ATF: May 2005
Moved to Blackraptor November 2009
"Not even close."
"Itís not just a letter that doesnít stand for anything, is it?"
"But itís a real name? I heard you tell a guy once that it stood for ĎPersuasiveí. That wasnít true, was it?"
The smirk that had been lurking around the corners of Ezra P. Standishís mouth widened into a full-blown grin. "Of course not, Mr. Jackson. I assure you, my middle initial does indeed represent a genuine moniker."
"But is it something weíve heard of, or just something your folks made up?" Vinís suspicious question produced thoughtful looks all around.
At this, Ezra laughed outright. "I assure you, Mr. Tanner, it is a name every one of you has heard before."
Satisfied, the members of Team Seven began another round.
"Is it Peter?" asked Nathan, deciding to try something simple.
Ezra made a face at JDís suggestion. "Definitely not."
"What about Phineas?"
"Please, Mr. Wilmington. Phineas?"
"So, is that a no?"
"Most decidedly. "
"How about Pontius?"
Ezra narrowed his eyes at Josiah Sanchezís wicked grin. "Interesting choice, but thankfully, no. And before you ask, it is not Pilate either."
"Come on, Ez. Give us a hint," JD begged.
Giving him a calm and altogether infuriating smile, the southern agent simply said, "No," and bent back to his paperwork.
A general outcry arose at that.
"That ainít fair, Ez!"
"Vinís right," Buck protested hotly. "You canít just get us all wondering, then not answer the question."
Ezra looked up, one eyebrow raised. "I donít believe you asked me a question. You simply saw me signing this monthís expense report and mentioned that I had never told you what my middle initial represents."
JDís brow wrinkled. "You havenít, though."
The cool green gaze flicked towards him. "That is correct, and the fact that I have not chosen to illuminate you on this point should tell you something."
The young man looked chagrined. "I guess so. Sorry, Ezra. Never figured you hated your name, whatever it is. I was thinking it had to be like mine. Just a name that nobodyís ever used much."
"Yes, well, I wish it were that simple. If I had been named after a relation, as you were, or even something classic that I happened to find distasteful, I would admit it freely."
Josiah chuckled. "You realize youíve just made us more determined to find out what it is now, donít you?"
Ezra grimaced, realizing that the Profiler was right as he observed calculating expressions pass over each of his teammatesí faces.
At that moment, Chris Larabee walked out of his office, frowning as he noticed everyone clustered around Ezraís desk. "Whatís going on out here? Ezra, Iíve been waiting for that report for the last twenty minutes. Travis wants it today."
The southerner sighed, handing over the papers in question. "Here you are, Mr. Larabee. My apologies for the delay. This report generated an unexpected conversation, from which I have been unable to escape."
The curious sound prompted Vin to explain, "Weíve been tryiní to figure out what the ĎPí in Ezra P stands for. Any guesses?"
Chris laughed. "Donít need to guess. I already know. So, Ezra, are you going to tell them?"
He shook his head, the gesture more resignation than denial. "I hadnít planned on it, however, I had forgotten that you also possess that knowledge."
"Hey, wait a minute," Buck cut in, shooting Chris an accusing glare. "You know and youíve never told us?"
"Of course he knows," Ezra interrupted testily. "As my supervisor, Mr. Larabee has access to all my officially recorded personal information. "
Chris shrugged off the accusing tone. "There was a glitch in your personnel file when you were transferred in from Atlanta. I had to order in a copy of your birth certificate to get it corrected. You know that."
"Doesnít mean he has to like it," Nathan said with a laugh. "This must be a pip. As far as I remember, itís not even on your medical record."
"Correct," Ezra replied shortly. "I have taken steps to assure that the appellation does not appear on anything other than my birth certificate."
Smiling broadly, Buck tossed an arm around Chrisí shoulders. "So, Chris olí buddy. Looks like Ezraís not gonna talk, so whatís it gonna take to get you to share?"
The team leader grinned, nodding toward Ezra who was shooting him a look that promised dire retribution if he opened his mouth. "Do I look like a man with a death wish? Figure it out for yourselves!"
Ezra relaxed, giving him a nod of thanks, while everyone else groaned in protest.
Suddenly JD cut in, "Hey, Nathan didnít guess it, did he?" At Ezraís questioning look, he repeated, "When he said your name must be a pip. Is that it? Pip, like in Great Expectations?"
A snort of laughter answered the question even before Ezra said again, "No, JD, itís not Pip, but I must say that Iím impressed to find you making such a literary reference."
"Hey, I read," he protested, seeing the surprised looks he was receiving from the others.
Chris slapped JD on the shoulder in approval than clapped both hands together loudly, making half the team jump. "Okay, everybody. You can figure this out later. Meanwhile, there are still two hours left on the clock, so get back to work."
Everyone grumbled for show as they returned to their desks. Buck, however, was not quite ready to give up. "Come on, Ezra. Just one hint for us to work on, huh? Whatís it gonna hurt?"
"If you donít, I could always run a check on the computer," JD threatened playfully. "Dig up a copy of your birth certificate, like Chris did."
"I feel sure that you wonít," Ezra replied calmly. "To the best of my knowledge, you are neither a cheat nor the sort of person to go snooping into another personís private business uninvited." As he had expected, the young computer genius immediately backed off with a flushed face and a muttered assurance that of course he wouldnít.
The next two hours passed peacefully as the men finished up their work and turned it in, preparing for a case free weekend. Ezraís hope that his friends had dropped their earlier line of questioning was dashed as the clock hit 5pm and Buck Wilmington appeared at his elbow as if by magic, saying, "Preston?"
Noticing that the other men were listening eagerly, he nearly groaned the word, "No."
Chris was just locking up his office as he heard the question and chuckled at Ezraís exasperated response. "You might as well give them a clue, Ezra. You know theyíre not going to drop this until they find out what they want to know."
Ezra sighed and nodded. "I suppose." He thought for a few moments, then admitted, "The name has a specific connection to the date of my birth."
"That could mean a lot of things," Vin said with a frown.
"So it could," Ezra agreed with a small smile, "but youíre smart enough to figure it outÖeventually."
Nathan cocked his head to one side. "If we do, are you going to fill us in on where the name comes from? With all your dancing around, Iím thinkiní thereís got to be a story behind this."
He considered it for a moment, then nodded. "Very well, Mr. Jackson. If you find the correct solution to the puzzle, I promise you an explanation."
Josiah raised an eyebrow. "And if we donít?"
The gold-tinged smile turned smug. "Then your curiosity will simply have to go unfulfilled." Picking up his briefcase, the southerner gave them all a lazy salute. "Now, if youíll excuse me, I have a date to prepare for and I donít want to be late. I wish you all a pleasant weekend."
"Hey, does she know your name?" Buck shouted as the office door began to swing shut.
A laugh could be heard along with the ping of an elevator, then Ezraís voice calling back, "Good night, gentlemen."
When Monday arrived, only two members of ATF team Seven looked ready to face it. Chris Larabee, the first to enter the office, and Ezra Standish, the last, both looked as bright eyed and alert as anyone could have wished for. The five men who straggled in between their arrivals could not say the same.
"What on earth happened to you?" Ezra inquired bluntly, taking in the bleary eyes and listless body language that surround him on all sides. A grin could not be held back as he asked them, "Did someone throw a particularly wild weekend party? I don't believe I received my invitation."
"Well," Vin drawled slowly, giving him a half-hearted smile, "You had plans and we didn't want to get 'n the way 'r nothin'."
Ezra's eyes widened a bit at the lazy, almost slurred sound of the sharpshooter's words. "Mr. Tanner, are you drunk?"
"He's tired," Josiah explained grumpily. "We're all tired."
The southerner's eyebrows climbed toward his hairline and his tone sounded just slightly injured as he guessed, "So there actually was a party?"
JD was walking by with a large cup of coffee as he asked the question. Veering away from his intended destination, the young man sat down heavily on the edge of Ezra's desk. He did not appear to be as tired as the others, but dejection fairly oozed from his pores as he took a heavy swig of his milk-and-sugar laced beverage and corrected, "Nah, we had some pizza but you didn't miss anything good. It was just a brainstorming session. A really long, useless, pointless brainstorming session."
"Oh," Ezra said, sounding as puzzled as he felt. "Of course."
"Good thing we didn't make a bet," Buck sighed, shooting a rubber band at Ezra's head, which he automatically ducked under with the aid of much practice. "You'd have won without even being in the room. By the way, how was the date?"
Feeling more by the moment as if he were missing a copy of a bizarre script that the rest of the team was reading from, Ezra shook his head and replied, "It was very enjoyable, thank you." He shrugged slightly at Wilmington's inquiring look. "Just dinner and a movie. Really nothing much to speak of."
A slight grin lifted Buck's lips and he perked up from the slouch he had been in as his ears caught Ezra's overly casual tone. Placing a hand to his temple, the roguish man frowned, closed his eyes for a moment, then hummed and said, "I detect a tremor in the Force. I see you inviting your lady to a romantic movie, but...what's this...you didn't make it to the theater? No, no, I see a diversion in the path. You rented a movie instead and took it to her place." Ezra's mouth dropped open a bit. Encouraged by the expression, Buck went on. "You settled down to watch the movie, but only got as far as the opening credits when...what's this I sense? A game of "Find the Remote" followed by a long weekend full of hot monkey lovin' on the sofa, the bed, the dining room table, the..."
"I did not have sex on anyone's dining room table!" Ezra blurted in outrage, then groaned and hid his face as everyone laughed and he realized that he had just implied that the rest of Buck's story was true. "How do you do that?" he growled at the unrepentant man.
Chuckling, Wilmington huffed on his knuckles. "It's a gift. So, am I right?"
Laughing reluctantly, Ezra told him, "Unfortunately, no. The evening certainly had potential for the future, but there was noÖwhat did you call it?"
"Hot monkey loviní," Vin supplied with an evil grin. "Maybe next time..." he trailed off into a series of wild chimpanzee noises.
Ezra rolled his eyes. "I would ask you to define that term, only I'm afraid you might comply." Fishing up the rubber band Buck had shot at him; he fired it back at Vin, hitting the chortling sharpshooter square in the middle of his forehead.
"Bullseye!" JD shouted, reaching over to high-five Ezra as Vin glared at them both.
Feeling that he'd had his revenge, Ezra gestured towards Nathan, who he had just noticed, appeared asleep at his desk. "So, is someone going to fill me in as to what sort of activity consumed your weekend and left you all so weary? And what did you mean, I would have won a bet if we had made one?"
The sour mood that had emanated from the men as they entered the office returned in force with his question. "Great clue you gave, Ezra," JD said glumly. "Do you know how many different events happened in September of 1969?"
Suddenly, Ezra realized. "You don't mean to tell me... Gentlemen, you didn't really waste your entire weekend collectively pondering the secret of my middle initial!"
From behind him, a laughing voice answered, "By the looks of things, they did."
Ezra turned to find Larabee standing outside his office; leaning against the doorframe and observing his men with amused eyes. "Weíve got a lot to do today, so I think you'd better either tell 'em or give a better clue, otherwise they may never get their asses in gear. You know none of the boys can stand an unsolved mystery any more than you can."
Nathan had snapped out of his doze at the sound of his boss' voice and was now nodding agreement. "Come on, Ezra. It can't be as bad as all that."
"Don't be so sure," he sighed. "I never said that I was named for something that happened on my birthday. I merely said that date had a connection. In truth, the day of my birth simply correlates to the event in question. An end result, if you will."
"An end result," Josiah repeated thoughtfully. "Meaning that the date we should be paying attention to is not the date you were born, but the date you were...conceived?"
The pained grimace that flitted over Ezra's face was answer enough. Immediately, everyone started considering this new angle. For several silent minutes, each man pondered, then JD said, "Your birthday is September third, right? So that's too early in December for the date to have anything to do with Christmas."
"Not necessarily," he hedged.
"Christmas 1968," Nathan mused aloud. "Something leading up to the holiday. I don't suppose the date we're looking for has to do with when your parents first...uh...met?" He stopped, looking embarrassed, and it was clear what he was really asking.
Ezra shifted uncomfortably in his seat, wondering why he hadn't simply made something up when Buck had begun pestering him on Friday. "No, but you're getting warmer."
Ruffling his hair with both hands, Vin said in frustration, "What could be so important about early December, 1968?"
Out of nowhere, an utterly delighted laugh burst forth from Buck and he sat bolt upright in his chair, his expression filled with wonder as he stared at Ezra's reddening face.
Seeing the reaction, Chris grinned and tapped Ezra on the arm. "I figured it'd be Buck who got it first."
"So did I," Ezra told him dourly. "He had the advantage."
Abruptly, four voices tumbled over one another in their eagerness to share in Buck's newfound knowledge.
"What'd he figure out?"
"Címon, Buck, what's the answer?"
Buck, however, seemed lost for words. Finally, he said reverently. "Maude and your dad. They were in Burbank, California?"
"Yes, Mr. Wilmington, they were, and I can see that you've guessed correctly," Ezra said with a reluctant smile.
"Wow," he whispered, too dumbstruck to say anything else.
JD couldn't take it anymore. Reaching out, he punched Ezra on the shoulder and demanded, "What! What's Burbank got to do with anything? That doesn't even start with a 'P'!"
Josiah was nodding, a huge grin spreading across his face. "No, but I know what does."
"I don't," Nathan said, confused. "What's the big secret?"
"December 3, 1968!" Buck shouted, suddenly recovering his voice. "Nathan, that was only the date of the most important live music concert ever! Don't you know anything?"
Ezra gave a snort of laughter at the indignant look on the team medic's face. "You'll have to forgive him, Nathan. I believe our Buck is feeling a bit overwhelmed."
With a smile, Josiah elaborated, "That was the date of the Elvis Presley '68 Comeback Special. And it sounds to me as though we've met one of that concert's attendees in the form of the lovely Maude. Is that right, Ezra?"
The younger man agreed, "Yes. She'll probably have me killed if she ever finds out I told you this, but my mother is a closet Elvis fanatic. I'm told she employed every trick in her impressive arsenal to obtain a pair of those much sought-after tickets. She was going to go to that concert if she had to resort to assault and battery to do it, but fortunately she was able to convince a fellow concert goer to put his tickets up for collateral in a poker game instead. My father used to speak of that game with absolute reverence. Iím rather sorry I missed it."
"That's really cool," JD enthused. "So '68 was the black leather concert, right? Not the white jumpsuits?"
Buck nodded so hard his head looked to be in danger of flying off his shoulders. "The first live concert Elvis had done in a decade, kid. His comeback to being on the stage after years of making movies." His shining eyes again settled on Ezra. "The King's animal magnetism showered the crowd where your folks were standing and brought 'em together for a little Burnin' Love."
Vin and Nathan, who had been holding their laughter back by main force, broke down helplessly at their friend's awe-struck words.
"Mr. Wilmington is not entirely incorrect," Ezra said, raising his voice to be heard over their howls of mirth. "My parents were evidently carried away with enthusiasm following two hours of basking in the glow of Elvis, and as a result, exactly nine months later they received a special souvenir of their evening." He grinned, and made a self-encompassing gesture with both hands, enjoying the moment now that his secret was out.
"So, to get back to the original point of this discussion, I assume your middle name is Presley?" Josiah said, eyes twinkling.
Ezra self-consciously straightened his tie and admitted, "Yes, it is. Thankfully, Mother did not go through with her initial impulse to pass along the entire name - a fact I'm certain she is as thankful for today as I am - but she was adamant about Presley. I'm sure you can understand why this information is not something I share freely."
Every man in the room heard the unspoken warning.
"Don't worry, Ezra, we ain't gonna tell anybody," Vin promised. Then he winked. "Least not today."
A dagger-like green glare pierced the sharpshooter. "Blackmail, Mr. Tanner? I'm surprised at you."
Tanner winked. "Fella's gotta keep an ace up his sleeve for emergencies, don't he?"
An approving chuckle answered him. "Indeed he does, my friend. Particularly when his opponent is carrying a full deck."
With that, the undercover agent toggled his mouse to activate the computer in front of him. Nudging JD to get off the edge of his desk, Ezra pulled the first file of the day out of his Inbox and calmly began to flip through it.
The other men all exchanged nervous looks. Could Ezra possibly have something on each of them that made their newfound discovery pale in comparison?
As if reading their minds, Ezra looked up for a moment, grinned smugly, and began to lightly hum a tune as he returned to his work.
"Oh, I'm e-vil," Buck sang along softly.
Smiling ruefully, Josiah finished the next line, "So, don't you mess around with me."
Feedback much appreciated: firstname.lastname@example.org
Authorís Note: The song Ezra is humming is called "Trouble" and is from the Elvis Presley movie 'King Creole'.