Find the Film

by Hombre

Chris turned up at the office and wandered through to his own room. He had sneaked out of Josiah´s house where he had been staying and managed not to wake the man in the process. It was 5am on the third morning of Ezra´s assignment and the undercover agent had phoned late the previous night to say he wanted to meet Chris and the team. The undercover agent had been out of contact since joining Vasquez and Chris had been beginning to get worried.

During Ezra´s absence, Chris had been contacted again by Silver Wolf although the call seemed to be a recording and the voice sounded slightly different too. The blond couldn´t understand the change in tactics but wondered if it had been done deliberately so that he couldn´t argue with their demands anymore. There was no room for negotiation with a tape recorder. His hand was being forced now to comply with their orders and he was beginning to feel the pressure. The deadline for both releasing McBain and paying the money was the following day so Chris had reluctantly started to make final arrangements to do their bidding. He had been mightily relieved when Ezra had called and said that he hoped to have some good news for them. Chris might not have to part with any money after all and the blond inevitably hadn´t been able to sleep for the anticipation.

He walked over to the window in the dark and noticed Ezra was stretched out on the couch fast asleep. Chris looked down at him over the back of the seat and studied his face as best he could in the gloom. The man looked exhausted so Chris found a blanket and covered him carefully. The undercover agent was dressed from head to foot in black and that fact piqued Chris´s curiosity. Although the blond was dying to know what Ezra had to tell him he knew the man needed some rest because he always suffered badly when he went undercover. He didn´t eat or sleep particularly well and usually came back to work in poor physical condition.

Chris sighed and sat down at his desk to try and do some work while waiting for his other agents to arrive. He switched on the small desk light rather than the main one so as not to disturb his sleeping agent. After quite some time had passed, Chris flicked a quick look at Ezra when the man groaned as if he was in pain. Chris frowned when he saw what he thought was a dark patch on the green blanket covering the man. His gaze was then drawn to the floor and he reached out a hand and turned the light´s beam in that direction. He was horrified to see the puddle of blood on the carpet that was illuminated in the spotlight.

He rose swiftly and reached Ezra in two long strides and he peeled back the blanket carefully until he got to the bloody spot. He looked at the area of Ezra´s body that had been covered by it and found a bullet wound. He cursed and continued checking the rest of his agent´s body and discovered another wound in his shoulder.

“Shit! Ez? Can you open yer eyes for me?” Chris asked as he touched Ezra´s face gently. He got no response other than another soft, drawn-out groan.

He got back to his feet quickly and picked up his cell from the desk and called for an ambulance. He then retrieved the first aid box and turned on the main light so he could see properly. He knelt beside Ezra again and began treating the man´s stomach injury but as he touched the man´s tender flesh Ezra groaned again and quivered slightly.

“Alright, Ez. I´ll try to be quick. An ambulance is on its way,” Chris said softly as he tried to keep the man calm and still.

Chris carefully lifted the man´s shirt and looked at the second wound in more detail. Ezra tried to move away so Chris removed his hand and let the man settle before starting his treatment again. The blond then heard approaching footsteps and he turned, expecting it to be the paramedics. He sighed in relief when he saw it was Nathan who had walked into the room instead.

“Nate, thank God. Ez is here and he´s been shot twice.”

The medic strode toward him and took Chris´s place beside the undercover agent. “Ez? It´s Nathan. Can you hear me? Come on, wake up, Ezra!” Nathan sighed and turned back to Chris anxiously. “How long has he been here, Chris?”

“Don´t know,” Chris conceded as he shrugged. “He was here when I arrived at 5am and I thought he was just asleep. I couldn´t see any wounds ‘cause he was all in black and it was dark. I didn´t turn on the light because it woulda woken him and I just didn´t think to check him for injuries. You know what he´s like on an undercover case, he´s always real tired, ain´t he? I just covered him with a blanket and left him alone while I did some work. I heard him groan and when I looked up I could see the blood. I shoulda checked him first off. Now I think about it, when he phoned last night he sounded sorta breathless and strange. I just thought he´d been running or somethin´ though.”

“You weren´t to know he was hurt, Chris.” Nathan looked up from examining the undercover agent and said, “Looks like he´s still got the bullet in the shoulder wound but hopefully that shouldn´t prove a problem. The other bullet went straight through but it looks a real nasty injury.”

Footsteps sounded again and two paramedics hurried in and took over from Nathan. They took some time in treating Ezra before transferring him to the ambulance. Once the undercover agent had been moved, Chris noticed something poked down the side of the couch and he reached out and pulled free a video. He looked at Nathan who was still with him and shrugged. The blond decided to take the tape with him because Ezra had obviously brought it and Chris really hoped it turned out to be what he expected it to be.

The two agents then made their way to the hospital after contacting the rest of the team to tell them where they were. All the men turned up at the medical facility within the hour and joined their friends in the waiting room.

Buck sat down next to Chris and patted his knee. “You okay, pard?”

“Been better. Feel guilty really.”

The ladies´ man frowned. “Why? You got him here safely.”

“Yeah, but he was lying hurt right in front of me for an hour and I didn´t realize. I just left him on the couch to rest ‘cause he looked real tired but I shoulda at least checked him to make sure he was alright.” The blond sighed and then said, “You know how stressed he gets on assignments, especially since the kidnappin´. He don´t cope as well as he used to and looks like hell for days afterwards. He ain´t exactly fat when he starts out and he always comes back real thin, like a stick insect, don´t he? It can´t be good for him to live like that.” Chris sighed again. “I could kick myself for just leaving him alone.” Chris felt like a parrot continually trying to justify his actions to each of his colleagues.

“You did what you thought was best, pard. Don´t stress about it,” Buck said and he squeezed his oldest friend´s shoulder in encouragement.

A couple of hours passed anxiously before Chris was called to see his injured agent. The doctor took him along to Ezra´s room but stopped the man from entering when he saw that the undercover agent was awake.

“Just a couple of minutes, alright? He´s still weak so take care with him.”

“Sure, doc.” Chris pushed open the door and walked inside. “Hey, Ez. Good to see ya. How ya feelin´?”

“A trifle sore. I assume I have a few more holes in me than I was born with?” Ezra asked wryly in a quiet voice that betrayed his pain.

Chris laughed. Ezra could always be witty no matter how bad he felt. “Yeah, you sure have. What happened? Are you up to tellin´ me?”

The undercover agent rubbed his temples. “I´ll try but please excuse me if I fall asleep halfway through. Did you by chance find a video tape?”

“Yeah, I did. Brought it with me. Is it what I think it is?”

“Yes. I managed to retrieve it but only after sending another human being to the afterlife. I was on guard duty at the gang´s base when someone arrived with the idea of stealing the video. Although I´d been on guard duty the previous evening too I couldn´t afford to take it then because they would have known for sure that I was the culprit. This way I would have been able to blame it on someone else legitimately. I hope that makes sense, but my mind is slightly befuddled at the moment. Anyway back to the story, I hid and saw one of the other gang members helping themselves to it. I knew it was too good an opportunity to miss so when he left I followed behind to see what he was going to do. He met up with another man and I saw money change hands. I knew where James, the gang member, lived so I concentrated on the other man, knowing that getting the tape back was more important. I intercepted him and relieved him of it but not before we had exchanged a few shots. He´s as dead as a doornail and I barely escaped with the injuries that you see. It turned into the night of lead for a while, or die nacht aus bleu, as the Germans say. Bullets were flying everywhere and it was inevitable that one, or both, of us would be hit. For a moment I thought you might be forced to visit a tombstone rather than a hospital bed. Our job is rather like the martyrdom of Saint Sebastian, isn´t it? We are, and he was, prepared to die to prevent, as Sebastian himself said, the shedding of innocent blood. Good over evil, it´s the same all down the ages, isn´t it?” Ezra stopped talking and rubbed his eyes. The injured man sighed and rested his head back on the pillow as he closed his eyes briefly. He felt cold and physically sick.

Chris reached out a concerned hand. “Ez? You okay? Do you want me to get someone?”

“No, thank you. I´m quite alright. Just a bit fatigued and in pain.”

“We can do this later if you´re feeling bad,” the blond said worriedly when he saw the man pale before his eyes.

“No. I need to tell you the rest.” Ezra was silent for a short time while he gathered his thoughts and then took a deep breath. “I left the man I killed where he fell I´m afraid and contacted the police to get them to arrest James. Hopefully that will tie up some of the loose ends but I´m not sure what Vasquez will think when I don´t appear.”

“Don´t fret. I´ll put the word out on the street and tell him the truth. You were protecting his property as per his orders, weren´t ya? I´ll say you were killed and that the tape has gone again, taken by a colleague of the man you killed. Don´t want Patterson going underground if he hears that we´ve got it. We need to keep it live. You did real well, Ez. You´ve given us some breathing space to get a plan ready so we catch Patterson.”

Chris turned his head as he heard the door open and saw a nurse enter the room. She was rather a stern-faced woman who looked as though she would take no nonsense from anyone and that was soon proved. She reached out and put a finger on the pulse point in Ezra´s wrist and her face clouded ominously. She turned to Chris with hands on hips and the blond could almost feel waves of anger emanating from her and washing over him. The sensation was palpable.

“Have you no brains? He needs rest after his injuries not disturbance. You were told that he was still very weak, weren´t you? Come on, get out and leave him alone! Not got the sense you were born with, have you?” She walked toward him and waved her hands as she drew near to get him to move.

The woman stood over Chris until he rose meekly and left the room as he flicked a quick look at Ezra and grimaced. The woman followed him out, making sure he stayed outside.

“Is he alright?” Chris asked quietly, wondering if he was going to get another rollicking.

“Will be, but no thanks to you. He´s overtired and his pulse is way up. Someone else, other than you, can come back and sit with him quietly but I don´t want him harassed any more. No talking or anything, do you understand?” When she received a nod from Chris she turned and walked back in to check on Ezra once more.

Chris looked back through the door at his injured agent and saw the nurse fussing about and tucking the sheet in tidily. Chris thought his friend did indeed look tired and drawn and he sighed unhappily. Oughta have known better without her and the doctor having to tell me. Hopefully no harm done, though.

Buck ambled along the hallway toward him and Chris smiled in welcome. “Great timin´, Bucklin. Can you stay with Ez? I need to get a story out on the street to get him off the hook with Vasquez.”

The dark-haired man nodded. “Sure. I´ll take good care of him, pard. By the way we just heard that the P.I´s dead, as we thought. His body turned up in a shallow grave in the hills, found by some people out camping.”

Chris sighed, pitying the people who had made the grim discovery. “Thought he musta been killed. Dead men can´t dance and they also can´t give away little secrets, can they? Bet the photos have gone too. Dammit, why can´t something go our way for a change?” He patted Buck´s shoulder and grimaced before saying, “Bit of advice, don´t disturb Ez, will ya? He´s got a dragon of a nurse caring for him and she just threw me out for tiring him.”

Buck laughed loudly. “Bet that was a sight to see, pard. She´ll be putty in my hands when I´ve finished with her. No woman can resist the Bucklin charm,” he said confidently.

“Yeah, yeah. Well, I think she´s out of yer league but good luck all the same, Bucklin,” Chris said and he pounded his friend´s back heartily. Buck could never resist a woman and even if they showed no interest whatsoever he was never deterred. The more they denied him his goal, the better he liked it.

The ladies´ man grinned and pushed his way through the door and swaggered to the side of the bed. “Hello, sweetheart,” he boomed to the nurse. “How´s the patient doin´?”

The nurse turned to face him and stated tartly, “I am not your sweetheart and the patient will be feeling all the better if he could get a bit of peace and quiet. As I told your friend outside, you can sit with him but only if you leave him alone. Don´t let him talk at all and it´s best if you don´t talk to him either. Just let him sleep and recuperate.”

Buck looked at Ezra and winked. “Well, he usually talks nonstop, nurse. It´s gonna be hard to shut him up.”

The nurse scowled. “He´s hardly in any condition to talk now thanks to your blond- bombshell of a friend. You just hold up your end of our agreement and keep that mouth of yours shut or you´ll have me to deal with. Do I make myself clear?” the woman asked as she stood within inches of him. Although she was over a head shorter than Buck she wasn´t in the least bit daunted by his height. Rather than being putty in his hands Buck was coming to realize that he was at her mercy instead.

“Yeah, ma´am. I hear ya loud and clear,” Buck said quietly as he sat down in the chair that the nurse pointed to. The mustached agent flicked a look out the door and saw Chris laughing at him. The ladies´ man poked out his tongue and then grinned ruefully.

+ + + + + + +

Chris set off back to the office and called the local television station and asked them to put out a story for him in their next news program. He gave exact details of what he wanted and made sure the person understood. He heard the person disconnect and was just about to do the same when he thought he heard someone else on the line. He kept quiet and heard the other phone being put back in the cradle. He sat and frowned as he stared at the phone.

JD walked in and Chris looked up distractedly as the kid ambled toward him and sat down at the desk.

“Chris? What´s up?”

The blond flicked another look up at the kid and said, “I don´t know whether I imagined it kid, but I´m sure someone was listening in on my phone.”

“What happened?” JD asked and then listened in silence as Chris explained.

“Is the tap still on the phone?” the blond asked.

“No, took it off when we failed to trace Silver Wolf. Do ya want me to see if I can track back that call through normal channels?”

The black-clad man nodded. “Can you do that now?”

“Can try.” JD stood up and hurried to his desk. He retrieved the phone records for Chris´s phone and stared in amazement at the number he assumed was involved. The kid then walked back in to see Chris with a parcel that had just arrived clutched tightly in his hands. “It´s an internal line.”

“What?” Chris said in astonishment.

“Someone´s been listening in for days according to this,” JD said as he handed over the list of calls.

Chris looked at the pages angrily. “Shit! No wonder we couldn´t keep anything secret. They must be the double agent, mustn´t they? Can you find out who it is?”

JD nodded. “Already done. The extension belongs to a Susan Johannson. She´s one of the civilian workers. She ain´t called you officially, has she?”

“No, but the name sounds familiar for some reason. Wasn´t there a man killed recently with the same surname? Drug related death, I think,” Chris replied thoughtfully as he put the sheet of paper down on the desk.

“I´ll check and let you know. What you gonna do about Susan?”

“Nothing yet. I don´t want her to know we´re on to her until I´ve got a clearer picture of what´s going on. If she disappears from the scene suddenly, the people she informs will get suspicious. I told the TV lady quite a lot but Susan won´t know I was talking about Ezra ‘cause I´m the only one who knows what codename he was using. I didn´t make it sound like a personal favor either, just passing on information like we sometimes do. Having Susan listening in may be a blessing in disguise. We can use her to pass on anything she hears without her realizing we´re feeding her misinformation. This whole situation is getting as difficult to deal with as I imagine climbing K2 would be. Look, I really need to think things through so I´d appreciate some time on my own, kid.”

JD handed the package he still held to the blond before leaving the office. “Okay but this came for you just now, special delivery.”

“Thanks, kid.” Chris sat and opened the parcel distractedly. He stared at the contents in amazement and rifled through it several times as he separated it into piles. He then put a hand to his chest to try and stop his pounding heart. He couldn´t believe his luck.

JD wandered by the door again and looked in at his boss worriedly as he saw him clutch his chest. He quickened his pace toward the man and asked in concern, “Chris? What´s wrong? You feelin´ okay?”

The blond didn´t look up but reached out a hand and touched a photo in front of him as if to check that it was real. “Yeah, on top of the world, kid. I feel like I´m gonna go hog wild with excitement. This package is pure dynamite! The P.I. sent me the photos he took of me and he also took some of the murderer in action. He´s got the crime frame by frame. Guess who the murderer is?”

“No idea.”

“Patterson,” Chris crowed in triumph.

“What? He killed his own sister?” the kid asked with an incredulous shake of his head. “How could he do that?”

The blond shrugged. “Maybe thought she told us somethin´ important when I visited her. He did it within minutes of me leaving so he coulda been watching her while I was there. I bet that means he set me up for her murder. He saw me there and then stole the statue after using it to kill her and put it in my Ram when I came back here later. If Susan tipped him off that we´d tracked Laura down he woulda gone to see what happened, wouldn´t he?” Chris said as he looked to the kid for confirmation of his reasoning. He received a nod in reply and the blond smiled. “So we´ve got him for double murder. Just gotta catch the sonofabitch now.”

“Could we use either the video or the photos as bait?” the kid suggested as he sat down opposite his boss.

“I s´pect.” Chris rubbed his eyes and then looked up at JD again. “Not that it matters now that he´s dead but did you find the home address for the P.I.?”

“Yeah, he´s actually got two houses. One in town next to the Zuma beach diner, I think it was, and we´ve already been to check that address out and it was trashed like his office. The other house is somewhere up near Cherry Falls. Buck left all the details on yer desk. He checked the second address himself and it hadn´t been touched ‘cause it´s not actually registered in the P.I.´s name but it´s definitely his.” JD frowned and asked, “Just out of interest when did the P.I. send the photos?”

“He sent them on the day of my arrest and it´s a good job he did or we woulda lost ‘em,” Chris said as he examined the envelope carefully. He then looked at his watch and said eagerly, “Hey, it´s just about time for the TV newscast. Turn the tube on will ya, kid?”

JD stood and wandered over to the machine and switched it on before rejoining Chris at his desk and sitting on the corner swinging his leg. The news had just started and the presenter dealt with Chris´s story first.

“Two men were shot dead today in what police believe to have been a gangland killing. Details are scarce but one man has been identified as a hired assassin called Megiddo. He has been responsible for numerous killings of police, judges and other gang members throughout the course of his career. The police have no idea what business the two men were conducting, although it is possibly drug related because another man was arrested shortly afterwards with a substantial amount of money in his possession. Any witnesses to the shooting are urged to come forward. Now in other news…..”

JD leapt up and turned the TV off. “Nicely done Chris. That gets Ez off the hook but what we gonna tell Patterson and Vasquez about the tape,” the kid inquired. “They´ll soon know that the gunfight was to do with the video.”

Chris leaned back in his chair and rolled his pen between his fingers as he talked. “I´ll sort somethin´ out hopefully. I just need time to think about what to do but at least these photos clear me of the murder charge. I´ll get Buck to send a copy of them to the police. That´s one less thing that I have to worry about.”

“Okay, I´ll leave ya to it boss,” JD said as he went out just as and Vin ambled in, not giving Chris a seconds rest.

“Just came back from the hospital, Chris. Ez wanted me to tell you somethin´ else. He said there´s loads of files and stuff at Vasquez´s base that shows all the crimes they´ve been involved in. While Ez was in the office guarding the video he had a quick look at it all. He said he thinks it would solve half the drug crimes in America. What do ya wanna do?”

Chris sighed as he digested the news. “It never rains but it pours, don´t it? After not getting anywhere to start with it´s now all coming at once.” Chris explained all he´d learnt and the sharpshooter stared at him in shock.

“Jeez, cowboy. Got it all sorted, ain´t we?” the younger man said as he drew his fingers thoughtfully through his hair.

“Maybe, but I don´t wanna be too confident. We need to be careful how we do things. I think we need to strike each gang at the same time so nobody gets wind of what we´re doin´.”

“Could we catch both lots at the P.I.´s mountain house you just told me about? It´s nice and out of the way of civilians who could get in the way. Perfect spot, I reckon. Vasquez will want the tape back because he can´t continue with his demands without it. Patterson will obviously want it so that he can destroy it ‘cause then he´ll get off a murder charge. Shame he don´t know about the photos you´ve now got in yer possession, ain´t it? He´s really screwed, ain´t he?” Vin grinned unsympathetically.

“Yeah. We´ve got him bang to rights whatever happens. He seems to have developed a taste for killing recently, don´t he? Need to get him behind bars before he murders anyone else. Get the others here, will ya? I´ve gotten a plan in mind.”

“Even Bucklin? He was still with Ez,” Vin said.

Chris nodded firmly. “Yeah, I need everyone. Hopefully after the newscast everyone thinks Ez is dead so he should be safe enough on his own for a while. Nobody will connect him with the name Megiddo in the hospital anyway.”

+ + + + + + +

Chris waited impatiently in the conference room until all his agents had arrived. He spent the time trying to get his plan straight in his own mind. When the last man arrived and took his seat, the blond stood and moved to the head of the table.

“Right guys, it´s show time! This has gotta run like clockwork or we could lose everythin´. Buck and I are gonna stake out the mountain house using the video as bait. We´re gonna use two other teams of agents but I want one of us with each of them. Josiah´s team are gonna hit the American Dragons base while JD´s lot are gonna deal with Patterson´s base. The rest of you will be with us at the house. I´m gonna put the word out that we´ve traced where the video is supposedly being kept and hopefully we´ll have a few important visitors at the house in response.”

“We all gonna strike at once?” Josiah asked as he studied the very alert blond carefully.

“Yeah, then there´s no chance of someone tipping someone else off about traps and the like. We need to be like clockstoppers, guys. Put an end to the gang´s operations at exactly the same time so there´s no time for anyone to go on the rampage again in reprisal.”

“What ya gonna do about Susan?” JD asked.

“Did ya find out anything else, kid?” the black-clad man asked.

“Yeah, her brother was the guy who died of a drugs overdose recently. What was Susan´s plan do ya reckon in being a double agent? What did she gain?”

“Well, it looks like she´s gaining two big gangs being taken off the street. Her actions resulted in my informant´s death though, didn´t it? I´ll get the cops to arrest her afterwards but for the moment she´s our means of communicating with the two gangs. Right now we need to concentrate on getting ready to roll on this bust as soon as possible.”

The men talked for another hour as they worked out the arrangements to get their plan up and running for that day. Chris then sat at his own desk and called Travis to update him with the false information in the hope that Susan would be listening in. If she ain´t, I´m gonna look a damned fool, he thought to himself grimly.

Chris shook himself mentally when his boss finally answered his call. The blond said, “Sir? I just wanted you to know that the Patterson murder tape was the reason for that shooting last night, not drugs as we first thought. The man that was arrested, who was a member of the American Dragons gang, told us that he stole it from them and then sold it onto the other man who was killed, Jackson I think he said his name was. Megiddo was apparently there because he was also working for the American Dragons gang and was probably trying to get the video back for them. We´ve also just found out that the murder tape is currently being kept in a house near Cherry Falls. Things are beginning to come together.”

Travis had received a visit from Chris earlier to let him know what he was going to do, so the man played along with Chris´s scheme. “That´s great work, Chris. Just don´t leave it too long before you go and collect it, will ya? After all the trouble we´ve had tracking it down we don´t wanna lose it now. Let me know when you´ve retrieved it and I´ll arrange for Patterson´s arrest.”

“Okay, we´ll pick it up later today. Can you just keep this a secret until you hear from me later? I don´t want word of this getting out on the street. There´s still that double agent that we haven´t accounted for yet.”

“Sure thing.”

Chris disconnected with a smile after he´d heard Susan also ring off.

+ + + + + + +

Chris and Buck waited impatiently outside the mountain house. They were hidden in deep undergrowth and had a good view of the area. The blond slapped a hand to his neck and looked in disgust at the resulting squashed insect that was stuck to his finger. God, I´m gonna be eaten alive before they turn up at this rate, he thought as he wiped the bloody speck off onto the grass.

Buck touched Chris´s arm. “Over there, pard. Near the rock that´s jade in color,” the ladies´ man pointed. “Do you see somethin´ moving?”

Chris followed where the outstretched finger pointed and he squinted. “Yeah, looks like a mouse has come to taste the cheese. Which mouse though?”

“Well, let´s hope it´s someone we want to see and not some little green Martians who thought this was a good spot for a first visit to Earth. They might find themselves in the middle of a gunfight,” Buck said with a grin.

“One look at you Bucklin and they´d run for their lives anyway, buddy,” Chris snorted.

“So kind, pard.”

A sound reached the blond´s ears and he looked to the left. “Sshhh, Bucklin. Someone else has arrived now. Let them go inside and get the tape and we´ll catch them out here as arranged. With any luck, if it´s one person from each rival gang, they may kill each other and save us the hassle,” Chris said.

“Look, I´m gonna scout around and see how many people are involved. They may have left lookouts and we don´t wanna get caught in the crossfire. I´ll do this side and get Vin to check the other. We can´t guarantee that those are the only two people to show up.”

“Okay. See ya later and take care.” Chris settled down and kept an eye on his quarry. Neither of the two newcomers moved. They both seemed to be watching and waiting for a while before attempting to enter the house.

Buck reappeared from the undergrowth and lay down beside Chris again and told him his findings. He reported that a large group of men from both gangs were hiding out in the surrounding area and Vin confirmed those details when Chris spoke to him too.

“Okay, change of plan boys,” Chris said into his mike. “Looks like the majority of both gangs have come here. Buck and I´ll go inside the house through the basement and take care of those who try to collect the tape. Shoulda done it that way to start with but I didn´t expect so many to come here. The rest of you put a tight ring round this area and catch everyone you encounter. Just do it quiet, alright?”

He received affirmatives from everyone so he moved toward the back of the house and managed to sneak in unseen through a broken window at ground level. Buck joined him quickly and both men made their way up into the main house and then waited in separate rooms next to the one housing a decoy tape. They didn´t have to wait long. Chris saw Patterson appear with one of his men and the two criminals searched quickly for the video. They found it hidden in a drawer and turned to leave, thinking they were free and clear.

“Hold it right there, Patterson,” Chris ordered as he stepped out of the shadows with weapon trained on his target. He flicked a quick look across the room and saw Buck arrive from his hiding place to cover the second man.

Patterson put his hands in the air and dropped the video on the floor but Patterson´s companion had no desire to be arrested and stupidly raised his gun, which he already had in his hand. He fired at exactly the same time as Chris did and the blond was knocked off his feet with a loud cry. His attacker also fell, clutching a hand to his abdomen before becoming still and silent. Buck saw the blossom of blood on Chris´s shirt and yelled into this mike for Nathan as he rushed toward Patterson and secured him fast after pushing him face first to the floor. The ladies´ man kept hold of the one- eyed man tightly and then looked at Chris worriedly.

“Chris? How bad?” he called anxiously as he saw the spreading patch on Chris´s chest.

“I can´t breathe, Bucklin,” the blond rasped and then coughed painfully as he curled up into a ball.

“Lay, still, pard. Nate´s on his way.”

“Bucklin?” Nathan called from outside.

“In here, Nate. Chris´s hurt bad.”

The medic ran in and dropped to his knees beside the black-clad man. “Chris? Let me look at ya. Chris?” The medic reached out and patted the blond´s cheek insistently. “Stay with me. Don´t pass out, you hear me?”

“Can´t breathe,” Chris gasped as he reopened his eyes and coughed up a small amount of blood.

Nathan ripped open Chris´s shirt and clamped a hand over the ragged hole he found underneath. “I know. Bullet nicked yer lung by the look of it. Just gonna give ya some oxygen, so just relax. Don´t talk and concentrate on breathing, okay?”

Vin arrived and said, “Hey, look who I caught.” The sharpshooter had hold of Vasquez. “Talk about killing two birds with one stone. Never expected to catch both bosses here.” The long-haired man then saw that Chris was down and bleeding. “Nate? What happened?”

“Shot in the chest. Get a chopper, will ya? Need to get him outta here as soon as we can,” the medic said as he searched his first aid kit one- handedly for what he needed. His other hand remained clamped to Chris´s chest to try and halt the flow of blood.

“Sure thing, Nate.” Vin carried out the order immediately and arranged everything. “Let´s get these bastards out of here, Bucklin,” the sharpshooter snarled when he saw that Buck was still standing watching Nathan work. “What about the other fella?” Vin asked as he indicated the man lying on the floor near Patterson.

“He´s dead or if he ain´t yet he will be in a minute,” Buck replied uncaringly as he walked past the body of the fallen criminal.

“We´ll be back to help ya in a minute, Nate.” Vin walked out briskly with Buck and headed toward the road where he could see a squad car waiting.

Buck turned to Patterson and said thoughtfully, “In the kingdom of the blind, the man with one eye is king, so they say. Guess this means you´ve been dethroned, Patterson. Think you had yer one working eye shut not to realize that this was a trap. Too busy worrying about yerself, weren´t ya? We beat ya hands down after all.”

Vin walked alongside the other two men and talked to Vasquez too. “That was damned stupid move Vasquez but that´s the trouble when yer dying to be rich. You make mistakes. Get too greedy for ya own good and it backfired. Good will always out.”

The two agents left their prisoners with the cops and hurried back to help Nathan. Buck looked up and saw the chopper arrive and he sighed in relief.

“Chopper´s here,” the ladies´ man told Nate as he ran up behind him and dropped to his knees beside Chris.

“So I hear. Help me get Chris outta here, will ya?” the medic asked as he passed the I.V. up to Vin to hold.

“How´s he doin´?” Buck asked, as he assisted Nathan in getting Chris transferred onto the stretcher. He could see that Chris was very pale and sweaty but at least he didn´t seem to be bleeding anymore.

“He´s stable but understandably he ain´t breathing too good.”

The three friends took the blond outside and handed him over to the paramedics.

Buck patted Chris´s shoulder. “We´ll be with ya as soon as we can, pard. Just do as yer told and don´t fret.”

Chris smiled and was then loaded on the chopper and whisked off to the hospital with Nathan. Vin phoned JD and Josiah to update them and was pleased to hear that their busts had been entirely successful too but without the bloodshed.

+ + + + + + +

The rest of the men arrived at the hospital and went through to tell Ezra what had happened at the bust. The undercover agent was asleep after having felt unwell when Buck left him earlier in the day, so his friends decided not to disturb him. The injured man looked peaceful but the pain still showed itself on his face whenever he shifted in the bed.

After quite some time Chris was finally taken to a room of his own and the men transferred to that to check on his condition, seeing as Ezra still hadn´t woken. The blond was unconscious and on a ventilator to help him to breathe while his lung healed. The stress of the last few days showed clearly on Chris´s face and he looked pale and haggard and a few years older.

Vin walked back to visit Ezra, leaving the others with Chris. The undercover agent hadn´t had much company that day and Vin knew the gregarious man always felt lonely when he was on his own. Even though Ezra´d slept a lot during the day, Vin knew that his friend liked someone to be with him whether he was awake or not.

“How did it go?” Ezra asked as soon as Vin entered. The undercover agent was now wide-awake and feeling much better.

“We got Patterson but Chris was shot,” Vin said he slumped into the chair by the bed.

“Is he alright?” the undercover agent asked anxiously.

“Unconscious but he´ll be fine. He don´t look too well but after a good rest he´ll be back to his old boisterous self.”

“Did you get Vasquez too?”


Ezra screwed his face up as he recalled the man. “Positively vile person both to look at and in character. The grease in his hair was so thick I could´ve cooked a year´s meals in it,” Ezra said and looked as if he might be sick at the thought. “He reminded me of that loathsome character in the film Mojave Moon. I half- expected him to light his damned cigars with a blow torch.”

“He weren´t very savory, was he?” Vin said with a grin at Ezra´s description. He then looked around the room warily and asked, “Dragon lady about today?”

“Yes, but I haven´t had the pleasure of her company yet. I daren´t even belch for fear of her wrath. Don´t think Buck even managed to tame her, but that´s probably a good thing really. Bet she´d have proved a handful in bed. She´d want to copulate with military precision.”

Vin smiled at the picture that popped in his head. “Yeah, I think the bedroom scene between them would have gone somethin´ like this.” The sharpshooter got a stern look on his face and mimicked the nurse´s voice perfectly as he said, “‘Right now, Wilmington, you ‘orrible little man. You´d better prepare the necessary bodily part for the act of lovemaking. On my command I want it to assume the upright position. Are you ready, soldier? Wait for it, wait for it. Right at....ten…tion! Tsk, tsk, what a poor response, soldier. You should always be ready for action at the drop of a hat.´” Vin giggled and then said, “Buck would say, ‘Well, usually I would be lady, but love is an art to be savored. Yer making it sound more like the art of war with all yer orders. Simmer down or we won´t get nowhere at all.´”

Ezra said with a grin, “Well, whether it´s lovemaking or war that you´re engaged in you certainly wouldn´t want your weaponry firing blanks, would you?” Ezra nearly split his sides laughing, although it hurt to do so, and Vin joined in. The two men made a lot of noise between them but couldn´t stop their jollity.

“What´s going on in here?”

Vin whipped round and saw the dragon lady standing in the doorway. “Nothing nurse. Nothing at all,” he managed to splutter as Ezra continued howling with laughter.

+ + + + + + +

“Hey, Josiah? Guess who Silver Wolf was?” Buck said in surprise as he raised his head from the files he was reading back at the office.

“I´ve no idea, Bucklin.”

“He was the P.I.”

“Never,” the profiler replied in disbelief.

Buck pointed to the appropriate page and raised his eyebrows. “It says so here in black and white, pard. He was apparently on Vasquez´s payroll to catch the opposition in criminal acts. He then photographed them and sent the photos to the police anonymously. Vasquez was slowly but surely eliminating the opposition by using him. Seems Susan musta tipped Patterson off about the P.I. having those photos of him killing his sister. He then went to try and get them back and killed the P.I. and destroyed all the film he could find without checking to see if what he wanted was amongst it. Bet he thought he was free and clear. That explains why Chris thought the voice on that recording from the gang was different too. Silver Wolf was already dead so they had to improvise.” Buck nodded to himself as he considered his reasoning. He read a bit more from his file and said, “Hey now I know why the name Silver Wolf meant something to me earlier. I worked on a case a few years ago and he tipped us off about a big drug shipment using that codename. Wonder how the hell he kept his identity secret for all those years?” the ladies´ man said thoughtfully.

“Lord knows, Bucklin. He was a double agent in a way as well, wasn´t he? That reminds me, our original double agent has been taken into custody too. JD took great pleasure in arresting her. He´s spent ages tracking back all the calls she´d listened in on and he´s got pages and pages of numbers for evidence,” the big man said with a grin.

“Talking of taking pleasure in things. You ready to break Patterson´s heart?” Buck asked with a smile.

“You bet. Can´t wait to see the look on his face.”

Buck and Josiah walked along to the interrogation room and began questioning Patterson. Buck sat down opposite the prisoner while Josiah stood leaning against the wall behind him.

“Now, Charlie. We seem to have got so much evidence against you, you ain´t ever gonna see the light of day again.”

“You got nothin´,” the man disagreed smugly.

“I think you´d better listen to what I´ve gotta say before makin´ statements like that, pal,” Buck growled. “Firstly we have you on tape killing George Palmer. We´ve then had some photos sent to us, which quite clearly show you murdering yer own sister. Last but not least, we also have forensic evidence that links you to the murder of a P.I. whose codename you might recognize as Silver Wolf.”

Patterson narrowed his eyes but didn´t speak.

“Nothin´ to say in yer defense, Charlie?” Josiah asked gruffly.

“What can he say, Josiah? He knows when he´s beaten,” Buck said in satisfaction.

The End

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