Faces From the Past

by ReaperWriter

Lili had drifted in and out of full consciousness, trying to figure out how long it had been. She could see small chinks of sunlight under the door in the main part of the warehouse, so it had to be a few hours after sunup, probably around 8:00 a.m. The John still wasn’t back, and Lili thought perhaps now she should make her escape. She hadn’t had lunch yesterday, or anything to drink since four and she was famished and a bit dehydrated. Her face felt sore, and her body ached from spending the night on the cold warehouse floor.

Just then, the door opened and the man came in again. Lili thanked whoever it was that had invented micro-recording wires that she had insisted on one that was uplinked not only to the surveillance van, but also to her own equipment. This way, even if Wharton had flummoxed the job, she could still fix it.

“Who are you?” she asked, sliding into her accent with little thought. “You know my name, but for having me work overtime here, I think I should get to know yours, sugar.”

“Martin,” the man said.

“Well, Martin, you want to tell me why we’re still here?”

“I’m sorry, Meg,” he said, simply. “I’m afraid you’ll have to die.”

That’s what you think. “But, I don’t understand. What did I do?”

“Never mind, it doesn’t matter,” Martin said, walking towards the door. He left again, and Lili began working to get close enough to her boot to pull her dagger. Helpless victim, I think not.

“ATF, FEDERAL AGENTS, FREEZE!!” Chris’s voice commanded as he, Buck, Josiah, and Nathan entered the warehouse. Jericho’s bodyguard pulled a gun and pointed it at Ezra, but crumpled as Vin dropped him from his position in the rafters. Jericho himself immediately dropped to the ground. Ezra had taken out a handkerchief and wiped the bit of blood off his face that had sprayed from the body guard . He kicked the gun away from the body guard and waited while Chris patted down Jericho. Nathan was checking the bodyguard, but Vin’s kill shot was as good as always. Buck and Josiah quickly secured the weapons shipment, as members of ATF Team 4 came in to pull clean up. Just then, JD stuck his head in the door.

“Um, Chris, we gotta a situation.” The young agent sounded upset, and his compatriots looked up.

“JD, tell me we got all that on tape,” Chris said. Thoughts of losing this bastard on a technical glitch made him sick.

“Oh,” JD said. “Geez, no, we got this guy covered. But, you remember when I kind a...umm...modified our equipment, so we could trace FBI panic buttons. After that time we nearly lost Vin....well, I happened to look over, and one showed up on the screen, about two blocks over. Chris, it’s been going off for over 12 hours.”

“Shit,” Chris said. He knew various FBI stings were going down in the next few days, but for the life of him, he couldn’t remember any of them being in this district of the city. “Chuck?” he called to Team 4’s leader.

“Yeah,” the big man answered. His guys had secured Jericho for transport and watched as the bodyguard’s corpse was loaded into the waiting ambulance for transport to the morgue. Chuck Rishardson breathed a sigh it wasn’t any of Team Seven in the rig. He liked and respected them, and hell, lord knows they had all seen the inner working of the emergency room to many times for one life time.

“Chuck, rabbit ears up, we’ve got a situation. There may be an agent in distress a couple blocks away, and we need to check it out. Can I take my guys and radio you guys in thirty minutes, when we know what’s up?” Chris asked. Vin seemed to sense his distress and headed over.

“Go Chris, we’re covered here,” Chuck answered.

“What’s up, cowboy?” Vin asked, as Chris rubbed the bridge of his nose. Looks like trouble.

When is it not? “JD picked up an FBI panic signal, going for almost 12 hours, two blocks north of here. Get the guys, we’re going to check it out.” Chris watched as Vin simply nodded and headed over to round up the rest of the team. Buck, Josiah, Nathan, and Ezra all stopped what they were doing and headed over. “Guy, JD picked up an FBI panic button signal that’s been on a long time in a warehouse two blocks away. We’re going to check it out. Nathan, you and Buck go with the kid in the van. Josiah, we’ll take Vin and Ezra in the Suburban and follow you. Let’s go.”

Chuck looked after them, thinking about the moniker of the Magnificent Seven these men had received at the office. Course, in the old movie, four of them ended up dead. Richardson hoped that part of the namesake never came to pass for this team. However, he was all too well aware of the other nickname Larabee’s team had, the one no one ever mentioned to the team itself. Bullet Magnet.

+ + + + + + +

Lili was almost through the industrial strength bonds with the dagger from her boot when she heard the man coming back Shit. Sighing, she sawed faster and felt the bonds break. Quickly, she freed her hands, slid the dagger into her boot, then adjusted her hands so she still looked bound.

Martin appeared at the door, a paisley women’s scarf in his hand. Come on, you SOB, if you want to try to kill me, could we go with something trendier than paisley? A nice basic black, perhaps? Just a little closer, you SOB. Lili could feel her Creds, slipped into the back pocket she had sewn into the skirt.

Just then, the door behind her kicked in. “FEDERAL AGENTS! FREEZE!”

About time the damn cavalry showed up. Suddenly, realization dawned on Lili. That sounded quite like Agent Larabee.

As Martin turned around, Lili saw him go for his belt and knew instinctively he had a gun. Uh-uhn, son, not today. On her feet in a second, Lili launched a kick to Martin’s back, right between his shoulder blades. The man grunted and went down. Lili looked up to see Chris and Ezra in the door. Behind them were the rest of their team.

“Miss?” Chris said, at the same moment Ezra croaked.

“Lili?!” came the strangled statement. Behind him, Buck, JD, Josiah, Nathan, and Vin all looked on in shocked surprise.

“Could someone possibly give me some handcuffs?” Lili said. Holding the man’s arms in a one handed vice grip, Lili pulled the gun from his belt and tossed it to Chris, who caught it out of habit.

“Lili,” Chris said. “What the hell is going on here?”

“This is Martin gentlemen. He has raped and killed five ‘working girls’ in the past three weeks, and I was sent in undercover to stop him. Unfortunately, my backup appears to have fucked up.” About this time, Martin was attempting to raise his head. Lili used her free hand to shove it back down. “You really don’t want to go there, Martin. Agent Lili MacKenna, FBI. You are under arrest for the rapes and murders of Alexandra Tyler, Lucy Hanson, Marilyn Conners, Nell Freeman, and Patricia Rourke, and the attempted murder of a Federal Agent. You have the right to remain silent. Should you give up that right, anything you say can and will be used against you....”

+ + + + + + +

Chuck Richardson hauled a handcuffed Martin Graham into the back of the secure vehicle, in order to transport him and Daniel Jericho to lock up. Lili, favoring her right leg, the one she hadn’t used to kick the crap out of Martin with, followed. “Please put him in solitary lock up, Agent Richardson. Tell them if he asks for a lawyer, to let him have one, but that I will be the one to interview him, all right?”

“Certainly, Agent MacKenna. I have to say, you made a hell of a good bust out of a bad situation.,” Chuck said. He slammed the door behind Martin, locking him up with Daniel Jericho in the cruiser.

“And Agent Richardson, please don’t let them call in the FBI just yet.”

“Why?” Chuck asked.

“Because,” Lili said, gritting her teeth at the pain in her ankle. She could see Ezra hovering on the periphery of her line of vision with Nathan. “Because, I am going to go get dressed, take the interview, and then go back to the office and take a few heads with a big damn sword.”

Richardson laughed. “You should have been ATF, Agent MacKenna.”

“It’s Lili, Agent Richardson, and I should have been a great number of things,” Lili answered. She watched as Richardson climbed into the front of the cruiser and pulled out.

“Lili,” the soft southern accent broke through the careful wall she had around her. “Lili,” Ezra said again. “You need to let Nathan check you out.”

Sighing, she turned, to find Ezra, Nathan, and Chris all standing there. Buck, JD, Vin, and Josiah were sealing up the entrance to the warehouse with crime scene tape, with a team of CSI people from Lili’s lab on their way over to take forensics.

“I really am fine,” she said, but taking a step, her ankle turned in the boots and betrayed her as she hissed, and fell. Ezra caught her carefully right before she hit the ground.

“Nice try Lili,” Ezra said, sweeping her up and carrying her over to the back of Josiah’s Suburban. He set her in the open back and slid her boot off. He and Nathan both whistled as the dagger slipped out. Nathan stepped in as Ezra stepped aside.

“It’s not broken, Mr. Jackson. I’ve done that before, and I recognize the feeling. I think it’s sprained,” Lili said, hissing as Nathan manipulated it.

“You’re right about that,” Nathan said, cracking out an instant ice pack from his kit. He used an ace bandage to secure it, then turned his attention to her face. “The guy hit you much?”

“Slapped me good a couple of times. I pretended to pass out.” Lili winced a little as Nathan checked a bruise on her chin.

“Should be okay, just keep your ankle tapped for a couple of days,” Nathan said. He took his kit and headed around to the van, to store it. Chris and Ezra stood for a minute, unsure where to begin. Lili sighed, and she seemed to realize for the first time what she was wearing.

“Chris, may I please borrow a jacket or something? I suddenly realize exactly how...exposed I am,” she said. Ezra immediately shrugged out of his linen suit jacket and helped her into it. The were a few random blood stains on the lapel, remnants of the body guard. Lili looked at them with a quick draw of breath. “You’re case...are you all right?”

Ezra saw where she was looking. “Not mine,” he said quietly. “The bust was successful.”

Chris finally asked the question they were wondering about. “Lili, what the hell happened?”

Lili sighed softly. “My back up never showed. I was undercover because I matched the guy’s signature type. I hit my panic button when the guy asked to tie me up, and I was sure we had enough on tape to get him, but my back up never showed.” Lili sighed again, realizing she had gone on to automatic repeat. The exhaustion of the whole event had taken it’s toll. “I used my boot dagger to get free, and I was going to jump the guy if I got close enough.”

Chris shot Ezra a look and saw the southerner shaking his head. He too must realize how dangerous the move would have been, since her captor had a gun.

Ezra felt his carefully placed control wanting to slip and leave him shaking. Lili could have been killed, because her back up fucked up. She could be dead at this very moment. What was she thinking, a CSI putting herself into a situation like this? He allowed himself a sigh. “What do you want to do now, Lili?”

“I want to go to my house, shower, change, then go interrogate the guy.” Right then, Nathan walked up and handed her a bottle of Gatorade and a nutrition bar. She smiled slightly in thanks. “Then, I plan to go to the Denver SAC and have Wharton drug before OPR.”

“If that’s what you want,” Chris said, “We’ll take you home and then back to the Federal Building. Nathan, get the guys ready to go.” The medic nodded. Ezra however, didn’t seem convinced.

“Lili, you just about got yourself killed. I am guessing you haven’t slept for a day or so, at least not consistently. This is probably the first food or drink you’ve had,” Ezra said. “You should rest.”

“You know me better than that, Ezra,” Lili said. “Always finish...”

“What you start,” Ezra finished, quietly. “I know.”

Lili stepped off the back of the truck, gingerly limping. Chris reached an arm over and helped support her until they got to the front of Josiah’s Suburban. Sitting her in the front seat, he and Ezra climbed into the middle seat. Josiah got in the driver’s seat, and Nathan and Vin climbed into the back. Buck came up to Josiah’s window. “We’ll follow you, okay?” Josiah looked back at Chris, who had his cell phone out, nodding. He gave an affirmative nod, and Buck headed to join JD in the surveillance van.

Josiah threw the Suburban into gear as Chris handed the phone to Lili. “AD Travis wants to talk to you,” he said. Lili took the phone.

“Hello Orin. Yes, it has been quite a couple of days.”

+ + + + + + +

Josiah followed Lili’s directions and was surprised when they pulled off the road onto a drive only a few miles away from Chris’s place. At the end of the drive was a beautiful adobe ranch house, accentuated by lovely landscaping. Out back, Josiah could see a small barn, and what looked like an enclosed porch area. Stopping the car, he jumped out and moved around to the passenger side, opening the door. “Miss MacKenna,” Josiah said. He picked her up and carried her towards the door.

“You Team Seven boys sure know how to sweep a girl off her feet,” Lili said, as they arrived at her front door. She reached into the tiny pocket on the side of her miniskirt and pulled out a key. She handed it to Vin, who unlocked her door and pulled it open, so Josiah could carry her in. He set her down on the couch, where she gratefully pulled off the other boot and tossed it onto her rug. A little ball of gray fur came streaking down the hall and jumped into her lap. “Hello, Falstaff. My poor little guy. Mommy’s home for a bit, and then I’ll be gone a little while longer.” She set the cat down, and he scampered off to check out these new humans.

“You have a lovely home, Miss MacKenna,” Nathan said.

“Please, I think you can all call me Lili,” she said. She stood up and took in the seven men before her. She could see the subtle glint in Ezra’s eye, the lack of ease that he had harbored since they had affected her rescue. Nathan was surveying her to see if she was about to fall. Josiah was examining a kachina doll on her end table. Buck was openly gapping at her outfit, while JD seemed to be gravitating towards her stereo and home entertainment equipment. She saw Vin looking out the window at the barn, while Chris just looked stoic. “Make yourselves at home. There is food in the fridge, a horse in the barn, guest bathroom is down the hall to the right. I’ll be back in about thirty minutes.” With that, she disappeared into the hall off the main living space.

Vin immediately slipped out the door and headed around the house. He had spent a number of hours in total non-motion and now he needed to move a bit. Plus, the mention of a horse was an enticement. He had Peso, who he kept at Chris’s, and he dearly loved the animal. All horses fascinated him. He walked into the barn and looked at the gorgeous animal, a strawberry roan. Taking a hose, he filled the horse’s water bucket and the got grain for the feed bag. The animal nickered happily. “He’s something, eh cowboy?” he said, sensing Chris enter the barn behind him.

“He’s a beautiful animal,” Chris said.

Back in the house, Ezra was fixing himself a mineral water. Josiah sat on the leather couch, leafing through a book on profiling by one of the instructors at Quantico. Buck was looking over Lili’s CD collection with appreciation, while JD checked out the video and DVD collection. Nathan paced, eager to check Lili’s ankle again just to be sure. After about fifteen minutes, Lili emerged from the hall, dressed in crisp suit pants and a sleeveless blue shell. On her arm was a gray jacket and purse. She was limping just a bit. Her short hair was back, as well as her natural, everyday makeup. She smiled, then moved into the room off the other side of the living area from the kitchen. Ezra followed her as she sat down at the desk and started typing commands on her laptop.

“What are you doing?” Ezra asked.

“Seeing if the wonders of modern technology really do hold up,” Lili said, hitting play.

A tape recorder connected to the laptop began playing, repeating back her wire-taped conversation with Martin. Lili breathed a sigh of relief. “I didn’t trust Wharton to run his machine correctly, so I remote linked it to my own.”

Ezra shook his head as she rewound the tape. Lili gathered up the tape recorder and put it in her attaché case. “Lili,” he said. She turned to look at him. “Do you realize how close you came today? That man probably would have killed you if we hadn’t picked up a signal from your panic device.”

“Ezra, we’re in law enforcement. We put it on the line everyday,” Lili said. She reached out and squeezed his hand. “I could get shot doing crime scene investigation just as easily as I could have been today. It’s the nature of the job.”

Ezra sighed. He knew she was right, but it didn’t make him feel any better.

“Come on,” Lili said. “I have an interview to do.”

+ + + + + + +

The Denver Federal Building loomed large as Josiah pulled into the parking lot. They all got out and headed towards the elevators. Lili took one to head for the basement, where holding was. Team Seven took another to head up towards their office. As the doors closed, Ezra slumped against the wall. Josiah and Chris shot each other looks across the elevator. The elevator dinged open on their floor and the group headed for their office. Chris broke off and headed for the office two doors down. Knocking on the door, he waited for permission to enter. There was a yell of “Yeah,” from inside, and Chris headed in. Chuck Richardson was looking over one of his guy’s reports and looked up to see who was interrupting them.

“Hey Chris,” he said, immediately coming over. “How’s Agent MacKenna?”

“Lili’s fine, Chuck,” Chris responded, as they headed back to Richardson’s office. “She’s a pro.”

“Lucky your guy caught that signal,” Richardson said.

“No shit, Chuck. Just wanted to thank you for the back up and for taking over the clean up,” Chris said.

“No problem,” Chuck answered. “I like your guys, we’ll back you up any time.”

“Thanks again,” Chris said. He turned and headed back in the direction of his own office.

+ + + + + + +

Martin Graham had confessed immediately. Lili was a little surprised, but decided some cosmic force was trying make it up to her for her team’s foul up. She decided not to look a gift horse in the mouth and called in a stenographer, who took down Graham’s confession, including his refusal to consult a lawyer, which she had promptly had him sign, signed herself, and had the stenographer witness. She took it with her as she took an elevator up to the SAC’s office on the eighth floor of the Federal Building.

“Hello, Margaret,” she greeted his secretary.

“Agent MacKenna!” Margaret said. “This is a surprise. Agent Donaldson was inquiring this morning whether anyone had heard from you since yesterday morning. Good gracious” the older woman said. “What happen to your face?”

“Yes, well, it has been an interesting couple of days,” Lili said. “Does the SAC have a few minutes?”

“Hold on,” Margaret said. Lili looked with interest at the print on the wall as Margaret used the office to office phone line to have a quick conversation with her boss. “Agent MacKenna, he’ll see you immediately.”

Lili smiled in thanks and headed into Special Agent-in-Charge Robert Donaldson’s office. The SAC looked up as she entered. “Lili, we have been trying to track you down...” his voice trailed off as he caught sight of her face. “Christ, Lilian what happened to you?”

“Sir,” Lili said. “Were you approached by Agent Anthony Wharton about an undercover operation to catch the serial killer who was striking prostitutes?”

“Of course,” Donaldson answered. “He said he had to pull an agent from another department to go under cover.” Donaldson took a second, good look at her face. “Ah hell.”

“Sir, Agent Wharton approached me a week ago to request my help. He was made privy to my training and experience by Agent Andrew Hampton, DC office. Sir, that part of my file is sealed and considered privileged information.” Lili paused as Donaldson waved for her to sit. “Sir, Wharton screwed up my back up. I was left to fend for myself for twelve hours with one Martin Graham. He is the killer, and I present his signed confession to that fact. All due process was observed. Sir, an ATF team, lead by Agent Christopher Larabee, was in the area on a bust, and somehow, they picked up the signal from my panic button. If they hadn’t sir, there is a very good chance we would never be having this conversation.”

Donaldson walked over and took her documents. “Agent MacKenna, you handled this situation well, and with minimum damage. I’ll see you receive a commendation for this. I shall also arrange one for Agent Larabee’s team.”

“Thank you, sir,” Lili said. “Sir, because you did not know my whereabouts, nor my position in this operation, I am led to believe Agent Wharton is conspiring to keep my disappearance a secret.”

“Don’t worry, Wharton and Hampton will be brought up before OPR on charges.”

“All due respect, I’d like to screw with Agent Wharton first. Could you call him up here?”

Donaldson looked at the agent in front of him and smiled. He liked her style.

+ + + + + + +

Chris Larabee hung up his phone with a slight smile. He had just gotten off the phone with the Special Agent-in-Charge of the Denver Field Office of the FBI. SAC Donaldson thanked the ATF supervisor for his team’s assistance in Agent MacKenna’s bust, and he had assured him that all his agents would be receiving official commendations for their help. He imagined the look on Ezra’s face. After so many agents even in Denver buying into the unsubstantiated rumors of “dirty cop”, Ezra would likely be cowed.

He had also been pleased to hear that Lili’s suspect had sung like a bird, waving all his rights and straight out confessing. It would make any court work easier on the CSI, who no doubt had better things to do. It would also give her and Ezra time to get reacquainted. Chris wondered what the undercover agent felt for Lili exactly. If things were what he hypothesized, he wondered how long these two would take to figure it out.

+ + + + + + +

Agent Wharton tugged nervously at his now crooked tie as he sat waiting to be ushered into the SAC’s office. The request for him to come in was totally unexpected and left him worried. Was he going to be asked to give a report on his team’s activities. He could lie, say the undercover sting had been unsuccessful. But, surely someone could connect him with Lilian MacKenna. It was only a matter of time before he would have to come clean on her disappearance.

“SAC Donaldson will see you now,” Margaret said. Her face was emotionless, almost a poker mask, as she looked down her nose and over her wire rim glasses at Agent Wharton. Margaret O’Haloren had seen a hell of a lot in her almost 19 years as an FBI secretary. She had even gone undercover as a wife for Mafia functions in the early days. But, she had never felt revulsion for anyone, agent or criminal, like she now felt for this man.

Wharton stood and walked through the SAC’s door. “Agent Wharton,” Robert Donaldson said. “Have a seat son.”

Agent Wharton relaxed at the SAC’s tone of voice. Taking a seat in one of the fine leather chairs across from him, Wharton allowed himself a smile. “You asked to see me sir?”

“Yes,” Robert said, enjoying a brief glance at something just over Wharton’s shoulder. “Son, I’ve been hearing rumors you may know something about the disappearance of my CSI. You don’t know anything about that do you?”

Sweat broke out all over Wharton’s brow. “Who told you that, sir?” he asked.

Suddenly, from behind him, an eerie voice spoke. “Hello, Wharton. Get a little lost yesterday?”

Anthony Wharton nearly wet his pants.

+ + + + + + +

Six heads looked up when their office door was pushed open. “Miss Lili,” Buck said. “To what do we owe the pleasure.”

Lili smiled at the roguish agent. “I came by to say thank you again. Martin Graham sang like a bird and agreed to plead guilty,” she said, garnering a round of smiles, and one enthusiastic ‘hell yeah’ from JD. “I’m not sure if Chris had a chance to tell you, but the FBI is going to officially commend all of you for your help, and to say thanks, I’d like to take you all for dinner and drinks at Inez’s after work.”

“That’s not necessary, Miss MacKenna,” Josiah said.

“Now what is it going to take for you gentlemen to just call me Lili?” she asked, grinning. “And I’m not doing it because it’s necessary, Mr. Sanchez. I am doing it so that I might enjoy the company of you fine gentlemen and make better acquaintance with you all. That, as Ezra would have once said, is my angle.” She saw Ezra smile knowingly across the room.

“Well, for one thing, Lili,” Nathan said, “you can try calling all of us by our Christian names. Turn about is fair play.”

“Hey Lili,” JD said. “What happened to your backup?”

“The system shorted out. Wharton did the check through too far in advance. He’s going before OPR and he’s expected to be dismissed on the Special Agent-in-Charge Donaldson’s recommendation,” she answered.

“That is good news,” Chris said, joining them. “Now what is this I hear about Inez’s?”

+ + + + + + +

After an evening of food, merriment, and some gentle two stepping (no one wanted to hurt her ankle), the men of Team Seven and Lili MacKenna stepped out of Inez’s into the warm summer night. Lili looked up, amazed at the sky above her. Even in Metropolitan Denver, you could see more stars than you ever could in Washington. You had to get out into rural Virginia to get stars like this. “It’s a good night to be alive,” she said quietly, and Josiah shot her a knowing look. He had mentally added moxy, courage, and cunning to the ever growing dossier he had one her, but still, the lady was a mystery. A rubix cube, he mused. Just when you think it’s done, there’s still two or three blocks out of place.

“Thank God tomorrow is Friday,” Vin said. The men nodded in agreement. Lili sighed.

“I think I could go to sleep tonight and sleep three days, if I didn’t think Steven might burn down the lab,” she said with a laugh. The gentlemen, having heard of the wonder that was her chief assistant, chuckled along with her. She pulled out her cell phone. “Time to call a cab.”

“Absolutely not! No! No way!” Came a chorus.

“Gentlemen, I shan’t impose on any of you that way,” Lili said.

“Never an imposition to assist a lady,” Buck said.

“We are supposed to help each other,” Josiah said.

“’Sides,” Nathan added, “cab from here to your place would cost a fortune.”

“Might not be safe,” Vin added.

“Not to mention a lot of them are just kind of nasty,” JD added, having had trouble enough times with Buck’s truck to know.

“I live just out that way, Lili,” Chris added.

A whistle cut the air. “I believe I can settle this,” Ezra said. “My dear Lili, you are in possession of one of my better quality linen suit jackets at your abode, the same one which I intend to inter with my dry cleaner in the morning. Therefore, I shall affect your transport home and retrieve the jacket, with your permission of course.”

“Huh?” JD said.

“He’ll take her home so he can get his jacket to get it cleaned,” Nathan clarified.

Lili was about to protest, but when she opened her mouth she found herself yawning. “There, I do believe that settles the matter,” Ezra said. “Lili, shall we?” She managed a nod as another yawn overcame her. Turning, she looked at the other six men.

“Thank you again, gentlemen. I am still greatly in your debt,” she said.

“Nonsense,” Josiah said, smiling. Buck took her hand and kissed her knuckles.

“’Night Lili,” JD added. Chris, Vin, and Nathan all nodded.

“Good night,” she said, then let Ezra steer her towards his Jag. He opened the door and allowed her to get in, shutting it carefully behind her.

“I’m sorry, Ezra,” she said quietly, as he pulled away from the saloon. He glanced over to find her leaning tiredly against the window.

“Whatever for?” he asked, returning his gaze to the dark asphalt in front of him.

“For causing you to worry about me. I should have told you what was going on, but I didn’t want to distract you from your case,” she said. “Daniel Jericho is notorious.”

“How did you know we were working on Jericho?” Ezra asked, trying to remember who could have divulged that information.

“I have better clearance than you think, my friend,” she said.

Ezra shook his head and went quiet. He enjoyed the ability to just sit in silence with her. There were so many times when they hadn’t needed words. Without looking, he knew she had slipped off into sleep and was glad now that she hadn’t taken a cab. The ride further out in the country became darker, the night sky even more brilliant, and Ezra hazarded the thought of waking her to see it. He didn’t, believing there would be other nights when they could watch the stars. He pulled quietly into her drive, stopped, but left the car running long enough to take her keys out of her purse. He turned the Jag off and quietly opened his door. Getting out, he walked up, and used the key to open the front door. He moved back to the car and opened her door carefully, unfastened her seat belt, and quietly lifted her out of the car. Even with his slight stature, she was a weight so slight he hardly seemed to feel it. He carried her inside quietly and moved towards the hall she had disappeared down earlier. He figured his best guess was towards the back of the house and opened one of the farthest doors. The room seemed to scream Lili. The bed was an extra large queen, covered in a beautiful throw with chiffon and ribbon flowers. Under that were linen sheets. Ezra lay her on top of the bed, removing her shoes and shoulder holster. He lifted her lower body and slid back the sheets and pulled them back up over her. He placed her shoes and the holster on the rocking chair near the window, taking a minute to look at the pictures on the frame. There was one of him, her, and their friends Michael and Rachel at Boston University. One of her and a man he assumed was a fellow graduate at the Academy, showing their new Creds. One of her and that same young man in a hammock together, doing a crossword puzzle. A few of her and Billy.

He smiled softly and turned back. His jacket was hanging neatly on a hook on her closet. He took it and walked to his car. He placed the jacket in the car and retrieved her own jacket and her purse. He took them in and set them with the shoes and shoulder holster. “Goodnight Lili Grace,” he whispered, turning out the light and slipping out of the room. He paused long enough to lock the front door then returned to the Jag. He drove out the drive and back on to the road, again noticing the stars. Lili had been right. It was a good night to be alive.

The End
of this story, but the beginning of much more....

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