Edit by Melissa - tho I added a few more words when it was all done.
Characters: Vin & Ezra mainly
"Damn it. How did we get the short straw today?" Vin fumed as he paced the shadows of the darkening room.
"Mr. Tanner, it was fair and square. I made sure the matches were all equal size but two. We are only stuck in this godforsaken hole for two nights, then we are through and two others will take over." Ezra brushed the dust from his jacket and looked around the room for a place to hang it.
The room was located on the fourth floor of an old abandoned apartment building. Most of the apartments were trashed, stripped of wall boards and anything usable in the rooms. Some homeless people had taken over several apartments on the lower levels. Though looking at the building it was hard to tell, as many of the lower floor windows had boards and metal grates over them. Most of the fourth and fifth floor windows were just blank holes, no glass remained, and a few of them were boarded up.
Ezra hooked his jacket on a nail after wiping it off and moved to where Vin stood looking out one of the front windows. The two men gazed out of the two windows overlooking a wide street with several shops and a large corner diner on the other side. The building they were using was slated to be demolished in three months. They understood that condos would replace it.
The two men stared outside as darkness settled over the street and street lights flickered on. In the falling darkness, behind them, could be seen two cots and with sleeping bags on them. A large ice chest and a cardboard box stood between the cots. Several flashlights lay on the ice chest. When the apartment was checked out, three days ago, everyone was surprised to find the water in the bathroom still worked. It flowed very slow, but if you waited long enough they could get enough to flush the toilet and wash. There was no heat or electricity.
Back from the windows, two chairs and a telescope sat and a tiny table holding a state of the art camera with a powerful telescopic lens. The telescope was aimed at the diner. Someone could sit in a chair and watch the diner without having to stand all day. The camera was within reach when they needed to take pictures.
Ezra looked at Vin. "Wish to flip a coin to see who gets first watch, Mr. Tanner?"
Vin eyed Ezra who was flipping a quarter in his hand. With a grin, Vin dug in his pocket and pulled out his own quarter. "Only if we use my coin." He flipped it high in the air, "Call it."
"Heads." Ezra answered instantly. The coin hit the floor, bounced and laid flat. Vin grabbed a flashlight and turned the narrow beam onto the quarter. A head flashed in the light.
"Heads it is. You're on watch," Vin said shutting off the light and stepping to a cot. "You can wake me in five hours, unless something happens." Toeing off his boots, Vin laid down and pulled the unzipped sleeping bag over him, and within moments he was asleep.
Ezra shook his head and moved to the chair closest to the telescope and settled into place. He could easily see the door of the diner and with a slight movement of the scope see most of the booths lined along the windows and tables behind them. Almost every booth and table, he could see, had people around them and eating. His stomach growled and with a curse, he rose and made his way to the ice chest. Using one of the flashlights, he opened the lid and looked over the items inside the chest. A stack of different kinds of sandwiches were stacked in one end, the middle held fruit and some snacks and the last third held bottled water and several sodas. He knew the box beside the ice chest held chips and sweets, thanks to Vin's sweet tooth.
Pulling a sandwich and an apple from the chest, he turned out the light and went back to his chair.
While he ate and kept an eye on the diner, Ezra thought of what brought them to this hovel of a place for a stake out.
A week before, FBI Agent Tom Graves came to Chris, who he called friend, for help. His office had been hit with the flu. The agents not sick were in training in Quantico. They were short manned and then a man they were looking for showed up in Denver. The only agent who hadn't fallen to the illness yet, followed the man, John Burns. For three days Agent Sullivan followed and watched Burns. He stopped the day before when he came down with the flu. Graves had no more agents he could send out. He wouldn't be full force for two more weeks.
Chris listened to the agent, and when Graves turned over everything they'd gathered on Burns, he accepted the assignment. After staking out the hotel where Burns stayed, Buck, Josiah and Nathan took turns following the man. Vin and Ezra were getting over the flu and had only been back in the office two days, they were still on desk duty. The three teammates found that Burns always went to a certain diner, no matter what time of the day or night it happened to be. Five times Burns met with two different men at the same time, at odd hours of the day or evening. They always spent close to two hours in the diner, talking while they ate. Then Burns would disappear into the back of the building, for awhile, before exiting by the front door. As the days passed, he spent longer hours in the diner. The FBI needed someone to see who Burns was meeting and identify them. Then they could arrest Burns and his cohorts.
JD located an abandoned building across from the diner and once Burns went back to the hotel they moved in. With Nathan watching the hotel, Buck and Josiah checked the old building out. They found the room he and Vin were stuck with. It was perfect for observing the diner and the clientele going in and out. Within their view was most of the booths and tables the room held.
The men argued over who would be on stake out, and Ezra came up with the idea of drawing matches. Unfortunately, he drew the first short match. Moments later, Vin drew the second one, both men groaned but headed to gather what they needed, Ezra cursing under his breath over the luck of the draw that turned on him. He didn't like having to do surveillance, it was always long and boring.
Movement on the sidewalk, in front of the diner, drew his attention and he looked through the telescope. Two large men in dark suits bracketed a shorter man, entered the diner and made their way to a booth. Ezra grabbed the camera and started taking pictures of the men as fast as the camera would take them. Moments later, Burns entered the diner and walked to the booth. With a smile and nod at the men, he sat down. Ezra took more pictures as the men's heads turned. He thought one man looked familiar but wasn't sure.
With the camera still in his hand, he heard a scratching sound from the ceiling. He froze. He didn't recognize the noise. It got louder then softer, before it turned into a grinding noise. He glanced at the ceiling, but it was too dark to see anything. The noise quieted and he went back to watching the men in the diner.
The men were there for almost two hours and Ezra had gotten totally bored watching them. Through the telescope, he zoomed in on the two men's faces he could see clearly and tried to read their lips, but they were talking too fast or in another language and he couldn't make out any words. The noises from above him were now constant. It sounded as if something was trying to chew through the ceiling. When the men finally rose and shook hands, Ezra sighed in relief. He was getting tired of observing them. He snapped more pictures of the men as they filed out of the diner. They all stood on the corner for a couple of minutes, before they separated and went their way.
Ezra rose to watch them and saw a car pull away and then another one leave. The last man, who stood in the deep shadows of the diner wall, turned and re-entered the diner and moved through it and disappeared in the back. Pulling out his cell phone, Ezra hit Chris's number and when he answered, filled him in on what he's observed. He requested for someone to pick up the camera's card to download the pictures as soon as possible.
Chris informed Ezra that someone would be there in the morning. They were following two of the men who'd left the diner earlier. Ezra thanked Chris for the information and signed off. He stretched his back and dug a bottle of water from the ice chest. He had another hour before he woke Vin. Settling back on the chair, he sipped the cool water and watched the diner and listened to the noises coming from the ceiling.
Over the next hour, nothing happened at the diner, Burns still hadn't come out. Ezra challenged himself to see if he could count how many different critters were above him. From the sounds, it sounded like there could be ten or twelve mice. He hoped it was just mice. He didn't want to think that it could be rats up there.
At two, Ezra called Vin's name while still watching the diner. Since it was an all night restaurant, it never closed. There'd been a shift change at one and he was surprised how many people continued to go in and out of the place. He thought it must have really good food and the service appeared fast. The plates of food he saw served were larger than many places he frequented. When this was over, he would see if Vin would like to check it out. He grinned to himself. If anyone had a nose for good down-to-earth food, it was his long haired teammate. Over the last eight months, he'd found that Vin was a connoisseur of good cheap places to eat.
"What's up Ez?" A quiet voice asked from the darkness behind him. Ezra jerked in surprise. He hadn't heard Vin.
Coughing to cover his surprise, Ezra told him, "Burns is still in the building, he met with three others. They are being followed at this time. There are critters in the ceiling, I believe if they continue, it will fall in a few hours. If you need me, call out. I will bid you good night now." With that, Ezra rose and walked to the cots and he settled down to sleep.
Vin checked outside then hurried to the ice chest and grabbed a sandwich, soda, a bag of chips and package of cookies and returned to recently occupied chair.
Within minutes, the grinding and chewing began again. He hadn't noticed it while they were talking, but now it sounded as if the mice, or rats, were making a big meal of the ceiling. Eating his sandwich, Vin watched the diner. He wondered what would happen first, the ceiling fall in on them or Burns come out of the diner.
It was almost four thirty, when Vin saw movement by the diner. Turning the telescope to the movement, he saw a vehicle park in front of the door and a man in a long coat get out of the passenger side. He bent and said something to the driver, then slammed the door and went into the diner. Vin watched him take the booth closest to the back of the room, but still beside the window. A waitress approached him and then walked away. Moments later Burns appeared and sat across from the man.
Vin grabbed the camera and snapped some pictures of the newcomer.
For several minutes, the two talked. The newcomer's arms waved at the street a couple of times, and then he shook his fist at Burns. Burns laughed and started to rise. The other man jumped up, his face red in anger. Vin snapped more pictures of the mad man and realized he had a weapon. The older man pulled a gun out from under his coat and fired four shots at Burns. The gunshots didn't make any noise that Vin could hear. Burns, a shocked look on his face slid back into his seat and slumped over. The man threw some bills on the table and walked out and got into the car. In seconds the car was gone. People rose from tables to see what happened.
Vin held the shutter down and followed the car. He hoped he got a clear picture of the license plate, but wasn't sure if he'd gotten anything. He looked back into the diner and saw the waitress on the phone. The few people gathered around the booth looked as if they were in stages of shock. A woman walked from the back and sent them away. She checked Burns' pulse and then got a table cloth and covered him. She moved to the waitress' side and held the young woman while they waited for the police.
Watching the police enter the diner, Vin sighed. It was over for them, he hoped as he listened to the noises above his head. He rose and moved to the cots and shook Ezra's shoulder with one hand and hit number one on his cell phone. With a grin, he listened to the gruff voice on the other end.
"Larabee, and this better be good."
"Hey cowboy, what twisted your tail?"
"Tanner! I just got to bed an hour ago. What are you calling for?"
"It's over," Vin saw Ezra was awake and moved back, and continued so both could hear what he was saying. "Someone met Burns in the diner and just took him out. I've got pictures of the shooter, but the cops are there and maybe we need to let the FBI know we're done. Ez and I will wait for someone to pick us up at the same place we were dropped off."
Ezra jumped from the cot, and started rolling his sleeping bag. He would be ready in minutes and he couldn't wait until he could get out of this pest hole. He couldn't wait to have a hot shower and his own feather bed to sleep in. He was sure Vin felt the same way, this place was filthy.
As Vin rolled his sleeping bag and they took apart the cots, he told Ezra about what happened across the street. Ezra could see the flashing lights of the police vehicles parked below. The noise of the ambulance siren arriving at the diner, drowned out the noise of the chewing rodents.
Within fifteen minutes, they were packed up and standing in the dark alcove of the rear doors of the building. The night started to lose the deep blackness as dawn began to touch the area. The ice chest with the box on top of it stood beside them, the sleeping bags and cots were leaning against the wall and the telescope cradled in Ezra's arms. They were talking together glad that the building had been cleared of the homeless earlier. The things they'd heard in the ceiling made them wonder how anyone could stay in the building.
Ezra straightened and looked at Vin. "Mr. Tanner, it happened to be the luck of the draw that we were chosen to be the first inhabitants of this pest hole. What do you think of a small bet on how long the ceiling above our heads in that hole will stay where it is?"
Vin stared at Ezra for a long minute before a slow grin crossed his lips. "You think that's coming down Ez?"
"I do believe it will. With all the racket we heard, there is no doubt." Ezra said in a confident voice.
Vin nodded his head and opened his mouth to reply when they heard a loud creaking noise, from inside the building. The sound of timbers breaking and the deafening sound of something crashing onto a hard surface. More creaks, crashes and the noise of wood breaking and falling reached them. From the upper windows, a cloud of dust, dirt and splinters billowed out into the clean air of the coming morning. It covered the gravel parking area in front of the two men.
Waving his hand to clear the air, Ezra looked at Vin, one eyebrow raised and they both laughed. Then coughed as they inhaled the nasty air. A familiar vehicle pulled into the parking area, headlights flashed over them as it turned in and stopped in front of them. The headlights shone dull in the dust and dirt that still fell from the windows.
Coughing from the dust settling around the parking area, Vin opened the back door of the Ram and tossed things inside. Ezra placed the telescope carefully in the seat before closing the back door. Vin opened the front passenger door and climbed inside and Ezra followed. Chris put the truck in gear and headed out of the area.
"What's all that dirt and dust from?" Chris asked as he drove towards their office building and the rest of the team. Then in the next breath, he told them, "There were two operations tonight, the diner shooting and the police are arresting those men that we've been following. Now what is that dust about?"
Vin and Ezra exchanged glances, and Ezra answered, "Mice bringing down a building, Mr. Larabee. There were really three operations tonight."
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(The inspiration of this story was the mice in our attic trying to eat the ceiling, and ignoring all the mouse poison and other things up there to get rid of them. For the last little while they've been silent, maybe it worked! We still have a ceiling over us at least!) MA