Wayward Son

Book Six

by Beth AKA Midge

ATF Universe

Notes: You will want to read the other five stories prior to this one otherwise the ending might get a little confusing. From start to finish, This is the fifth story in the series, The South Wind, The Mouths of Crocodiles, High and Dry, China Roses and Brothers in Arms. In this story I briefly describe Maude as having an antisocial personality. All the information I obtained I got out of the book Diagnostic Criteria from DSM-IV. Which was required reading for my Criminal Psychology class.

Special Thanks to Julie, Jen, KellyA and Antoinette, you all really helped make this story so much better.

Size: Approx. 110K

Chapter 1
Winter had hit Denver in full force. The ground was covered in fresh powdered snow and the cold crispness in the air caused everyone to wear heavy coats. Both Ezra and Vin seemed to relish the warmer months, Ezra being from the South and Vin being from Texas, it wasn't a wonder why. JD seemed to thrive in the cold air, his weekend snowboarding trips only confirmed it. Josiah and Nathan took the weather change without much thought; it was something to be expected. Buck didn't care as long as he was in a warm bed with a beautiful woman. Chris seemed to enjoy the colder weather. People seemed to be more dormant and therefore less likely to commit crimes. Vin, of course, was more than happy to point out that it also gave criminals more time to be 'creative' when the weather was warmer.

A month had passed since the shooting, at times the situation seemed to hover over JD Dunne with such an intensity that the other members of Chris's team wondered if he would ever truly recover from it. JD, however, was doing his best to do so. He'd met with Edie Jamison's husband and much to JD's surprise Hank Jamison was very supportive and understanding. Jamison was the pastor of a small church just outside of Denver. Instead of anger, he'd taken JD's hand and shaken it, thanking him for saving his children's lives. Ezra had been right in his assessment of the initial situation. If JD had not of fired off those two gunshots the situation would have been catastrophic.

JD, Buck, and Vin all had a growing respect for the Southerner who somehow had been the one to get JD to open up about his feelings regarding the shooting. Buck had been thrilled to see the change while they were at Inez's Saloon. The Kid had even stayed late and played pool with Ezra. Of course he lost all his money to the undercover agent. He was, however, able to communicate without being angry or subdued. As Josiah had put it, 'it was a much needed start in the long healing process'. Vin knew nobody was going to be able to get the Kid nor Ezra to talk about the conversation they'd had at the saloon bar, and frankly it wasn't anyone's business. Vin trusted the Southerner with his secrets and he figured JD could trust him as well.

+ + + + + + +

Chris sat behind his desk and looked at the FBI agent sitting before him. The man wasn't much older than Ezra and he definitely lacked the undercover agent's confidence. Agent Michael Jones had come into the ATF office right after Chris, indicating that he had vital information proving Agent Standish had taken a payoff and had removed evidence critical to the indictment of one Jared Harrison. Once inside the office, Jones handed Chris a medium-sized envelope. Inside were a handful of incriminating photographs.

Chris threw the photographs onto his desk and took a deep breath. He could hear the noise of his team arriving for the day through the walls of his office. It had been a relief having JD back and now the thought of potentially losing Ezra was bearing down on the team leader. "What are your intentions?" he asked knowing full well what they were.

"Suspend Standish until a full internal investigation can be completed." Jones smiled mischievously. "Those photographs are more than enough to warrant an inquiry. As you know, that could seriously jeopardize Agent Standish's position here as an ATF agent."

"Where did you get 'em?" Chris inquired, referring to the black and white photographs on his desk.

"I'm not at liberty to say." Michael Jones moved uncomfortably in his chair feeling the threatening glare of Larabee upon him.

"Is this all the proof you've got?"

"It's all I need," Jones replied.

+ + + + + + +

"Chris got a meeting this morning?" JD asked, finishing off his second can of Coke.

"Door's been closed since I got here," Vin responded looking up as the door to the stairs opened and Ezra stepped out. The sharpshooter chuckled noticing the disgusted look the undercover agent sported. "Should have been here earlier Ez," Vin smiled. "Elevator was workin' then."

JD and Buck both snorted at Ezra's facial reaction. The Southerner looked disbelievingly at Vin and then he looked at his watch, he was only five minutes late. "I find your sense of humor mundane this morning Mr. Tanner, because more times than not the elevator does not work." Ezra slipped out of his calf length black wool overcoat and hooked it on the coat rack.

"Weren't no humor involved...just statin' the obvious s'all." Vin smiled and quickly headed to the kitchenette for a refill of his coffee.

Chris stepped out of his office and looked at the faces of his team members. "Ezra," Chris paused, "I need to see you." He turned and headed back into his office.

Ezra looked around the room at his teammates who only shrugged their shoulders not understanding what was going on. The Southerner straightened out the sleeves to his shirt and jacket before heading into the team leader's office.

+ + + + + + +

Chris leaned forward and rested his elbows on his desk and waited until the undercover agent was seated before he started. He watched Ezra glance suspiciously at the man sitting in the chair next to him and Chris could tell the undercover agent had put himself on alert.

"Ezra," Chris started, "this is FBI Agent Michael Jones."

The Southerner looked distrustfully at the agent sitting beside him. "May I inquire as to what this meeting is about?"

Chris handed the undercover agent three black and white photographs. The photos were of Ezra and one of Jared Harrison's men, obviously taking and pocketing a payoff. The team leader waited for a reaction, but he didn't get one.

Ezra looked at the photos, there was no mistaking it was himself and the man he was meeting was Peter Karns. As the Southerner remembered he'd only met with Karns a couple times and both times had been inside a restaurant in downtown Atlanta. The pictures he was looking out were taken outside of a department store. The undercover agent knew they were fakes but he couldn't prove it. He tossed the photos back onto Chris's desk and waited for the suspension he knew was coming.

"You're not going to try and defend yourself?" Jones asked, surprised that the undercover agent hadn't so much as flinched when he looked at the photos.

"They're fake," Ezra replied refusing to look at Agent Jones. The Southerner could read the questions written in Larabee's eyes and he knew how uncomfortable the situation was for the team leader. Taking the initiative, Ezra stood then reached into his jacket pocket, removing his badge. He then removed his weapon that was holstered on his belt. "The derringer and ankle piece are mine." He placed the weapon and badge on Larabee's desk.

"We'll get to the bottom of this." Chris glared at Jones. His gut was telling him something about this situation wasn't right but he couldn't do anything about until the Judge got back from Colorado Springs and that wouldn't be until tomorrow. "Be back here tomorrow morning Ezra, and we'll take this up with the Judge and get IA on it."

Ezra headed for the door. "Once again Mr. Larabee, I find your faith in the system is astounding." He opened the door and stepped out of the office then he grabbed his coat and headed down the stairs. He didn't want to fight, he was done with it, he was too tired to continue fighting a losing battle, one that could easily affect anyone else he worked with and especially those he was becoming friends with.

+ + + + + + +

Chris watched him go unable to do or say anything. He looked hard at Jones who seemed to be content with the situation. The team leader collected the photographs and tapped them lightly on the desk squaring all the corners.

"I'll need those back." Jones leaned forward.

"Judge Travis will need these, I'm sure you have the negatives." Chris looked at the agent knowing that if he didn't, then his claim would be fraudulent.

"Yes, of course," Jones replied. He got to his feet and stuck his hand out for Chris to shake only the team leader didn't respond to the offer. "Tomorrow morning then." He nervously smiled before heading out of the office.

+ + + + + + +

Chris ran his fingers through his hair and sighed while leaning back in his chair. "Vin!"

The sound of Chris yelling Vin's name made everyone in the office jump. The way Ezra had left had everyone wondering what had been said between Chris, Ezra and the stranger who'd just left. Vin got to his feet and headed into the team leader's office. He was surprised to see the distressed look on Larabee's face.

"What's going on?" Vin asked concerned.

"I need you to run these down to Brian in the film/video department." Chris handed the photos to Vin. "I want you to find out if they've been doctored."

Vin looked in astonishment at the photos. "What happened with Ezra?" He had seen how the undercover agent had left the offices and knew something significant had to have happened. The Southerner's badge and weapon sat on the corner of Chris's desk and they didn't go unnoticed by the sharpshooter.

"We're having a meeting with the Judge in the morning," Chris confirmed, not bothering to inform the Judge's secretary about the impending meeting. He understood how fine the line he was walking was and he hoped he could maintain some kind of balance. "Until this gets resolved Ezra's been suspended."

"What?" Vin looked hard at Chris. "You suspended him because of these?" Vin looked again at the photos.

"Until the Judge gets back it's all I can do." Chris looked apologetically at Vin. "Get those photos down to Brian, ASAP."

Vin nodded his head and headed down to Brian's office without uttering another word.

Chapter 2

Vin sprinted up the steps from the second floor wanting to let Chris know what he found out. He burst through the door and headed straight to the team leaders office. The rest of the team was already in the office going over the situation. The Texas sharpshooter threw the photos onto his desk. "They're fake," he said confidently looking at the blonde.

"Good," Chris sighed and waited for Vin to point out the problems in the photo confirming why they're fraudulent.

"Brian caught it right off. He said there is another reflection in the glass," Vin pointed to where Ezra's reflection should have been. "This is someone else, it ain't Ez. This guy here..." he pointed to the man standing across from the Southerner, "is really him. Brian thinks this was a surveillance photo and someone just superimposed a picture of Ez."

"Who would do that?" JD asked frowning at the idea.

"That's what we're going to find out...JD," Chris looked to the kid, "I want you to find out all you can on an Agent Michael Jones."

"That guy that was here earlier?"

"Yeah, match the name with a face. I want to make sure he's legit," The team leader continued, "Buck take these photos and see if you can match them to any surveillance photos taken from Ezra's past cases. Concentrate on anything related to a Jared Harrison." Chris looked to the team medic. "Nathan help 'im see what you can find out."

"You want us to have a conversation with Agent Carson?" Buck asked knowing the man had it in for the Southerner.

"Snoop around but be discreet, I don't want you raising any eyebrows. We'll leave Carson out of this for as long as possible." Chris looked around the room at his men. "Vin, you and Josiah see if you can locate Ezra let him know what's going on...Maybe he can remember something that will help us out."

Everyone but Chris and Vin left the confines of the office readying themselves for the task at hand. Vin wanted to speak with the team leader privately.

"Do you think Ez'll help?" Vin asked.

"If we can find 'im," Chris sighed and scratched behind his left ear. He had known something wasn't right when Agent Jones showed up this morning with the photos. His gut had told him so. Chris knew the Southerner had a history that reached beyond what any of the members of this team could fathom. The team leader understood the reluctance Ezra had with getting any of them involved. Whether the Southerner liked it or not, they were involved, and Chris didn't take lightly to the situation currently unfolding. Ezra was a member of this team whether he admitted it or not and he didn't want this to end the same way things had ended with Agent White.

Vin tipped his imaginary hat and left the office. He wanted to find Ezra before the he did something drastic and the fact that he hadn't put up any kind of a defense had the sharpshooter concerned. Vin could tell Chris was thinking the same thing.

+ + + + + + +

By the time 7:30pm had rolled around the Federal Building had long since closed and the nightly cleaning crew had arrived. Just a few other agents could be found staying late finishing up business. Chris's team continued to work diligently trying to piece together Ezra's involvement with Jared Harrison.

JD hit the print button on the computer and ran a hand over his tired face. He looked up as Buck came back into the office with a pile of new files. The ladies man dropped the short stack on his desk and sighed as he fell back into his chair.

"You havin' any luck kid?" Buck asked, sitting up to finish off his cold cup of coffee.

JD threw his pencil down and reached for the piece of paper that came out of the printer. "Do you know how many 'Jones' work or have worked for the FBI?"

"If it's anything like Smith I can take a wild guess."

"234, that's how many," the kid snapped. "Want to know how many of them are named 'Michael'?"

Buck smiled at the kid's frustration. "I reckon I'm about to find out."

"Sixteen." JD slapped the sheet of paper he'd been holding. "You want to know how hard it is to find up to date photos of FBI agents still working in the field?" Buck chuckled and waited for the kid to continue, "Damn near impossible...I had to hack into six different computer systems, which, I'll remind you, took most of the day. Then..." JD looked hard at Buck, "none of the photos I found even come close to matching the man who was in the office today."

Buck rested his elbows on his desk trying to comprehend what JD had just told him, "You're telling me that this 'Michael Jones' isn't an FBI agent?"

"Looks that way." JD handed the ladies man the sheet of paper he'd printed up moments earlier. "Two years ago this agent," the kid motioned toward the sheet of paper with a photo and statistics of the officer in question, "was killed in the line of duty...his date of birth and physical appearance could almost match the guy that was here today. Except..."

"He's dead," Buck finished for him still looking at the face on the piece of paper he held. " How did he get past security down stairs?"

"The oh so brilliant idea of recycling badge numbers." JD stood up and took the paper from Buck. "You and Nate had any luck?"

"Lets just say finding information on Harrison is easier than it sounds." Buck looked out the door of their office to see Josiah and Vin exit out of the newly fixed elevator. "Lets go find out what they found out."

+ + + + + + +

Chris stepped out of his office when he heard the sound of the elevator doors open and joined the rest of the team in the break area. "Did you find 'im?" he asked, taking in the look of disappointment on his men's faces.

"No." Vin slid into a chair and rested his elbows on his knees. "Checked everyplace I know. His damn car is still in the garage, Inez ain't seen 'im and he ain't been out at your place to visit that horse of his."

"We called all the cab companies," Josiah spoke up. "They haven't picked anyone up within a mile radius of this building."

"Maybe he just wants to be left alone for a while," Nathan offered a little hope.

"Ez wouldn't do that." JD leaned back against the wall remembering the conversation he'd had with the Southerner a month ago. The kid reached into his pants pocket and pulled out the bullet that Ezra had given him, a reminder of the silent agreement between the two that they'd never broach the idea of suicide again.

"Whatcha thinkin' about kid?" Buck asked noticing the distant look in the kid's eyes. JD shrugged his shoulders and looked again at the bullet, fearing the worse. "Whatcha' got there?" Buck asked, realizing something was up.

JD tossed the bullet to Buck and waited for him to ask about it. Buck fingered the slug and noticed the scuffmarks and discoloration of the copper and gold colors. "Ez gave that to me about a month back," JD spoke up when Buck didn't offer to ask about it.

"I'm not following you." Buck looked around the room to his teammates who were just as confused as he was.

JD shifted nervously questioning whether or not he should bring the subject up, "I was feelin' real down after the shootin' an' all." He looked up and received understanding nods from his friends. "When Ez came into the saloon he was just real quiet ya know...and didn't force me to talk or nothing, He just waited till I was ready and I told 'im that I'd thought about killin' myself." JD bowed his head when he heard a collected gasp from the men he worked with. "He didn't question why...just wanted to know what stopped me."

"Damn kid," Buck whispered. "You could have talked to one of us about it."

"I did," JD insisted, "I talked to Ez."

"Ezra told you he'd thought about it as well." Josiah quickly put two and two together and looked at the kid sympathetically.

JD nodded, "He gave me that bullet...said he had it specially made." The kid watched as the bullet passed from member to member of the team. "He said it has a hollow tip he wanted to make sure he did the job right."

Nathan swore under his breath understanding how damaging a bullet of that magnitude could be. "You think he might try something JD?"

"He said he wouldn't but, he did say the whole reason he thought about it was because of the crap he had to deal with." JD looked again at his friends and waited to see what they thought.

Chris looked at the kid and understood the pressure he was under, it took a lot for him to admit to everyone what he'd been thinking about less than four weeks ago. He was also thankful that the team's undercover agent had felt comfortable enough to speak to the kid about such things. "Josiah," Chris looked solemnly at the big man. "Call all the morgues...see if they've got anyone fitting Ezra's description." He looked to Nathan, "Call all the hospitals...Buck, call the Police Precincts." The team leader turned and headed back into his office hoping his men wouldn't be any closer to finding his missing agent after the phone calls were completed.

+ + + + + + +

By 9:15 nobody was any closer to finding Ezra. The team decided to regroup at Buck and JD's apartment and re-read through the files Buck and Nathan had collected regarding Jared Harrison. They all hoped the undercover agent was just lying low in a hotel trying to escape reality for a while, but everyone felt it in their gut that Ezra's disappearance was something else entirely. Even though the Southerner was reserved and unwilling to share his thoughts with the others he would never intentionally leave them hanging.

Josiah and Nathan had gone to grab pizzas, coffee and cokes. JD and Buck hauled the two large boxes of files out to their vehicles and headed for home. Chris and Vin decided to take a detour and stop at Ezra's apartment in hopes that he might be there.

+ + + + + + +

The apartment that Ezra occupied was dark and it was obvious to both Vin and Chris that nobody was home. Chris knocked on the door anyway and waited for a response. Nothing. He glanced at Vin and smiled when the sharpshooter pulled out of his pocket some lock picking tools.

"Ez ain't the only one with a shady past." Vin smiled crouching down in a low stance and expertly picked the lock.

"Never thought he was." Chris gave Vin a wry smile and followed the Texan into the darkened apartment.

Vin flipped on the lights and noticed right away the hotel-like atmosphere, it wasn't much different than the undercover agent's office space. The Southerner had lived in Denver for four months and his apartment still looked as if he'd just moved in. "Always figured Ez would have famous pictures on his walls or somethin'." He looked around the bare walls and noticed the unpacked boxes in the corner. Vin stepped into the kitchen and noticed right away the two phones on the counter. One black and one white, the white one's receiver was taped down and a flashing '0' indicated no messages.

Chris stepped into the living room and looked for anything that could prove helpful. The boxes he decided had been packed years ago, the brittleness and color of the tape indicating so. He opened the closet door and found a few spare blankets, a pillow, and the Southerner's Australian Stock saddle. The man had to be different in everything he did, including horseback riding.

"What exactly are we lookin' for?" Vin asked, stepping out of the kitchen.

"Beats the shit out of me." Chris headed into the undercover agent's bedroom and glanced around the room. This room was much like the rest of the house. Chris chuckled when he noticed a large metal plate hanging on the wall and a box of broken alarm clocks right below it. "I guess that would explain why he's always late." He pointed to the box and heard Vin chuckle at the sight.

Even in the confines of the bedroom there weren't any photos or mementos decorating the simple chest of drawers that looked like they'd come with the apartment, or the nightstand next to the bed. A leather bound copy of Edger Allen Poe's complete works lay open on the nightstand. Chris flipped back a few of the worn pages and sighed, 'Cask of Amonillado' had been the last story the undercover agent had been reading. The team leader hoped this wouldn't be a foreshadowing.

"Looks like a damn hotel room without the tacky artwork or bright orange bedspreads." Vin walked over to the nightstand and opened the drawer. He smiled up at Chris who looked at him questionably. "Just checking for a Gideon Bible," the sharpshooter smiled before making his way to the bedroom window.

"Just what kind of hotels do you stay in?" Chris looked at the sharpshooter with an eyebrow raised.

Vin turned and looked at Chris giving him his best imitation of the 'Larabee glare'. Chris chuckled and opened the closet. Vin turned back toward the window but stopped when he noticed a box under the bed. The Texan reached under the bed and grabbed the box. It turned out to be a small locked file cabinet. "Chris." Vin laid the metal cabinet on the bed.

Chris turned and looked at the Texan. "Yeah." He noticed what Vin had found and he understood how close they were to betraying the Southerner's trust. They needed answers because one of their own was missing and possibly in danger. There were so many unanswered questions and Chris wondered if intruding on Ezra's privacy was the way in order to obtain those answers.

Vin looked hard at Chris knowing what the man was thinking and he also understood the difficult decision he had to make. "We'll find him regardless," Vin said getting to his feet.

"Put it back," Chris headed for the door, "if we're not any closer tomorrow...we'll check it out then."

Vin nodded his head in agreement and slid the cabinet back under the bed. He followed Chris out of the apartment shutting off the lights as he went.

Chapter 3

The team entered the offices early. All the members had dark circles under their eyes, evidence of the previous nights sleep, or more pointed, the lack there of. The team had searched all the files and had come up short, but they had confirmed that 'Agent Michael Jones' wasn't with the FBI, or any other government agency and that Ezra had vanished off the face of the earth leaving the team clueless to his whereabouts.

Chris didn't think Jared Harrison was involved nor was the man identified at Peter Karns, who was in the forged photo with Ezra. The team thought out other scenarios involving FBI Agent Carson and they all agreed he probably wasn't involved. Whoever was behind this had intended to get Ezra out of the office. The key was finding out why.

+ + + + + + +

Chris finished his private meeting with the Judge. He'd told Judge Travis about the photos and the man portraying himself as an FBI agent. The team leader did, however, fail to mention that Ezra was missing. He didn't want to raise any extra attention because there was still a chance the undercover agent could show up. Chris stepped out of the elevator and could smell the scent of very strong coffee brewing in the kitchenette. The team had moved out of the offices and were using a large table as a staging area.

Vin paused when he saw Chris step up to the table and rest his foot on the armrest of JD's chair, "How'd the meetin' go?"

"Judge wants to be updated as soon as we know something." Chris looked around to his men again. "Lets make another round of phone calls to the PD, morgues, and hospitals...make sure we still have a shadow of hope."

Josiah stood up. "I'll call the city morgues." He said sadly, making his way to his office.

"I'll call the hospitals," Nathan spoke up. "I already told them I'd get back to 'em this morning."

Chris watched his two agents leave and looked up when he heard the elevator door open. He sighed when Ezra's mother Maude stepped through. She looked beautiful, her hair done to perfection. The pantsuit she wore hugged her body emphasizing her abundant cleavage and shapely hips.

"Mr. Larabee," she stepped up to the team leader and smiled. "My, don't you boys look weary." She patted JD's cheek. "Where might I find my darling boy?" She looked to each of the men and noticed their faces fall. JD couldn't look her in the eye. Buck found his cup of coffee a source of interest. Vin looked to Chris for support on how to handle the situation.

"Mrs. Standish..." Chris started.

"Standish-McDuffy," Maude corrected. "How soon we forget." She smiled turning her attention to Ezra's office. "Is my son here?" She turned her attention back to Chris. "I know I should have called and let him know I would be arriving but one thing led to another and all of a sudden I'm in a taxi on my way here."

Josiah stepped out of his office followed closely by Nathan. His face was ashen and a look of utter despair caused Vin, Buck and JD to divert their eyes. Chris motioned for Josiah to meet with him in his office.

"If you'll excuse us Mrs. Standish-McDuffy." Chris left the woman standing in the room next to the table with the rest of his men. The look on Josiah's face told him what he'd feared.

+ + + + + + +

Chris waited until the door was closed before he looked Josiah in the eye. "What is it?" He needed an answer.

"A body fitting Brother Ezra's description was brought into the city morgue last night around 3:00am." Josiah ran a hand through his salt and pepper hair. "A self inflicted gunshot wound to the head."

"Did you tell Nathan?" Chris asked the big man wanting to keep this quiet until he and Josiah could ID the body.

"No." Josiah understood what Chris was getting at without having to be told. "But I would be willing to bet he knows."

Chris nodded his head. "We'll leave Maude with the boys until we get back." The team leader grabbed his coat and headed out of his office with Josiah on his heels. Everyone including Ezra's mother looked at him wanting to know what was happening. "JD," Chris looked at the kid, "why don't you run down to 'Jitters' and get everyone some drinkable coffee. The rest of you keep at what you're doing, Josiah and I will be back within the hour."

Josiah grabbed his heavy coat off the rack and followed a determined Larabee out of the building. The big man understood how devastating the potential loss of one of their own could be and he didn't want to tell Maude her only son could be dead. A parent should never outlive their child.

JD grabbed a pen and slip of paper. "What does everyone want?" He looked around the room to the humble faces and waited.

"A cappuccino, darlin' with extra foam." Maude slipped into the chair claimed regularly by Josiah and crossed her legs. She picked up an Outdoor Life magazine and threw it back on the table. "Is my son in some kind of trouble or is he just ignorin' his mother?" She looked at the faces of the men gathered around hoping to read some kind of an answer.

"Ez has been workin' real hard on a case the past few days." Vin shifted nervously receiving glares from Buck and Nathan. The sharpshooter opened his eyes wider and shrugged his shoulders, wanting to know what he did wrong.

+ + + + + + +

Chris and Josiah entered the City Morgue and smelled right away the scent of disinfectants, and formaldehyde. The walls, floors, and ceilings were white and a feeling of sterility encompassed the room. Stainless steel tables and coolers lined the far wall and trays of medical instruments littered the cabinets and workstations. The team leader stopped before the medical desk bearing a small wooden nameplate letting them know who was on duty.

Dr. Darcy Higgins came around the corner and walked to her desk never looking up from the file she was intent on reading. She stopped suddenly feeling she wasn't alone and looked up meeting Josiah's and Chris's gaze. "Can I help you?" She looked again at the men standing in front of her desk. "How did you get past the..."

"We're with the ATF." Chris pulled his badge from his front jacket pocket and showed the tall lean woman his credentials.

"You're here to ID the suicide," she said coldly, laying the file she'd been reading down on the desk and motioning them to follow her into the autopsy room. "Dr. Wallace said you would be coming in." She moved to one of the coolers and opened the steel door. "He..." She pulled the drawer out of the unit and waited before removing the white sheet to expose the young man's face, "...came in last night about 3:15. The weapon used was a 44, and the impact of the slug took the back of his skull off. According to the police report the patrons in the room next to his at the hotel heard a gunshot and called the police. I checked the point of entry and powder residue on his hands, which are indicative of a suicide...Dr. Wallace agrees."

Josiah swallowed hard and nodded his head in understanding. He hated death, granted someone with his experience should look at it in a continuum of the life cycle but he hated it nonetheless. And losing one so young was never easy.

"Are you gentlemen ready?" She looked at the two men and waited until they nodded their heads. She pulled back the sheet and looked for their reaction.

"It's not him," Chris stated before turning abruptly to leave.

Dr. Higgins replaced the sheet and looked at the man standing alone next to the coolers. "Are you all right?" she asked, pushing the drawer back in and closing the door.

"Saddened and relieved, all at the same time." Josiah smiled tightly and followed Chris out of the morgue.


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