Vin drove with Buck out to Castle Rock to look over the warehouse where the drugs were going to be delivered. He pulled up a block away from the building and they went the rest of the way on foot. There were quite a few pedestrians about so they didn´t stick out from the crowd too much. Vin could see at least three men patrolling the building´s perimeter. They were dressed as security guards but he was sure they were members of Black´s gang. It made him wonder whether the shipment had already arrived. It seemed odd to be patrolling if there was nothing there to protect.
What do ya reckon? Buck asked.
Well, there´s no way to get in without being seen by those men, Vin warned. We´ll just have to check the outside and make sure we´re familiar with that. Pinky´s drawing gave some detail of the inside. I only hope he was accurate. We can check out the apartment block and the office where the backup team will be while we here too. Chris has decided to use a van for the surveillance equipment instead of the office. He thought he could be nearer the action in that.
The two men walked on and did a thorough visual assessment of the building and surrounding area, making sure they weren´t seen by the guards. They drove back to report to Chris after about an hour.
Chris? Can we have a word? Buck asked as he knocked on his boss´s door.
Sure. Come in.
The two men stepped inside and told him what they´d seen. Chris pulled out Pinky´s drawing as well as a street map and the three men went over those thoroughly too. Once they had finished, Chris called the other men together and briefed them as well. Ezra still hadn´t heard from Pinky and he thought it was too late to be contacted now. The men went back to work unable to do anymore until the next day when Ezra would have to deliver the down payment.
+ + + + + + +
Buck stayed with the undercover agent overnight again. He wanted to get Ezra talking again about how he was feeling. He watched Ezra closely and wondered how to start a conversation without putting the man´s back up.
Ezra sat staring into his lap. His hands were folded there and he saw the pulse beating in his wrist. One day, he thought it´s going to be still. He´d been thinking about death a lot lately. Not consciously thinking but when his mind wandered it invariably returned to that subject.
Do you ever think about death, Bucklin?
Buck was a bit surprised at the question. Not really. Why?
I´ve been thinking about it and it frightens me. I used to breeze through life without a care in the world but since the shooting I can´t stop thinking about it.
Well, you came close, buddy. Closer than I liked, I can tell you. I walked away because I couldn´t watch you suffer. Buck paused as he thought back to that awful day. Have you talked to Josiah about it?
Yes and what he said made perfect sense but it doesn´t stop me contemplating the afterlife. I also worry what will happen if I´m threatened with a gun. I can´t say how I´ll react and that scares me. Death just keeps rearing its ugly head in all my thoughts.
Well, you ought to be savoring the fact that you´re still here to enjoy your cigars and garden and not dwell on the fact that you won´t always be here to do so. You´ve gotta move on, Ezra. Don´t let the past determine or rule your future. Anyway, what are you worried about being shot and killed for? Those cigars of yours will kill you just as well but more slowly and painfully, Buck said.
I´ve just felt an increasing need for the deadly little sticks of tobacco, Ezra said smiling.
Always thought it was like having a baby´s pacifier in yer mouth, Buck laughed.
You´re probably right. It has the same effect definitely. Thank you for listening to my rambling, Buck. I know I probably sound terribly morbid but I can´t help the way my mind is working at the moment. Ezra was pleased that Buck was staying again to keep him company. It helped that he had someone to talk to about his feelings.
You know I´m always around, Buck said. Come on. You´ve got a busy few days ahead of you. We´d better get some sleep.
+ + + + + + +
They arrived nice and early the next morning to get ready for the drop. Buck went to give Chris an update on Ezra´s wellbeing.
How is he? Chris asked.
Talking about death and he´s scared of coming face to faced with a gun again.
Did it make you think I should pull him out?
I'm no psychotherapist, Chris. He seems a bit depressed and is very uptight but he's bound to feel that way. He hasn´t behaved so erratically that it suggests he's gonna go ape. I only wish he had, cause I don´t like him doing this. He talked sensibly about things but he seems out of sorts and it makes me worry, Buck replied.
I know your opinion, Bucklin, but as long he continues to do his job well I can't ground him. There are bound to be a few hiccups along the way with his emotions but when he´s out there working he seems to be coping okay. We´ve all been shot and know how we felt when we confronted by a gun again. His fears are perfectly natural and you have to admit he´s being very open and honest about his feelings. That´s gotta be a good thing.
Buck nodded and walked back out into the outer office and looked toward the undercover agent and smiled.
Ezra´s phone rang and he picked it up. Standish.
It´s Pinky. Sorry I couldn´t find out where the drop off will be today. I´ve just been told to ask you to wait in the same bar as before at noon and you´ll be collected from there.
Thank you. Ezra put down the phone and walked over to Chris´s office. Mr. Larabee? I´ve just heard from Pinky. I have to go to the bar again and I´ll be collected from there.
Okay. We´ll do the same as we did last time except Josiah and Nathan will be in the bar and Buck and I will follow in the surveillance van so we can listen to your wire. Do you feel happy with things?
I wish you´d damned well stop asking me that, Ezra snapped furiously before apologizing straight away. I´m sorry. I didn´t mean that. It´s just if you keep asking me if I´m alright and happy with things, I think I´ve got something to worry about. It makes me sense that you believe I can´t cope and I feel as if I'm being constantly watched by you all to see if I'm going to crack up. I didn´t mean to snap but the thought of being taken by car to secret meetings reminds me of when I was first abducted. I didn´t know where they were taking me then and it all feels a bit too familiar.
I understand, Ez. I know it´s hard for you but you would tell me if you wanted to back out? Chris asked insistently.
Yes, I assure you I will, but I don´t intend to. I really need to do this for my own peace of mind.
You know if I don´t feel happy with how things are going that I´ll have to take you off the case? Chris asked.
Yes. Thank you for at least giving me the chance. I know I'm not up to my usual standard of work but I hope I won't let you down.
Chris stood and led him back outside and told the rest of the team about the arrangements for the meeting. They all made the appropriate preparations and started to drift off to their assigned places.
Ezra sat and waited as before until it was time for him to leave. He still wasn´t sure if his fellow workers really believed he could cope, but then neither did he. They´d been very supportive and encouraging but he detected a hint of anxiety on the part of a couple of them. They're anxious? Hell, I'm anxious, he thought to himself.
He rose when he realized what the time was and picked up the briefcase of money. He took the same pool car and parked outside the bar. Even before he´d entered the building he felt a hand on his elbow.
Mr. Jackson, if you would come with me please. Ezra turned and saw a young man with auburn hair standing beside him. The man pointed to a car further up the street and he started to escort Ezra toward it.
Wait a minute, young man. Who are you exactly? Ezra asked. The man had hold of his elbow and was pulling him along. Ezra planted his feet on the sidewalk and forced him to stop.
Mr. Black sent me to collect you, the man replied as he turned to face Ezra.
Chris and Buck were listening to the conversation in the van parked opposite. Ezra was glad he had agreed to wear a wire and a tracker because things weren´t going to plan. Chris alerted Nathan and Josiah that Ezra had been intercepted before getting to the bar. Buck, meanwhile, told Vin to keep a close eye on the tracking device in case they lost the undercover agent.
How do I know you are his messenger and not some other ne´er-do- well? Ezra asked suspiciously. He didn´t like the slight change in plans. Okay, the man had picked him up from outside the bar but Ezra had been expecting to go inside and be collected by Pinky or Mr. Black.
Look, call Pinky if you don´t believe me. He´ll tell you Black arranged this at the last minute.
Ezra pulled out his phone and did as the man suggested. After speaking to his informant and getting a positive response he could do no more than follow his escort along to the car. He couldn´t understand why Pinky had not told him about who would be picking him up when he´d phoned earlier.
Ezra climbed in the car and it pulled away from the sidewalk, leaving the young man behind. Ezra turned and looked behind him to see where the man went, but the car turned the corner before he had moved away. Ezra did see Chris pull out into the traffic about five cars behind him. He looked forwards again and concentrated on where he was being taken. The car did not return to the same building used for the first meeting. It went north and stopped just outside town. Ezra got out and was taken by the driver to an apartment block. They traveled up in the elevator to the fifth floor and walked along to an apartment there. The driver knocked and indicated for Ezra to enter when the door opened but did not follow him in.
Ezra stepped inside the apartment and looked around him. A man beckoned him onwards and he trailed along behind until Mr. Black came into view. The drug dealer stood up to meet Ezra and the undercover agent held out a hand in greeting.
The money? Black asked with a raised eyebrow after he had shaken the offered hand.
All here in this briefcase, Ezra answered holding the case up to show the men assembled there. He studied the room´s occupants and was horrified when he recognized one of them. He´d had dealings with Anthony Ferrera before. The sight of a familiar face set his heart jumping but he tried to remain calm. The man concerned studied him minutely but didn´t say anything.
Put the case on the table so Johnny can check it, Black instructed, interrupting Ezra´s thoughts.
The agent walked to the table and put the case down. He found the key in his pocket and unlocked it carefully. He flicked open both catches before turning the case round to face Johnny. He watched as the man opened the lid and surveyed the contents before reaching in and withdrawing two bundles of money.
Ezra looked on anxiously as the man did various tests to see if the money was counterfeit. He unconsciously held his breath, worried that the deception would be discovered. His hands were sweaty and he had a feeling of impending doom. The feeling had been growing in him through each passing day. He knew he was being irrational but he couldn´t shake the thoughts off. He saw trouble where there was none and he felt on constant alert. At home he religiously locked all doors and windows before retiring for the night, even when Buck stayed with him. He´d felt violated ever since his captivity and he really didn´t feel safe anywhere.
He had no control over his flashbacks and that frightened him. He´d go through a whole day feeling fine and then something would trigger a memory. He realized the flashbacks had only started since he´d returned to work. Why haven´t I suffered from them before? he asked himself. He´d had a few nightmares since he´d escaped his prison but never flashbacks. Perhaps it was the fact his job had rekindled his fears and they were expressed through flashbacks. He had a sudden feeling that he was being watched and he looked up to find Ferrera staring at him. He found the attention very unsettling.
Ezra heard Black´s voice as if through a fog. He shook himself mentally. Yes?
I was thanking you for the money. It all seems in order. Is everything alright? Black asked. He studied the man opposite him intently. He thought Ezra seemed ill at ease and not concentrating on what was going on.
Yes, fine. I´m glad you´re satisfied with the payment. I´ll wait for a call from Pinky as to our next meeting, shall I? Ezra kicked himself for daydreaming and wallowing in self-pity. He knew he should have behaved more professionally and that he could have compromised the deal if Black was unsettled by his lack of concentration.
Black, meanwhile, was considering what to do. He´d got the money and he really needed to get rid of the drugs as soon as possible, but he was perturbed by Ezra´s odd behavior. The drug dealer decided he didn´t have much choice but continue with the deal but he thought he´d have Ezra tailed to see whom he met and whether he could really be trusted.
Ezra rose and Black escorted him to the door. Just as he was about to leave, Anthony Ferrera approached and put a hand on Ezra´s arm.
Don´t I know you? he asked.
+ + + + + + +
Shit, Chris exclaimed as he listened to the conversation from the van outside. This had been the one thing that had really been worrying him. How would Ezra handle the situation? He´d been concerned earlier when Ezra had seemed to be not concentrating on the job, but this was a worse scenario.
+ + + + + + +
Ezra´s heart leapt into his throat but he kept his voice steady as he replied, I don´t think so. Have you always worked for Mr. Black?
No. I worked for Mickey Barnes.
Ah. That must be it. I dealt with him on several occasions. We must have seen each other there then, Ezra said calmly. He hoped the man didn´t think about his answer too thoroughly or he might realize that Ezra had approached him once while trying to get someone to rat on Mickey Barnes. It had been several years before so he relied on the man not having a good memory, although the fact he had recognized Ezra in some capacity was worrying.
Ferrera nodded and didn´t take the matter any further. Ezra shook Black´s hand and left the apartment block with the driver who had dropped him off. The man dropped him back at the bar as before and Ezra walked to his own car. He looked in the rear view mirror and saw a van arrive and park further down the street. It was not Chris and Buck. He looked at the driver and saw it was Ferrera.
Dammit, he cursed. Chris was not going to be pleased.
He started his car and pulled out into the traffic and saw the strange van pull out too. Chris, who had kept his distance, had seen the van trailing Ezra from the moment the agent had left the apartment block. Chris called Vin to say there might be trouble and to ask Ezra to go to the safe house for the time being.
Vin rang Ezra´s cell and the undercover agent answered it. Ezra? It´s Vin. Chris says to go to the safe house as there´s someone on yer tail.
I´ve already seen him, Mr. Tanner. He´s someone I´ve had dealings with before, but Chris heard my conversation with him, didn´t he?
Yeah. He heard. Chris´ll have someone outside the house just to watch things and he´ll try and call you later. Take care, Ez, Vin said as he hung up.
Ezra continued driving until he reached the house. He parked and walked up to the front door and let himself in as if he´d lived there all his life. He even made a show of greeting the next door neighbor. Chris and Buck were still following and saw Ferrera´s van drive by the house slowly before parking a block away to watch. Chris drove by and did a circuit and parked up at the other end of the street to see if anything happened.
Ferrera stayed all night until he was relieved at dawn. Chris cursed when he realized the man wasn´t going to leave. He quickly phoned Ezra and told him to sit tight. He couldn´t tell from the phone call whether Ezra was really alright or not. There was nothing he could to help his agent at the moment anyway.
He okay? Buck asked as he rang off.
God knows. He sounded as if he was but you know Ezra, he could bluff the Pope if he put his mind to it. I don´t like him being alone but I daren´t go in now at this time of night. It´ll look too suspicious. I´ll wait until morning and see what I can do then.
When morning came, Chris rang Josiah. Josiah? Can you and Nathan come and take over outside the safe house. Ezra´s still being watched and I want him protected. I´m gonna try to get to see him. He´s gotta be on edge.
Sure, Chris. We´ll be there in about half an hour.
Chris was anxious and nothing Buck said could placate him. The blond phoned Vin and asked the sharpshooter to meet him and to bring some things with him. Chris then sat and fidgeted as he waited for Josiah and Nathan to arrive. He looked in the rear view mirror and saw them pull in on the other side of the road so he started his motor and pulled away from the sidewalk. He drove into an adjoining street and pulled up in front of a TV repair van. Vin got out of it and Chris walked to meet him.
I´ve got everything you asked for. Give my best to Ez, won´t ya? Vin asked as he handed over the vehicle´s keys.
Yeah, I will. Go back to work with Buck, will ya? I´ll come in later cause I want to get things sorted for Monday.
See ya then. Vin walked away and got in the car with Buck but he waited until Chris had changed into some overalls and a baseball cap before leaving.
Chris got in the van and pulled out his phone to let Ezra know he was coming. He drove back to the house and parked outside. He got out and opened up the rear doors of the van and pulled out a toolbox and a clipboard and pretended to be looking for a particular house. He then reached in and picked up a box that appeared big enough to hold a small TV. He walked up the path to Ezra´s and knocked on the door and then went back to collect the toolbox, Ezra opened the door after about a minute and let Chris in. The blond was glad he´d phoned ahead. He thought Ezra could do without wondering who was at the door.
Hey, Ez. Are you alright? Chris asked as soon as the door had been closed behind him. He studied the man in front of him. He thought he looked pale and strained and the fact he hadn´t shaved made him look positively sick.
Ezra rubbed his temples distractedly. He´d got another headache that refused to go away. I didn´t get much sleep if you must know but I´m fine really.
You could´ve fooled me, Chris thought but he didn´t say anything. He knew it was way too late to pull his agent off the case no matter how he was feeling. Do you know if Black always gets his clients followed in the latter stages of a deal? he asked instead.
No. I´ve no idea. Ring Pinky. I expect he´d know, Ezra suggested wearily.
Good idea. I´ll get JD to contact him. Chris pulled out his phone and got through to the youngster and asked him to check.
While he waited for a reply, Chris opened up the box and produced some clothes for Ezra to change into. He also had some toiletries and food.
Have I forgotten to bring anything? he asked.
Have you got any cigars or cigarettes? I´ve nearly smoked mine, Ezra asked.
Yeah. Here you go. Don´t smoke them all at once. He handed a packet of cigarettes over and Ezra put them in his pocket.
The phone rang and Chris answered it Chris? It´s JD. Black doesn´t always do it. He has done it on three previous occasions but only then because he was suspicious.
Shit. Thanks JD. He put his phone away and turned to his undercover agent and told him what JD had said. I want someone to stay with you Ezra. Perhaps I´ll stay, then I can go to the deal with you on Monday and you can pass me off as your partner. I´ll discuss things with the others and come up with a proper plan. Will you be okay on your own if I go back to the office to arrange things?
I´m sure I´ll cope. I´ve got my cigarettes and a few cigars left, Ezra said although he really didn´t want to be alone. The longer the case had been going the more unsettled and panicky he was becoming. At least the end is nigh. Perhaps I´ll feel better then, he said to himself.
I´m gonna have to arrange for the money to be collected somehow or we could deliver it here, I s´pose, Chris said thoughtfully, interrupting Ezra´s thoughts.
I´m sorry that this happened, Chris. I lost concentration and Black noticed. I should have prevented all this but it unsettled me seeing Ferrera there. Under normal circumstances I wouldn´t have let it worry me. Ezra apologized.
It´s okay. Just very unfortunate that Ferrera was there. I expect his partially recognizing you unsettled Black more than your obvious preoccupation. It´s no good crying over spilt milk. We´ll sort something out, don´t panic. It´s very rare that everything goes our way. Look, I´ll see you later but don´t sit and brood about things.
Chris walked to the door with Ezra trailing behind. The undercover agent let him out and closed the door quickly. Chris wandered back to the van and threw the toolbox in the back. He got in the vehicle and pretended to write on the clipboard before driving away. He hurried back to the office and went upstairs to meet with Vin and the others.
Everything okay? Buck asked.
Ez is feeling the heat but I hope he can keep it together until the deal´s completed. I´m quite worried about him and I don´t want to leave him alone for long at the house. He blames himself for what happened but we can´t really be sure what made Black suspicious. Even if Ezra hadn´t lost concentration, the fact Ferrera thought he knew him would have been enough to put Black on the alert. I think Ezra was screwed either way. Anyway, I said I´d go and stay with him over the weekend. He can pass me off as his business partner on Monday if Black queries anything at the deal. I need to get a plan sorted now so we´re prepared for the deal. I need to arrange for the money to be collected by us or delivered somehow. Any suggestions?
Can you collect it from the Bank on the way? I could set up a safe deposit box and get the money put in there for you, Buck said.
Good idea. What about the deal itself? I want to hear what´s going on in the warehouse. Ezra won´t want me in the deal with him cause he told Black he´d be there on his own. Chris waited while his men thought of possibilities.
Can you drop him off and then leave to go to the surveillance van. Ezra told Black that he wasn´t going to tell his men until the last minute about where the deal was being done. He could say he was sticking to his promise and that you had gone to arrange things. When Ezra´s done the deal he could call you and ask you to come back to collect the drugs and that would be the signal for us to go in and arrest them, Vin said.
Okay. Does that cover everything?
We´ll just have to think on our feet if anything else crops up. Do you think it´s still safe for Ez to wear a wire? Buck asked.
Not sure. If Black´s suspicious he may well check him again but I need to hear what´s going on inside the warehouse in case of any trouble. Can we fix up a wire in the briefcase itself? Black´s less likely to check that. He´ll want to look at the money but he´ll probably ignore what it is carried in. JD can you rig something up?
Yeah, sure. We´ll test it before we leave the case at the Bank for you.
Great. I´ll get some supplies and get back to Ezra then. Chris rose, thankful that he worked with such a good band of men. He changed his clothes so he wasn´t dressed all in black and then left the building. He drove back to the safe house and parked directly outside as if he belonged there. Ezra answered his knock and let him in and helped carry in his bags. Buck had forewarned him that Chris was on his way and Ezra greeted his boss as if he was expected.
Chris walked into the living room and nearly choked. He waved a hand in front of his face and gasped before asking, God Ezra. How many cigarettes have you smoked since I left? You could cut the air with a knife in here.
Just a couple.
Yeah, right. I believe that as much as I believe you don´t cheat at cards.
You wound me, Sir, with your dire accusation, Ezra complained before asking sheepishly, Did you bring any more cigars with you?
Yeah. I bought a couple packets on the way. Chris handed them over and Ezra lit one straight away.
The agent saw the look on the blond man´s face and smiled as he blew smoke down his nose. Sorry. They´re comforting. I promise I´ll give up again when this is over.
Whatever. Let´s go over the plan for Monday. Chris related what had been agreed and Ezra nodded in satisfaction.
I think the idea of a wire in the case is excellent. Very James Bond. Hopefully Black won´t think of checking that, Ezra agreed. He was desperately trying to keep his mind focused on what Chris was telling him. He couldn´t allow another lapse in concentration that might put his fellow workers lives in jeopardy.
I know you hate for me to ask this but are you okay about continuing? Chris asked tentatively as he noticed his agent´s distraction.
Just as importantly, are you? Ezra countered. He didn´t want to give up despite his unease and he didn´t want to let the team down. You said you would relieve me of my duties if you weren´t happy with how things were going. Things have gone rather pear- shaped but I´m happy, no that´s not quite the word, I´m prepared to continue.
That´s all I need to know, Chris said. He now needed a way to keep his agent occupied over the weekend so he asked, Have you got your cards on you?
My playing cards? Ezra asked as he pulled a deck from his pocket. Is my name Ezra Standish?
Well if it isn´t, I´ve been talking to the wrong person for months, Chris replied smiling.
Chris knew Ezra was feeling bad about things when he won several hands, which would never have happened if Ezra had been firing on all cylinders. How am I gonna keep him occupied if he can´t even concentrate on his beloved poker? he asked himself.
He needn´t have worried because he managed to keep Ezra´s mind from dwelling on things too much over the following days. By Monday the undercover agent was no more of a nervous wreck than he had been on the Friday.
Buck had organized a continuous round of surveillance at the house to keep an eye on Black´s men. The team was tired from their constant round of watching and waiting but none of them complained. They wanted to make sure Ezra felt safe.
+ + + + + + +
As the day of the deal dawned, the two men in the safe house got ready. Chris managed to get Ezra to eat some breakfast although he had to use all his powers of persuasion. They left the house after hearing from Pinky and headed to the Bank. Chris drove and saw Black´s spy pull into the traffic behind him as soon as he left the house. He also saw his team following behind at a safe distance.
He pulled in outside the Bank and Ezra got out and went inside to collect the money. He was gone several minutes but returned eventually with a large briefcase. Once he was in the car, he fastened a chain from the handle to his wrist and put the key in his pocket. Chris pulled back out onto the street and headed to the warehouse.
Everything okay, Ez? he asked as he glanced at his agent quickly.
Yes, but I shall be glad when it´s over.
Won´t be long now. We´re all around if something should happen. You won´t be on your own, just remember that, Chris said encouragingly.
They arrived at the warehouse and Chris pulled into the sidewalk. Ezra took a deep breath and got out slowly. He saw several of Black´s men hanging around outside the building and they all looked in his direction when they heard the car door slam. The agent took another deep breath before walking to the warehouse door where he was intercepted by Johnny.
Who´s that in the car with you? the man asked as he watched Chris drive away.
Just my business partner. He stayed with me over the weekend to help get things ready for today. He´s gone to get the rest of my men organized for the collection, if the drugs prove to be satisfactory, Ezra said calmly.
Follow me then, Johnny said nodding and he turned to go inside the building.
Ezra entered behind him and was greeted by Mr. Black. The undercover agent looked around and saw about six men scattered about. They all had guns plainly in view and they turned to look at him as he entered.
Mr. Jackson. Have you got the rest of the money? Mr. Black asked.
Ezra nodded and held up the briefcase that was chained to his wrist. It´s all here but can I inspect the merchandise first before I hand it over?
Yes, of course. If you´d like to select a package for testing.
Ezra walked over to the drugs and picked out one batch. He retrieved a test tube from his pocket that contained some liquid and added some of the drugs to it. He shook the tube and smiled in satisfaction.
A very pure batch, Mr. Black. It certainly has been a pleasure doing business with you, Ezra declared as he packed away his equipment and put his hand in his pocket to get the key to the chain on his wrist.
He unlocked the chain but before he could act further all hell broke loose. There was a commotion and several men burst in the building from the rear and set off smoke bombs. They picked off Mr. Black´s men with precision until only Ezra and Black were left alive.
Black turned to Ezra angrily and bellowed accusingly, What stunt are you trying to pull? Thought you´d take the drugs and keep the money too, did you? I knew something was wrong at the last meeting we had and that I shouldn´t have trusted you. As he spoke he pulled out a gun and pointed it toward Ezra threateningly.
Ezra had another flashback to when he was shot in the forest clearing and he shook his head to bring his mind back on track. Not now, not now, he told himself angrily.
They´re nothing to do with me, I assure you, Ezra managed to stutter as he put the briefcase down on the ground and raised his hands. Ezra had expected the invading men to be Chris and the others but he could see he had been wrong and it had completely thrown him.
Mr. Black turned away to see how close the nearest invaders were. Ezra moved behind him so that no one could see what he was doing and he quickly pushed the briefcase of money behind some packing cases with his toe and hoped the wire would still pick up what was happening. He was thinking clearly enough now to know that he didn´t want to be found with the money on him. He put his hands back in the air and tried to stay calm. He could see two men approaching them and he tried to console himself that as they hadn´t killed them yet he might stand a chance of staying alive and escaping.
+ + + + + + +
In the van outside, Chris was listening to the meeting and had been pleased with the way things were going. He heard Josiah calling his name on the radio and he took off the headphones on which he was listening to the wire and picked up the radio instead.
Go ahead, Josiah.
Chris? The pick up has been hijacked by another gang. There are about eight men in total going in the rear door. They overpowered the guard posted there. They seemed to know exactly where he would be.
Shit. Okay Josiah. Let me know if anything else happens. I´ll alert the others. Chris´s heart pounded at the unwelcome development. He called his other men and updated them and then put his headphones back on to listen to what was going on inside the building. He didn´t dare intervene yet until he had a better understanding of the situation. He didn´t want to put any other members of his team in danger by going in blind. The first thing he heard on the headphones was cursing and gunfire. He then heard Black threaten Ezra when he thought he´d been double- crossed.
Finally he heard Ezra´s voice cursing over and over again. Oh shit, oh shit. but he had no way of knowing what had caused his agent´s distress. It could have been Black or something entirely different.
Keep it together Ez, Chris said softly. Don´t freak out. Come on buddy, stay calm.
I told you it was too soon for him, Buck said quietly, as he also listened to the voice of his friend. I should have told you to take him off the case after the first meeting but I thought he´d be alright.
Just shut up Buck. Not now okay? Chris scolded angrily.
+ + + + + + +
Back in the warehouse, Ezra stayed where he was, almost glued to the spot. He saw the men approaching with pistols outstretched in their hands. Up to this point Ezra had managed to keep his fears under control, but that was no longer the case. He had a hollow sensation in his chest and he felt claustrophobic and afraid. All he could see was the blackness of the gun barrel and he couldn´t drag his eyes away from it.
Suddenly Mr. Black turned round and put an arm round Ezra´s neck and pulled the agent in front of him, using him as a shield. He held a gun to Ezra´s temple and started to back away.
Oh shit, oh shit, Ezra said loudly. His heart was beating nineteen to the dozen and he realized he was holding his breath. The two things he feared most, a gun aimed at him and the feeling of being strangled, had happened at once and sent him into a blind panic. He exhaled slowly and tried to relax and think straight again. He couldn´t afford to let things get the better of him now. He needed all his wits about him.
One of the approaching men said, Step away from Jackson. Let him go.
Black, instead of obeying, actually tightened his grip on Ezra and pushed his gun harder against his head. Ezra coughed and groaned as Black started to back away.
Who do you want? Me or him? Black asked.
I want Jackson. You are free to go, the man replied calmly.
Why do you want him? Black persisted.
I´ve got business with him.
What sort of business?
I´m gonna kill him.
Black let go of Ezra suddenly and moved away. The newcomer nodded to someone standing behind Ezra and Black. The undercover agent heard a gunshot and flinched, expecting to feel a bullet striking him but it was Black who fell to the ground dead. Ezra cried out and came out in a cold sweat as he felt Black´s blood spray over him. He turned quickly to look down at the man´s body.
That could have been me. Well it isn´t, so get over it and get back on track or you could well end up like him, he told himself angrily.
He looked up to see a sniper appear from behind a packing case to the right of where he was standing.
I thought you wanted to kill me, Ezra babbled dazedly, unable to take his eyes off the approaching sniper. His heart was pounding and he felt as if he was dreaming.
I figured the only way to separate the two of you was to say that.
How did you know who I was? Ezra asked suspiciously.
We had a spy in the bar the first time you met Black. We´d heard about the deal and wanted to see who the main players were.
Oh that man was one of yours, was he? I saw him and though he belonged to Black. Ezra then narrowed his eyes and asked worriedly, What do you want with me?
You could be useful.
Ezra tried to concentrate on what was going on and he literally pinched himself to keep his mind focused. He looked at the man in front of him and asked, Useful? As a buyer you mean?
The man nodded and smiled.
I don´t mind who I deal with. If you´re taking charge of this consignment I am willing to buy it from you now. I´ve got the money here with me. You could be out of here a million up on when you entered the room, Ezra said persuasively.
That´s the plan, the man said.
+ + + + + + +
Well done, Ez, Chris whispered from where he was listening. He picked up his radio and updated his men again. He thought Ezra sounded fairly calm despite the sudden turn of events but he wanted to get his agent out as soon as possible before that situation changed.
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