Music of the Night

by Kati

Part of the New Agent Series

Of course the Phantom of the Opera doesn’t belong to me. I wish I had half of the musical genius of Andrew Lloyd Webber. I would be a very rich person. Anyway, this story came from my meanderings about the combination of my two favorite things. Enjoy!

Ezra waited impatiently next to the luggage ramp. He checked his watch for the hundredth time in the last hour. God, he hated airlines. None of them were decent enough to abide by the schedule that the common man was forced to follow. He filed several complaints with this airport before, but they all seemed to go unanswered.

Finally, a wave of people started to spread through the hallway. He just managed to step out of the way before he was swamped into the fast moving crowd. The image of stampeding wilder beasts flashed across his mind. It was another reason why he hated airports. He looked around for the reason he was here. He spotted it at the end of the swarm of people. The light brown ponytail was unmistakable. He waved his hand in an attempt to get her attention. Obviously, the girl was not going to hear him over the deafening noise of the people. His attempt was unsuccessful. Sidney walked through the crowd and grabbed her black suitcase.

Ezra tried to push his way though the crowd, but plowed right into a large black bearded man, The unexpected impact knocked the ATF agent to the floor. He quickly jumped to his feet.

“Watch where you going, little punk,” The bigger man growled.

“Pardon me, I was merely trying to get my friend’s attention. Let me say, I highly detest your title usage. You were just as much in error as I was,” Ezra stated

“You were the one that ran into me, bastard!” The bigger man’s voice was rising, and his eyes were flashing.

“I would not have ran into you if that overblown landmass that you call a body did not take up so much space,” Ezra answered.

“Did you just insult me?” The man asked, eyeing Ezra suspiciously

“I believe that I was just stating a fact, but since you asked for one, Oh good Lord!” Ezra exclaimed.

“What?” The man asked.

“What is that terrible blemish between your ears?” Ezra exclaimed. The man instantly started to rub his ears.

“Oh my mistake, that ugly wart is your face! Now that was an insult.” Ezra answered with an evil smirk.

“You Southern Son of a Bitch,” The man growled and lunged forward. Ezra was surprised by the man’s agility. Before he knew what hit him, he was being held in an unbreakable headlock.

A few seconds later, the grip loosened. Ezra turned and watched the man drop to the ground. Sidney was standing behind him with an exasperated look in her eyes. She was rubbing her fist.

After answering a few questions from the airport security, Ezra and Sidney walked out of the airport toward Ezra’s Jag. It had been the warmest Saturday in almost three months, and the warm spring air still lingered in the night breeze.

“How come you always manage to piss off the ugly, strong oafs?” Sidney asked.

“I will not stand by and let my integrity be insulted,” Ezra answered.

“He called you a punk Ezra. I would be happy if half of people I make angry would call me that. How did you run into him anyway?”

“ I was trying to get your attention, at least I succeeded in that aspect. If you hadn’t seen me, You would have been forced to take one of those revolting taxis home.” Ezra unlocked the car and threw Sidney’s suitcase in the trunk. He opened the passenger side door for the female agent.

“Wait a second, how did you know I was flying in tonight? I wasn’t supposed to get back from Florida until Monday morning!”

“Ryan managed to get a hold of me before I went to the office party at the Saloon. He didn’t want you to head home alone tonight,” Ezra stated. He watched Sidney’s face fall.

“Please get in the car. I would like to get out of this hell-hole as soon as I can.” Sidney sighed and reluctantly got into the car. Ezra closed the door behind her and walked around to the driver’s side. He shot out of the parking lot and onto the freeway ramp, as fast as he could without attracting too much attention. Once on the freeway, he eased down to the speed limit. The whole process had taken ten minutes, and Sidney hadn’t said a word. She did not even protest the Beethoven in Ezra’s CD player.

“So, are you going to tell me what happened, or am I going to have to pry it out you?” Ezra asked her.

“I don’t want to talk about it,” She answered.

“I may not be an expert interrogator like Mr. Larabee, but I do have a few tricks up my sleeve.”

“Like what?” Sidney challenged.

“Well, I have enough fuel to last for several hours. I cold make you listen to my choices of music until it runs out.”

“Cheater,” Sidney huffed.

“What happened in Tampa Bay?” Ezra asked.

“Oh geez Ezra, it was nothing that exciting,” Sidney sighed. “Things haven’t been working between me and Ryan for a long time.

“Ryan and I,” Ezra corrected,

“Yeah, I and Ryan. The spark that I thought might catch fire never really did. It was pretty much smothered when he signed with Tampa Bay. I went down there to see if there was anything there, but we both decided that our careers were taking us down different paths. Neither one of us are willing to give up our jobs for love, not yet anyway. We broke it off over a nice dinner on the beach last night, with the hope that we’ll still be friends,” Sidney stopped and turned to face the window. Ezra reached down and turned of the CD.

“And you are okay with this arrangement?” He asked.

“Yeah,” Sidney paused. “Well kind of,” She added truthfully.

“Please elaborate,” Ezra prompted.

“Dammit Ezra, I can’t help it, but wonder if was me that blew it. I finally get up the nerve to start dating after Cody’s death and it ends up like this. A girl can’t help but wonder if she’s doomed to live alone for the rest of her life.” Ezra took his hand on placed it on hers.

“Sidney, not every person you are attracted to is going to be Mr. Right. Cody and you were made to be together, but I have complete faith that you will find another who will be just as special. It will just take some time to find him.”

“You think so?” She asked.

“I know so,” he answered with a smile. He was rewarded with a return smile. He pulled into the crowded Saloon parking lot. Sidney fell back into her car seat with a grown,

“I don’t want to be here,” She moaned. “I just want to go home and curl up with my dog.”

“As comforting as an animal companion might be, a person needs human conversation. Especially, at times like these.”

“And you know this, how?” Sidney asked getting out of the car.

“As unlikely as it may seem, I have had my fair share of break-ups. I would always end up back in my dorm room or apartment wallowing in my own self pity. I don not want you to end up the same way.” He locked the car, and turned to Sidney.

“After you, my dear,” He said with a bow. Sidney walked past him and into the bar.

The annual spring office party was in full swing. Everybody from the Federal building was there from the teenage boy that brought the mail to the head honcho, Orrin Travis himself. A local band that could play just about everything was playing a popular dance tune. Some people were on the floor. Others were spread across the room in various conversations.

Sidney looked around for her team. JD and Casey were out on the dance floor. Buck was leading the specialist from Archives through a complicated step. The rest of the team were absorbed in various conversations. They did not even notice her come in.

“At least try to have some fun,” Ezra said from behind her.

“Hey Standish,” one of the security guards called. “I just got paid today and I’m just itching to make my wallet a little heavier.”

“You can dream, Mr. Jones. You can only dream,” Ezra called. He turned to look at Sidney. “ Are you going to be alright?” He asked. Sidney nodded her head.

“Yeah, I’ll find someone to talk too. Go make that guy put his money where that loud mouth of his is.”

Ezra patted her shoulder and walked away. Sidney looked around and walked up to the bar. Inez saw her and came over.

“Sidney what are you doing here? Senior Larabee said you were on vacation n Florida.”

“Well, things didn’t work out quite the way that I hoped,” Sidney answered, casting her eyes downward.

“There will be others boys, child. Ryan was just one fish in a very large ocean.” Sidney looked at Inez in surprise.

“I can sense thing like this,” Inez answered with a smile. “It is a women’s intuition. I can also sense that the things that I have behind this bar are not going to satisfy you.”

I know, can I just have a Coke please,” Sidney asked. It wasn’t the fact that she didn’t like alcohol, she just didn’t like being out of control. Inez smiled and poured her the soda. A man from across the bar called for the pretty bartender. Inez gave an apologetic smile and went to attend to her patron. Sidney sighed and took a drink out of her soda.

“Last call for the Karaoke Contest!” Buck called. “Come on guys, don’t be shy. There’s got to be some hidden talent in this place. The prize is thousand dollars!’

Sidney watched with amusement as several of the more outgoing people walked up to the signup table beside the stage. They would never catch her dead up there. She saw a familiar face out of the corner of her eye.

“Shit, I am going to kill him,” she growled under her breath. She watched as Ezra whispered in Chris Larabee’s ear. Her boss started to walk towards her. The last thing she wanted to do right now is talk to Chris about her dysfunctional love life. She desperately looked around for a somewhere to go.

“We got one more spot open. Come and try out your talents,” Buck’s voice echoed. Sidney jumped out her seat and started to race towards the signup table.

“Sidney, get over here!” Chris called. Sidney motioned to the stage and turned around. She walked up to Buck.

“Sidney what are you doing back?: Buck asked surprised, when he saw her.

“Change of plans,” she grumbled. :”Can I sign up for this thing?” She asked. Buck’s face lit up into a smile.

“Sure Squirt, what do you want to sing? This band up here can play just about anything.”

Sidney thought for a moment, she had no idea. She watched as everyone was slowly walking towards the stage. Chris was berating Ezra with questions. A thought occurred to her.

“Can I sing a duet?” She asked.

“I don’t see why not, who do you have in mind?”

Sidney’s face lit up into an evil smile. “Get Ezra up here. If he argues with you, tell him I’ll get on the microphone and tell everyone about the time down on Main Street when that dealer tried to pick him up.

“You are evil, you know that?” Buck laughed as he pushed his way through the crowd to get to Ezra.

She watched in evil glee at the look in the undercover agent’s face when Buck whispered in his ear. Ezra quickly pushed his way through the crowd to get to her.

“May I ask why you wish to embarrass me beyond my worst nightmares?” He asked.

“Because you couldn’t keep your big mouth shut! Chris was the last person I wanted to find out about this!’ She cried.

“I refuse to do this,” Ezra stated, turning around.

“Fine, I think everyone hear will enjoy hearing about that slinky red thing that not even I would wear,” She answered calmly. Ezra stopped dead in his tracks and turned around.

“This is blackmail,” He growled..

“No, its payback,” Sidney answered.

Buck watched the scene in amazement,. Hundreds of questions were rushing though his mind, but he knew better than to ask them. It seemed like fire was radiating out of his two friends.

“What do guys want to sing?” He asked timidly.

“You can choose Ezra,” Sidney smiled sweetly.

“You really are a little devil you know that?” Ezra said glairing at her. He gave Buck the name of the song. Buck smiled.

“Good choice. This will be fun. You guys will be performing last. Take a seat over there and come on stage when I introduce you. The prompter in front of you will show the words on the screen. Without a word, Sidney and Ezra walked towards the fold out chairs. Buck swore that he saw smoke coming out of their ears.

Neither one of them said a word as the listened to the others perform. None of them were very good. Buck’s MC jokes between the performances only seemed to make it worse. Both were fully prepared to go up on stage, not talking, when the both heard a deep baritone voice from behind them.

“What the hell do you think you are dong here, Standish?”

Both of them quickly turned around to stare at the stomach of Rick Rotner, Denver’s top investigator and one of Ezra’s many sworn enemies. Rick was the ideal picture of a strong, brawny, good-looking man. He had been a star tight end in college, but left the sport to follow a law enforcement career. He was damn good at his job and he knew it. His egotistical manner is what made him despised by Ezra. None of them cared for the snob that much, but Ezra was the only one who was vocal about it.

“I am planning on performing a duet with Ms. Marks here,” Ezra answered with a sigh.

“You might as well give up. That thousand dollar check as got my name written all over it,” Rotner answered.

“Oh really? A little overconfident in your abilities, wouldn’t you say?” Ezra asked.

“Those freaks up there have no talent what so ever, and its just you and me left. I think we both know who can win this competition easily. Why don’t you just quit now and save yourself the embarrassment?”

By this time, Ezra was on feet, fuming with anger.

“When Ms. Marks and I are done with our song, you are going to have sounded like a dying cow on the side of the road.”

Rotner slammed Ezra onto the wall. Nobody but Sidney was around to see it. She jumped to her feet, prepared to help her friend, but Rotner had already lowered Ezra to the ground.

“One hundred bucks says that I take this thing,” Rotner growled.

“Make it five hundred and we will have ourselves a deal,” Ezra answered firmly. Sidney thought she was hearing things.

“You are going to be one poor man when this is all over Standish,” Rotner said holding out his hand.

“My word will have to do, I do not shake hands with slimeballs,” Ezra answered. Rotner looked like he was going to shove Ezra up against the wall again, but Buck’s voice interrupted his actions.

“And now introducing Denver’s favorite PI, singing you the classic hit from everybody’s favorite Tenor, Randy Travis.”

“I will find you after the show so don’t even think about running,” He said before walking around the stage. Once he was gone, Ezra plopped down in the chair, and rubbed his neck.

“Again, why do you always pick the big dumb oafs?” Sidney asked. Rotner’s voice echoed throughout the saloon. He was very good.

“God Dammit Ezra, Do you really have five hundred dollars to waste like that? A fool and his money are easily parted.”

“When did you start making profound quotes?” Ezra asked. :”I am not a fool, because we are not going to loose this to the likes of him”

“Are you listening to this guy?” Sidney asked. “He’s unbelievable!” “I truly believe that we can be even more unbelievable,” Ezra answered. “Don’t me modest Sidney, you have a good voice and you know it.” Rotner had finished his song to thunderous applause. “You really don’t want to let that disgusting excuse for a man win, do you?” Ezra asked.

“It has nothing to do with want.” Sidney answered. “It has everything to do with talent.”

“And you have plenty of it. I know for a fact that my voice is not half bad either. It has probably saved my life on several occasions.”

“And now introducing our final contestants of the night. The Chairman of the Board would be proud to have such an elegant man singing his part and Natalie Cole won’t turn her nose up at her counterpart. Please put your hands together for Ezra Standish and Sidney Marks as they sing their rendition of “They can't take that away from me!”

“Well here goes nothing,” Sidney sighed and followed Ezra onto the stage. One look at Rotner’s face was all the inspiration she needed. Vin walked up to Chris as the music started. The word about Sidney had spread to the ears of Team Seven quickly.

“This should be interesting,” He said to Chris. “Do you think they can beat Rotner?” Chris was still angry that Sidney had avoided him. Oh yes, he had seen right through her little trick. She could pull many things over his head, but not this time.

Sidney and Ezra’s voice matched in perfect harmony when the first chorus came along.

Nathan was standing to next to Josiah, JD, and Casey across the room.

“God, I didn’t know Ezra had those pipes in him. He’s really making old blue eyes proud isn’t he?”

Josiah nodded his head. “I bet we don’t know half of Ezra’s talents, although I had a pretty good idea of Sid’s ability,” he added with a smile.

“How?” JD asked. “I have never heard her sing before.”

“That’s because you’ve never been in the office when she thinks that nobody else is around.”

.“No, they can't take that away from me,” Sidney and Ezra sang the last verse of the song. Sidney pulled her mike away from her mouth. She had not even realized that she had finished singing until Buck jumped up on the stage.

“That was amazing! I had no idea the two of you could sing like that! Take a bow guys!”

Ezra took Sidney’s hand and the two bowed amongst the loud clapping. Was it louder than Rotner’s? Ezra could not tell. When the clapping finally ended, Buck addressed the crowd.

“Well there you have it folks. It appears that there is quite a bit of hidden talent in this city. Deciding who the best was lies with you. Kindly make your way to the tables with the ballads. Give your papers to the lovely young ladies sitting at the tables. Don’t bother asking for their numbers because I have already taken the honors. We will give you the results as soon as they are tallied. May the best Agent win!” Nobody missed direct stab at Rotner.

As everyone walked towards the tables, Sidney and Ezra made their way over the rest of their team. Well, Ezra more or less dragged the girl across the floor. When the praises reached her ears, she turned scarlet red and looked down at the floor. A strong hand lifted her head up.

“I’m sorry Chris, I just didn’t want to talk about right then. It is over and there is nothing you can do about it. .

“What on earth possessed you to go up on that stage?” He asked with a smile.

“I have no idea,” Sidney answered truthfully. “It seemed like a good idea at the time.”

“I wish all your good ideas would turn out as good as this one did Agent Marks.” Sidney turned around to watch at Director Orrin Travis and another gray haired man in a black sports jacket walk over to them.

“Thank you sir,” Sidney answered blushing. “I do not believe I have had the honor of meeting your friend,” she said trying to change the subject.

“Sidney, Ezra, this is John Rogers. He is in charge of the San Francisco FBI unit.”

Ezra was able to mask his disgust at the rival unit, but Sidney was not as skillful.

“I see my agency’s reputation precedes me,” the man said with a laugh. Sidney blushed again as she shook his hand.

“Do not worry about it young lady. I have already had a nice conversation with members of your team and their opinions of my chosen job.” This time all the members of Team Seven turned a little pink around the ears. “Hopefully, your distaste will not prevent me from asking you and Agent Standish here a few questions?”

“Of course not Sir,” Sidney answered. Her face felt like it was going to burn right off.

“Where on earth did the two of you learn to sing like that?” He asked. Ezra answered the question for her.

‘As a child, I lived with many different family members. All of them were very musically inclined. I picked up on several of their habits. I believe Agent Marks’s story was similar.” Sidney just nodded her head.

“Have either of you sung in any musical theater?” the FBI man continued. This time Nathan answered the question.

“No offense guys, but what you saw here tonight are not the usual Sidney and Ezra. Put them in a scenario where they have be drug dealers and criminals, and there is no problem. Ask them to go up on the stage, and they both suffer from the worse case of stage fright that you’ve ever seen.”

“Well, actually, I have done several musicals throughout my schooling career,” Ezra answered. The others looked at him in surprise.

“Told you that there were lots of things that we didn’t know about him,” Josiah whispered in JD’s ear.

“Care to enlighten us?” Travis asked with a look of amusement on his face.

“Joseph and the Amazing Technical Colored Dream Coat and Jesus Christ, Superstar are some of the more prominent ones.”

“What roles did you play?” Vin asked. He did not usually talk around new people unless he had to, but his curiosity had gotten the better of him.

“I was the lead in both,” Ezra answered. The others looked at him and successfully hid the laughter that was threatening do erupt. JD couldn’t prevent it.

“Sorry Ezra, I was just picturing you in robes and sandals. I don’t think I could you could handle it.

“Quite the contrary Mr. Dunne,” Ezra said. “I was a very convincing Son of God.”

“Would you still like them?” Travis asked his friend.

“They are perfect. Just the type of agents I was looking for. Their talent makes it even better.”

“Then they are all yours,” Travis answered.

“Hold on a sec,” Sidney cried. “What the hell did I just get volunteered for? Sir,” She added.

Travis and Rogers laughed. Sidney blushed harder.

“I apologize. I should have clarified,” Rogers said. “I am on vacation for a few days, but I will return home tomorrow where a real whopper of a case is waiting for me. The city Chevrolet Classic Music Hall is one of the oldest theaters in the country. A few months ago, a stage hand found a small packet of pure cocaine in the basement. The owner of the theater called us in. We found that several of the crates down there had at one time held Cocaine. We think that the theater is being used a storage place to get shipments of the Colombian drug northwards. Our main suspect is a man named Cory Phoenix. He has been connected to drug dealing before, but never been convicted Our plan was to place agents inside the cast who can get close to Phoenix. Either get a confession or information about a new shipment.

Unfortunately, all my agents are defiantly lacking in the fine arts department. I need two qualified agents to fill the roles. I came to Denver to get advice from an old friend. I hope I can return to San Francisco with the stars of the show.” He smiled at Sidney and Ezra.

“I would be quite honored, but are you sure you want to me to do it. An imitation of Frank Sinatra is quite different then the legendary phantom.”

“I am sure that you can play the role. You might not even half to sing in an actual performance, depending on how fast you can nail Phoenix. How about you, Agent Marks?” He turned his attention back to the female agent.

“I don’t know,” Sidney said. “I’ve heard the notes that the actor that plays Christine has to sing. There’s no way I can get my voice that high”

“I will arrange singing lessons with a top teacher for you. The director has been informed about our plans. He wasn’t happy, but he willing to make amends in the songs for you. He will change them slightly to fit your range.”

“Come on Sidney, it will be fun,” JD encouraged. “What’s the worse that can happen?”

“The audience could absolutely hate me, boo me of the stage, and the FBI’s goal could be ruined,” Sidney answered.

“Ladies and Gentleman, we have the results!” Buck was back on the stage. They all turned to watch him. “I am not afraid to say that there were two acts that stood out from everybody, but only one of them could win. I am proud to present the winner of this year’s competition!”

“He’s frowning. That’s not a good sign,” Vin said.

“Shit,” Chris swore.

Ezra felt his heart sink and his wallet feeling considerably lighter.

“Would Ezra Standish and Sidney Marks please come on stage and accept their prize!” The audience erupted into applause.

Sidney sidestepped Chris’s hug and followed Ezra up to the stage. Buck laughed when he saw her beaming face. She wasn’t able to able to avoid Buck’s muscular arms.

“Way to go kiddo! I knew you had it in you.”

“Jerk,” she whispered.

“Hey, I couldn’t let you steal all the limelight,” Buck answered. He handed the trophy to Sidney and the check to Ezra.

“Don’t spend in one place,” Buck laughed. “Turn around and take a bow!”

The whole Saloon clapped as Sidney and Ezra took a bow. It took them over ten minutes to make their way back to their friends near the bar. Ezra felt like he was running for president after all the hands he had shook and the pats on his back he had received. Many of them had gotten to close for his comfort, but he couldn’t stop beaming with satisfaction. He looked around for Sidney, but she had disappeared in the crowd. He shrugged his shoulders and walked to where the others were waiting for him. The handshakes and pats on the back started all over again. Sidney showed up a few minutes later, dragging Rotner behind her.

“Look who I saw trying to sneak out the back door,” She said with an evil smile. “Once again he was trying to weasel his way out of the mess he created.”

“What are you talking about Sid?” Vin asked

“He bet Ezra five hundred dollars and was trying to sneak away without paying it,” Sidney answered.

“I am not paying that sneaky little son of a bitch a dime,” Rotner growled. Rotner felt a strong hand grab onto his the nape of his neck. He stared into the cold hard eyes of Josiah.

“Perhaps, you would like to rephrase that statement,” Josiah stated in a calm but hard voice. Rotner knew what the usually calm agent was capable of. He reached into his pocket and pulled out his wallet. He grabbed several bills.

“You walk around with five hundred dollars in you wallet?” JD marveled aloud.

“”Bet you haven’t seen this much money in your life have you kid. You certainly don’t make that much, and I bet your mamma wasn’t pretty enough to make this much on the streets.”

Rotner hit the ground with a thud. Everyone in the room grew deathly quiet as they watched the scene play out in the back of the room. Rotner slowly rose to his feet to stare into the cold hard eyes of Buck.

“I’m not as nice as Josiah, I don’t give second chances. Now I want you to apologize to Agent Dunne here,’ Buck rubbed his fist. Rotner looked into the cold eyes of the rest of the team and knew he didn’t have a choice.

“Sorry,” he grumbled. Buck smiled.

“See what being nice can do. Now give Ezra his money.” Ezra took a step forward.

“As much as I would like too, I do not take the riches of the less fortunate,” Ezra answered.

“What are you talking about Standish? My salary is double of what yours is!”

“That is quite true Mr. Rotner, but I have more riches in integrity, intelligence and class that you could gain in five lifetimes”.

“Southern hic!” Rotner yelled. Before anybody had a chance to react, Rotner had lunged at Ezra with his fists, hitting the southerner square in the jaw. Ezra fell backwards into Nathan.

Chris lunged at Rotner and all broke loose in the saloon. Sides were drawn without anybody knowing it. Luckily, none of them were carrying guns at the time. Fists were the only things that were drawn.

There was one gun in the entire building. Inez pulled it up from behind bar and fired it at the back wall. The effect of the gunshot had its desired effect. The entire ballroom grew quiet.

“Mr. Rotner, I do not condone fighting in my establishment. Please leave now. Anyone who disagrees with me can leave now too!”

Rotner looked around. He wasn’t about to mess around with a lady with a gun. He stormed out of the saloon.

“That’s one hell of a woman,” Buck whistled appreciatively. Ezra was rubbing his jaw.

“That’s the third time I’ve managed to piss somebody off this evening,” Ezra sighed.

“Is your team always like this?” John Rogers asked. Somehow the two men had managed to stay out of the fight. If it had gone on for a few more minutes, Travis knew that he would have probably jumped in too. He was old, but everyone knew he could still pack a punch just has effectively as any of his agents.

“You have no idea,” The assistant director sighed. His mind was already thinking about what excuse he would make for Team Seven’s escapades. “Are you sure you still want them?”

“They are exactly the agents I am looking for. Phoenix will never know what hit him, literally. “

“They will be on a plane to California tomorrow,” Travis answered. “I don’t want to hear is Sidney. If your voice is half as strong as that right hook that you gave Marcus, then you will be just fine.”

+ + + + + + +

“Buck, please go get me a cup of coffee,” Ezra asked from his spot on the plane.

:”Go get the damn coffee yourself,” Buck snorted. He said from his seat in the airport.

“But that would entail me getting out of my seat and possibly injuring my person. After all, you are supposed to do these things for me.”

“I am supposed to be your acting agent, not your damn slave,” Buck grumbled, “and that doesn’t start until we land in San Francisco”

“Go get him a cup of coffee Buck,” Chris said not taking his eyes out of his magazine. Buck got out of his seat and walked to the Starbucks across the hall. “And tell JD and Vin to get off that moving sidewalk. People are starting to stare,” He called. Buck bowed and continued on his way.

“How can she sleep through all this noise?” Nathan asked in disbelief as he looked at Sidney sitting in the chair. She had curled up in one the chairs with her the earphones of her I pod planted in her ears. Chris had tossed his jacket over her.

“It’s five thirty in the morning Mr. Jackson,” Ezra answered. “She is the only one of us that has common sense around here.”

“She didn’t sleep at all last night, I could hear her walking around in her apartment,” JD answered as he and Vin plopped down in a few remaining chairs.

“So is everybody aware of what they are doing? Chris asked setting down his magazine. “One screw up could ruin this entire mission.”

“Sure boss,” JD answered. “Buck is Ezra’s agent. Josiah is Sidney’s. The rest of us are on the stage crew. It’s not that hard to figure out.”

“Remember that once we get on this flight, not to talk with one another. We have to get off this flight not knowing each other. It’s gong to be a pure coincidence that Ezra and Sidney are on the same fight.”

“Why couldn’t we get go on two separate flights?” JD asked.

“It’s the FBI JD, best not to ask questions,” Josiah answered.

“Flight 165 can now begin boarding,” the attendant said in the microphone.

“Alright, who wants to wake Sleeping Beauty up?” Nathan asked.

“Not me,” Ezra said. “Last time I attempted to get her up, I ended up with a bloody nose.”

:Buck, go get her,” Chris sighed, trying to avoid an argument before it started.

“Why is it always me?” He grumbled. Chris motioned for the others to head over to the plane.

“I think I should wait for my employer,” Josiah said. “Make sure Buck doesn’t kill her before she gets on the plane.” Chris nodded and walked towards the terminal.

“Come on Sid, time to wake up,” Buck said nudging the girl gently. The girl showed no sign of waking. Buck pushed her a little harder, still nothing. He sighed and ripped of her earphones.

“Sidney, Brad Pitt just walked by!” he yelled. Sidney opened her eyes and jumped up.

“Where?” She cried. Buck chuckled at the girl.

“It’s time to get on the plane. You don’t need a bad movie star like that when you’ve got somebody like me.” Sidney got up and elbowed him hard in the stomach. Buck clenched his stomach in pain.

“At least it is better than my bloody nose,” Ezra stated before following the rest of his team onto the plane. Buck walked up to Josiah.

“The little devil is all yours,” He stated before disappearing down the terminal. Sidney grabbed her carry on bag and walked up to Josiah.

“What were you listening to?” He asked.

“The soundtrack, I’m trying to learn the words through osmosis,’ She answered. Josiah chuckled and motioned for her to go ahead of him.

+ + + + + + +

“Good Lord, I think this pilot has a pact out with Satin to destroy me,” Ezra moaned. “Mr. Riley, would you be so kind as to inquire the time of our destination?”

The others were taking deep breaths in attempts not to laugh at the antics Ezra and Buck were pulling. Ezra was taking full advantage of his power, imaginary or not, over Buck.

“How long do you think Buck will go without cracking?” Nathan whispered to Vin.

“Good old Buck will stick it out, if only to piss off Ezra,” Vin laughed. He glanced around at the various spots were his team was seated on the plane. The plane suddenly accelerated. Vin felt his stomach lurch.

“Oh man,” he moaned, praying that his breakfast of Honey buns and Nutty Bars would stay where they were. “You want to hand me that barf bag?’ He asked Nathan.

“I told you not to eat all that crap!” Nathan exclaimed as he handed the blue bag over. “Neither one of you should have eaten all that stuff.” He looked two seats diagonally in front oh him. An absolutely miserable JD was resting his head Chris’s knee. Chris wasn’t looking to pleased either. Nathan reached into his bag and pulled out a pack of Dromine tablets.

“No way, you know what those things do to me,” Vin exclaimed.

“I know. You would be falling off the Cat Walk if I gave you one. Give these to that poor kid over there.” He motioned to JD. Vin took the pills with an evil glint in his eyes.

“Hey mister,” he called. “You in the black hat!” Chris turned around to glance at Vin.

“Can I help you?” He asked.

“I’ve got some pills here that might help your son there,” Vin answered. He could see the both JD and Chris’s lips curl, but neither one said a word.

“Thanks,” Chris said as Vin tossed him the pills. He smiled gratefully at Nathan. “Here, take this.” Chris ordered the younger man..

“But I don’t want too,” JD whined. “Those things make me all loopy.”

“You will take it kid, if I have to stuff it down your throat.” Chris grumbled. He felt a hard kick on the back of his seat and a harsh old women’s voice.

“I swear parents these days do not know how to raise their kids. Threats like that could damage them for life. Not only that, but that man just accepted those pills from a total stranger. Those things could be rat poison for all he knows. People like that shouldn’t be allowed to be parents.”

Chris took a deep breath and counted to ten. Josiah watched the scene in front of him and chuckled. If the woman only knew half of the things that Chris had done for JD including the sleepless nights during JD’s annual flu. He glanced over at Sidney. The girl was staring out the window aimlessly. She was looking a little green around the mouth.

“You okay Sid? You aren’t looking to good.”

“I’m not feeling to good either,” She answered.

“We should be landing in about fifteen minutes.”

“The turbulence has got nothing to do with it. I think my stomach would be turning around even if the pilot wasn’t a Blue Angels wash-out.” Josiah laughed and patted her on the shoulder. The plane landed with a huge thud.

“I think I may have to sue this airline for massive trauma,” Ezra rubbed his soar neck as he followed Buck off the plane. Neither of them made any sign to the others as they walked through the terminal. They had a role to play now.

“Where are we supposed to meet our escort?” Ezra asked. Buck never got the chance to answer.

“Noah Borton!” Ezra turned his head in surprise to see a short portly man in a black suit walking towards him. A man in his late twenties followed him. The younger man’s intriguing Italian looks were admired by all the young woman that crossed his path.

Buck was not happy about the situation. He knew both of the men walking toward him, through the files that had been given to him. The chubby man was Jordon Walters, the owner of the theater. He was supposed to meet them at the airport. The problem was the handsome young man with him. Walters was supposed to be alone. Once he found Josiah and Sidney, he was going to take them to theater and brief them. That would be impossible with Cory Phoenix. They were walking into this mission completely unprepared.

Ezra didn’t miss a beat. He had quickly seized up the situation.

“May I help you?” He asked. Buck felt a threatening smile on his lips as he heard his friend’s British accent.

“Welcome to San Francisco Noah! I’m Jordon Walters. This is Cory Phoenix, The current star of our theater. He will be playing the Viscount in our production.”

“It is a pleasure to meet the both of you. May I introduce my agent Bert Riley?” The four men shook hands. Both Ezra and Buck quickly analyzed their first impression of their suspect. He didn’t seem like their typical drug dealer, but they had been wrong before.

“Is that Mariah Fern?” Cory asked, pointing to where Sidney and Josiah were walking around the lobby..

“Ms. Fern?” Walter cried out in the same loud voice that made Ezra cringe. Sidney turned around and the introductions started all over again. Ezra lifted up the girl’s hand and kissed it.

“Are you feeling better Ms. Fern?” I saw you on the plane and you were looking quite ill.”

“I feel much better thank you. I am not a big fan of flying. I choose to perform within driving distance of my home near New York City.”

“But you are not originally from the East Coast. By the way you talk, you are from the Midwest. One of the Northern states I’m guessing.

“Wisconsin,” Sidney answered in amazement. Apparently, she wasn’t going to fool him that Syracuse was her hometown.

“Cory is a specialist in dialects and accents. I have never seen anyone master speech the way he does.”

“It takes more than costumes and lines to play a character,” Cory answered.

“Hopefully, you can help me with my French accent?” Sidney asked.

“I would be glad to,” he answered with a smile.

Buck and Josiah exchanged a quick smile. Sidney was laying on the charm thick, and it looked like her prey was taking the bait. Sidney would be having the young man eating out of her palm in no time.

“I have a limo waiting outside for us,’ Jordon said. “I will take you to your hotel to drop off your luggage and then drive you the theater. You have your first read through in two hours. The rest of the cast is ready. We only have a few weeks to get the stars of our show ready.”

Josiah took a deep breath to avoid the hot retort on his lips. Jordon Walters hadn’t given him a very good first impression. He followed his crowd out of their airport. There was a limo parked next to the curb. A shiny black Mercedes convertible was behind it. He saw his teammates eyes turn green with envy. He didn’t care what his vehicle looked like as long as it got him where he needed to go, but the others had different ideas. Ezra’s Jag was nice, but Phoenix’s car had it beat by ten.

“That’s my little princess,” the actor said. “My girlfriend dumped me, because she thought I spent more time with it than her.”

“I can see why,” Sidney answered appreciatively.

“Would you like to go for a ride? Cory asked hesitantly.

“Hell yes,” Sidney answered.

“I’ll drop her off at the hotel after we take a cruise through the city,” the young man said to the others. Each one of the agents had to fight back their protests. Josiah was the only one that could say anything without it seeming too strange. He knew that Sidney had the perfect opportunity to get close to the suspect, but he still didn’t like it. All three of them looked at Walters for help, but got none.

“Have fun, we’ll see you kids in a little a little while,” Walters answered. Sidney followed the actor to the car and jumped in the passenger seat.

“Sam, can you make sure my luggage ends up in the right place?”

“Sure Mariah. Have fun,” Josiah answered with a fake smile. A few minutes later, the car was flying out of the airport parking lot. Walters tuned to see three angry faces.

“We’ve got some things to talk about Mr. Walters,” Buck growled. He shoved the man in the limo.

Chris watched the Limo pull out of the parking lot. He had almost ran out of the door when he saw Sidney leave with their main suspect. His lips twitched in nervousness.

“She’ll be fine Chris. She knows what she’s doing,” Nathan said convincingly. “So do the rest of them.”

“I know, but the nervousness is unavoidable.” They both turned when they heard JD and Vin coming behind them.

“They ger to ride in a limo, and we have to drive around in an old station wagon? This sucks! Well, at least they will be stuck in that dirty old apartment building with us.”

“You didn’t tell him?” Chris asked Vin.

“Tell me what?” JD prompted.

“Ezra and Sidney have got penthouse suites at the Hilton,” Chris answered.

“What?!” JD yelled. “That is not fair!”

“Welcome to show business kid,” Chris answered with a laugh.

+ + + + + + +

Ezra wiped a speck of dirt off of his costume. It was difficult to see through his left eye, the side containing his mask. They were running through one of their many dress rehearsals. Well, it was supposed to be a dress rehearsal. The director, a weasel looking man named Brett Glutton, hadn’t let them run through a complete rehearsal yet. Opening Night was tomorrow and the tension was running high.

He felt guilty that he hadn’t been able to snoop around the theater as much as he should have. Learning this role was one of the most difficult things he had ever done. But he had to admit, that he hadn’t had a more enjoyable job.

“Wow Noah, I can hardly tell that it was you!” Ezra turned around to see a small older woman in a black dress standing beside him. “You look very dashing, young man.”

“Thank you Katie, and I can say the same for you. I don’t think I have ever seen a more regal looking Madame Giry.”

“You are just saying that,” the older woman blushed.

“How many times do I have to tell you Mariah, I want you higher on that last note?” For a little man, the director of the theater could sure make his voice heard.

“And I will tell you again, that I can not sing that high. Nobody in the audience is going to know if I sing one note lower!” Sidney shot back.

“That girl certainly has a mind of her own, doesn’t she?” Katie laughed.

“And stubborn as a mule,” Ezra answered with a sigh. Sidney just didn’t know when to grin and bare it, even when she was supposed too.

“ I like that. Too many actors are willing to let the big wigs walk all over them in order to get a job. There is nothing more disheartening than watching young people loose their integrity. I think that Mariah has a great future in this business. Her voice is still a little untrained, but she had a terrific stage presence. I have been in many different productions and have never seen a better Christine. Some have had better voices, but our Mariah makes her seem human.

“She does have a certain charm to her,” Ezra answered proudly. ‘She is a joy to work with, most of the time anyway.”

“You two have great chemistry on the stage. Are you sure that you have never acted with her before?”

“I have never had the pleasure of sharing the stage with her,’ Ezra answered honestly.

“I think her romantic lead is quite smitten with her,” Katie continued. “Cory Phoenix usually hates his leading ladies. He prefers the company of the crew.”

“What do you know about Phoenix?” Ezra asked. He wished one of the his team members were around to here this.

“I probably know him better than anybody here, and he hasn’t told me that much. He usually keeps to himself. He has been at this theater since its creation and has made very few friends. He had a girlfriend for awhile, but she left him a few months ago.”

“He always seems to disappear when his presence is not required on stage. Do you know where he goes?’

“Why the sudden interest in him?” The woman asked. Katie Morton seemed like an honest person. He thought about telling her the truth, but decided against it. He had no way of telling if she might be working with Phoenix.

“He usually goes down to the basement. A rather strange place if you ask me. He says the dark and cool air helps clear his mind.”

“Noah, it’s time to put you above the stage,” Vin said from behind the two actors.

“Of course,” Ezra answered. He followed Vin towards the end of the stage after bowing to the woman.

The two men stopped when they were out of ear shot.

“Did you hear that Mr. Tanner?” Ezra asked.

“The basement thing? Yeah, but that doesn’t give us much. Not even a motive. He really could just go down there for a break, but I’ll keep my eye on him. I’ll follow him next time he goes down there.

“Did JD get anything off the phone taps?”

“No, just a couple of calls from a few old friends, one from his mom, and a few from Walters.”

“Damn, we are going to have to perform this production, won’t we?”

“ Sure looks like it. What’s the matter Ezra, getting stage fright?” Vin laughed.

“Of course not, it’s Sidney I’m worried about. She isn’t going to go along with this without a fight.”

“I’ll have Josiah talk to her about it,” Vin said as he pulled down a ladder for Ezra to climb up. With a salute, Ezra walked above the ladder and disappeared on the top of the stage.

Sidney saw Ezra walking around on the top of the stage. She also saw Chris walking around in the front of the auditorium. He made an almost undistinguishable signal with his hand. After she finished his line, Phoenix led her off of the stage.

“Are we still on for dinner tonight?” He asked.

“Of course, will you pick me up around six?”

“Sounds good to me,’ Cory answered. “I’ve got the perfect place. There’s this little Italian restaurant called Grizzalie’s that has the best spaghetti that I have ever tasted. You can tell your agent that I won’t keep you up to late “

“I can’t wait,” Sidney answered. “Look Cory, I’ll see you later. I promised my mom I would call her an hour ago.” She started to walk away, but Cory grabbed hold of her arm and spun her around. He gently kissed her check and walked away.

Sidney looked around to make sure nobody saw. She couldn’t fight the warm feeling in her cheeks or the tingle that ran down her spine. She quickly jumped off the back of the stage where the dancers were going through the Masquerade scene. The director shot her a dirty look, but didn’t say anything. She walked out of the stage exit on the left side. A dark hallway greeted her. Slowly, she started to creep into the hall keeping her arms on the wall. She felt a hand on her shoulder. She jumped and quickly turned around. A hand quickly covered her mouth and choked back the threatened scream The room quickly filled with light.

Sidney turned to see her captor. Chris took his hand off of her mouth.

“God Damnit Sidney! How did you not know it was me?”

“I don’t know boss, maybe because I was walking down a long dark hallway and couldn’t see in three inches in front of my eyes. How come you always choose the spooky places to meet?”

“Because, I can guarantee that nobody is going to walk in on us,” Chris answered.

“Aren’t I little young for you, boss?” She asked with a laugh. Chris hit on the side of the head.

“Oww,” She whined.

“You deserve ten times worse than that!” the man growled.

“Sorry, I didn’t realize that my comment would offend you so much,” Sidney answered rubbing her head.

“Not that. When were you planning on telling someone about your dinner plans tonight?”

“Umm,,,welll…” Sidney stumbled with her words.

“You weren’t going to tell me at all?” Chris asked dumfounded.

“I knew that you would freak out on me! This is the perfect chance to get Cory to open up. Maybe I can find out something important.”

Even in the dark, Chris recognized a glow in his agent’s eyes. He sighed heavily, praying his guess at the cause was wrong.

“What are your opinions about Phoenix so far?” He asked.

“I don’t think he’s guilty. I know the FBI though he was responsible, but I’ve spent a lot of time with him. He is not capable of running a drug ring. It has to be someone else.”

“When did you come to this assumption?” Chris asked. It was not the reaction that Sidney expected.

“A few days ago, I guess. I went down to the basement with him one time. He never goes farther than the steps. I pushed him to go father, and he was blinder than a bat down there. Besides, I asked him about drugs, and I’ve never meant anyone more clueless.”

Chris clenched his fists and gritted his teeth. His agent was being toyed with. The bastard was playing with Sidney’s emotions and it was working. He was disappointed in his agent. He had always thought that Sidney could see through the charades. The echo of the Masquerade scene reached his ears in the hallway, with an ironic twist.

“Sidney, he’s playing you!” Chris exclaimed,

“What are you talking about?” Sidney asked. Chris didn’t get the chance to say anything. There were loud crashes coming from the end of the hallway.

“What’s that?” Sidney asked.

“The hallway leads to the basement,” Chris answered.

“Nobody’s supposed to go down there,” Sidney answered. “The only actor that does is Cory and he’s supposed to be at a costume fitting.”

Chris motioned for her to follow him. They slowly crept through the hallway until they reached a door. A dim light was escaping through the half open door. Loud voices could be heard through the wood. Sidney was about to open the door when Chris pulled her back.

“Wait and listen to what they are saying,” Chris whispered. Sidney sighed and crouched down. She listened to the two voices at the bottom of the steps.

“John, put those boxes over here! Oww, not on my foot you idiot!”

“Sorry.” There was a loud crash. “Oh shit.”

“Hurry and clean it up. If anyone finds that stuff down here, the boss will have our asses in a sling. This is best Crack that Columbia has to offer. Come on, we are leaving.”

Sidney was on her feet in a second and reaching for the door handle. Chris pulled her down before she reached it.

“What are you doing?” She whispered in surprise “We can get the dealers right now!”

“. They aren’t working alone. Someone has to be letting them inside. I bet it is the boss they are talking about.”

“So we are just going to let them go?” There was the loud crack of a window closing, the criminal’s entrance.

“Yup,” Chris answered.

“Why?” Sidney yelled, her voice rising. “We just missed a golden opportunity”

“Arresting them now would have ruined a golden opportunity. Think about Sidney. Those guys will be back when they will take the shipment out to their clients. We wait until that happens and we can catch them and this boss.”

“Yeah, I guess you are right,” Sidney answered with a sigh. She stood up. “Any idea who the boss is. I mean since it’s obviously not Cory.”

“Chris sighed heavily. “I think it is Sidney.” He pulled a small notebook out of his pocket. “I had JD and Nathan do some backup checks on Phoenix. It turns out that Phoenix’s father was arrested ten years ago for dealing heroine. His last name is really Gortiano.”

“So? That was his father.” Sidney said.

“He was arrested in 1995 for illegal possession of Cocaine.”

“That doesn’t mean he was dealing it. All the evidence is circumstantial!”

“There are pictures of him talking to some of the famous drug dealers from Sicily and Latin America.”

This comment got to her. Chris handed her the flashlight and the notebook. She flipped through the notebook. All of the court records and pictures had been taped to the paper.

She felt her head start to ache and tears well up in her eyes. She leaned back against the wall. She had never felt so stupid in her life.

“He might be able to use circumstantial evidence as an excuse in court, but I know that you are smarter than that,” Chris told her.

“Shit,” She whispered. “How could I have been such an idiot? I can’t believe I let him lead me on like that.” Chris patted her on the shoulder.

“Sometimes, love can overcome our better judgments Sid. It’s a simple fact of life.” Sidney sat up with a look of determination on her face.

“Well I’m not going to le it happen to me again” She looked at Chris. “let me meet with him tonight Chris. I’ll get information out of him.”

Chris had no doubt about that, but he was concerned about how she would obtain it. Her interrogation skills had mimicked his almost to the T. Some might say she had learned from the best. He knew she was going to end up trouble eventually.

“It has to be legal though, Sidney. I don’t want him getting off on some minor technicality, like a forced confession.”

“I have other ways Chris,” Sidney smiled evilly. Chris didn’t like the look in her eyes.

“What time are you going to dinner?”

“He’s picking me up at six,” Sidney told him.

“I’ll tail you around in case you need backup,” Chris said.


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