Main characters: Seven
Disclaimers: I do not own the characters within this story and I am making no profit from this.
Acknowledgements: I would like to thank MOG for the creation of the ATF universe, Heather F. for Team Eight, and to Anne Little for her encouragement.
"Before you embark on a journeyof revenge, dig two graves." - Confucius
Denver Health Emergency Waiting Room. Sunday Night…
His fist met the wall with a resounding crack as the cartilage between the delicate bones in his hand and wrist gave way. The pain that shot from his knuckles to his elbow indicated that he'd either dislocated a finger or two or that he had managed to break one of the bones in his hand. Knowing the possible extent of his injury did nothing to lessen the pain he was feeling.
It was funny, he reflected, that in the movies everyone always seemed to be putting their fists through a wall. Looking down at the swelling of his hand and abrasions that marred the dark skin of his knuckles, Nathan Jackson surmised that it was broken and not dislocated, and from the rapid pace of the swelling it was a fairly bad break. He was probably going to have a cast for four to eight weeks as if things weren't bad enough. Belatedly he realised the futility and stupidity of taking his frustrations out on the wall. He of all people with training as a forensic scientist should understand the physics behind the punch he just threw, but then he hadn't bothered to think things through, he was just so angry. With the increase of pain his anger seemed to deflate leaving him with only pain, sadness, and regret. The physical pain being nothing compared to the blow his emotions had taken lately. At this point the smell of the hospital seemed to be completely overwhelming. A smell like no other, part antiseptic, part something else, that might just be the vinyl flooring, the plastic chairs, the cold metal that comprised most of the furniture in this wretched place, or maybe it was just the smell of death, that seemed to linger, like a shadow at evening, that eventually blends into the darkness of the falling night, leaving no place to escape and enveloping all those within its reach, choking and suffocating, relentless in its pursuit, and somehow uncaring in who it touched. None were safe from its grasp. He could feel the eyes of his friend on him and turned to meet them with a sheepish look.
"What, no lecture on taking out my feelings on the wall?"
"No, brother I thought you were giving yourself enough of a talking to without my help."
Josiah Sanchez looked into the dark brown eyes of his friend and found that they seemed to mirror his own feelings of helplessness and hopelessness. How had things gone so wrong?
"Well seeing as I made a similar spectacle of myself at the bust I have to give the lecture to myself too. Now I know you wanted to find out how the others were doing, but don't you think that breaking your hand was a slightly desperate measure to get back there?" he joked, trying to lighten the dark atmosphere of the room. Nathan felt the anger welling up inside him again
"How can you make a joke at a time like this?"
He glared into the blue eyes of his friend, his anger causing him to miss the sadness in them.
"We just lost one of our friends, another two are back there getting realigned, Chris is trying to get IA off our backs, we haven't been able to get a hold of Ezra, and you sit their making jokes?"
He wanted to hit something again, everything had gone wrong and there was nothing he could do, even the extra first aid training he had taken wasn't enough, but it was bound to happen sooner or later with the high risk job they had. It didn't matter how much knowledge he crammed into his head, he still hadn't been able to do a thing. What good was a near eidetic memory when you forgot to factor in the human element?
"I know you're upset Nate, but what happened out there was in no way, shape, or form your fault."
Josiah's deep voice broke through his thoughts. Josiah looked sadly at his friend
"You couldn't be in three different places at one time, no one could, and as for the joke, maybe it was ill timed, but you can't go on being angry. Chris was so angry God only knows if we'll end up in prison when he finishes with IA," he said, running a hand through his greying hair
"I know I'm not really one to talk, with my tendency to go Old Testament on people, but if we are going to find the people responsible then we need to put our emotions aside and think clearly. I realized that after I blew up at the bust. I think we would be better off focusing our anger on those responsible and working on taking them down instead of working on each other."
Nathan looked down at his hand
"I supposed I should go get this set and casted," he said resignedly.
Josiah let a small smile grace his features.
"We'll get them, don't make any mistake about that. Then you can get your pound of flesh, maybe take a pound from the brass while we're at it."
The two tall men walked down to nurse's desk, one cradling his sore hand, the other gently guiding him by his elbow.
"Hello nurse Kendrick," Josiah greeted one of the nurses who had been watching them. "My friend seems to have hurt his hand," he said with a smile.
Nurse Kendrick was unfortunately very well acquainted with the members of Team Seven and only her extensive knowledge of the team's normal behaviour had prevented security from being notified. It was bound to happen sooner or later considering the behavior of the rest of the team. Mr. Jackson was normally such a nice, quiet looking man too, but then again one should expect this, it's always the quiet ones. Still she couldn't help but wonder what had turned the normally reasonable Mr. Jackson into an angry raving source of danger like the rest of his team.
Denver Federal Building, 11th Floor, Midday Friday…
As Chris Larabee and Josiah entered the bullpen he was greeted by the excited voice of the technology expert of the team. He could see the young man gesturing wildly as he pulled his face into an angr, concentrated expression
"And then he starts running, and his face is like this, and he jumps to tackle the guy and the guy sidesteps at the last second and O'Doherty hits the floor so hard he knocks the wind out of himself, so he's lying on the floor blinking and gasping like a fish out of water. It was the funniest thing ever; well except for the time you got drunk and dared Vin to wax your mustache off, but…Hey!!!"
JD's story was cut off as the surveillance expert of the team skilfully hit him the forehead with a mini Nerf football.
"What did I tell you about that story? How many times do I have to tell you not to repeat that? You don't talk that way about a man's mustache."
As Buck spoke he jumped up and put JD in a head lock. Chris cleared his voice alerting the two men to his presence.
"JD, did you finish your fight tactic refresher course?" he asked, seemingly ignoring the antics of his co-workers.
JD had the grace to look slightly ashamed, while Buck smiled unrepentantly at his long-time friend as he released the dark haired youth.
"Yeah I did and I was just telling Buck about agent O'Doherty, you know from Team 3, he was trying to show off again and the instructor totally showed him up and he got really angry. I think he would have punched they guy if could, but the instructor was great and made him look like such an idiot, not that he doesn't normally look like one, but today he really looked stupid, I mean even I know not to run full force at someone, 'cause once you start running it's kind of hard to stop, I think that's why O'Doherty hit the floor so hard, man it was hilarious, hey how did your meeting with the judge go, and what happen to the bullpen, why's it so crowded?
It was at moments like this that Chris felt old, listening to the enthusiasm that JD always seemed to exhibit, even after spending three hours in training.
"We have a new case. Josiah and I will give you the details at the meeting later today once the others come back from lunch."
As he turned to head back to his office the elevator chimed announcing the return of his agents. His undercover agent entered flanked by Nathan. The two agents seemed to be discussing the merits of espresso as opposed to the…'vile carcinogenic concoction that Mr. Tanner generally delighted in brewing.'
The last was said with much disdain by Ezra Standish. Chris had to admit that the man did have a unique way of expressing himself.
"I said regular coffee, I never mention Vin's. I keep telling you if you keep drinking that espresso garbage from Starbucks you're going to end up with cardiac palpitations. You pump so much caffeine into your body it's a wonder you haven't fried your nervous system."
As Nathan looked his friend up and down Chris couldn't help but notice the gleam in his eyes.
"You already have the irritability and restlessness down pat and I'll bet you have insomnia, which would explain why you never come in to work on time."
Ezra turned and gave the medic a bored look
"Tell me Nathan, when do you plan on beginning your tour? I should like to acquire tickets for your performance. I really do enjoy your particular type of comedy. You have such a natural delivery. Now that your comedic skill has reached such a high level will you be resigning your position? I'm not sure how pleased Chris will be when he finds out that he will have to try to fill your valuable position on the team. I dare say it will be hard to find another mother hen willing to peck at this team."
Chris wasn't sure if he wanted to laugh or bang his head against the table as he watched Nathan's expression turn from confusion, to annoyance, to downright disbelief. He wondered absently how Ezra managed to keep such a bored expression on his face.
"Nathan's leaving?" JD asked with worry in his voice.
Nathan and Ezra answered simultaneously, "No!"
"Yes, Nathan has decided to embark on a career in the world of comedic acting."
By this time Buck and Josiah were laughing heartily. Buck reached over and cuffed the back of JD's head.
"You are so gullible."
JD protested the unsolicited contact.
"Be honest Ezra, you miss Vin's miserable coffee almost as much as you miss him don't you?" Buck said with a wide grin.
"Come on Brothers, Vin's coffee isn't that bad. If he were here, I don't think he'd appreciate you disrespecting it," Josiah said, wiping the tears from his cheeks. He never understood why everyone always picked on Vin's coffee. It was strong, but not as bad as they made it out to be.
"It has many uses such as; removing paint, melting iron, deflecting lasers, fuelling rockets, disintegrating diamonds, but not for drinking."
Nathan shook his head as Ezra began counting off the possible uses for Vin's coffee, on his fingers.
"Espresso is bad, but I got to agree on Ezra with this one. It's a wonder Vin's coffee hasn't eaten right through the pot."
"I think hell just froze over," Buck said putting on a shocked expression that fooled no one.
"Not only have Nathan and Ezra agreed on something, but Ezra hasn't denied missing Vin. Someone catch me, I feel faint."
Buck proceeded to clutch dramatically at his chest and fall over his desk. JD aided Buck's descent to the floor with a well-timed shove.
"Conference room now!" Chris said.
He though things might be boring with Vin Tanner out of the office, but the sharpshooter's absence due to an out of town conference had done very little to stop the antics of his co-workers. At least the practical jokes weren't as bad, but he had a feeling when Vin came back and learned of the discussion of his coffee, revenge would rain all over the bull pen. The Texan had a natural flair for practical jokes and his soft-spoken manner helped him maintain the appearance of innocence.
Chris felt a rush of anger as he recalled the meeting he had just left. It seemed the brass was out to get revenge on them for ignoring protocol and doing whatever they felt like - Travis's words not his. If the higher-ups thought his team could be sacrificed for office politics they had better stop smoking whatever they were on because hell would freeze over, pigs would fly, and Ezra would be early for work before he let the brass use his team to save their own miserable hides. The members of the team followed Chris into the conference room and began to settle down. Chris began to relay the information he had received from the Judge concerning their next case. Judge Orrin Travis was the assistant director of the ATF branch located in Denver Colorado. Even though he was no longer a practicing judge, the title had stayed with him.
"The DEA has been monitoring the activity of Andres González for the past ten years. Two years ago they started their undercover work. Their man has been in deep cover building a decent cover. González is an important figure in the drug world; he is one of the biggest buyers in the state not to mention the whole Northeast and Midwest. His operation reached Colorado last year. He's looking to expand into New Mexico, Texas, and Oklahoma. He is looking to increase his area and it seems he is purchasing weapons now. He's trying to form a whole army according to DEA report. Before he can form the army he's going to need a lot of weapons. The DEA have forced the ATF to claim joint jurisdiction so we are being called in to assist. The DEA ground team isn't going to be too happy about sharing so we may not have total support from them. They have an agent under as a seller for the drugs and he is going to introduce Ezra as a seller for firearms. We have a DEA team that will be working jointly with us, and we will have team eight, and team three for back up. We're going to be sharing our bull-pen with these guys, working hand in glove. Are there any questions?" he asked.
"You are of course referring to my alias as Eliot Spencer." Ezra said.
"I like him, he's one of you better aliases. You know you do a pretty good job of pretending to be all annoying, I think its 'cause you get some much practice." JD said, grinning at Ezra and causing the others to chuckle.
"The indignities I have to suffer as a member of this group knows no bounds. Is this maliciously slander Ezra Standish day?"
"There's a whole day for that! I'd think you would need a whole week for something like that pard," Buck said.
At Ezra's piercing glare Chris couldn't help thinking that maybe VIN might end up enlisting the help of Ezra when he started in on his payback.
"What I want to know is, are we just going to bust him for buying weapons?" Nathan asked "What about drug trafficking, why they haven't busted him for that already?"
"The official reason is that the man they have under is never given the terms that have been set out and to ask for a location of the meeting place would cause him to become suspicious of their operative." Chris sent a glare at Buck when he heard him snort loudly. Buck pretended to sneeze to cover his interruption.
"How badly has the DEA messed this one up Chris?" Buck asked.
"They've messed up big time and they're using the guns as an excuse to get us involved. The higher ups don't want any backlash from this so we've been involved. From what I understand, the ATF is none too happy to be involved, but the DEA has insisted on the grounds of jurisdiction. The teams we'll be interacting with aren't happy about it at all, they think we're questioning their loyalty and their integrity; our higher ups don't want to hear anything about it so we're pretty much on our own for this one. The brass isn't very fond of us so it's been dumped in our lap."
JD had a thoughtful expression as he questioned Chris. "So DEA and ATF brass want nothing to do with it, so we have minimal backup, the teams we will be working with want our blood 'cause they feel like we're out to get them, and we're only busting this guy for buying illegal firearms because they're such big idiots they haven't gotten anything after having a man in for over two years?"
At Chris's nod Buck smiled
"Well I guess that just goes to prove that when everything seems hopeless even the brass knows that there ain't no one better than the Magnificent Seven." As the last was said he threw his arms open reminding Chris of a toddler asking to be picked up.
"I do believe that our flagrant disregard for protocol and dismissive attitude towards the powers that be are more likely the foundation for their sudden request of our assistance," Ezra stated
"You think this is some form of punishment?" JD asked.
"We haven't really done all that much to make them upset. . . lately," he amended at the looks he was getting, "and we do have the highest closure rate for any ATF team," Nathan argued.
"They're trying to make us the fall guys if this goes all wrong, which it probably has already. Talk about unfair, I mean come on, they can't just dump this whole mess in our laps, can they? I mean, that would totally be unfair, just 'cause the DEA can't do their job doesn't mean they should dump it in our laps," JD said angrily.
Josiah's replywas delivered in a clam and even tone that hid is true feelings about the situation. "The DEA brass passed it to the ATF brass, who passed it to Travis who gave it to us because he knows that if he wants the job done we're his last option. Travis is the only one who isn't palming it off. They've dumped it on him and basically he resolves the situation or the ATF closes this division pending investigation. So either we nail him or we get nailed, it's as simple as that according to the official record."
At this point Chris took over filling in his men. "The judge seems to think it's something more than that. There isn't any proof, but he's fairly certain that someone pretty high up within the DEA must be feeding information to González. The DEA are just saying it's due to poor work put out by the team in charge, they want it fixed or someone to blame, hence calling in the ATF." There was a moment's silence as everyone contemplated what they had just heard.
"González has armed his men for years, he knows what he wants and how to get it. The DEA have told their man to try to convince him to go with a new seller. Their operative is supposed to make him nervous and convince him that his friend is the go to guy. We've had a name circulating in the underworld for quite some time now and the DEA is pretty sure that their guy can convince him to go with our seller. Are there any more questions?"
"How soon do we have before the meet?" Buck asked.
Chris's reply did nothing to improve the mood. "Ezra is going in tonight at a dinner party. We're working late tonight to make sure we have everything set up. Anything else?" As no one else did, they collected their things and headed back to their desks to begin their reading up.
Josiah sat pondering what he had been told earlier. The new director of the intelligence community wanted this case closed as it would make his record shine. His pressuring has been the cause of an inexperienced agent being sent under, none of the agents with any real experience wanted to touch the case with a ten foot pole as they knew how González treated those he no longer felt he could trust. The ATF had been dragged in under the pretense of an army being formed. He seriously doubted that the undercover agent had made any such clams and that the only reason they were being involved was because the DEA had no love for the ATF and they were the ones that could be involved. From the size of González's operation they knew he had to have some serious muscle and had probably been buying illegally for years now, so he should have been on the ATF's radar for nearly as long as he had been on the DEA. Maybe the ATF was smarter than he gave them credit for. The ATF director had dumped the problem directly in the lap of one of the assistant directors who was known to control a team that used unorthodox methods. If things went badly and the Director of the Intelligence Community was looking for someone's head, the DEA would say that interference from the ATF caused the problem and the ATF would reprimand their assistant director and blame it all on the insubordination of their team. Travis could have used another team, but he had been told that it would be at the cost of the Denver branch. They need a scapegoat and they had found one in the tarnished record of Team Seven. All of them had been reprimanded or suspended at one time in their career, even Nathan. Well, they would do their best to take González down.
Nathan couldn't believe that the directors of the ATF would essential stoop to blackmail, but then again he shouldn't be surprised. Wherever politics are concerned there is always trouble. H just hated being the guy left to clean up the mess, which was slightly ironic considering he made his living looking at the messes others left behind.
Buck knew that the only reason they were being given the assignment was because the ATF saw it as chance to get rid of team 'pain in the butt' seven once and for all. There was a small part of him that also liked to believe that if anyone could do it, it would be them and that was why they were given the assignment. He would be devastated if this team was torn apart and lift to rot. The friendship that they had seemed to hold them together like some sort of dysfunctional family. He had a feeling that even the end of the team wouldn't split them apart, but there was always that possibility and he knew he would die rather than lose what they had, but he had seen firsthand what anger could do to a man. When Chris had lost his family he spent three years in the anger stage and it nearly destroyed both of them. Chris seemed hell bent on punishing someone, on getting some sort of revenge for his family and all it had done was wasted not only his time, but a lot of years of all the people that cared the most about him. Fortunately the team had come along and changed all that. It had happen once before and he wasn't going to let anger tear his family apart again. He would do everything within his power to keep this from getting ugly.
At first JD was excited because he thought it was an honor to be chosen to work on a multiple branch operation, but now he wasn't happy at all; his family, career, and future had all just been decided for him. They probably wouldn't have a team by the end of this assignment, no one would ever hire any of them, and they would end up splitting up and walking away from the life they had now. They were such a diverse group that if it hadn't been for working in law enforcement they might never have all met. It just wasn't fair somebody else messed up and now they would be paying the price for it. That's the way it always seemed to be someone offends someone else, then they feel the need to get back at them and it ends up becoming some sort of twisted shoving match until no one is really sure how it started, all they know is that they are going to dish out as good as they get. Man the battle stations, they were not just going to fight, they were going to war.
Chris was as angry as he had ever been, but he was not going to let that anger get the better of him. They were going to get González of that he was sure. They were going to get him as a slap in the face to all those officials that were using his team, HIS TEAM as a scape goat. The way things worked they would all be taking bows and trying to claim credit when the smoke cleared and his team would not be mentioned. They had threatened to start investigations and looking at what had happen to Ezra had given him a fairly good idea how that would end. Once an investigation was started even if nothing was proven there would always be rumors and someone was always willing to buy into those dirty rumors. JD's whole career was in front of him, but it could end very easily, Nathan had a family to support, Ezra wouldn't stand for another investigation, they might start trumping up harassment suits against Buck and with his rep he'd be drummed out, Josiah could go for early retirement in about ten years, but he had his hobbies including teaching at local universities, and they wouldn't let someone suspected of helping a drug lord teach. Vin already lived in the worst part of town and he would prove to be a very good suspect. Law enforcement had been a major part of Chris' life for years and this team was his life now. They were tight, a special family all with their own weaknesses and strengths that balanced and complemented one another. Chris had pulled Ezra aside and let him know that if hewasn't sure about going in they would refuse the case and the team would back him 100%, but Ezra had been adamant in taking the case. Ezra said the brass wouldn't get their pound of flesh while blood was still running through his veins. He would keep playing the game, even if they were the ones making up the rules. Ezra had long ago annoyed the higher ups, as had they all at some point or another, and they seemed bent on getting the team for it. Payback and revenge, as far as Chris was concerned, were highly overrated. You never get anywhere in the end you end up being the one who gets destroyed. Sure anyone can fight, but Chris had come to realize that it takes a really strong person to rise above all the fighting, to put it behind them, and move on. If the brass was going to try to get them Chris was going to do his best to show them that he wouldn't be dragged down to their level, to playing politics if they wanted it done then they were going to move forward as a single cohesive unit.
Ezra Standish was not a happy man his team was being threatened. Of all the members of the team he was the only one that was personally acquainted with being thrown under the proverbial bus, so to speak. He had grown to care for and understand the men on this team and he was fairly certain that they would be able to keep their cool, it was just this other team that they had yet to meet that had him worried. He knew that most other people in their situation would be mad, and some might say rightfully so, but when people get angry enough they stop thinking and start acting, which may sound like a good thing, but the moment you, stop thinking you are leaving things to chance and he really did hate gambling. He was hoping that none of his team mates was taking this personally. Their opponents were looking at this as a political dealing, they were not taking into consideration the individuals involved and when you examine the situation closely you see that there really is no one out there trying to get you. You are not fighting an individual, you are fighting the system and those who are looking to manipulate it best to their advantage. Fighting wasn't an option in a situation like this, his mother had taught him that much. In cases like this you needed to play the game, take your chances, lay your bets, and always have an ace up your sleeve. In this case he considered his team to be just that.
Centennial Airport, Arapahoe County Colorado, Friday Afternoon…
Vin was in hell. Spending hours cooped up in a plane was not his idea of relaxing. Due to an incident at the Denver International Airport his flight from Beltsville, Maryland had been re-routed and the plane had been sitting on the tarmac for the past two hours. His jeep was in the parking lot at the Denver International and when he had called Chris to let him know he would be late Chris had insisted on sending someone down to meet him. They had just been informed that they would be allowed to disembark shortly much to his relief. The course that was being offered at the ATF Fire Research Laboratory had sounded interesting and he had enjoyed himself, this was just not the way he had planned to come home. While the flight wasn't the longest one he had ever been on it had still been long enough. Six and a half hours with an additional layover was too long to be cooped up as far as he was concerned. He considered himself to be a brave man, but there was just something about being stuck in a small space that made his heart beat a little faster. The fact that he had ended up in business class also tended to wear on him, not that he was shy or anything he just didn't feel the need to share every detail of his life with an overly friendly stranger that would wind up trying to sell something to him. He prided himself on being adaptable, but after the long flight and wait he was content to stay in Denver for a very long time. As he made his way down the aisle towards freedom he felt some of the tension drain from his body, soon he would be with his friends.
Vin Tanner had successfully made his way through airport security and had collected his baggage. He was nearly ready to embark on the last league of his journey. All he had to do was cross the terminal and meet whichever of his friends had been sent to pick him up. As he was exiting the airport he noticed Buck's Chevy idling in the 'No Parking' zone. Vin could feel the wind as he stepped outside. The sky looked like it might snow later in the evening. Beltsville had been sunny and warm, but he was still glad to be back. Vin opened the back door and chucked his duffle in and climbed in the front of the cab. The minute Vin closed the door, before he could even buckle the seat belt; Buck cut out of the Idling Zone and merged into traffic cutting off no less than three drivers. He returned the gestures that he had received.
"Hey, junior how, was Maryland?"
"How was the flight?"
"We have to stop to get food on the way back, is there anything you prefer?"
"Have you used up your word quota for the day?"
When Vin didn't answer Buck turned to look at his friend the lazy grin that met his gaze made him laugh.
"I was thinking about grabbing some pizza, we're all working late. New case," he answered the unasked question.
"What do you think we should get on the pizza?"
"Sausage, ham, pepperoni, anchovies, grilled chicken, salami, bacon, and extra cheese." Vin answered without blinking an eye.
"I know we're all good eaters, but I don't think we need eight pizza's and Ezra likes mushrooms on his, and Nathan will want one with olives, so that would be ten pizzas, I don't think we'll eat all that." Buck said a smile playing across is lips.
"All on one." Vin countered.
"Not sure I know what you mean." Buck said feigning ignorance.
"Those are the toppings I want on my pizza." Vin said with sigh. Buck let go of the steering wheel and raised his hands above his head and began cheering loudly. Vin gave him a nasty look.
"That's twenty bucks JD owes me, he bet me I couldn't get you to talk to me in whole sentences," Buck explained as he put his hands back on the wheel and indicated into the next lane closely cutting off another driver.
"Some people just can't drive. I can't wait to see the look on JD's face when I tell him," Buck commented as he sped down Arapahoe Rd hitting the Valley Highway at an alarmingly high rate of speed.
"What makes you think he'll believe you?" Vin asked.
"Well if he don't believe me I'll just tell him to ask you and you can tell him," Buck said smugly.
"What makes you think I'll tell him that?" Vin asked
"Aw come on, Vin, even I know you take your word seriously, you wouldn't lie over something like this," Buck said a little of his confidence wearing off.
"I don't have to lie; I just don't have to say anything."
"You wouldn't do that to your old pal Buck, would you?"
When Vin smiled instead of answerin, Buck seemed to worry.
"Come on pard I haven't done anything to you, well at least not lately. What will it take to convince you to tell JD?"
"I decide what goes on the pizza," Vin stated firmly.
"You got a deal," Buck said happily. "What're you going to get?"
"Mine, Pepperoni and onions for JD and Chris, and Mushroom and anchovies for Josiah and Ezra." Vin said.
"But Ezra don't like anchovies and Nathan likes olives and green peppers on his. They won't be happy," Buck said in confusion. If anyone on the team knew what food people liked it should be Vin. There are two things that Vin always was; hungry and observant.
"Well, I figure that after what they said about my coffee they deserve a little payback."
"How did you know about that?" Buck asked completely thunder struck.
"I have good hearing," Vin deadpanned.
In spite of the fact that it was Buck who was driving they reached the Federal building without killing anyone, although Buck maintained that the girl behind the counter, at the placed they'd stopped for pizza, would never recover from her close up and personal encounter with the Wilmington animal magnetism.
"I'm telling you Vin that little girl will never recover," Buck said as they exited the elevator loaded down with pizza boxes.
"I've heard that victims of tragedies have to carry the scars for the rest of their lives," Vin said.
Nathan ignored the barbed comments that Vin and Buck were trading. He closed his eyes and mentally counted to ten. It frustrated him beyond belief that no one seemed willing to give him the information he had requested months ago and now when they desperately needed information before they could send in Ezra they were being opposed at every turn. If he heard "proper channels" one more time he would lose his cool and break something. Some days he couldn't believe how badly their research was affected by politics and the interagency pettiness. If they FBI had information that the ATF wanted there was no way that they would give it up without a fight. The same could be said for the DEA, NSA, AFISRA, INSCOM, DIA, MCIA, NGA, NRO, ONI, OICI, I&A, CGI, INR, TFI, and the rest of the alphabet soup that made up the United States government. They were all part of the same intelligence community and were supposed to share information, but that didn't mean it was done without as much resistance as humanly possible. Usually he was considered the level headed one of the team, even Josiah was known to go Old Testament once in a while. He knew Josiah felt the same way about it because he could hear him quoting scriptures
"Arise, O Lord; save me, O my God; for thou hast smitten all mine enemies upon the cheek bone; thou hast broken the teeth of the ungodly."
"Let all mine enemies be ashamed and sore vexed: Let them return and be ashamed suddenly"
"I have pursued mine enemies, and overtaken them: neither did I turn again till they were consumed."
"Thou hast also given me the necks of mine enemies; that I might destroy them that hate me."
He agreed with sentiment of the last quote. Oh for the neck of the idiot he had just hung up on. He knew he really shouldn't be this angry, but he couldn't help it, it was something that had been building in him for the last few months. If he thought about it objectively he realized that he was just plain tired. They had all been overworked and now they were being given another case to work on, they had been putting in hundreds of extra hours and even when they were at home their thoughts never completely left the job. Having one of their men undercover meant that none of them would truly relax until he came out and they had been given four, not counting this new assignment, back to back. They were supposed to have down time between their cases, but everybody was working overtime. It felt like they always had to prove themselves to the upper brass.
Frustrated, that was how he felt. There was a desperation growing deep inside him. J.D. knew that this could very well be their last case together as a team for the ATF. He could feel the tension in the air. The others also seemed to be on edge. Josiah and Nathan were both trying to get a hold of some of the case details from the DEA and it wasn't going that well. They were supposed to be cooperating, but he could understand were the team they were coordinating with was coming from. The more he looked into it the worse things became. The team working the case had done some pretty decent work to get their guy under, but due to lack of support and constraints being placed on they were unable to call the shots. They initially sent a man under to gain González's confidence and had plans to send someone else in later, but the more González's operation was revealed the worse things looked, and the more the DEA denied resources. The DEA team they were working with would be arriving anytime now from Chicago. The DEA brass wanted to dump it in their laps, but didn't want to be shown up by the ATF. He had a feeling that once they were able to talk to the team things might go a little bit better. Everyone else seemed to think that they would be hostile towards them because essentially they were stealing their case after they had done the majority of the work, but felt after looking through their records that the team was very much like them. They didn't care who got the glory as long as the job got done. The team wasn't as big as theirs. There were only five members including the agent they had under cover. There was the team leader Mason Hunter, their chemist Mal-Chin An, their computer expert Jacque Michaud, their undercover agent Ricardo Martinez, and their surveillance expert Jordan Eisenmann. Buck would be thrilled having a woman to work with. Just as he was thinking that thought the elevator opened and Buck and Vin stepped out bring the pizza with them. J.D. crossed the bull-pen to help with the pizza and greet Vin.
As J.D. relieved Vin of his burden and headed with Buck to the break room. Josiah hung up his phone and greeted Vin.
"How was Maryland Brother?"
"How was the flight?"
"Well were all glad your back." Nathan moved towards his friend.
"Hey Vin, it's good to see you." Nathan missed the mischievous gleam that flared briefly in the Texan's eyes.
"Yeah, it good to be back, I can't wait to get a real cup of coffee." They heard J.D. swear as he handed over his money to Buck. Ezra smiled at Vin
"Vin, your absence was duly noted."
"You, saying you missed me?" Vin asked with a grin.
"Your ability to liaise with Chris was missed," Ezra replied. Vin smiled
"That and my awful coffee?" Vin asked his grin turning to something quite feral.
"Vin this is a momentous occasion. After years of debate you have finally seen the light. This day has been long in coming, but well worth the wait. The realization of the abominable flavour of you noxious concoction has left me bereft of speech." Ezra dabbed at the corner of his eye.
J.D. and Buck exited the break room just in time to hear the last exchange.
"Ezra you shouldn't push it, he already got anchovies on your pizza and no olives for Nathan," J.D. said with a laugh. Ezra glared at J.D. Nathan glared at Buck.
"Hey, don't look at me like that, he already knew when I picked him up," Buck protested.
At Nathan's questioning look Vin smiled
"I've got good hearing."
"And free Wi-Fi," Ezra said continuing his disapproving look at J.D.
"He was bored and asked me to fill him in on all the stuff he was missing and Buck would have told him anyways," J.D. said hoping to ward of the two very dangerous agents that faced him.
"Where's Chris?" Buck asked in an effort to shift the conversation away from his foolish roommate.
"He is waiting downstairs in the front lobby to greet our DEA counterparts. After which they will make the ascension to this floor and they will give us a highly detailed rundown of the situation as it now stands. As you can see we have added desks for the agents that will be arriving at the second conference room as been turned into quarters for the DEA team leader."
Josiah listened as J.D., Ezra, and Nathan began filling in Vin on what they knew about the agents they be working with thus far and how they were being denied any information they requested and being told that the team they were being coordinated with would supply all the information they needed. The only thing they had been given were very brief files on each of the members of the teams. He was ready to say hang the brass and forget the ATF; there was no way they would send Ezra into a dangerous situation, but Chris was confident in them, and Chris had yet to be wrong about something like this. So they would follow him to hell as it were, as a team. He'd been with Chris through the last minute meeting this morning and it seemed straightforward enough, but something was wrong, if it was a simple as they were being told this whole situation should have ended ages ago and bringing in another branch of the government, seemed sort of off. If anything the FBI or the NSA should have been called in, but last minute information on the arms had landed it in their laps. Another thing that bothered Josiah was that if this was so simple and routine, why was their team being threatened with disbanding? Maybe the brass just wanted them to flat out refuse or if this was really an impossible case maybe they wanted the team with the highest closure rate working on it, or maybe they knew they could finally get rid of them. There seemed to be a lot of things to consider, but Josiah just pushed them all to the back burner, because right now the biggest concern he had was the team they were being thrown, he hadn't realised how interesting his week was going to be, when he'd got up this morning, but here they all were.
Vin sat on the edge of the desk absorbing what he had been told. Basically it was dive in head first, without knowing where the bottom was, and hope that you didn't end up with a broken neck. Refusing to jump was not an option either due to the brass looming over them like a starving bear that has just found a weaken animal. It was jump or be eaten alive. A Damned if you do, damned if you don't situation. They were given a situation that looked easy, but everyone else had been failing. The information, while hard to get a hold of now seemed to be all there. Vin just couldn't help feeling uneasy about this whole thing, something was off. He wasn't sure what, but as sure as the sun rose and set every day, there was something else going on. The worst part was that he had a feeling that the brass knew something they weren't telling anyone else and that bothered him. He would just have to keep an extra sharp look out.
"I leave you guys alone for a few days and look what happens," Vin quipped.
J.D. most likely due to the stress he was feeling seemed to miss the humor and began rambling
"Hey, it's not our fault that the ATF brass are a bunch of idiots and the DEA isn't any better, I mean come one a bunch of people have messed up and they keep pushing it off onto other people and it's like a food chain and we're the plants and we haven't got anyone to dump it on, not that we would if we could, but I mean come one seriously, it's not likes it our fault, we still would have got dumped with this even if you were here, it's like we have a giant target painted on our backs or something like that, hey you don't think that someone is out to get us do you?"
"Hey, now," Buck interrupted."Ezra here is supposed to be the paranoid one, Vin is teasing you, lighten up."
Hearing the elevator chime Josiah turned and watched as Chris and four others exited the elevator.
One was keeping pace with Chris and the other three fanned out just a step behind. The man leading the group was a truly intimidating man. He towered over Chris and was a good three inches taller than Buck and he was proportioned to his height. He probably weighed a good two-hundred and fifty pounds most of which appeared to be solid muscle. With steel grey hair at his temples, his dark hair and eyes, and his sharply cut suit he looked every inch the military officer that he once was. Josiah knew from his file that he was born and grew up in Manhattan with very wealthy parents, attending several prestigious prep schools. At eighteen he ran away from home and joined the marines. He had serve three tours of duty, and thirteen years ago had joined the DEA and soared through their ranks. Now the leader of his own team, he was a force to be reckoned with.
Directly behind was a short man about five-six or so. Josiah surmised that this must be Mal-chin An. Born in Korea and moved to Indianapolis Indian at the age of eleven. He attended Purdue University at the age of fifteen and graduated two years later with a degree in chemical engineering and a minor in electrochemistry. He then attended the University of Chicago and obtained a masters and Ph.D. in inorganic chemistry. At twenty-one he had joined the DEA and within a year had been assigned to the team. Josiah had thought he would be someone with almost as much energy as J.D. not the serious looking young man in front of him. His brown eyes had an intelligent expression. The clean lines of his suit, the careful side part of his black hair, and his quiet bookish manner would fool most people into thinking he was not someone to worry about, but Josiah knew that he was a third-degree black belt in taekwondo, a 5th degree black belt in hapkido, and an expert in Gungsul, the traditional form of Korean archery. Even though he looked small and harmless Josiah was willing to bet he could give even Vin a run for his money in a fight.
The woman on agent An's left was five-nine without the four-inch heels she wore and probably in her late thirties to early forties. He sincerely hoped she wasn't Jordan Eisenmann; Buck wouldn't get any work done. The woman was gorgeous with wavy light brown hair and a warm glow to her skin; even dressed in a suit that screamed government she couldn't quite hide her figure. She had grown up in Chicago and had taken an online degree in surveillance and counter surveillance from Henley-Putnam University, she then attended Western University for her BS in communications after which she moved to Las Vegas and worked casino security for the next ten years. After proving herself to be one of the top people in her field she was recruited by the government and went to work for Hunter.
The woman to the right of Mal-Chin had shoulder length auburn hair that was pulled back into a pony-tail and bangs that framed her face and was about the same height as him. She must be Jacque Michaud their computer expert. She was in her early twenties and grew up in the small borough of La Baie in Quebec. She had graduated from Ecole Polytechnique de Montreal with dual degrees in software and computer engineering. She was currently on loan to the DEA from the Drug Enforcement Division of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
"My name is Eliot Spencer, I am an expert in munitions and firearms. If you are looking to buy I am willing to sell. I am not one of the good guys. In fact I am the exact opposite."
Ezra Standish told himself this again and again as he prepared to make contact with the other undercover agent. Martinez would then be introducing him to Andres González at a dinner González was hosting. He was going to be walking into a whole room of people that feared the name he carried there probably wouldn't be a single person in that room later tonight that was not afraid, including Ezra.
Embodying the evil that is someone such as Eliot Spencer always left him feeling empty, dirty, and somehow used afterwards. It was not a feeling that could be washed off easily or thrown away the next day it tends to be something that sticks with you for quite some time.
These were the rolls that he was best at and Ezra hated himself for it, sometimes it worried him just how good he was at being bad, but somewhere in the back of his mind he had to remind himself that this was not who he was and that he could go back to being Ezra Standish, prissy and complaining, normal Ezra Standish, who had friends, and a family right here in Denver, who had men that were willing to do everything within their power to make sure he came back in one piece mentally and physically. He could go back to all of that, not today, but soon.
Nathan sat watching Ezra prepping himself to go under and had to admire how calm and unconcerned Ezra seemed to be. When they had first met Ezra's uninterested air of superiority towards everyone around him had bothered Nathan. It took him a bit to figure out that Ezra had a fantastic poker face that he used constantly, appearances are everything, or so Ezra was fond of saying. It had taken sometime, but now Ezra was one of his best friends, but that could be said for the rest of team seven. It had taken them some time, but they had all eventually figured each other out.
Chris always seemed to be tough and almost uncaring, but they knew better. A lot of what you saw with Chris was due to the fact that he had lost all of his family once and he wasn't willing to go through that again, so as a result he is constantly making sure that every option has been weighed and that the course he follows is the one that ensures the greatest safety for his men.
Vin seems like a very quiet and shy sort of a guy, in a "Yes, ma'am" sort of a way, someone who would rather apologize then start a fight, which couldn't be further from the truth. Vin isn't the sort of person who feels the need to prove how dangerous he really is, he may be all manners and politeness, but all Nathan ever had to do to remind himself otherwise was to recall the file he had read on the man. That file had been heavily redacted and what was left allowed one to draw a rather grim and dangerous picture. Nathan had also had the privilege of watching the man in action, whether Vin was fighting in close quarters or helping out from a distance he was a force to be reckoned with, and was all the more dangerous for his misleading personality.
Buck seems like he is the kind of guy who wants to be friends with everybody and he is. He is likeable and friendly, and the ladies seem to love him. He has a way of saying things to women so they don't seem to mind the cheesiness of it, maybe it's the sincerity he puts behind the words that does it, who knows? For whatever reason he just seems to come across as a big friendly dog, no harm in him at all, but Lord help the person who is mistreating someone else. Buck hates bullies and people who hurt others for no other reason than for their own gratification. Buck seems to have set himself up as the protector of all, but it's a role that he is well suited to. He has a lot of heart and mean right hook to help him with his mission, so he seems to do just fine.
JD is another one that is deceptive in his appearance, looking far younger than he actually is, most people think he is just some wet behind the ears kid, but JD was another one that was full of heart. JD is the kind of person that would crawl if they had to reach their goal, someone with a never say die sort of an attitude. JD is young and impulsive, but he is willing to learn. He is like a sponge constantly absorbing things, anything any of the others is willing to teach him, he is willing to learn. He has proven himself to be more then capable in the field time and time again, and while he does take chances sometimes, he owns up to his mistakes and learns from them. He was also willing to risk his own life for the others, which was something that seemed to be a trait common amongst the team, something the hospital could attest to, repeatedly.
Josiah has such a calming presence about him and seems to be the epitome of a gentle giant, but Nathan has known him far too long to believe that. Josiah is all raw power and brute force. Why go around something when you can smash right through the middle of it? Still when it comes to his friends Josiah has a heart for those in need and an ear willing to listen no matter what the problem.
Nathan has spent years fighting prejudices that have no place in twenty-first century. Certain stigmas have always seemed to follow him, but he never let others determine his fate. When barriers presented themselves he worked twice as hard, he was not just going to run around obstacles he was going to fly over whatever hurdles were placed in his path. Nathan knew that that sort of determination can be dangerous depending on what it was focused. That's why Nathan never blamed others because he was denied an opportunity, all that did was to give them the power over the situation instead he did was to work harder to prove them wrong.
Yes, they were a force to be reckoned with, but Nathan still didn't feel all that confidant about the upcoming case, something just seemed off to him. Looking over at the clock he could see that Ezra should be leaving to get ready for the party shortly. Standing and stretching out his spine Nathan crossed the room to Ezra's desk.
"Mr. Jackson, may I be of any assistance?" Ezra asked.
Nathan mentally noted the use of his last name and realized that Ezra was distancing himself in order for his role.
"I just wanted to remind you to keep you head down, I don't know what it is with this case, but I just get a bad feel from it.
"Yes, well you know that I always look for number one." Ezra replied with a smug look on his face.
"Sure, I just wanted to, well you know." Nathan said. Turning to leave, he was stopped by Ezra's voice.
"Yes, I believe I do, thank you."
Without turning Nathan just nodded his head allowing a small smile to grace his face, yup they'd gotten through some of the infamous Standish walls, and completely obliterated the rest. Maybe this whole mess would turn out alright after all, Nathan thought as he entered the break room.
The Ritz-Carlton Denver Colorado, Friday Night…
Buck looked around the surveillance room wishing they had better eyes on the situation unfolding before them. It had been determined that wearing a wire was completely out of the question, so Ezra was going in with minimal support. Currently Buck was sitting in the room along with JD, and the lovely Jacqueline. For some reason Buck couldn't help feeling that there was something just off, but then that could just be chalked up to the fact that this whole situation was wrong. Fortunately for them the dinner was being held in the grand ballroom of the Ritz, so they had been granted access to the hotels security room. They had managed to get the agents from team eight, agent Eisenmann, agent An, and Nathan all in there as waiters, so they had ears on the floor so to speak. Vin as always was watching from above. While Josiah, Agent Hunter and Chris we currently in hotel room they had set their base of operation up in. Even though the federal building was located so close to hotel Chris was the kind of guy that like to be on hand when something was going on. The general going to battle with his men rather than directing from a far.
Chris had found that talking to Mason Hunter was like talking to a cast iron block, cold, hard, and immovable. He could also detect and underlying anger, that was most likely due to situation that he had been forced into with team seven. He remembered the chilly way his reception was treated this morning.
"As a leader of an elite federal team I know that you aren't supposed to take things personally, but I don't see any other way to take this situation. Having my agent vouch for yours puts him in a vulnerable position. Martinez has given up so much of his personal life for this operation and now because the powers that be want results yesterday, everything his has given up and put up with may be for nothing, and his life may be worth nothing, so forgive me if I don't feel like shaking your hand agent Larabee."
Chris could relate to Hunter as they had been placed in pretty much the same situation. Being forced to put your men in a vulnerable position was enough to make any leader angry. The introduction to his team had not been much smoother. Hunter wasn't interested in talking to any of them feeling they were a greater danger to his agent then the leader of the organization he had infiltrated. Agents An and Michaud had been very quiet nodding as Chris had introduced them to the team. JD had tried introducing Michaud to his set up and bringing her up to speed on what equipment that had, but she had politely told him that she would be using the equipment that agent Eisenmann had brought and that she was more than proficient as far as computers and software were concerned, so she highly doubted that he would be able to show her anything she wasn't already familiar with.
Buck had watched the whole exchange and when JD had turned to look at him he had mimed a plane being shot down and bursting into flames. Chris had mentally sighed as he introduced Buck to agent Eisenmann. Buck never one to disappoint had turned on the charm right away. Bowing and taking hold of her hand.
"It's a pleasure to meet you, Buck Wilmington at you service. I guess you and I will be working pretty closely over the next few days. I'd be more than happy to show you what you'll have at your disposal."
"Aw how cute," she said, frowning she turned to the rest of the team
"But tell me, which one of you has to walk it, and it must eat an awful lot, still having a pet around must be nice." She smiled very prettily at Buck, before dropping it and giving him a very bored look.
It was JD's turn to point out the crash and burn. Nathan, in spite of having witnessed the variety of cooperation the DEA team seemed to be capable of offered agent An a tour of the facilities they would be working with and showed him the desks that had been set up for them to use. Agent An had followed Nathan without a comment. Well at least he wasn't openly hostile. Then had come the fun part. Chris had to convince hunter that he had a suitable entry plan that wouldn't endanger agent Martinez.
"For two cents I would pull my agent and tell the DEA to stuff their orders somewhere else, but my agent has worked hard for this and I'm not about to make it all for nothing. Martinez is currently under as a seller, Martin Vargas. I sent you the file on him. This is an alias he has worked hard to build up and one he really doesn't want to blow. He's been using him to get other aliases introduced on some of his previous cases. He's spent time convincing González that he's trustworthy and I don't want it blown by some half-hearted rushed cover job."
"Agent Standish, has been working on setting up his own cover for some time he has quite the reputation as an arms trafficker. I am sure you have heard of Eliot Spencer." Chris said throwing the ace he had been holding into the center of the playing table along with the file on said Eliot Spencer. Hunter raised his brow at this revelation. Picking up the file he began reading through it slowly.
"Larabee this is impressive, I may have been a little hasty in my attitude. I've heard of Eliot Spencer, something to do with Croatia, but I had no idea he was a federal agent. I thought he was a mercenary turned arms dealer."
"Believe me when I say that we are not going into this unprepared. I would never send one of my men into a situation without enough information. The fact that you have had a man in for over a year is enough assurance to trust the intel you have given us and having him introduce Standish means it should be that little bit easier. Like you said if your agent wasn't set on doing this I would pull out and the ATF can do whatever it wants, but without my men, however I have a stubborn undercover agent who ensures me that he is up to the task."
Snorting, Hunter answered him, "Yeah, I've got one of those too, I'm sorry about earlier. I take it personally when someone endangers my team. I hate the way the brass pushes us around and forces us to do their bidding. I have no intention of lying still and letting people walk all over me. I've had enough of that in my life. I don't like being pushed into a corner, corner me and I will fight. Look, let me go talk to my people and give them an update."
Standing he shook Chris's hand.
"Agent Larabee," he said exiting the office.
Whatever he said to his people must have worked because after that things seemed to go more smoothly. The DEA agents were more co-operative and his boys had decided to play nice.
Fortunately for now everything seemed to be going rather well. Between them bugging the whole place as well has having several capable agents on the floor they were in a fairly good situation, the only thing that bothered Chris is that they wouldn't have ears on them if they left the building. Ezra had already been introduced to Gonzalez by Martin Vargas, and they seemed to be getting along swimmingly. Yes, Ezra was very good at his job. He had been invited to join Gonzalez at his home for the weekend to better discuss business. Gonzalez was leaving and Ezra would follow soon after, which meant that he was in.
Midday Sunday, the Gonzalez Mansion outside of Denver Colorado
"Mr. Spencer, it has been a pleasure doing business with you. I will contact you this evening at six with the location I have chosen for the exchange and we will meet there at seven for the buy."
"I am afraid that won't work Gonzalez. You know how many guns you're expecting to buy. If you want them it will be on my conditions. I am not going to be moving them all over the city with last minute changes. You may be the buyer, but this is my city, and believe me when I say my warehouse is perfectly safe. I have already given you the location if you wish to check it out in advance," Eliot replied.
"As you wish. Make your arrangements. Vargas will see you out. You may give the detail to him once you have it all arranged. Good day." Gonzalez exited the room followed by his ever present body guards.
Instead of being at ease, Gonzalez's quick acquisition worried Eliot. For someone who was supposed to be so paranoid he should have fought harder. Eliot knew he was more than capable of negotiation, but this was just too easy. Looking around the opulent study with its floor to ceiling bookshelves and rich dark carpeting he spotted Vargas off in one of the corners. The man had being walking a circuit around the room ever since the start of this meeting. Eliot tried to get a read off of the man, but all he was getting was a slightly nervous vibe, as he continued to circle the room. While they were the only ones in the room it was by no means safe to drop their guard. Pulling out his phone he made the call he knew the others were waiting for.
"Leverage Incorporated," JD answered using the pre-assigned cover for his supposed company
"This is Mr. Spencer, put me through to Mr. Ford," Ezra said.
"Nate Ford," Chris answered.
"I have secured another policy, we will be arriving to sign the final paperwork tonight at six."
"Everything will be ready," Chris assured him.
Hanging up, Eliot heard a voice from behind him, "Sorry, about this no hard feelings."
Eliot cursed himself for allowing Vargas to get behind him, but before he could turn around something crashed into the back of his skull sending him to the floor in a lifeless heap. Vargas looked sadly at the body on the floor before him. It was too bad, he seemed like a likeable sort of guy. It was just too bad for him that he got in the way. Oh, well you couldn't make an omelet without breaking eggs.
He turned to one of his colleagues that had just entered the study. "You know what to do with the body, get rid of it before he ruins the carpet."
Journeying upstairs he found Andres. Meeting the expectant look he simply nodded. González picked up his phone.
"It's done," he said.
"Yes, sir. Of course. I will make sure of it personally. I see. As you wish. Good day." Hanging up he turned to Martinez.
"Rick the boss has sent very particular orders. He wants us to make sure Standish hadn't found anything out and reported it back to those ATF or DEA clowns. I told him I would see to it personally. He has given me very specific instructions regarding Ezra P. and I would so hate to disappoint him."
"Well then don't," Martinez answered smiling. This was going to be all kinds of fun.
What time was it? What day was it today? Was today Sunday? Never mind the day what month or year was it? This would be ludicrously funny if only he could remember why. Wasn't he supposed to be somewhere, doing something? Didn't he have an appointment with someone? Where was it he was supposed to go, where was he? What country was he in? Who was he for that matter? Mr. Spencer Maybe? Somehow that didn't seem right, or maybe it was? Yes, he was positive, that maybe that might possibly be correct??? If only he could think clearly for just a minute. He could feel the panic building up inside him. He should be carefully analyzing his situation carefully planning out every move so no one could ever tell what it is he was really thinking. Half the battle was knowing your enemy and if he put a façade how would anyone ever learn the best way to fight him. He had to think, but it seemed just as he seemed to about to clear his mind the blackening force of the pain he was feeling would take hold of those thoughts and fling them as far as it could leaving only searing pain and confusion behind. There were many mysteries in life that would never be solved, problems that would never have answers, and things he would never discover, but there was one thing that Eliot Spencer knew with certainty, and that was that he was in a world of pain, a world that was slowly becoming dimmer and dimmer, But there seemed to be a persistent tapping to his cheek that wouldn't allow him to journey into the becoming darkness.
"Come on Ezra wakey, wakey, we have some more questions for you."
Questions? He wasn't supposed to answer those, and Ezra was that his name, he could have sworn it was Eliot. If only he could think clearly.
There was the unmistakable coppery smell that always accompanies blood still lingering in the air. Ricardo looked at the man Andreas was currently working over and examined the extent of the damage they had inflicted. His face and body was covered in bruises, and he was covered in small, shallow lacerations. It was almost certain that they had given him a concussion and they had poured enough drugs into the man to make any normal human spill their guts, but Standish wasn't saying a word. They'd worked him over pretty well on top of the drugs, but the idiot still wasn't saying a thing. Too bad the boss had told them to keep him alive, if it wasn't for that they could really have some fun, but this would have to do for now.
"If we want him alive so the boss can question him, were going to have to give him a break from the drugs, or he's going to be left permanently in la-la land." Andres said looking him over one more time.
"Shame, I was just getting warmed up."
"We better get ready to head out if we want to make it on time."
They would just have to wait till later to continue their game.
6:00 p.m. A warehouse belonging to Leverage Inc. (The ATF) Denver Colorado
Nathan Ford or as he was more commonly known, Chris Larabee, stood on the warehouse floor Flanked by Nathan Jackson and Josiah Sanchez. Vin was up in his nest above the floor, while the rest of the agents were waiting up the street in the building they had set up as their center of operations. Monitoring the feeds and standing ready to load into vehicle that would transport them to the warehouse in about thirty seconds should they get the go ahead. It was time for Ezra to arrive along with González. Hopefully they could wrap this whole thing up without any complications, but that was more than likely a pipe dream. This meeting like the rest of the case, just seemed wrong. Maybe they were just used to having things go to hell in a hand basket, but for some reason he just could not resign himself to believing that this was going to be easy. His gut told him otherwise and he had learned to trust his gut feeling over the years.
"Chris they've just pulled up outside," Buck informed him through his ear bud.
Signalling to the other agents that were backing them up, they opened the doors allowing the dark SUV and three cube vans to pull in.
Agent Martinez got out of the still idling van and nervously walked towards them. Extending a hand he spoke.
"Mr. Ford, I'm Martin Vargas, My associate is currently with Mr. Spencer and they asked me to give you two messages. Mr. Spencer sends his apologies and says he is currently working out a better deal. Mr. González just sends his apologies."
Chris was beginning to think something was definitely wrong. If there wasn't going to be a deal then why the trucks, why were they idling, and what had happened to Ezra
"And exactly why would he do that?" Chris questioned.
"I wasn't told, all I know is that he spoke to Mr. Spencer and he asked me to meet you. The trucks are courtesy of Mr. Spencer, they don't belong to Mr. González. Mr. Spencer told his men what to do" Martinez finished indicating the drivers that were now moving around to the back of the vehicle.
Ezra's trucks, now that didn't make sense at all, and there was no way those were Ezra's men, he didn't have any. Yup, something is definitely wrong. He could hear Vin over the mike.
"I got a solution. You want me to take it?"
Signalling to Nathan and Josiah they raised their guns.
"Stop," he ordered. When the men didn't heed his order he drew his own sidearm and fired a warning shot. The action on the warehouse floor stopped momentarily.
"If anyone moves I will have my men deal with you. Now I want to know where is González and what have you done with Spencer."
He had given Vin the go ahead if they moved he should ventilate them. He could hear Buck saying that they had lost their visual on Vin and Hunter swearing over his ear bud.
"Larabee we had a deal, you weren't going to blow this, where is your man, what has he done?"
Chris didn't have time to deal with Hunter right now, turning to Martinez he pointed his firearm.
"I don't know what you're talking about, that was the message the sent me with, I though you would understand. Mr. Spencer is you associate, I only know of him through mutual business partners."
At that moment the lid blew of the powder ked so to speak. The side doors of one of the cube vans opened revealing a man holding what appeared to be an RPG Launcher reminding Chris of a really bad action film.
"Vin!" he yelled into the com.
The shot team seven expect never came, instead the man turned and fired where Josiah and Nathan had been moments ago. The explosion that followed sent Chris diving for cover tackling Martinez as he went. The drivers opened up the other doors allowing for several men to exit the vans, joining into the firefight in earnest.
"We're pinned down." Josiah's was coming through loud and clear on the buds.
Chris peeked around the stack of crates he was hiding behind and returned the volley being fired at him, ducking back out of the way narrowly avoiding a projectile that had been aimed directly at his face. He could feel the stinging impact of the splinters that hit his face.
"Vin do you read me? Take the shot!" he ordered.
When Vin didn't reply he called out.
"What's the situation, anyone got eyes or ears on Vin?"
Martinez was looking at him silently begging Chris to let him help.
Buck's voice was coming through.
"We lost contact with Vin. The camera covering him started fuzzing out and it's completely black now. We're coming in heavy get your heads down."
There was a flash and a small bang. Chris kept his head down, but he still felt some of the percussion from the blast. The sound of the gunfire was deafening in its absence. Everything seemed to be moving slowly and Chris was suddenly aware of the strong smell of gunpowder, fire, and smoke. His senses came back in rush the sound hitting him like a wall of water slamming him back into reality with a sudden clarity of mind. He knew what needed to be done, and he was going to do it.
Looking over he could see that Buck, JD, team eight, and the remainder of Hunters team were wagging a battle with the majority of the men. Josiah and Nathan seemed to be stuck in the same spot as before adding to the gunfire. Team three had units blocking the other exits outside in case anyone made a break for it.
Making eye contact with Martinez he signalled him pointing to the next set of crates. On the count of three he laid down cover fire allowing Martinez to make a break for the back of the warehouse. Ducking back down and repeating the count mentally to himself, he quickly crossed to Martinez. Passing one of their attackers lying on the ground, he picked up the man's assault rifle and checked it for ammo. Finding the clip was mostly full he grabbed a second and shoved it into his back of his pants. Taking the man's sidearm he was about to hand it over to Martinez, but something stopped him. Instead he tucked the gun under the body of the fallen man and pointed to the stairs that led to the catwalk where Vin was supposed to be stationed. Crossing the catwalk he fond Vin's nest, but Vin wasn't in it his prized rifle lay on the ground, motioning Martinez to sit down he picked up the rifle and went to work. While Chris was not as good a sniper as Vin, he was good enough to take out the men that had been causing some of the most trouble, allowing Josiah and Nathan circle around one side, while Buck and JD performed a similar maneuver around the other side, leaving them slightly more exposed over by the doors of the loading bay, allowing them to box in their attackers. Sensing that the tide was changing the men began scrambling to re-enter the vans, setting them into motion with men scrambling to get in. Buck and JD broke from cover moving to give themselves better access to the fleeing men. Some of the men who realized they wouldn't be able to get to the vehicles in time turned and charged Nathan and Josiah starting a frenzied punching match. Taking aim Chris shot out one of the tires of the SUV, the other vans maneuvered around it barrelling straight for the doorway. The driver of the SUV lost control and swerved towards where Buck and JD were currently standing. Neither of them were fast enough to get out of the way of the vehicle. Buck hit the hood, bounced into the windshield and rolled off the side, JD appeared to be in the clear only to have the side view mirror clip him nicely in the side of the face. By the time he and Martinez had made it back down to the warehouse floor, Mason Hunter had taken charge and seemed to have most of it under control. Some of the units form team three seemed to be coming in to help with the cleanup. Nathan was checking out Buck, Chris could see Buck sending worried glances over to JD and telling Nathan to go check him instead. Ryan Kelly was currently trying to pull Josiah off one of the men he seemed intent on beating senseless. Josiah stood and threw a punch straight at the closest stake of crates in an effort to work out some of his anger. Just then four paramedics entered and Nathan motioned then over. Chris remembered hearing someone from team three telling him they had been called when the shooting had started. Mason was staring daggers at him, and strode angrily trying over cutting off Chris as he was heading for his men.
"This is your fault Larabee. Standish sold us out and you nearly got my man killed. That and you blew this operation. I'm putting through a call through to internal affairs." He looked disgustedly at Chris. "I should have known better than to trust you."
Chris didn't answer the man instead he just continued towards Nathan.
"Fine walk away, I'll see the whole lot of you in prison before the night is out." Turning he began barking orders at his people, frankly Chris didn't care.
"Nathan?" He asked.
"Buck's unconscious and it looks like he's cracked a few ribs, maybe dislocated his right elbow, he's got a nasty cut from the windshield that'll need stitching. I only got to check JD's pulse and give him a quick once over. It looked like it was just an egg forming on his temple, but he might have a cracked check bone I didn't get a chance to do a full assessment. What happened with Vin?"
"Don't know yet, you ride with the boys. You did good Nathan." He watched as Nathan turned to leave with the paramedics. Turning he caught Josiah's eye and motioned him over.
"Josiah go with him, let him know he did all he could. I'm going to find out what happened to Vin and deal with IA." Nodding Josiah turned and jogged to catch up with Nathan.
Denver Health Hospital Room 328. Late Sunday Night, early Monday Morning…
JD looked around the room trying to figure out where he was, he had a head ache and his face felt slightly numb, kind of like when you had to get a cavity filled. He remembered trying to describe the feeling to Vin once, seeing that he had never had a cavity, which to JD seem totally unfair. The amount of candy and junk food that he consumed should have left him toothless years ago, but Vin was just one of those people who could eat whatever they felt like without any repercussions. He never gained weight, got cavities, and JD was willing to bet even as an adolescent he probably hadn't been plagued with breakouts like just about every other person on this planet, yup life sure wasn't fair. Then remembered the warehouse and not being able to get a hold of Vin, the firefight, and not being able to get out of the way of the SUV. Looking around the room he could see buck asleep in the bed beside him, he could hear the stead rhythm from the machines that they were attached too. What bothered him was that he couldn't catch sight of any of his teammates. He pushed the call button he waited for the nurse to arrive. Looking around the room he looked at the clock and could tell it had only been a matter of hours since the crash, he recognized the name of the drug attached to his IV and realized that they had him on a relatively mild pain killer, so obviously it couldn't be that bad even if he was a little numb. The nurse entered and JD was glad to recognize her.
"Nicole, do know where the rest of my team is?" he asked expectantly. The Nurse walked over and took a look at his readings nodding to herself.
"Here JD let me help you sit up, there we go. Let me see, Josiah is with Nathan getting his wrist set, Nathan's wrist I mean, and I don't know about the others." Smiling at him she began questioning him.
"How are you feeling, any nausea or pain?"
"My head hurts a little and my face is slightly numb, but I don't feel nauseous or anything."
"On a scale from one to ten how would you rate that pain?"
"A four maybe."
"Good, you took quite a blow to the head, you don't seem to be concussed, you cheek took the brunt of the blow, they were worried about it being broken, but it looks like just a hairline fracture, your face is pretty swollen. We had to freeze the area, the skin split and the doctor had to put a few stiches in, but she isn't worried about scarring. All in all you came out alright."
"How's Buck?" JD asked, knowing the nurse was familiar with the working of the team and that she was allowed to disclose Buck's information to other members of the team she began to fill him in.
"Well he has bruised his right hip spectacularly, cracked two of the ribs on his right side, dislocated his right elbow, and he managed to acquire a gash along his right bicep and shoulder that required a lot of stitching. He should be coming out of it pretty soon. He should be alright, just stiff and sore for a while."
After she had left JD peeled back the covers and pushing his IV poll made his way over to the chair beside Buck's bed. Things must be pretty bad if he was waking up alone. The team made it a practice to make sure that none of them woke up alone. Considering the circumstances that usually lead to them being in the hospital they always did their best to insure that someone was there to help clarify the situation. Hearing someone coming to the door JD turned. He felt slightly relived has Josiah guided Nathan into the room.
"Hello, son. How are you?"
"I'm okay, I was a bit worried when none of you guys were around and the Nurse really couldn't tell me much." JD Answered
"Glad to see you awake again. I thought you were still supposed to be out, so I went to get Nathan's prescription filled while he was getting casted, but there was some sort of computer glitch and they had trouble filling it, by the time I got it sorted out he was finished so we came up here."
"I missed the part where you got hurt Nathan." He said indicating the cast what happen to you, and where are Chris and Vin. Did they find out what happened with Ezra yet?"
"I threw a bad punch broke a couple of the bones in my wrist, it's not too bad. I was really worried when you got knocked out at the warehouse, and I was having trouble with both you and Buck out of it. I got one of the doctors in radiology to update me. He said you cheek was cracked and so were Bucks ribs. The rest is just superficial."
Josiah was glad to note that Nate seemed to be a little bit better knowing he had made the right chose earlier and that at least two of his friends were okay. He answered the rest of JD's question.
"Chris is taking to internal Affairs. I spoke to him while I was in the Pharmacy waiting. They are saying Ezra flipped and is working with González. Travis has gone to bat for him and for us, so we aren't being removed from the case, but Hunter is blaming Ezra. Team eight was cleaning up and they found Vin. Someone had shot a tranquilizer dart into him from warehouse floor and they had dragged the body down and hidden him in the corner out of the way. Chris is actually on his way over with Vin right now. Apparently Vin is doing about as well with the dart as he does with pain meds."
"It's the justice of the universe, there has to be something he can't tolerate considering how he is with food." Nathan commented absently.
"Yeah, I was thinking about Vin, and the way he can, eat totally not fair, I mean no cavities, seriously, sometimes I hate him, not really, but I hate his teeth. Yeah, I hate his teeth."
"Kid sometimes you worry me." Buck's voice sounded slightly groggy, but he blinked a few times and eventually opened his eyes.
"Catch me up to speed."
Josiah started from the beginning giving buck the details on the injured and unaccounted, as well as the general feeling towards the team.
"Chris isn't going to be happy. They're picking at Ezra's one weak spot his reputation, and he isn't even here to defend himself, oh feel ugly coming on."
"According to Chris Hunter Debriefed Martinez and he said that everything was going fine until they final set up for the buy, he says Ezra asked him to leave the room and made some sort of arrangement with González. He says he thought that maybe Ezra wasn't actually an agent and that things had somehow gone wrong, so he did what he was told. González told him to ride along with Ezra's men and to collect the guns verify that they were okay and call González to get a location to deliver the guns to. Only just before he got there González called and gave him the messages to deliver. Martinez even had the recording of the last phone call he had with González, and they were able to positively identify González's voice. Martinez was convinced that somehow he had made contact with the wrong man and that Eliot Spence was an actual arms trafficker, and Chris' response at the warehouse didn't nothing to help that illusion."
Josiah informed the others. What really bothered him was how it was possible for all this evidence to exist. He knew without a shadow of a doubt that Ezra had not turned, how could you explain González's actions unless Ezra was working with him?
"I'm so confused. Why would González do all that, I mean unless he knew Ezra was an agent it doesn't make sense?"
"Maybe González knew that Ezra and Martinez were both agents. What better way to get rid of the feds then to get one to testify that the other is corrupt. For Ezra's side of things Martinez probably looks guilty of turning, and they'll be so busy blaming each other and looking for a leak that González would probably be able to get off scot-free." Nathan said.
"That theory might actually hold water, but how would González find out they were feds?"
"Maybe a leak, maybe he's just really good and that's why no one has caught him, or maybe he's psychic and that's how he knew every single move of our, even where Vin would be, or maybe that was just really predictable, I don't know, and I hate guessing. I like irrefutable evidence to pie in the sky theories even if they are my own. I hate being stuck in this hospital, I hate being useless, and I don't like it when things spiral out of control. I hate when the brass is breathing down our necks and I hate being sidelined by my own stupidity. I hate when our team is spread-out all over the place in danger and I hate no knowing what's going on. I hate waiting and while I'm at it I might as well hate Vin's teeth, because what's one more thing to hate anyways." Nathan's voice had been rising with each sentence he spoke, but now that he was through he seemed to deflate a little. Looking up sheepishly at the others e stated to apologize, only to be cut off by JD.
"See Buck, I'm not the only one, Nathan agrees with me," Josiah chuckled without any humor.
"I don't think anyone likes it when things don't go to plan, and I know that's putting it mildly, but I think the hardest task before us is going to be not giving into the anger and letting it cloud our judgement. You had some pretty good ideas Nate and maybe right this second we can't check them out, but we will as soon as we can, and if they don't pan out we try something else, we keep trying, we don't let this beat us.
"You're right, and I'm sorry, I'm going to try to keep calm about this, but I may end up venting again. I believe in us too, and I know we can beat this. It's just that I hate not doing anything especially when it's my own fault."
"Not, sure why you think it's your fault, but feel free to vent all you want. It's kind of entertaining." Buck said with a lazy smile.
"Anyone can throw a bad punch Nathan so don't beat yourself up so much." JD offered.
"Yeah, but I was punching a wall because I was mad." At the incredulous looks he was receiving he shrugged.
"I guess everyone has a breaking point." Buck said with his own shrug.
At this point the nurse entered shooing JD back to his bead and checking Buck and going through the same questions she had with JD. Satisfied with his responses she told them that a doctor would be by later and that for now they could rest unless there was anything they wanted. As neither of them had under gone any invasive surgeries they were free to eat or drink if they felt up to it.
Moments after she left Chris wheeled a slightly green looking Vin into the room.
"Chris, Vin," Josiah said nodding at them.
"Boys," Chris returned.
"Hey junior, we were just hating on your teeth," Buck said causing Chris and Vin to look at him like he had two heads and the others to smile.
"You know 'cause you can eat all that food and you never get a cavity. All the sugar and fired foods, chocolate..." Vin was turning greener as Buck continued.
"Knock it off, Buck," Chris said.
"Sometimes I worry about your sense of humor," Josiah said grinning.
"My sense of humor, you're one to talk."
"All joking aside. Josiah gave us a rundown of your talk, but I want to know how much time we have and what here going to do about Hunter." Nathan Said Interrupting.
"Travis is stalling off IA as long as he can so we could only have a few days."
"I'm glad Travis is on our side, but how are we going to deal with Hunter? He's going to be right in our faces and he might make things difficult." JD worried
"Well I for one don't care what he says, he's wrong and we know it. We're just going to prove him wrong, and I don't see anything wrong with starting now. Where are my pants?" Buck said moving to get up.
"Never you mind about your pants, we'll deal with this you two are hurt and Vin is out of it for now, we'll look after this mess you guys just stay put. We'll try to keep you updated, but for now you should rest." Josiah said stopping Buck.
"You know, if you guys are heading out you should be careful because they're expecting freezing rain and snow in hell, and the flying pigs are really creating a lot of trouble for air traffic. So we'll probably won't see you till you get back on the twelfth of never, but by then McDonalds won't have a value menu so we'll probably just stay here anyways." Buck said giving Josiah a look daring him to stop him.
"I'm Fine," Vin added to conversation "So I'll be heading back with you guys."
"What he said," JD added.
"Alright, you boys better get a move on then."
Chris said. He recognized the fact that his men weren't about to lie in bed waiting for news on Ezra. If he was in their place he'd be doing the same thing. They made quite a sorry looking site by the time they exited the hospital. They had checked out AMA, but they had still been wheeled out by the, none too happy, staff. They had been packed into the government issued SUV that Chris had driven over to hospital for the ten minute ride back to the federal building. Getting into the elevator and up to their floor they braced themselves for the hostility that they knew would be thrown there. The elevator chimed and the doors slid smoothly open. The entered their bull pen to find five sets of eyes staring at them.
Chris was not about to be dictated to in his own home. Squaring off he looked at the group in front of him. Marching straight up to Hunter he threw down his challenge.
"Conference room. Now!"
Turning before Hunter even had a chance to answer he bee lined straight for the room and took up his seat at the head of the table. His men filled out the seats on either side leaving the lower end for Hunter and his team. Hunter came storming in followed by his team. As he opened his mouth to speak Chris cut him off.
"I have one agent who has missed his scheduled contact and as of now we are considering his cover blown. We are going to find out where González has him, and what he has done to him. We are going to be looking for leaks in your organization and in mine, and before you dare to climb back on that high horse of yours, I am going to remind you that your agent was the one who introduced Standish to González, he is the one who claims my agent went rogue, and for all I know he might be the one that actually flipped. The only evidence you have is a recording your agent made, which if he was working with González could easily have been faked, so I am going to caution you to think very carefully before you say anything."
Hunter was fuming and they could clearly see it. His voice had taken on a very hard edge to it and there was a slight tremor to his voice no doubt caused by the anger that was plainly written all over his face.
"If you think for one minute I am going to let you put this on my agent, you had better re-evaluate your thinking process because I can tell you right now that you are highly mistaken."
"I have no intention of throwing your agent to the wolves, and I have no intention of letting you do the same to my agent. We have another theory that we would like you to consider." Chris said indicating Nathan.
"We think there may be a possibility that González found out that they were both agents, now exactly how we haven't determined, but we think he must be playing them across from one another. I have a feeling when we locate agent Standish he will think that Martinez was working with González. The same way that Martinez is convinced that Standish is dirty. I think he is planning on this so that they will be so busy accusing each other, we will never be able to take him to court. If we have two governmental departments with conflicting evidence He gets off the hook, which I'm sure would be very appealing to him."
Throughout the conversation Hunter had begun to look contemplative.
"Suppose I buy this theory of yours. If you are right what makes you think Standish is still alive?"
"There is the possibility that agent Standish is dead, but we are going with the assumption that he is still alive, which is why we need cooperation, not opposition." Chris said.
"So we assume Standish is alive, and that González plans to play them off one another, still how did he find out?"
"I've been giving it some thought and I think that González must have someone in the DEA working with him. They informed him you had an agent in and what he did was come up with the plan to discredit your agent using another agent. I think that if you look at whoever it was that signed the documentation to get the ATF to come on board you will be looking at a prime candidate for the traitor."
Josiah's suggestion gave them all pause to think. It would certainly clear up several questions they had. It made Chris feel slightly guilty because the integrity of the information they had received to set Ezra up to go in was based on the assumption that the DEA was in the long run on their side, rather than cooperating with the drug dealers. It made everything messier, all because he had placed trust in the organization that he worked for. He had placed trust in his government. He was betting on their honesty, as well as the honesty of the team he was working with. He trusted Mason Hunter because he could relate to the man. His team had the highest closure rate for any DEA team in the country, they took more men of the street then most of the other teams combined, and like team seven they were known for using whatever methods they felt like as opposed to bowing to authority.
"Tell me what you need." Hunter said bringing Chris back to the conversation at hand.
"I want Buck looking through the surveillance files we have on González. See if you can find any holdings he has that Ezra could have been transported to. JD I need you to pull apart his digital footprint, see if there's any leads there, any communication with. Vin you can work on going through the vehicles they brought in see if we can get anything off of those. Nathan I want you to follow up with the interrogation files from the men captured at the bust. Josiah I want you going through the DEA requests and paperwork. Look into how González got on their radar in the first place. I have to meet with the Judge and update him, before he talks to his superiors in the morning."
"Larabee, in the spirit of cooperation, I'd like to work with you," Hunter interrupted. Chris nodded and Hunter turned to his men.
"Jordan you're with agent Wilmington, Jacque you can assist agent Dunne, Rick you're with agent Sanchez, you can let him know if you recognize any names or face, Mal you can help agent Jackson with sorting through the interrogation files. Any questions?" The silence that followed was enough of an answer.
Denver Federal Building, 11thFloor, Monday Mid-Day…
Vin sat at his desk going through the information he had obtained on the vehicles. He had tracked down the VIN numbers and they said that they were registered to Leverage Inc. Now, this just didn't add up. Leverage Inc., was a cover company that was Ezra's brainchild. It was a supposed front for Eliot Spencer's gunrunning operations, however Vin knew that JD had created most of the fake records and that there was no way the company owned the cube vans that had been captured trying to leaving the warehouse. Things were not looking good for Ezra. The only way for those vans was for someone who had access to the Leverage accounts to add them. As far as he knew only Ezra and JD had that access. It would take someone with hacking skills similar to JD's to get into the system to add them, but that would require knowledge of company. Vin knew that the cover had been set up and like most things team seven did it was not documented the way the brass like things done. When Ezra was setting up the accounts he claimed that he wasn't inclined to trust the brass, so only team seven knew about the company official. Unofficially Travis had an idea, but there was no way that he was corrupt. That was something Vin was not ready to even contemplate. Team eight had been informed of the company when they had set up the buy, as had the other teams that were supporting them, but Vin really wasn't ready to look there either. That left the DEA team they were working with. If one of them was on the take they could have given the information to their bosses allowing them time to set things up. The more he thought about it, the more convinced he became that one of the DEA team must be working with González. Looking around he realized that JD, Nathan, Josiah, and Buck all had shadows that were sticking. Anyone of them might be in a position to uncover something vital, but they were being closely watched and the agents might be able to hide something if anyone of them found something that was actually useful. It would fit very nicely if one of them was the traitor because it would explain how so many of their inner plans had been compromised. The thing was Vin couldn't figure out how one of them could be that corrupt without the others noticing, unless they weren't as close as they seemed. The other possibility was that it was Martinez and that he had only recently been turned. If that was the case then Ezra might actually be dead and gone because they wouldn't want him around to refute Martinez's account of his actions. Vin wished Chris would get back, but it seemed his meeting was going to drag on for a bit. Travis wanted all the details before bracing to fight his superiors. Looking around he managed to catch Nathan's eye. He glanced at the break room stretched and headed over. Nathan go the gist of his meaning and turned to agent An.
"I'm going to take a break from this for a minute to get some coffee. I'll be right back."
"Coffee sounds good I could really go for some right now. I'll come with you." Mal answered
"That's okay, I can get it for you. What do you take in it?"
"That's okay I need the stretch anyway, and I don't want you to have to juggle the cups seeing as you only have use of one hand right now."
Nathan momentarily forgotten his wrist and mentally cursed himself. He had seen the way Vin had signalled him and was pretty certain he wanted to speak to him in private. He made his way over to the room to find Vin pouring himself a cup. Nathan gave him an apologetic look. Vin wanted to speak to Nathan alone. There had to be a way, suddenly he got an idea. He let his knees buckle a little and grabbed for the counter. Nathan saw his plight and reached over to stead him.
"You okay?" he asked
"Just a little dizzy," he lied.
"You shouldn't be drinking coffee so soon after being drugged, they still aren't too sure what you got hit with because you left the hospital so soon. Do you want to go sit down or are you going to be sick?"
"Could you help me to the rest room?" Vin asked
"Here let me help him. You don't want to strain your wrist." Mal slid under Vin's shoulder and supported him to the washroom, grabbing one of the step stools from the break room. Nathan opened the door that let them out into the hallway and moved ahead to open the door to the washroom. Once they were inside Mal put the stool down for Vin to take a seat and ran to one of the sinks. He wet some of the paper towel and brought it over to put on the back of Vin's neck.
"That should help with the nausea."
"You seem to have done this a time or two," Nathan commented.
"I used to have a roommate in college who would get drunk all the time. I spent a lot of time looking after him," Mal said
"You were a good friend."
"That's me, always there to help out someone when they needed, even if I should be studying for a final. There's always somebody that needs help."
Vin felt like a louse. He had tried pulling a fast one and now he was stuck with his head hanging over a toilet bowl being looked after by someone who was currently on his lists of suspects.
"I'm feeling better, maybe I'll go lie down in Chris's office for a bit."
After they had vin situated in Chris's office they went back to where they had been working earlier. Nathan was worried, he knew Vin wanted to talk, but he couldn't just dump agent An. Vin could have asked him to leave if he wanted to, but he hadn't, which lead Nathan to believe that whatever it was he had to say he didn't want the DEA team in on it just yet. Nathan had found working with agent An that he had a very sharp mind. He was able to go through report after report and watch the interrogation videos, making notes on who he felt was lying, and collecting small pieces of information that had been dropped by the prisoners being questioned. Alone the small bits meant nothing, but together he had been able to draw a very clear picture of how the hiring had taken place. These men were all locals that had been hired recently. Out of a selection of photos they were only able to identity agent Martinez as the man they had picked up. They couldn't pick out González and said he wasn't the man who had hired them. Through the descriptions they had come up with a composite that Nathan was loathed to say slightly resembled Ezra. None of them had been able to offer a name, but that had said that the streets had be abuzz for the last few weeks, however they had only been hired over this weekend. They were little bits of evidence, but Nathan had a feeling that if IA got a hold of it, partnered with Ezra's past it might be enough to cause serious trouble.
"You seem to have a gift for this sort of thing," Nathan commented watching the ever growing notes.
"I've always loved puzzles, I guess it's just one of those things."
"No, I think it's a whole lot more than that. You've obviously spent time going through things before and to me it looks like it's something that comes with being a good agent. I was wondering if you'd give me your impression of this whole case."
"You want my opinion?" he asked in an incredulous tone."If you don't mind sharing"
"You sure you don't want one from one of the professionals over there. I mean one of the ones with years of experience." He said indicating the rest of the bullpen. "You sure you want the opinion of a kid," he said disgust colouring the last word.
"I ask for JD's opinion all the time," Nathan countered.
"Well that's a little bit different. In this age of technology the kids are usually the ones that are up on the latest stuff, so their opinions matter, but this isn't anything high tech." He had tried very hard to keep his tone neutral, but Nathan was able to hear some of the bitterness in his tone.
"Whoever told you, just because you were young your opinion didn't matter was an idiot. I've had people look down their noses at me because of the colour of my skin. You'd think in this day and age we'd be past something like that, but racism still exists."
"People assume because I'm Asian I must be a whiz on the computer. That I must be into K-pop and anime. There's the whole Asian, not a b-sian or c-sain thing too," Mal confessed anger colouring his words.
"In college I got people telling me I should be trying out for the football team because the assumed I'd be a natural athlete, and can't throw one to save my life. People will assume that I'm some sort of criminal, that I'm uneducated, and that I'm a womanizer. So I get where you're coming from, believe me. Really they're a bunch of jerks and who cares what they think. Anyways what do you make out of all of this?" Nathan said indicating the scene of the computer.
"If you want my opinion either someone has done an awful lot of work to set agent Standish up or he's flipped. I'm thinking this might be some sort of personal vendetta against him. It just seems that there is almost too much, unless he didn't count on being looked into by you guys so he was sloppy. There it is. That's my opinion."
"I think you might be right on the personal vendetta angle, it's worth looking into."
"Seriously. I'm going to go check on Vin make sure he's alright. I'll bring you back a file one some of the enemies this team had made over the years and we can start going through that. I think we've got just about all were going to out of those tapes."
Mal nodded and Nathan hurried over to Chris's office stepping in a closing the door behind him he turned expectantly to Vin.
"I'm positive one of them is working with González." Vin said getting straight to the point
"It's the only possible explanation. I'll bet you I can tell you what you found out going through those tapes, everything's pointing to Ezra isn't it?"
"Mal thinks it might be a set up by an old enemy," Nathan countered. Vin shock his head.
"Too much inside information. Even for a personal vendetta. You know how closely Ezra has guarded his association to Leverage Inc. The vans were all register to his company and this is DMV records I'm talking about. Ever since you dumped me in here I've been watching them, and I think it's Martinez."
"What tipped you off to him?" Nathan asked Vin
"Like I said, I've been watching and he's just hovering around too much."
"They're all hovering," Nathan countered
"Not the same way. His body language is off. I don't want to jump to conclusions, but I can't help feeling it's off."
"I'm going to head before they start to miss me. I'm going to try to talk to Chris too and see what he has to say."
Vin nodded and moved out of the way so no one would see him when the door was opened. He say Nathan walk back to his desk and boot up his computer. He sat working for a bit then raised his head and said something to agent An, who answered him. After that he got up and left the bullpen heading for the elevators. Vin continued watching Martinez for close to half an hour. That was when he noticed something else, JD was becoming increasingly fidgety. He didn't seem very comfortable sitting near agent Michaud anymore and he seemed antsy, he could see him looking around almost like he wanted to talk to someone, but he was quickly realizing that everyone was neatly paired off. He could almost see the light bulb go off in JD's brain as he turned to Chris's office. He said something to agent Michaud and made his way over to the door slowly opening it.
'Vin," he tentatively called into the darkened room. Vin signalled him to step into the room and to close the door.
'Talk," Vin commanded
"How are you feeling Nathan said you weren't feeling well? I told them I was just coming in here to check on you, but I had to speak to someone. I think Jacque might be the mole."
"The Canadian, eh?" Vin said with a hint of a smile.
"If she's Canadian than I hope the Bruins will never make it to the playoffs again." Vin knew that JD was being earnest because he would never wish something like on his hometown team. He raided a questioning eyebrow at that statement.
"I was sort of making small talk while we were working, and I said that there was a game between the Bruins and Maple Leafs later this week, so I guess that I knew who she'd be cheering for. She said that Canadians had to stick together so go leafs. I knew that either she wasn't a hockey fan at all or she was lying about being from Montreal."
"How?" Vin asked.
"Anyone who knows anything about hockey knows that Montreal hates Toronto. A Canadiens fan would cheer other Canadians as long as they weren't the Leafs. It's kind of crazy, but they love to hate each other. I thought maybe she wasn't a hockey fan, so I sort of shrugged it off, but thought I'd test her, so I asked he if she liked eating all dressed chips while watching the game or if that was just a stereotype. She laughed and I said I liked the extra cheesy flavor of the chips and she said that she did too. All dressed aren't cheese they're kind of like a ketchup chip meets, salt and vinegar, meets just about everything else except cheese. So I started tapping the network and looking to see what she was doing and she was monitoring everybody including me."
"Does she know you were looking at her stuff?" Vin asked.
"No, I made sure I was doing it on a secondary processor. I have control of the network on this floor so I manipulate what she could see. I have a secondary hidden network that she can't see, anyways she's monitoring what everybody else is looking at even her own team. She's spying on them, on them and on us and I don't like it."
Vin told him what he had found out about the VIN numbers of the vehicles, and asked whether she would have the capability to do something like that, when JD told him it would probably be a walk in the park for her Vin began to re-evaluate is initial suspicions.
"There's something else that's bothering me. In the warehouse I remember being there, then the next thing I can recall is Chris driving me to the hospital. Someone must have snuck onto the cat walk, shot me with the tranq dart, dragged me down and hid me. That means somebody would have had to have left their post. I want you to comb through the surveillance videos, for anything that's off, something that shows one of them leaving or that shows something being tampered with."
"I'm on it."
JD said he left the room and made his way over to his desk. He began poring through the surveillance footage, but couldn't seem to find anything wrong with anything that was done in the moments that surrounded the blacking out of the camera covering Vin, but couldn't see anything he had been at it for a while when Nathan came back and head for the office to check on Vin.
"I just looked in on him. He seems to be feeling a little better, but you should probably take a look at him." JD said Hoping Nathan would catch his drift. Nathan nodded and headed over the office. Once inside he started to update Vin.
"I managed to grab Chris for a few minutes. Travis wants him and Hunter to go with him to his meeting to convince the higher ups to let us stay on the case. I told him that I need to talk to him because I was worried about how you were feeling. Anyways, he says if you're getting a bad vibe of off Martinez we should follow up on it. He says for now his motto is go with your gut. He says after the meeting is done he's going to send everybody home on the pretense of recharging, but really we're meeting up at the ranch away from prying eyes."
Vin filled Nathan in on what JD had discovered and let him known that Martinez might be the culprit, it could be Michaud, or they could both be working together. Martinez might be acing weird because he was worried he was going to get blamed for the whole mess or it could be because he was having trouble shedding his undercover persona, after all he had been playing this part for over a year. Vin was also wondering if maybe he was still slightly out of it due to having been drugged earlier. In any event he found he could do more work hiding in here away from their prying eyes. Once Nathan had left Vin chanced turning on Chris's computer logging in with his own ID, he checked his inbox and found that JD had sent him a message letting him know that he had moved all of team seven to the hidden network, but had created false computers that were still searching for Michaud to watch. This would allow them to work without tipping their hands. He hadn't been able to let Buck, Nathan, or Josiah in on what was going on, as there was a chance that their screens could be read. Vin messaged him back letting him know what had been set up for later, and let him know that Nathan had been told and not to worry about Buck and Josiah. They'd ask Josiah to drive Nathan and Vin home and one of them could inform him of the change in plans. Chris could let Buck know when he drove the dynamic duo to his ranch. In the meantime JD should make sure that they had access to whatever file they were going to need later.
Outside in the bullpen Nathan had sat back down with Mal and was looking through the files Nathan had provide on Ezra's enemies. He had gone through the majority of the files and profiles that were available and had ranked them in order of who was most likely to seek revenge. Nathan was impressed with the amount of work that he had been able to accomplish in a relatively short amount of time.
"Your friend seems to have ticked off a lot of people," Mal commented
"There are a lot of idiots who are bent on revenge and it just seems to me like a waste of time. There's a quote I remember. "Before you embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves." Really all revenge does is end up eating you up and I am not about to let someone else win by ruining my life."
"When somebody does something to you, are you just going to sit by and let them?" Mal asked. Nathan thought a moment before formulating his reply.
"I've sent me life having people treat me differently because of my skin. They look at me and make assumptions. If I spent time getting mad at everyone who had stupid opinions there wouldn't be any time for me to live my life. I live with the satisfaction of knowing that they are idiots and that they were wrong. I might work harder to succeed, but I don't let them bring me down to their level. At the end of the day they probably don't remember me anyways and they probably haven't given me a second thought, and who cares what they think anyways. You only have to answer to your own conscience at the end of the day, not a bunch of idiots who are judging you based on your appearance.
Nathan could see that he had given the young agent a lot to think about. Settling back in to pretend to work, he noticed Chris entering with Hunter right on his heels. Everyone looked at the two men expectantly.
"Thanks to the cooperation of agent Hunter, we have been given the green light on this project. I don't want you burning yourselves out, and I know some of you should still be in hospital, so we are going to call it a night. We start again first thing tomorrow. There will be no arguments those are orders."
As everyone started packing up Chris could see that they didn't look to happy about it.
"Josiah I need you to take Nathan and Vin home, I don't think either of them should be driving. You can pick them up and bring them back in the morning. I'm going to take Buck and JD." Turning to Hunter he spoke.
"I assume you and your men all have transportation."
"Don't worry about us, you get your men home."
Once everyone was packed up they dutifully head to the vehicles that would take them home. Once they were in the Ram Chris brought Buck and JD up to speed on what had been going on. He was pleased to note that JD had already been filled in on a lot of what was going on and even had a few theories and some evidence that Chris hadn't been made aware of. He was surprised to learn that agent Michaud had been watching both the teams. Buck shook his head and let out a whistle.
"You boys sure have been busy. I'm going to blame my not noticing on blood loss."
"Maybe you should blame it on old age." JD said cheekily.
"I know you took a blow to you head otherwise I'd be giving you a swat right about now."
"Are you sure it's not just cause you're out of shape?"
"Enough you two, we're going to need you to be able to do as much work as possible, which won't be happening if you mess each other up, besides I don't want any blood on the upholstery it's a pain to clean."
"You're starting to sound like Ezra," Buck teased causing the mood to sober as they remembered that their friend was still missing in a great potential danger.
The ride out to Chris's ranch continued in contemplative silence. Buck seemed to doze off and his steady breathing eventually changed into soft steady snores. Chris knew that his friend must be pretty sore because the only time he snored was when he has sick, hung over of extremely over tired. Really he should be in the hospital, as should JD, Vin, and maybe even Nathan, but they couldn't afford the luxury of relaxing. Right now they had a friend who was missing and they all knew that the more time that passed the lower the likelihood there was of finding him still alive, especially seeing that his cover was beyond blown. There one main hope was that Ezra's life was integral to whatever plan González had devised and that he would still be breathing by the time the carvery showed up to save his sorry butt. Chris skillfully guided his vehicle up the drive and roused his sleeping passenger. Once they were all inside they started setting up their laptops and going through the file they had with a new perspective. Josiah agreed with Vin's assessment of Martinez. His main issue that was he wasn't sure if it was his faked persona or if there was something really wrong with the man. Focusing on the team that was supposed to be on their side tearing through all personal aspects of their lives looking for connections in Denver. Trying to find a site that might possibly be housing their friend. Try as they might they couldn't seem to pull up anything definite. JD had even gone so far as to monitoring their hotel to make sure that they all checked in for the night to make sure none of them were planning on sneaking out to meet up with González. They had already check him for holdings in Denver and had come up with nothing except the house that he was currently renting. They were still trying to get the warrants to search his place, but with Ezra under suspicion they didn't have sufficient cause for a warrant and looking into the footage during Vin's blackout didn't reveal any missing members of the DEA team. At the rate they were going it didn't look like they would be able to get it either. JD in particular was having trouble dealing with coming up short.
"I just can't see it. I've looked at this a hundred times and all I can find is that is starts going, fuzz and blacks out. It looks like someone unplugged it, but there isn't anything on the sound. Or anything anywhere. None of them go missing or get up. The only one I have leaving is Michaud and this was way before the camera went off-line, and she comes right back. She left the van to grab some water because she was choking and she came right back with a bottle of water, and there wasn't time for her to do anything and the rest of the time everyone is just sitting around.
"I don't remember hearing her coughing over the head sets," Vin said.
"That was a twenty minutes before they were scheduled to show, you'd already gone to you nest," Buck said.
"All I remember was getting into my nest looking through the sites and waiting for them to show up."
"Do you remember them arriving?" Nathan asked causing Vin to shake his head.
"Do you remember telling me you had a solution?" Chris asked causing Vin to shake his head again.
"Those drugs really did a number on you," Buck commented.
"JD can look at the feed that has Vin arriving?" Josiah asked
"Sure, what am I looking for?"
"The screen freezing, something showing us that the video is on loop, something showing that the audio was tampered or from another bust, anything that looks off to you. You and Buck are the experts here."
Vin told them the time he had seen the last time he had checked his and Buck and JD spent the next few minutes trying to find a point where they could detect a difference in the video feed. It took some doing, but they finally located a point where it looked like there might have been interference in the feed. Having identified this point they tried to determine who might be missing, however only Nathan and Josiah had been on the floor with Chris. This meant that they only had the mike feed from each of the DEA team members. Trying to pick up on any one thing that was out of place would be very difficult. As they sat puzzling over how to determine who was missing Chris's doorbell rang. Chris answered the door to find himself looking down to meet the eyes of Mal-Chin.
"They're going to kill Standish tonight," he said looking down at his shoes.
Ricardo Martinez guided his vehicle through the warehouse district to the office building that he had transported Ezra Standish to earlier in the day. Once he and Andres had removed the agent for the house that had been rented they had taken him transported him to their true base of operations. While not an overly large building it had enough room to comfortable house the fake investment firm that was one of the many fronts used to sell their product. The office space in the front provided rooms that could be used to appear legitimate or to store uncooperative agents until there was more time for questioning, while the large warehouse in the back held a veritable fortune in guns, drugs, and laundered money. Guiding the car to the parking space to the rear of the building he made his way through the maze of offices to the room where he knew the interrogation would continue one the others arrived. Andreas opened the door and offered him a seat.
"Where's Standish?" he asked sitting down.
"I've got him tied up in the next office. He still unconscious. He woke up for a bit and tried getting away, so unfortunately I had to deal with him." Andreas replied smiling as he recalled the enjoyment he'd had at the expense of Ezra's skull.
"I miss all the fun. I'm getting sick of playing on this side. Those guys are nauseating. Protecting the people, looking out for each other. Those idiots should be watching their own backs. The government had left them out in the cold and those idiots are still looking to play the hero. They should be getting their own back like we are, but the morons seem to think that there is this thing called the government that looks out for this country. They don't get it. The government is made of people, people that will happily walk all over you to get what they want, if you let them. They haven't learned to start hitting back yet like me did."
"Don't really care, so long as I get to make somebody bleed." Andres said with a careless shrug.
Martinez was still chuckling when their co-workers entered into the room, followed by their boss.
"All right guy I need status updates from all of you so I can figure out how to keep this plan moving forward." At their bosses demand they all began to give their individual updates.
"Grandpa and I went through all the DEA paperwork and I've got to say the old fart is like a blood hound. He got a hold of the requests to include the ATF in our operation and He's been profiling the poor jerk. They're convinced that there must be someone corrupt in a high office. They don't think we're capable of something like this. I think Sanchez is nuts, but he seems to like me so you don't need to worry about him. Martinez said.
"I think he likes you about as much as I do," Jordan Eisenmann intoned dryly.
"You're always saying you hate me," Rick Scoffed.
"That's my point, you miserable excuse for an intelligent life form. You can gauge people's feelings as well as a pudding cup," she said scathingly.
"I don't think that they are overly comfortable with him, but they are trying to cooperate with us which is a bonus. I don't think they are onto us just yet. JD's been really friendly I kept watch over what he's looking into and they haven't hit on anything yet," Jacque offered.
'I spent the day with agent Jackson and I've got him looking into old enemies of Standish's and Tanner spent the day lying down in Larabee's office. He said the dart I shot him with made him sick," Mal-Chin reported.
"Standish tried giving me grief, but I looked after it," Andres said giving a pitying shake of his head.
"Wilmington has been trying all day to get through the surveillance vids, but he's not doing as well as he wants everyone to think he is. He's pretty much out of it," Eisenmann concluded.
"Excellent, you've done well. Larabee and I convinced Travis to let us stay on the case. After I finish taking to Standish we'll dispose of him. They're going to end up blaming this on him and in their continued effort to find him and prove him innocent they are going to end up under IA's watchful eye. I think our job should prove very easy. All we have to do is let them try to prove their friend is innocent, without letting them know how involved we are. González has disappeared," he said indicating Andres.
"And they won't be able to find any leads. IA will roast them alive. They'll think he's taken a bribe and helped González escape." Mason Hunter said smiling pleased with his own perceived brilliance.
"There isn't anything for them to find connecting Andres to any of us is there?" Asked Jacque.
"We've been very careful to keep everything separate. They are never going to find out that I am the one in charge. Like everyone else they've underestimated us. We are going to hang them out to dry, like we've been, time and time again," Mason said.
"That should be our motto," Rick said excitedly
"Do first before it can be done to you."
"Well, they've never done anything to us specifically," Mal said.
"It doesn't matter you hit first," Rick argued.
"They have wronged us. In the sense that everyone is out for their own best interests. They don't care about us. If we'd been sloppy they'd be pinning this to Rick right now. They have him thrown in prison, so all we're doing is making sure we don't end up there. They are interfering with what we had planned so now they are just going to have to pay," Hunter hammered the point home.
"Andres you and Rick can help me question Standish. The rest of you can head back to the hotel and get some sleep. For now all drug trade activity is being put on hold. We'll resume activity once things cool down. For now as I said, we keep the wool pulled over their eyes."
Larabee Ranch, Monday Night…
Chris grabbed the younger agent by the arm and dragged him into the room everyone else was occupying. There was a general expression of mild surprise on each of the faces of his teammates.
"Tell me what you know." Chris demanded.
"We have Ezra. Their questioning him now to find out exactly what he knows and what he told you. When they finish, they're going to kill. They would have killed him earlier, but Mason wanted to question him himself. We haven't got much time." Mal said the worry he was feeling had crept into his voice as he was speaking.
"You mean Hunter is working with González?" Chris questioned.
"No, González is working with Hunter," Mal said looking directly into the faces that were currently staring at him.
"Mason Hunter is a great team leader and he gets the job done. His problem is he has never been able to play politics, so he's been stuck in the same place for years now. He got sick of being passed over for promotions, for being given the dirty work to do, and sick of always being reprimanded. So he decided if the government would look after him, he'd look after himself. González was a nobody, a small time drug dealer. Mason has been taking out the competition and building up his own business. He's tickled to death that everybody has overlooked him. He says that everybody gets what they deserve because if they hadn't overlooked him they could have stopped him ages ago. He takes it personally and he says he's just getting revenge for what was done to him. He says you guys have hurt him and he's just getting back at you because you're interfering with his business. He feels hurt, so he's hurting people."
"What about the rest of the team?" Chris asked.
"Jordan is mad at the world because more often than not people look at here and all they see is a beautiful woman. So she wants to get back at all the men who wouldn't give her a job or looked down on her. Rick feels underappreciated too. Jacque has only been with us for a little while, but Mason brought her on board because she was mad too. I was just sick of being treated like a kid. I wanted respect and they gave it to me."
"Why did you come to us?" Josiah asked.
"Things have been different lately. I don't know if you were told, but Jacque is a replacement for our other agent. Paul Neilson used to be our tech expert, but he wanted out. So Mason arranged for his permanent departure. He ended up dead at one of our busts. It started me think about what we we're really doing. I don't hold with killing people that are on your side. That's why I only shot Vin with a dart at the warehouse and not something more lethal. Nathan said a lot of things that made me take a harder look at what I've become. I realized that we're no better, that I'm no better than any of the people that I was so angry with. Nathan kept telling we that in the end it doesn't matter what people think of you, you work to better yourself in spite of them and that at the end of the day, the only thing you have to satisfy is your own conscience. When I first got here I was a bit jealous of the way I saw you guys treat JD. It looked like he was an equal. I heard him telling Jacque about how he got on the team in the first place. How he'd come to Denver and Chris had taken one look at him and told him to go home. I thought that he was someone like me, but he isn't. When I got turned down I ended up feeling bitter and I turned my back on every principle I ever had. I heard you telling Jacque how you joined the DPD and ended up saving Buck during a bad bust."
"The first thing he did was chew me out," JD recalled with a smile.
"I told the kid that was just his way thanking him," Vin said grinning.
"Chris told me if I wanted to go to an early grave I could stick around," JD said
"That's my whole point. Nathan, you, even Ezra; when things didn't go well for you and when people judged you for appearances you didn't fight them, you worked harder. You didn't give up. All we do is hurt people and when they get hurt they hit back and it's just a never ending circle. I'm so sick of it I just want it to end," Mal said.
"It ends today," Chris said.
"You've taken the first step by coming to us. I need to know exactly what we're walking into."
Mal gave them the specs on the building where Ezra was located along with the information on the guarding schedule. At that moment the phone began ringing and Chris answered it.
"Sir, we have a lead on Standish."
"The whole team is at my ranch."
Chris hung the phone up. The rest of the team waited expectantly for him to fill them in.
"That was Travis. He told me he has something connected with the case he need to discuss with me away from the office. He's on his way here."
"Did he give you any hints?" JD asked.
Chris just shot him a look, Travis was not the hinting type. While waiting for Travis to arrive Mal-Chin outlined the setup of the building for Buck and JD giving them an idea of what they would be working with. He let Nathan know what state Ezra was in when he had last seen him, which understandably caused him to become agitated. If you can call shattering a laptop agitation. He also gave Josiah what information he had on the rest of the team so that hopefully they would be able to predict some of their opponents moves and be able to plan accordingly. He also advised Vin of the fire power that they had. There method of entry would be relatively simple as Mal could give them access to the building. By the time Travis was knocking on the door they had come up with a plan that would gain them access and get them their missing man back, hopefully without too much blood shed. Chris had left to greet Travis and when he returned the men were surprised to find out that he was not alone.
"Jacque, what are you doing here?" Mal asked.
"What is he doing here?" Michaud asked Chris.
"This man is our confidential informant. He told us about you team's illegal activity, so you can drop the act."
"You told them about Hunter?" Jacque asked Mal disbelievingly. Mal stood a little straighter and looked her in the eye.
"Yes, I did. What we were doing was wrong, and I'm going to try to undo some of the wrong I've done. He was surprised to notice that instead of becoming angry she seemed to relax a little.
"I'm glad you opened your eyes," she said.
"Gentlemen agent Michaud has been working as part of an undercover operation with internal affairs to uncover the source of corruption that the DEA believes exists within Mason Hunter's team. They believed that at least on member of the team was corrupt."
The room exploded with angry exclamations.
"You mean they knew they weren't to be trusted and they sent us in blind?" Chris yelled.
"Is that why the ATF was called in?" Josiah wanted to know
"Somebody ought to be thrown off a building." Buck commented angrily.
"Gentlemen please, allow agent Michaud to explain,"
"The ATF was called in because Mason convinced a friend of his that outranks him to get you involved because of you closure rate. He wanted your team specifically because he though you looked like something IA would love to blame the whole mess on. He plans on walking away from this without anyone suspecting him. To answer your other question, yes, the DEA knew something was wrong, to start with they didn't, but I've convinced them that he is corrupt. He doesn't know they know. You were supposed to be told, but they were afraid of it getting back to him somehow. I'm sorry you weren't informed earlier gentlemen, but the reason I'm here now is because agent Standish will be dead if something isn't done quickly."
"There are files that are kept on the whole operation. Mason hasn't let you see them yet because you're to new. They're stored on a computer that isn't connected to a network. The computer travels with Mason. Right now it should be in his office where we're holding Standish. If you can get a hold of the files you'll have enough to put him and every one of his men away. Including me," Mal told Jacque.
"Agent An has already brought us up to speed on Hunter's business and on the building. We're ready to go now. He has also informed us of how to get our hand on positive proof of Hunter's corruption," Chris informed Travis.
"Then I think it's time to leave," Travis answered.
"Let's ride boys."
Monday Night, Vehicle cavalcade on route…
Buck sat in one of the vehicles as they worked their way back towards and through the city of Denver contemplating the situation that was unfolding around them. They had called team eight through their personal numbers and they had been informed as to what was going on. They had joined team seven once they reached the edge of the city. As they continued to draw nearer to the building Buck ran the plan, Chris had developed, through his mind. First Mal and Jacque would enter the building and head straight to security. Jacque was supposed to take care of whoever was at the security desk and disable the security in the rear of the building allowing team eight to enter through warehouse. She would also disable security in the front area allowing team seven to breach this front effectually boxing everyone in the building. Once inside Mal would head upstairs and convince Hunter that Michaud was an undercover agent and that she might have gotten a hold of the files he kept in his office. He was supposed to convince Hunter to send Martinez and González to go after Michaud, while he ensured the integrity of the files. He also need to ensure that Hunter left Ezra alive as they need to know of Michaud had already passed the information. Once they had left the room Ezra was being held in Vin was supposed to get him out through the hall door and down the back stairs where he wold hand him off to the members of team eight. Once Ezra was secured they would receive a signal and proceed to clear the building. Mal was supposed to prevent Hunter from deleting the files. They need Hunter to reveal the location of the computer as he was currently the only one that knew the exact location of it. They were placing a lot of trust in the young agent, but Chris seemed to think he deserved this second chance to make up for some of the things he had done and Buck wasn't going to be the one to deny someone their second chance. As they came to a stop a few blocks from the building Chris's voice could be heard over the headsets.
"You know what to do. Do it."
That was Chris direct and to the point. They all began unloading and headed towards the building. Teams seven and eight stopped outside of the surveillance area while Jacque and Mal continued towards the entrance. As they separated towards their intended targets Jacque couldn't help wishing she was somewhere else. If anything went wrong in the slightest she, agent Standish, and Mal would definitely end up dead. They were placing a lot of faith in things going exactly to plan, there was no plan B. She continued up to the third floor and down the hall towards security and scanned her ID card giving her access to the room. Looking around she was relieved to see that the two night guards were both there. One looked towards her and nodded in acknowledgement.
"What can I do for you Ms. Michaud?" he asked reading her name off her ID.
She approached him extending her hand which he went to shake. Instead of shaking it she turned and slammed the head of the still seated agent into his keyboard. Drawing a dart gun agent Jackson had given her she put two shots into the dazed guard before turning her attention to his colleague. When the standing guard grabbed her upper arm swung her head and met his nose with her forehead, resulting in the sickening sound of cartilage crunching beneath the blow. She twisted he arm behind his back kicked the back of his leg driving him to his knees. Pulling her dart gun she put one of the little darts between his shoulder blades sending him into oblivion. She secured the downed men with zip ties and sitting down she quickly disabled the security measures. As a secondary precautionary measure she disabled the land lines and wireless access in the building affectively disabling communications in the building.
"Security is down boys, come on in," she invited.
"Affirmative, we're on our way."
Mal could hear Jacque giving them the okay through the headset just as he reached the door to the office. She should now be on her way to join the cavalry in the rear of the building. Taking a deep breath to steady his nerves he knocked on the door.
"What?" Rick demanded.
"It's me. We've got a problem."
The door was yanked open and he found himself looking up to meet Rick's angry stare.
"What's going on? You were supposed to go home," he accused.
"I've got to speak to Mason," he said as he pushed past the man in the door looking for his former boss. He could see agent Standish tied to a chair blood dripping from his split lip accenting the bruises that marred his features.
"Jacque is an undercover agent and I think she may have gotten into the files," he reported
"What?" Hunter roared grabbing Mal by the lapels of his jacket.
"I was going through some of the files back at the hotel when I noticed my computer was being monitored. She did a good job of hiding it, but she's been spying on everything we've been spending. I went across the street to the café that has free wireless so I wouldn't show up on her network and hacked into her computer there are hidden emails and files detailing the whole thing. She's a plant."
"Is she still at the hotel?" Mason demanded.
"As far as I know."
"Why don't you let me deal with her?" Rick asked grinning.
"Alright you can go, but I want her in one piece until we find out how much she knows. Rick call ahead and have Jordan hold her. Andres, Mal you stay here with Standish I'm going to delete those files."
Mason didn't even wait for them to answer him he strode out of the room and down the hall. Mal noted that he was heading in the opposite direction from his office. He knew that in a minute agent Tanner would be along to collect his friend which meant he had seconds to get rid of Andres. He looked over at him and was disturbed to see him picking up a knife.
"What are you doing with that?" he asked as Andres moved the knife towards agent Standish's neck.
"Now that we have his girlfriend we don't need him."
"We haven't got her yet," Mal said beginning to panic.
"I'm going to cut his artery and watch him bleed out, by then we should have her."
"Mason said to keep him alive."
"We'll just say it was an accident. He won't care once we have her." With that being said the knife flashed forward towards the helpless agent's exposed neck. Mal heard someone yell for Andres to stop as he flung himself into the man wielding the weapon in an awkward tackle only to realize he was the one yelling. They hit the floor and rolled struggling for the knife. Mal suddenly realized that Andres wasn't fighting anymore, although his hand retained its vicelike grip on the handle of the blade. Standing up he looked down to meet the gapping stare of his onetime friend. Andres gasped a few shallow breaths and looked down at his chest. He smiled an eerily happy smile before reaching down and pulling the knife from his upper chest. The blood immediately began seeping from the wound. He poked a finder in the wound wincing initially then smiling at the pain he must be causing himself. Mal watched as the smile suddenly froze on his face. His eyes rolled towards the back of his head as he collapsed. Knelling back down he felt for a pulse, but it turned out to be an exercise in futility. He felt rather than herd the door open and turned drawing his gun meet the business end of agent Tanner's gun.
"He's dead," Mal told him.
"Ezra or González?" he asked holstering his weapon and moving towards his friend.
"Andres," Mal said somewhat numbly.
"Where's Hunter?" Vin asked bring Mal's mind back to the task he was supposed to be working on.
"He left us here, but I think I know where he's going." Mal stood up and holstered his weapon.
Agent Tanner began slapping the side of his friend's face.
"Come on Ezra wake up."
His eyes flutter open and he looked confusedly around the room.
"Vin your timing is impeccable as always."
He noticed Mal walking towards him. Vin following his line of sight tried to reassure his friend. "He's on our side now. Came and got us, let us know where you were."
"Then Agent An, I must say that I am grateful for your assistance."
"You wouldn't be here at all if it wasn't for me," Mal said ruefully was he worked on the bonds that secured Ezra's feet.
"Hunter would have found someone else to take you place in his organization. Make no mistake about it. That man has been on this course for quite some time and he would have betrayed me regardless of whether you had been working in association with him or not. Rest assured that I would still be held captive and if not for you I might very well be dead. Thanks to you and your conscious I am still breathing albeit somewhat painfully, the fact remains that I am still able to participate in basic respiratory function for which you will find I am ever in you debt."
"Basic respiratory function my left foot," Vin said cutting through the bonds on his wrists.
"Is he always this wordy or that his concussion talking?" Mal asked.
Nope, that's just Ezra 'Windbag" Standish for you," Vin said smiling, relived to be able to tease his friend. Ezra merely sent them a withering glance.
Once they had Ezra on his feet he and Vin made their way down the hall towards the back stairs. Mal turned and head the direction he had seen Mason take. If he guess was right he was headed for the server room. Mal reflected that that would be a perfect place to hide a computer. With a bunch of other ones. He hoped that Jacque had left the room and wasn't still there. He cautiously entered the room to and walk slowly between the units that housed all the servers. He could see two guard lying face down on the floor. Both appeared to have been beaten with something, if he had to hazard a guess he would have to say that it was Jacque's handy work. She seed to have a particular grudge against noses. Over the gentle hum of the servers Mal could make out the sound of someone typing towards the other side of the room. Moving towards the sound he was careful to make as little noise as possible. As he was nearing the end of the row the typing stopped. Cautiously he began to peek around the corner only to feel the unnerving sensation of cold steel pressed against his temple. Shifting he gaze he could see that Mason the one holding the gun.
"Mal? What are you doing down here I told you to stay with Standish," he asked lowering the gun.
"Andres killed him. He said we didn't need him anymore and just cut his neck. He bled out and I couldn't stop it. I left him with the body and came down right away to let you know."
"I ordered you not to kill him. We could have used him to make Jacque talk," Mason said in a level tone that worried Mal.
"I tried to stop him, but his reflexes are faster than mine."
"I'll have to talk to him once I delete the files. Somebody has already been down here and may have accessed them. It's time to start doing a little damage control. We've got to get rid of all proof of illegal activity."
Mal nodded in agreement.
"Call Jordan and Rick and let them know we are shutting down for now."
As Mal reached for his phone he realized his mistake. Hunter's gun came back up and fired.
"Nothing personal of course, just tying up loose ends. I won't risk being betrayed," he said as he looked almost ruefully at his onetime friend.
The shock of the bullet passing through his chest took his breath away and ebbed the strength from him legs. He could feel himself slowly descend on his journey towards the cold tilled floor, yet found himself unable to stop it from happening.
Everything seems so quiet all of a sudden. Mal thought to himself.
The only thing he was concisions of was the sound of his heart beating. He could feel the blood rushing through the vessels of his ears creating a slight hum that seemed to shut out the rest of the world.
His vision also seemed to dim, no longer could he take in the whole surveillance room, all he was conscious of was the wound in his chest, he found it totally mesmerizing.
His sense of smell seemed only to be able to pick out the sharp coppery scent of his blood, as it left his body determined to continue its journey and reach its destination on the floor beneath him.
Even his sense of touch seemed limited, limited to his hands, all he could feel was the blood seeping through my fingers sticky blood, tacky, but still free flowing, somewhere in the back of his mind he knew he had a word to describe it.
Viscous, viscosity, viscidness, yes, that was it. Such strange words, the origin had something to do with mistletoe berries and constancy of them when they were crushed or something like that, but then again that could be another word, maybe it was the Latin word that had something to do with vices. No, that was vicious, but maybe vicious was the word he was looking for. The wound did seem vicious in its attempt to relieve him of what strength he still had left. It reminded him of a stream he'd gone fishing with his father during his childhood. Unwaveringly moving along resolute in reaching some unknown place, steadfast in its need to reach its final purpose, and yet his blood seemed to be moving at a pace not as vicious as that stream of long ago. The viscosity of blood at 37? C is approximately 3.3 cP, water is only supposed to have a viscosity of about 0.894 cP, because blood is thicker than water.
Yes, that would explain it, or maybe he was going mad, there wasn't very much he could be sure of at this moment.
Suddenly a thought hit him like a swift punch to the stomach, momentarily stopping his breath. He had failed. He was supposed to stop Hunter from destroying the evidence they had against him. He was supposed to stop him and he had failed. In the same manner that he failed his parents, his country, even his own ideology. He had betrayed everything he had ever really believed in. One final task he had been given to redeem himself and he had failed at that too.
He forced himself to roll over onto his side and placed his hands flat on the ground pushing himself to his knees he reached over and picked up the gun he had dropped. Blinking a few times to force back the fog that was rolling steadfastly forward trying to lay claim to his consciousness, he rose to his feet and pointed the gun at Hunter's back.
"Mason," he rasped out barely above a whisper "You are under arrest, you have the right to..."
Mal never finished reading Mason Hunter his rights. Upon hearing his name being called he had turned towards An and lifted his sidearm. He never had a chance to fire it. The bullet had left the chamber of Mal-Chin's gun and found its mark killing him instantly.
As his arm fell back towards his side Mal was vaguely conscious of the sound of someone approaching behind him. He felt someone removing the gun from hand and gently guiding him to the floor. He briefly met JD's worried gaze before the edge of his vision began to darken.
"Drive, going to wipe drive," Mal said pointing towards the computer he knew held the files incriminating the lot of them.
"Don't try to talk, we got this," JD reassured him
Mal wished he could show JD which computer had the files, but he was just so tired.
He was vaguely aware of JD yelling for Nathan to come over and of someone pressing against his chest.
What was it Nathan had said about digging graves? Two graves one for him one for Hunter. Everything they had been angry with and had been set against destroying would remain. The world would always have its prejudices and politics and there would always be those that chose to get angry and curse the darkness instead of lighting a candle, but today he had finally seen the light and ironically in seeing the light he was now dying, funny how things worked out. At least his death wouldn't be totally in vain; maybe his life would count for something after all, he'd stopped Hunter from destroying the logs and with that information team seven would be able close down the operations that had been set into effect and he could live or in this case die contentedly with that.
Denver Federal Building, 11thFloor…
"So what was it that made you suspect me?" Jacque asked JD.
"Well, I had my hunches that something was wrong so I started spying on your computer and I found that you were spying on everyone and I thought that was really suspicious."
"I was monitoring my team and your computers in case they were using yours to contact anyone or hide anything. You were supposed to know I was doing it."
"That was really stupid of your bosses keeping us out of the loop. I mean I could have gone to Chris and he could have gone to Hunter and your cover would have been beyond blown. It was so risky. The only reason that didn't happen is because most of us went with our gut feelings and didn't trust anyone on your team. Realistically we didn't have a stich of proof, but I'm glad we went with our guts."
"Which brings me back to my original question. Why did you suspect me?"
"Okay, this might seem dumb, and try not to laugh too hard, but I didn't think you were really Canadian."
"I'm Canadian. What made you think I'm not?" she asked frowning
"You said you were a Habs fan, then said you were going to route for the Leafs. I mean you guys are supposed to hate each other," JD said a little sheepishly. He was relieved when she didn't laugh. Sure she had a grin right across her face, but she didn't laugh.
"My dad is from Quebec and my mother is from Toronto, so I route for both. Anyways the Leafs don't hate the Canadiens as much anymore. They hate the Bruins because they kept them out of the playoffs," she teased.
"Watch it, that's my home team," JD said. The smile on his face effectively ruined the seriousness of the statement.
JD looked around the mostly empty bullpen. With Ezra, Buck, and Nathan still out of commission most of the report writing had fallen to those still left standing. All in all things hadn't turned out too badly. Ezra wasn't that badly hurt, but Nathan had insisted he stay overnight in the hospital, along with Buck, who never should have left in the first place. Nathan was mostly alright, but his cast didn't really allow him to type all that well, so he had been sent home. Josiah was left looking out for the other two, making sure they didn't try to pull an escape stunt. Vin had gone to grab some lunch, while Chris was upstairs in a meeting with Travis and the Brass going over their reports. Vin entered the room bogged down with enough takeout bags to feed an army, or a hockey team.
"Wow that is a lot of food," Jacque's commented taking in the sight.
"Top one's yours, one under that is JD's"
"And the rest?" JD asked.
"Mine," Vin said taking a protective stance with his food causing the other two to laugh.
Chris chose that moment to return and met the suddenly serious faces that met him.
"The DA says they're going to put away Eisenmann and Martinez. Thanks to the files you two were able to access she says the documented proof will be more than enough."
Team three had been waiting at the hotel to apprehend Martinez when he arrived to collect Michaud, as they had already taken Eisenmann into custody. The two criminals would now be facing several serious charges.
"What about Mal?" Jacque asked
"With our testimony, you statement that he was a confidential informant, and the DEAs willingness to make this go away quickly, he's being put on a team under probationary status."
"Any team we know?" Vin asked.
"Ryan Kelly says he's more than welcome. They've wanted their own forensics expert for a while now."
"He could always double as a sniper," JD said grinning at Vin.
Now that he was past danger, most of Vin's teammates had been giving him a hard time because someone had managed to sneak up on him.
"Or and IT expert," Vin countered.
Reminding JD that Mal had been able to shut down his surveillance feeds back at the warehouse without any detection, reminded JD that Vin was not entirely without his own ammunition as far as teasing went.
"I'm glad he's getting a second chance." Jacque said.
"He's fortunate. He realized his mistakes and was willing to make restitution and that counted for a lot. He thought he would be serving jail time, but the DEA doesn't want him prosecuted because they think it will put them in an unfavorable light, to have had that many corrupt people in their organization," Chris added.
"And we might not have figured it out in time if it hadn't been for him," JD pointed out.
"Nathan called and said he was at the hospital. I told him we'd be heading over. I want to personally let agent An what he's in for."
"If team eight is anything like you guys then I've got to wonder if jail might have been the safer option?" Jacque said smiling at Vin and JD.
"Safer, but nowhere near as cool or awesome," JD said
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