Take Your Daughter to Work Day

by Angie

This is the second vignette about Eve. It follows events in ‘What’s Your Mama’s Name?’, ‘What I Did on Summer Vacation,’ and ‘Unwelcome Visitor.” Many thanks to Crystal for her eagle-eyed beta reading and to those who have asked for more of Ezra’s daughter.

It was eerily quiet in the Team 7 offices that afternoon. JD and Josiah were together in the surveillance van, scoping out their most recent case. Chris was at a training seminar near Lake Tahoe and wouldn’t be back until the following day. Buck and Vin were in the gym working on their self-defense moves. Nathan was in the cantina, rummaging through the refrigerator. Ezra folded the Wall Street Journal and set it on the corner of the desk.

“Mr. Jackson, is there something I can do to assist you?”

“No thanks, Ezra. I’m just checking expiration dates on the stuff in here. I found a container of cream cheese that was four months old! Do you know how sick JD or Vin would be if they got hold of that?”

With a shudder, Ezra remembered the last time JD had picked up a stomach bug. The poor kid had been unable to keep anything down and had to be hospitalized because he was becoming dehydrated. After three days on IV fluids, he finally managed to kick the bug.

The phone on Ezra’s desk rang and he walked to Vin’s desk to pick it up.

“Mr. Standish, Mrs. Soames, I would really like an opportunity to meet with you to discuss your daughter’s most recent writing assignment.”

“Would after school today be all right?” he asked. After agreeing to meet with the woman, Ezra hung up the phone.

“Something wrong at school?” Nathan inquired.

“I hope not. Eve really likes her teacher even though she is strict. She says that a lot of the other children don’t like her very much.”

“Well, you know how kids are, sometimes they just don’t take a liking to someone and never get over it. How are her grades?”

“Very good. She is very intelligent. In fact, they have been giving her more challenging assignments in reading and writing so she doesn’t become bored.”

Nathan smiled warmly, remembering the framed paper he had gotten from Ezra at the start of the school year. Rain had taken Eve with her to the Special Olympics camp. The child had immediately bonded with several of the other kids and had begged to go back the next day. She was a one-girl cheering section and not at all uncomfortable with the handicapped and mentally challenged kids. Rain was looking forward to taking her next summer.

The sound of an argument announced the return of two of their teammates. Buck came in sporting the beginnings of a shiner and Vin was trying to apologize.

“I tried to tell you to keep the helmet on though, Buck! I wouldn’t have got ya at all if you’d kept it on. You gonna let Nathan take a look at it?”

Catching sight of the team medic coming out of the cantina, Buck scowled.

“Looks like I can’t avoid it, Vin. Why don’t you go round us up some drinks?”

“Mr. Wilmington, I thought it was supposed to be a friendly training session, not an all out war,” Ezra teased as he studied the rapidly swelling bruise.

“Yeah, well if I hadn’t taken my head gear off, he wouldn’t have gotten me. But that thing is so hot to work in that I just couldn’t stand it!” Buck explained as he moved toward his desk.

“How many times have you been told about working out without headgear this year, Buck?” Nathan asked as he cocked his hands on his hips.

The general incoming phone line rang and Ezra moved to answer it, glad for the excuse to get away from the coming heated discussion.

“ATF Team 7, Standish,” Ezra responded by rote.

“Hey Ezra. Just calling to see what’s happening in the office. It’s been really quiet here. We’ve only catalogued four cars all day. I’ve already run the battery on my Gameboy dead and Josiah’s electronic chess game is fried.”

“I thought you were supposed to be doing surveillance, Mr. Dunne.”

“Come on, Ezra! It’s deader than a whore house on Sunday morning here!”

In the background, Ezra could hear Josiah’s objection to the analogy and inserted a jibe of his own.

“Mr. Wilmington is most definitely corrupting you, young man. Why, when you first started with the team, that word would have caused your face to color!” Ezra teased.

After several minutes of lively conversation with JD, Ezra begged off and hung up the phone. Nathan was holding a cold gel pack to Buck’s eye while continuing to chastise him for sparring without headgear. When the team medic finally headed for the bathroom, Vin snuck back in and carefully placed a cold soda on the edge of the desk.

“Coward! How come you didn’t come back while he was chewing my ass? You could have at least taken your share of he heat!” Buck complained.

“Cause I told ya to keep your headgear on and you know it and Nathan knows it! ‘Sides, why would anyone willingly want to walk into one of Nathan’s fits?” Vin countered.

The four men decided to get out of the office for lunch. They took a vote and decided on the Mexican restaurant a few blocks from the building. After a very pleasant meal, where Buck picked up a date with the waitress, they returned to the office. JD called again while they were out to say that he was bored. Chris called to say that the meeting was going well and he was looking forward to coming home.

It was quiet for the next couple of hours until Ezra had to go to his meeting with Mrs. Soames. He finished his report and shut down his computer. Mrs. Hernandez was taking the girls home after school. Ezra parked the Jag on the visitor’s parking lot and entered the building.

Even blindfolded, he would have known he was in a grade school building. The unmistakable odor of library paste and erasers seemed to permeate the walls. There were still a few kids in the halls and the overlapping conversations had him shaking his head and laughing. He still found it difficult to believe that children could carry on conversations about two or three topics at the same time. Passing the office, he waived at the secretary.

Arriving at Eve’s classroom, Ezra took a deep breath and opened the door. The classroom was arranged in small islands of desks. He took a moment to look around the room at the various projects in differing states of completion. He also shuddered at the cages of mice and hamsters that sat on the shelves. He could still remember the fiasco of Herbert the hamster from earlier in the school year.

“Mr. Standish, please sit down. I would like to discuss Eve’s report on ‘Take Your Daughter to Work Day.’ I have taken it with a grain of salt considering what you do for a living but this report is really over the top.”

Taking the paper in his hand, Ezra read his daughter’s improving handwriting. ‘Take Your Daughter to Work Day by Eve Standish.’ He couldn’t suppress the smile at the memory of the day a few months ago when the family court judge had signed the order giving him full custody of his daughter and allowing him to change her last name. It had been the culmination of finding out that he had fathered a child while on an assignment for the FBI in New Orleans. Eve’s mother had given the baby the last name he had been using while undercover.

My dad took me to work with him. He works at the Federal Building downtown. He is an ATF agent, that means Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. He catches bad guys that sell guns to people who shouldn’t have them. He gets to go ‘undercover’ and pretend that he’s someone else.

When we got to the office that morning, we had donuts and milk in the cantina with Uncle Vin and Uncle JD. Uncle JD won a bet with Uncle Vin that he could put a whole donut in his mouth. I didn’t think he could do it but I didn’t say anything. Daddy says it’s because JD can unhinge his jaw like a snake but I think he was teasing.

Uncle Buck got upset because I saw the pretty ladies on his computer. Uncle Chris said he told him to get rid of the ‘bunnies.’ I never saw any bunnies but Uncle Buck changed his screen saver to the regular one with the bouncing ATF logo.

My daddy had to go out and meet with a lady who was selling bad cigarettes so I had to stay at the office with Uncle Josiah and Uncle Nathan. Uncle Buck and Uncle JD had to go for ‘backup.’ That means they are there if my daddy needs help. My daddy said I couldn’t go to lunch with Uncle Vin because he’d fill me up with junk food. Uncle Vin says he’s allergic to green things but I don’t believe him.

After lunch, my daddy came back from his meeting and had to make his report. It’s just like when we have homework assignments. He has to write a paper and tell what he did and who was there. Uncle JD showed me how to hack into the FBI E-mail server to send jokes but I’m not supposed to tell about that.

We had a rubber band fight and I scored a bunch of hits on Uncle Chris but he had his grouchy face on and the other guys had to go to the bathroom all of a sudden. My Uncle Chris has what my daddy calls ‘the Larabee glare.’ He can stare the bad guys down. Uncle Buck says that Uncle Chris could boil water with his glare. I think he was teasing.

When my daddy finished his report, Uncle Buck started teasing him about the lipstick on his collar. My daddy got red in the face and said some curse words in Spanish. I know them because I heard Bella’s brother using them once. I’m not supposed to say anything because I don’t want to get Tony in trouble but whatever my daddy said after the curse words caused Uncle Buck to get red in the face, too.

At the end of the day, Uncle Josiah gave me a special folder just like the ones in his desk and he even gave me my own ATF jacket. Daddy only lets me wear it on Saturday’s when we go to Uncle Chris’s ranch. When I get older, I want to be an undercover agent like my daddy.

Ezra felt his face warming as he considered what the teacher must think of him and the people he works with. He looked across the table and raised his eyebrows.

“From the look on your face, is it fair to assume that the report is true?” Mrs. Soames asked.

“Unfortunately, yes it is. I have chastised my coworkers for their behavior. We don’t have children in the office often because I am the only one blessed with one so far and because Eve is so precocious, they tend to forget her tender age.”

“Then may I suggest that her report would serve as an opportunity for the two of you to discuss appropriate and inappropriate actions and behaviors, an appropriate diet and proper use of the computer? Your daughter is at a very impressionable age and mow is the time to guide her to the behaviors you want her to emulate.”

Feeling the blush heat his ears, Ezra laughed.

“May I keep this? I think Uncle Buck and Uncle JD need to see what Eve came away with after her day at the office. I don’t think either of them will get over it anytime soon.”

The next morning, Ezra asked everyone to meet with him in the conference room. When the entire group had assembled, he passed out a folder to each of them.

“What’s this?” Buck asked before opening the manila folder.

“A copy of a report my daughter wrote. I thought you would all be interested in what she took away from her day at the office,” Ezra explained.

The room fell silent as they read over the report. Buck, JD and Vin looked nervously around the room as their faces reddened. From the tension in his jaw, Chris was clearly unhappy with what he’d read. The Larabee glare scorched the tabletop as he stared at the two most serious offenders.

“Well, what do you think Judge Travis would say if he saw Eve’s report? Buck? JD? You’ve both been told about your computer etiquette,” Chris said in a low and deadly tone.

“I’m sorry, Ezra, Chris! I never thought about her seeing the screen saver! I took it off the same day!” Buck defended.

“I was only trying to explain to her what I do. Hacking into systems is part of my job!” JD protested.

“Well, I think that, as punishment, we will all spend a day explaining to Eve exactly what we do here. If Ezra will allow it, that is. I don’t know if I would allow an impressionable child to be exposed to the lot of you again.”

“Thank you, Mr. Larabee. I believe that Eve has a day off next week and I would most definitely like for her to have an opportunity to see what we do in the course of our work. She could probably get extra credit for doing another report on the topic.”

“In addition, I think we could all benefit from a refresher on the proper use of the office computers. JD, contact Betty downstairs and get a training schedule. I want us to pick up a few hours in her classes,” Chris glared angrily around the room, ending any argument on the subject.

Betty Grissom taught newcomers to the Federal Building how to use the computers as well as computer etiquette. Her voice was something akin to nails on a chalkboard and she talked to people as if they were kindergartners, not federal employees. A few hours in her class would be torture for the rambunctious Team 7 staff.

The following week, Eve gave her second report on ‘Take Your Daughter to Work Day.’

My daddy took me to work with him again. He said that the team felt like I missed a lot to the important things they do. I went on a tour of the building and Uncle Chris explained that what they do in the building isn’t nearly as important as what they do out on the streets. They catch people who do really bad things that cause other people to get killed.

Uncle Nathan is the team medic. He takes care of them if they get hurt. He also trains people how to use CPR and first aide. He took me to the gym and showed me how he teaches people. He showed me what to do if someone is choking.

Uncle Vin is the team sharp shooter. He is responsible for taking out the bad guys with a rifle sometimes. He doesn’t like having to kill people but if it comes down to one of his team or the bad guy, he does what he has to do. He took me to the indoor range and showed me the training simulator. They have this big screen with all these people moving around and he has to decide the good guys from the bad guys before they get him. It was a little scary.

Uncle Buck explained that it was wrong of him to put the pictures of the pretty ladies on his computer. He also showed me what he does for the team. It’s his responsibility to defuse bombs when they find them. He also has to investigate what kind of explosive was used when something blows up. We went to the training center and he showed me what a bomb might look like. He has to figure out what kind of trigger a bomb has and how to stop it from going off.

Uncle Josiah explained that he is the team profiler. His job is to figure out things about people and why they do the bad things so he can help the team to catch them. It’s like when Gina’s cat got sick and we didn’t know about it but she was sad and angry with all of us. Uncle Josiah would look at how a person is acting and try to figure out why.

Uncle JD apologized for showing me how to hack into the FBI E-mail system. He says he only does that when he needs information about bad guys. He also took me in the surveillance van. He showed me how they are able to see and hear what my daddy does when he goes undercover. They have all this special equipment and they use the satellites around the earth to track people. They have little, tiny cameras and fiber optics that let them see things on the monitors.

I really learned a lot the second time I went to work with my daddy. I sure am glad he has six brothers to look after him when he does his job. My daddy said that he doesn’t have to worry because they ‘got his back.’

Ezra smiled as he read the paper before tucking it back into the report cover Eve had insisted she had to have. It had been a long day for the team trying to undo the damage their previous behavior had caused. He couldn’t wait for the teacher to finish with the report so he could copy it for Chris. The team leader would be proud that they had shown their very best.