Private Investigations

Book Eleven

by Beth AKA Midge

ATF Universe

Chapter 8
The cab stopped in front of the cheap motel. All the cars that had been there the night before were now gone and the manager of the establishment was working tiredly at watering the pathetic lawn. Ezra paid the driver and headed slowly to his room.

He pulled his weapon out of his waistband and slowly opened the door. The door frame had been broken and a scuff mark from someone´s shoe was plastered on the door next to the handle. He entered the room slowly and noticed the nightstands had been turned over and emptied. The small dresser was knocked over and the drawers discarded. Blankets and sheets were strewn on the floor along with pillows and pillowcases. His duffle bag had been emptied as well as his garment bag. Ezra moved to the bathroom with his gun firmly in his grasp, he sighed in relief when the room was empty. He rubbed his right arm against his brow wiping away the beads of sweat that had gathered there.

Carefully he retrieved his briefcase from under his bed, thankfully it hadn´t been discovered. Ezra pulled his weapon back out of his waistband when the door to his room flew open. He raised his gun at the intruders and sighed when he realized who it was.

“What in the hell,” Buck gasped, entering the room.

“You all right?” Chris asked, stepping up to his undercover agent. Concern was etched in his eyes when he got a good look at the men. Ezra´s left arm hung oddly at his side. Blood was caked to on the left side of his neck staining his once white tee shirt. The sweat gathering at his collar and forehead also gave Chris some cause to worry.

Ezra nodded his head while looking around the demolished room. JD and Josiah started placing things back in their original positions, replacing drawers, placing the nightstands on all fours as well as the two chairs that rested in front of the window. Buck started shoving Ezra´s clothing and toiletries back into his duffle bag.

“What happened here?” Chris asked, needing to get an answer out of the Southerner. The team leader carefully took Ezra´s weapon that was barely being held in his hand and carefully placed it into Buck´s grasp.

“My guess would be someone was looking for information,” Ezra quietly responded. He hissed in pain when he reached down at his feet and picked up his briefcase.

Chris placed his hand in the small of Ezra´s back and felt the files that hid in his waistband under his shirt. He knew it was the file that Daley had given him as well as the file he´d obtained at the restaurant. “Let´s get you to Nathan,” he ordered, pushing his agent forward. The tall blonde reached out and grabbed the briefcase out of Ezra´s hand. He smiled when the Southerner released it willingly.

Buck followed carrying Ezra´s duffle and garment bag. Josiah called Nathan and let them know that they had found the Southerner and to let him know what kind of shape the man was in. JD followed as well all the while hoping they could put an end to the case.

+ + + + + + +

Ezra held his left arm up close to his left side. His ribs burned, his dislocated shoulder sent spears of pain through his shoulder and neck, and his hip felt like it was one massive bruise. Chris drove through the streets with one intention, getting his undercover agent to Nathan. Buck sat in the back seat with JD and Josiah listening to JD ask questions about the evidence Ezra now had. Did he know who Harrison was? Did he have enough evidence to put the man away? What about Samuel Gardner? Did he find who killed him?

Buck elbowed the kid in the ribs indicating for him to shut up. Ezra hadn´t said a word since he snapped at Josiah for having tried to help him get into his seat. It was obvious to everyone but the kid that Ezra was trying to maintain his composure.

“How´d you get hurt?” Chris asked, demanding an answer.

Ezra leaned his head back against the seat. “I got hit by a car,” he responded flatly.

“Shit,” Chris said under his breath. He looked into the rear view mirror and eyed Josiah and Buck. They needed to get Ezra to a hospital. He´d have Nathan take a look at him first and if the medic agreed then they would cross that hurdle when they came to it.

The garage door opened just as Chris pulled into the driveway. Vin and Nathan both stood back as the van entered the garage then the door quickly closed. Nathan was on Ezra like bees to honey. He opened the door and almost immediately started asking questions. Chris, Buck, JD and Josiah all piled out of the van while listening to Ezra using words that would put a sailor to shame.

JD grabbed Ezra´s few belongings and followed the team back into the house. Ezra all but collapsed on the first chair he came to. Nathan was at his side in an instant with his medical kit. Chris sat across from the Southerner watching to make sure he didn´t cause the medic any more grief than necessary. Vin stood beside Josiah while Buck and JD headed back upstairs to keep an eye on Guarde.

“Ezra, we need to get your shirt off,” Nathan sighed, resting back on his haunches.

The undercover agent clenched his jaw and reached around to his back and pulled out the files he´d shoved into his waistband then dropped them to the floor next to his feet. He then nodded his head understanding what had to be done. He watched as Josiah handed Nathan some scissors then he started to cut the tee shirt away. Chris and Vin both looked away from the large bruise that covered the left side of Ezra´s torso. A deep purple in the rough shape of a gun rested between his armpit and the waistband of his pants.

“Damn,” Nathan sighed, taking a closer look. “We need to get your shoulder back in place.” He turned sympathetic eyes to his friend he saw him nod his head. Nathan figured Ezra would have done it himself except his ribs were probably giving him too much pain. “Josiah,” the medic called for the big man´s assistance.

Josiah understood what he was being asked to do. He gave a reassuring smile to Ezra and rested down on his knees beside him. He wrapped his left arm around the Southerner´s back resting his hand on Ezra´s hip. Then with his right arm pulled the Southerner into him, holding him a rough embrace while burying Ezra´s face into his shoulder by supporting his neck and head. Josiah nodded to Nathan letting him know he was ready.

Nathan clenched his jaw as he took the limp arm and in one swift move popped the shoulder back into place. Ezra opened his mouth to yell but nothing came out except harsh breathing. He squeezed his eyes shut and let Josiah rub his back, a simple but reassuring touch. Nathan stood up and motioned for Chris to follow him into the kitchen giving Ezra time to recollect himself.

“We need to get him to a hospital,” Nathan stated matter of factly. “He could have internal bleeding, one of his ribs is broke maybe a couple others…”

“How do you want to handle this?” Chris asked before Nathan could finish.

“I think we should tell him what needs to be done then if he refuses…” Nathan looked hard at Chris wanting him to know how serious the situation was, “I can slip him a sleeping pill.”

“I don´t like it.”

“What other choice do we have?” Nathan confronted him.

+ + + + + + +

Josiah released his hold and Ezra sat up straighter feeling the tension in his shoulder and arm seize. Vin stepped forward and handed him a glass of water and Ezra took it gratefully.

“Did you find what you were lookin´ for?” Vin asked, squatting in front of the Southerner.

Ezra chuckled and raised his eyebrows in disbelief. He looked toward Nathan and Chris as they reentered the room. Vin stood up and moved back seeing the look in Chris´ eyes. The medic returned to his spot in front of Ezra.

“We need to get you to a hospital,” Nathan said, keeping his voice low and even.

“No,” Ezra replied. He stood up, keeping his right hand on his battered ribs, and started backing away.

“Ezra, you could be bleeding internally,” the medic pleaded. “The bruising on your side could be something more.”

“I said no!” Ezra snapped back leaving no room for further argument. It wasn´t his words that caused everyone to back down it was the look of utter fear in his eyes.

“Okay,” Chris said, trying to ease the moment.

Ezra visibly relaxed but remained standing it the same spot. Nathan moved into the kitchen while Chris grabbed the files that the undercover agent had deposited on the floor. Josiah went to the Southerner´s duffle bag and started searching for a clean shirt he could wear. Vin looked at Chris realizing something was up so he grabbed the briefcase JD had brought in and placed it on the coffee table.

“Can I take a look at these?” Chris asked, motioning to the files in his hand.

Ezra nodded his head and took the shirt Josiah handed him. Slowly he manipulated his bruised body into the shirt and stepped forward when Josiah guided him toward the couch. Chris seated himself in the heavy chair across from the sofa. When he opened the first file he had to take a deep breath.

“It would appear that you´re closer to this case than we thought,” Ezra said, looking meaningfully at the team leader.

Chris nodded his head in agreement. “What do you plan on doing with all of this?” The evidence the team leader held in his hand was enough to put 14 important members of government behind bars for a very long time. It wasn´t lost on Chris that the things Daley had told Ezra were true. These were powerful people who weren´t going to let an undercover agent with the FBI, who had an already tarnished record, destroy their way of life.

“I haven´t decided yet.” Ezra leaned back into the sofa allowing his muscles time to relax.

Nathan placed a cup of hot tea in front of the Southerner. “Drink that,” he ordered, taking a seat next to Vin in one of the over stuffed chairs.

Ezra ignored the tea for the moment and ran his right hand through his hair. He continued to try and fight his body´s desire to sleep. “You can´t discuss this with anyone…Judge Travis included.” He met everyone´s eyes and received understanding nods. “Secretary of State Virgil Kaiser has been using his influence to ship drugs into this country through his connections with foreign diplomats. Last year alone he brought in over three billion dollars worth of cocaine and with the help of Senator James and others they were able to ship that cocaine across the country without raising any suspicion.” Ezra rubbed his face and continued, “SAC Anderson is being paid to remain quiet, it would be my guess that is the reason why he is currently up for the Directorship. From what I have gathered weapons being taken from government warehouses did not begin until fifteen years ago but now that the sales of weapons are bringing in more money than the drugs it is occurring more frequently. After weapons were confiscated from dealers, informants from within the bureau contacted people from the Harrison organization and then the weapons were stolen and resold. There is enough information in the files to convict every person listed there,” he motioned to the file Chris was holding, “but it can not be any of us that bring this evidence under review.” His voice echoed everyone else´s concern.

Chris handed the files to Josiah who quickly took them. “These people killed my family,” the team leader stated. He wanted revenge. He wanted these people to suffer the same devastation he had.

“If you try and go after these people…” Ezra looked hard at Chris, “everyone you know is at risk.”

Chris nodded his head hesitantly. The people who had killed his family were within his reach and it was infuriating knowing that he couldn´t do anything about it. Now the test lay in exposing the culprits. “What are you going to do?” he asked.

“However I decide to handle this,” Ezra said with conviction, “I won´t tell any of you.” Chris started to protest but the Southerner interrupted him. “I won´t risk any of you…as it stands your only connection to Harrison is through me and that warehouse in Denver and that´s how it´s going to remain.”

“If you think that for one minute your doing this alone…I´ve got news for you,” Chris warned.

“Does that include Mary, Billy, or Raine…” Ezra looked to Nathan who turned his head away, “what about Casey or Nettie.” He returned his gaze to Chris and saw that what he had said hit home.

“Seems Guarde is callin´ it an early night,” Buck announced, stepping down the stairs and then heading to the kitchen to grab a beer.

Nathan watched as Ezra tentatively took a drink of the tea he had made him. The possibility of losing Raine wasn´t a subject he wanted to broach. He understood Chris´ desire to avenge his family but the medic couldn´t risk his own. Not for anything. He refocused his attention to Ezra. He wanted to get him to a hospital, which was his main concern. Everything else could wait. He watched as Josiah handed Vin the files. The big man´s mind was turning, trying to figure out a way to get this case closed without any possible repercussions.

Ezra rested his forehead in his right hand while he held in his left hand with the half full cup of tea resting on his thigh. Chris reached out and grabbed the cup before it fell to the floor. Ezra didn´t notice.

“Damn Nate, how much did you give ‘im?” Vin asked, noticing the Southerner was becoming oblivious to everyone and everything in the room.

Nathan reached out and lifting Ezra´s chin and smiled when half hooded eyes greeted him. “Let´s get goin´, I don´t want that seditive to wear off before we get ‘im to the hospital. Josiah stepped forward and helped Nathan get a sleepy Ezra to his feet. “Watch that shoulder Josiah,” the medic warned, as both he and the big man made their way to the rental car with the Southerner tucked between them.

“Buck,” Chris called. “You and JD stay here and keep an eye on Guarde call me if you see anything.” He quickly headed out to the car with Vin following close behind.

“What the hell is goin´ on?” Buck yelled, watching everyone leave.

+ + + + + + +

Chris drove toward the hospital with a silent Vin Tanner sitting beside him. He knew the sharpshooter had strong objections about taking Ezra to the hospital against his will but that was the team leader´s last worry at the moment. Josiah and Nathan sat in the back seat with Ezra trapped between them.

The hospital seemed rather quiet as Chris pulled the car to a stop near the outside of the ambulance entrance. Vin jumped out, “I´ll go get some help,” he said, before jogging toward the emergency room entrance.

Josiah carefully positioned his strong arms under Ezra´s and grabbed the Southerner´s wrists to keep his shoulder from moving out of place while Nathan wrapped his arms around Ezra´s knees. Together they lifted the undercover agent out of the car. Vin came out of the emergency entrance with one doctor and two orderlies pushing a gurney. The doctor looked relieved to have something to do while the orderlies talked amongst themselves about the TV program they had been watching.

As soon as Nathan and Josiah lifted Ezra onto the gurney his eyes flew open and he began to struggle within the big man´s grasp. Chris helped the medic hold the Southerner´s legs down while the orderlies stood back in surprise and the doctor rushed back into the emergency room to get a stronger sedative.

“Let me go,” Ezra said in haste. He pulled forcefully at Josiah´s strong hold and he tried desperately to release his legs from Chris and Nathan´s grasp.

“Ezra!” Chris snapped, trying to get the undercover agent´s attention. “Calm down.”

“Please, let me go,” Ezra pleaded when he noticed the two orderlies take a few steps toward him. He tried to fight harder. “Josiah,” he pleaded again refusing to take his eyes off the two individuals dressed in hospital smocks, “Please.”

“Back off!” Chris yelled, at the two men who quickly stepped back.

“Ezra,” Josiah said in a low even tone near the Southerner´s ear, “nothings going to happen…the doctor just needs to take a look at you and make sure you´re not bleeding inside.” The big man smiled when Ezra relaxed for a moment and stopped struggling.

Ezra tried to get his fear under control. He took deep breaths but he couldn´t seem to get enough air in his lungs. He shook out of fear and exhaustion.

When Chris felt some of Ezra´s strength leave he released some of his hold all the while unconsciously rubbing the back of the Southerner´s left calf. He had no idea of how hard this was for him and truthfully he didn´t want to know.

The doctor came rushing out of the emergency room doors and nobody could tell if it was the sound of the doors, the smell that followed, or the doctor himself but Ezra fought and he fought even harder. He´d long since given up on pleading with anyone. He kicked Chris in arm causing the team leader to yell out in pain and grasp his now badly bruised elbow. Nathan did what he could to hang on. Josiah yelped out when the back of Ezra´s head connected with his nose but he continued to hold on. The doctor rushed in and pulled his patient´s trousers down far enough to expose enough of his right hip to inject the shot he held.

Ezra fought even harder when he felt the needle enter his flesh. “I trusted you!” he yelled, trying to move away from the doctor´s touch.

“I´m sorry,” Josiah whispered, knowing what it was they were risking. He continued to hold tightly onto the Southerner more out of fear of losing a friend. He didn´t notice when Ezra went limp.

“He´s out Josiah,” Nathan said quietly, tapping the big man´s shoulder. The medic winced when he got a better look at Josiah´s nose. Blood was smeared on his upper lip and on his chin, it wouldn´t be a surprise if his nose was broken.

Josiah gently released his hold and with Nathan´s help they got the Southerner laid out on the gurney. What had they done? Josiah continued to repeat those words in his mind. He looked up and nodded his head in understanding when Nathan placed his hand on the big man´s shoulder.

Chris grabbed the doctor´s arm and threw him a look of warning. “No restraints,” he warned, keeping his voice low and menacing.

The doctor´s Adam´s apple bobbed up and down before he nodded his head in understanding. “You and your friend should come in and have your arm and his nose looked at,” he tried to sound confident but his voice shook out of control. Quickly the orderlies moved in and the doctor rushed the patient to the ER.

Josiah stood stunned for a moment and noticed Chris holding his right elbow. They exchanged a nod of understanding and slowly made their way to the hospital entrance.

A short nurse with fiery-red hair handed Josiah a wet cloth and immediately took him to have his nose examined and she pulled the tall blonde along with them. They both needed to have their injuries tended too. Nathan filled out paperwork while Vin sat alone in the waiting area.

+ + + + + + +

Chris sat on the gurney with his shirt off looking disgusted. Anger seemed to bounce off of the team leader like rain did a paved road. He was angry with Agent Carson, Eric Anderson, Harry, Ezra, but most of all himself. He never should have agreed to joint transfer papers. He should have put an end to this case a long time ago. If he only had been smarter, faster, and stronger he could have saved everyone the pain and helplessness they were feeling now. If only…

Josiah pulled back the blue curtain and took a long look at the team leader. “How are you fairing Brother?” He asked, grabbing a chair and sitting down. His eyes were starting to blacken, a white bandage covered the bridge of his nose, and his watery hazel eyes met blue.

Chris released a tense chuckle and shook his head. How had he lost control? “The nose broke?” Chris asked, changing the subject.

“Yep, it´s not the first time and I doubt very much that it will be the last.” Josiah smiled and held up a couple bottles of medication. “This one is to keep the swelling down, and this one is to keep me breathing through my nose.” He grasped the medication tightly in his fist. “However, I think I would be happier with some of Brother Ezra´s brownies.” Josiah laughed when Chris let loose a chuckle of his own.

A young doctor slipped into the area and smiled nervously when he received a look of warning from the blonde haired patient on the gurney. “I just need to wrap that arm of yours then you can be on your way.” Dr. Mosby grabbed a two-inch ace bandage out of the drawer.

“What about Ezra Standish?” Chris asked. For a hospital that wasn´t busy the service was taking longer than he´d expect. It had been over an hour and a half since they had arrived.

“I´ll have the physician working on Mr. Standish come and talk to you.” The young doctor gently grabbed Chris bruised arm and started wrapping the elbow. “You should try and keep this immobile for the next day or so.”

“Is that all,” Chris replied sarcastically. The good doctor might as well have asked him to amputate the limb.

Josiah looked up when he heard footsteps behind him. Nathan and Vin entered the emergency room with lines of concern chiseled on their faces. Vin hung back not really sure that this is where he wanted to be. He locked eyes with Josiah and saw understanding, not a judgment.

Dr. Mosby finished with the ace bandage and handed Chris his shirt back. “I´ll find out about your friend,” he said, and then quickly moved toward the nurses´ station.

“Did you call Buck and let him know what´s going on?” Chris asked Nathan, who stood next to the gurney with his arms crossed over his chest.

“Yeah, he´s waiting to hear back from us,” the medic confirmed.

Chris slid off the gurney and finished buttoning up his shirt. He tried to ignore the bulge of the ace bandage beneath his sleeve. He could tell Vin was upset, everyone could tell, but he couldn´t do anything about it. He knew he did the right thing; after all it was Ezra´s life they were dealing with. The Southerner would eventually understand, maybe not now, maybe not tomorrow, but eventually he would understand.

The same doctor that had sedated Ezra walked up to the four men. He held tightly in his hand a clipboard and tried to wear on his face a look of bravery. “Gentlemen,” he cleared his throat. “Sorry I didn´t have the chance to introduce myself earlier. I´m Dr. Brown.” He smiled when the big man that had been sitting to his left stood up and shook his hand.

Josiah introduced himself and the others to the obviously nervous doctor. The man would make JD look like a giant and his age…well, Josiah placed him around the time of 300 B.C. “How´s Ezra?” he asked, needing an answer well above anything else.

“Your friend is very lucky,” the doctor said with newly discovered confidence. “We did an ultrasound to discover any internal bleeding and the results were negative we also did an MRI on the shoulder that had been dislocated…everything looks fine, however, if he´s not careful he could be facing surgery in the next few years. We´ve placed him in a brace and immobilized the arm and shoulder. We´ve also wrapped his ribs. He broke the eighth rib on his left side as well as fractured ribs six, seven, and nine.”

“So he´s gonna be okay?” Vin asked, slightly relieved.

The doctor smiled and nodded his head. “What he needs is rest, I would prefer to keep him overnight for observation…”

“No,” Chris said, shaking his head.

Dr. Brown nodded his head. He wasn´t about to argue with these men. “The anesthetic he´s under should be wearing off as we speak…”

“Where is he?” Vin snapped, not giving the doctor time to finish.

“Down the hall…” the doctor pointed then tried to keep his balance as the four individuals he´d been speaking with charged past him. He stood there a moment watching them go not quite understanding what it was that happened. “He should remain in the brace for the next ten days, he needs plenty of sleep and plenty of fluids,” the doctor continued to tell himself while heading back to the nurses´ station shaking his head all the while. “Young people,” he muttered.

Chapter 9

Ezra took a deep breath and looked drowsily around the room. Thankfully the pain had eased but panic took over when he realized where he was. He sat up on the small gurney and tried to move his left arm when he couldn´t he pulled the IV shunt that was stuck in his arm out with his mouth and then he slid off the end of the portable bed. On wobbly legs Ezra leaned heavily on the wall while trying to close the back of his hospital gown. He needed to get some clothes, and get the hell out of Dodge.

Ezra slipped out into the white barren hall and slowly crept toward the first room he could come to that would have some decent clothing. He used the wall for support as his head swam and his stomach turned. The first door he came too he slowly pushed opened and was relieved to find the doctors´ lounge. The only room in the hospital that didn´t smell like a hospital; Ezra sighed in relief and he leaned against the door. He hated the smell and he hated the sounds.

Overstuffed chairs were spread out in the room, opened cookie boxes, pop cans, and potato chip bags littered tables, counters, and arm rests. Lockers lined the walls and Ezra started opening them looking for some clothes.

The third locker opened without any hesitance and Ezra grabbed the jeans that were folded inside as well as the shirt hanging from the hook. He managed to get himself out of the brace securing his shoulder and threw it to the ground. He slipped into the jeans and the shirt then grabbed the tennis shoes that were resting at the base of the locker. Ezra pulled the wallet out of the back pocket of the jeans he´d slipped on and grabbed twenty dollars out of it and tossed it back into the locker.

Quickly Ezra stuck his head out into the hall, confident that the way was clear, he slowly made his way out.

+ + + + + + +

Chris pushed his way into the room where Ezra was supposed to be and swore when he noticed the empty bed and the IV line leaking out onto the linoleum floor. “Damn it!” he snapped. “Check the surrounding rooms,” he ordered. Vin and Josiah went left while Chris and Nathan went right.

“Hell,” Vin muttered. “He ain´t here.”

“Is that a gut feeling?” Josiah asked, checking the locked storage room door.

“Think about it Josiah,” Vin paused and looked at the big man. “Would you want to be in a place like this after all that´s?”

“Chris didn´t have a choice,” Josiah tried to defend the team leader´s actions.

“Bullshit.” Vin ran his hand through his hair. “He shouldn´t have done it…not that way.” He moved away from Josiah and started checking rooms.

+ + + + + + +

Chris entered the doctors´ lounge and took a quick look around. Nathan followed and immediately spotted the blue brace lying on the floor under the open locker door. “Chris.” The medic picked up the brace and looked at the tall blonde. “Looks like he took some clothes.”

“Where in the hell are you Ezra?” Chris said under his breath. “Let´s head back to the house, we´ll call Buck and JD tell them to keep an eye out for him.”

+ + + + + + +

Buck hung up the phone and shook his head. The team was falling apart and nobody was going to be able to do anything about it. Ezra was missing…again. Vin wasn´t talking to Chris. Josiah was feeling guilty enough for them all. Nathan was worried about a friend in need and about his fiancée and their unborn baby. JD seemed to bury himself in the only thing he could, fiddling with gadgets. Chris, well Chris was going to be a different story. A pissed off Chris Larabee was like a raging bull staring down a legless matador. The only thing left to do was pray.

JD looked up from the surveillance equipment and raised his eyebrows, “What´s goin´ on?”

“Ezra´s gone AWOL.” The kid responded to Buck´s answer with a chuckle. “It ain´t funny JD,” the ladies man replied in a serious tone.

“Don´t take this the wrong way Buck,” JD looked seriously at his friend who leaned against the window frame. “I know you and Chris have been friends a long time and I think he´s the coolest person I´ve ever met or had the pleasure to work for…but sometimes he doesn´t have enough sense to poor piss out of a boot.”

“I won´t tell him you said that,” Buck replied angrily.

“Somebody should!” JD snapped back. “The first thing Ez would do if he were in a hospital would be to freak out. Damn Buck,” he shook his head, “you were there when we found him in that alley.”

“Chris didn´t have a choice,” Buck continued to support his longest friend.

“You always have a choice.” JD fiddled with the sound on the equipment, “Besides if you were Ez where would you go?”

“If I knew that kid I wouldn´t be here.”

JD smiled confidently. “He´ll go to Guarde.”

Buck stood up straight. “Why would you think that?”

“He´ll keep his word to him,” JD answered.

Buck smiled. He knew JD was right about that, and he was probably right about some other things as well.

+ + + + + + +

Ezra paid the taxi driver with the twenty dollars he´d stolen, or borrowed, as he liked to think of it. Guarde´s house was up the road but he intended to stop off at the house Chris and the others were using as their base of operations. He needed to retrieve the files. He knew what he had to do to end this.

Bracing his left arm against his sore ribcage he dashed across the yard and across the verandah. Thankfully the sliding glass door was open and Ezra was able to quietly sneak in. The kitchen light was on and he could hear Buck´s and JD´s voices coming from the top of the staircase. The files hadn´t been moved from the coffee table and quietly he grabbed his briefcase and stuffed the last three files he needed in order to get indictments for the Harrison organization into his case. Ezra grabbed his duffle bag and placed it over his good shoulder then he exited the house the same way he entered.

+ + + + + + +

Buck looked out the window again and noticed some of the lights from the house across the street go on. “Looks like Mr. Guarde´s up,” he mentioned picking up the binoculars from the corner of the table. He couldn´t see any action at the front door and all the curtains in the house were closed. “You know, if there was a woman in that house with legs up to her neck and boobs the size of…”

“Do you ever think about anything besides women?” JD asked, trying to get a source of sound from Guarde´s home.

“I´m just sayin´ that we would know exactly what was going on behind closed doors if Guarde was a woman instead of a man.”

“I doubt that Buck, besides I´d be willin´ to bet that if Guarde knew you were watchin´ his house he´d open up a window and give you a peep show just for the hell of it.” JD smiled as he turned down the volume of the equipment. The loud music coming over the airways was deafening.

“I would rather it be Pamela Anderson,” Buck responded with a smile while keeping his eyes glued to the house.

“They´re fake, you might as well put a bra on some skinny guy and stick beach balls in the cups. Either way, fake ones don´t look nothin´ like the real ones,” JD argued his point.

Buck looked oddly at the kid, “You tellin´ me you could tell the difference?”

JD nodded his head confidently. “Real ones don´t stand out and salute you on command.”

“Brothers,” Josiah´s voice boomed in the confines of the room. He shook his head when he realized what the two had been talking about. “Any sign of Ezra?”

“JD thinks he´ll go to Guarde´s, and I have to agree with him,” Buck answered. “His house came alive all of a sudden so somethin´ is goin´ on.”

Josiah nodded his head in understanding. “Did either of you move those files or Ezra´s briefcase while we´ve been gone?”

JD and Buck looked at the big man in surprise. “No,” they both answered.

“We didn´t hear anyone come in,” Buck said, following JD and Josiah down to the family room where the files and research was stored.

+ + + + + + +

Chris looked up when the three made their way into the room. He was pacing back and forth running his hand through his hair. He looked to Josiah and the big man shook his head indicating that it hadn´t been JD or Buck who had moved the files.

“His duffle bag is gone as well,” Vin snapped.

Chris stopped and looked hard at the sharpshooter. “Do you have something you want to say to me?” he asked almost daring him.

The tension in the room seemed to grow. JD took a step back unsure if he wanted to stick around. Buck nodded his head knowing what was coming. Nathan stood back mentally taking stockl of his medical supplies. Josiah crossed his arms over his chest and waited for the inevitable. He would step in if he had too, but for now he would watch and listen.

“You were wrong!” Vin snapped back. “You were wrong in handling Ez the way you did.”

“What other choice did I have?” Chris yelled, causing both Nathan and JD to jump.

“You could of called that doctor…”

“Dr. Straus,” Josiah said, interrupting Vin only briefly.

“You should have called her and told her what was goin´ on, she would have known what to do.” Vin continued to rant. He was angry, angrier than any of them had ever seen him.

“And then what Vin?” Chris continued to challenge.

“Damn it Chris he trusted us…a year ago he never would have drank that tea Nate gave him. So what did we do…we fucked him with it!” Vin looked hard at his friend, at his leader. “He was terrified,” he lowered his voice, “I ain´t never seen someone so scared.” The room fell deathly quiet for a moment as the words Vin said were thought about and understood. “You want to know why I don´t cross the street, why I take the Jeep everywhere?” He looked meaningfully at Chris, when the team leader didn´t respond he continued, “When I was five I saw my mother hit by a car. It was like watching somethin´ happen in slow motion when that car came around the corner and hit her…I remember brakes squealing and my mother´s scream. You couldn´t drag me across a street now.”

“I would have done the same thing to you or any of the others,” Chris replied. “I´m not going to pretend to know how you or Ezra feel, but I guarantee you…if there was the slightest chance that you or anyone were hurt bad enough I would tie you down and haul your skinny ass to the hospital and cross every damn street I came to in order to do it.” Chris left no room for argument.

“I don´t think there´s a person in this room that would ask you to enter a building knowing that a car was goin´ to explode outside.” Vin hit below the belt and he knew it by Chris´ expression and Buck´s low whistle.

“Maybe not,” Chris nodded, “but that still doesn´t change anything. I did what I thought was best and I´d do it again.”

Vin clenched his jaw and looked around the room to the faces of his friends. “Maybe you should explain that to Ez…if we can find ‘im!”

JD lifted his head and smiled. “We´ll find him.”


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