Actions

Work Header

Justice, Integrity, Service

Work Text:

Tim got the call Tuesday afternoon. Wednesday morning, he called in sick for the rest of the week.

Wednesday evening, Rachel showed up at his apartment.

"Well, you don't look like you're dying, so what's going on?" she said when he opened the door.

"What do you mean?" he asked cautiously.

She snorted. "In all the time we've been working together, you've never called in sick. You didn't call in sick the day you were so hungover I had to pull the car over so you could throw up on the way to do a prisoner transport. So I figured you're either on your deathbed or you've got some serious personal issues going on."

Tim hesitated. Rachel crossed her arms and looked back at him.

"Yeah, okay," he said, and let her in.

He got them each a beer, mostly to have something to do with his hands.

"So, remember when I told you some of my old army buddies do freelance work that's not, um, entirely legit?" he asked.

She nodded.

"One of my friends called yesterday and said he heard that a guy we both served with, Jonah Campbell, just took a contract to kill someone in Witness Protection in Kentucky."

Rachel stared at him for a minute and then took a long swig from her beer. "Okay," she said. "Okay. Who's he going to kill?"

"I don't know."

"Does he know the new name and location of the witness?"

"I don't know."

"When is he supposed to do this?"

"I don't know."

"Uh huh. What are you going to do?"

"I don't know," Tim said. He scrubbed a hand over his face. "I've called everybody I can think of who might know what Campbell's planning, but nobody knows anything. None of the numbers I've gotten for Campbell work."

"And since we're sitting here having this conversation, I'm guessing you haven't told WitSec about this."

"And say what? Somebody I know may or may not be planning to kill a protected witness somewhere in Kentucky at some point in the future. Hell, for all I know, Campbell doesn't know anything about where the witness is and just wants me to shake WitSec up to see what falls out." He looked down at the coffee table, at the pile of scribbled notes and crossed out phone numbers, and finally said, "And he's — this is just such a stupid thing for him to do. I guess I just want the chance to talk him out of it before he does something he can't take back."

"You're going to have a hard time doing that if you can't find him," Rachel pointed out.

"If he's in Lexington, I know what kind of bars he'd be hanging out at. It's a long shot, but..."

Rachel sighed. "You got a picture of Campbell?"

Tim dug it up from under the mess of papers. It had been taken in Afghanistan, him and Campbell and Hayes, standing with their arms around each other, grinning. The sunlight had washed the color out of everything and made the photo look older than it really was.

"All right," Rachel said. "I've got a pair of jeans in my car —"

"What?"

"If he sees you come in, chances are he's going to bolt. He doesn't know me. I'll go in first, see if I can spot him. If he's there, I'll text you. If not, I'll ask the bartender some questions and we'll try the next place. And this suit probably won't fit in at the bars you're talking about."

Something tight and choking started to loosen up in his chest for the first time since Hayes called him. "Thanks."

She shook her head. "Yeah, well. Order a pizza or something while I change."

***

They struck out at the first two places they tried, but Rachel texted him Bingo at the third.

In the car, Tim took a deep breath and checked his clip before he got out.

The bar was small and grungy. Tim did a quick sweep of the room — two guys playing pool by the door while two women watched, a table full of what looked like cheap muscle-for-hire further back, Rachel scowling at her cell and an old drunk at the bar, and Campbell and another guy sitting at another table halfway between the entrance and the door to the back. Campbell saw him immediately and went perfectly still.

Tim started walking towards him. Campbell said something to other guy, and the other guy got up and went to sit with the table of cheap muscle.

Campbell grinned and nudged an empty chair towards Tim. "Have a seat, hotshot," he said. "Let me buy you a drink."

Tim sat down. In the dim light of the bar, Campbell looked exactly like Tim remembered, maybe a little more grey in his blond hair, a few more lines in his weathered face. "If you'd told me you were in town, I'd've bought you a drink."

"I was going to call," Campbell said.

"What are you doing here?" Tim asked.

Campbell's grin hardened. "Don't play dumb."

"Don't jerk me around. What do you think you're doing here?"

"I think I'm going to make some money and do some powerful people a favor. What are you doing here?"

He kind of wished he'd spent more time thinking this argument through. "Don't do this job, Campbell."

"Trying to save my soul, kid?" Tim made a face, but Campbell kept talking. "The person I'm here for is not a good man, Tim. He's done terrible things and gotten away with them. The people you work for have allowed him to get away with it, because he's been useful to them."

"I'm not going to let you kill a witness just because he's a criminal. If the Marshals had such delicate sensibilities, we wouldn't have anyone to protect."

" 'Let me?' You think you have a choice here? Some play to make?"

"Yes. Which is why I'm asking you to let this one go. Just walk away."

"I can't do that, even if I wanted to. We go back a long way, Tim, but if I have to go through you to get this done, I will." Campbell leaned back in his chair, and his expression was almost kind. "You shouldn't have come here alone, kid."

"He's not alone," Raylan said from behind him.

Tim didn't flinch and he didn't look at Rachel, but it was an effort.

"Who are you?" Campbell asked.

"I'm a friend of Tim's." Raylan pushed the edge of his jacket back and rested his hand on his hip, close to his gun but not touching it.

A guy at the other table stood up fast, but Rachel was on her feet with her gun in her hand before he took a step. "Please don't," she said, mild as milk.

"We're just having a conversation," Raylan said easily. He didn't look away from Campbell. "Isn't that right?"

Campbell made a big show of spreading his empty hands. "Always a pleasure, catching up with an old friend."

"But we're done now," Tim said.

"Yeah," Campbell said. "I guess we are."

***

"Did that go like you thought it would?" Rachel asked when they were back in the car.

"Pretty much," Tim said. He glanced over at her. "Except for Raylan showing up."

She grimaced. "I know calling Raylan for backup is like bringing a nuke to a knife fight, but those guys your friend was hanging out with are Russian mafia."

"What?"

She handed him her cell phone at a red light. "You can tell by the tattoos." She'd taken pictures of the men at the other table, zoomed in on forearms and necks, where the edges of ink showed under sleeves and collars.

"Shit."

"I didn't tell him anything, just where we were and that we needed backup."

Tim checked the rear view mirror. Raylan's car was still behind them.

"I think we still need backup," Rachel said.

Tim drummed his fingers on the steering wheel and didn't say anything.

But when they got back to his apartment, he tapped on Raylan's window and said, "You better come up."

***

"Shit, Tim," Raylan said, after Tim told him everything. "And your plan was for the two of you to go in there and talk him out of it?"

"No, that was my plan," Rachel said. "His plan was to do it all by himself."

"You could've asked us for help," Raylan said.

"I was kind of enjoying being the only person in the office whose personal life and professional life didn't overlap," Tim said.

"Hey!" Rachel said. "That was one time."

Raylan gave him an unimpressed look but let it go. "Okay, we can work with this," he said. "We can't ask WitSec for a list of all their witnesses in Kentucky, but I can sweet-talk someone I know into giving me one name. There can't be that many men who testified against the Russian mafia in Lexington."

"Good, it's a plan," Rachel said and stood up. "I'm going home. I'll see you in the morning."

"Morning?" Tim said.

She gave him a wry smile. "I feel myself coming down with whatever you've got."

"I'll call my friend first thing in the morning," Raylan said, after she'd left.

"Thanks," Tim said. He cleared his throat. "For coming out tonight, and for talking to your friend. For helping."

"What, you think I'd tell you to go to Art with this?"

"I guess not. But if you get the name, and we fuck this up, it's not going to look good for you."

"So we won't fuck it up," Raylan said, like it was that easy. "Hang on."

Raylan got up and went into the kitchen, and came back a few minutes later with a couple of juice glasses and Tim's bottle of rye.

"Speaking of Art," Raylan said, and poured them each a good slug. "Situation seems to call for a drink."

Tim couldn't really argue with that statement. He threw back the entire contents of the glass in one gulp.

The picture Tim had shown Rachel was still on the coffee table. Raylan picked it up.

Tim poured himself another shot and said, "He saved my life, y'know?"

Raylan looked up from the picture. "Yeah?"

"In Afghanistan. Not just — I wouldn't have made it out of there if it hadn't been for him."

"That's why you didn't tell Art or WitSec."

Tim nodded. "They don't care if he lives or dies, as long as they stop him. And I know it's stupid, but I care."

"It's not stupid," Raylan said. "You can't cut yourself free of your past without cutting out part of yourself, too, and that's a hard thing to do, no matter what they tell you. But you gotta recognize there's a point where you can't protect him from the decisions he's made."

"I know," Tim said, and kept his eyes on his glass.

Raylan sighed, and he sounded as tired as Tim felt. "They're gonna tell you that if he was really your friend, he wouldn't have taken this job, he wouldn't have put this on you. But it's not about friendship. It would be easier if it were. It's about obligation. We owe a lot of people a lot of debts, and we can't pay them all."

Tim nodded.

Raylan stood up and put his hat on. "But we're not going to fuck this up."

***

"Viktor Stepashin," Raylan said and handed Tim a cup of coffee. "Let's go, we're taking your truck."

"Shouldn't you be at work?" Tim asked.

"I told Art I needed some personal time and dropped Winona's name."

Viktor Stepashin lived in a small, neat house in a neighborhood that was just barely on the right side of seedy.

"He used to be a hitman for the Russians in Chicago," Raylan said. "Seven years ago, CPD had him dead to rights on the murder of an alderman, and WitSec offered him a deal. As it turns out, his girlfriend was pregnant, and he decided he'd rather start over with her and the baby instead of never seeing them as a free man again."

Slouched down in Tim's truck, they watched as Stepashin left for work. His car was parked next to the house, only a few steps from the side door. He was in a hurry, but he was still careful, alert. His new life hadn't dulled his old instincts.

"Stepashin is a cable repair guy," Raylan said, flipping through the file in his lap. "The girlfriend, Maria, is now the wife and works part time as a receptionist in a dentist's office. Rachel's checking her out."

Stepashin pulled out of his driveway. Tim waited, but it didn't look like anyone was following him. Anyone else, anyway. Stepashin eventually pulled into the cable company's parking garage, and a little while later drove out in a company van.

They followed Stepashin for the rest of the day and Tim could feel himself settling into the familiar, almost Zen mindset of the stakeout.

"You don't hire a guy like Campbell for something up close and personal," Tim said. "And this won't be some drive-by shooting. Campbell's got to get set up somewhere and wait for Stepashin to come to him. Line of sight is terrible on his house and the cable company. Campbell can't get a clear shot unless he's in someone's house."

"He could call the cable company, set up an appointment for some place with a clear shot," Raylan suggested.

"A sniper waiting for the cable guy. We're trained to endure a lot of waiting around, but I don't think even Campbell would put up with that."

Raylan flashed him a grin.

"Besides," Tim said. "There's no guarantee that Stepashin would be the one they sent."

"Nobody's following him, staking him out. You think Campbell knows something we don't?"

***

"I think Campbell knows about the funeral," Rachel said the next morning, and her voice sounded tight and unhappy even over the phone.

"What?" Tim said.

"Maria dropped the kid off at school, but she didn't go to work. I followed her, and she just parked at a church that says Carver funeral, nine a.m. today. Has Stepashin left yet?"

"No — wait, yeah, he's coming out now."

Stepashin was wearing a black suit. "He looks like he's going to a funeral," Raylan said.

"Shit," Tim said. A church probably had more space and better sightlines around it than Stepashin's house and the cable company, but the bigger concern... "What cemetery is the burial going to be at?"

"I don't know," Rachel said. "I'll find out."

They followed Stepashin to the church, and Tim was relieved to see it was a plain storefront building, crowded into the rest of the block.

"It'll be the cemetery for sure," Tim said.

Rachel called back. "Highland Cemetery, on Industrial Drive. We've got an hour and a half, two hours, tops."

"Tell Rachel to stay with Stepashin. We'll clear the cemetery," Raylan said.

"The two of us will clear the cemetery of a professional sniper who taught me everything I know?" Tim asked, and Rachel made an equally dubious sound on the other end of the line.

"Yeah," Raylan said, completely steady. Then he cleared his throat and said, "Tell her to wear her vest though, just in case."

***

From the road, they could see the tent and chairs lined up on the dry grass, next to a mound of dirt covered with an artificially green carpet. It didn't look like they were expecting a lot of people. Raylan slowed down like he was going to turn, and Tim said, "Campbell's gonna be in position already, keep going."

They circled the cemetery at a sedate pace. It was small, with one side facing a recycling plant and one side facing a motorcycle shop. Trees dotted the edges of the cemetery, but they wouldn't provide much cover.

"He'll be on one of the roofs," Tim said. "It's what I'd do."

"Which one?"

Tim shook his head. "Try the motorcycle place first, it faces the entrance."

The guys who ran the place were not excited about having two guys pull up and start checking out their building. Raylan flashed his badge and eventually got to the owner, while Tim talked to the workers.

"Nobody's seen anyone strange, other than us, and nobody's missing," Tim said, coming up to stand next to Raylan.

"The owner is very insistent on the warrant issue," Raylan said, through clenched teeth.

"I know my rights," the owner said.

Raylan opened his mouth and Tim jumped in fast. "We don't need to see the inside of the building, just the roof. If our suspect is up there, and we don't stop him, this whole building will become a crime scene."

"It's the principle of the thing," the owner said, but he was wavering.

"I know," Tim said. "And we can't do this without your permission, so please, help us."

The owner sighed and showed them the stairs to the roof.

They drew their guns in front of the roof access door. Raylan nodded at him once, then hit the door with his shoulder and went out, gun up. Tim followed, covering his back as Raylan turned, sweeping the roof.

No one shot at them.

The section of roof they were on was clear, but the roof was a continuous expanse that covered three or four units in a row. The roof of each unit was separated by a knee-high brick wall.

"If it was you, you'd use one of those little walls for cover, wouldn't you?" Raylan asked.

"Yup," Tim said.

They checked the lee side of every wall on the roof that overlooked the cemetery. The roof was black tarpaper, and even before ten a.m. the heat was starting to ripple over it. Every time Raylan leaned over, Tim was expecting Campbell to being lying on the other side, ready to shoot him, but he never was.

"Nothing," Raylan said, and then a bullet slammed into the roof at Tim's feet.

"Down!" Raylan shouted.

Tim was already moving, throwing himself flat in the small amount of cover provided by the wall they'd just cleared. Raylan was right behind him.

"So, he's on the recycling plant," Raylan said.

"Guess so."

Tim's phone dinged and he dug it out.

There was a text from an unknown number. That was a warning shot the next one won't be. Stay down.

"Generous of him," Raylan said.

Tim almost dropped the phone when it started vibrating, but it was Rachel.

"We're leaving the church now," she hissed. "Do you have him?"

"We know where he is," Tim said.

"Um—" Rachel said.

"Just don't let him get to the grave," Tim said, and hung up.

"We can't get to the stairs without being exposed," Raylan said. "We're going to have to go off the back of the roof."

The motorcycle shop and the recycling plant were at right angles to each other. If they stayed low, Campbell couldn't see them behind the wall. Unless the recycling plant was taller. Shit.

"Go," Tim said.

They belly-crawled to the edge of the roof that faced away from the cemetery. Raylan gripped the edge and rolled off. He dangled for a second and then let go. Tim followed. He kept his knees loose when he landed, but it was a hard shock to his bones. Still, they were down, and Campbell couldn't see them.

They sprinted the length of the building, and cautiously turned the corner. The main office for the recycling plant was ahead of them, across a street and a strip of lawn. Tim was pretty sure Campbell would be on the roof of the loading docks, closer to the middle of the cemetery.

"Can he see us?" Raylan asked.

"I don't know."

"Okay," Raylan said, eyes on the far roof. "Act casual."

And then he sauntered out into the street.

"Shit," Tim muttered and went after him.

Campbell apparently couldn't see them, since they made it up to the office without getting shot.

The woman at the front desk smiled at them when they came in. "Hi," she said. "How can I help you?"

Raylan smiled back and showed her his badge. "Ma'am, we are US Marshals, and it's extremely urgent that we get access to your roof."

Her smile slipped. "Um. I don't —"

"Ma'am, if you don't cooperate I will have to arrest you for aiding and abetting the wanted felon that's on your roof right now," Raylan said sternly, and put his hand on the butt of his gun.

"I'll call the floor manager," she said.

"Raylan," Tim said quietly and nodded towards the open door behind her. It led to a hallway, and the door at the end of the hall said "Roof Access."

"You do that," Raylan said, and then they were running past her desk and down the hall.

She shouted something after them, but they were already on the stairs.

Tim's gun was in his hand and they hit the door in a repeat of the motorcycle shop. This time, the roof was white, and Campbell was lying on his stomach with his rifle at the very edge, maybe thirty feet away from them.

The door slammed back and Campbell rolled to his knees, fast as a snake, the rifle trained on Tim.

The three of them froze like that, guns out, Raylan behind him and Campbell in front of him. Out of the corner of his eye, Tim could see the funeral procession coming up the road. Campbell smiled.

"I told you, the next shot won't be a warning shot."

"You shoot him, I'll kill you before the next round is in the chamber," Raylan said.

"Maybe."

"Nobody has to die today," Tim said.

"Yeah," Campbell said. "Someone does."

Tim could hear the sound of car doors slamming, faintly, carried on the breeze. The funeral procession had arrived.

"Make up your mind," Campbell said. "It's you, me, or that guy down there."

Tim hesitated. Campbell gave a tiny shrug and his finger tightened on the trigger.

Raylan's shot slammed Campbell back onto the roof. Tim's ears rang and everything after the shot sounded cloudy and muffled.

Raylan stepped around him and went forward to kick Campbell's rifle out of reach.

"He'll live," Raylan said. "But I don't know that he'll thank you for it. You better apply pressure to the wound now."

Tim blinked and Raylan smiled. "I'm not as good a shot as you guys, I had to aim for the center of mass instead of the head."

Tim pulled his dress shirt off and pressed the mass of cloth against Campbell's chest. The blood soaked through quickly, hot and slick against his palm.

Raylan squeezed his shoulder, and then went to the edge of the roof, pulling his cellphone out, trying to catch Rachel's attention.

In the distance, Tim could hear sirens, and under his hands, Campbell's chest rose and fell.

***

"Edith Carver was Stepashin's landlady when they first moved here," Art said when Tim walked into his office. "She helped Stepashin's wife while she was pregnant, she was like a mother to them. Stepashin paid for the funeral himself, but he had to dip into an account in his old name to do it. That's how the Russians found him. Have a seat."

Tim sat.

"WitSec appreciates the work our office did to contain a threat to one of their witnesses and resolve the situation with no loss of life."

Tim cleared his throat. "I was under the impression that we were not acting officially."

Art snorted. "Please. When Rachel and Raylan both asked for leave the day after you did, I slow-walked that paperwork. As far as the US Marshals Service is concerned, you were all on active duty when you apprehended Campbell."

"Thank you, sir," Tim said. It felt like an undeserved kindness.

"When Raylan joined this office, I kind of hoped you would rub off on him rather than the other way around, but I guess that was expecting too much." Tim couldn't suppress a wince. Art smiled and shook his head. "Outcomes matter, and you got the right one in the end. But I would personally appreciate it if you tried not to pull this shit again."

"Yes, sir."

"Did you at least learn something from this experience?"

Without really meaning to, Tim glanced to the side, where Raylan was doing a bad job of pretending not to watch Art's office. "Yes, sir, I did."

"Well, that's the best we can hope for sometimes," Art said, and sent him back to work.