Chris hurried back to the team´s office and called the men together.
Something´s cropped up, guys. Can we meet in the conference room
The men rose silently and followed their leader into the room and sat in
their favorite places. They could tell from the blond´s face that what
he had to tell them was very important. Chris stood at the head of the table
and fidgeted impatiently as he waited for his men to settle down.
Once they were quiet he started pacing the room as he talked. I had
a call from one of my informants this morning. He says he has a film that
proves that one-eyed bastard, Charlie Patterson, is guilty of the murder
of George Palmer last week. He wouldn´t go into details but I´ve
set up a meeting with him to pick up the evidence. This could be one of the
biggest arrests we´ve ever made if the film turns out to be as good
as he says. We´ve been waiting a long time to get that bastard behind
Well, don´t get carried away before you´ve even seen it,
Chris. It might be a hoax, the dark mustached agent cautioned.
It´s no hoax, Bucklin. My informant´s real reliable,
Chris disagreed with a firm shake of his head.
When you collecting it then? Josiah asked.
You are takin´ backup, ain´t ya cowboy?
Vin drawled with a frown. He had a feeling that Chris wanted to go alone
and his thoughts were confirmed when their eyes met. The sharpshooter shook
his head vigorously and said softly, Chris, you ain´t going
in on yer own. No matter how good yer informant is, you could still
be walking into a deadfall trap just like an innocent rabbit. I´ll only
follow you if you refuse to have company so you might as well invite me along
all official like.
The blond stared at his friend and then smiled wryly. He couldn´t think
of anyone else he´d rather have watching his back. Wouldn´t
have it any other way, Vin.
What time is the meeting then, or do I have to guess? Vin asked
sarcastically with a raised eyebrow when Chris didn´t tell him. Sometimes
getting information out of the blond was like pulling teeth.
The witching hour, I bet. All good hand-overs in the movies happen
at that time, Ezra said with a grin before Chris could answer.
Yeah, that´s right, Chris agreed with a smile. You
know you sounded just like JD then, Ezra, the blond continued.
Oh, good God! Somebody hit me, the dark-haired man pleaded in
anguish as he looked around frantically.
Buck stood to oblige but was pushed back into his seat by Chris before he
could do anything to obey Ezra´s plea.
What´s the matter with sounding like me? JD whined,
sounding hurt as he looked at Ezra with his big hazel eyes.
Well, we are hardly similar in any respect, Mr. Dunne. I have an air
of sophistication and am always impeccably attired while you are
. rough and ready for want of a better term. Ezra looked
thoughtful. I put my attributes down to the fact that I was born under
the seventh sign of the zodiac, Libra. That certainly accounts for my good
dress-sense and renowned hatred of hard manual labor. You, I think, must
have been born under Cancer. They are notoriously untidy and the hovel that
you call your room certainly reflects that.
Chris could see his initial comment had been ill advised so he stepped in
before matters got too out of hand. He knew that once Ezra had gotten started
he was hard to stop and the blond had no idea how the conversation had gone
from video evidence to astrology so quickly. That´s Ezra for ya,
he thought to himself. Guys. Shut up, will ya? We have got more
important things to discuss than your qualities, or lack of them.
Ezra sighed in relief, happy to have been rescued from the hot water he´d
found himself in. Thank you, Mr. Larabee. I was liable to say something
regrettable. Your intervention was very timely, the undercover agent
admitted as he put his hand over his heart and patted his chest with a smile.
You have said somethin´ regrettable already, Ez. You insulted
me, JD complained as he pouted. He wasn´t going to let the matter
rest until he´d at least gotten an apology from the suave agent.
Well, it´s something that happens to you regularly so you should
be accustomed to it by now, Mr. Dunne, Ezra said with a smile.
Enough already! Chris shouted in exasperation. Just keep
yer lips sealed until I tell you otherwise.
The two reprimanded men did as they were told and sat silently but Chris
could see that Ezra was trying not to laugh. The blond fixed him with a stare
and Ezra´s mouth settled back into a straight line.
Okay, now let´s get back to work-related topics. The meeting tonight,
as I was saying, is at mid-night but I only want me and Vin to go, boys.
I don´t want anyone else hanging around and frightening my informant
Sure, pard. We´ll be waiting here for ya to see what you get,
+ + + + + + +
Chris picked Vin up and drove to the pickup point well before time. The two
men sat and observed the area to see who was about before Chris finally got
out. He left Vin in the car in sight of the meeting place and then strolled
along the alley carefully keeping a watch as he went. It was pitch black
and he could only see a short distance in any direction. The street lamp
at the end of the alley provided the only illumination in the area and that
was barely adequate for his purpose. He stood still for about ten minutes
at the agreed spot and looked up and down the alley continuously in the hope
that his informant would appear. His eye was drawn to a nearby Dumpster and
he frowned as he saw what he thought was a sneaker poking out the top. The
blond´s heart started pounding as he approached it slowly and he drew
his gun and flipped up the lid quickly. Inside was his informant, dead as
Shit! Chris turned and waved his arm in the air to summon Vin
The sharpshooter had been watching Chris every step of the way and his heart
had sunk when he´d seen his friend draw his gun. Vin got out of the
car and ran to meet up with the blond and he too looked in the Dumpster and
shook his head at the sight, feeling slightly sick. He put a hand up to his
mouth and turned away as he took a deep breath. Jeez. What the hell
did they hit him with? A sledgehammer? he mumbled.
God knows but I´m getting Forensics in to deal with him,
Chris said despairingly as he began thinking of the consequences. If
the film´s gone he musta been killed by someone who knew what he was
doing here. I just hope it was a random killing and the film will be found
under his body but there´s no way I´m touching him. Jesus, I was
sure we were gonna get Patterson this time. He seems to lead a fucking charmed
life, don´t he?
Vin patted his shoulder as he tried to allay the man´s fears.
We´ll see what Forensics find before we start fretting. As you
say, the film might be somewhere in amongst the garbage. Look, I´ll
call the others and tell them the pickup went bad. Do you want them all down
Chris shook his head negatively. No. Get JD to check all my
informant´s contacts, before and after I took him on. Ask Ezra to see
if he can track down Charlie Patterson cause I want a watch put on
the bastard. I don´t want him even farting without us knowing about
it. The other boys I need here.
Okay. I´ll arrange it all. Vin patted his friend´s
back and pulled out his cell to put in the call while Chris called Forensics.
+ + + + + + +
Within half an hour Buck, Josiah and Nathan had arrived and were helping
at the scene. Meanwhile back at the office, JD sat at his computer trawling
through records, while Ezra rang a few people to see if Patterson was still
The undercover agent received a tip-off and he disappeared to meet an old
acquaintance. He drove into town and saw his contact standing on the sidewalk
outside a bar so he pulled over and the man climbed in after making sure
no one was watching him.
Matthew, Ezra greeted.
Ezra pulled back out into the traffic and spent the next hour driving round
while his friend talked. The undercover agent dropped Matthew off again outside
the same bar and headed back to the office with his head full of thoughts.
His informant had proven very helpful indeed.
Hey, Ez. Did ya learn anything? JD asked when the undercover
agent reappeared looking unsettled.
Yes, and not all of it was welcomed, my young friend. Have you had
any communication from Mr. Larabee yet? Ezra asked anxiously when he
saw that the other men had yet to return.
JD scrunched up the sheet of paper he´d been writing on and threw it
over arm into the trashcan on the other side of the room. He smiled delightedly
as he got a direct hit and then nodded in answer to Ezra´s question.
Yeah. He´s on his way back in.
Splendid because I need to see him forthwith.
Just as he finished speaking there was a cacophony of voices outside in the
hallway and they grew louder as the returning agents approached their office.
Mr. Larabee? May I have a word? Ezra asked as he caught the
blond´s eye when he came into sight.
Sure, Ezra. Come on in. The blond headed into his office with
Ezra trailing behind.
Chris closed the door and turned to face the undercover agent questioningly.
Ezra sat down on the couch without being asked and Chris joined him with
Did you by chance find the film? the undercover agent asked hopefully
as he turned to face the blond.
No. Disappeared into the abyss of the underworld, I reckon. This could
have serious ramifications, Ezra. God knows who´s in possession of it
now. Just hope it ain´t Patterson, Chris replied with a grimace
as he rubbed a hand over his face.
Ezra took a deep breath and said, Well, I´ve just been to see
a contact this morning and he believes he knows who has it. He reports that
Charlie is definitely still in town and may well have murdered your informant
but he didn´t obtain the film. Someone else apparently stole
Well? Tell me who, dammit, Chris barked as he stared at Ezra
Ezra looked unperturbed by Chris´s displeasure and answered calmly,
Another gang entitled American Dragons is now in possession of it so
I understand. I dare say you´ve heard of them?
Yeah. Who hasn´t? How did they get to hear about the film?
Ezra shrugged. The same way everyone else has, I assume. It appears
that there is a double agent in the shadows, so to speak. An informant working
for both sides. As soon as he obtains information from us, he tells the people
involved and vice versa. He´s damned good to have kept his identity
secret and not to have been caught out.
Does your man know who it is? Chris asked as he narrowed his
Yes but he´s too scared to enlighten me for fear of retribution.
I tried to allay his fears believe me but even my silver-tongue didn´t
work its magic today.
Chris snorted angrily as he thought of the consequences that having a spy
in their midst would cause. Jesus. No one´s gonna want to talk
to us now they know about this double agent, are they?
Ezra nodded his head slowly. It´s certainly a problem with a double
edge to it. New informants will be unwilling to come forward with vital
information for fear of being identified and the ones we already employ are
no doubt already compromised. Some may run for cover but others may realize
that they have nothing to lose and will be twice as willing to help us. It
could work in our favor in some respects, Chris.
Chris stood up, walked to the window and watched as a pigeon landed on the
ledge outside and proceeded to peck at something with great fervor.
You´ve got it easy bird. I´d trade places with you willingly
just to get away from this problem, he said to himself. The blond turned
back to Ezra with a sigh and a shrug of his shoulders when the bird flew
away. Maybe yer right, but I reckon it´s gonna cause problems
on both sides. We won´t know who to trust either, will we? We could
be talking to the double agent and not know it, couldn´t we? I think
we´re gonna have to try and work without informants as much as we can
on this to try and stop information getting to the wrong people.
We could always spread misinformation if we needed to later on to put
them off the scent, Ezra suggested with raised eyebrows.
Perhaps. Chris sighed as he ran a hand round the back of his
neck while doing a circuit of the room. The blond looked up suddenly as a
thought entered his head and he came to a halt right in front of Ezra with
a deep frown and asked, How come the other gang got the film first
but didn´t kill the informant?
Apparently the film had been stolen from the informant´s house
while he wasn´t there. It happened within hours of your meeting being
set up. Your informant still turned up in the alley but Charlie arrived first
expecting to grab the film and was furious to find it already gone so he
killed him, the undercover agent explained. He could see Chris getting
angrier by the minute and the man now looked ready to explode.
Fucking hell! We´ve got enough criminals of our own without the
likes of Charlie Patterson entering our country among the many illegal aliens
we get each year. S´pose we could always get him deported if all else
fails. The bastard´s managed to evade imprisonment so far despite all
our best efforts to nail him, Chris ranted as he resumed pacing. He
hated that fact that although they knew Patterson was linked to many crimes
his lawyers always managed to get him off of any charges they had brought
against him. The blond scowled and turned to Ezra as something else occurred
to him. Why did my informant still want to meet with me? He coulda
told me what had happened over the phone.
Ezra shrugged. Perhaps he thought it wasn´t safe to communicate
with you in that fashion given that the film had just been stolen. Or maybe
he wanted to give you something else. Was anything found at the murder scene
that might fit the bill?
Still being looked at. I´ll call Forensics and get them to give
me a list of everything they find straight away. Chris wandered to
his desk to make the call but the phone rang before he could do so. The blond
picked it up and moved round behind his desk so he could sit down while talking.
Ezra got up and headed for the door to give him some privacy but Chris called
him back when he realized who the caller was. The undercover agent retook
his seat and waited patiently while listening to Chris talk.
The blond sat down and flicked a look at Ezra before asking the caller,
You have the film?
Yes. I work for the gang American Dragons. I will call with the codename
Silver Wolf and you will be my contact in this transaction. If you want the
film back, we want something in return for it.
What? Chris asked with a sinking heart. He hated making trades.
An acquaintance of ours is in prison and I want him released. If you
don´t do that for us and give us a million dollars, I will pass
the film onto Patterson. The man we want freed is Greg McBain and as we all
know how valuable this film is to you I can´t see a problem with either
of those demands, can you?
Chris let out a whistling breath and snorted angrily, I can see a pretty
big one and I certainly can´t authorize what you ask. I´m gonna
have to talk to AD Travis about it but we don´t make deals like that.
Even if we did, we´d need several days to arrange it but as I said it
ain´t likely to happen.
You´d better make an exception in this case if you want to see
Patterson behind bars, the caller said before disconnecting abruptly.
Chris put his phone down and stared into space before focussing on Ezra once
more. The blond stayed silent as he studied his agent distractedly and Ezra
grew impatient for news.
That was the gang, I presume? the undercover agent finally prompted
when Chris didn´t speak.
Yeah and the shit has just hit the fan. Get the others into the conference
room cause I need to tell them what´s going on, Chris decided
as he slumped back in his chair with a loud sigh.
Ezra rose and did as he was told and all the men followed him to the meeting
room and waited patiently for Chris to arrive. The blond walked in briskly
and stood at the head of the table and looked at each man in turn.
He pursed his lips and took a deep breath before speaking. The film
has got into the hands of a gang called American Dragons. They are demanding
the release of one of their men from prison before they give it back and
they also want a million dollars. If we don´t comply they will hand
the film to Patterson. Seems I´m gonna be their contact so if you get
any calls from someone called Silver Wolf pass them straight to me.
Buck frowned and tapped his pen on the surface of the table while he thought
hard. The sound reverberated around the room in the silence that had descended
and the blond scowled at him and snapped irritably, Bucklin! Pack it
in for Christ´s sake.
The tall, dark-haired man flinched and looked up at his oldest friend
apologetically. Sorry, Chris. It´s just that codename sounds familiar
but I can´t think why for the moment. I´m sure I´ve heard
it before, the ladies´ man admitted thoughtfully as he frowned
Well, let me know if you remember cause it would be good to know
who he is. Chris sighed and said, Whatever happens in the
negotiations we obviously don´t wanna release the prisoner or hand over
any money. We´ve gotta get them to offer lesser demands while we try
to get the film back by other means.
Who is the prisoner concerned? Nathan asked.
Greg McBain. It took a lot of work by us and our informants to get
that bastard behind bars and Travis ain´t gonna be pleased if we let
him walk free. We can´t pay the money either cause the
department´s a bit strapped for cash at the moment so that part ain´t
really an option anyway, Chris said as he put out his hands and leaned
on the back of an empty chair as he stared at his men.
Can we trust that they will give the film back if we answer their
demands? Josiah asked.
Not really, which is why we need to catch them as soon as we possibly
can. JD? I want you to set up a tap on my phone cause I´m gonna
be the gang´s main contact as I said. We need to trace where the calls
are coming from. Any other questions before I tell you your assignments?
Ezra put his hand up and Chris looked toward him questioningly. It
sounds like a veritable conundrum, Mr. Larabee. Do we know what timeframe
we´re working to? Have we been given a deadline for paying and for releasing
McBain? the dapper agent asked.
Not yet but they´re gonna have to give us a few days. We can´t
just release someone from jail or get that amount of money together overnight.
Right, Ezra I want you to concentrate on Patterson. Tail him to see where
he goes and who he meets. Buck and JD, you concentrate on finding out who
this Silver Wolf person is. The rest of you work on the American Dragons
angle. Find their base and who works for them, anything at all.
Chris wandered back to his office after giving his instructions and found
the phone ringing. Larabee, he said as he answered it, half-
expecting it to be Silver Wolf again.
Forensics. We´ve gotten the CCTV film from the area where your
informant died. We´ve spotted what could be a potential witness. Shall
I send it over?
Chris´s heart began beating faster in anticipation. Great, yes
please. You haven´t found anything else of use?
No, not yet.
Chris sat down after disconnecting and waited impatiently for the film to
arrive. As soon as it did he put it in the VCR in his office and made notes
as he watched and then called JD in to see him. Kid? Check this car
tag, will ya? Might be a witness to my informant´s murder. The film
doesn´t show the murder but this person may well have seen something
Sure thing. JD took the notes Chris handed him and settled down
at his computer to begin work. He soon found what he needed and went back
in to see Chris. There ya go, Chris. Name and address of yer possible
The blond smiled and collected his coat from the back of the door. Thanks,
kid. I´ll go and see her straightaway.
Chris drove to the address JD had given him and walked up the path to the
potential witness´s house. He was unaware that he was actually being
secretly watched by two unconnected people from two separate buildings, one
of whom was photographing him. Chris knocked on the witness´s door,
which was eventually opened by a young woman in her twenties and the secret
onlooker with the camera snapped away as Chris stood on the doorstep and
Chris smiled at the attractive woman and held up his I.D. for her to see.
Mornin´ Ma´am. My name is Chris Larabee and I´m an ATF
agent. I believe you may have been a witness to a crime last night. You are
Laura Watkins, I assume?
Yeah, that´s me, she replied sullenly. Her eyes concentrated
on the street rather than Chris and she surveyed the outdoor world anxiously.
She looked left and right and then hastily beckoned him in. You´d
better come in.
Chris frowned at her behavior but followed her quietly inside and wondered
why she didn´t seem to want to be seen with him. He was shown into the
living room and he wrinkled his nose at the decor inside. Bilious green walls
with black furniture and a deep red carpet. God, you´d have to have
a strong stomach to live in here. He sat down where she indicated and
tried to concentrate on his task rather than the color of the walls, but
it proved difficult.
He looked at the increasingly uncomfortable woman and asked, Can you
tell me exactly what you saw when you were parked near Anderson´s Alley
at about mid- night?
She shrugged her shoulders and looked unsettled. I didn´t see
much so I don´t think I´m gonna be much use to ya. The woman
went into a long and detailed description, which told him absolutely nothing
He sighed and stood after what seemed like hours and made his excuses. The
woman followed him out and shook his hand on the doorstep before closing
the door loudly. The secret observer with the camera made sure he got a picture
of their handshake.
Chris sighed and took a deep breath to get rid of the musty smell from the
house that had settled in his nose. He was glad to get out in the open air
again. He drove back to the office and found Buck there on his own.
Any luck, pard? the ladies´ man asked as he looked up from
Na. Monumental waste of time. God knows how she can live in that house.
The color scheme was abysmal and I actually feel quite sick from sitting
in there. Whatever perfume she was wearing was nauseating too. I can still
smell it on my clothes like a damned moth repellent. Think it coulda killed
an elephant at a hundred paces.
Yeah, I thought I could smell something rotten but I didn´t wanna
accuse you of letting your bodily functions run riot. I knew I hadn´t
done anything to create the stench so it had to be emanating from you,
Buck said as he laughed at the disgusted look Chris threw him. You
take a seat and Uncle Buck will get you a drink and some of Ezra´s
after-shave to cover the smell.
Thanks, Bucklin. Where´s everyone else? Chris asked as he
flopped down behind his desk and put his head in his hands.
All out chasing down leads, Buck replied as he put a mug of coffee
in front of his friend.
Chris picked it up gratefully and took a couple of long sips after first
blowing on the surface to cool the liquid down. He sighed contentedly and
began to feel a bit more human again Well, I´ll just write up
my report and go home then. Shouldn´t take me a minute.
Buck left his friend to it and went to finish what he was working on. The
two men left together half an hour later and for once headed straight home
instead of going to The Saloon.
+ + + + + + +
Chris woke to the sound of someone pounding on his door.
Alright, alright. I´m coming. He tossed back the sheets
and pulled on his pajama pants after rolling out of bed with a groan. He
wandered irritably to the door with his bare feet padding softly on the tiled
floor. Chris opened the door to find two policemen standing on his doorstep.
Mr. Christopher Larabee? the taller of the two asked.
Yes. What can I do for you? Chris asked as he tried to tame his
wayward hair with the palm of his hand.
We´re from robbery/homicide. Can we come in, Sir? the man
asked as he showed his I.D.
Sure. Chris frowned as he rubbed his eyes sleepily and led the
two men into the kitchen. He indicated for them to sit down but they declined
and Chris eyed them warily as he wondered what they wanted. It all sounded
rather official because they had used his full name.
Did you visit a Laura Watkins yesterday? the second policeman
Yes. She was a potential witness to a murder and I was getting a
statement, the blond explained uneasily as he nodded.
Was she alive when you left her?
Chris furrowed his brow and felt his heart skip a beat at the question.
Where the hell is this leading? he wondered. Yeah, of course
she was alive. What´s happened?
She was found murdered this morning and you were the last person to
be seen at her house.
Chris could already tell by the tone of the man´s voice that he was
considered guilty of the crime. Well, I didn´t kill her. You know
I was there on legitimate business and I can show you the statement she made
if you want. Chris answered calmly enough but he knew he wouldn´t
remain so for too much longer.
We need to take you down to the precinct for questioning. We also need
to search your vehicle.
Why? What for? Chris asked in alarm.
Just routine. Please come with us, Sir.
Look, can´t I get dressed first? Chris asked as he realized
that he was still clothed only in his pajama pants.
Okay but my colleague will accompany you just in case you get any ideas
about running away.
I ain´t stupid, Chris snarled angrily.
He stood and accompanied his guard upstairs and quickly pulled on the clothes
he´d worn the previous day. He went back downstairs reluctantly and
then out into the yard where he watched the taller policeman search the Ram
in detail. The blond was glad he lived out in the sticks because he could
imagine there would have been onlookers galore seeing his humiliation if
he lived near Vin or one of the others. He looked around him in relief and
only saw his dog wandering off into the distance. Thank Heaven for being
anti-social, he thought to himself. His attention was then drawn back
to the Ram when he saw the policeman had found something in the vehicle that
Chris had never seen before in his life.
The cop turned to Chris and looked at him accusingly. Can you tell
me how you came by this, Mr. Larabee? he asked as he held up a blood-
spattered statue before putting it in an evidence bag.
Chris shook his head vigorously and felt as if the world was falling down
round his ears. He felt cold and shivery and his heart was jumping up and
down uncontrollably in his chest. No, I´ve never seen it
We´ll soon know for sure when we test it for fingerprints and
the victim´s blood but for the moment you´re under arrest for the
murder of Laura Watkins. The policeman then read him his rights and
Yer making a big mistake, Officer, Chris warned as he was pushed
toward the squad car.
We´ll see. The cop put his hand on Chris´s head and
helped him get into the back of squad car and drove him into town.
The blond stared out of the car´s window as he tried to get to grips
with what was going on. He couldn´t understand how the statue had gotten
into the Ram for starters. None of what was happening made any sense to him.
They finally arrived at their destination and once inside the precinct Chris
said forcefully, I want to make a phone call.
Sure. You´re entitled.
Chris was taken to a phone in an office and left alone but he knew from
experience that a cop was outside the door. The blond phoned the office rather
than a lawyer. Bucklin? I´m in big trouble. That witness I interviewed
yesterday has been murdered and I´ve been arrested.
What!? the ladies´ man gasped.
Find out what you can, will ya? Tell Travis what´s happened
Sure, pard. We´ll be with you shortly to get things sorted,
Chris walked out of the office and was taken straight to an interrogation
room where he was questioned extensively. He kept repeating himself over
and over again as they asked the same questions in different ways to try
and catch him out. He barely held onto his temper but he knew if he lost
control, it would make matters even worse for him. When they´d finished
with him he was taken out and found Buck and the others waiting in the foyer.
He was pushed forcefully onwards and wasn´t allowed to talk to them
but was taken straight to the cells.
What´s going on? Buck asked in confusion as he watched Chris
walk away with his hands cuffed behind his back.
He´s being kept for further questioning, the policeman said
sternly. His fingerprints were found in the victim´s house and
we found the murder weapon in his truck. It seems he had some involvement
in the woman´s death and we´re not happy with the explanation
he´s given us so far.
Buck looked astounded. Yer not serious? You know Chris was in her house
legitimately yesterday and that statue coulda been planted by the real murderer.
Ya do know who Chris is, don´t ya?
Yeah but status don´t count. We´ve got all the evidence we
need to hold him for the time being.
Like hell you have. Can I see him? Buck asked angrily.
No, sorry, the cop said, not sounding sorry at all as he turned
and walked away abruptly.
Buck turned to the others as he threw his hands up into the air in despair.
We prove his innocence, Vin stated in a matter-of- fact tone.
Josiah? Nate? Go and see what you can find out about the dead woman.
Find out where she worked, if she´s got a criminal record, anything
JD? Go to her house and see what you can find out there. I´m gonna
call Travis and see if he can get Chris out. We need him around when Silver
Wolf calls. Don´t s´pect he´ll agree to deal with anyone else
The men disappeared to begin their assignments leaving the other three to
wait and see if Chris would be freed. Whatever Vin said to Travis worked
like a charm. The man called the police precinct where Chris was being held
and exerted some pressure and made a few threats and the blond was reluctantly
released into his friends care.
The cop who brought him up from the cells took off the cuffs and said,
Make sure you stay in town, Larabee. You´re still our prime
Ezra scowled and replied tartly, I hope you are not implying that you
expect Mr. Larabee to abscond, Officer. It would be a massive breach of trust
on his part if he should disappear and he´s not the type of person to
run away when he´s been falsely accused of a crime. Ezra
stood right in front of the cop and put an outstretched finger against the
man´s chest and increased the pressure. Just so you know, we will
be working to clear his name and we shall prevail.
The cop didn´t answer but curled his lip in disgust and walked away.
The blond smiled and said, Thanks, guys. I appreciate you getting me
out of here.
You´re welcome but it was Travis who tightened the thumb screws
on these clowns. You get to stay with one of us though for your sins so
don´t get too overexcited by it all, the undercover agent smiled
wryly in reply.
Oh, I think I can handle that, Ez, Chris grinned as he patted
Ezra´s back appreciatively.
When the blond turned toward him, Vin said, We´ve got the other
boys checking out the woman´s background. We´ll find out who really
killed her, Chris.
Okay, let´s get back to the office and see what else needs doing.
I´d better see Travis too to thank him, Chris said as he walked
toward the door, wanting to get out of the building quickly.
They drove back to their place of work, knowing that they had a big task
ahead of them. Their three other friends were back at the office already
when they arrived and the whole group went through to the conference room.
Found anything yet? the blond asked anxiously as he began his
customary pacing. Even more than usual he couldn´t keep still after
his confinement earlier in the day.
You´ll never guess who she is, Nathan said, sounding pleased.
Well, if that´s what you think you´d be better off tellin´
me rather than wasting my time by playing twenty questions, wouldn´t
ya? Chris snapped as he abruptly stopped and stared at the medic irritably.
Nathan nodded apologetically. Sorry, Chris. She´s Patterson´s
Chris stared at the medic and sighed. Tell me what you know about
Well, she worked for the art gallery in town. Seems the statue that
was found in your Ram had been stolen from there recently and she was the
biggest suspect. The gallery actually went to the expense of hiring a P.I.
to keep an eye on her to see who she met and if she could be caught with
the treasure in her possession. They wanted to see who she passed it on to.
Several other items had gone missing in the time she´s worked there
and they needed to get some concrete evidence against her. This must be another
side to Patterson´s organization that we didn´t know about. Art
theft makes millions a year for the thieves.
Josiah said, I´ve got the P.I´s name and address and we were
gonna see him next.
Okay. I´ll come too, Chris said, eager to work toward clearing
Shouldn´t you keep clear of involvement, pard? Buck said.
We can handle it.
No. If you think I´m just gonna sit back and watch you work
you´ve got another thing coming. This is my life that´s on the
line, Bucklin. They seem convinced that I´m guilty of killing her so
I think I´m entitled to do some investigatin´, don´t you?
Ezra told the cop we would be looking into the charges and he didn´t
say we couldn´t.
Didn´t say you could either from what I recall, pard. Buck
shrugged but didn´t look particularly happy. Just don´t make
matters worse, will ya? he said before sitting down at his desk.
Chris, Josiah and Nathan left the office and drove to the address of the
P.I.´s office and knocked on the door. There was no reply so Chris cupped
his hands together and peered through the window. He still couldn´t
see properly so he wiped the glass with his shirtsleeve and tried again and
he scowled when he saw what was revealed.
Been trashed. Bust open the door, will ya? he requested as he
moved to stand next to Nathan.
Josiah did as he was told and the men found a large pool of blood inside
the door. Chris swore and phoned Buck to arrange for a search warrant to
be issued so they could collect what they needed from the ransacked office.
The blond stood just inside the door and surveyed the devastation. Think
we have to assume the P.I. may be dead too. Looks like all the film he had
has gone but check again to be sure though, will ya? I need to know if he
took any photos of me when I visited Laura. See if anyone who works nearby
saw anythin´ suspicious too. I want to know his home address and anywhere
else he hangs out, Chris instructed.
Buck arrived with the warrant and Forensics weren´t far behind him and
the two teams worked together to collect as much evidence as they could.
Chris and Buck went back to the office to begin looking through what they´d
collected so far but their haul didn´t include any photos, much to
Dammit. He musta kept a book with all his notes in to say what or who
he photographed and when. Where is it? Chris asked as he stood with
hands on hips looking furious. He´d been counting on some photos being
taken of him as he´d left the house to prove that the woman had been
alive at the time.
Buck waved a bulky ledger in the air. All in here, pard. Names, dates
See if anyone visited after me, the blond instructed as he looked
over his friend´s shoulder.
Don´t say so specifically but there´s some funny code written
in after you left her. Buck pointed at it but couldn´t make head
or tail of it. Looks like he definitely did take some photos of you
at the time but where the hell are they? Don´t s´pect the police
will accept the ledger as evidence on its own without the pictures.
Did ya find his camera at the office? Chris asked as he looked
through the bags piled on the desk to see if he could trace the item in question.
Na. Shit, I didn´t think to look. Bet the pictures of you are
still inside it seeing as it happened so recently.
See if Forensics found it, the blond instructed as he dropped
the bag that he held in his hand back onto the desk in frustration. Have
we had anything back from my informant´s murder scene?
No, nothing yet. Don´t think they found anything useful there
but they´re still checking a few things, pard, Buck said as he
put the ledger to one side to study in detail later. Perhaps when he looked
at it afresh the code would become clear.
Chris shook his head and stayed silent as he tried to think of what else
needed to be done. Have you been to my informant´s house yet?
You may find something there and I want everything checked thoroughly.
Okay. I´ll go now and let you know.
Take JD with ya cause I don´t want anyone alone on this.
I´m gonna go see Travis about getting some more help on this,
Chris said as the two men split up.
Buck phoned the blond back within the hour. No luck, pard. House has
been trashed too but that may have been done when the video was originally
taken. Gotten no way of tellin´. Shall I get Forensics in?
Yeah, they may find somethin´ useful although we know who took
the film anyway. Thanks for checking, Buck. I shoulda thought of looking
there yesterday, Chris said as he turned to stare out the window in
Mr. Larabee? Might I have a word? Ezra asked as soon as he saw
the blond put down the phone. The undercover agent rose and hovered in the
doorway as he awaited an answer.
Sure. Come on in, Ez.
Seeing as we seem to be being beaten at every turn, may I take the
liberty of suggesting that I try and infiltrate American Dragons and get
the video back from within? Charlie Patterson must know that they have it
by now and will try everything to get it back so we need to retrieve it first.
I don´t think following Patterson around is being beneficial because
he hasn´t done anything out of the ordinary up to now. He´s just
gone to buy some food of all things so I came back here to see you to put
forward my proposal. Joining the gang might prove more useful than blundering
around after Patterson.
I don´t like it, Ez. They may know you because of this double
That´s the risk I run every time I go undercover as well you know,
Chris. There´s always the chance that I´m gonna run into someone
I know. A dirty cop, or someone I´ve jailed before. We can hardly bust
the gang as things stand now, can we? With the double agent still at large
we wouldn´t stand a chance of retrieving the video before they got to
hear that we were coming. They´d have plenty of time to offload it before
we got there. We might catch the gang but we´d lose Patterson and he´s
the one we really want, isn´t he? I think we have a better chance of
arresting him if I go undercover. We already know where the Dragon gang is
based and who the main players are and I know I haven´t had dealings
with the ones we know about. If I can join on the quiet it should be safe
enough and hopefully the double agent won´t get to hear about it. Anyway,
it´s a risk I´m willing to take.
The blond sat and stared at the man opposite him. Okay, I´ll let
you go in but this whole situation is getting to be like a ticking timebomb,
ain´t it? Just hope it don´t all blow up in our faces.
Seems more like Wacky Races if you ask me and I think we´re in
for the ride of our lives, Ezra drawled with a grin.
Chris smiled. Yeah, I know what you mean and at the moment we´re
way behind Dastardly and Muttley. The blond sighed. Promise me
though, that if things get bad you´ll get out of there, video or no
video? Ezra nodded so Chris continued, How are ya gonna stay
in contact, cause I know you´re gonna refuse a wire.
Ezra smiled as he flicked a bit of dirt from his sleeve. You know me
too well but I think even you would agree with me on this occasion. I´ll
have to rely on my cell.
Chris nodded and asked, What can we offer the gang so they can´t
deny you joinin´ them?
Well, my informant earlier said he knew they were on the lookout for
what they term as the terminator. Not a terminator, mind you.
The terminator. The boss wants the best sniper that money can buy.
Someone guaranteed to take out the opposition. I know Mr. Tanner is our
sharpshooter but I can usually hit what I aim at. Perhaps I could offer my
services as that?
Okay. We don´t have to involve anyone else in this so the double
agent should be none the wiser, as you said earlier. I´ll arrange everything
ya need but take care, Ez. This is getting trickier with each passing
minute, Chris warned worriedly.
+ + + + + + +
The leader of the American Dragons gang, Vasquez, entered his home with his
entourage after it had been searched for intruders. He made his way to his
office while he left his men to patrol the exterior of the house. He sat
at his desk and worked quietly for an hour without any interruption. He reached
out his hand toward the ashtray to pick up the cigar he´d been smoking
but his hand stopped in mid-air as he felt something being held against the
back of his neck and heard the click of a gun being cocked. He moved his
other hand to push the alarm button on the desk but stopped as the pressure
on his neck increased.
I wouldn´t if I were you. Anyway, I´m pleased to inform
you that I´m not going to kill you. I want you to employ me instead.
I understand you´re looking for a hired killer and I think I´ve
just proven that I can get into a heavily guarded house and take someone
out. What other qualifications do you desire? Ezra uncocked his gun
and put it away as he walked round to face the man. He sat down in the chair
opposite and stared at Vasquez questioningly.
You´re an arrogant bastard, aren´t you? Vasquez observed
as he studied Ezra minutely. I like that but how did you get to hear
that I needed your services.
I keep my ear to the ground and I only work for the best. You´re
name cropped up in conversation, so here I am. I can tell you who I´ve
killed so far in my career if you desire and who I´ve worked for.
Ezra reeled off a long list of names. Any one of the last ten can vouch
for my integrity.
Am I hired? Ezra asked hopefully as he continued staring at Vasquez.
Maybe. I´ll just check out a few of your references before I make
up my mind. Wouldn´t want to find out that you lied to me. You understand,
Ezra nodded. I´d have been amazed if you didn´t do any checking.
You´d better know my name so they know whom you´re inquiring about.
My name is Megiddo.
Just Megiddo? Vasquez narrowed his eyes suspiciously.
Yes. They´ll know whom you mean, Ezra drawled as he nodded
and brushed down his pant leg nonchalantly.
The gang leader stood up and left the room to make his calls privately. He
returned after half an hour during which time Ezra had been starting to get
a bit nervous. Vasquez smiled and said, Okay fella, you´re hired.
I thought my security team was the best but you got by them easily. I see
they will have to be replaced. I think I´ll promote you to be my personal
bodyguard too cause you´re just what I´ve been looking
for. The gang leader patted Ezra´s shoulder before sitting down
behind his desk again. Any info you think I need to hear about come
directly to me with it. I want you to look out for me and always have my
best interests at heart, you understand? I don´t want you looking to
save someone else instead of me, okay? Remember who´s paying yer
Of course. I´ll consider myself a floating member of your outfit,
answerable only to you. It´s then a nice simple chain of command, just
you and me, isn´t it? I don´t see any problem, do you?
No, I don´t. Glad we got that sorted so easily. I see we´re
gonna get along just fine. I´d better introduce you to the rest of my
happy band but I just need to get rid of those incompetent fools first though.
Vasquez stood and walked out of his office with Ezra by his side and called
his men together. The men who had been on guard duty stared at Ezra in surprise
and wondered when he´d arrived. Vasquez noticed their expressions and
snorted. Yeah, you may well look astounded. This man is a hired assassin
and he got into my office without any of you noticing. Good job he wasn´t
here to kill me. You´re no better than a bunch of boy scouts and I
don´t employ boy scouts. Take em outside Nick and I don´t
wanna see em again.
The group of men left, totally unaware of their fate but they soon found
out what it was. Ezra flinched as he heard gunfire and frowned when Nick
came back in re- holstering his semi-automatic gun.
Vasquez grinned nastily and turned to another of his gang. Cooper?
Find some better recruits or your job is the next to be terminated.
Yes boss, the man said quietly and hurried to carry out his
Right the rest of you. This is Megiddo and he´s working for me
personally. That´s all you need to know about him. Now get outta my
The gang leader put his arm round Ezra´s shoulders and herded him back
inside the office and shut the door. Tell me then. How did you get
into this line of work, Vasquez asked as he took his seat behind the
desk and put his fingers together in a steeple.
Ezra smiled and said, I found I was better at killing people than being
the coach of the local baseball team. I did that for the final year I was
at University and then I joined the Navy. I progressed onto the Navy Seals
team but I decided to go freelance after a few years. It was more lucrative
to work solo so I became an assassin.
Bit of a change of career, ain´t it? Baseball coach to
Yes, it was rather but I did baseball before I found my real niche
Vasquez laughed. You´ve obviously been very successful in your
Yes, I like to think so. One attribute that is essential in my line
of work is patience. I don´t care how long I have to wait until the
perfect opportunity presents itself to kill my prey. Persistence is in the
blood of the hunter and that certainly applies to me. When I have been assigned
to kill someone, nothing will stop me until I get the job done. If at first
you don´t succeed and all that, Ezra said. Well, what would
you like me to do?
See if you can track down Charlie Patterson, will ya? You know who
he is, I hope? Vasquez asked with a raised eyebrow.
Oh yes, I´ve certainly heard about him. He´s borderline
psychotic, so I understand, and I don´t work for people of unstable
mind. I´ve made sure that I´ve steered well clear of him in my
career so far.
Very wise. Just follow him and let me know if he´s heading in
the direction of my gang´s base. I have something in my possession that
could put him behind bars for years and I just need to make sure he doesn´t
attempt to steal it.
Wouldn´t he send one of his employees to take it instead?
Ezra asked in a puzzled tone.
Na, he wouldn´t trust anyone else with it. If it was your life
on the line you´d want to deal with things yourself, wouldn´t
Ezra shrugged. I suppose so. Well, I will call and update you with
my progress. Do you want me to stay on him 24/7 or what?
Vasquez shook his head and said, Track him for today and then go back
to base. I need you to do some surveillance work tonight. You up to it?
Of course. You are my boss and I will follow your orders to the
Great. You know where our base is?
Yes, Ezra smiled. He stood up and turned toward the door but
in doing so his jacket snagged a small ornament on Vasquez´s desk. Ezra
heard a crash and looked down at the smashed ornament in dismay. It had once
been a small, china rose but it was now in several pieces. I must
apologize, Mr. Vasquez. I shall replace it of course, Ezra said in
a groveling manner.
Don´t bother. My mother, God rest her soul, gave it to me. Always
hated it but couldn´t throw it away, you know? You´ve done me a
Ezra smiled and left the room before he could break anything else. He hoped
the surveillance work that night would prove more helpful than following
Charlie Patterson around. He´d been doing that for Chris and had been
dismayed when Vasquez wanted him to do exactly the same thing. Beggars
can´t be choosers but at least I seem to have been accepted by