Faces From the Past

by ReaperWriter

Josiah Sanchez sat looking at the pad of paper in front of him, wondering if there was anything unethical about doing profiles of new co-workers. Based on his own short, face level conversation with her, the information he had garnered from Chris, and what he was able to acquire from her hacked into personnel file, Josiah found himself with far more questions than answers.

Though Chris had said nothing, he suspected that what had existed between their southern under cover agent friend and the lovely Agent MacKenna was something beyond friendship. The fact Maude had attempted to destroy that friendship also didn’t surprise Josiah. That woman had caused her son harm multiple times to secure her own means.

Still, the scars of that betrayal must have run deep on both sides. For Ezra to think this girl, if she was as close to him as the profiler theorized, had up and left without caring to tell him, then it could account for Ezra’s difficulties in trust.

The effect must have been close to the same on her. Lili had lost her brother, and then to have Ezra shun her must have been devastating. In her dossier, Josiah had found that her parents had died in a car accident her second year at Boston. Her mother, driving drunk, had careened over a cliff, killing herself and Lili’s father. It also referenced the substantial estate she had inherited. Whatever had possessed Lili to join the FBI, it was not the money. The file also established the fact that Lili was still single. Considering her great beauty, not to mention personal estate, he was sure it was not from want of interested men.

But, the thing Josiah wondered about the most, the thing he couldn’t understand, was that the first three years of Lili’s eleven year career with the Bureau were classified. After that, she was listed at various ranks with the Bureau’s forensics headquarters, reaching the level of Deputy Director of Forensics. She had held that position for six months, then received the Denver post, on the recommendation of her supervisor, Dr. Thomas Lloyd.

What could Lili have been doing for the Bureau in those three years that would cause her records to be classified, and why had she suddenly changed designators? There was more to this story than any of them knew, Josiah suspected, and he guessed that only time would tell.

+ + + + + + +

Chris sat in his office, back turned to the door, staring out the window. He had been like this for over an hour, trying to process his meeting with Agent MacKenna. He had spoken to Josiah, and wondered if had betrayed some confidence discussing her with his friend. He hadn’t told Josiah any of the really personal details, though he thought the profiler had his own suspicions. He tried to reconcile the image the woman had painted of Ezra with the man he knew. He wondered how many layers the undercover agent had used to bury the part of him Lili had known.

The phone ringing was a welcome distraction. “Larabee.”

“Chris,” the voice said, “AD Travis here.”

“What can I do for you, sir?” Larabee asked.

“I have a case for you.”

+ + + + + + +

Ezra had just finished checking his messages when a young man entered the office. “I have a message for Agent Standish,” the man said, looking out of place in a lab coat. Ezra walked over and retrieved an envelope from the young man, who promptly scurried back out the door towards the elevator.

Retreating to his desk, Ezra ignored the inquiring stares from Buck, Josiah, and Nathan as he sat back down at his desk and opened the envelope.

Be at Berelli’s at 8:00 sharp. ~L

The simple, quick scrawl on a scrap of printer paper was the best thing Ezra had seen all week.

+ + + + + + +

“Agent MacKenna?” Lili’s head shot up from her microscope, slamming into the shelf above her. 'Damn it!' Whoever had designed this lab had to have never worked in forensics before. Rubbing her head, she turned around to find a man standing just inside the door, eyeing his surroundings like he had just walked into Frankenstein’s lab. A suit, she thought, probably FBI.

“I’m Agent MacKenna, what can I do for you?” she said, removing the thick latex gloves covering her hands and depositing them in the Haz-Waste bin.

“Agent Anthony Wharton, FBI,” he said. Lili nodded and waved him over to her office. The huge bouquet occupied the top of one of the filing cabinets Lili had yet to tackle. Wharton eyed them as he sat in one of the visitors chairs across from her desk. “Nice flowers. From your husband?” he asked, a slightly predatory glint in his eyes.

“No, from a well wisher. I don’t bring my personal life into the office,” Lili responded, making her voice cold as flint.

Wharton flinched. “Now, what Bureau business are you on, Agent Wharton? I assure you, we are working on all our forensics reports as fast as possible.”

“Andrew Hampton said you were a spit fire,” Wharton said. The mention of the name drew Lili up short and made her blood run cold, though her face betrayed no emotion. “Unflappable, able to handle anything. Best at what you do.”

“I don’t know what you expect to gain, Agent Wharton, but I am not in that line of Bureau business anymore. I do CSI work, the occasional autopsy assist, some profiling. That’s ALL I do.” Lili made to stand. “Now if you’ll excuse me...”

“People are dying agent MacKenna. Young women, working girls around Denver are being killed,” Agent Wharton said, tossing a file folder on her desk, spilling out autopsy pictures. “Your predecessor took these; he did the post mortems. Over ligature, followed by strangulation. There are five of these girls so far.” Lili picked up the photos and looked over them. The faces were clearly visible, and none of them looked old enough to drink, let alone be turning tricks for money.

“Just what do you think I can do?” Lili asked. “I can reexamine the evidence, but my predecessor, as you refer to him, was a damn fine forensic pathologist.”

“We don’t want you to reexamine the evidence, Agent MacKenna. You fit the physical type. You look young, you’re pretty. We know what area of town this guy is taking these girls from, and we can nail him. But, we need a veteran undercover agent to go in. We need you.”

Lili was absolutely seething. “Who the hell was Hampton to even talk to you, anyway? The fact I even worked under that designator is classified. You two have broken so many guidelines, I ought to have them pull both your badges.”

“Look, do whatever the hell you think is best, Agent MacKenna, but I know you can’t walk away from this,” Wharton said, standing. “You can’t walk away from them. Because you and I both know, if another girl dies, and you did nothing, it will be on your conscience.” With that, Wharton turned and left the office. Lili sat down heavily and picked up a photo from the mess on her desk. Alexandra Tyler. Reaching over, Lili grabbed a pen and threw it at the wall.

+ + + + + + +

“So,” Chris said, “Ezra will take on this profile, Xavier Trent, and insinuate himself into Jericho’s operations as a buyer. When they arrange the deal, we’ll go in for the bust.” Chris looked at the stony faces around the conference table. Daniel Jericho had a reputation for being slippery and sadistic, and all of them were conscious of the risk the southerner was about to undertake. Chris glanced at Ezra, and saw the stony face of his professionalism had not cracked a bit. “Today is Thursday, first contact needs to be made by Sunday at the latest. Ezra’s informant is willing to make an introduction in exchange for immunity and a place in the witness protection program. Tonight is your last night of freedom, gentlemen. I want all of you here at 8:00 a.m. tomorrow.”

Everyone left the conference room in stony silence, while Chris grabbed Ezra and led him into his office.

“What is it Mr. Larabee?” Ezra asked, taking a seat across from the desk.

“Ezra, are you sure you want this case?” Chris asked.

“Of course, why would I not wish to undertake this case?” Ezra asked.

“I talked to Lili today, Ezra. We had lunch,” Chris said. Ezra merely returned his gaze. “I don’t want you to think I was spying, or poking into your private business, but hell, Ezra, you’ve been sitting around like suicide on a stick since that damn cocktail party, and we’ve all been worried.”

“I assure you, I’m fine,” Ezra replied, smiling. “Really, Mr. Larabee. Miss MacKenna and I are having dinner tonight..”

“Ezra, I...”

“Chris,” Ezra said, dropping the wall just a little bit, “I know anything you did was out of concern for me. I also know Lili didn’t tell you anything I would not be comfortable telling you myself. All will be resolved by morning, and Chris,” Ezra paused for a second, trying to figure out the best way to word the last thing he needed to say. “Thank you, for being worried.”

“Go on, get out of here, Ezra,” Chris said. “Have a good dinner, but don’t stay out to late...and you’re welcome.”

+ + + + + + +

Lili filed her reports on the blood splatter evidence, which seemed to prove what she had suspected. The witness was lying. She had sent Steven home at 4:30, and she was now sitting at her desk, reviewing the case file on the murders of Alexandra Tyler, Lucy Hanson, Marilyn Conners, Nell Freeman, and Patricia Rourke. All the women were between the ages of 17 and 23, medium build, curvy but not chubby, and all had long dark hair. Already, Lili realized she could easily fake the hair, and then wondered why she was even considering it.

Because that nasty little prick Wharton was right. Because you can’t back off this case with a clear conscience, especially if another girl turns up dead.

Glancing up at her clock, Lili knew she had to leave now, or she wouldn’t have time to change for her dinner date with Ezra. Gathering up the files, she tossed to whole mess into her attaché case. She’d call Wharton when she got home.

+ + + + + + +

Ezra was sitting in his Jag down the block from the small bistro in Denver’s arts district, attempting to control his uneven breathing and heavily cursing his nerves.

Good God, man!!! It’s Lili! What are you so terrified of, she’s just a friend. Then another voice from Ezra’s head deigned to chime in. Yes, just a girl you’ve been in love with for years.

Ezra sighed heavily. There was no denying it. He had been in love with her right from that first night. She was the only person he could comfortably let his guard down with, at least until he had come into the acquaintance of the six men he now shared an office with. It had shattered him when Maude told him she had run off and gotten married.

The shock of it, the feeling of betrayal, was more than he could bear. He changed his phone number after the first two messages asking him to call her. He had refused to see her when she came to town. He had withdrawn from their social circle, finishing his last two semesters in isolation. When the Bureau had recruited him, it had been a relief to get away from Boston, from the memories.

He still thought about her. Sometimes he would wake up at night, and the air seemed to hold her scent, lavender and Ivory soap. Sometimes, when he was eating out at night on the patio of a cafe, he thought he heard her laughter on the breeze. Once or twice, he thought about tracking her down, seeing if she was all right. But overtime, he stopped himself. Seeing her again would just hurt more.

Then there she was, standing a few feet from him at that cocktail party. She had hardly aged at all. Her hair had changed, but she looked much the same at 32 as she had at 19. She was like a beautiful apparition, and when she smiled something broke inside of him all over again. Then to learn that he had been lied to by Maude, that he had thrown away their friendship for nothing, it had almost been too much. Ezra kicked himself for being stupid enough to believe Maude, who had abandoned him so many times over the years.

Sighing, Ezra realized he needed to hurry if he wanted to be on time. Lili was nothing if not punctual.

+ + + + + + +

Lili had arrived a few minutes early and was greeted by Orlando Berelli, the owner of the bistro. “Signorina MacKenna! As always, a pleasure my dear lady,” Orlando said, taking her hand and kissing it. Lili was breathtaking in the simple black silk sheathe dress, silver crescent moon pendant, and silver earrings. “Your usual table? My boy Simon his here. He is a lawyer, you should meet him.”

Lili laughed lightly. Orlando had been trying to introduce her to his son ever since she had become a regular customer. If the man looked anything like his handsome father, Lili was sure it wouldn’t be a wasted meeting, but she really wasn’t looking to meet available men. “Perhaps another time, Orlando. I’m actually meeting a gentlemen here, and I need something secluded. He’s an old friend, and we have much to discuss.” She watched Orlando nod and signal his hostess.

“Prepare table 28 for Signorina MacKenna and her guest, presto!” Turning back to her, he smiled. “We have a fabulous gorgonzola tortellini on special. A wonderful new merlot as well.”

“I’ll take a glass of the merlot,” Lili said, as Orlando escorted her to a secluded table by the window. She sighed as she took a seat and glanced out at the Denver summer night. She had no reason to feel nervous. She and Ezra had shared hundreds of dinners over their years as friends, thousands of conversations. Why should this be any different?

Because you have spent the last ten years wondering what you did to make him hate you. Because you have loved him for longer than that, so much so that the man who was your lover for two years was second in your heart to him. Because you can’t forgive yourself for not trying to find him before now.

Lili thought about Jesse Morgan for not the first time in a number of years. They had met at Academy. She never knew what the kind, gentle man who could speak three languages saw in her. She had come to the Academy harsh, acerbic, and cold, but Jesse wouldn’t give up on her. He became a tentative friend, and when they were both assigned to the D.C. office, her partner. Eventually he became her lover.

Lili shook her head, clearing the thought. She would probably have enough emotion tonight, without adding melancholy into it.

+ + + + + + +

“Signore Standish! Such an evening, when all my favorite customers come in,” Orlando exclaimed as Ezra walked in. “Your usual table, sir?”

“No,” Ezra said, planting the trademark poker face on, “I am meeting a friend, a Miss MacKenna....”

“You are Signorina Lili’s gentleman friend?” Orlando asked, a little surprised. However, he could definitely see the similarity in the two. “She is right this way.” With that, Orlando led Ezra into the darkened bistro, to a seclude section Ezra had often jokingly called lover’s lane. He wondered just what kind of friends Orlando thought he and Lili were.

Lili looked up as Orlando and Ezra approached the table. “Ezra,” she said.

Orlando saw the electricity that passed between two of his favorite patrons and was glad for once neither was dining alone. “I’ll have Roberto bring over your usual, Signore Standish.” With that, he took his leave.

Ezra sat across from Lili, allowing himself a moment to take in the ghost across from him. He had always loved her long, flowing hair in college, worn natural despite the time’s predilection for big, shellacked beauty queen hair. Still, he had to admit the simple pixie cut fit the idea of federal agent better than the cascade of dark hair. It also made her look just as amazing. The black silk sheathe clung and flowed in all the right places, and the silver jewelry picked up the sparkle in her eyes. “You look beautiful tonight, Lili.”

Lili held her poker face in place, unwilling to be the first to bend. She had taken that role the other night and had just gotten hurt by it. “You look good yourself, Ezra. Quite a change from khaki and BU sweatshirts.”

Ezra saw the look in her eyes, the proud, defiant Lili he had always known. Time to swallow any remaining pride he had. The poker face vanished. “God, I’m sorry Lili. I was an asshole, and I’m sorry.”

Everything in Lili fell apart, as she watched the infamous Ezra Standish, the poker king of Boston University, unflappable and indecipherable, let the wall drop and left himself open. Damn it! Damn it! Damn it! He’s not going to get off with a simple I’m sorry. “Do you have any idea how much you hurt me, Ezra?” she asked quietly, starring into her Merlot.

The southerner sat silent for a while, as Roberto brought him his drink and brought a fresh bottle of Merlot, compliments of Orlando. After a while, he said, “Yes, I do have some idea. When mother told me you had left, I wanted to curl up and die. I remained in that state of mind through graduation and my first few weeks of Academy. I decided that if this is what trusting people got you, to Hell with it. I spent a number of horrendous years in the Atlanta office of the FBI, where I did some of the most brutal, soul destroying undercover work possible, only to be rewarded by being labeled as a ‘dirty cop’. If it was not for Mr. Larabee, I would probably be dead by now.”

Lili felt the lump in her throat. God, if he were dead, would she forgive herself, or would she simply hunt down and kill Maude? That was an idea that percolated a little bit. Might be fun, if she didn’t think Ezra would be hurt by it. God knows that both of them had been hurt enough for one life time.

“Lili,” Ezra continued, watching her stare at her drink. It was a trick she had taught him. If you weren’t sure you could keep the emotion out of your eyes, focus them on something else. “Lili, I can’t undo these ten years. I wish I could in one way, but in another, I have friends in my life that I met because of what happened all those years ago, and I wouldn’t trade that for anything. Now suddenly, here you are, and here I am, and we get another chance at our friendship. I really don’t want to lose this chance, do you?”

Lili was deathly quiet, and for a few minutes, Ezra wondered if it really was too late. Maybe there was no going back. He barely heard her next statement. “I never stopped worrying what happened to you.”

Ezra looked up to see a slight glimmer of tears in Lili’s eyes. He reached over and put his hand over hers, as she looked up into his eyes, which he no longer kept veiled. The years of anger and sorrow, pain and broken promises, melted away and the two of them found themselves right where they should have been...friends.

+ + + + + + +

Chris sighed quietly as he sat on his porch at the ranch. Things with Ezra had gone deceptively well. He just wished he could give the undercover agent a few more days to put his old friendship back together before they had to go on a case. Especially this case. Daniel Jericho had been running guns for years, and he was good. He was damn good, and no agent had ever gotten together the evidence to take him down. It was pure luck that JD, looking through a cold case file, had tried a few things and hacked the man’s system. It was also pure luck that Ezra had managed to find one of his sources with contacts on the inside of the man’s operation. If Team 7 took this SOB down, it would reflect well on them and go even further in cementing their permanence. Chris knew Travis was still catching heat over the formation, but with their continuing success rate, the voices of opposition were dwindling. Still, it would be dangerous for Ezra in there. Maybe too dangerous. Maybe he should pull them off the case.

Shaking his head, Chris realized he couldn’t back out now without driving Jericho to earth. Sighing, Chris gave the stars one last look as he noticed storm clouds and lightening in the distance. God, just get us through this one without anyone ending up hospitalized, okay?

+ + + + + + +

Their plates had been cleared away, and Lili and Ezra were enjoying coffee and a plate of tiaramisu between them. The past few hours had been spent discussing their most recent work. Ezra shared stories of Team 7 in triumph and in tragedy. He saw Lili pale when he mentioned his most recent hospitalization for a gunshot wound, and he quickly played it off with tales of Buck and JD’s antics and the strange way Chris and Vin seemed to communicate without talking. He related Josiah’s ever continuing search for enlightenment, and Nathan’s continuing crusade to see they all ate healthier. Lili smiled at Ezra’s descriptions of these men, knowing he really cared for them as family. She in turn, regaled him with fascinating and horrifying tales of being a Crime Scene Investigator and forensic pathologist. She told him tales of finding one tiny fiber that broke an entire case, and of how close she came to leaving the bureau after being called in to assist as a rookie on the Murrah Building Bombing case. Finally, as their discussion was dwindling down, Ezra’s eyes clouded over with sadness.

“Lili, you realize you are staking your reputation in the Bureau if it gets out that we’re friends. Many people wish I would go out on a job and disappear,” Ezra said.

“Ezra, my reputation is pretty secure. I honestly don’t believe the scandal can touch me, and if it does, to hell with them. AD Travis was instrumental in getting me assigned here, and he has enough pull to make me a full ATF agent and leave me in charge if he wanted,” Lili responded. “I lost your friendship once, and I won’t lose it again.”

Ezra wondered what Lili meant when she said the scandal couldn’t touch her, but decided to let it slide for now. “Lili, I’m going under cover tomorrow. If you see me out anywhere, you don’t know me, ok?”

Lili drew in a quick breath, thanking God she wouldn’t have to explain why she would be incommunicado for a while. “I understand. Why don’t you call my home when you’re done. I have to go do some field work, so I’ll be in and out at the office for at least the next week.”

Ezra nodded as Lili scribbled her home number down on the back of her new business card and handed it to him

“Goodnight, Lili,” Ezra said, as they stood on the sidewalk outside the bistro.

Lili pulled Ezra into a hug, smelling his cologne as she held on for a minute. “Be careful, Ezra. I don’t want to lose you again.”

+ + + + + + +

“MEOOWWW!!” came the plaintive wail as Lili unlocked the door to her adobe home on the small ranch outside of Denver. A small streak or gray came running up and launched itself at Lili, who dropped her purse and caught the small cat in her arms.

“Falstaff! You act as if I’ve been gone years,” she said, as the cat rubbed his head against her chin. Setting him down, she poured some cream into a dish and set it down for him. Moving past the living room and dining area, Lili made for the master suite of her five bedroom, two and one half bath home. She shed the sheathe dress and dropped it into her dry-clean only hamper. Sliding on a pair of stirrup pants and an old FBI sweatshirt, she walked back through the living room to see Falstaff asleep on the rug next to the stone fireplace. Lili smiled at the sight of the cat, a gift from her mentor, Agent Thomas Lloyd. Agent Lloyd was the kind of man she wished could have been her father. She had spent Christmas, Thanksgiving, and all other holidays with his family since she had joined the Bureau, and she felt a little sad she wouldn’t be there this year. Maybe she could talk them into coming west for Thanksgiving...

Lili continued on and entered the kitchen off the one side of the living room and dining room combo. On the other side of this part of the house was her study, where she would be making her phone call in a little while, but not just yet.

Passing through the kitchen, she stopped at the refrigerator long enough to grab a carrot before she headed out to the barn. The night breeze gently ruffled her hair as she approached the medium sized, well-built barn. The whole house seemed too big for just one woman with a couple of animals, but it was outside the main hub of the city, offering her privacy and peace from a job that to often dealt in violence.

Pushing open the door, Lili’s presence was met by a soft nickering from a nearby stall. Walking over, she let the horse nuzzle her head as she rubbed the strawberry roan’s neck. “Hello to you too, Berowne,” she said, slipping into the stall. She gave the horse a carrot as she brushed him down. “I have to be gone for a few days, Berowne. I’ll get that nice young Michaels boy from the stable to come look after you for me, all right?” The horse whinnied as she continued with the brush down. After spending a few more minutes in the barn, she put away the comb and headed back towards the house.

Entering the house, she sighed quietly before heading for her study. Sitting down at the old desk, she picked up the phone and dialed the number she had gotten from personnel earlier that day. She listened to it ring three times before a gruff voice answered. “Hello.”

“Agent Wharton, it’s Agent MacKenna. We run this operation, we run it my way, are we clear?”

+ + + + + + +

Buck sighed as JD hummed some random tune that sounded suspiciously like the theme to an old western, the one about the gunfighters and the Mexican village. Near by, Vin was gnawing on some jerky, his attention focused on cleaning one of his sidearms. Of all the people to be stuck in a surveillance van with, these two were probably the worst. The ladies man sighed and went back to listening as Ezra wined and dined their target. Xavier Trent was discussing the deplorable state of representative government and how it had failed the enterprising American. From the sound of things, Jericho was buying the idea hook, line, and sinker. Of course, Jericho had sold guns indescriminantly over his long and illustrious career, and a client’s motives rarely made any difference.

Idilly, Buck wondered about the man under the guise of Xavier Trent. He had rarely seen the deepcover man rattled, except when one of them was injured. Otherwise, the man was a study in the art of control. However, in the week between his apparent reunion with Lili MacKenna and their dinner together, the southerner had been a fidget case. Spacy, distracted, antsy. It made no sense. Despite the huge advances the team had made in the past few years with Ezra trusting them, he had offered no explanation as to how he knew the pretty CSI, and where pretty women were involved, Buck was keenly interested.

Just then, Chris’s voice crackled across the com set each man wore. “Hawk on the move.” The signal that Jericho and Ezra were done with their meal, and that the target was leaving. JD switched one of the van’s monitors over from the restaurant interior to the exterior. They watched as Jericho’s bodyguard opened the door to the black Mercedes sedan and let his boss enter. Closing it after him, the bodyguard moved to the front seat and got in next to the chauffeur.

After a minute, Ezra exited the restaurant, and signaled to Nathan, who posed as a valet, to bring over his Jag. The undercover agent allowed himself a glance across the street to the two man electric company team of Larabee and Sanchez. He knew their equipment van housed the rest of the men, who were working surveillance. The knowledge that he had back up was a good feeling.

Grinning, Xavier Trent took the keys to his Jag and prepared to drive to the office. I wonder what Lili is doing right now? he thought as he signaled into traffic and headed for the office, watching as the light began fading to dusk.

+ + + + + + +

How in the name of all things holy did I end up here? Lili wondered as she bent over, adjusting her dark black mini skirt. The small covering hid the wire she wore on her left thigh After the phone call three nights, she had gone up to her small attic and found the trunk she was looking for. Inside was the case she hadn’t used for almost ten years, except to help other agents prepare. The “tricks of the trade” box that agents used to disguise identity.

She had hauled it downstairs and opened the case. In the bottom was a selection of wigs, one of which was long and dark, looking reminiscent of her own hair until academy graduation. Also in the compartment was a skull cap and stage glue. Lili shifted her attention to the other compartments. The various colored contacts, the extensive collection of prosthesis features, the stage and street makeup all looked up at her, unused, but well kept. She had sighed then, and she continued sighing now.

The miniskirt was below a revealing silver halter top, one that went into a princess cut in the front, showing a good deal of skin. Her long hair, styled to be slightly curly, hung to her mid back. Her brown eyes were masked by blue contacts, and her face was made up in dark, dramatic shades. The outfit was topped off by a pair of dark black leather hooker boots, which concealed a small dagger, the only weapon she could conceal in this outfit. She looked almost exactly like the five dead girls had when they were alive.

Lili fiddled with the choker she wore, avoiding the round stone that hid her panic button. She knew that the back up team Wharton was heading was around here somewhere, but she felt anything but protected. This guy should have been caught by now, but Wharton’s team had twice bauched the crime scene investigation.

So now, here she was, on the strip all five girls had been picked up on, hoping the guy took the bait. She knew what she was looking for, thanks to a girl who had known Marilyn and seen her go with the John the night she had disappeared. Still, she could think of a thousand places she had rather be. She wished she could have told Ezra what she was up to, just to know she would be missed if anything happened. But then she would have a lot of explaining to do, and she wasn’t ready to go there right now. I wonder what he’s doing right now?

That line of questioning was cut short as a car pulled up. Lili caught her breath as she checked out the John. Physical type was a dead on match. Here goes....

“Hello there, sugar,” she said, approaching the car. Her accent had softened, sounding southern. “You looking for a little fun?”

“How much?” the John asked.

“$100.00 will get me for three hours,” Lili answered, remembering to answer in the price range the other girls had used.

“You got a name?” the man asked, looking her over with piqued interest. Lili fought the urge to shiver as her flesh crawled under his leer.

“Meg,” she replied simply.

“Get in,” the command was a little abrupt, and Lili used the handle to quickly open the door. She sure as hell hoped the tracer she wore was working.

As she closed the door, the guy revved his engine and sped off.

+ + + + + + +

Agent Wharton was rather pleased. Andrew Hampton had been right about Lili MacKenna being a beautiful little spitfire, and now he had the opportunity to ogle her in very skimpy attire until this assignment was over. He wondered briefly if Agent MacKenna would turn them in to the OPR disciplinary board once this was over, for exchange of confidential information on an agent. Hell, Wharton was only a year off his 20, when he could take a full pensioned retirement. OPR would let him off easy.

“Um, sir?” came a small voice, interrupting Wharton’s gloat session. He turned to Miles Felton, a new recruit to he Bureau. “Sir, did you have a preliminary check run on our equipment?”

“Yesterday, why?” Wharton said, taking a sip of his Starbuck’s coffee.

“We’ve lost all signal on Agent MacKenna, sir.”


+ + + + + + +

The warehouse was in a part of town usually left alone by anyone who didn’t have criminal intent or a badge. It fit the profile of places the John would take his victim. Lili was hoping to draw the guy into a confession pretty quickly and get the hell out of here.

“So sugar, you do this often?” she asked, as the guy led her towards the offices at the back of the abandoned complex.

“Uh,” the guy said, non commitally. Lili did not have a good feeling about this. Not a good feeling at all.

+ + + + + + +

“So, the meeting will go down tomorrow morning, at eleven, in the warehouse district,” Ezra said, as they all sat around the conference room. “I never have understood the infernal, stereotypical need of the criminal element to render their business dealings in unsavory and, Lord knows, unclean locations such as these. It is simply hell on my cleaning bills.”

Chris sighed and shook his head. “Okay, let’s make plans. Ezra, I want you in a vest tomorrow, no argument. Vin, I want you somewhere you have a clear shot to cover him. We’ll get there at 2:00 am to set you up. Buck, I want Ezra wired up, but I want it undetectable. Nathan, I need you to go to AD Travis and have him get us warrants. Josiah, JD, get research on this guy’s holdings. Let’s go people.”

Everyone headed out to their respective desks. Ezra glanced at the clock and decided to take a few minutes to call Lili. The phone rang a few times, before the voice mail picked up. “Hi, this is Lili, Falstaff, and Berowne. If you’re calling for Lili, leave a message. If you’re calling for Falstaff or Berowne, seek help. Bye.”

Surely Lili wasn’t working this late. Ezra hung up without leaving a message. He dialed her office number and waited. One the fourth ring, the machine picked up. “Thank you for calling the office of Denver Federal Law Enforcement, Crime Scene Investigation. You have reached the phone of the director, Agent Lilian Grace MacKenna, FBI. I am not in the office, but if you will leave a message, I will get back to you.”

Standish hung up again. Where is she? he wondered, then turned back to the job at hand. Time to get together the things he needed for this bust. Tomorrow, assuming everything went down correctly and they didn’t end up at the emergency room, he would call Lili and see what was up. She was probably having a late dinner or something. Still, Ezra couldn’t help but have a bad feeling about this.

+ + + + + + +

Lili wasn’t quite sure when she realized her back up wasn’t coming, but by now she knew. As soon as the guy asked to tie her hands up, she had fiddled with her necklace to look nervous, hitting the panic button. She had acquiesced and wasn’t surprised when the guy used industrial plastic ties, the type with a slide so the could be tightened but had to be cut loose. The guy had made them semi-tight, but loose enough where Lili could maneuver.

Since then, he had become increasingly agitated, and when the first slap came across her face, Lili wasn’t really surprised. The profile of the guy had listed him as power/aggression. He was taking out a grudge against some woman who made him miserable, and now five women had paid the price. She really hoped he wasn’t going to make it six, as the second blow to her head came.

+ + + + + + +

He was frantic. There were certain things OPR was not about to overlook, and gross negligence resulting in an agent’s death was one of them. “GET THIS SYSTEM BACK ON LINE RIGHT NOW!!!!” Wharton screamed at Felton. The young agent looked ready to wet his pants.

“Sir, the system completely shorted out. It’s fried beyond repair,” he said.

“Then call headquarters and get another system out here, now!” Wharton said.

“Sir, this was the only system available. You don’t have a monopoly on equipment you know,” Felton returned, now feeling disgusted with the man. He had been serving as his underling since he was posted to Denver and had watched the supposed seasoned agent make rookie mistakes. “And for reference sir, if Agent MacKenna lives through this and doesn’t file with OPR on you, I will.” With that Felton stood up and exited the surveillance van to see what he could do.

Wharton watched him go, before throwing his coffee against one wall of the van.

+ + + + + + +

He had stopped hitting her when she pretended to pass out. She was pretty sure she would have some nice bruises to show for this gig, if she made it out. When you make it out. Keep some faith, hmm.

She knew a good five hours had passed since the John had picked her up at 8:00 p.m. That meant that it was now 1:00 a.m. What the hell had happened to Wharton? She continued to listen to the man rant about how it was all the bitch’s fault, and that’s why these whores had to pay. How he would have to keep killing them until she stopped.

Finally, he left the room, and Lili, tired and sore, allowed herself to doze off. Her last thought was, I hope Ezra’s case is going okay.

+ + + + + + +

Ezra adjusted his tie again, wondering why his was so nervous. Because this guy is a heinous SOB. Because he is famous for inflicting pain on those who cross him. Because you still haven’t heard from Lili and it’s bugging the hell out of you.

Ezra shook himself. No time to stop being the happy little professional con man he was. Ezra plastered on his pokerface and checked the clock. 8:00 a.m. Time to get rolling.


e-mail the author at: reaperwriter@hotmail.com