Postcards, E-mails and Lifes Other Assorted Postscripts
by Twyla Jane
Judge Travis has set our fellows a task that takes them a long, long, long, way from home. Like Moscow, Timbuktu, East L.A., or any other un-exotic location of your choice. You can send anyone you want or any number. The only thing is that they have to do is write postcards home telling why they aren't making it home for the holidays. As you wish Gail I will try to comply and as always with a twist of my own. Thanks to Mog for creating this universe. 12/14/02
December 20th 10:30 p.m.
A bitter chill filled the air, the sun had long since set by the time JD Dunne fumbled with the lock a normal feat made awkward by an armload of packages and shopping bags, the days mail was clenched between his teeth but he managed with a little extra effort to open the door the apartment he and Buck shared.
Hey Kid need a hand?
Wilmington was off his feet grabbing packages from his young friend just as they threatened to slip out of JDs hands. The young man spit out the brightly colored envelopes unable to control his laughter as his big roommate began to poke through Dunnes packages as he lowered the rest of his holiday burden into a pile on the wooden floors barely managing to snicker out. Yours gifted wrapped already
The television program that had been blaring loudly in the background was interrupted. A stern faced mans image flashed onto the screen caught their attention. A jovial Buck fell silent as the news reporters spoke. His words sent a shiver up the younger mans spine.
Breaking News Flight 191 in route to Hong Kong apparently forced to make an emergency landing due mechanical difficulties just outside Guangzhou in Southeast China crashing short of the runway, Channel 8 news will update as further details come in
Wasnt that Ezras flight? JDs voice was a ghost of a whisper.
December 22nd 7:30 a.m.
The federal building was quiet, a combined result of the approaching holidays and the time of day. The fluorescent lights flickered outside Chris Larabees darkened office. He sat behind his desk with his aching head propped up by a fisted hand. The previous day had been a heart wrenching frustrating long one because despite his best efforts Team Sevens leader couldnt find out what had happened to his undercover agent. Between the Chinese government and the U.S. embassy facts on the downed aircraft were sketchy at best. The only information readily forth coming was that most of the two hundred fifty passengers had survived the initial crash after that the information was almost non-existent. Larabee cursed under his breath as he flicked on his desk lamp and shuffled through the stack of files on the corner of his desk when he noticed an overnight express packet perched on top of his inbox. Chris hadnt noticed the oversized cardboard envelope when he had come in so he plucked it up tore the perforated tab and was mystified by what fell out. A lone post card with Greetings from Kuala Lumpur emblazoned in bold lettering across an exotic temple. He stared at it for a moment before turning it over instantly recognizing the handwriting.
I regret to inform you since I have been waylaid in my travels please relay my apologies to A.D. Travis that I was unable to attend the international law enforcement conference in Hong Kong. I whole-heartedly assure you the incident was unavoidable and will be returning as soon as I am able.
Ezra P. Standish
An uncharacteristically silly grin spread across Chris Larabees face as relief flooded through his tense muscles. Chuckling as he reread the simple card thinking only the damn fool southerner would express mail a postcard. He picked up the phone and hit the speed dial to pass along the happy news.
December 22nd 9:30 a.m.
A lighter mood had settled over the ATF offices that housed Team Seven. But truth be told the group of men would have been a little happier if they had heard from their wayward co-worker and friend in person. The simple postcard that had arrived reassured them that Ezra was indeed all right but wasnt enough to dispel all their worries.
The lanky Texan was in Larabees office going over sharpshooters latest report when Miss Bryant, the temporary clerical assistant who had felt unlucky to have been drawn from the office pool for this assignment gently rapped on the door before popped her head in. Larabee acknowledged her presence and waved her in. The petite red head looked stressed as she passed through the door to hand off a slip of paper to Chris quickly skittering out before he had a chance to read the stark message. The faxed letterhead spoke volumes; it was from the American Embassy in China.
This is in response to your earlier inquiries regarding the status of your Agent Standish. Due to a combination of difficulties created by the crash, the number of individuals involved and poor communication we were unable to obtain any information until now. Mr. Standish was listed amongst the dozens of injured and taken along with the others to one of several local hospitals. Where he was admitted and treated for his injuries. However we are at a loss as to his present location. Although we cannot confirm this at the moment it seems that he disappeared shortly after his arrival. We are doing our utmost to find your agent and will keep you apprised of further developments.
Ambassador Dwayne Calton
Dammit The knot had been in Chris belly since he first heard that Standishs plane went down twisted tighter as he reread the message.
Cowboy? Vins single word spoke volumes as he tried to get an answer out of his friend.
Damn fool got hurt The blonde sank heavily into his high back chair, idly rubbing his temple as his voice faded.
December 22nd 3:30 p.m.
Word had spread through the office quickly about Ezra. JD sat at his computer terminal nervously chewing on a pencil unable to finish out a report on the earlier take down of cigarette smugglers. The young mans mind was elsewhere. Worrying about a friend missing somewhere in a distant land. The note Chris had received only further mystified the situation.
Dunne had only typed a paragraph of his report when familiar tones played of his desktop speakers accompanying the digital voice. Youve got mail. He quickly clicked on the tiny mailbox.
JD read the senders tag with a gaping mouth before opening the message.
EPS sent you an e-card Greetings from Okinawa. An image of a Buddha flickered across the screen rotating until it revealed the message inside.
Alas I pass along sad tidings I must inform you that I will be unable to make it back in time your soirée this evening. I regret not being able to relay this sooner, but I had hoped to have secured a more expeditious mode of transport but have failed, up until this point, to obtain direct passage. Please assure the others that I am well am doing my utmost to return in a timely fashion.
JD Dunne was out of seat shouting out his door. HEY GUYS!
December 23rd 10:33 a.m.
Leave it to one bull headed southerner to cause such a flurry of activity within the offices that housed Team Seven. The six agents seemed oblivious to the meaning of down time, ignoring A.D. Travis orders they stayed. Calling everyone and anyone that could or would give them information to the precise location of their seventh member. Airlines and embassies, no stone was going to be left unturned, it had taken awhile but they had managed to pick up Ezras trail. The information was sketchy not revealing Standish current location but it was enough to piece together where their friend had been. After reading the preliminary reports Jackson wasnt happy about what they had said.
Nate, there a problem? Larabee had been walking past the medics office; the disturbed look on Jacksons face prompted the question.
He shouldnt be traipsing across the globe hell let alone have left the hospital. Nate scowled as he continued to scan the pages. The injuries Standish had sustained although not life threatening would not comfortably withstand the changes in air pressure nor the rigors of air travel.
Precisely why we got to find the obstinate bastard and get him to stay put. Chris roughly massaged his neck as he spoke. A headache had begun to form at the base of his skull brought on by his growing frustration that despite all the efforts to do so they had been unable to locate their missing man.
December 23rd 2:45 p.m.
Sanchez entered the conference room toting an Express Mail envelope it had arrived hand delivered personally to the profiler by one of the kind ladies from the mailroom. He was late for the meeting everyone else was already seated around the large table and waiting for him to join them but he had stopped just inside the doorway to open the envelope and peer in at the contents. A wide grin spread across his face as he flipped over the picture of the white sandy beach in Guam.
Josiah, what you got there?
Another postcard from Ezra?
A bemused Josiah rumbled out the brief message.
I must inform you that I will be unable to partake in our annual festivities at Mr. Larabees this evening. Continuously fickle state of transport prevents my joining you.
Do enjoy yourselves.
E. P. Standish
December 24th Christmas Eve 4:13 p.m.
I GOT IT! I GOT IT! JDs shouts had startled Buck out of a restless sleep.
What have you got kid?
Ezras location hes on the Hawaiian Islands or at least he was late last night says right here he booked a room near the Honolulu International Airport.
December 25th 5:15 a.m.
The charter jet slowly taxied off the runway, bleary-eyed passengers stared through its windows out to the darkened tarmac watching as the ground crew scurried about under the yellow lights that illuminated the predawn airport. Sitting in the sparsely populated first class section one blood shot green eye fluttered open then its reluctant mate followed suit, vision was still a bit hazy. Still mildly concussed his skull dully throbbed in time with his heartbeat. In short Ezra Standish was miserably uncomfortable. Carefully he awkwardly shifted himself into an upright position hindered by bruised ribs and a dislocated shoulder that had be bound securely across his chest, his body ached horribly and what didnt muscles didnt ache burned from abuse and misuse. Three days of almost continuous travel had finally taken its toll.
Blinking slowly he realized he still held the card he had intended to mail off in his hand. He gazed at the image of the smoking volcano for a long moment before tucking it into his shirt pocket. A tight smile graced his face thankful that he hadnt needed it after all. His departure flight off the islands hadnt delayed his progress more than eight hours.
Outside the thick glass of the jet a few tentative snowflakes began to fall and a thought occurred the weary man, he hadnt clue how he would get back to his condo. Thus far the airline had been fairly accommodating, perhaps a cab ride could be arranged.
The plane had stopped moving putting off any further thoughts, beyond getting off the infernal craft. He had had his fill and wanted nothing to do with any part of his anatomy leaving security of mother earth in the immediate future. That thought in mind Ezra tightly clutched the armrest with his good hand and pushed himself off the seat and into some vague semblance of standing erect. Grasping the seat cushions Ezra slowly made his way towards the exit. Thankful in a warped twisted way that he no longer possessed a carry-on or any other type of luggage. Everything except what he had been wearing had been lost.
His frazzled brain finally let loose the downward emotional spiral that had gripped him for days. He barely noticed the flight attendant as she smiled kindly and handed him back his cane. Standish took it without protest using it to ease his full weight off his twisted knee and slowly hobbled out the gate knowing he had succeeded in his desire to get home back to his family.
The word had taken on a whole new meaning for him. He had three long days to appreciate what it truly meant. Three days for him fully understand how much the six most important people in his life meant to him. Hanging onto the memories of the past three and half years of how these men who more than mere co-workers and friends had become closer than blood brothers to him. The journey hadnt been easy one but it was worth it and was the motivating force behind his return to Denver.
The arrivals terminal was almost empty save the odd passenger from Ezras early morning flight. The clothing procured and supplied by the airline was rumbled and horribly creased. A sudden draft caused him to shiver reminding him he had no suitable winter attire as he numbly made his way towards a customer service desk when someone shouted his name.
Unprepared Standish twisted around unintentionally twisting his mid section, resulting in a sharp agonizing pain that coursed through his ribs and shoulder. He stopped stock still clenching his eyes shut, trying to riding out the pain. Firm hands supported him not allowing his knee to betray him. Soothing words were spoken in close proximity.
You are right pard? Didnt mean to startle ya.
Mr. Wilmington Buck what are you doing here? It took a moment but Ezra finally recognized the familiar voice and he opened his eyes to confirm that fact. Concern and worry were etched into the big mustached agents face as he steadily gazed into his own.
We were looking for you you need to sit down?
Oh gawd no.... I just want to go home. Ezra let out in an exasperated rush. Cursing himself silently, this wasnt going as he had hoped regretting the choice of words no sooner than they had spewed out. Lord he sounded like an ass.
HEY BOYS OVER HERE!!! Bucks booming voice had Ezra cringing in pain. Sorry Ez might as well forget about going home for now I dont think anyones going to let you outta their sight anytime soon.
December 25th 6:38 p.m.
Having bathed and changed into something far more casual than he would normally wear, a pair of sweats borrowed from Chris, Ezra had dozed on and off in the leather recliner propped up with pillows. The living room was warm; the fireplace cast a warm glow throughout the room. A haphazardly decorated Christmas tree sat in the corner lights twinkling, the steady murmur of muted conversations lulled back into sleepy haze. Ezra lay there watching the flickering flames. A quiet chuckle slipped from his lips, Buck was right his halfhearted explanations and protests fell on deaf ears they were not going to let him go back to his condo. It started with Nathan who fussed over the undercover agent wanted to make sure that the man didnt require a trip to Denver Memorial and forced him to hand over all his prescription before they had left the terminal building. Chris didnt want to hear the excuses, quietly telling him that he was glad he was safe but if he ever did anything like that without calling he would personally kick his ass clear to the moon. Josiah kept rumbling on about lost lambs, prodigal sons and wayward brothers and didnt seem to mind a bit that the exhausted Standish had fallen asleep with his head resting in the big mans lap on the ride back. JD distraught face melted away in the airport and the young man was determined that during Ezras waking moments that he be privy to all ongoing festivities.
Christmas dinner was the best meal he ever had, it hadnt been anywhere close to being traditional with hastily pulled together menu that included left over Chinese food and venison steaks. Ezra was about to nod off when noticed Vins lanky frame hunker down next his chair twirling the un-mailed postcard between his fingers a lopsided grin gracing his features as he spoke.
Ez why the postcards?
Because . Most of the rehearsed answers he had fled his mind the moment that Vin spoke. The rest fell miles short. How could he explain something he wasnt sure of himself.
Because you didnt want us to worry I understand ya know bout the importance of coming home think we all do, that yer mouth doesnt always say what yer heart wants it to . glad yer alive Ez and glad yer home with us Vin patted his good leg before heading off the kitchen. Ezra comforted by the softly drawled words finally drifted off.