DISCLAIMER:Characters belong to CBS/Trilogy/etc. No infringement intended,no
profit being made.
ARCHIVE: Link to Maggie's ATF page
RATING: PG (language)
AUTHORS' NOTES: There are several takes on the layout of the guys' office,
in this story we're using an open room set up where two desks face each
Dedication from Mog: My quarter of this story is for Kelly (Adamskm). I hope
she can forgive my unforgiveable treatment of her - I & my Muse were
pathetically neglectful toward her and she was *still* nice to us. I scrape
my knees and bow my forehead to the ground to her and wouldn't blame her if
she dissed me publicly - I deserve it.
Ezra wasn't aware of the pastry sailing over his head until a sprinkling
hot pink coconut dusted his paperwork. Raising his head slowly, he fixed
his deskmate with a deadly glare.
"Ooops, sorry, Ez."
Standish wasn't sure which irritated him more, the small florescent
or the slight smirk playing across Tanner's lips.
"If you and Mr. Dunne insist upon consumin' those formaldehyde based,
starch-laden confections, the least you can do is exchange them like normal
human beings rather than launching them over my work space."
"Snowballs, Ez...they're called Snowballs," mumbled JD around a mouthful
marshmallow and chocolate sponge cake.
Before the undercover agent had a chance to retort, their attention
captured by the entrance of Chris Larabee. "Conference room, gentlemen."
"Give me five, Chris," requested Buck, "I'm expecting an important phone
JD rolled his eyes, "Give it up, Buck, after last night I doubt Maureen
be calling you any time soon."
Wilmington let out an exasperated sigh and winced slightly as he realized
Larabee now knew the call was not work related.
"*Now*, Buck. That phone is not your personal 1-900 number." The senior
agent turned on his heel and headed for the meeting place. Once the blonde
man's back was turned, Wilmington's reaction was automatic. Pulling open the
lower left drawer of his desk he extracted a bright yellow rubber chicken
which he shook in his leader's direction.
JD suppressed a slight giggle at his friend's familiar and well used
of frustration, but he was unable to contain the laughter further when
Larabee spoke without interrupting his stride or turning around. "I really
hate it when you shake that chicken at me, Buck."
Wilmington was frozen in place - eyes wide, mouth open, plastic poultry
hanging limply in his hand.
Josiah drifted past on his way to the conference room. "It's a known
that parents develop eyes in the back of their head."
"Especially when they have such unruly children," added Nathan, amused
the shocked expression that Wilmington still wore.
"Nice work, Colonel Sanders," quipped JD, flashing his best friend a
"Shut up, kid."
Vin was sincerely trying to concentrate on the debriefing that Chris
conducting, but the growling of his stomach kept dragging his thoughts to
the habanero burritos he had been craving since ten that morning. Maybe he
could drag Josiah to 'On the Border' for lunch.
Josiah was listening to each word Larabee said but was only absorbing
of it. The other half was drowned out by the nagging suspicion that he may
have left the iron turned on at home. This thought might have been easily
overridden, but another would have been there to take its place. He still
had to find a way home after dropping his Suburban off at the mechanic's
after work. He wondered if Nathan would care to give him a ride.
Nathan couldn't wait to get home. Although he was sure what Chris was
was important, Rain was due in that evening and Jackson couldn't pull his
thoughts from his girlfriend's impending visit. He wondered if she would
bring that cute little number she'd picked up at Victoria's Secrets last
month. Soft pink with a hint of white. 'Good Lord, what *is* that in Ezra's
'Why is Nathan staring at me?' Ezra pondered, just before Chris's move
towards the back of the room recaptured the southerner's attention. Their
leader never stopped speaking as he made his way around the table, pausing
briefly behind JD to pick up and crumple the sheet of paper that was being
covered by the young man's hand.
JD sunk slightly in his seat, wondering how Buck always managed to get
in trouble. Wilmington had, after all, been the one to start the game of tic
tac toe, and he insisted on adding insult to injury by elbowing his young
apprentice and shaking his head disappointedly.
'That'll teach the boy to sass, me. Colonel Sanders, my ass.' Buck
straightened in his chair and momentarily wondered if it was too late to
cancel the surprise birthday party he had planned for JD on Saturday night.
"Okay, gentlemen, I think that's all for now. As focused as you all
been, I'm sure it will be no problem for you to get your reports to me by
Monday morning." As the senior agent started for the door, Buck stood to
"Aw, hell, Chris, I have plans this weekend."
For the second time that morning Larabee delivered a reply without stopping.
"Well, Buck, maybe you can get your little chicken friend to help you."
As JD walked out past his roommate, he elbowed the older man in the
shook his head in mock disappointment.
"We'll see if that grin is still on your face when you're done paying
lunch, kid," countered Buck as he followed Dunne out.
Josiah rubbed his hands together in anticipation. "Hey, Buck, you think
can talk him into springing for 'On the Border'?"
"Don't leave without me." Vin started after his friends but Nathan caught
"Hold up, Vin. Buck wanted me to remind you all that you need to be
saloon by 7:30 on Saturday."
Ezra cocked his head slightly as he gathered up his papers, "And that
"JD's birthday party," stated Nathan in an obvious tone.
"Aw, shit," Vin muttered, "that's *this* Saturday?"
Standish arched one eyebrow, "And I was informed of this when?"
"Buck sent out an e-mail last week," replied Nathan.
"After the last incident, I no longer open e-mail from Mr. Wilmington."
"Just make sure that you're both there." Jackson sighed slightly
started to leave but paused briefly to reach up and pluck something from the
southerner's hair. "I don't know what this is, but it's been bugging me for
the last half hour." He dropped the large flake of pink coconut to the
carpet before exiting.
Ezra glanced to the Snowball remnant on the floor and slowly let a
narrow-eyed gaze rise to meet Tanner's innocent expression.
Vin spoke up before Standish had a chance to comment. "So, Ez, what
gonna get him? 'Cause I don't have a clue."
Ezra's answer gave Tanner more than just slight pause. Had they
conversing via e-mail there wouldn't have been a problem. Accents cannot be
heard via electronic mail, nor can they be misunderstood. What Standish said
and what his friend heard were two *very* different things. The undercover
agent's southern drawl allowed his words to flow together, resulting in the
"I would think that a chee-pet would be a suitably bizarre novelty that
actually have a chance of survivin' that branch of the Center for Disease
Control that those two call an apartment."
Tannner's look was one of pure confusion, and he paused briefly before
answering, "Yeaah," he agreed slowly, "that's pretty bizarre, but I dunno
know, Ez, I can't really see Buck letting JD keep a monkey in the house."
This time it was Standish's turn for bewilderment. "Exactly how does
household plant relate to a primate?"
"I don't know, you're the one who said it."
"Yes, you did."
Vin was completely lost. "You're the one who suggested a chimpanzee,
'chimpette', or whatever you call it in the south."
Ezra stared at his friend in amazement, "I *said* Chia pet...chee-ah
he annunciated, stressing each syllable.
Tanner shook his head slightly as if he were shaking off the entire
conversation, "Well, actually I had another idea. You know the model train
set that they've started?"
"Ah yes, their plans to reconstruct the entire Appalachacola and Santa
railroads in a two-bedroom, 2000 square foot townhome."
"Yeah, JD's been goin' on about this little missile car set. It's got
kind of flat bed that you can launch a missile off of and a break-apart box
car that you can blow up."
"Dear Lord," muttered the southerner.
"Anyway, it must be really hard to find 'cause they've been looking
for a few weeks now. If you're interested and if I can find it on the 'net,
we could go in together and get him that."
Standish pursed his lips slightly, "I'd be agreeable to that...and if
don't find it, we can always go with the Chia pet."
Ezra was seated at his computer as Vin approached him after having come
"I got the okay from Chris," Tanner said, taking a seat on the corner
friend's desk. "It's two o'clock now. If you got the directions we can go
ahead and leave. 'Bout how long do you think it's gonna take?"
Standish passed a sheet of paper with driving instructions that he had
printed off the 'net to the other man. "Even with Friday traffic we should
be back by eight."
Vin looked over the directions, "That'll work - 'cause we owe Chris a beer."
The southerner shut down his computer and straightened his work space
grabbing up his jacket.
"And where do you boys think you're going?" Buck tipped back in his
and eyed the two with a reproachful gaze.
Vin pulled on his worn suede coat, "We're takin' off a little early."
JD peered over his monitor, "How come?"
"Because," Tanner replied, cuffing the young man lightly on the back
head as he passed, "*we* weren't playin' games during the debriefin'."
Buck shot a wry grin at the ex-bounty hunter, "I guess it pays to be
teacher's pet, eh, junior?"
Ezra came to Vin's defense, "Well, perhaps if you can avoid detention,
next week *you* can leave early." Standish touched two fingers to his temple
in a familiar salute and followed after Tanner.
They both heard the telltale sliding of the file drawer and a surprised
shout from Wilmington. "JD?! Where the hell's my chicken?"
Ezra peeled an unhappy Cuervo from the hood of his Jaguar and deposited
feline unceremoniously into Vin's Jeep. As Standish slid into the driver's
seat he couldn't help but notice a bright yellow rubber chicken resting on
"What is that?" he asked, looking to the man seated next to him.
"A rubber chicken."
"I can *see* that. I meant, why is it accompanyin' us on this journey?"
"Well, ya see," Vin grinned, "I read this thing the other day about
rage. Ya know how if someone does somethin' to ya in traffic, like flip ya
off or somethin', it just kinda ruins your whole day. You spend the next two
hours all upset and thinkin' about it. Well, this article suggested that you
keep a rubber chicken in your car and when somebody does somethin' like that
- you shake the chicken at 'em. That way, rather than them takin' time away
from your life, *you* take time away from theirs as they try to figure out
what's up with the crazy fool who's wavin' plastic poultry at them."
Ezra stared incredulously at his friend. "That has got to be one of
absurd things I have ever heard."
Vin shrugged, "I figured the least we could do, as officers of the law,
to test it out."
Ezra started the car and began to back out of the underground garage.
I'm sure it had nothin' to do with annoyin' Mr. Wilmington."
A slow grin eased across Tanner's face as he slipped on his sunglasses,
"Did you bring the directions?" Ezra glanced over just in time to see
finish off the last of a large bag of pork rinds he had purchased at the
previous gas station stop.
Tanner took a long drink from his Big Gulp before replying, "*You* were
supposed to have the directions."
"Didn't you grab them from my desk?"
Vin rolled his eyes, "I'm not allowed to touch your desk, remember?"
"Funny, that doesn't stop you from sittin' on it."
Tanner wadded up the empty bag of fried skins and tossed it over his
shoulder into the backseat. "So you're sayin' you don't have them either."
"Yes, that would be what I am sayin'."
Vin wiped his hands on his blue jeans and grinned, "Good thing I got
at 'em...I think I can remember how to get there."
Two Hours Later
"Where are we, Mr. Tanner?"
Vin mumbled around a mouthful of his Kaptain Kucumber's Extra Hot, Cajun
Spiced, Giant Pickle. "That sign back there said 40 miles to Castle Rock."
"If I recall correctly, the directions stated that Bowie was outside
Boulder...which is in the exact opposite direction of Castle Rock."
Tanner shrugged, "Oh. I guess we should turn around." The sharpshooter
ignored the heavy sigh which came in answer to his stating of the obvious.
"There's an exit comin' up, we can do it there. Besides, I gotta get
somethin' to eat."
"Good Lord, Vin. What, are you like a shrew - you have to eat five times
your body weight a day in order to survive?" He nodded toward the rubber
novelty that still took up a command position on the dashboard. "I would
suggest you gnaw on that chicken but after seein' what you have ingested
already, I suspect it would have too much nutritional value for you."
Ten minutes later the two agents were headed in the right direction.
Four hours later the Halogen lights of Ezra's Jaguar lit up a green
offering, Bowie 1 mile.
"Hey, Bowie," Vin pointed out, "that's the town we're lookin' for."
Standish's eyes flicked to the clock set in the dash, "And look, we're
arrivin' four hours later than we had planned."
"I told ya I could find it," announced Tanner triumphantly, breaking
bag of Circus Peanuts he had picked up at the last Texaco station. "Want
"I believe I'll pass." Ezra eyed the small, shriveled orange puff
suspiciously. "Do you even know what those are made of?"
Tanner flipped on the overhead light to scan the back of the package.
the ingredients aren't listed."
"That does not surprise me in the least." The southerner glanced back
road in time to take their exit. "So, Willie Wonka, do you have any idea
where this store may be?"
"You take a right at the end of the exit, then it's 3/10 of a mile past
'Kissin' Cousins Grill'. Vin paused to pop another candy peanut in his
mouth, "You can't see it from the road but it sits next to the 'Stuff and
Fluff Taxidermy Clinic' - 112 South Bowie Street."
Ezra shot a sharp look at his friend. "So you remember all that, but
couldn't remember if we were supposed to go East or West?"
"What can I say, I do better with fine details."
Ezra pulled the Jag into the dirt parking lot of the hobby shop and
the engine as Vin eased himself from the car and stretched his lanky form.
He surveyed the small building before them. "Looks kinda dark."
"Perhaps they're not afforded the luxury of electricity...or indoor
Tanner ignored his friend's comment and made his way around the front
car. Bypassing the two steps of the store's wraparound porch with a light
hop, he used the glow spilling from the Jaguar's headlights to read a small
sign in the window before returning to report his findings.
"Hate to tell ya, Ez, but they closed at 8:30."
"8:30?" Standish repeated, not even attempting to hide the astonishment
his voice. "8:30 is not even a real time, it....it's merely a...a midpoint
between real designations of when to conduct business."
"Sign says they open back up at 9:15 a.m. We could grab somethin'
and find a place to stay for the night."
Ezra blinked several times before answering. "This would be your attempt
humor, Mr. Tanner?"
Leaning against the open door of the luxury car the long haired man
a non-committal shrug, "Well, we could always drive back to Denver and come
Vin read the look on his partner's face and had just enough time to
and pull his door shut before Ezra slammed the Jaguar into reverse and spun
out of the parking lot, leaving a trail of dust in their wake.
"The Crater Café," Ezra drawled aloud, "how quaint." The
two men stood
before a diner that looked as if it had opened shortly after the, if you
believed the signs, world famous, prehistoric meteorite struck the Earth
near what was now Bowie.
"It *is* home to the Cavernous Crater Burger," Vin stated, after reading
prominently displayed sign above the doorway.
"I'm sure that alone gave it another star. Well, that and the wine,
course." Near the door was an A-board sign that advertised 'Homegrown
Apples, Plums and Wine.' Ezra wasn't sure what a homegrown wine was but he
knew, without a doubt, that he could go happily to his grave without ever
"Come on, Ez," Vin slapped the other man on the back, "I'm starved."
"And what else is new," mumbled the southerner, before following his
The sound of a clanking cowbell tied to the door of the restaurant announced
their arrival. Several patrons looked up from their meals as a petite
redheaded waitress, bearing a nametag that claimed the wearer to be
'Esther', pointed towards an empty booth in the back.
"Help yourself, sugars, I'll be with ya in a minute."
Ezra slumped dejectedly in the booth not believing that the evening
get any worse. That delusion was quickly shattered when a husky voice
sounded from behind.
"You're sitting in my seat."
Standish and Tanner barely had time to exchange glances before Esther's
sharp voice cut across the café. "Russell Ray, it ain't gonna hurt you to
sit somewhere else for a change."
"But Essie..." the 6'5, two hundred-eighty pound, overall clad man started
"Don't 'but' me. There's a perfectly good seat next to Junior over there."
As the dejected regular shuffled away, Esther appeared and placed menus
front of the two men. "You'll have to excuse Russell Ray, he ain't been
quite the same since the accident at last year's demolition derby. He can
get a little particular sometimes." The woman pulled a pen from the
seven-inch tall sculpture that was her hair and smiled, "Now, what can I get
you boys to drink?"
Ezra did his best to offer a smile, "I don't suppose by any chance you
"We have some Pal-o-Mine Root beer," Esther answered cheerily.
Vin spoke up, "I'll take one of those...and I know my friend was curious
about your homegrown Bowie wine."
"Good choice, sweetie," the woman winked at Ezra before walking away.
smile grew wider while Standish merely lay his head on the blue and gold
Formica covered table.
Esther returned a few moments later, placing the root beer, a large
of wine and two Mason jar glasses in front of them. "Now, what on the menu
looks good to you boys?"
"I'd love one of those Crater Burger specials and, Ez, weren't you eyein'
those fried chicken gizzards?"
The reply was muffled as the southerner barely raised his head, "Oh,
"What was that, honey?" Esther leaned forward.
Vin handed her their menus with a polite smile. "A large green salad."
As the waitress took up the menus and turned back to the kitchen, Standish
raised off the table just enough to grasp the plainly labeled bottle, uncork
it with his teeth and fill the Mason jar glass to the rim.
"How was everything, boys?" Esther asked, eyeing Vin's empty plate and
two cleaned dishes that had held a slice of pie each. "I swear, I don't see
how such a small boy could have such a big appetite."
"You would be surprised, madam," Ezra slurred slightly, refilling his
for the fourth time and taking a large swallow.
"Can I get you boys anything else?"
"Well, ma'am, we were kind of wonderin' if you could recommend a place
"We only have the one place. The Yucca Motel, about a half block up
Again came an indistinct southern drawl as Ezra attempted to fix Vin
blurry gaze, "Ah, yes, The Yucca, I do believe that is the sister
establishment of the Four Seasons, is it not?"
Esther cocked her head slightly. "I don't know I've ever heard of that
Is it over in San Simon?"
"Well, time to go, Ezra," Vin pulled a twenty from his wallet, tossed
the table and hustled Standish from the restaurant, calling a hasty
farewell. "Much obliged to you, ma'am."
"There is no way that I am stayin' at this establishment, Mr. Tanner.
not *that* drunk."
Vin sighed and rested his head against the steering wheel. "Fine, Ez,
just sleep in the car. Maybe Russell Ray will come by. I think he drives
that tow truck we saw in the café parking lot."
"I ain't afraid of that, Vin." Ezra leaned the passenger seat back,
clutching the nearly empty wine bottle to his chest.
Tanner thought for a moment and then began to hum the first few notes
the opening credits of 'Deliverence.' Ezra cracked one eye open. "Get us a
"I thought you'd see it my way." The younger man undid his seatbelt
jumped from the car before Standish changed his mind.
Nine-fifteen the next morning found the two companions on the front
L.J. Haney's Hobby Emporium. And although the Ferragamo sunglasses hid the
bloodshot eyes, there were still plenty of indicators of Ezra's lost battle
with the homegrown Bowie wine.
"I do hope that young JD appreciates the sacrifices that I have endured
procure this gift."
Vin opened the door and ushered his friend in. "I'm sure he'll like it, Ez."
"Like it?" Standish growled, "He better *sleep* with it."
"Howdy, boys!" a boisterous voice called from behind the counter.
cringed as small spikes of pain were driven into his alcohol saturated
skull. "What can I do for you?"
Vin stepped forward, leaving his partner slumped against a wall. "We
yesterday about the collectable train car."
"Oh yes, the missile car set, it's a beauty. Right over here." LJ stopped
and scratched at his wiry gray beard as he came to an empty space on one of
the shelves. "Now where did I put that?"
"Dear Lord, no," came a pathetic muttered response from the far wall.
"Ah, here it is," the man chuckled jovially. "This little sweetie is
find. Are you all collectors?"
Ezra answered in a low tone, "Merely gluttons for punishment."
Vin cast a
hard glare in Standish's direction before responding to LJ, "It's for a
friend of ours."
Mr. Haney laughed, "Well, I wouldn't be surprised if you didn't catch
bug as well."
A drawled retort was mostly lost in a yawn, "As long as it is not of
"Can I wrap it up for you?"
"Nah, that's alright," Vin replied quickly, hoping to rush Ezra from
potential scene. The young agent made a mental note to never be around a
hungover Standish again. "We do need to be gettin' back home."
"I didn't think you boys were from around here. If you have the time,
may want to look around our little corner of the world a bit."
"Oh yes, Mr. Tanner, we really should explore the cultural mecca that
"Why, there's the big crater out near the rock quarry," LJ informed
helpfully, "biggest in 27 counties. And of course, the Bowie museum -
dedicated to our famous native son."
Vin cocked his head, slightly confused, "Jim Bowie?"
"Nah," LJ waved his hand in a dismissing gesture, "Daniel Bowie."
Tanner tried again, "You mean David Bowie?" But he knew he had
he caught the look of indignation set on the shopkeeper's face.
"No, son, *Daniel* Bowie."
"Why, of course, Vin," Ezra called from the doorway. "You know, *the*
Bowie. I believe I had the distinct experience of drinkin' some of his fine
wine last evenin'."
Tanner again felt the insistent urge to separate his ailing southern
from one of the residents of Bowie. He paid Mr. Haney for the railroad cars
and nearly shoved Ezra out the door in a hasty retreat.
Standish pulled the car up to the gas pump and turned off the engine
the actions of his travelling companion caught his eye and nearly made his
heart stop beating in his chest. In one swift movement Ezra relieved his
partner of the candy he was about to tear into. "I draw the line at Pixie
Sticks, Mr. Tanner."
Vin let the southerner have the small package of colored straws and
up the paddle ball he'd been playing with since the last Chevron. Standish
rubbed a hand across his face, silently blessing the information on the sign
he had spotted right before they pulled off. Denver 40 miles.
"Thank God we are almost home," he muttered in a low tone.
"C'mon, Ez, it wasn't that bad of a trip."
"Ah yes, let's see. First we had that short, but scenic, detour which
gloriously highlighted by gettin' to watch you inhale vast quantities of
chemically based, cholesterol ridden substances. Then there was my own
delightful meal at the negative
five-star Critter Café, where I was allowed to sample the *fine* Bowie wine
- which rivals the vineyards of Northern California, I assure you.
"Topped off by our own personal visit to the Bates Motel, one of the
unbearable hangover headaches I have ever been cursed with *and* a history
lesson by Mr. Haney, who, no doubt, had Arnold the pig in the back room
watching television. Oh, and please let it not escape your attention that I
have been wearin' the same clothes for nearly a day and a half. Hmmm? Have
I left anythin' out?"
Tanner blinked twice at his friend. "I'm goin' in for a chili dog, you
The look on Ezra's face clearly indicated the answer, so with paddle
hand Vin made his way into the mini-mart. It was at that point that
Standish knew he was about to lose control. Wrapping a hand around the
throat of the rubber chicken that still rested on the dashboard, he wrenched
it from its position and shook it violently at his partner's retreating
As Vin stepped from his Jeep outside the saloon he couldn't help but
the flash of streetlights reflecting off a sleek black automobile as it
pulled into the parking lot adjacent to the tavern. Grabbing a package from
the passenger's seat, Tanner headed into the bar.
Several raised glasses and a chorus of hellos from a table in the back
"Where's Ezra?" queried Nathan.
"I just saw him pull in," Vin replied, as he took up his usual seat
Chris. "Should be right behind me."
Before more could be said, JD and Buck returned from the pinball machine.
"Vin! You made it." Dunne grabbed up a nearby beer which he seemed to recall
as being his. "Where's Ez?"
"Right here, waitin' for a drink."
JD jumped slightly and turned to find Standish behind him. Buck snickered
his roommate's reaction and nodded to Ezra, "We were wondering if you two
were going to make it."
"Back alive," Josiah added with a wicked grin.
Chris raised an eyebrow and let one corner of his mouth turn up in a
smile, "How was the trip?"
The answers came simultaneously.
"A livin' hell."
"Did you go to the same place?" JD asked, confused.
"Unfortunately," Standish replied, accepting a glass of Guiness from Nathan.
"But it was worth it, right, Ez?" Vin handed JD the fruits of their
adventure. "Happy Birthday."
The youngest member of their team tore into the parcel with all the
enthusiasm of a kid at Christmas. "Cool! The missile car set we've been
looking for." JD held the box up for Buck to see. "I'm glad I didn't buy
the one at the mall yesterday."
Ezra stopped short of taking a drink and fixed his gaze on Vin. "The mall?"
Tanner rose quickly, "Well, it looks like we need another pitcher. We
lot of celebratin' to do." He crossed to the bar and out of, what he hoped
to be, striking distance from Standish.
Ezra set his glass on the table and lowered his head, "My kingdom for
MORE AUTHORS' NOTES: This was written on the drive back to Memphis from The
Rowdy Bunch vacation in Arizona. While the majority of incidents are based
on fact - the names have been changed to protect those involved. And yes,
Mog really did believe (because of their accents) that Maggie & Cassie were
saying chimpette rather than Chia pet. For an entire week I thought this!