by Hombre

Josiah arrived to collect his friend early the next morning and the big man had to admit he was becoming really concerned about Ezra's odd behavior. He'd been thinking about it all night and knew there was more to the problem than met the eye. He now wished he'd done something about it yesterday because today Ezra seemed highly agitated, fidgety and very scared. He was very quiet and would still only answer Josiah's questions with one word instead of his usual long, half-understood speeches. <P> "Are you alright, Ez?" Josiah asked after ten minutes of silence had gone by.


"You're a bit quiet. Are you sure there's nothing wrong?" No response. The profiler tried to study the man beside him without making it too obvious what he was doing.

Ezra stared out the window and seemed to be looking at every passerby or car with a high degree of mistrust. When Josiah pulled up at an intersection and a car drew up beside Ezra's window the agent actually put up a hand to hide his face from view. Josiah saw the man peeking through his fingers to look at the driver surreptitiously as if expecting trouble from him. Once they moved on and the car turned off Ezra finally removed his hand but maintained his state of high alertness. He even started turning round to check over his shoulder and looking in the rearview mirror to watch the traffic behind too.

"What's up, Ez?" Josiah asked after a while when his friend looked over his shoulder for about the tenth time in as many minutes.

"Nothing," the agent snapped irritably. "Mind your own damned business." Ezra had a bottle of water clutched tightly in his hand and he took a quick sip after muttering the six words. He then started tapping the bottle against his thigh impatiently and began talking quietly under his breath.

"Faster," the dark-haired man ordered loudly all of a sudden as he caught sight of a red Cadillac behind them.

"'Scuse me?" Josiah asked as he flicked a quick look across at his friend. The man looked exceedingly pale, sweaty and terrified.

"Go faster, I said. Are you deaf?" Ezra shouted almost maniacally as he began hyperventilating.

"I'm going the limit. Why do you want me to go faster, Ezra?" the profiler asked but he got no reply.

Josiah was getting increasingly worried because Ezra's behavior now seemed to be changing with each passing minute. He also noticed that the undercover agent's words were becoming slightly slurred. The big man was glad when he finally pulled into the parking garage at work after the highly uneasy journey. He parked and accompanied the still muttering Ezra into the elevator and up to their floor. Josiah walked along the hallway with his companion when Ezra suddenly dived off into the rest room without so much as a word of explanation. Josiah hesitated, not sure what to do for a minute. Go and check on him to make sure he was alright or leave him be? He eventually decided to leave the man alone and went in search of Nathan instead while he had the chance to talk to him alone. He didn't feel he could leave things as they were any longer. The profiler found his friend sitting at his desk and he tapped the man on the shoulder and beckoned him into the conference room. Nathan look!  ed up and frowned but followed his friend where he indicated.

"I'm real worried about Ezra," Josiah said as soon as his friend was inside and had closed the door. The profiler leant back against the table with the palms of his hands laid flat on the surface behind him.

"Why? Is he sick?"

"Maybe mentally," the big man sighed as he rubbed his brow anxiously.


"He's acting really strange, Nate. On the journey here it was almost as if he thought we were being followed. He seemed genuinely frightened at times. He was real quiet and highly agitated and then started talking to himself."

"Well, we all do that from time to time. I know he was unsettled at the hospital but I thought it would pass. Is it just today that you've noticed it?"

The big man shook his head and grimaced. "No. He was acting out of character yesterday too but I just thought it was the aftereffects of the accident. He just seems to have been getting worse but I really can't explain it, Nate."

"I wonder what can have caused it," Nathan said thoughtfully.

"I really don't know, Nate. I just wanted to say something so I could see what you think too. If he needs help the sooner he gets it the better and he's certainly not the Ezra we all know. I shoulda said something to you yesterday 'cause I was worried then and I could kick myself for not acting sooner but I thought I was being oversensitive. I know people act differently in these sort of circumstances so I thought I'd wait and see how Ez was today seeing as the accident only happened within the last few days. I was wrong though, wasn't I?" Josiah sighed loudly.

"Okay, don't panic. You've done the right thing now. Have you told Chris about this yet? Ezra is due to do that big undercover operation with the CIA next week if you remember."

"Shit, no I'd forgotten about that. I'll see him next. Thanks Nate, I hate the idea of spying on Ezra but it may be for his own good," Josiah commented quietly as he bowed his head and closed his eyes briefly.

"I know what you mean. Don't worry, I won't make it obvious but if he's acting strangely it will be hard to miss."

The two men walked back out into the office and while Nathan sat back at his desk, Josiah knocked on Chris's door. Ezra looked up from his own desk and watched Josiah suspiciously as he entered the blond's office. The undercover agent then felt eyes on him from someone nearby and he looked round quickly to try and see who it was. Nathan managed to look away quickly enough so Ezra didn't know it was him. He peeked out the corner of his eye at the man and saw him studying each of the two other agents who were currently present before turning his eyes back to look at Chris's door unblinkingly.

Josiah hovered in front of Chris's desk apprehensively. It didn't usually worry him to talk about awkward topics with his boss but this was slightly different. The blond looked up when Josiah didn't speak and narrowed his eyes when he saw the man's unease.

"Josiah? Is something wrong?"

"I don't know how to say this, Chris. It's a bit awkward."

Chris pointed to the chair as he put aside his pen so he could concentrate fully on the profiler. He could see that the man was highly unsettled. "Sit down and say it straight out, Josiah. I find that's always the best way."

Josiah perched uncomfortably on the edge of the seat and sighed. "It's Ezra."

"What about him?" Chris asked with a frown when Josiah stopped.

The big man met his boss's eyes and said with a wince, "He seems mentally unstable."

"Run that by me again, will ya? I don't think I caught it that time. Mentally unstable? What makes you say that?" Chris asked in confusion as his frown deepened and he tilted his head on one side questioningly.

Josiah explained about the undercover agent's behavior and Chris listened quietly but certainly not calmly. The blond thought back to Ezra's behavior at the hospital and when he'd driven him home and could see what Josiah was getting at. When the profiler had finished his explanation the blond stood and went to the door. "Nate? Can you come in here for a minute?"

The medic joined his two friends and was aware of Ezra's eyes almost boring into his back with the intensity of his stare. The medic sat down on another chair that Chris moved into place for him. The blond then sat on the edge of the desk in front of them with one foot on the floor for balance and the other leg swinging distractedly.

"Nate? You've heard about Josiah's thoughts on Ezra's state of mind?"

"Yeah," the medic confirmed.

"What do you think?"

"Well, I haven't really had time to observe him for that long. He seemed unsettled when Josiah came in here and his gaze has been fixed on the door ever since. He realized I was watching him, well....... that someone was watching him is what I mean. He looked round quickly and I managed to avoid his eyes but he looked at everyone very carefully before setting his eyes back on this office again. He seems very alert and suspicious but until I've talked to him I can't really say for sure how he is."

"Josiah? You've had more experience with people with mental problems. Can you guess what might be causing Ezra's behavior? Are you sure it's mental and not drugs or something? Could it be schizophrenia? Is it something to do with the head injury he had in the accident?"

Nathan held his hands up to stop the flow of questions. "Chris, I saw his skull x-rays myself. There was no damage whatsoever, I swear. Nothing to cause a change in behavior like this anyway."

"Josiah?" Chris asked as he turned back to get an answer to his other questions.

"I really can't tell, Chris. He needs tests to confirm what it is and he ain't likely to agree to that any time soon. I think he needs watching first but I think you ought to take him off the CIA operation next week to be on the safe side."

"Are you positive?"

"Until we know more, yes," the profiler said insistently. Now Josiah had got things started he wasn't going to let up until they found the cause of Ezra's problem.

"Okay. Send Ezra in, will you? I want to see for myself how he's acting."

"Sure." The two men rose and walked back out into the office. Josiah felt the undercover agent's eyes on him as soon as he entered the room. He had to admit it was very unsettling but he walked over to the man and said, "Ezra? Chris wants to see you."

"What have you told him?" Ezra whispered angrily. "You told him lies, didn't you? He told me you would."

Vin looked up, startled at the venom he heard in the usually easygoing agent's voice.

"Ezra? A word," Chris called after catching sight of the hostility that was plain to see on the man's face.

The dark-haired man rose angrily and strode into Chris's office still clutching his bottle of water as if it was a lifeline. He sat where he was told to and looked challengingly at Chris. He was beginning to feel increasingly claustrophobic and he was sure there was a conspiracy against him amongst his colleagues. His mood kept changing from fear to anger and back again as he contemplated his situation.

"I'm having to take you off the CIA case next week," Chris told the man. "I need you here."

"What did he say to you?" Ezra asked aggressively.

"Who?" Chris asked innocently as he studied the man opposite him. He could see that the undercover agent was not his usual tidy self. He was slightly disheveled and his hair wasn't quite as neat, which in itself was very unusual. The man was always fastidious about his appearance.

"Josiah, that's who," Ezra snarled with a look of pure contempt on his face.

"He didn't say anything, Ez. Why? Should he have done? Is there anything you want to tell me?"

"No. Just tell me why he was in here."

"I was only telling him about the change of plans for next week because he's been involved in the case from the start."

Ezra shook his head negatively. "He came to see you. He knocked on your door of his own volition not because you called him to see you," the undercover agent contradicted.

Chris thought on his feet. "Nate told him some of the details first. That's why they were in the conference room earlier and Josiah just came to confirm things with me afterwards." The blond wasn't sure his explanation sounded plausible but it was the best he could come up with at short notice.

Ezra narrowed his eyes and looked highly skeptical. He looked down at his hands and started fiddling with the ring on his finger once he'd put the water bottle in his pocket for safekeeping. He turned the ring round and round and began muttering angrily again.

"Pardon?" Chris asked from where he was watching the man intently. He had noticed earlier that Ezra had pinpoint pupils and he frowned in concern.

Ezra jumped as Chris's voice got through the fog in his mind. The undercover agent looked up as if suddenly remembering where he was. "What?" he asked breathlessly as his eyes flicked around the room worriedly. The furniture went in and out of focus and he rubbed his eyes irritably.

"You said something," Chris replied calmly.

"No," Ezra said out loud as his inner voice started talking again. He's getting suspicious. Don't trust him. Ezra shook his head and looked over his shoulder as the voice spoke. He was positive he would catch whoever was talking to him and he frowned when he saw there was no one there.

"You did Ezra. You said something," the blond repeated.

Ezra turned back to face Chris and stared at him as he put a hand up to his mouth and frowned. He chewed his nail and then scratched his head as he stared at Chris nervously. "You're trying to confuse me. I didn't say anything. I know I didn't.......I know....I know. Didn't. He told me about you. Told me I shouldn't trust you........ I saw you yesterday outside my house. You were following me....... chasing me."

"No, I wasn't, Ez. I haven't seen you since I took you home from the hospital." Chris raked Ezra from head to foot with a penetrating stare. He could see the man opposite him shaking constantly as he sat awkwardly on his chair like a naughty schoolboy.

"I saw you. I know it was you." Ezra felt panic rise in him. The feeling of paranoia was growing with each passing minute and he really didn't know how to handle it. He felt increasingly as though everyone was an enemy, even his friends, and he didn't know what to do. The voice he kept hearing in his head and the strange things that he thought he saw were highly unsettling and contributed to his feeling of doom.

Chris watched the emotions flicking across the man's face opposite him and he knew Josiah had been right to be worried. The things that the man had just said gave cause for alarm as well. Who was Ezra talking about? Chris wondered. The blond rose and walked round to sit on the desk nearer Ezra in an attempt to put him at ease. Ezra, however, saw it as a threat and backed his chair away hurriedly so he ended up sitting in the middle of the room.

"You've been watching me at my house. I've seen you in a car outside....... Stay away, don't come near me.......... I'm warning you," the dark-haired man muttered haltingly as he fiddled with his jacket distractedly.

Chris put his hands up and stayed where he was. He was worried because he knew Ezra was armed and he didn't want to do anything to create a bad situation. He kept a close eye on his agent and stood up slowly. He needed a way of disarming him safely but he didn't have the slightest idea of how to achieve it.

While he was contemplating his dilemma, JD, who had been out of the building, suddenly burst into the office, unaware of what was going on inside. Buck had tried to stop the kid but hadn't managed to catch him in time. Ezra sprung up as Chris whirled round in surprise at his youngest agent's noisy entrance. The undercover agent moved rapidly across the room and grabbed Chris round the throat and put his gun against the man's temple. If Chris had needed any more evidence to prove Ezra's worrying state of mind he now had it.

"Back away or I'll blow his head off," Ezra yelled hysterically as he stared at JD. "Back off now.......I'm telling you...I'll kill him....kill him....kill."

JD came to a sliding halt with a look of absolute terror on his face. He put his arms in the air and backed up to the door hurriedly. The men outside heard the shouting but did not approach the office for fear of making Ezra carry out his threat. They all stood up though so they could see what was going on in case they were needed, which was more than likely all things considered.

JD stared at Ezra and saw the wild eyes and shaking hands. He moved his gaze to Chris and saw the fear on the man's face. That was an emotion he wasn't used to seeing in the older man and it made the youngster uneasy. If Chris was scared then God help the rest of them. The kid knew Ezra was likely to do what he had threatened so he decided to try and diffuse the situation.

"I ain't moving, Ezra. Why don't you put the gun down? Chris ain't gonna hurt ya so there's no need for all this."

"Shut up. Just shut up! I can't hear what he's saying to me.....I can't hear," Ezra said as he shook his head and then looked toward the door. Leave the room. You've got to get out. Must get away from them before it's too late.

JD narrowed his eyes and studied the undercover agent intently. What the man had just said didn't make any sense at all. He looked back over his shoulder and saw the rest of the men watching anxiously outside from a distance. Josiah and Nathan had just been bringing the other men up to speed with Ezra's condition and the profiler now knew what he had suspected was actually true. The men stood with bated breath waiting to see what was going to happen. All, that is, except Buck.

The tall agent caught Ezra's eye and moved slowly to the office door with hands outstretched. He didn't want Ezra to do something he would later regret. "Ezra? It's Buck. I know you're confused and don't know what to do but hurting Chris won't help ya. Why don't you give me yer gun? I promise nothing will happen to you. We'll get you some help, pard." The ladies' man advanced slowly with arms still outstretched in a placating gesture. He kept eye contact but the undercover agent looked back at him as if he was a stranger.

Ezra watched Buck warily as he approached and tightened his grip on Chris's throat in reaction. The blond couldn't help but cough at the increased pressure and Ezra jumped in fright at the sound. He looked at the man he held and then the two men in front of him. He backed up as Buck got closer and Chris could feel him still trembling continuously. Just don't tremble too much and pull that damned trigger, Ezra, he pleaded silently as he sent a warning look to Buck.

The undercover agent saw the others outside the office and he felt trapped. He started looking round the room in panic and Buck knew he was going to do something stupid. Ezra suddenly pulled his gun away from Chris's head and fired it erratically in Buck's direction. All the men ducked instinctively and sincerely hoped that the bullet wouldn't find a human target. Ezra took advantage of their distraction and pushed Chris forcefully in the back so he collided with the other two men in the office. Buck, JD and Chris fell to the floor in a tangle of limbs and with a lot of muffled curses. Ezra was out the door and off down the hallway before any of them had recovered. He was free but he had no idea of where to go to get away from his nightmare. Vin made moves to give chase but Chris called him back.

"Vin? No!"

"Why? He's crazy."

"No. Just leave him. I don't want him tackled in his present frame of mind. He ain't crazy. Something's wrong but he ain't mad."

"We need to follow to see where he goes. He may hurt someone else or hurt himself," Vin said insistently. "You can't just leave him like he is, Chris. He needs help."

The blond nodded reluctantly in acknowledgement. "He ain't got transport, has he? Alright, Nate and Josiah, you go after him on foot. Just follow him and only intervene if he looks like doing something to hurt someone. Don't hurt him unless you have to but keep in touch. If you can detain him safely then all well and good. JD and Buck, go to his house and see what you can find there. See if there are any drugs or anything out of the ordinary. Nate? If Ez looks as though he's heading home call Buck, will ya? I don't want him stumbling on them by accident. Right, I need to see Travis to tell him about all this. Vin, you'd better stay here and listen for Nate and Josiah's updates," Chris ordered breathlessly before he hurried along to see Travis.

"Chris wait," JD called as he ran along after the black-clad man.

The blond turned to face the youngster and JD said, "Look, I'm sorry I barged into your office. I was just coming to tell you that they've narrowed the list of cars down to five. They're gonna go and look at them all to see which, if any, could be the correct one."

"Thanks, kid. Let me know what else you learn." The blond patted JD's shoulder and went off to see his boss. He came back after half an hour and sat next to Vin.

Vin had his feet up on the desk as if he was relaxing but Chris could see that the man was as uptight as he was. The sharpshooter looked up as Chris's shadow fell over him. "You okay, cowboy? Bit of a shock Ezra threatening you like that."

"I'm okay. Bit shaken I admit but it'll pass. Heard anything from Josiah yet?"

"They're still following. He don't seem to be heading home yet and is just wandering about aimlessly. Still seems very angry and he's shoutin' at anyone who gets in his way."

Chris shook his head and looked down at the floor as he rested his elbows on his knees in defeat. "Jesus Christ. What do you think can be making him act like this?"

"Vin?" The radio crackled interrupting the conversation.

The sharpshooter slammed his feet back on the floor and picked it up anxiously and said, "Still here, buddy."

"Lost him," Josiah admitted quietly.

Chris plucked the radio from Vin's hand and barked, "Shit. How?"

The big man winced as he heard the blond's obvious displeasure. "He spotted us and went ballistic. He was shouting, screaming almost and then he ran across the street. He only just missed being hit by the traffic. We followed for a while but lost him in the crowd. I'm really sorry, Chris."

"Godammit. Come back in, will ya?" Chris slammed the radio down on the desk and swore. He got up and stood with one hand on his hip as he ran the fingers of his other hand through his hair nervously, while staring into the distance distractedly.

"Now what?" Vin asked as he watched his friend warily. The sharpshooter could almost feel the tension in the air and he wondered whether Chris was on the verge of erupting like a once-dormant volcano.

The blond, however, managed to keep a hold on his temper and answered in a reasonable tone, "Don't know. I'd better ring Buck in case Ezra does go home now. I don't want him approached again until we know exactly what's wrong with him. Seeing us just seems to make him behave even worse." Chris picked up his cell and punched in his oldest friend's number and updated him with the minimum of words.

"We've got a lot to tell you, Chris. Something real weird is going on but I'll tell you everything when we get back, pard," the ladies' man said before he disconnected.

Josiah and Nathan turned up first, offering profuse apologies and the other two agents weren't far behind.

"Bucklin?" Chris asked as soon as the man walked in.

"His water's been contaminated."

"What?" the blond said incredulously.

"You noticed he had a bottle of water with him?" Buck asked and received a nod in reply. "Well, it's got something in it other than water. JD took a bottle from his fridge and got it analyzed and it's got small amounts of two drugs in it so every time Ez drinks it he's ingesting more. The lab said the two drugs are in different quantities in the mixture but we're still waiting to hear exactly what narcotics are involved. We don't know how long he's been drinking it but now I think about it has only got to be since the accident. I ain't ever seen him with a bottle before that."

JD continued the tale, "We also found some miniature surveillance cameras set up in most rooms in his house. Also a couple of speakers in the bedroom sorta set in the headboard by the pillows. They were very well hidden and I only found 'em by mistake. I'm gonna check his phone records to see who has called him and who he's called to see if that has any bearing on this."

"JD, go and find out about the drugs first. Bug 'em until they give us an answer and I wanna hear as soon as they know anything," Chris ordered as the men split up to start their investigations.

The kid disappeared and rang within the hour. "Chris? One is a hallucinogen of some sort. That's the drug with the slightly smaller dose. It resembles the combined effects usually created by PCP and LSD but the guys have only ever seen it once before. It's got some great long name but it's definitely what's been causing Ezra's problems. The other one they're not so sure about but they'll continue testing it to find out exactly what it does and how it reacts with the hallucinogen. At least we know why he says he's hearing voices and we can expect more violence if the first drug mimics PCP."

"Thanks, JD." The blond told the rest of his men what he'd just learned and then asked, "Who the hell's spying on him and how did he get started on the drugs in the first place? Could it have been at the hospital?"

"Doubt it. He was given a sedative 'cause he was upset. You saw that yerself but I s'pose it could have been somethin' else in the syringe. They didn't give him anything else while I was there and I really can't see that it would have happened there. Why would they do it anyway?" Nathan asked reasonably as he scratched his leg.

Chris said thoughtfully, "He definitely had one other injection before he left with me to go home, Nate. Another dose of sedative, I think. Can you get the records from the hospital? I want to know what he was supposed to have been given while he was there. Can you see if he had a tox screen done when he was admitted too? I want every avenue examined no matter the relevance. This has all happened to him around the time of the wreck and as far as we know he's only been at the hospital and at home during that time."

The sharpshooter nodded thoughtfully. "I'll go and question his neighbors. I mean, the surveillance equipment had to be installed at some point so someone may have seen something useful. When we know how long the cameras have been there it will give us a clue as to when Ezra was initially started on the drugs," Vin pointed out with a shrug.

"Yeah perhaps, but he was aggressive and angry when I took him home from the hospital. He'd been totally fine up until the day of the wreck, hadn't he? I'm positive whatever happened started on that day, either before or after the accident, so I want those hospital records whatever, Nate," Chris instructed.

"Okay. I'll go get them but it's a long shot," Nathan said as he hurried out the door to do his boss's bidding.

+ + + + + + +

Chris went to the ranch after finding out that Ezra still hadn't returned home. He was getting worried as he wondered where the man was and what he was doing. He had got all his men out searching and he'd alerted the police to keep an eye out for his wandering agent as well. He really didn't know what to do next. He'd arranged for his men to meet him back at the ranch if they hadn't found Ezra within a couple of hours and they all finally turned up after failing to track the missing man down.

Nathan arrived with the medical notes from the hospital and laid them out on the table. "I can't see anything out of the ordinary. They didn't test him for alcohol or drugs 'cause he was the innocent party so we can't tell whether the drugs were in his system to cause the accident or not. I checked his skull x-rays at the time as I said and there was nothing wrong with that either. The drugs he was given officially at the hospital are par for the course too but they're hardly gonna write down that they've given him a hallucinogen, are they? You said he was given something before you took him home, Chris?"

"Yeah." The blond moved to stand beside the medic.

"Well, everything he was given should be listed on here with the time it was administered. There is one listed for the morning and it looks all above board. Who gave it to him?"

"The same doctor who treated Ez when he got upset just after we first arrived, remember?" Chris said and received an understanding nod on reply. "Ez's got to have been in contact with another source of the drug, don't he? It ain't all down to him drinking the water because of the time-scale involved but the question is where and when he was given it and by whom." The blond shrugged before turning to the sharpshooter and asked, "Vin? How did you get on with the neighbors?"

The man scowled and shook his head angrily. "Zip. Didn't see a thing. One bastard even had the gall to complain to me about Ezra shouting in the night and disturbing his sleep. Didn't give a shit about what had happened to Ez at all."

The conversation was interrupted by Chris's cell phone and the blond answered it irritably, "Larabee."

"I'm sorry."

"Ezra? Is that you?"

All the men looked up at the mention of their colleague's name.

"Where are you?" Chris asked as he flicked a quick look at Josiah.

"Don't know," Ezra replied in a timid voice.

"Are you okay?"

"They're after me. Please help me.... Need you...please," the dark- haired man pleaded.

"Calm down, Ez. Who's after you?" Chris asked quietly.

"Them. Always tells me things...always talking..always talking to me," Ezra babbled as he tried to concentrate on talking to Chris instead of what was going on in his head.

Chris shook his head worriedly, not knowing what to do or say for the best.

"Please come. They're all around me and I'm scared," Ezra begged plaintively.

"I can't come until I know where you are, Ez. Can you see anything that might help me find you? A street sign or a store name?"

Ezra looked around in confusion as he tried to answer the blond's question. He began to panic when he couldn't see anything of use. His eyes darted back and forth and finally spotted the name of the only store in the street.

"Millies," he suddenly blurted out in relief.


"Millies. Store in the street. I see it," Ezra said haltingly as he backed up until he came to a wall as he tried to escape the images that constantly assaulted him.

"Okay, just hold on a minute, Ez. Don't hang up, you hear me?" Chris turned to the listening men and said, "Buck, find the phone book. See if there's a store called Millies listed."

Buck flicked through the pages quickly and ran his finger down the page. "Yeah, got it. Berkeley Street, Downtown Denver."

"Okay, Ez? You still there?" Chris asked anxiously.

"Yeah. Still here....still here."

"We'll be there soon. Don't go anywhere, okay? Just wait where you are," the blond instructed insistently.

"Yes. Just you...only you," Ezra pleaded as he put his hand over his ear to try and block out his inner voice.

"Okay, I'll come alone." The blond couldn't understand why Ezra insisted he only wanted Chris to go and collect him. After the troubled agent's earlier outburst at the office and seeming to be scared of Chris it was rather an odd request. Who knows what's going on in his mind at the moment, the blond mentally shrugged. Chris moved to go out to the Ram but was stopped by Vin.

The sharpshooter shook his head as he kept a firm grip on the blond's upper arm. "No Chris, not on yer own. We're all coming with ya and you're gonna be wired. We need to hear what's happening."

"Vin's right. He could blow up again and he's still armed, remember?" Josiah warned.

"Alright but you all stay out of sight. Don't spook him and I'll call, or you'll hear, if I need help," Chris agreed reluctantly.

"I'm taking my rifle," Vin stated quietly.

"No way, Vin," the blond retorted vehemently as he shook his head vigorously.

"Yes, Chris," Vin said insistently with a determined look on his face. "If he goes ape again he needs taking down before he hurts you or an innocent civilian. He needs help but you know what he was like last time in your office. It would only take the sound of a car horn for him to flip. He's too highly strung to treat without caution and using a gun is the only way I can see of subduing him quickly and safely."

"YOU AIN'T KILLING HIM," Chris retorted angrily as he emphasized each word clearly. He stood toe-to-toe and eyeball-to-eyeball with his second-in-command and glared at him fiercely.

Vin met his friend's gaze unblinkingly and didn't wither beneath its intensity. He answered calmly and quietly but the other men could tell he was angry that Chris had thought he'd even consider killing his friend. "Did I say otherwise? I can shoot to wound and it'll be the best way. If I take him out at least we can treat him instead of losing him again."

"Could we use a taser instead? Bullets seem a bit extreme even if it is just for wounding him," JD said apprehensively as he looked from one man to the other. He didn't like the way things were going at all and he hoped to possibly supply an alternative solution.

Vin shook his head negatively. "Too risky. You need it handy and if Ezra saw it he'd freak, kid. Even if we did use a taser it don't mean he couldn't fire his own gun before the charge took effect. If I can shoot his arm or shoulder he won't be able to use his gun at all."

"Can't you stun him before you get close, before he sees you? Take him out before he causes problems," Josiah suggested, not happy about using bullets either.

"Depends where he is on the street and you have to be pretty close to fire a taser. If he's in a store doorway I'd have to get within sight of him to use it and it'd be hard to creep up on him anyway without being seen," Chris replied, reluctantly coming round to Vin's reasoning.

"The bullet is the only way and we ain't got much time to collect other weapons anyway. I've got my rifle with me and JD's got the wiring equipment too. If we delay, Ezra will just disappear and we can't afford to lose him again 'cause it's gonna be dark soon," Vin said insistently. "We can't guarantee he'd go back home. Whatever happens I need to deal with him from a distance. We need to lure him out into the open and give me room to work if it comes down to shooting him. Any weapon he sees at close range will set him off but that don't mean you should go unarmed, Chris. Just keep yer gun well hidden but easily accessible. I'll lend ya my body armor too. Ain't having you more vulnerable than you need to be by not wearing anything protective. You hear me?" the sharpshooter demanded sternly as he looked at his boss.

Chris sighed and stared down at his sneakers as he nodded resignedly. He knew Vin was right in everything he'd said but that didn't mean Chris had to like it. "Okay, I hear ya. Now you listen to me, cowboy. Wound, not kill but still only as a last resort. I want to avoid hurting him 'cause he can't help what he's doing."

"That may be so but he could still kill you without meaning to, pard," Buck said from where he'd been listening. He didn't want Ezra to be hurt either but it seemed the only way to subdue the man if he lost control again.

"Right let's get set up."


Comments to: