Disclaimer: The Magnificent Seven are the property of Mirsch, MGM, Trilogy and CBS. They are being borrowed for a work of fanfiction. Much gratitude to MOG for creating the ATF Universe.
Comments: This fic has had many lives. It was written a year ago with a dog playing a major role (Linda, this concerns you <G>). I then shelved it and brought it out recently-adding (the plot) and deleting (the dog). Thank you for MOG for being a true friend and an incredible beta who makes my work better than it is.
You had to work for good karma. Shooting, threatening and putting people in prison was not going to help Josiah. He was a good ATF agent, but he also had a sense of his own mortality. Sanchez was not like the young men he worked with, who laughed at the crows.
First of all, he was more than ten years older than they were and secondly, it hadn't occurred to them that if they survived their exploits then they would grow old. At this point in time, Josiah's twilight years looked to be filled with loneliness. So he volunteered at the Shady Pines Home in hopes that when he entered his last years there would be someone who would visit him.
He tried to go to the home once a month. Sometimes it was a little longer between his visits due to assignments. But, they were there waiting for him. Alice, John, Dick, Fern, Martha, and Rupert were the core group that needed him. They were the ones who had no family visiting them.
The facilities were clean and neat and although the staff was attentive and caring, Josiah still noticed that it missed the warmth of a true home. He wanted them to laugh and enjoy the time they had left. Sometimes they would tell him stories, especially the men. John, Dick and Rupert had been in World War Two. They represented the Navy, Marines and Army. They would drift back into a past on the sea and on land of places far away from Denver, Colorado. On those fields they had lost friends and spilled blood. They were the heroes of their time, and now they were old men with wizened hands and memories.
"Josiah, don't get old. It's terrible." They would tell him with a sigh. A sigh which meant they wished they could go back and do things differently. Josiah knew he could not stop time. He witnessed it everyday as another line became evident on his face, how another white hair showed itself, and how he was a little slower in his steps.
The large man stepped out of his vehicle and gave the door a resounding shove. He took a deep breath of the fresh spring air. Inside the air was a little staler. The staff was concerned with allergens; consequently, windows were rarely opened. The sky was a clear blue and quickly covered by the shadow of the large pine trees, which lined the front of the four story brick building. Josiah went up the ramp and the automatic door opened with a hum.
"Hi, Josiah," Ellie greeted him, waving him in. Ellie was Sanchez's age and volunteered at the front desk. She was a widow and her children were grown up with their own lives. This gave her something to occupy her days. Ryan, the security guard called over to him from across the light colored foyer.
"Hi, Agent Sanchez!" He shifted his styrofoam coffee cup from his right to his left hand. Josiah accepted the firm handshake. The guard was eager to please the large ATF agent. Ryan was extra diligent when Josiah was around, or so the residents had told him. Sanchez knew the reason. Ryan wanted to be a police officer. It had taken a few months, but eventually the security guard divulged his secret over a can of soda at the vending machine. Josiah didn't have enough change and the young guard had provided the necessary coins.
"You know I don't always want to be a security guard." The young man said as he fed four quarters into the slot of the soda machine.
"What do you want to do, son?" Josiah bent down to retrieve the ginger ale he had requested.
The security guard looked around first to make sure no one was listening. "Go to the police academy."
Sanchez opened the can and took a sip before replying. "I see." He appraised the youth in his light blue uniform. He reminded the large man of JD.
"Can you give me any tips?" Ryan said with a large, eager smile. His eyes seem to light up with the thought of law enforcement.
Josiah glanced down at the green, shiny, metallic can. "You have to make your own way in life, not walk in the boots of another."
Ryan nodded sagely. He had accepted the answer, but now every time Josiah went to the home he had a shadow following him. Not surprisingly, they walked together to the large recreation room.
"Josiah!" squealed Martha, as she stretched for the walker beside her chair and went to greet the agent. The white haired, blue-eyed woman deftly maneuvered her stroller. Josiah gave her a warm hug, and escorted her back to her seat. To one side of her sat Alice and the other side sat Fern. Alice gave him a wink, which he returned. She used to be a Rockette in her heydays, and still had the grace of a dancer. At eighty years old she was still a flirt.
The men were playing cards. Rupert, Dick and John beckoned Josiah over to them.
Alice stood up and went to stand next to Sanchez who was in discussion with Dick and John about the merits of different breeds of dogs. "Are you going to take me with you tonight?" She whispered in his ear.
He smiled and escorted her back to the ladies. "Did I ever tell you about my friend, Buck Wilmington?"
So the morning turned to afternoon and he helped Fern spool yarn. He danced a tango with Alice. Then he spent time with the men. They challenged him to a game of penny poker. Rupert deftly maneuvered the cards even though his hands were twisted with arthritis. The pleasure of the game negated the pain.
"He doesn't cheat you know." John told Josiah sotto voce.
Sanchez threw in another coin. "I know." He basked in the company of these people. Their smiles warmed him and filled him with wonder. They all wanted to share so much with him and be his teachers. For a few hours someone valued them.
"Dick, I forgot to tell you that the lure you made did the charm." Josiah folded his hand of cards and eased his chair back.
The elderly man smiled. "Betcha caught a lot of fish."
Sanchez chuckled remembering how the rest of the team badgered him after he caught the most fish. "So much they wanted to know what my secret was."
The boys already knew he spent time at the senior center. The team began to notice that his visits would place him in a thoughtful mood. Actually, according to the team, "thoughtful" was an understatement.
"Sailors call it being marked for death." Sanchez said as he put down his book. The cover graphics for 'A Perfect Storm' reflected the glare of the airplane seat's tiny bulb, A Perfect Storm. Ezra watched as he opened the window and blaring sunlight entered the cabin. "Having an accident at sea would eventually lead to a fisherman meeting his end on the ocean."
Ezra saw Vin squeeze his eyes shut tighter from the onslaught of light. The sharpshooter had been feigning sleep since they took off from Denver. The whole team knew Tanner did not like flying, the airplane made him feel claustrophobic. The southerner was seated on the aisle next to Josiah, and across from Vin. "You've been at the retirement home lately haven't you Agent Sanchez?" Standish deduced.
"Oh God," JD groaned. The young agent and his roommate were seated behind Ezra and Josiah, while Chris and Nathan took up spots in the same row as Vin.
"Why do you put yourself through it if you become depressed afterwards?" Nathan asked from his seat without looking up from his Psychology Today magazine.
Sanchez coughed. "I realize dear brothers that some things are inevitable. . "
Standish cleared his throat and gestured to Vin. "May I suggest a change of topic before Agent Tanner demonstrates an act of superhuman strength and crushes the arm rest."
The sharpshooter opened one eye. "Thanks Ez," he said as he eased his hands away from the armrest, crossed his arms in front of his torso and attempted to sleep again.
"What if we actually do some work?" Chris suggested with a sarcastic tone to his voice. "Take a look at the files that Phyllis copied for us this morning." It now sounded more like an order.
Ezra decided to take a cue from Vin and close his eyes. The flight was short and by the time he took out the folder they would be landing. It was better to rest and then look at the facts with a refreshed mind.
"Many trees gave up their lives to give us this information," JD said in a low voice.
Then Buck joined his roommate's jovial line of thinking. "Mister Dunne, as usual the Bureau will disavow all knowledge of your existence. Your folder will self destruct in 5 seconds."
Both men laughed and began singing, "Dun, dun, dun, dun-daddah, daddah, dun-na."
Standish groaned not finding the twosome amusing. "Dear Lord, is it quiet in the nursing home, Josiah?"
"I'm really hating this case." JD rested his head on the brown laminated conference table. They had been in Utah for three weeks chasing down leads and still there had been more bombings. Dunne wanted to go back home, but until they cracked the case, Chris said they were committed to finishing the job.
Buck eased into the chair beside him. "Didn't think I could reach a point of being tired of fast food and hanging with you guys, but I'm sick of all of you."
Ezra walked by clutching a cup of Starbuck's coffee. They were using the ATF offices in Salt Lake City as a base and Standish had scouted out a coffee shop as soon as they arrived. "The feeling is mutual."
Nathan rubbed his temple from where he sat opposite JD. The young agent could commiserate. They were all exhausted from traveling across Utah and sleeping in hotel rooms. "It's like we are hitting our heads against a brick wall." Jackson said as he closed his eyes.
Chris came in with a fearsome look. He had been talking to AD Travis who was not happy with their lack of progress. Larabee took a seat at the head of the table. Vin, Ezra and Josiah who had been talking in a corner sat down. "Let's review everything again." The team leader loudly pulled his folder open with a snap.
The whole table groaned in misery. "This case will be the bane of us all." Standish added, shaking his head.
JD didn't lift his head off the table. He listed the facts that they had all memorized. "For the past three weeks there have been bombings in the Great Salt Lake County area. There does not seem to be a pattern, however it is the same MO- C-4 and a timer."
Nathan continued, " Interviews with witnesses at the scene reveal nothing out of the ordinary. Vin and Ezra have been going through the videotapes of the crowds and there is no one that stands out, yet."
"And I need a drink," Buck concluded as he closed his file. "We need a break. We've been up and down this state. I haven't been laid in weeks and I'm buying."
JD looked up and noticed the smirks on the faces of his fellow agents. Dunne patted Wilmington. "Mormon girls must be immune to your charms." They were all chuckling as they filed out in search of the nearest bar.
"Do you ever think about growing old?" Josiah said as traced the rim around the beer mug with his finger.
Without even looking in JD's direction, Vin knew he was rolling his eyes. Sometimes Tanner didn't mind a 'meaning of life' conversation, but after three weeks of going no where on a case all he wanted to do was unwind. The sharpshooter tried to change the melancholy mood of the large agent. "Hell, Josiah I just hope I make it through this assignment without getting shot."
Nathan snorted, always being the one to initially patch up the team members. "We all hope that, Vin."
"Wait, Agent Sanchez has a legitimate concern." Standish had put down his scotch. "An ATF pension will not provide for a retirement in luxury. I have an IRA and some TSA's."
"I don't think that was what Josiah was talking about." Buck replied from the end of the table. "What he's saying is that we need to find us some women. Take a look at Nathan, since he's been with Rain he never complains. What do psychologists call that-well adjusted?"
Vin tried to make eye contact with Chris who was placing an order at the bar. The conversation was deteriorating fast.
"Geez , Buck." JD pushed Buck in the shoulder, causing Wilmington to nudge Standish's shoulder. Luckily Ezra was quick enough not to spill any of his drink. "Josiah you're not old. Hell, there's Clark in records. . .uh. . .he just retired. . ."
Ezra cleared his throat. "Josiah is not ancient, JD." Tanner could see that the southerner's green eyes were opened wide, trying to tell the young agent to be silent.
It didn't work. Dunne chuckled. "You're not getting old Josiah you are just marinating." He looked at the others, believing he had said something funny.
Vin groaned. Chris finally returned with the drinks. Sanchez was sitting on the edge of the booth and got up. "You can take my spot, Chris. I'm feeling a bit worn out."
Tanner tried to stop him, but it was difficult to maneuver in the booth. All the sharpshooter could do was watch his friend walk away. He turned around and slapped his hand to the table. "Someone needs to talk to him."
"I am the f***in team leader. Next time they want to draw straws, I'm staying out of it." Chris grumbled out loud. He had been to the hotel where the team was staying to have a talk with Josiah. When he got there Sanchez was not in his room, so the only place that Larabee could think of was the office.
The team was working out of one room, which was scattered with desks. One desk lamp was on, illuminating the white hairs in the stubble of Sanchez's stubble. "Working late, Josiah?"
"I keep thinking we're missing something." The large agent said as he stretched a hand back to massage his neck.
Chris pulled up a seat, and drew a flask out of the deep pocket of his leather jacket. "Yeah, a drink," Larabee took a drink and passed it to Josiah. "I borrowed it from Ezra." The leader grinned, thinking about how he had ordered Standish to relinquish his prized possession.
Josiah closed his eyes, appreciating the fine tasting brandy. "What kind of mark you'll leave on the world." Sanchez admired the silver flask, his hands tracing over the engraving. "Will people remember you when you're old?"
Chris gestured for the large agent to return the flask. He took a swig before responding. "God, I hope not. I want to live in peace."
Josiah chuckled heartily. "So one day are you going to come up to me and tell me it's time to retire?"
Chris grimaced, never really having given thought to the day he would be forced to retire. He would like to think that when the time came he would know, but would he? There were those that tried to hang on since they only had the job and truly his job as an ATF agent had kept him going on some dark days. Larabee gave a wry grin. "Do you think I am that heartless?"
"No, I think you are my supervisor and the duty will fall to you." Sanchez had lost all the joviality of earlier and was serious. This matter had weighed on him.
The team leader cleared his throat and took another drink. "I think when that day comes, each man knows it's time to move on." Hell, Larabee thought at least one of his men wasn't talking about dying.
Josiah nodded and Chris hoped the large man accepted his explanation. Sanchez glanced down at the piece of paper on his desk, then his eyes went wide.
"What is it?" Larabee stood up and peered over the desk trying to see what had gotten Josiah's attention.
The large agent made a circle around the names. "Look at the names of these places that have been bombed."
Chris viewed the list, reminders of the case they were having difficulty solving; Discman DJs, Eat This Caterers!, Wisteria Flowers. The roster had a few other names. Chris handed the paper back to Josiah, "And?"
"These are all places people would use if they are having a party," Sanchez reviewed the list again, "actually a wedding."
"Good work Josiah." Chris patted the larger man on the back. The team leader opened his cell and was calling Vin to tell him they had a break in the case. He covered the receiver as he referred another comment to the Josiah. "I think we need to keep you on a little longer."
Josiah had to admit he enjoyed basking in the respect of his teammates. It gave him a warm feeling to not only be productive, but to crack open a difficult case. Maybe he had a few more years left in him. Hell, this bunch kept him young.
The team had come directly from the bar and quickly sobered up ready to find answers.
"We need to know where this guy is going to hit next." Chris had just finished listing the names of the places on a board while Vin and Josiah poured over a map of the area seeing if they could find any clues.
JD typed furiously at his computer, with Buck looking over his shoulder. "Quit breathing on me." Dunne said, rolled his neck, trying to work on the kinks. From across the room Josiah heard the cracking noise.
"Did you come up with anything else?" Wilmington asked as he noticed Sanchez looking up.
"We could use some more of your magic." Nathan said from the end of the conference table where he and Ezra were shuffling through photos of the different crime scenes.
Josiah rubbed his eyes and sighed. He blinked as he looked at the board with the names. "Chris, can I have the marker?"
Larabee tossed the pen to Sanchez. Frantically Josiah began to circle the first letter of each word, disappointed in himself that he hadn't seen this earlier.
Ezra had come forward and began nodding. "You must be a crossword puzzle aficionado, Agent Sanchez."
Josiah winked at JD, "You know us old people-crosswords, shuffleboard, golf and shooting the bad guys."
"I'm sorry J, very sorry. I don't think of you as old-I think of you as one of us." The team nodded in agreement. "Can you please just tell us what you figured out?" Dunne said as he looked at the board and the circled letters.
"The criminal mastermind has left us a clue." Ezra began to point at each of the letters, "W, E, D, D, I, N, G."
"Wedding? Who the hell is going to marry this sick puppy?" Buck said as he pulled out the pen that he had tucked behind his ear and began to toy with it.
Sanchez brought the marker up so that it touched his lower lip. "Looks like something happened to him, maybe on his wedding day?" Josiah wrote out the words 'wedding day' on the board.
"You know. . ." Nathan began and trailed off.
"What?" Chris prompted the medic.
Jackson sat up straighter in his chair. "I was thinking out loud. He hasn't hit a church yet."
Dunne looked up from his laptop. "You don't think he'd bomb Tabernacle?"
"God I hope not." Chris placed his hand against his forehead and tried to rub away the furrows that had deepened. "Bring up all the churches in the area."
JD punched a few keys. "You want Lutheran, Catholic, Protestant, Temples. . ."
"I get the point." Larabee slammed down his hand against the conference room table, the resulting thwack made the agents squirm in their chairs.
Calmly Josiah walked over to where the young agent was sitting. "How about churches that begin with the word Day?"
Dunne nodded and smiled with the answer. "Only two."
The team split into two groups, Chris, Vin and Nathan went to the Day of Our Comfort Church while Buck, JD, Ezra and Josiah patrolled the Day of Our Lady Church on the other side of town. The local police had also sent a team to each site as backup under the direct control of the ATF. Team 7 kept in touch through their headsets.
"Check, check. We have guests, over," Dunne said into his mouthpiece as he leaned against the Chevy Blazer near the church steps, watching as people parked their cars and headed to the church.
"We have people filing in here too, JD." Vin responded from the Day of Our Comfort Church.
Buck commented from the courtyard and gave a wave to his roommate. "Has the bride shown? Nothing prettier than a bride."
"At the groom's rate of inebriation I don't believe he will notice." The southerner replied as he leaned against the wall near the back exit.
"Stop the chatter." Chris interrupted the conversation.
"I think we may have a problem. I'm going to check it out." Nathan said and the others could hear the swish of the mike being moved away from his mouth.
No one spoke for a few minutes until Vin broke the silence. "We're on the move." The rest of the team heard the rustling of leaves as he climbed down a tree.
A few more moments and the team heard car doors slamming.
Finally an explanation was given. "I got suspicious when an elderly woman showed up in a white dress and flowers." Nathan explained. "They're renewing their vows. They've been married 50 years."
"That's sweet." Buck replied. "Did you tell them congratulations?"
"That doesn't fit the m.o." Josiah added from under the tree on the side opposite Buck.
"We'll be right there." Chris answered.
"Buck, the bride is at your 6 o'clock." Josiah said through his mouthpiece as he moved closer to the back door near Ezra's position.
Standish saw Sanchez heading his way. Ezra cocked his neck to the church. "Would you prefer the bride's side or the groom's?"
Buck and JD headed toward the bride. The local PD had moved in to control the crowd. The limo door was open and the young woman was struggling with her dress. Dunne flashed his badge as they came forward which caused the limo driver to step back and not assist the bride from exiting the vehicle in her puffy gown.
Wilmington placed his hand out and helped her out of the limousine. "You look beautiful darling!"
The woman patted her gown as she tried to work out the wrinkles caused by fitting a large dress in a compact area. "Thank you." She knitted her brows together. "Who are you?"
The mustached agent brought her hand up as if he were assisting a queen from her carriage. ""Special Agent Buck Wilmington; Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms." Wilmington patted her gloved hand to try to soften the blow. "I'm really sorry darling but you can't get married in this church today."
The bride snapped her hand away. "I have been waiting for this day for my whole life! I don't care who the hell you are! You're not stopping me!" With long strides she headed toward the church, twisting her ankle slightly as her heel got stuck between the bricked area.
Buck raised his hands up, and then ran after her. Accidentally, he grabbed a fistful of veil. This slowed the bride down enough so that he could wrap an arm around her waist. Somewhere in the lace and taffeta there came a primal yell that echoed in Buck's ears.
The crowd that JD had deterred from entering the church gasped at the roughhousing and the guttural language emanating from the woman in white. Dunne and the officers were able to stop them from interfering. "Official ATF business!"
The bride kicked indiscriminately and struggled to move her pinned arms. Lucky for Buck her voluminous dress billowed, restricting her actions.
"Let me go!" She yelled.
"Honey! I am trying to save your life!" Wilmington replied as he held the woman tight trying to decide what to do with her. The limo door was still open giving Wilmington an idea. "JD! I need a hand here!"
Dunne pulled out his gun and pointed it at Buck and the bride. The crowd gasped again and took a step back away from the young ATF agent.
Wilmington ducked slightly as he saw the gun. "No! Just get to the other side of the car and be ready."
"Sorry darling," Buck muttered as he twirled the bride around and pushed her headlong into the open back limo door. Quickly he shut the door and barked out his order. "Lock the door!"
Wilmington leaned against the door catching his breath. The bride furiously knocked against the tinted glass window and began kicking the door with her satin slippered feet.
"Everything under control here!" JD reported to Chris, Vin and Nathan. Then an officer came over and whispered in his ear. Dunne shook his head. He cleared his throat before relaying the message. "Ummm, the bomb squad is being held up by a traffic accident involving some hazmat and a semi with crate loads of chickens. . ."
"Where are Ezra and Josiah?" Larabee asked. Dunne shrugged his shoulders and looked at Wilmington. Buck looked around and noticed that they were not at their posts.
"Tell me that they are not in that church." Chris growled.
"Ezra is not in the church and neither is Josiah." Buck replied as he massaged the back of his neck. JD hit his arm and the mustached agent covered his mike. "Chris knows I'm lying, but for a second he feels okay."
"Did you find anything yet?" Josiah's voice boomed in the freshly vacated church. He was awed by how a silent church was much more inspiring then one filled with prayerful people. The silence gave more of a sense that God was present. Sanchez only prayed that God would guide them to the bomb.
"A hat, some leftover programs and I believe someone was trying to abscond with a floral arrangement." Ezra commented as he kept ducking his head looking under the different pews. Josiah noticed that the undercover agent's voice was lower than usual. Even he was used to whispering at church. Sanchez smiled, Standish hadn't been raised a pagan after all.
The large agent was looking in the small side chapel. The small room had a window that dappled the ornate woodworking with colorful light. Josiah crouched down investigating the small altar. He whistled as he saw the device. "Bingo" he said out loud and he heard Ezra footsteps scurry toward him. Slowly the large agent unfolded his Swiss Army knife. With the small knife he cut through the duct tape that held the bomb secured to the wooden plank.
Ezra spoke quietly into his earpiece. "We found the incendiary device. What is the ETA on the bomb squad?"
"They'll be here soon." Chris answered. "I want you two out of there -now."
Standish pulled the microphone out. "Perhaps one day he should try some reverse psychology."
Sanchez chuckled, then cleared his throat as he replied to the team leader. "I don't think we have a minute. It's the same device that was at the other sites. We're familiar with it, Chris. We can handle it."
The southerner bent down. "And if we are unable to then, surprisingly, I will have a church sanctioned funeral." Standish glanced around at the high ceilings and the sturdy stone building that would come crashing down on them is they failed. He was so caught up in his fatalistic attitude that he missed Josiah cutting the red wire.
Sanchez cleared his throat and held up the unattached wire. "Sorry you'll have to find some pagans to help you out." Josiah pulled the microphone back over his mouth. "It's diffused. We'll baby-sit it until the bomb squad can dispose of it."
"It's going to be awhile with all those chickens." Chris replied with a sigh. "Never mind, good job."
Ezra pulled off his microphone and dropped it in to his pocket. Standish placed a hand on Sanchez's shoulder and squeezed it slightly. He sat down rather awkwardly on the floor next to the older man. "Your insight on this case and perseverance were the only things that kept us from faltering."
"For you to pay me a compliment you must have been really concerned that I was heading off the deep end." Josiah bowed his back and then straightened it until there was a resounding crack.
"You had some concerned friends." Ezra bent his head down and in a quiet voice added, "including me."
"I thank you." He paused and ran his hands through his short-cropped hair. "I forgot that even I need a pat on the back and to feel valued for my contributions."
"Next time you are feeling less than appreciated, please allow me and someone else to remind you differently." Standish replied as he held out his hand. Josiah grasped the forearm.
"Nathan, stop humming Wind Beneath my Wings." Sanchez said as he too pulled out his earpiece.
Buck walked over to the team leader who was conversing with the bomb squad captain. Wilmington waited on the outskirts until the meeting wrapped up. Siding up near his friend, the mustached agent dropped his sunglasses. "Chris? You don't think the wacko could be out here?"
Larabee looked over to Dunne who was videotaping the crowd as usual per procedure. "Probably, but there are a lot of faces out here."
"I have an idea." Buck replied and went on to explain his suggestion.
"Fine, go with it, and take him with you." Larabee pointed to Tanner who was again trying to make his way into the church to check on his friends.
Wilmington caught up with the sharpshooter. "Come on Junior. You're with me." He tugged at the agent's ATF jacket. Vin looked back at the church and then followed Buck.
Wilmington detailed his plan as they walked to the limousine.
"You know what JD says about your head being in your pants-it just ain't true." Tanner said matter -of -factly.
"Thanks, Junior." Buck replied quickly and then realized he was being insulted. "Hey!"
The bride was still in the car. The window had been opened a bit, and through the crack the two agents saw a very thorny and unhappy woman. "Well I think you need to do some sweet talking." Vin whispered.
Buck rolled his shoulders back. "Darling, I know we got off on the wrong foot."
The bride looked away from him. Vin whistled and waved to a man in a tuxedo. The man ran over to the car. Wilmington nodded and smiled at Tanner in approval, as he continued to talk to bride. "But I figure I would bring Simon here to keep you company."
The woman gave a yelp, and covered her face. "The groom is not supposed to see the bride on her wedding day!"
Buck scowled at the long -haired agent, who just shrugged his shoulders. Wilmington wondered how he could ever have expected that Vin would know wedding protocol.
The mustached agent took a step back, and took a moment to regroup. "Your government needs your help." He said in his deepest, professional voice. "Is there anyone in the crowd you donít recognize?"
The bride crossed, then uncrossed her arms again. Slowly she peered out the window. "That woman over there."
The groom followed her line of sight, and shook his head. "That's my Great Aunt Judy."
"Sorry," she mumbled. She placed her hands on the open window and squinted. "Oh that guy-right near the sign."
"That's Uncle Jack!" Simon squeaked. "You know him!"
"He deserves to be arrested for the wedding gift he gave us." The bride sat back with a huff. "Plain ugly!"
"Don't listen to her." The groom shook his hands, and stepped forward so they would not go after Uncle Jack.
Vin glanced at the couple. He turned to the groom and gestured to the woman in the limo. "Are you sure you're wantin' to get married?"
"I'm really thinking it's a mistake," the man replied under his breath. He rolled his eyes and then stopped. "That guy doesn't look familiar." He crouched down next to the car. "What about you Judy? The one in the polka dot tie near the priest. Come on honey these guys are just trying to do their job."
Judy placed her hand against the window. "I don't know him either."
Wilmington gave a whoop and then hugged the groom. "Best of luck! Hope you have a lot of kids!"
Vin was already on the move "Chris we have a possible perp." Buck rubbed his hands together. They both gave a nod to the priest and then smiled at the man next to him.
"Hiya!" Buck said. The man took a step back, giving a wan smile to the priest who gave him a puzzled look.
Wilmington moved forward. He pointed to the ATF emblem on the front of his jacket. "We just want to talk to you."
The man smiled and adjusted his tie. Buck thought he was going to come peacefully, but the perp had other intentions. He turned on his heel and began to run through the crowd.
Wilmington shook his head and began to give chase. "Does it always have to be the friggin hard way!" The faces of the wedding guests blurred together.
"Get down!" Vin yelled out as he pulled out his Glock.
"Don't shoot to kill." Nathan said into his microphone.
Tanner unhooked the safety. "Everyone has an opinion!" The sharpshooter ran around in hopes to intercept the perpetrator. Finally he was able to break clear of the guests. Stopping he calmly positioned the Glock and fired.
"OWW!" The man howled, grabbed for his leg and then stumbled to the floor.
Tanner smiled. "Flesh wound Nathan, flesh wound."
"Happy to hear it." Jackson responded.
Chris interrupted. "Now that we have victimized the wedding party, maybe we can get out of here. Good job everyone."
Wilmington waved to Tanner as he cuffed the assailant. "This guy must think I'm that priest fellow-he's confessing to everything." Roughly, Buck assisted the very rumpled man to his feet and dragged him through the crowd.
The seven were back at their office in Denver muddling through the piles of messages and paperwork which had accumulated on their desks in their absence. Only urgent messages during the case were put through to them, and most if not all of those notes were related to the Wedding Bomber. Samuel Nicholson, the mastermind, had in fact been jilted at the altar.
Josiah began to peel away the colorful post it notes that the secretaries had placed on his lamp. Three messages stood out because the word, 'IMPORTANT' was scrolled across the top. Quickly, he dialed the number he had memorized.
"Yes, hello, can I be connected to Room 246, please?" Sanchez drummed his fingers along his blotter wondering what had happened.
The phone was picked up on the first ring with a breathy, "Hello."
"What's the matter, Fern?" He asked the elderly woman. He was surprised she had called. She was a shy one. Josiah didn't know if that was her personality or if her heart condition made the effort of talking difficult. It had to be something serious if Fern resorted to calling the agent.
She got straight to the point, not wasting any words. "We think that there is a spy among us."
Sanchez furrowed his brows, and wiped away the smile before he spoke. "A spy?"
"We want you to come as soon as possible." Fern wheezed into the phone. "See you in a bit." She hung up the phone without waiting for Josiah's reply. The large agent had to smile over the confidence they had in him.
Vin tapped his pen along his desk; he wasn't ready to be so stationary just yet. He leaned back in his office chair. Tanner had enjoyed being on the road the last four weeks. He was able to move around. Being back at the office was always difficult after having been allowed some freedom. It was hard to conform.
Tanner noticed Josiah grabbing his jacket. He stood up and called out to the large agent.
"Where are you going?"
Sanchez didn't stop. He punched the elevators down button. "Out for a drive." He replied.
"Mind if I tag along?" Vin didn't wait for an answer as he already was going toward the elevator. He waved at Chris, who was sitting at his desk in the glass-enclosed office. "Josiah and I are going for an early lunch." The sharpshooter glanced at his watch 11:30. The leader nodded and bent his blonde head down to do some more paperwork.
"Bring back stuff for the rest of us." Buck said from his desk.
"I'll try." Vin said, as he got onto the elevator and the doors sealed.
"Hi, Buck, dear, this is Alice."
Seated at his desk, Wilmington covered the mouthpiece and whispered the name Alice out loud hoping that his memory would be sparked. "Uh, how are you doing?"
Alice gave a throaty laugh. "I was just remembering the last time we were together-you devil."
Buck smirked, enjoying the compliment but wishing he could place the woman. "Well, you're no angel either."
She laughed heartily this time. "That's what I say to Rupert all the time."
The mustached agent stared at the phone. He had sworn off married women a long time ago. "So Rupert must be real upset to hear about me." Buck cringed, hoping and praying he didn't have to deal with an irate husband landing on his doorstep.
"I don't think so, but let me ask him."
Wilmington stood up then sat back down as everyone started to stare at him. "No, no!" He whispered into the phone. In the background he could hear a man's voice saying, "Would you please get his over with. You're going to ruin everything."
"Listen, lady, I don't do kinky." Buck lowered his head and kept to whispering so he wouldn't draw attention to himself.
All Alice could say was, "Wait, wait," as she laughed until she was out of breath. Buck waited patiently for her to control herself. "I'm sorry, dear. I'm Josiah's young friend from Shady Pines."
"Shady Pines?" Buck repeated.
"Yes, and we are throwing a little surprise party for Josiah and some other volunteers. We thought that we should invite you and your friends to come along." Alice waited for Buck to respond. "Sorry about the joke. Josiah mentioned you to me once and so I thought I could trust you to bring everyone over."
Wilmington shook his head. The lady had pulled one over him and now he just had to meet her. "Alice, when do you want us to come."
"Now, dear, and I'm the one in red." She added in a breathy voice as she hung up the phone.
Wilmington stood up in the middle of the bullpen to get his team's attention. Chris had left his door open so he would hear the announcement too. "They're having a party for Josiah at the senior center and we all we're invited. But we got to leave now."
Nathan and JD put their pens down and grabbed their jackets heading toward the elevator. Buck joined them and then they looked back at their two errant teammates.
JD went to Ezra's desk and picked the southerner's Brioni jacket off the back of his chair, He clasped the blazer and started to walk away. Standish caught up quickly. His jacket didn't leave his sight. "I was only straightening my desk blotter."
There was only one other missing. "We have work to do." Chris said as he came out of his office. Larabee was not planning on attending the party.
"It's still going to be here when we get back." Nathan commented.
Standish removed his jacket. "Then I will stay behind as well."
Chris put his folder down and in one instant changed his mind. "I'm coming."
Ezra was chagrined. Buck patted him on his back. "Reverse psychology does work."
A large group had gathered in the rear of the Shady Pine Home. Alice, John, Dick, Fern, Martha, and Rupert were at one picnic table picking on the snacks the home had provided. A slight wind blew the sign that said, 'Thank you!' which had been strung up between two trees.
Josiah didn't know who was more surprised- him or Vin when they were escorted to the rear of the nursing home. Sanchez had to place a hand on Tanner's arm as the young agent's reflexes took over and he attempted to draw his weapon.
They had been so thankful of the ATF agent who choose to volunteer some of his time with them. Josiah had never been placed on a pedestal before. It wasn't something that he aspired to or even expected. Josiah hated that the world was filled with people who did not get involved or even try to make a difference. He had once believed that the world could do without his help. Those days in Vietnam weighed heavily on him. He was lost in his thoughts of a jungle in a far away place and didn't notice the team come through the trees. Sanchez smiled.
Vin gave a nod to his teammates. He excused himself from Dick. They had been discussing fishing lures. "Ya done good." The sharpshooter said to Josiah and shook his hand.
The large agent covered the handshake with his other hand. He had to continue to care about people. Good deeds did get returned. He had great friends among these men and was meeting good people all the time. It had to be karma.
"Josiah, are these your friends." Alice purred, raising a red chiffon scarf to get the attention of the team and Sanchez.
"Buck, someone here wants to meet you." Josiah said, as he led his friends to the picnic table.
Alice was already fixing her lipstick, readying to pounce. She figured God owed her a fine-looking man in her later years.