Disclaimer, Notes, Acknowledgements, etc.: This is ATF, it's a (hopefully) humorous little romp that was written as "penance" for calling Michael Biehn "skinny" one too many times. It was previously posted on the BnB genlist, and moved here in 2007 in an attempt to get all my stories in one place.
Webmaster Note: This story was formerly hosted at another website and was moved to blackraptor in June, 2007
Chris Larabee took a deep, steadying breath as he reached the top of the staircase. He had spent the last three weeks working undercover as an accountant for Albert Sarrizan, after they had arrested his accountant. Stan Kellogg had been Sarrizan's accountant for more than a decade and considered instrumental in building a case against the man. Albert was into everything from drugs to guns to prostitution. They had been after him for years with little luck.
They had kept the arrest quiet and, as far as Sarrizan knew, Kellogg had gone out of the country to deal with some family business. He was lead to think that because they had convinced Kellogg to call his boss and tell him that. In return, they would keep the elderly, ailing accountant in a safehouse rather than jail.
While talking to his boss, Stan suggested that the man contact an "acquaintance" of his, another accountant, who he vouched for. Kellogg promised that Larry B. Christopher could be trusted to serve as an accountant in his absence. Since he couldn't say for certain how long he would have to be gone, he wanted someone trustworthy. Larry B. was just the man for the job.
So, Chris Larabee had become Larry B. Christopher and had insinuated himself into the Sarrizan organization. He had also ingratiated himself into the Sarrizan household by proving to be a reliable and conscientious man.
The fact that he tolerated Cappy's attentions only made him that much more popular with Sarrizan.
Cappy, or Prince Alphonse Capone's Little Boy, was an ancient, temperamental, teacup poodle. And Cappy had developed an instantaneous infatuation for the tall, handsome blond.
He followed Larry B. around from the time the man walked in the door in the morning until he walked out at night. If Christopher sat down, the dog sat on his feet. If he moved, the dog was on his heels. Sarrizan even reported that Cappy sat at the door, whimpering for his new friend when he left at night. The blond started bringing treats for the little dog, soft ones since Cappy only had a few teeth left.
Chris hated Cappy.
The damn thing was only a little bigger than a good size rat, so the undercover agent was constantly watching to make certain he didn't trip over it. It was half blind, half deaf, and incontinent.
Cappy should have gracefully expired a decade earlier. He certainly smelled as if he had. Even though the housekeeper cleaned the little creature on a daily basis, it did very little to mask the fetid odor of the aged canine.
Larabee was forced to spray his shoes every night in an effort to keep the stench to a minimum. He left them sitting on the window ledge outside his rented apartment from the time he came home until the time he left for work. He was also forced to send his slacks to the cleaner after each wearing. He just threw the socks away each night and bought new ones.
If the assignment went on very long, he would have a lot of explaining to do on his expense report.
Fortunately for Larry B. Christopher, a.k.a. Chris Larabee, things had moved relatively quickly. Now he and his team, along with members of team five, were taking Sarrizan down.
So, here he was at the top of the staircase, searching the upper floor of the west wing of the mansion for Albert Sarrizan.
"This is One, I'm up top, heading for the rabbit hole," He spoke in code over his headset.
"Copy, One, got'cha in sight." The drawl made it unnecessary for Vin Tanner to identify himself. The team sharpshooter was providing cover from the trees outside.
"Got your back, Boss," Buck Wilmington reported. He was posted on the landing below Larabee, covering that avenue of escape.
'I'm going in." Chris responded as he moved toward the end of the long hall, where the master suite was situated. They had managed to take down or take out the other members of the household; team five and the rest of his own men were dealing with them. Only Albert and his personal body guard were still unaccounted for.
And they were his.
Moving slowly down the hallway, he neared the door that Albert's suite was behind. He had been inside a few times and knew that the suite door and windows were all fortified and on alarms. There was also a camera set above the door so that Sarrizan could verify the identity of anyone outside the door.
There was only one way he'd be able to get inside.
Taking off the headset, he shoved it into his pocket. Chris had thought ahead, and carried a blank duplicate of Sarrizan's most current ledger with him. Sprinting the rest of the way, he began pounding on the door as soon as he reached it. Feigning panic, he began screaming, "Boss! Boss! Let me in!"
Holding up the false ledger, he yelled, "I've got the ledger! Boss, let me in!"
The door inched open, Larabee recognizing Sarrazin's bodyguard peering out at him. Playing the role of frightened man to the hilt, Larabee screamed, "Lemme in, Barney! For God's sake, they're all over the place!" The ATF agent heard a voice inside, and the door opened further to allow him inside.
At that moment, his headset chose to malfunction and the air was split with a high frequency squeal.
"It's a set-up!" Barney screamed as he shoved the smaller blond backwards. "Git outta here, Boss!"
Chris saw stars as he crashed hard against the wall. Before he could recover, his dazed mind registered that both Barney and Alfred were moving past him. Then he heard Buck call out, "ATF, freeze!"
"Shit," Larabee managed to grate out through clenched jaws. He felt his shirt front grabbed in a big, beefy fist and then he was being pushed along the hallway in front of the two men. He was vaguely aware of the tall brunet standing at the head of the staircase, gun trained on Sarrizan.
"This is going well," Chris growled. He'd lost his gun somewhere. No, there it was... in one of Barney's hands. The other one had a big wad of his sweater balled up in it, forcing him to act as a human shield. Barney was right behind him, with Alfred so close to him on the left that he could tell what the man had eaten for dinner.
Oh yeah, it was going real well.
He managed to focus his eyes on his agent. "Back off, Buck."
"Chris - "
"You heard the man," Albert snarled, "back off."
"I don't take orders from you!" Wilmington was afraid for his friend's life and that made him both angry and a liability.
"Buck! I said, back off!" Larabee yelled the order loud enough to be heard over everything else. He watched as, reluctantly, the big brunet backed off, his eyes flashing dark blue sparks.
It was about then that they neared the staircase. The blond had recovered enough that he was no longer seeing stars, and he was looking for a way to slip out of the bigger man's grasp. Preferably without ending up with a hole blasted in any part of his anatomy.
He didn't have much time to think, however. As they came abreast of the stairs, he felt Barney's hold change. Then, without warning, the bigger man shoved him hard, right toward Wilmington. He felt his friend grab for him but the loose knit red sweater he had decided to wear that morning was all the other man caught. The material stretched and, before Buck could react, or before he could grab for the bigger man's hand, he started falling.
The big brunet lost his hold, and watched in open mouthed shock as his old friend bounced down the stairway. Chris tumbled along, some part of the long, lean body striking every carpeted step on the way. He landed in a sprawl on the landing a few seconds later, staring up at the other agent with a dazed expression. It would have been comical if... well, hell, it was comical.
"Chris?" Wilmington spoke tentatively as he bounded down the steps after the other man, the escaping criminals forgotten at the sight of Larabee lying there so still.
"Yeah?" Larabee's voice was a strangled whisper.
"Fine. You?" He replied sarcastically. Then he reached a hand up, silently requesting help to his feet.
"Lay still, you don't need to be movin' 'til we get Nate in here to check you out." Then he responded to a question coming to him via the headphone. "He fell down the stairway... just to the landin'... nah, he's awake... no, don't see no blood. Not yet leastways - "
"We need to get after Sarrizan and Barney, help me up!" The blond interrupted as he growled the order. Wilmington helped him up, then caught him as the world decided to spin out of control without giving due notice first. "Shit!"
"Take it easy, now you wait here and - " The bigger man was cut off by a shove as the stubborn blond pushed him away and started up the stairs. It didn't escape Wilmington that his friend was cradling his left arm against his chest. "Damn it, Larabee, you're hurt!"
"I'll keep! Let's go!" The pain that was screaming through his body made Chris' voice sharp.
"Yes, sir, Captain Larabee, SIR!" Buck growled as he followed the other man up the staircase.
"You're... piss... ing... me... off... Wil... ming... ton..." The injured man growled between grunts of pain.
By the time the two men had made it to the top of the staircase, there was no sign of Sarrazin or Barney.
Cappy was there, however.
"Down, dog," Chris ordered as the tiny canine danced around him arthritically. He moved down the hallway, the little poodle on his heels.
"Friend 'a yours?" Buck asked. He made no effort to keep his voice down. The four-legged hairball was making enough noise to mask anything quieter than a nuclear explosion. The only thing he received was a glare for his efforts. "Jesus, does it ever wind down?"
"Shut up, Cappy," Larabee turned a glare toward the dog, but either its vision was too poor or the ancient creature was impervious. Whichever the case, Cappy continued dancing around the blond's feet.
They made their way down the hall as quick as the aching blond could manage. He finally gained his second wind and began to sprint, a few steps ahead of the other man. The fact that he was unarmed crossed his mind, but he continued on.
There was a smaller, less ornate, servants' stairway at the far end of the hall. Leading the way, Chris jogged down the steps, grunting as the movement jarred his injured arm. Cappy was right on his heels, suddenly and surprisingly spry for his advanced years. As they neared the bottom the blond found himself dodging the irritating creature as it made a dash between his feet. He crashed into the wall, his injured arm taking most of the impact.
The air turned blue with four lettered words delivered through gritted teeth.
"You gonna stop now an' let me see if - " Buck broke off, pressing a hand to his headset and listening. "Say again? Yeah, okay." Turning to the other man, he reported, "Vin said the two suspects just came out the back door. He's keeping them in his sites."
"Tell him... not to... kill them..." Chris ordered. They needed Sarrizan alive, for now at least.
Wilmington relayed the message then said, "He wants to know if he can wing 'em."
"Only as a last resort," Larabee replied as he headed toward the back door. "And tell him we're coming out now."
Buck relayed this as well then, after a brief pause, he chuckled. In response to whatever the Texan had said, he said, "Yeah, well just don't shoot 'im in the left, he's done busted it up good."
"Tell him, he shoots me he can forget that extra day off next week," Chris quipped as he opened the back door. "And it's not busted."
"Yeah... right," the bigger man mumbled as he followed his boss and friend out the door.
As they crossed the threshold onto the deck beyond, Buck responded to the voice in his ear once more. "Vin says they went right."
Chris nodded, "Garage. Watch the door, don't let the - Fuck! Cappy!" He growled as the teacup was quick on his heels once more. When he saw that he wasn't going to be able to grab the creature, he growled once more. Resigned to his fate, he started off at a jog, once more nearly tripping over it as the little dog once more tried to gain his attention. "Damn it, Cappy, go away!"
"Must be luuuuuuuv," Wilmington teased. Then he said in his earpiece, "hell, no, that ain't a rat. It's one of them teapot poodles."
"Teacup," Larabee corrected absently as he slipped into the shadows near the big, multi-car garage.
"Oh, well s'cuse me, pard," Buck whispered as he slipped into the shadows as well. "No offense toward your little buddy there."
Chris glared through the darkness, toward his companion. It had about the same effect on the other man as it had the dog. The blond wondered if the fall had done more damage than he thought, of if he was simply losing his touch.
Just then they heard a car engine starting up inside the garage. "Damn it, they're running!"
The two agents sprinted around the side of the garage, heading for the door side.
Just as they turned the corner there was the sound of wood splintering and metal ripping loose. As Larabee attempted to halt his headlong progress, he felt his sweater grabbed once more.
Buck, hearing the sounds of destruction, realized immediately that the bad guys were coming through one of the wide garage doors. Fearing for his friend, he grabbed hold of the smaller man and pulled back hard.
He had forgotten about the dog.
Chris, already unbalanced by his friend's rescue attempt, stumbled backwards. He tripped over something small, furry and annoying, and his feet went out from under him.
Wilmington, unprepared for the blond to come flying toward him, tried to stop his reverse progress. As Larabee thumped hard against his chest, they both fell backwards. With no one else there to stop him, Buck landed on his back in the grass.
And Chris landed right on top of him.
Both men lay on their backs, dazed and staring up at the sky. Both men frowned, wondering why they were seeing stars. All sorts of stars. Some were stationary, while others spun and cavorted in wild patterns.
And then the stars were laughing. The bigger man wondered why the stars were laughing in stereo.
"Damn, y'all looked real purty, flyin' through th' air like that." Vin Tanner came to a stop beside the other two agents. He was laughing.
'Go to hell, Tanner', both men thought. Neither one of them could quite get enough air into their lungs to actually verbalize the thought right then. They settled on glaring at the guffawing Texan. It never had worked on him, though.
"Wanna hand up, Cowboy?" Vin drawled. He reached down and took hold of Larabee's arm.
His left arm.
There followed an impressive display in the use of four-letter words, accompanied by a great deal of writhing. The blond curled into a ball, still atop the dazed brunet.
In response, Buck yelled out, expelling what air he'd managed to draw in. Larabee's very sharp hip bone managed to hone in on and grind into that part of his anatomy he held most dear. He began writhing as well, trying desperately to move the blond to a new location.
Despite feeling guilt for causing his friend pain, Tanner couldn't help but wish he had his video camera with him. He knew quite a few people who'd pay to see the show he was getting for free.
Belatedly realizing that he might want to offer his assistance, Vin reached down and, careful to avoid all four of Larabee's limbs, started to lift him off Wilmington.
He'd forgotten about the dog.
Cappy had been stunned when Chris tripped over him, but was now recovered enough to hurl his tiny body toward what he perceived as his friend's attacker. Despite his advanced years, the little teacup poodle leapt through the air and latched onto one of the stranger's hands.
If anything, Tanner's knowledge of foul language was far more advanced than Larabee's.
Jumping back with a howl of pain, the younger man found himself wearing the little dog as an ornament. Cappy dangled from the side of his hand like a good luck charm, although Vin wasn't feeling very lucky at the moment.
Blinking through tears of pain, Chris was shocked to see the poodle valiantly fighting off what he evidently saw as an attacker. He didn't think the mangy canine had that many teeth left. He watched as the team sharpshooter danced around, howling and clutching at his arm. He heard the growls that issued forth from the little dog that continued to cling to his hand. He decided he really should do something to help, no matter how much he was enjoying the show.
Larabee pushed himself up, careful not to jostle his left arm. In the process, his elbow somehow made contact with the same part of Buck's anatomy that his hip had earlier. He jumped up, staggering as the big brunet let out a bellow that drowned out both Vin's cursing and Cappy's growling.
"Sorry, Buck," the agent said apologetically as he watched the bigger man rolling about the ground in the fetal position. Turning back toward where Vin continued dancing about, he called out, "Tanner calm down! Come here and let me help you out!"
The Texan stumbled toward him, tears streaming down his face, the dog still dangling from his hand. Chris tried to figure out how to proceed, given that he had only one working arm. He grabbed the little poodle with his right hand, slipping around the withered little body. As gently as possible, he said, "Come on Cappy, let go."
Cappy responded with a growl.
"Cappy come on, let go."
"I swear t' God, Lar'bee, I'm shootin' th' fuckin' cur!" Vin threatened through gritted teeth.
Cappy growled louder, and bit down harder.
"JESUS!" Tanner screamed.
"Would you settle the hell down and let me get him?" Larabee turned to see how Buck was fairing in hopes that the other man could help out. Seeing the bigger man still rolling on the ground, he ruled out that option.
Turning back to the canine bearing agent, Chris said in a low, firm voice, "Vin, you need to stand still and keep your voice down."
"Y' mind tellin' me how?" Tanner growled.
"Just pretend you've got me in your sites, ready to take me down," Larabee suggested. Taking a deep breath, Vin stood completely still. Nodding, the blond turned back to the little dog. A soft tone in direct contrast to his words, he said, "Let go of my friend you fucking mutt. Come on Cappy, let go."
Slowly, the aged poodle released his hold.
Vin dropped to the ground, cradling his mangled hand.
Chris tried to figure out what to do with Cappy.
"What happened over here?"
Larabee turned to find Ezra Standish and Josiah Sanchez coming around the side of the big house. Heaving a sigh, his battered body beginning to weave as he said, "It's a long story."
The other two men were at his side in an instant. Seeing that their boss was favoring his left arm, Josiah wrapped an arm around the smaller man's waist and held the injured arm protectively at the elbow. "Come on, Chris, sit down before you fall down."
As the profiler began to lower Larabee to the ground, Ezra reached out toward Cappy. Before the blond could issue an order to back off, he took the tiny creature from his hold. "Here, let me take care of this little fellow for you."
Settling onto the ground, Chris could do nothing but gape, open-mouthed, as Cappy went peacefully to the Southerner. In fact the stupid thing snuggled up to him as if he had known Standish all his life. Shaking his head, the blond agent said only, "I'll be damned."
Straightening after he got Larabee settled, Josiah surveyed the scene. Chris still seemed to be weaving, even sitting down. He cradled his left arm against his chest, the limb showing an odd angle just above the wrist. Nearby, Buck lay in the fetal position, both hands protectively over his crotch. Then he focused on Vin and hurried to where the youngest of the agents sat.
"What happened?" He questioned. Vin was holding his right hand, which was covered in blood. Kneeling beside the injured man, he carefully took the man's arm and raised it in hopes of slowing the bleeding a little. Reaching into his pocket, he withdrew a folded handkerchief and pressed it against the wound. As Tanner hissed in response, he said, "sorry about that, but we need to get the bleeding stopped."
"Somethin's pokin' at me," the Texan complained.
Pulling the cloth away, the older man looked closely at the injured area. It was too dark to be certain, but he thought he saw something small poking out of at least three of the little puncture wounds. Frowning, he was uncertain as to what to do next. Finally he laid the handkerchief back over the wound, but only put pressure on the area surrounding it.
His mind finally clearing, Chris said, "We've got to get after them!"
"Do you perchance mean those miscreants you were after earlier?"
"Yeah, they took off in a car, we need to... ow!" Larabee tried to get to his feet then cried out as he jostled his arm once more.
"Not to worry," Standish said calmly. "The driver lost control of the vehicle and suffered a wreck."
"Tell him the rest of it, Ezra," Josiah said. He was now not only supporting Tanner's arm, but Tanner himself as shock set in.
"I... uh... I would prefer that... " Standish stammered uncharacteristically.
"Unless you want me to deny payment on your last expense report, you'll spill it," The blond growled.
"Well, it's just that... well, uh... the escaping felons... they, well... they hit the... uh... they struck, that is, they... "
"They hit the surveillance van!"
"What!" Chris once more started toward his feet and once more he growled as pain shot through his arm. The air once more turned blue as he dropped back to the ground, rocking as tears of pain streamed down his face.
Looking down at the little poodle he held, Ezra said, "My yes, that went well." In response, Cappy licked the undercover agent's chin.
They were a sorry looking bunch.
Five of the seven members of ATF Team Seven were gathered the little hospital room in the pre-dawn hours. Vin had just been wheeled in, the semi-conscious man blinking around him owlishly at his friends. They had removed four tiny teeth from the wound on his hand before taking all necessary precautions against infection. The little wounds had been sutured closed and his entire hand covered in thick bandages. He was also treated for shock and blood loss, which led the doctor to keep him overnight for observation. Fortunately, at least, they were able to verify that Cappy was current on all his shots, including rabies.
Chris was lying in the other bed. His left hand was immobilized in a cast from his fingers to the middle of his forearm. In a vibrant, pink, cast. He hadn't discovered who had convinced what member of the medical staff to use pink but, when he did, someone was going to need a cast on more than his arm.
The blond had suffered through an extensive exam to make certain that there were no hidden injuries. Happily, other than many, many, many bruises, the broken arm was the only injury he had received. Still, they were keeping him overnight as well. He was convinced that whoever had engineered the use of pink casting material had paid someone off. They probably thought that keeping him confined overnight would give him time to calm down.
How wrong they were.
Revenge was a dish best served cold. He would bide his time and at some time in the future, the instigator would pay... and the price would be high.
Between the two beds, Buck Wilmington sat in a wheelchair with a very large bag of ice settled between his legs. He looked decidedly uncomfortable, but the doctor had deemed him eligible for release. Other than some pain and minor bruising he was fine.
Buck wasn't certain what sort of sick, twisted individual could count what had happened to him as anything faintly resembling minor.
The SAC frowned as he noted that JD and Ezra were missing from the group. He questioned their absence and asked Josiah and Nathan where the other two men had disappeared to.
"Well, JD's helping with clean up and said he'd get started on the paperwork," Nathan offered.
When nothing else was said, the blond said, "What about Ezra?"
"He was... well, occupied, with other things," Josiah explained.
"Well, no," Sanchez replied in an odd tone.
With a frown, Larabee said, "What's going on?" Then he suddenly flashed back upon the Southern agent a few hours earlier. The last time he had seen the other man, Ezra was holding that miniature hound from hell. "Did something happen? Did Cappy bite Ezra, too?"
"Dunno how," Vin muttered from the other bed. "Damn thing left all 'is teeth in m' hand."
With a chuckle, Josiah said, "No, Cappy hasn't hurt him."
Chris looked from Sanchez to Jackson and back again, trying to decipher what the two men weren't telling him.
Ezra Standish entered his townhouse, closing the door behind him with a sigh. He listened closely for sounds of his houseguest. As if on cue he heard the soft 'tick-tick' of little nails across his parquet floors. Grinning, he knelt down as Cappy made his way across the room toward him. "Good evening my fine sir, and how are you faring?"
In response the little teacup poodle let out a high-pitched yip, hurrying as much as his aged legs would move. He set down in front of his new friend.
Ezra reached out and gathered the little dog into his arms. He pulled at the elastic band that kept the 'doggy diaper' in place and wrinkled his nose. Definitely time for a change.
It had taken quite a bit of time and money to find a groomer who would not only agree to take on the temperamental pet, but who had the ability to remove the fetid stench the dog reeked of. Thanks to bi-weekly visits as well as the diapers, he was able to keep the odor to a minimum. He had also tracked down as much information as he could on the little teacup and had taken Cappy to his regular vet for a check-up. The vet had expressed dismay at the fact that the teacup had lost his last few teeth and recommended a nutritionally sound soft food.
He also informed Standish that Prince Alphonse Capone's Little Boy had just turned eighteen. If he was well taken care of, he might possibly survive another four to six months. At that point he launched into a list of ailments the dog suffered from and presented his 'temporary' caretaker with a variety of medications and a schedule of when they needed to be taken.
Ezra had walked out of the veterinary clinic in a daze.
His friends and associates had teased him relentlessly for the past month. They couldn't understand why Ezra Standish of all people had been taken in by the dog. The suggestions of sending the dog to the local shelter or, better yet, his eternal reward had met with cold glares. While those suggestions quickly ceased, they let their feelings be known in other ways.
Vin absolutely refused to set foot in his house as long as that 'damn, stinkin', conivin', vicious cur' was there, waving his bandaged hand as evidence as to its evil intent. The others steered clear as well as, other than Chris, Cappy treated them as intruders. Despite the fact that he had deposited his last few teeth in Vin's hand, he seemed oblivious to the fact that gumming a person wasn't quite as effective.
When pushed, Ezra swore he was at a loss as to why he had been so captivated by the little dog. He was not about to share the truth with the others, despite its simplicity. They most certainly would never allow him to live it down.
Cappy loved him.
The Southerner had never before experienced the unconditional, all - encompassing love that the wretched creature lavished upon him.
"Well, come along then, shall we clean you up and give you some dinner?" The little animal licked his chin, bringing another smile to the agent.
They went into the guest bedroom, which was quickly becoming 'Cappy's Room'. The little bathroom off to one side held the dog's grooming supplies, including the doggy diapers. He cleaned up and changed the incontinent canine with the skill that came from weeks of practice. He had even given up lunch hours with the other agents in favor of coming home to tend to the little creature.
He had looked into doggy daycare, but those that didn't have a waiting list did not meet his expectations.
Finished changing his companion, Ezra carried the dog back through the somewhat cluttered room. What had once been an immaculate area was now cluttered with a variety of items meant for Cappy's comfort. He had not only secured permission to bring the little dog's belongings from the Sarrizan estate, he had added to the collection. A scattering of soft, rag doll like toys were spread around the room.
A plush bed complete with canopy, sat in one corner of the room. Nearby was a quilt that had been placed on the floor so that the morning sun warmed it nicely. Cappy had learned quickly that curling up there after his new friend left was a pleasant way to spend the morning.
They walked through the house, Standish chatting amicably with the tiny creature about his day. From time to time Cappy reached up to deliver a canine kiss, or occasionally offered a yip in agreement with the man's comments. Reaching the kitchen, Ezra prepared the little dog's dinner in his crockery bowl. Sitting the food on the floor, he settled nearby with a smile, content to keep his companion company throughout his meal.
Chris Larabee was on the verge of losing his temper. He had called the planning meeting for 2:00pm and it was now 2:45. Ezra Standish might push the limits of tardiness, but that time had come and gone.
Larabee looked up as the door opened, admitting the Southerner. Despite being annoyed by the man, Chris could see that something was bothering him. Biting down on the urge to make a snide comment, he asked, "Something wrong, Ezra?"
"My apologies, I was unexpectedly detained," Standish said evasively.
When the undercover agent offered nothing more as explanation, Larabee set any other questions aside. "All right, Buck, what have you got?"
Ezra finished gathering up the last dog toy, placing it carefully in the box with the other things. With a trembling sigh, he wiped at a stray tear. He was somewhat shocked at how much he had accumulated over the last four months. The agent glanced toward the slightly rumpled blanket that still lay beneath the window. It had been there that he had found Cappy earlier that day. He was grateful that the little dog seemed to have gone peacefully, but was saddened that he hadn't been with him.
"Suck it up, Standish," He growled at himself. "You act as if you lost your only friend."
Just then the doorbell rang, summoning him from his thoughts. Scrubbing at his face, he tried to erase the tell-tale signs of his distress. Setting the box aside, he went to answer the door. Staring through the peephole, Ezra frowned. He was uncertain of what to make of the gathering he saw on his stoop.
"Open up Standish, we know you're in there!" Buck Wilmington called out.
Shaking his head, the Southerner unlocked and opened the door, standing aside as his six fellow agents entered his townhouse. Each man carried something inside either a box or a bag, many of them emitting delectable aromas.
As the other men began unpacking the boxes and bags, he asked the room in general, "Might I ask as to what I owe the pleasure of this invasion?"
The other men stopped in their tracks. After a few seconds, Josiah turned to the man. "Well, brother, the vet hospital called right after you left. They wanted to know where you wanted the... well, remains... sent."
"Oh, I... well I was certain that none of you would be interested..."
Clapping the smaller man on the shoulder and handing him an imported beer, "Chris said, "Well, you were wrong, weren't you?"
"Gees, Ezra," JD put in, "you act like we're heartless or something."
"Yeah, hell," Vin added as he shoved half a slice of pizza in his mouth, "maybe we didn't like th' dawg, but that don't mean we don't care 'bout you."
Nathan looked at the man and said, "After we heard, we decided that there was only one thing we could do."
"And that would be?" Standish asked, hoping the others didn't hear the tremble in his voice.
"Well, hell, Ace," Buck added, "This here's a good, old-fashioned wake!"
Ezra was taken aback, barely registering the fact that someone had handed him a plate filled with a smorgasbord of take-out food. He couldn't find his voice; could only stare from one man to the other. Each of them looked back at him, smiling.
No, he had been wrong. He may have lost Cappy, but he certainly had not lost his last friend.