The Things That Matter

By Gail

Walker jammed the accelerator to the floorboard and the Ram lurched forward. Trivette grabbed the armrest as they tore around a curve, in hot pursuit of a silver Ferrari. The report had only been broadcast over the radio minutes ago: "Be on the lookout for a silver Ferrari, license plate C-O-O-L-E-S-T. Suspected of armed robbery."

Trivette had just responded that they were in the area when the car screeched off of a side road right in front of them. Now Walker was on the Ferrari's bumper, much to the displeasure of the three men inside it. Weaving in and out of traffic, the Ferrari pulled ahead and made a sharp left turn. Walker cut the wheel left too and they hopped the curve, cutting the distance between them and the suspects.

"Watch the fire hydrant," Trivette cautioned, then, "Watch the fire hydrant!"

The Ram missed the red hydrant by inches, on Trivette's side of the truck. The younger Ranger involuntarily slid over away from the door, as if his body movement would pull the Ram out of the hydrant's path.

Both hands on the wheel and still concentrating on the Ferrari, Walker nevertheless couldn't suppress a wicked smile. Trivette glared at him but didn't trust his voice to berate his partner.

The Ferrari skidded around another corner, slamming to an abrupt halt when they realized the way was blocked by a semi truck. Walker squealed in behind them, closing off their exit. The three suspects jumped out and scattered. Walker tackled two of them together while Trivette caught the third. As they fought, a crowd of onlookers gathered round. One man, an African American about 60 years old, watched Trivette with an interested stare.

Police cars rolled in. Walker, his two suspects on the ground groaning, glanced over as Trivette slapped cuffs on his prisoner.

"Get your hands off me, nigger," the suspect growled.

Ignoring the slur, Trivette hauled the suspect up as Walker approached them.

"You ... white Ranger. Get this black son of a bitch away from me."

"Shut up," Walker said menacingly.

Trivette clenched his teeth and looked away. Walker grabbed the suspect's arm and lead him away from Trivette, but the suspect's mouth kept running.

"How in the hell do you stand working with a stinkin' jungle bunny, an ignorant niggerboy. If I was you I'd--"

                It happened so quickly, no one saw. Walker's elbow jabbed the suspect in the gut at lightning speed and with the force of a sledgehammer. The suspect lost his breath in a rush of air and bent over.

            "You aren't me," Walker growled in his ear.

A police officer approached them. Walker shoved the gasping suspect forward.

"Here, Tom. Take care of this slime, will ya."

Walker headed back to Trivette, who was leaning against the Ferrari. His hat still on the ground and as Walker leaned over to pick it up for the younger Ranger, he measured his words.

"You okay?"

Trivette nodded and took his hat. "Yeah." He sighed, then looked at Walker. "Makes you want to do some real damage, doesn't it?"

There was a sudden shout of disgust from Tom. "Ah, shit! The guy's barfing all for the second time in a ten-minute span, a wicked smile played at Walker's mouth. Trivette, viewing the suspect hunched over near the police car, caught on.

"Thanks, partner," he said.

"Any time," Walker responded.

The older black man watching the scene smiled to himself and walked away.

                Walker pulled Alex close as they danced at C.D.'s, savoring the warmth in his arms. The contentment that has entered his life since their engagement astounded him. Almost every thought, every plan, every event, and every dream now involved a second person -- his Alex. Thinking in terms of two had come much easier to him than he'd ever believed. What was unthinkable was ever letting her go. Never again would he want back the solitary lifestyle he'd lived so long before he'd finally pushed away the barrier and professed his love for her.

Watching them dance, C.D. grinned. An earthquake couldn't pull them apart right now. Nor a fire. Chuckling to himself, his mind ran through all the recent disaster movies: A volcano, a tornado, a rogue meteor, Godzilla; none of them would phase the two dancers now. Not even the end of the world could separate them. C.D. sighed in utter happiness as he refilled a coffee mug for a customer.

The music stopped playing and Walker reluctantly let Alex raise her head from his shoulder.

"That was nice," she smiled.

He agreed with a nod and a sigh as they headed toward their table.

"Where's Jimmy tonight?" she asked.

"I think he needed some time alone. One of the robbery suspects started throwing racial comments. It got ugly."

"Oh, poor Jimmy. I keep telling myself the world is getting better in that respect, lately it seems like we've taken a giant step backwards."

"I know. He's a good man, Alex. Sometimes he tolerates it better than I do."

"Just sometimes?" She smiled and put her arm around him.

             Walker's return smile was sheepish. It was true, his tolerance for bigotry was practically nil, and impulsive behavior often got the better of him, like the elbow jab today. But he knew Trivette wasn't afforded the same luxury. If the younger Ranger had silenced the suspect with a hand or fist, Walker was certain brutality charges with a racial basis would have been filed against him. But Walker could get away with it and the release he got from it was cathartic. He sometimes wondered if his younger partner resented that fact, but Trivette had never shown anything but gratitude when the situation arose.

"I'll call him later," Walker told Alex, "and make sure he's okay."

Alex nodded. She loved the way Walker and Trivette watched out for each other, but it was never in an obvious way. Walker would call tonight and ask questions about a case they were working on, or talk about fishing, wrestling, football, whatever --anything except the incident, and the sentiment would be expressed anyway. Trivette would get the real message. The partners were lucky to have each other, Alex knew as she hugged Walker tightly, and there were no words to describe how she felt about having Walker.

Trivette flipped through the stacks of c.d.'s in the music store, stopping on one and pulling it out.

"Ah, Boney James," he murmured happily.

New music was always a pick-me-up for him. After eating Chinese at a place around the corner from his apartment, he'd headed to the music store to find some new jazz to help soothe his mood. As he turned to make his way to the checkout, an older black man staring at him caught his eye.

"Jimmy Trivette?" the man asked.

Trivette nodded. Something about the man was faintly familiar.

"I'm Denny Dolan. Remember me? I was friends with your daddy."

The young Ranger's mouth popped open as memories flooded back. His father had walked out on them when he was just a tot, but for the next eight or so years Trivette saw him occasionally, and when he did, it was usually in the company of Denny Dolan.

"Yeah," Trivette said and held out his hand. "I remember you.

Dolan grinned and pumped the younger man's hand. "Look at you -- a Texas Ranger. How have you been?"

"I've been fine. How about you -- do you live here?"

"I moved here a few months ago." Dolan gestured to the CD in Trivette's hand. "Look, buy your music, then let's go somewhere where we can talk."

"All right, sure," Trivette replied.

Trivette suggested C.D.'s, but Dolan politely refused. He led the Ranger to a downtown bar. Once seated, they ordered drinks.

"I followed your football career," Dolan said. "Too bad about the shoulder."

"Well, it was devastating at the time, but I wouldn't be where I am now if it hadn't happened."

            "Are you happy where you are?" Dolan questioned.

            "Oh yeah. Very."

            "Your father would be proud of you."

Trivette felt the familiar ache in his heart. "Would he? The last time I saw him I was ten or eleven. I don't even know if he's still alive."

       "I wish I could tell you, Jimmy, but I don't know myself. I guess you never knew but I did eight years in the state pen. When I got out, you were gone off to college your dad had disappeared."

       "I'm sorry you got into some trouble. So you don't know where he went or what happened?"

Dolan shook his head. "No, and I'm truly sorry."

Trivette sighed deeply. He'd made an effort to search for his father a few years back, but gave it up when he started thinking about a reunion. What would he say to a man who had abandoned his wife and children with no warning, leaving them impoverished, never offering child support, birthday or Christmas presents. How would he feel towards him? Would he even want to meet a man like that? But the curiosity lingered -- what was his father like? There must have been a reason for his abrupt departure, and then infrequent visits that always left his mother weeping. His mom would only say that Robert Trivette was not a man to be tied down, was never satisfied with what he had, and that drove him to seek out new things and places. It was a defense of sorts, for she loved him, and Trivette was careful not to press too hard for facts, but sometimes the not knowing made his head feel like it would explode.

Dolan touched the younger man's arm. "Jimmy, if it's answers you're looking for, maybe I can help you in another way.

Trivette looked up. "What do you mean?"

"I came to Dallas to start up a new chapter of BFB, Blacks For Blacks. Have you ever heard of it?"

"No. What is it?"

"It's just like it sounds -- black men coming together to make sure we're treated equal, to get our fair share, what's due us."

"What's due us?" Trivette repeated, not liking the sounds of it.

Dolan held up his hand. "Now wait, just listen. First, I have to confess I didn't run into you by accident. I looked you up a couple of days ago. I saw the incident on the street today, heard what that white scum called you. Then I saw the bearded white guy take over your prisoner like you couldn't handle him by yourself. That stuff doesn't have to happen, Jimmy."

"That's not what happened at all," Trivette said, feeling anger welling up.

"That's sure what it looked like to all the crowd standing around. The ignorant colored boy let the wise white man take control. I'm surprised you didn't call him massa!"

Trivette stood up, his face hot with fury. "I call him partner, and I call him friend." He turned to go, but Dolan caught his arm.

"Wait, Jimmy. Don't go. I'm sorry. Maybe I read it wrong. Please, sit back down and finish your drink."

Trivette thought for a second, the anger rapidly dissipating as he considered Dolan. This man was a link to his father. Through him, he could put some pieces of the puzzle together. Trivette had steadily constructed the border of the puzzle, the puzzle he visualized as displaying his father's image. Now was his chance to fill in the pieces, to fit together the eyes and hair and mouth, and if he was lucky, he may even find the pieces that made up the heart. With a sigh, he slid into the seat once again.

"You're way off the mark, Denny."

"I apologize. I'm just telling you what it looked like. You appeared very uncomfortable out there. But in here, don't you feel right at home? Look around you."

Trivette gazed around the room. For the first time he noticed that the bartender, the waitresses and all the patrons were black.

Dolan continued. "I followed you into that bar -- C.D.'s-- a few nights ago. Some old gray man behind the bar made a crack to you about emu burgers and the whole place erupted in laughter. You were the brunt of the joke and you were the only person of color there. What does that tell you?"

"It tells me that C.D. teases me because I'm gullible, not because I'm black."

Dolan shrugged, not wanting to anger Trivette again, but he'd made his point and hoped the Ranger would think about it.

"Okay, maybe so. But do me a favor. Come to a BFB meeting. We have a lot of young black men coming, and a person in a position of authority like yourself will carry a lot of weight with them. They'll listen to what you have to say."

"What do I have to say? What are you looking for?"

"Encouragement, motivation to keep striving for better jobs, better living conditions, better family lives."

Trivette pondered that. If only it was so simple, that a few words from him could put a young black man on the right path. But it had happened to him. His football coach had steered him away from gangs and drugs, away from the lifestyle that had been the demise of so many of his schoolmates. If he could help do the same...

Dolan looked at his watch. "I have to go, Jimmy." He read Trivette's indecision, then threw down his trump card. "I have some things I can tell you about your father. Tomorrow night, here's the address. Okay?" He handed over a piece of paper.

Trivette nodded. "Okay.

Dolan smiled and shook Trivette's hand. "Later, then."

"You've been awful quiet today," Walker told his partner as they drove into the courthouse parking lot. It was quitting time and the day had been uneventful, giving Trivette ample time to think about Dolan, the BFB meeting, and the hope of learning more about his father.

"I ran into someone from Baltimore last night. Brought back a lot of memories."

Walker nodded, not asking for further information. He was never one to push. Trivette would talk about it if and when he was ready. Besides, Walker knew that much of Trivette's childhood was unpleasant and he'd give the younger Ranger the privacy of dealing with it in his own way. Walker himself knew from experience how people from the past could upset a life, twist everything inside out and then wring it some more.

"Alex and I are going to a movie. You and Josie want to come along?"

"No, but thanks. I've got somewhere to go this evening."

"Okay. Night, Trivette."

Trivette climbed out of the truck and headed for his Mustang, waving a hand to Walker. He passed the next few hours nervously, wondering what the BFB meeting would entail. When 7:30 finally arrived, he pulled up to the address Dolan had given him. It was a house in a neighborhood that had seen better times. Maybe this exemplified the ideals of the BFB -- taking back a blighted neighborhood with the use of education and information. Trivette felt more reassured as he knocked on the door.

Dolan let him in and ushered him to the basement of the house. There, twenty to twenty five young black men sat in auditorium chairs. They were talking among themselves, their voices low and excited. Dolan took Trivette to a man standing off to the side.

"Jimmy, this is George Goode. He's helping me set up the Dallas chapter."

"George," Trivette said, extending his hand.

George was slow to accept the hand. "Hello," he answered morosely.

Trivette knew he'd seen George Goode's face in the county lockup and a hint of concern rolled up his spine. As Goode walked away, Dolan took Trivette's arm.

"Sit right here, Jimmy."

"Denny, you said you knew more about my father. What can you tell me?"

Dolan hesitated as a look of annoyance crossed his face, but he quickly put on a smile. "He was a gambler, Jimmy, and we ran numbers together. Sometimes we'd feel the heat of the cops and have to lay low for weeks at a time. He felt like leaving his family was the kindest thing he could do. He owed money to some loan sharks and he knew they'd go after his family if they knew about you. So he distanced himself from all of you to protect you. Then one day we conned some guys out of a lot of money. We figured we'd pay off our debts and he could go home to you. But the guys turned out to be mob affiliated, so we had to disappear. I got caught pulling a burglary soon after and got sent up. I don't know what happened to your dad after that."

Trivette's face reflected the shock he felt. "So he left us to protect us. He didn't just walk away."

Dolan smiled. "That's right."

"And maybe the mobsters found him, and that's why he was never seen again."

"That's my theory too," Dolan agreed.

"Which mob was it?" Trivette asked, renewed force in his voice. "I need a name."

Dolan appeared flustered. "Oh man, Jimmy, that was so long ago, I can't remember a name. But I know your old man would be mighty proud of who you've become."

Trivette got ready to speak again but George Goode clapped his hands to get the room's attention.

"Brothers, we're here tonight to tell you all about Blacks For Blacks. You were all chosen to attend because you're leaders in one way or another."

Trivette glanced around the room, recognizing a few more faces. They were leaders all right -- one wore gang colors, another had been busted twice in the past year for distribution, one was involved in a major burglary ring. A few appeared to be legitimate businessmen and proprietors, and Trivette couldn't help but notice looks of dismay on several faces.

After a lengthy intro, Goode turned the floor over to Dolan. The older man stood in full pompous attitude.

"The white man is winning. He is surreptitiously holding the collective heads of the black man under water. Our goal is not to let that happen, and in fact, to turn the tables."

Trivette felt his stomach turn. This was not good. He saw a few other men squirm in mental discomfort. Goode continued.

"We have to take measures in our own hands. Look at history -- how did the repressed get noticed? By insurrection, that's how."

Two men got up and walked out, followed by a third. There was no move to stop them. Trivette wanted to bolt too, but he had to hear where this was leading.

"George and I have put together a plan of action. We want to split up in groups and go over these plans detail by detail."

"What kind of plans?" someone called out.

"Protests, rallies and demonstrations to start. Things to get the quick attention of the media."

"Count me out," said a man in torn jeans. He got up to leave.

"This is the only way to get what we want!" Dolan blurted out.

"No it's not," Trivette answered, standing. All eyes turned to him. "The answer is in education, correct information and hard work. If you really want to make a difference, go to the schools and make the kids see the evils of drugs, or go to the playgrounds and clean them up. Rids your neighborhoods of the dealers and thieves. Learn about job training and go back to school to earn a degree."

Goode smirked. "Brother Trivette, your suggestions are those of a white man, and he's our problem."

"You're the problem!" Trivette seethed. "You and every other hate-monger around. You want to be accepted, to be equal, yet by forming groups like this, you're setting yourselves apart, forcing yourselves to be viewed as different. And the things you're suggesting to do will only hurt your cause."

"The reason we have a cause is because of the evil whites have perpetrated upon us," Goode spit back.

Trivette held up his hands. "I don't believe this. Any of you that listen to this garbage deserves whatever happens."

"Don't threaten us, pig," a voice called out.

Trivette gave one last look at Dolan, then exited the room.

Dolan shrugged at the remaining men. "If any of you feel the same, now is the time to leave. We're only interested in strong stomachs."

             One more man made a hasty retreat. Dolan and Goode looked over the group of eighteen or so men. Dolan spoke with authority.

"The first plan of action goes down tonight. A judge has signed an order to close down Ronny's bar, a known black establishment. We're going to pay that judge a high profile visit in a few hours."

There were murmurs of excitement throughout the room. Dolan and Goode smiled at each other.

Trivette drove to the nearby football stadium and slipped through a back gate he knew was almost always open. He could think here. Something about the green turf and the encompassing stands calmed his mind. Maybe it was because his football days had been ones of concentration -- always mindful of the play, the opposite team, the coaches, the quarterback, the fans. As he glanced now into the dark, empty seats, the same pang of hurt overcame him as it did all those years ago. His father was never among the crowd. All the other guys took a moment to pick out their dads, wave and yell that the next touchdown was for him, while Trivette watched, envious. He thought about the things Dolan had told him tonight. Had his father crossed the mob and been hit for it? That would explain his disappearance. But Dolan himself worried Trivette. The man had tricked him into going to the meeting, the pretenses were false. Why had he wanted him there?

Trivette took off at a light jog, running the perimeter of the field. Why? Did Dolan have some ulterior motive? Should he report this BFB organization as a possibly hostile group? He ran harder, circling the field, adding up the miles. When he finally stopped, exhausted and sweating, he lay in the cool grass and watched the stars, wishing the answers would come.

"It was a dumb movie, Alex," Walker said for the third time. "I knew who the killer was in the first five minutes."

"You're missing the point. Who cares who the killer was? What's important is that the victim's sister and the cop found each other and fell in love."

Walker shook his head as he drove through town. "It wasn't realistic. He didn't even have a warrant when he went busting into the house."

"When has that ever stopped you?"

She had him there, and the Ranger acquiesced with a smile. She reached over and pinched his ribs.

"Ouch," he faked and pulled her next him. "You're gonna pay for that."

"Promise?" she said with a naughty grin.

Before Walker could answer, the radio came to life. "All units, officer needs help, 318 Williams Street. Mob situation."

Walker grabbed the mike. "This is Walker. I'm in the area and responding." He stepped on the gas and glanced at Alex apologetically.

"It's okay," she sighed and meant it. An officer in trouble was something that Walker would never ignore, whether on duty or off.

They arrived at the address, which Alex recognized as Judge Henry Lincoln's home. Fifteen or so black men were surrounding two police officers, who in turn were blocking the door to the judge's house. Objects were being thrown and windows were broken. Fearful faces peered from behind closed blinds in the house.

"Stay in the truck and lock the doors," Walker said hastily as he jumped out of the Ram.

The two officers were being roughed up as they tried to force back the mob. Walker broke into the thick of it, pushing men away and making his way to the doorstep.

"Break it up!" he yelled, but the men moved in. One police officer went down. Walker had no choice but to fight them. From the truck, Alex saw bodies being tossed and thrown. The two officers joined in. Walker, surrounded by a group of young, angry men, put on a martial arts clinic. By the time more help arrived, most of the men had scattered or were moaning in pain on the ground. Judge Lincoln ventured onto the front porch when the captured men had been cuffed.

"Walker, I'm sure glad you showed up. My grandkids are here with me. If these guys had gotten inside...

"I'll keep a couple of men here for the night, Judge, just to be safe."

The judge nodded and shook Walker's hand in gratitude. "They kept shouting 'BFB' whatever that means."

"I intend to find out," Walker stated.

Alex unlocked the truck door as Walker approached. He noticed she was clutching his extra gun. In relief, she hugged him as he got in.

"My God, what was that all about?"

"I'm not sure yet. DPD's going to do the booking. They'll let me know in the morning."

Alex's eyes grew wide with amazement. He was putting her before work. "You mean you're not going in with them?"

"I can do my report in the morning. Besides, I have a promise to keep."

Alex grinned and happily snuggled into his side as they drove off.

Trivette walked into Ranger headquarters the next morning, looking as tired as he felt. Sleep had not come easy. Several Rangers were standing at Walker's desk as the red-bearded Ranger attempted to fill out a report.

"Nice bruise," Mark Sheridan said, motioning to a purple mark on Walker's cheek.

            "Alex said at one time you were taking on about twelve of them," Josh Burke

            "Only twelve, and you took a hit in the face?" Sheridan grinned. "You're slipping, Walker."

            Trivette, realizing something had happened during the night, approached the desk. "Hey, what's going on?"

"Your partner quelled a mob scene last night at Judge Lincoln's house," Sheridan said. "All because a strip joint was being shut down by the liquor board.  Some group calling themselves BFB."

Trivette felt the room spin. "What!? Oh God, what did they do?"

                 Walker stood up and peered closely at his partner. "You've heard of them, Trivette nodded, then told them of the meeting he'd attended. "But when I left, they were just talking about rallies and protests, and so I figured that meant they'd apply for permits and go about it the legal way. Oh my God."

"Easy, Jimmy," Sheridan said. "You couldn't have known."

Trivette looked again at Walker. "Was Denny Dolan one of those arrested?"

Walker glanced over the arrest report. "No."

"I can show you where they met last night."

"We've already been there," Burke told him. "One of the suspects gave us the address. No one was there -- it's an abandoned house."

"And the sad thing is," Sheridan continued, "the creeps are already out. Most of them posted bail this morning."

Walker glanced at Sheridan and Burke, who both understood the look. They headed to their own desks. Trivette wandered toward the window.

"Trivette," Walker said softly, coming up behind him, "how close are you to Dolan?"

"Not close," the younger man answered. He almost told Walker that Dolan had known his father, but it didn't seem important now.

"Do you know where he's staying? He'll be wanted for questioning."

                  "I know," Trivette answered with a big sigh. "Actually, he didn't say where he’s living. I can try to find him through DMV."

              "Let's let DPD do it," Walker suggested.

Trivette turned to his partner, knowing Walker was trying to spare him. "No, it's okay. I want to do it."

With a smile, Walker nodded.

As it turned out, Dolan turned himself in to the Dallas police, after hearing on the news about the near riot at the judge's house. Walker put down his phone and relayed the news to Trivette.

"He said he led the meeting and talked about peaceful ways to instill awareness of the black plight, but says he left shortly after you did and had nothing to do with the attack on the judge."

"And none of the guys from last night implicated him?"

Walker shook his head. "Think he's telling the truth?"

"I don't know." Trivette's emotions were roiling. Denny had known his dad, had cleared up the mystery of his disappearance and painted him to be noble, but Denny had also been a forceful, anti-white speaker last night. Could he have incited the group to attack a judge?

"I got a cure for what ails you," Walker smiled, holding up a key. Trivette recognized it as the key to Trent Malloy's karate school and gym. In the two years since the gym had opened, Walker and Trivette had taken their anger, frustrations, and hurts there, sparring and wrestling until their exhausted bodies were released of the tension, at least temporarily. Trivette, though always interested in Walker's command of the martial arts, had never learned the fundamentals until recently. Walker had been teaching him moves and motions, and gradually Trivette was adding the moves to his already impressive abilities of defense.

Trivette returned the smile. "You're on. I'll meet you there at ten, after Trent's last class."

Trivette had Walker in a hold, the red-bearded Ranger flat on his back with his arm in the vice of his partner's grip. Trivette, clenching his teeth and pressing his whole body weight across Walker's chest, gasped his next words.

"Tap out."

Walker struggled against the hold.

"Tap out," the younger man Ranger said gleefully.

Suddenly Walker's leg was under Trivette's shoulder and the black man was flipped over on his back, now in Walker's hold. Trivette couldn't move. His arm was bent painfully, his legs hopelessly pinned by Walker's weight. He was trapped and he knew it. Growling, he tapped the mat three times to signal defeat.

Walker let him up, and Trivette was glad to see the older man was spent, panting hard for air. They leaned back on the stacks of mats and rested.

"How in the hell did you get that leg in there?" Trivette marveled. "Haven't you ever heard of ligaments? You're supposed to have them."

Walker chuckled. He was feeling the pull in his hamstring but he'd never tell Trivette.

"I almost had you," Trivette lamented.

"Nah," Walker grinned.

But in fact, Walker was impressed. Trivette had progressed so quickly and so accurately, soon there would be no stopping him. He had almost pinned him, and Walker knew that the day would come soon when Trivette would take him. As much as he hated to lose, Walker smiled to himself. If he had to be beaten, he wanted it to be by Trivette and no one else. Somehow it would be more honorable to be beaten by his partner, his best friend. And he knew the thrill it would give Trivette to be the victor, but Walker wouldn't give away that thrill. Trivette would have to earn it, and it looked like the prize was within reach.

"Thanks for the lesson, Walker."

Outside, Dolan and Goode, having followed the Rangers, peeked into the gym window.

"That's the white guy that beat the snot out of us last night," Goode hissed.

Dolan thought for a moment. "I have an idea. We still need Trivette for our plan, but I don't think he's going to cooperate. Bring the rest of the men here but stay hidden. I'm going to try one more time with Trivette."

Trivette and Walker sat up as they heard the front door open.

"Denny," Trivette said as the man approached them.

Walker scrutinized Dolan closely. This was the man responsible for stirring up something inside of his partner, something Trivette still hadn't talked about. Walker had good instincts about people, sometimes just from the look in their eyes. "Cherokee" Trivette would call it, but Walker knew it as good old gut impressions. The vibes he got from Dolan sent up a red flag.

"Jimmy," Dolan began as the two Rangers stood up. "I'd like to talk to you. Brother to brother." He threw a sinister glare at Walker.

"I'll go shower, Trivette," Walker offered, but Trivette stopped him.

"No, stay. Please." He turned to Dolan. "Walker's the closest thing I have to a brother. Not you, Denny."

Dolan shifted his weight uncomfortably. Walker, touched by Trivette's words, gave Dolan a smug stare.

"Jimmy, we need you in our organization. We need to show our people that we can have jobs of authority and we can use that authority to our benefit."

"Our people?" Trivette repeated. "Are you a different species? Last I heard we were all Homo sapiens."

Walker let an amused smile slip.

Dolan was angered. "Don't you see what you've become? They've turned you. They hired you to meet some government quota and you think you're one of them." Dolan pointed to Walker. "He had no choice in being partnered with you. It was mandated. They held a lottery and he got stuck with the nigger, poor bastard."

Walker stepped forward. "That's enough."

"Oh, and now Mr. Whitey will speak for you because you're too stupid to do it yourself."

Walker was past the tolerance point, but he held back for Trivette's sake. Trivette would handle it how he saw fit. To the complete surprise of both Dolan and Walker, Trivette started laughing.

"Actually, I lost the lottery. When I found out he was half Cherokee, I nearly croaked. I figured we'd be doing rain dances on our lunch breaks and putting on war paint before a bust. And then I heard he owned a teepee." Trivette started laughing. "Oh geez, I remember telling myself never to go to his place for a party because the plumbing was outside."

Walker joined in. "I only made you wear war paint one time, Trivette."

"Yeah, but you tricked me into the sweat lodge thing. I didn't know you had to be naked."

"No one looked," Walker chuckled.

"How would you know? You were in some kind of trance. I just sat there and

sweated -- nakedly.

Walker laughed again and Dolan knew he had lost. He fumed.

"That's too bad, Jimmy. You don't know what you're giving up."

"I think it's time for you to leave, Denny," Trivette ordered, disgusted with the

Dolan nodded and headed for the door. "I was wrong about one thing. Your daddy wouldn't be proud. He'd abandon you again in a heartbeat."

Trivette lost his smile as Dolan left. Walker felt the stab that cut through Trivette's heart and he wanted more than anything to follow Dolan outside and stomp the shit out of him. But he remained still, waiting for a cue from his partner, wondering how the young black man had held his temper. Trivette, his face hot with hurt, turned to meet Walker's eyes, surprised to see the bearded face smiling in admiration.

"Thanks, Trivette."

"For what?"

"For the lesson." Walker smiled, then headed for the showers.

Trivette headed home, ready for a cold beer and his new CD.  Walker had stayed behind at the gym to go over a karate lesson plan Trent had left out for him. Dolan's words had stung, but not as badly as they could have. Considering the source, Trivette decided not to let them sting at all. He pitied the young black men who would be taken in by the rhetoric, wasting their energy, running towards a dead end.

Running! He'd left his Nikes at the gym and he'd need them for his morning run. Grumbling, Trivette turned his car around.

Dolan and Goode saw Walker packing up the papers on Trent's desk. "We'll never take him, Denny. I'm telling you, he could take on an army." "Then we'll have to play dirty, won't we," Dolan answered. Walker reached for the master light switch and turned off the gym lights.

Walking by feel, he made his way to the door. Opening it, he had only taken one step outside when something slammed across the back of his head. Falling with a thud, he felt hands grab him and drag him back inside. He struggled to clear his head and managed to push away one person, then kicked another.

"Oh no," Goode uttered. "We need help!"

More men came into the gym. The lights came on. Walker, his head still reeling, staggered toward the nearest man and kicked him backwards.

"Dolan, do something or he'll kick all our asses."

Dolan motioned for the men to move in. As Walker fought them, Dolan took a beer bottle from one of the men and crept behind Walker. Seizing his chance, he smashed the bottle across the side of the Ranger's head. Walker went down. The group began to kick him. Goode, brave now that Walker was half-conscious, signaled for several of the men to haul the Ranger up. Walker tried to clear his vision. Blood was running down his face.

"Hold his legs," Goode ordered.

Dolan moved in and grinned evilly. "You thought it was so funny, didn't you? How funny is this?" He slammed a fist into Walker's side, then another. Somehow Walker got an arm free and punched back, catching Dolan on the chin. Goode grabbed the arm and twisted it violently, stopping when an audible crack was heard. Walker bite back the scream of pain and felt his legs give out. They were all taking turns now, punching and kicking. He felt the mat under his face, tried to push himself up but his limbs wouldn't respond. Anger filled him. Only Trivette can beat me. Don't tap out... don't tap out.

"What the hell!" Trivette stepped inside the door, and automatically went for his gun, but it was packed in his duffel bag. He charged the group of men and threw his whole body into the pile of them. As they came at him, he took the stance Walker had taught him and fought them off. Goode took a blow to the chest and fell with an umph.

Dolan realized he had to do something. He pulled a gun and shot into the ceiling to get Trivette's attention. As everyone looked in Dolan's direction, the BFB leader put the gun to Walker's head.

"Stop now, Jimmy, or your partner's dead."

Trivette froze, getting his first good look at Walker's condition. His partner wasn't moving. His face was covered with blood, his shirt torn almost all the way off.

Trivette shook off the hands holding him and ran to Walker. Dolan kept the gun in view but allowed Trivette to check his partner.

"Walker?" Trivette whispered. He was afraid to move him.

Walker, lying on his stomach, opened his eyes. Blood oozed out of his mouth but he managed a reply. "I haven't tapped out, partner."

Trivette stood up and faced Dolan. "What do you want?"

"We need you to do us a little favor tomorrow. Walker will be our guest while you're away."

"What kind of favor?"

"You'll know when I'm ready to tell you," Dolan sneered. He looked at Goode. "Get their car keys, we'll take their vehicles with us."

Goode reached down to Walker but Trivette shoved him away. "Don't touch him," he snarled. "I'll get them." He reached in Walker's pocket for the truck keys, taking a second to put a reassuring hand on his partner's back, then handed his set of keys over too.

"Let's go," Dolan ordered.

Trivette cringed as four men roughly picked Walker up. The injured Ranger let out a groan that sent a shudder of helplessness through Trivette. They were put in a van, then transported to a house, not allowed to talk during the drive. Once inside the house, the Rangers were locked in a small room with no windows. Trivette found a light switch and flipped it on. Walker flinched at the sudden brightness, and Trivette took that to be a good sign. Reflexes were still responsive.

"Walker?"

"Yeah," his partner replied. He attempted to sit up.

"You'd better stay put, partner." Trivette didn't know where to touch him. He finally took the arm that Walker held close to his body, but backed off immediately when Walker moaned.

"Oh geez--"

"My arm's broken," Walker said through the pain.

"Among other things," Trivette answered.

"Humor again?" Walker observed.

"Yeah, it worked out so well the first time."

"This isn't your fault," Walker groaned. He put out the elbow of his other arm. "Help me up, will ya."

There was no use in arguing. Trivette helped him to a sitting position as gently as he could. Walker leaned back against the wall, his face twisted in pain. He hurt everywhere, but viewing Trivette's face was almost as painful.

"Trivette, this isn't your fault."

"I know that. . . somewhere inside I know that." He scanned the room for materials to make an arm splint, but there was nothing. Red welts were rising through the tears in Walker's shirt. "Let me check your ribs for breaks."

Walker made a sound, a cross between a moan and a chuckle. His hand stopped Trivette. "I think that's a given."

Trivette nodded. "Yeah." He found a bandanna in his jacket pocket. "At least I can do this." He gingerly held the bandanna to the bleeding bottle gash on the side of his partner's head.

They were quiet for a few moments, then Trivette looked at the gash.

"I didn't know a head this hard would bleed so much." Walker opened one eye and aimed it at the black man. "Trivette?" "Yes?"

"This sudden need of yours to crack jokes is puzzling me."

"Want me to stop?"

Walker closed the eye. "No."

"Okay." Trivette tried to think of something funny, but nothing came to mind. His partner needed medical attention, they were being held hostage, and he was expected to perform some favor for the BFB tomorrow. The situation wasn't what he'd call hilarious. He suddenly felt like he owed Walker an explanation.

"Dolan knew my father. He told me some things."

"Were they things you wanted to know?"

"Yes and no. But I can't stop wondering.

Walker gazed at his partner with concern. "Wondering what?"

"What my dad would think of me now, the man I've become."

Walker nodded. "I think about that too."

Trivette was pensive. "You know, in a way I think it must have been easier for me. I never really knew my father, so when he was out of the picture, it wasn't so different. But you, your dad was ripped away from you. Your whole world must have crashed down around you that day."

Walker again nodded, his eyes focused on the far wall as the memory of that terrible day replayed in his head.

"It doesn't matter when or how it happens, Trivette. It hurts just the same."

Trivette sighed deeply, then thought about Walker's statement. "How can you wonder what your father would think of you? You're a legend."

Walker shook his head. "My father was a very peaceful man. He'd never condone violence. I've gone out of my way to master the skills of all sorts of violence."

"But you use those skills to make peace, Walker. You save lives with what you do. You can't tell me your father would frown on that."

Walker considered Trivette's words -- they were the same words he'd thought many times, but to hear it spoken out loud, and by another person was reaffirming. He started to speak but waited as a stab of pain crossed his chest. It was getting harder to breathe, but he didn't want to alarm Trivette.

"You don't believe that bullshit Dolan was saying about betraying your race, do you?"

"No, it's not that. It's just that. . . I wonder how I'd have turned out if he had been there when I was growing up. Would he have been a good influence or bad? Would he have even liked me?"

"I believe you're born with a basic personality," Walker began, pausing for breath, "and maybe he could have influenced you some, but not enough to change who you are and what you are now."

Trivette chuckled without humor. "And what's that?"

"The best," Walker said quietly yet with impact.

The black man looked up from the hands he'd been staring at, meeting the white man's sincere gaze and slight nod. Words failed him.

Walker suddenly took in a sharp breath and held it as pain rippled through him.

"Walker?" Trivette's hands were on his shoulders. "Walker, breathe!" He pulled his partner forward and rubbed his back. "Come on Walker, take a breath."

The spasm eased and Walker took in a gasp of air. Trivette, letting out a relieved sigh, gently guided him down on his side. He rested Walker's head on his leg.

"Hang in there, partner."

Walker forced himself to find enough breath to speak. "Trivette, Dolan was very wrong. If your father knew you like I do, he'd be the proudest man in the world."

Trivette felt a smile forming, and suddenly he didn't care all that much about what his father would think. It was those around him whose opinions mattered, his friends' and especially his partner's.

"Thanks, Walker," he said softly.

Trent rushed into the Ranger office, finding Alex, C.D. and a crew of Rangers gathered around a desk.

"Trent!" Alex exclaimed. "Have you seen Walker or Jimmy?"

"That's why I'm here," Trent answered. "They used the gym last night, but when I got there this morning, it looked like there'd been a huge fight. Everything's torn up, there's glass and blood on the floor. I was checking to see if they're okay."

"They're missing," C.D. reported. "No one's seen them since they left here yesterday. They're not at their homes and the vehicles are gone."

Mark Sheridan looked at Trent. "Let's get a forensics unit to your gym and see what we can come up with."

Trent nodded and hurried out the door with Sheridan. Alex controlled the emotions that threatened to emerge, her face a rigid mask. C.D. took her in his arms.

"Don't fret yet, young lady. There may be a good explanation for all this."

"I know, C.D. You know, pretty soon I'm going to promise to take him for better or for worse. It seems like the 'worse' part will always be around, but I'm not backing out of the bargain."

"That's my girl," C.D. smiled, hugging her tightly.

Trivette had helped Walker sit up again during the night, finding it easier to breathe that way. They'd both finally fallen asleep side by side against the wall. Trivette awoke and looked at his watch --8:30. Even without a window he knew it was morning. He could hear birds outside. During the night he'd heard a nearby train rumble past and had noted the time. Any information he could gather about their location may come in useful.

He checked Walker. The red-bearded Ranger was breathing with a rasp, but the breaths seemed mostly regular with fair air exchange. His eyes, one swollen badly from the beating, were closed. Trivette felt anger and sadness at the same time. He knew Dolan had taken Walker from behind. That had to be where the gash came from, and the fact that none of Dolan's men seemed banged up at all confirmed that fact. Had they confronted his partner in a fair fight, they'd be at HQ right now doing the paperwork.

The doorknob jiggled as it was unlocked from the outside. Dolan and Goode walked in. Standing, Trivette threw them a piercing glare.

"The BFB needs funding," Dolan said without preamble.

"I gave at the office," Trivette responded.

"Trivette lost all my money," came a hoarse whisper from the floor.

Trivette looked at Walker, catching a glint from the half-open steel blue eyes, and suddenly the younger Ranger felt bolstered. He turned back to Dolan. "What do you want me to do?"

"There's a jewelry show going on at the Dallas Pavilion. The money must be kept on the premises, under heavy guard. A police officer could get inside with no problem.

Trivette was suddenly hit with a revelation. "That's what this was all about from the start. You set me up. You knew if I didn't go for your BFB shit, you'd just find some way to force me to do this."

"And you made it so easy," Dolan laughed. "You're so honor-bound and so loyal to him," he gestured to Walker. "You set yourself up."

Trivette made a sudden motion toward them, but Goode displayed a gun. "Don't!"

Dolan smiled as Trivette held up. "I'll be back with the equipment. You'll have a gun but it'll be unloaded. Of course, they won't know that. And you'll be wired, so if you say anything about us or our location, a bullet goes in your partner's brain. If you have thoughts of bolting. .

Goode pointed the gun at Walker and pretended to shoot. "Pow."

Dolan reached outside of the room and retrieved two bottles of Sunny Delight. He tossed them to Trivette. "I'll be back in two minutes."

They left, locking the door behind them. Trivette took a bottle of juice to Walker and gave him a sip.

"They must know we're missing by now, but they won't have any idea where to look."

Walker nodded, then pushed away the juice. "Trivette, listen to me. They're going to kill us anyway, you know that." He took a few breaths. "As soon as you're inside the Pavilion, tell somebody what's going on."

“No.”

"Trivette--"

The younger Ranger leaned close to Walker and looked him square in the eye. "Forget it."

Walker had no strength to argue. He had known all along how Trivette would respond, but he'd had to try. The door opened again.

Trivette took Walker's hand and put the bottle in it. "Later," he smiled, and then was gone with Dolan.

Walker sighed, frustrated that it was out of his hands, angry to be so helpless. The juice bottle slipped out of his grip and fell to the floor.

Dolan and two men drove Trivette to the Pavilion, wiring him on the way and arming him with an empty gun. They provided a duffel bag for the money.

Trivette considered his options. As he'd told Walker, bolting was out of the question. He'd get inside and take what money he could. But if he had to pull his gun, and if the guards pulled theirs and shot him, the plan would fail and Goode would kill Walker. Now Trivette saw the true genius of Dolan's plan. Several of the men at the BFB meeting who had walked out had informed the authorities of the group, had expressed concern that a Texas Ranger named Trivette was a participant at the meeting. It would look like Trivette was pulling this robbery for the BFB.

Will they think Walker is involved too? Oh my God, what if I screw up, and Goode kills Walker, dumps the body where no one will find it, and everyone assumes Walker split? Dear God, letting me fail is one thing, but letting Walker die and being thought of as a traitor and a dirty cop-- Oh Jesus, don't let it happen like that! Let me be the one disgraced, not him.

Trivette swallowed hard. Pull yourself together. This has to go perfectly!

The van pulled up to the Pavilion.

"We'll be right here with the engine running," Dolan said. "And remember, we can hear everything you say." He touched the receiver to the wire.

Trivette nodded and made his way inside the Pavilion. The heavy crowds milled around the displays of fine jewelry and watches. Guards were everywhere. Trivette made a beeline to the back office. Two officers, heavily armed, stood by the door. The Ranger flashed his badge.

"I need to speak with them inside."

The officers nodded and let him in, closing the door behind him. Three more police officers were in the room, hovering over two men who were counting and stacking money. With a shock, Trivette saw that one of the officers was Carlos.

"Jimmy!" Carlos erupted. "Where have you guys been? They've been looking for you and Walker all morning. You went fishing and forgot to call, right?"

Trivette gestured to the table. "I need those bags of money."

"Yeah, don't we all," Carlos laughed. He lost his grin when he realized Trivette wasn't smiling.

Trivette quickly pulled his gun and motioned the other two guards to stand with Carlos. "Drop your guns. You, fill this with the money." He tossed the duffel to the seated man.

"Jimmy?" Carlos said, astounded. "What's going on?"

Trivette motioned with his hand for Carlos to hold on, then pulled back his jacket to reveal the wire. He put a finger to his lips, then gestured for something to write on. Carlos, still dumbfounded, put paper and pen on the table and pushed it to the Ranger. Trivette took it, writing quickly as he issued commands for Dolan's benefit.

"Hurry up with that money. You guys keep your hands up or I'll shoot."

Once the money was loaded into the bag, Trivette backed toward the door. "Don't sound any alarms for 10 minutes or some of the people outside get hurt." He holstered his gun and exited the room, nodding casually to the two officers outside.

The guards inside grabbed their weapons and made for the door.

"Wait!" Carlos shouted. "You heard what he said. Give him his ten minutes." He picked up the piece of paper and read it, his eyes widening. Reaching for the phone, he called Ranger HQ. C.D. answered Walker's line.

"C.D., it's Carlos. Jimmy was just here. They're in big trouble. He could only write me a few clues."

"Hold on," C.D. said, "let me put you on speaker phone. Okay, go ahead."

Alex, Trent, and Sheridan gathered around C.D. and the phone.

"Jimmy's message says 'North Dallas, small ranch, white Ford van, train nearby at 2:40 a.m.'"

"That's all?" Sheridan said.

"Yes."

"Was Walker with him?" Alex asked.

"No, not that we saw."

"Well, what was Jimmy doing?" C.D. questioned.

"He was stealing about a million dollars," Carlos replied.

They stared at one another, then Sheridan sprang into action, striding over to the secretary.

"Jill, get every train schedule available for last night. I'm going to get us a chopper."

Dolan, Goode and their group were whooping and hollering, tossing money into the air. In the next room, Trivette knelt beside Walker.

"How'd it go?" Walker asked.

"I got a break. Carlos was there. I tried to leave a note, but I don't think they'll have time...

Walker nodded his understanding, then had a thought. "How many guns have you seen?"

"Just one."

"Trivette, we can take them."

"What? There's six or seven of them, Walker."

"I can help. My legs are fine, just help me up."

Trivette put a hand on his shoulder. "You've got a punctured lung, we both know that, and who knows what else. One punch and it'd be all over."

Walker tried to move anyway, but gave up when the pain overwhelmed him. He gasped for breath. "I hate it when you're right."

"How often is that?" Trivette answered with sarcasm.

"You can take them."

"Huh?"

"You're ready. I know you can take them."

"No, I can't. It's easy when you're beside me. I can't do it alone."

Walker gripped the black man's arm. "You can. I know it."

Trivette sighed. What choice did he have? He'd at least have to try. He wasn't going to let Dolan come in and just shoot them like fish in a barrel. He nodded at Walker.

From the helicopter, North Dallas was enormous. Train schedules had been studied and two areas were singled out as possibilities.

"It's still the needle in the haystack," Trent told Sheridan over the chopper phones. "What if the van is in a garage?"

"I know," Sheridan nodded, irritated.

Alex was suddenly calling on the radio. "The prints are in from the gym. There were a ton of them, but one set came back to George Goode, and DMV shows he has a white Ford van!"

"What's the address?" Trent asked, allowing hope to creep in.

"1412 Latina Street."

"That's North Dallas," Sheridan grinned. He tapped the pilot who nodded that he'd heard.

"Carlos is on his way by car," Alex told them. "Hurry, guys."

Trivette flattened himself against the wall as the door opened. As soon as Dolan was visible, Walker threw the bottle of juice against the far wall, drawing Dolan's attention long enough for Trivette to grab the hand holding the gun. As they struggled with the gun, Dolan's trapped finger pulled the trigger. All the bullets fired harmlessly into the ceiling. Goode and the others rushed into the room. Trivette pushed Dolan away and took up the stance he'd practiced so many times with Walker. The six men rushed him. Trivette threw the punches and kicks he'd perfected. Men fell backwards and crashed to the floor. One staggered near Walker. The Ranger threw his leg out to trip the man, causing him to smash his head into the wall and drop, unconscious. Trivette, taking his share of licks, stood his ground and took care of the other four in short order, turning his attention to Dolan, who had held back to see the outcome. Now he grappled with the older black man, easily delivering a few punches and tossing him against the wall. Dolan, struggled to get up.

"I lied to you, Jimmy. Your old man was a piece of lowlife. He'd roll a drunk for fifty cents."

"Shut up," Trivette growled.

"He walked out on you because he wanted to. And the mob money, he took it all and vanished while I went to prison. He's probably still in Jamaica, or South America."

Trivette turned his back on Dolan and headed for Walker.

"He never gave a damn about you, Jimmy. And who can blame him." Dolan pulled himself up.

Trivette continued to ignore him. He didn't care anymore about his father. What mattered now was getting help for his partner, a man who would never abandon him.

"Let's get out of here, Walker."

He suddenly felt a chill blow across the back of his neck. He spun around just as Walker called out a warning.

"Trivette!"

Dolan slashed at Trivette with a knife, tearing open a gash across his ribs. The knife struck again, finding its way between ribs. Trivette hardly felt it. He kicked the knife away and grabbed Dolan by the collar, slamming him against the wall. In a choke hold, Dolan began to gasp for air.

"I don't care what my father would think of me now," he barked, terrifying Dolan with the fury in his eyes. "What matters is what my friends think, and what I think." He continued to choke Dolan to the brink of unconsciousness, then threw the man down in disgust.

Touching his side, he pulled back a bloody hand, then crumbled beside Walker. "Oh man, partner, I'm ready to go home. You?"

Walker found a weary smile and nodded.

A helicopter buzzed low overhead, and minutes later the house was filled with police. Carlos and Trent found the partners side by side.

"Better get a med-evac," Carlos said to an officer in the hallway.

Trent looked at the beaten men on the floor and nodded his head in approval at Walker, but the Ranger shook his head.

"Trivette did it."

Trent viewed the smiling Trivette with amazement. "Remind me not to spar with you."

"Not today, anyway," the black Ranger murmured.

"I don't know what to believe now, Trivette told Walker. "Dolan told me two stories about my father. How do I know which one is true?"

Trivette, in a bathrobe, gingerly sat down in the chair beside Walker's hospital bed. The stitches pulled as he moved, but he was going home tomorrow and Walker wasn't, a fact that had put the senior Ranger in a sour mood.

"Does it matter now?" Walker wondered.

"Not really, but it'd be nice to have the final piece of the puzzle."

"Then I'd say your father walked out to protect you, and I think his son inherited his traits of honor and integrity."

Trivette smiled. "Thanks, Walker. And I think I'll choose to believe that version too."

Alex and C.D. strolled in.

"Cordell, the doctor is setting up a schedule with a physical therapist to get your arm back in order."

"Good," Trivette piped up. "It's got to be one hundred percent before I beat you in the ring."

"You couldn't beat me in a hundred years," Walker taunted.

"Get used to this," Trivette said, slapping the bed three times with his hand.

"I am used to it. I hear you do it all the time."

Alex snickered, then regained her composure. "There will be no tapping out, no sparring, no roughhousing for either of you until you're cleared by your doctors."

"She's no fun," Trivette griped.

"And she picks lousy movies," Walker added. "The cops never have search warrants."

"Wait a minute," Alex teased back, "we didn't have a search warrant when we raided Goode's house."

"I think there was enough probable cause," C.D. said, suddenly getting serious. "Jimmy, your note was a stroke of genius. It led us in the right direction."

“But Carlos said the fight was already over by the time they got there," Alex said.

Walker nodded. "You should have seen Trivette go at 'em. I couldn't lift a finger to help."

"I think you got a leg in there somewhere, partner. Must be that ligament thing again."

Alex frowned, not having a clue as to what the two Rangers were grinning about, but she shrugged it off, thankful for how it had ended.

"For better or for worse," she whispered, then leaned over to kiss her Ranger.

C.D. suddenly dabbed at his eyes and enveloped Trivette in a bear hug. "Jimmy, I'm just so doggone proud of you."

Walker, a warm smile on his face, caught Trivette's eye.

"Thanks, Big Dog," Trivette said softly. "That's what matters."

The End