"Guys, there's a problem." Ranger Cordell Walker hung up the phone at his desk in Company B, his face grim.
"What's the matter Walker?" his partner Trivette queried as he stood up.
"Yeah, what's up?" Gage asked, moving towards Walker's desk followed by Sydney who put down the paperwork she had in her hand as soon as she saw the look on Walker's face.
"There's just been a report of the looting of Native American artefacts from an archaeological dig site near the Mexican border. A number of significant finds have been lost."
"That's awful." Syd commented.
"Yeah." Walker nodded. "And it's getting worse - members of the nearby reservation are starting to form a vigilante group to track down the suspected perpetrators."
"What can we do?" Gage inquired, as concerned as his partner.
"I've just gotten clearance for you three to go to the site and investigate the robberies. You will be joined by members of Company E and local law enforcement when you arrive."
"What about you? What are you doing?" Trivette asked, immediately picking up on the fact that his partner had excluded himself from the plans.
"I've been asked to go straight to the reservation and liaise with the chief, see how we can control the vigilantes while ensuring that the connection they feel to these ancient artefacts is respected. As soon as I call Alex I'm being flown to the reservation, just outside of Sanderson. I'll meet up with you guys at the archaeological site later."
"Okay, we're on it." Trivette, Sydney and Gage quickly gathered their belongings.
"Who's car are you taking?" Walker called to them as the group reached the door.
"Mine." All three of them answered.
"Alright, let's flip for it." Sydney relented pulling out a coin, she hated not driving as much as the other two.
"Heads." Gage called.
"Tails." Trivette countered.
Closing her eyes as the coin landed on her hand and before she looked Syd called out "Heads" as well.
They looked at the coin.
"Tails - I win!" Trivette practically twirled around in glee.
Syd and Gage looked at each other and then shouted "Shotgun!"
"Oooh, tough decision." Trivette spoke as they got onto the elevator. "But I think I heard Sydney say it first."
"Yes!" Syd raised her hand in a balled fist, and then looked over pitifully at her partner. "Sorry Gage."
"I'll wrestle you for it." He looked hopeful as they reached the basement level and stepped out into the underground parking.
"No way." Syd smiled. "Nice try."
"Afraid of a little competition?"
"No...I just don't want to travel all this way in a closed car with someone who is sweaty and smelly."
"I don't smell!" Gage exclaimed, lifting his arm to check as they approached Trivette's car.
"Maybe not now, but believe me you would if you wrestled with me." Syd stepped close to her partner and lowered her voice, almost seductively. He took a step back when she spoke and Syd could swear that Gage almost blushed. He played that game with her sometimes; today it was her turn to disarm him with that trick.
"Well, if you want it that badly I'm not going to fight you for it. Today." Gage managed to choke out.
"It's going to be a long drive." Trivette commented as he listened to the good-natured bickering between the two younger Rangers. "A very long drive."
When they arrived in Sanderson, a lonely little town in the middle of Terrell County, it was getting late.
"Let's find somewhere to stay and then we can head out to the site." Trivette said as they drove down the main street.
"There's not much here." Syd commented, looked around. "It sure isn't Dallas."
"Well, no Syd. Dallas isn't the Cactus Capital of Texas. Hey, look over there!" Gage called out. "There's a motel. It's the only one I've seen with a Vacancy sign."
"Good enough." Trivette responded, pulling into the dusty parking lot of the rather run-down looking establishment.
The three Rangers stepped into the tiny office, glad to stretch their legs. It had been a long drive since their last stop in San Antonio. There was a bell on the door which had rung when the entered the room but a blaring TV in the attached room was so loud that no-one came to greet them.
"Hello? Hello! Anyone home?" Syd called.
"Hold yer horses, I'm coming." A man's tired and slightly irritated voice answered back. "Can't ya hear it's the final spin on Wheel of Fortune? All right, what do you want?"
"Two rooms please."
"What do you mean 'nope'?" Gage asked. "Your sign says Vacancy."
"Vacancy, yeah." The man answered. "But not two rooms - only got one left."
"The one room will be fine." Syd answered, obviously irritated by the run around. "Can we register now please?"
"Hey, you guys are Texas Rangers." The man commented, suddenly much more animate and willing to be of service. "We are happy here at the Desert Star Motel to do what we can for our friends in law enforcement. Here you go, number 14 – last room, at the end of the building. How long will you be staying Rangers?"
"We're not sure yet." Trivette replied, filling in the registration form and handing over his credit card. "We'll let you know. And you'll let us know if another room becomes available, right?"
"Sure thing Ranger, though..." he lowered his voice. "That's one pretty filly there...don't know any guy from these parts who would turn down a chance to share a room with her."
"She's a Texas Ranger." Trivette reminded the man as Gage and Sydney headed out the door. "Any guy from around these parts would be good to remember that."
Despite the deteriorated look of the place outside, Room 14 was in reasonably good shape. The linens were clean and the bathroom was stocked with fresh towels. Syd immediately dumped her stuff on one of the beds and claimed it as her own.
"Don't know how you boys are going to sort out the other bed but hands off mine."
"Toss you for it." Trivette said.
"I don't know...I lost the last toss and I had to listen to your music in the backseat of your car the whole way from Dallas."
"C'mon Gage, maybe you'll win this time." Syd encouraged him.
"I guess it's worth a shot." Her partner agreed. "Alright Trivette – tails."
"Oooh, sorry my friend." Trivette laughed as he revealed the coin on the back of this hand. "I win again."
"Awww, c'mon Syd." Gage turned to his partner. "It's only fair, let's toss for that bed too."
"Fair? I have to share a room with you guys. My one compensation is that I get a bed."
"I'm going to freshen up; you two sort this out but remember that this bed is now off limits." Trivette retreated to the bathroom, patting his bed as he went by.
"Syd, please? My back is already killing me from being squished into the back seat of Trivette's car for eight hours."
"Oh alright Gage, stop the whining." His face brightened. "You can have one of my pillows. Now, I think that is very generous of me." She tossed a pillow to him.
Gage stepped menacingly towards her bed and unsure what he was going to do, Syd sat still. But then he stopped in his tracks and gave her a look of defeat, his eyes almost tinged with sadness.
"Oh yes, Syd – you and generosity go hand in hand." A sarcastic response emitted from his lips.
Syd immediately felt contrite and a little bit embarrassed. "Look Gage, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to be so heartless. Maybe we can take turns, each have it for half the night?"
"Forget it Syd." Gage threw his stuff, including the pillow, onto the floor in between the two beds. "Just forget it."
Syd turned away from Gage, biting her lip. Her partner was annoyed with her and she knew it. She was angry with herself too. Why did she always have to be that way?
Trivette stepped from the bathroom. "You guys ready to go? Oh, you lost that one too hey Gage?" He noted, seeing Gage's stuff on the floor.
"Yeah." Gage brushed past him for his turn in the bathroom. "I'll be with you in a second."
In a few minutes the Rangers were back on the road again, this time driving in the darkness to find the archaeological site. Syd tried to offer the front seat to Gage but he ignored her and climbed in the back. Syd spent the whole drive to the site wondering what she could do to make things better between them and Trivette spent the whole driving wondering what the heck had happened while he was in the bathroom.
It was about a fifteen minute drive out of town when they came upon the sign for County Road 44A, and they turned down it, high beams on. In another ten minutes they came upon a roadblock and slowing down, pulled off to the side of the road.
"Rangers?" A woman's voice called to them as the engine stopped. Walking towards them with a flashlight in her hand the woman could see them but they were practically blinded by her beam
"Yes." Trivette answered stepping out of the car and shielding his eyes. "I'm Ranger James Trivette, this is Ranger Sydney Cooke and this is..."
"Ranger Gage." Gage stuck his arm out to shake the woman's hand, interrupting Trivette before he could finish.
"Oh!" the woman finally exclaimed, lowering her light after realizing that it was blinding them. "It's a pleasure to meet you. I'm Sgt. Nancy Wilding with the Terrell County Sheriff's Department. We've been expecting you. Come over here and I'll introduce you to my partner. Martin this is Rangers Trivette, Gage and what was it?"
"Cooke. Ranger Sydney Cooke." Syd stepped forward to shake hands with the tall, dark officer.
"Oh right. Rangers, this is Sgt. Martin Stringer."
"Glad you guys are here. The Rangers from Company E are already here, they are down at the actual site. They've asked if you will assist with our roadblock and surveillance tonight and them tomorrow morning we can take you down to the actual excavation site."
"Sounds good to me." Gage stood nearby Sgt. Nancy Wilding whom Syd could not help but notice was blond and very pretty and looking admiringly at Gage as he spoke. Something akin to jealously began to burn in Syd and she tried to suppress it, however her voice came out more like a growl.
"Well then Gage, since you are so keen I guess you can take first shift. Trivette?"
"Fine, fine. I could use a few hours of shut eye. One of us will be back in say...three hours...to provide some relief."
"Sure, whatever." Gage called back over his shoulder as he walked away from Syd and Trivette, following Nancy to where she and Martin had a cooler and a couple of chairs set up.
"Let's go." Syd called to Trivette, clearly impatient.
Trivette shook his head as he watched Syd stomp off to the car and Gage settle down casually into a conversation with the pretty Sergeant. When would that boy ever learn?