But there is
Another kind of evil that
we must fear the most, and that is the
Indifference of good men
I owe a huge Thank you to Susan for a wonderful betaing job!!! You really helped this story evolve.
CHAPTER ONE: Outsmarted
"God Damnit," Chris Larabee swore as he punched his hand into the side of his truck. He withdrew it, wincing at the stab of pain spread through his hand.
"Easy there, Pard. The truck didn't do anything to hurt ya. It's not its fault that Cortez had got this whole damn city in the palm of his hand." Buck Wilmington said, patting him on the shoulder. Chris turned to look at his friend, and realized his whole team was standing behind him..
"Almost three years of hard work and that fucking murderer goes free!" He cursed. He reached up his hand to punch something again, but another hand grabbed onto his wrist. He turned to look at the courthouse. The mob had yet to emerge.
"Chris, it's not worth it," Vin Tanner replied, letting go of his friend's arm. Chris let it fall to his side in resignation.
"Try telling that to all the families that he destroyed," Chris answered.
"They will always know that he was guilty, Chris. There is no denying that fact, despite what the defense lawyer said. You made sure they did. We all knew from the beginning that he would probably get off, a man like him doesn't answer to the same criminal justice system that we do," Josiah Sanchez told him. Chris looked at the three men standing behind him and forced a small smile.
"Yeah, I guess you're right," he answered.
"Chris," a female voice called. The agent turned to see a pretty blond woman walking towards him.
"Mary," he nodded his head, as she stopped near him. "Mary, I'm sorry. I got Stephen involved in this. If I hadn't suggested that he publish that article about in the paper..."
The woman grabbed a hold of Chris's hand and put a finger on his lips.
"We've been over this before Chris. Stephen's murder was not your fault. My husband was a reporter through and through. If you hadn't given him the evidence to write the story, he would have found another way to get it. He's managed to piss off a lot of people in this city. If Cortez hadn't ordered the hit, somebody else would have. I..." She choked on her last words as the tears starting falling freely from her eyes.
Chris let go of her hand and pulled the woman close.
"I won't try and tell you that its okay," he whispered in her ear, "because it's not. This country is fucked up when bastards like Cortez can get away with what he did, but you have to be strong for Billy. He's too young to know what the real world is like." He grabbed onto her chin. "And know that I will find a way to get to Cortez. I don't care what I have to do, but I will make him suffer."
"Mrs. Travis, we are about ready to start filming," a man near a white news station van called. Mary smiled and pulled away.
"Thank you Chris," She answered quietly. "All of you," She said to the other three men.
"Take care Mary," Buck said. "If you need anything, remember that we're all only a phone call away."
She nodded her head and walked towards the television van. A look of pure determination crossed her face. The four men watched in amazement as the grieving widow transformed in a split second to one of the best TV reporters in the state.
"That's one hell of a woman," Vin said, as he watched her speak into the video camera.
"She sure is," Chris answered with a sigh. His attention was diverted when the courtroom doors flung open and a mass of people swarmed out. Cameras began flashing and reporters surged into the crowd to get interviews.
In the middle of the pack, walked an impeccably dressed and attractive olive skinned man. He smiled, revealing a shinny pair of white teeth. Chris wanted more than anything to shoot Marcus Cortez right there. The Assistant DA had been accused of raping and murdering five teenage girls, all daughters of the poorer custodian workers at City Hall. Chris had spent three years tracking down evidence and reports proving that the lawyer guilty. He had even asked Stephen Travis from the Times to write an article revealing to everyone what had happened. Of course in this day and age, neither the story nor the evidence had mattered. The only thing that did was money and power. Cortez was rich in both. He was the city's golden boy. His story was that of the typical rags to riches story that the public ate right up.. The men wanted to be just like him and the woman swooned when he cast that charismatic smile their way. Nobody gave a damn about what he did to poor little minority girls. In the end, Cortez had gotten off scot-free and a loving husband and father devoted to the truth was dead.
Chris felt a hand grab onto his arm, and pull his hand away from his gun. He hadn't even realized what he was doing. He stared into the cold eyes of Josiah.
"Not a wise idea," his friend said.
"God, I don't deserve friends like these," he thought. When his wife and son had been killed almost eight years ago, he had thought his life was over. He had been the star detective on the force. Rumors flew around the various departments that there wasn't a case he couldn't solve. While he had been on the path to stardom, his list of enemies was increasing, something he chose to ignore. His stupidity had destroyed his family and his life. The car bomb that had killed his wife and little boy was completely unexpected. Since then, he had been on a path of destruction that had gotten him fired from his job at the Denver PD. Buck Wilmington had stuck it out with him through it all. Chris cringed inwardly when he thought about all the punches Buck had taken in an effort to control his drunken friend. Worse, all the hurtful things he had said to his old Navy buddy. No matter what Chris did to shake him, Wilmington would not let go. Buck said that friendship meant more than sticking by a man through just the good times.
Chris couldn't have imagined what would have happened if he hadn't. Eventually Buck's sideline supervision paid off. Chris had gotten his life together enough to gain to attention of FBI Assistant Director Orrin Travis, an old friend of the Larabee family. He had gotten Chris a job stationed in Denver and had made him a special agent. Chris couldn't even escape Buck then. Travis had made sure that his guardian angel would always be close, meaning the next desk over. Of course, his life hadn't been perfect after that. There were many times when he returned to the bottle. There was stretch of time when he had botched almost every case he had worked on.
Travis said that he would give Chris one last shot to prove that he could handle the job. With the help of Buck, Chris was able to get his life on track once again. This time though, the responsibility did not fall completely on Buck's shoulder. He had literally run into Josiah Sanchez when the criminologist turned FBI agent was visiting the office from Washington DC. The coffee stain on his favorite shirt and bruised ribs has been worth it. Josiah was not only an invaluable member of his FBI Team, but a friend that he couldn't imagine what he would do without.
The three men became some of the most successful agents in the country. Some might have questioned the legality and morality of their methods, but nobody could deny their effectiveness. Chris had been content to finish his career with his two new friends, but Lady Fate had other ideas.
Almost two years ago, Chris was being chased through Purgatorio, a slum of the city, by some drug lord. He had run into an open apartment to discover it was inhabited by a long haired Texan. Even today he couldn't explain why he immediately felt connected to Vin Tanner. .
As the former army ranger stood watch at the window, Chris Larabee found himself pouring out his life story. Surprisingly, the young man had done the same. Chris knew that there were some deep dark secrets that Tanner still held locked away.. He had learned that Vin was just out of the army, and looking for a job. He wanted a job as a cop, but no one was willing to hire an unruly dyslexic soldier. As soon as the drug lord disappeared, Chris was on the phone with Travis, pushing his boss to give Tanner a trial run as an agent.
Neither Travis nor Larabee had a reason to regret their decision. Tanner's contract was drawn even before the six month trial period. Travis knew a good agent when he saw one, good education or not. Tanner had a natural instinct that no agent could learn from a book. Unfortunately, not everyone saw it that way. Many more qualified agents had tried to get into Larabee's office and had promptly been rejected. Larabee and Travis had taken a lot of crap for playing favorites, and Vin had taken the brunt of it. Chris swore if he saw one more hotshot agent trying to rough Tanner, he would shoot him no questions asked. Not that his friend couldn't hold his own. Vin had some techniques that went beyond roughing up his assailants. Of course, none of them left a traceable mark. .
"Come on, let's get out of here," Chris sighed. "We don't need to see this."
"Sounds like a plan," Buck said, patting Chris on the shoulder. "I could sure use a drink."
Chris was about to open the car door, when a gunshot made the street shake. His neck snapped around so fast, he almost got whiplash. In a flash, the agents had their guns drawn and turned to the crowd. There was a loud scream, and Cortez crumpled to the ground.
"Everybody, get down," Chris roared. A few people listened, but most just stood there screaming. Many were too terrified to move.
"Get these people under control and call a damn ambulance!" Buck hollered over the distressed mob. The security guards were trying their best to heed Buck's orders. The agents were scanning the area to see where the shooter was located.
"He's got to be up on that building," Vin said pointing to the Wells Fargo bank building.
"You're sure?" Chris asked.
"Only way the shot would ended in the chest the way it did," Vin answered. Chris didn't need to ask twice.
"Let's go," he motioned for his team to follow him. "Keep your eyes and ears open, we don't know if he's planning on shooting again," he stated. The agents ran into the building.
"There's a sniper on top of the building," Josiah stated. "Everybody stay down and don't move until we tell you!" Josiah said. The people in the bank were much more obedient than the crowd outside.
"Vin, you and Josiah take the back steps," Chris ordered. The men nodded their heads. Buck followed Chris into the front stairwell. Both men were so full of adrenaline and set on their purpose, neither noticed the girl coming down the steps. Chris ran right into her and knocked her over.
"Sorry, miss," He stated hurriedly. He was about to rush by when he realized that recognized the girl. She was short, not much over than five feet with an athletic build. Her auburn hair was pulled off her face.
"Miss Davis?" He questioned the young archives secretary.
"Agent Larabee, what is going on?" she asked.
"Somebody just shot Cortez," Buck answered. She gasped.
"Then don't let me keep you," she said moving aside. "I was just on the second floor checking about a loan on my house." She moved aside so the men could pass.
"If I was about fifteen years younger," Buck said shaking his head.
"You don't have a chance," Chris told him. "From what I hear no man does." They reached the door, Chris tried to open it up, but it was locked.
"Easy, cowboy, he might still be up there. We got the element of surprise so let's just..." Buck never got to finish his sentence. Chris raised his hand and shot off the lock.
"Yeah, element of surprise," Buck said, rolling his eyes.
"It's all right, guys, there's nobody out here," Josiah said. Chris sighed heavily. He hadn't really expected the shooter to hang around, but it would have made his job a lot easier. Hell, he probably would have shaken the man's hand.
"See anyone on the stairs?" Vin asked. Buck shook his head.
"No, just that Davis girl from archives. Poor thing picked a hell of day to look into a house loan."
"Hey guys, you might want to take a look at this," Josiah said. The big man was kneeling over something on the ground. The walked over and realized that Josiah was staring at a gun.
"That's an impressive gun," Vin whistled. "I haven't seen on those since I was the army."
"Well, we've got the murder weapon," Buck stated. "Anyone got a pair of gloves?"
"Nope,"Vin answered. "We'll have to wait till the crime techies can get here." Chris walked to the edge of the steps and looked around at courthouse steps. The ambulance arrived. Vin went and stood by his shoulder.
"Think he could have survived?" Chris asked.
"With a shot that accurate and a weapon like that? Not a chance," Vin answered. "Why you so upset Larabee, thought you wanted the bastard dead."
"I still say good riddance to the son of a bitch, but we can't let people take the laws into their own hands like this Vin. The streets would turn into chaos."
"Seems like they are doing a better job than us," Vin mused.
"You say that next time you have to deal with the Red Glove," Chris answered.
"Think they're responsible?"
"Hell, Vin, I don't want to think about anything right now. We better go down and make sure that everything's under control down there."
By the time they got back down to the courthouse, Cortez's body was being placed in the ambulance. A black man overseeing the loading waved at the agents. He walked over as the ambulance was driving away.
"Hey, Nathan," Chris greeted. Nathan Jackson was a doctor at Denver General, a damn good one. Chris couldn't count the times that that he had patched up him and his team. "Agent Larabee," Nathan sighed heavily. "Awful business isn't it?"
"I call it divine intervention," Buck stated smiling at the religious Josiah. "God knew that bastard didn't deserve to live."
"They sending doctors with the EMT crews now?" Josiah asked.
"City's gotten real short on EMTs recently. They are sending the hospital staff to make up for it. I'm not technically a doctor yet, so I get bossed around quite a bit, although it would have its perks when it came to answering your calls. I could sedate you at the site and save myself and the nurses a lot of trouble." This comment made the agents look at their feet guiltily. None of them could deny that they were on the top ten list of the most hated patients at the hospital.
"I got to be getting back to the hospital," Nathan said. "You guys take care of yourselves." He paused than smiled. "Good luck catching the sniper."
"Take care, Nathan," Chris called as the man walked towards the awaiting ambulance.
"Did he just sound like his was mocking us?" Buck asked. "I mean about the whole catching the sniper thing?"
What do you mean?" Chris asked.
"I don't know; it almost seemed like he knew something we didn't."
"Think you're imagining things, Pard," Vin answered. "If he's out there, we'll find him."
Vin couldn't have been more wrong,. Almost two weeks later, Chris Larabee's men didn't know anymore than they had the day of the murder.
"We got to find something!" Chris growled. "Travis is starting to breath down my neck for answers. City Hall is in an uproar. People are demanding to know what happened."
"You really want to find the killer?" Vin asked. He had been looking at the gun from the crime scene. It had been re-released to them after no fingerprints were found on it."
"Hell, no," Chris answered, but it's not worth losing my job over."
"Papers are all saying it's the work of the Red Glove," Josiah said.
"I wouldn't put it past them," Buck said. "They always did have a flair for the theatrics. This definitely stole the show this time."
"Well, let's hope it was also their curtain call," Chris stated. His watch beeped the hour. "Let's call it a night, guys. We aren't going to get any more work done tonight."
"Chris, you are a saint!" Buck exclaimed.
"Big plans tonight, Buck?" Vin asked.
"I'm taking Kari out for supper. I'm telling you that she's something special. I really think she might be the one."
"You said the same thing last week about Becky last week," Josiah stated.
"And Kara the week before" Vin added.
"Weren't you shopping for a ring for Missy a month ago?" Chris finished.
Buck stood up and grabbed his coat. "I don't have to take this shit from any of you. All of you will be laughing when I'm walking down the aisle with the most beautiful girl in Denver."
I thought Molly was the most beautiful girl in Denver," Vin laughed as the office door slammed shut.
Twenty minutes later, Chris was driving back the office.
"Idiot! I can't believe I forget my damn house key," he swore as he opened the office door. He opened the door, feeling for the light switch. He flipped it on, and dropped his car keys. He knew that his mouth had dropped open.
There was a familiar person holding the gun.
"Umm, Ms. Davis, what are you doing here?" Chris stuttered.
"I was looking for the case file on the Chavez case," She answered. "It was due two days ago. I thought I would just come and see if it was on any of your desks," She answered.
"Damn, Buck probably left it on the printer. I'll get in for you," he told her. He was about to walk over to the printer, when a thought occurred to him. He looked at the girl holding the gun. The scene on the stairs rushed back to his memory.
It was you!" He stated, not believing what he was saying. The girl's face clouded over and she made a dash for the exit. She was quick, but Chris had the advantage of being closer to the door. He grabbed the girl around the waist, as she tried to escape.
"Let go of me!" she yelled.
"Not until you answer some questions," Chris answered. He was quickly losing his grip. In a split second, he reached out his hand and got the pressure point on her neck. She crumpled into his arms.
+ + + + + + +
"You are telling me that cute little girl in there is a cold blooded killer?" Buck asked, shaking his head. "I don't believe it." He looked through the window where Josiah and Chris were questioning the girl.
"Awful shame to get hauled away from your date."
"Hell, Vin, guess she wasn't the one for me," Buck sighed.
"What, the waitress catch your eye?" Vin laughed as Buck punched him in the shoulder. "Chris seems to think that it was her. Think about it, Buck, you did see her walking down the steps."
"That pretty head isn't capable of such bad thoughts."
"Well, she's certainly giving Chris a run for his money. They've been in there for almost four hours now, and it doesn't look like he's getting much out of her." Both men chuckled as they watched their leader slam his hand onto the table.
"Now listen, Davis, I'm the only person that can protect you," Chris growled. "The second I get on that phone and hand you over to the city, you won't see anything but a jail cell for the rest of your life. City doesn't take to kindly when people decide to kill their heroes."
"Cortez earned his ride to Hell, but I still don't have to tell you a thing." She spat back. "You can't prove I was up on that roof."
"I will find a way, unless you start talking!" Chris yelled.
"Like I said, I don't have to tell you anything," she answered. "You have drool hanging out of your mouth, Agent Larabee."
Chris's eyes turned into narrow slits.
"Fine!" He shouted. "You'll be serving life in prison before you can blink an eyelash. "Come on, 'Siah!" He stalked out of the office, slamming the door behind him. Josiah gave the girl a weak smile.
"I'd reconsider telling the truth," he said, before following his boss.
"Bastards like Larabee don't deserve the truth, not after what he did to my family," she answered, but Josiah didn't hear her. Chris slammed the door so hard, he didn't realize that it had bounced back open a crack.
"That little bitch!" Chris growled. "What the hell does she think she's trying to do? Keeping her mouth shut isn't going to do her any good."
"Admit it Chris, you don't want to turn her in," Buck smiled.
"Like hell," Chris shot back.
'Oh come on, everyone in this room wants her to go free. Well, maybe everyone, but Josiah," Vin said, glaring at the older man.
"Vin, I've told you this before. I'm glad the son of a bitch is dead just as much as the next man, but we can't have people taking the law into their own hands.
"Vin, do you think you could..." Chris started to say.
"I'm not touching a hair on her head, boss. She don't deserve that kind of treatment."
"No, that's not what I meant..." Again, Chris was interrupted. There was a loud knock on the door.
"Go away!" Chris hollered at the door.
"Agent Larabee, this is Special Agent John Martin. I have an urgent matter to discuss with you."
"Come back later, I don't want to talk to now," Chris shouted at the closed door
"Get a hold of yourself Chris," Josiah said.
Chris sighed, and attempted to get himself under control.
"Come in, Agent Martin," he called. His voice was still laced with venom. So much so, that the door opened to reveal a quivering young man. He was dressed in a three piece suit with a slicked back mob of black hair.
"Umm, hello," the young man stuttered.
"Who did you say ya were?" Vin asked
"FBI Agent John Martin," the young man answered, gaining some of his composure back.
"Relax, kid, Chris Larabee just isn't usually the welcoming type," Buck informed him.
"I'm not a kid," Martin shot back. "I am a federal agent and deserve to be treated as such. Just cause I look young doesn't mean I'm not capable of doing my job. If you don't believe me, I can show you my badge." He started to reach into his pocket.
"Easy, Agent Martin," Josiah said. "We don't need to see your ID. What can we do you for?"
Chris was going to open his mouth to protest Josiah's trustfulness, but decided against it.
"Well, Director Travis just sent me over to take Natalie Davis into custody for the murder of Assistant DA Marcus Cortez."
"How do you know about her?" Chris turned on the young agent, hiis eyes shooting fire. The poor kid almost whimpered.
"Well, you see, Agent Larabee, we just discovered that Natalie Davis is an active member of the Red Glove. It was the terrorist organization that ordered the hit. Through various spies that we have placed inside the group, we have been told that she was the sniper on the rooftop that morning."
"Really?" Chris asked, in a dangerously sweet voice.
"Travis has ordered me to question her and if I find it necessary to bring her to the jailhouse to be placed under maximum security." He looked into three skeptical pairs of eyes. "He said that if you have any questions to give him a call."
"Think I'll do just that," Chris watched as the young agent began sweating. Something just didn't feel right. He reached down for the closest phone on Buck's desk. There was no dial tone. He tried his and the other member's phones, but none of them worked either.
"Damn phone line must be down," Chris said, "I'll have to go downstairs and call. Josiah, Vin, I need your help."
"Making a phone call?" Vin asked, not getting it.
"I'll explain when we get there, let's go" Josiah shrugged his shoulders at Vin's questioning look, and the two men followed their boss out the door.
"Buck, hold down the fort," Chris called, before slamming the door shut. He turned to agents.
"Anybody else feel that something is a little wrong here?" Chris asked.
"That kid seems awfully antsy, even more so than he should be around you," Tanner agreed.
"Vin, I want you to do a quick call and find out who this Agent John Martin is. I have a feeling that Travis didn't make the call. If he did, I will need help convincing him to keep Natalie Davis in our custody." He directed the comment towards Josiah, who nodded his head.
"So Agent Martin, how old are you?" Buck asked sitting down in his chair and putting his feet on his desk. He chuckled as the young man looked around nervously.
"Come on, kid, I'm not Chris Larabee. I won't bite your head off. You don't need to grab your gun like that..."
JD Dunne watched as the silver beam came down hard on Buck's skull. The man slid to the ground, unconscious. Larabee's prisoner was standing there looking disgusted.
"How long were you going to wait till get me out of here?" She asked. "The whole FBI agent was good. Did you think that one up by yourself?"
"Yeah," JD nodded. "But I almost blew it. God, I knew Larabee was bad, but he could give the devil a run for his money. How did you get out?"
"Dumb ass left the door open. I thought I'd give you a hand." She stated, dropping the bar on the ground. "Was the whole phone line thing yours too?"
"Yeah, but we've got to go now, Sidney. Who knows when they will be coming back." They rushed down the back steps and out of the side door. A green Jaguar almost ran into them on their way across the street. Both of them opened the door and got in.
"Mr. Dunne, once again your timing is impeccable," the driver said before stepping on the gas and driving away. Just as the sports car was turning on the highway, Larabee was storming into this office.
"You have some explaining to do, kid!" he growled. He soon realized that nobody was there to talk to him. He saw the door to the interrogation room open.
"Damn," Vin said, stopping directly behind him. "Looks like you were right, Chris."
"Aww, man," a voice groaned, from behind Buck's desk.
"Buck!" Chris was instantly by his friend's side. The agent was trying to get to his feet, but not being very successful. "What happened?" Chris demanded.
"Hold on a second, Pard," Buck said. "I feel like part of the sky just hit me in the head."
"Or a crowbar," Josiah said. He bent down and picked up the piece of metal laying on the ground
"Yeah, that, too," Buck said, pulling himself to his feet, and plopping down in his chair. "Let me guess, Travis had no idea what the hell was going on."
"Yup," Chris nodded his head. "Turns out that there is no Agent Martin stationed anywhere on the west side of the Mississippi. You okay?"
"Yeah, just give me a minute," Buck answered, rubbing his head. "You don't seem too upset about the little lady's escape."
"I'm concerned about you!" Chris stated, trying to act offended.
"You never let that stop you before," Buck chuckled. "Admit it, Chris, you're glad Miss Natalie Davis escaped."
Chris sighed knowing that he wasn't going to pull anything over his friend's eyes.
"It doesn't matter; I had to explain to Travis about everything. He already put a report out on Natalie and that friend of hers. They'll be back in custody before they can reach the city limits."
"That's never stopped the Red Glove before," Vin said. "Face it, Chris, she's long gone."
"Best clean up the office, this place is going to be full of officers in a little while," he stated. Of course he would never admit it out loud, but he hoped that he never had to see Natalie Davis again.
Twenty minutes later, Chris was filling in officers from various departments across the city. Orrin Travis was standing behind him, supervising the meeting. The phone on Chris's desk started to ring.
"Just let it go," he said to Vin, who had gotten out of his chair.
"But Chris..." Vin protested.
"If it's important, they'll leave a message." He growled.
'I think you should answer the phone, Mr. Larabee, it may be someone with information about Davis," Travis said. Chris went to his phone and picked it up. He could order Vin around when he had too, but not Orrin Travis. He was already in hot water.
"Hello, Agent Chris Larabee speaking," he answered, hoping this voice might scare the caller away.
"Don't talk, Agent Larabee," a familiar female voice answered. "I am willing to tell you everything if you are willing to do it on my terms. You should know by now that the Red Glove doesn't do anything they don't want to. Meet me in the alleyway between Ninth Street and Apprentice Ave. Come alone, or you won't see me. If I see one of those idiots come with you, I'll disappear and you'll never get your answers." Chris opened his mouth to say something, but the dial tone interrupted him. She had hung up on him. He fought the urge to throw the phone on the ground. He gently placed the phone back in its cradle and returned to the table of awaiting agents.
"Wrong number," he said, choosing to ignore the questioning gazes of his team. "All right, I want a patrol team at every major exit to the freeway..."
Travis watched Chris explain his plan.
"Awfully long time on the phone for a wrong number," the old man thought, wondering who had really been on the other line.
CHAPTER TWO: A New Perspective
Chris pulled out his gun and walked down the abandoned street. There was something overwhelmingly creepy about the way the moon's rays made the overturned garbage cans shine.
"Stop it, Larabee! You're too old for this."
He heard footsteps behind him, but before the agent had a chance to react, he felt the cold steel of a gun pointed in his neck.
"Drop your gun," a familiar female voice hissed in ear. Chris cursed silently for letting himself be led into this trap.
"And if I don't?" Chris asked.
"Then I don't think you will like the consequences. I have orders to take you with me, Agent Larabee, whether you like it or not. You can come easily, or you can make this difficult for the both of us, but then I wouldn't mind a little retribution. I don't appreciate being knocked out." Chris felt the gun pressed harder into his neck. He dropped his gun.
"Now, Ms. Marks, is that any way to treat our future guest?" Another voice asked. He was out of Chris's line of vision. The voice was heavily accented in a southern drawl. It sounded vaguely familiar to Chris, but his memory wasn't functioning properly right now.
"Sorry, Agent Larabee," the woman answered. Her voice was laced heavily in sarcasm.
"Marks. Hmm." Chris mused, trying to buy himself more time to think up a plan. "So you weren't using your real name? Smart." He thought for a moment.
"I'm not stupid. Do you recognize the name?" the girl asked.
"Should I?" Chris responded.
"Eight years ago you were assigned to investigate a murder of Boulder police officer, John Marks." Chris heard the girl's voice begin to shake. His opportunity was approaching quickly, if he played his cards right.
'You know what? I do remember that case. It was one of the first ones I was assigned to with the Bureau. We had to abandon the case because of lack of evidence."
"That's not the reason!" the girl cried, and Chris felt the pressure on the gun press harder on his neck, but the control of the weapon was not there. In a split second, he turned around, grabbed the girl and twisted her arms behind her. She cried out in alarm and pain. Chris grabbed the gun before it fell to the ground and placed it against the girl's forehead. She struggled, but Chris's grasp was strong. He turned to the owner of the voice. The man was still lurking in the shadows, so Chris could not see him.
"What do we do now, Agent Larabee?" The man answered calmly.
"Who are you and who the hell is she? I want some damn answers now!" Chris growled. Something flashed out of the corner of the agent's eyes, but before he had the chance to react, something hard hit his head. Metal connected with skull and the agent crumbled to the ground.
"You will get your answers, Agent Larabee. Mr. Dunne has just prolonged the opportunity a little longer. Once again, JD, your over exuberance has made things more difficult." The southern man sighed, but his eyes shone his amusement.
The young man with the metal rod dropped the weapon on the ground.
"Sorry, Ezra, I didn't mean to hit him so hard."
A black man, tall and lean, walked out from behind an overturned garbage can. He immediately knelt down beside the unconscious agent and felt for a pulse and gently rubbed his head
"He should be fine; he'll have a hell of a goose egg on his head and a monster headache tomorrow. He should be monitored for signs of a major concussion. Damnit, JD, the plan was to get him to come along under his own power."
"I'm sorry Nathan, I just saw the gun pointed at Sidney and over reacted a little bit."
"A little bit?" Nathan snorted. "Come on, help me get him to the car." The two men lifted up Larabee and began carrying him to a parked black Cadillac hidden behind the alley.
The girl watched them go and sighed angrily. She rubbed the spot on her arm where Chris had grabbed her.
"Are you all right?" Ezra asked. Even in this disgusting place, the millionaire was impeccably dressed in a designer kakis and a black sweater.
"That was stupid," she answered. "I did what you told me exactly not to do. I let my emotions get in the way of the job and I almost ruined it for all of us." She was shaking with fury. Ezra placed a hand on her shoulder.
"You will learn to control them my dear," Ezra answered. Sidney gave him a weak smile, then walked towards the car. Ezra picked up Larabee's gun that was now lying on the ground. He fingered the shiny barrel and intricate engraving.
"A lovely piece of craftsmanship," he said to himself. "I would be extremely disgruntled to loose such a fine piece." He followed the girl to the awaiting vehicle. The two men had put the FBI agent into the backseat next to an extremely irritated Sidney. She pushed the man so he was closer to JD. Ezra got into the passenger seat as Nathan drove away.
"I still think we should have put him in the trunk," Sidney said after a few minutes.
"Sidney, what did I tell you about keeping an open mind?" Ezra asked. "Let him explain his side of the story."
Sidney sighed and looked out the window.
"I just heard some interesting information about Guy Royal," JD after a few minutes.
"The senator?" Nathan asked. JD nodded his head.
"Apparently he's looking to give some valuable security secrets to the Red Glove in exchange for their vote, and scare tactics against his opponents. The law enforcement agencies have been informed."
"The Red Glove has a better chance of supporting Hitler," Sidney snorted.
"And an investigation into this startling piece of information?" Ezra asked.
"Non existent, all agencies have ruled the evidence circumstantial and there is no basis for the accusations," JD answered.
"Obviously, there is some basis if the accusations were made!" Sidney cried.
"Apparently not, when your business donates thousands of dollars to research projects every year," Nathan answered.
"What are we going to do about this, Batman?" Sidney asked with a smile. Ezra sighed heavily. He despised the nickname she and JD had given him, but even he had to admit the similarities between himself and the comic book masked crusader.
"We will wait and see. Personally I am exhausted after Cortez. I think we could all use a little rest. The Red Glove needs to stay quiet for a while. The city is demanding blood, and it would be quite easy to make a mistake."
Nathan pulled the car down the huge driveway leading to one of the most expensive and beautiful houses in Denver. He drove the car into a large garage and parked it next to a green jaguar.
"Liam said he wants to get your approval, but he's planning on arranging a meeting soon."
"We will talk about this tomorrow," Ezra said, getting irritated. He had too much on his mind right now, and didn't need the pestering of his younger workers.
"Liam and I could arrange the meeting and not commit to anything. Snooping around a little bit never hurt anyone," Sidney persisted. Ezra lost his temper, a rare occurrence.
"A little snooping almost ended with you in prison! The only reason you are not there now is because of Larabee. You should be on your feet thanking him, because we never would have been able to get you out if he hadn't kept you in his office. Think about that for that for a while." He yelled at her.
Sidney's face turned bright red. "I'll do that when he wakes up," she answered. "And I'll thank him for abandoning my father while I'm at it," she yelled back. She got out of the car and slammed the door shut. The action caused the still unconscious Larabee to fall over and smack his face on the side window. Ezra watched as she ran into the mansion and sighed.
"JD would you be so kind as to bring our guest to the one of visiting quarters," Ezra asked.
"Ah, sure Ezra," JD answered. He opened the door and dragged Chris out of the car. He tried to sling the man over his shoulders, but he ended up in a very awkward position. He stumbled toward the house with Larabee over his shoulders.
"Need help, JD?" Nathan asked
"Nope, I got him," JD called and disappeared into the house.
Nathan shook his head. "Stupid kid doesn't know when to ask for help."
"Maybe I'm the one that's being stupid," Ezra said quietly. "Do you think that I'm doing the right thing, Nathan? Letting Agent Larabee in on all this?"
"Am I speaking to a friend or a boss?" Nathan asked.
"Nathan, you know that I've always considered this umm...business a partnership. You have as much say in the planning as I do. I just happen to supply the funds,"
Nathan thought a moment, than answered. "Speaking from just a criminal standpoint-" He stopped when saw Ezra cringe. "Yes, Ezra, we are vigilantes no matter how many fancy words you use to try and cover it up, I would say you are asking for trouble. Getting the cops involved is a bad decision. What if you are wrong about Larabee? All four of us could end up on death row. A consequence that I'm sure both of us are willing to live with, but what about JD and Sidney? Are you willing to ruin their lives?"
Ezra cringed. The same thoughts had crossed his mind a hundred times, but hearing them from his friend made them even more evident..
"The best thing to do would be to shoot Larabee right now, and send Sidney someplace safe, before Larabee's men can get the word out. !"I tend to view it a different way. I agree with you that Larabee is a good cop. He and his men are special type of men, rare in the law system these days. If we are going to keep doing this, we are going to need some help. Sidney's mishap is the perfect example." He paused. "I think you're making the right choice, Ezra. I'm sure Sidney would too if you could get past that pig-headed stubbornness of hers. She'll realize that you're doing what is best for all of us." .
Ezra looked at Nathan gratefully. "Once again, I am eternally in your debt, Dr. Jackson."
"Not yet," Nathan answered. "I got a few more weeks working on the First Response squad, but Dr. Jackson sure does sound good." He paused a moment. "Now get out of the car, Ezra. I won't be passing my boards if I'm late for work."
Ezra laughed and got out of the car. Nathan backed out and drove out onto the road. Ezra watched him go, than went into the house. JD was sitting on the couch watching TV. Ezra shook his head. Nothing ever appeared to faze the kid. There he was plopped down on the coach with a cold pizza, like he would on any other night. Apparently, the fact that their lives were at stake didn't bother him.
"Is everything all settled?" Ezra asked.
"Yup, Monty's at the steps and everything," JD answered without taking his eyes off the screen.
"Thank you, Mr. Dunne," Ezra answered. He walked up the steps, stepping over the German Shepard lying at the base of the steps. The dog raised his head and whined. Ezra reached down and patted the dog on the head before continuing. He stopped at large closed cedar door. He knocked, but received no answer.
"I wish you would just trust me on this one. I'm sorry I lost my head." He still didn't receive an answer. He sighed heavily.
"Good night, Sidney," Ezra said before he walked to his own bedroom. On the other side of the door, a teary eyed girl lay on her bed, hugging a picture of an attractive man in a police uniform riding a regal black horse. A brown haired little girl sat in front of him, smiling happily.
+ + + + + + +
Chris groaned as he slowly awakened. He felt like Pony had just kicked him in the head. His aching skull felt better when he let it sink in the plushness of his pillow. He lifted up his head suddenly, immediately wary of where his was. His pillows were nowhere near this comfortable. He sat up, giving his eyes time to focus.
He was caught completely off guard when he took in his surroundings for the first time. The room's main color was a dark maroon. The sheets he had been sleeping on were made of silk. He had to admit that they were the most comfortable he had ever slept on, even if he had no idea where he was. Several abstract paintings covered the walls. Chris stared at them for several moments, impressed by the artistry. There were shouts coming from down the steps, Chris reached for his gun only to discover that it wasn't there. Last night's events suddenly rushed back to him.
"What the hell is going on here?" Chris asked. "Where am I?" Quietly, he got out of bed and walked towards the closed door. He turned the handle and peeked into the hallway. He was in the last room of a long hallway of closed doors. There was nobody in sight. Cautiously, Chris walked out of the room and down the hallway. He was surprised that there was nobody standing guard. Obviously, the Marks girl and the guy with the southern accent wanted him for something, but why were they letting him escape so easily?
He was almost at the end of the steps when he heard a low growl. He looked down to see a German Shepard at the end of the steps. The dog was standing up and looked ready to pounce. He was baring his teeth.
Chris took a step backwards, and the dog relaxed a little bit. The agent tried to take another step forward and the dog began to growl again. The game of moving forwards and backwards continued for a couple of minutes, the dog never giving any sign that he was going to let Chris pass.
"If only Buck could see me know," Chris snorted, "being outsmarted by a damn dog!" Chris retreated all the way back down to the middle of the hallway. The dog lay down once more and began biting a nail on its paw. Despite its action, the dog's eyes never left Chris.
"If I had a gun right now," Chris yelled at the dog. "I'd blow your brains out!" The dog didn't seem to hear, because it kept on with his task. Chris sighed heavily, the only apparent exit blocked. He looked around the hallway for another way out. An upstairs this big obviously had to have another exit somewhere. He walked into the closest room on his left.
He was completely surprised by what he saw. The room he had been staying in was sophisticated and designed carefully. This room was obviously not.
Boston Red Sox and New England Patriot memorabilia covered the walls. Boxes of strange gadgets covered the floor. There were several West Coast Chopper magazines thrown on a desk, along with a saddle and horse blanket. Chris looked around. He saw no exit and walked out. If only he could find his gun. He decided to try a room a little farther down.
There were two different themes going on this room, each taking up about half the room. On one side, there were numerous pictures of outdoor scenes and rivers. There was a kayak paddle and a helmet in the corner. The other half strictly contrasted with the outdoor theme. Collector horse models and pictures of the "Wild West" covered all the remaining spaces, including the background on the computer. Chris looked above the bed to see a huge poster. Despite the circumstances, he couldn't help but laugh. The poster was of the original Cartwrights from the TV show Bonanza. The poster was signed. "To a dedicated fan who still maintains the justice of the West." After the note all the actors had signed their names. Chris took a step forward to get a better look at the poster and stepped on something. He bent down and picked up a picture frame.
The man sitting on the horse was wearing the Colorado state trouper uniform. Chris realized that he must me one of the mounted police, still used in rare occasions in the state. The horse was a little back and white pinto. Chris recognized the little girl in front of him. The green eyes had lost their youthful sparkle and joyful innocence, but there was no mistaking that the pigtailed little girl in the picture was his escaped prisoner and current captor A flash of shiny light caught his eye. The sun had caught the barrel of a small handgun. He walked over and picked it up, not believing his good luck. He was immediately disappointed when he realized that it was just a model. He tossed it to the ground and groaned angrily.
"Much talent went into that model. It almost tricked me too," a familiar drawl said from behind the agent. Chris spun around and was caught completely off guard when he realized who it was.
"You?" Chris asked in disbelief. "I don't believe this!" He rubbed his head, wondering if he was hallucinating. . Ezra Standish, the richest man in Colorado was standing in the doorway of the room. Chris had never met the millionaire before, but he had certainly seen him enough on TV. Ezra's mother had created her own technology business based in Atlanta. New businesses had opened up all over the country, with a second headquarters established in Boston. Standish Corporations had become the fastest growing business in the country. Ezra had taken the business international, and then bowed out of the business end of the company, letting others do the dirty work. He had taken his share of the profit and moved out the Denver, buying an old mansion in the process. Nobody was quite sure what the man did, other than deal in breeding and horse competitions. Chris had actually sold one of his foals to the millionaire, though he never had direct contact with the man. Standish chose to keep to himself, though he was on the Denver Opera House Board of Trustees and made frequent contributions to the art galleries in the state.
"You better believe it, Agent Larabee, though I understand your confusion. Perhaps we can discuss this over a late breakfast downstairs? I am quite hungry and it near noon."
Chris hadn't realized it was so late. "I'm not going anywhere until I get some answers," Chris growled, using the same tone of voice he did when interrogating suspects. Usually, it inspired terror, but seemed to have no effect on Standish.
"And if I don't give them to you, what will you do? Perhaps Sidney's model gun might be of assistance?" Ezra answered. Chris gritted his teeth. This man was definitely a smart-ass. Chris hated men like him, but he did have to admit that the man had a point.
"How do I know you won't shoot me the second I walk out of this room?" Chris asked.
"Agent Larabee, if I had wanted you dead, I would have done it already," Ezra answered.
"My men know about Marks," Chris growled. "When they find out that I am missing, there will be a team assembled to hunt her down in a matter of minutes."
"I figured as much," Ezra answered. "But you were not willing to turn my young partner over to the law enforcement yet, were you? Something about her intrigued you, didn't it?"
Chris didn't have an answer for this. Ezra Standish had hit it on the nail.
"She wants to kill me for what I did to her father, doesn't she?" Chris asked. He relaxed ever so slightly, when he realized that Standish wasn't threatening him.
"Yes, that is her intention, but I told her to wait and hear your side of the story. I am assuming that a good cop such as yourself had a reason for abandoning a case like that?"
"There is a reason," Chris answered. "But not a very good one"
"I also figured that too. You have intrigued me Chris Larabee since I first came to Denver. You and your team are a rarity in our corrupt law enforcement system. Like myself, you do not pay attention to the bribery and dishonesty that makes up criminal justice today. This system where money and power has replaced the jury in deciding whether a person is guilty or not." Chris tried to show no reaction, but his interest in this man began to grow. A rumbling in his stomach interrupted the silence. He hadn't realized how hungry he was. Ezra smiled.
"Evidence always reveals itself to me, Agent Larabee; no matter how hard you law officers try to hide it. You are hungry also. There is much to discuss and I would prefer to do it out of this eyesore," Ezra said gesturing around the room. Against his better judgment, Chris nodded his head and followed Ezra. The dog at the foot of the steps had disappeared.
He felt the same feeling he had when he tried talking to the girl. Obviously, this man was some kind of criminal, especially if he had played a role in assassinating Chavez, but he didn't sense a threat at all.
He followed Ezra through the downstairs. The man walked fast and Chris tried to keep up, while looking at the artwork and impressive design of the downstairs. A large glass statue of a horse near the front door caught his eye. Ezra opened a screen door and Chris found himself on a porch at the back of the house. Chris gasped at what he saw.
A large red barn stood in the middle stood in the middle of pastures that seemed to go on forever. The glistening coats of black, roan, sorrel, and many other horses shone in the sunlight. Chris saw at least fifteen horses and could only imagine how many there were that were beyond his view.
"I thought a horse person such as yourself might enjoy the view," Ezra answered, motioning for Chris to take a seat. The agent sat down without taking his view away from the horses.
"Marcy, would you be so kind as to bring us our lunch?" Ezra asked an elderly lady standing on the dock. The woman nodded her head and disappeared.
"Marcy is one of the most wonderful women in the world. She was my mother's housekeeper and my surrogate mother when my own was too busy traveling the world." Chris turned his head, when he heard the hostility in his voice. "It is very difficult to find people who will help take care of my home, and keep my many secrets."
"And what secrets are those, Mr. Standish?" Chris asked, almost forgetting about the view before him. He had switched to agent mode and his complete attention was on Standish.
"How shall I begin?" Ezra said more to himself, than to Chris. "I have rehearsed what I intended to say to you, but could not come with a logical explanation."
"What about the girl?" Chris asked.
"Yes, I suppose you would be extremely interested in Sidney, but she does not enter the story until much later. I will try to start from the very beginning. The formation of my family's business has everything to do with the, well... enterprise that I help run today. Much of the technology that the Standish Corporation created was used in security and spy ware for law enforcement agencies across the world. I grew up thinking that my company was helping to solve the world's problems. While traveling across the world, I saw the technology put to use for other purposes than bringing about justice and experienced the truth behind modern law enforcement at all levels.
"When I questioned my mother about this, she sat me down and taught me the lessons of a good businessman: sell your goods to the highest bidder and ignore what they use the materials for. This became my philosophy by the time I entered college. I had every intention of carrying on my family business. I had strong dreams of expanding it to an international level, but something changed me"
Marcy had returned with the food, but neither man seemed very interested in eating at the moment. Ezra was deep inside his story, and all of Chris's attention was diverted to listening.
"During my freshmen year at Harvard, I intended to have my own apartment, but Marcy insisted that I live in the dorms with a roommate for at least the first year. Almost instantly, hostility was created between us. I saw him as radical thinker well past the time of the Civil Rights movement. He saw me a southern snob who had gotten into college based on my family income. Needless to say, the two of us didn't get along. The first semester was hell for the both of us. Neither one of us made very many friends. I was intent to get out of college as fast as I could to pursue my plans, and he was obsessed with his medical classes, making every dollar of what he paid for tuition count. I thought we would kill each other by the time school year ended, but something happened that changed the both of us forever." Ezra paused, and finally took a bite of his food.
"What happened?" Chris asked impatiently.
"He saved my life," Ezra went on. "I doubt that you will find it hard to believe that I managed to piss off a lot of people during my life, often times, the wrong ones. Such was the case one January day. While walking home from school one night on one of the piers, I happened across a street gang, all of Caucasian descent. They wanted all the money I had on my person and my checkbook. Of course, I refused and had a few choice words with them. Next thing I know I was bleeding all over with a gun pointed at my head. By the looks in their eyes, I had no doubt that they were going to kill me. I closed my eyes trying to make my peace with the creator, when I heard a splash. I opened my eyes and saw my roommate punching the living daylights out of my assailants. Together the two of us managed to chase them away.
"We walked back to the dorm, me leaning heavily on his shoulder. My mangled body would not support me. He insisted that I go see a doctor, but I refused. We went back to the dorm and he fixed my many injuries, very successfully I might add. For the entire night, he hovered over me making sure I was not going to expire. As you can see, I suffered no lasting injuries. As we were getting ready for class the next morning, there was a knock on the door. Two police officers were waiting to arrest my friend. It appears like my assailants the night before were the sons of politicians in the area. They had reported that my friend had assaulted them the night before. The poor young man was taken away. Of course I did everything in my power to help, but there was nothing I could do. You see he had neither wealth nor color to back him up. He didn't even have parents to testify for him. His mother was killed during a riot in the 60's and his father died soon after.
"He was sentenced to seven years in prison for an alleged hate crime. A year would have been harsh if he had been simply charged with assault and battery. Although its never been proven, I suspect the fathers paid several members of the jury off. During the process, I realized how morally wrong the American criminal system was. What was worse, I discovered he was supporting three sisters whose only income was their modest paychecks. Nathan had been helping them, but his funds stopped when he was arrested. Society did nothing to help the family of a black criminal.
"My earlier childhood thoughts arose once again, and the thought of my company helping the system infuriated me. Although the Standish Corporation had nothing do with my friend's arrest, I knew that my company was aiding them in their monstrous endeavors. A sudden revelation came to me as I watched the police dragging him away. I had the means to do something to help society, to try and correct all the wrongs that my company had created. Of course, my company only supplied technology, but I felt the guilt just the same. I graduated college and took over charge of the company for a few years, learning about the technology my company produced as much as possible. I also hired some of the best agents in the country to help improve my shooting and espionage skills. People are willing to do anything for the right price. Using my new found power and influence, I was able to help prove that my friend was innocent and got him out of jail two years early without a scratch on his record, but that did not account for his years of lost schooling. I helped reenroll at school in Colorado. I relocated myself and my new riches to Denver, Colorado. There the two of us hatched up a plan." Ezra stopped talking and looked at the agent. Chris hadn't even touched his food. He took a deep breath and continued.
"Together we decided to combat the injustices of the criminal system. We had the resources and the intelligence to stage our own little war. I handed off the day to day business of my company, but I still stay on a consultant. My company may be the indirect cause of many problems, but it is a powerful and essential tool. Our goal was to take down the criminals let off by my system and help the innocent that fell victim to its power. We would do whatever we could to ensure that we saw this done, even if it meant killing when time came. Both of us were willing to risk our lives. It seemed a small cost for what was happening in the world."
Chris was impressed by the conviction and resolve in the man's voice.
"So you're basically a bunch of vigilante robin hoods," Chris stated after a while.
"Not vigilantes, Larabee. I prefer to refer to the four of us as Protectors of Justice." Chris snorted, but he could not hide his interest.
"The girl and who else?" Chris asked. He thought for a moment, "Wait, that kid posing as a CIA agent is your fourth member, isn't he?"
"Very good! I see the reason your team has such a high success rate." Chris couldn't tell if his host was joking or not.
"So were these two rich brats with nothing to do with their lives just like yourself?" Chris growled in a low voice. Ezra's reaction surprised him. The man clutched the table and his eyes grew hard.
"Say what you want about me Agent Larabee, but don't you ever criticize JD and Sidney. Those kids had to endure more than you could ever imagine," Ezra's voice was hardly more than a cold whisper. Chris tried to hide the fact that he was intimidated.
"Try me," he answered.
"Soon after we started, my friend and I realized that the one thing we both were lacking in was the technology department. We had the gadgets supplied by my company. As the owner, I have easy access to the new technology. None of this did us any good, because neither one of us knew how to use the damn things. In order to get into bank accounts and confidential files, we needed somebody with the skills to hack into them. I began to look for somebody who might be able to help. I recalled my days of working in my office and remembered a young computer whiz that helped me on many occasions. I had always liked the young, somewhat reckless and naïve young man, but never took the time to find out much about him. I began to correspond with him on a regular basis. Slowly, he revealed his life story to me and I can assure you it was not that of a rich brat.
"JD's father abandoned his mother before he was even born. His mother raised him all by herself. She worked hard as a housekeeper for a bank CEO. From a young age, JD knew his mother was treated badly, but he only realized how bad when he got older. This man not only forced Ms. Dunne to clean the house but perform less than noble acts. When she refused, the man would beat her and even JD until she conceded. One time, he beat JD so bad that the kid ended up in the emergency room. Once again, the criminal system turned a blind eye. By this time, JD's mother had developed a rare form of cancer that had no treatment. There was no one in the city that would hire her. She had no choice, but to restrain her son and endure the abuse. JD told me that she took solace in educating her son to best of her ability. She did an excellent job, because JD was ready to enter college by the time she died. He was sixteen at the time. Lucky for him he received some excellent scholarships and ended up graduating from MIT in three and a half years.
"During our conversations, JD told me that he would get back at the CEO by hacking into the bank's database and change passwords, add numbers and mess around with transfers on his cheap old laptop. Not only was he smart, JD was eager to please and searching for acceptance. I knew that I had found the right man for the job, despite his age. Once I told him what I was really doing, Mr. Dunne accepted without much hesitation and now is an invaluable member of our team. Although he lacks some skills outside his computer, he is quickly learning. He must be if he was able to discover a way to rescue Sidney." What Ezra failed to say aloud, but Chris noticed, was how proud he was of this JD Dunne. The man's eyes lit up when he talked about the young hacker.
"And Sidney Marks?" Chris asked. "How did you pick her up?"
"I would have thought that would have been quite obvious," Ezra answered, staring at Chris. "Do I need to remind you of her father's murder?" Chris opened his mouth, but Ezra held up his hand.
"Please do not explain your reasoning to me, Agent Larabee. I think she deserves it first. But I think you need to hear what happened to her afterward."
Chris leaned back in his chair to listen. How had the daughter of a police officer ended up working for a vigilante organization?
"I met Ms. Marks by accident at the end of my active career at Standish Corporation. I had just moved to Denver. She was trying to break into one of the storage rooms that held microchips that were about to be shipped to your department. She would have gotten away with it, except she made one tiny slip-up. I had a guard placed at the door she was trying to sneak out of. She could easily have shot the animal, yes, Mr. Larabee, animal," Ezra answered Chris's questioning gaze. "The very same dog that kept you from sneaking down the steps. As I was saying, she could have easily have shot Monty, but she tried to sneak past him. Monty barked, sounding out the alarm.
"I first met Sidney Marks four years ago in a tiny storage closet. I was intrigued about her motives. By this time, I had realized that we needed another person to be effective at our goals. At first she wouldn't say a word, but than I revealed to her what my future plans were and she began to talk openly. After her father's murder, she was sent to live with an aunt and uncle in Denver. Her mother was never a part of her life. From what she told me, her father was the black sheep of the family, and her relatives did everything in their power to stomp her father's influence out of her. This had no effect on her. She began committing crimes at her high school to see if she could get away with them. Sidney was a smart and considerate kid, well liked by the faculty at her school. Her uncle was also member of the school board. They were under the impression that she could do no wrong. To Sidney's amazement, she got off every time. The school chose to accuse the easy lower class trouble maker students even when the evidence pointed to her.
"As you can imagine, this information infuriated the girl. By the time she was a senior in high school, she was completely self-sufficient. She planned to attend the police academy and major in criminal psychology at the University. She also had joined a little crime ring that was beginning to take over the streets.. It is now one of the largest and most effective in the state. I was amazed to see the amount of contacts a common seventeen year old girl could make. The two of us talked for almost four hours. After that time, I was driving the newest member of our team home. Her aunt and uncle had refused to pay for her college education or police training, so I was more than happy to oblige. She graduated from the Academy late last year and has just begun her Masters work in Criminology."
"These two kids have had some bad hands dealt to them, Mr. Larabee. I enjoy a game of chance and consider myself an expert. Don't insult them by saying this is a way to vent their anger. A corrupt society made them who they are and they are fighting back the only way they know how."
"They were young and impressionable when you found them," Chris answered. "What kid wouldn't want to play Robin Hood?"
"Before we talk anymore Mr. Larabee, I would like for you to go talk to Sidney and explain to her what happened. Hopefully, you will discover if this really is just a game of Robin Hood for her." Ezra answered.
"You can't make me," Chris growled. "My men will be looking for me right now. I could have you arrested and in court faster than you could blink an eye."
"Yes, I don't doubt that you could," Ezra answered calmly. "During my lifetime, I have become an excellent judge of character. I've watched you for quite some time. You aren't like those power-hungry men at the FBI. I've seen your anger at the dishonesty in our system. In fact I would even say that you've tried to play Robin Hood a little bit yourself. I saw your eyes light up when I told you about us, don't deny it. You can leave at anytime you want, and have the ability to report us. I assure you that I do not intend to do anything to you. The reason I brought you here is a vision I had.
"JD and Sidney have nicknamed me Batman. But even if we try, we are not superheroes. The four of us can't change the world. We need help and I thought you might be the one to give it to us. I know that we share the same goal, Agent Larabee. We just both have different ways of achieving it. You have to follow rules and we don't. We could help each other out immensely, but that decision has to come from you.
"Just take a look around, talk to my team, and view my property. You have the ability to walk out of here right now and blow the whistle on the entire operation, or you could join with us to become the most powerful force against corruption that this country has ever seen."
Chris was dumbfounded; the only time he had ever heard such a speech was from Senator Royal. Then the speech had been scripted and pretty much insincere. He knew without a doubt that Ezra Standish was not speaking from a script and he meant every word.
"I'll take a look around," Chris answered, not agreeing to anything more.
"That's all I ask," Ezra said. "And I will not speak another word until you choose to talk about it. My home is at your disposal. The pastures are all open. I figured that's where you would like to go first," Ezra said, before walking through the screen door.
Chris took a couple bites of food. Although the food was delicious, he no longer had an appetite. He walked along the outside of the pastures, marveling at the beauty of the horses enclosed. Black, white, brown and every other color in between was represented in the fields. Several men were walking around doing farm work, but none of them paid any attention to Chris. Ezra had probably told them about his guest. He heard noises behind the barn and went to investigate.
There were several rings in the back. The closest ring contained various jumps and poles. Inside of the ring, Chris saw Sidney and JD. He was helping her into the saddle of a large and flashy roan colt. As soon as she was in the saddle, the horse began to paw the ground. He sidestepped and pulled hard on the reigns. Sidney rode out the horse's jitters by planting her feet firmly in the stirrups and giving the colt no slack on the reins. Chris could see that she was experienced and skilled at handling the nervous animal. Eventually, the horse calmed down.
"This would be a whole lot easier if you would have listened from the beginning, Sport." She sighed, patting her mount on the neck. Chris chuckled when he heard the name of the horse. Only a true Bonanza fan would know the name of Adam Cartwright's roan gelding. He had also seen the similarities between the Hollywood horse and the colt that had been born on his ranch.
Ezra had walked along side the other side of the barn, the German Shepard on his heels. He leaned against the fence watching Sidney and JD. If he saw Chris alongside the barn, he made no signs of showing it.
"These jumps aren't going to be high enough for him," JD told Ezra. "He's ready to move on to four in half feet."
"The equipment should be arriving soon," Ezra answered.
"How are we supposed to train Patch without the jumps? Sport can wait, but Sidney registered Patch for a show two months," JD whined.
"Relax, JD," Sidney told her friend on the ground. Apache still needs more rest, His leg isn't healing as fast as I want it to. I won't start him on the jumps for at least another week." She dismounted and handed the reins to JD.
"What are you doing, Sidney?" He asked.
"Making do with what we have," Sidney answered, as she walked over to a tall broken fence. She pushed on it and the top bar fell down easily..
"That will work." She laughed and tried to lift the beam back into its place. Ezra walked over and helped her lift it.
"Why do you feel the need to show our guest the sluggishness of our grooms to fix things?" Ezra asked. Both Sidney and Chris jumped. Chris didn't realize Ezra knew he was there, and Sidney had no idea that Chris had been watching her.
"What is he doing here?" Sidney hissed quietly.
"Please, Sidney, just give him a chance," Ezra pleaded. "I'm not asking you to fall in love with him, just treat him civilly for a few moments." Sidney sighed and nodded her head.
'This will work well for a jump," she said. "The bar will fall down if Sport hits it. I just need somebody to stand on the other side to chase him down if I fall off."
"I'll do it," Chris said. His offer surprised everyone, including himself.
"Thank you, Agent Larabee," the girl answered, forcing herself to maintain a pleasant tone. She took the reins from JD and remounted the horse. She began to trot the horse around the ring, slowly getting faster. When the horse had gotten enough speed, she turned the horse towards the fence.
"Jump now!" Chris yelled inside his head, but Sidney didn't command the horse to jump until two strides later. The horse bulked and the girl went flying over his head. She somersaulted through the air and once on the ground before landing on her back. She laid still.
"Sidney!" JD yelled. Ezra reached her side, just as JD hurdled the fence. Slowly, she pulled herself to her elbows; Ezra bent down and helped her into a sitting position.
"I'm all right," she answered. "Nothing hurt, but my pride.". She pulled herself to her feet.
"Only thing to do is to get back on, right?" she said with a nervous laugh. She hesitated before climbing back over the fence.
"You need to jump sooner," a voice behind her said. Sidney turned to see Chris walking towards her.
"What do you mean?" She asked, not able to hide the ice in her voice.
"You've got excellent form and Sport can easily clear that hurdle, but he needs more room. You need to take at least one stride less, maybe even two."
Ezra walked over and stood by JD, watching anxiously as a range of emotions worked their way through the girl's face.
"That makes sense," she answered. Her tone was not exactly pleasant, but it was not nearly as hostile as it was before. "I'm used to much smaller jumpers. Training a big horse like this is a new experience for me." Sidney bit her lip than looked over at Ezra and than at Chris. "I could use all the help I could get." There was a long pause. "Could you show me?" She asked quietly.
Chris had to fight hard to keep from gasping. Ezra, the master of masked feelings, couldn't contain his surprise. JD was literally staring at her with his mouth open. Sport sensed the uneasy silence and snorted. He began to trot around the ring. He appeared to be more shaken than Sidney.
Chris walked past Sidney and ducked under the fence to the rail. He received no protest from anyone so he went to the nervous animal.
"Easy boy." He soothed when Sport's ears went back. He stood a few steps away from the animal. Not moving, letting the wind send his scent to the horse. After a few seconds, Sport's ears returned to normal. He trotted over to Chris and nuzzled him in the shoulder. Chris was touched that the horse still remembered him.
"He's never done that before, not to a stranger." JD commented.
"Agent Larabee isn't exactly a stranger," Ezra informed him. "I originally bought the horse from his ranch." Sidney took a step forward.
"You were the one to break him to saddle?" She asked accusingly. Chris nodded his head, not sure where she was going with the question. "You're the bastard that trained him to bite his rider's boots when they mount." She answered. For the first time, Chris saw a hint of a smile on the girl's face.
"I don't think you should try the jump again. Not for a little while anyway. He's too shaken up." Chris said, handing the reigns to Sidney.
"I wasn't planning on it, but I'll need to exercise him. He can't get used to the idea that every time he bucks a rider off, he is done working for the day."
"Sidney, why don't you take him on the trails?" Ezra suggested. "You can show Mr. Larabee the rest of the property."
"I have to take Apache out yet," Sidney answered, glaring at Ezra. She had agreed to be civil. He was pushing things to far.
"He's healthy enough to go on a short trail ride. Besides, Sport will like to have his partner in crime with him."
"This isn't necessary," Chris answered. Inside his head he was thinking, "There is no way in hell I'm going anywhere alone with her. She'll end up leading me straight off a cliff.".
"I insist," Ezra continued. "Sidney is an excellent tour guide. She takes around all of my business partners." Ezra's back was turned to him, so Chris could not see the look that Ezra was giving Sidney. Sidney sighed heavily. Ezra patted her on the shoulder and started to walk back towards the house. "Come on JD, I need to talk to you about something." JD looked like he would much rather stay, but he followed his friend to the house.
"Is the English saddle all right for you?" she asked. It took Chris a second to answer. He hadn't expected Sidney to agree.
"Don't let me trouble you, Ms. Marks," he answered with ice in his voice.
"Oh, it's no problem at all, Mr. Larabee," She replied in a familiar cool tone. "Unless perhaps you are scared?"
"Scared?" Chris scoffed. "I've been riding wild horses since before you were born. The damn saddle is fine."
"I'll be right back," she answered glaring at him. Chris stroked Sport's head. About ten minutes later, Sidney returned leading her horse. Chris's eyes grew large. This had to be one of the most beautiful horses he had ever seen.
The horse was small, only a little under fifteen hands, but the animal's legs were strong and muscular, probably the result of its training. There had been a lot of work put into the chestnut coat and glistening mane. Sidney correctly interpreted the look on his face.
"He's something, isn't he?" She said proudly. "This is Dagger. Ezra bought him and another horse from a rehabilitation center in Montana. Poor thing was half starved and terrified of everything that moved when the humane society took him. It was hard to believe a horse with his bloodlines ended up the way he did. I did a little research. His sire was the world champion show jumper three years in a row. When I started working with him I never dreamed that he would be one of the best horses I have ever owned with the most potential..." She mounted up in the saddle and Chris did the same.
"How long have you been around horses?" Chris asked.
"My entire life," she answered. "There's a good trail to the east. There's a real nice view overlooking the Colorado River along the cliffs." Chris pulled hard on Sport's reins to make him stop.
"Sport's too good a horse to risk getting my revenge on you, Mr. Larabee. Relax." She laughed harshly and pointed Apache down the trail.
Chris sighed angrily. He had let the girl get the better of him yet again.
"What the hell I am doing?" He asked himself. "The sensible thing would be is to run for it right now. Buck could be here in fifteen minutes." But he had never been sensible and he wasn't about to miss what other secrets Ezra Standish had up his sleeve. He clicked his heels, and Sport followed after his friend.
Ezra watched them go with a smile. So far his plan was working perfectly. God, he prayed that Sidney would be able to keep her end of the deal. .
"Just use that head of yours my dear," he said quietly. "I know that you've got one. Just listen to him, please." He said as the horses disappeared from his line of vision.
"How did everything go?" Nathan asked walking up to stand along side Ezra and JD.
"Not as good as I had hoped," Ezra answered, "but it could have been much worse. I think our future rests with Sidney and that adamant mind of hers."
"Would you place a bet on the outcome?" JD asked.
"Mr. Dunne, we all know that I do enjoy a game of chance, but I am not foolish. Not even an idiotic man would try to predict how Chris Larabee or Sidney Marks might behave." He sighed as he looked at the trail, than back at JD.
"JD, you left several computer hand outs on the table this morning. I couldn't help, but take a look. IT appears like you found out a few pieces of interesting information about Senator Robin." JD blushed under Ezra's questioning eye.
"All I did was look around a little bit. Last night after you went to bed, I just went on the internet to check out his record. See if there was anything interesting."
"Are you sure that's what happened, JD?" Nathan asked.
"All right," JD sighed. "I sent out an e-mail saying that you approved of the meeting."
"Our lovable Irishman sent you a response," Ezra answered with a smile on his face.
"Oh, I guess he got back quicker than I thought," JD answered nonchalantly.
"Do you care to hear what it said?" Ezra asked with a smile on his face, knowing that his young agent was dying to hear.
"It's really not that important, but I guess if you can read it anyway," JD answered, looking at his feet.
"Royal's meeting with Mason and Kestner tonight. He would like us to record the meeting," Ezra told him. Both Nathan and JD looked at Ezra in utter amazement.
"You're kidding, right?" Nathan asked.
Ezra shook his head. "Not unless Liam was wrong and he's never been wrong before. The meeting is happening in Robin's home at nine o clock this evening."
"Shit, that's not much time!" JD yelled. "We need to get that conversation on tape. I've got to find a way to bypass the security system so we can hear what they say. The headsets have to be reset; the guns need to be loaded...." JD babbled as he ran for the house.
"JD!" Ezra yelled. JD stopped looking and turned to look at Ezra.
"Sorry, sir, what will we be doing about this matter?" The kid asked. Ezra hid his amusement.
"Make sure you get maps and accurate readings off the GPS system. We will start planning as soon as possible." He replied in an authoritative tone.
"Yes, Sir," JD answered, before rushing into the house. Ezra watched him go, and sighed heavily.
"I swear the two of them are going to get us killed someday," he said to Nathan.
"Would you have it any other way?" Nathan asked with a smile. "Admit it, Ezra, you like their reckless attitudes. That's why you picked them."
"That's not the main reason, but I will admit that's part of their charm. I could do with a little less stubbornness out one and a tad more common sense in the other, but I suppose that's getting a little too picky."
"The both of us would. If I have to put another stitch in either of them, I'm handcuffing them to their beds for their own safety. That goes for you, too. So what do you plan to do now?" Nathan answered. "I mean until they get back?"
"We will see what happens when it happens," Ezra answered. "I'm playing this by ear now. Right now, I'm hoping that I get two live horses and riders back in one piece. Is that rain I feel?"
"Yeah, it's starting to sprinkle."
"Wonderful," Ezra snorted. "Not even Mother Nature can cooperate." The two men walked inside out of the rain.
Chris looked up at the sky as felt a few wet raindrops on his check. He had to admit that this ride wasn't half as bad as he thought it was going to be. He found that he enjoyed talking to the girl. Horses were a safe topic both of them.
"Do you like to ride in the rain?" Chris asked.
"Are you kidding me? I love it! Sometimes my dad would make up some dumb excuse to leave work and he'd pick me up from my babysitter or school and we'd go riding through the..." Sidney's voice lowered, and she didn't finish the sentence. Chris couldn't tell if she was angry or not. He knew that this conversation was going to go come up no matter how he tried to avoid it.
"Sidney, will you give me a chance to explain myself?" He asked.
"A small one," Sidney answered, turning around in her saddle. "Let's do it right here."
"In the rain?" Chris asked. Sidney shrugged her shoulders.
"It's not raining that hard," She answered and dismounted. She hooked Apache's reins over a branch. She walked over to sit on a large bolder. Chris did the same, but he chose to lean against Sport, who had lowered his head to graze in the dead grass.
"What do you know about the investigation?" Chris asked.
"That the case was abandoned on lack of evidence. It was written up as an unsolvable case after only one month of investigation. They told my aunt and uncle that they couldn't do anything else." Sidney answered. "But I know it wasn't a lack of evidence. My father had made a lot of enemies in the force. I learned that he didn't take crap from anyone and got a lot of men in law enforcement in trouble. Specific cases I was never able to find. My aunt and uncle never told me anything and the files now are buried so deep that not even JD would know where to look for them."
"You're right," Chris answered. "There wasn't a whole lot of effort put into the case. The lack of evidence was partly my fault. I didn't put nearly enough effort into finding it as I should have. I had other things on my mind."
"More important than figuring out the brutal murder of a fellow cop? Jesus, Agent Larabee, I found him dead in his bed. Some bastard had stabbed him thirteen times!! I had to walk in and see that. I was sent to live with my aunt and uncle with nobody telling me anything. The only news I got was my aunt nonchalantly telling me at the dinner table that you had abandoned the case. Nobody from the FBI asked me if I saw anyone, knew of any possible suspects. Absolutely nothing! He was my world, Agent Larabee, the only real family I ever had. You're telling me there was something more important than bringing peace to one of Colorado's finest cops and a lonely, lost thirteen year old girl?"
Chris had heard from others that Sidney had called the cops. When they had gotten there, the girl had been clinging to her father's body. It had taken three officers to pry the young teenager off. She was right; nobody had even bothered talking to the girl. Chris had only seen her once. She had ridden her bike down to the police station to pick up her father's things. Her aunt and uncle wouldn't even drive her to do that.
"I did offer you a ride home," Chris answered. "Remember?"
"You were drunk," Sidney answered. "And your department had already abandoned the case. I was young, but I wasn't stupid."
Chris sighed heavily.
"Do you have any idea why I was drunk?" Chris asked. Sidney shook her head. "My wife and son were killed when a bomb attached to my truck exploded. The bomb was meant for me. I was sitting at my desk, when the phone call came in. They were my life, Sidney, just like your father was to you. Like you, I received no answers to who the culprit was. By the time your father's murder rolled around, I didn't give a damn anymore. I did my job meeting the lowest possible standards, not caring who I might have hurt. All I cared about was getting home to my whiskey as soon as possible to drain away my pain."
"I knew what happened to your family, but I didn't realize when," Sidney answered quietly, looking down at her riding boots.
"It isn't an excuse for what happened to your father, Sidney, but there is a reason why. I think you can understand why I acted the way I did." Chris watched as Sidney dug a hole in the dirt with her shoe.
Sidney wanted more than anything to cry right now. Chris Larabee was not the demon she had made him out to be. Of course he had his faults, plenty of them, but she could begin to understand his position. She pushed back the tears that threatened to emerge. Ezra would have been proud of her. She had masked her feelings.
"We should get back," she said. "Those storm clouds aren't looking so good. Riding in the rain may be fun, but getting caught in a storm is another." She undid Apache's reins and remounted. Chris did the same. They remerged through the clearing. Sidney had dropped the reigns. Her attention was focused on something completely different than riding.
A shrill whinny came from one the nearest pastures. Chris watched as Dagger pulled the reigns out of Sidney's hands and broke into a gallop. His sudden movement knocked his rider out of the saddle. Chris immediately dismounted to make sure the girl was okay.
"I'm fine," she answered before Chris opened his mouth. "I wasn't paying attention. Today hasn't been a good day. Falling out of the saddle two times? That is just plain embarrassing."
Chris smiled as he offered his arm to help pull her up. Of course, she didn't take it. She went to collect her horse who was nuzzling noses with a horse on the other side. Again, Chris was amazed at the appearance and fine lines of the new horse. Where did Ezra find such animals?
"Who's this one?" Chris asked. Sidney grabbed Apache's reigns and reached out to rub the other horse's nose.
"This is Milagro." Sidney answered. "She's JD's horse. She's the other horse Ezra bought from Montana. We've never been able to tell, but we think they might be brother and sister. They might as well be, they play together in the pasture all the time."
"You have done wonderful work with them," Chris answered, scratching the horse behind the ears.
"Ezra's got a soft heart for creatures with a rough life, not that he would ever tell anyone that. He thinks that everyone deserves a chance to be loved. I think he's trying to make up for the things he lacked during his childhood."
Chris thought about the girl's statement, wondering how close the two lucky horses had mimicked her own and JD Dunne's story.
"Ah, you are back. I trust that your ride was enjoyable?" Chris turned to see Ezra, leading yet another gorgeous brown horse. Once again, the dog Monty was trotting behind him.
"It was nice," Chris answered. Sidney busied herself with fixing her stirrup. "Is that your horse?"
"Yes, this is Chaucer," Ezra answered. "He was getting quite perturbed in his pasture so I decided to take him for a walk."
"You're an old softy, Ezra," Sidney said shaking her head. "That horse gets better treatment than anything on this farm."
"He's also the most expensive," Ezra answered. "But I do insist on having the best, and only a fine thoroughbred would meet that requirement. Mr. Larabee, I came to ask if you would accompany me inside once again. There is somebody else I would like you to meet."
"I'll take care of the horses," Sidney answered quickly. Ezra nodded his head. He walked over to the pasture gate and released Chaucer. Chris handed Sidney Sport's reins and she quickly walked off leading the two horses.
"What do you think of Ms. Marks when she's not inside an interrogation room?" Ezra asked as the two men began walking towards the house.
"She's something," Chris answered. Ezra gave him a questioning look, but Chris failed to elaborate. Ezra sighed, wondering what his young colleague could have possibly said. Then again it couldn't have been too bad, Ezra thought since the man was still following him willingly. Ezra had never been one to beg, but he had half expected to upon their return. .
They walked into the house via a side door into the kitchen. A familiar man was sitting at the table eating a sandwich. For the hundredth time that day, Chris was caught completely off guard.
"Dr. Jackson?" Chris asked in disbelief. Nathan smiled and stood up. "Don't tell me you are involved in this lunacy as well?" "Agent Larabee, remember the friend I told you about this morning?" Ezra asked.
"It was you, wasn't it?" Chris asked Nathan. Nathan nodded his head.
"The smart thing to do would have been to let the cocky SOB drown, but I was never that smart. I got dragged in his plan, too." Nathan answered. "Not that I regret it."
Chris shook his head. He could not quite believe that the man who had patched him and his friends up countless times was involved in a vigilante band.
"Not all of us are complete rogues, Mr. Larabee. Nathan Jackson is a well respected professional in his field. I would hope that may sway your opinion a little bit," Ezra stated.
"How do you do it?" Chris asked. "All of your research. I haven't seen so much as a computer, much less a gun around this place. You must have some sort of an office or a lab." Ezra and Nathan exchanged smiles.
"You going to take him to the Bat Cave?" Nathan asked, with a smile on his face. Ezra turned and glared at him.
"I get enough that from JD and Sidney; I do not need you to encourage them. I will not allow our well organized administrative center to be titled something from a dull cartoon. Will you be joining us on our descent?"
"No, I've got to check the supplies," he said, eying Ezra. .
"Yes, please do," Ezra answered, telling Nathan with his eyes to keep Larabee in the dark. "This way, Mr. Larabee." Ezra motioned for Chris to follow him into living room. Ezra walked over to the fireplace and knelt down next to the hearth.
"Your workplace is in the fireplace?" Chris asked with sarcasm.
"Not in the fireplace Mr. Larabee," Ezra informed him. He removed three of the stones. "Under it." Chris gaped at the small open space in the fireplace just big enough for a man it fit through.
"After you," Ezra said. Chris was about to hesitate, but didn't want to appear weak to his host. He crawled through the hole, feet first. His feet landed on the wooden boards. He pulled himself all the way through, until he was standing in an open topped elevator. He looked down. The scene below him looked didn't look like any Bat Cave he had ever seen. A large wooden table with eight chairs sat in the middle. Various books and manila folders covered the table. Nine computers surrounded the perimeter. Maps covered three of the walls; the fourth contained a large screen. Small shelves containing a bunch of gadgets were found across the room. JD was sitting at table, reading something. Ezra pulled himself through and landed next to Chris.
"What do you think?" Ezra asked, as he pushed a button on the wall and the elevator started to move down. Chris shook his head.
"This is unbelievable," he said. "Was this in the house when you bought it?" Ezra sighed.
"I wish I had some interesting story to tell you, perhaps that this house was part of the Underground Railroad or a hideout of a famous band of outlaws.. Unfortunately, no records exist that describe what this could have possibly been used for. The real estate agent didn't even know it was here. I found it by chance. It remains in almost the same shape we found it in. Of course we did add a few amenities to make it more comfortable and functional." JD lifted his head when he the elevator touched the ground.
. . "Hey, Ezra, Agent Larabee," he greeted. "Did you come for a tour?" He asked hopefully.
"This is JD's pride and joy," Ezra explained. "He's the only one that really understands the purpose of every thing in here." Whether Chris wanted to or not, JD began explaining the various machines and pieces of equipment in the underground room. Chris was impressed. The room had all the latest technology. Some of it he heard about it, and some of it defied what he thought possible..He most impressed with a complicated system that JD had set up himself.
"If we are ever out on a mission," JD explained. "We carry these little microphones." He held up several pieces of metal. A few of them were earrings and the others were pins of various shapes that could easily be pinned to any piece of clothing. "The earrings are earphones and the pins are microphones. That way we don't have to worry about all those wires that you guys at the agencies use. Those tape recorders record every voice that the mike picks up. The information on the chip can easily be downloaded on our voice recognition and sorting systems. Also each one has a GPS microchip equipped inside, so that somebody down here can easily figure out where someone wearing one of these is within a three hundred mile radius. When the chips are being used, a map appears on that computer tracking the exact route of the person." He finished.
"You designed this all yourself?" Chris asked incredulity
"Well, I was part of a team at Standish Corporation that invented the microchip and earphone. I came up with the GPS and recording system when I just futzing around here one day." JD answered.
"Just futzing?" Chris asked, with a raised eyebrow. JD shrugged his shoulders. Ezra placed a hand on JD's shoulder and beamed proudly.
"Can you imagine what he would do with the resources in the labs of the corporation? His chosen occupation is probably costing me millions of dollars."
"Speaking of a million dollars, Ezra," JD said, suddenly remembering something. "I just heard some interesting information from the Red Glove."
"The terrorist group?" Chris asked. The Red Glove was a notorious gang that lived and worked in the streets of Denver. Part of his job had been to chase down their members. Unfortunately, none of his attempts had been successful. They always managed to stay one step ahead of Larabee and his team. The organization of the group was a mystery; even the members remained unknown.
"You call them terrorists Agent Larabee. I call them allies," Ezra answered.
"Well, sometimes you call them terrorists when we won't listen to you," JD answered. Ezra shot him a look and the kid shut up fast.
"Whoa, hold on second," Chris said. "You never said anything about dealing with a terrorist group. They are on top of the FBI's most wanted list."
"That they are," Ezra agreed. "But for what, Agent Larabee?"
"They've blown up four buildings in the city and killed ten people!" "Yes, I agree that they have, but I do think this city is much better place because of their demise."
"How so? They killed John Marlene, a well known contractor," Chris said.
"Suspected of killing the Gordon family, a black household in the slums. We have evidence that places him at the house at the time of the murder and what weapon he used. Of course the murder received very little publicity."
"Sammy Bobolini," Chris said.
"Notorious crime boss who has graced the courtroom with his presence several times on three different accounts of murder. Of course, he got off every time on some minor technicality. Some people, including myself, believe that he may have had friends inside the criminal justice department."
"Juan Santiago," Chris shot back, daring Ezra to answer. The millionaire kept his mouth shut, and Chris smiled in satisfaction.
"Given legal immigration status despite the fact that he was wanted for drug dealing and murder," JD stated. Chris turned to glare at JD. The young man quivered slightly under his gaze.
"Do you really want to continue this game Mr. Larabee, because we could go on for hours," Ezra stated
"All right, fine," Chris growled. "Exactly what do you with them?"
"There are things that are said on the street that are impossible to hear in the elite circles we travel in," Ezra answered. "Both Sidney and JD play active roles in the group. I am here to offer my guidance and resources. They tell us when they hear something that might be of interest. In exchange, we equip many of their attacks. They also perform many of the jobs that my team can not."
Chris shook his head. Everything that he had thought he was fighting against was being proven wrong in front of eyes. He had put long hours into catching members of the Red Glove, only to discover that they were making his job easier. Millionaire businessmen were supposed to care about making more money in whatever way possible. They did not care about justice for underprivileged, yet here Ezra Standish standing a few inches away from him He had million dollar equipment and a devoted, intelligent group of people willing to sacrifice their lives to make the world fair for everyone. A clock upstairs began to chime six. Chris glanced at time on his watch. He had no idea how late it had gotten.
"Damn I bet Buck already has a search party out looking for me!" He paused, then looked Ezra in the eye.
"Look, Mr. Standish. I've seen some things today that I am going to need to think about for a while." He paused. "I won't say anything without talking to my team. This decision is not just not mine to make."
Ezra nodded his head. "I wouldn't expect anything else. Personally, I would not make a decision such as this without consulting my team either." Ezra's answer was spoken sincerely, but Chris could see fear in his eyes.
"No matter what the decision I will let you know as soon as possible," Chris said. "So you can, umm, prepare." Chris said. Both Ezra and JD knew that the FBI agent was referring to the fact that Sidney might still be arrested and their cover completely blown.
"Thank you, Agent Larabee that is a generous offer." Ezra answered and held out his hand, not sure of what Chris Larabee would do. Chris did hesitate, but eventually took it and shook.
"You will find the keys to your truck and your gun on the counter on your way up," Ezra answered. "JD and Nathan took the liberty of retrieving your vehicle from the street while you were riding with Sidney. It is parked in front of the house." Chris nodded his head, and got into the elevator. He pushed the red button for up. Ezra and JD watched him disappear. For once Ezra was at a loss for words.
"There's nothing we can do now but wait and carry on with our usual business." Ezra said finally. "It would be wise to discuss a game plan with Sidney and Nathan now. We've got three hours before the meeting."
At quarter to nine, an old red Mazda pulled into the long driveway of Senator Royal's estate. It was forced to stop at an iron gate, but the driver leaned out and pushed a few buttons on the panel. The doors swung open with a clank. The car proceeded to the stonewashed mansion.
"Heads up," Nathan whispered. "They're on the move." He was crouched down behind a bush just inside the gate. JD's split second power shortage had been enough for the team to sneak inside the gate without being detected.
"10-4," Ezra answered. "Our guests are in my line of vision". The man had taken residence behind some overgrown patches of grass just outside the house. The Colorado River was raging behind him thanks to a heavy late fall rain. The rushing water was making it difficult for him to hear. A few drops from the spray hit his neck. It sent cold shivers through his whole body. He crouched down lower as an outdoor light in front of the house turned on. A muscular man walked out of the front door to greet the visitors. Ezra knew that this man was Senator Royal's congressional aide. This man knew as much about the workings of the government as Ezra did about buying clothes at Goodwill. His purpose was to act as Royal's hired bodyguard.
He watched as two men got out of the car. Both men were in their middle twenties. The driver was tall and lean, but the bulk from his winter coat made him look much heavier. The way he carried himself reminded Ezra of a graceful panther. His shaggy blond hair was covered up a by a black beanie. His companion was a few inches shorter, but what he lacked in height, he made up in muscle. He wore only a light jacket and there was no headgear covering up his short brown hair. Liam Mason and Evan Kestner were both attractive, but it was easy to see the driver was in charge of the situation. Liam demanded loyalty and secrecy from his employees. In return these men gave friendship, protection and a sense belonging to those who joined his rebel band. Mason was one of the smartest and most hated men in they city. Cops would curse him without even knowing what his real name was, because his intelligence allowed to always stay one step ahead the country's elite police force. Liam Mason was the leader of the Red Glove.
Ezra watched as the young men followed the Senator's stooge into the house. He sighed heavily and shifted into a more comfortable position. All they could do now was wait. He planned on meeting with Mason and Kestner after this meeting. Evan had called almost two hours ago, saying that Royal was talking about weapons and might have a large store somewhere in the house.
"Hey, Ezra," Sidney's voice echoed in his ear. "You aren't going to believe this."
"Please enlighten me, Ms Marks," Ezra answered.
"The window above the meeting room is open," she paused, "and there's a drain pipe right up to it."
"And this concerns us why?" Ezra asked feigning innocence, knowing exactly what she wanted.
"Oh, come on, Ezra," she answered. "If I could get up there and listen to the conversation through one of the vents, we could present Larabee with an actual recording of the meeting."
"And what's wrong with a second hand account?" Nathan asked. "Sidney, it's too dangerous."
"You know that Larabee is going to have a hard time believing what the Red Glove says," JD answered. "Even after what we told him, old prejudices die hard."
"It's still not worth it," Nathan demanded. "What happens if you get caught?"
"I won't," Sidney answered firmly. "Just let me go, please!" Ezra had been unusually quiet as he listened to the banter between youthful recklessness and seasoned overprotection.
"Sidney, if you see any problems inside, you must promise me that you will leave immediately," Ezra said.
"Umm yeah, of course," Sidney answered, surprised that he had been convinced so easily.
"JD, will you please go with her?" Ezra inquired.
"Sure," JD answered, moving from his location near the garage to the back of the house.
"I don't need help," Sidney replied, disgusted.
"Of course you don't," Ezra answered, rolling his eyes. "But this is merely for my own benefit and peace of mind. Of course, if this is all right with our esteemed doctor?" Nathan was not all right with it. He didn't think any of them should be going in the house, alone or with a partner, but he didn't have much choice.
"Just be careful," he said. JD quickly joined Sidney, who was already half way up the drainpipe. JD watched as she grabbed hold of the windowsill and quickly peered inside. Not seeing anyone or sensing any threat, she pulled herself inside. JD followed after her. By the time he got up, Sidney had already located the vent and was kneeling down listening to the conversation.
"Guard the door," she whispered. JD nodded his head and went to stand watch. Sidney leaned closer. She could hear the conversation perfectly.
"Can you hear this Ezra?" She asked.
"Each and every word," came the response, "and so is our lovely recording system as home. This will make quite an impact if our beloved senator ends up in court."
"Shhh!" She scolded. The familiar voice of the Irish Mason echoed through her ears. Sidney would never tell a living soul, but the accent sent an exciting shiver down her spine.
"If we guarantee that our members will vote for you in the upcoming election, what are the benefits for us?" Mason asked.
"I already told you. There is a large shipment of firearms downstairs that have been just diverted from a military base. I will also be able to get you and friends out of trouble if any of you get caught."
"That will never happen," the Irishman answered. Ezra shook his head at the young man's confidence.
"What exactly do you want us to do?" Kestner asked.
"There's a couple of guys lining up to run against me. Do whatever is in your power to scare them off the campaign trail. Threaten their families, do something creative."
"Ay, we can be quite creative," Liam answered. "I do believe this meeting is over, gentlemen. We will stop by at the same time tomorrow evening to pick up the weapons."
"Mr. Mason, I do not take kindly to your dictating what I should do."
"Then you can kiss the lack of competition good bye," Evan answered.
Sidney and JD smiled at each other. There was no messing with the Red Glove. The conversation stopped and the sound of the metal chairs scratching the linoleum floor echoed through the earpieces making them all cringe. The waited a few minutes until there were no more sounds downstairs.
"We better head out," JD whispered to Sidney.
"Oh shit, guys get out of here!" Nathan's voice hissed in their ears. They could hear gunshots being fired.
"Nathan, what's wrong?" Sidney asked.
"They found Ezra, get out of there now!" Nathan yelled. Loud yells and more gunshots shook their eardrums. "I'm going to get him. You two get out of the house! Go to the car!"
"Boss, there are some more in the house!" An unfamiliar voice echoed in their ears.
"Shit, Ezra's earpiece is still turned on!" JD said looking at Sidney with horror on his face.
"Come on." She motioned for him to follow. JD's heart had never been racing so fast. The two of them slid down the drain pipe and started to run.
"This way," JD told Sidney. "We aren't just going to leave them!" He whispered, hoping no one would hear him. Sidney nodded her head, and the two friends ran to the last place they had seen Ezra. They never got that far. A bullet whizzed past JD's ear, missing him by centimeters. He could feel the wind as the shell flew past his head. Both of them dropped to the ground. The bush provided some protection, but not much. Six men were running towards them, their guns drawn.
"Where did they all come from?" Sidney looked desperately at JD. JD looked around, searching for any means of escape. He only saw one. It was one that he would rather not take.
"Come on." He grabbed her hand, and pulled her after him. He rushed towards the water.
"This is suicide!" she said.
"We've go no other choice," He told her. "Deep breath!" The two of them lunged into the water.
"NO!" Nathan yelled, as he watched his friend's bodies plummeted around in the water. He tried to break free of the two men that were holding on to him, but their grip did not loosen.
"Should we go after them?" One of the doctor's captors asked.
"Lets get him inside for Royal, then we'll search downstream, although I doubt that we will find them. Even if they can swim, they won't last long in that cold water."
Nathan closed his eyes and winced. His head fell to his shoulders and his attempts to escape stopped. "What have we done?" He said to himself.