A Question of Time

by Twyla Jane

The disclaimer is and always will be I don't own 'em and never made a plug nickel off 'em. Wish I did. This is a series of stories where Ezra's a child and the remaining seven are adults. In a Modern universe where the boys are working in Chris's and Buck's 4C agency as private investigators, bounty hunters and body guards. I know I just couldn't get this idea out of my head.

Crossing Paths:
Vin Tanner glanced over to his partner Larabee. They were going in the run down hotel that was converted into an apartment building to pick up Lorenzo Schwann. The man had skipped on his bond and the agency was hired to retrieve him. The duo had gotten word that he was here with his pal Benny 'the Skank' Wilson. Buck and J.D. acting as their back up was in a van around the corner. The lanky bounty hunter slipped on a Segretti's Pizza jacket over his shoulder holster, donning a baseball hat and grabbed the pizza box off the back seat.


Vin spoke into a microphone clipped to the inside of his t-shirt as he walked through the front doors of the Avery Arms. Chris followed him as the made their way to Lorenzo's third floor room. Reaching the door to 312, Chris made sure he was out sight of the peephole as Vin knocked on the door.


"Go away no one ordered pizza."

A gruff voice grunted from inside the room.

Tanner pounded on the door this time it whipped open.

"TOLD YOU...." A burly man with a heavy beard and a beer belly with a taste in clothes that would make the Hell's Angels cringe came barreling out and stopped short when he found himself at the wrong end of a pair of guns held by a irritated Chris Larabee and the quiet Vin Tanner. Chris spoke evenly to the bear of a man.


"Inside..." Benny looked nervous as he glanced at the pair trying to gauge their intent. Knowing Benny was going to be pissed as he backed into the room.

"Step back keep those hands where I can see them..."

There were a half a dozen low life criminals gathered in the large living room that wasn't unusual but what had surprised the duo was the boy. Dressed in a prep school uniform the dark haired boy with striking green eyes couldn't have more than eleven standing the middle of these men having a conversation. That was until the giant Benny was backed into at gunpoint.

"Everyone stay exactly where you are!"

Their man Schwann was there, along with a few other bonehead gangster wanna be's raising their hands as Vin made his way over to cuff their man. Unafraid the kid looked Larabee square in the eye but said nothing that was when all hell broke loose. The first shot that came from the window took out Lorenzo Schwann the shot ripped through his skull splattering his brains all over the wall. The next shot took down Tanner slamming into his shoulder spinning him around before he fell to the floor in a heap. The battle continued Larabee firing off rapid shots at the men climbing in from the fire escape as he made a mad dash towards the kid halted as a ricochet cut through his upper right calf. The boy rolled away under the table kicking at the furniture as he made his escape managed to get behind the couch before the blond man could reach him.

Ezra Standish had never been more terrified in his life. He made a desperate run for the kitchen and the dumb waiter, a burst in the battle had bullets flying everywhere causing the plaster to rain down on him as they hit the wall overhead. The last thing saw before leaving the room was Benny getting hit a slug hit him in the chest blood spurting as the man sank to his knees dead before he hit the floor. A series a rapid shots followed the boy into the kitchen. The kid climbed in slid the door back into place after hitting the down button. The sound of the gunfire quieted as the dumbwaiter stopped in the basement. The boy climbed out and ran as fast as his legs could carry him.

Sirens were approaching as Ezra made a hasty exit from the Avery Arms onto the street. The cops cars screeched to a halt near him, the boy called upon his mother's training. Composed himself the child quietly walked away from the carnage without looking back.

+ + + + + + +

This was supposed to be simple.

Just a pick up of penny ante hood that after being arrested for breaking and entering a summer home then skipped on his bail money, not end up a blood bath. Larabee was getting stitched up in the E.R. while Vin underwent surgery to remove the bullet in his shoulder. They were lucky they would recover the others, in that bloody room, were not. Cut down gangland style none had lived long enough to leave that room. Buck paced nervously in the waiting room, J.D. fidgeted nervously in one of the blue fiberglass chairs. This was not what he had left the police force for.

"Damn you Chris."


The ladies man turn to see his young friend looking at him. Not exactly what the kid Dunne was apprenticing for either.

"I'm alright Kid... just this was supposed to be easy."

"Nothings easy Big Dog..."

Buck turned to see his old friend crossing the room with the aid of crutches a young frazzled doctor following closely behind him.

"Mr. Larabee..."

The intern tried again to get the man's attention.

"Dr. Jennings ..."

Buck smirked when injured man glared at the doctor.

"Dr. Jennings..." The mustached man stuck out his hand, which was promptly ignored. " I'm Buck Wilmington, I'll look out for my friend here while you go find out about Vin Tanner, the other gun shot victim he was in surgery."

Dr. Jennings stalked away in disgust.

"Old Dog, you have to stop pissing off the establishment..."

"Where are the others?"

"Josiah is talking to the cops and Nate is with Judge Travis."

"Why aren't you two talking to the cops?"

"Already done that, Josiah is trying to find out what happened..."

The comment received an odd look from his long time friend.

"Besides the obvious."

Buck quickly added.

"Chris?" J.D. looked at him with those big brown expressive eyes the kid was scared.

"I'm alright J.D., Vin will be okay too."

+ + + + + + +

Three days later Ezra was still hiding out, what better place than the mall where he managed to purchase a black polo shirt, jeans and a pair of dark blue sneakers then change into the new attire. With his uniform neatly folded into a shopping bag the boy made his way through the stores. Where he had stopped in front of a large television display to watch the news. The reporter, that was covering the slaughter at the hotel, mentioned that the 4C agency had been involved in the shooting.

The 4C agency offices were not at all that impressive, but it was still growing the cases they took on were involved in private investigations, acting as bounty hunters and occasionally body guarding. The agency itself was founded six years earlier a year after the deaths of Larabee's wife and son. Buck had followed Chris's departure from major crime to pursue the killers. The offset the expenses the duo took on other cases. The explanation was simpler than the reality that it had taken Buck a year to get Chris to climb out of the bottom of a whisky bottle.

Wilmington was the first to get his investigative license a year later a sober Chris followed suit. They did well enough to hire in additional talent two years later when Josiah Sanchez came in as a part time bodyguard and brought along his friend Nathan Jackson, the man a former E.M.T., to help him. Tanner, originally a solo bounty hunter by trade followed a year after that when they met on a case. J.D. Dunne had only joined them eight months ago as an apprentice.

The building itself was located in outskirts of Denver. The three offices were crowded with paperwork, furniture and the men themselves. Chris had picked up Vin earlier in the day from the hospital. The bad turn of events at the Avery house had left the men a little unnerved but they were pursuing every avenue to find out what had happened, just who the boy was and where he was.

The longhaired Texan was still irritable and grumbling when he saw a young next dressed boy walk through their front door carrying a shopping bag.


"I'm here to see Mr. Larabee."

The boy looked pale and tired while he stared into Vin's eyes then to the sling he wore and back again. Tanner was looking directly into the green eyes when a realization hit him. Without another word he motioned for the boy to follow him into the offices.

Ezra Standish walked behind the longhaired man following him to an office where Chris Larabee sat behind a desk writing with his leg propped up.

"Pard...we have company."

The surprise was evident on the man's face. The very man who had spent the last three days trying to locate the boy who now stood in front of him. Vin sat down on a filing cabinet by the door watching as the dark haired boy stepped up to the desk.

"Mr. Larabee..." The boy held out a hand, which Chris promptly shook. The man looked the boy over before speaking, deciding that a calm approach would be best.

"Been looking for you. You okay?"

The boy nodded.

"What's your name kid?"

The boy stood in front of him unafraid, looked him up and down before answering.

"You Sir, can call me Ezra P. Standish."

The Standish kid had a mouth on him. Chris was trying to remain composed as he asked.

"Is that your name?"

Without batting an eye Ezra replied.

"It will have to do."

The man was beginning to wonder if he was talking to a forty year-old midget with an attitude instead of an eleven year old.

"The authorities are looking for you."

Young lad countered quietly.

"I know. But I doubt they can help me. I want to hire your agency."

Definitely a midget with an attitude, no child he had ever met had a backbone like that. The kid was starting to irritate the hell out of him but he continued to coolly answer the boy questions.


The boy faltered looked down briefly regained his composure.

"I need you to find my mother, she disappeared."

Aw Hell. Chris didn't want this it was out of his league.

"Kid you should go to the proper authorities...."

Larabee tried to steer the boy's thinking to no avail.

"If it's a matter of money, that shouldn't be a problem..."

Chris watched as the boy pulled out a roll of hundreds wrapped tightly in a rubber band and plunked it on the desk.

"...There's over three thousand to start and I can get you more."

"I'll make a deal with you kid, you tell me everything, we go talk to the cops and we'll find your mother..."

"You find me a safe place to stay and you may have a deal."

In a World Full of Nothing:

In a world full of nothing
I'm cast away
Forever falling
And at a losa
To find my way

Chris Larabee was pissed and the root of his anger was an eleven year-old, who he was sure was a forty year-old midget in disguise. There was no way that the little ingrate was a student at the Pendleton Preparatory School for boys, the boy behaved more like a front man for the mafia than a child. A moment ago J.D. had stepped in offering to order up some food and let the kid play on the computer while Chris dealt with contacting the police. The boy was hesitant to leave but finally relented Larabee wasn't sure why though. Larabee picked up the phone and called Judge Orrin Travis. The Judge had been sending a variety of work his way the last few years ever since Larabee had sobered up and began working full time at the Agency. Chris thought of the man as a friend and colleague he was hoping to ask for a favor. After a little explaining to the receptionist about why the call was urgent he was patched through.

"Travis here..."

"It's Larabee... I need a favor Judge..."

"Yeah sure what's up Larabee?"
"I've got that kid sitting here in my offices..."

"The one from the Avery?"

"Yep that's the one, says his name is Ezra Standish..."

"Shouldn't you be talking to the boys in blue?"

"The kid's scared...."

"Understandable but why are you telling me this?"

"Need the favor..."

"What do you want me to do?"

"Need you arrange for him to stay with me."?

"That may not be possible..."

"Do your best. The kid hired me for protection."

"I'll see what strings I can pull but I want to meet with the boy."

"Okay but why?"

"I want to see the person that can get that Larabee will to bend."

"Very Funny...do what you can."

"I'll call you later."

Chris hung up and dialed his old boss Captain Walter Mitchell. The man was still the head of Major Crimes he just hoped he was in a good mood though that seemed highly unlikely after all the press coverage.

"Mitchell here..."
"Hey Walt It's Chris..."

"Are you ever going to learn to dodge bullets?"

"Doubt it...Walt the kid from the Avery shooting is here..."

"How the hell did that happen...Aw hell ...never mind...you bringing him in?"

"Yeah, there's more too, I'll fill you in when I get there."

Chris hobbled out of his office he had given up using the crutches the day before despite the pain supported by leaning a heavy hand on whatever was available. He entered Buck and J.D.'s office and found Vin dozing in a chair with his feet up on J.D. desk, cartons of Chinese food littered its surface while the agencies young apprentice was dutifully tapping away at the computer keyboard the boy watched Larabee limp into the room.

"We're going to talk on the way to the police station."

Larabee looked directly at Ezra and motioned for the boy to follow him out.

"Later boys... J.D. I want the rest of that information I asked you for earlier and don't wake Vin up."

The young man nodded knowing a sleeping Vin made better company when he was ill or injured. Chris smiled when he heard Tanner begin to softly snore. Dunne waited until his boss left through the side door with the kid in tow before he opened the file folder they had started on the boy. At least now they had a little more to go then the school name off a uniform jacket. Dunne began tapping away to search through public records.

+ + + + + + +

Ezra knew already as he sat buckled in the passenger seat that he was out of options when Larabee climbed in. He'd have to talk to this man he wouldn't have been distracted easily. The earlier stunt he pulled with the money hadn't gone over well with the older man, Mr. Dunne fortunately had the foresight to interrupt and he had been sent off with him. The boy hadn't liked it but relented, this brooding man had tried to save him in the melee at the Avery House.

"Why were you there in the first place?"

Chris asked as he kept his eyes on the road.

"At the Avery Arms... I went there to speak with Mr. Wilson."

"The Skank?"

"I do believe that is his inner-city moniker."

"Mind telling me why?"

"I couldn't hazard a guess why the man..."

"Why did you want to talk to him?"

"Thought he might know where mother is."

Ezra wasn't about to reveal the other reason he had to visit Benny.

"Where did you get the money?"

The boy just looked at him without replying. The reason he had visited Benny was the money, the cash was his cut in a lucrative handicapping scheme at the racetrack. Benny didn't know a thing about his mother's disappearance it was an acceptable lie.

"Look kid...you have to be straight with me or I can't help you."

Larabee briefly glanced at his passenger, the boy looked annoyed as he sighed the replied.

"My mother..." Another twist of the truth, Maude had cultivated this particular talent as a quick way to amass funds. Sending her sweet face boy, to place any bets to be made, the perfect middle man and since reaching Denver 'The Shank' was acting as Ezra's current front man for a percentage of the gross.

"What kind of mother gives her child that kind of money?"

"It's what my mother does."

"That's not an answer kid..."

"It's the only one I have."

Larabee rubbed a hand over his face. The kid wasn't making it easy for him. The former cop had less of an ordeal getting information out of the thugs he just arrested.

+ + + + + + +

Chris closely followed the little southerner as they entered the Denver Police Department. After their arrival was announced to Captain Mitchell the mismatched pair was escorted to Major Crimes. Where they were ushered into the Captain's office. The large black man who had a cleanly shaved head wearing a dress shirt that had the buttons undone at the neck and his striped tie was loosened for comfort was sitting behind his desk thumbing through paperwork on his desk as he spoke to them.

"Come on in Chris, we're going to keep this fairly informal for the time being...You must be Ezra Standish... I'm going to ask Officer Denby to come in to both videotape and write down this interview here in my office instead of the interrogation room in deference to Ezra here. Young man why don't you take a seat. I need to speak privately with Mr. Larabee for a moment."

Chris followed the Captain into the hall and the shut the door.

"I don't know what is going on but Larabee you are thorough. Travis just called me... Child Services have been notified to your taking temporary custody of this boy. I don't even want to know what strings he had to pull to make that happen this quick. A Social service case worker will be by shortly to talk to you."

Ezra had been listening at the door some how Mr. Larabee had come through for him. This was new for the boy he wasn't sure what it meant if it meant anything at all. The boy saw the door knob twist and he quickly returned to his chair, trying not to let the out of control situation get the better of him. His mother had taught him better, it was important appearances were everything.

J.D. Dunne sat tapping behind the keyboard he had spent the last hour trying diligently to accomplish what Chris wanted him to. At some point during that time Tanner had slumped across the end of the desk with his head resting on his uninjured arm dead to the world. The young man smiled. Normally the man slept like a cat but Vin was still recovering from his gunshot wound so he tried not to wake the man mindful that a sleeping bounty hunter was far better than the alternative. The longhaired Texan did not do recouping well, making everyone in ear shot lives miserable.

Dunne kept his mind on the task at hand he had started his search at the Pendleton Preparatory School. Ezra Standish was indeed a student there and had arrived there almost four months ago with his mother. But no one had heard from the boy's mother since then not so much as a letter or a phone call to the boy. Switching tactics the young man tried looking for information at Ezra's previous school, but for all intensive purposes they had never had a student by that name or matching his description. Nor did he find anything at the other school listed. All addresses and contact numbers on the mother were a bust. This boy was well mannered and educated there fore he had to have some schooling it didn't make sense. It seemed that young Ezra Standish dropped from the sky.

For the next hour J.D. tried to match the boy with any of the thousands of registered missing children with no luck. The young man almost jumped out of his skin when he heard a rap on the door. It was his roommate Buck, who had a huge shit-eating grin on his face.

"Scare you?"

"One of these days Buck..."

"Where's Chris?"

The mustached man whispered that it was better for all that Vin rested. Wilmington had looked around the office and was a little surprised that Chris wasn't there since he was supposed to be catching up on paperwork while his leg healed.

"That kid from the Avery showed up at the front door around lunchtime plunking almost three thousand dollars on Chris's desk telling him he wanted to hire the agency to find his mother. I thought Chris was going to blow a gasket."

"Whoa...we're working for an eleven year-old?"

"Yup, seems that way."

"Chris is okay with that?"


"Where are they now?"
"They left a few hours ago to talk with the cops."

"Let me get Junior here onto the couch in Chris's office and you can tell me all about it."

"I don't think Chris is going to be very happy with what I found out.

+ + + + + + +

Ezra sat with his head against the back of the large chair he had slouched down in. The last few days had been rough. At least he had managed to skirt around the real reason he was at the Avery truthfully it was because he truly didn't know why Benny and the other miscreants had been eradicated from this world. Ever since his arrival in Denver Ezra made a weekly trip down to the Avery Arms Maude had her boy acting as the middleman in a lucrative handicapping scheme where he met with Mr. Wilson to place or collect on the bets he made at the racetrack. Benny was the front man for a percentage, 'The Skank' kept his mouth shut.

The interview with Captain Mitchell had been cut short than by the arrival of a woman from Child Services. He had been left alone in the captain's office and was thinking about his mother wondering exactly where she was. The first week in Denver was when he had met her for a prearranged rendez vous at a quaint café called the Tea Room for brunch but that was over three months ago. It was there she had given him a thousand dollars cash for pin money telling her son she would return within a fortnight. That was last time he saw her, she had left him before, but this was an extended absence even for Maude.

The young southerner was cursed himself, he was alone and with no ready cash he was at the mercy of strangers. His pride had gotten the best of him when he had thrown the roll of bills on Larabee's desk. He confounded the man Larabee by his actions. Even Ezra himself wasn't sure why he contacted the man perhaps it was because the man had just about killed himself trying to protect him. The boy could almost dismiss it as self-preservation except when Larabee lunged at him trying to cover him from the flying bullets. The man had even kept his promise and was talking to Child Services.

An hour later Chris had just finished signing the paper giving him temporary custody of the boy after having a long conversation with the woman from social services. God.... what had he gotten himself into? Walt agreed with him that the boy just didn't know what had happened at the Avery Arms. It was little comfort he just hoped that J.D. had found some information about the kid and his mother, because the co-owner of the 4C agency wasn't sure how to proceed if he couldn't find the woman. Hell wasn't sure why he went through all of this effort but there was something about the kid he just didn't know what it was.

Chris knew Walt had gotten called away as he made his way into the man's quiet office the boy was curled up asleep in the chair and he reached out touching the child's leg. A small foot kicked him in the chest knocking him flat on his ass.

"Hey...hey ...hey..."

Ezra sent the chair crashing against the wall as he scrambled away his fearful green eyes scanning the room falling onto Larabee.

"I'm okay...I'm okay..."

A small whisper came from the corner of the room.

"Don't know about you kid but it's late and I'd like to get out of here."

The man sat there rubbing his chest watching Ezra visibly shaking one moment, all outward emotions disappeared after a moment. Chris just sat on the floor where he was and watched as the boy climbed to his feet lightly brushing off his clothes and then smirked. In a fleeting instant right before his eyes Ezra went from behaving like the frightened boy he should have been after witnessing a horrific slaughter right back to the irritating brat Chris despised.

"Whenever you're ready Mr. Larabee."

Chris slowly raised his himself off the floor the pain reminding him that the leg was still healing as he painfully limped across the room following Ezra out of the door. The unlikely duo left the police station on their way back to the agency's offices.

Just A Fly on a Wind Screen:

There are Flies on the windscreen
For a start
Reminding us
We could be torn apart
Martin Lee Gore-Depeche Mode 1986

What is the last thing to go through a fly's mind when it hits the windshield?

It's Ass!

Streetlights lit the darkened streets. Ezra leaned heavily against the truck's door watching them flicker by. The trip from the police station had been a silent one, he didn't feel like talking and apparently neither did Mr. Larabee. The Black Dodge Ram wove through the evening traffic The boy was a little cold the short sleeve shirt he had on did little, he wasn't used to the weather it had been comfortably warm early in the day but evenings were still cold and he hadn't considered that when he went clothes shopping. When shiver coursed through him he stuck his hands into his armpits. Apparently the man noticed because he turned on the heat allowing the chill to leave his bones and lull him to sleep.

Chris turned onto his driveway and continued the quarter mile to the main house parking the truck out in front. Buck's Truck was there along with J.D.'s motorcycle. Chris had called the others on his cell letting them know he wasn't returning to the office he was going home instead. Home for Larabee was a working ranch outside of Denver, an exhausted Ezra slept the hour it took to get there.

"Hey Kid wake up."

The boy's eyes fluttered open. Larabee didn't want a repeat performance of his earlier attempt at waking Ezra he spoke in a steady voice to rouse his passenger. Although the eyes were open the kid wasn't really awake as he tried to climb down from the truck and waited patiently for the boy to get his bearings.


Chris held open a denim jacket, Ezra stared at him for a moment about to argue but the need for warmth won as he slipped the jacket on, it almost went down to his knees and after struggling for a moment he had the sleeves rolled up enough to reveal his hands. The boy wordlessly followed Larabee into the house. The young southerner wasn't at all sure where he was when he woke. A voice beckoned him from the depths of sleep. The last few days running had taken their toll he could barely keep his eyes open as he teetered up the walkway.

Buck sat in the kitchen with his chair tilted into the wall as he stuffed a slice of pizza in his mouth Chris walked in with the kid. The ladies man waved as he chomped away at the food. J.D. popped his head out from behind the open refrigerator door.

"Hey Chris case you're wondering Vin is in the guest room sleeping. And we saved some of the pizza."

"Ezra why don't you sit here with J.D. and have a slice of pizza while Buck and I talk in the living room."

The remark earned him a disgusted look from the boy.

"Really Mr. Larabee why do insist on treating me like a child?"

The response received a grin from Larabee and a chuckle from Buck

"Because you are."

Chris left Ezra standing there with his mouth open.

+ + + + + + +

The house was spacious. Sarah had taken great care choosing a comfortable western décor that showed an eclectic combination of Chris's masculine side mixed with her own delicate choices. Larabee hadn't changed the house since their deaths. Buck trailed behind Chris as they stepped into the living room. The tall man watched his long time friend pick up a picture of Sarah and Adam caress the image before resting it back on the bookshelf.

"Want to tell me about our newest client?"

Wilmington settled against the arm of the leather sofa waiting while Chris slowly sat down favoring the bad leg.

"I didn't even say I would..."

"Could have fooled me Pard...Looks like you've made up your mind."

"I'm not sure why..."

"Well since J.D. is keeping the boy occupied I may as well tell you what he found or actually what he didn't. You're not going to like this. That kid in there did not exist before attending the Pendleton School three months ago."

"Guess he was kidding when the name would have to do."

"What are you talking about?"

"Never mind... Despite that glaring fact that kid is in trouble... Irritating little bastard... Even though I have my suspicions that he is really a crotched forty year-old midget with an attitude. The kid's terrified...."

"He got to you."

Buck smiled at his old friend. The blond haired man didn't answer the question.

"Nathan and Josiah working on the Beaudean case?"

"Yeah, They're concentrating on that case I spoke to them earlier just before you called, Josiah said that they'd give to low down in the office in the morning. Mind telling me why the kid is here?"

"Travis called in some favors...I have temporary custody, the judge implied that it would be in the best interest of the child beyond that I don't know what he did. But the kid is here for the time being."



"Kid's name is Ezra..."

"I know that...long day...why don't you and J.D. crash here tonight and I will go this is the morning in more detail."


Chris turned and saw Ezra standing in the door way still wearing the over sized jacket watching them.

+ + + + + + +

The boy was used to waking up in unusual places. Waking up in a child's room was different the bed he had slept in was a youth bed almost too small for him to sleep in. The room was orderly but a thin layer of dust had settled over everything even the bed, Mr. Larabee had given him clean bedding last night and J.D. had a set of sweats there at the house offering them to Ezra to change into. The clothes were far too big, sleeves and pant legs had rolled up to accommodate shorter limbs along with the string at the waist of the pants had been cinched in. At least he was clean he had demanded a shower, forestalling sleep until the men had finally relented. The morning light was just beginning to filter through the windows in the small room as wandered around looking at the toys neatly stored in a chest and the dozen children's books that lined a shelf above the bed. Ezra ran his hand over a photograph in a simple wooden frame on the bureau, pictured with a smiling Larabee was a pretty woman and laughing boy no older than three sitting in Chris's lap.

Where was Maude? He felt childish for wanting her after all she taught him to be independent to take care of himself after all he was a Standish or whatever name mother decided would be theirs. Mr. Larabee was going to ask questions that he had no answers for. As for his name Ezra was the one they had used most the surname Standish fell into that category as well. Ezra had never been in one place long enough for it to matter, his mother would always tell him changing his name was part of the game. The boy sighed, he decided it would be best to face Chris and let the cards fall as they may. With that thought in mind he opened the door and walked towards the voices he heard in the kitchen.

A quiet Texan drawl was the only voice that spoke as stood in the entryway to the kitchen.

"...You should try talking to him first."

Vin Tanner was sitting at the counter drinking a cup of his own stout black coffee while Chris Larabee hobbled around the table. The pair noticed Ezra at the same time any response to Vin's suggestion was silenced.

"Morning Ezra..."

The quiet Texan smiled at the boy as he sat down at the table next to him.

"Good Morning Gentlemen."

"What would you like to eat?"


"That isn't in the four major food groups there kid. Although I think that Vin here might disagree with me."

Buck walked in from the living room and chuckled as the boy glowered at him.

"Still it is the wrong side of six for me Mr. Wilmington, so please may I have that cup of coffee."

A concession was made Ezra got his coffee diluted with milk and he ate a slice of toast with jam. The lifestyle he had led with mother had almost always started closer to noon and there was no way he could stomach food any earlier in the day. The boy thought the caffeine had fortified him more than the toast had for the questions he was about to endure. He thought he might as well get it over with.

"Well Mr. Larabee?"

Ezra sat up straight, his arms resting lightly on the table and fingers loosely laced together looking directly at Chris and waiting. By this time a sleepy Dunne had joined them and was gnawing on a toasted bagel.

Chris reminded himself that Ezra was a child before he asked his first question.

"Okay I'll start off simple with some facts I already know...."

"I assume you already know I don't have any records that are traceable before Pendleton. That the references are false...."

Ezra didn't break eye contact with the formidable man that sat across the table, it wouldn't do, and he would tell the man what he wanted him to know.

"Is Ezra Standish your real name?"

" I suppose you'll have to ask Mother when we find her, she had a habit of changing my name, but Ezra is the one she used most often so it'll have to do. Next question?"

"Where's the rest of your family?"

"It's just Mother and I."

"What about your father?"

"What about him?"

"Who is he?"

"I never knew him or anything about him. Next?"

"Okay how old are you and where were you born?"

"I don't know...I think I'm eleven."

The simple reply stopped Larabee. The other men snapped up and looked at the Ezra. The boy demeanor was calm through out the questioning but now if just for a fleeting few seconds a pained look crossed his face. Rending the man speechless for a moment. The boy knew he should have lied but the truth slipped out.


Buck Wilmington mumbled under his breath.

"I still need you to find my mother...."

A small southern voiced drawled out the words.

"Look kid I know she hasn't been to that school of yours in over three months. Mind telling me why you've only started to worry now?"

Ezra quickly looked down at the table as if his hands were suddenly interesting before he answered the Chris.

"Mother has never left me this long before..."

"You've been left other places own your own?"


Admitting the truth was hard for the boy, but he had nowhere else to turn and he thought Maude was serious trouble.

"When was the last time you saw her?"

"Here in Denver at The Tea Room two weeks after I started at Pendleton. She gave me the money I gave you and a key to a safety deposit box. Mother told me she would see me in two weeks and that was that last time I heard from her."

"And you weren't worried when she hadn't come to visit after two weeks?"

"No, she doesn't always keep her promises."

+ + + + + + +

Chris just finished dressing. He was pissed. How could anyone teach their child like that, the man knew all too well that your children could be taken from you painfully quick and you couldn't get them back. The boy had refused to answer any other questions about his mother, himself or the safety deposit box key protesting he didn't have any clean clothes and wanted to fetch his own from the school. Buck and J.D. were going to take Ezra over to the school where they would speak to the headmaster while Chris and Vin tried to track down the whereabouts of one Maude Standish, the boy said he had a picture of his mother at school which was part of the reason he relented allowing the boy the retrieve clean clothes.

The clothing the boy had purchased the day before were put in use again. Ezra had questions of his own about Larabee that he kept to himself. Where was the man's family? Ezra had only noticed today that the man only wore black. Was Mr. Larabee grieving? But the one thing Ezra could not figure out was why? Why was the man helping him?

The Pendleton Preparatory School was located in the suburbs of Denver, the eloquent stone building stood in an acre of lush grounds. The architecture reflected the wealth invested in its walls and students. Within the halls of academia both men and the little boy sat outside the headmaster's office waiting to speak with him. They were still waiting after thirty minutes when J.D. couldn't sit any longer offering to take Ezra to get his belongings so that they could save time by depositing them into the back of the truck. After secure a school's visitor's pass J.D. followed the young southerner through the myriad of stairs and hallways to reach the small room. The room itself was a single apparently young Ezra didn't share a room and it was void of personal effects save a few volumes of poetry. The boy carefully slid his suitcase from under the bed. Dunne was surprised to see barring a few items it was neatly packed and ready to go at a moments notice. The pair was out of the dormitory within ten minutes and securing the suitcase in the back of Buck's truck. J.D. was tying the last knot when a car pulled up the gravel drive at an alarming speed.

The windshield glass shattered as a bullet burst through it and the others that followed close hitting the body of the truck next to Dunne as he pushed the kid then crawled under the truck himself as the onslaught began but he was unable to stop the boy's frantic escape as he slipped out the other side and ran. Gunshots hit the building as the boy sprinted across the grounds to find safety. Ezra's terrified flight abruptly stopped as he slammed into a seemly solid object that turned out to be Buck Wilmington who managed to grab the kid as he ran and pull him into a doorway. After a brief struggle the frightened youngster recognized the mustached man and stopped stock still, gasping for air and clinging to his rescuer. The gunfire stopped and the vehicle sped off in the direct it came. Still carrying the boy who some how managed to wrap his arms around Buck's neck and firmly locked legs around the man's waist. Unable to put the boy down Buck walked over towards the truck with Ezra clinging to him hoping to find his roommate in one peace.


"Under here..."

Came a muffled reply as Dunne extracted himself quickly from beneath the vehicle wincing as he brushed his long bangs from his eyes as he slowly stood up.

"How's the Kid?"

The boy had his face pressed into Ladies man's chest while the man rubbed his back whispering quiet assurances that he was safe.


Ezra recovered enough and quickly let loose of Mr. Wilmington but the man still held the boy firmly against him. The youngster found it oddly comforting. After a moment he asked to be released when he was he stood next to Buck nervously eyeing his surroundings.

Larabee received a frantic phone call from Buck who asked him to meet them at the Denver Police Station his only explanation was that there had been a shooting at the school. Vin refused to be left behind and both men were together as they tore out of Chris's driveway wondering what had gone wrong.

Ezra was back in Captain Mitchell's office in Major crimes. Officers were taking additional statements from both Buck and J.D. while Ezra's questioning had to wait until Chris's arrival. The trio had been questioned at the scene, and then escorted to the station to look at mug shots. Ezra sat in the chair nervously fingering the key that hung on a silver chain around his neck. There was no doubt in Ezra's young mind the gunmen were after him all along. He was deep in thought when a detective entered the room.

"I'm Detective Branson and you must be Ezra Standish."

"Yes I am."

"I like to talk to you about what happened today."

Ezra instant took a dislike to the man.

"I don't think I have to speak with you without proper counsel."

"You little shit... You don't think that we do know that there's a connection..."

Captain Mitchell had chosen that moment to walk in and Branson's mouth snapped shut.

"Branson what the hell do you think you are doing I told you we were waiting for Larabee he's the boy's appointed guardian, just get out ... OUT...OUT!!!"

Walt Mitchell held the door open as he pointed the over-zealous detective out the door. Ezra calmly watched the play by play of men from his perch in the chair and smiled at the captain when he turned his way.

"I don't know if you're off the hook yet my young friend."

Chris Larabee arrived twenty minutes later to find Ezra wandering around Mitchell's office.

"Thanks for coming down Chris. Please sit down"

The man clad in black hobbled into the office the pain had flared up in his leg again after leaving Vin downstairs to locate their other team members. Chris eased himself into the chair.

"I already had one over eager Detective try to question the boy..."

The Captain hit the intercom and called in Officer Denby. The petite red haired female officer stepped into the office. Shannon Denby resembled a pixie with the short-cropped hair and the slight build. The woman was often brought in to help question children. For the first time Chris realized there was a camera set up in the room.

"Hi Ezra my name is Officer Denby and I want to ask you some questions about what happened earlier today."

The woman crouched next to the boy's chair.

"At the school?"
"Yes Ezra at the school. Do you know why any one would want to hurt you?"

The boy shook his head.

"Are you sure? I know that this wasn't the first this week that people have been shooting at you."
Ezra thought long and hard before answering if he was in danger, Maude was too.

"My mother...before she disappeared she gave me this key."

As he said the word he pulled the chain out to show the key that lay hidden inside his shirt let it dangle for a moment before continuing.

"It belongs to a safety deposit box in the First National Bank on Alameda Avenue."

Chris looked at the Ezra the second shooting in so many days had rattled the boy, the kid was now quiet and pensive as all questioning came to a halt with that simple reply.

Stripped Down to the Bone:

Let me see you
Stripped down to the bone
Let me hear you crying
Just for me.
Stripped by Martin Lee Gore-Depeche Mode 1986

Stripped down to the bone
My soul open for the world to see
The depth of my private pain

The metal lid of the safety deposit box clattered against the table. An extended silence followed. Chris Larabee along with Captain Mitchell and Officer Shannon Denby had accompanied young Ezra Standish to the First National Bank on Alameda Avenue, they were ushered into a secure room in the bank The Banking manager had brought the deposit box out and they opened it with Ezra's key. The content had shocked the adults, and after tallying, the total sum the crisp one hundred dollar notes still in their paper wrappers was a tidy sum of a million and a half dollars, that didn't include the diamond jewelry carefully wrapped up in a velveteen bag or the half dozen gold ingots enclosed. There was a manila envelope tape inside the top of the box containing five new passports with five different names all with Ezra's picture and a small address book filled cover to cover with entries that made no sense to those in the room.

He stood back from the others wishing he had time to change. Ezra hated feeling dirty ever since he could remember... The boy pushed the unpleasant thought away he had enough to deal with at the moment with out bad memories. Maude wouldn't approve of the situation he was in at the moment after being whisked down to a bank across town he just couldn't keep his mouth shut. He was afraid and his mother was nowhere to be found. Although he was unsure about trusting Larabee at the moment he had little choice. The incident at the school forced his hand and now questions would be asked again in earnest because they knew what was in the safety deposit box. With the Adults attentions captivated by what was in the box he slipped from the room unnoticed.

Chris was the first to turn his attentions back towards Ezra who was no longer there.


The others looked at Chris then realized that the boy was gone as the man flew out the door looking for him. Larabee was out in the main banking area of the First National scanning the room but the kid was nowhere in sight.

The captain was right behind Chris on the phone calling for an immediate A.P.B. on the boy. The man in black ran out of the building scanning the sidewalks for the young southerner.

A full day had passed and there was still no word on Ezra. The boy had disappeared off the map again. Chris was tying up loose ends with Captain Mitchell. Buck, J.D. and Vin were with them. Larabee had called in Josiah and Nathan requesting they go to the impound lot to retrieve Buck's keys and few other personal items that were left behind in the truck at the time of the shooting. The ex-preacher understanding Chris's silent intentions had persuaded the officer in charge, a friend who helped him at the mission, into letting him see the bullet-ridden vehicle as long as he didn't touch anything the man didn't mind and Nathan would deal with the necessary paperwork for the retrieving the property. The truck didn't look bad, considering that it had a dozen rounds fired into it. Sanchez was silently thanking God that no one was harmed when he noticed a movement then a small body tried to fly by him.


It was the boy. Ezra wasn't listening he was trying to escape the large man when he ran straight into a tall black man sending him to the ground. Nathan was surprised as hell when the very child they were looking for plowed into him knocking onto his ass. The frightened boy was off and running again with Josiah and Nathan in pursuit. Ezra had briefly lost the pair by scaling the fence cutting his hands and arms as he went over the barbed wire. They thought they had lost him as he sprinted down the access road where he dove through some tall bushes. The frantic boy slid across a sidewalk and was unable to stop his trajectory into the middle of a busy street. Brakes screeched as the startled driver failed to stop her car tried to stop in time. After hitting the windshield Ezra was airborne, somersaulting off the hood of the car into the oncoming lane landing in a motionless heap where he was narrowly missed by a pick-up that swerved onto the adjacent sidewalk and smashing into a telephone pole.

A shocked Josiah and Nathan arrived on the scene. The giant man already on his cell phone calling 911 while Nathan went immediately to the child's side. Maizie Carmichael, the petite blond driver of the car, was crying hysterically next to him. Arles Decker, the man from the pick-up truck was unharmed by his crash was quickly laying out flares in the road before retrieving a jean jacket from his cab and gave it to the former E.M.T. to drape over the injured boy's legs. Nate had removed his own jacket covering the boy's upper body and the shirt he was wearing was used as a pressure bandage on the back of Ezra's head for the heavily bleeding wound. Jackson opted not to move the boy until the paramedics arrived because he didn't know the true extent of the young boy's injuries. Sanchez at some point had led the weeping Miss Carmichael away from the boy. Decker directed traffic around accident until police showed up moments later. The ambulance arrived shortly after that, the paramedic quickly assessed Ezra condition, put on cervical collar on him, starting an I.V. before carefully sliding him onto a backboard and into the ambulance whisking him away to Denver Memorial Hospital.

Disastrous didn't even cover it. Larabee sat and watched the small figure that lay in the bed. Ezra had been unconscious since the accident, the boy had thick bandage around his head covering the sixteen stitches ran across the back of it. His pale face had a myriad of scrapes, contusions and a mottled purple bruise that peeked out from the hairline on the right side of his sweet face. The right arm had been splinted to keep an I.V. that had been run into the elbow from being disturbed. The left arm was strapped to the boy's chest after the dislocated shoulder had been reduced. The young boy had very lucky he had no internal injuries and no broken bones just was badly bruised and had a hell of a road rash. The concussion was what concerned the doctors most since it had been nearly ten hours ago the boy was knocked out, nine hours and forty-five minutes since he got the frantic call from Josiah. Chris looked at his watch it was nearly two in the morning. He had shifted in the uncomfortable plastic chair in attempt to ease the ache in his lower back when he heard a small moan. The eyelashes fluttered a bit as he leaned in closer to see the confused green eyes peek out from under the heavy lids. A deep sigh escaped from the boy as Chris looked on while Ezra painfully blinked trying valiantly to make sense of his surroundings finally focusing on the man in front of him. Larabee quickly buzzed for the nurse.

"Mr. Larabee?"

"Yes Ezra it me."


The night nurse rushed into the room and Chris didn't bother turning around to speak with her.

"He's awake..."

"Good...Ezra honey I need you to answer a few questions...Do you know where you are?"

"...hospital again."

"Good boy.... Now what's you name?"

The boy just looked at her for moment before replying.

"Mother calls me Ezra Payton Standish."

"When's your birthday?"

Another lengthy pause was followed by a quiet. "I don't know..."

"That's all right why don't you just close those eyes and get some rest."

The boy was asleep before the nurse even finished her sentence.

"Don't worry Sir your son will be just fine. Brains just a little rattled."

The woman smiled at him as she left the room.


Her mere mention of the word made his heart clench. Chris knew she meant nothing by it, she didn't know. The others hadn't been allowed to stay, only family member, Larabee stayed because he was the kid's temporary guardian. The man had time to think and he came to realize what it was about the kid that made him want to help the boy, when the Standish kid was asleep he looked a little like his dead son. The day had brought back horrifying memories of his son Adam he tried so hard to suppress. Over seven years had passed by since then and the dark memories from that day were still as fresh as the day he found them.

Chris had been late returning home. Buck had accompanied him home after going out for a drink after work. The car, the new green Honda Accord his wife was so proud of, sat in the driveway with the driver's and front passenger's door wide open as the headlight beams from Buck's truck came up the driveway. The interior of the vehicle was unlit but he could see her battered body crumpled on the ground under the door. Blood covered the inside of the car from the struggle Sarah had put up she had been stabbed multiple times before she finally died. Adam was nowhere to be found.

Three days after the death of his beloved wife, Chris Larabee's world fell completely apart when investigators found the boy's blood soaked clothes wrapped in a garbage bag on the edge of his property. The man blamed himself and the police force for failing to keep his family alive.

The official reports said the suspect in all likelihood was the same person that had been stalking Sarah. The person that had been making the threatening calls to the house, sending threatening letters in the mail eventually following her around by car. The threats all began shortly after his wife found out she was pregnant with Adam. The last incident had them scared when a package containing the mutilated body of their pet cat had arrived on their front step. Larabee insisting that his family be under the watchful eye of the police department that he so proudly served in. Another three months had passed without any more incidents. On the fateful day of the murders a cruiser was supposed to patrolling the neighbor hood but for some inexplicable reason they had been called away by police dispatch even though the records later showed that no such call had been made. The stalker was never identified the murders of his wife and son remained unsolved.

With in a week of the murders Chris had quit the force. Trying to find solace in the bottom of a whiskey bottle, his long time friend followed him off the police force and tried to keep him from falling off the world while at the same time trying to find out who the stalker was. Buck Wilmington as he explained it to a sober Chris almost a year later that he began the 4C Agency after obtaining his investigative license. All of it was a means to an end for the man, he wanted to find the killer and he wanted to help his friend to find a way to continue on without his family.

The man looked again at the sleeping boy, a child he felt compelled to help no matter the outcome. Chris laid his hand over the boy's making a silent promise to him that he would help him before settled back into the chair closing his own eyes in a feeble attempt to get some rest.

+ + + + + + +

Ezra woke with his senses a bit fuzzy, and his body felt numb. Pain bolt through him as he attempted to move. His head hurt, it hurt badly. So he decided not to move again but an annoying but persistent ache in his shoulder wouldn't let him. He tried shifting again but only managed to let out a groan, then a steady hand helped him shift into a comfortable position. The boy opened his eyes to see who that person was and panicked when he saw the tall black man that had chased him, the young southerner start to push himself away when the man called out.


Mr. Larabee came in through an open door and was at his side in an instant.

"Whoa Kid its okay...that's just Nate you remember he works with me..."

For the first time Ezra realized that he was back in the Larabee house as he looked at Nathan and Chris before he scrunched his eyes closed as another pain stabbed through his head. Nate was there partially at Chris's request and because he felt responsible for the boy's injuries glad that his days as a paramedic would be able to help the boy.

Ezra took a couple deep breaths and waited for the pain to pass. As he woke up a little more he remembered being at the hospital, then a memory of returning here with Mr. Larabee and Mr. Wilmington. Along with those memories he had had some flashes of other people being there at his bedside.

"I'm okay now Mr. Larabee...I remember now."

"Ezra? It's Nathan I need to know how you're feeling?"

"My whole body hurts."

The boy responded without bothering to open his eyes. Hoping that they would leave him in peace.

"How's the head?"

Nathan's soothing but persistent voice cut through his addled mind.

"Alright I'm going to sit you up so you can eat a little and take a pain pill."

"I'd rather not."

"You don't have a choice you can't take the pill on an empty stomach."


An almost wispy response came from the weary child as the two men gently lifted Ezra forward stuffing a few pillows behind him to prop him up. A warm bowl of chicken soup was slowly spooned into him, he had given up trying to feed himself his right arm had quaked too much to hold the utensil steady. A Tylenol with codeine followed the small meal.

This was the third day Ezra had spent at the house since leaving the hospital, he been kept at the there for two days for observation because of the concussion. Nathan took the empty bowl and left Chris alone with the boy.

"Why am I still here?"

Ezra more than a little uncomfortable knowing he was still under the care of a man that thought the worst of him.

'You hired me or have you forgotten that."

Chris looked at the boy. Ezra, although he didn't look any better, was healing at least Jackson had assured him that. The Judge had intervened again on his behalf. All involved agreed the boy was indeed in danger that's why an officer was sitting outside the front door at that very moment.

"Haven't forgot. I just thought that maybe this was too much trouble."

Ezra wouldn't look him in the eye.

"It is too much for you to be going through alone. You have to let me help and you can start by telling me everything you know..."

"Maude likes money...other peoples money. She'll do what it takes to bilk them out of it."

"Is that why people are trying to shoot you?"

"Mr. Larabee they're trying to kill me I know that now."

"Who are they?"

"I don't know.... But I know that as far back as I can remember Mother and I have been very cautious, constantly changing our names and moving on every few months. There were few occasions I thought maybe someone was following us a short time later Maude and I would move on."

Ezra spoke in a quiet voice that never wavered. What he told Mr. Larabee was true with a few omissions.

"Have you been in the hospital before?"

"No...Yes... I don't know...I'm not sure."

"You mentioned it when you first woke up."

"Oh...now what?"

"You're staying here, a police officer is stationed right outside the front door."

Ezra didn't say a word, he was too tired to argue.

Seen the back of another black day:

...I look to you
How you carry on
When all hope is gone
Can't you see
Your optimistic eyes
Seem like paradise
To someone like
Black Celebration by Martin Lee Gore-Depeche Mode-1986

Outside the mid-day sun had rose overhead, Ezra managed to slip out of his sling without being noticed he hated being restrained by the bothersome contraption. He wasn't alone by any means. Buck and J.D. were in the living room watching a baseball game, some bodyguards they were, professional babysitters was a better term. Truth was he was bored out of his skull. A ten days had passed since he left the hospital barring the occasional headache and twinge of pain in his shoulder he felt fine. The fear and uncertainty had faded replaced by a jittery nervousness brought on from being housebound.

At least he was dress in a presentable fashion. Mr. Larabee had only relented the day before Ezra had his fill of sweat pants and shirts. The man had been kind enough to purchase the offending items along with sneakers that were secured on his feet with Velcro to make the whole humiliating process of clothing himself easier to do on his own. Mr. Sanchez had retrieved the suitcase filled with his worldly possessions from the truck so he was happily in his own garments. The boy sat down at the kitchen table lightly tracing the well-worn deck of cards as he experimentally shuffled with his left hand fanning the cards out as he did so. Feeling only a slight spasm of pain in his shoulder he continued alternating between hands finally dealing out what would have been several hands in a poker game. He smiled and was not at all surprised he had dealt himself the winning hand, Mother would be proud he hadn't lost his touch. Quickly gathering the cards he began a quiet solitaire game.

"Hey Ez, want something to eat?"

"Why yes Mr. Dunne as long it isn't any of that vile substance that you are trying to pass off as sustenance."

The boy efficiently pocketed the cards one handed.


"J.D. I think the kid's insulting our cooking."

"Mr. Wilmington that would imply that it was edible."

"What do you suggest Ez?"

"I happen to know a delightful recipe for Lemon chicken Mr. Wilmington."

"Ez I told you to call me Buck."

"My name is Ezra Mr. Wilmington."

"Well hell Ez-Ra, how are you going to manage to cook with one arm?"

"Who said I'd only be using one?" With a smug look on his face he completely slipped the sling off and dropped it on to the table. "I don't suppose Mr. Larabee had fresh lemons so I guess we'll improvise with some lemon juice. Care to grab one of those pans up there Mr. Dunne?"

Buck and J.D. stood there in amazement watching the boy 'tsk' as he searched through the refrigerator hunting for ingredients.

Chris finally gave up trying to keep Ezra in the sling. Granted the kid was a pain in the ass but he was quite adept at caring for himself. Buck and J.D. had pretty much taken up residence at the ranch. The two men had done so at Chris's request. Their presence helped Ezra slowly adjust to life under Larabee's roof. J.D. spent a lot of time the boy playing the few games that Ezra knew outside of cards Chess and Backgammon, he even tried showing the boy how to play some video games. The rest of the boys had decided that their weekly poker game that had been suspended because Ezra was recovering would be resumed that night. Larabee smiled when he heard Ezra arguing with his old friend in the kitchen.

'... So I gather that you gentlemen are having a social gathering this evening."

Ezra was leaning against the center island watching Buck pour peanuts into a bowl.

"Ez don't cha ever say anything in plain English ..."

"I do speak quite well thank you... The matter of this evening?"

"What about it?"

"I can help with the refreshments..."

The boy closer while the mustached man stirred the bubbling mixture.

"It just chili and beer kid..."

"How quaint but was thinking of something a little less mundane."

"The guys voted for chili..."

"Oh very well how about the beverages I been told I mix a mean drink."

"We're not talking Kool-Aide here kid."

"I wager I can make just about any drink there is."

"I don't believe it..."

" Ten dollars I can name the ingredients to what ever concoction you name."
"You're on ...Vodka tonic."

'Really Mr. Wilmington you can do better than that."

"Alright High Ball?"

"Whiskey and Ginger Ale over ice in a tall glass. Next?"


"Ounce and a half Vodka and 5 ounces of orange juice over ice."

"Fuzzy Navel?"
"Fill a glass full of ice then add a half an ounce Vodka, half-ounce peach schnapps then add orange juice. Shake and serve.... My money?"

"Okay but how?"

"Mr. Wilmington it beats cleaning out ash trays at Mother's parties and here's one your lady friends might enjoy fill a glass half with orange juice and the other champagne."

"What's that?"
"Buck's Fizz! Now I do believe you owe me ten dollars."

"Ezra you won't be playing bartender at this little gathering... Buck, give the kid his money so he can wash up for dinner."

Chris smiled at the pair from the doorway as Buck fished the appropriate bill from his wallet which the snatched and ran off to clean up.

"Christ! He shouldn't know to mix drinks at his age..."

"Come on Old Dog I thought we settled this, we're supposed to treat him as normal as possible. Just remember he wasn't raised like most and he's had a tough go these last couple of weeks."

"Your right, I know you are but..."

"At least he's relaxed a little."

The dream was always the same, the way the headlights played across the gravel drive. The new car's door sat open. Sarah's lifeless eyes were open staring at nothing when he reached her side Buck was desperately trying to pull him away. He though he heard a child's muffled cry as ran off in the direction it came from deep in the thicket of trees screaming for his son. Fog settled through the copse during his panicked search. Always he would find the bloodied clothes and hear Adam wail.

"Daddy...why can't you find me... Daddy?"

Chris woke in a cold sweat. He did hear a child's sobbing in the night. Flipping the blankets off when he heard the sound again it was coming from Adam's old room. Clad only in sweatpants he walked in to check on his young charge in the darkened room, whimpers were coming from the small bed. Ezra was crying. Chris reached out and cautiously touched the lad who was in the throws of a nightmare.

"No... No... No."

The man touched the boy's chest and he showed no signs of waking, instead continued thrashing around the crying became more intense. Chris tried lightly shaking Ezra but the boy was still deep in the grips of the terrifying dream.

"Ezra it's just a dream come on wake up."

Chris whispered in his ear. The boy struggles increased so tried another tactic.


He tried in a stern voice this only caused the child to become more frantic. Instinct took over Chris sat down as he gently took Ezra into his arms shifting the thin frame around until the boy was resting against him. The frenzied movements immediately stopped when the man began the rub the boy's back whispering in his ear reassuring him he was safe. Forty minutes later after he was sure the boy was sound asleep. Chris tucked the light blanket around him and quietly made his way back into his own room a little disconcerted by the nightmarish waking.

Chris was up early the next morning as the sun was beginning to rise over the horizon. He sat the kitchen drinking lukewarm coffee when Ezra shuffled into the kitchen still rubbing sleep from his eyes. The boy wordlessly helped himself to a glass of water and joined Chris at the table.


Ezra just shook his head.

"I was about to watch a little television, I could stand a little company."

Chris brought the cup of stale brew with him into the living room where he was joined on the couch by Ezra who sat on the other end of the couch from him.

"If you want to, you can sit a little closer."

Chris motioned Ezra over as he turned the set on leaving the volume turned down low. Slowly the boy inched his way over next to Larabee. Together they started watching the early morning news. It wasn't long before the kid tilting to one side as he drifted off eventually leaning into the older man. Chris put him arm around him pulling him down until the boy's head was resting on his leg. He left his arm draped across the kid's chest succumbing to a dreamless sleep. That's the way Buck and J.D. found them a couple hours later. The ladies man draped an afghan over the pair and turned off the T.V. then joined the agency's youngest quietly preparing breakfast.

The aroma of fresh bacon and coffee woke Chris, Ezra, who had some how had wiggled his way across his lap, was still sleeping. When Larabee slowly blinked his eyes open a grinning Buck Wilmington greeted him with a steaming cup of coffee.

"Morning Pard, rough night?"


"You or the kid?"


"I'm not going to ask about yours, but what was the kid dreaming about?"

"I don't know? I woke up last night because I thought I heard Adam calling me, and then I heard crying... I found Ezra sobbing in his sleep. I couldn't wake him. It took a bit I finally got him to settle down."

"No wonder you two were still a sleep when J.D. and I woke up."

"What time is it?"

"Nearly 10 a.m., the kid and I made breakfast earlier for ourselves but we figured you two couldn't sleep all day so the foods on."

Chris gently nudged Ezra who did his best to stifle a yawn not fully aware of where exactly he was. When he did he bolted upright sputtering apologies.

"I'm sorry..."

"Hold on Ezra it's okay, you just dozed off so did I. The boys here made us some brunch, you hungry now?"

Ezra opened his mouth then snapped it shut then blinked twice trying to get a read on Mr. Larabee. He didn't look angry looked slightly amused.

"I suppose."

"Well come on and get it, before it gets cold."

Buck called grinning from the doorway.

"But I haven't washed up."

The boy protested.

"Ezra, it's just breakfast in the kitchen, relax."

Chris said quietly.

"Okay, but I want to make the coffee."

The boy grinned as he hopped off the couch.

"What's wrong with my coffee?"

Buck's face fell and he looked a little hurt.

"Nothing Mr. Wilmington if you want to strip paint off with it."

Ezra pushed his way passed the tall mustached man into the kitchen.

"Hey Vin's coffee is worse than mine..."

Since the initial attacks on the boy nothing had happened. No real leads, the evidence gave little insight into who was after Ezra or why. The police had questioned Ezra again about the incident at the school, the contents of the safety deposit box and well as the whereabouts of his mother. The boy didn't have any answers for them so it seemed that there were at a dead end.

Business was hectic with the Beaudean case breaking wide open requiring Josiah's and Nathan's full attention so Chris had to send Buck and J.D. off their other cases to pick up the slack while he remained guarding the boy working out of the house. Vin who had recovered enough from his injuries was back on the streets trying to find out more about the scams the Standish kid's mother was involved in.

Ezra was reading in the living room the last time the older man had checked on him. Larabee was concerned about the boy because continued to have nightmares nightly, Chris hadn't asked hoping Ezra would bring them up on his own. When he didn't Chris decided he would broach the subject himself after another night spent comforting the boy in the dark hours. Absorbed in these thoughts Chris thought he saw a black shadow fall across the window. Pure gut instinct had him diving to the floor under his desk when the window shattered and the bullets began to fly.

After two weeks of quiet Ezra didn't think he could handle another moment indoors. Chris was in his home office making his daily calls to find Maude. Just a moment in the sun would be good to see the horses. Oh how he loved animals, Mother would never let him have a pet of any sort saying they were bothersome filthy creatures. The boy just wanted to go touch one the majestic equines. As he stared out the window he realized the police cruiser was gone. Odd.... The boy jumped when he heard a crash in another part of the house follow by rapid gunfire. Ezra jerked the window open, climbed out and began running. A large man in dark clothes stepped out from behind the shade tree large tree grabbing his arm. The boy nailed him between the legs with the toe of his shoe, breaking free of the painful grip he ran.

There are lambs for the slaughter:

Death is everywhere
There are lambs for the slaughter
Waiting to die
And I can sense
The hours slipping by
Fly on the Windscreen-Final by Martin Lee Gore-Depeche Mode-1986

The goon was pissed at him for kicking him in the crotch unfortunately Ezra hadn't quite hit the mark so the man was still able to lurch after him at a fairly good clip catching up with him just outside the paddock. The eleven-year old was wrenched around, dragged back kicking and screaming until the man swept him easily throwing his seventy pound body into the water trough. The boy thrashed against the hands that held him under cloudy water. The man held him firmly to the bottom of the water trough, it seem so surreal as he fought to get to the surface.

The blue sky was distorted and the face overhead was a darkened shadow. Ezra couldn't hold out any longer his unprepared lungs were ready to burst. He desperately tried to pull himself up, flailing he scratched at the man's hands yanking at the fingers. Reflex took over as he gasped for air instead taking in water into his mouth and lungs the world began to fade away as his desperate struggles began to falter.

Somewhere close he thought he heard screaming as the hands holding him down fell away. Try as he might he couldn't move. The hands returned pulling him through the water and onto the muddied ground where he was roughly turned over, roughly gripped around the waist. The hands held tight and pulled upward, twice and nothing happened the third time he choked up water. Ezra lay there weakly coughing, heaving up water at the same time desperately trying to gasp in air. The boy remained motionless as he was held tightly against someone's chest this person rubbed his back as he weakly took in some air.

Ezra managed to open his eyes slightly to see Mr. Larabee's concerned face and he whispered quiet comforting words. The boy didn't flinch when a nearby gun fired or as he watched Chris's head snap to one side as he was struck, blood sprayed into the sky then reality slipped away.

The men that had taken them put him into the trunk of the car the wet child had little choice other than to obey between the heavy coughing bouts he had to struggle to remain awake. His head was spinning again Larabee had rescued him from the Fowler's goon, only to be shot down. The head wound bled still unchecked. What seemed like a lifetime later Ezra was hauled from the trunk under the graying evening sky along with Chris into an abandoned building where they were imprisoned in a sub -basement boiler room it's door firmly bolted in place.

Who was Fowler?

It was a name mentioned by their capturers as he was locked into the trunk with Mr. Larabee. Someone mentioned the Fowler would be pissed because they had almost drowned the kid.

In the semi-darkened room Ezra sat on the damp floor thinking about the name while using the faltering light of an old flashlight to see as he roughly bandaged Mr. Larabee's head with some discarded rags he found. In the dank room with there was some discarded office furniture, old office supplies and an odd assortment of cleaning materials. The room was cool and the boy couldn't get warm so he leaned up against the only warmth in the room, Mr. Larabee. Ezra had just stopped after a five-minute bout of coughing when Mr. Larabee looked up at him.

Chris couldn't really see straight as he painfully lifted his head off the floor he didn't expect to see the frightened green eyes of...


The man's eyes fluttered shut then opened again.


"No, it's Ezra Mr. Larabee...."

Chris just stared at him in the dim lit room before reaching out a tentative hand to touch the boy's face. Ezra sat stock still as the man gently caressed his face, he saw Chris's tear filled eyes in the dim light. He was even more frightened when the man's voice barely above a whisper spoke again.

"Oh God... I thought you were dead."

"No, I'm very much alive Mr. Larabee."

"I'm sorry... I'm so sorry I wasn't there...I couldn't keep you safe."

Chris slumped to the floor unconscious again leaving Ezra alone with his thoughts. He had to think. He scanned the room for something, anything that would help him escape. The boy rose to his feet trying not to bring on another coughing fit, occasionally violent shivering ran through his small body. He had to think of something quick because Mr. Larabee wouldn't be able to help him now. There was an air duct in the center of the ceiling. He just had to find a way to it.

Ezra watched as Mr. Larabee slowly woke, the man didn't seem to be any more coherent than he was earlier. Why did Mr. Larabee keep calling him Adam, perhaps the man's head injury was quite severe. The boy had sat down only moments earlier after another fit of unyielding hacking and coughing over took him. Although Chris never fully opened his eyes Ezra knew he was being watched.

The boy's only thought was they were running out of time as he pushed a desk into the center of the room under the air duct even standing on top of the desk he was still short. Spying a vinyl-covered chair he stacked that on the top. After crawling on top, a tired Ezra stuck the duct vent several times with his open palm and it popped open. With no further prompting after several failed attempts he pulled himself into the duct with the weak flashlight to find a fast way out of the building.

A half an hour went an older well-dressed man opened the door leading the way with a portable battery powered lantern with by two other men. Larabee still lay on the floor. A desk was pulled in the middle of the room with a chair was precariously perched in its center. The raised light showed the air duct cover swaying loosely.

"Damn it... Damn it ... Lonny tie up this one before he escapes too! Might as well gag him as well. Hurry up you fools, so that you can find that brat quick otherwise we won't get paid."

Fowler stood there and watched as Larabee gagged and tightly bound with clothesline.

The horrifying sense of Déjà vu overcame Buck as he pulled up with Vin at the house. The squad car was gone. The front door of the house was wide open and shifted in the breeze. A second glance chilled him to the bone as he stepped closer to the porch. The door had several obvious bullet holes through it.


"I'm on it"

Tanner had already flipped open his cell-phone and dialed 911.

Red and white lights flashed in the night sky. Several squad cars along with the Medical Examiner's wagon were blocking the section of drive right before the main house on Larabee's ranch. Half dozen officers were spread out near the horse corral. They were gathering evidence and photographing the scene. A man's body draped with a sheet lay next to the water trough with a shot through his heart. Captain Mitchell was kneeling down looking at the dead man whom he recognized as local muscle for hire, Danny Greig. They was blood on the fence, in and on the water trough not all of it belonging to the corpse.

This wasn't good. Not by a long shot, the eerie similarities to the murder of Larabee's wife didn't get by him. For some reason the squad car was called off by dispatch. Again there was no record of the order. Larabee and the kid were missing. The house was a shambles almost destroyed by gunfire. Mitchell was not looking forward to facing Larabee's five co-workers who all were there. The captain was thankful that Wilmington and the others had the common sense not to trample the crime scene.

Buck had managed to pry Vin and the others away from the Larabee Ranch after they made their statements. They headed to the 4C Agency's offices trying to come up with a plan. After spending the evening going through the current information of Ezra's case, it was late and the men decided it would be best if they crashed at Buck and J.D.'s for the night and for the sake of convenience they all climbed into Josiah's Suburban. Where a discussion went on over what to do next started to escalate in volume as the drive got underway.

He was moving as soon as he hit the ground.

He was outside in the cool night air. His fevered mind fueled his fear. All his effort was concentrated on finding a phone. J.D. Dunne had on his own way prepared Ezra by insisting that he carry some change and a list of everyone cellular numbers. The young man had been insistent he wanted the young boy to have a way to contact them. Just to baffle the agency's youngest investigator Ezra memorized all the numbers.


He almost couldn't hear the voice on the other end of his cell-phone he put his hand over the mouthpiece and screamed.

"SHUT UP!!!"

Silence enveloped Josiah's Suburban.



"Ezra? Where are you?"

The man heard a painful bout of coughing followed by a lengthy silence then a noisy breath.

"I'm not sure... I think... I see a sign...Gosling Automotive Supplies..."

The boy broke off reeled by another round of harsh coughing.

"Gosling Automotive Supplies Okay I got it...Ezra? Ezra, talk to me."

Buck didn't hear anything else but he kept trying to get the boy on the end to talk to him.

Josiah changed the large vehicle's direction on the dark street.

"Don't worry brothers I know the place..."

The ex-preacher reassured his passengers. Finally when Buck screamed into the phone he got a response.



The soft voice was raspy and slightly slurred.

"You have to tell me where you are!"

"Phone booth..."

"I know that... what else do you see?"

There was another pause before the boy replied.

"A bar... it's across the street... Teaser's..."

"Teaser's.... I know where you are! We're coming... " Buck turned to Josiah and gave him the address.

" He's near the Strip club on Colfax and Havana!"

Before turning his attention back to the phone. A recorded message interrupted the call.

"Please deposit thirty cents please."

"Ezra...Ezra stay where you are..."

The call had been disconnected. Buck tried dialing *69 but the call didn't go through.

The Suburban pulled up in front of the phone booth across from the strip club twelve minutes later, Ezra was no to be seen. The five men spread out. After five minutes searching Vin found the small huddled form hidden behind a mailbox, Ezra woke as he stepped near.

"Hey Pard..."

"Have to help...Mr. Larabee...he's hurt.... bleeding."

Tanner pulled the boy to him, picked him up and taking long strides he moved back towards the Suburban.


After a few seconds he heard footsteps running towards him, Ezra continued to mumble about Chris needing help.

"It's okay Ez, you tell me where Chris is and we'll go help him."

"Building.... basement... Fence... there's a fence."

Ezra weakly pointed in the direction. Nate had rounded the corner almost colliding with Vin.

"Let me..."

Nathan stopped Tanner in his tracks trying to get a look at Ezra and wasn't at all reassured by what he found as he quickly ran his hands over the boy. The kid was sick, his breathing was rapid and unsteady, and each inhalation the fevered boy took sounded wet, full of congestion. Even though he had blood splattered on his clothing he wasn't bleeding just ill.

"We have to get him an Emergency room..."

"J.D., you go on with Nate. You'll drive them to the hospital and we'll keep in contact by cell. The rest of us are going to find Chris."

Vin and Josiah nodded in agreement with Buck. The large man gave the keys to J.D. while Vin handed the boy over to Nate and watched as the two men walked back towards the Suburban.

Vin Tanner knew that Ezra couldn't have made it far in the shape he was in, and he began to jog in the direction the boy had pointed out closely followed by Buck and Josiah. After ten minutes he and the others found themselves the building Ezra described.

Buck called the cops before they entered the main floor of the building and searched for an entry to the lower floors. From the outside the building looked deserted but one they got inside the emergency lights were lit in the stairwells. The sound of distant voices traveled from below.

"Mr. Larabee don't worry my compatriots will find your boy."

Cletus Fowler leaned over Chris's bound and gagged form. The man was conscious, the most lucid he had been since his capture was watching the man leering down at him, as he lay unmoving on the floor now mentally repeating was not the time to lose it.

"Ah I must introduce myself I'm Cletus Fowler, and since I am privy to some of your most private moments I feel that we've already met. I am after all I am root of all your anguish. You might say I was the last person to see your wife Sarah alive."

That got a reaction from Chris. A hot, seething rage began to coarse through the man's body.

"Since you haven't protested I'll continue..."

Fowler sat on the edge of the desk Ezra used to escape.

"She was a pretty woman. A crying shame she had to die...but that was what I was hired to do that and the matter of your son...."

Chris started the howl through the gag. Fowler hopped off the desk and kicked him in the stomach effectively silencing him, then crouched down patted him twice on the cheek before he continued.

"Mr. Larabee really, you must remain quiet otherwise I can't finish my story..."

Fowler stood up before speaking again.

"Oh my where was I? Ah yes your boy... Adam. I was paid a hefty price for him. The little jackrabbit took off when I was taking care of his mother but I did eventually catch him deep in the woods and handed him over to my employer. Now you're thinking about the bag of bloody clothing found, you see I had to change his clothing make him more presentable. It was necessary. A child-covered head to toe with blood just wouldn't do. I thought that would have been last of it but here I am hired again to retrieve that boy..." Chris's shock was evident. Fowler laughed.

"You didn't know.... that boy is your son...Well it doesn't matter now we are parting ways... Good bye Mr. Larabee!"

Fowler turned to exit the room just as Buck charged through the open door.

It was over in less than ten seconds. Shots were fired. Fowler was dead a head shot through his left eye had taken him down. Fowler's blood was still seeping across the floor when Vin and Buck cut through Larabee's bindings while Josiah went outside to guide in the police and paramedics. The weak man struggled trying to rise as he asked repeatedly for Ezra until reassured by his friends that the boy was on his way the hospital with J.D. and Nathan. Only then did he give in to the pain letting his friends support him.

Tanner sat on the floor quietly holding his friend and Buck squatted down next to them.

"My God... Chris we heard him... Don't worry ...I called Mitchell told him to put a guard on Ezra. And I gave a heads up to J.D. as well."

Larabee's pain was physically obvious but the mental agony was worse. The man that claimed to murder his wife lay lifeless leaving him with a painfully unanswered question.

Was what he said true?

Here in this house:

It happens here
In this house...
With or without words
I'll confide everything
Here is this House by Martin Lee Gore-Depeche Mode-1986

One thing Chris Larabee had plenty of time for, was to think. For the first time in forty-eight hours he could do that without falling asleep at the drop of a hat. A constant rotation of visitors passed through. He was in the hospital again to stay under observation for the concussion as well as the blood loss and infection.

Thank God Ezra had found a way out and the others showed when they did.

Unfortunately Ezra had developed aspiration pneumonia the doctor said the near drowning was the cause.

The water trough, Larabee didn't want to think what would have happened if he hadn't been there. Chris wanted to check on Ezra himself, he intended to the first opportunity he got. The doctors told he was lucky. He would have bled to death if the boy hadn't gotten help when he did.

What Chris Larabee really wanted to have a clear head when he broached the authorities with what invaded his every thought. The question had not been answered.

Was Ezra Standish really his son Adam?

God he had to get out of bed and see for himself.

Chris pulled himself up slowly still dizzy from the blood loss. It was past visiting hours and his friends had been chased home long ago. Larabee grabbed onto the I.V. pole and teetered down the hall. Buck had told him Ezra was in I.C.U. and that was where he was headed not caring that whether his ass was hanging out the back of a hospital gown or not.

The officer sitting on guard outside his door didn't stop him instead followed him down the hall into an elevator that took them to the third floor's intensive care unit. Officer Benton was under strict orders from Captain Mitchell not to let Larabee out of his sight or interfere with him if he went to see the boy. Officer Johnson smiled at Benton as he walked into the I.C.U. ward shadowing Larabee. Johnson was assigned to night shift guarding the boy. Benton returned the smile. They both watched as pale shaky man slowly sank into a chair by the bed, the white bandage wound around his head only succeeded in making him look even paler.

Chris didn't hear them whispering. Or notice Benton's departure. He couldn't take his eyes off the small form in the bed. The head of the bed was raised up to ease Ezra's labored breathing. The man was shaking as he reached out to touch the boy, taking the boy's hand into his own.

The child's eyes opened slightly in response to the gentle contact. Chris ran a hand through the boy's sweat soaked hair watching the befuddled green eyes sluggishly trying to make sense of the situation eventually sliding closed again. He sighed. The oxygen mask was fogging up in time with the boy's rapid shallow breaths. Shit... the kid was hot. He was scared as he held onto Ezra's hand and for the first time since the death of his wife Chris Larabee prayed.

Ezra woke confused. It was difficult to move. He was in pain. It hurt to breathe. At some point someone had inserted a thin tube up his nose, he gagged a little. A quiet voice nearby told him to relax they were draining fluid from his lung.

+ + + + + + +

Ezra temperature had peaked at a 105, but the sun rose it had dropped two degrees and he had slept restless on and off through the night, was quieter with Larabee at his side. The hospital staff finally relented and gave Chris an old set of scrubs to wear when they could not convince him to leave. It was eight o'clock in the morning when Buck found his old friend dozing in a chair along side the boy's bed holding on to Ezra's hand. The man's was haggard and drawn from the strain of his own injuries and the weight brought on by serious state of Ezra's health. Chris quietly spoke without opening his eyes.

"He's doing a little better this morning."

"How about you?"

Chris looked up at him for a moment.

"I don't know how I am supposed to feel. Did they catch the rest Fowler's cronies?"

"Not yet, that's why the guard is here. About what Fowler said..."

"Buck... God... who the hell would pay Fowler to kill Sarah? What if it true?"

"About Ezra being Adam... "

Buck shook his head. The frail boy that lay in the bed looked so much like Larabee's son.

"Someone believes he is..."

"Do you?"

"Christ Buck I don't know what to think..."

"A DNA test?"

"Yeah I was going to call Judge Travis today..."

"He'll be here in the next fifteen minutes..." Larabee snapped his head up wincing at the sudden movement as he watched his uncomfortably try to explain. "Chris, I called him and explained to him what had happened..."

Orrin Travis strode into an elevator on his way to the I.C.U. with a purpose, after the man had pulled in a lot of old favors in. He wanted to finally meet the boy at the center of all of this. Wilmington had given him the details. The Judge said a quick silent prayer. He had known Larabee back when he had first started with the department. Watched the man fall apart after the murder of his wife and disappearance of his son. Larabee had hit bottom. Travis had been relieved when the man had started a come back with the 4C Agency and he wondered now if Chris would survive this if it weren't true. The Judge sighed as the elevator doors opened.


"Morning Judge."

Orrin wasn't prepared. The frail boy that lay in the bed with his hand firmly gripped by Larabee's own was a ghostly image of the 'dead' Adam Larabee. There was little doubt left. But why and how it all had occurred, Fowler. The only known person to have answers was dead, apparently was only a hired killer and the real perpetrators were still a mystery.

"I've arranged for the tests. The doctor should be in shortly to draw blood from you and the boy. ..."

"Thank you."

The boy's foggy mind refused to co-operate all he knew was he was being sat up again. The hands. Always the hands firmly with open palm clapped against his bare skinny chest making him cough up phlegm, encouraging him to do so and to breath as deep as he could. Again the quiet voice reassured him.

Larabee was tired. There was no way he was leaving the boy for any length of time. Ezra temperature hovered at 101, down another two degrees since the morning the antibiotic combination was working, the boy slept listlessly on one side slick with sweat facing Larabee. The facemask was traded for a nasal canula. Dull green eyes opened.

"Hey... you're awake."

The confused eyes blinked once slowly and a trembling hand snaked up to rub the offending object from his nose.

"Leave it alone, that helps you breathe a little easier."

Chris took a cool damp cloth and wiped sweat from the boy's face. A tiny spark of life but Ezra didn't have either oar in the water let alone the boat. The boy was staring at the bandage wrapped around Chris's head and reached a shaky hand out to touch it. Larabee didn't pull away instead leaned forward allowing the fingers to caress the bandage before being withdrawn.

"I'm fine, a concussion and a few stitches."


Ezra tried to speak but broke off in a painful hacking cough. Larabee pulled him closer as sat him up a little the coughing eased as Chris soothe him while he rubbed a hand lightly across his back.

"You shouldn't try to talk. You been very ill..."

As the quiet voice reassured him he settled down and relaxed against the older man eventually drifting back to sleep.

Three days later when his fever finally broke Ezra Standish was transferred from the I.C.U. to a private room on the second floor. Chris Larabee hadn't left his side, Ezra couldn't remember a time when he woke and the man wasn't there. He wasn't sure why the man stayed but it felt oddly comforting so he never asked why he stay and he was afraid if he did Mr. Larabee would stop. Dr. Dunkling had explained earlier to him that he had aspiration pneumonia, whatever that meant, he had trouble recollecting the events of the last few days. The last thing he did remember was a desire to see the horses on the Larabee Ranch. It troubled him he couldn't recall much of the last five days a few frightening hazy memories of being in a dark room but neither the doctor nor Mr. Larabee seemed concerned.

He lay there observing the older man as his read through paperwork. A nurse walked in smiling. "Mr. Larabee you have a phone call at the nurses station." Chris looked at her for a moment then laid the folder on the table next to him. "Don't worry I'll be in here checking the young man's vitals. You go ahead and take that phone call. "The nurse clucked along as she checked everything from his pulse to his I.V., Ezra startled when he heard a loud thump outside as the door crashed open revealing two large men dressed as orderlies carrying handguns. He flew out the bed pulling the I.V. pole with him causing it to topple to the floor as it tore the needle out of his arm. The woman began to scream. As he scrambled under the bed trying to avoid his pursuers, franticly panting there was nothing he could do as he tried to press himself farther under the bed frame. The shouting and screaming continued as the door slammed open again followed by a single gunshot.

+ + + + + + +

Ezra's eyes were squeezed shut and he about jumped out of his skin when he was touched lightly on his arm.

"It's okay..."

Mr. Larabee? He dared to open his eyes a little. The man was under the bed lying on the floor talking to him. After a moment he let go the energy he used was gone, the world started to turn gray and faded before he hit the floor.

Darius O'Connell and Simon Baffert had been apprehended in the hospital charged with murder, attempted murder and kidnapping amongst numerous other offenses. They had been hired by Fowler and but didn't not know who in turn had hired Fowler. That was official statement given to the press who were having a field day reporting the incident. Ezra's age protected him from the intense scrutiny.

The boy spent most of his time sleeping with Chris close by his side. He didn't remember the attack in the hospital room that had cost the life of Officer Johnson. The incident left Ezra physically drained and he had a minor relapse where his fever returned and shot up to 101 before breaking the following day. Eventually the other men were granted visitation and a cot was brought in for Chris who still refused to leave Ezra's side. Despite the influx of visitors, that had grown to include Judge Travis, Captain Mitchell, Officer Denby and well as the woman from child services he was sheltered from all the news surrounding his kidnapping. Four days later Ezra was released from the hospital into Larabee's care.

Chris set the phone back in its cradle, leaning heavily against the wall. The results had come back. For better or worse he knew the truth. It didn't matter to Chris who had decided before he had brought the boy home from the hospital earlier in the day that he belonged with him no matter who he was.


He called out to the boy who had been napping on the couch in the living room, stirred and sat up slowly.


"I need to talk to you..."

Ezra pulled the blanket snugly around his shoulders waiting as the older man sat down next to him.

"...About your father."

"I told you before I didn't know him..."

"I think its time you did."

Ezra never broke eye contact with Chris.


The boy's widened as he studied the man before him.

"It started twelve years ago here in this house..."

Well I just heard the news today
It seems my life is going to change
I closed my eyes, and begin to pray
Then tears of joy streamed down my face
With arms wide open
Under the sunlight
Welcome to this place
I'll show you everything
With arms wide open
Well I don't know if I'm ready
To be the man I have to be
With arms wide open-Scott Stapp-Creed-1999