The Last Straw
Disclaimer: I do not own the Magnificent Seven nor profit from writing about them.
Comments: Since JD is supposedly from Massachusetts-I have mentioned some Boston area cities. Thank you to my cousin for the translations. A huge thank you for MOG and Shawna my betas. Another thank you to those who helped-Tannersgirl and Mattie.
The misting rain outside darkened the air. JD went to turn on another light to illuminate the living room populated by the team. Josiah and Nathan were flipping through some old magazines they had found. Ezra was playing solitaire on the kitchen table, and Buck and Chris were talking in a corner. They were waiting for Vin. JD could see Chris was nervous. The sharpshooter was usually punctual and he was now fifteen minutes late. He also had a penchant for finding trouble. As Dunne turned the switch on the lamp, the phone on the end table began ringing. Answering it, he noticed the group's attention focused on him.
"Hello? . . . Hold on a minute," he placed his hand over the mouthpiece and informed the others. "It's Vin. The Jeep won't start. He can fix it, but it will take time. He doesn't want to take out the Harley cause of the rain." JD was waiting for a decision.
Chris, his relief evident, stepped near the phone, "Tell him we'll pick him up on the way there." Dunne relayed the message, although Vin had already heard it. JD looked at his wristwatch.
"Come on, we're going to miss tip off," he said excitedly. He loved hanging out casually with the guys. Work was great, but it was work, this was different. Ezra, through some connection, had gotten sky box seats for the Nuggets basketball game.
Buck grabbed his jacket, which he found buried under some laundry on the kitchen chair. "Great, we are taking a little detour into hell." The clothes he had moved toppled to the floor. JD stepped over them, it was clean laundry and he would pick it up later. He grabbed his leather bomber jacket and headed out, ready to root for the Nuggets. Of course deep down inside he would always be a Celts fan.
Chris pulled the Dodge Ram across the street from Vin's building. Nathan's Ford Explorer pulled in behind. The headlights of the Ford blindingly illuminated the Dodge, Chris waved back at Nathan and he shut off his headlights. JD had been there many times with Buck always accompanying him. Wilmington didn't want the young agent going to the worst section of Denver alone. Buck didn't understand. When JD's mother had died he had to leave the Chestnut Hill mansion where she had worked as a maid, and find his own place. All he could afford was a small apartment in Mattapan. Then, while he was a cop in Boston he got assigned to the worst areas-Dorchester and Roxbury, places infamous for their illegal activities. How could he ever explain to Buck, his protector, that he wasn't some naïve, innocent kid. It wasn't going to happen.
Sitting with Buck and Chris in the Ram, Dunne could see Tanner outside talking to some neighborhood teenagers. He recognized some of them as being part of Los Lobos, the youth group Vin had formed. The sharpshooter waved as he saw them.
From the car behind, Dunne heard Standish yell out, "Chauffeur service Agent Tanner? You are stepping up in the world."
As JD rolled down the window to call out to Vin he heard one of the teenage boys saying something to the agent.
"Se neccesitan seis hombres para levantarte? The youth chuckled. (subtitle "It takes six men to pick you up?")
Vin kept on walking toward the vehicles. "Sube Eduardo,yo escuche a tu madre llamandote." (subtitle "Go upstairs Eduardo, I heard your mother calling for you.")
The group of teenagers began to snicker and poke fun at Eduardo, imitating a high pitched woman's voice calling him. The young man blushed red in embarrassment.
"Where are the assault weapons fellas?" Vin said as he came up to the vehicle. JD rolled up the rear window.
"Come on Vin, get in," Chris said as he flicked a switch in the vehicle, unlocking the doors.
Vin slid into the front seat and buckled his seat belt. His hair was darkened by the dampness outside. They pulled away leaving the kids still congregating by the building.
Chris was asking Vin about the problem with the sharpshooter's vehicle, "Spark plugs?"
Tanner nodded. "That's what I think."
"Why don't you get a new car?" JD asked believing the resolution was easy. He had a motorcycle, like Vin, well, Vin had a Harley and he didn't. In bad weather he got a ride from Buck, which was frequent.
Buck grabbed the ever-present newsboy cap off of his roommate's head, and quickly hit the back of Dunne's head with the hat. "JD doesn't seem to understand how a person becomes attached to his car-take Lady."
Dunne rubbed the spot on the rear of his head, trying to take the stinging sensation away. "I wish somebody would. I taped a fifty to the dash board and still no takers."
They all laughed. JD saw Vin lose his grin and his head turn as he followed a red Camaro, which had caught his attention. "Chris stop the car!" Dunne heard Tanner yell. When Larabee didn't respond quickly enough, Vin pulled the emergency break. The vehicle screeched and skidded on the wet, shiny pavement. In the meantime, Vin unbuckled and jumped out, rolling on the slick surface before getting up, and running in the same direction they had just come from, gun drawn. The Ram finally halted, throwing JD against his seat belt. Buck had put on his left arm to stop the young agent from propelling forward.
JD heard the car door slam from behind, and the patter of footsteps running towards them. Ezra looked into the open door, checking to see if everyone was all right. They were stunned, but fine. "Was that Agent Tanner?"
Chris gathered his wits about him and growled, giving Ezra a look which said, 'Let's turn around.' Then they heard gunfire.
Vin ran, his feet making quick work of the pavement to reach his apartment building. His lungs were burning; he could feel an aching and fiery sensation on his side. He probably had some scrapes and bruises. He pressed onward. He was only a half a mile away. He had to protect the kids, that was his job. He wanted them to feel secure and safe, not grow up fearing to go outside. He would be there in moments. He saw the Camaro slowing down in front of his building, and the nose of a gun going out the window. Everything seemed to slow down for an instant. He wasn't going to let them down. He couldn't.
"Eduardo get down!" Vin yelled as loud as his lungs allowed him with all the desperation he had left.
Eduardo turned to Vin's direction, uncomprehending what was happening as the first bullet entered his body.
"Nooooo!" Vin fired off three shots into the red car. It momentarily accelerated and then turned sharply to the right, colliding with two parked cars. Panting, Vin dropped by Eduardo's side. The group of teenagers gathered around him in shock.
"Josephine, go get his mother now!" The girl's face was contorted with emotion and grief as she saw the blood blossoming on her boyfriend's chest. The cotton, flannel material was saturated as the shirt absorbed as much of the blood flow as possible.
The girl ran into the building yelling, "Rosa," through the stairwell. It echoed through the street in competition with the horn of the Camaro, which shrilled in the air. Vin placed his hands over the wound, trying futilely to stop the red life force from leaving the young body. The sharpshooter heard the 'thump, thump,' sound as Chris's Dodge went up on the curb by the scene. It was the same sound he felt in the slowing heart beat beneath his palm.
Vin sensed someone else next to him. From his peripheral vision he saw it was Nathan. The former medic placed his dark hand over the sharpshooter's bloodied ones. "We called an ambulance. I need to take a look."
Tanner hesitated, he felt as though he was the one keeping Eduardo alive. If he just kept his hand over the gaping wound then Eduardo would be fine. He felt pressure under his armpits; Chris was physically removing Vin away from the boy's side so Nathan could put his medical training to work. The younger agent was silent for a few minutes, feeling the blood dripping down his fingertips, splattering to the ground. He felt the cool, night air caressed his leg through a tear in his jeans. He saw Buck and JD checking out the smashed red car and its three occupants. Both of them grimaced at the grizzly sight. Josiah, stretching out his arms wide and using his large size, was trying to keep onlookers from crowding in on the sickening site. Standing away from Eduardo, he could see how large the hole was in his chest, the paleness of the young man and pool of blood forming and mingling with the rain on the ground. God, they could use a miracle.
"What happened?" Ezra asked, handing the long haired man a pristine white handkerchief to wipe his hands on.
"Eduardo's girlfriend, Josephine, used to go out with Rico, head of Eightball Posse, " he glanced at the shocked kids who had come to Vin's side in hopes of some solace from the shooting that had happened before their eyes, "and this is retaliation."
Vin heard the anxiety in Nathan's voice as he harshly whispered, "Where is that ambulance?" He felt for a pulse, "shit!" and began to do compressions. Vin knelt down and began emergency breathing in the airway. Jackson kept pounding on the chest as Tanner forced air in the unresponsive teenager. After a minute, the former medic stopped and shook his head. The sharpshooter continued to breathe, watching Eduardo's chest rise, because of his breath. Please, he kept thinking, please. Nathan put a hand on Vin's shoulder, leaving a red hand print in his wake. Tanner blinked, noticing there was blood everywhere. Nathan, as a medic, was telling him that there was nothing left to do. God wasn't coming to Purgatorio today. Vin fell back on his haunches and closed Eduardo's eyes, smearing blood on the eyelids.
"Oh Dios!" Rosa screamed to the heavens, as she stood frozen in the door frame. She saw her son's eyes close forever.
Chris saw Vin leading Rosa, Eduardo's mother, dressed in somber black by the elbow from the limousine to the tented cemetery plot. She was distraught, going between crying and regaining composure. Every few moments she would turn to Vin. "El era un gozo, la luz de mi vida." ("He was a joy, the light of my life.")
Vin would pat her on the arm not understanding how it was for a parent to lose a child. Chris knew her history of how her husband had left her, and how she was trying to make a life for her son in the tough streets of Purgatorio.
He would never forget her eyes going wild at the prone form of her son, lying lifeless on the sidewalk. Her face contorted as she threw herself over her boy's body weeping for the light, which had been extinguished in her life. Overnight deep lines had become etched in her face. Chris had never believed that expression until Sarah and Adam died. He rubbed a hand over his chin, feeling slight stubble. Grief had worn on his features too.
Vin sat at Rosa's side, his blue eyes covered by dark sunglasses. The team was there also paying their respects-they were dressed in their funeral garb, which Chris had seen on many occasions-for fellow agents and friends of the seven. He never thought they would be mourning the loss of Los Lobos; since Vin had formed the group he had made sure nothing had befallen them. They took care of each other. This was the first death of one the gang's members. At the funeral home Tanner had placed the colored bandanna of the gang, kissing it before placing it in the casket with the still body of Eduardo.
Chris listened as the service came to an end. The hydraulic hum signaled the lowering of the casket, and the priest said his final prayer.
"The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever."
The priest stayed at the makeshift pulpit. "White roses have been provided for the members of Los Lobos. You can take the rose home or place it on the casket."
Chris watched the youngsters. In single file each member of the gang took a rose and went by the graveside, stepping on the fake green grass which had been placed there to cover barren earth. Each one deposited the rose in the grave. The last person was Josephine, Eduardo's girlfriend, tears streaming down her face silently. She took the rose, and let the soft petals wipe the tears off her face before tossing the bloom into the freshly dug grave.
"Mi amor, mi corazon siempre derramara lagrimas por ti.""My love, my heart will always cry tears for you." One of the male members of Los Lobos placed an arm around her and escorted her away from the grave site.
The cars followed in a caravan back to Rosa's apartment. The neighbors had taken care of providing food and coffee for the mourners, even though no one was in the mood to eat. The food couldn't get by the knot that had formed in everyone's throat. Chris lost sight of Vin, the mothers of the building were taking care of Rosa, offering sympathy and making sure she ate something. Chris looked away knowing exactly what was being said to the mourning woman.
"You have to keep your strength up." One of the mothers said to her, placing a plate of food by her.
Rosa looked at the deli meats disgustingly. "Why? For who?" She asked the mother, who was trying to show support with a gentle hand, which stroked the other woman's back. Rosa had no one; the mother rubbing her back still had her children. Life was still worth living. Chris understood Rosa; she was a mirror of his past.
As he turned, he saw Tanner was sneaking out of the crowded apartment. Chris didn't want to disappear without alerting one of his agents. He spied Ezra in a corner doing card tricks to amuse some younger children. "I'm going to check on Vin, tell the others in case they are looking for us."
Standish nodded and gave Larabee a two-finger salute to signal that he had comprehended the message.
Chris went up the flight of stairs to the third floor down the well-lit hall. He found the door open as usual. It was because of Vin the apartment building had changed from being a place of shame to a decent place to live. He did so much for these people; losing one of the Los Lobos was eating his soul. Chris paused as he heard a familiar sound coming from inside. He knocked before opening, finding the sharpshooter hitting the twenty-pound heavy bag. Just last year he had built the beam work necessary to hang that type of equipment. He had adjusted the archway of the kitchen and the clean, oak planks now formed the entry. In the middle was a hook from which Vin hung the chain and then the bag, both pieces were kept in his locked room for fear of the children having an accident. Tanner said it was a bitch to keep dragging the bag in and out, but it was worth it to keep the kids safe.
Vin stood shirt, jacket and tie gone, wearing his pants and a tee shirt. Sweat was already on his chest, seeping into the rim of the white tee. Larabee could see the myriad of purple, blue and brown bruises, dotted with red, angry broken blood vessels, which had formed on Tanner's arm. He had impacted hard against the pavement, and the leader winced at each movement the sharpshooter took. The bruises looked painful, but knowing Vin, he was not going to complain. Chris got behind the bag, holding it steady, so Vin could hit it without the bag moving around from the force of his punches. "JD did some research on the rifle."
The sharpshooter grunted as he hit the bag with a front kick. "Oh yeah?"
Chris dug his shoulder as the force of the kick almost sent him back. "Seems like it was purchased originally at Guns and Ammo."
Tanner did a series of punches ending with a bottom fist strike. "They were underage. They had a record so a straw purchaser had to be involved."
Larabee stuck his head around the bag. "We're going to track them down."
Tanner rested his head against the bag for a moment, catching his breath. With his teeth, he pulled on the black Velcro to release his hand from the glove. He did the same for the left hand. "Chris, nice thought, but it's crazy." Vin lifted the bag up and removed it from its hook, carrying it into his room.
Chris grabbed the chain and followed. "You think it's too tough to find them?"
"I didn't say that," Tanner rested the heavy bag against the wall, Larabee placed the chain on top. The sharpshooter took a few steps toward the door.
"Vin, we want to do it." Chris lay his hand on his friend's chest to stop him.
Tanner stayed put and his eyes drifted to the corner of the bedroom. "This still 'cause of the Cuoco case." Chris followed Vin's line of sight and saw the Tachi sword Ezra had purchased soon after the infamous assignment. The sword was called Sword of the Samurai and it symbolized the mystical code of honor observed by the Samurai. Standish had believed the gift fitting since they were called the Magnificent Seven, which originated from the film 'Seven Samurai'. Ezra said it meant the team was going to live up to a code of honor and not waste the opportunity to prove that they trusted Vin and he could trust them.
Chris dropped his hand, and shook his head. "No, this is because we are ATF agents and the gun was purchased illegally." Vin walked out the door. Chris followed. "And I can't have an agent going off half cocked, through his own channels, seeking revenge."
Vin took the key out of his pocket and locked the door because of the weapons kept in the room. "Fine," he said with his back still turned.
"Fine?" Chris said puzzled at how easily Vin was giving in.
Tanner slipped on his shirt and proceeded to button the small-pearlized buttons. "I guess for once, cowboy, I'll do it your way."