly started to rotate overhead.
“Shit!” Jim exclaimed.
“Jim, what is it?” Before Ellison could answer, the door of the van opened and Chris and Vin climbed into the van.
“Ezra’s been made! Stop him from going in.”
“What?” Blair asked.
“How the hell…” Vin started, but Chris just reached for his radio.
“Ezra, get out of there. They know who you are.”
Outside the warehouse, Standish heard the call over the earpiece in his glasses. He didn’t question Chris’ call, just walked quickly back to his vehicle and took off. Two men ran out the door, one taking a shot at the escaping Lexus, but missing. Ezra wasn’t sure how Chris knew he’d been discovered, but he had learned long ago not to question the man. And as usual, his trust hadn’t been misplaced.
“Everyone move in!” Chris called over the radio. “I repeat, move in.” Chris, Vin and Jim ran from the van, Ellison ordering Blair to stay put. As they ran down the block, they could see the other teams moving in from other directions. As they got near, they saw the helicopter take off from the roof.
As they neared the side of the building, a Cadillac came screeching out of the large double doors. Inside the vehicle, Doyle yelled at his driver.
“Run them over! Damn it! Get us out of here!” The vehicle aimed directly for them. Vin lined up his weapon and took a shot at the left front tire. At the same time, Ellison’s bullet took out the right front tire. The vehicle careened into the side of the building, then flipped over onto its side.
Tanner jumped up on the vehicle, the passenger door now facing skyward. He grabbed the door handle and pulled it open, propping his hip against it to keep it from falling shut again. He pointed his weapon at the two dazed men in the front seat.
“Toss the weapons in the back seat,” he ordered. Both men lay tangled together, Doyle lying on top of his driver. Chris and Jim stood in the front of the car, pointing their weapons at the two men through the windshield, two Cascade police officers nearby.
Doyle looked up at Vin, then at the other two men, then slumped in defeat. He reached under his jacket and slowly pulled out his weapon, tossing it into the back seat. He began crawling off his bodyguard, who still appeared dazed.
“Chris, you got the other one covered?” Vin called down.
“We got him,” Larabee replied.
Vin holstered his own weapon and nodded at the Cascade PD officer that had joined him up top, holding open the door. Tanner reached down and grabbed Doyle’s hand, helping the man crawl out of the vehicle, then followed him down. He grabbed Doyle’s arm and turned to the other Cascade officer. “Can you help your partner with the driver? He’s a bit out of it, but he’s still armed, so be careful.”
Vin dragged Doyle away as two more uniformed officers joined them and helped get the driver from the vehicle. Chris and Jim joined Tanner as the sharpshooter cheerfully read Doyle his rights and searched him for other weapons.
“Hey, Ellison, you got some cuffs?”
“Yep,” Jim said, handing over his set.
“C’mon Doyle, you know the drill. Right hand.” The gunrunner growled at Tanner, who just smiled back at him. “Aw, don’t be so upset, Doyle. You know what they say.” Tanner wrapped the cuff around Doyle’s right hand, and began to sing. “I fought the law and the,” click “law won.” He reached for Doyle’s left hand and put the other cuff on. “I fought the law and the,” click “law won.” Chris and Jim started laughing as Vin led Doyle to a waiting patrol car, still singing the song. Doyle was screaming at Tanner to shut up.
Ezra arrived just then and stood watching the activities, as Doyle’s men were taken out in handcuffs.
“Over there,” Larabee said, pointing to the patrol car and still laughing. The gunrunner was kicking at the door and screaming at Tanner, who was walking away from the car.
“He appears upset.”
“He really doesn’t like that song, Ezra.” Chris commented.
Before Chris could answer, Vin joined them, still singing. “I fought the law and the law won.” He smiled at the others. “Chris, I’m gonna head back with Doyle.”
“You’re enjoying this, aren’t you Vin?”
Tanner just smiled. “Uh huh.” He winked at Ezra. “We’ll see you at the station.”
“You got it.”
Vin walked back over to the patrol car and climbed into the backseat with Doyle, still humming the song. The patrol officer driving was chuckling as he pulled out of the parking lot.
Chris, Jim and Ezra entered the warehouse to oversee the search of the large building. Chris had also sent in a request to the FAA for info on the helicopter, since Jim and Blair had gotten the registration number when it had taken off. The three men decided to head back to the station, leaving Josiah, Nathan, Rafe and Brown to do the on-scene follow-up. Buck and JD were walking toward their car when Chris stopped them.
“JD, I need you to do something for me when you back to the station.”
“Sure, Chris. What do you need?”
Chris put his arm around the young man’s shoulder and talked quietly to him. JD nodded, then joined Buck for the ride back to the station. Ezra followed a few moments later.
Jim was in the van, helping Blair shut things down. Rafe would be driving it back to the station. Jim and Blair would drive back with Chris. Ellison wasn't looking forward to the ride. He knew Larabee would have questions and wasn’t sure what to tell him. He hoped Blair would come up with on of his obfuscations.
Sentinel and Guide turned around to exit the van only to stop short when they noticed Chris blocking the door, arms crossed in front of him and a stern look on his face. He didn’t say a word. He didn’t need to. He knew it and Jim knew it. Jim glanced at Blair, who just shrugged.
“I’m not sure how to explain this, Chris.”
“The truth would be the way to go,” Larabee said. “Did you bug this place without letting me know?”
Jim hesitated, almost saying yes. But as he looked into Chris’ eyes, he knew that wouldn’t work.
“Look I need to talk to my Captain before I say any more. It’s…complicated.”
Chris took a deep breath, then let it out. “You know, Ellison, I don’t trust easily. But when I first met you, your team, I felt I could work with you. Was that trust misplaced? Because if I find out that it was, you’ll be cut out of the remainder of this investigation. You clear it with your Captain if you have to, but when we get back to the station, I expect an explanation.”
Jim clenched his jaw, angry that this man was questioning his professionalism. He needed a chance to talk this over with Sandburg and maybe Simon. He answered Chris with a curt nod. Understanding each other now, Chris stalked out of the van.
“Yeah, Chief?” Ellison answered, gritting his teeth.
“Are you going to tell him?”
“How can I? Do you really think he’d believe me?”
“I don’t know, Sandburg!” Jim said, slamming his hand against the countertop where the equipment sat. After several seconds of silence, he sighed. “Sorry, Chief. Sometimes these senses are more trouble than they’re worth.”
“You really believe that, man?”
“Yes. No…no I don’t,” he said, turning to face Blair and giving him a small smile. “I used to, but I don't anymore. I just hate trying to explain what I do.”
“I have one question for you, Jim.”
“Do you trust Chris?”
Jim didn’t answer right away, thinking about how he felt about the blonde man. “I hardly know him, Chief.”
“You know him well enough. Your gut feeling, Jim. Do you trust that man? Yes or No?”
“Okay. Let’s go talk to Simon and ask his opinion.” Blair started to walk away, but was stopped by a hand on his arm.
“What about you, Chief. Do you trust him? I value your opinion over anyone else I know. As my friend, my guide and my shaman…do you trust Chris Larabee?”
Blair smiled. “Yes, I do.”
Jim nodded and the two men locked up the van and joined Chris in his rented vehicle.
Chris walked into Simon’s office and sat at the conference table, glaring at the three other men in the office.
Simon Banks cleared his throat. “Chris, my men tell me that there was a problem at the bust today.”
“Not a problem so much as an omission, Simon.”
“Jim and Blair have explained what they think you’re upset about, but I’d like to hear it from you.”
“Ellison was aware that Ezra had been compromised. He admits he didn’t have the warehouse wired and he didn't get the info from a snitch. He was hesitant to explain just how he came upon that information. I’m grateful for the warning that saved Ezra’s life, but I can’t risk my men working with a team that withholds vital information.”
“I understand the need to protect your team. I feel the same way. So I am going to have to insist that nothing said in this office is shared with anyone else.”
Chris bristled. “My men…”
“Your men will not be harmed by not knowing this information. But Jim very well could be.”
Larabee stared at Ellison and received the same intense scrutiny he was dishing out. “All right, as long as it doesn’t endanger my team.” Simon, Jim and Blair exchanged glances. Then Jim nodded to Sandburg.
“This is going to sound farfetched, I know. But bear with me here, okay?”
Vin walked into the bullpen with JD right behind him. He stopped halfway to the Captain’s office. The meeting inside didn’t look friendly. At that moment, Chris looked up and spotted Vin. He shook his head, silently telling Tanner not to disturb them. Vin nodded and placed a hand on JD’s shoulder.
“C’mon kid, Chris is busy, but I think I know what he had planned. Let’s see if Rhonda can help us.” As they left, Vin took one last look into Banks’ office. Chris was pissed about something and Vin had an idea what it was.
Thirty minutes later
“So, you’re telling me that you’re what…Superman?” Chris asked incredulously.
“Fuck,” Ellison jumped up. “Why does everybody always react like that?”
“Jim, calm down. You have to admit Simon didn’t believe it at first either. Hell, you even thought I was nuts when I explained it to you,” Blair said. Ellison wearily rubbed his hands across his face.
“Yeah, Chief, I know. I guess we resort to the parlor tricks.”
“Easiest is sight,” Blair reminded him. “Simon, do you have a pair of binoculars?”
“Bottom right drawer.”
Sandburg retrieved the binoculars and handed them to Larabee, who looked confused.
“Look out the window,” Blair told him. “Find a vehicle several blocks away. Make sure you can read the plate. Describe the direction and the vehicle.”
Narrowing his eyes in suspicion, Chris stood up and walked to the window. He didn’t understand why he was doing this, but he thought if he wanted to learn anything, he’d better indulge them…at least for now. Lifting the binoculars, he focused.
“Okay, west of here on the street that runs by the MegaBooks bookstore, there’s a blue Jeep Cherokee…”
“…with a ski rack,” Jim finished, as he moved to stand next to Chris. “Oregon license William Ida Nora 323, white male driver getting in wearing a blue plaid shirt.”
Chris focused in on the plate. Incredible, but how…
“You got a photographic memory? Memorized the plate of every parked car?
Jim frowned. “No, and if you don’t believe me, you pick out something else,” he snarled.
Chris turned back to the window. “Okay, so maybe you couldn’t memorize them all in that amount of time. Try the billboard on the freeway just past the football field…”
“No good, I pass it on my way to work, so I’m already familiar with it. Try something else.”
Chris looked again and smiled, determined to stop this…what, farce? To what end? He shook that thought from his head and focused below him. “In the park, there’s a man on the bench reading a magazine…”
“The story he’s reading is titled, ‘Washington: Earthquake Central’. Sorry, but the rest of the print is too small to read.
“The print?! Hell, I was just gonna ask what the advertisement on the bench said!” Chris focused on the magazine. Sure enough, the title was exactly as Jim had recited. “Sonuvabitch. And I thought Vin’s eyesight was the best I’d ever seen. He’s blind compared to you.” Chris could see Blair bouncing and smiling out of the corner of his eye. “And the rest of your senses are all enhanced, too?”
Jim nodded. “Hearing is my strongest sense.” He didn’t say anymore, letting Chris come to his own conclusions.
“You heard them! You were listening into their conversation from outside in the van?”
“Yep.” A smile small began to appear on Jim's face.
“Incredible. So Doyle finally saw through Ezra’s disguise?”
“Not Doyle, Heichler.”
“Heichler? Who the hell is he that he knows Ezra well enough to see through a disguise?”
“Guess we’ll find that out when we find Heichler.”
“Shit! The helicopter.”
“Yeah. We got the info back from the FAA. The pilot didn’t file any kind of flight plan, big surprise. They’re trying to locate both pilot and aircraft now.”
“Chris?” Simon interrupted, one eyebrow raised in question.
Chris looked over at him, then at Blair and back to Jim. “Don’t worry, Simon. It won’t go out of this room. You have my word.” He looked directly at Ellison. “Jim, just let me know anything you find out using your senses, okay. I don’t like feeling left out of the loop.”
Jim nodded. “Good enough.”
“Can I ask just one question?”
“Only one?” Jim asked with a grin, which Chris returned.
“Well, maybe two. How the hell did you get the Army to release you? You would have been the perfect soldier.”
“I got lucky. The senses were dormant until just a few years ago,” Jim explained, not going into detail about his childhood or his time in Peru.
“I take it Blair’s the expert on all things…Sentinel? That’s what you called it, right?”
“Right,” Blair assured him. “I help Jim control the senses and document problems so we can overcome them.” Jim smiled at his Guide. Talk about oversimplifying Blair’s role in his life!
“Does your team know?” Chris asked.
“Only Captain Banks and one other detective who is currently on vacation in Australia. We can’t afford to let it become common knowledge.”
Chris nodded in understanding. “You’d be under some scientist’s microscope so fast the doors would still be swinging.”
“You got it. And I do NOT plan on becoming anyone else’s lab rat. Blair’s the only scientist who will ever study me. He's helped me to control the senses and has been instrumental in finding different ways for me to utilize them on the street.”
Blair flushed with pride at the compliment from his friend and Sentinel.
“Understood. And thank you for trusting me with this," Larabee said.
“Believe me, I wish I didn’t have to. If there had been a way around it, you wouldn’t know. But we couldn’t think of a way to get around it. You trusted me to explain this to you. I’ll have to trust you to not reveal my secret. It could cost me my life.”
Chris reached out his hand. “Not on my watch, Detective.” Jim grasped his hand and knew that no one would learn about him from Chris Larabee.
“Now, tell me what all you overheard in the warehouse. I know none of it would be admissible in court, but it could be helpful in dealing with Doyle.” So Jim explained the entire conversation between Heichler and Doyle. Chris wasn’t thrilled to learn that Heichler somehow knew Ezra from his FBI days. But his assumption that Doyle was setting him up could prove useful very shortly.
The blond man smiled when they finished. “Okay. Now are you ready to have some fun?”
“Does this have anything to do with the request you made to JD?” Jim asked.
“Yep,” Larabee drawled.
“I think Tanner’s getting ready to start without you,” Jim said, tilting his head. Larabee watched him in confusion for a moment, until he realized Jim was using his incredible hearing again.
“That dog!” Chris grinned. “Let’s go see how Mr. Doyle is holding up.
“Jim?” Blair asked, wanting to be let in on the joke.
“C’mon, Chief, you’ll see. Captain?”
“Oh, I wouldn’t miss this. Something tells me it’s gonna be better than what he did to our friendly neighborhood FBI agent.”
“Oh, yeah.” Chris said as he left the office.
The four men joined Vin and JD in the observation room that looked in on the interview room that Doyle had been placed in.
“Did he call his lawyer?” Chris asked Vin. As soon as he’d been read his rights, Doyle said he wanted a lawyer and then clammed up. By law, they couldn’t ask him anything until his lawyer arrived.
“Yeah, about ten minutes ago. I spoke to the lawyer, Mr Sarden, after Doyle finished talking to him. He said he’d be here in about an hour. Then he told me ‘not to ask my client one single question until I arrive or I’ll have your butt in a sling.’ Vin imitated a rather nasal sounding voice. “So I escorted Doyle to the interview room and left him. Since I’m not allowed to ask him any questions, I didn’t even ask him if he wanted something to drink or if he needed to use the bathroom."
Chris nodded at Tanner’s grin and stared through the one-way mirror into the other room. Doyle had been in enough police stations to know the drill and would know he was being observed. Chris watched, hating the man’s nonchalant attitude. Doyle appeared relaxed, seemingly at ease. Chris was about to change that.
“JD, did you get what I asked for?”
“Sure did, Chris. Vin and I already got it set up, with a little help from Rhonda. I’ve got it set for continuous replay. All it needs is someone to press the button,” he said, pointing to a remote that sat on the table next to JD's laptop.
“Well, then, let’s play some music for Mr Doyle while he waits,” Chris said, pressing the start button. They observed Doyle straighten up in his chair when the music started.
A breakin' rocks in the hot sun
I fought the law and the law won
I fought the law and the law won
I needed money cuz I had none
I fought the law and the law won
I fought the law and the law won
I left my baby and I feel so bad
I guess my race is run
She’s the best girl I ever had
I fought the law and the law won
I fought the law and the law won
A robbin people with a six gun
I fought the law and the law won
I fought the law and the law won
I miss my baby and the good fun
I fought the law and the law won
I fought the law and the law won
Doyle glared at the mirror, knowing that someone was on the other side. He tried to act unaffected. But after the third replay of the song, he started to show signs of agitation. He got up from the chair and started to pace the room. Eventually, he put his hands over his ears to try and block out the music. Chris turned up the volume just a bit.
After the seventh replay, he started kicking the chair. When that didn’t get a response, the normally dignified gunrunner started banging on the glass of the mirror, shouting for them to stop. By this time, all the men watching him were chuckling. They continued to watch while the song played through one more time.
“Gee,” Chris remarked innocently. “Maybe we should ask him if he’d like us to turn the music off?”
“No can do, cowboy,” Vin replied, as Chris had known he would. “His lawyer said we weren’t allowed to ask his client one single question until he got here. That was a direct quote.”
“Oh, that’s right. What a shame,” Chris deadpanned. “Well, then I guess we’ll just have to stick with what we’re playing. That sound good to you, Captain Banks?” Chris turned to the black man with a look of unholy glee on his face.
Simon bit his lip in order to keep from surrendering to a hysterical bout of laughter. He just nodded in agreement. Lord help Doyle,> he thought, cuz Chris Larabee was even more devious than Ellison and Sandburg combined, and Heaven knew how bad that pair was.
After another run through of the song, Doyle finally realized that no help was going to be forthcoming. He proceeded to bang his forehead against the glass that was separating him from his tormentors. Blair and JD both winced at the smacks that were vibrating the glass. Vin looked anywhere except at Chris, knowing that seeing his friend’s statement would result in him losing his tight hold on his laughter.
Chris, for his part, was pulling off a con worthy of Ezra. “Gee, I hope that glass is shatter-proof. I wouldn’t want our prisoner to hurt himself,” he said, sounding concerned.
Simon had finally regained control and sounded just as serious as Chris. “No, we wouldn't want that, because then we’d have to ask him if he needed medical attention and his lawyer did say we couldn’t ask him a single question. Thankfully, that glass is both shatter and bullet proof.”
Jim and Blair both snickered as their captain got into the spirit of Chris’ machinations. After watching this whole scene, Jim decided that he really liked Chris Larabee’s style.
Because Doyle was banging his head against the glass, they missed the knock on the door. Finally the door opened and Rhonda peeked her head in.
“Captain, Mr Doyle’s attorney is here.” Chris turned and nodded at JD, who turned the music off. Doyle didn’t seem to notice the sudden end to the music and continued to smack his forehead against the glass. They left the observation room, leaving a uniformed officer outside the door as a prisoner guard, but giving Doyle and his lawyer a chance to talk with his client in relative privacy.
They emerged into the Major Crimes bullpen to see a rat-faced little man in a sharply creased suit and carrying a briefcase. Chris shook his head, muttering something about ‘weasels’ that only Jim and Vin overheard, causing both men to snicker.
“Which one of you is Tanner?” the man asked haughtily. Chris realized that Vin had been kind in his imitation.
“That’d be me,” Vin drawled, accentuating his ‘good ole boy’ accent.
“I’m Donald Forsythe Sarden, the Fourth. I am Mr Doyle’s attorney. I hope you took my warning seriously, my good man. Because if I find out you asked my client any questions, I’ll have your badge.”
Chris fumed. No one threatened his men, especially not some slimy little rat-faced jackass of a lawyer. His glare was icier than an arctic snowstorm, and his tone of voice was even colder. “My people know the law, Sardine. Your client was escorted to an interview room immediately after your call and left alone. We didn’t so much as ask him if he needed to take a piss.”
Sarden’s eyebrows raised and he looked down his nose at Chris, but couldn’t hold the man’s stare. “And who might you be?” he asked imperiously.
“I might be the king of England, but I am Agent Chris Larabee with the ATF, and I’m in charge of this operation.”
Sarden seemed to be startled that he was dealing with a federal agent. Chris was sure of it when the man looked him up and down, taking in Chris’ black jeans, worn black boots and black western style shirt. Chris could almost read the lawyer’s mind, wondering where the traditional black suits were. One side of Chris’ mouth turned up in a mocking half-smile, letting Sarden know that Chris knew just what he was thinking. Once again, the attorney was the first to look away.
“Well, Agent Larabee, there’s no need to be vulgar. I’m sure that whatever charges you think you have on my client, I’ll have him out of here within the hour.”
“Well, Mr. Sardine, considering the fact that your client is being held for numerous federal charges, including the attempted murder of several police officers, Sardine, I wouldn’t count on that.”
“My name is Sarden.”
“I want to see my client now.”
“Of course,” Chris said arrogantly. “He’s in there.” He pointed Sarden to the interview room. Everyone in the bullpen watched as he opened the door and could still hear the rhythmic thumping as Doyle continued to hit his head against the mirror.
“Mr Doyle, what are you doing?!?” Sarden said as he closed the door behind him.
After Doyle’s lawyer showed up, JD took the opportunity to return to the conference room to check out a few things. He had a couple of searches on-going and needed to see if anything had turned up yet.
But when he opened the door, he spotted someone in the room. His eyes narrowed. “What do you think you’re doing?”
A few minutes later, Chris and Vin were alone in the break room, grabbing a quick cup of coffee. Vin took the opportunity to question Chris about what happened at the bust.
“It just seemed kinda weird that both of us had a bad feeling about this bust, then to show up and have Ellison yell that Ezra had been made. I’m assuming that’s what you talked about in Banks’ office?”
Chris nodded and took a sip of his coffee, then looked at Vin.
“I’m sorry, partner, but I gave my word that it wouldn’t go any further.”
Vin nodded, knowing from experience that Chris’ word was as good as gold. “Are you satisfied with the answers you got?” he asked his friend.
“Then that’s all I need.” Vin’s faith in Chris was without measure. If Chris was satisfied, Vin was satisfied.
Chris and Jim entered the interview room and took the seats across the table from Doyle and his lawyer. Chris didn’t say anything for several minutes, just continued to peruse the file he had brought in with him. Jim just stared at Doyle, trying to contain a grin at the darkening bruise on the man’s forehead. He wondered what Doyle had told his attorney about it, wishing that lawyer/client confidentiality hadn’t permitted him to eavesdrop on that particular conversation.
“Well, then,” Chris said, dropping the file on the table. “Let’s get down to business, shall we? Mr Doyle, you obviously know why you’re here.”
Doyle leaned back in his chair. “Why don’t you enlighten me,” he said smugly.
Chris smirked. “Well, it might have something to do with the four crates of automatic weapons we found in the warehouse.”
“Don’t know anything about them.”
“Right,” Chris said sarcastically, “that’s why your fingerprints were found all over them.”
“I found them just before I left the warehouse. Curious to know what was in the crates, I opened them. When I found the weapons, I knew that someone in my organization must have been doing something illegal. So I left to come and report to the police what I had found.”
“So is that why when you were confronted by the police outside of your warehouse several officers heard you yell at your driver to, and I quote,” he said, picking up and reading from the file, “'Run them over, damn it, get us out of here'.”
“I didn’t know who you were. I thought you might have been the ones responsible for the guns in my warehouse.”
“You didn’t know who we were? We were all wearing our badges, several officers were even in full uniform. And not even you could have missed the five police cars that were converging on your position with their emergency equipment activated.”
“It wouldn’t be the first time criminals have impersonated the police,” Doyle retorted.
“And all of this happened just at the precise moment you ‘accidentally’ found four crates of guns. Guns, which oddly enough, exactly match the inventory that you promised to deliver to my undercover agent. Fascinating.” Chris stood up and began to pace the room like a tiger lazily stalking a cage. “Let’s cut the bullshit, shall we, Doyle. We have you dead to rights on several weapons charges. We can also get you on attempted murder of several officers that your driver tried to run over.”
Sarden spoke up for the first time. “Mr Doyle can’t be held accountable for the actions of another man.”
Chris leveled his glare on the slimy little attorney. “He can when he employs that man. And when he is heard to order that man to ‘run them over.’ That constitutes conspiracy to commit murder. In effect, your client ordered several people killed and his employee attempted to carry out that order.”
Sarden waved a dismissive hand in the air. “Something said in the heat of the moment. It won’t stand up in court.”
“Are you willing to bet on that?” Chris asked, then returned his attention to Doyle. “Especially if we are able to prove that the gun held by one of Mr Doyle’s bodyguards is the gun that killed Dixon Harper, a known associate of Mr. Doyle. Once again, Doyle orders someone killed, and the employee carries it out.” He pulled out the evidence bag with the portion of the cigar found at the murder scene and another with the cigar that Doyle himself had given to Ezra.
“I can place you at the scene of Harper’s murder. These are very unusual cigars, Doyle. You can’t get them in the States, and you can’t have them shipped from Austria. If fact, you stated that they were given to you by a new potential partner.”
The attorney interjected, “Then obviously this so-called partner also has access to these cigars. Why are you so sure that my client was the one that left the cigar at the murder scene?”
“Because the partner wouldn’t have any reason to want Harper dead. Mr Doyle, however, does. And I can always get a saliva test done to compare to your client’s.”
“Why would I want Dixon Harper dead?” Doyle asked, leaning back in his chair.
Chris pulled a picture out of the file he’d brought in with him and laid it down in front of Doyle. It showed a young smiling blonde woman whose bright blue eyes seemed to pop out from the picture. “I’m sure you recognize her, Doyle. Or are you going to tell me that you don’t know anything about her, either? The woman you’ve been seeing romantically for several years.”
“Of course I know her. She’s my fiancee.” Doyle said.
“Yes, your fiancee. Darlene Watkins, age 27. Ms Watkins recently had a baby, didn’t she? I would say congratulations to the new daddy. But I don’t think Harper is up to passing out cigars at the moment.” Chris dropped his little bombshell, knowing that Darlene Watkins and her child were already in protective custody. Rafe and Henri had tracked her down. When she heard about Harper’s death, she spilled everything she knew about Doyle’s business. She saw a hell of a lot more than Doyle gave her credit for. And knowing that Doyle most likely had her lover killed, she was willing to help the police.
“What are you talking about,” Doyle snarled.
“Didn’t you know? Baby boy Watkins is Dixon’s son. Ms Watkins told us herself. That would give you a motive for wanting to see him dead. But since you obviously didn’t know, than I can only assume it was the money Harper had stolen from you that pissed you off enough to kill him.”
Chris smiled. “Oh, I already have.” He pulled several papers out of the file and threw them in front of Doyle. He was gratified when Doyle’s face turned white in shock.
“The search warrant for your warehouse covered all computer disks. We knew that we would probably have some trouble getting into the disks since we didn’t have your password. Thankfully, Mr Standish isn’t the only one that can go undercover. In any case, your gunrunning days are over. The only question is if your life is over as well.”
“Meaning that I wonder what Heichler thinks of you right now? He’s a very paranoid man. My guess is that he thinks you’ve set him up. If so, he may decide it was a mistake to leave that warehouse with you still breathing. It's just possible he could try to remedy that mistake."
Jim could hear Doyle’s heartrate increase and knew the man was getting more nervous. He exchanged glances with Chris, who just smirked. Even he could read Doyle’s shift in attitude.
“And you think my working with you is going to prolong my life?” Doyle sneered.
“No. I think either way you’re fucked. But you’ll have a better chance if Heichler is in custody. So do yourself a favor and tell us where he is.”
“No, thanks. I have better taste. So, it seems, does Ms Watkins. Now, since we know you aren’t going anywhere tonight, and since I can’t guarantee your safety in the general prison populace, I’m afraid I’m going to have to insist on isolation. But don’t worry, I’ll personally see to your entertainment. I understand we share the same tastes in music.” Chris looked at Doyle innocently.
“Try me,” Chris said flatly.
Doyle gazed hatefully at the blond agent. He saw his lawyer watching the two of them like a spectator at a tennis match. The little weasel wasn’t going to be able to get him out of this one. He knew he was done for as soon as he’d seen the printouts from his own computer.
Doyle looked at Larabee, trying to determine if he would really place him in isolation and force him to listen to that goddamn song over and over. What he saw convinced him that this man was directly responsible for his earlier torture. He knew the man would be more than willing to continue. And Doyle knew if he had to hear that song one more time, he’d fucking go nuts.
"How the hell did you get into my files?"
"Ve haf our vays," Chris said in a really poor excuse for a German accent.
Doyle's eye widened. "Heichler? No way. He wouldn't work with the cops!"
Chris just smiled. No reason to tell Doyle how they had gotten the information. If the man wanted to believe he'd been sold out, all the better for the team.
“If I tell you where he is, I get silence. No music of any kind. Deal?” Doyle asked the fed.
“He has a yacht anchored at the Bayside Marina, slip #13, a boat called 'The German Mistress'. He’s probably there. If he’s not, then I don’t know where he is. That’s the only place other than my warehouse that we met.”
“Fair enough. Thank you for your time, Mr Doyle. It’s been a pleasure.” He and Jim picked up the papers and left the room, leaving Doyle and his lawyer alone.
"There it is," Jim said from the driver's seat of his truck. "Last dock to the north." Larabee sat in the passenger seat with Blair between them. The ATF agent put binoculars up to his eyes.
Chris adjusted the focus and found the yacht. Pulling the glasses down, then back up, he marveled again at Ellison's heightened vision. He'd always marveled at Vin's eagle eyes, but not even the Texan was this good.
Chris picked up the radio mic. "Okay, folks, just like we planned. Vin, you got it spotted?"
"Yep," came the brief reply. Tanner was coming in from the opposite direction with Ezra and Nathan. Buck, JD and Josiah would follow Chris and Jim.
"Got it, Chris."
"All CPD units are in place. We have a harbor unit out. And the Sheriff's office chopper is standing by, ready to lift off when we move in. The power on the block will be going down in one minute."
"Alright. Let's do it." He put the microphone and binoculars down and opened his door.
"I know, Jim, stay in the truck. Be careful."
"Don't worry, Blair," Chris assured him. "I'll watch his back."
"Doesn't mean I won't worry."
"And you be careful too, Chris." Larabee nodded and quietly closed the door.
Blair slid behind the wheel as the two men, both dressed in black and wearing Kevlar vests, skirted around the crates near the dock. The others moved into position, waiting for the lights to go off so that they could make their way unseen down the currently well-lit dock.
Seconds later the area was plunged into darkness. Chris and Jim immediately started down the dock, followed by the rest of Team 7, Rafe, Brown and Simon. As they got close they could hear shouting from the yacht, which was apparently hooked into the dockside electrical outlets.
Silently the team moved closer. They spread out along the dock on either side of the gangway. Chris took a quick look around, making sure everyone was in place, then he and Jim started up the gangplank, followed by the others.
They made it almost to the top when they heard a shout.
"Cops! It's the damn cops!"
Stealth no longer necessary, the team raced up the rest of the gangplank and spread out. They'd been able to get a diagram for this type of vessel, but they had no idea how many men Heichler might have on board. So they needed to be quick, but careful.
Shots were heard at the stern of the boat, followed by a yell, then a splash. Several more shots were heard, loud voices yelling and footsteps running.
Ten minutes later, fifteen men and women were handcuffed and sitting on the deck of the yacht. All of them appeared to be hired help.
"Damn it! Where the fuck is he?" Chris yelled. He reached down and grabbed onto the nearest detainee and pulled him up by the shirt. "Where's Heichler? Where is your boss?"
"I don't know," the man said with a heavy Bavarian accent. "He doesn't tell us vhere he goes."
"Damn it!" Chris exclaimed, tossing the man back down onto the deck.
"Chris!" Buck yelled, pointing toward the water. All eyes turned that way to see a small craft making a sharp turn in the water and heading back away from the dock.
"It's gotta be Heichler!" Jim said.
"Let's go!" Chris ran toward the dock, followed by Ellison and Tanner. "Vin, Ezra, you're with us!" Standish dropped the box he was looking through and ran after the others. Simon yelled at Rafe to go with them.
They all jumped onto the Harbor Patrol boat that had been docked next to the yacht and Chris raced for the controls.
"You know how to drive one of these things, Larabee?" Jim called.
"You forgetting what branch of the military I was in, Ellison?" he yelled back, turning the key to start the engine.
Jim grinned. "Well, squid, let's hit it!" he cried, using the derogatory name for Navy personnel.
"On our way, grunt!" Larabee quickly returned the friendly insult and pulled the boat way from the dock, sending a spray of water over the CPD officers standing nearby. Ellison reached over and turned on the lights and sirens on the boat.
"Damn! He turned off his running lights!" Vin yelled from the front of the boat, where he and Ellison were standing, getting soaked from the spray. Ezra and Rafe were positioned behind the cabin, one of each side of the boat.
"I can still see it," Ellison assured Tanner, his voice loud enough to carry over the noise, but not loud enough to be heard by the others. "He's heading into a cove to the right." He turned around and pointed the way to Chris. As they neared the cove, he signaled to Rafe to cut the lights and siren. The cove was still blocked by a jetting piece of land and trees. Chris cut back on the throttle putting the boat into idle, the engine a quiet rumble under their feet.
Sudden sound echoed from the cove as the suspect's boat started up again. Jim yelled and grabbed his ears, then shook his head to clear it. "You okay?" Tanner asked. Ellison just nodded, then had to duck as shots came from the escaping boat.
A grunt was heard as Rafe was hit by one of the bullets. Ezra turned and saw him dropped to the deck. He ran over and checked out his wound, then pulled him into the cabin and leaned him against the wall.
"I'm okay," Rafe assured him. "Just the shoulder." Ezra pulled out a handkerchief and pressed it against Rafe's shoulder, grabbing Rafe's uninjured arm and pushing the hand against it.
"Keep pressure on that," he ordered. Rafe nodded, then Ezra returned to his post.
Gunfire was still being exchanged between the two boats. Suddenly light lit up the surface of the water. The spotlight from the Sheriff's helicopter beamed down onto Heichler's boat. And further away, two Coast Guard boats could be seen heading their direction.
The men on Heichler’s boat began firing at the chopper, desperate to get away. Return fire rained down on them, from the helicopter and from Jim, Vin and Ezra. A bright flash suddenly lit up the water, the accompanying explosion just a second behind.
"Shit!" Ellison dropped to his knees, quickly closing his eyes, dialing down his sight and hearing as he and Sandburg had practiced repeatedly.
"Ellison, you okay?" Tanner yelled as he dropped down next to the detective. "Are you hit?"
Jim took a couple of deep breaths and slowly the pain lessened. He cautiously opened his eyes, only to see a concerned Chris Larabee kneeling in front of him. Feeling a hand on his arm he looked over and saw Tanner. He nodded. "I'm okay. The flash just caught be by surprise." He looked back at Larabee. "I'm alright, occupational hazard."
Chris nodded and helped him to his feet. "Rafe took a bullet to his shoulder. Ezra's keeping an eye on him."
They both turned to looked at the debris left by the explosion. By then the Coast Guard boats and two more Harbor Patrol boats were on scene.
"We'll let them clean it up. Let's get Rafe back to the dock so the medics can take a look at him," Chris said.
“Well, boys, Travis congratulated us all on a job well done,” Chris said, returning from updating their boss on the status of their case. “He said for us to take the next week off. And Captain, he sends his thanks to you and your department.”
“Not a problem, Chris. I can honestly say for once that it’s been a pleasure working with the feds. I only wish we could have come up with more information on the mysterious Mr. Heichler. We still haven't been able to identify him. We don't even know for sure if he was on that boat.”
"We'll deal with that later," Chris assured him. "They haven't finished identifying the bodies parts yet, so maybe we'll come up with something. If he was on that boat, the chances for finding a whole body are gonna be mighty slim."
Simon nodded, chewing on the end of a cigar. “I think this calls for a celebration.”
“Well, I for one am hungry,” Buck said, rubbing his hands together. “What say we go out and grab some grub?”
Ezra, just entering the bullpen, heard the tail end of Buck’s suggestion. “How appetizing,” Ezra said sarcastically. “But I’m afraid I must decline. When I realized that our case had come to a conclusion, I made other plans.”
“What other plans?” Buck asked taking note of Ezra’s damp hair and the tuxedo the agent was now wearing.
“Plans involving a lady, Mr Wilmington. Detective Rafe,” he said, spotting the other man, standing nearby, his arm in a sling. “do thank Mr Saabo for delivering the tuxedo here. It saved me some time.” He inspected the jacket. “The man does exquisite work.”
“Anytime, Ezra. Mr Saabo said the other two suits will be ready tomorrow.”
“Excellent. Thank you again for introducing me to him.”
“And just how much are these going to cost, Ezra?” Chris grimaced, knowing that he’d be seeing them on the agent’s next expense report.
Ezra smiled widely. “A mere pittance when you consider the quality of the work, Mr Larabee. Thanks to an introduction by Detective Rafe, Mr Saabo gave me a generous discount.”
Buck gasped. “Ezra, wearing discounted clothes? The world must be coming to an end.” He laughed at Ezra, wiggling his eyebrows at the agent.
Ezra glared at Buck, but otherwise ignored the man’s remarks to him. “Detective Rafe, I will remember to send those two vests to you the moment we return home. I think they will fit you well, but if not, I have no doubt that Mr. Saabo will be able to alter them superbly.”
“Thanks, Ezra, I appreciate it. You really think the colors will go with that suit I was wearing yesterday?”
“Without a doubt. I also have a rather dashing arm sling made of black silk. You can utilize it while your arm is healing. It coordinates much better than those common white slings hospitals give out. And the silk won’t irritate your neck as much. I’ll send that along as well.”
“Sheesh,” Henri broke in. “You boys remind me of my two younger sisters. They were forever raiding each other’s closets.” This generated laughter from the entire room.
“Oh, by the way, guys,” Jim said, “Poker party at our place tomorrow night. Chris, you and your team are invited too.”
“Poker?” Ezra’s eyes lit up. “Outstanding. I shall be there.”
“You had better watch your cards carefully, brothers,” Josiah remarked. “Ezra put himself through college by playing poker.”
“Good,” Simon snorted. “Maybe somebody can finally give Sandburg a run for his money.”
“His money, Simon?” Jim joked. “More like our money. He’s won enough of it over the last few months.”
“Hey, can I help it if I’m a good poker player,” Blair said innocently. The members of Major Crime just snorted.
“Blair, will dinner be included tomorrow?”
“Yep,” he answered Josiah. “Why?”
“Well, I believe that I would like to try your ostrich chili.”
“Me, too,” Nathan added.
Buck shuddered. “No way. Me and JD will stick to regular old normal chili, thank you.”
“Actually, Buck,” JD stated. “I’d at least like to try it. My mother always said you should at least try new things.”
“What? JD, it’s ostrich.”
“Chill out, Buck.”
“It’s just so…ugh.” Buck couldn’t finish.
“Don’t worry, Buck,” Blair said, “I’ll make two batches. That way, everyone can choose.”
“I can’t believe you’d turn on me like that, JD.”
“Get a grip, Buck. It’s chili. You act like you just caught me kissing your lady.”
“Speaking of ladies,” Buck said, throwing an arm around Ezra’s shoulder. “who are ya going out with tonight?”
At that moment, Rhonda walked into the bullpen. Her emerald green, formal gown was long, velvet and clung to her figure. Walking up to Ezra, she smiled. “Are you ready, Ezra?”
“Indeed, my dear,” Ezra said, shrugging off Buck’s arm and kissing Rhonda’s hand. “May I say that you look absolutely stunning. I will be the envy of every man there tonight.” Rhonda blushed as Ezra extended his arm. As they walked out the door, Vin sidled up next to Buck, whose jaw had dropped to the floor at Rhonda’s entrance.
“You’re catching flies there, Bucklin,” he said to the ladies man with a grin.
“But…what…” Buck stammered. Chris reached over and closed Buck’s jaw.
“Stop drooling, Buck,” the leader said.
“This is all your fault, ya know, Chris,” Buck said.
“My fault? How do you figure that?”
“If you had let me go with her to get dinner that night, that would be me going out with her tonight.” Everyone laughed, remembering Rhonda’s repeated rebuffs of Buck’s animal magnetism. The ladies’ man frowned at his teammates, while Henri went over to answer the phone ringing in the corner. He hung up and glanced at Simon quizzically before turning to Larabee.
“Chris, that was Officer Booker downstairs. He wants to know if you’ve made a decision about how long he’s supposed to keep Cassie locked up?”
“Cassie?” Chris asked.
“Oops,” JD said, blushing. He looked at his team leader. “Sorry, Chris. With everything that happened, I forgot to tell you. After we finished the little concert with Doyle earlier, I returned to the conference room, only to find Cassie Wells trying to break through the encryption codes in one of our laptops. I arrested her per your instructions and took her downstairs to be put in lock-up. I told the officer she was to be held until he heard from you. I was coming back up to tell you, but then you came out and we headed down to the marina. In all the confusion, I forgot about her.” He shrugged sheepishly.
“Don’t worry about it, JD. Maybe it gave her some time to think about her stupidity.” Chris said. Both Jim and Vin snorted. He ignored them and turned to Simon. “Well, something obviously needs to be done.”
“You’re right.” Simon answered. “I propose that we go to dinner. I’m hungry.”
“What about Ms. Wells?”
“They’ll feed her downstairs. We have a celebration to attend. We’ll deal with Cassie later.”
Chris clamped a hand on Simon’s shoulder. “I like the way you think. Let’s go eat.”
It was a very somber group that appeared later that night in the detention area. Chris and Simon, accompanied by Captain Hanford, had come to take care of the problem with Cassie Wells. When she was led from her cell, she paled as she realized that not only were Chris and Simon there, but so was her immediate supervisor.
A red haired man, as tall as Captain Banks, looked down at her. “I don’t want to hear it, Wells. Both Agent Larabee and myself gave you a break after that debacle at the warehouse. All you had to do was stay away from the department for two weeks. You would have returned to work with a reprimand in your folder and nothing else. But you once again tried to stick your nose in where it didn’t belong. You’ve made a habit of doing that. I’ve had complaints about you before, but because of your exemplary work, I chose to handle them off the record. But no more. You’re no longer my problem.”
Glancing at the silent federal agent and Captain Banks, she swallowed. “What…what do you mean?”
“I’m here to inform you that your employment with the Cascade Police Department is over. You’re fired.”
“But I was only trying to help,” she whined.
“Cassie,” Simon said, “you would have helped if you had just done your job. The forensics department provides the backbone of the investigations. Without the clues you people find and bag, the detectives wouldn’t have any evidence to be able to solve crimes. We also might miss clues that could point the investigations in the right direction.”
“Wells, when you’re through here, go to your office and pack.”
Cassie hung her head, trying to fight back tears. She’d fucked up. She was just now realizing how badly. “Yes sir. I’ll do that now.” She made a move to go past them, but a hand on her arm stopped her.
“No you won’t.” She looked up at the blond agent as he released her. “You’re not finished here yet.”
“I don’t understand,” she said apprehensively.
“Ms Wells, you are officially being charged with interfering in a federal investigation. You have to be fingerprinted and have your mug shot taken.”
“You can’t be serious,” she said, stunned.
“Oh, I’m very serious.” Chris growled. “I warned you what would happen if I found you around my case.” He handed her a piece of paper. Cassie looked down and blanched when she realized that it was an arrest warrant. With her name on it. Chris continued. “You’ll note that there’s no bail amount. The Captains assure me that you aren’t a flight risk, so once you’re through being processed, you’re free to leave on your own recognizance. You will show up at the federal courthouse first thing Monday morning for your hearing. You’ll want a lawyer with you.”
Cassie nodded and didn’t look back at the men when the officer led her away to be fingerprinted. Captain Hanford sighed. “Well, at least my next Chief of Forensics won’t be going nose-to-nose with the detectives.”
“You’ve already got someone in mind, Hank?” Simon asked.
“Serena Chang is being promoted. She deserves it. She’s done a damn fine job. But don’t say anything yet. I want to surprise her on Monday.”
“Mum’s the word.”
“Thanks,” he nodded to Simon. He held out a hand to Chris. “Agent Larabee, my apologies once again. Good night, gentlemen.”
“So,” Simon said after Captain Hanford had left, “what do you think, Chris?”
“It’s her first offense, Simon. She’ll most likely get time served and a fine. She probably won’t even get probation. But she won’t ever work in law enforcement again.”
“Well, Cassie is a good researcher. She’ll bounce back, I’m sure. You did what you had to do, Chris. She stepped over the line. Luckily, she didn’t get anyone killed.” With that said, the two men left.
The enticing smell of chili with its subtle spices, wafted to Jim as he walked down the stairs from his bedroom, buttoning his shirt. He headed into the kitchen, intent on sneaking a taste, when his partner’s voice floated softly to his sensitive ears from the bedroom under Jim’s.
“Jim, stay away from the chili. Don’t make me have to hurt you, man.”
“Oh, come on, Chief, I’m hungry,” he said loudly enough for his partner to hear him. “We missed lunch today. One bowl. Nobody will even know.”
“Jim, they’re going to be here in fifteen minutes.” Blair came out of his room, tucking a shirt into his jeans. “And we’ll eat before we start playing. You can wait that long. Besides, I haven’t put the garlic bread in yet, and you know you want garlic bread to go with it.”
Jim huffed, and crossed his arms. “Okay, okay. I’ll finish getting the tables set up. But put lots of garlic on mine, okay.” Jim headed over to one wall of the living room, where they had propped the two folding card tables they borrowed from their neighbor, Mr Jenkins. They needed the extra room to accommodate everyone.
“You know, Jim, it’s interesting that your taste buds are so sensitive to other spices, but you can handle a large amount of garlic with no problem.” Blair cut the two loaves of French bread in half and was spreading butter on them. “I was thinking we could run some tests…”
Jim held up a hand. “Not tonight, okay, Blair. We can discuss this to your heart’s content tomorrow. Tonight, I just wanna relax, enjoy some good food, and have fun with some new friends.”
Blair smiled and nodded. “Okay, Jim. Not tonight.”
Blair turned back to the kitchen counter, humming softly. Digging his garlic press out of one of the drawers, he proceeded to layer fresh garlic on the bread. It was healthier than using the processed garlic salt and it made the taste of the bread even better. He grated some mozzarella cheese and would layer some of the bread with that, knowing that Simon, Jim and Henry all loved it on their garlic bread. He would ask the others when they arrived if they wanted it and he wanted to have it already grated.
When the ATF contingent arrived, even Blair could hear them. It wasn’t easy to disguise seven men treading up the stairs, or the remarks Ezra made about having to do so. They elevator was inoperable…again. A common occurrence in the building.
Since the agents were being less than quiet, Jim went ahead and opened the door before they all got to the apartment. He invited the men in with a wave of his hand. Chris and his men entered, but stopped as they gazed around the loft.
“Amazing!” Buck said. “This looks just like our place, don’t it, JD?”
“Yeah. Cool,” his roommate answered.
“I beg to differ,” Ezra said. “How can you tell what your domicile looks like with all the refuse that litters its floors?”
“Hey, now, it’s just the way we like it, right JD. Everything’s got its place.”
“Yeah,” Chris smiled at Jim and Blair. “Unfortunately they can never find that place, so it gets scattered around the loft.” Buck just glared at this oldest friend, but Larabee wasn’t fazed.
Hoping to forestall an argument, Josiah remarked, “Something certainly does smell appetizing, Blair.”
“Thanks. Dinner will be ready in just a few minutes. Does anybody want cheese on their garlic bread?” Receiving answers, Blair went about adding enough for those who wanted it and put the bread in the oven. Then he helped Jim. Together they put the chips supplied by their guests into bowls and carried them out to the card tables. They also got glasses for the drinks.
Blair was just taking the bread out of the oven when a knock sounded. Jim, who already knew that it was Simon, Rafe and Brown on the other side, opened the door.
“Evening, everyone,” Simon said, walking inside. He took a deep breath. “Umm, Blair, I’ve been smelling that garlic bread since the second floor.”
“It’s done, Simon. Your timing was perfect. Dig in, everybody,” Blair invited. “The ostrich chili is in the silver pot, and the regular chili is in the black one. Spices are on the side of the range. Jim’s got some allergies, so I don’t add too many spices while I’m cooking. You can do it to your own taste.”
While the crowd formed a line to the kitchen, Simon handed Chris two manila file folders he had brought with him. “We got a match on the severed hand we fished out from the wreckage of the boat last night. The fingerprints match one John Henry Parmenter. He’s a muscleman from Atlantic City with a rap sheet dating back fifteen years.”
Chris looked through Parmenter’s file until he came to the man’s picture. Jim and Vin both looked at the picture he held up.
“Yeah, I remember seeing him on the boat when it blew,” Vin said.
“Yep.” Jim agreed. “There’s no chance he survived that explosion. What about the other one that was on the boat?”
“Well, all we have are body parts. It may take awhile for any definite identification. But Parmenter has been working the last few years with his cousin, Joey Shepard. I pulled his file just in case.” He indicated the second file Chris was holding. Again studying the mugshot, Vin and Jim agreed that he was their second suspect that was visible on the boat moments before it blew up.
“Good, that’ll give the coroner a place to start and may hasten the identification process,” Simon remarked. “Harbor fished somebody else out of the water this morning.”
“Dead or alive?” Chris asked.
“Dead. It was right around the mouth of that cove. He hadn’t been there long. I had the coroner put a rush on the autopsy. We are also rushing his fingerprints through AFIS,” he said, mentioning the Automated Fingerprint Identification System that police departments used. “I’ll be contacted on my cell phone as soon as the results are in.”
“Good enough,” Chris said. “Let’s eat. I’m hungry and that chili smells good.”
Twenty minutes later, Buck had finished his chili and was wandering around the living room, looking at the pictures and artifacts that decorated the area. He stopped in front of one picture that showed Blair standing with his arm around the waist of a beautiful redhead. He whistled. “Man, I would love to meet this foxy little filly. Who is she, Blair?” he asked Blair.
“That’s my mom,” Blair answered with a glare.
“Oops,” Buck raised both hands in a gesture of surrender. “Sorry. She’s, uh, real pretty.”
Blair’s glare softened as he gazed at the picture. “Yeah, she is.”
Josiah sat back in his chair with a satisfied sigh. “Blair, that was excellent chili. You will have to give me the recipe.”
“Nothing to it, Josiah. You just substitute the ostrich meat for ground beef. Everything else is the same.”
“You were right,” JD remarked. “You can’t even tell the difference.”
“And ostrich meat is healthier?” Nathan asked.
“Yeah. Not as much fat. And ostriches are raised without the use of hormones, like cattle are.”
“Now I just need to find somewhere in Denver to purchase ostrich.” Josiah said with a smile. He stood and took his dishes into the kitchen, and the others followed. Soon, they tables were cleared and everyone had fresh drinks.
“Well, boys,” Simon rubbed his hands together in anticipation. “Let’s play cards. I am feeling lucky tonight.”
“Oh, good,” Blair quipped. “The last time you said that, I won enough to get new tires for my Volvo.”
“Hush, Sandburg, or you’ll be doing paperwork til it comes out your ears.”
“And that would be unusual how?”
“Poker.” Simon changed the subject with a growl. “Let’s play.”
As they settled themselves around the table and figured out how they were going to play with such a large number of people, Buck started grilling Ezra for details about his date with Rhonda.
“So, Ez, where did you go last night?”
“Why do you wish to know?” he asked absently, shuffling the two decks of cards they were using.
“You do remember what inquisitiveness did to the feline, do you not?”
Chris snickered and leaned forward to place his elbows on the table. “Curiosity killed the cat, Buck.”
“I’m just trying to make polite conversation,” Buck insisted.
“No you’re not, you’re fishing for information because you’re jealous,” JD said.
“I am not!”
“Are too. You’re afraid that you’re losing your ‘animal maggotism’.
“That’s magnetism, kid. And I’m not jealous.”
Chris and Vin both snorted at this. “Hell, Buck,” Chris said. “You were greener than her dress when they walked out last night.”
Vin agreed. “Yep. Kept telling Chris that it was all his fault because he sent Ezra instead of you with Rhonda to get dinner that night.”
“You may as well satisfy his curiosity, Brother,” Josiah said. “Or he’ll harp about it all night long.”
“If you must know,” Ezra said in exasperation, “we went to La Boheme.”
“La what? What is that, some kind of restaurant?”
“La Boheme, Mr Wilmington. It’s an opera by Puccini. When I escorted her to get dinner the other night, we happened to pass by a billboard advertising that ‘La Boheme’ was playing at the Cascade Symphony Hall. She mentioned that she had always wanted to see it. So when I realized that I had the evening free, I invited her to go.”
“Where did you get tickets on such short notice, Ezra?” Blair asked. “I know for a fact that they’ve been sold out for months.”
“I gave him my season tickets,” Rafe replied, absently flexing his injured arm. “I’ve already seen it, so I said he could use them.”
“You have season tickets?” Blair asked. “I wish I would’ve known.”
“You’re welcome to use them anytime, Blair. Just let me know.”
“Great,” Blair grinned. “Thanks.”
Buck pretended great interest in his cards. “So the opera usually lets out about what, ten o’clock?”
Ezra narrowed his eyes, glaring at Buck over his cards. “Usually around that time. Why?”
“Well, I was up late last night, reading…”
“Oh, new copy of ‘Guns and Babes’ magazine?” Ezra said sarcastically.
“Funny. Anyway, you didn’t come back to your room until after three AM.”
“Keeping in mind that I am an adult and Miss Rhonda is a lady, what exactly are you attempting to suggest, Mr Wilmington?” he asked.
“Nothing.” Buck said defensively. “I’m just making an observation.”
“I’m telling you this only out of care for the lady’s reputation, but we went to a little coffee house near the Hall and talked. I escorted her home and left her at her door. End of story.”
“And Mr Wilmington, even if something did happen, do you really think I would tell you? I’m not the type to, what is that quaint phrase, ‘kiss and tell’.”
“Oh, so you did kiss her.”
“Buck, drop it.” Chris growled.
“Yes, please,” Simon said, arranging his cards in his hand. “This is my secretary you’re talking about.”
“Okay, okay. I won’t bring it up again.”
“Good!” several voices chorused.
Several hands of poker were played, with Blair and Ezra almost evenly splitting the winning hands between them. When his cell phone rang, Simon threw down his cards in disgust. “Hell, I fold. I couldn’t win this hand even if I was the only one playing.” He grabbed the phone and walked out to the quiet of the balcony.
The others were still studying their cards when Simon came back in. “Well, that was our coroner, Dan Wolf. The official cause of death is drowning. But the victim had a nasty gash on the back of his head. Dan thinks that he may have already been in the water when the boat exploded and he got hit by a piece of debris. Probably got knocked unconscious and drowned. Dan said he was wearing a fake wig and colored contacts.”
“Any ID on him yet?” Chris asked.
“Yeah, AFIS came up with a match and our ID techs have verified that he was Martin Phillips from Atlanta. He used to be an FBI agent.”
Ezra’s head whipped around to stare at Simon in shock. “Did you say Martin Phillips?”
“You know him, Ezra?” Chris asked, glancing quickly at Jim. He remembered Jim saying that it was Heichler that had recognized Ezra. If Ezra knew this Phillips guy, then it was a good chance that Phillips and Heichler were the same person.
“Martin Phillips was an undercover agent with the FBI when I first started. He’s the one who taught me all about using disguises, changing my appearance. He was supposedly killed while undercover not long before I joined Team 7.”
“Ezra, would he have been able to recognize you under your disguise?” Jim asked.
“Undoubtedly. As I would have been able to recognize him.” Ezra narrowed his eyes as he realized the implication of Jim’s question. “You mean it was Phillips that blew my cover, not Doyle? Phillips is Heichler?"
“Looks that way.” Chris answered. “Doyle admitted that it was Heichler that recognized you.” Chris had made it a point to ask Doyle why Heichler had taken off without warning. He had been trying to get something that would have been admissible in court, since Jim’s account of the conversation wouldn’t be.
“That’s fits,” Tanner stated. “We kept getting different descriptions of Heichler. Not just hair and eye color, but weight and height too. Phillips would have known to use tricks to keep from being identified, especially if the Bureau thought he was dead. If our dead man was wearing a disguise, then it’s probably him.”
“So he faked his death and sold out to the other side,” Buck said in disgust.
“I want to be sure that this is the same Martin Phillips that Ezra knew. And I want to know if he was Heichler.” Chris demanded, turning to Simon. “Is the body in good enough shape to be recognized?”
“Okay. Have your coroner keep the body on ice. First thing Monday, Ez and I will go down and make sure this is Ezra’s Martin Phillips. I also want one of the crew from the yacht to take a look as well. I want confirmation that the body is their boss, Heichler.”
“Sounds like a plan.”
“I’d like to know for sure.”
“Be best to tie up all our lose ends.”
“I will endeavor to verify our deceased subject’s identity.”
“It would make me feel better.”
“And until then, cowboy?”
Chris looked at his team, then at the men from Cascade. “Until then, we play poker.” He picked up his cards and lay them back on the table face up, revealing a royal flush. “I believe this pot is mine,” he said with a grin.
Dan Wolf pulled back the sheet from the face of their corpse. Ezra took a long look, then sighed in resignation. “Yes, that’s him, Chris. That’s Special Agent Martin Phillips.”
Chris lay a hand on Ezra’s shoulder. “I’m sorry, Ezra. I know you were hoping it was all some big mistake.”
“Yes, I was. I truly didn’t want to believe that a man I had looked up to had turned.” He looked at Chris. “Was he really Gunter Heichler?”
Chris nodded. “Yeah. Two of the crewmen from the German Mistress positively identified him earlier. Now that we have your ID, we’ll inform the FBI of his resurrection and real death.” He gazed at Ezra. “Are you gonna be okay?”
Ezra smiled a little sadly. “Yes. I’ll be fine.” He stood up and squared his shoulders. “If you don’t mind, I’d like a few minutes to myself.”
“Okay. I need to go see Captain Banks, so we’ll meet you in the Major Crimes bullpen.”
Chris knocked on the door and entered after receiving a ‘come in’ from the occupant of the office.
“Chris,” Simon stood up from his chair. “Well, was it who Ezra thought?”
“Yeah.” Chris rubbed the back of his neck. “And he was Gunter Heichler. At least we were able to stop him and get the goods on Doyle.”
“Well, then the case it tied up all nice and neat. Now the only thing we have left is getting Ms Watkins into the witness protection program.”
“No, actually, we don’t. She's elected to return to her native England. She and the baby were put on a plane last night.”
“Won’t Doyle try to get to her there?”
“He has no reason to. He thinks Heichler sold him out and we’ll let him keep believing that. Even if he’s upset about Ms Watkins extracurricular bedroom activities, she claims that she can take care of herself and the child. We can’t force her to go into the protection program.”
“So when are you leaving?”
“In the morning. We’ll drive to Seattle and drop the van off with ATF Headquarters there.” Chris held out his hand. “Simon, it’s been a pleasure working with you and your team. And don’t worry, I’ll keep Jim’s secret.”
“I know you will, Chris.” Simon said, returning the handshake. “It’s been a pleasure working with you, too. And Jim wanted to talk to you for a minute.” He went to the window and motioned to Jim. The detective and Blair came into Simon’s office, leaving Rafe and Henri talking to Chris’ team.
“I just wanted to tell you thanks for handling the whole Sentinel thing so well. And to tell you that if I can ever be of any help to you or your team, just call. Blair and I will come running.”
“Thanks, Jim, Blair. I’ll keep that in mind. You guys take care of yourselves.”
The four men walked out of Simon’s office and joined the team in the bullpen.
“Seen Ezra yet?” Chris asked.
“No, not yet,” Vin answered. “You want I should go look for him?”
“Nah, we’ll give him a few minutes. This has been hard on him. He knows where we’ll be.”
“You guys have a good trip back,” Jim included them all in his statement.
“And if you ever come out this way again, make sure to drop by and say ‘Hi’,” Blair added.
“We will.” Chris answered for them all.
Simon handed a file to his secretary. “Rhonda, could you run this up to the Commissioner’s office?”
She got up to leave, having already said her good-byes to the team. Chris rolled his eyes as Buck made one final attempt to charm the woman.
“Darling,” Buck said, grabbing one of her hands. “It just about tears my heart up to be going back to Denver. I wish we’d gotten a chance to get better acquainted.”
Rhonda gently pulled her hand free and patted Buck on the face. “Buck, you’re just not my type.” She spotted Ezra, who had quietly come in to the bullpen. “But you,” she said, walking up and grabbing Ezra by his lapels and pulling him close. “You I’m gonna miss.” Then she gave Ezra a heated kiss, while Buck just watched in amazement. Ending the kiss, she turned and walked out, leaving Ezra with a bemused statement on his face.
Ever the good-natured one, Buck slapped Ezra on the back. “Damn, Ez. That was some kiss. I’m surprised your shoes aren’t on fire.” Ezra just smiled.
“By the way, Ezra. Thanks for the cigar,” Simon said to the undercover agent. “I’m going to save it for a very special occasion.”
“You’re quite welcome, Captain Banks. I’m glad it will be appreciated by a true connoisseur.”
“Well, are we ready to go guys?” Chris asked. “I’m sure the captain would like his department cleared.” The team started to leave. Chris moved to follow them, but stopped in the doorway to the bullpen and turned around. “By the way, I just thought you’d like to know that your good friend, Agent Donohue, got transferred suddenly a couple of days ago.”
Jim perked up. “Oh, where did he get transferred to?”
“That’s funny, considering how much he always complained about Seattle’s cold and wet weather,” Blair said. “Wonder who he pissed off to get sent up there?”
“I don’t know.” Chris said innocently. “I’ll have to ask Terry the next time I talk to him.”
“Who’s Terry?” Simon asked suspiciously.
“Director Terry Lessard. He’s an old Navy buddy of mine. He’s also Agent Donohue’s superior.” Chris grinned, turned around and walked away. The laughter from the bullpen followed him down the corridor.