Site hosted by Build your free website today!


Anne Tolar




A short story based on Magnificent 7, set in an alternate universe called Mag7 Agency.

Feedback to:




"Hell, Vin. What do you mean YOU'RE having trouble with Abigale. She's my office manager, not yours."

Chris Larabee had been stuck in the office of the Mag7Agency for a week. Nathan Jackson, his physician, had released him from home health care only for light duty, no casework for another two months, no heavy lifting or hard exercise for at least one. It was all planned to allow him time to heal from the drug-induced heart attack, beatings, and other wounds from their last case, without making him absolutely crazy. Over the last two months, he had rapidly become affectionately known as a the great grizzly.well, maybe not so affectionately there at the end.

Chris had promised to be 'good.' In exchange, he'd been promised he could go back to work. But if he even tried to stick one foot out the door of Mag7 to follow any of his partners on a lead, to search out a clue, to so much as go to the library for a book...if it dealt with the subject of a case...Terry Horton Larabee, his wife, had promised him hell-to-pay. And she had her ways of finding out. Shoot, all she had to do was ask Abigale if he was there, and if he wasn't, his goose would be microwaved.

"Chris," she had said, "look, for once, just be good...just do what you're told. You can do it if you try. At least this way you get to go to work. That's what you've wanted, so Nathan's letting you do it. You can't afford to get hurt again, but you can go to the office. You'll be there to answer questions and that will help everyone...and you'll feel better...and I won't have to worry about you. BE GOOD. I need a break as much as you do. It won't be for that long. And at least you can't get hurt this's only office work."

"She's gotten pure vicious, Chris." Vin stood in his office, leaned against the door jam, fairly fuming. "She's after Betsy and Cretia now. Seems Betsy didn't let her know she was changing the database."

"Well, wouldn't that have been a reasonable thing for Betsy to do. Abigale is the lead manager for the office, been with us since the first week, and I've asked her to update some research files on the database."


"Oh, hell, Vin...sorry. It's only a few of my own cases that I didn't get to write up before I went to Nogales."

"Fine...just your own cases. No problem. I don't mind none of thatbut she's started a little war with Betsy and Cretia over this. You better put em all in a corral and straighten this out. Since you got hurt last time, Abigale thinks she just runs this place herself. Betsy and Cretia are gonna quit. They quit.well, YOU catch hell from the rest of ussimple as that. Talk to her, or pay the price."

"HellI hate office politics worse than getting beat up."

"Well, let's just say it's your problem, and it's gonna be a big pain if you don't hurry, and I'm definitely out of here!"


As that partner, their hunter, exited, the leader's son entered. "Hey, Dad."

"Hey, Adam. What are you doing out of schoolthought you had summer classes until noon every day."

"Teacher retreat, Dad. Geez---you said we'd go over the catalogue for Fall courses at University of Arizona this morning. Didn't forget again, did you?"

"Today? I promised I'd do it today?"

"Yeah-Dadsaid you weren't doing anything major, just looking after the office."

"Yeah, right!"

Another partner got him off that hook for a minute, but right back onto another one.

"MR. LARABEE!" Ezra Standish, partner, budget manager, occupied the door frame this time. Hands on hips, normally immaculate clothing ruffled and hair askew. That definitely meant trouble. "SIR.have you seen the invoice yet for that new computer we purchased for your desk? To replace the one you threw the coffee and the coffee mug into, just before you shot it? Did you truly authorize a purchase in excess of ten thousand dollars for an office computer? What's it supposed to do, check our database on Mars?"

"Ezra? What invoice? What ten thousand?"

"This invoice! I thought we had agreed you gentlemen would never authorize a purchase above three-thousand without letting me know about it, IN ADVANCE!"

"EzraI don't remember what it cost, but it was the one our consultant recommended."

"What consultant?"

"Epscomb? No, Elscomb? The guy from Computer Services, Inc."

"He's not OUR consultant! He's A consultant.a SALESMAN, Chris!"

"Oh, shit!"

"Well, you can call him yourself to cancel this order. We've only got a day to get this straightened out or we'll owe them for it. Or can I say, you'll owe them for it. Company policyyou helped write ityou fix it."

"Okay, okay, okay....Ezra.get me the guy's number. I'll make the call."

"Get it yourself, MR. Larabee!"


"Yes, Chris?"

"Get that number from Ezra, and remind me to make that call to Computer Services. Okay?"

"Okay...but you remember too."

"Dad...I want to go to University of Arizona in Tucson starting in Fall, but if I don't get the paperwork done, I'm not going to make the cut."

"What do you need right this minute?"

"Admission request, application fee, transcripts, information on my major...oh, notice that this DOES include money."

"With's always money," he grinned at his son. "You've chosen a major? Have you told your mother about that?"

"Well, no...but she's ALWAYS said you two would back me up whatever I decided, and I think I know what I really want to do...well, the degree I'll need to do what I want to do, anyway."


"Abigale?" His eyebrows went up. Abigale rarely barged into the middle of one of his private conversations, unless there was a problem.

"Here's the number you wanted, and have you decided which of those undergrads you're going to take in for the internship?"


"You promised the community college you'd offer an internship for one of the public administration majors?

"When did I do that?"

"Last week...just after you walked in. And you promised a PAID internship, but Ezra doesn't know that yet."

"Oh, hell."

"Well, they need an answer. Today, please."

"Well, which one did you like?"

"Barney Miller."

"You've got to be kidding!"

"Just wondered if you remembered anything about it."

"Well...I remember the paperwork on Sam what's-his-name."

"Sam Walker?"

"Yeah...he looked good."

"Well, SHE looked even better." Abigale dropped that bit of information like the bomb it was.

"Oh, hell."

"Ah,'re not going to be a chauvinist are you? I'll never live it down."

"You? You know her?"

"Sure...I told her to apply."

"Thanks one hell of a lot, Adam. What exactly does she look like?"

His son grinned.

"Oh, hell!"

"Okay, Abby...she looked the best...hell, she had the best application. Call them and tell them she's got the internship."

"And how much do I tell them we're going to pay?"

"Ask Ezra."

"OH, NO! After I had to try to explain that invoice on the computer...not on your life. YOU tell him."


"Damn right!"

"Okay.....sometime today."

"Sometime before noon, Mr. Larabee..."

"Damn. Okay, Adam...University of Arizona. Exactly what have you decided to do? Last time your mom said something, she thought you had decided on being a doctor."

"That was before I had to stay in a hospital for two weeks, smell that place while I was in it, and got to watch all of you try to get well again, and got to do Nathan's rehab for myself. You looked awful! NOT IN THIS LIFETIME! I've sort of picked the Criminal Justice Major."

"OH, HELL!!"

"Thought I'd work a while in the Arizona State Police, if I can make the grade, or else work for Mag7 after I finish the program and the police academy and a few years on the force. Figure you'd want a trained operative."

"You don't think taking care of the ones in the hospital is a little better than BEING the one in it? Have you told any of the partners about this little decision?"

"Just Vin."

"And he said..."

"Started muttering to himself...something about my being as stupid, pigheaded, and stubborn as you and how I ought to know better...that I'd got myself shot twice already....then he just muttered 'damn fool,' and went walking off. But Dad...he was smiling anyway. Look, you're going to back me on it aren't you?"


"Ah, Dad...come on..."

"Hell, Adam..."

"Hell nothing, Dad. It's not like I'm going into it blind. I've seen lots, worked a little, I'm not stupid....Dad, I want the whole thing."

"And if I won't and your mom won't pay for it?"

"I'll put myself through. Already thought about'll only take me another year or so to finish. I can understand Mom not liking it...but hell, can't possibly be against it."

"And why not?"

"Cause it would mean you're one damn wouldn't it? YOU HATE HYPOCRITES!! Admit think I'd be pretty good, don't you."

"Hell, Adam."



"Need your answer on the Wilson case."

"It's domestic, Buck. We don't do domestic...right?"

"Well, not usually...but look, Chris, that lady's got six kids, a mortgage, and a job that pays next to nothing. I say track the bastard down and make sure he coughs up the back alimony AND child support he owes her. Nothing but a mangy dog holds out on his own kids, and he agreed without arguing to the alimony settlement. He makes a bundle on that ball team...he ought to pay. She caught him shacking with one of the cheerleaders as it was, at their own house, to boot."

"I suspect, Buck, that all you're so fired up about is the chance to get in her britches!"

"She's got kids!"

"And that would make what difference?"

"And she's divorced! Makes him a mangy dog if you ask me!"

"And that makes you a......."

"Look, stud, I may shack, but I ain't married....and, far as I know, I don't owe any child support for any reason whatsoever."

"You going to take it on? That kind of job has a real chance of blowing up in your face."

"Yeah...but if I need help, J.D.'ll back me up."

"Oh, hell...take it then."

"Good. I knew you had a tender heart." His friend and partner, the one with the truly tender heart, and an eye for the beauty hunting the missing funds, left Chris' office whistling.

"What I've got is a streak of stupid a mile wide. We're going to regret this."


"Sorry....where were we? Oh, I SAID NO!"

"And I said you had to be a hypocrite to say it, too, Dad. Admit it. I'd be pretty damn good, and you pretty well want me in the agency eventually. Right."

"Smart ass." But he smiled.

"Thanks, Dad. Now, look...I can fill out the application for admission on line. I just need to make sure everything's just right cause they only take the first application submitted. And's got to be in by June 1 for Fall. And, ah, Dad?"


"I'll need the forty dollars for the fees."

"I hear you. Well, you better damn sure tell your mother before I help you fill this out and take my lumps for doing it. I'm stove up enough now. She gets mad at me again, my ass is grass."

"And why would your ass be grass?" Terry Larabee came into the office on the tail end of the conversation, and knew if these two men of hers were in deep, serious conversation, and out of her hearing, she probably wasn't going to like what she heard.

"Uh, nothing, Terry. Adam was just asking me a question." She saw sheepish on his face. She heard "I'm dead" in his voice. He had the audacity to give her his very best smile as he came around the desk to kiss her. To herself she considered seriously that he should have listened closer to his voice.

"And if it was about working at Mag7 again, your answer was NO, right?"

"Shoot, Mom, it's only for the summer. I need to make money for Fall, and I'll only work in the office. Shoot, Dad's supposed to stay in the office for a few more months, I can just back him up."

"Back him up?"

"Whatever he needs...filing, phoning, database, errands, you's ONLY office work."

"Uh-huh....just office work." She glared at her husband. "And exactly why don't I believe you'll stay inside any more than your father would if I didn't have him threatened with more of Nathan's attention the first minute he sets foot out of here?"

"Excuse me, Chris?"


"I've got Sam Walker on the phone. She wants to thank you for the internship and talk about the particulars...when she starts working for you."

"Abby...not now!"


"Mom, she's the coolest girl. Dad gave her the internship for the whole fall semester. She's just beautiful.oh, and she's smart, too!"


"Chris......" Her voice raised almost a full octave.

"Come on, Hellcat. She's a freshman from the community college in public administration. She's just going to help us for the one semester, and she WON'T be reporting to me."

"And she's the one you picked?"

"I chose SAM...Sam Walker...I didn't know anything about Sam Walker except what was on the application. AND IT DOESN"T MENTION SEX!"

"I would hope not...and her work better not include any either!"

"Hell, Terry..." He blushed to the tip of his ears. "Adam'll think I'm a pervert."

"No, Dad...that's probably just Uncle Buck."

'He's just a scoundrel, Adam. He's NOT a pervert, and for the record, neither am I."

She laughed...."Okay. We're clear on that one. I'm sure after the last 'trainee' you remember...Bergitta Morales....after her, you'll remember to use the proper phrase."

He grinned. "Abigale, tell her I'll call her back. What was that little phrase you suggested I use, Hellcat?"

"Leave me the hell alone!"

"Right...need arises, I will use it loud and often. After Bergitta nearly got us all killed, I'll remember, or call you in if this one doesn't listen to me. But I don't think I'll have's your son who's got her in his sights. "


"Geez-Mom. She's just a friend."


Her son turned a brilliant red, the tips of his ears turning as bright red as his fathers' were prone to do. Terry loved to make both of them squirm. "Like father like son."

"And speaking of which," Chris began to sidle toward the door. "Your son has something to tell you. I'm going to talk to J.D. Back in a minute."

"And where is J.D.?"

"How the hell should I know?" He caught her suspicious gaze. "He's here in the building somewhere. No, I'm not going anywhere, except around here. with your mother...don't you leave out any of it..." He made a wonderfully graceful, extremely hasty retreat...right into Ezra's hands.




"Whatever's fair, Ezra. What do we usually pay, twenty an hour?"


"Like hell...she's got salary, all kinds of leave, fringes, bennies...Oh, hell, Ezra, tell me what's a good rate. When I talk with her, I'll tell her the amount...she can take it or leave it."

"I would say six per hour."

"You're a MISERABLE tightwad, Ezra. That's just, what, less than sixteen hundred for the entire semester? That's not going to improve our reputation out there at the community college. Looks like we want slave labor."

"All right...I'm the tightwad, you're the spend thrift....We compromise. Eight an hour, twenty hours a week, thirteen weeks...equals a little over two thousand. Hell, Chris...interns ARE slave labor. We pay much more, we'll be inundated with programs wanting us to provide such golden opportunities."

"Alright, eight an hour."

"No more than twenty hours per week, only thirteen weeks, no fringes, no bennies, and you do know you have also cost us the social security match on that."

"Sure...I know that."

"Of course you do." Ezra stormed off...still not in a good humor.

"Chris...were you looking for me?" J.D. stood to the side, waiting his turn.


"Abigale said you were looking for me."

"She did? I wonder what that's about?"

"There you go again, Chris...don't trust me for nothing for more than a minute!"

"J.D., you know I trust you....I just wasn't ..."

"Yeah, Right!" The junior partner stormed off as well.

"Oh, hell!"

"MR. LARABEE! I understand you cancelled my order!"

"Who are you?"

"I'm Leonard Eggstrom, Computer Services, Inc. We thoroughly discussed that computer system, and you agreed it was the one you wanted."

"Yes...maybe...but my Budget Manager reminded me that.."

"You taking orders from the hired help these days, Larabee. You haven't got the balls to make your own decision and stick by your word."

"He's not the hired help...he's my partner...."

"So you're not such a high muckty-muck after all. Maybe next time, I ought to just get the word of your partner...maybe he'll keep his word, not be no damn liar like you!"

"Eggstrom, I suggest you shut your mouth and back off...and I suggest you do it right now." Chris looked the man in the eye with his best 'bad boy' stare, pleased to see his 'famed' glare work as it should. The man gulped and left.

"Good...haven't lost the touch yet."


"Ah, hell, Terry...what now?" His head was beginning to ache.


"No, he told ME he was GOING into Criminal Justice...whether I liked it or not. Said if we didn't back him, he'd just pay for it himself and take the extra time to finish."

"And you didn't call his bluff?"

"It wasn't a bluff, Terry. You know it isn't a bluff. He got his head working on this two years ago. He's just more set on it than ever."


"Because he likes it. He thinks he'll be good at it."



"Shut up, Ezra!"




"Terry....It scares me shitless...but I'd be a hypocrite if I said I didn't think he'd be damn good at it. And you think he'll be good at it too...come on, Hellcat...admit it."

She reached out and out of sheer fear and frustration, she hauled off and swatted him across the shoulder.

"AWH!! Damn, Terry!"

"Oh, Chris...are you hurt?"

"Shoot," he rubbed his sore shoulder, the one that had taken the last bullet. It was mostly healed, only slightly tender. "Nothing a pint of Mr. Daniels won't cure."

"You're not going to ACTUALLY DRINK any of that are you?"

"Don't I wish!!" She drew in a sharp breath....he saw the tirade coming. "Oh, hell, know better than that..."


"Look, if we've got to argue about this...let's take it home tonight."

"Take what home tonight?"


"I'm not going to have you taking work home tonight! Terry and I agreed you'd not take one single, solitary thing out of this office as work. Didn't we Terry?"

"Yes, we did...but..."

"Well, Mr. Big Shot....I'm putting my foot down on this. Right now!"


"I beg your pardon!"

"Abby...I'm my own boss, NOT YOU!"

"Humph!" She was out the door in a storm.

"Mr. Larabee!!!"

"Ah, hell! Vin would sic them on me now!! Ladies? Can I help you?"

Betsy and Cretia stared after the angry woman. "See...she even talks to you that way! It's not fair, Mr. Larabee."

"And you think life's fair. Boy, have you two got a lot to learn!"

"I quit!" Betsy down.

"Me, too!" Cretia going.

" was a joke!"

"It's not funny, Mr.'s not funny at all."

"Look, just calm down. What's she done?"

"She said I was a screw-up and that I wouldn't know good work if I saw it!" Tears began to fall down Betsy's face.

"And she said I had been off work so much lately, she never knew if I was on the clock or not. I only took two days off!" Tears also rained down Cretia's face.

"Look, don't cry....don't cry....I'll talk with her."

"Will you? You promise? Oh, Mr. Larabee,...that would be wonderful of you to do that for us." Betsy brightened considerably. Chris didn't notice how quickly the tears disappeared.

"I'm sure we'll work everything out. I know she thinks the world of both of you. The boys sure do, too."

"You really think soall of them. Maybe she's just been under so much pressure, you know, with you and the others being so sick, and you out so long."

"Pressure---yeah, that's bound to be it. I'll talk with her. Why don't you both take a couple of hours off, take a little break, let this settle."

Both women dried their tears. Betsy patted his shoulder, which set off the soreness again. "I know that's what it is....well, we'll just go have a bite to eat and fix our faces and get back to work." The two left, and Chris relaxed....for about two seconds.



"Betsy changes the database and doesn't tell me. That's the research database...the one you told ME to update and keep an eye on. Cretia...she only took two days? Do you mean the two days a week for the last six weeks she's taken? The twelve days when she's left me those little lists of hers about what I needed to do of HER work, while I was trying to handle all of YOURS as well as MINE? And you just gave BOTH of them an extra two hours off for lunch! And THAT left this office all on ME!"

"How did I do that? I didn't think."


"Look, it's bound to just be overwork and miscommunication. We can work this out."

"That's easy for you to say. You'll be back on the street, and you'll leave me here to deal with the two of them. I deserve better than this, Chris Larabee. You may be my boss, but you don't have to let them treat me like this."

"Abby...Abby...I didn't mean to hurt your feelings. You know how important you are to all of us..."


"You know I wanted you to come back after you quit last time. You know how important you were to us solving the last case. This is just a case of everybody being overworked and overstressed. Give them time, then you invite them out to lunch, do the 'whoa-is-me, he's a monster' bit...they'll eat it up. All you got to do is blame it all on me."

"You know I wouldn't put the blame on you."


"Of course not. Makes me look like I'm not in control around here."

"Oh...I see."

"Don't you worry...I'll get this all straightened out. You're still too weak to worry about this. Just let me take care of it."

"Fine...fine....but Abby?"


"Just 'take care of it' on the gentle side, okay? They're just office workers..."

"Just office workers? Don't I always take care of things?"

"Of course, Abby....just like always."


"I hate my name." He turned around to see Vin headed his way.

"You gave those two an extra two hours off for lunch?!"

"Vin, they were crying...I thought they just needed a little time.."

"You start precedence like that, those two will take to tears every time you're in range!"

"Look, you put em on me...."

"You got this started...If Abby didn't..."

"If Abby didn't WHAT!!!" Abby was all ears.

"Vin....would you please shut up! We'll talk about this in private, later."

"Discuss private? Not ever!" Abby stormed off again, and passed them in about two minutes, purse in hand....out the door, "I QUIT!"

"Oh, shit, Vin!"

"She quits ever two minutes since you begged her to come back."

"She's the best we got, Vin."

"I know, but she loves this place...she'll be back."

"I hope so."

"Look, no big problem...just don't coddle Betsy and Cretia...okay?"

"Don't send em crying to me, and I won't have to."




"Look, Chris...."


"I would, but you better pay attention."



"OH, HELL!! Where did he come from?"

"LARABEE, YOU GOOD FOR NOTHING......I'M GONNA KILL YOU!!!" And from out of the blue, the six-foot-six, three hundred-fifty pound linebacker slammed his fist into Chris' gut, a second time into his eye. "YOUR AGENCY TOOK MY WIFE'S CASE!!!"

Chris rose from the floor, where he was trying to catch his breath and not to puke, blinking back the water that ran down his face. "Hell, Bruiser, why don't you just pay her what you owe. You know she deserves it, and you've got plenty of it. And I didn't take it....BUCK did!"

The man drew back again. Chris made a desperate move to get out of the way. He just didn't move that fast at the moment. The blow plowed into his sore shoulder.

"YOU STOP THAT!" Terry hit Bruiser Wilson with the closest thing at hand...Chris' ornate coat rack, which disintegrated before their eyes against the man's gargantuan back. "DON'T YOU HIT HIM AGAIN!!!" She had the satisfaction of seeing that at least one piece of the coat rack had glanced across the man's scalp and left a tiny trickle of blood.

"Terry, I'll handle this."

"SURE YOU WILL!...Come on...I'm taking you to the hospital to see Nathan."

"WHY? LOOK, Bruiser....just pay your poor wife and children what you owe them. She deserves it after what you did!"

"SHUT UP, J.D." Chris moved himself between the younger partner and the maniac before them.

"Chris, I can handle this.get out of the way." J.D. waltzed around his leader, looking like a toy poodle next to a pit bull.

"Come on Chris, we're going!"

"No, Terry. I'm not..."

"HOW DO YOU KNOW WHAT I DID...GOT ACCUSED OF? LARABEE, I'M GONNA KILL YOU!" He came at Chris with fire in his eye.

"Calm down, Bruiser....Calm down." Chris back-peddled nicely. He was smaller than the mountain that charged him, but at least now, knowing what would come if he DIDN'T move, he managed to get out of the way.


"For now, I think I'll just turn her loose on ya!" Chris looked at him, and grinned. "Come on, Bruiser. You know you're just mad because she figured out a way to get even. Why don't you go see if you can't get her back...That's what you really want anyway... right, and she probably won't sue your butt?"


"Go on...say you're sorry to her and try to be a 'good boy' for a change."

"As if you'd take that advice yourself! Come on....we're going to see Nathan."

'Ah, hell! N....O! Terry...I'm not hurt...and I don't want to see Nathan and his needles."






"Copy paper? What copy paper. I didn't cancel any copy paper."

"Oh, yes you did...or Eggstrom did."

"Eggstrom...he's the computer man."

"He's the salesman from Computer Services...they run the sweetest deals there are on copy paper. Took me about a year to make sure we always got advanced warning when they had a new supply. You made Eggstrom mad....he cancelled my order."

"Somebody tell me these things, before you tell me to cancel anything!"

"If you just paid attention to details around this office, every once in a while, my would be much, much simpler."

"'re the one who says for me to just ignore all this and leave it to you!"


"HELL!" All six-one of the man walked to the heap of his used-to-be coat rack, and retrieved the coat to his silk suit from the ruins. "I am out of here!"


"Terry...I am going. I'm going now. I don't give a damn WHERE I'm going. But I am NOT staying here."

"You can't..."

"Watch me!"

"But Dad..."

"It will wait until tonight...I promise I'll get to it at the house. I'm on a damn short leash anyway...I'll be home early."

"Dad, you can't go....Abigale said you need to finish talking with Sam Walker."

"Hell, the internship's not until Fall! J.D., tell Abby to just set an appointment for me."

"Abby quit, Chris. I'm not gonna tangle with her when she's in this mood."

"Just call her, and tell her I said she just unquit and to get her little butt back down here, NOW!"

"You call her."

"NO, VIN!!! YOU call got me in this mess to start with."

"LARABEE, I STILL THINK I'M GONNA KILL YOU! Marda just called my cell ...says Buck told her not to let me sweet talk her into a settlement on no account."

"BRUISER, you take this up with BUCK...not me. I'm not your are, and my gut's not your punching bag!"


"Next person who says that...." His face was nearly purple, and the look in his eyes told them all to most definitely back off...for now.

"Says what, Pard?" They all froze, Vin trying to cool him down. The grizzly was back.

"MY NAME, VIN!!! I'm out that door....right now! Hell, you people! This is the worst day I've had in this place. After today, I'd rather face a bomb from Patsy Pepperjohn and Cynthia Coffey, or even meet Carlos and Benito Morales again...well almost....than face day-to-day, nit-picking problems in this office. All-in-all, I'd just as soon take a beating as listen to you people bellyache. Give me a good ole murder any day. Hell! It's ONLY office work!"



Back to Stories