After he and Oscar had buried Chris, Ezra had stopped by his place
to change clothes. Dale had given him directions to the warehouse in
which Meyerhurst stored his guns and Ezra was supposed to meet the anti-Seven
at Meyerhurst's restaurant before they all headed there. On his way
to the restaurant, Ezra had called Vin.
As he called Buck to dig up Chris, the only thing on Ezra's mind had
been keeping his boss alive. He'd been relieved beyond description when
Vin had told him over the phone that Larabee had survived. Then the
sharpshooter had offered to give the phone to Chris. The impact of Standish's
actions had hit the undercover agent with the force of a bullet to the
mid-plex, then. He'd quickly told Vin Meyerhurst's plans to inspect
his weapon cache and excused himself of the conversation. In the intervening
hours, as the events of the evening replayed graphically in his head,
Ezra had pretty much given up hope of ever working in law enforcement
ever again. His mood had been disintegrating rapidly ever since reaching
He had no reason to feel guilty. He had done what he had to do to protect
his cover, himself, and his boss. The thoughts, though logical, brought
no comfort to his troubled conscience, and Ezra had a feeling that that
line of reasoning would not hold with Larabee, either. Not where Standish
At least Chris was alive and not permanently injured, Standish told
himself. The plan had really worked perfectly. Except for the part where
Ezra had had to beat up his boss to protect him from a homicidal maniac.
That was the part that was going to get him fired. Chris put up with
a lot from his undercover agent, but this he was not likely to forgive.
Now the only thing that was keeping Standish going was the thought
that by the end of the night, he would know where the guns were kept
and Meyerhurst and his whole company would land in prison. And if the
Hilton's security tape was gold, all the better.
Meyerhurst's hoard of weapons resided in a warehouse not two miles
away from his dilapidated office building. It was in not quite the state
of disrepair that the office building was, Ezra noted. Although the
brick was old and crumbling, there were several noticeable areas that
had been replaced with new brick. Weeds had been pulled away from the
walls, presumably to prevent them from causing further damage to the
stonework. A shiny new padlock hung on the enormous sliding door. Oscar
removed the lock and shoved the steel door back. It rolled in its track
with nary a squeak, the hinges carefully preserved from rust.
Such security measures were quite sensible, Standish reflected. Ezra
appreciated the value of blending into an environment more than most,
but this was not the greatest area of town. A worn down building was
an invitation for the neighborhood drunks and hobos to crash, and the
last thing that Meyerhurst would want to deal with was a homeless person
stumbling upon his secret stash of weapons. Ezra was severely shocked,
however, when Oscar hurried inside to punch a code into a keypad. What
sort of crazy criminals put a security system on their illegal arms?
Who did they expect to show up if the alarm was tripped?
He questioned Kitty about it. "It's a modified system," she
explained. "It is connected with my computer, so that if anyone
breaks in, or if the cops ever discovered it, I would be the one alerted."
Meyerhurst smiled. "She even has it rigged to call my cell phone
in that contingency. It's some of her best work." He flipped a
switch on the wall near the entrance and the room was filled with dingy
Ezra felt thoroughly let down as he surveyed the interior. For all
intents and purposes, the room seemed deserted. Oh, there were a few
crates scattered on the cold cement floor, but there was hardly enough
of them to encompass the size of the shipment that the Chicago Boys
were demanding. Besides which, they were covered with dust and cobwebs,
appearing as if they had been lying in the same position since Nixon
had been president. This wasn't worth the hellish week he'd just had.
It certainly was not worth the loss of his job.
Standish was relieved to note that as they all moved deeper into the
warehouse he could see that there was a generous opening cut out in
the floor for a descending stairwell leading to a basement. Oscar flipped
a switch on the wall adjacent to it and bright light flooded upward
from the pit. There had better be something good down here, Ezra thought
darkly. If this was to be the last bust of his career, it would be nice
to make it worth something.
"After you," Dale gestured grandly to his boss. Ezra trailed
Meyerhurst down to the basement, followed by the rest of the team. Eric
Further, as usual keeping a wary eye on everything, stayed upstairs
Now this was more like it. Dozens of crates were stacked in neat rows
around the expanse of the enormous room. Each was clearly marked with
the type and quantity of gun it contained. Thank heaven for organized
crime, Standish punned to himself. He stepped past the arms dealer to
examine the containers closer. They were even numbered! Now Standish
was really excited. If they were numbered, they were recorded. And if
they were recorded, they could be proven to lead to Meyerhurst.
"I collect nothing but the best," Meyerhurst bragged to Ezra.
"Some of these boxes come all the way from Europe. But I'm sure
I don't have to tell you that. You are the expert, after all."
Small arms and munitions expert "Anthony Stabler" nodded
in appreciation as he continued to inspect the crates. "You do
indeed have a fine array." Undercover agent Ezra Standish whooped
inwardly in triumph. The bastard was going down. With this cache the
ATF would have Meyerhurst put away for years. Combined with the tape
from the hotel, it would be for life.
"Kitty, pull up the inventory for me," Meyerhurst requested.
The Russian computer genius pulled out her laptop and set it on an empty
table whose usual purpose was inspecting weaponry. Meyerhurst pulled
a CD out of the pocket of his suit coat and handed the disc to Kitty.
Ezra watched the exchange eagerly. Sure enough, Kitty loaded the disc
and the screen was immediately filled with data. Pages and pages of
weapons inventory - including the type, amount, location, and value
of each gun - flashed by as the computer compiled the large file.
The undercover agent's thoughts immediately went to formulating a scheme
that would enable him to obtain that disc. His plots and Meyerhurst's
review of the inventory, however, were interrupted as shouts from above
caught everyone's attention. A few seconds later Eric Further descended
the stairs, prodding a man ahead of him by gunpoint.
"It's Eddie Dumluk!" Gadflies declared needlessly. They all
recognized the flashy night club owner.
"Mr. Dumluk, why aren't you dead?" Meyerhurst frowned at
his rival. Ron Rye growled an agreement.
Better question, Ezra thought, what the hell are you doing here, you
Dumluk's complexion was drained of color, and his eyes were as wide
as the Mississippi as he regarded the storeroom's formidable occupants.
He opened and closed his mouth a few times before his gaze slipped back
to the rows of illegal weaponry. His eyes narrowed and he pursed his
lips in a thin line. Dumluk then unbelievably stalked across the room
towards Meyerhurst. Further raised his eyebrows and followed.
"What the hell is this?" Dale Oscar exclaimed incredulously.
Ezra could have echoed the sentiment. He knew Dumluk was stupid, but
this was incredible! Just when the ATF agent thought Dumluk couldn't
drop any lower in his esteem, the man actually raised his finger and
waggled it at Meyerhurst.
"How dare you?!" he screamed. "You tried to blow up
my club, you bastard! There are cops all over there right now! They'll
find everything! You ruined me because you just couldn't stand my success,
is that it? You couldn't compete with my business savvy, could you?"
"Was it business savvy that led you here?" Meyerhurst questioned
"I came to steal your guns, the way you stole that deal from me!"
Eddie snarled. "I bet you didn't know I knew where you kept 'em.
I got my sources. I got lots of dirty secrets about you!"
On another day Ezra might have found this amusing. Meyerhurst and his
team certainly seemed to. That was the only reason Dumluk was still
pulling in oxygen to speak. But today was the day Ezra had assaulted
his boss in order to protect his cover and arrest Michael Meyerhurst.
Now, not only was Dumluk getting in the way of that goal, he had also
placed himself in very immediate danger. Any second now the crime lord
would stop being amused and inevitably pull out his pistol. Then bang,
Dumluk dead on the floor, just like Tony; the only difference was his
jacket would be silver. That, and this time Ezra knew it was coming.
For all the good that does me, he thought sardonically.
Eddie seemed to be running out of breath. He looked like he forgot
where he was going with his tirade. Meyerhurst spoke up.
"You forgot a few things, my friend. I framed you for the murder
of South Side Jim," the crime lord supplied helpfully.
"Oh yeah. That was nasty, even for you."
"I agreed to kill you to cement an arms deal."
"That was pretty dirty too."
"And I have every intention of going through with it."
Eddie suddenly seemed to realize where he was and who he was surrounded
by. His mouth closed with a snap as common sense kicked in all too late.
The air had become charged with latent menace. As long as Dumluk had
been ranting, he had been safe. Sheer perverse amusement had kept Meyerhurst
and his people at bay. Now that Eddie had realized the danger, the show
was over. Ezra knew what the finale would be.
Now would be a good time for Team Seven to show up. How long had it
been since he had called Vin? Ezra was going to have to pull a rabbit
out of his hat to keep Dumluk alive if the team did not arrive swiftly.
He doubted the coffin trick would be successful a second time.
"Your death will be quieter now, but it should satisfy the Chicago
Boys." Meyerhurst told the trembling idiot. Pleasantly.
Shit. He was an ATF agent, he wasn't supposed to stand by and let people
kill each other! His mind was working furiously to come up with a solution,
but he could think of nothing to say that would convince them to spare
Further pushed the quivering rival arms dealer to his knees in front
There was no time. Meyerhurst was going to kill Dumluk, no mercy, no
hesitation. It may be that the man deserved to die, if just to rid the
world of a fatally stupid moron, but that was not for Ezra to judge.
He was one of the good guys, and the good guys did not stand by and
let people get shot. Where the hell were the rest of Team Seven?
Meyerhurst had barely cleared his gun from the holster when he felt
cool steel against the back of his own neck.
"Drop it," Ezra demanded, his voice as cold as the barrel
of his weapon. "ATF. You're under arrest."
The room lapsed instantly into dead silence. Meyerhurst did not relinquish
his hold on the revolver. "If this is a joke, Anthony, it isn't
"No, I don't find it amusing either. Let go of the gun."
The expression on Dumluk's face was one of pure relief as he realized
he was going to live, followed immediately by a look of renewed panic.
It did not take much brains to realize that Ezra had just put himself
into a no-win situation. Standish's duped teammates stared at him with
a range of reactions before hastily pulling out their weapons. Very
quickly the undercover agent was facing a veritable arsenal. Far from
saving his life, most likely all Ezra had done was to consign his own
body to a grave next to Dumluk's.
Standish had at least been able to maneuver himself into a somewhat
favorable position, with the arms dealer between himself and the criminal
armada. To shoot him, they would have to shoot their boss. Of course
their boss still had that damnable revolver. He could have Dumluk grab
it, but he did not trust the panicked rival not to do something stupid,
like turn the gun on his would-be rescuer.
Without taking his eyes off Meyerhurst, Ezra reached into his breast
pocket and pulled out his cell phone. "Mr. Dumluk," Standish
tossed the phone to the intended victim, who flinched in surprise and
barely caught the projectile as it sailed toward him. "Speed-dial
one, if you would be so kind."
"How could you?" Gadflies voice was so hurt that Ezra almost
broke cover to look at the man. Dumluk had punched in the number and
was waiting for the recipient to answer. Come on Chris, answer the phone.
"You're never getting out of here alive, you two-faced bastard."
Dale Oscar scowled at the ATF agent. Guess he wasn't taking the deception
very well either. "You'll only be able to get off a couple of shots
before we nail you."
Boy, was he right about that. Damn it, Chris, answer the phone. "Then
I guess you'd best discuss amongst yourselves which of you is going
to die," Ezra told Oscar, his demeanor a lot calmer than he felt.
"Get over here, right now!" Dumluk suddenly shrieked into
the phone. Chris must have answered. Finally.
"Mr. Dumluk! Please stop yelling and inform Mr. Larabee where
we are." He heard someone gasp when he mentioned Chris' name. Meyerhurst's
knuckles were cracking. Ezra wished he could take the phone and talk
to Chris himself, but with Meyerhurst still armed he just could not
take the risk. Standish contemplated directing him again to drop it,
but the crime lord was no fool. He knew the agent had no real leverage
over him, as he was not likely to shoot his only cover. Not unless I
have to, Ezra thought grimly.
Dumluk was being awfully quiet. A queasy feeling rose up in Ezra's
stomach. "Mr. Dumluk, why aren't you calling in the cavalry?"
"The signal was lost," Standish's only ally said in a small,
"Try again." The feeling got worse. Out of the corner of
his eye Ezra could see Further shifting his weight, considering.
"I have. Twice. I can't get a connection."
There was nothing to say to that.
"Who was that?"
"I think it was Eddie Dumluk."
Ezra glanced at Meyerhurst's back. It was as tense as a cat lying in
the sun, which was to say not very tense at all. What reason does he
have to be nervous? He's got me outgunned six to one. Five to one actually.
Nobody was dumb enough to give Ron Rye a weapon. He was a weapon. And
now Meyerhurst had apparently figured out the nature of Ezra's deception.
"The ATF undercover agent." The crime lord shook his head
ruefully, a small smile in his voice. "You played me, Mr. Standish.
I thought we had talked about that."
Ezra recalled his conversation with the crime lord that first day.
He had never told Team Seven about the unfortunate demise of Meyerhurst's
original Tony. He didn't really know why. Perhaps he thought talking
about it would validate the danger to his own life. And now here he
was. The undercover agent's only chance was to kill enough time for
Team Seven to arrive. And they were going to arrive. Soon. He hoped.
"It was no game, Mr. Meyerhurst. It was my job, and my pleasure."
"Well played," the arms dealer conceded, "except for
this last move.. What did you possible expect to gain from this?"
An additional witness to bring to Meyerhurst's trial? No, because now
Dumluk and he would both be dead. At least if Standish had kept his
mouth shut he would still be alive to testify against Meyerhurst. So
what was it? A sense of morality? Forgiveness, perhaps? But all that
was too complicated to explain, and why bother anyway? So Ezra responded,
"I've taken a liking to Mr. Dumluk's scintillating conversation.
I'd miss it horribly if he were dead."
What were his adversaries doing? Most of them were blocked from his
line of sight, but he could hear Oscar muttering angrily under his breath,
and Ron Rye rumbling uncertainly. Ezra wondered how Kitty felt. She'd
been conspicuously quiet since he had drawn his gun on her boss. He
wasn't about to ask.
Meyerhurst was still feeling chatty. "Nothing but the best, I
said. You are indeed a supremely talented conman. In fact, your talents
are wasted in law enforcement. What has it ever got you besides lousy
wages? When did it ever earn you any respect? I doubt your boss is happy
with you right now."
Meyerhurst couldn't see Ezra cringe in response to that statement,
but the undercover agent's silence must have told him he had hit his
"You could still work for me, you know," the crime lord said.
"I am not a forgiving man, but for you I would be willing to let
bygones be bygones. If you kill Dumluk right now."
Yeah, right. Had Ezra ever thought he fit in with these people? Even
though his future in the ATF looked bleak, there was no way Standish
would ever throw in his lot with Meyerhurst.
"Thank you for that generous offer, Mr. Meyerhurst, but I fear
I must decline. Mr. Dumluk, you may take this opportunity to abscond
from the warehouse."
"What?" Eddie Dumluk blinked stupidly.
"Get out of here, Mr. Dumluk."
"They'll shoot me!"
"They will not. Because I put my life on the line to save your
sorry ass, and if they shoot you, I will have done that for nothing.
And I will be so aggravated about throwing my life away for no reason,
that I will just have to shoot everyone, starting with Meyerhurst."
Ezra said it loudly for all to hear. Whether it was true or not didn't
matter. Only that they believed him.
"Leave, Mr. Dumluk. And remember that the Chicago Boys are out
for your blood. The safest place for you to be is in federal custody."
Dumluk slowly got to his feet, his eyes darting around at the array
of weapons drawn. He then turned and ran up the stairs, practically
tripping over his own feet in his haste to leave. He didn't even spare
a glance backward for his guardian angel.
No gratitude, Ezra thought irately.
JD had already evacuated Dumluk's club when Chris and the rest of Team
Seven had arrived. The young computer expert had even had a big grin
on his face as he greeted them.
"Hey, guys! You're missing all the fun! Buck's inside. He's already
disarmed the bomb; he's just making another sweep of the building to
make sure there isn't a second device."
Vin and Josiah left to help Buck while Larabee had questioned JD. "Where's
JD's face fell and he had scowled sullenly. "I don't know. Buck
and I saw him when we first got here. He didn't want to let us search
his club, but Buck, ah, persuaded him. He was hanging around while we
were looking, acting real nervous, but after we found the bomb Buck
was disarming it and I was trying to get everybody out and there were
so many people to keep track of that I guess Dumluk kinda got away from
Dunne made an apologetic face, but Larabee had just shook his head.
"Never mind. We'll take care of Dumluk later. Get the guys. We're
"Are we going to nail Meyerhurst?" Chris nodded. "Sweet!"
JD had started towards the entrance to the club, but Josiah, Vin and
Buck were already walking out the doors. Wilmington had the bomb in
his hands and was showing it to Josiah and Vin. As he looked up and
saw Chris, Buck had smiled and reached into his pocket. Taking out a
small white bottle, he had thrown it to Chris.
"What's this?" Larabee had asked as he caught it.
"Aspirin. Told you we'd get ya some."
"When did you get the time to buy aspirin?"
Wilmington had shook his head. "Didn't buy it. Found it behind
Chris' eyes had narrowed suspiciously. "What were you doing behind
"Searching for bombs, of course. Why, Chris? What'd you think
I was doing?" Buck had grinned widely at his long time friend.
Chris had returned the knowing smile and gratefully downed two of the
pills. He considered taking two more, but decided against it. He wanted
to be sharp when he faced Meyerhurst and his team.
"Buck, give that thing to the locals." Larabee pointed at
the bomb tucked under Wilmington's arm. "According to Ezra, Meyerhurst
is inspecting his weapons cache right now. That's where we're going
to take him down." He gave them directions to the warehouse, and
they had split: Josiah with Buck and JD in his truck, Vin and Nathan
with Chris in his Explorer. Team Seven had been three quarters of the
way there when the phone call from Eddie Dumluk had come.
"Shit!" Chris threw the phone on the floor of the vehicle
at Tanner's feet. Vin looked at him with concern.
"Who was that?" the sharpshooter asked.
Chris' grip on the steering wheel tightened. "I think it was Eddie
The sharpshooter raised his eyebrows and Nathan, in the backseat, leaned
forward in surprise. "Why do you say that?" he asked.
"I heard Ezra in the background. Sounded like he was telling Dumluk
to tell me where they are."
Vin frowned deeply. "Wasn't Ez supposed to be with Meyerhurst
getting arms ready for the Chicago Boys?"
Larabee didn't answer, just pushed harder on the gas pedal. As they
neared Meyerhurst's warehouse, the Explorer's headlights flashed on
something metallic. A furtive figure dashed between two ramshackle buildings.
"Hey! That's Eddie Dumluk!" Vin exclaimed. Chris brought
the vehicle screeched to a halt, as did Buck behind them in his truck.
"Where?" Chris demanded at the same time Nathan asked, "How
do you know?"
"Down that alley. JD told me Dumluk was wearing a shiny silver
jacket." The sharpshooter was already halfway out of the vehicle.
Larabee and Jackson exited and Chris motioned to the half of the team
in Buck's truck as Vin proceeded into the alleyway with his service
Dumluk had no luck whatsoever. The alley was a dead end. He had nowhere
to go, and it was plain by the look on his face that the arms dealer
knew it. The man was terrified. Vin had Dumluk backed against a wall
with his weapon aimed at Eddie, who had his hands raised above his head
and was babbling anxiously as Chris arrived on the scene, followed by
Nathan, Buck, JD and Josiah.
". . . Looks like I did it, but I didn't. Do it. I didn't do it.
Meyerhurst did. He did it and made it look like I did. Chicago Pete
knows me. He knows I wouldn't do anything to hurt Gianotello or his
family. It was Meyerhurst. I was dead asleep when it happened. At my
club. Meyerhurst tried to blow up my club, did you know that? Oh yeah,
you guys told him to. But you told him that under the assumption that
I had killed South Side and now that you know I didn't do it, Meyerhurst
did, you don't have to worry about me 'cause you know I didn't do it,
Eddie had run out of breath. Chris looked at Vin. "What the hell
did you say to him?"
Tanner shrugged and shook his head. "Didn't say anything. He turned
around, saw me and just started yapping. Haven't been able to get him
to shut up to tell him I'm ATF."
Dumluk's mouth dropped open and his hands drooped. They shot back up
as Larabee and Tanner glared at him and gestured with their weapons.
"You're ATF?" the arms dealer exclaimed.
"That's right," Nathan said. Chris pulled out his badge and
showed it to Dumluk. Eddie was visibly relieved.
"I thought you were with the Chicago Boys. They think I killed
their man! But I didn't, it was-"
"Meyerhurst. Yeah, we know."
Dumluk grinned nervously. "Of course, of course. You guys know
everything. I gotta tell you, you people are doing a great job. I mean,
you're everywhere! You guys here, that guy with Meyerhurst-"
"What guy with Meyerhurst?" Chris cut in. Eddie cringed as
he was suddenly the focus of six pairs of eyes waiting intently for
him to answer their leader's question.
"Um, I don't know his name. He's, uh, got sorta reddish brown
hair, green eyes. Uh, he, um, talks real fancy. With an accent."
The six present members of Team Seven exchanged glances as Dumluk described
Ezra. "How do you know he's ATF?" Josiah asked.
The arms dealer stared up at the big man. He gulped audibly. "I,
uh, was there when he told Meyerhurst," Dumluk said.
"He did what?!"
Eddie looked like he was beginning to wish he had met up with the Chicago
Boys as Chris stepped forward and grabbed the nightclub owner by his
"Talk," he growled. The dark bruises on his face, instead
of making him seem less threatening, only served to lend him a demonic
appearance. "Why did Ezra tell Meyerhurst he's ATF?"
Eddie squeezed his eyes shut and rapidly poured out everything he knew.
"Meyerhurst was going to shoot me and that Ezra guy drew his gun
and told Meyerhurst he was ATF and he was under arrest and then he told
me to call you but the line went dead and Meyerhurst asked why he'd
saved me and that Ezra guy said he'd miss my sparkling conversation,
or something like that, which I thought was rather nice but I don't
think Meyerhurst thought he meant it 'cause he offered him a job if
he'd kill me and then that Ezra guy told me to get out of there and
I did and then you guys found me, and I thought you were the Chicago
"Yeah, yeah. We were there for that. Why didn't Ezra leave with
"Um, probably because he had a shit load of guns pointed at him
at the time."
Chris heard the intakes of breath behind him from his team. The sniveling
arms dealer in his grip smiled weakly and tried to look helpful. Standish,
what the hell were you thinking?
"Where are they now?" he asked.
"Still in the basement of the warehouse, as far as I know."
"How long ago did you leave?"
"Uh, five minutes?"
Larabee threw Dumluk to Wilmington. "Cuff him and put him in the
Eddie willingly submitted to the restraints. "We're going downtown,
right? I'm going into Witness Protection? That Ezra guy told me the
safest place to be was in federal custody."
"That's right," Chris responded as Dumluk and his agents
got into the vehicles.
"So we're going to the police station, right?"
"That's right," Chris said as went over to the driver's side
of his Explorer. He got in and slammed the door shut.
"Right after we get Ezra."
"Could we please just shoot him?"
Ezra loved it when Ron Rye spoke. It almost made him sound sane.
"Not yet, Rye," Oscar sounded a touch regretful, and a lot
Ezra suddenly felt like he was up a shitstream without a paddle, trying
not to get his hands dirty. He'd been in bad predicaments before, but
never such a dilemma of his own making. One thing his mother had always
taught him was never get into a situation you didn't have a way out
of. What ever possessed him to go against her advice in this case he
would probably never know.
At least he saved Dumluk's life for all of five minutes, although it
would be a miracle if the moron could avoid being fatally stupid for
any longer than that. Of course, Ezra's own bout of fatal stupidity
was probably going to come to its terminal conclusion soon. How long
could this standoff last? Meyerhurst was calm as a corpse, but obviously
the rest of them were getting antsy. Standish was suddenly aware that
the room had dropped into complete silence. Keeping the barrel of his
weapon against Meyerhurst's neck, he glanced around the room.
Ezra's back was secure to the eastern wall, but Further was off to
his right, moving almost imperceptibly towards the north wall. Standish
could just see Gadflies around Meyerhurst, not going anywhere but nervously
twisting his head back and forth to take in every action. On the other
side of the crime lord, Dale Oscar was looking at Meyerhurst as if the
two were sharing some sort of silent communication. Shit. They were
going to try something. Ezra risked a glance to his left at Ron Rye.
The man was actually licking his lips in anticipation, bouncing up and
down on his toes with an occasional glance towards his boss. Apparently
he was not so insane as to make a move without Meyerhurst's approval.
Kitty was behind Rye, but the agent couldn't see her face.
Okay. He would ask.
"Ms. Kitanovich, you have been extremely quiet. Have you no threats
of bodily harm to offer my person?"
Her voice he heard clearly.
"Why waste my breath talking to a dead man."
"Touché." This had stopped being fun about five minutes
ago. How the hell was he going to get out of this mess?
"What we need is a diversion."
To all outside appearances, Meyerhurst's warehouse was abandoned. There
were no lights on the exterior of the building, but moonlight revealed
a black Lincoln Navigator parked out front. The night was silent, except
for the hushed voices of the ATF agents watching the warehouse across
"Just so happens I have a bunch of C4 in the back of my truck."
"Buck, I thought I told you to get rid of that bomb!"
"Well . . ."
"Never mind, it'll work. Here's what we're gonna do . . ."
"I say we just go to the police station. I mean, the guy's probably
already dead and-"
"Zip it, Dumluk."
"Anyone mind if I just shoot 'im?"
That shut the arms dealer up.
Ezra had come to the conclusion that he was not getting out of that
warehouse without another big gamble. With any luck, being bold would
not result in being extremely dead. He did so hate betting his own life
in these high-risk gambits.
"All right, gentlemen. And ladies. This is how we're going to
proceed," Ezra pronounced to the assemblage of assorted criminal
types. "I am going to walk out of this warehouse, and Meyerhurst
is coming with me. Any rash assaults upon us will consequently result
in a great many fatalities. I would advise you all to find new avenues
of employment, as your boss will soon be out of business." Of course,
he still had to acquire that disc with the weapons inventory on it.
Maybe he could grab it on the way out.
"I'm afraid, Agent Standish, that I find that situation completely
Ezra was beginning to hate that word.
As Meyerhurst made his statement, he nodded, and Gadflies suddenly
rushed the undercover agent and his boss. Ezra had anticipated the attack
to come from Oscar. He hadn't ruled out Further or Ron Rye, either.
The undercover agent wouldn't even have been surprised if Kitty had
lost her cool and come after him. It had never crossed Ezra's mind to
expect any sort of hostilities from Rick Gadflies.
Ezra turned at the abrupt movement, momentarily distracted from the
still-armed crime lord in front of him. He realized his mistake almost
immediately, but it was too late. Meyerhurst twisted his body and brought
his arm down on Ezra's, grabbing his wrist in a painfully strong grip.
The arms dealer tried to bring his own gun to bear on Ezra. The undercover
agent stepped in and brought his forehead down hard on the bridge of
Meyerhurst's nose. The maneuver hurt like hell, but it left Meyerhurst
momentarily stunned. He didn't loosen his manacle grip on Ezra's wrist,
but Standish was able to knock the gun out of Meyerhurst's hand.
The crime lord recovered quickly. With his free hand he tried to punch
Ezra in the stomach. The undercover agent saw it coming and managed
to deflect the strike so that it glanced below his ribs instead of catching
him full in the gut. Ezra reeled as the blow hit one of his ribs, but
quickly retaliated with a strike of his own. Ezra's betrayed teammates
circled, still unable to fire their weapons for fear of hitting their
This couldn't last, Ezra knew with deadly certainty as he endured an
elbow to his jaw. Any second now Meyerhurst's underlings were going
to realize that Standish didn't stand a chance if they rushed him. The
undercover agent brought his foot down on Meyerhurst's instep and endeavored
to get the crime lord's unencumbered limb into an arm lock. Or Ron Rye
would decide to screw it all and risk a bullet to rend Ezra limb from
limb. Meyerhurst slipped out of his grip and attempted to reverse the
move. Heck, the giant probably ate bullets for breakfast.
Arms dealer and undercover agent were locked in a deadly embrace. Standish
strained against Meyerhurst's grip to bring his gun around. Meyerhurst's
arm was beginning to weaken, he could feel it as his own arm inched
up until it was at shoulder height. Meyerhurst gritted his teeth and
suddenly let go of Ezra's wrist to connect a blow to Ezra's stomach.
The agent grunted as the blow expended the air from his lungs, but before
he could gulp a breath, Meyerhurst re-established his hold on Standish's
gun arm and had his other hand up and wrapped around Ezra's throat.
Ezra's free arm snapped up as he grabbed Meyerhurst's wrist in an attempt
to pull his fingers away. Meyerhurst's hold remained firm.
Struggling to breathe, Ezra kicked at Meyerhurst's shins, but the sudden
lack of oxygen had left him weak. Spots danced in front of Ezra's eyes,
and the world started to blur. The sound of Meyerhurst's knuckles cracking
echoed in his ears. Out of the corner of his eye Ezra saw Ron Rye begin
to charge. Where was Team Seven?!
The explosion as it shook the foundations of the building and caused
everyone to stop in their tracks was the most welcome sound Standish
had ever heard.
"Now!" Chris shouted over the roar of the blast. He did not
wait to see if the team followed him down into the basement. He knew
they were right behind him.
Chris did a quick inventory of the situation. It was as bad as Dumluk
had described. Worse, actually, as Ezra was now struggling to release
himself from Meyerhurst's chokehold. The diversion had worked as expected.
Everyone was looking up, not at the men rushing down the stairwell.
Ron Rye was the first to notice Team Seven. With a maniacal grin on
his face he hurled himself towards Chris. That broke the spell around
the room, and everyone turned their weapons to aim at Team Seven.
Chris' men were already spreading out to find cover as the bullets
began to cut through the air. The ATF leader fired at the approaching
giant, but Ron Rye unpredictably altered course at the last second and
the shot went wide. He was bearing down on Larabee too fast for him
to fire again and Chris braced himself for the impact of two hundred
plus pounds of psychopath.
The impact never came. Josiah intercepted Ron Rye with a football tackle
worthy of the NFL. The two of them became locked in a epic wrestling
match on the warehouse floor. Chris was about to lend Josiah a hand
when a bullet whistled past his cheek. Dale Oscar had sent a table to
its side and was firing at Larabee from behind it. He fired again. Chris
quickly dove behind a pile of crates where Nathan was returning fire.
The medical man gave Chris a quick glace. "Haven't been able to
get to Ezra," Nathan commented dryly as he sent off another round.
Chris took a risk and poked his head up over the crates. His undercover
agent had managed to free himself from Meyerhurst's chokehold but was
still being overpowered by the crime boss. And he had lost his firearm.
It was being kicked around on the floor.
Fortunately, the bullets were mostly avoiding the struggling duo as
neither team was willing to risk hitting one of their own.. Larabee
considered the possibilities of providing Ezra with assistance. He checked
the position of the rest of his team.
Josiah was still trading blows with Ron Rye near the stairwell, both
men heedless of the bullets flying around them. JD was across the room
crouching behind a large wooden crate, occasionally popping up to fire
his twin pistols. He saw his boss looking at him and gave a grin and
a small wave, before a bullet from Rick Gadflies' gun caused him to
duck back under cover. The mad scientist wannabe was lying flat on the
floor under a table, looking for all the world like a child afraid of
the dark hiding under his bed.
The only one of Meyerhurst's gang that Chris could not see was Eric
Further. Definitely not good. Further was the deadliest shot of the
bunch. No, there he is. Running up the stairs. What a disloyal bastard.
He was going to be very surprised when he found out Vin was waiting
upstairs, standing in reserve in case anyone escaped up the stairwell.
Chris became a little concerned when he couldn't find Buck. Then he
saw him. Ezra and Meyerhurst were struggling in front of a line of crates
stacked triple high, and Larabee could see Buck's tall form through
the gaps between the cartons, moving swiftly and stealthily to take
the two of them from behind.
Uh-oh. Buck wasn't the only one stalking the two combatants. Andrea
Kitanovich was coming up along a perpendicular line of crates. In about
two seconds she and Buck were going to reach the corner and come face
What the hell? Buck thought as he ran straight into Andrea Kitanovich's
gun. Or maybe it was Damn! Either way, before the thought even had time
to register, he grabbed the weapon and twisted it out of her grip. He
didn't know his hands could move that fast. Kitanovich was surprised
as well. The young Russian looked down at her empty hand and up at Wilmington
with outrage. It then struck Buck that the lady hacker's case photos
didn't do her justice. She was very attractive.
"Howdy, ma'am. You're under arrest." Buck winked at the beautiful
He should have known there would be trouble when she greeted his statement
with a smile. He should have realized that it was a dangerous smile.
But as it was, Buck was caught completely unaware when she drew back
her fist and struck him in the nose hard enough to knock him off his
Damn! he thought for sure this time as he blinked stars out of his
eyes. He didn't even see Kitty's booted foot as it slammed forcefully
into his side. His vision cleared for him to see the offending footwear
striding around the corner. She had even managed to grab her gun as
she slipped by him. Bitch, Buck contemplated sourly. He hoped his nose
Wilmington crawled painfully to his feet. He was about to pursue the
Russian when he saw movement from behind him out of the corner of his
eye. Oscar had abandoned his position to chase after Buck and now had
his gun pointed and ready to fire. This could be bad. Was it divine
providence, or just dumb luck that Josiah and Ron Rye came hurtling
into the rows of cartons at that moment?
The titan struggle between agent and psychopath sent crates crashing
to the floor, causing Buck and Oscar to leap back to avoid the flying
debris. Unaware of anything except each other, Josiah and Rye continued
their fight through the warehouse, leaving destruction in their wake.
Buck turned back to Oscar.
Dale had dropped his gun in the disturbance. It now lay on the floor
among dozens of other firearms that had been stored in the broken crate.
Oscar's eyes met Buck's, and he immediately dropped to his hands and
knees, searching for his weapon. Wilmington grinned and reached for
his own revolver. His smile faltered as he pat the empty ground next
to him. His own gun had somehow gotten mixed into the array of empty
firearms. Buck dove into the mess.
Oscar came up first. He snatched a weapon and whipped around to aim
it at Buck. Buck's hands shot in the air as Meyerhurst's right-hand
man cocked his gun. Or was it his? Wilmington's eyebrows furrowed as
he tried to remember if that was the same pistol the criminal had been
brandishing earlier. Well, I've got nothing to lose if it is, right?
Buck launched himself at a surprised Dale Oscar. The agent heard a hollow
click as he impacted the bewildered man.
There was really no contest after that. Both men were physically evenly
matched, but the element of surprise gave Buck a marked advantage. Wilmington
huffed with exertion as he monitored Oscar to make sure he was really
unconscious. Once he was satisfied that the man wouldn't be getting
up anytime soon, he scanned the warehouse for his teammates.
Chris was behind some crates, drawing Rick Gadflies' fire while Nathan
was sneaking around to get behind him. Buck couldn't see Ron Rye and
Josiah, but from the sounds of it they were somewhere in the south end
of the warehouse. About a hundred yards away, Ezra had for the moment
gained the upper hand with Meyerhurst, but was unaware of Kitanovich
approaching from behind with her gun drawn. The look on her face was
one of determined hatred.
Buck would never find his weapon in time. He tried shouting Ezra's
name to make him aware of the danger, but the undercover agent was too
involved in maintaining his momentary advantage over Meyerhurst to hear
the warning. JD heard, Buck noted with relief. The young agent was about
halfway in between Wilmington and Standish. He took off running at the
Russian computer whiz.
JD had just narrowly avoided being run over by Ron Rye and Josiah.
Both looked like they had been through a war - full-fledged, nuclear
weapon, take no prisoner kind of warfare - but neither showed signs
of giving up anytime soon. JD had been considering if there was any
way he could lend Josiah a hand when he heard Buck's frantic yelling.
At first he had been worried that his friend was in trouble, but then
he saw Dale Oscar laying flat out on the ground and followed Buck's
worried gaze to the end of the warehouse and JD realized what had Wilmington
worked up. Andrea Kitanovich was ten feet away from Ezra, stalking him
like a black panther stalking its prey. She couldn't fire without risk
of hitting Meyerhurst, but if she got close enough she could. Ezra had
no idea she was behind him.
Well, no one was shooting at JD right now. Danged if he was going to
let some half-rate hacker put a hole in his teammate. He pumped his
legs into a vigorous sprint, closing the distance between himself and
Kitanovich. She was so focused on murdering Standish that she never
even saw JD until he caught her in a full-out tackle.
Both their weapons clattered into the mess of assault rifles already
littering the ground. A moment later JD and Kitanovich were skidding
across the concrete floor as well. JD would have sworn she hissed at
him as they abruptly halted a yard away from Meyerhurst and Ezra's feet.
Meyerhurst must have realized he was fighting a losing battle. He shoved
Ezra backwards, causing him to trip over the tussling computer experts.
JD grunted as Ezra's heel caught him in the stomach. The crime boss
quickly evaluated the situation around the warehouse before vaulting
up the stairs. Standish snarled and launched himself to his feet. "Get
the laptop," he rasped as he snatched up one of JD's guns and bounded
Laptop? Laptop!? How was he supposed to get the laptop without this
wildcat clawing his eyes out? Ezra had taken his one pistol and the
other was nowhere to be seen. To be perfectly honest, Kitanovich actually
didn't seem too interested in JD at the moment as she shook her head
to clear it and saw Ezra following her boss up the stairs. The Russian
pushed herself to her feet, so intent on the Standish's back that she
didn't even notice JD. Until he grabbed her foot and pulled her to the
ground again, that is. No matter what the undercover agent had instructed,
Dunne wasn't about to let Kitty go.
Cold dark eyes widened in surprise, and then Andrea Kitanovich finally
saw JD. The two young computer experts stared at each other momentarily.
JD scrambled to his feet..
"The ATF's kid genius," Kitty sneered up at him. JD blinked
affrontedly. The Russian was probably a year or two younger than him!
"First I'll kill you," she said as she brought herself to
a crouching position. "Then I'll kill Standish."
"You know," JD said, "you may have issues." Apparently
she wasn't interested in his ideas of what was wrong with her psyche,
as she suddenly shot out with a vicious leg sweep. JD saw it coming
and jumped back. Pain shot up his leg when her foot connected with his
left ankle, but he managed to stay on his feet by catching himself on
a table. A table with an open laptop sitting upon it.
JD had lost any thought of Ezra's instructions as Andrea Kitanovich
lunged at him, black-painted nails bared like claws. JD reflexively
grabbed the laptop and swung it at the Russian's head. She collapsed
in a heap of broken circuitry at his feet.
Then JD recalled what Ezra had said. He set the remnant of the laptop
back on the table and examined the ruined computer guiltily. Well .
. . it wasn't so bad. The monitor had snapped off completely and it
lay on the floor in various pieces, but the hard drive was still intact,
as were most of the main components. He pried open the CD drive. There
was a disc inside that miraculously hadn't suffered a scratch.
Kitanovich stirred and groaned on the floor. JD hastily ceased his
examinations of the computer and pulled his handcuffs out of his pocket.
Hopefully whatever information the laptop had contained was recoverable,
he thought as he snapped the handcuffs on his defeated foe. And hopefully
Ezra doesn't shoot me when he finds out I broke it.
The sounds of bullets whizzing through the warehouse had been reduced
to just the ones being exchanged by Chris and Rick Gadflies. And even
those were sporadic, mostly coming from Larabee and aimed well wide
so as not to hit Nathan coming up behind Gadflies. Nathan sure did appreciate
it. The only thing he hated worse than patching up his teammates was
applying those same administrations to himself. It just never worked
Gadflies was completely unaware of the former medic sneaking up on
him. He fired off a couple more shots at Chris but then the gun clicked
as Rick ran out of bullets. Nathan saw the ex-mortician search his pockets
for more ammo and come up empty. The former morgue attendant started
inching his way backwards out from under the table. Gadflies stopped
instantly at the sound of Nathan's gun cocking.
"This is the ATF. You're under arrest," Jackson announced
as he approached cautiously.
Gadflies put his hands in the air and slowly came to his knees. He
twisted his body to look at the medic with a highly bewildered expression
on his face.
"Oh," was all Rick Gadflies said before falling senseless
to the ground.
"Huh," Nathan responded, surprised. Keeping his weapon trained
on the little man in case he was faking, Jackson approached and used
one hand to flip Gadflies' body over. Glassy eyes stared at Nathan unseeingly.
The ceiling shook as upstairs, damage from the explosion continued
to cause parts of the building to collapse. Chris came out from behind
the crates and advanced as his agent checked Gadflies for a pulse.
"Did he faint?" Larabee asked incredulously.
"I think it's more serious than that," Nathan answered. "He's
Chris looked down at Gadflies unmoving form. "What, seriously?
How'd that happen?"
Jackson nodded incredulously. There was no bullet hole, not a scratch,
not a mark on the body to indicate how the former morgue attendant had
died. Nathan scratched his head.
"I don't know, but the man is definitely dead. Maybe he had a
heart attack. Certainly doesn't look to be the most hardy fellow."
"Whatever. Let the coroner figure it out." Chris assessed
the situation in the warehouse while Nathan tried to figure out what
had caused Rick Gadflies to drop dead on the spot. "I'm going upstairs
to check on Vin and Ezra. See if you can help those guys with Lurch.
They seem to have lost their weapons."
Nathan glanced over his shoulder to where Josiah had been joined by
Buck and JD in his attempt to subdue Ron Rye. Buck was laid out on his
stomach, grabbing at the giant's ankle in a futile attempt to trip the
ogre and Josiah was still in front of him, his teeth clenched into a
frightening, bloody grimace. JD had his arms wrapped around Rye's throat
as he hung on the man's back. Rye was swinging him like a cape.
Jackson got up as Chris sprinted to the stairs. The ex-EMT checked
his gun to make sure he still had plenty of bullets. There were seven.
He hoped that would be enough.