by Heather F

PART 1 - 2 | PART 3 - 4 | PART 5 - 6 | PART 7 - 8


I don't care anymore (I don't care)
I don't care anymore
I don't care (I don't care)
I don't care anymore (I don't care)

Ezra lay in the dirt, fighting for breath, trying to control the pain that tore through him with nauseating intensity. He didn’t notice the headlights fade away or the rumble of a car engine or the crunch of rock and dirt as the car disappeared down the dirt road. Instead, he lay on the ground and shivered as hot blood bubbled from the deceivably small holes in his back and abdomen. The wet ground soaked through his clothing and stole his body heat.

His rapid breaths nearly matched the frantic beat of his heart. Intense shivers gripped him. Pain lanced through his body tightening and twisting muscles with obscene intensity. Blood percolated from the wounds.

And through it all he felt terribly tired, exhausted.


Ezra shut his eyes wondering why he shouldn’t just go to sleep.

4 hrs later

Buck opened his eyes to find JD staring at him. Buck blinked. JD was still there staring at him as if staring at a bug under a microscope.

“Buck who’d you see?” Dunne asked, leaning over the bed rail. Ezra was missing. They couldn’t find him, his cell phone immediately kicked over to voice mail. He was in trouble. They had to find him. Buck and Vin would be alright given time. Ezra was still out there somewhere. Why hadn’t he contacted them yet?


“Yeah Buck,” JD answered with barely contained impatience. JD shook his head, “Who’d you see? Who shot you?”

“What the Hell ‘r’ you talkin’ about kid?” Wilmington answered. He found difficulty focusing on Dunne’s features as well as what was being said. His mouth felt as if someone had stuffed it with cotton balls.

“Geezus Buck you were just tellin’ me about what happen’d…you and Vin in the alley last night…and then Ez showed up…you said you saw…Who?” JD wanted to shake his friend, rattle the answers from him. Buck had just been talking to him for the last few seconds, even though Wilmington’s eyes had been closed he had been talking.

Buck stared at the boy as if he had lost his mind.

“Josiah and Chris are out lookin’ for Ez now…got an APB out on him…but they ain’t havin’ any luck…so who else was there?” JD silently implored his best friend to fight the dregs of lethargy caused by severe blood loss, overcome the daunting effects of drugs and surgery and help them. It had been six hours since Kelly and his men arrived at the hospital and seven hours since Josiah and Chris had left to find Ezra. And no one had heard from either Sanchez or Larabee.

“Kid, don’t know what the Hell ya talkin’ about….” With that Buck slid solidly under the affects of narcotics and anesthetics.

JD sat back in his chair and muttered, “Aw Hell Buck, Ez needs our help.”

Down the hall, Nathan Jackson met similar problems. Except Vin didn’t open his eyes and his mutterings were incoherent and more gibberish than anything.

+ + + + + + +

Josiah Sanchez sat quietly in the passenger seat of the Ram and stared out the window. He kept Larabee in his field of vision. The leader of Team Seven drove up and down one lane country roads searching for any sign of his missing agent.

Josiah understood the dedication and the anger but failed to understand the mindless driving they were doing while Larabee punched buttons on his cell phone mobilizing what seemed to Josiah to be the entire ATF/Federal force in the Denver area.

Sanchez almost spoke out, almost asked if Chris really thought the others would help look for Ezra; maybe Kelly and his crew would, but not many more. The rumors had been rampant and fueled with vicious fire. No one would spend much time to help search for a dirty cop--a cop so filthy that Larabee deemed it necessary to keep him from his own team and their cases. Josiah wanted to ask what Chris hoped to get for a response from these other men and women. Maybe Team Seven had faced rumor the wrong way, maybe they shouldn’t have turned their back on it and ignored it. Perhaps they should have recognized it and addressed those that spouted such poison. Stomp on it before it grew into a wild fire of fantasy and ill will.

One couldn’t fight non-substance of rumor or the shadowed denizens that spouted such poison.

Sanchez held his tongue not because he feared Larabee’s wrath but because he feared he would see the answer in the morning when no one showed to help search for their missing agent.

He closed his eyes and let his head fall back against the head rest. What if Ezra believed the rumors? Surely, Ezra understood he was an irreplaceable member of the team? There would be no doubts--right? Josiah opened his eyes and stared out the window watching the passing scenery blur by realizing that Standish’s life had at one time nearly been destroyed by rumor.

“He believed them--Dear God--It’s Atlanta all over again,” Josiah muttered. His chest tightened with fear and empathy. He turned worried grey eyes Chris, “He heard them and believed them.”

Chris shot a fierce gaze at Josiah, “He knows I don’t buy into rumor.” Larabee’s word lashed across the front seat.

“But Ezra does,” Josiah muttered--when it concerned him.

+ + + + + + +

Ezra drove down the one lane rode fighting to keep his eyes open. Using one hand to fist and knot the exit hole that furrowed through his side and exited out the front of his flank, in the hopes to staunch the flow of blood. The car heater billowed forth with superheated air that did little to warm his shivering frame.

He saw the two story motel and its blinking neon arrow through the overhanging branches on the rural lane. With a curse and tightening of his fists, he guided the car off the pitted pavement and down onto the dirt gravel drive. The simple bump sent fierce bolts of agony through his side and blackened his vision. He gripped the steering wheel tightly in one hand and nervously swallowed the bile that flooded his mouth. Standish nursed the Jag behind the building and parked. He rested there, unable to lean forward and unable to lean back against the leather seat rest. He was glued to the leather by the pooling tackiness of his own blood and sweat.

A small grimace curled the corner of his mouth. His poor Jag was not made for such rural routes. Jenkins weakness was his over confidence. Not taking the Jag with him and his thugs was a mistake. Ezra’s smile blossomed. Jenkins was not as smart as he was confident. Standish would see Jenkins downfall, he would get his pound of flesh and then he would melt away from Team Seven and Denver. Start over again. Perhaps he would meet Maude’s newest and longest husband, tour Europe again and dabble back into the black trades his mother and her consortium of ‘master’ tradesmen had taught him as a child and young adult.

How long he sat glued to the front seat of the Jaguar, he wasn’t sure. When he slipped forward peeling skin, shirt and blood from the leather seat and hit his head on the steering column causing the horn to blast, he was rousted him from his stupor.

With a curse and a groan and with tears of pain in his eyes he struggled to free himself from his car.

3.5 hrs later

Chris Larabee paced quietly in the waiting area of the hospital. The early morning rays of sun lay muted stripes across the speckled tiled flooring. Larabee checked his watch again, and after a few more circuits he checked it again.

They had borrowed a conference room within the hospital to use as their temporary headquarters. One of the nurses had gone out and purchased a couple dozen doughnuts from the local bakery down the street. Large cylindrical coffee pots percolated coffee with stacks of white Styrofoam cups standing nearby. The large room was filled with chairs.

All remained untouched. The room sat ready to be used as a focal point for the massive search that Larabee and the ATF would launch to search for one of their own.

Not a sound was heard, not a chair disturbed, not a single person graced the room.

No one had shown. No one came.

A receptionist interrupted his thoughts, “Mr. Larabee we’ve received another phone call from an unidentified person.”

Larabee stared at the older woman with a look of annoyance. He didn’t care about crank calls.

“They were inquiring as to Mr. Wilmington and Mr. Tanner’s condition.”

Larabee suddenly snapped his full attention to the receptionist, “Who?”

“I don’t know.” The woman took an involuntary step back.

“What did they sound like?” Larabee saw Jackson, “Nathan, get over here.”

The big agent silently complied and moved closer to the conversation.

“They must have been trying to disguise their voice, it was raspy, soft.”

“Ezra?” Nathan asked quietly giving Chris a hopeful look.

“What did you tell them?” Larabee ground out.

The receptionist took offense to the question, “Nothing. Hospital policy Agent Larabee, we do not give out patient information over the phone.”

“Nathan, find a way trace it. It might be Ezra.”

“Will do.” Jackson followed the receptionist out of the empty conference area and back to the phones.

Larabee paced down the hall near the entrance to the emergency room, impatiently waiting to greet the waves of agents that would respond to his call for aid and help find his missing agent--their brother.

Cursing, Chris gazed up and stared at his profiler, “Where the hell are they?”

Josiah knew who the ‘they’ were and knew exactly where ‘they’ were. ‘They’ were all at home, tending to weekend chores. Lawns needed mowed, garages needed cleaned and children’s soccer games were suddenly too important to miss. Josiah knew ‘the others’ would be too indifferent to care about one missing dirty cop that was on his way out the door under a cloud of suspicion from his own team leader.

“They aren’t going to show brother, none of them will except maybe Kelly,” Josiah answered quietly. He gazed out the window at the near empty parking lot staring at the skeleton of cars that dotted the open space haphazardly in the rays of early morning. His mind wandered to their missing undercover agent.

Josiah speculated if Ezra was out there somewhere all alone, wondering if the others were going to come looking for him, but probably convinced himself that they would not. Was he hurt somewhere, trying to help himself, too afraid to contact his team because he had heard the rumors, too? Did he believe them? Did he think that the team had turned their backs on him and replaced him with someone else? What if the men that had shot Buck and Vin had caught up with him? The same men that had tried to break into the hospital late last night only to be scared off by an unwavering nurse that had seen too much in her lifetime to be frightened of anyone.

Had those men hunted down Ezra too? Had they killed him? Perhaps left him to die alone, thinking that he had nowhere to turn, no one to turn too, no family, no friends, no compassionate soul to help him.

Josiah closed his eyes. Dear Lord he hoped someone showed up to help them.

The pneumonic doors didn’t slide open for nearly four hours and when they did, Nettie Wells strode through the door carrying her old 20g shotgun.

Ryan Kelly and his team followed closely on her heels.

Chris, Josiah and Nathan, with team eight, left Nettie Wells and JD to watch over Buck and Vin. No one would get past old Nettie and her Browning pump 20g.

10 hrs later

Standish lay on the double bed curled around the towel that stuck to the entry and exit wound of his lower right flank. His white dress shirt lay unbuttoned, exposing old bruising. His belt was undone and his pant button unsnapped in an attempt to relieve the pressure on the wound. His shoes lay discarded somewhere near the side of the bed with his coat.

The undercover agent shivered and huddled deeper into the blankets and bedspread. He mumbled quietly to himself and curled tighter around his wound. A weak hand fisted and gripped the sheets as wave after wave of pain washed through him.

He lay in the darkened room, green floral curtains drawn, a ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign hanging outside ensuring his privacy. Breath shuttered through clenched teeth as a fever built and the body warred with infection.

No one would be disturbing the occupant of room 203 on the back side of the hotel for five days. He had paid in full, in cash and asked not to be bothered no matter the circumstance.

He was polite but forceful and the old man behind the counter had better things to do than pry into the business of someone hiding from the law.

Room 203 and the man inside it did not exist, at least not for five days--not until his money ran out.

Three Days Later

For three days Chris and Josiah and Team eight hounded the back hills of the Northern Colorado countryside. Nettie Wells never wavered in her determination to help and sat by Buck and Vin keeping them still when they had brief spurts of energy. The 20g sat within reach, and no one entered that she did not ok.

The backwoods, rural community hospital had seen this type of behavior before, and though they did not approve of it, they understood it in their own fashion.

The old ranch woman broke every rule in the book and flaunted laws like longshoremen did foul language. No one would remove her from her boys and she had made up her mind to hold her ground despite the fierce dislike foisted on her by the medical community and local law. Nettie Wells followed her own law, when times demanded it. She kept her mouth closed, her eyes challenging and her gun nearby. Don’t hurt her boys and she wouldn’t hurt you. It seemed a very simple dictate, one that most if not all the medical personnel learned.

Nathan prowled the hallways at night checking his teammates and keeping an eye out for those that had gunned down Buck and Vin. There was no reason to believe whoever pulled the trigger wouldn’t try to finish the job; Third time being the charm. The anonymous calls continued to come in once a day, inquiring about Buck and Vin’s health. Nathan had been able to pinpoint the calls as coming from an adjacent county fifteen miles to the Northwest. Chris, Josiah and JD focused their search out that way.

The last call had come in early yesterday. It had been the last one. Nathan felt his heart race and anxiety and fear grow.

Agent Dunne had left the care of Buck and Vin in Nathan and Nettie’s capable hands and had joined the search for Standish. JD sat in the back of the Ram running his laptop from the backseat with power cords snaking across and over the consol. Josiah rode in the passenger seat and kept his eyes opened and prayers on the tip of his tongue. With each passing day, the odds of Standish’s survival diminished.

It was on the third day that they were stopped by a roadblock just beside an old rundown two story motel. Fire trucks and ambulances littered the dirt pot marked drive. Hoses snaked from the fire trucks as men aimed sprays of water at the collapsing roof as flames leaped and licked at the blue sky above. Black and tan smoke rolled from curtained windows and under doors.

A small crowd of people stood off to the side watching the blaze with morbid fascination. With no way to get around and determined to not be deterred, Chris put the Ram in ‘park’ and climbed from the truck. Josiah and JD simply followed.

Avoiding the crowd and police, staying far enough back to avoid being in the way, Chris watched the stretching flames and billowing black smoke. Josiah headed for the small aggregate of people and pegged the old decrepit man with balding head and whisps of white hair as the manager. A few maids stood by his side each speaking and shaking their heads. They were pre-empting and ostensibly trying to deny blame that certainly would be placed on someone.

JD stuffed his hands in his pockets and headed around the building, curious to see what the other side looked like. It felt good to get out of the Ram, away from the tension and body odor that had built up and smoldered within the truck. He walked to stretch his legs. He felt guilty about enjoying the small break in the search for Ezra but they needed one. Whether they admitted it or not, they were all tired, worn out and short tempered.

Jenkins was still under, working with McDowell. Larabee had tried to pull him in but Jenkins had insisted he was safe and knew nothing of Buck and Vin. They knew he lied but had nothing on which to base their suspicions. Jenkins was safer with McDowell than he was with Team Seven at the moment. He was dirty, they all knew it. Jenkins was rot. They just needed a little more to nail his coffin closed.

JD let his mind wonder as he watched the flames dance through the roof of the hotel and out some windows. He rounded the back corner, with an amazed ‘wow’ watching as the flames ate their way through the tar papered roof.

The ‘wow’ died on his lips as his eyes dropped from the roof to the parking lot.

There covered with dust and ash and soot sat a 1994 JXT black Jaguar with tan leather interior.

Ezra’s car.


The roof above cracked as timbers snapped and gave under the heat and destructive damage of the fire. Part of the roof caved inward with a cacophony of noise that was deafening.

JD ran around the corner of the hotel shouting and waving his arms, “He’s here! He’s here…Chris!! Josiah!”

Neither Josiah nor Chris heard JD but for some unexplained reason both looked up at the same time from different spots in the front parking lot and spied their younger teammate.

JD jumped up and down waving frantically at them.

Josiah sent up a prayer, and Chris felt his heart stop.

He was here--Chris looked at the towering flames erupting from the hotel’s roof; licking at the blue sky--my God he’s in there-. Larabee bolted to the corner of the building with Josiah hot on his heels. They passed JD and flew up the faltering wood steps to the second floor. Chris knew Ezra would take a room on the second floor--an old habit, based solely on security. Larabee started kicking in doors, despite the angry shouts from the firemen below.

Heat blasted Larabee like a furnace, evaporating sweat before it had a chance to truly form.

Josiah and JD followed him. Dunne held the doors open, with the cuffs of his coat covering his hands, while vacuums and pressure changes wanted to swing the doors closed. Josiah and Larabee disappeared into the brown black swirling smoke of room after room searching for their missing man.

They would not fail.

JD stood in the doorway holding the door open while once again Josiah disappeared into the billowing haze to help Chris search a room.

Through the choking, swirling black smoke and watering eyes, JD watched mesmerized as Larabee slowly melted from a rolling wall of fiery smoke with something draped across his shoulders. JD stepped back as Larabee’s shape slowly solidified, stepping onto the failing second story wood planked balcony. His eyes streamed tears down his cheeks cutting a path through the soot on his young face. Through, his protective tears, JD watched as Chris strode through the smoke and reaching flames as if they could not touch him, carrying someone across his shoulders. Without a misstep, without a single falter, Chris strode through the doorway onto the porch with Standish across his shoulders. Josiah followed doubled over choking and coughing, doing his best to guide Larabee from behind.

They had found him. Covered in soot, smelling of smoke and blackened like the Cajun Catfish Nathan loved so much, Larabee brazenly swept from the room and down the smoldering balcony as if the fire and smoke could not touch him; could not harm him.

Larabee had faced this devil before and had nearly been destroyed. It would not happen again.

JD cringed and felt his gut tighten at the animosity that covered Larabee’s face and marveled at the older man’s strength and feared it.

Chris could be a devil when the time called for it.

+ + + + + + +

JD ran his hands through his hair as he watched a pack of rescue personnel kneeling on the ground work frantically over the too still form sprawled on the gravel drive. He kept pacing back and forth in short quick strides, soot and dirt streaked his face and unshed tears threatened to tip over long eyelashes.

Chris barked out demands on his cell phone, covering one ear with his free hand trying to block out the background noise of the fire and the crew that fought it. MedFlight was on its way. The three hour drive back to Four Corner’s Mercy hospital would be cut down to a mere twenty minutes by helicopter. Larabee kept an eye on the crowd of firemen and paramedics that encircled his agent and worked feverishly to save his life.

Josiah kneeled at Standish’s head, holding it still and back as a Paramedic intubated him and attached the ambu bag. Standish’s face was blackened, his features slack and unresponsive. Blood pressure, heart rate and numerous other numbers were shouted and recorded as IV’s were placed. The blood pressure was too low, the heart rate too fast and they were breathing for him. The body temperature reading had them all pausing, 104.8F. Heat from the fire? Fire blackened clothes were cut open and peeled back searching for burns.

Then a tense question asking for a second opinion had Josiah leaning forward staring at the undercover agent’s midsection along with another paramedic.

“Shit…he’s got a gunshot…look for an exit wound.” They quickly rolled Standish partially onto his side. Josiah kept the trach tube and ambu bag steady.

“Found it. Ohh shit, that’s the entry,” The paramedic looked up at his partner, “He’s been shot in the back.” The paramedic/fireman prodded the small puffy hole at mid back just between the last few ribs. Serum leaked from the cracked edges as red lines spidered away from the hole like a cracked windshield too long ignored.

“Son of Bitch,….Bill get on the horn we gutta report this.”

Josiah straightened up by Ezra’s head, nervously brushing the oily, dirty hair back off the blackened forehead. “Hold on son….keep on fighting…we’re here son, why didn’t you call us?…we would have come for you…We would have been here…Jist hold on….”

The paramedics continued their frantic work even as MedFlight landed on the road just a few hundred yards from them kicking up dust and gravel.

Men leaned over their patient protecting him from the flying dust and debris. People were grudgingly forced to twist away from the bizarre spectacle of a dying person in their midst, to shield their faces from the rotor wash.

A team of paramedics and firemen picked up the gurney and jogged toward the waiting helicopter. Their victim was on borrowed time. Fact was, they thought they were trying to save a corpse.

Josiah, Chris and JD watched as paramedics piled into the waiting helicopter taking all available seats. Their patient was too critical and needed too many hands to leave someone behind to accommodate non skilled passengers.

The three ATF agents stood silently in the crowded parking lot letting the rotor wash blaze over them. They watched as the stretcher was secured and wires were strung out and attached to their teammate.

The cargo bay doors were closing when someone from inside hollered, “He’s coding!”

The door slammed shut hiding the frenzied action of the paramedic team.

The helicopter lurched into the air.


I don't care anymore (I don't care)
And I really ain't bothered what you think of me
Cuz all I want of you is just to let me be
I don't care anymore, do you hear?
I don't care anymore

Miss Nettie hung up the phone torn between fear and relief. They had found their seventh, but risked still losing him. The old homesteader turned and faced the two men that now had her attention. Their eyes were glazed, their complexions pale and taut with pain that the prescribed medication failed to douse completely.

They were not ready for travel. Larabee hadn’t cared. Someone shot three of his agents. Whoever they were still prowled free with more information in their arsenal than he and his team. He wanted his team together, under his protective reach. No one would stand in his way to achieve it and certainly not the medical profession.

Either way all of them were heading back to Denver today. Nettie tossed clothes to the two men from Team 8 while the others swung their vehicles out front. The old lady turned her back on her boys and stared out the window at the near mountains. She wondered about the misfit that had lain by himself fighting a losing battle. He must have known he was dying; he must have known his life was slipping from him. Why hadn’t he called someone? What did he fear more than death itself? Surely not rejection; rejection could not be worse than death. Could it?

Nettie stared out the window ignoring the apologies and soft ribbing of the men behind her. The old 20g sat nestled in the crook of her arm.

+ + + + + + +

JD shielded his eyes as he watched the helicopter bank away from them and slowly disappear from sight. Standish had been dead before the copter had left the ground. JD’s heart lurched with his stomach into his throat. Anger bubbled to the forefront while forcing his nausea at bay while his blood pressure surged upward. Ezra that dumb stupid ass should have called someone.

JD shut his eyes, trying to control the blind anger and flashing pain. Ezra had coded, his heart had stopped. Why hadn’t Ezra called them? Why didn’t he tell them he was hurt? They would have gotten him; they would have found him and helped him. Why’d he hide from them? Didn’t he trust them?

JD’s fear quickly morphed to anger. He turned to the Ram, ignored the two older agents and climbed inside. He took his seat in the back shoving his laptop out of the way. Fuck Ezra and his distrust.

Chris slammed the driver’s side door, turned the engine over and threw the truck into drive all the while pushing the accelerator to the floor. The truck lurched down the road toward Denver with Josiah muttering soft prayers from the passenger seat.

Dunne stared out the truck window his thoughts tumbling over one another faster than the scenery flashed by.

“You think whoever shot Ezra burned down the motel?” JD’s question had Larabee slamming on his brakes and throwing the Dodge into a tight turn. Josiah pulled out his cell phone and was calling for a forensic team before they bounced back into the motel lot.

20 mins later

The helicopter landed on the roof of the hospital with a team of doctors waiting in the doorway. As the helicopter touched down, before the blades stopped spinning, or the doors to the helicopter slid open, the trauma team rushed forward. A blue uniformed officer moved amongst them appearing misplaced--as misplaced as the handcuffs that he snapped around the unconscious man’s blackened wrist and attached to the stretcher’s rail.

The trauma team said nothing of the restraint and continued their frantic work.

+ + + + + + +

Dr. Murray leaned over the gurney and stared into the confused, watering gaze of her patient. He drifted in and out. Streaming smoke irritated eyes blinked lazily trying to make sense of a world just out of his reach.

She ignored the near frantic but controlled frenzy around her. Her orders were clipped, sharp and clear without having to raise her voice or repeat herself. Clothes were slit off her patient with blunted scissors: people gave orders and demanded tests and instruments. Voices dinned all around her focusing solely on saving her patient.

Her patient, who was covered in grime, smelled of smoke and body odor, stared only at the single metal handcuff that encircled his wrist.

He was responding to none of their questions.

He blinked, sooty tears leaked from the corner of his eyes and were redirected by the plastic tubing of the nasal canula.

Dr. Lauren Murray ran her hand over his forehead pushing the matted dirty hair back, feeling the heat of a fever she already knew raged. A little human tenderness and understanding was offered in a situation that roared with fast pace efficiency.

A gunshot wound festered in his right lower midsection. The surrounding tissue was thickened and firm with infection.

The front exit wound had been kept relatively clean, but the entry wound on his back suffered neglect. He hadn’t been able twist around to reach it. He had been tending his injuries on his own.

She closed her eyes. He had finally given up on the others. He no longer even sought out medical help or his old teammates.

She brushed his oily hair back again and started speaking, trying to reassure him as she adjust IV flows and drip rates. Her team knew their job, knew it well. It gave her time to reach out to the patient; to offer him hope and reassurance.

“Mr. Standish…Ezra, just hang on, we’re going to get you fixed up in no time.” She smiled reassuringly at her patient as his green eyes roved upward, pausing only for a fleeting moment before dropping and fixating on the metal cuff that ensnared his blackened wrist.

He fumbled to move his hand and the short chain pulled up tight halting his movements.

Lauren Murray watched as the soot covered agent stared blankly at the handcuff, mindless of the nasal canula that rested just at his nares or the eight or so people that poked, prodded and jostled him, changing bandages, swabbing the wound, taking blood and readying him for portable x-rays and surgery.

He seemed oblivious to it all and simply stared at the handcuff that entrapped his wrist.

“Ezra, Ezra, look at me,” Murray tried again, tried desperately to reach her patient--anything to get him to connect with the world around him. “We’ll have it removed in no time, don’t worry. If I have to cut it off myself, I’ll get the handcuff off, I promise.” She shot the uniform police officer standing out of the way a piercing gaze.

She watched as eye wash and protective tears rolled from the corners of hastily washed, smoke irritated eyes. They traveled down the side of his smudged face to his temples, pushing and dragging particles of fine particulate matter and ash with them.

Blood shot, scleral injected, green eyes stared at the thick metal that chained him.

“Get surgery Suite 2 prepped. Someone call Denny McMann and tell him he’s got an emergency.”

“Dr. Murray, he has today off,” a young nurse answered.

Murray looked up from her patient briefly and stared at the young nurse, “I don’t care, tell’m we got one of Larabee’s men and he’s critical….Now move!”

The young nurse slipped from the room. Murray turned her attention back to her failing patient.

“Ezra,” Lauren Murray gently rolled the undercover agent’s head and lifted his chin slightly breaking the locked stare on the handcuff. “You’ve got to fight, you stay with me…and you fight this.” She whispered in her most demanding tone.

Standish merely rolled his head from her grasp and shut his eyes. The eyewash streaked his cheeks blackening the white sheet below him.

His shallow breathing became a little more shallow, his rapid heart beat quickened its pace and just as Dr. Murray recognized the signs and started calling for assistance, alarms started sounding.

The portable x-ray was shoved aside as doctors and nurses converged on the handcuffed agent who lay with a hole in his side, with too much smoke in his lungs and not enough blood in his body, and too little faith to fight for one more breath.

They flocked on him like vultures on a carcass, except they worked to save a life that was being freely offered up.

3 hrs later

Chris Larabee blew through the pneumatic doors like a bull. He headed directly to the reception desk not recognizing the new lady that chewed gum and held a pen above her right ear.

“I’m here for Ezra Standish,” his curt revelation did not slow down the gum chewing.

“And you would be--?” A New York accent put her near the Bronx.

“Chris Larabee.” Larabee had half a mind to reach over the counter and rip the folders from the young lady’s hands but Josiah suddenly materialized, his mere presence exuding a type of barrier.

“Are you a relation to Mr. Standish?” The gum managed to get chewed with each syllable.

“No…yes,” Chris quickly corrected, “brothers.” His anger boiled each time her gum was smashed between perfect rows of glistening white teeth.

She raised her eyebrows. “You sure don’t look like his brother,” she pointed out as she dug through her file of signed forms.

“Our young brother was graced with the charming looks,” Josiah tried to appease the building hostilities.

The receptionist once again raised an eyebrow, “You’re a brother too?”

“No sister, just a concerned friend…now about Ezra…?” Sanchez led.

“Weird fuckin’ name,” She spoke softly to herself shaking her head as she searched the folders, “….his momma musta been on some serious drugs when she picked that one,” the running commentary was spoken without looking up as she ran her fingers through the folder checking for the proper form. “Here it is….”

She quirked an eyebrow and then stared up at the blonde that appeared about to blow a gasket.

She snapped a small bubble between her teeth, careful not to mar her lipstick.

“I’m sorry sir, the only brother Mr. Standish has listed is…” She shook her head and widened her eyes and finally stated, “Chaucer Standish….” She looked up at the blonde and shook her head again, “Man, him and his brother musta got the shit beat out of’em as kids….I mean who the Hell names their kids Ezra and Chaucer…isn’t that like an English poet or somethin’?….” She shook her head at the tragedy, “some people just shouldn’t do drugs.”

Josiah and Chris ignored the running dialogue and stared at one another, “That can’t be….”

Chris reached over the counter and yanked the papers from the designer glossy nailed hand.


“He listed his damn horse….What the Hell is going on?” Chris stared at the paper and the date. It had been changed a month ago.

“His brother’s a horse---damn, what a weird freakin’ family.” The receptionist stood up and yanked the paper back out of Larabee’s hands, careless of the danger. “Hospital property Mister, you aren’t his brother---his horse is---so I can’t release any information.”

Chris was about to reach over the counter and grab the folder again when the double doors leading to the Emergency Department swung open.

Dr. Lauren Murray stormed into the waiting area. The heavy odor of smoke trailed behind her, slowly seeping its tendrils into the clothes of those that got too close.

Chris met her halfway and was brought up short when she slapped his face. The resounding slap quieted the busy waiting area.

At the reception desk, the gum got a slight reprieve. The receptionist raised an eyebrow, shrugged and went back to her work. Denver was relatively calm compared to NYC.

“You bastard,” Murray hissed.

Chris ignored the blow, “Where’s my agent?”

“Since when is he yours again?”

“Lauren,” Josiah stepped forward from behind Larabee trying to calm the situation.

“Don’t you Lauren me.” She nailed Sanchez with a withering gaze and then refocused her energies back at Larabee, “how could you do that to one of your own men? You bastard.”

“What the Hell has gotten into you?” Larabee spit out with fury and frustration.

“If you were going to get rid of him…” The doctor stepped forward.

Larabee did not step back.

“…You should have done it, not left him twisting,” In her anger and her fear she slapped her hand against his chest and shoved him back roughly. She raised her head as her voice softened to a seething whisper, “Have you any idea what you have done?” Her brown eyes watered in frustration. “He isn’t even fighting. We sent him to surgery and he isn’t even trying.” Tears glistened threatening to cascade over lower eyelids. “And you’ve got him handcuffed to a bedrail.” The sadness and fear were replaced with disgust.

Larabee held his ground and stared over her shoulder at the closed doors that kept him from his agent. He stepped around her and walked to the doors.

Josiah filled the empty space and put his hands on her shoulders, “He was never going to let Ezra go---and he never ordered any handcuffs.” The rumors had taken on a life of their own. Fiction had become fact.

Josiah paused and then added, “You knew of the rumors?” He furrowed his brow and stared at the older doctor trying to work out the details he was missing. How would an emergency room physician know? “Chris never had intentions of letting Ezra leave.” The soft statement barely rumbled across the room, though the confusion in his tone at her knowledge rang loud.

The Doctor looked up at the large profiler, “No one ever told him, and no one surely told those bastards who’ve been making his life a living Hell the last month.” With that she turned on her heel and headed back to the safety of her emergency department leaving Larabee behind. She paused and turned back over her shoulder, “You never even protected him.”

+ + + + + + +

Nathan stood outside the ICU window looking in at the lone figure on the only occupied bed on the Northwest wall. They were not allowed in to see Ezra. ‘Immediate family only.’ At the moment that consisted of Maude and apparently Chaucer. Sometime in the recent past Ezra had changed his emergency contacts, his list of ‘family,’ visitors and power of attorney.

Nathan sighed and leaned his forehead against the glass and closed his eyes. He held Ezra’s medical binder in his hand. It contained the complete medical history, as far as they all knew of their undercover agent. As complete as in the last four years. The last four weeks had been marred with multiple emergency room visits. Not just here, however, but in walk in clinics across the city. ‘Doc in the Box’ clinics where anonymity and quick service were priorities, dotted Standish’s patchwork record. Everything had to be recorded, everything had a hard copy but efficiency also placed them on computer records as well.

JD was amazing with what he could do with his computer. In less than two hours Dr. Lauren Murray had a complete record of the last four weeks, though much of it she was already aware of because some of her staff moonlighted at other emergency clinics.

None of the others had been privy to the recent history. They knew nothing of the injuries that plagued one of their team. The injuries listed had been minor--deep contusions, abrasions, a cracked rib on one visit. The notes made indicated such injuries were the result of an attempted mugging, a misstep, a trip down a flight of stairs, the explanations were listed with each visit. Nathan was no more fooled by the innocent appearing mishaps than the clinicians who recorded them.

Jackson continued to stare at the man in the bed across the room. He stared at a friend who should be fighting for his life, should be fighting to beat the odds so he could face one more day with his team.

Instead, Nathan couldn’t help but think he was staring at a friend who was slowly fading from them, just as he had been for the last four weeks. This time however, they recognized it. Why hadn’t Ezra just spoken to them? Why couldn’t he have just asked for the honest truth? Nathan sighed and leaned against the glass. It was Ezra he was thinking about--the truth had more layers than Dante’s Inferno. Ezra didn’t believe in the truth, it came with too many different perspectives. Standish believed in actions, like the rest of them, but it was what motivated the actions; that’s where the real truth lay. Somehow, Standish had been unable or unwilling to uncover the reality of the team’s actions this last month. Instead, he had suffered silently and needlessly. And to what end?

Ezra had heard the rumors and believed them. Why? And where did Jenkins fit?

“What’s Ezra been working on all this time?” Nathan pushed back from the window and stared at the others. All this time the six of them had had their noses buried in building the case. Their weekends had been washed away under the relentless flood of work that it took to capture a psychotic genius such as McDowell. What had Ezra been doing? “Why keep coming into the office if things had been so miserable?”

“You think he’s been investigating the case on his own?” JD asked, sitting up straighter in a commandeered chair.

“You know he has been,” Larabee stated with bitter anger. Anger directed at himself and his agent who lay a world away from him.

“Could explain how he knew where to find Buck and Vin and knew they were in trouble,” Josiah added.

Larabee was suddenly standing, his confusion and anger finally taking a direction and giving him a focus.

“I want you three to find out what the Hell has been going on. I don’t care what you have to do, you find out.” Larabee’s green eyes nearly glistened with barely suppressed rage. “I want to know what the Hell Ezra knows that we don’t and if it has anything to do with Jenkins or McDowell”

“Or both,” JD mumbled out quietly afraid to feed the silent thoughts that plagued him and his team.

“What about you, Chris? You staying here with Ezra?” Nathan let his eyes fall to the lone figure through the glass. It felt wrong. Ezra shouldn’t be alone. Not when he was fighting for his life.

“Yeah,” Larabee breathed softly and then added, “and I’m going to find the bastards in there,” he nodded his head toward the color coded medical file Jackson held. No one bullied one of his agents.

“The righteous few shall fall to David,” Sanchez muttered.

Josiah slowly nodded as he pushed himself to his feet, “Come on John Dunne, Nathan, lets get this mess untangled.” The weariness and fatigue in Sanchez’s voice matched the slope in his shoulders but did nothing to mask the fury in his grey eyes. The ex-anthropologist’s dangerous temper was smoldering and boiling its way to the surface.

The three agents headed for the elevator. JD became too impatient to wait for it and took the stairs. Josiah and Nathan followed, unwilling to let what remained of their team be split up.

They found Nettie in the parking lot trying to help Vin and Buck from her truck. The two agents, barely on their feet, fell into Josiah’s Suburban, unwilling to be left behind. Nathan had Larabee on the phone before Sanchez turned the ignition over.

Larabee stayed behind with Standish, waiting for Kelly and his team of knotheads to show up. It was time to set up a watch. Someone was out there gunning down his agents. Whoever they were, they were still loose. Buck and Vin would be safe with Josiah and the others for now.