Two men wiped down tables and set the bar up for the next day.
The younger one, a 6'3" blonde headed, blue eyed former Army sergeant, looked like he was stressed out over something, but his boss, Butch McMann, said nothing.
He was used to the kid saying nothing during or after a case.
He'd watched him grow up and knew that when he was lost in his thoughts, to say nothing, just wait it out and let him speak first.
The kid said nothing until he saw Butch to his truck, "See you tomorrow, Butch. You have a good evening."
"You too, Trent," he said, closing his door. He watched for a moment, as Trent disappeared into the shadows where he parked his Stingray. "Thunder," he whispered, "I know you are looking down with pride on your son, but, Lord bless him, he can find trouble in a windowless room."
Trent Malloy walked up the stairs to the office above the bar that he, his partner, Carlos Sandoval, and office manager, Kimberly Sutton rented from Butch.
He picked up his personal office phone, and dialed, "Major, I need your help."
Harden City OK
She was dressed in a pair of sweat pants and an old baggy t-shirt. You could tell by the empty take out boxes and cups on the coffee table that she was and had been depressed for a while.
The phone rang, waking her out of the silent stare she had on the TV, "Veritas Investigations, this is Nikole, how may I help you?"
"Major, I need your help." Nikole took mental notes, "Knows I was in the military, male, stressed."
Trent sighed, "Its Trent. Trent Malloy. I know it's been a while, since Iraqi Freedom at least."
"Trent, is everything okay?" Nikole was already on her way up the stairs, when a wave of dizziness came over her. Fighting it off she pulled out her ready over-night bag from the closet.
"What's going on, Sergeant?"
Crashing could be heard before he said he had to go and disconnected.
Nikole fell to the floor gasping in pain, before she finally gripped the side of the bed and made a quick call.
7 Investigations Office
A tall blond smiled when he saw his team throwing wads of paper as he unconsciously rubbed his chest through his black shirt.
He shook his head when the youngest member of the group dumped a trashcan full of paper wads over Ezra Standish, the resident gambler, "JD, you better pick up all that!"
"Yes, Chris, I will!"
The phone rang, pulling the private investigator from his thoughts, "Seven Investigations, this is Chris Larabee, how may I help you?"
"Hey, Lt. Col. Cowboy," came the soft voice of a woman.
"Nikolette Erikson-Morgan, how are doing?"
"Well, I need a favor. Trent Malloy is missing and I know that even you, cold-hearted as you are, will want to help as well as the rest of your mini battalion, will want to help."
"My 'mini battalion'? Look whose talking, dear. This coming from the girl who is a former presidential agent and had 4- star generals kicked out of the presidents' office, just by walking in the door."
"Chris, honey, who had the power when I was in the military?"
"I did, but I was your CO."
"Good boy, now who was the PA longer, you or me?"
"You, but I only know that because you got into a bar when you were 17."
"My brother has a big mouth."
"No, your conduct precedes you more than Ezra's."
"But you will come, right?"
"Yes, but you need to answer this question; have you go to the doctor for your chest pains? Or do I need to get Nathan to talk to you?"
"Christopher Larabee, I-,"
"Okay, no, I haven't. It's not bad and it comes and goes nothing to worry about."
"You forget, honey, that you and I share a bond and if I'm feeling a tenth of what you are, I'm sure even you'd be on your knees."
"Been there, done that, Chris. Just get to Dallas ASAP, and bring your army."
Chris smiled as he put the phone down and looked up to see Nathan at the door, "Nate, I need you to do me a favor."
Three men and two women sat at a table over looking the ocean, when the older mans phone went off, "Fenton Hardy speaking."
"If you value the life of your dear son, I suggest you get 500,000 worth of diamonds by midnight Tuesday. That gives you three days."
The caller hung up and Fenton Hardy looked across the table at his youngest son, "Joe, when was the last time you were in Dallas?"
Joe looked at his dad, "When we were with Agent Morgan, three months ago."
Laura finally spoke, "What's going on, Fenton?"
"Someone just called telling me to pay a ransom for Joe, or they will kill him. I think it's time we go to Dallas, boys. I don't like the idea of holding someone's fate in my hands."
Kimberly Sutton got out of her car and smiled when she saw Trent's Stingray in his parking spot. When she saw the door to the office open she shook her head. "Trent Malloy, it's not even 7 o'clock in the morning, and you are already at the-"Butch McMann was just getting out of his truck when her heard Kim scream.
What he saw next nearly made the ex-boxer say an explicit; Kim stood in Trent's office doorway, blood on the frame and carpet, lamps and plants were also broken and knocked over.
He pulled Kim aside and had her sit at her desk chair, while he made a phone call, "Walker, we have a problem… It's Trent."
Cordell Walker, Texas Ranger was in his office with his partner, Jimmy Trivette and fiancé, Alexandra Cahill, when he got the call.
"We need to get to the office, something about Trent. Alex, call Carlos, please."
She was already placing the call, "Drive carefully, Ranger. We have three inches of snow already, and more is coming down."
"Always," he said as he kissed her good bye.
By the time they reached Thunder Investigations, an officer was talking to Butch and Kim, while a young woman and an older man were looking over the scene.
Trivette raised an eyebrow, "She's what; 4' 11", 5' nothing? 16 or 17? Her partner is old enough to be her grandfather," he whispered.
Walker slightly grinned, noticing that she was talking with the man, but heard every word Trivette just said.
"Ranger, I'm 5' 1 ¾" and am 23. This is my father- in- law, James Johnson. Walker how are you?" She said, shaking his hand, slightly grimacing at the movement, although no one noticed.
"I'm good, Nikolette, how are you?"
"Ah, good as can be. Trent called me last night, that's why I'm here. Does Katie know, yet?" she asked referring to Trent's mother.
Walker shook his head, "We wanted to know what we were dealing with first."
Trivette watched the exchange, "You know each other?"
Walker smiled, "She was Trent's CO while they were in the military. We met a few years back."
Carlos walked in, "What happened?"
Kim, having just finished her statement, answered, "Trent's missing," she said, accepting the Kleenex that Butch handed her,
James and Walker both noticed Nikole looking pale, but so did Butch, "Kimberly," he said, "Take Agent Morgan downstairs so ya'll can go over the files and notes the two of you have."
Carlos and Nikole embraced and he whispered quietly as she nodded.
Butch, Walker and James shared a look, "What's wrong with her?"
Trivette, being on the phone, didn't know what was going on.
James breathed a sigh of relief, when he saw three familiar people, because, to be honest, he really didn't know what was wrong with his youngest daughter-in-law.
"Fenton, Frank and Joe Hardy, I would like for you to meet Rangers Walker and Trivette, Carlos Sandoval and Butch McMann."
Fenton and his sons shook hands as he explained why he left their vacation in paradise to come to Texas where it was just short of a blizzard, "I got a call saying to pay 500K as ransom to get Joe back. But as you can see, he' right here, so what do we have?"
After relaying what they had and knew, the Hardy's said that they were going to the hotel to put their things away so they could be of more assistance.
Trent Malloy came to, tied to a chair in the middle of a barn.
"Headache? Check! Double vision? Check! Dizziness? Check! Great, a concussion to go along with being kidnapped. What's next? Target practice?" He thought, as he worked on the ropes.
He could hear birds, a river and the wind howling as the wind blew.
"Maybe they didn't know about my throwing stars. I can cut myself out… Unless these guys did their homework and then they may be after Mom and… SIBLINGS!"
He tried much harder to get out of the ropes that held him to the chair.
Nikole sat on a stool at the bar as a wave of dizziness came over and she closed her eyes against it, as she inhaled sharply, wincing.
Kim set a Coke® in front of her, "Thank you, Kim."
"Are you okay, Agent Morgan?" she asked, noticing that Nikole had rubbed her chest at times and looked dizzy.
"I'm good, Kim, thank you. And please call me Nikole; Agent makes me feel older than I am."
She coughed and put her hand to her chest with a slight grimace, hoping that Kim hadn't noticed.
However, she wasn't so lucky, "Do I need to call an ambulance?" she asked worriedly, crossing her fingers, wishing she could get Nikole to say yes. But was denied that luxury, however, as the very independent agent shook her head, "I'm fine."
They continued to go through the files, until finally the men came in.
Nikole up at them, "Daddy, the boys said they would be here soon."
Walker nodded, "Well as much as we want to stay, we need to get to the office and James is coming with us, since he has the friends in high places."
Nikole nodded and not 15 minuets after they left 7 men entered.
Nikole stood up, smiling, as she grabbing the edge of the bar for support.
"Cowboy," she said, nodding to the man in al black, whose serious face had a slight smile on it at her comment.
"Don't call me 'Cowboy', Nikolette, you may regret it."
She returned the smile. "Carlos, Kim, Butch, I would like to introduce a few of Trent's and my friends from the army. Presidential Alpha Team Chris Larabee, leader, Devlin 'Vin' Tanner, sniper, Nathan Jackson, medic, Ezra Standish, con man and genuine pain in the rear, Buck Wilmington, our very own cowboy Casanova, Josiah Sanchez, resident chaplain, and JD Dunne, technical support."
The men tipped their hats, snow falling off of the brims, as they looked around the bar. Carlo and Butch moved a few table together to get ready for a late lunch, while Kim separated the files they had already gone through, from the ones they hadn't.
Chris Larabee kept a straight face as he studied Nikole while she sat a box on the floor. She'd lost a little weight since the last time they saw each other and she looked like she was in pain.
He barely had time to react when he heard her gasp in pain and start to hit the floor, catching her just in time, "Nathan," he said.
JD ran outside to get the med kit, while the others backed up, Carlos and Butch comforting Kim, who was standing in shock, as the medic went to check her.
Trent smiled happily when the ropes gave, finally. Over three hours were lost getting free. But it was worth it, and he could go home to his family.
He swung the door open and was startled by the blast of cold wind, but still kept going; he had to get home.
How it could go from 58 degrees to 29 was a mystery to him, 'This isn't Oklahoma, it's Texas, a little normalcy would be greatly appreciated,' he thought as he zipped his jacket the rest of the way up.
As he walked he realized that the snow was falling harder, "The clouds parted, the skies opened up, and God said, 'I hate you, Trent Malloy.'"
He was nearing the road when he heard a vehicle, realizing too late that it was the people who had kidnapped him in the first place, and ran in the opposite direction.
He was almost to the tree line, when he felt something sharp hit his arm and he pulled out a tranq-dart, "So now I'm a stinking dart board, great."
Nathan shut the office door and was met by 8 anxious faces, "I'm not sure what's wrong with her but I've got her on an IV, to keep her hydrated."
Chris closed his eyes, "I'm staying with her," green eyes flashed daring anyone to object, or challenge him.
Vin Tanner stepped forward, "We both will, Nathan."
Carlos went to object, but Chris held up his hand, "She's like a little, sister to me," his voice cracked, "I can't lose her too."
Vin's hand on his shoulder was probably the only thing that did keep him in control of his emotions.
Chris fell asleep around 1:30 in the morning, sitting by Nikole's side, only to awaken an hour later to find the power off and Nikole shivering under the quilt the had found in the closet.
Pulling off his trench coat, he lay behind her and covered the both with his coat.
Nathan walked in later and smiled at the scene before him only to quickly lose it when he felt the young woman's forehead. He opened up his medical bag quietly and emptied the contents of a syringe into the IV, before leaving.
Chris woke up to find both him and the former agent by him covered in sweat and realized her fever had broken, as Vin came in with a cup of coffee and offered it to him, his face showing worry and traces of a sleepless night.
He slide out from behind Nikole and accepted the offered cup, "You need to sleep, Vin," he whispered.
"Cain't," the sniper answered, "not while she's sick."
Ezra Standish walked in "Mr. Larabee, Mr. Tanner, Ms. Sutter wishes to have a word with us."
Kim Sutter sat at the bar, "Roll call; Ranger HQ?"
"Presidential Alpha Team 7?"
"My dear, Ms. Sutter," Ezra said in his southern drawl, dusting off his shirt sleeves "we are all present and accounted for, with the exception of Mr. Tanner who is with Ms. Morgan."
"Good, everyone is present. What we know is that this is the work of Terrence Quinn's sons. Trent sent Quinn to prison a few years back, and they knew what they were doing when they took him, but the question is, why target Joseph Hardy?
"I can answer that," Joe's voice came over the speaker, "Four years ago, I sent their uncle to prison. He was murdered by a rival gang and I was told that eventually, there maybe people wanting revenge. They've yet to come for me, but it's a matter of time."
Walker's voice came over "Not if we can help it. Miss Hardy, what do you have?"
"These guys have planed everything down to a 'T'. Snowmobiles, skis, they know what they're doing, we just have to stop them, before anyone else gets hurt."
Kim looked at Chris, "Mr. Larabee is there something you wish to add?"
Chris sighed, "The boys and I met Matthew Quinn about a year ago. If Trent had a run in with him we need to get on the ball, because them boys don't mess around."
Walker came back over the speaker, "Okay, thank you, guys. Now, everyone but Alpha 7 is dismissed, ya'll have a good day. How is Agent Morgan?"
Nathan spoke, "Not too well, sir. We have her on and IV, and a heart monitor; she had a very high fever last night, which at some point broke. Vin Tanner and Chris Larabee have been watching her, since we lost power last night and the generator is broken. We are doing what we can and keeping her comfortable until the storm blows over or help arrives, whatever happens first."
"Thank you, Nathan. Meeting adjourned, keep me posted; dismissed."
Everyone was lost in their own thought when shots were fired, causing them to take cover and return fire.
Vin was asleep leaning against the couch beside Nikole, when he heard the shots and pulled her gently to the floor, as he grabbed his rifle from the table.
"Chris," he called crawling to the door, "I'm coming out!"
Ezra jumped behind the counter, "Mr. Tanner, I do not believe this is the time to indulge un in your-,"
"EZRA, SHUT UP!" he yelled throwing himself behind an over turned table, "I called so I wouldn't get shot!"
The shooting soon ceased, leaving the group relieved.
"Who was that?" JD Dunne asked as he and Ezra stood up from behind the bar.
"I don't know, kid," Buck answered, "but I don't like getting shot at." Josiah carefully glanced out the window, "It appears they left. Is everyone okay?"
Everyone was answering him back until they saw Vin on his knees with Chris in his arms, as Nathan removed his Kevlar® vest, "Chris," Nathan said, ripping the shirt open a bit more, "hold still. Vin, apply pressure, while I get some bandages together."
"You have GOT to be kidding me!" Trent Malloy exclaimed, as he looked around the room, "What is this; hide and seek? Ya'll ain't playing very fair!"
A voice came over an intercom, "It's good to see you still have a sense of humor, Mr. Malloy."
Trent studied the room as he spoke, "So you know who I am, but I don't know you…. That's not very courteous."
"Touché, Mr. Malloy, touché. Does the name Terrance Quinn mean anything to you?"
"Oh, God, this can't be good."
"You're right; it isn't good; for you anyway. For my brothers and I it is though. Here's the thing; you've probably already figured that you are being held in a warehouse. Your job is to escape, but there are booby traps everywhere. Individually, they will only inflict minor injuries. However, together, well, let's just leave that to your imagination."
Frank Hardy looked out the window of the room he and his little brother shared, 'Why didn't you tell me that you had testified?"
Joe shrugged as he typed on his laptop, "You were on your honeymoon and it wasn't all that important at the time."
Someone knocked on the door and the next thing Joseph Hardy knew was his brother was unconscious on the floor and he had a tranq-gun pointed at his chest, "You're next, Hardy."
Teec Nos Pos, AZ
Retire 4-star general Orrin Travis was at his desk when the phone rang, "Mr. President, so glad you were able to get back to me so quickly. Joseph, you and I have been friends for many years, but is it wise to have Alpha Team 7 teamed up with Agent Morgan and the Hardy's?"
"It's not just them any longer, the Texas Rangers under the direction of Cordell Walker and Thunder Investigations are now involved. I think that should keep them out of trouble."
"Yes, sir. Just curious, how did a 23 year old woman carry so much weight that when she walks into your office even a 4 star general has to leave?"
"If I told you that, Orrin, I'd have to kill you," the president said.
"Fair enough, Joseph. Looks like Mary has brought breakfast in, so I better let you go," he said, motioning a very pregnant Mary Travis-Larabee to proceed into the room, as he hung up.
"Mary, should you be carrying that tray up the steps in your condition?"
Mary smiled, "Orrin, the baby isn't due until late next month. Eden promised you that she would never let me do anything to exhausting, and she is a woman of her word, otherwise, I think you would still be single."
Orrin Travis watched as his former daughter-in-law left the room and smiled, as he remembered what had led up to her meeting and eventually marrying the man he now employed as leader over his late son, Stephen's, private investigations office.
She hated him with a passion, which was evident… at first.
Stephen and Mary had been married for a little over a year when they learned she was expecting their first child. Everything was going great; Stephen had a good job, Mary would come by to do paperwork, and have Billy with her. Until that fateful day when Mary was running and errand leaving father and son at the office.
That was when an upset former client came in. Billy, now 5, had been in the back room where they had set up a place for him to play, when he was there. He had heard a man yelling at his father and hid in a closet when he saw the man pull out a gun.
It had taken months with no success to get the poor child to finally speak, until a certain man entered the lives of Mary Travis and Billy.
Orrin had met him three years before when he had joined the military and had taken an instant liking to him. He learned that the man at one point had a wife and son but they had died one night while he was out of town getting horses, when an arsonist had started a fire.
He carried not only the weight of no longer having family, but also of guilt. Guilt of not being there to be with them and guilt of being gone longer than he had originally planned.
The man had formed a team of individuals to carry out and execute orders that "never took place," and had trained a young woman under him, who became his protégé.
President Joseph Stalin had called 4 Star General Orrin Travis' team Presidential Alpha Team 7 or the Magnificent Seven for short and had retired them to work as civilians for future work should the need arise.
Orrin had moved his son's PI office to another location and Mary became the secretary again, getting ready for this group of men to arrive. A man in black walked in, and that was when sparks and tension flew. "May I help you? The office isn't open-, Oh," she said, realizing to whom she was speaking, "You must be one of the men hired to rid this town of its bad elements."
He just looked at her calmly and answered, "Name's Chris Larabee, and lady, I am the bad element," before walking out.
Three months later, it was his Eden's 25th wedding anniversary and Mary along with the help of Nettie and Casey Wells had set up their ranch and Inez Ricollias restaurant The Saloon, into a Western town.
Orrin looked around and saw Chris in his regular black attire surrounded by the other 6 members of his elite team. Mary was serving drinks with a few other women and had forgotten about Billy as he went to play with some of the other kids.
Chris watched quietly as some of the boys pushed Billy away from them and left him behind as they went their own way and startled the horses hitched to a horse-drawn wagon. Billy was lost in his own thought and didn't realize it was headed directly at him until Chris came out of no-where and knocked him out of the way.
Mary, who looked up as her son disappeared from sight, feared the worst and ran over, shouting his name only to see him in the arms of the much despised 'gunslinger.'
Billy saw his mother and ran to her out stretched arms.
Chris saw that he was safe and turned to join his men, "Mr. Larabee," he turned at the soft voice and looked at the concerned mother, "thank you," he touched the rim of his hat with a slight nod and left.
A young woman sat with Mary and Eden Travis, "Mary," the girl began, "I know Chris is slightly rough around the edges, but he's a good man. Why don't you let Billy ride with him for a little while? They both could use a little healing."
6 months later
Company Get Together
Orrin watched as this young woman wormed her way into the very heart of the matter in just seconds and was pleased with Larabee's choice of a replacement. Mary looked at her as a little sister as did Chris and so she was a mutual friend knowing even their darkest secrets.
Mary finally relented, "Okay, he can go." The girl got up to tell the investigator the news but Mary grabbed her hand, "Nikole, thank you." The smile Orrin got as from Nikole as she left was priceless, as he then saw why she had been a Presidential agent, before anything else.
Chris looked at Mary as he packed his horse and Nikole packed her horse for Billy, "Mrs. Travis, I give you my word that I will take care of your son, as though he were my own. He will be safe. We will be a few hours away by horseback, on my property camping and staying in a cabin I've got out there. If you need me, ask Agent Morgan or one of the boys and I'm sure they will help you find me."
Mary nodded and smiled a real smile at him this time, "Thank you, Mr. Larabee, for doing this for him. He needs someone to look up to and I think you have shown him a great deal."
Chris slightly smiled, "You can call me Chris, ya' know. I don't bite; much."
Mary laughed, something she hadn't done in over two years, "Only if you stop calling me 'Mrs. Travis,' that's my mother-in-law."
The man and child rode off into the sunset on horseback, as the family of a very special little boy looked on. The bonding time was only going to be three days long since Chris had to return to work on Monday and Billy had to go to school on the following Friday, as a second grader.
Orrin was in his office when the phone rang, "Travis, uhuh, okay, thank you." He hung up and dialed a familiar number, "Vin, we have a problem get your group together and meet me at the Saloon."
Six men, Mary and Eden Travis met the former general within an hour at the restaurant, "We have word that someone found out that Billy saw who killed Stephen, and are now looking for him. We can use this to our advantage because we know this terrain better than they do. Chris told me that they are staying at his hunting cabin, by the lake. Pack up and get going, boys, and bring my grandson back."