Wrong Place, Wrong Time

by Hombre

Vin was asleep in the chair beside Ezra's bed when a doctor came in to check on the undercover agent. The medic injected some drugs into one of the injured man's IV ports after checking his condition on the monitors. The medical man smiled as he left the room quietly after seeing that Vin was still dozing undisturbed.

The sharpshooter was startled awake minutes later though, by the sounds of urgent beeps. He looked over at the bed and tried to tell what was wrong with Ezra. The long-haired man stood up anxiously just as the doctor and a nurse came running in.

"Can you leave the room, sir? Now!"

Vin nodded and backed out slowly as he watched the activity round his friend's bed. He wandered up and down the hallway for a full half an hour before the medical staff exited Ezra's room.

"Doc?" Vin called as he hastily stepped forward into the man's sight. "What's the matter? Is he alright?"

"For the moment. His condition is very unstable though. He's just had a very bad allergic reaction to one of the drugs I'd just started him on. His body couldn't handle it and he went into anaphylactic shock. I've given him some adrenaline and cortisone, which should hopefully counteract the effects. I've changed the medication to something that he seems to be able to cope with and he's improving slowly. The new drug isn't as effective as the one I tried first, but it will do the job just as well. He's slightly shocked so we'll be keeping a real close eye on him in the near future."

"Can I sit with him again?" Vin felt his heart still pounding in his chest. How much more does Ezra have to endure? he asked himself.

"Sure. Someone will be checking on him regularly though, so you won't get much peace."

"Don't care as long as Ez is being cared for, that's all that matters. Make as much noise as ya like," Vin said with a quiet, worried smile.

The sharpshooter entered Ezra's room and took the man's hand in his. "Hey, Ez. Don't you ever scare the shit outta me like that again. It's not quite the way I like being woken up." Vin ran his fingers through Ezra's hair gently. "I'm just gonna call Chris but I'll be back real soon. Don't go anywhere, will ya?"

The sharpshooter went outside and took a deep lungful of fresh air as he stood staring out over the parking lot while trying to settle his nerves. He still felt shaky and sick and when he pulled his cell from his belt he could see his hand trembling. He flexed his fingers a few times but the tremble remained and seemed to get worse if anything. He sighed and put in the call to his boss to give himself something to concentrate on.


"Vin? Is something wrong? Please don't say what I think yer gonna say," the blond pleaded, immediately expecting the worst. He'd been on tenterhooks all day waiting for the phone to ring. So far all his calls had been about other things, but this time he'd recognized his friend's voice straightaway and he began to feel sick.

"No, it's alright, he's still with us but he had a real nasty allergic reaction to some of the drugs he was on. They've treated him but I thought you oughta know. He's suffering from mild shock but the doc says he's improving, although his overall condition is still unstable and critical," Vin said as he wandered slowly up and down outside the hospital's entrance.

Chris was certainly glad that Ezra was still alive but upset that he'd had another setback so soon. "Do you want one of us to come? I don't like the thought of you being there on yer own."

The sharpshooter ran his fingers wearily through his long hair. "No, I'm fine. Maude will be here soon so there's no need."

"If yer sure," Chris said uncertainly.

"Yeah, I'm sure. Look, I wanna get back to Ez. His attack only happened a little while ago so I don't wanna leave him alone for too long."

"Okay. Thanks for dealing with him, Vin. I really appreciate it," the blond said, hoping Vin did really know just how grateful he was.

+ + + + + + +

Maude arrived early the next day and went straight to the hospital to join Vin. She hurried along the hallway and almost ran into her son's room in her panic.

"Any change, Mr. Tanner?" she gasped breathlessly.

Vin stood up politely and grimaced as he shook his head negatively. "Well, he's gotten a bit worse if anything. He had a slight crisis last night," Vin said as he gave her the details.

"Oh, dear. Thank you so much for taking care of him for me. Are you going to stay?" Maude asked as she walked to the bed and took hold of Ezra's hand tenderly. She then sat down but kept staring at Ezra, urging him to wake up.

Vin patted her shoulder gently and nodded. "I'd like to but if you'd rather be alone with him, I'll understand."

"No, I'd really quite like some company. I don't think I could bear to be here alone if he should die. I don't want to lose my son," Maude said as she reached out with her free hand and took Vin's right hand in hers too.

"Hopefully it won't come to that, Maude. I'll stay as long as ya want me to," he said as he perched softly on the bed.

+ + + + + + +

"Chris? Found the Beemer," Josiah called as he hurried into the office the next day.

The blond looked up, pleased that they'd finally gotten a lead. "Where?"

"Abandoned not too far away from where Ez was shot. Don't know why it took them so long to find it."

"The fact that it has been found is all that matters. Someone must be looking down on us from above. Thank you, Lord, but now just turn yer gaze elsewhere and help Ez recover," Chris requested quietly as he looked heavenward.

Josiah nodded in agreement. It took a lot to get Chris to ask anything from God but this was certainly one of those times. Ezra was going to need all the help he could get and Josiah had also been sending up continuous prayers in the hope that they would be answered. It had worked in the past and he wished with all his heart that it would happen again

He shook himself back to the moment at hand as he thought of something else that he needed to tell the blond. "I've gotten Forensics checking the car and they said they'd call if they found anything. Buck and JD are there now questioning the locals to see if anyone saw who abandoned it."

"Great. Let me know what you learn."

The big man nodded and wandered back to his desk, where half an hour later his phone rang. "Sanchez."

"We've found a fingerprint in the back of the car. We've matched it to a Michael Ferriero. He's no criminal, but we managed to trace him because he's a security guard and his fingerprints were routinely taken and kept on file when he applied for the job. Don't think he'd have come into contact with your agent in his line of work though," the caller said regretfully.

"Thanks anyway." The profiler hurried into his boss's office and relayed the news. At least they had put a name to the face of the shooter. Just had to catch him now.

The blond tapped his pen against the desk now that things seemed to be happening with their investigation. "Check him out, Josiah. Find out where he works and how long he's been there, if he's reliable, you know the kinda thing. See if he has any connection with Ezra either privately or through work." "I'm on it," Josiah acknowledged as he turned round and headed back to use his phone.

+ + + + + + +

A child walked apprehensively into the local police precinct and looked around as if lost.

"Hello, son. What can we do for you?" the desk sergeant asked as he spotted the nervous youngster hovering indecisively just inside the entrance.

"I found this. I think it's a bullet," the child said quietly as he handed over a small bag. He could only just see over the top of the desk where the policeman sat, so all the cop could see was a pair of hazel eyes and a head of auburn hair.

The man looked inside the bag at the crumpled offering and studied the contents intently without actually touching it. "Where did ya find it, son?"

The youngster shuffled from foot to foot as he clung onto the desk with both hands while looking up at the officer. "It was stuck in a street lamp at the junction of First and Divine. I was waiting at the crosswalk and saw it in a wooden sign that was on the street lamp. I poked it 'cause it was shiny and I wondered what it was. Although it was scrunched up when it fell out, I knew it was a bullet straightaway."

"First and Divine? Are you sure?" the officer asked insistently as he fixed the boy with a serious stare, hoping he wasn't lying.

"Yes, sir. I was meeting my friends in the diner there."

The cop nodded briskly and smiled. "Thanks, kid. This could be vital evidence in the attempted murder of an ATF agent."

"Wow. Jeez, I gotta go tell my friends," the kid said as he ran back out onto the sidewalk excitedly.

+ + + + + + +

Chris picked up his ringing phone. "Larabee," he said shortly, annoyed at being interrupted.

"This is Sergeant Gomez at the Forty-second precinct. A kid has just come in with a bullet he found at First and Divine."

The blond stopped working immediately at the news. "What? Yer kidding," the blond said in disbelief. Forensics had supposedly been over the area with fine tooth-comb but it had taken a child's keen eyes to finally find it.

"No, sir. I have it here in my hand as I'm talking."

Chris flicked a quick look into the outer office to see who was free. "I'll get one of my agents to collect it. Don't hand it to anyone but Agent Josiah Sanchez."

"No, sir."

"Josiah?" Chris called as soon as he finished the call. He told the man what was required and the profiler set off on his errand.

The big man didn't take long and he returned quickly with his evidence. "Now we just need something to match it to," he said to Chris as he walked straight into the blond's office. "I'll get Forensics to check it out so that we know what caliber gun we're looking for."

"Where exactly was the car abandoned?" Chris asked as his mind began working on the problem of the lost weapon.

"Rear of a warehouse two blocks from our office. Not too far from where the shooting happened, as I said before."

Chris nodded eagerly, formulating a plan in his head. "Check the area to see if the gun was thrown away nearby. Check all the trashcans, drains; anywhere that could house a gun."

Josiah nodded as he pursed his lips dubiously. "Sure. Could be a long job, though, and I think Forensics already checked."

"Doesn't matter. I want that gun and seeing as they couldn't even find the bullet, they may well have missed the gun too. If you want a job doin' properly, do it yerself, as my mother says." Chris sighed as he rubbed his tired eyes. "Heard back from Buck and JD yet?"

"Yeah, no one they've questioned so far saw anything useful. I'll get them both to stay on and help with the search for the gun, if you want."

Chris nodded in satisfaction. "Fine. They can go back to questioning people when they've finished. Maybe I'll also put out a request on the next TV newscast asking for information about the shooting. Might get a result that way."

"Sounds good," Josiah said as he waved to the blond and set off on his next assignment.

+ + + + + + +

Over the following two days, the area where the abandoned car had been found was thoroughly searched. The agents were beginning to wonder whether the weapon was even there because of their lack of success so far. At the end of the second day, though, one block away from the warehouse, their hard work paid off when JD found the gun carefully hidden.

"Guys? Got it!" he yelled excitedly as he waved his arms in the air.

Buck and the others ran over to him and photographed the gun in situ before attempting to touch it. They then carefully freed the weapon from where it had been forcefully pushed into a small gap, at street level, between the wall and a trashcan. Bushes surrounded the trashcan, but JD had noticed a recent disturbance of the greenery and looked pleased that his detective work had been successful.

"Good job, kid. Hope it ain't been damaged too much but it certainly matches the type of gun that Forensics said we should be looking for," Buck said as he patted JD's back in congratulations.

The youngster took charge of the weapon and hurried off to Forensics to get it processed quickly. The rest of the men split up to continue their work toward finding Ferriero.

On arrival back at the office, Buck went through to see his oldest friend. "Chris? The kid found the gun and he's seeing to it. Nate's gonna take over questioning the locals while Josiah and I go to where Ferriero works. His bosses say that they ain't seen him since the shooting though. He took some personal time at real short notice apparently."

"Well, that ain't surprising," the blond admitted to himself aloud as he watched his two agents leave. He finally settled back to his own work and counted his blessings once more for the fine team of men under his command. They very rarely needed to be given any orders during an operation such as this. They worked by the book and always followed every lead they could dig up without any guidance from him. It certainly made things less stressful for him than having to watch every move they made to ensure that the case was being investigated properly. They kept him up-to-date with everything that they discovered and always let him know what they were currently working on and where they would be. He'd never experienced such a well-oiled working environment before and he was honest enough to acknowledge that things ran so well because of his good leadership.

+ + + + + + +

Buck and Josiah drove to the security firm that employed their suspect and spoke for quite some time to the man's bosses. They reported that the man was a good employee, had always turned up for work up on time, and they had no complaints about him whatsoever.

"What makes a supposedly model citizen go and try to kill someone?" the dark-haired agent asked thoughtfully as he sat in Josiah's truck writing up his notes.

"Really can't say, Bucklin. Let's do a bit more digging into his background," Josiah suggested, equally perplexed. "Might be something hidden there that will give us a clue."

The two agents returned to the office and worked for several hours before pooling their meager results.

"Divorced; moved to Denver two years ago, but don't seem to have any friends or family here; money in the bank and pays his bills on time. Jeez, how's that for an epitaph?"

Josiah smiled. "Not much to show for yer time on Earth, is it?" The profiler then shrugged as he relayed his news. "I tried to contact his ex-wife but no one seems to know where she is. Maybe outta the country, I was told. Seem to be regular ghosts, don't they?"

"Well, I'm waiting for a few people to get back to me, but at the moment, we're still no nearer finding out why he targeted Ez in this way," Buck said in disappointment as he leaned back in his chair to balance on the back legs precariously.

"Somethin' will crop up, Bucklin, so don't give up. We just ain't asked the right person the right question yet. Let's do some more spade work and go back a bit further in his life. We'll get a result eventually," Josiah said encouragingly as he patted the agent's back gently so as not to overbalance the man.

Both men sighed and exchanged glances before getting back to work again in the hope of getting the all-important lead to their suspect's current whereabouts, as well as the reason for his murderous intentions.

+ + + + + + +

A week had passed and Ezra's conscious state had slightly improved. His eyes began fluttering open and closed at regular intervals and he'd been heard to emit the odd groan.

Vin and Maude were still watching over him, as they had been all week. While one of them slept, the other kept an eye on the patient. Not that either of them really slept very much and, in consequence, the atmosphere was getting a bit fractious between them.

"Mr. Tanner? I am somewhat thirsty," Maude said bossily as she fixed the young man with a dictatorial stare.

Well, ya got legs, ain't ya? Use 'em once in a while 'cause I ain't yer damned slave, Vin thought to himself angrily. "I'll get us one," he muttered in a tone just this side of polite, before heading out of the room.

On his return, he handed Maude hers silently and she barely acknowledged his kindness. As Vin turned his head away from her, he was just in time to see Ezra's eyes open fully.

"Ez? Ez, look at me," the sharpshooter called as he leant over his friend. He then turned to his demanding companion and said urgently in a tone that implied that he wouldn't accept no for an answer, "Mrs. Standish? Find a doctor."

The woman put her drink to one side and disappeared on her errand without argument, having the distinct feeling that she may have upset the younger man earlier.

"Ezra? Stay with me. You're doin' great," Vin said encouragingly as he smiled down at his semi-conscious friend. He couldn't believe that the man was actually waking after such a short time. He hadn't expected any reaction for a few weeks at least; not that he was complaining. He couldn't wait to tell his friends the good news.

For himself, the undercover agent felt nothing but pain. He heard Vin's voice faintly but really wasn't alert enough to hear what was being said to him.

The doctor strode in purposefully with Maude keeping pace. "Mr. Standish? Ezra?" he said after he'd checked the machines surrounding the bed. "Ezra? Can you focus your eyes on me?"

Ezra blinked once but gave up the fight to stay awake. He had a vague idea that he was in the hospital, but that was all he really wanted to know at the moment. Everything else could wait.

The doctor made use of his visit by checking Ezra's chest wound and changing the dressings. Vin looked away quickly when he accidentally caught sight of the damage done to Ezra's chest. He'd never seen anything quite so horrible.

"How is he?" Maude asked as she hovered next to her son anxiously, seemingly unperturbed by the wound.

"Well, the fact that he woke is good but he's developed a bit of an infection in his wound. His temperature's way up despite the medication he's already on. I'll up the dosage but it sounds to me as though he might be developing pneumonia too. I can hear quite a bit of congestion on his chest and as he only has one working lung he's gonna find it hard to deal with but we'll certainly treat it aggressively. I really hoped that we'd have avoided this, but with anyone laid up long-term, pneumonia is always a risk they face."

Vin walked out of the room to try and get a bit of peace and quiet away from Maude while the doctor continued treating his friend. The sharpshooter looked

p and down the hallway before wandering all the way outside when he decided to call Chris. From the expectation of giving good news, he was now being forced to impart bad news again. Would it ever end?

"Hey, cowboy," he said sounding defeated. "Do you want the good news or the bad news?"

The blond's heart seemed to stop beating for a split-second. Is this the call that I've been dreading? he asked himself again, as he did every time Vin called. How could there be good news if Ezra was dead? he asked himself. That realization, at least, gave him a bit of hope. "Shit! The good first," he stuttered.

"Ez sorta woke up for a few seconds."

"What's wrong then?" Chris asked with a perplexed frown, as he imagined all sorts of things.

"He's gotten pneumonia and an infection in his chest wound." The sharpshooter then told the blond what the doctor planned in treatment. Vin was increasingly feeling the need to talk to one of his friends about what had been going on all week at the hospital.

"Shit. I'll come in tonight, Vin," the black-clad man promised, detecting the upset in his friend's voice. "How's Maude?"

"Anxious. She's like a cat on hot bricks, Chris. Every time Ez moves or groans she's up on her feet fussing about like an old mother hen. I know she's on edge but she's driving me to distraction, cowboy. I thought that you couldn't be beaten for giving out orders but she's sure running you a close second," Vin said with a tight smile.

Chris sighed. Vin was the most easy-going guy he knew so he could tell how badly Maude must be acting to get the younger man all riled up.

"Try not to resort to violence, Vin. I'll see ya later."

"Thanks for the sympathy, cowboy," the sharpshooter retorted sarcastically. Just hearing Chris's voice had made all the difference to his mood. He felt much better for his short conversation with the blond and he was definitely looking forward to seeing the man later on.

+ + + + + + +

Chris turned up early evening as promised. "Where's Maude?" he asked after seeing that Vin was on his own. "You ain't murdered her and hidden the body, have ya?"

Vin smiled. "I managed to persuade her to go to a hotel for the night. She's finally admitted that she needs a real break and she's promised to stay away until tomorrow night. We both needed a bit of time away from each other as I hinted earlier. Nothing like being in the close company of someone you don't know all that well for such a long time. The friction was getting a bit much and you could almost see the sparks, cowboy."

The blond smiled as he imagined the tension as he patted Vin's back sympathetically. He then turned to the bed and greeted its unconscious occupant. "Hey, Ez," Chris said as he ran his fingers through his friend's hair lightly. "How is he?" he asked, turning back to the sharpshooter.

"Not good. They gotta suck out any fluid that he gets in his lung. It ain't nice, cowboy. His temperature's really spiking too and I'm real worried about him," the long-haired man admitted quietly. "I thought he was improving and I was so pleased when he woke. Then this has to happen."

The blond took a seat beside his friend and put an arm round his shoulder. He could see that Vin had been really affected by what had happened to the undercover agent. For two people who were so outwardly different in character, Vin and Ezra had formed an unlikely friendship. Chris and Vin had a great relationship too but, even so, the blond was sometimes jealous of how well the other two men got on. Both younger men had endured an unsettled childhood and as soon as the group had formed they had gravitated toward one another. It may seem to outsiders that the two men grated on each other's nerves but that illusion just hid the deep affection and respect that had built up between them.

Chris looked over at Vin and squeezed his shoulder. "I've got some news that might cheer you up a bit," he said before updating Vin about what they'd learned so far during their investigations.

"At least something's going right," the sharpshooter said as he flicked a worried look at Ezra.

"I'll stay for a while if ya like. Feel we've kinda abandoned you," Chris said as he moved a gentle hand onto the younger man's back and gave it a pat.

"No, you haven't. I said I wanted to be here all the time and you're all working hard to try and catch Ferriero. We're all doing our part, cowboy."

"I know, but I still think you've gotten the toughest deal having to cope here."

"The hospital part is a breeze compared to trying to remain civil to Maude. Now I know how Ez feels," Vin said with a grin as he flicked an amused look at Chris. "My admiration for him has raised a few notches since I've been here. He needs a medal, I reckon, for having such a parent."

"Yeah. Bravery above and beyond the call of duty, or something like that," Chris said with a grin as he leant back in his chair, prepared to provide what support he could to his troubled friend.

+ + + + + + +

The next day, the five agents were back at work trying to get to the bottom of Ezra's problems. After working solidly all morning, they finally got the breakthrough that they'd been hoping for.

"Chris? Ferriero's been seen," Buck called from the outer office.

"Where?" the blond asked as his head snapped up.

The tall agent appeared in the doorway and leant against the frame. "In a bar Downtown," he said as he read the name and address of the building from the notepad that he was holding.

"When was he there?"

"He's there right now, pard."

Chris leapt to his feet in seeming anger. "Jeez, why the hell didn't you say so to start with? Right, get the others together. I want that bastard behind bars before the day is out."

The five men ran down to the parking garage and climbed in two of their vehicles quickly. They drove out onto the road with squealing tires and set off to the address that Buck had given them. They arrived at the bar within a very short time and assembled on the sidewalk to await instructions. Chris sent Buck and JD round to the back in case their suspect made a run for it. He waited a couple of minutes for them to reach their destination and then entered the building through the front door. He stood just inside and looked over the patrons but couldn't spot his quarry straightaway. He saw his two agents enter from the rear and he made eye contact with them and nodded.

Josiah returned from the counter and stood beside the blond. "He's at a table over the back with two friends apparently."

"Spread out," Chris ordered as he began walking in the required direction. He looked at Buck and JD who were still hovering near the rear exit and he indicated with a nod where he wanted them to go. The blond then continued on his way with Nathan and Josiah fanned out behind him and finally the group of five men converged on the table. Chris came to a halt opposite the man he wanted and waited until he looked up at him. "Michael Ferriero? You've gotten a date with me, I think."

The seated man frowned angrily at the interruption. "What the hell you raving on about? I don't know you."

"You will do when I've finished with ya. You'll remember this day for the rest of yer godammed life. Yer under arrest for the attempted murder of an ATF agent," Chris growled as his agents drew their weapons and spread out round the table.

"What?" the man asked in a strangled tone as he turned white in a matter of a second.

"You heard me. Stand up," Chris ordered as he pulled out his set of handcuffs while the rest of his men still kept the suspect covered.

The man did as he was told when finding himself looking down the barrels of four guns. Ferriero's two friends stood up as well and looked as though they were just going to leave the man to his fate.

"Where do you two suppose yer goin'?" Buck asked as he moved his gun to cover them too. "We wanna have a word with you as well. I think you accompanied yer friend on his road trip, didn't ya? Seem to recognize your faces from the security tapes I looked at."

While Buck talked, Josiah moved toward the two men and cuffed them securely. All three prisoners were then herded roughly outside to the waiting trucks.

"That was easy, weren't it? Don't seem like yer usual criminal, do they? Scared shitless and not in the least bit defiant," Buck said after the suspects were settled in the vehicles. The ladies' man studied them through the truck's windows carefully and pursed his lips dubiously. "Sure seemed shocked when you said what he was being arrested for."

"Yeah, he did. Come on, let's get back and begin interviewing them. I wanna get to the truth behind all this," Chris said as he climbed into the driving seat of one of the trucks

+ + + + + + +

All the prisoners had naturally asked for lawyers so the agents had to wait until they arrived before they could question their suspects.

Chris had assigned Ferriero for himself and he stood in the room just staring at the man for a couple of minutes while the prisoner's lawyer fidgeted about with papers and files before finally settling down. Chris scowled and picked up the remote control that he had on the table. He turned to the TV and set a video going on it.

The blond pointed to the screen and fixed both men with a commanding stare. "Watch this. I think you'll recognize the following footage, so don't try to deny that you attempted to kill this man. It's there as plain as day. The camera never lies, or it certainly don't on this occasion."

Ferriero watched spellbound as the shooting played out before his very eyes. He spoke not one word but the blond could see him shaking and knew he had the man just where he wanted him. The lawyer was seen to shake his head, knowing he faced an uphill struggle to get his client off the charge.

Chris ploughed on, in a bizarre way enjoying himself, by showing his prisoner some blown up photos that clearly showed Ferriero in the BMW holding the gun. "Anything to say?"

"You said he was an ATF agent?" Ferriero stuttered as he stared at the photo in front of him that showed a blood-covered Ezra in the front seat of the jeep.


"He can't be. He's a murderer...a murderer," the man mumbled, in a tone that now showed his growing doubt. "What's his name?"


Ferriero looked horrified and began fidgeting in his chair as he looked from Chris to Buck and back again.

"Who did you think he was?" the blond demanded as he came to a standstill and leant on the table opposite the man while glaring at him fiercely.

"Milton Henry. I was told he was Milton Henry."

"Well, you got that wrong. Why did you want to kill Henry?"

The man's voice cracked as he explained the reasons for his actions. "He killed my son in a hit-and-run five years ago when I lived in Fort Lauderdale. He got away without being charged. He was taken in for questioning and let go within a few hours because of lack of evidence and I never even knew what he looked like. The police said they couldn't prove he did it 'cause he said he wasn't driving the car at the time of the accident. A friend of his supposedly was, but he was never charged either. It was a case of one person's word against the other." Ferriero sighed. "Anyway, I then had this chance of revenge just thrust into my lap. I couldn't believe that Milton had now come into my life again, totally by accident, after all this time. I wasn't going to let the opportunity pass by. Henry was ultimately to blame for my son's death and I wanted him to pay with his life because he robbed my son of his."

"Well, at the moment a friend of mine is paying in his place. The charge may yet become murder if he dies. He's real sick."

"Oh, God."

Chris showed no emotion although he felt like beating the man to a pulp. He scowled and continued with his questioning. "How did you get confused over his identity?"

"Someone told me it was him." The man explained how the identification had come about and Chris sighed, believing what he'd been told. The truth was often stranger than fiction, as he'd found out on many occasions in the past.

"Charge him," the blond said to Buck as he walked out of the room, cursing Ezra's bad luck as he went. He met up with Josiah in the hallway as the profiler emerged from interviewing the other two suspects in turn. "How'd ya get on?"

The big man confirmed what Chris had just been told and he looked equally upset at the reason for Ezra's injuries. He leaned back against the wall and studied the floor for a quiet minute as he thought back over events sadly. "Vendetta that went seriously wrong," Chris muttered angrily. "You charged them, didn't ya?"

"Yeah. They were both quivering wrecks even before we started interviewing them and they couldn't get the words out fast enough in their efforts to try and get us to be lenient with them. Think they were shocked when we went ahead and charged them as being accessories to murder. Can't help but feel sorry for your guy though. Terrible thing to lose a child."

"I know, Josiah, you don't have to tell me what he went through after the hit-and-run. I know all about it. Still don't excuse what he did."

"No, but I can still kinda understand his motives, Chris."

"Still don't make it right to take the law into yer own hands. No matter the reason; especially when it turns out like this," Chris snapped as he headed off to get some air. He also decided to use the break to tell Vin about the reason for Ezra's troubles.

The investigation had at least come to an end, although it wasn't a very satisfactory outcome for any of them. Yes, they had caught all the suspects without further bloodshed, but the reasons for their violence left a bitter taste in everyone's mouth. All that was left for the men to do now was pray that Ezra recovered fully from his injuries.

+ + + + + + +

Ezra's condition was finally starting to improve and Maude took the decision to go home. She didn't even wait until he had woken properly before making up her mind, which Vin really couldn't understand. After all the fuss she'd made earlier, it seemed a very strange thing to do. But then, Maude was never conventional. Perhaps she just didn't want Ezra to see how much she really cared for him. By disappearing early, it made it appear that she was holding him at arm's length as normal. She still called the hospital regularly to check on his condition but she hadn't visited in person again.

Now that all the boys were free, they took turns to sit with the injured man, although Vin still spent the majority of the time with him. Ezra finally woke after Maude had been gone for three weeks. The man had fought off both infections and had also just been weaned off the ventilator over the past few days.

He opened his eyes and stared up at the ceiling with very blurred vision because he felt nauseous, disorientated and weak and he couldn't really remember feeling so bad in all his life.

"Ez?" Chris said as he stood up after hearing his friend moan loudly. The green eyes slid sideways, already fighting the urge to sleep again, as Ezra squinted dizzily at the blond.

"It's about time that you showed some signs of life. Think the medical staff has gotten fed up with seeing us here over the past month. They'll be glad to see the back of you," Chris said with a grin of relief.

Ezra didn't answer, but closed his eyes and slept again solidly for the next few days.

+ + + + + + +

"Chris? Just heard from the jail that Ferriero killed himself last night," Buck said quietly, when the blond returned to the office after visiting Ezra. The ladies' man stood awkwardly in the doorway, wondering how Chris would handle the information.

"Dammit. Don't know whether that's good news or not," Chris admitted as he turned his chair slightly so that he could stare unseeingly out of the window in his office. He felt cheated somehow. There was no real closure. Ferriero had taken the easy way out and denied them seeing him sentenced for his crimes. Instead of going through the proper process of trial and conviction, making everything, hopefully, come to a good conclusion for all of them, it had fizzled out unsatisfactorily.

"What we gonna tell Ez when he wakes up properly?" the tall agent asked curiously.

Chris leant back in his chair and ran both hands through his hair slowly. He then turned to face his oldest friend and grimaced. "I think I wanna wait until he's fully fit before giving him any of the details surrounding the shooting. I don't quite know how he'd take it. Hell, I don't even know how to take it."

"Okay, bud, whatever you say. We'll leave it 'til later, if that's what you think is best," Buck agreed as he nodded and wandered back to his own desk.

+ + + + + + +

"Mr. Sanchez? Is that you?" Ezra asked of the figure who was currently staring out of the window in his room.

Josiah turned round with a wide smile on his face. "Yes, it is, son. Sure is a pleasure to see you," he said as he ambled toward his friend.

Ezra put a hand to his chest and groaned. "It hurts to breathe. Hurts to do anything."

"Well, that's to be expected, Ezra," Josiah asked as he sat down beside the man and took hold of his hand. The injuries and setbacks that Ezra had endured had really made a mark on his physical appearance and the profiler thought that he looked strained, pale and fragile. "Can you remember what happened, son?"

"I only recall Mr. Tanner driving me to work and then I felt pain in my back and chest. I couldn't breathe and that's all I know until waking up here," Ezra said after a moment's contemplation.

"Well, you were shot in the back. The bullet went through your right lung and left a nasty great hole in your chest. You've had an infection and pneumonia while you've been in here too," Josiah said as he squeezed Ezra's hand encouragingly.

"I think I'm rather relieved that I don't recall any of those details. How long have I been here?" Ezra asked as he looked around the room curiously as if he'd be able to find the answer to his question that way.

The big man grimaced. "Just over a month. We thought we were gonna lose you, son, on more than one occasion."

"Hey! He's awake," JD said happily as he entered the room with his other friends during the conversation. The youngster bounded in and sat on the edge of the bed and grinned down at Ezra.

"Hello, Mr. Dunne," Ezra replied, returning the smile weakly.

"We thought you were gonna kick the bucket," the kid said, repeating Josiah's earlier comment but in very different language.

Ezra laughed and regretted it. The laugh immediately turned into a strangled cough, followed by a pain-filled groan, and then a gasp.

"Easy, son. Rest easy," Josiah said quietly as he rose and leant over his friend worriedly.

Ezra took a few shallow breaths and wiped his eyes on the back of his hands as he curled up slightly to try and halt the pain.

"Sorry, Ez," JD apologized as he patted the man's shoulder sympathetically.

"That's quite alright. It's going to take time to find out what I can, and cannot, do." Ezra sighed. Concentrate on what I can't do, I think; nothing. Can't go wrong then, can I? he thought to himself. The pain in his body slowly subsided and the undercover agent inevitably wondered about the cause of his injuries. He fixed the profiler with an inquisitive stare. "Are you going to tell me who shot me and why?"

"Not yet, son. When you get outta here you'll learn everything you need to know," Josiah said, knowing Ezra would be upset about the suspect's suicide no matter what the man had done to him.

Ezra rubbed his chest and didn't argue. He had no energy whatsoever at the moment and the edge of his vision was turning black once more.

Josiah noticed the man's fatigue and ran his fingers through Ezra's hair gently. "Go to sleep, Ez."

Even before the last word had left his mouth, Ezra had obeyed.

+ + + + + + +

Two weeks later, Ezra was well enough to be released and Vin volunteered to collect him.

"Ready?" he asked as he saw Ezra waiting for him with a large bag of medication on his lap.

"Yes, Mr. Tanner. I most certainly am."

Vin picked up the paper bag that was balancing on Ezra's thighs and looked inside at the assorted pills and potions. "Jeez, you raid the pharmacy? You ain't gotta take all of those, have you?"

"Not all at once, no," Ezra said with a broad grin which Vin returned, glad his friend seemed in high spirits.

"Jeez, yer gonna rattle," Vin smiled. The sharpshooter put the bag back and collected the rest of his friend's sparse belongings together.

Ezra transferred into his mode of transport, a wheelchair, and settled himself as best he could. "Where are we going?" the undercover agent asked as he was wheeled along the hallways to freedom. On his way out, he waved to several members of medical staff who had cared for him during his long stay.

"Nate wants you with him," the sharpshooter said in answer to his friend's question as he helped Ezra into the jeep and strapped him in.

Ezra waited until Vin had climbed in the driver's seat and then turned to him and asked, "Will you tell me something? Nobody has yet answered my persistent questions about who shot me? I think I'm entitled to know."

"Michael Ferriero did it," Vin said as he started the motor and drove away from the hospital.

"Who?" Ezra asked with a frown as he tried, unsuccessfully, to recall the name.

The sharpshooter didn't answer straightaway because he'd just come to an intersection and was concentrating on pulling out into the traffic. He was still haunted by what had happened to Ezra and he was being extra vigilant on the journey home. Once he completed the maneuver, he felt safe enough to begin talking quietly. "He thought you were someone else. We were in The Saloon about three months ago and he was there too apparently. He heard someone mention the name Milton Henry and he asked the person to point him out. The man didn't point, but described Henry vaguely instead. He said something like, 'the guy in the designer suit standing near the exit.' Milton had disappeared by then and Michael saw you instead. You'd just come outta the john and were standing in the right place."

Ezra felt a surge of anger run through him at the news. Fate, it seemed, had been very unkind to him. "Sounds more like, wrong place, wrong time, to me. Why did he want Milton?"

"Milton had killed his son in a hit-and-run accident and got away with it scot-free. Michael was out for revenge but targeted the wrong person."

"Another case of mistaken identity of the worst kind. He near enough killed me, twice. I suppose he followed me home from The Saloon that first night and discovered where I lived. He then decided on a tragic accident to commence with, and when that didn't work, he went for more violent measures but still thankfully failed. He got a lot of things incorrect, didn't he?"

"Yeah, well, he won't be getting nothing else wrong," Vin said as he wondered how his friend would take the next bit of news. "He killed himself 'cause he couldn't live with what he'd done to you."

"Oh," Ezra said quietly, his emotions suddenly tangled.

Vin took a quick look at this friend when he heard the strange tone in his voice. "You okay?"

"I think so. I can understand the poor man's motives but I'm angry too about what he did. I don't quite know what I should be feeling at the moment," Ezra admitted as he rubbed a hand over his face and sighed.

"Yeah, well, that's why we wouldn't tell ya nothing before now. We didn't want you fretting about it while you were still in the hospital."

"Thank you, Vin," Ezra said suddenly. "Thank you."

"What for?"

"For saving my life twice. As I said when you checked on me when I was unwell, I am lucky to know you. You truly are a good friend," Ezra said as he patted the man's knee gratefully before turning his tearful gaze to look out the side window, his emotions still in turmoil. He knew it would take him quite some time to get over the events he had endured, let alone accept the reasons for it.

"Yer welcome, Ez, any time," Vin replied quietly when he heard the hitch in his friend's voice. "I'm here whenever you need me. As long as ya need me."

The End