Anybody know whats eating Ezra? Buck asked as he entered
the conference room that Monday morning. Knowing glances pass around the
table. I just stuck my head in his office to tell him about the meeting
and he offered to remove my tonsils thru my nose!
Chris shook his head. Something was definitely bothering the undercover agent
but no one could figure out what. He had been injured on his last mission,
that was why he was on light duty for the past week but it didnt explain
the way Ezra had been acting for the past few days.
The undercover agent had been as jumpy as a long-tailed cat in a room full
of rocking chairs. He remained in his office as much as possible, avoiding
interaction with the others. He had turned down every invitation to join
them for drinks or dinner after work. His harsh, green-eyed glare was the
usual response to any question directed his way.
Buck had seen Ezra going into the gym on his second day back to work. He
had followed out of curiosity, none of them had ever seen the man work out.
A member of another ATF team was sparring with one of the guards in the boxing
ring. Wilmington had been surprised to see Standish challenge either of the
men to a match.
The security guard was a good foot taller than the undercover agent and out
weighed him by a good 60 or 70 pounds. He had tossed a haughty look at Ezra
before taking him up on his challenge. Buck had watched in amazement as Standish
landed several good blows to the larger mans body without being touched
by him. Damn, hes quick. Several minutes into the bout,
the guard pinned Ezra against the ropes. The explosion of temper that followed
had agents rushing from all over the gym to try to restrain the southerner
as he attacked the guard in a fit of rage. It took six men to remove Ezra
from the ring.
Every member of the team had commented that Ezra was more abrasive than normal,
even for Ezra. Chris had tried talking to him, only to have him walk out
of the office and slam the door.
Nathan had followed Ezra into the mens room to try to talk to him about
what was bothering him. He leaned against the sink as he waited for the
undercover agent to come out of the stall.
You want to talk about it? He watched as Ezra turned on the tap
and washed his hands. The response he got was not at all the one he expected!
The undercover agent grabbed him by the lapels of his coat and slammed him
into the wall.
You will cease prying into my personal affairs, Agent Jackson, or I
shall be forced to remember why I dont like you!
Not even JD could draw out what was bothering the man. When he approached
Ezra as he came out of the mens room, the look of malevolence in his
green eyes had stopped the young man in his tracks.
Our next mission is an investigation of a complaint the ATF had received
about a group of isolationists setting up shop outside of the city of Golden.
The complaint said that the group was bringing in large amounts of fertilizer
and other chemicals reminiscent of the Oklahoma City disaster. Weve
been assigned to go with team 9 to investigate the compound and ascertain
the threat posed by the group. It looks like a fairly straightforward mission.
I dont really expect to have any difficulty. Ezra is assigned to the
surveillance van in case there is a problem.
Ezra walked into the meeting and took his seat as if he were not 15 minutes
late. There was a long, awkward pause as Chris tried to decide how to handle
the recalcitrant agent. Standishs carefully neutral poker face decided
Ezra, if you cannot arrive on time for the meeting, perhaps you should
sit this one out.
His only response was a shrug of his shoulder as he picked up his note pad
and walked out of the room.
Five pairs of eyes watched in amazement as Chris let Ezra walk out of the
meeting without saying another word. Nervous fingers drummed lightly on the
tabletop as Chris strove to control the urge to go and physically replace
Ezra in the chair.
Ten, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, one. Chris
said softly as he drew deep breaths. Okay, JD, Im going to put
you in the van in his place. Any questions? Josiah?
Do you want me to talk to him?
No, I need to nip this in the bud before he gets any farther out of
hand. Were done here.
The meeting broke up and the men filed out silently as they made their way
to the coffee machine at the far end of the break room. No one spoke until
they were well out of earshot of Chris. Buck began pouring coffee for everyone
just to have something to do with his hands.
Ezras really pushing it this time isnt he? JD said
softly. I thought Chris was going to body slam him back into that chair
before he got out of the room.
Nathan shook his head, Something sure is eating him, though. I just
asked him how he was doing in the restroom and he came unglued on me. It
was like something just snapped in him.
Chris walked into Ezras office without knocking. Ill ask
you just one more time. Whats bothering you, Agent Standish, and before
you open your mouth, know that your job is on the line. Youve been
wound up tighter than my eight-day clock for the past week. If youre
not up to being back to work, say so. No one is forcing you to be here if
you are not physically ready to be back to work.
The poker face was perfect as Ezra replied, I need a few days off.
I will be back next week Monday.
End of discussion. Ezra shut down his computer and locked his desk without
so much as looking up to see what Chriss reaction was. He walked out
of the office and down the hall to the elevator. The other team members peaked
out of the break room as he walked by them.
Josiah came back up the hall as the elevator doors closed. Youre
just going to let him leave like that? Did he say anything at all about
whats bothering him?
Just that he needed another week off. Hell be back on Monday.
Do me a favor? Push someone at the hospital and get me his discharge summary.
I want to know how badly he was hurt this time.
That was the thing that had the team most worried about the undercover agent,
he had checked into the hospital under one of his aliass and had stayed
there for several days before informing them that he was there. The team
had rushed to the hospital to find that Ezra had been discharged and had
already left for home. Chris rubbed the bridge of his nose as he remembered
the angry confrontation in Standishs apartment. The entire team had
raced over there after leaving the hospital.
Why didnt you call us when you were admitted? And for that matter,
why didnt you go to the hospital you normally go to? Ezra had
checked into the small hospital outside of Golden instead of Denver General
where the team always went when injured on duty.
Only the briefest hint of anger showed in the green eyes as he replied, I
thought to avoid the inevitable bedside vigil. I just needed to rest and
recuperate and I cant do that with all of you hovering over me.
Ezras voice was devoid of emotion as he spoke.
Hovering? Well pardon the hell out of me for showing some concern for
your sorry ass! I thought we were a team! I never realized that we were taking
up too much of your valuable time! As long as you put in your 40 hours I
guess you dont want us around you the rest of the time! Fine! I wont
bother you with my concerns.
The green eyes bored into the hazel eyes before looking away. Mr. Larabee,
kindly lower your voice or wait until I get into the office on Monday if
you wish to continue with your tirade. Right now, I am fatigued and I wish
to lie down in my own bed and get some rest.
Buck intercepted Chris as he got to his feet and started across the room.
Larabee had every intention of slapping some sense into the arrogant young
agent. The infamous Larabee glare chilled the air in the room for several
moments before he turned and stormed out of the apartment.
The other four members of the team sat in an awkward silence for a minute
after hearing the roar of Chriss truck engine and the scream of his
tires as he raced off of the parking lot. JD looked nervously from Josiah
to Nathan as he tried to work up the courage to speak.
Nathan leaned forward and rested his elbows on his knees for a moment as
he considered Ezra. There was something bothering him about the way the younger
man held himself in the chair. He could see that Standish was sweating either
from pain or nerves, he couldnt tell which.
Ezra, did the doctor give you any medication when you were
Yes, he gave me some pain pills.
What kind? What did he prescribe them for?
Mr. Jackson, please, I am quite capable of taking my medicine. I have
been able to read for some time and the directions are printed on the side
of the bottle. If I wanted to discuss my medical situation with you, I would
have done so by now. If you dont mind, I am really past my limit and
would like it very much if you would leave.
Nathan slowly drew a deep breath and let it out before standing and looking
around the room. The other men wore similar expressions of we dont
know what to do either. He shook his head and left the apartment.
Josiah, Vin and JD sat for a while longer hoping that Standish would open
up to one of them. When Ezra locked himself in his bedroom, they gave up
and returned to the office.
A few hours later, Josiah returned from the hospital with a thick folder
and an x-ray. He dropped the folder on Chriss desk and sighed.
Youre not gonna like this. Ezra told the hospital that if they
released his records that he would sue for the right to shoot them like dogs.
Not even the form he signed agreeing to the release of information relating
to his qualification to carry a firearm would persuade them to give me anything
from this most recent trip to the emergency room.
So what is all this?
Josiah smiled, Ill gotten gains. I have to take the records clerk out
to a very expensive dinner on you. She gave me most of his file.
They spent several hours reading thru the file and looking up the meaning
of the words they didnt know before they gave up in frustration. Post
Traumatic Shock Syndrome was the only thing they found that made any sense.
There were descriptions of old injuries and broken bones but nothing else
to give a clue as to what was bothering Ezra. <<<<<
Ezras hands trembled as he looked at the 9mm. He just wanted it to
be over. He couldnt bear the questions any more. If he were dead, he
wouldnt have to be afraid anymore. No one can hurt you when youre
dead. He raised the weapon and pressed it to his temple. No one can hurt
you when youre dead.
His eyes swept around the living room of the apartment. At least they
wouldnt have much to pack up, he hadnt unpacked much. Sweat trickled
down his forehead and stung his eyes. He could hear his heart beating loudly
in the silence. Peripherally, he was aware of the sounds outside. People
going about their lives having no idea of the agony he was going thru.
His hand wouldnt stop shaking. He put the gun back on the table. A
little voice whispered that his mother would never forgive him for blowing
his head off. He would have to find another way to stop the pain and silence
the screams in his head when he closed his eyes.
The other six members of Team 7 met with Team 9 on the parking lot. Each
man was wearing an identical Kevlar vest and ATF jacket. Each man had a rifle
as well as their regular duty weapon. They piled into the vans and headed
out for the compound outside of Golden.
The ride took only an hour but for Josiah it seemed longer. He had tried
repeatedly to call Ezra the night before, getting only the answering machine.
He drove over and had knocked on the door for an hour before giving up and
going home. He could hear the stereo playing in the apartment and the volume
increased each time he knocked, so he knew Ezra was alive in the apartment.
He couldnt help feeling that they had missed something important.
The vans stopped at the gate leading into the compound. Judge Travis and
Chris approached the men guarding the gate. Each of the four men carried
a weapon. They lined up shoulder-to-shoulder and bristled as the judge explained
that he had a court order to search the property. After reviewing the order,
one of the men radioed to the house that the feds were coming in to
As the judge returned to the van, Chris remained on the road watching the
men as the gate was opened so that the vans could come thru. He climbed onto
the bumper of the surveillance van as it rolled thru behind the other two
vans full of agents. The glare that the four guards threw at him was clearly
The vans came to a stop in front of the rambling farmhouse that was in the
center of the property. People lined the porch as the agents left the vans
and huddled up to get last minute directions from the judge. Orin looked
at each man for a moment before he began to speak.
Okay, we know they are armed. Dont take any unnecessary risks.
Be polite but firm when you talk to them but dont try to bully them.
We want to see registration for any weapons that you find. Team 9 will take
the barn and out buildings. Team 7 takes the house. Try to get names, especially
of the children. Damn, I wish Standish was here; hed have those kids
eating out of his hands.
Several pairs of eyes swung toward Chris briefly before returning to the
judge. All right, stay in radio contact. Watch your backs!
While Travis waited with JD in the surveillance van, the others spread out
to begin their search. Chris and his team approached the house. There were
several women standing on the porch with their hands clutching children.
Vin knelt down in front of a pretty little girl with bright blue eyes and
smiled. Before he could say anything, one of the women called to the girl
and she turned away. Tanner sighed, this was not going to be easy.
The leader of the group was the man listed as the owner of the property.
Jonathan Hagan was listed as being a retired Marine. The man still wore the
military haircut and looked as if he ate small cars for breakfast. He was
surprisingly soft spoken and polite when Chris questioned him about the compound
and the people living there.
Mr. Hagan produced permits for all the weapons on the property as well as
a special exemption certificate for a religious organization that allowed
him to have more than just his immediate family living on the property with
him. He took Chris on a tour of the house, showing him the classrooms for
the children and the kitchen and dining facilities.
Buck and Vin searched each of the small bedrooms but found nothing out of
the ordinary. Nathan and Josiah attempted to get the names of the women and
children. It soon became apparent that these people had a problem with being
questioned by a person of color. All of Nathans questions were met
with tight-lipped stares.
Team 9 searched the barn. The compound had only two horses. The huge draft
animals were snuggly housed in the large barn in stalls that had been enlarged
for their comfort. There were chickens roaming freely around the house and
barn. The loft was filled with bales of hay. Several teenaged boys were working
at mucking out the stalls and throwing down fresh hay for the animals.
Every feed bin was opened and searched. It was a slow process. When the agents
finished with the barn, they moved to the storage silos and smaller out
buildings. It had been a large ranch at one time and still retained most
of the original property. One of the agents radioed back that he had found
several barrels of fertilizer in one of the buildings. Travis ordered pictures
of the barrels for evidence.
When they finished with the house, Mr. Hagan took Chris on a tour of the
rest of the property. With Josiah and Nathan in tow, they walked the perimeter
of the property for a couple of hours. If it had not been that they thought
this man was up to something illegal, Larabee could have liked him. Jonathan
had a genuine love for the land that was apparent in the way he explained
which fields were planted and which lay fallow this growing season.
Chris stood at the edge of the wheat field and watched as the wind rippled
the plants like ocean waves. The sweet smell of the plants and the earth
filled him with a sense of peace. Squatting down, he parted the plants and
dug his fingers into the warm dirt. He didnt look up as Nathan took
a position beside him.
What do you think, Nate? Are these people planning something?
I dont know Chris. Why would they need all the guns if they were
truly only interested in farming the land. They dont have enough livestock
to support the number of people who live here. It just doesnt feel
Jonathan and Josiah returned from their tour of the cornfield as Chris stood
and brushed the dirt from his hands. The two men were deep in some philosophical
discussion about the land and didnt even acknowledge the others as
they joined them for the walk back to the vans.
JD radioed Chris. The judge wants to know how far you are from the
vans. Were all done here and he wants to get out of here as soon as
Well be there in five minutes, JD.
Jonathan shook Josiahs hand as they reached the van. I have enjoyed
talking with you, brother, please do come again and we will continue the
Josiah nodded as he firmly shook Jonathans hand. I might just
have to do that. You have a unique view of the world and I would like to
explore it with you again. Thank you.
Buck pounded on the dash of the van as Chris pulled back onto the highway.
All that time and energy wasted! We didnt find one thing wrong
out there! It was like talking to the Stepford wives! Every answer was so
Calm down Buck. You ever think that it may have been some crank with
an axe to grind who made the complaint? Wouldnt be the first time that
ever happened. A new group moves into an area and people are naturally
JD called enthusiastically from the back of the van. Hey Buck, how
about we stop at Inezs place on the way home and play a couple of games
of killer foosball!
Vin turned a puzzled gaze on the youngest agent. Killer foosball? What
is killer foosball?
Anything goes, no holds barred, all out killer foosball! Its
great! You should try it, Vin.
No thanks, JD. Im gonna swing by Ezras place on the way
home and see how hes doing. I feel bad that he was feeling poorly and
we treated him kinda rough.
Chris smiled, leave it to Vin to feel badly for Standish. The man yelled
at them and treated them like freckle-faced step children and Tanners
tender heart felt bad for him.
Buck laced his fingers together behind his head and laughed. Ill
go to Inezs tonight, kid, but I aint playing foosball with you.
I got my heart set on that new waitress they hired last week, the one with
the red hair and the green eyes.
Josiahs soft voice carried from the farthest corner of the van. Buck
Wilmington, that girl isnt much older than JD, shouldnt you leave
her in the water until she grows a little more? Any answer the ladies
man may have had was drowned out by the raucous laughter that broke out among
the rest of the team.
After grabbing a shower and changing into the extra clothes he kept in his
locker, Vin headed for Ezras. When he arrived at the apartment he was
prepared to be turned away as Josiah had been. When the door opened at his
knock he was mildly surprised.
I just wanted to come by and see how you were doing. Chris said you
were gonna take another week of leave. I dont think anyone realized
how bad you must have been hurt.
There was an ever so brief flash of anger in the green eyes before Ezra managed
to control it. I would not have expected any of you to know. I kept
it to myself. Ive never been comfortable with people knowing every
little thing, you know.
Well, the other guys are worried about you. Do you feel up to going
out maybe and grabbing a bite to eat? After all that walking today, I could
sure go for a nice, juicy steak.
To Vins surprise, Ezra did agree to go out to eat but he didnt
want to go to Inez so they went to a steak house on the other side
of town. Vin didnt pry as Ezra sat staring out the window of the Jeep
on the drive across town. The radio softly played country music to fill the
They ordered their steaks and drinks and sat in a companionable silence as
they watched the people in the restaurant. A toddler wandered away from her
mother and straight into Ezras arms. An indulgent smile filled his
face for a moment as the child babbled nonsense to him. As soon as the mother
reclaimed the child his poker face slipped back into place.
The food arrived and Vin dug in with a vengeance. He hadnt lied about
his appetite. Ezra started on his baked potato claiming that the steak needed
to cool. He had eaten about half of his potato and the other vegetables before
he glanced over at Vins plate. Suddenly, he was violently ill. He ran
from the table to the mens room.
Vin glanced up as Ezra bolted from the table. He caught the waiters
attention, Box it up, okay? He then hurried after his friend.
He could hear Ezra vomiting as soon and he reached the door. He waited until
the sounds stopped before going in after him. Ezra? Are you all
No, I am most certainly not all right, Mr. Tanner. It seems that I
have contracted some kind of stomach bug. Im sorry if Ive ruined
Vin watched as Ezra came out of the stall. He was pale and trembling. Vin
reached out to steady him and caught a look of stark terror in his eyes as
he backed away. The expression was smothered so quickly that Vin almost thought
he had imagined it.
Dont touch me, Vin. Im okay. Just dont touch me!
Vin held his palms up to show that he wouldnt. Ezra leaned against
the cool wall for a moment. You want to go home? Ezra nodded.
Ill take care of the bill. Theyre boxing up the food. Can
you make it out to the car? Another nod.
Ezra didnt speak on the ride home. Vin reached over to tune the radio
and Ezra shied away as if he was going to hit him. Something was definitely
wrong. He dropped Ezra at his apartment. Call me if you get to feeling
worse, okay Ezra? Another nod. <<<<<
He sat on the couch, alone and weeping. He caressed the 9mm with both hands.
It should be so easy. Pull the trigger and no more pain. No more questions.
No more voices screaming in his sleep.
It should be so easy.
The concerned face of Vin Tanner crossed his mind and he was filled with
an indescribable feeling of peace and calm. He stared at the gun before laying
it on the table and collapsing on the couch.
Vin recounted the previous nights events to the rest of the team. His
body language is all off. The facial expression is all Ezra but the body
language is wrong. I cant put my finger on it but weve got to
Josiah sighed, At least you got to see him. He wouldnt even open
the door for me.
Just give him a while. Ezra has always bounced back. He just needs
to know that were all here for him when hes ready to talk about
it. JDs optimism did little to quell the worry that had settled
in Vins mind.
In spite of the lack of evidence, Judge Travis wanted to keep Team 7 on the
compound outside of Golden. He was sure that they were up to something and
he needed proof of it before he could go in again. He desperately wanted
to send Ezra in undercover to try to ferret them out but Ezra was still on
light duty. Since the people in the compound had seen all of the others,
he decided to wait until he could put someone on the inside. In the mean
time, however, he put the surveillance van on watch full time to monitor
Each pair of agents was scheduled for an eight-hour shift in the van. Chris
and Vin had the first full shift, from 2PM to 10PM. The judge had gotten
an order for a wiretap and they had set a couple of bugs around the property
during the search. There were only a handful of phone calls to the compound
all afternoon and the agents were bored silly.
Buck and JD had the first overnight shift. They spent the night playing cards
and various games on their Gameboys. They drank so much of Bucks coffee
that by the time Nathan and Josiah arrived to relieve them at 6AM, they were
both on a serious caffeine trip.
Ezra spent the day pacing in the apartment. He had showered several times
that day. Every time he dozed off to sleep, he awoke drenched in sweat with
his heart pounding and feeling sick to his stomach. He hadnt been able
to keep anything down and despised the throwing up, so he avoided eating.
Josiah tried again that evening. Ezra opened the door and invited him in.
He was just watching a movie. They sat on opposite ends of the couch in front
of the TV for more than an hour. Josiah called a local deli and ordered food
for both of them. He was pleased to see Ezra eat, even though he picked at
his food, it was something at least.
There is something going on out there, Ezra, I could just feel it.
All those people with their painted-on smiles, it was too perfect. The leader
of the group, Jonathan Hagan seems nice enough. He has a really interesting
perspective on the world. I just hope we can stop them before anyone gets
hurt. They have all these kids out there, little ones, home schooling
Out of the corner of his eye, Josiah watched the younger man as he ate. Vin
was right, the body language was all wrong. Ezra normally exuded confidence,
but the man sitting across from him was tense and nervous. He watched every
move the older man made as if he expected to be attacked by him.
Please extend my apology to Mr. Dunne, I know he was looking forward
to being with the rest of you when the raid went down. I shall have to find
a way to make it up to him.
He understands, Ezra. JD knows youre not feeling well.
Around 9:30, Josiah finally decided to head home. Ezra walked him to the
door. Josiah turned and reached out to put his hand on Standishs shoulder
only to meet a hard gaze.
Josiah drew back his hand as if he had been slapped. Okay. Im
sorry. I just wanted you to know that were all here for you if you
need to talk. Ezra nodded and closed the door in his face.
He sat in the bathtub filled with hot water. It would be better this way.
His mother couldnt complain as long as he could still be presentable
for his funeral. The water was scalding hot. Hed heard that it would
make it easier. His hands trembled as he picked up the razor blade from the
side of the tub. He laid the blade against his wrist. The memory of Vins
steak rose in his vision and he dropped the blade into the water and lurched
out of the tub to be sick to his stomach.
As he sat on the floor of the bathroom resting his head against the toilet,
Ezra wept. Despair and disgust washed over him in waves as his stomach continued
to heave weakly. When he finally began to shiver from the cool air blowing
out of the vent in the wall, he dragged himself up from the floor and went
Josiah spoke on the phone to Chris, It was eerie. He was fine up until
I got ready to leave and then he kind of came apart. And in his eyes, Chris,
weve seen Ezra scared before but this was something else. He looked
like he thought I was going to hit him or something. At least he ate his
dinner, that was good to see.
Ill go by there tonight. I have some papers he needs to sign.
I guess if we all keep after him, maybe he will come around.
Josiah hung up the phone. He couldnt get the image of Ezras
frightened green eyes out of his mind. He spoke to Nathan at length about
the uneasy feeling he had about the way the younger agent was acting. There
was little else to do during their shift in the surveillance van. They
photographed and catalogued every person and vehicle that entered or left
Ezra unlocked his safe and drew out the leather pouch containing his most
important papers. With trembling hands, he opened the latest revision of
his will. He had changed it after he decided to stay in Denver. It was the
first time that he acknowledged that the men he worked with meant something
to him. A bitter smile lifted the corners of his mouth as he thought about
how his mother was going to react. He had left almost everything he owned
to the six remaining members of Team 7 to be divided as they saw fit.
Aside from a few special bequests, he really didnt care what happened
to the material goods he had accumulated during his brief sojourn on earth.
He folded the paper and slid it back into the leather pouch. The title to
his Jag and the property he had bought that bordered Chriss ranch were
safely tucked away in his safety deposit box at the bank. In the bottom of
the pouch was the citation he had gotten while he was with the FBI. He had
been so proud of it, until they accused him of being on the take. Before
the bitter rage could build in his heart again, he put the pouch back into
the safe and closed it gently.
Turning on his computer, he began to check the last few reports he had completed.
He didnt want to leave any loose ends. He spent the next few hours
checking the narratives before E-mailing them to Chris at the office. He
then lay down for a nap.
Chris remembered an Italian restaurant that Standish had raved about so he
called and ordered food to pick up on the way to Ezras place. He knocked
on the door and waited. No answer. He knocked again. Finally, the door opened.
Chris was surprised to see that Ezra was still in his bathrobe.
They sat at the dinner table and shared a pleasant meal.
Mr. Larabee, I appreciate your stopping by, but you really could have
dropped the papers in the mail. You didnt have to come all the way
Its no trouble, Ezra. I wanted to see how you were feeling.
He caught a brief glimpse of green eyes before Standish turned to search
the credenza for a pen to sign the papers.
Chris pulled his pen from his jacket pocket and moved around the table to
offer it to Ezra. He saw it for just an instant; that look beyond fear that
the others had described. Standish recoiled from Chris as if he were offering
a poisonous snake instead of a simple ink pen.
The rest of the evening was a little stilted. Ezra looked like he was afraid
that Chris would ask him questions and Chris was afraid he wouldnt
like the answers. <<<<<
Ezra sat behind the wheel of the Jag and contemplated the barricade in front
of him. It will hurt, his mind screamed. It will hurt and it may not kill
you. Even if the gas tank explodes, it may not work. He was afraid of being
disfigured and surviving. The screams would still be there.
He backed the Jag up and turned it around. Spinning his tires he threw only
gravel over the barricade. He spent the next few hours driving around Denver.
Several times, he found himself on the parking lot of the bar where Inez
worked. Once, he almost got out and went inside. As he placed his hand on
the door handle, a truck pulled up and three big, rough looking guys got
out. Ezra shuddered as he withdrew his hand and started the car again.
Around midnight, Ezra sat outside of Nathans apartment. He would have
gone to the door but Rains Toyota was parked on the lot and he didnt
want to disturb the ex-medic if his lady friend was there. He sat for a few
minutes before driving back to his apartment.
JD spent the better part of his day surfing the web gathering information
on the people they had on the list coming and going from the compound. He
was close to making a connection, he could just feel it. Some how they were
connected to organized crime. He knew that if he turned enough stones, he
would find the one piece of information that was eluding the others.
Ezra awoke and sat bolt upright in his bed. The tee shirt he was wearing
was plastered to him like a second skin. His heart was racing and his stomach
was clenched up so tightly that it hurt. As the reality of where he was sank
in, he was able to disentangle his fists from the sheet and swing his feet
out of bed. While he waited for his heart to stop racing he came up with
Vin, like JD and Josiah, could not shake the feeling that there was something
wrong at the compound. He decided to sneak in and snoop around. It was easy
to get onto the property, only the front gate was patrolled. He took his
dirt bike and rode around to a deserted gravel road that left the far side
of the compound. He parked the bike in the bushes and slipped under the gate.
Like Chris, Vin appreciated the raw beauty of the land. The rolling hills
and the gently bobbing tassels in the tops of the corn stalks rippling in
the breeze was a sight to see. As he reached the crest of a hill he heard
the sound of cars coming toward him. He quickly ducked into the corn and
dropped to his stomach. A small Ford Ranger rolled past him with several
barrels in the back. Behind the truck was a box van with a local delivery
service logo on the side.
Vin followed the vehicles to one of the small out buildings that had been
searched by Team 9. He watched in amazement as the giant round bales of hay
along the fence were broken apart and more barrels loaded into the van. They
had hidden the evidence in the hay! He was so intent on observing the men
as they moved the barrels that he didnt see the man who crept up behind
him and struck the back of his head with the butt of a rifle.
Jonathan, we got trouble!
The big man looked up from where he was loading the barrels into the van.
Steve was dragging a body from the cornfield. All six men rushed over to
see who had been spying on them. Jonathan took hold of Vins hair and
lifted his head so he could see his face.
Its one of the feds that was here before. Take his weapon and
tie him up. Well put him in one of the silos for now. They wont
be bothering us again any time soon. Hell be dead by the time they
Ezra sat on the couch with a tablet in his lap. He had been trying for hours
to write a note to his friends. He wanted to try to ease their minds. After
the first few tries ended up crumpled in the trash, he changed his mind and
tried to write a letter to his mother. He tried to summon the emotions he
wanted to express. He wanted to tell her how badly it had hurt him for her
to leave him all those times when he was growing up. Looking at the paper
for the umpteenth time, he saw only Dear Mother. With a sigh,
he dropped the pad and let his head drop to his chest as he slept.
Vin awoke and immediately began to cough. The dust in the silo was thick.
His head ached fiercely and it hurt to move. He found his hands tied behind
his back and his feet tied together. As soon as he began to try to wiggle
his hands he began to sink into the milo beneath him. He immediately lay
still; the loose grain was like quick sand, if he continued to struggle,
he would bury himself!
JD went to Ezras apartment that evening. He, too, remembered a pizza
place that Ezra had enjoyed and he went and picked up food for both of them.
He arrived at the apartment and was invited in. He talked nearly nonstop
the whole time he was there. Filling the silence with the sound of his own
voice, he hardly realized that Ezra wasnt saying anything.
At the end of his visit, JD stood at the door. He looked at Ezra for a long
moment, before he realize how it happened, he found himself in the undercover
agents embrace. He felt Ezra tighten up in his grasp, the fear was
almost palpable to the young man. He felt the ragged breathing and then the
trembling arm that touched his shoulder.
Dont. JD, I cant take this. Ezra whispered as he
pushed the young agent away.
Even after the door closed, JD continued to stand there. He heard the great
sobs that wracked his friend and he felt like crying himself. He had to talk
to someone about what was happening to Ezra.
JD called Josiah and asked if he could come over and talk. He drove to
Josiahs and poured out his heart. It only left Josiah more confused.
There was something there, he was sure of it, if he could just put his finger
on it. <<<<<
Ezra had been to the pharmacy. He had filled the same prescription at three
other places. He now had the perfect means of silencing the voices once and
for all. It wouldnt hurt at all, he would just go to sleep. He
wouldnt have to be afraid anymore. Mother couldnt complain. He
wouldnt have to answer their questions. No one would have to know.
Josiah couldnt shake the feeling of dread. Something had happened.
Ezra had allowed JD to embrace him. The boy clearly described the terrible
feeling of fear that had permeated the other man. The body language was wrong.
He rolled over in his bed and struggled to put his finger on the thought
that was dancing just outside of his perception.
A couple of hours later Josiah awoke with a start. It was all suddenly so
clear! Ezra was going to end his life! He bolted out of bed and pulled on
his clothes. He raced across the city to get to the apartment before it was
too late. He debated calling the others, but he decided to wait and see if
he was right. He so much did not want to be right.
Ezra had taken every pill in all four bottles. He laughed bitterly at himself
as he had taken them with milk. He didnt want to lose this chance to
an upset stomach. He was beginning to feel numb. Soon he wouldnt be
able to hear himself screaming anymore. <<<<<
Josiah knocked on the door. He didnt expect an answer. After several
minutes, he kicked in the door. Ezra! Where are you? EZRA! He
began turning on lights in the apartment. He made his way toward the master
He couldnt believe it! Just when he had found the perfect way to end
his miserable existence! He reached for the gun on the nightstand. It
didnt matter what his mother would think anymore. He wouldnt
see the sunrise, he just wouldnt.
Josiah found the bedroom door locked. It took only a moment to kick it open.
Ezra, no! He lunged across the bed and snatched the 9mm from
the other mans hand. He rolled off the bed and raced around to kneel
in front of Ezra.
The pain filled green eyes were glassy. Ezra struggled to focus on the man
kneeling at his feet. Touch me again and youll be drawing with
the other hand, Sanchez! His normal drawl was slurred by the drugs.
Just tell me why! What happened to you? Ezra, it cant possibly
be bad enough to die over.
Youd like to know, wouldnt you? You all want to know. If
you heard the screams, you wouldnt want to know. Does it hurt to die,
Josiah? Because I dont feel anything.
Ezra toppled from the bed into Josiahs arms. It was only then that
Josiah saw the pill bottle clutched in his hand. Oh, no, Ezra, no!
He knew he had only moments to decide what to do. The prescription was for
pain pills and there were enough to stop his heart. He snatched the smaller
man up and dragged him into the bathroom. It took only a moment for him to
get Ezra to throw up. Josiah noticed that most of the pills were not dissolved
yet; hopefully he was not too late.
Josiah debated calling Nathan. He knew what the ex-medic would want to do
though and decided against it. He would just have to handle this on his own.
After washing Ezras face, he carried him back to his bed. Josiah checked
the bed and the nightstand for weapons before going into the kitchen and
making a pot of coffee. He poured two cups of coffee and cooled one with
an ice cube before taking it into the bedroom.
Okay, Ezra, you gotta sit up and drink this for me. He pulled
the younger man until he was sitting up and shoved a pillow behind him for
support. Lifting the cup to Ezras face, he began to coax the coffee
into him. After a couple of swallows, Ezra began to resist, trying to turn
away from the cup until Josiah gripped his jaw firmly and held it still.
They had beaten him beforehand. His contact grabbed his jaw and forced him
to look at the bodies of the boys on the floor. He saw the knife flash again
in the light. The evil laugh echoed in his mind as they removed the handcuffs
and dragged him across the floor.
The effect was immediate, Ezra slapped the cup from Josiahs hand and
administered a karate chop to his rib cage! The glassy green eyes were wide
and frightened. Josiah managed to block the next couple of blows before managing
to wrap his arms around the smaller man and pinning him to the bed.
Ezra struggled for a few more minutes before he began whisper. Josiah had
to strain to hear him but the words made his blood run cold.
Dont touch me! Dont touch me! Please dont touch
me! Finally tapering off with a plaintive cry. Dont let
them hurt me anymore!
Josiah sprang away from Ezra and looked down at him. His eyes were unfocused
and he was shaking uncontrollably. As soon as he was released, Ezra curled
up on his side, wrapping his arms around himself as he sobbed quietly into
When he had calmed somewhat, Josiah managed to get most of a cup of coffee
into him before letting him go to sleep. He woke the undercover agent every
hour afterward, coaxing more coffee into him. As long as he didnt touch
him too much, Ezra stayed calm and drank the coffee he was given.