Notes: If I've got any details wrong or there are spelling mistakes,
blame me. I can take it. Poor Ezra sure needs to find a better hiding place
in cyberspace. He knows what I'm like when I get my hands on him. Watch yer
back, Ez! I'm talking literally. This is for everyone who has taken the time
and effort to send me feedback. It is much appreciated and please keep them
coming because I love hearing from you.
Ezra patted his pockets until he located the one that contained the keys
to his Jag. He pulled them out and stood up after finishing the last of his
coffee. "Well, this has been a very pleasant evening but I'd better depart
because I desire a relatively early start for my drive up to Maude's tomorrow.
See you next week, gentlemen," the undercover agent said, little realizing
his friends would see him much earlier than that even if he didn't see them.
"You really goin' to bed early, Ez?" Vin drawled. "That must be a first.
Sure you ain't stoppin' off at some gamblin' den for an illicit game of poker
on the way home?"
"I assure you I am going straight home. I feel rather fatigued and I wouldn't
want to fall asleep at the wheel tomorrow during the journey," the undercover
agent replied reasonably.
"Just kidding, Ez. I know you're only being a responsible citizen. You enjoy
a good safe drive home," the sharpshooter teased as he smiled broadly.
"Give my love to Maude, won't ya?" Josiah requested with a twinkle in his
"I will do no such thing, Mr. Sanchez. Do your own courting. If you're so
enamored of her, you can inform her yourself. Please leave me out of the
whole sordid affair," Ezra said indignantly as he walked toward the door
with a wave and a grin.
His friends settled back, once he'd gone, and continued their conversation
over another cup of coffee.
"A whole week without Ez. It's sure gonna be quiet," JD commented loudly
after slurping in a mouthful of his drink.
"You'll more than make up for it by the sound of it, JD," Vin laughed as
he punched the youngster's arm lightly.
"Ignore him, kid. Anyway you'd all better make the most of Ezra's absence.
You never know, he may get fed up with Maude and come home early. You know
what those two are like when they get together. Sparks usually fly. Surprised
he agreed to spend a whole week with her in the first place," Buck grinned.
The group of men talked companionably for another couple of hours before
deciding to head home. Chris paid the bill and waited in the hotel's foyer
for JD to join him. The youngster was going to stay with Chris for the night
because he was riding one of the blond's horses in a competition the next
day. JD finally appeared along with the others and they wandered out into
the parking lot.
"Gee, it's got colder," JD said as he shivered and wrapped his arms around
his body protectively.
"Well, let's not hang about out here, then. See ya on Monday, guys," Chris
said as he put a hand on JD's shoulder and steered him away before he could
start talking again.
Buck called after them, "Behave yerself, kid. Don't do anything I wouldn't
"Yeah, yeah." The kid waved and then accompanied Chris to the Ram.
The blond got in and started the motor after putting his seatbelt on. He
switched on the headlights and looked at the area of lawn that was lit in
the beam. He then looked back over his shoulder to make sure it was safe
and began to pull out of his parking space slowly when the way was clear.
As he reversed, the headlight's beam moved to illuminate other parts of the
hotel's gardens with an eerie light.
"Chris! Stop," JD said loudly as he placed a hand on the blond's arm gently.
The blond frowned and did as instructed. "What is it, kid? You forget somethin'?"
"No, I thought I saw something strange in the headlights. Can you move back
into the parking space slowly so I can look again?"
Chris nodded and moved forward and kept his eyes fixed on the headlight's
beam too. He then saw what JD had noticed and he squinted as he leaned forward
to try and distinguish the shape. He sighed in frustration when the image
didn't get any clearer. The shape was slightly obscured from full view by
some shrubs so the blond decided to investigate further. He left the Ram's
motor running and the headlights on as he hopped out of the vehicle nimbly.
JD got out as well and the two men walked across the grass together. As the
blond drew nearer he broke into a run when he realized what he was looking
at. He came to a sliding halt and dropped to his knees beside his undercover
"Ezra?" he called as he touched the prone man's shoulder gently. He then
turned to JD and said, "Well done for spotting him, JD. You did real well,
kid." The blond turned back to the injured man anxiously again. "Ezra? Can
you hear me? Shit! JD, see if Nate's left already. He's in real bad shape."
"Sure." The youngster turned and hurried to find the medic as Chris called
for an ambulance. The blond looked down at Ezra's pale battered features
again and cursed.
Meanwhile, Nathan was driving toward the exit to join the freeway. He looked
in his rearview mirror and saw the shadowy outline of someone waving his
or her arms frantically in the air. He stopped and pulled over curiously.
He heard the sound of crunching footsteps on the gravel and JD suddenly appeared
at the window.
"Nate? You gotta come quick. It's Ezra." The youngster didn't wait to see
if Nathan obeyed but set off back in the direction he'd appeared from.
The medic climbed out of the Explorer and broke into a run to catch up. What
about Ezra? he wondered. He left hours ago. Nathan saw JD head
across the grass and then spotted Chris kneeling on the ground beside someone.
The medic quickened his pace immediately in concern and reached the blond
fast. He looked down and saw Ezra curled up on his side with a large knife
protruding from his back.
"Shit!" Nathan dropped to his knees and studied the area where the knife
had gone in. He could feel something cold soaking his pants at the knees
and he knew it was blood. He looked down and saw the grass looked brown instead
of green in the Ram's headlights.
"He's been beaten too, Nate. Looks like he put up a hell of a fight," Chris
"Yeah, I can see. Whatever happened, the knife put an end to it all. He's
been stabbed once near his kidneys and that blow probably sent him to his
knees. The knife was then plunged into his back again and Ez couldn't have
fought back after that. The knife's gone very close to his heart, Chris.
It's got at least a six inch blade judging by the size of the hilt."
"Godammit. JD? See if Ezra's car has gone 'cause his keys definitely ain't
here. See if theft is the reason for this."
The youngster disappeared once more and came back breathlessly accompanied
by the remainder of his friends. They'd seen the static headlights and come
"Yeah, it's gone, Chris," JD confirmed quietly.
"Shit. Vin, JD. Go and find out if the hotel staff saw anything suspicious.
See if they've had any other thefts too and put out an APB on Ezra's car
too." Chris turned back to Nathan after issuing his orders. "How is he?"
"Bad. Lost a lot of blood. If he wakes, which I'm doubtful he will, I need
to keep him still. The knife is very close to his heart as I said before
and one false move could kill him." The medic then turned his attention back
to the injured man and said, "Ezra? Can you hear me? It's Nathan." He knew
he wouldn't get a response but he had to try. "Buck? Can you get me the first
aid box out of the Ram?"
"Sure thing." The tall man hurried to the vehicle and returned with the requested
Nathan opened it up and began doing what he could for the injured agent.
The medic was worried because he knew Ezra had been lying outside for a couple
of hours already. He focused totally on the job at hand and ignored the other
men's intermittent questions. His friends stood around anxiously and watched
the medic working feverishly to stem the flow of blood from Ezra's body.
Although Chris had done what he could for the injured man he was nowhere
near as skilled as Nathan. Josiah eventually heard the ambulance's siren
and he moved to direct it as near to Ezra as he could.
The paramedics ran to the huddle of men on the grass and took over from Nathan
after first getting the facts. They spent a long time getting the undercover
agent stabilized before finally moving him to the emergency vehicle.
Vin and JD arrived back at exactly that moment and reported that the hotel
had experienced several vehicle thefts over the past few weeks. JD also confirmed
that he'd put a call out on the Jag and that the police would contact him
if it was found.
The men then followed behind the ambulance as they had done on numerous occasions
in the past. They arrived at the hospital and went through to the waiting
room. Nathan though accompanied Ezra to see what was going to happen to him
and he came back after a while looking grim.
"Nate?" Buck asked anxiously as he stood and placed a comforting hand on
"They've taken some x-rays of the knife's position and it's actually resting
against his heart. They've just taken him up for surgery but it's gonna be
difficult to get it out without doing serious damage. It could kill him,
"Damn. What do you really think his chances are?" Chris asked solemnly from
where he was listening.
"Look, he's pretty sick after the amount of blood he's lost and the knife
wound to his kidney area was very deep too. He's critically ill, Chris."
JD's pager beeped at that moment and the youngster looked at the message
and walked outside into the open air. He pulled out his phone and punched
in the required number. After having quite a long conversation he returned
to the waiting room and approached Chris. "They've found Ezra's car."
"Buck? Go with JD and check it out. I want those bastards caught," Chris
snarled with a steely look on his face. "Keep me informed."
The two named men walked out and drove to the area where the Jag had been
"Why steal it and just leave it after what they did to Ez?" JD asked quietly.
"I don't know, Kid. Let's see what we can find out." Buck approached the
forensics team and showed his ID. "Hi, I'm Buck Wilmington and I'm an ATF
agent. This car belongs to one of my teammates and he's currently in the
hospital after the bastards who stole it stabbed him. Have you got any leads
"Found a few fingerprints but we don't know who they belong to yet. The police
are also checking some CCTV films from the area to see if they can catch
the culprits in the act of dumping the car."
"Are they being looked at now?" Buck asked eagerly.
"Where? I want to see them too," the ladies' man demanded.
"They've got them at the local police precinct. I'll ring ahead and let them
know to expect you if you like."
"Thanks. Here's my number too. Call me if you get anything about the fingerprints
or learn something else that may be of use to us."
"Sure. Tell me, is your friend badly hurt?" the man inquired as he studied
the two serious-looking men in front of him.
"Yeah. Fighting for his life," Buck replied solemnly.
"I'll call as soon as I get anything, I promise."
The two ATF agents headed to the police precinct and were sent through to
see the films. They sat quietly and watched every minute and their patience
was rewarded. They saw the two thieves dump the car and walk away from the
vehicle as if they owned it, even locking the doors after them. The pictures
weren't too clear so JD set about trying to enhance the quality so they could
hopefully identify the thieves.
Back at the hospital, Nathan came back after checking the progress being
made to remove the knife from Ezra's back. "They got it out but he's hemorrhaging
badly. His heart wasn't touched but the blade had done major damage to other
areas on its way in and out."
"Jesus Christ," Chris said as he turned to look out the window with unseeing
eyes. He remained motionless, for once, as he stared into the distance and
thought back over events angrily.
He was still there an hour later when a doctor appeared and smiled wearily.
"We've got the bleeding under control but that loss combined with what he's
already lost means he's very sick. He's on life support and I really can't
say if, or when, he'll come off it."
"Can I see him?" Chris asked impatiently. He'd barely managed to keep his
cool during the long wait for news of his agent.
"No, I'm sorry not yet. He's really not well enough."
"Doc," Chris interrupted insistently as he put a hand on the man's arm.
The doctor held up his hand and shook his head negatively. "No. Not until
we're satisfied with his condition."
Chris scowled. "Look, can't I just look through the window? I won't get in
the way and I really need to see him."
The doctor stopped on his journey to the door and considered the request.
He turned back and nodded. "Okay but five minutes only. No more."
"Thanks, that's all I ask. I really appreciate it."
Chris followed the doctor out and his sneakers squeaked with every step he
took on the shiny floor. The sound seemed out of place in the quiet hallway
and he was glad when he reached his destination and could stand quietly.
He took up position outside Ezra's room and looked through the glass anxiously.
The area around the undercover agent's bed was cluttered with machines and
the blond shivered. He hated not being able to offer comfort to his friend
by either the sound of his voice or the touch of his hand. He wanted Ezra
to know that they were all there and willing him to survive. He put his hand
on the window and traced the outline of Ezra's face on the glass with one
finger as he continued to stare unblinkingly at the man in the bed. Although
transparent, the window was still a formidable barrier between him and his
agent. He may as well have been a hundred miles away for all the good his
presence outside the room was doing. He sighed unhappily and stayed his allotted
e minutes before heading back to the waiting room.
"Chris?" Josiah asked as soon as he entered the room.
The blond shook his head and sat down silently.
The profiler took a seat beside him and said, "I called Maude to tell her
what happened. I shoulda done it earlier."
"Thanks, Josiah. I hope next time you call her it will be with good news
but I have my doubts."
"Don't say that Chris. You know Ez is as tough as they come and he won't
give up without a fight. He fought hard enough to stay alive after they stabbed
him. To lie there for two hours when he coulda just given up takes a rare
type of inner strength," the big man said as he rubbed Chris's back gently.
"I don't know what strength he's got left to fight with now, Josiah. He looked
lifeless when I saw him just now," the blond admitted as he sat back and
ran both hands through his hair slowly.
The sound of alarms stopped the conversation and the four agents saw members
of the medical staff hurrying toward Ezra's room. Nathan rose immediately
and ran after them to see what was wrong. He returned ten minutes later with
more bad news.
"He started bleeding internally again. They've taken him up for surgery but
God knows if he'll survive it. They think one of his arteries may have had
a weakness in it, which could have affected him at any time under stress.
After the impact of his injuries now though, it couldn't deal with the extra
pressure it was being put under and ruptured."
"Jesus Christ," Chris said quietly. "Josiah? I think you'd better start calling
in a few favors from the good Lord. Sounds like Ez is gonna need him."
Two anxious hours later Ezra was returned to his room. The doctor settled
him in and then made his way to see the injured man's four friends. He smiled
at Chris as he entered the room and said, "He's still with us. He must have
the constitution of an ox 'cause I really thought we'd lost him. He's still
on life support and will be for the foreseeable future. Just hope nothing
like this happens again 'cause I don't think we'll be so lucky next time."
Josiah patted Chris's back and the two men smiled at one another. God had
come through for them once more. Not that Chris particularly believed in
God but he wasn't averse to asking for all the help he could get, from whatever
quarter, at times like these. He just hoped that their good fortune would
"Thanks for all you're doing, doctor," Chris said appreciatively. "Kinda
got used to having him around and I guess we'd feel like a three-legged dog
if we lost him. Still able to function but not quite complete. You know what
"Yes, I do," the doctor replied as he patted Chris's shoulder.
Buck and JD finally matched names to their suspects after much searching
and they set off immediately to track them down. Buck paged Chris and the
blond phoned back within minutes. The two men exchanged information and Buck
eventually disconnected with a loud sigh.
"What did he say, Buck? How's Ez?" JD asked anxiously as he saw the look
on the tall man's face.
"He's on life support, kid. He's real sick."
"Bastards. All for a car. A human life's worth more than that, ain't it?"
JD asked sourly.
"Just keep yer cool, kid. Don't let what happened to Ezra cloud yer judgment.
We need to catch 'em clean and legal. We don't wanna let them get away with
this 'cause we were too rough. You know what lawyers are like. They can get
someone off a charge over the stupidest things."
"I know. You stay calm too 'cause I know what you're like. You can be as
bad as Chris when you lose your temper," the youngster observed.
"I'll keep a lid on my feelings, don't you worry about that, JD."
The men drove to their first suspect's address and parked opposite. They
knocked on the property's front door several times but inevitably the man
wasn't there. Buck looked up and down the street and then looked at his watch
thoughtfully. "Let's stay here and see if he comes home. I'll see if some
of the other guys can go to the second address."
The two men wandered back to their parked car and climbed in to wait. Buck
pulled out his phone and managed to get hold of Vin. The ladies' man gave
the details of what he wanted and Vin agreed to go and stake out the other
house with Josiah. Buck disconnected and sat back quietly and prayed that
the man they wanted would turn up soon. He really wanted to get back to the
hospital to see Ezra.
After two hours had passed, JD poked Buck in the ribs and pointed to a man
who was approaching the house. Buck pulled out the photo he had in his pocket
and compared it with the new-arrival. He nodded to the youngster and they
both exited the vehicle and hurried across the street. They managed to get
to the man before he could get inside the property.
Buck planted himself on the doorstep so the man couldn't enter and JD took
up position close behind their suspect. The ladies' man held out his ID and
said, "Excuse me, can I have a word? I'm an ATF agent. Are you Barry Miles?"
The man fixed Buck with a stare and then looked back over his shoulder at
JD before replying, "Why do ya wanna know?"
"We've got you on film in a stolen car. The car belongs to a friend of ours
who was stabbed when the car was taken. Would you know anything about that?"
"No, it wasn't me. You're mistaken," Barry replied defiantly as looked back
at JD again.
"Well, can you tell us who this is in this photo then? He looks remarkably
like you," Buck snarled as he held up the photo within an inch of Barry's
"No, I don't know nothing," the man looked round for a means of escape but
JD had drawn his gun and held it unwaveringly in the man's direction.
"Well, come and tell us all about the 'nothing you don't know' down
at the local police precinct. You're under arrest for attempted murder, pal,"
Buck said and then read the man his rights as JD cuffed him quickly. They
received no resistance for which Buck was surprised but grateful. After what
had happened to Ezra he had expected trouble. He just hoped Vin and Josiah
were having a similarly easy time. They could do without anyone else being
They took Barry to the car and JD got in the back with him while Buck climbed
in the driver's seat. One down, one to go, the youngster thought as
he kept a close eye on his prisoner.
Vin and Josiah, meanwhile, headed to the second man's address as instructed
by Buck. As they pulled up outside they saw their man getting into a sports
car further down the street.
"Dammit. Hold on tight, Josiah. That bastard ain't gonna get away," Vin promised
The sharpshooter pulled out into the traffic once more and followed the car
at speed. He managed to keep the other vehicle in sight all the time and
fortunately there wasn't much traffic about to get in his way. They traveled
several miles through the city's streets until the man they were chasing
finally lost control of his car and crashed into an abandoned building.
Vin pulled in quickly behind it with screeching tires and both agents jumped
out and approached cautiously with guns drawn. The occupant suddenly leapt
out of the passenger side and tried to run away but Vin immediately gave
chase after snapping off a quick shot in his direction. The man ducked down
a side street and disappeared from sight so Vin increased his pace to catch
up. He turned the corner just in time to see his quarry jump a wire fence
down an alley and fall awkwardly on the other side. The sharpshooter leapt
the same obstacle with ease and was on the injured man before he could recover
his feet properly.
The man was propelled back to the ground and the sharpshooter stuck his gun
against the back of his head as he patted him down for weapons. Vin didn't
find any but he did come across a familiar set of keys. He growled angrily
at the sight of them and kept them balled in his fist. Josiah had caught
up by this time and he cuffed the man and read him his rights as Vin kept
the suspect covered from a distance.
The sharpshooter then moved forward and pulled their prisoner to his feet
and shoved him back hard against the wall. "You can join yer friend in jail
for attempted murder unless you wanna tell us anything. Who knifed the man
whose Jag you stole?"
"I don't know what yer talking about. I never stole nothin'," the man shouted
as he struggled to get free.
"Really? How come you had the keys to his car in yer pocket then?" Vin asked
as he dangled the jangling bunch in front of the man's face. "Perhaps you
can also tell me why yer bloody fingerprints were found on the weapon and
the car," Vin continued angrily as he slammed the man back against the wall
"Barry stabbed him, not me. I only touched the knife after he dropped it
on the ground when he left that man for dead. That interfering fancy bastard
shoulda butted out and then he wouldn't have got hurt. It was his own fault,
he asked for it."
"You're a damn liar. The knife was still in his back when we found him. Barry
didn't drop it and for you information that fancy bastard, as you called
him, happens to be a good friend and colleague of ours," Vin snarled.
The sharpshooter pulled the man roughly back toward the car and drove him
to the same precinct Barry had been taken to. The man immediately asked for
a lawyer so the two agents left him there in police care until the legal
man had arrived. Vin and Josiah then drove back quickly to the hospital and
ran through to the waiting room to find their four friends there.
"Any news?" Vin asked as he looked at the blond nervously.
"No. Still won't let anyone sit with him. How did you get on?" Chris asked.
"Got him. Just waiting for a lawyer."
"Buck and JD got their man to and he's also asked for a lawyer. They're gonna
need one after what they did. Least they're under lock and key so we can
concentrate on Ezra for the time being," Chris said and then looked up as
he heard the sound of footsteps in the hallway.
The doctor walked in and beckoned Chris toward him. "Mr. Larabee? You can
sit with him now, if you like. Just you though because he's still very sick."
"Thanks." Chris stood and followed along after him and entered Ezra's room
He sat beside his friend after patting his arm. "Come on, Ez. We got yer
car back and caught the bastards who stabbed you. Now all I need is for you
to wake up. Maude's worried about you and threatening to come down to see
ya. Please wake up so she don't." Chris smiled but saw there was no response
from the man in the bed.
Chris dozed fitfully in between bouts of talking to the injured man and four
hours later Ezra finally stirred. Chris was asleep but something alerted
him to the fact that the situation in the room had changed. He opened his
eyes and rubbed his brow roughly as he looked at the bed and saw Ezra's eyes
"Ez? Can you hear me?" Chris asked as he rose rapidly.
The undercover agent's eyelids continued to move but didn't open properly
so Chris reached out and put the palm of his hand against Ezra's cheek. Finally
the dark-haired man peeled his eyes open after feeling the gentle touch and
he blinked rapidly as he squinted painfully against the light.
"Ez? Stay with me. Yer doin' just fine," Chris said encouragingly as his
heart pounded in relief.
The undercover agent closed his eyes but opened them again almost straight
away. He eventually managed to focus on the blond and Chris smiled at him.
"Just stay awake Ez and I'll get the doc." The blond hurried out and came
back within minutes with the doctor.
The man checked Ezra over thoroughly and then turned to Chris. "We'll take
him off life support but leave him on the ventilator for the moment. He's
doing well all things considered. Do you mind stepping outside while we see
Chris took advantage of the break and went back to the waiting room and gave
the good news to his waiting companions. He stayed with them until he was
allowed back to see Ezra again an hour later. He then sent the other men
home so they could take over from him later on. JD and Buck, meanwhile, headed
back to the police precinct to begin questioning the suspects now their lawyers
An hour after he took a seat beside his friend Chris saw Ezra's eyes open
once more. He rose and leant over the man as he put a hand on his shoulder.
"Ez? How ya feeling?"
The undercover agent looked up with unfocussed eyes and then flexed the fingers
on his left hand as he closed his eyes again. Chris grabbed the appendage
and squeezed it gently as he continued watching the man closely.
"Ez? Come on now. I really need you to give me a sign that yer gonna beat
this." Chris felt the pressure on his hand increase slightly and he smiled.
The blond quickly moved his other hand to Ezra's head and stroked his hair
gently. "Ezra? Open your eyes. I know you can hear me," Chris said clearly.
"Dammit Standish, do as yer told for once."
Ezra heard Chris's familiar voice and forced his eyelids open to obey the
order. He blinked rapidly several times and finally settled his gaze on his
"There ya go, Ez. See what you can do when you put yer mind to it?" Chris
said quietly as he stroked Ezra's hair once more in relief.
The doctor happened to be walking by the door and looked in when he heard
Chris's voice. He smiled when he saw Ezra was awake and decided to use the
opportunity to check the man's progress again. "Hello, Mr. Standish. I'm
just going to have another look at you but I should think you can come off
the ventilator now."
Chris stood and watched silently and was pleased when the doctor's prophecy
came true. The blond took back his place beside Ezra after the doctor had
gone and said, "Bet that feels better Ez, don't it?"
Ezra smiled as he fell asleep and the next time he woke up, a full day and
a half later, Josiah was beside him. The big man heard the undercover agent
sigh loudly as he opened his eyes slowly after his prolonged rest.
"Hello son. You've missed three other visitors you know. Yer doin' an awful
lot of sleeping," the profiler informed him quietly.
"Apologies, Mr. Sanchez. One visitor wasn't Maude, perchance?" Ezra asked
with a dry, croaking voice as he raised a shaking hand to his head.
"No unfortunately not, Ez," Josiah replied as he gave the man a drink to
help lubricate his throat.
"Thank Heaven for small mercies," Ezra groaned as the big man settled him
back on the pillows gently.
"Don't be like that, Ez. You know I'd have been pleased to see her even if
"Yes, I know that but the thought of you drooling over her is rather a disturbing
thought for someone in my condition, Mr. Sanchez," Ezra admitted and then
"You know I'd gladly marry her," Josiah teased as he rubbed the man's arm
"Oh please. Do you take pleasure in torturing injured people?" Ezra
asked in a plaintive tone.
"I'm a persistent man when I want something so you'd better get used to the
idea of us becoming husband and wife, Ezra."
"Oh dear Lord." Ezra yawned and said quietly as he closed his eyes once more,
"Oh well, you asked for it, Josiah. Goodnight Pa."
"Goodnight son," Josiah replied as he laughed and ruffled Ezra's hair lightly.