Chris watched Ezra for a while to see how he was acting before making contact
again. The man was sitting with his back to a wall with his legs drawn up
and seemed to be trying to make himself invisible. Chris knew there was no
way of approaching him without being seen. Ezra looked up every so often
and the blond could see his lips moving as if he was having a conversation
with himself. The dark- haired man looked around warily and watched pedestrians
and passing cars with a worried look on his face. He had his gun in his hand
and Chris was glad he hadn't agreed to use the taser. He'd never have been
able to fire it before Ezra reacted to the threat he posed.
"Vin?" Chris said into the mike.
"Yeah? You okay, cowboy?"
"He's already got his gun handy. Can you see him from where you are yet?"
"No, he's just outta sight. I can't move any further sideways either without
him spotting me. There ain't much cover for me to use around here and I can't
get any higher neither. You'll have to get him to move into the open so I
can get a clear shot if I need to. Keep his attention focussed on you or
things could go bad real quick."
"Okay, I'm going in. Just keep alert everyone."
"Sure. We're all here, Chris. Good luck, pard," Buck said quietly.
Chris crossed the street and walked slowly toward the dark- haired man while
keeping alert in case Ezra reacted badly to his presence. Although the undercover
agent had asked him to come, in his present state he may have changed his
mind or totally forgotten the arrangement.
"Are you alright, Ez?" Chris asked as he squatted down near his rogue undercover
agent so he was on a level with the man.
"They're here. Can you see them?"
"Them!" Ezra shouted as he pointed to a spot just in front of him. He felt
in a world of his own and totally isolated. It was as if he was under water
and the things he could see swam in and out of his vision and suddenly changed
shape. He turned to the blond again and the man's face loomed into sight
appearing twice as large as normal. Ezra said insistently, "There, right
"No. There's no one there," Chris disagreed quietly but he came to a halt
as he heard Josiah's voice in his ear-piece.
"Chris? Just agree with him. If you say you can't see what he can, it'll
make him more scared and likely to do something stupid," the big man advised.
"If he's experiencing symptoms like PCP gives, he's gonna be having a real
"There.....right there...right there," Ezra said as he continued pointing
with a shaking finger.
Chris followed Josiah's advice and said, "Oh, over there? Yeah, I see them
now, Ez. If you come with me we can leave them behind and they won't follow
if I'm with you."
"Are you sure?" Ezra asked uncertainly as he continued staring at the things
only he could see.
"Yes, I'm sure. Come on. Do you want to go home?"
Ezra nodded and got to his feet slowly. He looked down at his hands and could
see the blood flowing through his veins as plain as day. His skin seemed
transparent and he frowned at the sight. He looked back up at Chris and then
stood still and stared into space as the voice in his head warned, He's
lying to you. He wants to lock you up 'cause he thinks you're mad. Don't
go with him or you'll regret it.
Vin was watching events through his rifle sight now he had a slightly clearer
view of events. He saw the change in expression on Ezra's face from fear
and confusion to anger. "Chris? He's gonna blow any minute. Move to your
left slowly when you can because I still can't get a clear line on his body.
Just don't spook him when you do it."
Chris had seen the change in his agent's demeanor for himself. His friend's
moods were very unpredictable and changed from one second to the next and
that was proved when Ezra suddenly turned the gun unerringly toward Chris.
The blond stood with hands outstretched and moved slightly to the left as
Vin had instructed.
"Stand where you are!" Ezra yelled hysterically as he waved the gun around
erratically. "You're one of them. You're lying to me! He said so." Everything
in his vision suddenly turned mauve and he shook his head and put his fingers
to his eyes and rubbed them irritably. It had no effect whatsoever and the
world stayed the unnatural color.
Any pedestrians that were nearby turned and ran until the two agents were
left standing alone in the middle of the sidewalk.
Chris watched the wayward man carefully. He wanted to keep the situation
calm so he said quietly, "No, Ezra. I only want to help you and you can't
believe everything he tells you. We're friends and I wouldn't hurt you."
"Liar!" Ezra took a swift stride forwards until the end of his gun barrel
touched the center of Chris's forehead. Chris's heart started pounding and
he closed his eyes briefly and prayed. To have a gun held to his head twice
in one day was unnerving, to say the least. Jeez! Why bother with body
armor when he always goes for my head?
Vin swore and said, "Chris? When I give the order just drop and I'll take
him out. It don't look as though he's gonna let you move outta the way. If
you think he's gonna shoot you before I speak again drop anyway 'cause I'll
be ready whatever happens."
Chris braced himself for instant action and looked into the wild, green eyes
that stared back at him unblinkingly. He decided to try and reason with the
man once more but by the look in his eyes he knew he was going to fail. "Ezra?
I'm not going to hurt you. Who told you I was one of them?"
"The voice. He told me."
"What voice?" Chris asked quietly.
"In my head......always telling me about you. Don't trust you."
"The people you showed me earlier, are they still here? Can you still see
them?" the blond asked.
Ezra quickly looked over his shoulder to check and then frowned. He looked
back at Chris with fury etched in every line of his face. "You said you could
see them! You told me....you did."
Chris swore as he realized his mistake. He made a last-ditch attempt to calm
the man down so he could disarm Ezra without Vin intervening. "They were
hidden behind you and I couldn't see them but I can now. They're right behind
you. I see them, Ez." Even the blond detected the hint of desperation in
his own voice.
Ezra hesitated and flicked his eyes around him anxiously. He didn't know
what to do. The voice in his head was screaming at him to pull the trigger
but something held him back from completing the move.
"Drop now, Chris," Vin said softly.
The blond went down on his knees and bent forwards as he heard Vin's rifle
bark twice. He looked up and saw Ezra thrown off his feet to land on the
sidewalk with a thud. The black-clad man rose swiftly and kicked the gun
away that Ezra had dropped. He drew his own weapon from where it had been
hidden in an ankle holster and aimed it at the undercover agent after quickly
cuffing the man's hands at the front. The blond could see his friend had
been shot in the right shoulder and side and he was bleeding heavily. Chris
heard pounding feet but didn't look round, knowing it was the cavalry coming
to his aid.
"Chris? You okay?" Josiah asked as he drew alongside.
"No." The blond stared down at his shackled agent and saw the man was shaking
and crying. He felt like doing the same.
All the men had their weapons trained on their fallen colleague and Nathan
made them move away slowly so he could try to treat him.
"Alright, Ez. Calm down and let me look at you," the medic said as he walked
nervously toward his friend.
"Don't touch me. Please.......leave me alone," Ezra cried haltingly as he
kicked out with his feet, like a child having a tantrum, in an effort to
keep the medic away.
Nathan continued moving forwards slowly despite Ezra's attempts to keep him
back but the nearer he got, the more upset the undercover agent became. Ezra
raised his cuffed hands to his head and shut his eyes while screaming loudly.
"They're coming.....they're coming. Keep them away. Please keep them
away......please. Leave me alone!"
"Nate? Step back!" Josiah ordered brusquely. "Give him some space." The profiler
was regretting with each passing minute not getting help for Ezra sooner.
He knew he should have gone with his gut instinct at the time and not let
things reach the stage they had. Okay, he'd only delayed a day but those
twenty-four hours may have made all the difference. The big man sighed and
turned his attention to the man lying on the sidewalk. "Ezra? It's Josiah.
Who do you want to help you? Who do you feel happy with, son?" the big man
asked as he squatted down so he was nearer eye level.
"I don't know. I wanna go home. Please don't let them hurt me. They're in
my head.....won't leave me alone....... Don't hurt me again," the injured
"We ain't gonna hurt ya, Ezra. We had to shoot you to stop you from hurting
Chris." Josiah could see the undercover agent watching him from under his
arm so the big man smiled reassuringly.
"I hurt....hurt bad. Stomach...hurt," Ezra said as he clamped a hand over
the wound there and stared at the blood in horror.
"I know you do and we need to look at your injuries. Are you gonna let Nate
"No. Don't want Nate."
"Who then?" Josiah inquired quietly as he kept a close eye on the pale, trembling
"Bucklin.......Bucklin.....only Bucklin," Ezra mumbled continuously. He didn't
know why he felt he could only trust the one man but his thoughts were so
garbled he didn't know what he wanted half the time anyway.
"Hey Ez, I'm here pard," the ladies' man said and then turned to the others.
"Leave me alone with him, will ya? I think it'll be easier."
"We'll stay in sight in case of trouble and we'll keep him covered. Just
'cause he's cuffed and unarmed don't mean he's defenseless. Don't take
any chances with him," Chris warned.
The medic put a hand on Buck's arm and said quietly, "Keep reassuring him,
Bucklin. He's feeling scared and alone but take care. If he looks like losing
control again back off immediately."
Buck nodded and waited until the men had moved away a short distance and
then approached Ezra carefully. He knelt down next to him and caught the
man's eye. "Hey, Ez. Let me see yer belly, pard. It's alright to touch you,
Ezra nodded while he continued shouting at the people and mysterious voice
only he could see and hear. Buck pulled his friend's shirt up gently and
sighed when he saw the wound and the blood. He opened the first aid kit that
Nathan had given him and began to treat the injury as best he could. "Alright
there, Ez? Still with me, pard?" Buck asked kindly after a while.
"I know but I'll soon be done with this wound and then I'll see the one in
yer shoulder. Just stay still for me, will ya?"
Ezra groaned and disobeyed Buck's request straight away as he curled up onto
his uninjured side when the ladies' man touched his flesh. "I'm sorry, Bucklin.
I feel all mixed up. I didn't mean it....didn't mean it."
"I know you didn't, pard. We'll get some help to sort out yer problems, don't
you fret." Buck patted the man's back.
"You'll look after me, won't you? I don't trust anyone else. They want to
kill me. He said so."
"Kill you? Who?"
"The others," Ezra said emphatically as he pointed into space.
"What others? Not Chris surely."
"Everyone. They all watch me, just waiting for the right time. I've seen
them. Like lions waiting for their next meal," Ezra rambled incoherently.
The ladies' man glanced quickly at Chris and then said, "It's just yer
imagination, Ez. You're perfectly safe."
"No, no! They're all around watching...waiting," Ezra shouted. He hiccuped
and became very agitated. He started breathing fast and mumbled constantly,
Ezra looked up as Buck continued treating him and he saw images behind the
man's head. They were people he'd convicted in the past and they looked
terrifyingly real. He stared at them in horror and gasped when Buck's face
changed before his very eyes into Paul Simmons's countenance.
Ezra recoiled from the man and shouted, "Get away, you bastard. Don't touch
me!" Even as he looked at the mustached agent though, his face changed back
to normal. He's one of them. I told you so. Do you believe me now?
Ezra shook his head and put his hands back up to his head and screamed at
Buck flinched at the high-pitched noise and looked down anxiously at Ezra
as the man suddenly curled up into a ball as if he'd been hit. "It's alright,
pard. I'm still here. Are you okay?" he said calmly. He removed his hands
from Ezra's body so as not to make matters worse.
Ezra didn't know what to do or what to believe. He looked back at Buck and
blinked rapidly. Is he my friend or not? He decided to continue to
trust the man for the time being because he didn't know who else to turn
to and he didn't want to be alone. "Watching, waiting.....always watching.
Bucklin, help me....I don't know what to do. I tried to escape but I couldn't...I
Buck had no idea what Ezra was talking about. All he saw before him was a
terrified man and he moved to help him in the only way he knew how. "I'm
here, pard. I won't let anything happen to you," Buck said calmly as he scooped
the undercover agent's upper body into his arms. He patted his friend's back
and rocked him back and forth as the man cried hysterically.
Josiah caught the ladies' man's eye and when Buck nodded the big man took
a step forward and waited so he was just in Ezra's sight.
Buck spoke softly to the man in his arms. "Ez? I have to get you to the hospital
and I need Josiah to help me. Will you let him carry you?"
"No," Ezra yelled as he hid his face once more in Buck's shirt.
"Come on, Ez. I can't do it on my own. I'll still be with you and I won't
leave you alone, I promise." Buck hugged the man tight and Ezra eventually
Josiah walked forward and knelt down beside the two men. "Okay, son. I'm
just gonna carry you to Chris's Ram and Buck will be with you all the way.
I ain't gonna hurt ya, alright?"
He picked up the man carefully and headed for the Ram, which was parked not
too far away. Buck walked beside them and kept Ezra's hand clutched tightly
in both of his. The profiler put Ezra in the back and Buck climbed in to
sit next to him.
"There ya go, Ez. That wasn't so bad, was it?" Buck asked as he put a hand
on the man's thigh and patted it gently in encouragement.
Josiah got in the front seat and started off to the hospital. He kept a close
eye on the two men in the back in case Buck encountered any problems with
the volatile undercover agent. They finally arrived at the medical facility
after a very noisy journey because Ezra shouted and screamed at anyone he
didn't like the look of. The man's behavior actually got worse, if anything,
when he got inside the room he was given in the secure medical unit in the
hospital. As soon as he looked at the young doctor who had treated him before
he began trying to get away. He lay on the bed and fought for all he was
worth, kicking fiercely and striking out with his manacled hands.
He recognized the doctor's voice from somewhere else. He'd heard it outside
the hospital and it frightened him and he didn't want anything to do with
him. Ezra went white and began to hyperventilate as he suddenly realized
where he'd heard the doctor's voice before. He totally lost control and went
berserk as he yelled over and over again, "No! Get away from me!"
The doctor finally managed to inject him with a sedative but Ezra's behavior
"They want to kill me......help me! Please help me.......... You bastard.
What have you done to me? What did you give me? Poison...poison!" Ezra shouted
The ladies' man got everyone to leave and tried unsuccessfully to calm him
down by himself. "Ezra? They're gonna help you not hurt you. They're doctors,
"Get away from me. Leave me alone.... You lied to me....I hate
"I didn't lie, Ez," Buck said shakily. He didn't like seeing his friend in
such a state and although he knew Ezra didn't mean what he said he couldn't
help smarting at the outburst.
"Don't touch me," Ezra shouted as Buck took a step toward him.
The undercover agent got up and backed away as far as he could and cowered
in the corner behind a curtain that was used to shield the bed from view.
The rest of the team had arrived by now and Nathan heard the commotion. He
saw that there was another door to the room and he entered quietly through
that with a part-filled syringe in his hand. He was behind Ezra and was hidden
behind the curtain that the injured agent was sitting next to. He saw Ezra's
shadow against the curtain and the medic's eyes met Buck's. Nathan nodded
and both men pounced. Nathan tried to get hold of Ezra's arm while Buck attempted
to keep the man still.
Ezra continued shouting, crying and kicking out. "No, no! Let me go. Bastards."
Nathan eventually stuck the syringe he held in the man's butt as that was
easiest and emptied the contents quickly. Ezra screamed like an animal and
jumped up as the two men lost their hold on him. Buck made moves to catch
him but Nathan put out a hand and pulled him back because he could see the
drug was already taking effect.
Ezra put a hand to his head and stumbled against the bed when he felt dizzy
and his sight dimmed. His legs felt wobbly and he put out a hand as he tried
to stay on his feet. He staggered on a few more steps toward the door before
his lower limbs gave way completely and he collapsed unconscious to the floor.
Nathan hurried to him and turned him over slowly. Buck then helped lift the
man onto the bed and he ran his fingers through his friend's hair lightly.
"It's alright, Ez. You're safe now, pard," the ladies' man said quietly.
Chris walked in after watching proceedings and saw the tears on Buck's cheeks.
He reached out a hand and squeezed the man's shoulder. "He'll be okay, Bucklin.
He's best out of it."
"He'd hate to see himself like this, Chris. It's so degrading," Buck said
as he watched Ezra being strapped to the bed after his wrists had been re-secured
with softer cuffs. "Do you have to do that? He ain't gonna do nothing now."
"It's for his own safety too, Bucklin. He could harm himself accidentally,"
Nathan said quietly. The medic turned to Chris and said, "I'll get a tox
screen done now although we know partly what's involved already. I just want
to see how much he's got in his system and whether any other drugs are involved."
The blond turned to see JD hovering in the doorway. "Yeah? What is it kid?"
"I just heard back about the other drug. They say it's sort of a mind control
drug. It was outlawed because it had been abused in the kind of way it's
been used on Ezra. It was supposed to be a treatment for really difficult
mental patients to get them to behave in a more manageable way. To change
their behavior really, I s'pose by telling them, while under the influence
of it, what sort of behavior was acceptable. Someone, though, started using
it for criminal purposes like coercing someone to kill another person on
their behalf. The real culprit got away with their crime while the coerced
person took the rap. Do you understand? I can't explain it properly," JD
said as he shrugged nervously.
"Yeah, I understand alright kid but why give it to Ezra? Has he been programmed
to do something? Kill someone?" Chris asked angrily.
"God knows but maybe getting him off the drug cancels out the orders he's
been given," Buck suggested as he shook his head in disbelief.
JD nodded. "Yeah, that was one of the drawbacks they found in the research.
Once the patients were taken off the drug their behavior reverted to how
it had been before. The drug wasn't seen as a long- term solution but just
a sort of stopgap until something better came along. In this case, however,
the effects might be different if it's being combined with another drug.
They just don't know."
Chris sighed and flicked a quick look at the silent, sleeping undercover
agent. "Nate? Can you and Vin stay with him while the rest of us try to sort
out who did this? We'll swap round later, okay?"
"Sure. We'll stay all night. Don't worry."
The men left and Nathan and Vin took up residence in the silent room. The
medic periodically checked the sleeping man and the young doctor also came
once or twice as well. Nathan finally received the results of the toxicology
test and he didn't like what he saw. The undercover agent inevitably had
quite a large amount of the two drugs in his body as well as the prescribed
"Hate seeing him tied up like that, Nate," Vin said quietly after Nathan
had told him the results.
"I know but it's for the best. Just need to watch him carefully for any
"Hope the guys can get to the bottom of who did it. Can't imagine how Ez
has felt through all this. Musta thought he was going mad acting like he
"Yeah, it weren't nice for him but he ain't outta the woods yet neither."
The two men lapsed into silence again as they were consumed with their inner
thoughts. They took it in turns to sleep throughout the night though neither
man slept well. When it was getting toward dawn Nathan went to phone Rain,
leaving Vin on his own.
The young doctor arrived for one last check before he left the hospital for
the day and he turned to Vin and asked, "How's he been?"
"Been asleep all night."
"Good. Do you mind stepping outside while I check him properly?"
Vin looked at the undercover agent and his eyes swept the restraints keeping
him in the bed. He knew he was still cuffed although his upper limbs were
currently out of sight beneath the sheet. The man was still asleep so was
unlikely to cause any trouble. "Sure. I'll wait outside but call if you need
Vin stepped outside and turned to watch proceedings through the window. He
couldn't see exactly what was happening but the doctor seemed to be doing
a very thorough examination. The doctor finished and smiled and nodded at
Vin as he exited the room. Vin sat back down beside a now wide-awake Ezra
and the sharpshooter could see the man was very upset.
"Ezra? What's up? Are you okay?" he asked anxiously. He couldn't understand
why the doctor had left the man in such a state and hadn't even told Vin
about it either.
"Dying," Ezra mumbled.
"What? What do you mean?" The longhaired man saw his friend fidgeting beneath
the sheets restlessly.
The undercover agent watched Vin closely and when the man looked quickly
over his shoulder to see if Nathan was returning, Ezra acted. He took advantage
of Vin's lack of concentration and leapt out of bed with his hands now free.
His gunshot wounds hadn't proved a hindrance to him in any way.
"Shit!" Vin exclaimed when he heard the sounds from the bed. How had he
got free? Vin then noticed the straps on the bed had been cut through
and that his friend's hands were unrestrained too. Where were the handcuffs
Vin then saw what Ezra had clutched tightly in his left hand. A razorblade
was held ready for use but certainly not for its usual purpose. The sharpshooter
got ready for the expected attack and automatically reached for his gun.
He was totally unprepared for what happened next though. Instead of trying
to hurt Vin, Ezra turned the blade on himself with a vengeance.
"No! Ezra, shit!" Vin hurried forward and managed to disarm the man but not
before he'd been able to cut himself repeatedly. "I need some help here!
Can I have some help?" Vin yelled as he tried to stop some of the deeper
cuts from bleeding as well as keeping a good hold on his friend. Ezra had
cut his wrists and neck badly and Vin wondered whether it had been a concerted
Nathan was walking back along the hallway and heard Vin's frantic shouts
so he immediately broke into a run. He entered the room fast and saw Vin
on the floor with a bloody, screaming Ezra in his arms.
"What the hell happened?" the medic asked as he moved toward the two men.
Vin didn't answer the question but shouted an order instead. "Get the others
Nathan got one of the nurses to call Chris and then he knelt down on the
other side of Ezra. "Vin? How did he get in this state? How did he get free?"
"The doctor came to look at him and asked me to leave so I watched through
the window as he was examined. When I came back in though Ezra was real upset
but wouldn't tell me why. He just said 'dying' and I didn't know what he
meant. I couldn't understand why the doctor would leave him like it or not
say anything to me. I looked to see if you were coming back and he was out
of bed with a razorblade in his hands before I knew it. The restraints had
been cut through but left over him like he was still secure. I thought he
was gonna attack me but he turned the blade on himself. I couldn't stop him,
Nate. He musta been trying to kill himself because of where he cut on his
body," Vin said in a shaky voice.
"Shit, I shouldn't have left you alone with him. I'm sorry, Vin. Okay, let's
get him back on the bed," Nathan said. He rose and pulled back the sheets
and found the cuffs hidden there. He looked at Vin quizzically and then put
them to one side. He helped Vin lift the injured man up gently and put him
on the bed. An older doctor appeared after hearing the commotion but Nathan
made him leave, saying he would deal with Ezra himself from now on.
Chris finally arrived and looked in horror at the state of Ezra's body. "Jesus
Christ," the blond said in awe. "What the hell's happened to him?"
Vin told the story again while still helping Nathan to treat the numerous
cuts on his friend's body.
"Nate? Is he alright?" the blond asked anxiously.
"He probably didn't even feel the pain from the cuts because of the drugs
he's had. If it's like PCP it dulls pain and could have triggered him to
harm himself too. He should heal but he's gonna have a few scars 'cause some
cuts are real deep. Didn't hit nothing vital luckily. Getting the drug out
of his system is still gonna be the toughest thing for him though." The medic
looked up when he heard the arrival of the rest of his friends but transferred
his attention back to Ezra quickly.
"Vin, are you okay?" Chris asked as he turned his attention to the pale,
"Not really. It weren't nice seeing him do that. I shoulda been more alert."
"You did yer best to stop him, cowboy," Chris said as he patted the man's
back comfortingly. "Who treated Ez today?"
"Young doctor. Early thirties. Dark hair."
"Same man on every occasion then. Did he give Ez anything by injection?"
"Not that I saw but I couldn't see everything he was doing. I shouldn't have
left Ez alone with him but I thought he was still secure and asleep and I
was only outside the door. How could I have missed seeing what he was doing?"
Chris gave the man a hug when he saw how badly he was taking the situation.
He kept an arm round his shoulders as he turned to the medic. "Nate? Do another
tox screen and compare it with the other one just in case. Let's just hope
he ain't been overdosed on something else. Find the doctor too 'cause he's
at the bottom of all this."
Nathan went to carry out the orders but found the doctor had disappeared.
The medic questioned the other staff about him and didn't like what he heard.
Meanwhile, JD took a phone call and he listened intently and with increasing
alarm to what he was told. He put the phone in his pocket and arrived back
at Ezra's room just after Nathan did.
The medic was already talking. "Chris? The drug results are conclusive. He's
definitely been given another large dose of the PCP type drug since the last
test. I also discovered the doctor isn't a proper member of staff here although
he must have had medical training of some kind to get away with his deception.
It seems he's only ever been here when Ez has been admitted. The other staff
said he told them he was temporary and as he had the proper papers they didn't
question him. They haven't seen him here on any other day though."
The blond sighed and asked, "So he definitely gave Ez the first dose then
after the wreck?"
"Yeah. That started him off and then Ez has been drugging himself without
realizing it ever since."
Buck nodded his head and reported what he'd learnt during his investigations.
"He'd have been very susceptible to what he was told while under the influence
of the drug especially while he was asleep. The doctor used the speakers
we found to talk to him during the night. Sorta subliminal messages, ya know?
He's told something while he's asleep and when he wakes up he don't know
any different. He just does as he's told perfectly naturally without suspecting
a thing. It taught him to drink only bottled water because it was safe. He
was probably told that his main water supply was poisoned or something. He
was being watched all the time at home so the doctor knew when he'd be most
vulnerable to what he was saying. He phoned him and added to his worries
about being followed or us trying to kill him. Probably saw him drink the
water and waited for it to take effect before phoning. There are a lot of
calls he received that came from an untraceable number."
"Bastard. We don't even know if he was working alone or whether there are
more people involved. Poor Ez."
"Chris?" JD said tentatively.
"The doctor is the hit-and-run driver too. The police just tracked down one
of the cars from their list to him and it's badly damaged."
"Shit. Who the hell is he and what does he want with Ezra? Find the answers
to those questions and let me know what you find out. I'm staying here and
you'd better stay too seeing as Ezra trusts you, Bucklin."
"Trusted, in the past tense, pard. I'm not sure about that now 'cause
he wasn't very happy with me yesterday."
"Stay anyway. I need your support even if he don't," Chris said as he sat
down wearily and put his head in his hands after the rest of the men had
Ezra woke several hours later from a nightmare shouting loudly. "Let me go!
Let me go. Help me," he yelled and then whispered plaintively, "Help me please."
Buck had stood in alarm as soon as Ezra had uttered his first word. "Ez,
we're gonna help ya, pard. Tell me what you see."
"I can't get out......no windows......no door. They've come back to haunt
me. I can't get out. Let me out!" Ezra's voice rose in pitch until he was
"Ez? Calm down, buddy. You're safe." Buck reached out a hand and tried to
comfort his distraught friend but Ezra curled up and cried. "Shit. Can you
take over for a minute, Chris?" the ladies' man asked as he looked quickly
at the black-clad man with haunted eyes.
"Sure. Take yer time," the blond said quietly as he watched his oldest friend
leave the room quickly. Chris knew how the man was feeling because he was
having the same trouble coping too.
Buck, meanwhile, walked outside into the hallway and leant back against the
window. He bowed his head and ran his fingers through his hair with a shaking
"Bucklin? You okay?" Vin asked as he approached the obviously upset agent.
"I can't stand seeing him like this, Vin. He had convulsions earlier 'cause
of the amount of drugs in his body, you know?"
Vin looked into the room and saw the undercover agent struggling on the bed
with Chris leaning over him worriedly. "Can't they sedate him so he's at
least resting?" Vin asked the ladies' man.
"No. The last lot of drugs the doctor gave him, which made him harm himself,
was massive and coulda proved fatal. They don't wanna risk giving him anything
else 'cause his body just can't take it. He was nearly comatose for a while,
pard. He's been left to endure a living nightmare and they can't do a damned
thing to help him." Buck stopped talking and shrugged unhappily. "Least Nate
found another doctor to help take care of Ez whom we know we can trust. That's
something but Ezra's suffering real bad, pard."
"I know it's hard but we can't desert him. We can't walk away when he needs
us most just because we don't like what we see," the sharpshooter said as
he patted the man's shoulder.
"I know but I don't know how much more I can take," Buck replied wearily
as he rubbed his eyes and sniffed.
"What you're going through is infinitesimal compared to Ezra's experiences."
Buck nodded. "Yeah but he'll probably not remember it when he gets back to
normal. I don't think I'll ever forget."
"Bucklin!" Ezra yelled from inside the room as another vision assaulted him.
"I'm here, pard," the ladies' man called as he walked back in reluctantly
after Vin had patted his back in encouragement. The sharpshooter looked
into the room again and caught the blond's eye. "Chris?"
The summoned man rose after making sure Buck could handle Ezra and then walked
out to join Vin. "Anything?"
"No, the bastard's disappeared. We've checked his home and are putting out
calls to airports. Turns out he was a real doctor but he'd been struck off
for malpractice. I shoulda gone after him straight away when Ez hurt himself.
Mighta caught him then but Nate needed me to help take care of Ezra 'cause
he didn't trust anyone else at that time. I was caught between the Devil
and the deep blue sea, cowboy."
"Couldn't be helped, Vin. Well, unless we get a real stroke of luck it looks
like we'll never know why Ez was put through this," Chris sighed as he looked
back through the window at his injured agent.
+ + + + + + +
Ezra soon began suffering withdrawal symptoms and he wasn't sure which was
worse. The hallucinations he'd experienced when he'd been under the influence
of the drugs had been bad but the way he felt now the drugs were leaving
his system was ten-times worse. No wonder people find it difficult to
give up addictions if this is what they have to go through to get clean,
Buck and Nathan stayed with him in turn as he suffered. His body shook
uncontrollably and he felt anxious and irritable. He was continually nauseous
with the odd session of actual vomiting to add to his misery.
Buck especially found it hard to see his friend suffering in this way but
he remembered Vin's words from earlier and certainly wasn't going to let
his friend down in his hour of need. The ladies' man was very relieved when
Ezra finally began to return to health but the tall man could tell his friend
was far from recovered mentally.
+ + + + + + +
Once Ezra was released from hospital Chris decided to send Buck away for
a few days to get over events. He knew the man had taken things badly. Ezra
went to stay on the ranch with Chris and the blond hoped the change of scenery
would do the man good. He tried to encourage his friend to horse ride every
day and attempted to keep him busy so he didn't have time to brood. He could
see, however, that his ploy was not being one hundred percent successful.
The undercover agent still suffered terrible nightmares when he did manage
to sleep and he was very quiet, pale and scared. Chris had asked Josiah for
some advice to help him deal with Ezra but the profiler was rapidly running
out of ideas. Josiah knew Ezra was going to be emotionally and mentally scarred
for life because of his experiences.
The rest of the men took it in turns to help Chris look after the man and
today it was Nathan and Vin's duty. While the sharpshooter went off in search
of the undercover agent, Nathan sat with Chris in the living room.
"Hey Chris. How is he?" the medic asked.
Chris shrugged. "I really don't know, Nate. He's just a totally different
man. Usually you can't stop him talking but now I'm lucky if I can get one
word out of him during the day. You know I never thought I'd say this but
I'd give anything to have the old Ezra back," the blond confessed with a
"Is he eating?" Nathan inquired with a frown.
"Sort of. Have more trouble getting him to drink, to be honest. He'll only
have something if I drink the same thing at the same time. He then sorta
waits after I've had mine to see if it affects me adversely before he'll
even consider drinking his. I'm at my wits end with him, Nate."
"Jeez, Chris. I really think it's time to bring in some professional help."
"Maybe. Don't know whether he'll agree to it though," Chris replied. "Josiah's
done as much as he can but nothing seems to help."
As the two men talked, Vin scoured the whole house trying to find Ezra. He
walked through to the kitchen and looked out the window to see if he was
in the yard. He opened the door and stepped outside quickly.
"Ezra?" Vin said when he saw the undercover agent sitting on the ranch's
porch staring into the distance. He got no answer so he approached the man
and sat beside him quietly. He looked across at the undercover agent but
could see his friend's mind was preoccupied. Ezra's eyes had a faraway look
in them as he stared unblinkingly at something only he could see. After quarter
of an hour had passed in silence and with Ezra still in the trance-like state,
the sharpshooter put out a hand and rubbed his friend's back. He then moved
his hand to Ezra's shoulder and rested it there. "Ez? Are you feeling alright?"
The green-eyed man flinched and looked round. "Mr. Tanner? How long have
you been there?"
"Long enough to see you ain't happy. Is there anything I can do?" Vin asked
as he studied the face that turned toward him. It didn't look as though Ezra
had slept for days. His eyes were circled by dark rings and he was very pale.
"No. Thank you but no," the undercover agent replied quietly as he moved
his eyes to watch Chris's dog, Arnie, amble across the yard.
"When did you last sleep?"
"I don't know." Ezra put a hand up to his head and rested his elbow on his
knee. "I can't sleep. I'm scared to."
"Why? Tell me why, Ez."
The undercover agent closed his eyes and sighed deeply. "I don't want to
dream, Vin. The things I saw, the visions, were so real. I don't want to
see them again and if I close my eyes I'm bound to dream about what happened."
He shrugged. "I've already dreamt about it as Chris can no doubt tell
you. His sleep has been well and truly interrupted on several occasions."
"You saw visions when you were awake too, didn't you? Do you still see them
now?" the sharpshooter asked softly.
"No," Ezra admitted with a shrug of his shoulders.
"Well, you can't stay awake for ever and you can't stop dreaming, Ez. The
dreams will fade in time, buddy."
"Maybe." Ezra sighed, sounding totally defeated. "I can't explain how I feel
about things, Vin. I felt violated when I realized what had happened to me,
almost mentally raped, I s'pose. I now don't feel safe anywhere and I don't
trust anyone. Even though I know what you've all done to help me I still
don't trust you but most of all I don't trust myself. After holding
a gun to Chris's head twice who's to say I won't suddenly do something else
and actually kill someone in the process? I lost control of my thoughts,
my actions and although I knew my behavior was appalling I couldn't stop
it. It was as if I was watching myself from afar. I saw myself holding that
gun to Chris's head and I felt the overwhelming urge to pull the trigger."
"But you didn't, Ez," Vin interrupted as he rubbed the man's back
"I know but I could've killed him without wanting to. Do you know what it
feels like to be totally under the influence of something you are unaware
of? I thought I was becoming demented. Unable to halt the thoughts in my
head, the things I saw. I was totally defenseless."
"No, I don't know what you felt, Ez. I know what I felt though when
I saw what you went through and I didn't like what I witnessed. It was hard
watching someone I care about suffering like that." Vin looked across at
Ezra and saw the tears streaming down his friend's face.
"Why me? What was it all for?" the undercover agent sobbed as he raised a
hand quickly to his mouth to try and stifle the sound. "Was it all just an
"I don't know, Ez. Both the doctor and the blond you told us about have just
disappeared so I guess we'll never find out. We've tried to trace them but
they've gone. I'm sorry, Ez." Vin tried his best to comfort the man but until
he began to accept what had happened for himself there was not much more
Vin could do to help.
The sharpshooter wandered back inside after another hour of talking and sat
next to Chris in the living room. He sighed loudly and ran his fingers through
his hair as he closed his eyes.
"What did he say, Vin? Is he alright?" Chris asked anxiously as he looked
briefly at Nathan.
Vin turned to his friend with a grimace and said bluntly. "He's scared to
answer the phone for fear of being given instructions to kill someone. He
wonders if a trigger word has been hidden in his mind that will set him off
when it's spoken."
"Shit. Let's hope what JD said initially about the orders wearing off when
the drug is no longer taken is correct in these circumstances too," the blond
Vin shrugged and gave Chris a worried glance. "We'll never know for sure
Chris and that's what terrifies him."