Private Investigations

Book Eleven

by Beth AKA Midge

ATF Universe

Previous Stories in this Series
The South Wind
The Mouths of Crocodiles
High and Dry
China Roses
Brothers in Arms
Wayward Son
Calling Elvis
A Raven in the Snow
My Noble Friend
Under the Red Sky

It´s a mystery to me – the game commences
For the usual fee – plus expenses
Confidential information – it´s in a diary
This is my investigation – it´s not a public inquiry

I go checking out the reports – digging up the dirt
You get to meet all sorts in this line of work
Treachery and treason – there´s always an excuse for it
And when I find the reason I still can´t get used to it

And what have you got at the end of the day?
What have you got - to take away?
A bottle of whisky and a new set of lies
Blinds on the window and a pain behind your eyes

Scarred for life – no compensation

Private Investigations
(Mark Knopfler)

Chapter 1

Ezra watched as the clock in his office slowly rolled over to indicate 4:30 a.m. He´d been here all night staring blankly at the transfer papers he´d received the night before. He´d just been getting ready to leave when an interoffice assistant dropped off the confidential package for him. Transfer papers that had been signed by not only Judge Travis, but Chris Larabee and Eric Anderson as well. Anderson wasn´t a surprise. He´d carried through on his threat. Chris had told him about the joint papers he had had to sign in order to obtain him, and he knew Travis had to as well but he never expected to see them in use again so soon.  According to the new orders he was scheduled to appear at the Indianapolis FBI Field Office headquarters by 2:00 p.m. for reassignment. If he didn´t appear he would lose his job this time, no exceptions.

He didn´t want to go. Even as rough as the past year´s events had been on him he didn´t want to leave. He finally felt as though he´d found a place he could call home and more importantly, friends to share it with. He didn´t know when the friendships started but they were there and he found himself liking very much the bonds that had formed. A year ago he would have bet against anyone saying he had friends, but now…

Things had truly changed. Having someone watch his back was a different, but welcome, feeling and he was going to miss it. He´d never admit it to anyone but himself the actual thought of leaving this time terrified him. He didn´t know how or why, but all his instincts were telling him this transfer was his last assignment. Why else would he be heading off to the hometown of a known dealer, a one Pat Guarde to be precise, and infiltrate his weapons and drug ring? Pat Guarde was known to have purchased his product from Jared Harrison; this was the case Chris Larabee and Vin Tanner walked in on while he was conducting ‘research´ in the basement of the Federal Building in Atlanta. That fateful day, they pulled him out of a situation that surely would have cost him his life. In effect, they had pulled a drowning man out of turbulent waters. Now, with the delivery of a simple sheet of paper, Ezra Standish was back in the deep end.

Having an affinity for tying up loose ends, Ezra had completed the routine tasks needed to get on with his next assignment.  Flight arrangements to Indiana had been made. He also paid his landlord the rent on his condo for more the next six months--just in case he was able to return. He wanted to. All he had left to do was pack his bags and get on the plane. His flight was scheduled to depart at 9:00 am.

+ + + + + + +

Chris pulled into the parking garage and sighed.  He was surprised to see Ezra´s Jaguar already there, in fact it was the only other car in the garage at the moment. The team leader pulled in beside it and he jumped out of his Dodge Ram. Placing his hand on the hood of the Jag he was surprised to find the hood cold too the touch.  Team Seven was getting in the middle of another big assignment and as usual he was checking and rechecking every aspect of the case. His men were his priority and he intended to make sure they didn´t suffer because of his lack of leadership.  Glancing again at Ezra´s car, Chris took a sip of his coffee and headed to the elevator but paused when the sound of Vin´s Jeep echoed throughout the garage. He punched the up button on the elevator and waited for the sharpshooter who was trotted over clutching a carton of chocolate milk and a donut. “Vin,” he acknowledged holding the elevator door. “You´re a bit earlier than usual?”

“Wanted to get down to Candy´s Bakery before the donuts were gone,” Vin answered, taking another bite of his pastry.

Chris looked at his watch. “At 6:30 in the morning?”

“The beat cops from the 5th Precinct wipe ‘em out by 7:00am.” Vin smiled and stepped into the elevator. “Ezra´s here already?”

“Don´t think he ever went home,” Chris answered.

+ + + + + + +

Ezra snapped his briefcase shut and grabbed his coat off the back of his chair. He looked up when the bell to the elevator door rang and sighed. How do you say goodbye without saying goodbye?

Chris motioned with the tilt of his head for Vin and Ezra to join him in his office. He sat his coffee cup on his desk and opened up his office window to allow the fresh warm air into the room. Chris slipped into his seat and watched as Vin sat down and rested his left ankle on his right knee. The sharpshooter finished off his chocolate milk and tossed the carton into the garbage pail across the room. Ezra slid into the chair next to Vin holding a manila file in his hand. Dark circles were noticeable under the undercover agent´s eyes, easy evidence for lack of sleep. What Chris didn´t expect was the rather melancholy demeanor that now surrounded the Southerner.

Ezra cleared his throat before Chris could say anything. He leaned forward and handed the file to the team leader and paused when Chris opened it up and read the first page. “My flight leaves at 9:00 a.m. I really should be going.”

“What´s goin´ on?” Vin asked, looking back and forth between the undercover agent and the team leader.

“I´ve been transferred Mr. Tanner, effective immediately.”

“Chris?” Vin looked hard at the lean blonde who was looking intently at the file.

“Ezra, sit down, you´re not going anywhere,” Chris stated, looking up and meeting Ezra´s gaze.

“On the contrary Mr. Larabee,” Ezra returned the gaze. “If I am not in Indianapolis at precisely 2:00 p.m. this afternoon, I lose my position as a federal officer and I can´t afford to do that.” It wasn´t that he couldn´t afford to lose his job in the financial sense; money was easy to come by.  It was more that ‘doing his job´ meant everything to him.

Chris stood up and ran his hand through his hair. “The Judge gets back today at 1:00 p.m.…I´ll call an emergency meeting and we´ll get you back here!” he said with conviction.

Ezra nodded his head in acknowledgment knowing Chris intended to make good on his word. “If…” he paused, “if I don´t make it back please made sure that JD knows China Roses belongs to him.”

“We´ll get you back Ez,” Vin said in almost disbelief.

Ezra smiled hesitantly. “It´s been a pleasure…Gentlemen.” With that said, he picked up his briefcase and was quickly out the door.

“Damn it!” Chris yelled, slamming his fist against the wall. “I´m going to fucking kill Anderson!”

“He doesn´t think he´s comin´ back,” Vin responded sadly.

“He is if I have anything to say about it.”

+ + + + + + +

Chris stormed into Judge Orin Travis´ office with five men on his heels. He threw Ezra´s transfer papers on the desk and waited for the judge to look them over. Orrin Travis knew that if he didn´t read through the information quickly, Chris would proceed to reveal the contents of the file for him. He liked to read everything firsthand so while the team leader continued to pace, the rest of his men looked at him hoping he could contain his temper. They needed to get Ezra back in one piece, not suspended for assaulting a Judge.

Travis rubbed his brow and closed the file. He looked up and met the eyes of six desperate individuals concerned for a friend…concerned for a brother. “I´m going to make some phone calls…you boys put all your impending cases on hold and get ready to take a trip to Indianapolis.”

Buck slapped JD on the shoulder and smiled. Things would work out. Josiah took a deep breath after having held his for so long. Nathan nodded his head, knowing the judge was going to do the right thing, with or without the permission of the FBI Director. Vin would do what he was asked, without hesitation.

“I need to know... how much leeway I have?” Chris questioned. He looked hard at the judge.

“Deniability…don´t tell me…just do it.” The judge returned the stern look. “I´ll find out where he´s going to be at, you boys make sure that nothing happens to him until we can get this sorted out.”

Chris nodded his head and ordered his men out of the office. He looked back to see the judge pick up his phone. Chris was confident that things would work out. The judge would do what he could and that was all that the team leader needed.

+ + + + + + +

“Buck,” Chris snapped. “You and JD gather up all the surveillance equipment you can…anything and everything that you think we might need.” JD and Buck jumped into action and rushed out of the office. “Josiah I need you to make flight arrangements for all of us, try and get us into Indianapolis by tonight.” He looked at the big man and watched him head out. “Vin…I need you to get out to my place and pick up all the Harrison files and while you´re there go next door and ask Shorty Campbell to feed the horses while we´re gone. On your way back can you to stop and pick up some clothes for everybody else? Whatever you can´t find we´ll buy when we get there.”

“See ya in a bit Pard,” Vin tipped his imaginary hat and headed out.

“How´s Raine, Nathan?” Chris asked.

“She´s doin´ fine,” the medic replied. He didn´t want to leave her in the state she was in but he knew he had to. The pregnancy hadn´t been easy on her and the closer she got to the due date the more emotional she became.

“Nettie´s agreed to stay with her while we´re gone…are you okay with that?”

Nathan paused, he wanted to stay with her but he needed to go with the team. He knew Nettie, Casey, and Mary would be with her. “We need to get Ezra back.”

“That´s not what I asked.”

“Raine´s goin´ to be fine and I know she´ll be in good hands while I´m away…I´m okay with it.” Nathan admitted confidently.  He knew that if he didn´t go, Raine would voice her disapproval to the point of insanity.

Chris nodded his head in acceptance. “Go get whatever you might need for the trip,” he watched at the medic stood up to leave, “and Nathan…if it´s any consolation I know how hard it is.”

“Thanks Chris.” Nathan smiled and headed out of the office.

As soon as Nathan left the office Judge Travis entered. His face expressed his concern for the situation but his eyes showed his determination. “Ezra is going undercover to investigate a man by the name of Pat Guarde. From what I understand Guarde had been dealing drugs and weapons for years. Six agents have been killed trying to infiltrate his organization…”

“Shit,” Chris muttered.

“I´ve pulled some strings and rented you a house across the street from Guarde´s, he lives in a small upper class neighborhood. We lucked out on that aspect.” Travis looked hard at the blonde sitting behind the desk. “Evie and I are leaving for the next two weeks…we can be reached at this number if you have a problem. I figure if I´m not around questions won´t be asked regarding you or your team´s whereabouts. As far as everyone in the building is concerned you and your men are working out of the city on a gun smuggling ring. I´ve managed to get you three weeks. You and your men are on your own; you won´t have any back up Chris…so be careful. I´ll do what I can for you but if you break the law I don´t want to know about it.”

“Thanks Judge.” Chris stood up and shook his hand.

“Just get him back safe.” Travis squeezed Chris´ shoulder and turned to leave.

Chris leaned against his desk and sighed. Travis had given him permission to do what he had to in order to get Ezra back. Chris intended to do just that.

Chapter 2

Ezra threw his duffle bag on the bed of the hotel room and then hung his garment bag in the barren closet. He loosened the tie around his neck and headed into the bathroom to throw some water on his face. The meeting with Special Agent Bryce Pooley had ended rather quickly.  Pooley was heading up the investigation against Pat Guarde and had informed Ezra that his undercover work would start immediately. Ezra had already had his basic research from a year ago and everything was set to go.

Ezra looked hard at himself in the mirror as the water dripped down his face. This is not where he´d expected himself to be at this stage in his life. He started the shower and stripped down. He needed to get out and visit some of Guarde´s haunts. He relaxed a bit when the steaming water hit his shoulders and back. There was an empty feeling in his gut that he hadn´t expected after leaving Denver. For the first time in years he´d grown close to people he truly considered friends and he was sorry to have left them behind.

+ + + + + + +

Chris looked through the bedroom window that overlooked the house across street. Pat Guarde´s home. JD and Buck set up the surveillance equipment next to the window while Vin tried to get a better view of what was happening inside the house. Josiah moved through the house trying to keep himself busy while Nathan made himself useful in the kitchen.

The house was large with eight bedrooms and three baths. Even a pool and hot tub, ready for use in the back portico area. Thankfully the home was fully furnished. The house had been seized after the occupants had refused to pay taxes. It was then quickly purchased by a local real estate office and went up for sale. The judge had been fortunate when he´d managed to procure the house for the next few weeks, at a high price but it was worth it. If, of course, they could get Ezra back.

“Looks like Guarde has three bodyguards,” Vin said, gently closing the window blinds.

“Did you get a good look at them?” Chris asked, taking a peek out the window.

“Good enough to know they´re bodyguards.” Vin smiled. He´d seen their looks of awareness and more importantly the bulge of the concealed weapons beneath their jackets.

Chris looked again at the black and white photograph of Pat Guarde then threw it on the table next to the window. “How are you coming JD?”

The kid leaned back in his chair. “Once we get these bugs planted in the house we´ll be able to hear everything being said in every room,” he pointed to the box of carefully positioned listening devices, “if we can get this one…” JD picked up a specially designed bug that wasn´t any larger than a button, “on Ezra we´ll be able to listen in on everything he has to say as well as track his whereabouts.”

“He ain´t goin´ to go for that,” Buck said, looking through the phone book.

“He doesn´t need to know about it,” Chris affirmed. “We do need to worry about getting that house,” he motioned with the tilt of his head toward the house across the street, “bugged.”

“Not any more,” Buck said with a smile. “We´ll call the local phone company and make arrangements for a line check.”

“Good.” Chris nodded his head in agreement. Now all they had to do was find Ezra.

+ + + + + + +

Saturday morning had Buck and JD headed up to the house wearing coveralls with the Net Tel insignia stitched onto their backs. The white beat up van they had ‘borrowed´ had the same insignia painted on the side. It was parked next to the curb while JD carried a toolbox and Buck carried a clipboard toward the house. Before they could knock on the door it opened and large man stood in the doorway. JD instinctively took a step back. Though the man was well dressed, his dark hair cut short above his ears, and his chiseled jaw line set him apart from delicate fineries of the home.

“What do you want?” he asked in a huff. His body took up most of the space in the door; there was no hope of sneaking around him.

Buck cleared his throat. “Well, me and the kid here,” he motioned to JD, “we were dispatched this morning to make sure that the phone lines in the neighborhood are working clearly due to the new long distance line we just installed.” Buck smiled and pointed to the name on the clipboard.

“Don´t know nothin´ about new phone lines goin´ in.”

“Davis,” a heavily German accented voice said within the house. The big man in the doorway turned and looked toward his boss who was walking toward the entryway. “Please, go help Mr. Hicks with the car.” Davis turned and left without saying another word. “So you boys need to check my phone lines,” he acknowledged.

JD nodded his head while looking oddly at the older man. Pat Guarde didn´t look like a drug runner or a weapons dealer, not that they had a certain look, but he didn´t seem to fit what Josiah would call the ‘profile´. He looked like someone´s kind old grandpa. Though he wasn´t frail his face was creased with lines of wisdom, his hair was thick but completely silver, and his stature was of average height but his affluent belly let them know he enjoyed his meals.

“Yes sir,” Buck said with a smile. He looked to JD who was a little shell shocked by the looks of it. “The kid here, well he´s new on the job…I´m just showin´ him the ropes.”

Guarde nodded his head and stepped out of the way for the two men to enter the house. He knew they were lawmen of some sort; he´d been around long enough to know. But he didn´t care. His gun running and drug dealing days were over, now he only cared about one thing…finding his son´s killer. “You boys need to check every phone in the house?”

“That would be best,” JD replied, finally getting up the courage to talk.

“You can start upstairs…stay out of the room to the left of the stairs,” Guarde ordered, before heading back toward the kitchen.

“That was too damn easy if you ask me,” Buck said under his breath.

+ + + + + + +

Chris looked at his watch as JD and Buck adjusted the sound on the surveillance equipment. They could hear music playing inside Guarde´s house. Josiah and Chris both thought it was odd because the music was loud enough to prevent them from hearing anything that was being said. They didn´t, however, have time to rethink their positions. Their first and only priority at this stage was finding their undercover agent.

The only thing the team had to go on was the fact that they knew Ezra was investigating the man across the street. Everybody could feel it in their guts that this was somehow involved with Harrison. As night was fast approaching Chris and the others did what they could to try and figure out what steps their undercover agent would take in order to infiltrate Guarde´s organization. The problem lay with the fact that the FBI wasn´t willing to share any information regarding the case. So the team was on their own and for now their only link to Ezra was through Guarde.

Nathan passed out drinks to everyone while Vin continued to look through the window towards the house. “For someone who´s supposed to be some big time weapons dealer he sure don´t leave his house much,” Vin noted.

“Maybe he does all his business online.” JD smiled turning up the volume on the surveillance equipment.

“Hell, with today´s technology it´s possible,” Chris muttered.

“According to Brother Ezra´s records Guarde has been dealing in ‘unlawful conduct´ for the past forty years. He doesn´t need the internet to get his business done.” Josiah rubbed his face and sat on the edge of the large king sized bed in the room. He listened carefully to the music coming over the speakers and sighed. “What if somebody leaked Ezra´s cover to Guarde from within the FBI?”

“Shit, Josiah…” Chris shook his head, “don´t even go there.”

+ + + + + + +

Out of the past seventy-two hours Ezra had slept for maybe eight. The dark circles under his eyes were proof of his weariness and exhaustion. He carefully donned a dark colored suit and tried to make himself look presentable. Monday had arrived too quickly for the undercover agent´s comfort. The only evidence that he had eaten was the empty sandwich container and a banana peel resting in the garbage can. A half empty bottle of imported beer rested on the nightstand next to an open bottle of aspirin. Rechecking his appearance, Ezra opened the hotel room door and headed outside. He´d made previous contact with one of Pat Guarde´s men now all he had to do was make contact with Guarde himself.

+ + + + + + +

Chris shifted anxiously next to the window as the sun went down over the horizon. There hadn´t been any sign of Ezra in days and the team leader was beginning to think whole transfer assignment was a set up. He was getting short tempered with his men and most chose to make themselves scarce whenever Chris was in the room they were using as their base of operations.

Buck and Vin had been the only two that were able to tolerate Chris´ outbursts and they took turns watching the house next door with an increasing amount of intensity. Every day that went by frustrated them more. They needed answers…they needed something.

Guarde´s Rolls Royce had left a couple of hours ago and Chris had sent Josiah tail it. But the big man had returned saying he´d lost the target due to the increase in traffic. The streets seemed to run wild with people getting off of work. As disappointed as Chris was, Josiah was more disappointed in himself and the sorrow behind his eyes proved it.

“We got action,” Vin piped up. He noticed the garage door to Guarde´s house go up which either meant the man was arriving home or someone else was leaving.

Nathan and Josiah tore into the room after hearing Vin´s observation and they all stood next to the window and carefully looked out. Vin continued to eye the opened garage with the binoculars. Buck made sure all the bugs in the house across the street were in working order.

“They´re coming down the street now,” Nathan said, watching as the dark green Rolls with tinted windows pulled up into the garage. The door didn´t go down immediately and they all hoped it wouldn´t not until they knew it was Guarde getting out of that car.

+ + + + + + +

Pat Guarde looked angrily at his bodyguard, the same bodyguard who had answered the door for the lawmen posing as the phone company employees. He then returned his gaze to the slumped form next to him. This was not how he wanted this to happen.

When the car stopped Guarde stepped out not giving his driver time to open the rear door for him. “Davis,” he called, stepping out of the way for the big man to exit the car.

Before Pat could order him Davis reached inside the car and retrieved the unconscious passenger. He threw the form over his shoulder and followed his boss inside the house.

+ + + + + + +

“They´ve got Ezra,” Vin said, watching as Guarde´s bodyguard carried the undercover agent over his shoulder. “Looks like he´s unconscious.”

“Let Nate take a look, Vin.” Chris tapped the sharpshooter on his shoulder as Nathan moved in to take a look though the binoculars.

“I can´t see much from here,” Nathan acknowledged. He stepped away from the window and shook his head.


“I´m on it Pard,” Buck knew exactly what Chris wanted and he had no intention of letting him down. He turned up the volume on the bugs and made sure they would be able to hear everything.

Take him up to Samuel´s room,” Guarde´s voice ordered.

“What do you want us to do Chris?” Vin asked. He was ready to do what was necessary.

“We´re not going to do anything to get Ezra killed, so we wait.” Chris eyed his men.

+ + + + + + +

Pat Guarde stood in the doorway of his home waiting for his lifetime friend to arrive. He knew the house across the street contained agents, probably FBI. It was usually the suits that tried to run an investigation on him but that wasn´t his concern anymore. When the Buick pulled into the driveway Pat Guarde stepped out of his house and headed for the older man who was slowly maneuvering his way out of the car.

“Gus,” Pat called to his friend. “Glad you came.”

“Show me where he is,” Gus ordered, grabbing his medical bag from the back seat of the car. He followed Guarde into the house. “What´s going on here Pat?”

“He´s up in Samuel´s room,” he replied anxiously, while heading up the stairs to the bedroom.

Davis moved away from the bedroom door as Pat and Gus entered. Ezra lay on his back with his face turned toward the far wall. His shirt had spots of blood near the collar and his tie had been removed. Gus moved toward the bed and sat down next to his patient.

“What happened to him?” Gus asked, gently turning Ezra´s face toward him.

Pat cleared his throat while watching his friend work. “My boys misunderstood my directions.”

Gus nodded his head in acceptance. “Who is he?”

“He´s a Fed,” Pat answered. He´d known Gus longer than most and he knew not to try and lie to him. The man had pulled him out of more scrapes than he cared to count.

“I´m not going to patch this kid up so you can turn around and kill him!” Gus yelled, getting to his feet. He ignored Davis who quickly stepped into the room ready to protect his boss.

“He knew Samuel, Gus, I´m not going to have him killed,” Pat responded.

“Samuel´s dead Pat.” Gus returned to his spot on the bed and started checking on his patient.

+ + + + + + +

“What in the hell is going on?” Chris continued to storm about the room while listening to the conversation. He wanted to know how Ezra´s cover got blown and he wanted to know how his undercover agent was involved with Guarde´s son. 

+ + + + + + +

Gus, with Pat´s help, managed to get the Southerner out of his shirt and jacket. Guarde smiled when he noticed the derringer and sleeve rig. The kid could have killed one of his men in a heartbeat but he didn´t.

Gus Stevens took Ezra´s blood pressure and carefully checked his ribs and the bruising on the left side of his face. The beating he´d endured wasn´t that bad and after being friends with Pat for so many years he´d certainly seen worse. It did bother him that his patient had yet to awaken.

“The kid´s exhausted,” Gus put his stethoscope back into his medical bag. “His blood pressure is low but that´s not uncommon for someone in his condition. Make sure he sleeps through the night and make sure he eats something when he gets up tomorrow.” The doctor pulled Ezra´s shoes off and then covered him with a blanket. “I mean it Pat…let him sleep.” He watched as his friend nodded his head in agreement. “If he keeps going at the rate he´s going…” he didn´t bother to finish his statement.

“I want him to help me find my son´s killer Gus, that´s all.”

“Don´t get yourself killed in the process,” he warned, squeezing his friend´s shoulder before heading out of the room.

Chapter 3

Chris sat by the window with his feet kicked up on the table nearby, he drank slowly from the hot cup of coffee that Nathan had made earlier. Nobody had heard anything come out of the room Ezra was sleeping in. Chris had to wonder why Guarde was taking so much interest in their undercover agent and just who was his son Samuel? Chris also wondered why Ezra would know the son of a well-known drug and weapons dealer.

Vin slipped quietly into the room and paused at the window. “Any movement?”

“Nothing yet.” Chris shook his head taking another sip of his coffee. “I went back through some of the files Ezra has on Harrison last night.”

“Whatcha find?” Vin asked, leaning against the window frame while overlooking the house next door.

“Seems Pat Guarde has been on the FBI targeted list longer than the ATF has been recognized as a federal agency…so in their eyes this case is FBI Jurisdiction and if we get caught we´re looking at serving time for Obstruction of Justice.”

“Well,” Vin said with a smile, “they´ve done a right good job nailin´ his ass before now, don´t think it´s gonna matter none if we help ‘em along some.” He smiled even bigger as he continued, “Besides it´d be a Federal Penitentiary, Josiah could catch up on his golf game, Nate could go back to school and get his doctorin´ done, and JD could learn how to grow a proper mustache.”

Chris chuckled, “I wish I had your outlook on things.”

“Hell Chris,” Vin looked again outside the window, “maybe it´s your old age catchin´ up with you.”

“Asshole,” Chris muttered, throwing a wrinkled up piece of paper at the sharpshooter.

+ + + + + + +

Ezra brought his hand up to his face and furrowed his brow. The room he was in didn´t look familiar and he wondered how he´d arrived here. Slowly he sat up on the edge of the bed and collected his thoughts. He noticed his shirt sitting neatly folded on the edge of the antique dresser and his jacket hung from a hanger on a hook next to the full-length mirror across the room. It had been cleaned and pressed and Ezra wondered who had done it.

He remembered someone approaching him at the bar he was at. Then they walked outside into the back alley where three men jumped him. He fought for all it was worth but one of them managed to put a white cloth over his nose and mouth and then everything went black. Ezra rubbed his face trying to remember more but nothing made sense.

The Southerner stood up and quickly dressed. He didn´t bother with his tie; instead he shoved it into his pocket. When he stepped out into the hall he came across a very large individual who seemed to be content standing guard at the end of the hall. The guard reminded him of one of the sons in the painting ‘Oath of the Horatii´.  With his determination and his readiness to die, Jacques Louis David would find this man as a perfect study. Perhaps it was his cold exterior that sent cold chills down Ezra´s spine. He didn´t say anything to him but rather headed down the stairs.

+ + + + + + +

Pat Guarde sat at the dining room table reading through a stack of papers. His glasses hung low on his nose as he drank slowly from an elegant wine glass. He looked up when his guest entered the room looking confused and…lost. “Agent Standish,” Pat stood up and pushed his chair. “I´m Pat Guarde.” He smiled and stuck his hand out for Ezra to shake.

Ezra looked at the older man in question. This wasn´t how it was suppose to work and on top of it all his cover was blown. He didn´t shake the offered hand but instead looked questionably around the room. Another guard dressed in the best clothing money could buy stood near the entry door. The man´s attire didn´t quite ‘fit´ his facade. “If you know who I am why am I not sitting at the bottom of the White River?”

Pat motioned for Ezra to take a seat at the table. “I´m the one who brought you here.”

Ezra shook his head not understanding. He seated himself at the end of the dining room table and waited for Guarde to continue. Unknown to him Chris and the others were listening from across the street. 

“I arranged for you to be transferred,” Guarde announced with confidence. “You have to realize Agent that if I wanted you dead you would be.”

“Why me?”

“You knew my son…”

Ezra shook his head. “I don´t know anyone by the name Guarde.”

“You attended the FBI academy with a Samuel Gardner…” he paused when the realization hit, “he was my son.”

+ + + + + + +

Chris slammed his fist into the wall when Samuel Gardner´s name was mentioned.

“What´s up Pard?” Buck asked, his face was lined with worry.

“Samuel Gardner was the name of the FBI agent who investigated Sara and Adam´s death,” he responded.

“You think he´s the same one?” Vin asked from across the room.

“Yeah… yeah I do.”

+ + + + + + +

“I remember him.” Ezra responded still uncertain about his reason for being there.

“He was killed in the line of duty seven months ago…”

Ezra shook his head. “Samuel was assigned to Administration…he went to work in the Identification Division, he wouldn´t have been in the field.”

“He got transferred four years ago after some information fell across his desk concerning the theft of arms from an evidence warehouse in Denver.” Guarde watched Ezra´s reaction and was pleased to see the wheels in his head turning.

“How do you know all this?”

“He was my son,” Guarde motioned for his bodyguard to bring him something then he continued, “Samuel worked at his home as much as he did at the office. I noticed the last year he was working he had become very…paranoid. He started leaving his files here, he knew what I did for a living and he knew that the FBI couldn´t get close enough to find them.” He watched Davis place a box of files on the table then move back to his spot near the door. “Then eight months ago Samuel takes a bullet in the head from an unknown shooter.”

“What do you need from me?”

“I want you to help me find the man that killed my son and in turn I´ll give you all the information you need in order to get a conviction against William Parker.” Guarde watched as Ezra thought hard about his offer. William Parker was a well-known weapons dealer. Parker was even trying to move in on Guarde´s territory.

“You and Parker have been enemies for a long time. How do you know Samuel´s death wasn´t the result of a territorial war?”

“Because Parker isn´t thinking about the big picture. By killing my son he knows that his next purchase will be from the ATF earning him twenty to life in the State Penn.” Pat stood up and walked toward the finely pane glass window. “I´m 67 years old Agent Standish, I want to know who killed my son then I want to go home to Germany. I came to this country in hopes of building a new life but instead I buried a wife and four children.” He looked back towards Ezra and waited for his response.

“What if I don´t agree to the conditions?” Ezra asked, knowing what the response would be.

“You will,” Guarde said confidently. He walked into the kitchen and made himself and Ezra a late lunch. He knew the day ahead would be long.

+ + + + + + +

“What do you think?” Nathan asked, resting his elbows on his knees.

“I think Ezra and the rest of us are in over our heads and we don´t have shit to fall back on!” Chris all but yelled.

“You couldn´t have known you´d be involved in this mess Chris,” Buck tried to reason.

“I should have put it together!” Chris snapped again. “Shit Buck…you and I both swept that Denver warehouse, Samuel Gardner was the Agent who investigated my wife and son´s murder!” He ran his hand over his face and started pacing the floor. “Damn it! He asked me questions about Harrison and it never dawned on me until now!”

“Chris you had just buried your family, nobody expects you to be an encyclopedia when it comes to remembering everything that happened!” Buck yelled back. He didn´t want to see his friend blame himself for the team´s current circumstance.  

+ + + + + + +

Ezra dropped his jacket over the back of his chair and started shuffling through the box of files on the dining room table. He looked up when Guarde placed a plate of food in front of him then moved to the chair across the table and started eating his own lunch. “It´s documented that you have made purchases from a Jared Harrison?”

Pat sat his sandwich back on his plate and wiped the corners of his mouth with his napkin. “I purchased 250 military style weapons from one of Harrison´s men. I then realized the weapons I purchased were also the same weapons I lost to an ATF raid some four months prior. That was the last time I ever worked with Harrison.”

“I´ll need to see the police reports regarding your son´s death.” Ezra changed the subject but continued to analyze what Guarde had told him. “I´ll also need to return to my hotel room…I´d like to take these files with me.”

“Those files stay here until you give me a name,” Guarde said with a smile.

Ezra nodded his head in understanding. “Then I´ll need to go to my hotel and retrieve the files I brought with me.”

“Davis will drive you…”

“I´ll take a cab,” Ezra said with conviction.

“I´d prefer…”

“If you want me to follow your rules,” Ezra warned, “then please do me the courtesy of allowing me to make a few of my own.” He left no room for argument.

Guarde leaned back in his chair and smiled. He was convinced he´d gotten the right person for the job. “Samuel always said you were a ballsy son-of-a-bitch.”


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