Disclaimer: Boys not mine, just playing. Poor Ezra's on the receiving end again, ahhh bless. Thanks to the book Emergency Care by Grant, Murphy and Bergeron.
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Ezra sank down on one knee in a clump of deep undergrowth and tried to regulate his breathing. He had been trying to evade his erstwhile captors and he was finding it tough going. He wiped his brow and face on his sleeve, avoiding the cut on his cheek and his injured nose, before combing his fingers through his hair. He closed his eyes and concentrated on getting his breath back. His knee hurt continually and he had reluctantly been forced to slow down to a hobbling walk for the last half hour. Not that the rest of his body was in any better shape after the treatment he had received, but at least he was free.
He had escaped his captors about an hour ago after enduring two days of captivity and he was desperately trying to find some sort of civilisation, but which way to go? He found himself wishing he was endowed with Vin's expertise of knowing which way to go no matter where he was. For all Ezra knew he had been running round in circles. He had tried to keep heading towards distant landmarks, but the undulating ground made it difficult to keep going in the right direction. His points of reference kept disappearing from sight as he descended into valleys. The terrain looked all the same to him and it was no good relying on the sun for guidance as it was a cloudy day. Add to that the fact he actually had no idea where he had been to start with and he was rapidly coming to the conclusion he was totally lost.
A twig snapped nearby and he tensed instinctively, ready to defend himself against recapture. Not being able to see anyone from his current hiding place, he hoped that meant they also couldn't see him. Keeping as still as possible, he tried to keep his tortured breathing quiet. A flash of blue caught his eye and he turned his head slowly to the left to see what it was. He peered cautiously out from under a branch and saw Paul, one of his pursuers, about 50 yards away. Ezra prayed that he wouldn't look his way and the prayer was answered when the man moved on. Ezra let out a sigh of relief, relaxing slightly but still staying alert. There was still one other man around somewhere. The agent stayed where he was for a few minutes and then hobbled on to the next patch of undergrowth when he detected no other movement in the woods around him. Keeping low he went in the opposite direction to the one taken by his captor. He rued the fact that he had no way of contacting his friends as his phone had been confiscated when he had been abducted two days earlier. He was sure the team would be searching for him, but Ezra knew his boss wouldn't have a clue where to start looking for the missing undercover agent. Ezra grinned, he certainly was undercover....in the nearest bush! Not exactly what he had in mind when he took the job on, but it was all part of the territory.
He found a fallen tree which gave him sufficient cover to allow him to rest for a while in relative safety. He rubbed his knee and looked down at his dirty, torn clothes and smiled, glad that his mother couldn't see him, he was a little the worse for wear to say the least. Dirty, bloody and dishevelled just about summed it up he thought. He hadn't had much sleep over the past week and it wasn't helping him in his current situation. He was so very tired, but didn't dare rest properly, so he tried casting his mind back over the events of the past few days to keep himself alert.
Five days earlier: Thursday
"Tanner," Vin said as he answered the phone on his desk.
"I have some information that you might find of interest, but you can't know who I am until the person concerned has been arrested." The voice sounded uncertain and worried. Vin thought it sounded familiar but couldn't attach a name to it.
"Why don't you tell me what you've got and I'll see what I can do? No guarantees though."
"A cop is dealing in seized weapons and drugs from a building in Curtis Street. He takes them from busts before they've been counted and tagged and sells them to anyone with enough money."
"How do you know this? Are you a cop?" Vin was definitely interested in what he'd been told but he really wanted to know who was giving him the information.
"I can't give you my name but I'm a cop. If he found out I'd spoken to you he'd kill me."
"Can't we meet somewhere?" Vin asked.
"No. I mustn't be seen with you. He has friends all over the place, it wouldn't be safe," the man sounded more nervous and Vin was worried he might ring off.
"Alright stay calm. Does he deal from this building on the same nights or are the meetings arranged with buyers as and when they want to buy?"
"He waits to be contacted by interested parties then sets up a meeting. As I said, he has many friends who know how to reach him and they watch his back too. Which is why I can't risk being seen with you."
"Do you ever get to hear when he's meeting with potential buyers? Could you let us know when he's due to be there next?"
"No, I don't know."
"Can you give me a number where I can contact you if I need to?" Vin asked, becoming frustrated with the lack of concrete information.
"No, I'll contact you again later if I hear any more." The caller rang off and Vin hit the desk with his fist in anger. Ezra flinched at the sound and looked across at the sharpshooter with a raised eyebrow.
"Sorry," Vin said. "I'll tell you about it later."
Vin hoped his mysterious caller did ring back so a trace could be made on the call to track him down. The informant may still be in danger even though he had kept his identity secret. If the dirty cop had as many information sources as the caller said he had, he could be in trouble. Vin hadn't even got the suspect's name to know who to look out for. The sharpshooter got up and went to Chris's office, knocked the door lightly and entered.
"You look troubled Vin. What's up?" Chris asked as he looked up from his paperwork.
"I just had an anonymous call saying there's a cop dealing in seized weapons and drugs from a building on Curtis Street. I didn't get the cop's name and the caller wouldn't give his either. He sounded frightened, but he did say that he was also a cop though."
"How are the items going missing? Everything should be logged and tagged at the crime scene," Chris said in a puzzled tone.
"He apparently gets the stuff before that's done. Whether he pays people to look the other way while he does it I don't know, but I can't believe no-one has noticed him doing it."
"You think it's worth pursuing? It wasn't just a crank call?" Chris asked.
"No. I think he was genuine. His voice sounded familiar but I can't place it at the moment."
"Okay. I suppose we'd better do some surveillance on the building and see who turns up there and catch as many as we can later on."
Chris called the team together and gave them the details. Vin filled in anything that he left out. It was decided that they would keep watch on the building in pairs over the next few days and hope that their mystery caller phoned back again with more information. Once they had enough evidence, they could set up a raid.
Saturday morning: Curtis Street, Downtown Central Denver
Buck and Ezra were on surveillance, staked out in a car watching the movements in and out of the building opposite. Buck was taking photos of all the visitors and they would try to put names to faces later. He used up one film and replaced it in the camera with a new one, putting the used one in his pocket for safe keeping. He had started humming 'Sailing' by Rod Stewart as he worked.
Ezra looked across at him in disgust. "Mr Wilmington, what a God awful row. I suppose I should be thankful you're not singing 'Da ya think I'm sexy' instead."
"Give over Ezra. I've got a good voice."
"That's your opinion. It sounds more like a strangled cat to me."
"Do you want something to drink?" Buck asked laughing. There hadn't been anyone to take note of for the last half hour and Buck was getting itchy feet. They'd been sitting in the car for two hours and he could do with a pee.
"No thanks. I can't abide caf cuisine," Ezra replied.
"You mind if I get one? Call of nature too. In one end and out the other as they say," Buck laughed.
"Do you have to be so coarse, Mr Wilmington?"
"Oh lighten up Ezra. Where's your sense of humour?"
"It left when Mr Jackson backed out of doing this shift with you. I had plans today you know. It was my day off if you remember," Ezra moaned.
"He couldn't help getting sick, Ezra. It's not as if he did it on purpose."
"Are you sure it wasn't the thought of being stuck in a confined space with you for several hours that proved to be the final straw for him? It's like the torture of the damned you know."
"Oh go on Ezra, ya love me really."
"Go and get your drink, Bucklin, for goodness sake, before I resort to murder."
Buck handed the camera to Ezra and they swapped places so Ezra was now in the driver's seat nearest the building to make it easier for picture taking. Buck got out and went into the caf they were parked near. He went in and ordered a coffee before continuing on to the rest room. On his way back out he picked up and paid for the coffee, taking a couple of quick sips before going back outside. It was just as he liked it, strong and sweet.
Meanwhile back in the car, Ezra was watching the building opposite and had the camera up to his eye when the passenger door opened. "That didn't take long," he said turning to Buck, only it wasn't Buck. He came face to face with a revolver. He could see into the blackness of the barrel it was so close to his face. He looked along the top of the gun and into the face of a very nasty looking human being. The man relieved him of his weapon and phone, tucking them into his own waistband while still keeping Ezra covered with his own weapon. The rear door of the car opened and another man got in with a gun also pointing in his direction. Ezra swivelled his eyes to take a look at the new arrival as well and wasn't encouraged by what he saw. Chris wasn't going to be pleased. He was always telling them to lock all the doors when they were on surveillance to prevent just such an occurrence.
"Drive," his rear passenger ordered.
Ezra really didn't have much choice but to obey. He started the engine, put it into gear and pulled out slowly into the traffic. He looked in the rear view mirror just in time to see Buck emerge from the caf door.
Buck saw the car moving away and frowned. What did Ezra think he was doing? He looked through the rear windshield and saw there were two more people inside than there should have been. He looked even more closely and could see the silhouette of a gun being held to Ezra's head.
"Shit," Buck exclaimed. He didn't dare shoot at the car as it would put Ezra in even more danger. He pulled out his mobile with one hand and punched in Chris's number, letting the drink fall to the ground.
"Chris, it's Buck. Ezra's gone."
"What do you mean he's gone?"
The rear passenger in the car had seen Buck and he wound down the window and aimed his gun towards the agent on the sidewalk. Buck dived to the ground as shots flew past his head, forcing him to drop the phone and reach for his own weapon. The car accelerated away and turned the corner out of view before he could return fire. Not that he'd wanted to shoot back in case he hit Ezra by mistake.
"Buck? Buck are you there? Are you alright?" Chris shouted frantically into his phone. He'd heard the gunfire and feared the worst.
Buck reached across and picked up the phone from the gutter as he rose from the sidewalk. "Chris, you still there?" Buck asked, as he rubbed his elbow vigorously where it had connected with the ground.
"Thank God. What happened to Ezra?" Chris asked, relieved that at least one of his agents was safe.
"I don't know for sure. I wasn't with him."
"Where the hell were you?" Chris said angrily.
"Call of nature. When I came back, the car was driving away. Ezra had two people with him. One had a gun held to his head and the other one fired at me."
"Are you alright?"
"Yeah, better off than Ezra anyway."
"I'll come and pick you up. Stay where you are," Chris ordered. Jesus, this was all he needed he thought as he grabbed his keys off the desk and made his way into the outer office, concern quickening his pace.
"Josiah, can you put out an APB on the car Ezra was using? I've got to go and pick up Buck. Vin can you come with me?" Chris said as he hurried towards the elevators.
"Wait a minute Chris. What's happened?" Josiah called after him.
"Ezra's been abducted," Chris shouted back before turning and hurrying along the corridor with Vin hard on his heels.
+ + + + + + +
Buck went back to the caf. There was nothing he could do except wait for Chris to arrive. God, he was going to be pissed.
Chris drove quickly to where Buck was waiting and found him sitting inside the caf. He sat down next to Buck and looked into his face, while putting a hand on his shoulder and giving it a squeeze. Vin sat down opposite them and waited for Chris to speak.
"Don't blame yourself. It couldn't be helped Buck. Did you see anyone enter the building tonight that you recognized?" Chris asked. He couldn't be angry with his friend although he felt like bawling him out. Buck looked upset enough as it was with his shoulders drooping and head in hands.
Buck was a bit taken aback that he hadn't got a rollicking. "A few small timers. No-one special. I took photos of them all to trace later," he answered dazedly.
"Have you got the camera?"
"Shit. No, I left it with Ezra while I came in here," he paused and then said, while patting his pockets. "Wait a minute, I'd just changed the film, I've got all the pictures on this one in my pocket."
"Well that's something I suppose. Did you notice anyone nearby when you came into the caf?" Chris asked on the off chance.
"No. We were parked fairly near it so I didn't have far to go."
"Vin, why don't you go and ask around and see if any of the shop owners saw anything?"
Vin went into every shop but returned to the caf with negative results. "No one saw a thing. People tend not to want to get involved anyway, but I don't think anyone was lying."
"Come on then, let's go and get the film processed and start looking through them. There may be someone there that we can lean on to help us find Ezra. They may be more willing to talk if they know we have evidence on them buying weapons." Chris stood and Buck rose slowly with him.
They travelled in silence back to work and Chris sent the film for processing urgently on their return. He then entered his own office with Josiah to see if there was any news on the car. Buck sat down at his desk and put his head in his hands and sighed deeply. Vin walked over and patted him on the back, putting a cup of coffee in front of him.
"Come on Buck. Chris don't blame ya."
"I do though," Buck replied sadly. "I should've stayed with him. He could be anywhere by now. I didn't even get a look at who was in the car with him."
"If you'd stayed with him, we'd be missing two agents. Just because you were with him wouldn't have stopped them abducting both of you." Buck knew Vin was right but it didn't make him feel any better. At least if he'd been abducted as well, Ezra wouldn't be facing the unknown alone. The phone rang at that moment interrupting his thoughts. Vin picked it up, but didn't get a chance to speak.
"I hear one of your men is missing." Vin poked Buck fiercely on the shoulder with an outstretched finger and indicated for him to try to trace the call. A tap had been put on Vin's phone to find the mysterious informant.
"Yeah. How do you know?" Vin asked the caller.
"I have my sources too, you know."
"Don't hang up. Do you know who they are or where they may have taken him?" Vin tried to keep him talking to give Buck more time.
"I know who they are but I've no idea where they're headed. Their names are Ronnie Peterson and Paul Simmons. They're apparently the new kids on the block when it comes to drug dealing. They want to make a name for themselves to let their competitors know that they're a force to be reckoned with. They were in Chicago but for some reason have changed bases. They've a rather nasty reputation. Anyway now they're here it's prompted a bit of gang rivalry and they're all vying for supremacy."
"Yeah, I've heard of them," Vin agreed. Ezra was certainly in trouble with those two. Vin looked over at Buck who gave him a thumbs up signal to show he had traced the call.
"Have you any idea where they hang out, anything that can give us a clue as to where to start looking?" Vin asked desperately.
Chris came out of his office after calling JD in to work and he heard the end of Vin's sentence and looked at Buck enquiringly.
"Our mystery caller. I've got a trace on it. Do you wanna go and pick him up now? He's on a public phone not too far away from here," Buck whispered to Chris.
"Yeah okay. Let's be quick though." He signalled to Vin to try to keep the man talking so that he was still there when they arrived. They left quickly and drove to the area the man should be in. Buck spied the phones and saw a man using one of them. He pulled the car over so they were behind him and Chris got out and went over. He put a hand on the man's shoulder and when he turned round Chris recognised him as a cop from one of the local precincts, John Collins he thought his name was. He took the phone out of the man's hand and spoke into it, while keeping a firm hold on the informant's arm.
"Vin is that you?"
"Yeah. You get him?"
"Yeah. We'll be back soon." Chris hung up and escorted the man to the car.
Once in the car Chris turned and spoke to the man. "You're John Collins right?" He received a reluctant nod in return. "Who's the cop that's dealing in weapons?" Chris continued.
John returned a scared look, but did answer. "Cody Bates."
"I don't know the name. Is he in the same precinct as you?"
"Yeah, he's my partner. He's new," John replied morosely.
"So you've seen him remove guns from the busts. Why didn't you speak to your superiors about it?" Buck asked.
"I did, but they didn't believe me. They called Cody in but he's a smarmy bastard and he convinced them I was lying. He threatened me to keep my mouth shut and then continued as if nothing had happened. So I called you."
"In that case it would look too suspicious to take you out of circulation now. It would be good to have a spy in the camp. Are you up to that?" Chris asked.
"Yeah. Might as well finish what I started."
"Where did you hear about my missing agent?"
"One of my contacts told me but he wouldn't say where he got the news from. He was a bit cagey."
Chris couldn't think of anything else to ask so patted John on the back and gave him his mobile number. "Get in contact if you need anything and let us hear any information that would help us find our missing colleague. Don't put yourself in danger but if you feel threatened we'll get you out of there as soon as we can." He opened the door and let John out. The man looked about nervously before hurrying away.
Buck drove back to the office and found the rest of the team were looking through the photos which had been delivered.
"Motley looking bunch, aren't they?" Josiah commented. "We've split them into piles of those we know and those we don't."
Chris and Buck sat down and went through the pile of those not yet identified to see if they could put any more names to faces.
"Who was the informer?" Vin asked.
"John Collins. Do you know him?"
"Yeah. That's why his voice sounded familiar. He worked on a case with me once. He's a good man," Vin said, before turning back to study the photos.
+ + + + + + +
Ezra was still driving out of town towards the north. Ronnie who was in the passenger seat next to him suddenly poked the gun against his temple and said, "Pull over. I'll take it from here."
Ezra did as he was told and came to a smooth stop by the sidewalk. Paul, who was sitting behind Ezra, put his arm around Ezra's neck while Ronnie got out and moved round to the driver's side.
"Put your hands where I can see them and move slowly over to the other seat," he was told as the hold on him was released. As Ezra slid across, so Paul moved over behind him. Ronnie got in and restarted the engine while Paul again put his arm around Ezra's throat and tightened his grip.
"Don't try anything," he ordered. Ezra gasped for breath and put his hands on Paul's arms to try to loosen the pressure. He coughed as his throat felt like it was being crushed under Paul's forearm. He started to panic.
"Ease up Paul. We don't want him damaged yet," Ronnie said angrily. The pressure was lessened and then the arm was withdrawn completely. Ezra coughed again and put a hand up to his neck to rub his throat gently. He turned his gaze to looked out of the window at the people walking past who were totally oblivious to his predicament. Two hands appeared from behind his head again and a scarf was tied round his eyes plunging him into darkness. Ronnie pulled out into the traffic again and turned the car round so they were going back in the direction they had come from. Ezra tried to keep track of where they were going but they turned so many times he soon lost all sense of direction.
After some time they eventually reached their destination and Ezra was pulled roughly out of the front seat. He couldn't keep his footing and fell on his side on a gravel path. He managed to partially save himself by putting his hand out but the sharp stones still dug into his body, arm and leg causing pin pricks of pain. A hand grabbed his clothes and dragged him along the ground until he managed to stagger back to his feet but not before he felt he had lost several layers of skin. His side stung and he was sure he had one big scratch up the length of it. He was pushed onwards and the crunching of the gravel under his feet changed to a hollow wooden sound.
The blindfold was taken from his eyes and he received another push from behind at the same time, forcing him further into the room. He turned round when he heard a door being closed behind him and finding himself alone he studied his prison. It seemed as though he was in a simple log cabin but there were bars on the windows and the door looked as though it had been reinforced. He looked around solemnly and wondered how the hell he was going to get out.
He sighed and slid down the wall in the corner of the room so he was sitting on the floor facing the door. He looked at his gravel scraped hand which was sore and bleeding. He wiped the dirt from the cuts carefully with the corner of his shirt, using saliva to wet the material in the hope it would make the job easier. He then pulled his shirt up carefully to inspect the damage done to his body. As he suspected, he had a plethora of bleeding scratches and developing bruises on the left side of his torso. The cloth had kept the dirt out of the cuts but they stung relentlessly. He imagined his leg and arm had suffered similar damage. Sighing he rested his head on his knees, closed his eyes and contemplated his situation.
Ezra fell asleep although he had tried hard not to. The last couple of days had been hectic, coping with his own workload and helping out with the extra surveillance shifts in place of Nathan. He was woken by the sound of the car leaving in the early afternoon. He stood quickly and went to the window and watched as the car moved away although he couldn't see whether both men were in the car or not. He turned away from the window and started scrutinising his prison to see if there were any weaknesses. He prodded and probed the walls and around the edges of the windows, but the room was totally secure. He sat down again as there was nothing he could do until an opportunity for escape presented itself. He wondered why he had been abducted and who his captors were.
+ + + + + + +
Meanwhile Paul drove the car back to Denver and then carried on towards the north. He abandoned it near Fort Lupton and hitchhiked back to Denver where he caught a coach back to Castle Rock. He hired a jeep there and drove back to the cabin feeling pleased with himself. He hoped he had fooled Larabee by abandoning the car in a totally different area from the hideout. By the time he got back to the cabin it was late evening.
Back at the office Chris brought everyone up to date about the day's events. Vin told the group about his phone call from John telling him who had abducted Ezra. The team exchanged looks with one another when they heard who was involved. Although the two men were new to Denver, they had a nasty reputation from their old haunts. Chris ran over the details of what he knew about them and everyone else chipped in with comments and other information.
Chris looked at his watch and said, " I've got a meeting with Travis now. Let me know of anything important that crops up."
He had been with AD Travis for about an hour when there was a knock on the door and Vin entered.
"Mr Tanner, what can we do for you?" Travis asked.
"I've just heard from the police in Fort Lupton saying they've found Ezra's car abandoned."
Chris stood and looked towards Travis to get permission to leave. Travis nodded and Chris and Vin left the room.
"Have forensics been sent to the scene?" Chris asked as soon as he closed Travis's door behind him.
"Yes. It's all arranged and I said we'd go up there too. The local police have been asking around to see if anyone saw it being abandoned but it was left in an unpopulated area. I sent copies of our suspect's photos so they can show those around too," Vin said.
"Great." Chris hoped this was the break they needed. "Have the police there heard of Simmons and Peterson?"
"Yes, but they didn't seem to think they were based in their area." Vin and Chris entered their office and Chris called the team together.
"Right, I assume you've heard that the car has been found. Vin and I will go and check it out. I want you to continue with your investigations at this end. Have we had any success with the photos of Simmons and Peterson that we sent out earlier to the local towns?"
"No, nothing yet," Josiah said.
"Okay, widen the area and send photos out to any town within a thirty-mile radius of Denver. All directions, not just north although that seems where they may be. We can't limit our options. I want car hire firms, coach and cab operators contacted too. They must have used some form of transport after abandoning the car. Von and I should be back tomorrow but let me know of any developments in the meantime. If you go out, go in pairs and stick together. I can't afford to lose anyone else." As an afterthought he added, "Before I go, have we had any success with the people photographed at Curtis Street? How are we getting on with questioning them?"
"We've questioned quite a few, but if they know anything they're not telling," JD said.
"Okay, keep at it." Chris nodded, thinking there was nothing else he could do at this end. He turned and left with Vin.
Buck had lowered his eyes when Chris had spoken about sticking together. He knew Chris didn't blame him, but Buck felt that Chris had just subtly reprimanded him. Nathan who'd now recovered from his illness noticed Buck's reaction and patted his back in encouragement.
"Come on Buck. I'll shout you lunch," he said kindly. Buck looked up and smiled before rising and following Nathan out of the office. He could do with a break. He'd been working harder than everyone else to try to eradicate the guilt he felt by putting maximum effort into finding Ezra. JD had told Nathan that Buck hadn't slept the previous night. The ladies' man had snuck back to the office to carry on working after the other men had left. JD had woken to find his friend's bed empty and when he'd arrived at work Buck was at his desk with several coffee cups scattered around proving that he'd been there all night. Nathan had promised JD that he would keep an eye on Buck to make sure that he did take a break and get some sleep the next night. Although JD lived with Buck he hadn't mastered the art of getting Buck to do as he was told. Buck was very good at giving advice but not at taking it.
Buck and Nathan returned after a long lunch and Buck again started work straight away, sending off faxes with their suspect's details and pictures to as many towns as he could think of. When he'd done that he sat at his desk and started on something else. Nathan looked over and saw how shattered he looked. The medic caught JD's eye and smiled as the kid worked on his computer trying to put names to those people not yet identified from the photos. When Nathan next looked over at Buck his head was resting on the desk and he was snoring quietly. Nathan rose and tapped him on the shoulder and when Buck woke, the medic pulled him to his feet. He took Buck into Chris's office and pointed to the couch while he found the pillow and blanket Chris kept there for such occasions. Buck looked sheepish and stretched out on the couch and was asleep in a second. Nathan smiled as he closed the door quietly behind him and told the others to keep out. He periodically checked on Buck throughout the afternoon but he slept until 6pm when Nathan woke him and took him home.
"Thanks Nate. I needed that," Buck said as he was dropped off at the loft.
"I don't want to hear you've gone back to work when I've gone home. Get a proper night's sleep or you won't do yourself or Ezra any good," Nathan instructed.
"Yes Dad," Buck said as he saluted facetiously and turned to go inside. He knew who had told tales, but he also knew JD was only concerned about his welfare. He was glad he'd found such a good group of men to work with. They always looked out for one another and worked well as a team. He made a meal and then watched some TV, although if you'd asked him what he'd watched he couldn't have told you. He waited until JD turned up later in the evening and then went into his bedroom and flopped down on the bed. He didn't even bother undressing but stretched out and fell asleep instantly.
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