Chapter 24

The stage was set. Agent Knight had his men in place; there were six agents to cover the outside and three more inside the pub in case things got out of hand. A sharpshooter on a nearby roof also covered the back delivery door.

Knight himself would be handling the delivery along with, of course, T.J. who would take care of the money end. Leaving nothing to chance, Knight had two backup plans in place, which he could revert to by using a specific password over the com-link that all of the agents were discreetly wearing.

In her office, Taylor was once again wearily preparing for battle. Checking and rechecking her gun, and sliding home the thin stiletto knife she wore in her boot. Although she had done this type of thing a hundred times before in her past, tonight was different. Tonight she was on the right side of the law. And if I succeed tonight…if we carry this off and put the bastard away…maybe, just maybe Cami and I have a chance. She knew that with Reynoso out of the way, the threat to Cami’s safety would be over, which was one of the main reasons why T.J. had broken things off with the beautiful blonde. But there is still that matter of your past, old girl. She reminded herself. Well, we’ll jump off that bridge when we get there, eh? Let’s get this job done first.

A look of fierce determination on her face, she straightened the cuffs on her leather jacket before heading out into the bar. Behind the counter was a good-looking woman whom Taylor had never seen before. She cocked a questioning eyebrow at Tommy who had chosen that moment to round the corner from the kitchen.

"Oh, T.J. Glad you are here." Tommy smiled at his boss, noting that her normally radiant beauty had a more wild, exotic look tonight — a sight which caused him to catch his breath for a moment. "You look…wow boss!"

T.J. snorted. "Aye, thanks Tommy. Ya have the soul of a poet, ya know that?"

Tommy laughed at her jest and brought the barkeep over to the new woman who was currently pulling a Guinness with deft skill.

"Boss, this here is Cee. She will be working some of the shifts behind the bar, ‘cause Peter gave me a two week notice that he’d be quitting."

"Yeah, I know. He…uh…he’s moving, so this is a bit out of the way for him." She turned to the woman that Tommy was introducing and sized her up. Of medium height and build, Cee had very short brown hair, and penetrating brown eyes. With one glance, T.J. could tell that Cee was a woman who could certainly handle herself in any situation. Always good ta know ya got someone behind the bar who can take care of things when the goin’ gets tough. "Nice ta have ya, Cee. I hope ya like it here."

Cee shook T.J.’s hand with a firm grip, and a wide smile. "Thanks. Great place you have here."

T.J. smiled in response. "Thank ya. So how about I get ya ta pour us both a double shot of Jamey’s while I wait for that damned shipment ta arrive."

"No worries." Cee moved off to fix the drinks.

"You know I can take care of the shipment, boss. If you have something to do I mean." Tommy was still a bit puzzled as to why Taylor was taking the delivery herself, a job usually relegated to whoever happened to be working at the time.

"S’okay, Tommy. This is the first time we are dealing with this distributor, so I thought I’d meet up with him in person. Sort of check things out myself." Sounds reasonable, and it is something close ta the truth.

"Oh, okay. Well, you’re the boss. I’m going to go see how the new waitress is doing." Disappearing into the kitchen, T.J. could tell by the set of Tommy’s shoulders that while he accepted her answer, he really didn’t agree with it.

"Here you go, Ms. Jameson. A double shot, neat." Cee placed the amber colored liquid in front of Taylor and a second shot for herself next to it on the bar.

"Please call me T.J., ok?"

"Gotcha." Cee hoisted her glass to toast her new boss.

"Slánte." T.J. automatically toasted.

"Slán na gath." Came the immediate Gaelic response from Cee.

T.J. set down her empty glass and smirked at the new bartender. "I can see that ya will fit right in here."

Agent Knight came into the pub and motioned to T.J., so she politely excused herself from Cee and went across the bar to meet him.

"All set?" His tone was businesslike, yet filled with an underlying note of anticipation.


"The agents are in place. Do you want to go over it again?"

"No. I’ve got it. When the shit goes down, I’m ta haul my ass out of the way."

"Exactly." From the look on her face, Knight could tell that Taylor was not happy with that part of the plan. "Listen, Taylor. Please don’t try to be a hero here. You are already doing more than enough. The last thing I want is for anyone to get hurt in all of this, ok?"

Taylor nodded and clenched her jaw against the comments that threatened to bubble to the surface. They were interrupted by a message on Knight’s com-link that the delivery truck was pulling up the street. "All right. Let’s roll."

Taylor took a long deep breath, patted the reassuring weight of her gun and firmly placed all thoughts of Cami out of her mind before she headed into the pub’s kitchen area.

Knight had been concerned about the number of employees in the kitchen if things got messy, so it was Taylor’s job to keep the Reynosos outside, away from too many civilians. She smiled at the cook and the various wait staff that were bustling about. It was a Monday night, but the pub was crowded with dinner patrons.

Agent Knight followed Taylor into the storage area behind the kitchen, and waited while she went outside to greet the Reynosos. The plan was fairly simple, the money would be paid, Agent Knight would begin helping to off-load the cheap beer, Taylor would head into the pub, and the dragnet would pull in around the Reynosos before they knew what hit them.

As Taylor stepped out into the dark summer night, the delivery truck’s headlights temporarily blinded her. Her senses picked up several men nearby, but she couldn’t see them, so she closed her eyes momentarily to adjust to the darkness.

The medium sized refrigerated truck pulled up next to the loading door and stopped abruptly with the squeal of obviously well worn brakes. Two men stepped out, one from each side and began to approach Taylor.

Ok, old girl. You’re on. Time to work your magic. She slipped into what she jokingly called her "Jamie routine" and walked up to greet the men.

"Buenos noches, senora. Donde esta Senora Jameson?"

"Right in front of ya, pin head." She growled. "Who the fuck are you two?"

Her instincts began to prickle. Where are Miguel and Carlos? Miguel had assured Taylor that the two brothers would help with the first delivery, so that everything went according to their plan. It was the sole reason that Knight had set up the sting for tonight. Taylor was wearing her omnipresent wire, and after the exchange was made, the Feds would move in.

The second man spoke up in a heavily accented voice. "Good evening, Ms. Jameson. We are to deliver some beer to you, no?"

Taylor looked from one to the other and decided the second man, the shorter of the two, must be the brain of the team, so she directed the rest of her conversation to him. "Aye. Ya are supposed ta bring me some of that piss water ya call beer. But I was told ta pay only Senor Reynoso, not some dock workin’ flunkie."

The short man’s dark eyes narrowed, his face looking a bit more sinister than normal due to the dim light in the pub’s alleyway. "I assure you, Senor Reynoso trusts me to make the delivery."

"No way mate, no deal." She folded her leather-covered arms across her chest and subtly eased her right hand under the jacket so that her Sig was just a fingertip away from her reach. "I deal only with Miguel Reynoso. Now ya get his ass on the phone and get him down here, or ya walk away with ten cases of that crap ya are passing off as beer." Her voice was steely and the man had no doubt she was not bluffing.

He chattered something in Spanish to his partner, who promptly turned and headed back towards the cab of the truck. "Senora Jameson, we meant no offense. But you of all people must understand that such deliveries are beneath such a powerful and busy man as Senor Reynoso."

The man was stalling and Taylor knew it. She could smell a set up from hundred yards out. "Fine. Then you of all people should know that this is also a waste of my time. I deal with Miguel and no one else, comprende mate?"

Taylor hoped against all hope that Knight listening to the conversation. The Feds could not move in yet, as their main prize was not here. Either Miguel spotted a set up, or he really never intended to be here…but which is it? She rifled through the possibilities in her brain.

"Oh, si Senora. I understand. Pedro has gone to get Senor Reynoso on the phone. Perhaps if you two talk, things will be clearer, no?" The short man never moved an inch, his gaze locked on Taylor, waiting for her next move.

Just then, Pedro returned and handed Taylor a cell phone. As she reached for the phone, the shorter man grabbed for her arm.

Shit! She backhanded the man with one clean swipe and landed a front kick on the tall brute in front of her. She knew she could handle these two men, but as she reached for her Sig, all hell broke loose.

Seeing that the sting was rapidly turning sour without the Reynosos present, the Feds had been content to stay back — allow the transfer to take place and follow the truck when it left. That is until the two men had jumped Taylor. Now that a civilian was under attack, they immediately switched to contingency plan Delta. A warning password went out over the com and in an instant, the three battling figures behind the truck were swamped with FBI agents.

But Pedro and his short partner were loath to go down without a fight. Reaching for weapons, the shorter man ducked for cover and began firing on the federal agents who were closing in on them, shouting for them to drop their weapons.

T.J. continued to exchange blows with Pedro, ignoring Agent Knight’s orders for her to get down. A bullet nicked her jacket, one fired from the gun of the "good guys", before Taylor realized that she was making things much for difficult for the agents by being in the line of fire. She executed a rolling sweep kick to Pedro’s knees and found cover behind a nearby dumpster.

In seconds everything was over. It had seemed like a month to Taylor. When the gunfire stopped, she came out from behind the dumpster to survey the damage. One agent had gotten clipped in the arm, but T.J. knew he would be fine. Pedro was passed out from the agony of his broken kneecap that T.J. had shattered with her kick. But the short man…the short man was clearly dead. He had continued to fire on the agents and in the ensuing fire, he had taken a shot right through the throat.

Fuck! Taylor stood motionless for only a moment before her street instincts kicked into high gear. "Agent Knight." She growled.

The agent in question turned to see her standing behind him, the lights from the pub producing a halo effect behind her head and he was instantly reminded of a dark, avenging angel. "Taylor! Are you okay? Are you hit?"

"You owe me a leather jacket." She growled. "But more than that, I’m in deep shit here and you know it."

The agent sighed and looked grim. "I know. I’ll take care of you, Taylor. We’ll put you under witness protection."

Taylor picked up the cell phone that Pedro had been trying to hand her — it was broken from the fall to the pavement. She had no way of knowing whether Pedro actually called Reynoso or if the two men had been bluffing all along. Taylor looked down at the one remaining Reynoso man, who lay unconscious on the ground. And it’s not like I can get any information out of him right now! She snapped at Knight. "In my office. Now."

Agent Knight directed some clean up orders to the other men, before following Taylor towards the door of the pub. The gunfire had brought employees running from the kitchen, the first to reach Taylor being Tommy. "Boss! What the fuck? Are you all right? I heard shots and…"

Taylor grasped Tommy by the arm. "No time ta explain here, mate. I need ya ta calm the staff, get them back ta work and then meet me in my office. Can ya do that?"

Tommy nodded, his face pale in the glow of the outside lights. He had many questions, but he prudently held his tongue and turned to follow T.J.’s request. He moved the staff back indoors, shielding them from the scene in the back alley.

Knight firmly shut the door to Taylor’s office before the barkeep began. "What the fuck were ya doin’?" She demanded.

Agent Knight’s face was study in controlled fury. "Saving you, Ms. Jameson. Got a problem with that?"

"I dinna need ya, god dammit! I dinna give ya the damned signal!" The two had prearranged a hand signal for Taylor to give if she wanted the agents to move in early.

"No. But I thought those idiots grabbing you was signal enough!" Knight was clearly pissed now, trying in vain to remain professional. "It is not the habit of the Bureau to allow civilians to be killed while we watch and wait for a signal!"

"I was not about ta be killed. I coulda handled those fuckin’ bastards just fine." Her voice was a mixture of steel and fire.

"That was not your call to make, Jameson! I ordered them to move, and I would have done the same if it was one of my agents out there, much less a civilian!" Knight paced the length of her office, while Taylor stood motionless by her cabinet in the corner.

"No? It was my ass out there, and therefore it was my call!" She wanted to rant some more, to hit something out of frustration. They had thrown the net too soon and now they might never catch their prey. "But regardless, now we have a bloody huge problem, Agent Knight!"

"I know." He sighed in frustration. It would be a matter of hours, perhaps minutes, before Reynoso figured out that his men had been ambushed. T.J.’s life hung in the balance. Once Reynoso heard that she had been working with the Feds, her life was worth nothing. "I’ll make a call. Have you put in witness protection."

She grabbed for his arm. "Give up my home, my business, my name? No fuckin’ way, mate." She stared hard into his unflinching eyes. "I will take care of myself."

He knew without question she could do just that, and having witnessed her in action moments early, she had proven it. But he still had a job to do. "So. What is your plan?"

"I’m gone. I’ll go underground. I’ve done it before. But I dinna want ta have my pub destroyed, my employees hurt. Understand?"

He continued to steadily meet her steely blue gaze. "I understand, Taylor. You have my word. You go, be safe. I’ll contact you when I have Reynoso under lock and key."

She nodded at the agent in front of her, trusting him to do just as he promised. "Aye. Ya do that. And do it fast, or I’ll have nothin’ ta come back for."

Without another word, Agent Knight left the office, brushing by an alarmed Tommy who was heading through the door. "T.J.?"

With a deep breath, T.J. quickly told Tommy about Agent Knight and of the sting gone sour. He listened, wide-eyed, but without comment. "So ya see, mate. I’ve gotta go."

"I see, boss. Don’t worry; I’ll take care of the place. You can count on me." His face was serious and earnest.

"I know I can, Tommy." She took him by the shoulders. "Listen, this is the first place they will come ta look for me. But the Feds will stay and protect the place…I willna put any of you in danger, but I also need it to seem like it is business as usual around here or Miguel will run and Knight will never find him. It should only be for a day or two."

What she really wanted to do was to shut down the pub, to keep everyone safe. But she also knew that Reynoso would bolt if she shut down — he would have proof that she was working with the Feds. If everything seemed normal at the pub, Reynoso might question whether she had called the FBI, or if it was just that they had finally caught up with him on their own.

Tommy looked at the floor, feeling more helpless than he had in years. He finally croaked out, "What can I do?"

"I have ta go home. Get some of my papers and things before the Reynosos go and trash the place. So what I need ya ta do is close up here. The Feds will stay and protect ya; I’m not worried about that. And then I need ya ta just run the place like usual. If anyone asks for me, ya haven’t seen me, but ya know I am on vacation — tell them I went home ta visit my family." Not bloody likely…I’m about as welcome in Ireland as the potato famine, but…Reynoso likely doesn’t know that — and the story sounds good.

Tommy swallowed hard, but took T.J. by both hands. "Consider it done. Those bastards won’t touch this place, I swear, T.J. They have to come through me first."

"Tommy, please don’t be a hero. This is just a building; there is nothing here worth losing your life over."

"Ok, Taylor, I promise. But…please…you be careful, okay?"

With a quick nod and a squeeze of his arm, Taylor left her office and drove quickly to her condo.


She ripped into her parking space, and stepped out of her BMW, senses on full alert. The parking lot was well lit, but she sensed someone waiting in the shadows near her front door. Acting casual, she continued up towards her door, only changing direction at the last possible moment, and tackling the dark figure near the door.

The person was smaller than she expected, and she heard a familiar, decidedly female voice shout, "Ooof! Oh, shit! T.J.! It’s me!"

She rolled over and pulled the smaller woman’s face towards the light. "Cami?? What the fuck are ya doin’ here!?"

Cami had asked herself that very question about a hundred times. She had left the team in Philly — having shot the necessary pictures of Tony’s ceremony the night before. They would be returning home the next day for a short home stand, so Cami took the opportunity to come and talk to the dark haired woman who had stolen her heart, crushed it, but had also made it soar. "I…I came to see you." Well duh, Cami. She nearly smacked herself in the forehead. "I…we need to talk, T.J."

She wanted to go see T.J. at the pub, but when she had called from the freeway on her cell phone, a woman named Cee had informed her that T.J. had already left. Cami had figured her friend would be heading home, so she had gone to T.J.’s condo for the first time. But when she arrived in the complex that she knew T.J. lived in, it occurred to Cami that she didn’t know exactly what unit number her friend occupied. So, she had left her car to peer at the mailboxes and discovered that T.J. was in #1G. She was actually on her way back to her car after getting no answer at T.J.’s door, when she saw the BMW pull in, waited by the door, and then was unceremoniously tackled for her trouble.

T.J.’s brain kicked into over-drive. She desperately wanted to see Cami, but not now — not while Reynoso was hunting the barkeep. "Darlin’, I know we should talk. I have lots of things I want to tell ya. But can ya do somethin’ for me right now?"

Cami’s eyes narrowed. "Besides help you up off the ground? ‘Cause if you tell me to go away and you’ll call me later, I’m going to kick your ass."

If the situation hadn’t been so serious, T.J. would have burst out laughing at Cami’s ferocity. "No, darlin’. I dinna want ya ta go away. But will ya just trust me and go along for right now? We can’t stay here."

Cami recognized the anxiety in T.J.’s voice and knew that her friend was not playing around. "Oh shit! It’s Reynoso, isn’t it?"

"Yeah. So please, just follow me right now and I promise I’ll take us somewhere where we can talk, okay?"

Cami’s voice was hoarse, but she croaked an assent and followed the tall woman into the darkened condo. She noted that T.J. didn’t turn on the overhead lights, but instead bustled about the place in the dark, only using a small mag-light that she had procured from her pocket. Cami briefly wondered at the lack of light, but then it occurred to her that if Reynoso was after T.J., he likely had men watching the place.

T.J. moved silently up beside her. "Follow me, Cami, please." T.J. whispered in that velvet voice that always sent shivers up Cami’s spine. "I have a few more things ta get from the office and then we’ll go."

Standing in the dimness of T.J.’s office, Cami was again impressed with T.J.’s lithe movements. Even in the dark, the tall woman moved just like a jungle cat. With efficient motions, she gathered the things she needed into a large black duffle bag and silently she turned to face Cami. "Ok. Let’s go." She quietly said, very close to Cami’s ear.

But as the two women started out the door, they were startled by the sound of squealing tires and shattering glass. As Cami turned, behind T.J. she saw a fiery object flying through the window.

"Get down!" T.J. shouted as she covered the blonde’s body with her own. Instantly the room turned into an inferno and Cami felt the air rush out of her as T.J.’s weight came down on top of her for the second time that night.

After a split second of catching their breath, T.J. whispered. "You ok?"

"Fine. Just winded. Let’s get out of here!" But T.J. had cocked her head and laid a finger gently against Cami’s lips, pleading with her eyes for Cami to be quiet. The blonde obeyed and strained against the noise of the crackling fire behind them to listen for what T.J. was obviously hearing.

In a moment, the dark woman got up off of the floor, but remaining in a crouch, she reached a hand down to Cami and indicated with a hand signal that the blonde should also stay low. The two women silently crept towards the stairs and Cami caught sight of a dark figure moving through the living room beneath them. With a swift flash of silver, T.J. aimed her Sig and brought down the man with a shot to the leg. Grabbing Cami’s hand, T.J. proceeded across the landing towards her bedroom.

In this room, T.J. shut the door behind them with a quiet snick. Escaping down the stairs was out of the question, and the office was currently on fire, which left them only two options — to shoot it out on the stairs, or climb out the bedroom window. By far, the window was T.J.’s safest option, especially with Cami in tow. So she quietly slid open the glass and punched out the screen. Outside was a tall tree with a branch close enough for T.J. to reach. She knew she would have no trouble climbing down, but she feared for the smaller Camryn.

However, before she could formulate a plan, Cami was climbing through the window and grabbing a hold of the branch. From Cami’s deft movements, T.J. could tell she was dealing with a woman who had climbed trees in her youth, so she followed the blonde into the tree.

She landed softly next to Cami in a pile of dirt beneath the tree. Taking the blonde’s hand, T.J. eased along the wall of the condo and spotted two more of Reynoso’s men near her car in the parking lot. "Fuck!"

"They’re watching your car." Cami quietly observed. They heard the distant wail of the fire engines responding to the 911 call likely placed by a neighbor. T.J. knew her car was out of the question and she inwardly cursed.

Cami realized it too. "My car is parked over on the other side. I didn’t know where exactly you lived, so I’m out by the entrance. Can we get there from here?"

T.J. was thoroughly amazed at how well Cami was rolling with the crisis situation, and she reached down and soundly kissed the photographer on the lips. "Brilliant. Follow me!"

They cut through some underbrush and around several buildings, listening carefully to the fire trucks as they finally arrived. Their quick response assured T.J. that her neighbor’s homes would likely be okay. In the far parking lot, they reached a small red Mazda Miata. Cami unlocked the door, and watched amusedly as T.J. tried rather painfully to tuck her 6-foot frame into the little sports car.

Cami started the car, but deliberately left the headlights off until they were out of the lot. Neither of the women dared to speak until they were safely out of the complex and a good mile or more down the road without seeing any headlights trailing them.

"So where are we headed?" Cami inquired, her voice full of adrenaline.

T.J. had been reviewing that in her head. They most assuredly couldn’t go to Cami’s house, and likely Vick and Jo were also out of the question. "I dinna know. Do ya have a favorite, out of the way hotel?"

Cami pondered the question for a moment before her face broke into a bright smile. "Yeah. I know one." At T.J.’s questioning eyebrow, Cami continued to smirk. "Just trust me." She quipped in a husky voice.

T.J. laughed. "Okay. But first ya have ta tell me where ya got this tin can ya call a car." She patted the leather-covered dashboard in front of her. Despite their obvious predicament, T.J. was pathetically glad to see the small blonde woman, and was trying to lighten up the mood.

"Oh. This is Jo’s car. She loaned it to me for a couple of days."

"Well, that makes sense." T.J. shook her head.

"What does?" Cami was clearly confused.

"A pixie-sized car must belong to a pixie." The sound of their laughter echoed into the summer night as Cami steered the car south on Interstate 5 towards the Coronado Bay Bridge. No matter the trouble they were in, they were together, and somehow for both of them that made everything all right.

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