'Get out of the fucking way!'
Panic was quickly becoming a reality, as time seemed to stop altogether. A quick glance over his shoulder told him that he was now stuck in traffic, horns blaring from every direction, drivers cursing the other. Behind him an altercation between two taxi drivers ended when a large man hit the other with a baseball bat - what was the world coming too when drivers couldn't sit patiently while waiting for the traffic to move. He punched the horn harder than he needed to and grimaced at the pain it caused. Time was running out for nine-year-old Delta Burtron, he had to move and he had to move now.
'Damn it!' He grabbed his cell phone and exited the black Jag his mother had given him ignoring the fact that the engine was still running. All the better for him if someone stole the damn thing, it was only a hindrance to him.
The warehouse, which held the child and her killer, was still three blocks away and he only had a matter of minutes to get there. His eyes glanced down as his thumb punched in 911 on the phone
'Please state your emergency.' The voice on the other end of the line was calm. He wasn't.
'Police. I need to report a murder,' he wasn't going to make it in time to stop it and this was the only other way that it could be stopped. God, have a patrol car close by. Please!
'Your name sir?'
'She's in an abandoned warehouse on the corner of Crystal Waters Road and. . ,' He didn't see the person step in front of him so he wasn't able to sidestep them quick enough and as a result he collided hard and fell to the ground with the other person landing on top of him. The air was sucked from his lungs and he had to struggle for air while trying to get off the ground. He was glad he had done the buttons of his jacket up to hide the gun he was carrying. It seemed to take forever but the weight was finally lifted off him. Trying to breathe again was difficult but he couldn't let that stop him, he couldn't let anything stop him, he had to give a hundred percent. The guilt of not trying would be too hard to live with. After pushing himself back up onto his feet he continued to run.
'Sir? Sir are you still-'
'Ensemble . . . Street . . . She's inside the warehouse with her killer. Nine years old, that's all she is, nine . . . You need to hurry, she's not dead yet but she . . . will be in a few minutes. I'm not going to be . . . able to get there in time. She's going to die because . . . I can't get there in time.'
'Sir, we'll have a patrol car there in a few minutes.'
'She doesn't have a few minutes, that's why I'm calling you! You have to help her because I can't.'
There was only one block to go and he knew that it might as well be ten miles. His breathing was to rapid and his chest too tight, the panic he was already feeling grew quickly and his heart was pounding so hard within his chest he feared that it was going to explode.
The warehouse was in sight and he didn't hesitate when he reached the door. There were no police in sight and he didn't have the time to wait for them. He grabbed the door handle with his left hand and pulled the hidden revolver from his shoulder holster with his right. A sweating palm and forward momentum caused his hand to slip off the handle and he fell against the door creating a noise that would easily be heard from inside the building.
After pulling the door open he stepped inside. He could smell her death in his mind and knowing he was too late caused him to double over to try and hide himself from it. The only thing he could hear was the sound of his own harsh breathing and his beating heart. This wasn't the first time he'd been too late and each time another bout of guilt was added to the growing pile. The guilt was wearing him down into a depression that he couldn't shake.
The sound of a siren wailing in the distance caused him to turn to the door. If he was caught in here with Delta's body then he would be accused of being her killer, he had to get out of here before they arrived. After checking that it was clear outside he exited the building and ran.
Fear and guilt kept him running, running until he tripped over his heavy feet and collapsed in a heap on the pavement. Men and women eyed him with suspicion, a few considered throwing change at the man with the sweat soaked hair while others saw a gun in a holster and moved faster away from him.
He came to a sudden realisation while he was lying on the ground as people moved around him; he could no longer do this on his own. He was tired both physically and emotionally and his body was close to exhaustion. Someone else had to do the legwork. He was no longer up to it and he knew who that someone had to be. But would he be able to convince him to help.
Chris Larabee was staring at the two chairs that had recently held Mr. and Mrs. Penal who had hired Larabee and his men to find their fifteen-year-old daughter who had gone missing two weeks earlier. They had wanted good news but he couldn't give them the happy ending they had prayed for. He understood their grief and pain, his own son was missing, two years come January 21st. Before they left he gave them an address for a support group but whether or not they would make use of it he didn't know.
The job he did wasn't an easy one but he did it because he knew by experience that he could do more for people than the police did. His team didn't wait for forty-eight hours to do something like the police. Not everyone knew that the police had to react immediately to a missing person's report or that they could call the FBI if the police didn't start an immediate search. They also had friends in the right places. But none of this was helping him find his son.
He put the bad thoughts to the back of his mind where they belonged and returned to the task of finishing the Penal report for the official Missing Persons Police department. Ten minutes later he was disturbed by a loud panicked voice with a southern accent coming from the other side of his office door.
'I need to see Mr. Larabee . . . Now!'
A body was slammed against his office door and he heard the voice of Buck Wilmington, his right hand man and a friend who has stood by him for the last two years through thick and thin.
'You're not going anywhere until you tell us who you are and why you want to see him!'
'I need to talk to Larabee, please I need to talk to him.'
'Josiah, throw him out on the street where he belongs.'
Larabee would have allowed it but something in the man's voice told him that he should be listened to so he got up and opened the door to see Josiah Sanchez dragging a man at least three inches shorter than him towards the door. The smaller man was putting up one hell of a fight.
'Josiah, bring him back. I want to hear what he has to say.'
'Chris,' warned Wilmington.
'It's alright Buck.' Larabee smiled at his friend. He knew what Wilmington was doing - there were a lot of crackpots out there and some of them had claimed that they either had his son or knew where he was.
The first thing Larabee noticed was the desperation written all over the man's face, it was only interrupted by the trickle of blood running down the left side of his face, the cause of this being a gash on his forehead.
Larabee folded his arms when the man came closer, he didn't want to hit another crackpot, and they had warned him that the next time he did he would spend time in jail. If this man was a crackpot he didn't want him to know that he was desperate for any information on his missing son.
'Mr. Larabee, I need your help.'
'You should get that seen to.' Chris pointed at the man's head.
'Get what seen to?'
'You've got blood on your forehead.'
Chris watched him slowly lift his hand and feel around the front of his head until he found the gash on his forehead.
'I don't have time for that there's more important things to deal with. I need your help.'
'You want to make a missing persons report? One of my men can take care of that.'
'Later,' the man hesitated and looked over his shoulder at five men who were watching him, a threat written on each face told him that he had better be careful when talking to Larabee, 'do you know about the missing child Delta Burtron?'
Chris frowned and flicked his eyes towards Wilmington who nodded in return.
'Nine year old Delta Burtron disappeared from her home four days ago. At the moment the police have no suspects.'
'She was taken by a family member or a very close friend of the family,' Chris could see the man was becoming more agitated as he talked, 'he took her somewhere. I'm not sure where but I do know that he didn't sexually assault her, he took her for some other reason. Why would a man kill a child just to settle a score, there's something wrong with that, something seriously wrong. About an hour ago he took her to a warehouse on the corner of Crystal Waters Road and Ensemble Street where he killed her.'
'I can't give you a height but he's under weight, with thinning blond hair and a dark mustache. I'm sure if you gave this description to her parents they would be able to give you a name, you can then go to the police and they'll arrest him.'
'Why didn't you go to the police yourself?' Two of his men were now standing behind this man ready for a signal to take him by any physical force necessary. Larabee didn't like what he saw in the man's green eyes, he saw depths of hidden secrets . . . and desperation.
'If I gave them information that only the killer would know they would arrest me.'
'And what makes you think we won't arrest you.' Chris smiled and nodded to Vin Tanner, another member of his team and watched as the Texan roughly grabbed the man and turned him to face Wilmington so he could place a set of handcuffs on him.
'You can't do this! I didn't kill her!' The man ducked and twisted his body sideways until he was facing Tanner. 'I came here for help.' He was grabbed from behind a second time but he no longer had the energy to fight. He knew it wasn't going to be easy to convince Larabee but he hadn't expected this.
'Vin, call the police.'
'I came here to get your help,' he repeated. 'We need to catch Delta's killer, then we can start finding other missing persons.'
'You've taken more than one child?' Chris was able to keep calm because it was a part of his job. If he could he would take him out the back and shoot the piece of scum. Anyone who killed a child didn't deserve to live.
'No, I didn't take them but I can find them.'
'You can't find them unless you took them.' Chris told him.
'Police are on their way.' Vin reported to his boss.
'You can't do this!'
'So you already said. Vin, sit him down in a chair until the cops get here.' Larabee turned his back on the guy and moved back into his office.
'This is exactly why I didn't go to the police Larabee!'
Chris closed the door but it didn't shut out the man's voice.
'Listen to me you son-of-a-bitch! I can help you find people, I can help you find your son.'
The last three words stopped Chris in his tracks. He turned back to the door and opened it. His movements were very slow as he made his way back to the man. He was surprised to see him still sitting down; surely one of his men would have attacked him for what he had just said. Maybe they were finally learning, or they were just as shocked as he was.
'Don't you dare tell me you can find my son!' Chris leaned forward forcing the man to lean back against the chair.
'I don't know where he is but I have a way of finding out. All I need is a photo.'
Chris began to laugh, 'Are you trying to tell me that you're a psychic?'
'Do you know how many people have come in here trying to tell us that they're psychic abilities can help us find people.' It wasn't a question and he didn't expect an answer but he got one anyway.
'I don't give a shit how many people think they are. I can prove what I am if you give me a chance!'
'You're a complete idiot if you think I'm going to hand you a photo of my son!' Chris snapped.
'Chris you don't have to talk to him.' Buck moved to stand between his boss and the man in the chair. 'He doesn't know anything about Adam.'
'I can tell him what he wants to know if he'll-'
Buck back handed the man then grabbed him by his shirtfront. 'Not another word! Do you understand me!' The man opened his mouth to say something. 'I swear I'll tape your mouth shut!'
'Police are here.'
Chris forced his eyes away from the ones that were staring at him and looked at the youngest member of his team, JD Dunne. Two officers were standing behind him.
'This the guy?' The taller officer nodded at the man in the chair.
'Yeah.' Wilmington stepped away from the chair and allowed the officers to do their job.
The tall officer approached the chair and smiled down at the familiar face. 'Ezra Standish, I didn't know you were back in town.'
'Came in a few weeks ago.' Ezra Standish refused to look at the uniformed officer.
'You were supposed to let us know if you came back.'
Chris Larabee wasn't the only one with a confused expression on his face, all of his men looked as though they were watching a tennis match, their eyes glancing back and forth between the officer and the man, who they now knew as Ezra Standish.
'You know this guy?' Chris asked.
'Yeah, Ezra Standish, he and his mother ran a scam here last year, tried to get money out of people by promising to find their lost loved ones.'
'And did they?'
Standish tried to stand up but was pushed back down by Wilmington. 'I didn't know about the ones my mother cheated and they refused to question the ones I did help.'
'He told you he killed Delta Burtron.'
'No Officer . . . ?
'He said that he had a description of her killer and a location of her body.'
'A warehouse on Ensemble Street.'
Chris frowned at him. 'You found her?'
Ronan nodded, 'Someone called 911 -'
'That was me! I called them because I wasn't going to be able to help her, there was a traffic jam, I fell . . . I left my car a couple of blocks away.'
'A black jag?'
Ronan continued, 'The call was made about an hour ago, a man with a southern accent gave a location and said that a nine year was about to die and that he wasn't going to be able to get there in time. When the patrol car got there they found the girl, she was still warm.'
'How did she die Standish?' Chris was staring down at him.
'You already think I killed her so why should I tell you anything else.'
'Just tell me!'
'The guy smashed her skull in and left her to die alone in the dark.'
Chris looked up at Ronan who nodded in agreement. 'Nathan?'
A tall solid black man stepped forward and looked down at Standish. 'He hasn't got any blood on his clothing, but that doesn't mean he didn't do it.'
'I heard the siren and ran from the building,' Standish argued, 'if I killed her I would have either dumped said clothing and murder weapon close to the warehouse or I would have passed people in the street wearing bloody clothing and carrying a murder weapon. So which is it?'
Nathan Jackson ignored him, 'How did you get the injury to your head?'
'I fell when I was trying to get to her and I fell afterwards when I was trying to get here and may I add that that idea was a complete waste of time.'
'Officer Ronan, can I have a word with you in my office?'
'Sure . . . Mr.?' Ronan asked as he passed Standish.
'Larabee.' Chris answered and waited for Ronan to follow him into his office.
'Oh, by the way, did you search him?'
'Standish? No. Why?' Buck looked at Ronan then Standish.
'He was carrying a concealed weapon when we had our run-in.' Ronan was smiling when he passed Larabee and stepped into the office.
Buck swore and ripped opened what he didn't realise was an expensive jacket and removed the gun from it's holster.
'Hey, this is an expensive piece of clothing and you are going to pay for the damage you just caused it!'
'You're not going to need it where you're going anyway.' Buck retorted.
Once they were in the office Chris closed the door and turned to Ronan. 'You know that guy pretty well?'
Ronan nodded. 'Dealt with him a few times, know he loves kids but not in the way that you're thinking. He has a way with them. I saw him at the station last year talking to some runaway kids who then decided to go back home. He was just sitting there handcuffed to the chair and the kids . . . they were . . . sort of drawn to him. Never did understand how he did it and he would never explain when I asked him,' he shrugged and looked back at Larabee, 'I don't see him as a killer but then . . .' he left the sentence hanging in the air.
'Standish is it?'
'Do something for me and I'll owe you one. He gave me a description of the man he claims killed Delta Burtron. Underweight with thinning blond hair and a dark mustache, said that the Burtron's would recognise the description. Call it in and let's see what happens.'
Ronan didn't hesitate. He had liked Standish.
Chris sat down in his chair and listened to Ronan and when the uniformed officer was finished he said, 'So now we wait.'
Ezra Standish wanted to lean forward and hide himself behind his hands but he couldn't. His headache was getting worse. His chest was still tight and sore and the cut on his forehead was now stinging with a sharp pain.
It wasn't supposed to turn out this way. If they didn't follow up on the information he gave them then he was the one that was going to go to jail.
Nearly thirty minutes had past since Larabee and Ronan had gone into the office and he had no idea why he was still waiting. They were accusing him of being a child killer, if anything they would have thrown him into a cell by now along with a few extra bruises. Something was going on and he didn't like it.
He was also being stared at, they were all staring at him, but there were a pair of eyes that were boring into his soul and he didn't like it, it made him feel extremely uncomfortable - not that he wasn't already uncomfortable.
'Would you please tell him to stop staring at me?'
'Who? Josiah?' Buck Wilmington chose to answer the question. 'You can't stop Josiah from doing anything once he sets his mind to it. He's an ex-priest who still likes to try and save souls but I doubt that even Josiah would try and save the soul of a child killer.'
'I didn't kill her and would you please tell him to stop staring at me, it's making me feel uncomfortable.'
'We can't have that can we', said Wilmington.
'So why do you do it?' JD Dunne asked Standish.
'I didn't do it, I didn't kill her, I haven't killed anyone.'
'Why con people out of their money? Why tell them that you can find loved ones, give them hope then rip them off and leave them to wonder what the hell had happened.'
'I'm not a fraud, I can find people most of the time-'
'You just said you weren't a fraud and in the same sentence you say most of the time.' Buck couldn't help but laugh at him.
Standish frowned at the man and was about to continue when Dunne pulled up a chair and sat down to face him. 'Explain it to me, I need to know why you'd do something like that to people.'
'I don't con people,' Standish stared into Dunne's huge brown eyes, there was still innocence in those eyes, 'the police didn't question the right people.'
'That didn't answer my question.'
'I don't con people, that's my answer.'
'The cop said you and your mother conned people.'
Standish looked to his left at the police officer who was standing in the doorway. 'He said scam and I didn't scam anyone, my mother scammed people then left me to take the fall. I spent six months in jail for something I didn't do.'
'You mean you got caught and your mother didn't.'
'I don't have to answer to you Mr. Dunne, so get the fuck out of my face!' snapped Standish.
'Mind how you talk to the boy asshole!'
'Jeez Buck, I'm not a boy and don't call me that in front of a killer, it's embarrassing.' JD's face reddened as he stood up and walked away with the chair, his fellow work mates openly laughing at him.
'Ezra, this wasn't one of your more intelligent ideas.' Standish muttered to himself. 'You should have listened to your mother; look after number one. If I did I wouldn't be here in this mess. What the hell are you talking about, a young girl is dead, her killer at large and all you can think about is yourself. You are one selfish bastard sometimes Standish!'
'You often talk to yourself?' Tanner asked him.
'Yes.' Standish retorted at the man who wore his hair down to his shoulders.
Tanner's only response was to raise his eyebrows at Standish.
Standish stood up to stretch his legs but someone grabbed him from behind and forced him back down onto the chair.
'Sit down,' it was a warning that Wilmington was giving him, 'and stay down!'
'Let him go Buck.' Larabee came out of his office with Ronan behind him.
'You know something we don't?' Vin asked his boss.
'Standish didn't kill Delta Burtron, her step-father did.'
'You know that because?' Vin continued.
'Ronan here called in the description Standish gave us, they called her parents who recognised the description, and they went to the guy's place where he was still trying to wash the blood out of his clothes.' Chris was watching Standish while explaining what had happened.
'Just like that? What makes them think that it's her blood?' Vin said again.
'Well,' Ronan made his way to his partner, 'I'd like to hang around and see what happens but I have to go and explain this to my boss. Just keep him with you like I said until he comes up with a good explanation as to how he knew the details of the crime, if he doesn't give one then bring him in.'
Standish looked up as Ronan passed him. 'Officer Ronan, whatever you did . . . thank you.'
'Don't thank me Standish, thank Larabee, he was the one that asked me to call it in.'
Standish turned his eyes to Larabee but the man was watching the two officers leave but he thanked him anyway. 'Thank you Mr. Larabee.'
'You're not out of the woods yet Standish.' Chris warned him.
'Hold on a minute!' Buck held his hands up. 'What makes you think this guy didn't help the step-father.'
Larabee shrugged his shoulders and simply said, 'Burtron said he did it alone.'
'And the cops believed him?'
'Child killers tend to work alone. But there is no way I'm going to believe his psychic story.'
'Of course you're going to believe he's psychic because you'll do anything to find Adam and who could blame you, any one of us would do the same thing.'
'Then let's get on with it shall we.' Larabee was staring hard at Buck, the man was a good friend but there were times when he didn't know when to keep his mouth shout. No one talked about his son in front of strangers but there wasn't time to deal with him now, it would have to wait until later.
'Get on with what?' Vin asked.
'We can test him.'
'You just said that you didn't believe him.' Growled Buck.
'I don't but we need to prove it either way. If he fails the test then he'll have to tell the truth about how he knew where Delta was.'
'Okay,' Buck stepped closer to his friend, 'just be careful.'
Chris nodded and moved to stand in front of Standish.
'The police still want to know how you knew where the girl was,' said Larabee.
'I saw her picture in the paper and . . . ' he looked at Larabee, 'do we have to do this now, I've had a long day and I would like to go home and get some rest, maybe we could do this in the morning.' The expression on Larabee's face told him no. 'I linked with her.'
'Linked with her? What the hell are you talking about?' Buck was standing next to Chris.
'I linked with her mind, I saw her past and her future, I saw what was happening through her eyes.'
'As though you were in her body sharing her memories?'
Standish watched as the ex-priest came towards him, it was the first time the man had spoken, his voice was strong and full of empathy. He eyed him with suspicion and answered, 'Yes.'
'Did you feel her pain, her fears?'
'You believe him Josiah?' Larabee asked him.
'Like you said give him a photo and let's see what happens.' Sanchez answered.
'I can't do this now.' Standish warned them.
'Vin, get me Sharon Penal's file.' Larabee ignored him. 'Buck, cuff him at the front.'
'What are you going to do with him if he's lying?' Buck asked while he pulled Standish to his feet and uncuffed one of his hands then handcuffed him back together at the front.
'Hand him over to the police.'
Vin returned with the folder Chris asked for and took out what he knew his boss wanted: a photo of Sharon Penal but he didn't give it to his boss, he stepped up to Standish and reached out with the photo but Standish wouldn't take it.
'You gonna take it or not?' Vin asked him.
'I can't do this now.'
'You do it or the police will charge you with Accessory to Murder.'
Standish ignored him and instead spoke to Larabee, 'They can't prove that and you can't force me to do this.'
'Then you don't know me very well.' Larabee smiled at him. 'Vin, Buck.'
The two men knew what he wanted done. Wilmington placed his hands on the smaller man's shoulders and forced him to stay seated while Tanner grabbed his right hand and put Sharon Pedal's photo in it. This had all happened so fast that Standish hadn't had time to react, he looked to see what they had done. He was staring into the eyes of a fifteen-year-old girl who had died during the night.
The link was immediate, his back arched as the pain exploded in his skull. His own hands reaching for his head as he fell to the floor. A hoarse cry of pain stunned the others, some of who thought it was an act but Nathan Jackson, an ex-medic, knew it was no act. He rushed to Standish who looked as though he were convulsing.
'Don't touch me! You'll break the link.' The words were spoken through gritted teeth but Jackson understood him clearly.
His entire body shook with the pain as the images flew through his mind; scenes of a happy childhood, images of arguments with her parents, pictures of her leaving home, the nightmare of living on the streets, then the final moments of life. That final image brought another shudder of excruciating pain then there was nothing.
Six men watched as Standish closed his eyes and began to breathe deeply, his forearms wiping the sweat off his forehead. He continued to lie on his side and allowed the photo to fall from his fingers, he no longer had any use for it.
Nathan Jackson, concerned, bent down in front of Standish and watched him for a moment. 'You okay?'
'You need something?'
'My jacket pocket, left side.'
Jackson searched the pocket and retrieved a prescription bottle. 'Pain killers?' Standish nodded. 'Let's get you back into the chair.'
'I'll get some water.' Sanchez was headed towards the small kitchen on the right side of the room.
'Coffee . . .' Standish was now in the chair with his head resting in his hands and his elbows leaning on his knees; it was a subtle way of trying to hide his trembling limbs. Someone then took his hands and removed the handcuffs but he didn't open his eyes to see who it was.
'Two, I only need two, they're a strong medication.'
'How often do you take them?'
Standish finally lifted his head. 'What are you? A doctor?'
'Close enough and you better do as he says.'' Larabee spoke from the other side of the room. He had given Jackson the room he needed to work - if Jackson believed Standish wasn't putting on an act then something bad just happened. It was either a psychic episode or just some sort of fit.
Standish nodded, 'Only when this happens and before you ask, it only happens when I link with someone and then I'm usually prepared.'
'You take the pills before hand?'
'Yes, it eases the pain somewhat.'
'Here's some coffee,' Josiah handed Standish a large mug certain that the man was going to need it. 'I put some cold water in it so it won't be too hot.'
'Thanks.' Standish took the mug and the two prescribed pills from Jackson. He waited for a couple of minutes for his hands to stop shaking then swallowed the pills with a large sip of coffee. 'This is instant coffee.'
'It's the only way I make it.' Vin told him.
'You ready to tell us what happened there?' Larabee wanted to force the information out of him. If this man were genuine then he would be able to help him find his son.
'This girl isn't missing.'
'That comment just proved you're a fake.' Wilmington growled at him.
Standish could feel the painkillers kicking in. He rubbed his eyes with his free hand. 'You found her this morning. Why did you give me a photo of a dead girl you found this morning?'
'You could have heard that on the radio,' Buck told him instead of answering him, 'Chris mentioned her name and you added that to what you heard on the radio. You better think about what you're going to say next, what we want to hear is something that wouldn't have been in the paper when she disappeared or on the radio after she was found.'
'Sharon Penal didn't leave home. Her parents kicked her out. They called her a slut, a whore. It wasn't her fault, she was date raped but her parents wouldn't believe her. They didn't want a fifteen-year-old daughter who was pregnant-'
'She was pregnant?' Sanchez hung his head in shame, not for the young girl but for her parents.
'She had nowhere to go. After a few days on the street she met some other runaways who took her in but that only put her in more trouble. They introduced her to drugs, convinced her that it would take away the depression and fear she was feeling. Didn't tell her about the dangers of hard drugs though. It was an accident, she didn't intend to kill herself. She wanted that baby even though a rapist conceived it.'
Larabee moved forward and took a closer look at Standish. The man looked exhausted, like he was about to collapse in a heap and stay that way for a number of days. He needed rest and if his information panned out then he would get it.
'Vin, call the Penal's and find out their reaction to what Standish just told us. Use my office.'
'Listen,' Standish ran his hand through his hair, 'I'm really tired, I just want to go home have a shower and sleep for a week. Can I do that now and we'll finish this tomorrow.'
'You can go home but two of my men will stay with you until we officially confirm this. After that we'll talk about what you originally came here for - my help.'
Sanchez was sitting in a chair with his legs stretched out. A thick blanket covered his legs and his jacket was pulled up around his ears. A cup of hot coffee was keeping his hands warm.
The hotel that Standish was staying in was cheap with no heating and uncomfortable furniture. There were only two rooms, the main room and a bathroom, both as small as a walk-in closet. Why a man who dressed so well and drove a Jag lived in a cheap hovel like this he didn't know but he did want to find out.
He'd been watching Standish move about in his sleep for almost two hours now and an occassional grimace or frown would cross his features with the occasional mumbling.
After retrieving Standish's car they had gotten him to the hotel where he had eaten, taken a shower and then gone straight to bed. He had fallen asleep within minutes of putting his head on the pillow. All of this without muttering a word to the two men who watched over him.
Sanchez glanced over his shoulder when he heard the door creak open and saw Wilmington enter the room.
'Standish was right, she was pregnant.' Wilmington's cell phone had rung five minutes earlier and he had taken the call outside in the hallway so as not to wake Standish.
'Then he's psychic,' said Sanchez.
'Or a lucky guess.'
'Don't think so.'
'Chris is going to put all of his hope into this guy to find his son. What if he doesn't?'
Sanchez looked back at the form in the bed. 'Then Chris will keep the faith and continue to look.'
'What do you think about this?' Wilmington nodded at the room. 'Drives a Jag and lives in a hole like this.'
'That's calling the kettle black.'
'There's nothing wrong with my place that a good house keeper can't cure.'
'That and a pest control service.'
'So what do you think?' Wilmington repeated.
'No idea Buck, no idea.'
Standish woke within a panic, his body shivering, his breath coming out in small gasps. He looked across at the two men who slept on the only other furniture in the room; two very uncomfortable chairs. It brought back the memory of what had happened the day before. He threw off the heavy blankets and made his way to the bathroom. His teeth started to rattle so he clamped his mouth shut.
The bathroom contained only a toilet, basin and shower and left little room for anything else. He washed his face with cold water and did what he did every night; he stared at himself in the mirror. He looked more haggard than usual. Exhaustion had started to line his features and his normally bright green eyes were dull and still held the horror of what he had seen in his dreams.
Every night it was the same. He saw the faces of the lost that he didn't save; men, women and children who he found dead when he had linked with them. He heard their voices calling out to him, sometimes screaming his name. It was getting worse. These men had to help him, if they didn't . . . he knew what would happen, it had happened yesterday. Delta Burtron was dead because his physical exhaustion had slowed him down. That couldn't happen again.
Standish looked over his shoulder and saw Sanchez standing in the doorway. His large frame almost filling the gap.
'Just tired.' He let his head fall between his shoulders to hide his features from the older man. 'Too tired.'
'Go back to bed and get some sleep.'
'It's not that, well it is but it's more than that. I've been doing this a long time and I just can't do it on my own anymore.'
'You've got help now.'
Standish shook his head.
'Vin called, said you were right about Sharon Penal.'
'That's the problem.'
'I'm always right. When I find them they're already dead, killed within hours of being taken. Don't get me wrong, I find people who have runaway from home, but they did that of their own choosing, they don't really need my help . . . it's the people . . . the children that are taken against their will, I just want to be able to find them alive. I can't help all of them and it's starting to wear me down. I should have been able to help Delta, I should have stopped him, but I was too slow, too tired mentally and physically.' He finally lifted his head and stared into Sanchez's eyes, 'I need help to do this. I can't do it on my own anymore.'
'You don't have to.' Sanchez moved forward and gripped Standish's elbow with a strong hand and led him back to the bed. 'Get some sleep we'll sort this out in the morning.'
'I dream too much when I sleep. I see all their faces, I don't forget their faces.'
'Don't think about it now. Try and get some sleep.'
Standish nodded and rolled over onto his side and pulled the blankets up over his shoulder.
Sanchez watched him for a few minutes then returned to the empty chair. It didn't really surprise him when Standish woke from nightmares three more times that night.
It was nearly midday when Standish woke of his own free will and not as a result from a nightmare. He felt better even though his sleep had been interrupted a number of times. Instead of getting up he stayed where he was with his eyes closed and tried to enjoy the moment that didn't come often enough for him.
'You always sleep this late?'
The man had spoken with a Texan accent so it must have been Vin Tanner, the quiet one with the longer hair.
'If I had the choice, then yes.'
'Got some food for you here, bagels, ham, cheese, coffee.'
'In a minute.'
'Chris will be here in an hour.'
Standish opened his eyes and looked at the man, he then turned over and ignored him.
'You're gonna want to eat something so you can do that trick you do. For someone who spoke a lot yesterday you don't have a lot to say today.'
So much for a quiet moment thought Standish.
'I could say the same about you Mr. Tanner, you seem to be talking a lot for someone who didn't yesterday.'
'You got me there and it's Vin, not Mr. Tanner.'
'I'm not very good with first names Mr. Tanner.'
He didn't see the Texan shrug, instead he opened his eyes wide when he realized what he had done that night. He had opened up to Sanchez, something which he rarely did. 'Oh crap.'
'Something wrong Ezra?'
He turned his face and slammed it into the pillow. What the hell had he done? What had he been thinking? More proof that he was loosing control. Emotions were something he kept behind a calm façade, a wall built that he had built around himself when he was a child to keep people out. He was a man who lived life alone, without help from others. Working with these men was going to be difficult but as long as he kept them at arms length he should be able to cope.
'Are we doing my trick here?' He didn't hide the disgust he felt about the term Tanner had used.
'Uh yeah . . . hey I didn't mean anything . . . I didn't know what word to use.'
Tanner had gotten up and walked around the bed and was now looking down at him.
'I call it helping people.' Standish got up and walked into the bathroom and slammed the door behind him. Twenty minutes later when he came out he found Sanchez, Wilmington and Larabee waiting for him.
'Good morning gentlemen. You're early.'
'Standish.' Larabee nodded.
Wilmington also nodded but said nothing.
'How are you this morning Ezra.' Sanchez stepped forward.
'Mr. Sanchez . . . about last night-'
'It's alright Ezra, anytime.'
'No not anytime, it won't happen again, I'm sorry.'
'Ezra, if you need to talk I'm ready to listen, don't worry about being embarrassed about it.'
'I'm not embarrassed Mr. Sanchez. Talking is something I don't do, to anyone.'
'Not even conversation?' Sanchez was frowning.
'Mr. Larabee,' Standish ended Sanchez's attempt to discuss what had happened,' 'I'll need at least twenty minutes before we do this.'
'Sure, we'll wait outside.'
'Thank you.' Standish watched as Larabee and Tanner left the room then glanced at Sanchez who hesitated a moment then followed his boss out of the room. He didn't bother looking at Wilmington assuming that he would also leave. He went the chair where he had left his coat and took out his medication and swallowed three dry. Then before he knew it he was slammed up against the wall.
'He's a troubled man Chris.' Sanchez told the man who was leaning against the wall.
'Aren't we all.' Larabee turned his head sideways and looked at the door at the end of the hallway.
'If you saw him last night . . . his eyes, the nightmares. He's tired and he's desperate.'
'I know the feeling.'
'Chris I'm not trying to make his troubles seem worse than yours, I just want you know that he's at the end of his rope.'
Larabee pushed himself away from the wall and headed towards Standish's room. 'I'm not waiting any longer Josiah, I need to know about my son.'
Buck waited until Josiah, Vin and Chris left the room then moved with speed towards Standish. He spun him around and pushed him up against the wall.
'Chris thinks he believes in your powers.'
'It is not a power that I have; it is an obstacle to a normal life.' He pushed Wilmington away but the man stayed close
'We know Sarah is dead, but we don't know what happened to Adam, we don't know if he's alive or dead? If he's dead you don't tell Chris.'
'You want me to lie to Mr. Larabee, tell him his son is alive if I find him to be dead.'
'That's what I want,' said Wilmington.
'Why?' Standish was frowning in confusion.
'That's none of your damn business. You just do as you're told! If you don't I will beat the shit out of you and when you're capable of walking again I will beat the shit out of you again and again.'
Standish nodded. He understood. The man was concerned about his friend.
'What about you?'
'What about me?'
'Do you want to know the truth?'
Wilmington wiped his face with his right hand and opened his mouth to speak-
Standish stopped him with his own words, 'Please, I'd rather not know.'
Larabee and Sanchez returned to the room fifteen minutes later. Larabee removed a framed picture from his coat pocket. There were no words spoken as he handed the frame to Standish who refused to look at it. Instead he turned to look at Wilmington.
'What are you waiting for?' Larabee growled at him. 'You said you would be ready.'
'Chris . . .' Sanchez warned him.
'I am ready.' He snatched the photo frame out of Larabee's hands.
Standish looked down at the photo to find a beautiful woman staring back at him. The smile that was spread across her features told of a happy life full of love, and excitement of what the future will hold for her and her family. Poor dear, Ezra thought to himself. He didn't linger on her face for long (Larabee already knew about his wife), and shifted his gaze to the boy who sat next to her, his small body leaning into hers. His smile showed a gap where he had lost a baby tooth. There was a striking resemblance to his father.
'Could you take the picture out please.'
Larabee took back the frame, did as he was told and handed the photo back.
Standish clenched his teeth and waited for the pain as his fingers reached for the boy. There was only darkness then a sudden bolt of light followed by excruciating pain. It was worse than what he normally felt. Agonizing screams of a woman who's flesh was being burnt from her body filled his mind and he let out a scream of his own as he shared her pain. A child screamed continuously for his mother. The boy was watching his own mother burn to death. A flash of a moving figure covered in flames caused Standish to fall to his knees then scramble backwards until he hit a solid object. He could feel tears welling up in his eyes and blinked to clear his vision. Sarah Larabee's pain suddenly ceased as a gunshot echoed in his mind's eye and he watched as she dropped to the ground. The flames continued to burn and the smell of burning flesh caused his breath to catch in his throat cutting off another scream. His body convulsed and fell forward onto his side. He was going to vomit, just a few more seconds was all he needed. Another image of the boy, this time his face was older and was filled with madness, his blue eyes with nightmares, the toothless gap replaced by a crooked tooth. Adam Larabee was still alive, he could feel it, he knew it without a doubt but what he didn't know was the boy's location. He began to choke on his own vomit and he knew that he had to let go.
The picture dropped from his fingers to the floor then without a word he pushed himself to his feet rushed to the bathroom and threw up into the open toilet. When he was finished he fell back onto the light blue tiled floor and waited for his body to stop trembling. He closed his eyes and allowed his mind to go through the images again to see if he'd missed anything. He noticed a few things but knew they wouldn't help, he was going to have to try again later.
'You finished in there Standish!'
He was surprised it was Wilmington's voice he heard. He had expected Sanchez to follow him. Standish stood up and turned the cold water tap on and washed the sweat from his face then rinsed out his mouth. After drying his face off with a towel he looked at himself in the mirror and saw that Wilmington was now standing in the doorway.
'Close the door Mr. Wilmington.'
Wilmington did as he was told then leaned back against the door and waited.
'How much does Chris Larabee know about his wife's death?'
'He knows . . . we know everything. Why?'
'I need to know that he knows everything before I tell him what I saw and I mean everything Mr. Wilmington, everything!'
'What are you talking about Standish!' Buck stepped forward and took on a threatening stance.
'Then you don't know either.' Standish hung his head. 'This is the part I hate most.'
'Chris is waiting.'
'How does Mr. Lar- Chris handle bad news?'
'I told you not to tell him that Adam is dead!'
'I'm not talking about that,' Standish stood up and walked to the door, 'I want to know how he'll react if I tell him something he didn't know about his wife's death.'
'Then we better make sure he doesn't because he has a son to find.' And with that said he returned to the main room where Larabee was waiting.
Larabee didn't want to follow Standish into the bathroom, not after what he just saw. The scream he heard, the pain that was written all over his face, the tears; did all of what he had just seen mean that Adam was dead. God, he didn't want to know. Why did this happen? He thought it would have been better to know but now he wasn't so sure. He didn't stop Buck when his friend went after Standish but he did frown when he heard the door close. He picked up the photo and carefully put it back in the frame. A few minutes later both men came back. The expression on Standish's face scared the hell of him.
'I don't want to know.'
'Your son isn't dead.'
'I said I-' Did he just hear what he had wanted to hear for the last two years. 'Adam's alive?'
'Where is he?'
'Sit down Mr. Larabee . . . we need to talk.'
He didn't sit down he fell down into a chair. Something was wrong. Something was seriously wrong.
Standish wanted to get this over with quickly but he needed to tell the man everything so he would believe him, he also needed Wilmington to believe him. If they didn't then he was going to be working alone again and that was the last thing he wanted; he couldn't do it on his own any more.
'Mr. Wilmington wanted me to lie to you, to tell you that your son was alive even if he wasn't.'
'You son-of-a-bitch!' Wilmington yelled at him.
'So you're telling me he is dead.'
'No . . . it's just that . . . I'm going to have to tell you everything and I don't know if you know everything. Things may have been kept from you to protect you-'
'I know everything.'
Standish started pacing the room because he didn't want to look at the four men who were staring at him. Tanner had earlier moved into a corner and hadn't moved or said a thing since; Ezra had almost forgotten the man was still there. 'I'm going to tell you what happened to your wife-'
'You don't need to do that!' Wilmington growled.
'Buck,' Sanchez grabbed Wilmington's shoulder and pulled him back towards a chair then pushed him down into it,' let the man talk.'
'I need to tell him so he'll believe what I have to say to him about his son.'
'Just get on with it Standish!' This time it was Chris who was growling at him.
'Your wife was set alight while she was still alive,' he waited for a reaction but didn't get one, they did know, 'after a minute or so someone shot her. When she was dead they dragged her body back into the house and set it on fire.'
'To know that you either had to be there or you're genuine,' said Wilmington.
'I wasn't there.'
'Where's Adam?' Chris interrupted them, now wasn't the time for small talk.
'I don't know.' Before Standish could react Larabee had him up against the wall with his forearm against his throat. The pressure was strong enough to make breathing difficult.
'I thought you said you could find people!' Larabee yelled into his face.
'Mr. Sanchez, please, if you don't mind.' Standish managed to choke out.
'Chris, let him finish before you kill him.'
Larabee pulled then pushed Standish against the wall and waited.
'I saw your son Mr. Larabee, he's alive, I don't know where he is but I need to explain to you why I don't know where he is. Prepare yourself Mr. Larabee because you're not going to like this.'
'Sounds like something I've heard before.' Chris warned him.
'This isn't something you've heard before.' Standish moved away from him and sat down in the chair. 'Adam saw everything, they made him watch his mother die-'
'God damn it!' It was Wilmington's voice he heard but he didn't know who's fist hit the wall.
'He was forced to watch everything. Mr. Larabee it's the only thing that he seems to remember, his mind has become dark with nightmares and it's all I can see right now. You need to find him but I don't know where he is. I'm going to have to try again later with a picture of only Adam, do you have one that I can use?' he didn't receive an answer. 'Mr. Larabee?'
'He saw it happen?'
'I'm sorry, but I need you to believe in me, otherwise I would have kept that information to myself.' Standish saw Larabee slowly nod.
Wilmington growled at him, 'Next time keep it to your self. That's something no father wants to know.'
'I'll go and get another photo for you.'
'Mr. Larabee,' he waited for Larabee to turn back to him. 'Look at me please.' When he did Standish continued, 'your son is alive and what he needs right now is for his father to be in complete control of his senses . . . what I'm trying to say is . . . you need to stay away from the bottle.'
'You always speak your mind Standish', said Wilmington.
Standish actually smiled for the first time since they'd met him, 'My mouth gets me into a lot of trouble.'
'As long as my son is alive Standish I won't be going back to my old ways. I need to do this for me, for Sarah but most importantly for my son,' Larabee now had a look of determination of his face, one that Wilmington hadn't seen for nearly two years, 'I'll go and get you another photo.'
'The last one that you took of him, it would help me more,' said Standish.
'I'll come with you,' Wilmington said. He nodded at Sanchez then followed Larabee out of the small hotel room.
Sanchez looked at Standish after the two men left. 'How much of that was true?'
'All of it I'm afraid.' Standish glanced from Sanchez to Tanner and was surprised to find that it was Tanner who had hit the wall. He had put his hand right through it.
Sanchez shook his head then spoke. 'At the time the Crime Scene investigators thought that it may have been a possibility that Adam had witnessed what happened to his mother. There were small boot prints where the murder had taken place. They said the prints belonged to a boy, no doubt Adam. We made them all swear that they kept it out of their reports and that no one told him.'
Standish just nodded in return.
'Are you sure you want to do this again so soon. I mean that seemed to take a lot out of you.'
'Yes I'm sure.'
'Do you need anything while we're waiting?'
'Some more coffee would help if you're offering.'
'Sure. I'll go get us some coffee.'
When Sanchez left Standish lay down on the bed and was asleep within minutes. Sanchez returned fifteen minutes later to find Standish sound asleep and covered with a thick blanket. Tanner was sitting on the bed reading a magazine.
'He okay?' asked Sanchez.
'You didn't have much to say about what happened.'
Tanner didn't look up but said, 'I'll have plenty to say when we find the bastards responsible.'
Sanchez could only nod.
Standish woke to find six men watching him. He grimaced and turned to face the back of the couch. Why were they all here? He didn't need an audience when he did his "thing".
'I'm not a freak show so you can go home and stare at a wall.'
'We're not here to stare Ezra,' said Sanchez, 'we're here to support you. I know that you do this alone - did this alone but not anymore. You go through a lot of pain doing this, I don't know how you coped with it for so long.'
'I had to.' Ezra explained. 'So why are all of you here?'
'If you can give us a location we'll be good to go within minutes.' Explained Tanner, 'JD brought our gear and-'
'And you shouldn't be doing this again already,' said Nathan.
Larabee lost his patience. 'And we know why I'm here so can we please do this now.'
Sanchez almost growled at him, 'You can't wait a few minutes.'
'I've waited long enough Josiah!'
Standish sat up and glared at the blanket covering him. He knew he hadn't had it when he laid down. Damn it, Sanchez must have done it. He'd gone to Larabee for help not to get another mother. He sure as hell didn't need two. He didn't really need the one he already had. His stare moved to Sanchez, a stare that told the older man to stop coddling him. Sanchez only stared back at him. He stood up and threw the blanket at Sanchez who caught it with his right hand. He frowned when Sanchez through the blanket at Tanner.
Tanner blushed then immediately dropped the blanket.
'Give me the photo.'
'Do what Josiah says,' said Jackson, 'give yourself ten minutes, take your pills first.'
'Mr. Larabee is in a hurry and he's right. He's waited long enough. The man needs to know where his son is.'
Larabee handed over his most recent photo of his son and watched as Standish "linked" with him. He wanted to turn away, didn't want to see the pain the man went through. But he couldn't. Some part of him needed to see it, needed to know that this was really happening, that at any moment he would know what happened to his son, his only child.
It was the same as before. Standish bent over, his hands reaching for his forehead then he collapsed to the ground. Teeth were clenched and fists were closed tightly and the body convulsed. It was over in a matter of minutes. Standish was now lying still, the photo on the floor beside his right hand. Larabee reached down and picked it up.
He wanted Standish to get up and tell him what he saw but he knew the man needed time to recover. He watched as Jackson and Sanchez took care of him and couldn't help but smile when Standish kept trying to push them away. The man was stubborn but he didn't know how stubborn Jackson and Sanchez were. If one of the group were injured the two men would act as mother hens. It was an embarrassment to all but the two men.
'He knows them, Adam knows them, you know them.'
His words stopped Sanchez and Jackson in their tracks and they stepped back.
'What?' Larabee was shocked to the core of his being. Someone he knew had killed his wife and taken his son.
'Her . . .' said Standish, 'her . . . you knew her.''
'Knew? Her? Do mean she's dead? How do we find him if the person who took him is dead?' It was Wilmington who asked.
Standish smiled at him. 'Suddenly you're a believer?'
'Cut the shit and just tell us.' Wilmington's eyes held a glimmer of hope that no one had seen before.
'Gains . . . Ella Gains' Standish tried to get up but fell back to the floor. He waited for someone to help him up but no one did. Five men were staring at Larabee.
'I used to date her in College . . . she has my son . . .?'
'But you said Adam knows her,' said Sanchez.
'He met her once.' Larabee explained. 'Shit, JD . . . '
Dunne was already on his way out of the small hotel room. 'I'm on it!'
'We'll meet you at the office.' Wilmington yelled at Dunne's retreating back.
'Anything else?' Larabee asked as he sat down. His legs couldn't hold him up anymore. He was going to find his son.
'He had hope in his eyes, even with all the nightmares and madness he still believes that you're going to find him. And you are.'
'Then let's do it.' Larabee stood up and quickly wiped his eyes. He grabbed one of Standish's arms and pulled him to his feet.
When they arrived back at the office they found that Dunne was already searching through law enforcement information data-bases to find Ella Gains. Wilmington and Tanner joined him. Larabee sat and waited. Sanchez and Jackson fussed over Standish.
'Will you two gentlemen please leave me alone. I am perfectly fine now that I've had my pills . . . well not perfectly . . . I'm tired, I still have a bit of a headache but that is nothing that you can help me with so please leave me alone.'
Larabee stood up. Sitting wasn't working so he began to pace in front of Standish. 'They're not going to leave you alone until they think you're fine.'
'Aw hell!' Standish quickly stood up.
'What?' Sanchez gripped one of Standish's arms thinking that something was seriously wrong.
'Your car?' Jackson stared at him. 'With all this you're worried about your car?
Standish sat down again and shrugged. 'I wasn't, I didn't really care about it but if my mother finds out I've lost it she'll kill me.'
'We got your car last night remember, anyway what does your mother have to do with your car?' Larabee needed a distraction and this was as good as any he could think of.
'No I don't remember', he slapped his hand against the side of his head. 'She gave it to me.' Standish explained, 'it was either the car or spending a month with her in London and I sure as hell wasn't going to do that.'
'She bribed you.'
'Yes . . . she can hold the car over me but only when she can find me which seems to be three or four times a year.'
'You don't get on with your mother?'
Standish looked up at Larabee and his mouth fell open.
'What?' Larabee asked him.
'That's the second time I've openly talked about myself in the last twenty-four hours. I've really must stop doing that, it's not my thing.'
'Ezra,' Sanchez started.
'Got it!' Wilmington yelled out.
'Already,' Dunne asked, 'it's only been forty minutes.'
'FBI . . . she's got a record and I've got a last known address.' He showed them the print out with Gains's arrest record and photo.
'Just like that,' Standish was shaking his head, 'if I'd come to you guys sooner then less people might have died.'
'If you came to me sooner I would have my son with me now.'
'Chris,' Sanchez shook his head at him.
Larabee took a deep breath. 'I'm sorry, I shouldn't have said that.' He took a second deep breath to try and calm himself but it didn't really work, how could it. 'Okay let's go.'
'Just a minute.' Sanchez stood in front of Larabee. 'Chris, we need to do this calmly and right out of the book. She might not have him with her and if she gets away we won't be able to find her again. We'll send in someone else first then we go in once we know she's there and secure.'
'Like I said Josiah, let's go.'
Standish stood up and began to follow them.
'Where do you think you're going?' Wilmington asked him.
'No you don't, you could mess things up.'
'I don't mess things up Mr. Wilmington.' He then thought of Delta. 'But then again you're right.'
'No he's not,' said Larabee, 'Buck, he's part of the team now. He's coming with us, even if he stays in the car.'
'Mr. Wilmington,' Standish gripped Wilmington's shoulder. 'if you don't mind I would like my gun back.'
Wilmington looked at Larabee who nodded back at him. 'Fine but if you shoot yourself in the foot don't come crying to me.'
'Oh if I shoot anyone's foot it will be yours.'
Larabee drove the van while Wilmington sat in the passenger seat beside him. The others were in the back of the van preparing for the operation. They had to treat it like any other but both men were extremely anxious and ready to explode.
'How do you know he isn't in it?'
'I don't.' Larabee answered him
'I want to-'
'You want to what? Believe him. Believe that by just by looking at a photo he can tell you where a person is, or who killed them.'
'It would make it a lot easier for everyone.'
'Have you looked at his eyes?'
'What?' Wilmington looked sideways at his friend.
'Have you looked at his eyes?'
'Not really, why?'
'You should. A man's eyes can tell you a lot. What I see makes me want to believe him. I almost do but it just doesn't seem real that a man can do that.'
The light up ahead turned red but Larabee didn't stop. He went through it ignoring the cars that had to skid to a stop to prevent hitting him. Wilmington cursed beside him but he ignored him as well.
'We need to get there in one piece Chris.'
'I just want to get there yesterday.'
'I know . . . I know,' said Wilmington.
Standish couldn't believe what he was seeing. Tanner and Dunne were changing their clothes in the back of the van. It wasn't that that caused him to stare in shock. It was what they were changing into: black shoes, black pants, white short sleeved shirts and black ties. They were becoming Mormons. All they needed were bicycles.
'Do you think dressing up as a moron will actually work?' Standish asked them as he bounced off the side of the van.
'Mormon.' Tanner corrected with a smile on his face.
'I know what I said Mr. Tanner,' Standish smiled back at him, 'and I meant what I said.'
'Hey!' Dunne snapped then saw the smile on the man's face. 'Oh okay but if you want to make the jokes you make them at Chris . . . he can take a good joke . . . likes them actually.'
'Really?' Standish knew he was lying. The kid didn't have a poker face. 'I'll try to remember that next time I want to be bitch slapped.'
Sanchez broke into a laugh and said, 'You son are going to fit right in.'
'First of all, I'm not your son and I don't fit in anywhere.'
'You'll fit in here, you already do whether you acknowledge it or not.'
All five men fell to the floor in a heap when the van skidded to a halt. A jumble of arms and legs fought to get off each other.
'If this is what you mean by fitting in Mr. Sanchez I do not swing that way.'
'Pity Ezra,' Tanner managed to get to his feet first and reached down to help Standish up, 'cause you look kinda cute when your hair is all messed up like that.'
'Mr. Tanner, cute is not the word that describes me, quite handsome is what the ladies say.' Standish accepted the hand and was pulled to his feet. He found himself a little to close to the Texan and swallowed his fear.
'Don't worry Ezra, we don't swing that way either or though we've thought about it, I mean we're all kinda cute don't you think.'
'If you're asking me as a man I say no, if you're asking me as a woman I still say no,' Standish pulled at his jacket, 'besides you all seem to be a bunch of hooligans.'
'You hit the nail on the head there Ezra,' Sanchez was still smiling.
A fist slamming against the van's doors shut them all up. It was time to get the job done.
Tanner and Dunne opened the doors, jumped out of the van then shut the doors again. Tanner looked around and saw they were in a suburban area. The streets were clean, the houses large and the gardens full of plants and flowers. He himself had lived on the streets most of his teenage life so he wasn't use to this type of area. Even now he lived in one of the worst areas of town, it was his comfort zone. He wouldn't be able to sleep well in a quite neighbour hood.
'You guys ready?' It was Wilmington who had banged on the doors, Larabee had stayed in the driver's seat.
'Ready as we'll ever be.' Dunne nodded.
'Turn your mikes on and get going.'
The two men began to walk away.
'Vin, JD . . . don't lose her.'
'She'll be there and we won't lose her. Now get back in the van before you give us away.'
Wilmington grimaced then walked back to the passenger side of the van and got in.
'How can you be sure she'll be there?' Dunne asked Tanner as they made their way to 14 Huskins Drive; the last know address of Ella Gains.
'Because she has to be there. Standish wouldn't just show up and give us all of this information for us to lose her and Adam. She has to be there. Besides Chris will lose it again if she isn't.'
It only took them a few minutes to reach the house. A red Mercedes was parked in the driveway; somebody was home.
'Car in the drive.' Tanner was speaking to the men waiting in the van. 'Red Mercedes, license plate DYC 285.'
'Got it,' replied Jackson. 'Running a check now.'
They walked up the pathway that was lined with blue daisies and stepped up to the front door. Dunne opened the screen door while Tanner knocked on the window. Both men then stepped back. Their right hands hung down by their sides while their left hands held a bible.
Tanner could feel the sweat beginning to form on his forehead. Questions were running through his mind. Did she still live here? Was Adam somewhere in this house? If he were would they be able to get to him before someone hurt him? If he weren't here would they be able to get Gains to tell them where he was? Too many questions and only a short amount of time before they started getting answers.
He saw movement in the window next to the door and plastered a smile on his face. He was told on more than one occasion that he had the smile of an Angel with the eyes to match and he hoped that he looked like one now.
There was a click as the door was unlocked.
'Here we go.'
The door opened to reveal a woman in her late thirties with long dark hair framing her face. It was her. The same eyes, the same mouth. The only thing about her that had changed were the age lines around her eyes and her mouth. Tanner didn't hesitate and he was glad to see that Dunne didn't either. They pulled their guns from the bibles they were hidden in and aimed them directly at her. The books dropped to the ground where they were forgotten.
'Ella Gains! Are you Ella Gains?' Vin yelled at her.
The woman before them stood still, shock showed on her face, her eyes moving swiftly to try and look at both men at the same time.
'Yes . . . what is this about?'
'Got her.' But he didn't need to tell them. As soon as she answered him all five men had left the van and were now running towards the house. Four of them with their guns drawn. 'It's about Sarah and Adam Larabee.'
'I don't know who they are and I want to know who you are.' When she didn't receive an answer she stepped back into the house and tried to slam the door shut but Vin was too quick for her. They followed her in.
'JD, start checking the house.'
'Sit.' Tanner ordered Gains. When she sat down he cuffed her to the chair then joined Dunne to check the rest of the rooms.
Larabee ran into the house with the others following him. He stopped when he saw the woman who had taken his son. To his surprise he stayed calm and rational. Professionally he knew that becoming angry, even violent would not help him find his son. He turned away from her and nodded to his men to help with the search. He then eyed Standish and nodded at him. Standish returned the nod and sat down in one of the other chairs to wait.
Ignoring Ella Gains, Larabee began to walk around the room. He looked at everything. Furniture, photos, books, even the walls. Anything that might give him an idea of where Adam could be. He knew she was watching him but he wanted her to wait so he could make the first move, he needed to make the first move because he had spent two years searching for his wife's killer and his son's kidnapper. He had to be the one in control, not her.
'Clear,' said Vin.
Larabee turned to look at him. 'You checked everywhere, everything.'
'Checked everywhere, all the rooms. We're still checking everything.'
Larabee stood where he was but turned his head to stare at Gains. She hadn't changed much, only in years. She was still beautiful but he knew that underneath that sincere beauty she could change instantly to an ugliness that would rip out a person's heart without hesitation or remorse. His wife's death proved that to him.
'Where is my son?'
'Do I know you?' The small smile that played at her lips betrayed her inner thoughts. She had recognised him the moment he walked into the room. She had known his men when she had seen them at her front door.
He had wanted to kill her with his bare hands, wanted to rip the flesh from her bones. This person that was now in the same room with him had taken his son; Standish had told him so. His eyes briefly shifted to Standish when for a split second he wanted to think that this person was innocent: a split second was a very short time in this world and his eyes quickly focused back on Gains.
'Where is my son?' All the anger and hatred that he was feeling was now gone. All he wanted was his son.
'Hey, didn't we use to date?'
She was playing with him and he knew it. His heart broke again as it always did when he realised that he wasn't going to get his son back. He didn't notice when Standish left the room.
'We dated once, now where is my son?'
'Why don't we cut the bullshit Larabee. I don't know where your son is.' She smiled up at him. 'How's the wife?'
Larabee spun to face her. Her brown eyes were full of guilt. He wanted to hit her. Wanted to hit her more than he had ever wanted to hit anyone or anything in his life but to do that would be to lose control and losing control would allow her to win.
'She says hi.' It was the only thing that he could think of to say.
'So what now,' she said, 'are you going to arrest me because if you're not you can leave my house.'
'I'm not going anywhere.'
'You need a warrant to be in here.' She stood up tall, almost eye level with the man before her. 'If you don't have one you can leave.'
'You killed my wife and took my son!' The anger was back in his voice. 'You have him hidden in a room somewhere. He's slowly going insane and I want him back before he's mind is completely gone.' He saw a flicker of fear appear in her eyes. It glowed brightly for a few seconds then faded. 'WHERE IS HE!'
A scream caused them both to turn towards a room that was to the left of them. Larabee recognised it as Standish's voice. His instincts kicked in and he handcuffed Gains to the chair. It was heavy so he knew she wouldn't be going very far.
Larabee entered the room to find Standish lying on the floor unconscious while Jackson, Sanchez and Tanner stood over him. Wilmington and Dunne were pacing the room.
'What the hell is going on?'
'He linked with Gains,' said Wilmington.
'He linked with Gains.'
'Shit! Why didn't I think of that.' He moved to the small group huddled around Standish. 'What did he say?'
'He didn't say anything Chris,' said Sanchez, 'he lost consciousness before he was finished.'
'I don't know what this is doing to him Chris.' Nathan knelt down next to Standish. He wanted to check his vitals but he wasn't sure if Standish was still linked with Gains. He didn't know what his touch would do to him. 'This is the fourth time he's linked with someone in two days and each time has been worse than the last. He hasn't had any pills to help with the pain. I mean look at him, he's out cold and I don't know for how long or if I can even touch him.'
'Nathan . . . take care of him. He can do this again if needs be when he's up to it.'
Jackson didn't hesitate and he was grateful when Sanchez helped him to turn Standish onto his back. A trickle of blood had fallen from one nostril and pooled on his upper lip. Jackson pressed experienced fingers against the side of Standish's neck and waited for a pulse. It was strong and normal. He lifted an eyelid to reveal a normal pupil response. Before anyone could stop him he slapped Standish across the face; not enough to hurt but hopefully enough to wake him up.
'Ezra.' He hit him again, this time a bit harder. 'Ezra.'
Jackson smiled when Standish's eyelids flickered then opened. 'You okay?'
'No.' Standish lifted his hand to his forehead.
'Need your medication?'
'No . . . we haven't got time.'
'You can't do this again Ezra, not straight away.'
'It's not that,' he looked up at Larabee and smiled, 'we have to go get Adam.'
'You tell us and we'll get him,' said Tanner.
'No. I have to be there.' Standish raised his hand in the air. It was Larabee who took it and pulled him up onto shaky legs. 'I saw myself . . . don't ask me what I'm talking about because it hasn't happened before. This was the first time I have seen myself when I linked with someone. So for some reason that I don't understand I have to be there with you guys.'
'Then let's go.' Larabee took one of Standish's elbows.
'Not yet . . . I have to throw up first.'
'Um sure,' said Larabee, 'anywhere you want.'
They were about to walk straight past Gains when Larabee stopped and looked down at her. 'Nathan, you and JD take her in while we go and get my son.'
'Boss.' Was JD's answer.
Gains grimaced when she pulled at the cuffs holding her to the chair her mother had left her fifteen years earlier. 'You don't know where your son is.'
'Ezra . . . you can have the honours.'
'"452 Wentworth street. It's an old warehouse that the homeless sometimes use for shelter but not often enough to realise that there's a young boy being kept there against his will.' Standish saw the surprise on Ella Gains's face and enjoyed the short-lived moment. 'They weren't there often enough to hear his screams but he's not going to be alone for much longer. He's going to be with his father within the half-hour.'
'You son-of-a-bitch! How could you know that! How could you . . . '
The reaction told everyone that Standish had nothing to with Sarah's death or Adam's kidnapping.
Standish tapped the side of his head and said, 'I know a lot of things about you and it sickens me but at least you won't be around to do it anymore. You'll be dead in a couple of days.'
'What?' Tanner asked.
'She's going to die in jail and there is nothing no one can do about it.' Standish wanted to spit in her face. A face that drew people towards her only for them to die a long and painful death but he had more dignity than that. 'Can we go now.'
'Are you sure about what you just said?' Tanner asked again.
Standish noticed that Larabee stayed quiet. The man could easily kill this woman with his own hands for what she had done to him and his family but he too kept his emotions in control. That side of him was never let out. It didn't matter what happened, Larabee would never harm a woman or child (or man if he was close to being innocent), yet a small part of him wanted Larabee to protect her; to sop her from killing herself but there was nothing that could change what he saw. If she was stopped she would only do it another time, another place and another day. It would happen.
'Yes. Can we go now.'
Larabee moved closer to Gains. 'Nathan, let them know her life is in danger . . . '
'She's going to take her own life once she realises that she's lost you Mr. Larabee so there is nothing that they can do. It'll happen sooner or later.'
Larabee nodded. 'Tell them she's suicidal.'
'Can we go now!' Standish was getting impatient.
Standish had drawn a rough map of the interior of the warehouse. The main floor housed four rooms, the fourth room that was on the South side of the building had a door that led to a basement. The basement was where Adam was being held. In that room was a door that led to the sewers. They had to get to Adam's room before one of his captives did. There were three men. All three were armed and very dangerous. So dangerous that Standish had insisted that he wore a bulletproof vest. It was Sanchez's mind that clicked before the others.
'Ezra, did you see yourself getting shot?'
Standish had looked away when he was asked that question. 'Yeah but don't worry, I'm sure I'll be fine.'
Now they were about to enter the building. Larabee had warned them that this had to be like any other job they did. If they let their emotions take over someone was going to get killed.
'Now or never guys. We ready.' Larabee didn't need to ask. They were always ready. He nodded to Tanner who was reaching for the door. 'I know this is for Adam but I don't want anyone risking their lives for my son and if you do there'll be hell to pay.'
Tanner didn't even bother replying. He knew this small group of men were willing to give anything for each other. Even Standish who had only known them a couple of days was wearing a vest and carrying a nine-millimeter gun. Standish knew something they didn't. He hadn't insisted that anyone else wear a vest.
Tanner and Larabee looked at each other then at Standish. They made a silent agreement between each other. They would protect Standish no matter what. The man was special, he had a talent for finding people. He was able to save lives when no one else could.
It was time. Tanner opened the door and entered the building. Larabee and Standish would go straight for the room that led to the basement. Tanner, Sanchez and Wilmington would take care of the other three rooms. Larabee ran for all he was worth knowing that his men were covering his back.
Standish heard a gunshot and flinched even though he knew it wasn't the bullet that was going to hit him. He knew he was going to be shot, saw it when he linked to Ella Gains but what he didn't know was how he knew. Not even Ella Gains would have known that one of her men would shoot him. This was something completely new to him.
Standish noticed that Larabee hesitated for a moment but then moved on more cautiously. There wasn't time for this. He pushed Larabee to the side and took the lead. When they reached the room he didn't stop. He raised his foot and kicked the door open. The lock was weak causing the door to open easily.
'Stay behind me.' Standish whispered the warning.
He knew Larabee would normally argue but this situation was different. Yes Larabee had told his men to treat this as any other job but Standish knew that Larabee couldn't. Who could act calmly when their own son was in danger.
The room was empty.
'Where the hell is he!' yelled Larabee.
Standish didn't answer. Instead he moved to the door that led down to the sewers. They had chosen this place because of this escape route. If they didn't catch up to them quickly then Adam would be lost again. He knew that no one stood on the other side. He opened the door and stepped onto a layer of stairs that would lead them further into the dark. With his right arm stretched out in front of him Standish pulled a flashlight from the inside of his coat, bent it at an angle then laid his gun arm over it to give him more support. A deep breath did nothing for the small tremors that shook his body.
What if it's a head shot.
He couldn't listen. His life wasn't important here.
With his back pressed against the wall he began his climb down the stairs with Larabee following him. His flashlight led the way and he followed it. Water dripped from the wall and fell onto his hair causing it to cling to his scalp. The steps beneath his feet were becoming slippery so he needed to be careful. It seemed liked minutes but it was only a matter of seconds before they reached the bottom.
Two flashlights danced across the large area before landing on the face of a child.
'Adam.' Larabee's voice could be barely heard but the sound of his flashlight hitting the ground could. At least he didn't drop his gun. 'Adam.'
'Mr. Larabee, we have a more pressing matter at hand.' Standish's flashlight revealed the face of the man that stood behind Adam. He was massive: over six foot and built like a brick wall. He also had a gun pressed to Adam's right temple. 'Chris . . . this is where you need to stay with me.'
'Put the gun down,' said Larabee, 'now.'
'You're his father aren't you?' The man questioned.
Standish knew the voice would be Larabee's undoing. 'I NEED SOME HELP DOWN HERE!' He changed his position so he was standing in front of Larabee. 'Get it together Chris.'
'How would you like it if I killed your kid right here, right now,' said the kidnapper.
'Thank Christ for stupid criminals,' muttered Standish. If anything was going to get Larabee back into the game, a comment like that would do it.
Standish could feel Larabee tense up, knew he was going to step around him and take control of the situation once more.
'That depends on how much longer you want to live. Oh and how you want to die because believe me, it will be painful.'
'I could kill you first.'
'That won't happen.' Standish pushed Larabee aside just as the man aimed and fired his gun at Larabee.
Please don't let it be a head shot. How could I see that I was going to be shot and not know where.
It wasn't a head shot. He felt the bullet slam into his chest at the same time as a gun going off next to him. The bulletproof vest saved his life but what was going to save the hearing in his right ear. He didn't fall backwards like he expected to. He fell first to his knees then to his left where there was no one to stop him from hitting the ground. His head hit the floor hard enough to draw blood. He blinked his eyes against the pain and saw Larabee approaching his son. He felt like he was intruding so he closed his eyes.
The next thing he knew someone was lifting him up into a sitting position. He opened his eyes to see Sanchez in front of him.
'Are they okay?'
'They will be Ezra, they will be.' Sanchez answered him.
'Welcome to the team Ezra.' Tanner slapped him on the back
Standish lifted his arm and moved Sanchez to the side so he could see Larabee and his son. The two clung to each other as though their lives depended on it.
It was enough for Standish. He looked away and once again gave them their privacy. This case will have a happy ending. He could only hope that there would be a lot more now that he wasn't alone in his work.