THE STEALER OF DREAMS

By Winnie

The Magnificent Seven- The Firm AU - Rated R

Stealer of Dreams image by Pywacket

(Author's Note: This is for Halloween and hopefully is in keeping with the spirit or spirits. Thanks to Marti and Antoinette for the beta and to Pamela for the pic.)

 

It was cold, colder than he’d ever thought possible, yet the air around him seemed to be filled with a heat that didn’t touch him. He walked along a deserted road, his eyes straight ahead, his breath coming in hitching gasps as he passed the headstones that looked like they’d been here for over a hundred years. He could hear the cries of a child, no, it was more like children, and he tried to find where it was coming from as he exited the graveyard and stepped onto a street he didn’t recognize.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The sound of crying intensified as he slowly made his way along the cobblestone street and down toward the docks. Boats, larger than some of the buildings that surrounded him were moored there, but they didn’t belong in his world. He continued past the people who didn’t seem to notice his presence and trembled when a cold finger seemed to make a trail down his back.

 

He stepped over a cat and heard it hiss as it took off with a prized piece of rotting fish in its mouth. The scene around him held an almost surreal feel to it. There were things that seemed familiar while others were like something out of a badly made old west movie. He continued his search for the source of the cries and soon found himself in a seedier part of the city where very few people ever ventured.

 

The crying seemed to come from a dark recess beneath an old building and he moved toward it as a young boy with light hair raced past him. He turned and watched as the figure disappeared into the fog that enshrouded the area before returning his attention to the opening that reminded him of a dark maw belonging to some hideous creature. He stepped forward, but stopped when a bony hand landed on his shoulder and the fingers tightened until the touch grew painful. He cried out when he turned and looked into dead eyes set in a skeletal face. The mouth opened, revealing rotted teeth and rancid breath that turned his stomach.

 

“You will die with the rest of them, Boy!”

 

“No…”

 

 

M7M7M7M7M7M7M7

 

 

Chris sat up in bed with a cry and looked around his darkened bedroom. The nightmare was one he’d been having for the last week, but could not quite remember what it was about when he woke up. He rubbed his eyes and looked at the clock, not surprised to see it was 4:13 in the morning and knew he wouldn’t be getting any more sleep tonight. He reached for his robe and pulled it on before making his way into the bathroom.

 

Chris turned on the light and looked in the mirror and realized his lack of sleep was beginning to show. He needed to find a way past the nightmares and get some real shuteye before the others started to notice. It was only two days until Halloween and Chris realized if he kept this up he’d wind up the butt of everyone’s jokes because he’d look like a ghoul with the dark half circles beneath his eyes and the gray caste to his skin.

 

Chris frowned when something on his right shoulder caught his attention and he eased the robe down. Bruises had formed and seemed to have taken the shape of four fingers. He pressed his hand against it and winced before turning and looking at the back where a thumbprint was also noticeable.

 

“What the hell,” he thought and made his way back to his bedroom. He quickly searched the house for any sign of an intruder, but found nothing out of the ordinary. The alarm was still set, the doors and windows locked up tight; yet there was no mistaking the bruise.

 

Chris returned to the bathroom and dropped the robe from his shoulder. He tried to see if he could have made the mark himself, but there was no way in hell his hands had made the bruise. He thought about the day before and the fight he’d helped break up and remembered one of the combatants grabbing him from behind. He breathed a sigh of relief that he’d found an explanation for the bruise.

 

Chris pulled the robe back over his shoulder and made his way to the kitchen where the coffee pot was already set up. He pressed the button and walked toward the patio doors while he waited for the coffee to perk. He flicked on the outside lights and smiled when he saw the first snowflake hit against the window. The first snowfall of the year, no matter how insignificant, always brought a smile to his face. Sarah had always said it was magical and each year Chris was reminded of her love when that first flake fell from the sky.

 

“God, I miss you, Sarah,” he whispered and sighed tiredly while watching as the snowfall increased and knew the ground would soon be covered in a pristine white blanket.

 

 

M7M7M7M7M7M7M7 

 

 

Vin looked up as the office door opened and Chris Larabee stepped inside. “Coffee’s made,” he said.

 

“Will I need a knife to cut it with?” Larabee snapped.

 

“Nope, Ezra made it before he went to see Travis,” Tanner answered.

 

“Ezra’s in early?” the blond noted in disbelief.

 

“Ya warned him not ta be late or ya jest might lose his expense report,” the Texan said and watched as the blond moved to the coffee maker. He’d been noticing the change in Larabee and at first thought he’d been drinking, but Chris wasn’t showing any other signs they’d come to expect with heavy drinking. Something was wrong, but for the life of him he couldn’t put his finger on what it was.

 

“Where are the others?”

 

“Buck and JD are going over the Riley case with the DA. Josiah called to say he was running late. Nathan and Rain have their first ultrasound this morning,” Tanner answered and saw a hint of a smile on Larabee’s too pale features. “Nate was like a hen on a hot rock yesterday. Figure he’ll last the next six months?”

 

“He might, but will the rest of us?” Larabee asked with a grin.

 

“Wouldn’t make any bets on it,” Tanner observed. “You feelin’ okay?”

 

“Yeah, I’m fine, just didn’t sleep very well last night,” the blond answered honestly, but left out the fact that sleep had been something he’d been lacking for nearly a week now.

 

“Looks like it. Why don’t’cha take the day off. Ain’t nothin’ pressin’ and I can hold down the fort ‘til the others get here,” Tanner offered.

 

“I have a meeting with Travis at ten, but I might just take you up on that after we’re done,” Larabee told him.

 

“Travis might be in a bitch of a mood after talkin’ ta Ezra.”

 

“Maybe I should call and reschedule,” the blond said.

 

“Naw, Travis’ll prob’ly go easy on ya seein’ as how ya work with him all day,” Tanner quipped and saw a hint of a smile before Larabee made his way into his office. The Texan sensed that something was bothering the blond, but until Larabee was ready to talk there was nothing he could do. He went back to his desk and picked up the file he’d been working on.

 

Vin glanced into the office an hour later, not really surprised when he saw Larabee sleeping on the sofa. He stood up and closed the door softly so nothing would disturb his friend’s sleep.

 

 

M7M7M7M7M7M7M7

 

 

He walked along the edge of the waterfront and felt the cold wind on his exposed skin. He frowned when he realized his feet were bare, but did not let it stop him as he strode toward the area that was quickly growing familiar. He shivered in anticipation, but had no idea why his terror increased as he slowly put one foot in front of the other.

 

The closer he got to his destination, the higher the cries became and he began to hear distinct voices raised in pain and fear. They begged for his help, cried out as if in pain, and screamed as if some unseen monster was torturing them. He stepped over a cat and wasn’t surprised when it raised its hackles and hissed at him before running off with a prized piece of rotting fish clutched in its teeth.

 

The crying seemed to come from a dark recess beneath an old building and he moved toward it as a young boy with light hair raced past him. He turned and watched as the figure disappeared into the fog that enshrouded the area before returning his attention to the opening that reminded him of a dark maw belonging to some hideous creature.

 

He stepped forward, shivering at the now familiar sensation of being in a world he did not belong to. His eyes grew wide, and his body shook, but he continued forward, dipping his head so that he could step inside the structure. There was very little light, but for some reason he could see everything clearly. A large rat scurried away from him and disappeared through a ragged hole in the wall to his left. There were broken pieces of furniture scattered across the floor and he watched a spider spinning a web in the top corner of the room. The shadows cast by the unknown light made the creature seem much larger than its actual size.

 

He shuddered and grew still when he felt cold air on the back of his neck and knew he was no longer alone.

 

“What are you doing here, Boy? Did you follow your dreams to The Dark Man’s lair, Boy? The other one got away, but you won’t! You’ll die down there with the others! You’ll scream as I cut you…”

 

“No!” he screamed as sharp pain erupted across his shoulders.

 

 

M7M7M7M7M7M7M7

 

 

“No!”

 

Vin heard the cry from Larabee’s office and stood up, slamming his chair into the wall behind him as he rushed to open the door. What he saw sent fear through his heart and he rushed into Larabee’s bathroom and grabbed a clean towel off the shelf.  He rushed back to his friend, aware of the blood that glistened on his white shirt.

 

“What the hell happened, Chris?” Tanner asked and lifted the shirt, wincing when he saw the thin cut that seemed to run straight across his shoulders.

 

“Dark…Dark Man,” Larabee mumbled just before his eyes rolled up in his head.

 

“Jesus…”

 

“Vin, you in here?”

 

“Buck, call an ambulance!”

 

“What the hell! What happened? What’d you do to him?”

 

“Nothing! I found him like this. Call a fuckin’ ambulance!” Tanner snapped and lifted the towel to find the wound was just seeping now and wasn’t as bad as he’d first thought.

 

“No…no ambulance,” Larabee said, breathing raggedly as he pushed Tanner’s hands away.

 

“Chris, yer hurt,” Tanner said and showed him the bloodied towel. “What happened?”

 

“I don’t know,” Larabee said and stared at the Texan. “I…it was a dream.”

 

“Dreams don’t usually cut you, Pard,” Wilmington said.

 

“Unless they’re of the Freddy Kruger kind,” Tanner said and watched as Larabee tried to stand.

 

“Damn,” Chris cursed and sat back down.

 

“What’s wrong?” the ladies man said, still unsure whether to call an ambulance.

 

“My feet,” Larabee said and reached down to pull off his boots, shocked to find his socks were wet.

 

“Christ, are your feet bleeding too?” the rogue asked furiously and glanced sideways at the Texan. “What the hell happened?”

 

“Buck, calm down,” Larabee said once he’d removed the boots and socks from both feet as Dunne and Jackson entered the room.

 

“What’s going on…Jesus, Chris, what happened to your feet?” Jackson asked and took charge. “Buck, get a basin and fill it with warm water and bring it out here!”

 

“On it,” Wilmington said while Vin placed a towel under Larabee’s feet.

 

“Ya best take a look at his back,” Tanner said and moved back so Jackson could examine the shallow wound.

 

“What have you been doing this morning, Chris?” Jackson asked.

 

“Sleeping,” Larabee answered.

 

“This doesn’t look too bad. JD, grab the first aid kit,” the medic ordered and frowned when he realized what the blond had told them. “Did you say you got this while sleeping, Chris?”

 

“Yeah, I know it sounds crazy, but that’s all I was doing,” Larabee answered softly. “Don’t think it was the first time either.”

 

“What do you mean?” Jackson asked.

 

“Got a bruise on my right shoulder--looks like a hand,” the blond told them and eased out of his shirt. He lifted his feet and put them in the basin of water Wilmington had placed on the floor.

 

“Jesus, Chris, why didn’t you say something?” Jackson asked.

 

“Didn’t see it until this morning--figured it was from the fight we broke up, but I don’t remember anyone grabbing me that hard,” Larabee answered.

 

“If they had you’d have remembered,” Jackson said and took the first aid kit from Dunne. He opened it up and took out an antibiotic cream and spread it over the shallow wound on Larabee’s shoulders once Vin had finished cleaning it. Next he checked the blond’s feet, relieved to find nothing too serious there either. “Well, I don’t think we need to make a trip to the hospital, but it’s gonna be painful to walk for a couple of days, Chris.”

 

“Thanks, Nate,” Larabee said and looked at his friends. “You heard the man—I’m okay so get back to work.”

 

“Chris, Orrin requested…did I miss something?” Standish said from the open doorway.

 

“Not really,” Larabee said and reached for the clean socks and shirt Wilmington handed him. “I need to see Travis and if I was a betting man I’d say the rest of you have work to do.”

 

“Chris, just stay off your feet as much as you can,” Jackson ordered.

 

“I will…how did the ultrasound go?” the blond asked and saw the smile born on the medic’s face.

 

“Looks like we’re having a boy,” Jackson told him.

 

“Congratulations,” Larabee said and clapped the man on the back as the others moved in to offer their own words of wisdom. He left the others and buttoned his shirt as he left the office. He limped toward the elevator and thought about the dreams he’d been having and the wounds to his feet, back, and shoulder. How could something he’d dreamed be real when he woke up? Was there something going on that could easily be explained or was this just a figment of his imagination and could it be easily explained?

 

Chris made his way to Travis’ office and smiled at the secretary when she motioned him inside. He entered to find Travis on the phone and took the chair he motioned to. He ignored the older man’s conversation and reached for the file that was pushed toward him. He opened it and began reading through the expense reports, relieved to find that Ezra hadn’t embellished anything and that their boss had approved each and every item they’d claimed.

 

“Chris, what happened?” Travis asked once the call ended.

 

“I just told Ezra to reign in his tastes or he’d be writing his own checks,” Larabee answered.

 

“Good, it seems to have worked so keep using that threat, but I meant why are you limping?”

 

“Guess I should have put on my shoes before going to check on Pony last night,” the blond lied.

 

“How bad?”

 

“Couple of shallow cuts. Nate took care of them.” The blond reached for the file Travis handed him and opened it, surprised to see a familiar face staring back at him. “This sonofabitch is getting out already?”

 

“Looks like it,” Travis said of the man who’d once tried to kill Vin Tanner. “I know the bastard vowed he’d get Tanner…”

 

“He said he’d kill him, Orrin, how can they let him out so soon?” Larabee asked angrily.

 

“You know the prisons are over crowded and until the higher ups see fit to ignore the prisoners' discomfort then they’ll continue putting men like Eli Joe on the streets.”

 

“Jesus, Orrin, a lot of prisoners get more to eat and better sleeping facilities than people who work for a living. Hell, if they’re considered in danger they’re given a private cell! That says a lot about our priorities doesn’t it?”

 

“I know, Chris, but there’s nothing we can do except keep putting the bastards back where they belong.”

 

“You know that Eli Joe’s going to come after Vin.”

 

“Maybe, but at least now we know to watch out for him.”

 

Chris took a deep breath and shook his head angrily. “So Eli Joe goes free and Vin has to watch his back until the sonofabitch decides to take him out.”

 

“I have confidence in you and your team, Chris. If Eli Joe comes anywhere near Vin you’ll take care of him,” Travis offered.

 

“You better believe it,” Larabee spat.

 

“Just make sure you don’t go outside the law…or at least make it appear that you didn’t,” Travis warned.

 

“I’m not making any promises, Orrin. I will say that if he comes after Vin we’ll see that he regrets the day he was born,” the blond vowed.

 

“Understood, but I didn’t hear you say that,” Travis told him.

 

“Thanks, Orrin,” Larabee said and shook the man’s hand before limping out of the office and making his way back downstairs. He entered the Firm’s outer area and made his way to the coffee maker.

 

“Everything go okay with Travis, Chris?” Wilmington asked.

 

“No…”

 

“What did you do, Ezra?” Jackson interrupted.

 

“I assure you I did everything according to the strictest…”

 

“It’s not about you, Ezra, although Travis did say for me to keep up the threats since they worked,” Larabee offered.

 

“Then what’s got you so tense, Boss?” Sanchez asked and saw Larabee’s shoulders slump ever so slightly before he looked at the Texan.

 

“What’d I do?” Tanner asked when Larabee’s gaze locked on him.

 

“You didn’t do anything, Vin, but there’s something you should know.”

 

“What’s that?”

 

“Eli Joe was given early release,” Larabee said.

 

“Sonofabitch! How the hell did that bastard manage that?” Wilmington cursed.

 

“Guess he pulled the wool over their eyes again,” the Texan offered softly. Eli Joe was one of his first bounties and had nearly killed him. The three time murderer had cornered him in an abandoned mine shaft and set several explosives that should have killed him, but Vin had found a secondary shaft and escaped before Eli Joe knew what was happening. Vin caught up with him not long after and had brought the man in. Unfortunately he’d beaten the murder raps, but they’d convicted him of armed robbery and he was sentenced to 10 years.

 

“Vin, you…”

 

“I ain’t gonna let ‘im get ta me, Chris. I ain’t hiding from ‘im either,” Tanner vowed.

 

“No one expects you too, Vin, but that doesn’t mean we can’t be careful. You need to watch for trouble and don’t take any chances if you see Eli Joe,” Larabee explained.

 

“Do we know if he’s in the city?” Sanchez asked.

 

“No, but that’s something I want JD and Ezra to check into. See if you can find out where he’s been since his release last month,” Larabee ordered.

 

“I believe we can ascertain his whereabouts,” Standish said and moved to join Dunne at the computer.

 

“This is my problem, Chris. I’ll find Eli Joe and deal with him myself,” Tanner said.

 

“Vin, the last time you had a run in with Eli Joe he nearly killed you. You’ve got a chance to go after him with us watching your back. We can help you make sure he goes back to jail if he even jaywalks on the wrong street. Don’t go lone wolf on us now,” Larabee said seriously.

 

“Listen to him, Brother, he makes sense,” Sanchez offered.

 

“I ain’t promisin’ not to shoot the sonofabitch on sight,” the Texan warned of the hated man.

 

“That’d just get you a cell next to his,” Wilmington observed.

 

“Maybe he left…”

 

“I don’t think so, Nate,” Tanner said. “He said he’d kill me the minute he was free. I won’t go lookin’ fer him, but I ain’t runnin’ from him.”

 

“No one expects you to run, Vin, but you’re not alone and until we know where he is we need to be careful,” Larabee said and limped toward his office. “JD, you and Ezra keep tabs on him when you can and let us know if he’s in the city.”

 

“We will,” Dunne said.

 

“Chris, you really should stay off your feet,” Jackson said.

 

“I hear you, Nathan, and that’s exactly where I’m going,” Larabee said and glanced at his watch. “It’s nearly lunch…any volunteers to make a run to Delvecchio’s?”

 

“Come on, Nathan, you drive and I’ll pick up the tab,” Sanchez offered.

 

“You’re on,” the medic readily agreed and quickly took the orders from the other men. 

 

Chris moved into his office and sat on the couch. He leaned his head back and closed his eyes as he thought about the nightmares he’d been having. He rotated his shoulders and felt the movement tug on the shallow wound there and looked at the door when he sensed someone watching him.

 

“You all right?” Tanner asked.

 

“I’m fine, just stiff,” Larabee answered and closed his eyes again.

 

“Why don’t ya grab some shuteye ‘til Nate and J’siah get back?”

 

“Sounds like a plan, Vin,” the blond said and reached for the afghan and covered his lower body. “Let me know if JD and Ezra uncover anything about Eli Joe.”

 

“I will…want me to get the blinds and the light?”

 

“Might as well,” Larabee answered and sighed tiredly as he relaxed and tried to think of anything but the nightmares that had plagued him the last few weeks.

 

 

M7M7M7M7M7M7M7

 

 

The cold wind made him shiver as he followed the now familiar trail along the waterfront. He stepped over the cat and cringed when it hissed at him and took off, this time dropping the rotted piece of fish near his bare feet. He reached the structure where the crying seemed to fill the air, yet he was the only one who heard it. There were several men working on the boats, unloading the cargo and storing it in the nearby warehouses, but they seemed oblivious to him and to the plight of whoever was making the woeful cries.

 

He ducked beneath the low doorway and entered the dilapidated building and waited for his eyes to adjust to the darkness. The shadows lengthened as if they had a life of their own and he looked into the corner where a spider seemed to be doing pushups on its newly spun web. He turned toward an opening in the floor as a small light haired boy raced past him and knew he should follow the child, but his feet moved as if they belonged to someone else.

 

He reached the opening in the floor and stared down into the darkness as a scream echoed and re-echoed inside his skull. He knew there was something down there, something that prayed on the living and he knew whatever it was, it was behind the cries of terror coming from below.

 

“You should not be here, Boy, the Dark Man does not want you in his domain!”

 

Chris felt as if his lungs were paralyzed and fought to breathe, but it felt like a band of steel was tightening across his chest. He lowered his head and gasped when he saw skeletal arms, with pieces of putrid smelling flesh hanging off them. He knew these were the source of the painful pressure and understood he was going to die if he didn’t take a breath.

 

“The Dark Man has marked you, Boy! Your soul will be mine to do with as I please!”

 

“No!” Chris tried, but still couldn’t breathe as the grotesque limbs continued to hold him in place.

 

 

M7M7M7M7M7M7M7

 

 

“Feed bag’s on,” Tanner said when Nathan and Josiah returned.

 

“I’ll wake Chris,” Wilmington said. He pushed open the door and listened for any sign that Larabee was awake, but heard nothing from the blond as he stepped through the door and moved to the sofa. He could not see Larabee’s face and was tempted to let him sleep, but there was something wrong with what he was hearing, or not hearing. He flipped on the light and moved toward his friend’s sleeping form.

 

“Chris?” Buck called his friend’s name as he knelt in front of the couch and cursed when he noted the blue tinge to the man’s lips. He placed his hand on Larabee’s shoulder and shook him gently, relieved when he heard the sharp sound that signaled air entering oxygen depraved lungs.

 

“Nathan!” Wilmington called the medic’s name and moved out of the way as Jackson knelt beside the blond.

 

“Chris, can you hear me?” Jackson tried, worried about the gray pallor of the man’s skin.

 

“I…yeah, I thi…think so,” the blond stammered. “What happened?”

 

“He wasn’t breathing,” Wilmington offered.

 

“Are you sure?” Jackson asked.

 

“He…his lips were blue, Nate…he wasn’t breathing until I touched him,” the worried rogue said.

 

“Maybe you should see Dr. Midland,” the medic said.

 

“I’m fine, Nathan,” Larabee said and unconsciously rubbed his chest where he still felt the ghostly touch of the unknown attacker from his nightmare. “Look, I’m fine…and I’m starved so you’d better get that food in here.”

 

“You heard the man,” Sanchez said and watched as Jackson helped Larabee stand. He’d seen something in the blond’s eyes and wondered if there was more to it than just a nightmare. Stranger things had happened and he thought about the stories his father had often told them about ‘The Old Hag’ and how if you dreamed of her it took someone touching you to wake you up. If that didn’t happen the victim was said to die because they were locked inside the night terrors.

 

Chris slowly made his way to the outer office and across to the conference room while Jackson and Wilmington grabbed the food and brought it inside. He sat down in his usual chair and tried to ignore the burning ache in his chest when the soup and roast beef sandwich were handed to him.

 

“Who owns the Hoagie?” Jackson asked.

 

“That’s mine,” Dunne said and caught the sandwich that was tossed in his direction.

 

Chris listened while the others joked and ate, but found his appetite just wasn’t there. He toyed with his food and could feel Vin watching him closely. ‘I’m okay, Tanner,’ he mouthed.

 

‘Like hell ya are,’ the Texan sent back. He’d seen the haunted look in the sea green eyes and hoped he was wrong about Larabee’s nightmares being something rarely ever seen or heard of. He knew there was one man who might have some answers and planned on stopping by Kojay’s home on his way home.

 

 

M7M7M7M7M7M7M7

 

 

Eli Joe knew if he acted on the threat he’d made during his trial, then he could very well end up back in jail. Not that that was such a bad idea because in prison he had a reputation that kept the others from hassling him. Vin Tanner was a miserable bastard, and if there was a way for him to get to Tanner then he’d do so. Right now he was sitting back and enjoying his freedom with a cheap whore and a cheaper bottle of whiskey.

 

Eli Joe poured a full glass of the strong liquor and downed half of it before grabbing the woman and tossing her on the bed. She laughed and played with the hairs on his chest, but he wasn’t in the mood for playing around as his thoughts kept returning to Vin Tanner and what the bastard had cost him.

 

He took what he wanted, rough and hard, but unlike the other times he didn’t get any satisfaction from the act.

 

“Come on, Lover Boy…”

 

“Ain’t in the mood, Sharice,” Eli Joe snapped and pushed her off him before sitting on the side of the bed and lighting a cigarette.

 

“It’s your money, Eli Joe…”

 

“Just get the hell out of here, Sharice.”

 

“You sure, Lover, I mean we could go around the world and I won’t charge you any extra.”

 

“I said I ain’t in the mood,” Eli Joe spat and shoved her away. “Just get the fuck away from me.”

 

“Jesus, Eli Joe, prison fucked you up real bad,” the prostitute said. She grabbed her clothes, dressed quickly and hurried out of the room.

 

Eli Joe sucked in a deep lung full of smoke and slowly released it before leaning back on the bed and letting his mind wander over the last few years he’d spent behind bars. It would be simple for him to leave the city and start over somewhere else, but his daddy had always told him to finish what he started. He owed Vin Tanner, big time, and if he was careful he could make the bastard pay before he left.

 

Eli Joe reached for the papers on the table and stared at the picture of Vin Tanner. He knew his fellow Texan now worked for an agency called The Firm. He’d read the papers whenever they were brought to the prison and he’d kept abreast of everything Tanner said and did. He knew Chris Larabee was not just his boss, but they were close friends and he wondered if the relationship went even a little further. 

 

Eli Joe knew there was no way in hell he was walking away from this and letting Tanner gloat over putting him in prison and collecting the bounty on his head. His mistake had been in not making sure Jess Kincaid was dead before leaving the scene. Tanner should have gone to jail instead of him, but there were ways to exact his own brand of revenge. 

 

A sick smile formed on his face when he thought about Tanner’s fear of closed in places and thought about the caves south of Billings. It was rumored they were haunted and most people stayed away from them, but if he could lure Tanner there he could kill him and make sure his body was never found. The legend surrounding those caves could work for him because according to the locals people simply went in and never came out.

 

“So, Vin, what would it take to get you to those caves?” Eli Joe thought and looked at the picture of the surly blond as an idea formed in his mind. 

 

 

M7M7M7M7M7M7M7

 

 

Chris looked at his watch and closed the file on his desk. At least this case had ended well and the family could get on with their lives. On that note it should have been a good day, but Eli Joe’s existence cast a dark shadow over Vin’s life. Chris knew the Texan would never agree to anyone staying with him until they were sure the bastard was in the city. 

 

JD and Ezra had been unable to find anything on Eli Joe’s presence, but Chris knew the Texan was worried about him and saw it as a way to get what he wanted without arousing suspicion. He winced as he stood up and made his way to the outer office where the others were also closing down shop for the day. 

 

“Chris, you okay?” Jackson asked when he noted the limp.

 

“I’m fine, Nathan, just tired,” Larabee answered.

 

“You do look like hell, Boss.”

 

“Thanks, Josiah, you’re all heart,” Larabee said.

 

“Are you sleeping okay, Chris?” the medic asked.

 

“Not really,” the blond answered honestly. “That’s why I’m heading straight home and making it an early night.”

 

“You okay to drive?” Jackson asked.

 

“Think so…”

 

“I’ll drive ya,” Tanner offered. “I’m goin’ that way anyway.”

 

“I can drive…”

 

“Chris, you should be resting your feet…leave your car and pick it up tomorrow,” Jackson ordered.

 

“Nathan, my feet are fine…”

 

“Come on, Ol’ timer…”

 

“Don’t make me shoot you, Tanner,” Larabee said and sighed tiredly as they walked out of the office. So far, so good, and he knew it would be a simple thing to get the Texan to stay at his ranch for the night. 

 

 

PART 2 / PART 3 / PART 4 / PART 5

 

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