By Beth

ATF Universe (Ezra, Buck, Vin)

Notes: Just an idea I couldn’t get out of my head until I put it down on paper. It’s full of angst, guilt, and everything that goes along with that (grin). Hope you enjoy it as much as I enjoyed writing it!!

This has not been beta-ed…sorry, all the mistakes are mine!!

Please send comments and suggestions to


Vin pushed the button that read 14 and waited patiently for the elevator doors to close. He rolled his eyes and sighed before placing his finger on the ‘open door’ button as he watched Standish rush to join him. “You’re late!” he yelled toward the undercover agent, who sprinted across the lobby floor.

“Fashionably late,” Ezra replied, slipping into the elevator. He leaned against the back wall and collected himself after having sprinted three quarters of a mile due to parking.

Vin let go of the button and waited for the doors to close. “Chris is goin’ to kill us. We were supposed to be here an hour ago.” He ran his fingers through his hair. “Why’re you dressed like that?” he asked, glancing from his own dark blue suit to Ezra’s blue jeans, white tee shirt, and jacket.

“Unfortunately, I was contacted this morning by Donald Spellman—”

“—And you went to meet with him alone?” Vin interrupted, pissed of because Ezra took that chance, and because he wore comfortable clothes…and had a logical excuse as to why.

“I didn’t have a choice.”

“You’ve always got a choice.”


Chris tapped the tabletop with his thumb as he waited impatiently for his two missing agents. Leave it to Vin and Ezra to be late for Orin’s celebration. He looked up and met Orin’s eyes and then quickly looked away due to embarrassment.

“They’re grown men with lives of their own,” Evie Travis said, elegantly taking hold of her wine glass.

“They should be here for this,” Chris replied, with a shake of his head.

“Frankly,” Orin started, “I think this whole ceremony is just another way for someone to tell me ‘hey, you’re doin’ a great job, but do it better next year’.”

“They’re celebrating you, Orin,” Evie said, her tone mixed between a question and an acknowledgment.

“My point exactly,” Orin responded, looking around the stylish restaurant as his friends, family, staff, and coworkers mingled.

Chris laughed, knowing exactly what Travis was saying.

It happened suddenly, and before anyone could react. Four armed men slowly escorted the kitchen staff into the dining hall. Two men armed with AK47s appeared at the left of the room, pointing their weapons toward a table where ATF, FBI, and police officers wives and husbands had gathered.

Everyone in the room knew the men’s intentions.

“I want everyone to remain calm,” echoed a deep voice from the right. The man stepped forward, toying with his cigarette. “I have ordered my men to collect all of your weapons.” His tone was smooth and casual. “Anyone who does not relinquish their weapon—or weapons, will be responsible for the death of one of those fine ladies.” He motioned with his head toward a back table.

Nathan looked to Rain.

JD looked to Casey.

Chris looked toward Mary.

Orin silently thanked God that Evie sat next to him.

Two men came forward and moved from man to man, then woman to woman collecting weapons. The sound of heavy metal hitting the bottom of plastic buckets had every officer cringing.

This wasn’t a game and everyone knew it.

Chris could tell by looking at the men that they’d come prepared, and he knew what they’d be up against. He willingly handed over his weapon and decided to learn more about them—and what they wanted…hoping to come up with a plan.

“My name is Donald Spellman—my brother is Kevin Spellman—most of you know him…” he paused a moment to take a long seductive pull from his cigarette, “…he was convicted in a prejudicial courtroom for the murder of a drug dealer.” He sounded shocked. He stepped forward and put his cigarette out on the wall. “I want my brother released within the next eight hours. Every hour after that someone will die.” He stepped up to Orin Travis and looked him in the eye. Slowly, he pulled out his cell phone and tossed it to the former judge. “Make the call.” He knew who had the power to do what he needed, and who didn’t. Donald pulled his short-barreled Glock from the holster behind his back and pointed it toward Evie’s head. “I’m not a patient man.”

Just as he finished speaking, the elevator rang and the doors started to open. With the slightest tilt of Spellman’s head, he ordered one of his men to open fire.

One was all he needed.

Agent’s and officers alike covered their heads with their arms, while others tried to reach for their loved ones only to be stopped by the ends of firearms.

“Dear God,” Josiah prayed for those within the doors.

Chris’ heart raced, fearing Ezra and Vin had decided to come now of all times.

Bullets pierced the thick steel doors and struck the back wall.

Slowly, the doors crept open and stilled. It wouldn’t be moving for a while.

Chris and Josiah both stood at the same time when they saw Vin sitting on the elevator floor with his hands grasping his thigh. They were stopped and ordered to sit, only able to watch and wait.

Every fiber of Chris’ being wanted to stand up and fight, but there were too many lives at stake. He could only watch in horror as Vin’s face contorted with pain as blood continued to seep past his fingers.

“Toby!” Spellman yelled, “pull him out!”

Toby, a tall muscular looking individual, stepped forward and pushed his weapon into his waistband. “There’s two in here!” he yelled back at his boss, as he stepped inside the elevator.

Chris’ heart sank…thankful that at least Buck was safe and on vacation.

“It’s that son-of-a-bitch Warner that you met with this mornin’!”

Fueled by anger, Spellman stepped forward and into the elevator. He grabbed the front of Ezra’s jacket and drug him out and let him go onto the hardwood floor. He lay there, unmoving, but leaving a thin trail of blood. Toby grabbed the front of Vin’s shirt and picked him up without trying and literally tossed him into the dining hall. Vin slid on the slick floors and into the table where JD and Nathan were seated.

“Who knows him?!” Spellman yelled, pointing one finger at the downed undercover agent while looking into the crowd.

Nobody said anything.

Chris didn’t need to ask to know that the rest of his team was just as worried.

Spellman looked toward Vin who was barely hanging onto consciousness. “Who is he?” he demanded, fearing that the man, who was going to supply he and his brother with enough cash to leave the country in trade for 600 semi automatic machine guns, was a cop.

“I don’t know,” Vin replied through clenched teeth. He knew he was taking a chance, but it was the only one he had. He looked up as Nathan knelt down and started to apply pressure to his leg.

“I didn’t say you could move!” Spellman yelled, his temper already running thin.

“You haven’t killed anyone yet,” Nathan replied calmly. “Let me help him.” Before he received a positive answer, he ripped the pant leg from the bullet hole to Vin’s knee and applied pressure to the profusely bleeding wound with table napkins.

“Who is he?!” Spellman yelled again, pointing the weapon toward Ezra’s head, not caring to check if he was alive or dead.

“That’s Michael Warner, aka Simon Locke, aka Anthony Rouper,” JD supplied, unwilling to take the chance that Ezra was already dead. “He’s currently wanted for illegal arms sales and drug trafficking.”

“Toby!” Spellman yelled again. “Check the elevator and see what floor he was going to—if it’s this one, I’ll kill the kid.” He looked irritably at JD.

Toby moved into the elevator and answered, “Level 17…he was goin’ to level 17.” He stepped back out and moved toward his boss. “If he’s still alive we could use him. He said he could get the money. We’re goin’ to need it to finish our plans.” He stood right next to his boss, speaking just loud enough for him to hear.

Spellman nodded in agreement. “Check him,” he replied, before turning his attention toward Nathan. “Who is he?” he asked, looking toward the bloody mess.

“He’s a lawyer,” Nathan said, speaking of Vin, all the while keeping pressure applied to the sharpshooter’s thigh.

Spellman chuckled and looked out over the crowd. “For which firm?” he challenged. He knew there were lawyers in the house; Travis had been a judge before becoming assistant director to the ATF and the Special forces FBI teams.

“Dewy, Nailum, and Howe,” came the answer from within the crowd.

Spellman laughed outright. “Seriously?” he asked.

The same man replied, “Steven Dewy, Rich Nailum, and Mark Howe. They specialize in criminal law—you should give them a call.”

Spellman laughed and shook his head, lawyers. “Do you have any guns?” he asked, looking toward Vin who was now hardly able to keep his eyes open.

“Lawyers don’t carry guns,” Nathan replied, more concerned with the amount of blood Vin had lost.

Spellman kicked out, striking Vin in the leg, causing him to cry out. “Good to know he ain’t dead yet,” he said, unsympathetically. Murder hadn’t been his initial intention.

“Warner’s still alive,” Toby said, looking up from Ezra’s side before shaking his head and continuing to check him. He unzipped Ezra’s jacket and immediately recognized the bulletproof vest. He didn’t say anything, finding the man had been hit three times in the chest, but only one bullet had penetrated the Kevlar. He applied pressure to the wound after pushing back the jacket and shirt, trying to keep the wound from seeping. “There’s no tellin’ where that bullet is,” he said, looking toward his boss.

“Will he live long enough to get us the money?” Spellman asked, looking angrily around the room.

“Don’t know,” came the indifferent reply.

Spellman nodded in understanding. “Go help Harvy with the phone system,” he ordered, knowing he’d made a huge mistake. He needed Warner alive—he was their ticket out.

“He’ll bleed out if I leave him,” Toby replied.

Spellman pointed toward Evie. “Make yourself useful.”

She squeezed her husband’s hand and unsteadily got to her feet. Glancing around the room, she received encouragement from everyone her husband had grown to know. She glanced toward Nathan, seeking knowledge, and then toward Vin. Her heart sank. He lay there, breathing difficultly, and obviously chilled. Nathan had raised Vin’s legs up onto a couple of seat cushions and covered him with jackets. It was helping, but it wouldn’t last for long. She stepped forward, feeling the weight of the world on her shoulders.

“Keep pressure on the wound, Mrs. Travis,” Nathan said softly, taking a chance that earned him a blow to his ribs by one of the gunmen.

Evie jumped, but made her way to Ezra’s side. She wasn’t a fool in the ways of the world, and she understood that her husband had made many enemies over the years. Carefully, she placed her hand over the wound on Ezra’s side. His breathing was shallow, and his skin cold and clammy…but at least he was alive.

“Make that call, Judge,” Spellman said, “before I have to shoot someone else.”

Orin looked toward his wife, his heart aching, and then dialed the number.

Evie reached down and gently squeezed Ezra’s hand. She knew he’d broken some ribs and dark red bruises were starting to form all over his chest. “Nathan,” she spoke softly, tentatively. She waited until he met her eyes. “He’s got two bullet holes.” She looked down and pulled the sides of the Kevlar jacket and tee shirt away from his left side. “It’s about four inches down from the top one.” She looked more closely and found the bullet that had caused all the damage was nestled neatly between skin and material.

“Just keep pressure on them,” Nathan replied, wishing he could do more. The gunshot wound to Vin’s leg had hit an artery, Nathan was sure of it. It wouldn’t take long for him to bleed out, and then die. They didn’t have time to wait long.

Ezra’s head lolled to the right with his own volition. Evie reached out and touched her fingers to his cheek, pleased to see him awake.

“You pay a lot of attention to a nobody,” Spellman said, stepping forward.

Evie clenched her jaw. “Even a wounded animal deserves care.”

Spellman nodded and then chuckled. He looked down and found glazed green eyes looking back at him. “Nice to see you again so soon, Wilson,” he said suspiciously. “It is Wilson…isn’t it—wouldn’t want to get you confused with anyone else?”

Ezra closed his eyes and sighed: “Warner,” he corrected his voice weak and fading. “Michael Warner.”

“Good to see you still have your wits about you.” Spellman squatted down and grasped Ezra’s chin, forcing him to look back. “If you want to live—you’ll call your man and get that quarter million sent up here—and in a hurry.”

“…And then…” Ezra asked, breathing heavily. His chest felt as though someone were standing on it.

“Your man can take you to get some help,” he spoke as though he meant it.

Ezra slowly shook his head. He wasn’t a fool, but he needed to take the chance. He closed his eyes for just a moment and then felt the sudden movements of someone grabbing his arms and unceremoniously pushing him up against a wall. His head swam and he had to squeeze his eyes closed while fighting the urge to lose consciousness. A warm delicate hand touched his brow and pressure was harshly applied to his side once again. He slowly opened his eyes and saw Evie looking at him, concern lining her features. Not a look he’d want to see again. He smiled tightly, trying to ease her worry.

Spellman squatted beside the Southerner and shoved a phone into his hand. “Why don’t you make that call.” It was an order, not a question.

Ezra leaned his head back against the wall and sighed. His call was supposed to be to Chris…but Chris was here. He looked out over the crowd of panic-stricken faces. “Who are these people?” Ezra asked, knowing the answer, but playing the fool.

“Lawyers, judges, agents, and cops—so when you get out of here, it might be wise to change what you look like.” He couldn’t help but chuckle.

Ezra sighed and then coughed, feeling dryness in his throat. He looked at the phone, wishing he could see the numbers clearly, praying as he carefully dialed.


Buck tossed another pretzel at the TV when his team missed another chance to take the lead. “YOU IDIOTS!” he yelled, wishing he’d taken up coaching instead of law enforcement. He stood up and went to his kitchen and searched the refrigerator for something to eat. He slammed it shut when he didn’t spot something immediately, and then looked toward his phone in hopes that Daphne would still be working at the local pizza place.

He loved and hated his vacation within the same breath. He’d planned on going to the coast, but flooding and strong winds had him deciding against it. He’d thought about Vegas, but he didn’t want to spend his funds without any real payback. Tahiti sounded like the perfect place for him to go, where the women didn’t wear tops, but alas his good sense won out.

Buck reached for the phone just as it rang. He grabbed it without thinking and answered like he always had. “Wilmington,” there was humor in his tone.

“Candy?” came the familiar voice with the unfamiliar greeting.

“Listen, Bub, ain’t no Candy livin’ here—”

I need you to bring me that cash for the investment,” the words were harsh, as though the individual talking were having difficulty breathing.

“Ezra?” Buck questioned, his voice turning from annoyance to concern.

“Yeah,” came the soft reply. “I need it…in small bills…nothin’ traceable.”

“You hurt?” Buck asked, taking notes, and trying to get as much information as possible.

Ezra sighed, “Yeah.”

“Where to you want me to bring the money?”

“3rd and Grand…14th floor—” Ezra’s head snapped back and hit the wall with a thud as Spellman smacked him and grabbed the phone.

“Don’t think I’m an idot!” Spellman yelled, cuffing his hand over the speaker. He sighed and looked around the room before placing the phone next to his chin and ear. “You’ll leave the money with the guard at the information desk downstairs…don’t try and come up here.”

“He won’t delivah the money without mah bein’ there,” Ezra said, keeping his head back against the wall.

“He will,” Spellman replied confidently.


Buck hung up the phone and called the police department, he then notified the federal building. He knew Travis was having a celebration party at the building on 3rd and Grand. He wasn’t clear about what had happened, but he had enough to go on until he could find out more. When Ezra spoke of small bills, he wanted things to happen quietly…it was his code, small talk to let the good guys know what was happening. Nothing traceable meant the bad guys knew what they were doing. Ezra was telling him to be careful and watch the exits…they’d be guarded.

Buck’s friends were in trouble, and he intended to do everything to get them out of it. He grabbed his jacket and slipped his weapon into the back of his waistband and headed out to his car. 


Nathan looked up and met Chris’ eyes, letting him know with a subtle shake of his head that Vin was in danger. The sharpshooter was losing consciousness and no longer able to maintain a coherent sentence. Nathan had done all he could in regards to keeping him stable, but now he needed a doctor.

Chris clenched his jaw and rubbed his forehead, there were too many people here with their lives at stake for him to try something. He looked toward Josiah and found the same understanding. Their hopes lay with Buck, and the belief that he knew what to do and how to get them out of the mess they found themselves in.

Ezra sucked in a quick agonizing breath as a sharp pain hit him just below his ribs. Evie once again pressed her hand to his forehead and slowly moved it down to his cheek and then his neck. She continued to apply pressure to the wounds on his side. The bleeding had slowed, but not stopped, and she was worried. As pale as Vin was, Ezra was close behind. A cold chill had settled over the Southerner, while perspiration beaded on his forehead.

They weren’t going to make it.


Buck entered the building across the street from 3rd and Grand. His steps were quick, long, and filled with determination. “Who’s in charge?!” he asked, slamming the door behind him.

Plain clothed police officers, and FBI agents huddled together with the idea of getting their boys out of trouble. They’d been alerted to the situation from a cook who snuck out the back way before the hostages had been taken.

A tall man wearing jeans and a sweatshirt stepped forward. “I’m Special Agent Henson,” he said, holding out his hand. “You must be Agent Wilmington.”

Buck nodded: “So what’s the scoop?”

“Director Travis contacted Governor Andrus in regards to releasing Kevin Spellman…and that was three hours ago. Andrus contacted our office and told us to be quiet about it. From what we can gather, after 8 hours they’re going to start killing hostages.”

“Any idea how many are up there?” Buck asked, walking with Henson toward the operations desk.

“Four that we know of, plus Kevin Spellman’s brother—”

“You can assume there’s more,” Buck added, running his fingers through his hair. “Agent Standish called me from the inside, he’s been tryin’ to get Spellman and his boys to bite on gun deal for weeks now. From what I gathered, he bit this morning.”

“Standish is in on this?” someone asked.

“NO!” Buck snapped, angry about the insinuation. “Near as I can figure it. Ezra went up there with the intention of makin’ it to the party, but somehow he got sidetracked into Spellman. Ezra called me and asked for a quarter million in arms sales, small untraceable bills.”

“Kind of detailed ain’t it?” another remarked suspiciously.

“Yeah,” Buck replied. “He’s lettin’ me and the rest of you assholes know there are more than five men up there. They’ve got the whole place covered with surveillance and remember, five guys ain’t goin’ to be able to hold over 50 cops and lawyers hostage for very long. My guess is they’re loaded down with heavy weapons and ready to use them…”

“So what do you want to do?” Henson asked, crossing his arms in front of his big barrel chest.

“I’m the link to the inside, but first I want to call Travis, see if Spellman ‘ill let him talk, if not, I’ll try callin’ Ezra again.” He looked around at all the egger faces. Everyone knew someone who was in trouble. “Get an ambulance down here, I know there are people hurt up there.”  He took a deep breath and ran his fingers through his hair before looking out the big office window toward their targeted building. He knew the procedures. It was just as easy to fail as it was to succeed, and now it was up to him to get his friends and comrades out alive.


Nathan shook his head when he failed to wake Vin. The sharpshooter’s coloring was as close to white as it could ever get. His breathing remained shallow, but became more labored with each passing minute. Nathan had bundled the wound with napkins, and wrapped his own shirt as tight as he could around Vin’s thigh, it had only slowed the bleeding, not stopped it.

Chris clenched his jaw as he looked from Vin to Ezra and then to the table near the back where two gunmen held their weapons on the table where Mary, Casey, Rain, and others sat. He knew if he moved the likelihood of someone getting hurt was a huge possibility. He wouldn’t be responsible for a death. But he couldn’t stand and watch Ezra and Vin slowly died.

Chris could tell he wasn’t the only one thinking the same thing. Josiah, JD, and every officer in the room had a look of confused despair. They all knew the risks, and none of them wanted to take it. Was saving two lives, worth risking countless others?

Of course not.

“Buck will be here,” JD whispered confidently.

“Let’s pray he does, brother. Let’s pray he does.” Josiah closed his eyes and took a deep breath, praying that whatever Buck decided to do, he did it in a hurry.

Ezra slid down the wall, no longer able to keep himself upright. Evie gently placed her jacket under his head, offering him some kind of comfort. His skin was now ghostly pail. The bleeding at his side had stopped, but the pain hadn’t decreased. To make things worse, an incessant chill had set in his bones, causing every muscle to contract and shake.

Evie brushed her hand across his forehead, trying to offer a limited amount of comfort. She looked toward her husband, seeing his grief she smiled tightly, letting him know she was okay. He nodded in understanding, but it didn’t ease his worries.

It wasn’t a matter of getting the weapons away from the bad guys; it was a matter of keeping everyone alive while doing it.

Orin jumped when he heard his cell phone ring. He squeezed his eyes shut when five weapons were suddenly pointed toward his head.

“Answer it!” Spellman yelled, losing his patience.

Carefully, Orin reached into his pocket and pulled out his phone. “Hello,” he answered, hoping he knew what to say.

It’s Buck,” came the soft-spoken reply. “Talk to me as though you’re talkin’ to the governor.”

“Yes, sir,” Orin answered. He quickly looked up and nodded toward Spellman, letting him know the phone call was in regards to getting his brother released.

Buck continued, “I don’t want you to worry about the details.” He made it clear. “We’ve received several cell phone calls from officers in the room with you stated there are 7 fully armed men.”

“Yes, sir,” Orin replied, casually looking at his watch.

SWAT’s already got a raid planned, but I need to know from you exactly where the weapons are located in the room…” he sighed, looking at the room layout given to him by the owner of the restaurant after he’d been notified of the situation.

“How soon can this be done?” Orin asked, a sense of urgency in his voice.

Couple hours,” Buck replied.

“One hour is too long,” Orin answered, knowing they wouldn’t be over the time limit of 8 hours, but knowing Ezra and Vin wouldn’t last much longer.

How many are hurt?” Buck pinched his bottom lip. Orin wouldn’t be so set on a time if there weren’t.

“Two hours,” Orin answered softly.

Ezra and someone else?” Buck asked, knowing he wouldn’t get the details, but he needed to get the jest of it. Talking in code was giving him a headache. 

“Yes sir.”

On a scale between one and ten, how bad?”

“Ten,” Orin replied, looking worriedly at his downed agents.

Buck took a deep breath. “Tell them we’ll have his brother out in two hours. I’ll call Ezra’s phone and plan on takin’ the money to the front desk—we’ll have them out of there in a few minutes.”

“Two hours then?”

Two hours,” Buck replied confidently. He hung up the phone and clenched his teeth before looking at the agents and officers around him. “I want two ambulances here with doctors—I don’t care how you get them here—just do it. You,” he pointed toward the youngest looking officer in the room, “put on some shitty clothes and get ready to drop the money off—they’ll know you as Candy.”

“What about you?” someone asked from the back of the room.

“I’ll follow SWAT.”

“But you’re not cleared?”

“Do I look like someone you want to argue with at the moment?!” he snapped, quickly dialing Ezra’s cell.


The room sat silent as the lone cell phone rang. Nobody moved, just waited to see what would happen. Spellman clenched his jaw and motioned for Ezra to answer it.

Too weak to move, Ezra let the phone continue to ring until Evie flipped it open and gently placed it against his ear.

“Say something,” she said softly, running her fingers through his hair as she held the phone in place.

“Yeah,” Ezra said, and then muffled a cough. He couldn’t help but smile pathetically as he heard Buck’s voice on the other side.



Damn it, Ezra, you hang on!” Buck all but yelled. “We’re comin’ up after you now…I’ve got a guy who’s goin’ to drop the money off at the front desk in the lobby—”

Before Buck could finish, Spellman grabbed the phone noticing Ezra had succumbed to his injuries and passed out.  “This about the money?” he barked into the cell, quickly changing hands as he noticed blood on his fingers. He snarled toward the downed man and quickly wiped his hands on his pants.

Who’s this?” Buck asked, chills running down his spine.

“I should be askin’ you the same thing?” Spellman replied. He grabbed the back of Evie’s shirt and pulled her away from Ezra. “Go sit down…you’re not doin’ him any good anymore!”

Buck’s chest went cold, and he turned and motioned toward the SWAT unit to move out. He wasn’t going to waste any more time. “This is Candy, I’ve got the money an’ because my boss wants me to deliver it in person, I’m brinin’ it up.” His heart raced as he watched the second hand on the clock. “I’ll be there in ten minutes…what floor?”

“Fourteen, and take the stairs,” Spellman replied before closing the phone and tossing it back toward Ezra’s still form. He looked up and with a quick shake of his hand had two men charging out the back entrance door toward the stairs. “I want everyone up and against that far wall!” he yelled, waving his gun toward anyone he thought moved too slowly. “NOW!” He pointed his weapon directly at Nathan. “If he ain’t dead yet, he will be in a second!”

Nathan stood up, wishing he could be sure that the tourniquet applying pressure to Vin’s leg would hold. With hands covered in blood, he walked to the back of the room with the others.

Chris looked toward the still bodies of his agents, and his stomach clenched. Feeling as though he’d failed them and the rest of his men, he clenched his jaw in hopes that a miracle would happen. 

Spellman was not a stupid man, and he knew the risks he was taking simply by his chosen hostages. These men were trained in the field of law enforcement, and they knew exactly how to react in any given situation. The only reason he’d been successful thus far was his large amount of weaponry. Nobody was foolish enough to try and take one of his men down—not when the chance of getting hit by a bullet was as great as it was.

With everyone standing near the far wall, he could keep a better eye on everyone and not need as many men. He knew that his money was on the way, and he knew that it was only a matter of time before the police came knocking on his door. He expected them to call first, ask them what he wanted in exchange for his hostages, maybe even promise him a truck full of gas to make his escape. But what they didn’t know, he already had an escape route planned, all he needed was the money to get there.


Vin could feel his energy drain as though someone had taken the spout off the water jug. It was hard enough to breath, let alone move. With his arms and legs feeling as though they weighed a ton, he struggled for a moment, unable to lift his right hand past his hip, before he closed his eyes and took a deep breath. The world seemed to be enclosed by a cloud, and he embraced it. He could hear muffled voices, and he could feel the cold in the air, making him wish he’d worn warmer clothing. His mind wandered, thinking about his past, as though he were watching it on an old black and white television…without commercials.


Buck didn’t wait. His gut was telling him the boys were in serious trouble and the only thing he could do to keep from going crazy was to do something about it.

The service elevators were filled with SWAT members, while plain clothed officers carefully scouted the thirteenth floor. They didn’t have time for a mistake, two of their own were counting on them, whether they knew it or not. Buck moved behind the SWAT members, a Kevlar vest well hidden beneath his jacket. His heart raced, knowing he had friends down, knowing that they needed him to get them out alive. He was worried about surveillance by Spellman, he knew, after speaking briefly with Ezra that there was a strong possibility, however, he was moving forward without really knowing.

They were all breathing hard, but years of training and experience had them at the gates of perfection, all they had to do was find the culprits and take them down…all at once if possible. They exited the elevator on the thirteenth floor and cautiously made their way down the narrow hall.

Buck looked up and saw a plain clothed officer wave him down. The officer moved down the hall and toward the line of SWAT members and paused in front of Buck.

“There’s no surveillance, however, Spellman’s got men at every entrance and exit on the floor above us and they contact him every ten minutes…I’m guessing they’re wearing ear pieces, probably why none of the boys on the inside saw it.”

“Ezra did,” Buck replied, knowing that was what the undercover agent had been talking about. “Can your boys take them down without any hitches?” he asked, knowing they could, but he needed the reassurance.

“Damn right we can,” came the assertive reply.

Buck nodded: “Give us two minutes to get up onto the fourteenth floor, and I’ll let you know when to hit…get your men ready— we don’t have time to mess around.” His words were heeded, and he watched the men move out in an orderly fashion. He took a deep breath, shoved his weapon behind his back and opened the stairwell door. “Ready?” he asked, looking toward the two SWAT agents that were going to follow him up.

“On your say so,” the first answered. “We’ll get them out…all of them.”

Buck nodded in appreciation and gathered himself before jogging up the stairs.


Chris watched with a practiced eye as Spellman ordered his men into position. He spoke into his headset, and took his position near the door to the hall. Two of his men would escort ‘Candy’ to him…and then, given the opportunity would eliminate him and the others. Everyone would go out with a boom. He couldn’t help but chuckle. His plan was perfect.

Josiah nodded toward the far door, seeing three of Spellman’s goons relaxing…looking as though they were already free and in the clear. He looked toward Chris, and realized he wasn’t the only one to have seen it. It was strange, watching as the police and agents moved forward, Travis and Evie were subtly pushed back with the attorneys and those not familiar with law enforcement tactics.

Without instruction, they knew what to do…and when Spellman opened the door the room erupted. Buck pushed forward and tackled the culprit that had done this. He knew without even looking up that SWAT had taken care of those men guarding the kitchen, bathrooms, and rooms down the hall. Chris and the others had used tables and chairs to subdue those guarding them. Only one shot was fired, and that was by JD who’d been able to hide a weapon under his pant leg. He could only shrug when Chris looked at him in thanks and astonishment.

“Where’re the medics?!” Buck yelled, kneeling down beside Ezra’s form. He looked over toward Nathan who was working diligently on Vin’s leg. Chris quickly joined him, but was pushed out of the way by two paramedics.

“How is he?” Josiah asked, kneeling next to Buck.

Not knowing what to say, Buck simply shook his head and kept his hands applied to the wounds on Ezra’s side. “What in the hell happened?” he asked, quickly getting pushed back as paramedics moved in to take over.

Josiah grasped Buck’s shoulder and pulled him out of the way, allowing the two EMTs enough room to work. “I’ll explain at the hospital.”

Men moved out of the way as gurneys were pushed through the doors and quickly loaded. Most everyone was telling their story to someone else, trying not only to find understanding, but needing to let them know what had really happened. On scene police officers took reports while Spellman and his men were exited from the building in handcuffs and placed in awaiting police vehicles.

Chris followed the EMTs out of the building, the rest of his men following him. He slipped inside the first ambulance, and watched Vin’s still and sweat covered face…wishing he knew how things would turn out. Buck didn’t give the paramedic any chance to object when he took the passenger seat of the second ambulance…he was angry enough that doctors hadn’t come…they were supposed to have. He’d give the hospital an ear full when he got there.


Nathan quietly took Rain home. He changed clothes and was quickly on the road back to the hospital…much like the rest of the team. He didn’t say much to anyone, just answered the right questions at the right time. He had too much running through his mind. He stopped unconsciously at Josiah’s place, where, without having to get out of his Blazer, the big man had exited his home in a clean change of clothes. Had they all been covered with blood?

“Just got off the phone with Chris,” Josiah said quietly. He watched Nathan nod. “Said Ezra and Vin are in surgery…not sure how long they’ll be in.”

“Vin lost a lot of blood, Josiah,” Nathan whispered, “and I didn’t even get a chance to look at Ezra.”

“They’re both strong, brother.”

“Forty-seven cops up there in that room and we all just watched them shoot into that elevator.”

Josiah nodded: “If Ezra and Vin had arrived on time…what do you think Spellman would have done to Ezra then?”

Nathan turned and looked hard at Josiah, and then slowly nodded in understanding.


Like always, the hospital’s interior was as welcoming as the visitation room at the state penitentiary. If the smells weren’t bad enough, the design was the unwelcome topping. Green plastic chairs lined the waiting room, magazines dated from ten years back sat idle on 70s décor tables. Even the art on the wall seemed more appropriate for cheap hotels than an up-to-date hospital. Nurses walked with purpose through the sterile halls, and they sat calmly behind their desks filling out paperwork and talking about their lives in general.

The ER wasn’t that busy, except for the occasional transient sleeping off a drunk, or perhaps a mishap with someone having health problems. When Ezra and Vin had been pushed in on gurneys, the whole place erupted in excitement, but now, with them up in surgery, things had settled back down.

Chris looked up just as a young woman pushed an elderly man in a wheelchair toward the admissions desk. He’d fallen in the shower and was feeling pain in his hip. Chris shook his head, unsure if he wanted to get that old, and yet feeling as though his two agents may not have that opportunity. 

“Mr. Larabee,” a nurse said, stepping into the waiting room, “you’re more than welcome to wait in the surgery waiting area—it would be more comfortable for you.”

“I’m waitin’ for my agents—I’ll go then.”

She nodded politely, and quickly turned to continue with her work.

“Tell me what happened?” Buck said, sitting with his elbows resting on his knees.

“It’s a damn good thing you decided to stay home on your vacation,” Chris replied, leaning against the wall with his left hand inside his back hip pocket. “We’d all be dead.”

“I figure the ATF or the FBI would have thought of somethin’ to get you all out of there.” Buck sounded humble.

Chris chuckled: “Who would Ezra have called, Buck…”

“You worry to damn much, Larabee,” Buck replied, getting to his feet. Damn, he wished hospitals smelt better.

“I stood there, Buck…I stood there and did nothin’.”

“You and ever other officer in that buildin’ thinks the same way, Larabee—the exact same way. Everyone should have done somethin’ sooner…only if they had, things may not have turned out as well as they did. So while you sit there feelin’ like shit because you don’t think you acted the way you should have acted, two of our friends are up there in some room gettin’ there guts put back in place.”

“You know, you’re getting’ pretty damn cold in your old age,” Chris bit back.

“Good!” Buck snapped.

Both men turned in time to see Orin and JD enter the waiting room. They looked tired and in need of a strong cup of coffee.

“I took Evie home,” Orin said kindly, “she wanted to be here but—”

“—It’s best she’s at home, sir,” Chris jumped in. “You should be there with her…I can call you when we know somethin’.”

“Don’t push me, agent,” Orin stood up straight. “You boys mean the world to Evie and I, and I won’t sit by and be coddled like an old man!”

JD took a step back…everyone seemed on edge. He looked at Buck and saw a perimeter of defense, and Chris too had it. JD cleared his throat: “I dropped Casey off at Nettie’s, she wants us to call her and let them know how they’re doing.”

“How’d you hide the gun?” Chris asked outright.

“I got a tip from a friend,” JD quickly replied. He moved across the room and took a seat against the far wall.

“Has anyone heard anything yet?” Orin asked,

“No,” Chris replied, moving back to his former place against the wall.

Nathan and Josiah entered the room at the same time, and without words, everyone stood up and headed to the surgery waiting room. The smell was just as sterile, but the closer confines made for a warmer environment.

Nobody wanted to be there, but they all knew they needed to be. Mortality wasn’t something that was thought about by healthy people. They lived their lives without worrying about death—until they faced it. Even cops had a tendency to place a shield around them, a protective shield of sorts—one that defied the odds.

Chris ran his fingers through his hair and rested his elbows on his knees before burying his face in his hands. He’d been here before and lost. He knew the odds, and he knew what to expect. A rubber band could only stretch so far before snapping/breaking. He couldn’t stop the images of Vin being thrown into the dining hall while blood poured from a hole in his leg. Chris could only watch as Nathan tried his best to stem the blood flow, while the color drained from the sharpshooter’s face. Spellman had planned and carried out the plan. If it hadn’t been for the fact that Vin and Ezra were late—they could all be dead now.        

Nathan knew better than the rest of them how much damage could be done to someone who’d lost too much blood: loss of organ function, shock…death. Vin had lost a lot. Blood had pooled around Nathan’s hands as he’d pressed cotton napkins into the wound. He took a deep breath, praying that he’d slowed the blood flow enough stem death. And then there was Ezra…he hadn’t had time to check the undercover agent—but Evie had. The look on her face after Ezra had succumbed to his injury had been enough to scare her…enough to warrant a sedative after it had all come to an end. Nathan hated feeling helpless, and he felt it now—stronger than ever.

JD wasn’t anymore a boy than Ezra or Vin, but his youthful face had caused everyone he worked with to place him in a position of ‘son’. Someone the others looked at as their younger brother of sorts. Though at times it grew annoying, mostly he enjoyed it, surprisingly so. But today they weren’t coddling him, telling him everything was going to be all right. Telling him that Vin and Ezra were going to pull through without any problems. JD didn’t think they had the strength to lie to him today. They were all scared. They were all victims of a crime—hostages in a sense; hostages that had yet to be released. He blindly thumbed through a magazine, wishing someone would let them know what was happening. He wished he’d been able to use his hidden weapon sooner—maybe then he could have protected a friend in need.

Buck was pissed. He quietly stewed in his anger as he waited for the hospital to move at some primitive rate of speed and let them know what the hell was going on with his friends. He was pissed because Chris wasn’t demanding answers for questions he had yet to ask. He was pissed because his teammates looked more like larks than officers of the law. He clenched his fists, allowing his fingernails to stab the palms of his hands. The drive was gone, or so it seemed. The looks of defiance, anger, and revenge had vanished in a matter of hours—they all looked…lost.

Josiah couldn’t remember the last time he’d felt as though his world had collapsed. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d been a victim of a crime. He couldn’t fathom his own inner turmoil. He’d watched his friends, his brothers, be victimized by an angry man with a gun, a man who wanted revenge for a nothing more than a belief that his brother had been wronged. You can’t beget peace with violence, and so the words ran through his head like the lyrics of a song he’d heard on a TV commercial. He knew the tune, but he couldn’t remember the writer…he knew the sin, but he couldn’t remember the sinner. Slowly, he bowed his head and asked for an inner peace, and he asked for the lives of his friends.

…To come so far and lose so much.

Orin had been a father; he knew the feelings swelling within his head and gut. He looked at the group beside and before him…he looked at the men that looked more like boys at the moment. The boys were in trouble and didn’t know where to turn…and that scared them as much as the fear of losing two of their own. Life was meant to have twists and turns, it was meant to be challenging…it was meant to be difficult. He could remember a time not so long ago when he sat inside this very hospital with his wife, waiting to see his son—the very son he lost. Life had been difficult then, just as it was now. Each face expressed anger, fear, and confusion. He didn’t have any words to bring comfort.


Three hours. Three long, strenuous, painstaking hours as Chris watched the large hand on the clock strike 1:30 am. Then, like a starving man seeing a loaf of bread, he looked up and spotted two doctors standing at the entrance of the waiting room. The tension could be cut with a butter knife, and nobody knew what to say.

Doctor Hilliard stepped forward and smiled before taking a seat. Doctor Kendall quickly joined him.

“Gentlemen,” Hilliard said, taking a deep breath. He quickly started rattling on about the femoral artery and how it had been nicked, but not bad enough to cause hemorrhagic shock. He confirmed the blood loss was severe but not bad enough to warrant an extensive hospital stay. Vin was going to be all right with some rest, fluids, and some well-deserved time off.

Ezra wasn’t as lucky, as Doctor Kendall quickly described. Bullets didn’t enter a body and exit, or lodge themselves in some unknown ‘happy’ little place where a talented surgeon could quickly find them. It turns out; they leave a trail…an erratic bullet track, as the good doctor had called it. The bullet that had entered Ezra’s right side, shattered a rib, and had trailed around his chest wall before piercing his liver, snapping another rib, and exiting three inches from where it had entered. Thankfully, it hadn’t hit his heart, lungs, or spine…but it did leave a nice groove on his sixth rib. He was lucky.

The doctors both stood and exited the room just as quietly as they’d entered, talking calmly about grabbing some coffee. Chris and the others could only sigh in relief and thank God for saving their friends’ lives. One by one they stood and headed down the long corridor. They would each take turns sitting with Vin and Ezra…and they would each reminisce in their own way.   


Vin brought his hand to his forehead and squeezed his eyes shut, trying to ward off the sunlight creeping in through the window blinds. “Fuck this,” he gasped, looking to his right as the light was slowly diminished and the subtle sound of plastic hitting plastic, sounded.

Chris smiled: “Welcome back.” He retook his seat next to the bed and turned off the TV that he’d had on mute…there wasn’t much on anyway. “How’re you feelin’?”

Vin choked back a laugh: “Are you kidin’ me?…askin’ me a question like that…” He dropped his hand back onto his chest. “How’s Ezra?” His face grew serious.

“Two doors down,” Chris replied, looking toward the window as a nurse was about to enter the room. “Busted a couple of ribs, bullet punctured his liver—but the doctors say he’ll be back to his old self in no time. Buck’s with him now.”

Vin sighed, “What happened?”

Chris leaned forward and explained, in detail, about the events from the day before. He watched as the nurse quietly took Vin’s blood pressure, temperature, and then checked his bandages. Chris rolled his eyes when she left, letting the sharpshooter know how much he could empathize. “Nate, Josiah, and JD are home…tryin’ to get some sleep.”

An orderly brought in a try of food that looked more like road kill. He nodded politely before exiting. Vin looked at the food on the small hospital tray and frowned.

“How soon can I go home?”

Chris chuckled: “I’ll go find out.”



“I’m tellin’ you it was Uriah Heep,” Buck argued. “I don’t know how a yuppie like you could know shit about classic rock.”

“The Allman Brothers Band did Statesboro Blues—”

“Bullshit—it was Uriah Heep!” Buck grew more agitated.

Chris peaked his head inside the door and raised his eyebrows in question. “Any problems?”

“Yeah,” Buck jumped in, looking hard at Ezra. “Mr. ‘I’m loaded on pain relievers and don’t know my ass from my elbows’ thinks The Allman Brothers Band did Statesboro Blues. I say it was Uriah Heep.”

“Ezra’s right,” Chris answered flatly. He looked at Ezra. “How’re you feelin’?”

“Like I’ve been shot.”

Chris smiled: “Glad you’re feelin’ somethin’.” He turned toward Buck. “I’m goin’ to call the boys and let them know Vin and Ezra are awake, then I’ll find out when they can go home.”

“Ezra already asked,” Buck replied. “End of the week for him.” He pointed with his thumb toward the Southerner. “They gave him more drugs—to keep him from stealin’ a wheelchair.” He grinned and kicked his feet up onto the edge of the bed.

“How is Vin?” Ezra asked, trying to stay as still as he could while remaining comfortable.

“Bitchin’,” Chris replied with a smile. He nodded and slipped out of the room.

“How in the hell can the two of you confuse Uriah Heep with The Allman Brothers Band…they sound nothin’ alike,” Buck continued to rant.

Ezra raised his left eyebrow in question.

It was going to be a long week.

The end!!!


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