Curiosity Nearly Killed the Cat

by Hombre

Page 1 | Page 2 | Page 3

As promised, several days after their initial meeting Simon phoned Ezra again at the Saxon Bar.

“Are you watching me? How do you know when I´m here?” the undercover agent asked angrily.

“Well, if you won´t give me your home number, what else am I suppose to do? I will admit that I did observe you for a short time before getting in contact, so I got to know you frequented the bar. You can´t blame me for wanting to see what you were like before we actually met.”

“You mean if you didn´t like the look of me you wouldn´t have pursued matters further? I assume I passed muster in that case. How comforting,” Ezra said disdainfully.

They continued talking for quite some time but the conversation ended in another argument. The man was really pushing for a paternity test and Ezra hated being backed into a corner. He knew it would be the only way to know once and for all but what if it proved Simon was his father? He really wasn´t prepared to deal with that possibility at the moment so he slammed the phone down angrily. Simon wouldn´t give up though and he phoned again almost straight away. Ezra stood firm on the matter of the test but he did eventually agree to meet Simon just to talk later that morning. Why the hell am I bothering when all we do is argue? Ezra asked himself resignedly.

Ezra made his way home slowly and saw Vin pull up outside his house just as he reached the corner of the road. The longhaired sharpshooter put on his coat before exiting the vehicle and then hurried up the path without seeing Ezra walking toward him from the side. Vin knocked on the front door and waited patiently for the undercover agent to answer.

“Mr. Tanner? What are you doing here?” Ezra asked from behind him and Vin jumped round startled.

“Jeez, Ez. Scare me to death, will ya? Where the hell did you come from?”

“Nowhere important. You haven´t answered my question.”

“Came to see what´s wrong. You´ve been out of sorts all week and I´m worried about ya. Can I come in?” the longhaired man asked as he studied his friend with serious blue eyes.

Ezra opened the door reluctantly and led the way through to the kitchen. The sharpshooter followed him curiously and sat beside him at the table. Silence descended and Vin watched his friend worriedly. He reached out a hand and wrapped it round the undercover agent´s wrist and gave it a squeeze.

“Ezra? Tell me what´s upsetting you,” Vin demanded quietly when Ezra still didn´t speak.

Instead of answering, Ezra asked a question of his own. “Would you like to have known your father, Vin?”

Vin narrowed his eyes and wondered where the conversation was headed. “I s´pose. Never really thought about it. There was only ever Mom and me and she never spoke about him and I never asked. Then when she died I had no one at all. Why are you asking?”

“Well, my alleged father has turned up,” Ezra said quietly as he studied his hands and avoided meeting Vin´s eyes.

“Wow and double wow! Was that the man we saw you with the other night?” Vin asked incredulously as realization dawned.

“Yeah.” Ezra then told Vin everything that had happened since Simon had contacted him. “I don´t know why I decided to see him really,” the man finally admitted.

“You were curious. Guess I woulda been too. Has he contacted you again?”

“Yes. Today,” Ezra said as he sighed deeply and rubbed his brow in agitation.

“What ya gonna do?” Vin asked his unsettled friend.

“Said I´d see him. Gullible aren´t I, but I haven´t got the heart to tell him to get stuffed. He says he´s dying although he won´t tell me what´s wrong. I just can´t stop thinking about him and I admit I´m in turmoil.”

“Not surprised. Pretty big problem, Ez.”

“Tell me about it. Well, I´m sorry to cut this short, Mr. Tanner. I arranged to meet Simon in an hour so I´d better get a move on. Thanks for coming. I really appreciate your concern.”

“No problem. Phone me if you wanna talk afterwards.” Vin rose and patted his back before leaving the man to prepare for his meeting.

+ + + + + + +

Ezra met Simon at a local restaurant and the two men enjoyed a quiet meal. Ezra began to relax in his company and he agreed to let Simon meet the other men he worked with. He had to admit that now they´d had a chance to talk properly without an argument getting in the way, he even began to like the man.

The next day after work Ezra met his friends at The Saloon. He looked at the men he hadn´t yet confided in and knew he was going to have to tell them everything before Simon arrived. There was no going back so he took the plunge.

He cleared his throat and stuttered, “Um…..Chris, Vin and Nathan already know about this,” he paused, not quite sure of what to say. Chris patted his back and indicated for him to continue but Ezra just looked down at his hands in embarrassment.

“What´s up, Ez?” Josiah asked worriedly.

Ezra took a deep breath and blurted out, “My father will be joining us this evening.”

“Your father?” Buck said in astonishment.

“Yes, Mr. Wilmington, my father.”

“How?……..When?…….,” the ladies´ man stuttered.

Chris looked at Ezra again when the man didn´t answer. He could see how uncomfortable he was so he took over the tale and told his men about the circumstances surrounding Simon´s unexpected appearance.

“Jeez, Ez. You sure know how to surprise us. Why didn´t you say anything?” JD asked.

“I was rather flabbergasted and it´s taken a while to get accustomed to everything that´s happened,” Ezra admitted quietly.

“I bet. Was that why you drove off like Michael Schumacher the other evening? You´d just met yer father at The Saloon?” Buck asked as he finally put two and two together.

“Yes, that´s quite correct. You´re mental powers are improving, I´m glad to see, Bucklin.”

“What time´s he coming?” JD asked.

“Soon,” the undercover agent said as he checked his watch nervously for about the tenth time.

Ezra began to have second thoughts but Chris managed to persuade him that he´d done the right thing. Simon finally arrived half an hour late and walked over to their table and Ezra introduced him to everyone.

“Sorry I´m late but my truck broke down and it took me ages to get a cab. Well, it´s nice to finally meet Ezra´s work-mates, I must say.” Simon kept up a steady stream of conversation and Ezra sat and scowled. There was still a small suspicious thought floating round in the back of his mind about his father. For some reason he didn´t think Simon would be the sort of man that Maude would ever consider going out with. Why?, he didn´t know but he´d known most of Maude´s lovers and Simon was certainly different from her average beau. Ezra sat and studied him for quite some time and watched him closely as he talked to his friends. The undercover agent shook his head and decided he was probably being unfair. Why should his idea of the sort of man Maude would find attractive be correct? She certainly had queer taste on occasion so Ezra put his thoughts to one side for the time being.

As the evening wore on, he began to relax and started to enjoy himself as he saw that his friends seemed to like Simon. His friends, in turn, certainly noticed the difference in Ezra´s demeanor as time went by. Starting off fairly sullen and quiet, he now talked and laughed with the rest of them. At the end of the evening, he even offered Simon a lift back to his hotel and the two men left together watched closely by the remaining six men.

When they´d gone, Chris said, “Well, Ezra loosened up, didn´t he?”

“Yeah. Musta been difficult for him to start off with. Can´t imagine what it would be like to have a parent just suddenly enter yer life after all those years. He seems to be starting to accept him though,” Buck observed. “Seems a nice enough fella. Could see that Ezra´s his son though in the matter of time keeping,” the ladies´ man laughed.

The rest of the men laughed too. They finished their drinks and drifted off home hoping that one of Ezra´s dilemmas had been solved, little knowing that it was just the start of a bigger problem altogether.

+ + + + + + +

Vin visited Ezra at home again the next day to see how he was. The undercover agent led him through to the living room and the two men sat on the couch.

“How do you feel about Simon now, Ez? He seemed nice enough,” the sharpshooter said.

“I still can´t make my mind up about him but I suppose that´s because I´m still getting used to having him around. Feels peculiar to actually have a father though after all these years.”

“I can imagine.”

“Maude still doesn´t remember him. Having said that though, she usually concentrates on parts of her lovers´ anatomy other than their face. If he showed her his sexual tackle she´d probably recognize him immediately.”

“Ezra! You crack me up. Whatever would Maude say hearing you talk about her like that?” Vin said as he continued laughing.

“I dare say she´d agree with every word. One thing you must have noticed about both Maude and me is that we´re very forthright in our opinions of one another. She knows my thoughts on her amatory activities,” Ezra said with a grin. “Anyway she´s slightly distracted at the moment and she´s not concentrating too much on my dilemma. She´s got a rather large problem of her own to deal with. She thinks one of her business partners is stealing money from her and she´s asked me to look into it. I bet someone´s just lost a few invoices down the back of a cabinet somewhere. Some of her employees are a bit lackluster with their organizational skills and I´m surprised she´s lasted so long without problems.”

“How much money is involved?”

“A substantial sum but we haven´t been able to estimate the exact total yet,” Ezra admitted.

“Jeez. You got a lot going on in yer life, ain´t ya?”

“I do indeed and most of it I could well do without, Mr. Tanner,” Ezra said as he rubbed his eyes wearily.

“Where do you go from here with the Simon situation?” Vin asked.

“God knows, Vin. I certainly don´t want to rush things.”

“Is Maude gonna meet him?”

“She hasn´t expressed an interest but that might be the next step. She´s as much involved in this as I am. Bit odd that Simon hasn´t asked to meet her again. You´d think he´d want to, wouldn´t you? I would also have thought he would´ve approached her first about all this but then I´m no expert in these sorts of things.”

“Na, nor am I. Are you seeing him again?”

“Yes, tomorrow and he suggested it might be an idea to go away for a few days together so we could spend some time alone. I´m not sure I want to go that far yet though. He´s pushing things a bit too much for my liking. I´m still getting used to saying the word ‘father´,” Ezra admitted.

“Things will settle down in time but just go at the speed you´re happy with. Don´t let him dictate things totally, Ez,” the sharpshooter advised as he patted his friend´s arm.

“I won´t. I might ask for a bit of a break after tomorrow and then contact him next week or something like that.”

“That sounds like a good idea. Gives you time to think things through without him breathing down yer neck all the time,” Vin said before he left his friend to ponder his numerous and varied problems.

+ + + + + + +

The next day after his meeting with Simon, Ezra did ask to be left alone for a while and the man agreed somewhat reluctantly. Ezra did a lot of thinking during that week and began to see things more clearly. The following week he tried to call Simon but could not make contact because the number he´d been given didn´t seem to work. He let a few more days pass by in the hope that Simon would phone him instead. They´d left it that one or other of them would call to arrange the next meeting. Simon didn´t call though and Ezra couldn´t understand after the man´s initial persistence in insisting they get to know one another that he should now let things hang fire. Okay, Ezra had asked for a break and he knew Simon hadn´t been happy about it but surely that wouldn´t be reason enough to cut ties altogether. Ezra could do no more though until Simon decided to get in contact with him. He certainly wasn´t going to start chasing round after him by visiting the hotel.

Ezra went into work a few days after failing to contact Simon and found that his colleagues were all out on assignments or taking personal time. He sat at his desk and worked for a couple of hours until his phone rang. He answered it within a couple of rings, hoping it would be Simon. “Standish.”

“Hello, Ezra. Have you had a chance to look at the information I sent you yet?”

“No, Mother. I have got other things on my mind at the moment and you´ve only just given me some of the relevant data that I needed. Now I have that, I will attempt to do a bit of checking today, okay? I´ll get back to you,” the undercover agent said.

“I do appreciate it, dear. I just cannot believe that one of my business partners is cheating me and it´s a good job I sent everything to you because all my copies of the relevant files have mysteriously disappeared,” Maude replied angrily.

“I beg your pardon? Are you positive? Well, in that case we have to deduce that they are attempting to cover up the irregularities. Does anyone know I have a copy?” Ezra asked getting slightly panicky.

“I really don´t know but I´ve tried to be careful. Take good care of it just in case, will you?”

“Why didn´t you get the police involved from the outset?” Ezra asked in exasperation.

“I didn´t have any solid evidence. That´s what you are supposed to be providing me with and you are the police, aren´t you?”

“You know what I mean but at least things seem to be a bit more definite now your records have vanished. Leave it with me, Mother. I´ll see what I can discover and let you know when I have something concrete.”

Ezra put his phone down hurriedly and started flicking through the files. He found all the names of Maude´s business partners and started looking on the police database to see if any had criminal records. He was about to give up when the name he had just put in reaped rewards. He stared at the screen and did a bit more checking and gasped as he saw a familiar face appear on the screen before him. He sat staring into space as he took in what he had just found out.

“Simon,” he said in disbelief as he looked at the photo staring back at him from the computer. “The name´s different….. Kevin Groening….. but it´s definitely him. Jesus Christ, how gullible am I to have fallen for the lost father routine?” Ezra shook his head angrily and then read the details from the computer out loud, “His son, Ben Groening poses as a wealthy businessman and then swindles his partners out of millions of dollars. My supposed father works in the background to get rid of the cash into offshore accounts. Dammit, what have you got me involved in, Mother?”   He picked the phone up and punched in the number Simon had given him with the same lack of results as before. Where the hell has the man gone? Ezra asked himself in increasing agitation. He decided to try and find him so he picked up his car keys and was just about to run out of the office when Vin ambled in. The sharpshooter saw the worried look on his friend´s face and he held out a hand and stopped him.

“Get out of my way,” the undercover agent shouted as he tried to get Vin´s hand off his arm. Vin let go with a yelp and shook his hand in pain when Ezra nearly broke his fingers in his haste to get away.

“Calm down, Ezra. What´s got you so worked up?” the sharpshooter asked as he stood directly in his friend´s path to block his way.

“Simon´s not my father. It seems he´s a con man and his name´s Kevin not Simon. God, what an unholy mess!” Ezra said in snatches as he tried to find a way round his friend.

“What?” Vin frowned at his friend´s words and led him out of the hearing of a maintenance man who was working in the hallway close by.

“It´s got something to do with the problem that Maude asked me to look into. Simon, or Kevin, works in partnership with his son to rip wealthy business people off and they seem to have succeeded with Maude too,” Ezra rambled as he fiddled with the keys he still held tightly. He suddenly started pacing up and down, muttering under his breath angrily as he flicked longing looks at the exit.

“Calm down, Ez. Come into the conference room and we´ll talk in private in case the others come back,” Vin urged when he saw how agitated his friend was becoming. Vin put his hand on the man´s shoulder to herd him inside but Ezra shrugged it off.

“No. I need to find him and get to the truth about the fraud. All Maude´s records have been stolen from her office but she luckily sent me a copy of everything beforehand. I also made sure I had another set made in case something went awry and it looks like I did the right thing.” Ezra turned away abruptly and made moves to head off again.

“Hold on, Ezra.” Vin reached out a hand and stopped his friend from leaving. “Yer not going anywhere on yer own in this state. I´m coming too. Let me grab my rucksack and I´ll be with you. Just wait there.” Vin collected his bag and saw that Ezra had disobeyed his order and started off without him. The sharpshooter nearly collided with the maintenance man outside the office in his haste to catch up with his friend. He apologized as he caught the man´s eye and then ran off down the hallway before catching up with Ezra just as he was about to enter the elevator.

They traveled down to the parking garage in silence and Ezra set off toward the hotel where he´d dropped Simon off the week before. Vin held on tight to the door handle as he was thrown around in his seat on the journey. Ezra was driving very fast and not very safely but they did arrive in one piece, much to Vin´s relief. The two men approached the front desk but according to the receptionist Simon had never stayed there. Ezra looked at her in disbelief and started shouting angrily at the top of his voice.

“What the hell are you talking about? I dropped him off here so he must be staying. Check again. Did you look under both the names I gave you?”

Vin put a calming hand on Ezra´s arm and pulled him away gently but firmly. He apologized to the woman and explained the situation but the outcome was inevitably the same.

Vin had to near enough drag Ezra out of the hotel and he took the car keys from his friend´s hand en route. He put Ezra in the passenger seat and then drove the Jag to The Saloon. Ezra very rarely let anyone else drive his pride and joy and the fact he didn´t protest when Vin did, made the sharpshooter realize how upset the man was. Vin parked outside the bar and hurried inside on his own but Inez hadn´t seen their quarry either. The sharpshooter decided to take Ezra with him to his apartment so he could keep an eye on him for the rest of the day. He certainly didn´t know where else to check for Simon at the moment and he didn´t want to leave Ezra on his own. Perhaps I can get some of the guys to help with the search. I´ll call them when I get back. He headed home and parked opposite his apartment block and the two men got out and started to cross the street. Vin kept a hand on his friend´s elbow to make sure he followed along.

The undercover agent was still in a daze but he heard a screech of tires and looked up slowly to see Simon´s truck hurtling toward them at speed. He became alert instantly and pushed Vin out of the way when he saw a gun being aimed at his friend. The sharpshooter fell heavily between two parked cars as he heard a bullet pass close by his head. As he lay on the ground he heard the truck hit something with a loud bang. Vin´s view was obscured by the cars he was lying between but he had seen and heard enough to know what had happened.

Ezra had tried desperately to get out of the vehicle´s way but whichever way he turned, the truck turned as well. It was as if he was a magnet. The truck finally made contact and the agent was flung in the air like a paper bag. He bounced up onto the hood and was then thrown over the top to land in a heap in the street behind it. Several bystanders screamed at the crunching impact and then began shouting.

Vin scrambled to his feet in horror knowing that his friend had just saved his life but may have been seriously injured, or even killed, in the process. He watched the truck speed away and then looked toward Ezra´s motionless body lying in the middle of the street. “No! Ezra!” he yelled as he began running in the man´s direction on shaky legs. “Ezra?”

The longhaired man skidded to a halt beside him and dropped to his knees. He put a hand over the terrible wound he could see on Ezra´s arm and he gagged at the sight of the nearly severed limb. “Oh, shit Ezra. Talk to me, buddy.”

A passer-by ran up behind him and shouted, “I´ve got the truck´s license plate and I´ve called the police and an ambulance. Is he alive?”

“Only just and he´s bad off.” Vin pulled out his cell with one hand and punched in Chris´s number with a shaking finger. He then held the phone precariously between his shoulder and ear before using both hands to try to stem the massive flow of blood from his friend´s body. “Chris? Chris……….. Oh shit……..”

“Vin? What´s the matter?” the blond asked with fear in his heart. He reached out and picked up a pen from the desk and fiddled with it unconsciously as he waited anxiously for an answer.

The sharpshooter felt cold, shivery and sick but he tried to keep his feelings under control so he could do what he could for the undercover agent. His voice though betrayed his emotions and it wavered and caught as he tried to speak to the blond to tell him what had happened. “Ezra…….Ezra………”

“Ezra what, Vin? Tell me what´s happened.” Chris had never heard Vin so upset that it actually stopped him from speaking. Buck appeared in the doorway after hearing Chris´s distressed voice and the blond beckoned him in anxiously. He changed the phone to speaker so Buck could hear what was said too and the ladies´ man sat in the chair opposite his oldest friend and listened with increasing alarm.

“Vin, are you there?” Chris heard the sound of sirens through the speaker and he felt cold all of a sudden. “Vin, where are you? What´s happened?”

“Outside my apartment. Ezra´s hurt………….Simon tried to kill both of us. Oh my God, he´s hurt real bad, Chris,” Vin babbled as his throat started to get drier and drier. He tried to get some saliva in his mouth to lubricate things but it didn´t have the desired effect. He opened his mouth to speak but no sound emerged. He swallowed the small amount of saliva he could produce but he still felt as if he was trying to swallow a whole egg.

“Calm down, cowboy. Take it easy. How is Ezra hurt, Vin?” Chris couldn´t take in what his friend was telling him. He flicked a worried look at the ladies´ man and then asked Vin, “Why would Simon try to kill you?”

Vin finally answered but with long pauses between his sentences. “His name´s not Simon. It´s Kevin............... The bastard hit Ez with his truck.............. He drove at him deliberately.”

“Shit. Do you want me to come pick you up?” Chris asked in confusion. He really didn´t understand what Vin was saying.

“No................ I´ll go with Ez in the ambulance............. Meet me at the hospital, will ya? He´s bleeding bad, Chris and his breathing´s getting worse.”

“Alright. I´ll be there. Just try to stay calm.” Chris slammed down the phone and grabbed his coat and keys and ran down to collect the Ram with Buck pounding along behind.

“Chris? Where ya going?” Josiah asked when he met his colleagues in the parking garage as he was driving in.

“Simon tried to kill Ezra and Vin. He hit Ez with his truck.”

“Shit. Do you need me to come?”   “We´ll go and see how he is first and call you when we know more,” Chris promised as he got in the Ram and headed out fast before Josiah could ask anything else. The two men reached the hospital in record time and ran to the waiting room to find Vin there on his own.

Chris sat beside him and patted his back while Buck squatted in front of the sharpshooter. “Vin? How ya doin´? You´re not hurt?” the blond asked as he saw his friend´s shaking hands were stained with blood.

“No……….. Ezra pushed me outta the way,” Vin answered with a trembling voice. He started picking at a thread on his shirt as he spoke and when it was long enough, he broke it off and began wrapping it round and round his finger distractedly.

Chris watched him worriedly and wondered whether he really was alright. He looked like he was suffering from shock to him. “Tell me exactly what happened, cowboy.”

Vin replied with a faltering voice, “Ezra was in the office when I got back from seeing Travis……. He said Simon wasn´t his father…………… He said it had something to do with Maude………. He was in an awful state………. We checked the hotel and The Saloon but Simon wasn´t there. He´d never stayed at the hotel by what the receptionist said. I just don´t understand what´s happening.” Vin paused and took a deep halting breath before continuing quietly, “I took Ez back home with me just so I could keep an eye on him and we were crossing the street when the truck came toward us fast. I didn´t see it but I heard it coming and heard a bullet come near me…………Ezra pushed me away…I fell and…then heard the truck hit him……… I´ll never forget that sound, Chris. His arm…….Jesus, his arm was……..” Vin stopped talking and sobbed as he leant against Chris for comfort.

The blond turned to Buck with real fear etched on his features. “Go and see if you can find out how Ezra is, will ya?”

“Sure thing. I´ll phone Josiah and get him to tell the others what´s happened.”

Buck patted Vin´s knee and disappeared hurriedly while Chris put his arm round Vin´s shoulder. He could feel the man shaking and he tightened his grip. Buck came back after his errands and sat beside Chris silently. The blond turned to face him and saw that Buck looked pale and even more worried.

“What did they say, Buck?”

“He´s got internal bleeding and done major damage to his arm. They wouldn´t go into details about it though. He´s got bad head and chest injuries including a possible collapsed lung. They´re taking him for surgery now,” the dark-haired man informed him quietly.

“Jesus Christ. Did you call Josiah?”

“Yeah. He´ll send everyone here.”

Nathan was the first to arrive and he took one look at Vin and got him admitted. The medic gave the hospital staff hell for not seeing how distressed the sharpshooter was. Chris went to keep his young friend company while Buck waited for news of Ezra. The rest of the team eventually turned up and sat quietly but in increasing panic when no one came to update them about the undercover agent´s condition. Nathan tried on several occasions to get news but no one was being particularly helpful.

A doctor finally arrived after many hours and Nathan rose to meet him. “How is he?”

“Lost a lot of blood. As fast as we put it in he lost it again. His arm was nearly severed at the elbow so we had to call in a specialist surgeon to reattach the artery, veins and nerves, which is why it has taken so long. It was touch and go whether we could save it and it´s still not certain now.” The doctor took a deep breath before continuing, “His lung collapsed but we´ve managed to sort that out and he´ll be on a ventilator until we´re sure he´s okay. The truck hit him square in the chest and that´s where most of his injuries are. He´s severely bruised and has numerous cuts and abrasions.”

“Will he recover?” Josiah asked. He felt as if he´d just been punched in the stomach. He couldn´t seem to catch his breath and he rubbed the area distractedly.

“Next twenty-four hours will be the watershed but if he gets through that he stands a good chance. That doesn´t take into account the status of his arm though. It will be a bit longer until we know if that operation has been successful. I can let one of you sit with him now if you like.”

Nathan followed him while Buck went to update Chris. The blond turned to the door as his oldest friend entered but he took one look at Buck´s face and rose to escort him out of Vin´s hearing.

“Bucklin?” Chris asked with terror in his tone.

“He nearly lost his arm, Chris. May do still. It was almost ripped off at the elbow and he´s lost a hell of a lot of blood,” Buck said with a trembling voice as he leant back against the wall. He raised one foot and put the sole against the wall and balanced on one leg as he stared at the floor.

Chris reached out a hand and patted his friend´s shoulder as he watched him closely. “Shit. No wonder Vin was in such a state. Is someone with Ez? I don´t want him left alone.”

“Yeah, Nate´s with him though Ez won´t know that. The doctor wouldn´t let more than one person be with him either ‘cause he´s so sick. God knows when he´s gonna wake up, Chris.”

“Least he´s got company. Doesn´t matter how many of us are with him or if he´s aware of us or not. It´s as much for our benefit as his. Did the doctor say how long it would be before they knew about his arm?”

“No. They´re not even sure if he´s gonna live, pard. He´s got bad chest injuries and the doctor said that the next twenty-four hours were critical to his survival.”

Chris just stared at his friend. “Shit. How can things go bad so quickly?” the blond asked as he shook his head at the news. “Look, I´ll take Vin home with me when they release him tomorrow. I want Simon, or whatever the hell his name is, found and I wanna know the reason for all this. If Ez dies, I want that piece of shit punished, Buck.”

Buck mentally shook himself and replied, “I´ll go to the office and start digging as soon I can, pard. A call´s already out on the truck. A witness got all the details and passed them onto the police. I´d better call Maude too and let her know what´s happened.”

“Thanks, Buck. Are you okay?” Chris asked worriedly when he saw his friend´s distraction.

“Not really. I just can´t get over what´s happened. It´s so callous. Not only in the way Simon tried to kill Ez but how he´s been messing with his emotions as well. It´s downright cruel.”

“I know, Bucklin and I feel kinda responsible. I encouraged Ez to keep seeing Simon when he wanted to walk away. If he dies, I´ll never forgive myself.”

“Don´t go down that road, Chris. I think Ezra woulda seen Simon again without your intervention. He wouldn´t have been able to leave things as they were. Hell, I know I wouldn´t.”


“There´s no maybe about it and I´m sure Ezra would back me up. It was his decision to make, pard.” Buck patted his friend´s back half- heartedly and left the man to go back and sit with Vin.

Buck did as he had promised and went outside the hospital to call Ezra´s mother to give her the bad news. She was speechless for a while as Buck told her everything that had happened and the possible reason for it all.

“Oh Good Lord. You´re saying it has something to with the trouble I´m having?” Maude paused as she collected her scattered thoughts and then continued, “Look I´d better explain exactly what Ezra was doing for me. It might be helpful in your investigations.” Maude told the tall agent everything.

“Ezra was working on it today?”

“Yes. When I called him at the office earlier he said he was going to make a start on it. He said he would get back to me when he had a lead but knowing Ezra though, he´d probably try and settle matters before contacting me again. I´d never have asked him to help me if I´d known he was going to be seriously hurt.”

“You weren´t to know, Maude,” Buck said placatingly. “Look, I´ll check things with Vin when he´s feeling better to see if I can get some more details. He seemed to know a bit about what Ezra was up to. I´ll check Ezra´s desk too at the office to see if I can track down the files you sent.”

Meanwhile back inside the hospital, Nathan had entered the undercover agent´s room and he sat down beside his friend. He could see Ezra´s arm was heavily bandaged and Nathan noticed the man´s fingers poking out the end of the bandage and he winced. They were as white as snow and the medic knew that was not a good sign. The undercover agent´s face was covered in bruises and cuts from where he´d hit the road and Nathan wondered what the rest of the man´s body was like. Nathan leant back in his chair and sighed. There was nothing much he could do at the moment but wait in the hope that Ezra would eventually wake.


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