Disclaimer: Not mine. Never will be. No money being made.
This story is part of a grouping of stories that are meant to be read in the following order:
First Impressions | Evening the Odds | Fate's Decision | A Hero's Mask | Mended Glasses
"Tell me again how we ended up with this babysitting job?" Buck asked for the hundredth time as JD positioned the wire under his lapel. "I mean since when do we work for the FBI? This isn't even our case," he continued to fuss.
"We probably wont receive any credit for it either," Nathan threw in as he was fitted for a wire.
"Will you two stop complaining," Chris said in an exasperated voice. Him and Vin had already been fitted with their wires and were now waiting on the other two. "Look I'm only gonna say this one more time. The FBI wanted some extra man power and Travis volunteered us. I had no control over it," he snapped.
"Extra man power," Buck mumbled under his breath. "All that means is that the FBI didn't want to have to pay their guys any overtime," he stated with a frown.
Vin shook his head and couldn't help but grin, "Quit your complaining. It anit like you have anything better to do." The sharpshooter's grin widened as the other agent flipped him off.
An hour later the four men pulled up in front of a brick building. With a frown Chris asked, "JD are sure about this address?"
"Yeah Chris. This is the address the FBI gave us," was JD's response through his ear piece.
"What's the matter Larabee don't you trust me?" another voice questioned.
Chris and the others each shook their heads no, but said, "It's not that. It's just that this doesn't look like any night club I've ever been to before." There were no neon or flashing lights. Nothing to even indicate that the building in front of them was a night club.
"That's because it's an exclusive club. Only a select few are allowed in," was the only explanation. "Listen real carefully here Larabee because I don't want any of your misfits missing this up," the voice went on to say earning him four one finger salutes. "You are here for one reason and one reason only..... observation. You and your men are not to interfere in any way."
"What if there's trouble?" Chris asked.
"There's no one in there who is not replaceable," was the reply.
"What about your man?"
"Does he know that," Vin wanted to know as he exchanged a worried look with Chris through the rearview mirror.
"Does it matter?" came through the wire. The voice belonged to Agent Henry Martin. Agent Martin didn't care what Larabee or his men thought of him or his tactics. In fact, the only thing he cared about right now was getting back home to Atlanta. The sooner his agent screwed up the better.
With only a look Chris silenced the others and with a shake of his head got out of the car. Running a hand through his hair he thought of all the other things he should be doing. First and foremost was finding an undercover agent. Chris would never have believed it would have been so hard to find one. He'd talked with several, but none of them had been what he was looking for.
When Judge Travis had approached him about forming this elite team Chris had been hesitant, but the more he thought about it the more it appealed to him. So he agreed on one condition - he picked his own team. The judge had quickly agreed. The first four hadn't been any problem at all. Him and Buck Wilmington had been friends for a long time and he'd trusted Vin Tanner and Nathan Jackson on sight. Josiah Sanchez was brought in based on a recommendation by Nathan. And then there was JD Dunn. JD was a computer and electronics genius. There wasn't anything he couldn't do with either. Plus, he was a damn fine shot and had been a member of the Boston Police Department. The only problems were his age and wide eyed innocence. JD may be twenty-four, but he looked about sixteen. That coupled with his innocence made him and the others a little hesitant about some of his duties. They didn't want JD becoming jaded like the rest of them.
The six of them formed Team 7 and in the last six months had become as close as family. And yet, there was something missing. Chris had a strange feeling that the missing piece would be found in their undercover man - if they ever managed to find him.
Stepping through the doors Chris immediately pushed all thoughts from his mind, except doing his job. Narrowing his eyes the black clad Federal Agent surveyed the room before finally letting his eyes rest on a group of men gathered at one table. Making their way to the bar they ordered a drink and then turned and leaned back against it. Looking at the group to the right of them Chris wondered which one of them was the agent.
Buck had his beer almost to his mouth when he noticed a raven haired beauty making eyes at him. Well now, he thought, maybe this night wouldn't be so bad after all. Buck winced as he felt a sharp elbow in his side and turned toward the culprit and remembered that he had a job to do.
Nathan could tell right off that Buck's mind was wondering and gave him a quick jab to help him focus. Looking around at the bar he frowned and imagine for the life of him what made some people crave this kind of life style.
Vin sipped his beer and watched the group in front of him. They appeared to be placing bets on something, but he couldn't tell what until he saw one of the men toss back a drink only to be offered another. There was something about the man doing the drinking that held Vin's attention. Looking more closely at him he didn't notice anything out of the ordinary about him. The man was neatly groomed with medium length brown hair, but other than having a gold tooth there was nothing unusual about him. Vin watched as the man vigorously nodded his head in agreement to something causing an older man to get to his feet and tack something on the dartboard and then return to the table.
The four agents jumped and almost went for their guns as a gun was suddenly fired in rapid secession. Seeing that it was only the older man firing at the dartboard they relaxed just a little.
Then to their surprise the smaller drunk man got unsteadily to his feet and pulled a gun from under his coat and fired at a new target that was now pinned to the dartboard. Everyone ducked as the first shot went wild and shattered a mirror. The older man walked up and slapped the younger one on the back and said with a Texas accent, "That's to bad mister. Go on and give it another try."
Ezra Standish or Evan Messenger, as was his current name, staggered to his feet and once again quickly surveyed the room. Stepping away from the table he looked at the agents across from him. Ezra just knew they were agents. Not FBI mind you, but Federal agents just the same and if he had to guess he'd say - ATF. There was an air about them that just screamed authority. Especially the one in black; he was surrounded in it. Amateurs, he thought with a smile that showed his gold tooth.
He usually loathed this part of a case, but for some reason Ezra was enjoying himself tonight. Maybe it had something with his audience. Well boys here's a little lesson in finesse courtesy of his mother and the Federal government.
"Do ya really think I should?" was the slurred southern accented response.
"Sure. And just to so how much faith I have in ya let's make it double or nothing," he suggested with a smirk.
The green eyes blinked several times before he gave a nod and with an unsteady aim fired and hit his target then quickly emptied the gun putting the four remaining shots in the same hole. Then with a fancy twirl he placed the gun back in its holster.
Chris just did keep the grin off his face as he realized that the younger man had out conned the older one. Looking at his friend and teammate he realized that Vin knew as well.
"My, my. How astonishing. Never done that before," he drawled with a wide smile showing his gold tooth.
Reaching for the money Ezra suddenly found a very large knife preventing him.
"You sure sobered up quickly mister," the man with the knife said with a very prominent Texas accent.
"Must be the dessert air," Ezra replied matter a factly.
Even if the others had wanted to they had no time to respond as the cocky southerner was suddenly backed into the wall. Vin started reaching for his gun when the smaller man grabbed the man holding the knife and twisted his arm forcing him to release it and then hit him knocking him to the floor. Then with the knife still in hand cut a rope dropping a large banner on the rest sending them to the floor.
Now that's one slippery son of a bitch, Chris thought to himself clearly impressed with the way the man handled himself. Catching a movement to the southerner's right he started to yell a warning, but the southerner had already fired a shot from a gun that came from his sleeve. Still holding the pea shooter he walked back over to the table holding the money and snatched it up.
"You only got one shot left in that popgun," the Texan said.
"Well then you best discuss amongst yourselves which one of you is going to die," Ezra said in a serious tone backing further away and closer to the door.
"Evan don't be stupid," one of the men warned.
"What are you attempting to suggest?" the southerner questioned trying to buy him some time.
"That you're out numbered," another man replied.
Sparing a glance at the agents in beside him Ezra made eye contact with the long haired one silently telling him to be ready and suddenly grinned causing the others around him to question his sanity. Then without missing a beat said, "Well sir I abhor gambling and as such leave nothing to chance." And before anyone could react, except the four agents, Ezra suddenly shot the fuse box which was hidden behind a picture sending the club into total darkness.
Ezra quickly holstered his gun as he ran outside only pausing to wave at the van across the street before disappearing around the corner where he waited until the crowd exited the building and he could mingled with them and make his escape.
Vin hurried to catch up with the southerner, but got cut off by some people leaving the night club. Even though he couldn't reach him he saw him stop to wave at someone. Looking across the street the only thing Vin saw was their surveillance van, but surely he wasn't waving at them. Turning his attention back he swore as he saw that the man was gone.
Once outside he carefully looked around, but didn't see a damn thing. Shit, he muttered under his breath.
"See him?" Chris questioned as he stepped up beside the younger man.
"No and this crowd makes it impossible to get any leads," Vin said. "Do ya reckon he was our man?"
Chris shrugged and replied with a smile, "Don't know, but I hope so."
"A mind like that on the wrong side would make our jobs a hell of a lot harder," Vin said with a grin and slapped the older man on the back.
Seeing his other two men walk up Chris asked, "Well?"
"Sorry Chris, but we couldn't get past the crowd," Nathan told him.
Buck just shrugged his shoulders and with a wink and a smile pulled several pieces of paper out of his pocket and said, "At least the evening wasn't a total lost." Causing the others to laugh.
Meanwhile Ezra safely made his way to his hotel and once in his room waited for the phone call he knew was coming. Agent Henry Martin was nothing if not predictable. Hearing his cell phone ring he click it on and didn't say a word just listened for a couple of seconds as Martin spouted off something and then laid the phone down and started removing the gun from around his waist, his derringer sling, and then his shirt before picking it back up. He froze as he heard the other man say, "You'll be lucky if you even have a job after this. Aren't you going to say something? Even try to defend yourself?" After several silent moments passed he heard the other man say, "I'll see once I get back to Atlanta."
Ezra listened to the deal tone for a couple of minutes before clicking it off and setting it down on the dresser. Running a weary hand through his hair he hung his head and smirked at the thought of defending himself. Why bother? Martin and the others had labeled him a dirty cop the moment his mother had given him that damned car. He didn't even like the stupid thing. He liked his BMW better, but as usual he wasn't given a choice. Maude had just taken control like she always did.
Getting to his feet he walked over to the closet and removed his suitcase and laid it on the bed, opened it and removed a well worn pair of jeans and a George Strait t-shirt. Quickly changing his clothes Ezra re-packed his suitcase and placed his guns, derringer rig, and phone in another case and called for a cab then headed for the door.
Agent Martin walked up to the surveillance van and opened the sliding door and demanded, "Agent Dunn hand me the tape."
JD looked at Josiah and then Chris as he walked up behind the other agent.
"Don't look at them. I'm the agent in charge," Martin reminded the younger man. "Now hand me the tape," he repeated holding out his hand.
With a sigh JD did as he was told and handed the tape over.
Agent Martin looked at Chris with a smirk on his face and said, "It's been a pleasure working you..... boys." Then turned on his heals and got in his car and left.
"What happened in there?" JD finally asked. To which the ladies' man quickly responded. The electronics expert frowned and asked, "Hey Josiah? Reckon it was the same guy that waved at us?"
Josiah scratched his chin and grinned, "From the sound of it." Then seeing the confusion on the others faces he explained.
"What are ya thinking about Cowboy?" Vin asked the quiet leader.
"I was thinking that I just found our undercover man," Chris grinned.
"Here this might help," JD offered and tossed his boss an unmarked tape. "What?" he questioned at their grins, "he never asked for the copy."
The next morning as Chris Larabee patiently waited for the elevator to come to a stop he thought about the previous night. Instead of going home he went back to the office and did some checking and discovered his new undercover agent's name was Ezra J. Standish. Once he gotten a name the rest was easy. Standish was an only child whose only next of kin was his mother. Maude Richmond Standish had way to many other names to remember. Anyway the man was an excellent marksman and pretty good with electronics. But what impressed Chris the most was his undercover work. In spite of his total disregard for authority and pungence for working alone and taking unnecessary chances Standish had been able to infiltrate some of the dangerous crime organizations across the country and bring about their down fall. Atlanta may question his loyalty but could not question his ability. After reading what he could find on the man Chris was determined to get the missing link that would finally make his team whole.
By the time he'd finished his fact finding mission it was to late to go home so Chris just stretched out on the sofa in his office, but discovered he was to keyed up to sleep. So he just lay there thinking about how to best approached the situation. Chris had just gotten off the phone with Atlanta when the others arrived and had discovered that Standish's supervisor and Agent Martin were suppose to meet with Federal Judge Orrin Travis.
Stepping off the elevator Chris walked right up to Shirley, the Judge's secretary and asked if the FBI agents were still with the judge and at her nod he walked right past her and straight into the office to deal with the only obstacles standing between him and his new undercover agent. He ignored Agent Martin and tossed a folder containing a cassette tape onto the desk.
"Agent Larabee what is the meaning of this!" Travis demanded an explanation.
"I've found my new undercover agent," Chris said.
"Oh no you don't Agent Larabee. Standish is our fish to fry and you can't have him," Agent Martin boasted from his seat.
"Oh really?" he questioned then reached for the tape inside the folder. "May I?" he asked Travis and preceded to play the tape.
Senior Agent Richard Monroe raised one eye brow and looked at his agent in question as he waited for a response. "Care to explain this tape?"
Henry swore under his breath and shot Larabee an accusing look. "I didn't mean it," was all he said.
Chris smirked at the men and said, "Now seeing that this tape could prove very damaging to the FBI, I suggest you reconsider and transfer Agent Ezra J. Standish to my team. Permanently."
Henry jumped to his feet and snarled, "Fine. You want him you can have him." Then grinned and said, "A word of warning. Standish doesn't play well with others and is a maverick in every since of the word. He has no respect for authority and he's dirty." Henry scratched his chin and continued, "But you know I'll bet he'll fit in real well with the rest of your misfits."
"You know that's the second time you've called my men misfits. Don't do it again," Chris warned. "And Standish isn't dirty. That car is easily explained to anyone who cared enough to check," he told them.
"Starting over will do Ezra good. He needs a fresh start," Richard suggested getting to his feet and walked around the office before saying, "Ezra has a lot of potential and if you can earn his respect and more importantly......... hold onto it; he'll give his life for you."
Henry stared at his supervisor in shock and stated, "You sound as if you still believe in him."
"Not that I owe you any explanation, but yes I do. In fact, I always have," he sighed. "I let the rumors cloud my original impression of him. Ezra's a good man and a good agent. He's proven that by not giving into the status quo and quitting," Richard went on to say. "However, I do have to agree with Henry about him being a maverick. He takes way to many unnecessary chances. And Ezra has no faith in his fellow man and will not take anything you say at face value. So if you really want him as part of your team I'll gladly sign the transfer papers."
"I want him," Chris stated without hesitation. "Judge?"
Orrin Travis looked at his best agent and shrugged and asked, "Are you sure you want another Tanner? I mean that man already takes more than his share of unnecessary chances. I guess what I'm really trying to ask is if you can handle two?"
The black clad agent frowned as if the judge had just insulted him. "I can," he told them straight out and left no room for doubt.
The Judge just nodded and then called Shirley in and got the transfer papers started. "While we get started on these why don't you call Agent Standish in so we can take of all the signatures today," Travis suggested.
Agent Martin just nodded and pulled out his cell phone and called at hotel. "Room 507 please," he asked. "What? Checked out? Last night? Ok thanks for your trouble," he said and disconnected the phone. "Standish is gone. Checked out last night," Martin explained.
Chris didn't like the look in the other man's eyes. "Where you think he went?"
"My guess is Atlanta," Henry told him. "But who knows. He's real good at disappearing. Sure you still want him. He's a lot more trouble than he's worth."
"Yes. Besides I'm used to trouble. It's my middle name," Chris stated.
Chris paused just inside the outside office area and watched his team. Nathan was on the phone and appeared to be doodling on a pad, which meant he was talking to his girlfriend Rain. Josiah was reading some book Chris couldn't even begin to pronounce. JD was surfing the net. Buck had his feet prompted on the corner of his desk and was tossing a baseball up and down. And Vin. Chris frowned as he focused on the sharpshooter. Vin had his head resting on his arms and looked to be fast asleep. Shaking his head he thought to himself, no wonder they're called misfits.
Just the clearing of his throat had them jumping to attention. All except Vin. So Chris walked over and very rudely kicked his chair causing the younger man to jump to his feet. Walking over to Josiah he handed him a file and said, "This is our new undercover agent. His name is Ezra Standish and he'll be here within two weeks."
Looking over Josiah's shoulders JD called out, "Hey that's the guy that waved at us."
Josiah closed the file and handed it over to Nathan. "Where you off to Chris?" he asked seeing the man leave his office carrying a small travel case.
"Atlanta," Chris replied. "Josiah you're in charge while I'm gone. And fellas I want some real work done. No more playing or personal phone calls or sleeping at work. What if I had been Travis? This is not the kind of impression we want to make."
Nathan frowned as he read some the reprimands this Standish had received. "Humm Chris are you sure this is the guy you want? I mean have you read this stuff?" the ex-Army medic asked.
"Yes Nathan I've read it several times and the more I read it the more it sounds like some other files I've read in the last eight months," he said with a knowing look.
"This says he's been accused of being on the take?" Nathan pushed.
"I don't know Chris he took that money last night," he reminded him.
"Hell Nathan anyone of us would have done the same. Besides he won it," Vin spoke up for the first time.
"He conned those people....."
"Oh and they weren't about to take advantage of a man they believed was drunk?" Vin countered.
"I know what you're saying Nathan and I understand your concern. But I get the feeling that this guy is just what this team needs," Chris tried to explain. "I gotta try. He'll get the same chance I gave each of you. Trust me. I know what I'm doing."
After checking into his hotel Chris felt very tired. The lack of sleep from last night had finally caught up with him and as he eyed the bed he started undressing and decided to wait and contact Ezra first thing in the morning. Kicking off his boots and pants he then fell across the bed clad only in his underwear and fell asleep as soon as his head touched the pillow.
The next morning the figure moved a fraction of an inch as sound began to penetrate the fog he was surrounded in. Repeating words his mother taught him at an early age the figure told himself to ignore it and it told go away. Ezra swore as the sound persisted. Savagely throwing the covers back, he entertained the thought that once again his mother was WRONG. Staggering into the living room Ezra paused as the pounding on the door suddenly stopped. He waited a moment just in case. Then just as he turned away it started up again.
Stalking to the door he fumbled with the lock and tore the door open and snapped, "I don't care what you're soliciting -- I DON'T WANT ANY." Then slammed the door shut. Only to open it again as the pounding started again. "What!!" he snarled. "What? What do you want? Tell me?" Ezra waited all of five seconds before saying, "times up." And again slammed the door shut.
Chris stared at the door and almost started laughing. Apparently Standish was not a morning person. Then with a shrug started knocking again. Then tensed as he heard two doors opening. Standish's and his neighbor from across the hall.
"Look I'm an FBI agent and ...." his voice trailed off as recognition dawned. "Are you lost? Denver's west of the Mississippi," he mumbled. Then frowned as he noticed his noisy neighbor standing just inside her door watching them.
"Is there a problem Mr. Standish? Do you want me to call the police?" the neighbor asked.
"That wont be necessary ma'am," Chris answered. "I am the police."
"Is Mr. Standish in trouble with the law?" she wondered.
"No ma'am," the black clad man said.
Ezra was only half listening to the conversation and suddenly shivered and with a shrug realized that he was standing in nothing but his boxers. He straightened up when he heard the man say that he wasn't in any trouble. He frowned as he noticed that man in front of him was once again dressed entirely in black.
"Ahem," he said getting the blond man's attention. "Did I hear you state that there wasn't a problem?"
"Yes," Chris replied.
"So then this is not an official visit."
"No. Not ex.....," Chris started to say.
Ezra nodded his head and stepped back and said, "Well then I suggest you come back in three or four hours." And closed the door.
Chris Larabee was starting to get annoyed. He hadn't traveled half way across the country just to have a door slammed in his face. So again he pounded on the door. Chris pressed his ear to the door as he heard a muffled 'what'.
"Look Mr. Standish since you're already up can we talk," Chris said through the door. "It wont take but a few moments then you can go back to bed," he continued. He quickly stepped back as the door suddenly opened and he watched as Standish laid down on the couch. Closing the door behind him he looked around the sparsely furnished room and noticed some packed boxes against the wall. Maybe Martin had already spoken with him.
"I'm Chris Larabee an ....
"Agent with the ATF. Yes I know," Ezra supplied.
"How?" Chris asked with a frown.
"Elementary my dear Mr. Larabee," the southerner replied. "I picked the four of you out fairly easily."
"Yes Mr. Larabee, four. You, the black man, the one with the mustached, and the long haired gentleman," Ezra told him.
Chris didn't know what to say, but was even more impressed. "How?" he repeated.
"It's my job Mr. Larabee," he said. "Look you don't strike me as the type to beat around the bush. So why don't you just come to the point and tell me why you're here."
Shaking his head Chris sat down in one the chairs and got right to the point, "I wanted to talk to you about your transfer."
Transfer? Ezra silently repeated. Did he say transfer? Removing his arm from across his eyes he sat up and repeated, "Transfer? What transfer?"
"Agent Martin didn't contact you?" the blond man asked.
"No," he replied. Getting to his feet he walked across the room and stood in front of the window.
That lying son of a bitch, Chris silently cursed the other agent. He should have known better than to trust him. Getting to his feet he wondered, "Do you have any coffee?"
"I don't know," was the reply. "I haven't been here much lately. So I honestly don't know." Ezra turned back around and asked, "Just where am I being transferred to?"
"To me and my team," he told him.
"You? But you're an ATF agent and I'm FBI," Ezra couldn't believe it. Not only was he being transferred, but he was being demoted as well. Why do these things keep happening to me, he silently asked himself. Maybe he should have listened to his mother and just left, but then again listening to his mother is what had gotten him into this fix. Her and that damned car. It always comes back to the car.
Chris watched the younger man's face to try and gauge his reaction, but the man gave nothing away. Reaching into his pocket and pulled out a small cigar and was about to place it in his mouth when he saw Ezra looking at him with one raised eye brow. Oh the cigar gets a reaction, but having to transferring doesn't. "Do you mind?" he asked indicating the cigar.
"Yes I do."
Ok. No coffee and now no cigar. This morning was turning out to be a real dozy.
Ezra straightened his shoulders as a thought just occurred to him, "You're based in Denver aren't you?"
Chris almost grinned at his expression of distaste. "Don't worry Ezra it's not so bad in Denver. You'll get used to the cold," he told him. "Look they're five other members in my team. I have a profiler, an ex-Army medic, an electronics specialist, a surveillance expert, and a weapons expert. The only person missing is an undercover specialist."
"And you want me."
The blond just nodded.
"What if I don't want to go to.....Denver?" he inquired.
"Sorry, but you don't have a choice. It Denver or nothing. For some reason the FBI doesn't seem inclined to give you another chance," he pointed out.
Another chance? Ezra silently repeated. Hell they'd never really given him a chance from the start. But they should have at least given him a choice. "Well then in that case it looks as if you've got yourself an undercover agent," he said without emotion.
"I never had any doubts," Chris boasted just to see what his react would be, but was disappointed when he gave nothing away.
Smug son of a bitch aren't you? Well we'll just see how long that lasts. "Well Mr. Larabee if you're done ruining my day you can leave now," the southerner said motioning for the door.
"Fine. Here are the numbers where I can be reached and a list of some local real state agents that should be able to help you locate someplace to live," the black clad man said handing him some papers from his jacket pocket.
Ezra quickly scanned the pages and mumbled a thank you.
"Do have any questions?"
"Well then I'll see you in two weeks," and held out his hand and waited.
Ezra gave serious thought to just ignoring the offered hand, but reconsidered as this was going to be his new boss. So with a small smile on his face he clasped the hand and gave it a brief shake before saying, "Two weeks it is."
"Be sure to call me if you need anything," Chris offered as he walked to the door. He suddenly got the feeling that even though he was getting the agent he wanted he had some how lost some precious ground with the younger man.
"Of course," he responded automatically and closed the door on him before he could say anything else. After locking the door Ezra walked over to the desk a pull out the phonebook and dialed the first moving company he came to. Then called his favorite airline, "Yes ma'am I need to make a reservation to Denver......... For this afternoon........ One way."
A week later Ezra was just returning from town when the delivery truck pulled in behind him so he hurried and opened the door then stood back holding it open for them. The only furniture he brought with him from Atlanta was an overstuffed sleeper sofa and his entertainment center. It was nothing to expensive just a couple of recliners and two brand new bedroom suits with an extra soft mattress for him.
Standing in the living room Ezra surveyed his new h...... his new ........living quarters. He couldn't quite make himself say home not just yet. Anyway looking around his new place he almost smiled at the way it was all coming together. Once he'd arrived in Denver he found him a hotel and then contracted a real estate agent, but not one that Larabee had recommended. Ezra told the agent exactly what he wanted and he chose the second townhouse he was shown. It was a small neighborhood and he had only one close neighbor which was a nice bonus.
Ezra jumped as he felt something rub against his leg. Looking down his eyes widened as a small Calico cat sitting at his feet. Reaching down he cautiously scratched it's head and then read it's collar's tag. "Well hello Patches," Ezra stated. "Are you lost?" he asked and walked over to the still open door and looked out as if trying to decide which house the cat belonged to. "Look Patches you can't stay here. You have to go home," he told her, to which the cat just rolled over onto it's back as if he hadn't heard him.
Once the delivery men left Ezra walked over to his stereo and put in his favorite CD and walked back to his room as George Strait started to play. He frowned at the amount of light in the room and was glad he had someone coming tomorrow to take care of it. Turning he did a quick little jig to avoid stepping on the cat and swore as he walked over to the door and out to his car to retrieve his purchases. Which he merely tossed them on the couch before going back outside to put his car into the garage.
The garage was the main reason he'd chosen this place. It had the kind of windows where you could see out, but not in. So he could pretend he wasn't home and no one would be the wiser. Walking through the kitchen Ezra went into the living room and emptied the bags. Which consisted of five sets of flannel sheets, three sets of regular sheets for the guest room, and four alarm clocks. Picking up one of the clocks Ezra frowned at the damn thing. He hated alarm clocks. He preferred to wake up on his own. He gotten four because he had a tenancy to throw them. The damn things just had no bounce in them.
Hearing scratching Ezra looked up and saw that the cat wanted out. Opening the door he watched as Patches ran over to the house next door. Closing and locking the door Ezra turned back and set about straightening up the place.
Hearing a knock on the door Chris called out, "Come on in Nathan."
Opening the door the ex-Army medic asked, "How'd ya know it was me?"
"Cause you're the only one that ever knocks and waits to be asked in," Chris replied with a small smile.
"Oh. Here's that report you wanted," Nathan said laying a file on the table.
"Hey Chris you hear anything from that Standish guy?" Buck asked pushing open the door with Vin, JD, and Josiah behind him.
Nathan grinned as he watched his team mates and friends just took over the office. Buck and JD quickly claimed the two chairs in front of the desk. Vin walked over to the window and leaned against the wall and Josiah was trying to get JD to get up and let him have the chair.
"Sorry Josiah, but I was here first,"JD pointed out.
"Don't you have any respect for your elders?" Josiah questioned.
"Fine," JD said with a sigh and got up and walked over to stand by Vin.
Chris just shook his head and said, "No Buck I haven't. Not yet."
"Have you called Atlanta?" Josiah wondered.
"Yeah the number's been disconnected."
"So he's on his way. Right?" JD offered.
The blond team leader merely shrugged, but couldn't help but remember what Agent Martin said about Standish being real good at disappearing.
It was around ten o'clock the following Friday and Chris and the others had just returned into the office after meeting with Judge Travis. The man in black heard his phone ranging and he rushed to answer it only to have it stop ringing as he flicked the light on. Shit, he swore under his breath. Every time the phone rang this week he hoped it was Standish, but so far Chris hadn't heard a damn thing from him.
Stepping back into the main office area Chris asked, "Why the hell hasn't he called yet?"
The others could only shrug as their outside line began to ring. JD quickly picked up and said, "ATF Team 7 can I help?" The others saw their youngest begin to grin and figured it was his girlfriend Casey until they heard him say, "May I ask who's calling? Ok hold on one moment please." JD pressed the hold button and said with the grin still on his face, "Ezra Standish is on line one."
Chris gave JD a quick nod and snatched up the receiver and pressed the speaker phone button and said, "Well it's about damned time you called Standish. Where the hell have you been?"
Across town Ezra frowned as he listened to the person on the other end, "I've merely picked up my life and moved across the country. How's your week been?"
"Don't get smart with me Standish. You were suppose to call me when you got to town," he pointed out.
"Excuse me, but I distinctly remember you saying to call if I required any assistance. And I did not," the southern countered.
Chris frowned as he tried to remember exactly what he'd told the man. "It was understood," he said to cover himself.
"Only by you."
"Fine. So why are you calling? Do you need something?" Chris asked.
"No. I merely wanted to inform you that I am all moved in and that I will see you on Monday," Ezra said.
"And you couldn't do this earlier in the week?"
"I wasn't settled until now." Ezra heard what he thought was laughter in the background and realized Larabee had him on the speaker phone. "Gentlemen," he said in greeting to the other men. "Tell me gentlemen is he always like this?"
"Yes he is," Josiah replied with a grin while the others nodded in agreement.
"Like what?" Chris wanted to know.
"Sorry Mr. Larabee no time to explain someone's at the door," Ezra stated and they could all hear the smile in his voice. "I'll see you on Monday," then hung up.
At 8:45 a.m. on the following Monday Ezra Standish stepped out of the elevator and made his way toward his new teammates. He paused about ten feet away from the door and surveyed the odd assortment of men inside. Looking at each of them Ezra could very easily determine who was who from the information he'd been able to gather. Josiah Sanchez and JD Dunn were the easiest. The profiler was the oldest and the electronics man was the youngest. Nathan Jackson, Buck Wilmington and Vin Tanner he recognized from the night club; the ex-Army medic, the surveillance man, and sharp shooter.
Well what are you waiting for, he asked himself, go on. For some reason Ezra felt like turning tail and getting the hell out of there. He got the feeling that these men would be like nothing he had ever encountered before. But Ezra Standish was no quitter. Straightening his tie Ezra then squared his shoulders and stepped through the doors to his new life.
Chris walked out of his for what seemed like the hundredth time that morning and still no Standish. It was almost nine o'clock. He was beginning to get worried that maybe something had happened. Movement by the door caught his attention and stopped him in his tracts for there leaning in the doorway was his missing agent. I wonder how long he's been there and more importantly why the hell hadn't one of the others noticed him, Chris thought to himself.
"Where the hell have you been?" he snapped.
JD's eyes widened because he'd just returned from the men's room. "Restroom," he mumbled and hurried to his desk and got back to work not seeing the man in the doorway.
"What? No JD I wasn't talking to you," Chris said.
"Then just who are you talking to? Cause we've all been right here," Nathan asked.
The team leader threw his hands in the air. Some crack team this is turning out to be, he thought to himself. Then motioned toward the door with his hand.
Ezra grinned as five heads turned as one. "Gentlemen," he greeted them. Stepping into the room he saw that Chris Larabee was waiting for an answer to his question. Looking at his watch Ezra inquired, "Am I late?"
"We start work at 7:30."
"In the morning???" Ezra questioned. Then looked over at the others and asked, "Is he serious?"
"'Fraid so pard," Vin answered.
"Does that apply to everyone?"
Chris just nodded.
"7:30?" the southerner rolled his green eyes. "And here I thought I was early."
"I'll let it slide this time, but be here on time in the morning," the man in black said.
"I'll try, but I'll make no promises," Ezra returned.
"So the tooth's real," Buck commented.
Ezra just nodded. After the introductions were made he followed Chris to accounting to take care of some paperwork.
Ezra did make it to work on time a couple of times. On Friday morning he stumbled into the office and without a word flopped down at his desk and laid his head down.
"Morin' Ez. You want some coffee," Vin called out.
The southerner opened one eye at the nickname, but only asked, "Who made it?"
Vin grinned and said, "I did."
Ezra groaned and replied, "No thank you."
"Awww come on Ez don't you like real coffee," the sharp shooter teased.
"Real coffee yes. Your coffee no," he returned. He usually brought his own coffee, but hadn't taken the time to stop. He'd already been late six of the ten days he'd been working here and didn't want to push his luck.
"Well if you think you can do better you're welcome to try," Vin challenged. The tall lanky Texan had been trying to get a reaction out of the southerner for the past two weeks, but so far all he'd been able to manage was an occasional smile.
"Oh no, Mr. Tanner. You go right ahead." Never try to con a con, Ezra grinned to himself.
Josiah laughed to himself as he listened to them. Don't give up now Vin, he silently encouraged. Ezra just might give you what you want just to shut you up and then you'll have him hooked and the rest of us can help you reel him in. Well him and JD would. He wasn't so sure about Buck or Nathan. Those two would more than likely cut the line and let him sink. Josiah understood Nathan's reluctance. After all, the healer lived by a strong moral code and took exception to Ezra's sometimes self-centered attitude. Now Buck he wasn't all that sure about. Ezra had done nothing to the easy going man. At least, not as far as he knew.
And Chris. Well one never knew with him. Ezra had managed to anger the team leader to such a degree that only Vin had managed so far.
Personally he liked Ezra. There was just something about him that brought out Josiah's parental side. But to say that Ezra was a bit stand offish was a big under statement. The southerner would show them just a glimpse of the real man only to shut the door or retreat behind, what they called, his poker face. Josiah had read his file, they all had, and he understood his reluctance to trust them. But he wished Ezra would give them a chance. He wouldn't be disappointed.
Looking up he saw the two roommates walk in and watched as JD walked right up to Ezra and sat on the edge of his desk and started telling him about his date with Casey. Glancing at Buck Josiah saw him frown and suddenly got the feeling that maybe the ladies' man was feeling a little jealous. Which was ridiculous because everybody and anybody could tell that JD needed Buck just as much Buck needed JD.
Hell if anyone should be jealous or envious then it should be Vin. So far JD has been the only one that has been able to make Ezra laugh. Of course, like him Vin just wanted someone to get through to him it really didn't matter who.
Buck frowned as he watched JD talk to Ezra. He'd asked JD about his date and all the Kid told him was that it was fine. Now here he was giving Ezra details. Hearing someone coming up behind him Buck turned and saw Nathan walk in only to pause in shock at seeing Ezra all ready there.
"Well, well, well look who finally managed to get to work on time for a change," Nathan said stepping into the office and over to his desk.
"Yeah it's about damn time," Buck threw in.
Ezra leaned back in his chair, glanced at the clock, and then looked over at the medic and said, "I couldn't agree with you more Mr. Wilmington. Mr. Jackson you should make more of an effort to get here on time. It sets such a bad example for the others."
Vin, JD, and Josiah all burst out laughing at the look on Nathan's face.
Chris chose to step out of his office at that moment and glanced at the clock and asked, "Nathan are you just now getting here?"
Which caused the others to laugh even harder; even Buck cracked a small smile. Nathan just shrugged and sat down.
"Come on Ezra we have to be at the shooting range in fifteen minutes. So grab your toys and lets go," Chris told him walking toward the door.
"I wanta come too," Vin hollered grabbing his jacket.
"Me too," JD said getting to his feet.
"What about the rest of you?" Chris wanted to know.
"I wouldn't mind. If it's ok with Ezra?" Josiah added.
Chris looked over at Ezra, who had yet to even get up, "Well?"
"I don't mind," the southerner replied.
"Buck Nathan you might as well come to," the blond said.
"Why? We don't want go," Buck asked.
"If you think I'm going leave the two of you alone your crazy. You'll be on the internet and Nathan will be on the phone to Rain the second the elevator doors close," he told them.
"Hey Ez, JD and I'll ride with you," Vin said.
Ezra looked at Vin and shook his head, "I have no objections to Mr. Dunn, but you I don't think so."
"Why not? What's wrong with me? I anit dirty or nothing," Vin argued.
"All right Mr. Tanner, I'll take a chance and allow you ride with me, but the food stays here," Ezra told him.
"Well what you call food," he saw the younger man frown and continued, "the candy Mr. Tanner. There will be no candy in my car."
"Candy? W....What candy?" the Texan stammered. Vin tensed at the look Ezra sent him and without another word removed a hand full of candy from both pockets. Seeing the southerner still watching him said, "Fine!" And emptied his inside pocket as well. "Can't I at least have a mint?" Vin asked.
"Ok, ok one." Damn it was almost like arguing with Chris. Single minded that's what they were, Vin grumbled on his way to the elevator.
Once at the shooting range the boys had to check their weapons and they watched as the attendant looked at Ezra's derringer and said, "This gun isn't government issue. You can't use it."
Ezra looked that the man with a raised eye brow and said, "Young man apparently you are unfamiliar with the new handbook recently issued by the Federal Government that basically states that any agent may use his or her own weaponry so long as they can qualify with it. Now correct me if I'm wrong, but in order to qualify on any firearm one must successfully hit a target at least twice."
Chris and the others grinned at the look of confusion on the attendant's face. Ezra had lost the man after the word apparently. Since he didn't want to stand here all day Chris assured him that his agent was telling the truth.
"Is that true Ezra?" JD asked.
"I have no idea, but this gun has saved my life more than I care to admit. If it was allowed by the FBI then it should be allowed by the AFT," Ezra told him. Then with a rare seen genuine smile he said, "Besides I'm sure there's something like that in it somewhere."
Since they were there the others decided to get in some practice as well. Vin slapped the southerner on the back when their turn came and said, "Hey Ez I'll let you go first that way I don't intimidate you none."
Ezra shrugged the offending limb off and replied, "Don't you worry Mr. Tanner I assure I am not so easily intimidated."
"Ok don't say I didn't warn ya," Vin grinned in anticipation and removed his jacket and then put on his protective head gear.
Ezra loaded his derringer into it's sling, laid his other guns out on the counter in front of him, and donned his own protective gear.
After firing each of their guns and an assault rifle the different targets were handed over to Chris. Vin quickly removed his gear and followed Chris. Each one of Vin's bullets found it mark with deadly accuracy. Grinning Vin once again slapped Ezra on the back and said, "Not bad Ez. Not bad at all, but you might want to work on actually hitting this red area here. That way you can do the most damage."
And again Ezra shrugged off the arm and after straightening his hair stated, "I hit my intended area Mr. Tanner. After all, dead men can't testify. Can they?" Then slapped the Texan on the back and walked away.
Vin looked down at Ezra's targets and noticed that the only ones with dead center accuracy were the ones he fired with his derringer. Right between the eyes. "Damn cocky son of a bitch," he muttered. "Hell no one said we had winged 'em," he fussed.
The Texan gave the large profiler a shove as he started laughing, "Shut up Josiah. We both did better than the rest of ya anyway."
They had just returned from their first operation. Team 7 had provided back up for another team and other than a few scratches and one dislocated shoulder it had been their first successful outing together.
"Damn Ezra that was something. You're gonna have to show me that move," Vin said.
"I'll be damned if that's so," Chris barked. "You don't need any lessons on risking you life."
"How's that shoulder?" Nathan asked trying to defuse the situation.
"It's fine, Mr. Jackson," Ezra replied.
"I still say you need to go to the hospital. Dislocated bones are nothing to play around with," Nathan tried again.
"I wouldn't worry about his shoulder Nathan because I'm gonna break his fool neck if he ever pulls a stunt like that again," Chris threatened. "Don't give me the innocent look Ezra. You know exactly what I'm talking about. Hell between you and Vin I'm gonna end up on death roll because if you don't manage to kill yourselves then I'm gonna do it for you."
"Me? I didn't do anything," Vin threw in.
"Only because he beat you to it!" Chris pointed out. They were spread out around the warehouse, but one of the bad guys had managed to come up behind JD and only Ezra had seen him at first and had broken cover and dove across the space separating him and JD and knocked him out of harms way, but even with a dislocated shoulder he managed to get a shot off killing the bad guy.
"Come on let's go get a beer," Buck called out and headed for the door with JD right on his heels.
Josiah paused next to Ezra's desk and asked, "How about it son? You want to join us?"
Ezra felt his smile widen and repeated, "Son?"
"Figure of speech. I call everyone son," Josiah grinned.
"Oh really? I thought you called the others brother," he countered.
"It don't matter what he calls us. Are ya gonna come or not? I'll buy ya a beer," Vin saw him frown at the word beer and threw in, "or anything you want to drink. What ya say?"
"Thank you, but no," Ezra said suddenly feeling very tired.
"All right. All right I'm not gonna beg ya, but just so you know I'm not gonna give up either," Vin warned him.
"What's the matter Ezra? You to good to drink with us?" Nathan suddenly asked. "Vin, Josiah, and JD have each asked you to join us, but you keep refusing and we can't help but wonder why."
"You may think whatever you choose to Mr. Jackson. You will anyway," Ezra pointed out. "I'm tired and ....."
"Your shoulder hurts, huh?" Josiah said giving the younger man an out.
"It is a little sore."
"Which probably means it hurts like hell," Nathan translated. Walking over he handed Ezra a couple of tablets and said, "Here take these once you get home it'll help ease the soreness and help you sleep."
Ezra took the tablets without a word and watched as the others left and suddenly felt very lonely. Part of him wanted to run after them and join them and another part wanted him to just run and keep running because these men were getting to close. He could feel himself starting to weaken and he couldn't allow that. Not yet. Not until he was sure of them or himself.
Two weeks later Team 7 was sent to check out a warehouse and they were to enter from a different directions and different times so as to be caught unaware.
Just as Ezra was about to enter the warehouse he heard a scream from the alley behind him. Looking down the alley his first instinct was to check it out and even took a step away from the building as another scream was heard. Ezra fell to the ground as he heard gun shots. Shit, he swore under his breath, it was a trap. Dismissing the scream he peered in the window and he saw Chris being knocked to his knees as the others were being hand cuffed. Damn, damn, damn, he muttered. Those two minutes of hesitating was going to cost him everything.
Looking around he tried to come up with a plan, but wasn't able to think of anything. Taking a deep breath he decided that sometimes the best approach was the most obvious. So after checking his ammo Ezra straightened his shoulders and slipped into the warehouse and up behind a guard and without a word struck him across the back of the head and lowered him to the floor. Ok one down and way to many to go.
"Where the hell is Ezra?" Chris asked as soon as he joined the others.
"Maybe they got him," JD said with wide eyes.
"No Kid. If they had him they'd have brought him in by now," Buck told him. "He's either dead or the sorry son a bitch ran."
"Well I hope he ran," Vin said not wanting to believe that Ezra was dead.
"Well now who's gonna be first?" asked one of the criminals.
"I say we shoot the old man," another one said.
"I think it should be the kid," suggested another.
"Personally I think we should just let them go," was said with a southern accent.
The criminals turned and their eyes widened in shock as they saw the gun pointed at them.
"Drop 'em. Now step away," Ezra said. Then seeing the change in their expressions he knew someone was coming up behind him, but didn't react fast enough and felt the cold barrel of a gun pressed against his temple. Ezra relaxed the grip he had on his gun, but instead of releasing it as he was told he grabbed the arm and with an audible snap broke it and spun the man around and used him as shield as bullets started flying.
Chris and Vin grabbed the fallen guns and took care the rest of the criminals. Once the shooting stopped Chris dug his key out and undid the cuffs and tossed the key to Vin. And with a determined stride walked up to Ezra and snatched him up by the collar and threw him against the wall. Stepping back he watched as the southerner got to his feet only to hit him across the jaw sending him back to the floor. Again he watched as Ezra got to his feet and grabbed him by the collar and jerked him close and sneered, "Don't you ever run out on me again." When he released him Ezra gave him a two fingered salute and just for the hell of it Chris hit him again knocking him to the floor. Then walked away before he really hurt him.
Buck walked up the downed southerner and with a smile on his face kicked him in the side and probably would have done more, but JD suddenly shoved him away.
"Buck no!!" he shouted.
Nathan curbed his instinct to run and check on the fallen man and quickly turned his back before he changed his mind.
Josiah made to take a step toward him, but hesitated as he felt someone touch his arm. Turning his saw that it was Vin and without a word walked over to Ezra.
Ezra tensed as he heard someone approach. Peering up he saw that it was Josiah and shrunk away from his out stretched hand.
"Come on son. Let me help you," Josiah offered pretending not to have seen him jerk away from in fear.
Wincing he staggered to his feet and muttered, "Thank you, but I prefer to pick my own self up."
"Everyone needs help from time to time," the large man pointed out and grabbed his arm to help steading him. "There's no shame in needing to lean on someone."
Despite the pain it caused Ezra jerked his arm away and straightened to his full height and said, "I stand on my own two feet and depend on no one."
"Josiah. Vin. Come on we're leaving and since you like to do things your own way. You can stay and wait for the police," Chris said walking toward the door. When he was almost at the door he paused and threw over his shoulder, "Standish don't you even think about not showing up for work tomorrow."
Ezra felt his soul freeze and the rest of his illusions die as he watched them walk away and leave him behind and was shocked to hear himself call out, "Don't you even want to know why?" They kept walking. "Am I to be convicted without having uttered a word in my own defense?" That slowed them down, but didn't stop them. Fool, his mind screamed. How could you have been such a fool, Ezra heard his mother say. Here you were thinking they were different, but they weren't. He could hear his mother say, I told you so. Denver was no different than Atlanta. "I thought you were different," Ezra said in a harsh whisper and turned and staggered away.
Chris heard the words, but they didn't register. Flinging the door open he stepped outside and kicked the first thing he saw, which was a telephone pole.
"We are different aren't we?" JD asked clearly confused.
"What?" Chris snapped causing JD to take a step back.
JD was saved from repeating his question as they heard sirens approached. Without a word Chris pointed them to the warehouse and then walked on to his truck with the others headed toward the van. "What about Ezra?" he heard JD ask.
"What about him?" Buck replied.
"Are we just gonna leave him?"
"Yes," Buck said and went to grab JD's arm to push him toward the van, but JD jerked away from him. "What the hell is your problem?"
"Right now you are! I can't believe that you kicked him," JD cried. "How could you?"
"He ran out on us JD! What the hell did you expect me to do?"
"I don't know anything except kick him," JD argued. "I thought you were better than that. I..... I thought we all were," he whispered as he got into the van.
Ezra waited until the others drove off then wearily made his way over to one of the squad cars and leaned against it and waited for the policemen to finish up.
He started as someone suddenly stepped in front of him.
"Sorry," said one of the officers holding out a towel
"Mark Reed," the officer said.
'Thanks Officer Reed. I appreciate it," Ezra replied and pressed the towel against his still bleeding lip and nose.
Later Ezra thanked Officer Reed for the lift and eased himself out of the squad car and carefully made his way into the front entrance with the intent on turning in his head set, but on second thought left it in an envelope with JD's name on it. Then turned and got into his car and left.
Pulling up in front of his town house Ezra killed the car and laid his head on the steering wheel for just a moment. Then pulled himself together and got out and as he turned to close and lock the car door he heard thunder and looked up and swore as it began to rain. Walking as fast as his bruised ribs would allow Ezra tried to get out of the rain.
"Can this day get any worse?" he muttered as he threw open his front door. Ezra then fell to his knees as his ribs screamed in pain as he slammed the door shut. Crawling over to the chair he pulled himself up.
Reflex had him pushing the message button on his answering machine as he walked by it. As the second message began to play Ezra found himself frozen to the spot as his mother's voice penetrated his pain fogged brain. With a shuddered he realized that the worse day of his life has just been blown to hell. He did not want his mother coming to Denver, he thought to himself. But then again with his luck he wouldn't still be here in a month.
Turning the machine off Ezra grabbed a bottle of bourbon and went into his room. When he caught sight of himself in the mirror he turned away in disgust. Not so much because of what happened at the warehouse, but for allowing himself to actually believe Chris Larabee and his team. Holding onto his side Ezra sat on the edge of the bed and then slid the rest of the way to the floor.
Lifting the bottle he took a long shallow and welcomed the fiery path it created down his throat to his stomach. Laying his head back against the bed he heard the words once again, 'Don't you ever run out on me again.' And 'Standish don't you even think about not showing up for work tomorrow.' Raising his head Ezra realized that for some reason Chris was giving him another chance. A second chance. Him? He was being given a second chance. Shaking his head he wiped one lone tear away and whispered, "No one's ever given me a second chance."
Getting to his feet Ezra walked over to the mirror and asked himself, "What's the catch? What does Larabee want from me?" Then winced as he straightened his shoulders as he recalled that ridiculously early morning in Atlanta when Chris said he wanted him for his undercover agent. In spite of everything Chris wanted him. With a shake of his head he said, "Fine. Chris Larabee wanted an undercover man so I'll be the best damned undercover agent in the agency. I'll do things by the book - well my book anyway. And I'll follow all the rules - well except for the ones that I feel don't apply to me. I'll give them exactly what they want." Hanging his head he ran a hand through his hair and said, "I'll give them everything, but.....but me. I will not be duped again."
Setting the bottom on the dresser he removed his clothes and went into the bathroom and took a shower. After his shower and with only a towel around his waist Ezra opened his bottom dresser drawer and pulled out a bandage and ignored the large bruise that cover his equally bruised ribs and wrapped the bandage as tight as he could. Then walked over to his bed and set his alarm, dropped the towel, and crawled into bed and promptly fell asleep.
JD stepped out of the van as soon as it stopped moving and started removing equipment and without a word walked toward the entrance. He paused briefly to check for any messages and was surprised to find that he had package. The attendant just tossed on top the other things and then JD continued on his way.
Once in their offices he locked the head sets and recording device in the cabinet and then went to his desk. Reaching for the package he turned it over in his hand and wondered who it was from. Then with a shrug tore it open and swore as he reached for the phone. "Ah yes ma'am. My name is JD Dunn and you just gave me a package and wondered if there was suppose to be a note attached to it or something.......Yes ma'am I'll hold," JD looked down at the head set in his hand and couldn't help but wonder if Ezra was ok. "Thank you ma'am," he was and hung up the phone. No note, but she did say that had Ezra had left it.
"Come on Kid let's go home," Buck said.
JD shook his head and said, "You go ahead Buck. I think I'll go and see Casey. Maybe stay the night there."
"Don't tell me your still mad at me?" Buck asked.
"Tell me something Buck if it had been me would have kick me to?" JD suddenly asked.
"Or me?" Vin spoke up for the first time. "We did just what we said we wouldn't do. You and Chris may have hit him, but we didn't nothing to stop you and it will be even harder to reach Ezra now."
"Reach him? Why in the hell would you want to?"
Vin jumped to his feet and yelled, "Because he needs a friend! And dammit, I want to be that friend!"
"Me too," JD threw in.
"And me," Josiah said reaching for the phone. Dialing Ezra's number he muttered under his breath, "Come on Ezra answer the phone." After the fifteenth ring he hung up and said, "Where are you Ezra?"
"He's probably run off again. Hell if we're lucky we'll never seen him again," Buck started to say more, but suddenly found himself shoved against the wall with an elbow in his throat.
"That's enough Buck. No more," Josiah warned and pressed his elbow a little harder and repeated, "no more." Releasing the ladies' man he stepped back and with fire in his eyes said, "He may have had a reason, but now we'll never know because we walked away. We never even gave him a chance to explain. There's a reason; I just know it."
"Ezra may be a lot of things, but a quitter isn't one of them. Hell if he was going to run then he would have done it in Atlanta where he had nothing to lose. But here," Josiah said with a sweep of his hand. "Here he had everything to lose. So why?"
The next morning Chris sat at his desk staring at the clock. It was almost nine o'clock and Ezra had yet to show and he was beginning to get worried that maybe he wouldn't. Last night while he lay in bed trying to go to sleep Ezra's words kept repeating in his head, 'Am I to be convicted without having uttered a word in my own defense?' But what really bothered him was his whispered, 'I thought you were different.' Dammit he was different or so he thought. He merely reacted without thinking and he never should have allowed Buck to kick him.
Reaching for the phone Chris punched about half of the number before slamming the phone down in disgust. Yanking open his desk drawer he jerked a file out and quickly jotted down Ezra's address. Jumping to his feet he cursed as he hit his knee on the still open desk drawer. Viciously slamming it shut Chris limped into the outer office and said, "Josiah, Nathan get up you're coming with me."
"Where are we going?" Nathan asked putting his jacket on.
"To check on Ezra."
"I don't think that'll be necessary," Josiah said looking toward the door where they could see Ezra walking up from the elevator. As he got nearer Josiah winced at the partially swollen black eye and bruised jaw.
"Where the hell have you been?" Chris asked as soon as he walked in the room. He swore under his breath at the sight of the bruises on Ezra's face. Damn he must have hit him harder than he thought.
Ezra paused just inside the door and raised one eye brow, but refrained from making the usual smart remark and simply said, "I over slept." Then continued on to his desk.
"Well now that you're finally here I want a report on what happened yesterday on my desk by the time you leave today," he told him.
"Fine," the southerner replied and kept his face averted so that they would not see him wince as he sat down.
"What did you say?" Chris questioned because he wasn't sure if he'd heard right. The man had been here almost a month and had never given an one word answer for anything.
"Fine," he repeated, but wasn't able to hide the grimace as he reach to turn his computer on.
"Are you all right Ezra?" Josiah asked in a concerned voice.
"Do you want me to have a look at your ribs?" Nathan offered.
"Ezra I...." Nathan started to say something else, but was interrupted.
"No," Ezra said in a tone that left no room for doubt.
Ok now Chris was really getting worried. That was five one word answers in a roll. Not really sure what to do Chris issued some orders, "I want all your reports by the time you leave today. That goes for you to Buck." Then walked in his office and closed the door.
Ezra held his head high and refused to show any emotion. If they expected a reaction from him then he was more than happy to disappoint them. After all, he's been disappointing people all his life and saw no reason to stop now.
Pushing all thoughts of his co-workers out of his head he began working on his report.
"Ezra line one," Nathan said after answering the phone.
"Standish," Ezra stated. "I remember you.......So what did you find out?" he listened as Officer Reed told him about the scream he'd heard. Closing his eyes he snapped the pencil he was holding in two. Opening his eyes he then flung the pieces on his desk. "Thanks for letting me know......Alright....Bye," he said and then hung up the phone.
He could feel the others' eyes on him, but ignored them and went back to work on the report.
"Hey Ez you ok?" Vin finally asked.
Without looking away from his computer screen he replied, "Yes."
Vin just nodded and let him get back to work and he tried to do the same, but couldn't concentrate. He had scenes from yesterday running through his head. Taking a deep breathe and ran a hand through his hair and said, "For what it's worth I'm sorry Ezra. I know I didn't hit or kick you, but I did nothing to stop it and for that I apologize."
"Me too. I'm sorry Ezra," Josiah threw in.
"I'm sorry too, Ezra," JD said.
Ezra never stopped typing just replied with a heavily accented, "Thanks."
And that set the pattern for the next couple of days. It was real quiet. No one was talking. No was laughing. Or telling bad jokes. Or nothing. It was as if the life had been sucked out of them.
JD hated the silence. He wanted things to get back to normal. It had gotten so that he started eating lunch with Josiah and Vin; instead of Buck. He knew he was hurting the older man, but couldn't help it. JD hadn't even been back to the apartment since it happened. He just wasn't ready to face Buck. He had to forgive himself before he could forgive his roommate.
Right now him and Josiah and Vin were trying to think of a way to break through Ezra's walls. But so far nothing they'd thought had worked. Ezra refused to let them in. He never smiled anymore and still wasn't using his fancy words.
Walking back into the office after lunch JD went to the cabinet and removed the head sets and went into another room and listened to the tapes and trying to piece together what exactly happened at that damned warehouse.
Buck watched as what used to be his best friend leave the room and closed his eyes. He tried all week to get JD to speak with him, but so far he hadn't been successful. Looking up he winced as he watched Ezra slowly enter the room and walk over to his desk. All week whenever Ezra winced he winced as well. He knew he had to apologize to the man, but he just wasn't ready yet. Hell he hadn't meant to kick him so hard. It was just ..... I mean it .....I ..... With a big sigh Buck let his head fall forward onto his desk with a loud thud.
Nathan knew exactly what Buck felt like even though he hadn't kicked or hit Ezra. He hadn't stopped it either. But worse than that was the fact that he knew Ezra need help, but he didn't offered him any. Sure the man irritated him, but that didn't stop him from helping him last week when he'd separated his shoulder. Just like Buck he winced each time Ezra did. Nathan knew he was going to have swallow his pride and apologize, but wasn't real sure if Ezra would accept it.
Buck suddenly sat up and quickly got to his feet and walked over to Ezra and said, "Ezra I'm sorry I kicked you. It was wrong of me and I apologize. I shouldn't have done it and I hope that eventually you'll be able to forgive me."
Ezra looked up at the tall man and simply asked, "Why?"
He knew what he wanted to know and squaring his shoulders Buck replied, "Because I was scared and needed a release and you were there. Usually I take it out on a suspect, but you and Chris had already eliminated them."
"I'm sorry I didn't offer to help you Ezra," Nathan said and was about to say more then the door suddenly opened and JD walked in with a huge grin on his face.
"Hey Kid where ya going?" Buck asked.
"Gotta see Chris," was all he said. Then without knocking walked in Chris' office and came to a stop at seeing Chris with his on his desk. "Chris? Are you ok? Do you need me to get Nathan?"
"No I'm fine JD. What do you want?" Chris replied lifting his off the desk.
"Listen to this," he said and played the recording from the warehouse.
"What? All I hear is traffic," Chris said.
"Shhh. It's coming..... Did you hear that?"
"Yeah it sounded like screams."
"It was a screams," JD conformed switching off the machine. "On Monday around 1:23 p.m. a woman killed a block from the warehouse."
"That's horrible JD, but why are you....." Chris trailed off as a thought occurred to him. "Whose head set did this come from?"
"So that's why. He must have heard the screams and of course his first instinct would have been to find out what was going on and....."
"But the gun shots from inside the warehouse stopped him," JD finished. "He didn't run or freeze. Ezra did what had to be done."
Chris nodded his head and stated, "The needs of the many out weigh the needs of the few." Getting to his feet he grabbed Ezra's report and motioned for JD to follow him.
Walking up the Ezra's desk he threw the report on his desk and said, "Redo it."
"Why?" Ezra asked with a frown. "What's wrong with it?"
"Something very important is missing from it - the truth," Chris replied. "I want you to redo it and this time put the truth in it."
"We know about the woman Ezra," JD explained.
"What woman?" Buck asked.
Holding out his hand to JD Chris took the tape and dropped it on Ezra's desk and pointed out, "This changes everything."
Ezra jumped to his feet as fast as his ribs would allow and exclaimed, "It changes nothing!!"
"If you had just told me what happened then none of this would have happened!!!" Chris snapped.
"You weren't interested," he countered.
"Make me listen."
"Make you listen? Oh no, Mr. Larabee you see I care more about my own hide than I care about your good opinion of me," Ezra informed him. "It doesn't matter either way because what happened outside that warehouse alters nothing that happened inside it."
Chris refused to be swayed and with a grin picked up the tape and tossed it to Josiah to play. "Redo the report Ezra," he told him.
"Then I'll do it for you."
"Do what ever you chose Mr. Larabee. I don't care," Ezra replied.
"And I'm not about to apologize for hitting you Ezra. Simply because I've wanted to do that since the first night I saw you at that bar," Chris said. "We were suppose to be back up for an FBI agent and we didn't even know what he looked liked. I dismissed you as a drunk that night. I had a man at the next table pegged as the agent," he ran a hand through his hair as he remembered that night. Then with a smirk continued, "The way you handled everyone and took instant control of the room was a pretty amazing feat; especially for a drunk. And in that moment you managed to do something that only five other men had managed to do. You surprised and impressed the hell out of me. That's why I wanted you on my team."
Ezra didn't know what to say. So sat down and leaned back in his chair and waited for him to continue.
"I knew you hadn't run," Josiah boasted with a touch of pride. "The needs of the many out weigh the needs of the few," he repeated Chris' earlier statement.
Chris could see the wheels turning in Ezra's head as he tried to find the angle. "Ok guys what say we duck out of here and go to The Saloon and grab a bite to eat and have a few drinks. You to Ezra," he said.
"No. I'm not going," Ezra firmly stated.
"Oh yes you are," Chris demanded.
With narrowed eyes Ezra got to his feet and declared, "No I'm not. Once I leave this building my free time is just that; mine. And I will not be accompanying you......gentlemen anywhere."
"You're going even if I have to hog tie you and have Josiah throw you over his shoulders," he threatened. Reaching over Chris grabbed Vin's hand cuffs and slapped one on the southerner and the other on the desk handle. "That should hold you until we're ready to leave. Now hand me your keys."
Raising one eye brow Ezra handed over the keys and looked from his shackled wrist to the black clad man and suddenly grinned the cockiest grin they'd yet to see on him and said, "Good afternoon Judge Travis."
Chris laughed and said, "I'm not going to fall for that one Ezra. That's the oldest trick in the book." Then froze as he heard, "Agent Larabee." Turning around he stared at the judge and then looked back at the smug southerner and swore.
"Is there a problem here?" Judge Travis asked.
"Problem? No I don't think so," Chris replied. "What about you Ezra? You got a problem?"
"No why do you ask?" Ezra questioned the picture of pure innocense.
"Ok. Let's go in your office I want to talk to you and your men," the judge stated.
Ezra held up his cuffed hand and shrugged.
"Don't worry Ezra I'll brief you once we're done," Vin offered and slapped him on the shoulder.
"Wait a minute. Nathan grab his and Vin's paper clips we don't want him picking the lock," Chris said with a grin.
Ezra waited all of two minutes after the door closed before popping the cuff off and attaching it to the chair arm. He then turned his computer off, retrieved his jacket, briefcase, and left.
Inside Chris' office Josiah frowned when saw that JD had beaten him to one of the chairs in front of the desk. Gently slapping him on the back of the head and he asked, "Don't you have any respect for your elders JD?"
"Of course I do, but we're all suppose to be equals on this team and I know you wouldn't want me to show any favoritism. Now would you?" JD countered with a grin.
"Cheeky little shit aren't you," Josiah teased and shoved Vin over so he could sit on the couch.
After giving the boys a little pep talk about what a fine job they were doing Judge Travis walked over and opened the door and grinned at the sight that greeted him. He'd heard most of the conversation before Standish spotted him and wondered how the younger man was going to get out of it. Turning back around so he could see their faces he said, "He's gone." And laughed as the six men jumped to their feet and rushed to the door.
"Dammit," Chris swore.
Josiah suddenly started laughing causing the others to look at him in question. "Looks like our boy has some hidden talents," he explained.
Vin grinned and said, "Well that's another secret revealed."
"Yeah and you have a million to go," Judge Travis teased causing the others to groan..
Later that afternoon Ezra pulled up in front of a large ranch house just out side of town and got out of the his car and walked toward the young man headed his way.
"Mr. Standish?" the man said holding out his hand. "Welcome I'm Jason and if you'll come this way we'll get started."
Ezra paused just inside the barn and surveyed it's occupants. One horse in particular caught his attention. Walking up the stall Ezra just looked him over, but didn't try to touch him just yet. "May I ride this one?" he inquired.
Jason pushed his hat back on his head and cautioned, "Well now Mr. Standish I don't know. This ones real particular and doesn't like most people. My father wants to get rid of him but my mother wont let him unless the person's gonna promises to let him live."
"What wrong with him?"
"Nothing. He's perfectly healthy, but he's too smart for his own good. We had to lower the latch on his stall so he couldn't reach it to open it."
Ezra merely shook his head and was about to walk away when the horse reached out and grabbed his sleeve. Looking at the horse he reached out and rubbed his velvety nose and said, "Well hello. What's your name?"
"His name's Spade and it looks like you've got yourself a horse," Jason stated with a grin.
"Yeah my mother likes to play cards. We have them all. Hearts, Diamonds, Clovers, and Spade," he explained. "Well I'll leave the two of you to get acquainted."
Ezra grinned and nodded his head. Then picked up a brush from a near by table, opened the stall and brushed the horse until his coat shone. "You know something Spade I think we're going to be great friends," he stated scratching him behind his ears. "That way I'll have at least one friend in Denver," Ezra said to himself and pushed all thoughts of the past week out of his head. He suddenly smiled as he recalled a line from popular movie and stated, "After all tomorrow is another day."