A HELPING HAND

BY: LML

General disclaimers apply here; no copyright infringements are either implied or intended! I don't own the rights to any of the characters of Renegade, and am simply borrowing them to use for a little fun for a bit. Enjoy the story!

Chapter One: Charlie's Return

Bobby sat in his office in front of a very thick stack of paperwork. Didn't these files ever get themselves done? Here he was, thirty-nine years old, and still unmarried. His mother had been right when she'd told him that he was losing valuable time. He'd been reluctant at first, but eventually he'd begun to fall hard for Toronto Metro Homicide Detective Tracy Vetter, and he knew that she'd begun to fall for him as well. After he'd spent Christmas and New Years with his sister and her new family up in Canada, both he and Tracy had headed back to Bay City for a vacation. Even though it wasn't a vacation spot for Bobby, he wanted to take her around and show her a really good time. And a good time was had by all, so much so in fact, that when Tracy had finally mustered up enough courage to phone her family and let them know she was all right and enjoying her time away, that he'd been forced to act as her shoulder to cry on and friend when she had battled it out with her parents.

"Tracy, just follow your own heart, and don't do anything you don't want to do. You don't have to do everything that your father wants, or your mother for that matter. You're your own person, with your own dreams and life ahead of you."

"Bobby, I just don't know if I can handle this," Tracy had said with tears in her eyes. "I keep telling myself that if I stand up for myself I'm doing the right thing, but every time I make the most of the attempt, my father always has something to say that he wants done, and God help anyone who refuse him."

Tracy had remained with Bobby in California for another two months, and then returned to Canada. Bobby had wanted her to stay with him, but she'd been forced into returning by her father, Commissioner Richard Vetter. Vetter had ultimately given his daughter an ultimatum, return home to Canada and the job which "he had helped arrange for her," which was how he had put it; or she could remain in California and not bother to come back asking for anything from either her mother or himself ever again. The decision had torn Tracy apart, but in the end she'd chosen to return to Canada, only after promising Bobby to keep an eye on Cheyenne and to make Reno work extra hard.

"Don't worry about Reno. I'm sure that Nick has already piled both his and Reno's paperwork onto Reno's desk, and no doubt Reno is ready to strangle Nick for doing so. But I'll make sure he works extra hard and isn't given any free rides." Bobby smiled, and kissed Tracy good-bye. He promised to be up there as soon as he could get away, and then she'd left.

So now here he was, three weeks after Tracy's departure, working hard at his business. Sandy had taken the weekend off to go and visit some relatives, so Bobby figured he'd be a gentleman and get some of the paperwork out of her way for when she returned. He'd just picked up a new file, when he heard a soft knock on his office door.

"Come in," Bobby called as he opened the file folder he held in his hand. He looked up as the door opened and in walked a young girl, about twelve or thirteen. She looked at Bobby, and her face lit up.

"Hey there, Uncle Bobby, remember me?"

Bobby looked long and hard at the girl. He knew she looked somewhat familiar, but he couldn't place her right away. "I'm sorry, honey, but I don't think you're in the right..."

"Remember Tracy Harris?" Bobby nodded, and the girl continued. "I'm Charlie Harris, his daughter. Remember me now?"

"Charlot? Oh my god, you've really changed. You look almost grown up! But I thought you went to Denver to live with your aunt. How's your dad anyway?"

"Well, that's why I came to you. See, I kind of have a little problem." But Charlie never got to finish her statement. That was because a very tall and imposing figure appeared in the doorway behind Charlie.

"Charlot, I want you to sit in that chair and let me talk with Mr. Sixkiller." The woman's stern-looking face seemed to almost intimidate Charlie, because the girl seated herself immediately after being told to do so. Bobby glanced briefly at the almost timid look, which took up residence on the child's young face when the woman who'd accompanied her spoke up.

"May I help you, Miss?"

"Mr. Sixkiller, my name is Maxine Franklin, and I'm with the Department of Children And Family Services in Denver Colorado. I understand that you're the person who brought Charlot's father Tracy Harris in several years ago and turned him over to the local authorities." The woman didn't even wait for a response before continuing her speech. "While in incarceration, Charlot's father met an unfortunate accident which resulted in his death last year, and up until very recently Charlot here has been living with her aunt, a Marty Harris, the late Tracy Harris's sister."

"Yes, ma'am, but what could I be able to do for Charlie? Why isn't she living with her aunt now, has something happened?"

"Mr. Sixkiller, Charlot no longer resides with her aunt because the woman was the victim of one of her late brother's targets. Apparently, someone from Charlot's father's past was very disturbed by how he'd been taken advantage of, and he went looking for Charlot and her father. But instead of finding Charlot or her father, he found Charlot's aunt, and exacted his revenge upon her."

Bobby visibly tensed as he realized the full weight of what the woman had just related to him. He took in a breath and plodded ahead with his question, regardless of whether or not Maxine Franklin had completed what she'd wanted to say. "Ms. Franklin, it's a terrible thing for Charlie to have to deal with, but I still don't understand how I can be of any help."

The woman, who looked as though she'd been born hard and mean as the day was long, simply stated, "Since you showed an interest in young Charlot's welfare, rather than place her in the foster care system, Children and Family Services was wondering if you were willing to undertake the task of taking custody of Charlot. You have shown that you're willing to help her, and you did so when you set up that trust fund for her when she was six."

That was very true, Bobby had been concerned for Charlie's well being. After all, he, Cheyenne, and Reno had been placed into the role of her caretakers while they helped her father get free from some money launderers. And, he had set up the trust account for her with the reward money gathered from the capture of the men who'd been filtering money through the video store. But a fulltime caretaker for a preteen girl? He wasn't too sure he was ready for fatherhood just yet, and besides that, there weren't any women around for whenever Charlie might need one. Sure, there was Sandy, but who knew what would happen in the future, near or distant. Before he could voice his concerns, however, the social worker spoke up once more.

"We need to know if you'd be willing to take her now. I don't want to have to cart this child back to Denver now and find out later that you're ready and willing to take up the responsibility, just to cart her back here. I don't have the time for that, and quite frankly, Mr. Sixkiller, this child is very trying on one's patients. It's a wonder her aunt took her in at all. I mean after all, she is a brat."

Now it was time to decide what to do, but before he could make his decision known, there was something he felt needed to be said first. Bobby looked straight into the face of the social worker and began speaking rapidly, so as not to give her the opportunity to cut him off. "Ms. Franklin, first of all Charlie may be a little tough to understand at times, but that doesn't necessarily constitute the manner in which you are portraying her. You haven't known this child for as long as I have, and what's more I don't feel that someone with the attitude you have should be allowed to work with children. But in answer to your request, I will gladly take Charlie into my custody. At least she'd be better off with me than with you or in some shelter."

After he'd finished ranting at the woman, she glared sternly first at Charlie, and then at Bobby.

"Fine. Just sign these forms and she's all yours." The social worker thrust a stack of papers at Bobby, who readily accepted them with a very mocking grin on his features.

"Have a nice day." He couldn't have made the words sound colder if they'd been ice cubes. Then after a brief exchange between the bitter woman and the bounty hunter, the woman left, leaving Charlie in Bobby's care. For all of two very long and tense minutes, the pair stared at one another, neither moving, speaking, nor otherwise. Finally, Bobby spoke up.

"Well, Charlie, it looks like you're going to be here for a while. So, what do you say I forget the rest of this paperwork and the two of us go out for something to eat? Sound good to you?"

"Sure!" Charlie smiled innocently at the one person whom she'd matched wits with pound for pound, and yet had never held it against her. "Think you're up for a friendly little card game later on?"

"No way! I swear, I'm never playing cards against you ever again! You got me last time and I still haven't let you off the hook for that one." Charlie knew that Bobby was only joking, but she assumed the injured puppy dog look, and sniffled a few times. Bobby wasn't buying it for one minute. "Don't give me that look, young lady," he chided. "You and I both know that you're a ruthless card shark, compliments of your father no doubt. But in any case, let's go get some food."

Charlie smiled at Bobby and then looked down at the floor. "You know something, when I stayed with you guys before, Cheyenne gave me an idea that I've always kept with ever since."

"Oh yeah, what kind of idea did my little sister give you?"

"She said that all the items in my bag were reminders of all the different places I'd been. In fact, she said that when she was a kid my age, she used to take her bag and empty it out at night and look at all the things in it."

"That's right. She called it her "everyplace bag" I think."

While the two of them talked, Bobby finished putting the paperwork away in a folder, and grabbed his car keys. He gestured toward the door and Charlie bounded toward it, a wide smile on her face. Bobby followed her outside and into the warm sunshine of the afternoon.

"So where is she?"

"Who?"

"Cheyenne. Where is she?"

"Well, she and your uncle Reno got married a few months ago, and are in Canada. They've got a little girl, and her name is Valerie. But we all call her Val."

As the two-reached Bobby's hummer, Bobby began to get an uneasy feeling at the back of his neck. He turned, just as the gunshot rang out.

"Charlie, run! Run and don't stop running!"

Bobby spun, drew his gun and fired in the direction from which the shot had come. He heard his first bullet strike something hard, probably the side of a building or a car's tire. His next one struck his assailant, with enough force to knock him backward, but obviously not in a spot where he'd be mortally wounded. Bobby held his gun over the man's prone figure as he knelt to feel for a pulse. After finding one, he checked to see where the bullet had struck the man.

"You son of a bitch... You shot me..."

"Hey, pal, you shot your piece first. Now let's just find out who you are, shall we?" Bobby reached for the man's jacket, as he obviously wasn't going to resist. He withdrew a wallet from the pocket and looked at the identification card for a few minutes.

"Oh no... Not you again."

"Yeah, Bobby, it's me again." Det. Sgt. Woodrow Bickford, former partner of ex-United States Marshal and convicted murderer Donald Dutch Dixon, stared up at the man who'd just shot him in the leg. "Too bad I missed my target..."

"And just what was the target, Bickford?"

"Your head, Sixkiller... Damn good thing you sent that kid runnin when you did, or else she might've been caught in the crossfire from your weapon... And wouldn't that have been a shame? You could've gone on the run just like your friend Raines did.""

Bobby glared intensely at Bickford for about five very long and unyielding seconds. Suddenly he was caught off guard by a small voice.

"Uncle Bobby? Who is that guy, and why'd he shoot at us? Was he the one who killed my aunt?"

"Charlie, get in the hummer and wait there. I have a few things I need to do for just a couple of minutes and I don't want you to see some of this... Go on now, get in the car and I'll be there in a few minutes."

Dejectedly, and with a little shrug of her shoulders, Charlie turned and headed for the hummer. Bobby was relieved when he heard the vehicle's passenger door open and slam shut. He stared again at Bickford, who by this time was climbing to his feet.

"Don't even think about it, Bickford. You're not going anywhere."

"And you're not turnin' me in for discharging my weapon without proper cause. I'm gonna pretend you didn't shoot me in the leg and get this patched up. But don't think for one second that I'm going to let you slide on this one. You're gonna get yours, Sixkiller, of that you can be damn sure!"

Bobby glared long and hard at the man on the ground in front of him. Under normal circumstances, he'd have most likely slugged the man as hard as he could, and turned him in for attempted murder. But seeing as how he now had an eleven-year old to worry about he decided against that tactic for the time being. "You've got two options, Bickford, and neither of them are going to be to your satisfaction. You can either turn yourself in willingly or hand me that gun you've got there, or I can take it from you, cuff you and drag your sorry ass down to the precinct. Make up your mind, and do it quick. I'm not in a generous mood today."

Realizing that he was in a lose lose situation, Bickford dropped his gun on the ground and tried to stumble to his feet. Bobby pulled him upright, and reached in his pocket for his cuffs. After cuffing the man's hands behind his back, he knelt down and expertly retrieved Bickford's discarded weapon.

He turned, steering the man toward the waiting vehicle, and thought better of it. He turned back in the direction of the office, and shoved the man through the door after unlocking it. He grabbed for the phone on the desk, and dialed the police. Once the crime had been reported, Bobby retrieved a second pair of handcuffs and attached one of the metal cuffs to Bickford's right arm and the other to a sturdy, metal beam in the corner of the room.

"Enjoy your wait, Bickford. Your friends will be here shortly to pick you up.." Bobby said as he exited the office and slammed the door behind him. As he left, he heard the man say something sarcastic to his retreating form, but Bobby decided to ignore it for the time being. He'd deal with the man soon enough.

He headed for his vehicle, and was pleased to see that Charlie had followed his orders to remain in the Hummer until he came for her. He climbed into the drivers' seat, and started the engine. He looked over at the preteen sitting in the seat beside him and frowned slightly. Her head was up, but her eyes were downcast and seemed almost as though they stared, neither in to nor at, anything. Bobby remained silent for bout five minutes or so, and then said softly, "Charlie, I'm sorry you had to see that."

"Was that the man who killed my Aunt Marty?" Charlie's question came out of left field, startling Bobby. Hadn't Ms. Franklin said that they knew who'd gone after Charlie and her father, killing Charlie's aunt by mistake? Bobby recalled the words and thought for a moment.

"Charlie, what do you know about what happened to your aunt Marty and your father?"

Charlie's face contorted in an awkward pose. She stared out the window first, then at Bobby, and finally resettled her gaze out the window once more. It was another two minutes before she spoke, and when she did the words were cold and very characteristic of Charlie Harris. "My dad was killed just a couple of weeks before he was supposed to come home, and then Aunt Marty was killed. I don't know who killed her, and neither do the cops. That's why they shipped me out here to you, that and I kept asking to see you."

Bobby's smile was slow incoming, but once it was visible he chuckled softly. "So let me guess, it was either me or a foster home right?" He glanced briefly at Charlie to gage her reaction to his little joke, and when she didn't look at him he realized that what he'd said couldn't have been any more to the point.

Bobby pulled the vehicle over to the side of the road and turned to look at the girl seated beside him. He felt horrible at having made a joke, but he'd gotten the impression from the social worker that Marty Harris's killer had been caught. He realized with clarity that this wasn't true, and Charlie was very scared.

"Charlie, I'm sorry about your father and your aunt. I wish there was something I could..."

Suddenly, Bobby stopped speaking when he noticed the girl's shaking shoulders. He knew instantly that she was crying, and wanted to help her. He really did like her, despite the fact that the two of them hadn't gotten off to the greatest of starts when they'd met all those years ago. He gently placed a reassuring hand on her shoulder, and was surprised when she didn't brush his hand away. It surprised him even more so when she turned toward him and wraped her tiny arms around him.

"I didn't even get to see my dad. They wouldn't let us, and then when Aunt Marty got killed I couldn't see her either..."

Bobby sat there, hugging the little girl whom he'd really come to respect after their encounter with the money launderers. He knew that she was hurting, and there wasn't much he could do for her other than act as a support system for her. As he sat in thought, a realization hit him. It was time for the two of them to take a little trip up to Canada.