Run Like Hell

By Beth ©

FBI (Ezra, Seven)

Notes: You should probably read The Games People Play; just to get familiar with the way the team came together. This story was inspired by a TV commercial, and I can’t tell you which one because it would give away the story…hence, if you have to know, just email me and I’d be happy to explain.

The town in this story is fictitious; however, I researched Bettles Alaska as a prototype.   

Rating…should be a strong PG-13. Story contains language, violence, and sensitive subject matter!

Special Thanks: To Yolande!!!! For you eyes, patience, and questions!!! Hugs!!

Please email me with comments or suggestions,


Chapter 1

His breath crystallized and his lungs burned as he navigated his way through the Kanuti Wildlife refuge. Every step took him closer to help—or so he believed—and he franticly treaded through the deep snow, fighting the bitter wind as it cut through his exposed skin. Sweat collected and quickly turned cold on his forehead and down his back. He looked out past the trees, searching for anything that could be used as a safe haven.

He continued to run, taxing his strength and stamina to its fullest. He’d been running since he was a boy; he ran in high school, and received track scholarships to four different universities, but he couldn’t keep his feet above the sixteen inches of fresh snow. He stumbled forward, catching himself on a tree truck and pausing momentarily before the eruption of bark above his head renewed his need of survival. He jumped up and continued his meager escape.

His toes felt like ice, and the leather on his tennis shoes did little to protect his feet. His pant legs were wet to his thighs. His hands were scrapped, bleeding, and imbedded with shards of wood.

He couldn’t catch his breath.

He couldn’t see out past the tree line, feeling trapped in the blackness of the sun’s hidden rays. He’d pleaded for his life…begged for mercy and received nothing but mockery for his attempt to save his own skin.

Now he ran…

“Run like hell, boy…run like hell,” he’d muttered in ridicule, shoving the boy from his home toward the woods. “Don’t stop.” He’d laughed, the echo bouncing like rubber balls off marble floors.

The boy ran.

Unsure of what to expect, he’d headed toward the road, but a well-placed bullet changed his course…and a series of bullets in surrounding tree trunks reminded him of his objective…escape. The winter winds did nothing to aid him…nothing to help him get across the rocky, snow ridden terrain, or giving him the comfort of hope.

He stopped when he came to the edge of a clearing. Fearfully, he looked behind him, hoping that by some miracle he’d get rescued—maybe someone would be out hunting—maybe he’d come across a ranger…something…anything. Fear continued to drive him—forcing him to push himself beyond his capabilities. He’d used every ounce of energy…he was running on heart and lungs, like a racehorse on the final stretch.

A red dot appeared on the ground in front of him, and a wave of tears flooded his eyes. He’d come to Alaska for some fun…to visit the last American frontier, and instead he found this—becoming hunted for reasons he didn’t understand. Hopeless, he felt as though anywhere he ran, anywhere he looked—the man was there: waiting, watching, biding his time like a cat on the prowl. He knew he didn’t need to see the man who was after him—not with the kind of rifle he was using. With one last burst of energy, he started his sprint across the snow-covered gorge. He had to try…

An echo vibrated off the trees and mountains as the bullet leaving the rifle sounded. It hit its target with a subtle pop, as material, down feathers, blood, and tissue sprayed outward—the target fell toward the crystallized snowcaps.

The man took a deep breath and wiped his rifle with a soft cotton cloth. He looked content with himself, whistling and pulling out an expensive cigar. He placed his high-powered rifle in the leather case and looked out toward the valley. Snow glittered as the stars glistened off the brilliant surface, looking serene and uncomplicated.

He chuckled to himself and looked toward the blue jeans and red-jacketed form lying facedown in the snow. “Should have run, boy,” the man sighed, gathering up his supplies, “should have run.”

Chapter 2

She smiled and ran a hand through her long black hair. “What dressing do you want?” she asked, opening the refrigerator door.

“Ranch,” he replied, watching as she grabbed the bottle and then turned toward him. She smiled, and ran her left hand over her growing belly. She looked beautiful, like a China doll, complete with porcelain-like skin.

“Six weeks,” she said, not bothering to hide her smile. “Six weeks until the baby comes.” She rubbed her belly and walked toward him, allowing the shirt she wore to mold to her stomach. “We should think about a name.”

He reached out and wrapped his hands around her growing waist and pressed his lips and face to her belly. He felt her fingers through his hair and he sighed, relishing the moment. She smelt like fresh strawberries on an early Sunday morning, and her skin was soft like cotton. She could calm him with a smile, a twinge of her lips, or the twinkle in her eyes. He loved everything about her. He even loved the idiosyncrasies that came with pregnancy: the way she’d stand with her feet spread out, or how she would try to tie her shoes, and then there were the late night cravings.

“We should keep with tradition,” she said, forcing his head up with her finger to his chin.

“What about your family?” he asked, watching as she walked toward the kitchen.

She grabbed the salad bowl and placed it in the center of the table. Reluctantly, she shook her head and shrugged her shoulders. “My family is gone, Ezra, there is no need to pursue the past.”

“You could say the same about my family.” He stood up and joined her at the table, pulling out a chair for her to sit in. He looked down and saw blood on the floor, the chair, and the table—blood on his hands, running like water over a waterfall. He gasped when he looked up and found the woman he cared so much for slumped over the table...their child lying dead on a plate beside her...

It was the sounds of his son trying to draw breath that woke him.

Ezra jerked in his seat and his eyes flashed open. He leaned forward and rested his face in his hands, trying to collect his thoughts. Trying to force the images of death from his mind, he squeezed his eyes shut and took several deep breaths. The nightmares were getting worse, and nothing seemed to help aid in relief. Li hadn’t been killed in their apartment in Germany—she hadn’t carried the baby full term, so why was he dreaming about her pregnancy...and her brutal death? 

“You all right?” Vin asked, sitting beside him on the narrow airplane seat, feeling like a sardine. He lowered his magazine and looked critically at his friend.

Ezra nodded, and pulled himself upright, concentrating on keeping his eyes on the seat in front of him. He glanced at his hands for good measure, checking the backs and his palms—no blood. “How long until we arrive?” he asked, changing the subject.

Vin glanced at his watch and sighed: “About an hour.” He continued to assess Ezra’s appearance: dark circles under his eyes, his cheeks looked gaunt, and even his normally lustrous hair seemed dull. “Nightmares keepin’ you awake?” He wasn’t an idiot.

Ezra glanced to his left and then quickly averted his eyes. He wouldn’t comment; didn’t feel the need to. He rubbed the back of his neck, trying to work out the tension. He’d never felt so tired, and he wasn’t just tired physically—for the first time in a long time, he wanted to lay down and go to sleep—and never wake up.

Vin ignored the silent treatment. “Chris wanted me along on this last assignment to keep an eye on you, Ezra...not because you can’t do your job—but because you do it so damn well. You’re killin’ yourself, and if you don’t slow down—”

“—I know the procedures—”

“—you’ll end up in a hospital, or worse,” Vin continued, despite being cut off. He shoved the magazine into the sleeve on the back of the seat in front of him and waited for the airline attendant to start collecting garbage. “I don’t know how you do it,” he whispered, thinking back on the case they’d just worked. “I’ve never puked at a crime scene before,” he admitted, “but damn if I wasn’t out for the count on this one... Makes me miss the good old days of catchin’ bank robbers and takin’ down suspects.”

Ezra nodded, as though he understood, but his mind continued to wonder. He thought about Li, their son, and the lives they may have had. He would have been a good father—despite the odds, and despite his own experience with one.  

“You ever been to Alaska?” Vin asked, looking up as the fasten seatbelt sign illuminated.

“No,” Ezra replied. He didn’t want to talk—hell, he didn’t want to breathe at the moment. He ran his fingers through his dark umber hair and rested his chin on his fist while he looked blindly out the small window that was blocked by the dull gray color of the plane’s wing. He’d have to put on his poker face before he saw Chris and the others...Vin had already seen him at his worst—there wasn’t much left to hide from him. With soft features, an impressionist painter’s dream, and dark green eyes, Ezra knew he could pull off feeling his best—he had to. He had more cases to work and he didn’t have time to lock himself outside his life—the FBI was his life, and so were solving crimes. He couldn’t go wrong with his infectious grin, or his blasé attitude—or was that a lie he was telling himself?   

Vin chuckled: “Hope you brought your winter coat.”

Ezra sent him a scowl.

“Chris said he and the rest of the boys are goin’ to meet us in a few days,” Vin said, speaking over the announcement of their arrival into Anchorage.

“Oh joy,” Ezra muttered, moving his seat into the upright position.

The plane slowly descended downward and the lights of the city below sparkled with false hopes of civilization. A child in the back of the plane screamed as the air pressure changed. Someone else gasped in hopes of not needing the handy air-sickness-bag that was shoved inside the pocket of the seat in front of them. The pilot was kind enough to announce the below freezing temperatures and the wonderful lack of daylight for the next four months.

Welcome to Alaska.

“And to think,” Vin said, not bothering to hide his smile, “we’re goin’ further north.”

Ezra suddenly wished the sniper would choke on a bad case of laryngitis.


Sheriff Doug Ford met the two FBI agents at the gate. He stood patiently with his burley hands in his pockets and a brown cowboy hat setting low on his brow. A heavy brown coat embraced his stocky form; the faux fur at his collar disguised his thick neck and double chin. “You two look like feds,” he said. He shook both men’s hands and introduced himself, he then motioned for them to follow him. “I know you boys are looking forward to a good night’s sleep, but I’ve arranged for a chopper to fly us into Hanson tonight. We’re expecting a huge snowstorm tomorrow and don’t want to be caught in the middle of it.” He turned and looked at them. “Got much luggage?” He rubbed his round red nose with the flat of his palm—as though he had a deep set itch.

“No,” Ezra replied flatly, too tired to complain. “I brought the files with me so you could look at them,” Doug said, knowing they wouldn’t have time, but thinking it would be a nice gesture. He paused at the luggage claim and scuffed his feet on the linoleum floor, causing the rubber of his soles to squeak. “When I contacted Washington about these missing kids...I wasn’t sure they’d take me seriously.” He looked up when the bell went off, notifying passengers that their luggage was on its way. “Folks have a way of disappearing out here,” he shrugged, “we usually find ‘em come spring, after it thaws a bit. Most of the time they’re people who just weren’t ready for the temperatures and end up freezing to death—or suicides.”

“So what makes you question the missing persons on your list?” Vin asked, stepping forward to grab his duffle bag.

Doug shook his head: “About a year ago,” he moved out of Ezra’s way as he collected his luggage, “a Mr. and Mrs. Robert Nixon contacted me in regards to their daughter who had gone missing.” He motioned with his hand toward the back of the airport and toward the helicopter pad. “It seemed their daughter—a University of Alaska student, went on a road trip with some friends and went missing three days after they arrived at their designated cabin.” He closed his coat around his neck and waved toward the chopper pilot, letting him know they were ready to go. “The kids never reported her missing,” he yelled, trying to compensate for the noise of the helicopter blades.

“Why?” Ezra asked, waiting for a reply before he slipped inside the chopper.

“Seems the kids thought she chickened out and went back home—not all that unusual really. A lot of kids do it for kicks—running naked through the snow, tempting the wildlife with sticks, even hiking through national parks without supervision. We don’t have kids parachuting out of skyscrapers, or streaking at football games up here—they’ll get their kicks any way they can...” he shrugged, “most of the time...they end up dead.”

Vin shook his head: “Welcome to Alaska, Ezra.” He slapped the profiler on the shoulder before slipping into the chopper.

Chapter 3

The difference between night and day was seemingly nonexistent—at least for four months of the year. It was odd, seeing one in the afternoon on the clock, or a watch, but having it look as though it were dusk. At least the moon reflecting off the snow on the ground provided some light in the areas where none was available.

Ezra looked out toward the small town, noting the lack of cars and trucks, but seeing an overwhelming variety of snowmobiles. People walked around as though the darkness was usual—at least for them. They wore heavy coats, snowshoes, and insulated overalls...even the women were covered in heavy clothes. Ezra couldn’t help but smile, expecting high heels and pumps to be the last thing on anyone’s shopping list.

Hanson was originally a small mining town, and with mines came saloons, hotels, restaurants, schools, and anything else somebody thought would make them a buck—despite the rigidly cold temperatures. Not a lot had changed over the last 100 years; the buildings were better made, sled dogs and horses had been traded for snowmobiles and four-by-fours, and animal skins had taken second place amongst waterproof canvas and synthetics.

Ezra found it amusing that large snowmen decorated every street corner. Their attire ranged from simple hats, stick arms, marble eyes, and carrot noses; scarves wrapped around their necks to aprons that advertised the stores they sat in front of.

“A lot of folks from the south of here like to come up for the Northern Lights—best view in the world right here—they also come up for the huntin’, and skiin’.” Doug smiled and shook his head, heading toward the lodge where Vin and Ezra would be staying. “You have to understand…this is the worst time of year for weather. Snowstorms pass through here day by day and sometimes we get so blocked off from the rest of the world we just sit around and wait for the weather to clear. Hell, last year we had a snowstorm pass through here that had everyone blocked in for 27 days.” He pointed toward the large seemingly abandoned field and quickly changed the subject—wanting them to stay—needing them to. “That’s the parkin’ for the lodge; a few choppers and small engine planes—had a private jet parked in there one year.” He opened the heavy wooden door and headed inside. “Bev, these are two of the FBI agents that are goin’ to be stayin’ with you for a while.”

The older woman smiled and grabbed her logbook. “You boys with Larabee?” she asked, grabbing a pen and tossing the ledger onto the counter top. Her brown hair was cut short and up around her ears, unlike so many women her age, she had the bone structure to pull it off. With large eyes and dark lashes that defied her real age, she managed to flirt with a wink or a grin.

“He here?” Vin asked surprised, dropping his luggage at his feet.

“He and some others have been here since this mornin’,” Bev replied with a smile, pushing the ledger toward the new arrivals. 

“Who flew them in?” Doug asked, seemingly surprised.

“Mickey. You were already gone by the time he left, otherwise I’d have told you.” She closed the ledger and pulled it off the counter. “You’re in room 14.” She handed Vin the key.

“We’re sharing a room?” Ezra asked.

“Got a few unexpected hunters comin’ up for the big hoopla so I had to budget my rooms, sorry for the inconvenience.” She smiled and shrugged, as though she couldn’t do anything about it. “If it makes you feel any better, you got a discount.”

Ezra picked up his duffle and garment bag. “Where can we find you?” he asked, turning toward the sheriff.

“Small brick building on the other side of town. I’ll have one of my deputies come pick you up and then I’ll arrange for some transportation for you and the others.” He buttoned the top collar of his jacket and turned toward the door. “Don’t head out anywhere on foot,” he said, turning toward both agents. “With that storm comin’ up, you get lost...we might never find you.” He nodded and slipped out into the cold.

“Ready?” Vin asked, adjusting his grip on his duffle bag.

“Yeah,” Ezra replied.      


 Despite the freezing temperatures outside, the lodge’s rooms were luxurious by all standards. Each room contained a fireplace, kitchenette, sofa, small table and four chairs, a large TV with all the accommodations, and pillow top beds that were covered with bright pansy duvets that ranged in simple shades of green. Miraculously, the beige walls didn’t clash. A local artist had his works hung in each room, simple paintings inspired by the local wildlife and land. 

The rooms between the seven men had already been divvied up. Buck and JD had taken the furthest room at the end of the hall, Josiah and Nathan had decided they could keep each other’s company without driving each other crazy, Chris managed to capture the only single room left—of course he’d demanded it, needing his privacy and frankly not able to take anyone’s crap. This left Vin and Ezra sharing the room next to his.

It was different, watching normally conceded businessmen trying to look comfortable in heavy clothes while trying to act knowledgeable about hunting within the Alaskan frontier. Despite how hard they tried, they didn’t fit—much like the seven FBI agent’s who’d made their livings in D.C. Any of the locals could pick them out of a lineup just by the way they dressed, much less how they acted.

The hunters seemed to flock together and tell wild stories at the cozy bar located across from the small eating area of the lodge. Their laughter could be heard throughout the halls and sometimes further—depending on who was doing the laughing. Their brand new boots squeaked and squawked with every step they took, and the noises from their jackets reminded Ezra of fingernails down a chalkboard…damn he hated that sound.

At the moment he wasn’t overly thrilled with Alaska in general.

“You know,” Vin said, tossing his duffle bag on his bed, “this could be a nice vacation—find out if there’s anything ‘strange’ goin’ on, catch the bastard who’s doin’ it, and take a few days to enjoy the culture.” He grabbed the remote for the gas fireplace and got it started. “Saw one of these in a movie one time—always wanted to try one.”

Ezra rested his travel case on the luggage rack then took a seat on his bed. It felt good and he kicked off his shoes without bothering to untie the laces. He’d have to dig out the heavy boots he’d purchased in anticipation of the job. He wiggled his toes and watched the as the fibers on his black sock thinned and his big toe made an appearance.

“You’re goin’ to need better footwear while you’re here,” Vin suggested, flipping through the TV stations like an addict on speed.

“Yeah,” Ezra replied, not bothering to admit he’d already made the purchase. He lay back on his bed, crossing his arms over his chest and closing his eyes…just for a minute.

Vin looked over and shook his head, noticing that Standish had succumbed to his need for sleep. The sharpshooter grabbed his coat and flipped off the TV before quietly slipping out of the room.


Chris opened his door after hearing the knocking, and grinned sarcastically as he invited Tanner inside. So much for his private room…as six of seven had somehow made it their headquarters—and that was just for the taped copy of the football game: New England vs. Saint Louis.

Buck reclined on Chris’ bed, munching on chips that he covered in peanut butter from the Jiffy container he’d placed between his legs. JD sat backwards in a chair facing the TV, watching the game intently—looking as though he were analyzing each play. Josiah had commandeered the chaise lounge, content with his crossword puzzle, while Nathan penned a letter to his wife, Rain.

“Thought you might like some company?” Vin replied sarcastically, grabbing Buck’s bag of chips. 

Chris rolled his eyes and took the last remaining chair. “How’d it go in L.A.?”

Vin shook his head, not really wanting to talk about it. He tossed the bag of chips back to Buck, suddenly losing his appetite. “Found the SOB that was doin’ the murders—but there’s a strong chance he’ll get off on a technicality.” He shrugged, remembering the images of the young women flashing through his mind. “Four confirmed kills, but no DNA to link him to the crime scenes—the only thing they had were two hairs found on a jacket of his that had been returned from the same dry cleaners where his last victim worked—a good lawyer could get him off—hell, a bad one could.”

“Ezra’s certain it’s him?” Chris asked.

“He knows it’s him—but the bastard wouldn’t talk—except to his attorney. The smug ass-hole would sit in the interrogation room with this self-righteous look on his face—and to really piss me off, he’d shrug while looking at the pictures of his victims like he was some kind of a machine.”

“Maybe he is.” Josiah said, lowering his crossword.

“Veteran cops were throwin’ their guts up at the crime scene, Josiah—this fuck got a kick out of it.”

“Did you?” Chris asked, looking knowingly at Vin. “Lose your lunch?”

The sharpshooter sighed and shrugged, slightly embarrassed. “Yeah,” he admitted, “more than once.”

“How’s Ezra?” Nathan asked, after licking the envelope and sealing it.

“Out,” Vin supplied. “Slept on the plane, and he’s sleepin’ now—makin’ up for lost time.” He leaned forward and looked hard at Chris. Vin tightened his jaw, accentuating his bone structure and lean neck. He stood to his full five-foot-eleven inch frame, unwilling to allow his teammates the realization that he lacked that last inch for making six-feet. It wasn’t that he was short—he just wanted to be in the majority of his team already, let Ezra and JD handle the five-ten and under. 

Knowing Vin needed to talk privately, Chris stood and grabbed his coat. “We’ll be back in a few—do not short-sheet my bed.” He looked at JD and Buck in warning before slipping out of the room.

Vin followed.


Both men entered the small den, located at the back of the lodge. A large fireplace roared with a blaze while three hunters played pool on the antique table. They talked quietly while drinking their beers.

“What’s goin’ on?” Chris asked, taking a seat on the leather chair. He pushed the sleeves of his heavy shirt up to his elbows, exposing winter white skin that seemed lighter due to his blonde complexion. He worked out, keeping himself in good condition, but his high metabolism made it increasingly difficult to bulk up. He’d given up on the large muscles that the ladies seemed to crave and settled for ones that were well-toned and hidden beneath pasty skin and low amounts of body hair. Unlike so many Americans, he lied on his driver’s license by adding weight. He’d been closer to his target during his drinking days, but after making the right decision to get clean, he settled for high carb diets and lots of protein, causing men like Josiah and Nathan to sneer during business dinners and early morning meetings.  

“I think you should call Travis and get someone to take on some of the cases Ezra’s workin’.” Vin was blunt—feeling he had to be. He ran his finger through his brown hair, realizing he needed to get it cut. It would have to wait.

“Part of the reason this team is possible, Vin, is because we all agreed to continue workin’ on—with, our assigned departments. The Bureau can’t afford to keep us fulltime on individual cases—we’re all overworked.”

“No offence, Chris,” Vin replied, “but we’re not diggin’ through the heads of serial killers and rapists.”

“The entire behavioral science division is overworked, and Ezra has fewer cases than the rest of the unit.”

“Yeah,” Vin agreed, “and Mark Seabold just dropped dead of a heart attack at the ripe old age of 41.”

Chris frowned: “I hadn’t heard.”

“Ezra was notified yesterday—they dumped 14 of Seabold’s cases on him. Mark was one of Ezra’s instructors—and a good friend of his.” Vin sighed and ran a hand through his hair. “He ain’t sleepin’ and he’s gettin’ these nightmares that he won’t talk about.” He looked up. “If you don’t do somethin’ he’ll burn out or drop dead—he takes these cases as though he’s the only one that can stop the perps from doin’ what they do—and he takes it personal when they get away.”

“We all do.”

“Yeah, but I’d rather be responsible for another bank gettin’ robbed than another woman endin’ up with her head in a fuckin’ freezer.” Vin sighed and glanced toward the fire. “He goes into these trance-like states—scares the shit out of me.” He took a deep breath. “Half the time I look at him and it’s like he’s not there—at least his mind—like he’s onto other things, leavin’ me in the dust. Shit…he looks at you, but it seems like he’s lookin’ through you.”

Chris nodded.

“And the more difficult the case, the worse he gets.”

“What about his nightmares?” Chris questioned, leaning back, while taking everything in.

Vin shrugged. “I was thinkin’ that maybe you could talk to him—you seem to have some things in common.”

“How do you figure that?”

“I know more than just shootin’ criminals…”

Chris nodded in understanding. “I’ll talk to him.”

Vin nodded in acceptance. “When I first got involved with the force,” he sighed, taking a deep breath and leaning back in his seat, “I saw a lot of shit—hell, I think we all do.”

Chris sat in silence and listened.

“He knew,” Vin said, speaking of Ezra, “as soon as that son-of-a-bitch opened his mouth, Ezra knew it was him—then five minutes later he’s workin’ on another case.” He looked up and met Chris’ eyes. “How much shit do you have to see before you snap?”  

Chapter 4

Sheriff Ford stood with his hands on his hips as he looked at the piles of files lying organized on the long table. He looked up and nodded toward the seven FBI agents as they entered the room. “I was told to get every file of missing persons, murders, and questionable deaths within the past ten years out for you.”

 “This is it?” Buck sarcastically asked.

“If I’d added the rapes and battery for the county…I’d have to put piles on the floor.” He was serious when he spoke, letting the men know that Alaska was essentially the Wild West—too few men to hunt every criminal down.

“I knew crime was high here, but I had no idea,” Josiah said, shaking his head in disbelief.

“Our suicide rate is twice as high as rest of the U.S. and we’re number one for rape.” Doug crossed his arms over his chest and waited. He wasn’t proud of those facts, but they couldn’t be denied.

“Who’s missing?” Chris asked, glancing at the piles, unwilling to search.

Doug stepped forward and grabbed a pile. “I’ve got reports as far as twelve years back—when I started as sheriff here. I’ve included men and women…the youngest is a girl by the name of Mattie Helms—she was six when she disappeared.”

“Have you narrowed the cases down and established an MO?” Ezra asked, grabbing the top file from the missing persons’ stack.

Sheriff Ford cocked an eyebrow. “Files with the blue tabs are men, pink tabs are women. Any file with a yellow dot next to the tab is a child under the age of eleven, and any with a black dot is a teenager.” He rubbed the top of his balding head and then rubbed his jaw. “I’ve done the best I could with what I’ve got—which ain’t much…and to be honest…” he sighed, glancing toward the floor, “…I think whoever’s doin’ this…knows I haven’t got a chance in hell of findin’ him—not with the resources I’ve got.”

Chris took a seat and grabbed a handful of files. “Let’s get these organized.”


“I’m goin’ for a coffee run,” Buck said, getting to his feet, “anybody want some?” Before anyone could answer he replied, “I’ll just grab the pot and some cups.”

“Frankie Jones John,” Josiah said, looking through a file. “Twenty-one years old, all-state track star from New Heights, Wyoming. Disappeared fourteen weeks ago—reported missing by his parents who were supposed to pick him up at the airport after his two week visit to Anchorage...he never got on the plane.”

Ezra looked up: “May I?” he asked, and Josiah handed the file over.

“What in the hell would a kid that age come up to Alaska for two weeks for?” JD asked, looking up from his own pile.

Chris couldn’t help but smile at the remark. “Any disappearances between twelve weeks ago and today?” he asked, looking up from his files. He glanced toward the door as Buck entered the office with an armload of Styrofoam cups and a pot of hot coffee.

“Creamer and sugar are in the cupboard above the sink in the next room—you’re on your own for gettin’ any.” Buck placed the cups and coffee on the table and turned to look at the amount of work left to do. “I thought the sheriff already had a file of suspected victims—why in the hell are we goin’ through all their crap?”

“It was a report filed by the county commissioner,” Ezra stated, already having read through it, “it just listed the ‘known’ missing victims within the past two years…we need to go back further—”

“For your MO?” Buck finished, already having an idea. “So what do we have?”

“Four missing collage age athletes—all the same type of disappearance.” JD picked at the cuticles on his thumb and leaned back in his seat. “Maybe that’s what our perp likes—athletes?”

“We’ve got one missing hunter, a Davy Mavis from four years back—he was never found, and a Becky Anderson—bartender.” Vin shrugged. “She’s the right age, plus she was a gymnast before movin’ to Juneau.”

“So that’s seven total,” Buck surmised, “Ironic ain’t it?” He looked at his six friends.

“Don’t forget the Nixon girl,” Nathan said, tossing another file onto his ‘unfit’ pile.

“There’re more to sort through, Buck,” Chris added.

Buck nodded and took a seat. “So who are we lookin’ for, Ezra?”

Ezra looked up and rubbed his face with his hand. “Someone who doesn’t like athletes,” he replied, before getting to his feet and grabbing a cup of coffee. He didn’t have enough information to start a profile, and he didn’t like the idea of running solely on suspicions. There were more variables to the case than one could possibly imagine. The white slave trade was running rampant in the States, though not typically with men, it wasn’t unheard of. The kids were missing, no bodies had been found, no remains, and no ransoms asked for or paid. 

Vin snickered and shook his head, while keeping his nose in the files. All in all, he couldn’t get over how many unsolved missing persons Alaska had—nor could he believe the amount of suicides. Sheriff Doug Ford had been right—they were understaffed—highly understaffed, and anyone with any desire to kill could do it knowing they may never get caught. “We’re takin’ this case with nothin’ to go on,” he said, looking at his fellow agents. “He doesn’t even have a suspect list.”

“He doesn’t know,” Josiah said, summing up the sheriff’s dilemma. “Small town, he must know everybody on a personal level, and more than likely he considers himself friends with most of them—who wants to suspect a friend of a crime like this one?”

“So who’re we lookin’ for?” Buck asked, scratching his head in frustration.

“A friend,” Ezra said, raising his cup in salute before taking a pull from the bitter brew.


The easy part was research…the difficult part was getting inside the mind of someone who didn’t think normally—who didn’t act normally—at least in regards to human behavior. Anyone could be forced to kill—anyone. And proof of that rested in the hands of victims who’d been pushed too far—in a sense, broken. However, the sociopath craved abnormality, they fed on it…forcing normal human behavior into abnormal actions. They killed, raped, abused, stole, and broke the law because they enjoy it—not because they were good at it. It was a part of their ritual. Getting away with the crime is what so many of them craved...what so many of them were addicted to.

Ezra had seen it all; he’d profiled child molesters, rapists, murderers, and serial killers. He’d seen men with fetishes so strong it kept them at arms length from reality: women’s feet in freezers, nipples removed and dried like jerky, children exposed and brutalized, men sodomized and victimized to the point of suicide. He’d seen it all. He knew what drove them—what caused them to want to behave in such cruel ways, but that didn’t make it any easier. The victims of their crimes always had a way of taking hold of his mind and causing him to look outside himself…inside the mind of the monster.

This one was no different.

He looked at the pile of missing persons, knowing they were dead, but wanting to understand who had killed them and why. It was a gut feeling that wouldn’t go away—an idea in the back of his mind that would continue to grow until the image of the man was revealed, that’s how it worked, and it wasn’t something that he could control…at least, it wasn’t something he chose to control. It’s what led him to the bureau in the first place, the skill he’d discovered and fed. 

He knew the perpetrator was an opportunist...having not specified whom he would kill, but when he spotted the right victim—he moved on them—just like a hunter would a deer or an elk. Was it the chase he craved? The kill? Or was it the potential of the crime? Ezra sighed, wishing he could answer his own questions, wishing he knew more about the killer. There was more to it, there had to be. The man they were after had to get his kicks in more ways than just killing his victims...

It was different with each case…each profile. There wasn’t anyone telling him what to do or what to think, just a feeling that was more than a hunch, but lacking in scientific proof. He knew and understood why young men and women would come to Alaska—it was after all, the last great frontier. He knew that a man with a desire to kill wouldn’t be stopped until he was forced…and here, he wouldn’t have to worry about being caught. It was the best of both worlds, and a place where evil could linger without being found. 

“Figure anything out?” Chris asked, taking a seat at the table. He looked for the lodge’s only waitress and smiled when she brought him a cup of coffee. “Thanks,” he said, with a nod.

Ezra ran a hand over his face and then ran his finger up and down the length of his cup. “He’s older, knows the land better than most and I’d be willing to bet he’s hunted most of his life.”

Chris nodded and poured a small amount of cream into his coffee. “How do you figure that?”

“He’s taking down athletes like he would big game. I don’t see any signs of sexual deviance, but I won’t know that for sure until I know more—after all, this whole case could be nothing.” He sighed and took a deep breath before he continued, knowing that’s what Chris wanted. “He’s a domineering personality—that’s why he’s taking people out who are…” he sighed, “…stronger than he is—he needs to prove to them, but also himself, that he’s better.”

“Shit,” Chris sighed, leaning back in his seat. “So that narrows our volume of suspects down to what…the whole town?”

“At least the hunters,” Ezra replied, before taking a sip of his coffee.

Chris looked the profiler over critically…noticing the dark circles under his eyes, the paleness of his skin, and the submissiveness of his personality. “You look like shit,” he said, deciding to be blunt.

Ezra shrugged and continued to look at the files before him. He tried to ignore the mild headache he’d had for several days. It wasn’t a wonder as to why he looked like ‘shit’, he was tired—tired of seeing what the others couldn’t...seeing inside the mind of monsters.

“Sorry to hear about Mark…I understand he was a good agent.”

“Leaves behind his wife Barbara, two daughters Stacy and Stephanie, and their six month old son, Steve.” He looked at the painting on the wall, thinking how nice it would be to go there—to swim in the pond below the waterfall, to bask in the mist, and lay on the grass. “Quite rewarding don’t you think—working for our measly paychecks, getting our asses kicked for not doing our jobs and yet being forced to do everyone else’s—what more could anybody ask for?”

Chris watched and listened, hoping the profiler would open up on his own—maybe vent some of those pent-up feelings.

“My mother is thanking the Lord above that she only had one disappointment in her life, and not two.” Ezra picked up his cup and quickly finished off his coffee.

Chris winced, touching on a subject he wasn’t familiar with. “You don’t get along with you mother?”

Ezra shook his head: “We’re cordial.”

Chris sighed and leaned forward. “I’m not goin’ to sit here and try and tell you how to run your life, but I am goin’ to tell you to talk to someone.” He looked up and met Ezra’s eyes. “I know about the nightmares, and it’s obvious you’re not sleepin’—”

“—I’m completing my assignments—”

“—I’m not sayin’ you’re not, Ezra, what I am sayin’ is you can’t wear yourself out like this…and to be honest…I’m tempted to fly you home for a few days.”

“I can handle this job,” Ezra argued, keeping his voice down.

“I’ve never worked with anyone more determined or aggressive when it comes to what you do—but I’ve seen men collapse from less.”

Ezra clenched his jaw and looked away, obviously agitated.

“I’m not goin’ to argue the points with you, but I want you to talk to someone—and I’m more than willing to listen.”

Ezra chuckled and nervously adjusted himself on his seat. “I have never found it pertinent telling stories to other people.”

“I don’t care,” Chris replied flatly, “if you don’t talk to me or someone else…you’ll be sittin’ at a desk in Washington pushin’ papers. I won’t have you droppin’ dead on me.”

“I’m not about to drop dead.”

“I’m sure Mark thought the same thing.”

“I’m not Mark.”

“Never said you were,” Chris replied, leaning forward and resting his elbows on the table. “When Sarah died,” he paused, wishing he knew exactly what to say and how to say it, “after she died, I spent most of my time at the end of a bottle of booze, lost in what I thought was justified sorrow—”

“Wasn’t it?” Ezra interrupted.

“Only until it started to take over my life.” Chris sighed and looked up in thanks as the waitress refilled his and Ezra’s coffee cups. He waited until she left before he continued, “I know about the nightmares,” he looked earnestly at the profiler, “I know what it’s like to wake up in the middle of the night soaking wet with the images of your dead family branded into your head—I know all about it, and I know what it’s like to feel so guilty that you get the actual killer confused with your own hand.”

Ezra met Chris’ eyes.

“I’m right…aren’t I?”

Ezra looked away and nodded. “I know in my head it’s not the way it happened—but it seems so real.” He paused, trying to collect his thoughts. “I know what happened to her—I was there—I saw it happen…”

“Don’t try and analyze it,” Chris expressed, “with what you do, the people you profile—it’s no damn wonder you’re havin’ nightmares.”

“How’d you deal with them?”

Chris chuckled and shrugged: “Did a lot of drinkin’ for about 2 years…but when I finally got sober,” he sighed, “I realized they weren’t goin’ to go away…until I made peace with what happened—and to be honest, I still get them…”

“It’s been over a year—”

Chris chuckled, having been there. “Don’t try and put a timeframe on it,” he sighed, and reached for the creamer, “I learned a long time ago that you just can’t—doesn’t work that way.” He looked hard at Ezra, knowing the pain he was in, and understanding in everyway what it was like to carry the guilt of failure. “What happened to her…the day she died?”

Ezra sighed and leaned back in his seat. Slowly, he fingered the lip of his coffee mug. He knew he needed to talk about it—he’d never had with anyone else…not even Mark. It was just too painful, remembering every detail. “We were in the park,” he started slowly, “her idea of a picnic lunch. I’d managed to get some time off—something I didn’t get a lot of.”

Chris sighed, knowing all about the bureau’s ability to overwork their staff. And Ezra, being so all-consuming with his work ethic, would have been at the top end of an 80 hour week—if not more.

Ezra ran his hand over his face, resting his fingers over his eyes before letting his hand drop back onto his lap. “She moved ahead of me as we started to cross the street—I heard the tires screech before I saw it…” he sighed, collecting his thoughts, “…She died at the hospital…our son a few days later.” His words were rushed, emotionless, and harsh—there wasn’t a guess as to why.

Chris understood it…

“When I started profiling cases, I understood the consequences…and I knew the risks.”

“You think Mason had something to do with her death?” Chris asked.

“No,” Ezra replied flatly, “although he’d like to have me believe he did.”

“Doesn’t he?” Chris shook his head. “I thought the whole scene at the ward—”

Ezra shook his head: “Mason derives his ability to manipulate through his own pretense of lies—if he thinks he can control an element of my life then he’ll want to continue contact—which in the long run…is what I need.”

“So you manipulate him into believing he’s manipulating you,” Chris sighed, suddenly crossing his eyes in humor as well as confusion.

“It’s a game,” Ezra replied, simplifying the situation.

“And at what cost do you continue playing it?”

Ezra sighed and shook his head, trying to solidify his work—not only for Chris’ sake, but his as well. “What was the first case you worked and solved?”

“Bank robbery in New Orleans—Simon Lance,” Chris replied confidently.

“You’ll always remember that name, the time, how it felt to catch him—and you’ll look back and remember what it was you did right, particularly when everything seems to go wrong.”

“I’m not a psychologist, Ezra—”

“You don’t have to be,” he replied, “it’s just human behavior and everybody has the ability.” Ezra chuckled: “Used car salesmen, poker players, so called ‘psychics’—the planet is overwhelmed with people like me.”

Chris laughed outright: “Bullshit.” He shook his head leaned forward with his elbows on his knees. “You’re a damn good cop—and I sure as hell know that what you do isn’t easy, but you’ve got to find yourself an escape…get that shit off your mind.”

“And what would you suggest?”

“Hell if I care. Buck goes down to the batting cages, Josiah writes and tinkers around with his motorcycles—hell, I think he belongs to a biker group and rides durin’ the weekends—when he gets a chance. JD’s got his computer games. Nathan spends a ton of time with his wife—and thank God she’s there for him. I go horseback riding.”

“And you think that will be my cure-all?” Ezra sighed. “Joining a biker gang or going for a ride on a horse?”

“No, but you need to get your mind out of the heads of the men you hunt.” He sat up and leaned back.

“You can’t,” Ezra replied. “This isn’t like pouring soup out of a can...the images are real, the profiles impaling, and the realism of evil is touchable—it doesn’t leave you.”

Chris nodded, seeing the eyes of a young man who’d seen too much. “From what I understand the bureau piled more cases on you?”

Ezra nodded: “They don’t have a choice.”

“Maybe, but you do.” Chris looked at his watch, noticing the time. “I want you to know, if you need time off—I can get it for you—don’t push yourself beyond your capabilities, Ezra…this job isn’t worth it.”

“I appreciate it.”

“If the nightmares continue—”

“—I’ll talk to someone.”

Chris stood and slapped Ezra on the shoulder before he started walking away. “Do that.”

Ezra smiled tightly and casually flipped the edge of the manila file between his thumb and tabletop. It felt strange, talking about something so personal, and yet, distancing himself with familiar speech and ire. Being pissed at everybody was easier than dealing with the issue upfront. He would be angry, working too many hours during the day—too few hours of sleep, and little personal time entitled him to a quick temper, annoyed looks, and sharp comments. It was easier believing he was right, than admitting he was wrong.

It was easier judging himself as the villain…

Chapter 5   

Everybody was a suspect: the sheriff, his deputy, the town baker, the sandwich maker, and even the town doctor. They all hunted, owned guns, knew the land, and they all had lived in the area longer than most. It was difficult enough trying to find the culprit when they weren’t even sure that crimes had been committed. The team was moving on hunches, suspicions of actions done—nothing more.

Chris looked at the finalized pile of possible victims, nine over the past ten years. They couldn’t be exact—not with the lack of information in the files, or the lack of current records from other districts. This was a puzzle, with missing pieces.

“We can’t be certain that this warrants FBI involvement,” Chris said, rubbing his hand along his forehead. He looked at the sheriff and shrugged.

“I know there’s not a lot of information in those files, and it’s not that I haven’t been workin’ on them—but I can’t work these missing person’s cases as well as maintain my other duties. This county is over 500,000 square miles and I’m responsible for every person on it.”

“That includes these missing kids,” Chris argued, tossing the short stack onto the desk. “No offence, sheriff, but I’ve got 50 states to cover with only seven agents, so don’t tell me how difficult your job is.” He sighed, wishing he’d kept his composure.

“I’m sorry,” Doug apologized, taking a seat on his short sofa. “Suicide season’s on the way. I lost 16 people last year alone.”

“Suicide’s a choice, sheriff, abduction or murder isn’t.”

“Have you ever been suicidal—or known someone who was?”

“Yes,” Chris admitted.

“Then you know that most times, it’s not a choice—at least to the person who thinks it’s the only way out.” 

Chris nodded. “I can’t guarantee how long my men and I can stay and look into these disappearances—but if we don’t find something within the next 24 hours, I have to send my men home.”

The sheriff looked up and nodded. “I understand, and whatever you think you’ll need—I’ll do my best to get it for you. These kids are disappearing on my watch…I want it stopped.”

“Does someone have a grudge against you?” Chris asked, looking at all possibilities.

“Can’t imagine that anyone would—at least around here.” Doug sighed and ran his fingers through his short hair. He scratched at his widow’s peak, wishing a bright light would go off in his head and he would understand all that was happening—wishing he could solve the case without any help. He was a smart man and knew he couldn’t do it alone, hell, he couldn’t even do it with help.

“It could be anyone,” Ezra said, taking a seat after having just entered the room. He lifted his leg and rested his ankle on his knee and pulled unconsciously at the cuff of the long underwear he wore beneath heavy pants, exposing gray wool socks and heavy hiking boots complete with snow studs. 

Doug shook his head. “These are good people around here, I can’t think of anyone killing for some sick pleasure.”

“You wouldn’t know about if they were,” Ezra sighed, “that’s what makes them so difficult to catch.” He lowered his leg and leaned forward, resting his elbows on his knees.

“So how do you catch them?” Doug asked.

“Pray you’re there when they make their mistake,” Ezra answered bluntly.

“What if they don’t make one?”

“They do…they always do.”


Buck looked at Becky Anderson’s file, reading about her extraordinary life. Like the other missing kids, Becky was an athlete. At five foot two she had been the perfect height for gymnastics, and since the beginning of her career, her ability had taken her to several National competitions—until she fell from the balance beam and cracked her fourth vertebra. Though she recovered, she never regained her flexibility, and to remove herself from her past, she’d moved to Alaska. 

And probably died.

She’d managed to acquire a job as a bartender, keeping drunks from killing each other and businessmen from losing their sexual appeal. There was an art to bartending; some had it, others didn’t, and it seemed Becky had been good at it.

Buck smiled. She looked like a gymnast. She was small, thin but powerful, and she had a smile like an Irish fool. With large brown eyes and hair that shone bright red, she wouldn’t go unnoticed—particularly with a man who enjoyed a smile. A tattoo of a small English rose had been placed on her hand, just below her thumb, the kind of thing that expressed she’d wanted to live free, but held herself back. She was the kind of girl anyone would like, and probably had more friends than anyone could hope for. 

Her boyfriend Toby had been in the process of moving to Alaska when she disappeared. Overtaken with grief and resentment, he’d decided to stay in Oregon. He, along with Becky’s family, had put up a reward for her recovery—but to no avail. Like so many other disappearances, no ransom was requested, no suspects came forward, and no sign of Becky had been discovered.

She’d been missing for two and a half years and the probability that she was still alive was nonexistent—it was just the way things went, and a very sad fact.

“Why would somebody kill athletes? I mean…what’s the purpose?” Buck asked, looking for answers—needing them.

“Somebody who obviously feels inferior to them,” Ezra answered, keeping his nose in another file. “If these are indeed victims of a serial killer within the area…” he took a deep breath and tossed the file onto the tabletop, “…then we’re looking for a white male—somebody who’s aggressive and easily threatened, easily intimidated and able to control his violent urges—This is what is going to make him so hard to catch. He’s organized to the point of obsessive. The disappearances have been happening over a period of 10 to 12 years, so he’s older…possibly 40 to 50, and he doesn’t want to get caught—that’s why he’s killing strangers and why he’s hid the bodies. He’s controlling, domineering in attitude, but submissive to anyone in authority.”

“So this could be a former athlete who couldn’t make it, or a school nerd who had no chance of becoming one—”

“What about an athlete that made it, but his career was shortened by another athlete?” JD cut Buck off and suggested.

“If that were the case, I would have expected the same type of athlete to disappear, but these disappearances are too broad—gymnasts to swimmers.”

“So he’s a short fat bald guy who can’t run,” Buck replied with a sigh.

Ezra yawned and leaned forward in his chair. He ran his fingers through his hair and sighed, needing more information. “We’re looking for someone with enough personality to get young adults to trust him—someone who can finesse even the most suspicious person—these missing kids are smart...not your average student who goes to collage because they have to, but because they want to. Athletes by nature are competitive, driven—they earn a certain amount of respect because of their abilities—”

“So we’re blamin’ the athlete?” Buck asked, slightly confused.

“No,” Ezra snapped, getting to his feet. “Would you go face to face with a professional boxer?” he asked, looking squarely at Buck.

“Hell no,” Buck replied.

“We’re looking for someone who would—and he’d win.”

Buck sat back in his seat and raised an eyebrow as though a light had just gone on. “Now that makes sense.”


Hanson was located 160 miles northwest of Fairbanks. If it wasn’t for the abundant population of 730, less than nine percent of the total population of the Yukon-Koyukuk County, one would have guessed Santa Clause had taken up residence. The county consisted of 571,951 square miles and less than 7000 people living within that area. No wonder it was called the last great frontier.

Out here, the snow seemed to go on for miles...because it did. With abundant wildlife and the vastness of the land, hunting was common, in essence, a working man’s dream. Everyone owned a gun...if not one, then two or three. They seemed to be as important as insulated coveralls or wool socks.

The members of the community had long ago traded in their trust of electricity and gas stoves for the more traditional means of heat...wood stoves and plenty of clothing. Smoke drifted out of every chimney, or so it seemed, and it seeped into the brisk night air like cigarette smoke from nostrils. Unlike Washington D.C. residents who carried umbrellas and newspapers as accessories, Alaskans chose mittens, flashlights, and thermoses filled with coffee or soup.

Snowplows and snowmobiles ran through the streets with constant reoccurrence. Each seemingly important for themselves as well as each other as the snow continued its downfall. Engines roared to life and died frequently. It was a part of everyday living, something everyone got used to...or they left Alaska. It wasn’t an easy way to live, and unlike so many places, the people and the land didn’t lie about it.

“Had this dream when I was a kid,” Vin said, leaning against the wall while looking out the window toward the town—watching as small-town-life relished in its innocence and simplicity, “thought it would be cool to live in a place like this—no people, just the land.” He took a pull from the cup of hot coffee and kept his eyes on the wilderness outside. The Aurora Borealis was indeed beautiful, and it was understandable as to why so many came to Hanson for the view. 

“What caused you to change your mind?” Ezra asked, pulling himself away from his files resting on the table in the room he was sharing with Vin.

“I like feelin’ my feet,” he answered honestly. Vin sighed and turned so his back was flat against the wall. “Find anythin’?”

Ezra shook his head and leaned back in his chair. He tried to stifle a yawn and failed, covering his mouth with his hand and squeezing his eyes shut. His head hurt, and he needed to visit a masseuse for his back...maybe a short blonde with green eyes...hell, a vacation would be perfect. No phones, faxes, computers, nothing.  

“You should get some sleep,” Vin suggested, standing straight and reaching for one of the files.

Ezra shrugged, trying to ignore his body’s need for sleep and Vin’s suggestion to get some. It was a simple request, and something everyone did, but lately...the nightmares had been too intense, Ezra didn’t want to close his eyes and doze...he didn’t want to be under the influence of his own mind. He wanted it all to stop—but it wouldn’t.

Vin opened the door after hearing a faint knock and he allowed JD to enter.

“I got reports from the colleges where the missing students attended and the families were kind enough to fax us photographs of their kids, and things they thought might be important.” He dropped the heavy file onto the tabletop causing papers and files to scatter. “Sorry,” he said, watching as Ezra dropped quickly to his knees sorting out the papers. JD looked toward Vin and shrugged in question.

Vin shook his head, motioning for JD not to make a big deal about it. “Find anything interestin’?”

“Nothing I could see,” JD replied, getting down on his knees to help. “Chris said to suit up. He wants us to walk around town and get to know the people, maybe strike up some conversations. The guy that owns the soup and sandwich shop served most of the missing kids, and the manager of the gas station had talked to them as well...guess he’s been here for most of his life and knows most everyone in town.”

“Anything else?’ Ezra asked, getting to his feet after sorting the files and reorganizing them.

“He wants Buck and Vin to go over to the gun shop and ask a few questions...find out if anyone has been buyin’ more shit than they should be. Josiah and Nathan are going to hang with the sheriff for a while and maybe check out a few leads.  I’m supposed to hang out with you,” JD replied, looking at Ezra.

Vin grinned.

Ezra scowled and nodded in understanding. “And Chris?”

JD shrugged: “Didn’t ask.” He moved over toward the small refrigerator and peaked inside. “Hey, you guys got more booze than me an’ Buck.” He squatted and started sorting through the small glass bottles.

“You goin’ to be alright?” Vin asked, grabbing his coat and scarf.

“If you’re booking me for murder at the end of the day...?” Ezra sighed, “I’ll let you know then.” He rolled his eyes and wearily rang his hands together.

“Hey!” JD called as Vin opened the door. “We’re supposed to be back here by five tonight—Chris doesn’t want us out later than we have to’s supposed to snow another two or three feet today.” He turned back toward the fridge.

“Good luck,” Vin sighed, and closed the door behind him after he left.

“Let’s go, JD,” Ezra said, grabbing his coat.

“Where’re we going?”

“To talk to someone who knows everybody’s dirty little secrets.”