Answering Blood's Cry
Disclaimer: The Characters of “The Magnificent Seven” belong to MGM, Trilogy, etc and are used here without permission. No copyright infringement is intended.
Characters: Seven, OMC
Rating: Suitable for people over 13
Feedback: Email MMW
Answering Blood’s Cry
The light filtering through the tinted windows of the conference room had taken on that golden, honeyed tone that could only be achieved on hot, lazy days in late August. It was days like these that demanded playtime at the local swimming hole complete with competitions to see who could swing the tire swing out the furthest before leaping off into the cool water.
For the men in the room, that and other such summertime dreams would not come to pass - not that day, not any day soon.
Though at first glance all appeared well, a closer inspection would reveal the strain and stress of each man; small, nearly-hidden tells that gave them away - shoulders a little too straight, eyes squinting the slightest bit, jaw clenched just a little too tightly, fingers stiff instead of supple. More than the small tells, though, was the charge in the atmosphere as some re-read the files that had been provided and others mentally reviewed what they had read.
Teams seven had been going hard for several months and were currently waiting on new arrivals. Though the topic of the meeting hadn't been given, each of them knew what to expect. As one of the top teams, they were frequently given the difficult if not impossible cases and expected to carry through to completion. There could only be one case that was important enough to have their boss cancel their vacations and keep them waiting.
Starting twenty-three years ago, and occurring sporadically since then, were a series of bombings and attempted bombings of municipal buildings. For the most part, the bomber seemed to wish to avoid casualties, calling in the bomb threats well in advance of them going off, or choosing days where the government buildings would be empty. Illegal and dangerous, certainly a top priority, but, due to the fact that no one had lost a life, the case was frequently shifted down priority lists. The fact that the bomber moved swiftly and erratically across the country didn't help either.
Two years ago, the pattern changed. Now, in addition to the municipal buildings, at least one, and frequently more than one official in a town or city would be targeted as well. Each of those people would find themselves the victims of either a bomb threat, or would return home to find their houses aflame.
The personal attacks and change in pattern had heated up the investigation again. Josiah had been recruited to review the old cases, the new changes and create a new profile.
While he had been gone, the first death occurred. The mayor of Stillwater Creek had been away from home with his children. It was originally scheduled to be a family outing, but at the last minute the second youngest had come down with a fever and stomach ailment. The mayor's wife had fallen ill just hours before their departure and decided to stay home.
That afternoon the bomber had left his present.
The investigation afterward found several reasons why the house burned as quickly as it did - a small leak in the gas line, oil-based paint on the walls, a slight change in the accelerant used and extremely dry weather conditions to name a few.
None of the answers or information could bring back the life of the young wife and mother, however. All it revealed was that she never stood a chance.
This was the first death resulting from the bomber's activities. An apology note was sent to the Mayor and his children.
The case moved to the number one priority on everyone's list.
Over the next two years, six more people died due to the bomber’s personal attacks on family homes. The final deaths were that of a woman and her three-year-old twin daughters who were asleep after a long journey to visit the woman’s parents. As with the other victims – they never stood a chance.
Unfortunately, at this point, the bomber seemed to disappear.
After months of hard work, team seven had finally wrapped up a case that had them traveling all over central Colorado. They were all to go on a well-earned vacation the next day.
That changed late the previous night when a phone call was sent to police dispatch informing them of a bomb threat at one of the busier precincts.
The building was cleared. The bomb was found and disarmed. All evidence pointed to the bomber now being in Denver.
Apparently the eight-month silence was over.
Silence sat heavily upon the men in the room. Despite their fatigue they would not and could not allow another tragedy to take place – not in their town – not on their watch. There was no room for levity right now. People they knew had been threatened and the uncertainty of when and where the bomber would strike next allowed for no comfort. Even the normally exuberant JD and laid-back Buck were sitting quietly in their chairs.
“Gentlemen,” Orin Travis greeted as he opened the door, striding into the room as settling at one end of the conference table. “Allow me to introduce Special Agent Jack Landon,” he continued, indicating the man who entered the room behind him and had quietly taken an empty seat. “He’s currently in charge of the investigation. I’ll let him take over the briefing.”
Rising from his seat, Jack cleared his throat. “Hello,” he greeted, his lilting Southern accent weighed down by the seriousness of the situation. “I’m Jack Landon from the Mobile office. The first bombings and attempted bombings took place in Alabama twenty-three years ago yesterday. As you will see in the files provided, they have continued sporadically ever since. We have detailed information on the bomber’s signature, choice of explosive and every other technical aspect you can think of. What we don’t know is his motive, which makes him that much harder to predict and capture, as you all know. I am aware that Agent Sanchez has already seen a good portion of this information and his profile as well as the others through the years are provided in the back as well as contact information for every agent and law enforcement agency that has been involved over the years.” Taking a deep breath, Landon continued, “I will continue to head the investigation, but I don’t know this city – you do. I don’t know how you work, your strengths and weaknesses – you do. I need to be involved, but I’m not looking to get in your way. I’m not going to try and trip you up or slow you down. I am aware that you have had trouble in the past with people not on your team objecting to the way you handle things. I’m here to help. Period.”
Looking into each pair of eyes around the table, Jack could tell he had surprised the men and was relieved to see the first sparks of respect glowing there. Making sure that every man in the room was looking at him, he admitted, “Whatever we need to do, I want him stopped.”
Nods of agreement were received from each man in the room.
Taking a deep breath, Landon re-seated himself in the chair and settled down to the long process of reviewing the case. It would probably take them several days to cover everything and begin to formulate a plan, but it was necessary. Jack knew these men would work. His only concern was the weariness he could see hanging on each man.
He and Larabee would have to talk later so Jack could more accurately gauge where each man stood and what to expect. But that would happen a little later.
What he did know, without a doubt was that this time, in this town, he was going to stop the bomber. There was no other option. The blood of his wife and twin girls demanded it.
Night was different in Colorado.
That impression was the first coherent thought to cross Landon’s mind in the last 30 minutes. It was still noisy, but filled with a different noise than what one experienced in Alabama.
Despite the warm temperature, the sky and stars felt further away.
Somehow, Jack had been talked into staying with Larabee out at the man’s ranch. That hadn’t been in the original plans, but after the initial meeting, the blond team leader hadn’t been able to hide his weariness and Jack had given in to the request to relocate to somewhere more comfortable.
The other six men had been sent home to sleep and they would meet again tomorrow morning – early.
Chris and Jack had discussed assignments and plans of action. Landon couldn’t help but be impressed by Larabee and his team.
The two men had shared a late dinner and talked little, just unwinding and letting go of the stresses of the day.
Afterward, Larabee had taken a call in his office and Jack had wandered outside.
He had been impressed by Team Seven; their dedication, purpose and need to see justice served. There was a strength and power among the men that one rarely found in an individual, let alone an entire team.
They were, indeed, every bit as formidable as he had been told.
He heard the screen door creak as Larabee came out to join him. The corners of Jack’s mouth tipped upward as he thought of what the team leader would see. Landon was several inches over six feet and solidly muscled. His medium brown hair, caramel colored eyes and medium skin tone were a combination common in America. He was attractive enough for people to notice and feel comfortable around, but wasn’t terribly memorable.
At least, that had been true until he ran into Anna, his wife.
Thinking of Anna, his smile faded. He knew Larabee would have questions. Jack would answer them, but he wasn’t going to offer information.
Chris sank down onto the step of the porch and looked out at the night.
Eventually Chris broke the silence. “Must have some pretty good connections to stay on the case,” he observed.
Jack said nothing. It was true. They both knew it. There was no way he would have, should have been allowed to remain on the case once his wife and children became victims. He was too close. But that wasn’t going to stop him.
“Is it going to be a problem?” Larabee demanded, concern and worry for his team evident in the question.
Jack continued to look out at the stars twinkling above. He had read up on Larabee and Team Seven. He knew they had run into trouble before with people seeking vengeance and wasn’t offended by the question. In truth, he had asked himself that question many times. Turning to meet the other man’s eyes, he clearly stated, “No. That’s why I’m only in the office and you and you men are in the field. I’m not the only one with a claim for justice. And it wouldn’t be right for me to… act when others have just as much right.”
Something flashed through Larabee’s eyes. Landon couldn’t quite make out what it was, but he thought it was understanding and, perhaps, respect.
Silence fell again and both men stared out into the night, allowing the sounds of nature to wash over them.
Rising from his seated position, Chris turned toward the house, pausing as he came abreast Landon. Without looking at the other man, he admitted, “You’re a better man than me.”
Jack turned to look at Larabee, startled. When Chris finally met his eyes, Landon saw a familiar fire burning there. It was something he saw in the mirror every morning and every night – a need that consumed your mind and soul – a need for justice, a need for vengeance, a need for blood. The rumor’s he’d heard about how Larabee lost his own wife and son came to mind and Jack realized that this man understood far more than expected. He also knew that, like Larabee, he would be more than willing to act on his emotions if given the chance. That was one of the reasons he had removed himself from that temptation by insisting on staying in the office. Unlike Chris, though, he at least had some information to go on, a path to follow. Seeing the faintest trace of disappointment in Larabee’s eyes, he thought it best to share that fact.
“Not better,” Jack denied, waiting for Chris to acknowledge his words. When he read Chris’ silent demand for an explanation, he added, “I just have a clearer path.”
Larabee held the caramel eyes for several seconds before nodding his understanding. Turning away, he commented, “Day starts early tomorrow. Lock up behind yourself when you come in.” With that order given, Chris disappeared into the house.
Jack stared out into the night, waiting for his family’s cries for justice to fade from his soul so he could sleep.
The office was fairly empty when Jack and Chris arrived the next morning. The two men headed toward Larabee’s office to discuss a bit more of the case and begin their own lines of investigation.
It never crossed Jack’s mind to question where the missing men were. He had heard too much about Team Seven to ask.
Settling into one of the chairs at the small table in Chris’ office, he glanced at the clock and noticed it was half-past eight. As he flipped the pages of the yellow legal pad in front of him, he felt Chris’ eyes resting on him.
Finally stopping at a blank page, Jack picked up a pen and jotted a few thoughts down before looking up at the Team Leader. “What?” he asked quietly.
“”They’re all working,” Chris defended, face like stone.
Jack nodded. “Figured as much.” He saw his response surprised Larabee. It was true that the only indication of surprise had been the slightest twitch of an eyebrow, but after years in law enforcement, the small tell was enough. Meeting Chris’ intent gaze, he asked, “If you were in my position wouldn’t you want to know everything you could about the men you were working with?”
A small smile of approval appeared on Chris’ face. “That I would,” he agreed.
With a nod of his head, Jack turned back to his notes. He wasn’t exactly sure where to go with some of the ideas, but, maybe, the team could do something with them.
So engrossed was he in writing his thoughts and trying to coordinate them with the rest of the investigation, he was taken by surprise when a mug of coffee was placed on the table next to him. Looking up, he found himself once more meeting Larabee’s eyes.
With a shrug, Chris explained, “You’re not the only one who likes to know who he’s working with.”
Jack smiled at the man and nodded his thanks.
“Sweet and light, if our information is accurate,” Larabee grinned.
Taking a sip of the brew, Jack smiled and replied, “Just the way I like it.” Somehow he knew that, even if this case didn’t get resolved, he wasn’t in this alone. Team Seven was good people and good agents. It would be a pleasure to work with them.
“Everyone will be in the conference room at 10 to review what we’ve found so far,” Chris informed before leaving the office once more.
The smile on Jack’s face remained. He had spent too long on this case, and too many years working on other cases to expect everything to progress quickly and smoothly, but, despite knowing he would need to be patient, he couldn’t help the spark of hope from once more igniting in his heart.
Just as he had every other time since the death of his wife and daughters, he carefully pushed aside that hope. It would be impossible to work on this or any other case without the hope of solving it, but Jack was well aware that the small ember of hope he felt now was a hope for vengeance; a hope that he would somehow find time alone with the murderer and make the man or woman hurt the same way he did.
It was a spark of darkness and he needed to be in the light on this, in the right.
Glancing at the clock, he noticed there were only ten minutes before the meeting.
Quickly gathering his notes, folders and coffee, he headed toward the conference room, curious to see what the others had found.
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