The disclaimer is and always will be I don't own 'em and never made a plug nickel off 'em. Wish I did. An AU where Ezra's a child and the remaining seven are adults. In a Modern universe where the boys are working in Chris' and Buck's 4C agency as private investigators, bounty hunters and body guards. This is a series where young Ezra Standish has discovered that Chris Larabee's his father. A sequel to A Question Of Time.
Chris slowly set the phone back in its cradle. Leaning heavily against the wall he closed his eyes. His decision to help young Ezra Standish had changed his life. Memories of the last seven years of anguish had dulled a little with a simple phone call. Fowler was dead, but he had no idea who was behind the murder of his wife and the kidnapping of his son. The question of who Ezra was had been solved but just who the hell was Maude Standish and why did she have his son? He didn't have an answer but he would do his damnedest to find one. Larabee pushed himself off the wall and quietly stepped into the living room and sat on the back of the couch watching the boy sleep.
How was he going to tell the boy? Dr. Spock didn't cover things like this. A small smile graced his face. Sarah had voraciously read his book on child rearing along with dozens of others. Chris thought back to the day she told him she was pregnant again. Sarah was ecstatic for the first time in months. Although the pregnancy was unexpected the thought of the child growing within her restored her spirits after a serious depression. Throughout the pregnancy she was careful about everything she ate and did, seven and a half months later she gave birth to a healthy seven pound two ounce boy they named Adam Christopher Larabee.
A campaign of terrifying phone calls and letters began soon after the announcement. It had proven to be a difficult time for them both with his wife virtually becoming a prisoner in her own home too afraid to leave its safety. Chris had in the end decided to move closer to Sarah's father, knowing he would be on the next property over eased his mind as well as the pregnant Sara. The ranch was a good place and for a brief time after the birth of their son it had seemed safe. How could he tell the boy the entire truth when he wasn't sure what had happened himself? No, Dr. Spock definitely didn't cover how to tell a child that what he had believed the past seven years was a lie and oh by the way your real mother was killed by a maniacal stalker. Wasn't in the guidebook not by a long shot.
Chris didn't want to keep the truth from Ezra too many people had lied to the boy already... He couldn't bring himself to call him Adam. He wasn't about to add to the boy's confusion. In many respects his son had died along with Sarah. This child was born from the ashes. He stared down at... his son and wondered where the boy had been. Doctor Dunkling had made it clear that Ezra had to rest and to avoid any undo stress. Particularly when he ate or drank anything. Even the way he sat or slept had been modified because there was a high likelihood he may easily relapse because of the nature of the pneumonia.
He softly called out to the boy who had been napping propped up 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..."
+ + + + + + +
The revelation had rocked his world.
How could it be true? Had mother lied all along? No, it couldn't possibly be true.
Ezra too stunned to move sat next to Mr. Larabee as the man had tried to quietly explain that he was his father. How he was taken from this place seven years ago after the violent murder of his mother, Sarah. He silently wondered if the man had lost his mental faculties. Perhaps the blow to his head had addled his mind. The boy inched away. Growing more frightened by the moment, he thought he could trust this man and the man only saw him as his dead son.
"No... No... No..."
Ezra bolted off the couch ran down the hall and locked himself in his room.
His eyes jerked around the room as his small back slid down the door. He was in the room of Larabee's murdered child. This was too much for the boy and he began to silently weep. What had he done that was so wrong? He had believed in someone. It was his downfall. Mother had taught him not to trust anyone. She was right they only deceived you. Tortured thoughts filled his mind as he heard a gentle knock at the door.
The boy's voice was barely above a whisper.
When he didn't answer a silent tear began to trickle down Chris' face as he leaned into the door his forehead pressed again the wood. He patted the door then sat against the door himself.
"I haven't lied to you before this and I am not about to start."
"How? I don't understand!"
"I can't explain something I don't quite understand myself, but I just got a phone call, a genetic test says you're my son."
Ezra swiped at the offensive tears that streaked down his cheeks as he stood up and walked across the room to look at the picture frame that sat on the small dresser. The photograph of a man woman and a child that had green eyes much like his own. He didn't remember these people how could what Mr. Larabee was saying be true? Surely he would recognize his own father. Or remember he was taken away from this place. Ezra didn't. Maude had always been in his life as far back as he could remember. It wasn't true it couldn't be true. He was frightened and confused. There was one person that had the answer. Ezra took a deep breath and let it out before he went and opened the door. Mr. Larabee sat leaning on the doorframe the man's eyes were moist with tears.
"I suppose we should redouble the efforts to find my moth... Maude. After all she would have an answer for this."
The boy waved around himself and quickly amended his words as he saw a flash of pain cross the face of the normally strong man. Ezra continued talking because he was afraid that Larabee might stop him.
"...Mr. Larabee you have to understand I can't possibly be..."
A sudden wave of dizziness washed over him, his peripheral vision started to dim and he quickly grabbed the door jam to hold himself steady. Chris was on his feet in a flash swept the boy up and carried him over to the bed. When he went to lay him down Ezra started to shake his head.
"No, not here. I don't want to stay in here please...."
Ezra began to struggle against Larabee's hold.
"Okay.... Okay ... "
The man tried to reassure the distressed youngster by taking him into the guest room down the hall.
"Please you have to understand I always remember my mother, I'll readily admit she wasn't always there but these memories I do have go back to when I was quite young."
The words poured out of Ezra's mouth as he tightly held on to the older man's shirt. The boy was getting frantic and began to violently tremble in Chris' arms and began to hyperventilate. His small chest heaving as he was held tightly. The man began to whisper in his ear.
"Ezra...stop... We can talk about this later."
"No you have to understand..."
"Ezra stop...I promise I'll find Maude if that's what it takes for you to believe I'll find her. Please you have to calm down."
Ezra willed himself to take a few slow breaths and did as he was bid to and relaxed as his breathing evened out. Chris laid him on the bed carefully propping him up with pillows because until he fully recovered he could not lay flat letting his exhaustion take him away
"I didn't want to keep this from you..."
The man whispered knowing the boy was already asleep and gently caressed Ezra's face before pulling a chair next to the bed. He sat down and lightly gripped a small lax hand.
A loud sigh escaped as he gazed up wishing she were there. Having his son back was something he had prayed for after he had found her... His hope had been crushed three days later when they had found the bloody clothes. He should have known. Should have been able to sense his boy was still alive.
Chris knew he couldn't change what had happen but there was someone out there bent on taking his son. An officer was outside his front door under strict instructions not to leave his post unless told in person by Captain Mitchell. His friends were at the agency's offices doing their best to find out who had hired Fowler.
A strange twist of fate had brought his son back into his life. Chris was glad he got to him first before this maniac did. It was just a question of time now and it was running out for the both of them. His son was in danger and finding out the truth was more important than ever
The inconsistencies of truth: Part two
Trying to find Maude Standish was proving to be difficult for the men of the 4C agency. A task they took on willingly in addition to their normal caseload. Chris only called into the office when necessary he was still home with Ezra while they both recuperated. J.D. spent hours hacking away on the inter-net each evening trying to find out information on Cletus Fowler. Josiah and Nathan were finishing the Beaudine case. Vin was back and was currently out of state with Buck in Phoenix, Arizona to pick up a bail jumper, Levon Bittree a two-bit hustler who had skipped out on ten thousand dollars bond after being charged with grand larceny.
The aroma coming from the kitchen was delightful. The boy despite Chris' objections was cooking lunch, he shook his head he couldn't get the boy to remain idle for any length of time, either he was busy making himself useful or he was asleep there wasn't a happy medium. Ezra staunchly refused to talk about his being Chris' son. Not willing to return to 'Adam's room', Ezra's words painfully bit into Larabee's heart. Instead he insisted on remaining in the guest room, his suitcase remained unpacked underneath its bed. He never wavered in his belief that they had to find his mother Maude. The man was worried as Ezra began to quietly shut himself off reluctant to speak with him or anyone else.
That afternoon at the insistence of the Judge Travis and child welfare Ezra was going to speak with a Psychiatrist, Larabee thought it was a good idea after everything the boy had been through he would need a impartial person to talk to. Dr. Mary Travis, the Judge's daughter in-law, had agreed to make house calls. He had met her several times over the last few years during social occasions associated with Orrin Travis. Chris was grateful for the intervention. Ezra's distress although not evident at first glance was troublesome when he wouldn't stop until exhausted he fell asleep as soon he stopped long enough to sit. The child was rambling on about the effects using different types of cookware had on the food. It was obvious from the start that Ezra was highly intelligent, and Chris tried to supply the boy with some books. His efforts were for the most part ignored, however Chris did catch the young southerner reading a dust jacket on one book, when he thought no one was watching.
Standing back from the door watched as his son, scurried around the kitchen. A variety of pans on the stovetop held food. They would be joined for lunch by the judge and Dr. Travis. The meal itself was surprising Baja Chicken over wild rice, Ezra had made dessert earlier in the day Lime Margarita bars. Chris was wondering where the boy learned how to cook he heard a car pull up outside the house a quick look out the window revealed the Travis' had arrived
The flight into the Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport had been short. Vin Tanner was collecting their luggage while Buck walked across the baggage claim area to secure a rental car. It was already hot when the small commuter plane landed and Buck had gotten a car that he made sure had decent air conditioning. Bail bond retrieval was the meat of the 4C's business and this was just a milk run. The thought did little to comfort Vin the last pick-up he'd been on had been the Avery Arm's and that hadn't turned out well. He smirked at Buck as the man tried to put the moves on the young woman standing next to him at the counter.
"Come on Bucklin we got a fish to catch."
"Where to first?"
+ + + + + + +
Lunch had been quiet Ezra had for the most part kept his head down while he ate little instead pushing the food around the plate with a fork. He felt under the constant scrutiny of the adults was they off handedly discussed the weather and local politics. The boy knew why the woman was here. Why? Because he was nothing more than damaged goods Dr. Travis was here to fix. Ezra did his best to choke down the meal only managing a half-dozen small bites before he pushed the plate away, another meal barely eaten. The small movement didn't go by unnoticed. Chris was worried. Could he have handled telling Ezra he was his father differently, probably but the outcome would have been the same. He wanted to rant and roar instead he remained outwardly calm. Ezra wasn't at fault, just very confused. What conversation there was had died out. Mary took the opportunity to lead Ezra off towards Larabee's home office.
The door was quietly shut behind them as the entered the small but comfortable room. Dr. Travis watch the boy wander around briefly as she took a seat by the window. She took out a yellow legal pad from her briefcase, carefully jotted down a few notes. Ezra had stopped his back was still facing her. Mary noticed he was looking a family portrait of Chris, Sarah and young Adam Larabee that sat in the built in bookcase, afraid to touch the image his trembling hand hovered over it momentarily before it dropped to his side. He spoke without turning around.
"What we talk about ... is supposed to be private?"
"Can I ask you a question?"
"Why would Mr. Larabee say I'm his son?"
"Because you are..."
"That's not possible..."
Mary sat there and watched the boy. He had yet to move, still standing in front of the bookcase that filled the back wall staring at the photograph as if he was trying to divine the truth. She waited and he continued.
"...I don't remember...if this is true...why don't I..."
Ezra stopped again.
"Sometimes when terrible things happen the mind blocks the memories."
"I remember other bad things ..."
"What other things?"
Ezra hesitated for a moment before answering. He seemed to be carefully weighing his words before he spoke them.
"Like what happened at the Avery Arm's and getting hit by the car."
Ezra saw no point in revealing anything that these people didn't already know about. His life wasn't any of there business.
"Do you remember being abducted outside the house?"
The boy shook his head.
"I meant recently..."
Again the boy's head shook no.
"What do you remember?"
"I wanted to go see the horses, my mother never allowed she said they were filthy... the next thing I was coughing, it was painful and a faraway voice was telling me everything was going to be okay... I remember Mr. Larabee sitting with me at the hospital and he kept talking to me...explained to me once he had hurt his head"
Orrin Travis watched as Chris Larabee unknowingly mirrored his son actions as he stood and stared at another photograph that graced the mantel over the fireplace.
"Chris, are you alright?"
"Judge if you had told me a month ago that my son was alive I would have been thrilled but now..."
"Not at all what you expected is he?"
"No... and I'm so angry... his childhood has been stolen along with his innocence. Why? Why because a twisted person had my wife killed and kidnapped him."
Larabee slammed his fists down the picture frame skittered off the mantel its glass shattering after it fell to the floor.
"Chris calm down... your boy is in the next room."
"I know. He's in pain and there isn't anything I can say that will ease that."
Levon Bittree had proven to be an easy person to track. Leaving an electronic trail of the stolen credit card transactions. One of the last places was in a hotel here in Phoenix. A check on the card's activity by J.D. had revealed that it was used consistently in the same locality in the city. Tanner and Wilmington were headed there to begin their search starting with the hotel first.
The Hollywood motel was on the out skirts of the city. Apparently Levon was intent on shacking up with his woman Tilly DuPrea and the young woman wasn't having any it because when Vin and Buck walked up to the motel room's door there was a heated argument going on.
"Christ Tilly can't you see I'm pissed off here..."
"Levon you've been pissed ever since your mama named you after that Elton John song..."
'That ain't so..."
"Don't care, get your scrawny ass out of here! You're in trouble dick head and I don't need trouble right now! I have enough of my own!"
"Come on babe..."
"OUT..." The woman screamed it was followed by a crash.
The two men outside didn't hesitate, Buck broke down the door and the pair rushed the room guns drawn.
Levon was on the floor holding his bleeding head between his legs.
"You know how to knock?"
"Excuse us Miss...?"
"DuPrea... Tilly DuPrea. I take it you're here for the dumb ass?"
The young woman's southern drawl was as smooth as honey. Her long light brown hair was tied up in a loose bun. Her light green eyes were striking accentuated by the pale green suit dress she wore. A smiled played at her lips as she watched the boys informed Levon of his rights as they handcuffed him.
"Hey you wanna call this one in while I check in with Chris and see how Ezra is."
The longhaired bounty hunter nodded but didn't miss as the woman's head snapped up at the mention of Ezra's name.
The phone rang breaking Chris out of his revere. The judge had retreated to make coffee in the kitchen. Mary and Ezra were still talking in the other room as he stood there his mind had pulled him once again to Sarah and how he had found her.
"Larabee..." His tone was harsh.
"Christ Larabee you could bite some one's head off with one word.... How's Ezra."
"Buck, You caught Levon?"
"Yeah, the 4C Agency nabs another bad guy Chris but that's not what I asked how's the boy? Any word on finding Maude?"
Tilly was watching Wilmington as he made the call, shaking her head slightly.
The ladies man tried to pick up the woman in the hotel room who just laughed his advances off saying long distance relationships were not what she wanted.
Tilly DuPrea had made a few quick phone calls while Buck and Vin were processing Levon with the local authorities. She had a plan in motion by the time the two were on their way to catch the next available flight back to Denver. Six hours later Chris received an urgent call from J.D. telling to come into the office some one claiming to be kin of the Ezra's was there. Although the Travis' had left hours earlier the Josiah had showed up to discuss the Beaudine case with Larabee. The older man offered to remain behind and watch over the boy.
The smell and smoke of a lit cigarette wafted through the office as Chris walked in.
"Who the hell are you?"
"Now sir, is that any way to greet a lady?"
"You're no lady..."
"You might very well be right about that Mr. Larabee.... I'm glad you could make it...and so prompt too! I'm here to talk about Ezra."
Inheritance-A crime to be innocent: Part three
On the dark side of modern life
Old before it's time
No longer searching for the sublime
Ever wonder why
It's a crime
To be innocent
In the games we play
"Who the hell are you?"
"Now sir, is that any way to greet a lady?"
"You're no lady..."
"You might very well be right about that Mr. Larabee.... I'm glad you could make it...and so prompt too! I'm here to talk about Ezra."
Chris Larabee had stormed into the 4C offices fully expecting Maude Standish but was shocked instead when greeted by a well-dressed young woman in a light green suit dress. The woman smiled briefly as she removed the dark sunglasses revealing her light green eyes. She was leaning as Chris' desk as she dropped the butt of her spent cigarette into a partially empty diet soda can on the desk. J.D. was leaning in the doorway, torn between listening in on an intensely private moment and preventing his boss from doing anything he would regret later.
"My name is Tilly DuPrea, I believe you have Ezra Standish in your care..."
"What do you want with him?"
"I understand he's your boy...."
"HE'S my son!"
"I did not stutter sir, I am well aware of that he is you son."
"WHAT exactly do you want?"
"I came warn you..."
"Warn me... you're going to warn ME! Look Lady, this ain't the time for this acting mysterious bullshit someone is trying to kill my son so get to the fucking point!!"
J.D. grabbed onto Chris' arm, which he promptly shook off.
"I understand that all too well what danger your son is in, so I'll be brief. I came to warn you, Maude will come for him, and she will want him back."
Tilly DuPrea did her best to back away from the enraged man eventually she bumped into the wall.
"He's not hers..."
"I understand that. It's a minor inconvenience for Maude that won't stop her. Very little does. You don't know whom you are dealing with! I know from experience... she's my mother."
"Maude Standish is your mother..."
"Yes at one time she was but she denies it now..."
The blatant admission stopped Chris in his tracks. Defusing his anger but not his deep suspicion.
"Look Mr. Larabee I'm glad Ezra is back where he belongs, but Maude won't stop until she has him. I apologize for my intrusion into your life so I'm going to get to the point ...the boy is just a commodity to her a means to an end, her property. Again I have to say I'm sorry I disturbed you but it was important that I talk to you. Maybe this will help you understand a little better...."
The young woman fumbled inside her clutch purse withdrawing a battered photograph and handed it to Chris. He reluctantly took the photo, shocked at a picture of his son apparently taken sometime after his disappearance he was sitting in the lap of a young girl with light brown hair and green eyes who looked no older than Ezra was now.
"That was taken in Toronto, Maude showed up one day while I was in boarding school telling me I needed to help take care of my 'brother' Ezra while she spoke with his father...."
Chris was about to protest but halted when Miss DuPrea put her hand up and continued.
"Before you say a word... I believe my brother died a year earlier... after an incident with Maude's fiancée.... I don't know exactly what happened ... he was gone... she needed a son to receive child support... so she got one."
Tilly quickly scribbled a few lines on the back of a business card.
"You don't trust me so there is no point in continuing the conversation... but trust your boy... show him the picture... he'll know it's me, then maybe we could talk. I'll be staying at the address on the back of my business card. I'll respect your wishes whatever they may be."
Tilly DuPrea sighed heavily, tried to brush the wrinkles from her clothes as she left the office quietly, brushing past J.D. on her way out the door he could she the tears in her eyes before she quickly donned her sunglasses and he watched her disappear outside. Leaving him alone with Chris Larabee mutely staring at the tattered photograph clutched in his hand.
"What am I supposed to do?"
It was late by the time Chris had returned to the ranch and Josiah had gone home. Ezra was still sleeping in the guest room refusing to return to his room. God...why? Hell, he knew the answer. His son had no memories of his life before Maude, why the hell would he want to sleep there. Chris hadn't changed a thing since Sarah had died. Now He was afraid to change anything that might help his son remember who he was. He stood looking out of the window in the darkened room, staring long into the night at the stars wondering how his world had changed when he followed Vin into the Avery Arm's and first laid eyes on the boy who would turn out to be his son. The sound of crying broke in his thoughts. Ezra...
Chris quickly jogged down the dimly lit hall into the guest room. In the throws of a nightmare he could hear Ezra whimpering.
"Daddy... Daddy... why won't you come..."
He sat down on the bed and pulled Ezra to him resting the boy's head against his own chest, the child immediately tensed as his father began what was now becoming an almost nightly ritual as he rubbed the Ezra's back and whisper quiet reassurances. The sky was beginning to lighten as the troubled boy finally drifted off into a peacefully slumber and an exhausted Larabee who gave up trying to move off bed the soon followed his son into a dreamless sleep.
Ezra woke feeling warm and comforted, strange noises oddly soothed him. After a moment he identified them as steady heartbeat and the quiet snores of Mr. Larabee. Some how he ended up resting his head on Chris' chest. How did that happen? He didn't remember the man coming into the room last night. The dream... the one that terrified him beyond reason, he could never recall what scared him, all that was left the residual fear that only ebbed away with the morning light. This morning was the first time in a long time that he didn't wake afraid. At the hospital he had felt the same way, secure. Mr. Larabee had been there for him then. Ezra remained quiet not wanting to disrupt the moment eventually sleep overcame him as he drifted off.
The bright sun along with the shrill ring of the cell phone jarred both Chris and Ezra into the waking world.
The soft rumble of Chris' voice calmed the boy as he woke, slowly recognizing his surroundings. The man was silent as he listened to the party at the other end of the phone conversation. He smiled at Ezra as the boy looked up at him at patted him on the back.
"No... Buck... No... I'm going to take care of that today... Uh huh okay we'll be in as soon as we have some breakfast. No... All right we'll see you in a few. Bye!"
"Your Uncle Buck is a pain in the ass..."
Chris didn't realize what he had just said as he climbed out from under Ezra. The boy watched him for a moment then climbed from the bed himself as he silently speculated. Perhaps... perhaps Mr. Larabee was telling the truth.
Buck Wilmington arrived twenty minutes later, unwilling to let his friend and his 'nephew' to leave the house with additional back up. Besides after hearing what had happened at the offices the day before, he wanted to speak to Chris in person so he brought J.D. to distract the kid while he had a word with his old friend. The two men walking into the kitchen just as Chris and Ezra were starting to eat breakfast.
"Good morning Mr. Wilmington and Mr. Dunne care for some coffee there's plenty?"
"Morning Ez, I'll take you up on that offer in a minute but I need to talk to Chris in private right now."
Buck made a face at Larabee that he meant now.
"Tilly DuPrea? Vin and I barged in on her in a hotel in Phoenix... when we picked up Levon Bittree apparently she popped the guy in the head with a lamp...She's a looker..."
"Lower your voice I haven't told Ezra yet...I'm sure J.D. filled you in..."
A slightly more subdued Buck replied to the question.
"No why? Didn't back 'til late hit the sack then came straight over here...J.D. said I needed to talk to you and that it was very important."
Dunne sat down next to Ezra with his cup watching the boy eat.
"J.D., can I ask you a question?"
Ezra asked after he swallowed a mouthful of scrambled eggs.
The hesitant boy looked down as he nervously fiddled with the half eaten sausage patty on his plate, after an extended silence he quietly spoke.
"You think its true?"
J.D. smiled as the boy glanced up at him.
"Yeah I do... "
"Your try talking to him?"
"About how you feel..."
"I don't know how I am supposed to feel?"
"Then tell him that... "
Ezra stared at plate of now cold food. Suddenly uncomfortable with his candor, J.D. seeing this changed the subject.
"Hey I brought my game boy, want to give a try?"
"What's a game boy?"
"Trust me you'll like it, let's clean up the dishes first and then I'll show you."
Ezra smiled at the young man, grateful for his unspoken understanding.
"All right we'll check her out... but Chris you need to tell that kid the truth... he's been lied to enough already."
Buck sat on the back of the couch and ran a hand over his face at the sobering revelation."
"It's Saturday... I was wondering if ..."
Ezra Standish was thrilled as he stood there petting Mr. Larabee's horse, Job. The black was playfully nibbling at the fingers that had just produced a carrot. A small grin played at his lips as he stood quietly caressing the large creature's soft muzzle with the other hand. Mr. Larabee had returned from speaking to Mr. Wilmington with a plan to spend some time introducing Ezra to the ranch. He normally had a few students from the local high school coming in to help keep with the seven horses he did have, but time went on he had taken over more of the duties himself. The others like Vin came out to relax and ride on a fairly regular basis also helped with the day-to-day chores.
"This is Peso, Vin got him through a mustang rescue program..."
The normally ornery beast shook it's head and snorted in anticipation of the treat quickly snatched the proffered item.
"Gotta what that one he'll take your fingers if you're not careful."
A small smile graced his rugged face. He felt a little more at ease with Buck and J.D. watching over them as they toured the barn and corral, and he continued to introduce Ezra to the menagerie the inhabited the ranch. They had been outside watching the horses exercise in the paddock. Chris had been quietly talking about the place the horses had on the ranch when Ezra suddenly stopped. He stood stock-still. The sun flashed in his eyes. Blood, the smell of blood overwhelmed his senses.
Chris had walked a few more steps when he realized Ezra was no longer at his side but had stopped a few feet behind him. The boy's head was ducked down as he roughly rubbed his palms against his pant legs, oblivious to Chris' voice. Mumbling something his father couldn't hear until he stepped closer kneeling down in front of his boy.
"It won't come off ... I can't get it off..."
He gazed down, his hands and clothes were covered with it. Ezra started to hyperventilate as terror took over every fiber of his being and began to tremble. Unable to break his gaze he frantically rubbed his hands against his clothes. It wouldn't come off. No matter how hard he tried it still clung to his shaking hands.
Nothing Touches: Part four
Please take me home
I am very young
Please take me home
And yes I heard you screaming
As you walked out my door
And yes I've see the bloody faces
Picked up from the floor
I feel nothing and yet I understand it all
Nothing touches... Nothing ever touchesNothing Touches-New Model Army-1988
The pain of memory had only just begun.
Chris knelt in front of his frantic son watching his jerky repetitive movements before gently grasping the child's hand in his own. Ezra stared at his hands unaware of the grip that tenderly held them. He was in another place and time. The piercing screams filled his ears. Blood was everywhere... a woman voice screamed "... run..." He pulled away from the hands and twisted away falling as scrambled towards the trees.
The man didn't have to call out his friends had seen Ezra's reaction and were in pursuit of the boy who had slipped away through the thicket of brush. The panicked child flew through the trees as he desperately tried to escape the long forgotten nightmare. His flight was abruptly stopped when he collided headlong with Dunne. J.D. desperately held on to the frightened boy as he struggled wildly to free himself. Unexpectedly the resistance stopped and Ezra lay there panting. Chris had finally caught up with the pair, slowly coming closer to his son who lay there with dull eyes staring at nothing. Larabee swept his boy up in a fluid motion, carrying him back to the house.
"Buck, please call Dr. Travis..."
Chris called out to his friend as Buck approached him. The dark haired ladies man stopped in his tracks and pulled out his cell phone.
Twenty-five minutes had passed Ezra hadn't moved, he lay limply against his father open eyes stared blankly across the room. The silence that settles over the house was oppressive, the trio of men waiting nervously for the arrival of Mary Travis, afraid to upset the boy by any sudden gestures. A car pulled up in front of the house, its door opened revealing the doctor as she rushed from the vehicle to the front door where she was greeted by J.D. and shown into the living room.
"Hi... what happened?"
"Not sure, he freaked out about a half hour ago and has been like this since."
"Yes, Buck mentioned that..."
Mary slipping a tiny packet out of her jacket pocket knelt in front of the unresponsive boy snapped under his nose. Ezra wrinkled his nose, blinked and pulled away weakly coughing.
He reacted by gripped tightly onto Chris' shirt. Larabee in turn gently patted him on the back. J.D. followed Buck out of the room giving them the needed privacy. Ezra took a few shuttering breaths before he nodded. Mary smiled at him.
The boy startled to tremble in the strong comforting embrace.
"Can you tell what happened?"
After taking another shaky breath Ezra whispered.
"I couldn't... get... the... blood off... my hands. I couldn't..."
"It's okay... is it gone now?"
Ezra lifted his quivering hands up examining each one before he nodded slowly.
"Why did you run?"
"They were going to kill me...just like... like..."
"Just like what?"
"Just like... mommy..."
The words barely above whisper silenced Mary.
"I ran... mommy said to run... I had to get to Grandpa Hank's... I tried... I tried..."
Dark lashes blinked through the tears followed by one stifled sob then another, until Ezra cried unfettered in Chris' arms, the man responded by only hugging his son tighter.
Ezra was asleep in the guest room after Dr. Travis administered a mild tranquilizer to the extremely distraught child.
Chris could barely say the words.
"That was always a big possibility..."
Mary quietly answered the unasked question.
"I know... but..."
Chris nervously ran his fingers through his hair fight off the urge to pace.
"No child should see that...but he did and we have to treat him accordingly."
Was Mary's mild response.
Larabee eyed Dr. Travis, his son's welfare more important than finding his wife's killers.
"It's hard to say...depends on how he is when he wakes. The child should be someplace he feels comfortable..."
The woman leaned back into the couch. The man was obviously upset by the day's events and its implications. His son's state had frightened him.
"Doubt that would be anywhere at the moment... I had a visit from a young woman claiming to be his sister...said that picture was taken sometime after he was kidnapped."
Chris reached into his pocket and withdrew the battered photograph and handed it to Mary.
"Would it be possible to talk to her?"
Mary looked at the photo observing the small child's blank expression.
"She left a contact number. "
"I can understand your hesitation but..."
"She maybe the only other person besides Ezra that knows what has happened to him. I know that but I don't know if I can trust her."
"Why don't we meet her in a neutral location perhaps my office?"
"I call her... what about these memories?"
"You're wondering why now, just when he seemed to be enjoying himself... it's likely he felt safe enough to let go..."
"I'll have to call Mitchell and let him know about Ezra."
Larabee had phoned the police captain right after his encounter with Miss DuPrea. Mitchell had also contacted the F.B.I. because it was in their jurisdiction... kidnapping across state lines. Miss Tilly DuPrea gave him pause, she gone out of her way to talk to him about Maude and gave him room when she realized he wouldn't listen. They had been unable to find any information at all on the young woman. The starting point had been the hotel it was a dead end because she had paid in cash. Without a name the boarding school in Toronto hadn't turned up anything either. The ragged picture left more questions than answers.
"I just don't want them rushing these memories..."
Mary's words reverberated through Larabee's mind.
Bolting upright in bed Ezra sucked in several panicked breaths. Blinking rapidly trying to clear his blurry vision, Mr. Larabee was asleep in the chair next to him. A flash of images, he remembered giggling and running over a gravel drive towards a tall man wrapping his small arms around the man's knees. Tilting his head up when as the man smiled down at him, ...Daddy...Daddy. Then he blinked again. Daddy? Ezra slowly inched off the bed reaching out with a shaky hand to touch the man afraid it was all a dream.
Chris woke at the soft caress and a quiet whisper. His eyes fluttered open and saw tremulous Ezra staring at him.
He reached up slowly and lightly held the hand touching his grizzled cheek.
"Thought I was dreaming again..."
"I'm really here..."
A tired Ezra responded by climbing into his father's lap resting his head on Chris' chest and took several shuttering breathes before relaxing in the warm embrace.
"You didn't lie to me..."
Chris held his son. He was stunned the boy did remember. Ezra was so relaxed that the man thought the boy was asleep the child shifted and quietly spoke.
"I've had dreams but I thought they were... I didn't think they'd be true..."
Larabee held his tongue not wanting to destroy the moment waiting for the boy to continue.
"I remember you ... but it was a dream wasn't it? What Tilly said was true...she kept telling me... my dreams were true. Tilly is the first person I remember clearly even before Maude... her dark hair and green eyes like mine... She'd sing to me... we'd play chess and cards. She told me Maude wasn't my mother and then Tilly was gone."
Larabee shifted under Ezra weight and retrieved the precious photo and steeled himself as he showed the boy. Watching the slender hands run across the tattered image then asked.
He felt the boy nod.
"Would like to see her?"
Another tired nod.
Inside the Penthouse suite at the Denver Hilton, a woman spoke in a slightly agitated manner.
"Imbecile, I don't care... I want him back!"
Not at all pleased with the response she received she countered.
"He's mine, do what you have to."
Having the last word as she slammed the phone down on the receiver.
Chinese Whispers- Me thinks the doeth protest too much:
Larabee was nervous.
She was late. A few minutes in a strange town was understandable but thirty-five minutes had slowly ticked past their 8 o'clock rendezvous.
He had made the call to Ms. DuPrea telling her he wanted to meet with her again before she saw the boy. She agreed to the small demand. Still this didn't completely reassure him, because even with the assistance of the Denver Police Department, the agency had not been able to uncover any information about the young woman. She much like Ezra might as well have fallen from the sky. The Toronto boarding school was a bust. No students that attending the multitude of schools during that time matched the girl in the photograph, another dead end. The meeting between Larabee and Tilly was to be at Dr. Travis' Denver office.
Ezra had slipped away from the dynamic duo, Buck and J.D. almost forty minutes earlier. They probably had missed him by now not that it matter he was almost at Dr. Travis' office he had taken a cab there after swiping money out of Buck's wallet for the journey. He had to see Tilly, he knew Mr. Larabee... his father was trying to protect him and meant well but he needed to see her. Ezra had been careful not to let anyone see him as he left the ranch or when got out the cab in front of the office building, it wasn't wise to stand out.
Larabee cell phone rang it was Buck.
"What you mean... he's gone?"
Chris just happened to look down at the street recognizing the boy almost immediately.
"Buck he's here I'll call you back..."
Cutting the call short, he jogged out of the office towards the street level.
A dark van with tinted windows circled through the streets surrounding Dr. Travis' office. Slowing down as the cab pulled away the side door slid open as a darkly dressed man hopped out grabbing the boy from behind dragging back towards the open van as Chris flew out the front doors of the office building. Larabee sprinted forward as something unexpected happened the assailant was sideswiped from the other direction causing him to lose his grip of the struggling child. The rescuer was short, slight and very nimble narrowly avoiding being struck by the enraged man. Ezra darted towards the doors of the building as his father rushed the would-be kidnapper. Larabee knocked the overgrown brute onto the sidewalk, slugging it out on the way down. A meaty fist connected with Chris' jaw momentary stunning him, as he tried to regain his equilibrium he heard the man yelling it suddenly stopped, his body smacked into idling van next to him before crumbling to the ground, the other occupants hauled the fallen inside before it sped away. The lean blond gazed up to see Miss DuPrea dressed in jeans and a t-shirt grin at him.
"A Tazer and Mace are a girl's best friends..."
She winked before she dashed into the building after the boy.
Ezra had run into the building looking for a place to hide. No one else was in the building's main foyer as he slid through. Tilly had followed him inside seconds later he was nowhere to be seen. Larabee had entered a second later on his cell-phone calling the police.
Nothing, no response from the boy the only sounds were the 911 operator, his own heavy breathing and the slightly labored pants escaping from the young woman as looked around the entry for Ezra. The elevator hadn't opened nor had the stairwell door opened where was he? There was a soda machine by the elevator, when he looked on the side of it, a pair of green eyes blinked back at him.
"I found him..."
He handed the cell off to Miss DuPrea who proceeded explaining to the operator about what had happened while Chris knelt down in front of the beverage dispenser. Ezra was wedged in tight.
"Are you alright?"
The quiet reply accompanied with a slight nod. Damn it, Larabee mentally cursed. How the hell did this happen? He didn't want to upset Ezra so he did his best to remain outwardly calm.
"Think you can come out of there now?"
Instead of replying Ezra wiggled his way out of the cramped spot as he did Chris pulled him into a tight hug that he didn't struggle against quickly returning the embrace allowing the older man to lift him up off the ground.
"Yo... I hate to break up this Kodak moment..."
The young had just snapped the phone shut and walked up to them.
Ezra pulled his head up at the voice and smiled.
"Yeah runt it's me..."
Larabee for the first time realized that Tilly wasn't more than a child herself, dressed the way she was in a pair of battered jeans and an old T-shirt her hair tied back in a loose braid, she looked like should be in high school rather than doing god knows what she was. She returned the smile.
"The cops are on their way I gave them a partial plate number on the van.... I know you don't want to hear this but I think I recognized the guy that tried to snatch Ezra."
"Why wouldn't I.?"
"I believe it was one of Maude's lackey's..."
Ezra nodded quickly in agreement.
"Which means she's here in town... Have any ideas where she may be?"
"Find the fanciest place in Denver and you'll find here... but I suggest you do that quick cause she's quite adept at slipping through the cracks when cornered."
Chris waved for her to hand over the cell and he made a quick call to Buck who was on his way into the city when he called earlier and another to Vin, the pair would converge on the Denver Hilton two calls later Josiah and Nate were headed to the Sheraton.
The partial license plate number led to a rental car agency. The cops were tracking down the credit card that was used in the transaction. The young woman provided them with a major clue to Maude's whereabouts. She had said the woman like to travel in a lavish style the only place in town to fit that bill was the Hilton. After that the woman would slip through their grasp before the cops arrived Wilmington and Tanner were sent ahead to insure her stay.
Vin and Buck rushed into the Hilton's penthouse suite, under the guise of room service.
"I tell you didn't ...unhand me you filthy cretins... Do you have any idea who I am?"
The impeccably dressed woman indignantly berated the men as they subdued her.
"Yes ma'am and that's why we're handing you over to the cops and the Fed's. I'm sure they'll have a field day with you! You have a lot of explaining to do..."
"I have no idea what you heathens are talking about."
Vin called it in, all he and Buck had to do was sit on her until the cops arrived.
After making their statements Chris return to Mary's office with Ezra and Tilly in tow. J.D. was on his way to collect Ezra. But he was being adamant about staying. He balked any attempt to remove him from the room this concerned him. He deserved to know what was going on. Finally Chris relented as Tilly began with an apology.
"I apologize for being late but I had to wait for the delivery of some documents that may interest you."
"Miss Tilly DuPrea, this is Dr. Mary Travis Ezra's psychiatrist."
"Hello, Dr. Travis. I suppose I should get to the point. I'm assuming that you have already discovered my name isn't Tilly DuPrea... that's inconsequential at the moment."
Tilly slid a packet of documents towards Larabee, which when he opened it contained a birth certificate and various school records before she continued.
"What does this have to do with your son? I'm going to be blunt and prefer not to be interrupted."
Both Chris and Mary nodded their agreement. Tilly walked across the room and stared out of the window down onto street below, she couldn't face them as she began to talk.
"I'm almost nineteen... I should be worrying about college not about what some will do when she finds out I'm talking to you."
After a long pause she continued on as she stared out at the city of Denver watching the car move through the streets.
"Fourteen hundred dollars from Maude Standish had paid for my baby brother. Maude needed a son. Apparently she had some rich married fool convinced she bore his child. For which she had received hush money and continued child support...."
The young woman shifted nervously, knowing Ezra was in the room.
"I told you Maude showed up one day telling me I need to come care for my brother I met up with them at a cottage in the suburbs only your son was in his place. The kid was freaky... he'd just sit and stare, wouldn't talk, wouldn't move... Maude left... so I took care of him...."
Ezra's wide green eyes revealed the depth pain he felt as he listened to Tilly, Chris wrapped his hand around the boy's in a small measure of comfort.
"...One day I was doing a card trick and I had an instant audience... He didn't know name... I gave him Ezra..."
The shrill rings of Chris' cellular phone interrupted Tilly. She had stopped mid sentence clearly hoping that the call was news of Maude.
The older man listened intently the caller on the other end.
"Okay...Yeah I understand. I'll see you in awhile."
Chris pocketed the phone, before he offered an explanation. He was torn between staying and taking care of the latest development.
"They just picked up Maude and her lackey's they are down at the police station being charged right now with attempted kidnapping."
Chris turned to Ezra noting the distressed look on his face. He knew the sooner he ended this situation the sooner he could return to a normal life with his son.
"Mary, I hope you don't mind?"
She understood all to well the need for closure since the death of her own husband.
"Go ahead... I understand."
Larabee squatted down next to Ezra who suddenly found his feet very interesting.
"Ezra, I don't want to leave you but I want you to wait here with Dr. Travis for J.D. You have to promise me you won't run off again."
The boy said nothing and he wouldn't even lift his head to look at Chris.
"Promise me! I need to know you won't take off again please, you scared ten years off me by doing that."
Chris gently lifted his son's chin. Deep concern show clearly on his face compelling Ezra to reply.
"I'll be back as soon as I can."
He gave the boy a quick hug and disappeared through the door leaving a despondent child in his wake.
"Don't worry runt he'll be back."
Tilly smiled at her 'little brother' before taking a seat. Beckoning him over by patting the chair next to her, after a moment he joined her and she wrapped her arms around him whispering in his ear.
"I'm so sorry... I didn't want to leave you. I didn't have a choice... God how I've missed you."
She started to quietly crying as she held on to him.
Ezra looked at her and said again, the memory of her abrupt departure came back. An awful argument between Maude had resulted with Tilly being left on the roadside, with little more than the clothes on her back. The sight of her, off on the shoulder as it was beginning to get dark and snow began to fall, waving to him in the back seat as the car sped away.
Friends and Family: Part six
"I wish to have my counsel present."
Maude Standish was calm and collected. She didn't appear at all to be disturbed by the charges levied against her, the federal kidnapping charge would be enough to make most terrified and then there was the additional charges of conspiracy and child endangerment. All she did was request to speak with her lawyer. Milo Myers III attorney at law arrived in the police station two hours after his client was formally charged. Chris was watching when the man entered the interrogation room. He had tried to get in to talk to the woman, but Mitchell wanted the case against her to be air tight, no enraged fathers could intimidate the suspect as much as he would have loved to allow it. Instead he did allow Larabee to watch on a camera monitor in another room.
Mitchell who was too personally involved had asked Detective Branson to take over, the man had all the charm and charisma of a pit bull, just what was needed to take on the likes of Maude Standish.
Tilly stared out at the streets from the back seat of J.D.'s Toyota Corolla, Ezra and the young man were involved in a lively conversation in the front seat.
"I assure you Mr. Dunne I meant no harm when I slipped away this morning..."
"Geez Ez you make it sound like you snuck down the block for ice cream instead of taking a cab into a busy city when you know that there are people out to get you."
"I wish you would call me J.D. like I asked you too..."
"Alright J.D. I could hardly miss the opportunity to speak to Matilda..."
"Matilda? Oh you mean Tilly..."
"Hey don't mock my chosen name ... and Runt... Mr. Dunne is right about your taking off definitely not a particularly wise move at this time."
"I am not a runt..."
Ezra got a little indignant at the open use of his childhood nickname.
"You are from were I sit..."
Tilly chuckled from the back seat where she still tightly held the packet of papers she had wanted to show to Mr. Larabee. In good time she supposed but right now she knew it was far more important to nail the person and or persons behind this. She had an idea.
"Excuse me, Mr. Dunne but could you drop me off at the corner, my Hotel it's only a few blocks from here?"
"Thanks could you make sure Mr. Larabee reads these... Don't worry Ezra I'll be back can't get rid of me that easy"
The young woman passed the files over the seatback to J.D. and smiled at him in the rearview mirror as he pulled the car to a stop at the next traffic light, watching Tilly as she got out waving before she walked away.
The interrogation was a heated one, though the recipient's demeanor couldn't gauge that, she remained calm through out the detective's tirade of heated accusations. Her high price lawyer was sitting by her side and Maude merely denied any involvement in the attempted kidnapping, only admitting to one fact that she was Ezra's adoptive mother.
Branson tried a different tactic.
"How about we charge you with child neglect and abandonment. Mind telling me just where the hell you have been the last four months while your adopted son has had several attempts on his life and hospitalized twice. I don't even know where to begin to ask how you ended up with a child that was stolen from his own home after the vicious murder of his mother."
Myers eyes widened, he leaned in and whispered into his client's ear. A disbelieving look flittered across her face as the man grabbed his briefcase as he rose up from his seat.
"Excuse me Detective Branson, but I just informed Mrs. Standish that I cannot in good conscience defend her, so if you will excuse me..."
Milo Myers III looked a little pale as he left the room.
"I see you forgot to tell your lawyer a few things... "
"I still have the right to retain a lawyer before I answer any of your questions..."
"I'll see that you get a phone."
While Maude made almost a dozen phones calls trying to retain a lawyer. Officer Denby was taking down notes as Chris made a formal statement about what had happened earlier in front of Dr. Travis' office. Captain Mitchell was waiting to speak with him as soon as Denby finished calling his former employee into his office.
"Hey Larabee, Meadows spilled his guts claiming it was Maude's idea to grab the boy."
"What about the rest?"
"The man claims to know nothing about the attacks at the hotel, school or your house... says they've only been in town for two days. Maude's lawyer just walked... now she has to retain new legal counsel."
"Seems at least her lawyer has a soul."
"She hasn't said a word about the charges, though she did seem a little nervous when Branson said he could charge her with child abandonment... right now that is the only charge that will stick... she claims she was only trying to retrieve her son from a 'dangerous' situation."
"She denies everything else."
Within an hour, an impeccably dressed young woman accompanied by an older man in an expensive suit entered the Denver Police station stepping up to the front desk to make a inquiry.
"Excuse me I understand Maude Standish is being held here... I would like to speak with her."
"And you would be?"
"Euphemia Standish... her daughter. I've brought her new lawyer Mr. Tartaro with me."
Detective Branson was not particularly happy as he gazed through the two-way mirror at his suspect. The daughter had appeared from now where demanding to speak with her mother and now the where engaging in a heated discussion in what he assumed was French.
"L'offre se tient de même que votre liberté et mon trésor de l'été passé de Vegas en échange de la vérité quant derrière à où Ezra est venu et d'un accord qui vous resterez loin de lui."
Miss Standish smirked as she sat across from her 'mother'.
"Mes chers comment ai osé je laissent mon fils aimé?"
Maude shot back in an even tone all the while smiling.
"J'entends que la prison est endroit dangereux isolé pour ceux qui nuisent à des enfants. Les stands d'offre."
The daughter leaned close as she quietly said the words.
The older woman for the first time showed his discomfort by shifting in her seat.
"Il y a une plus de disposition Larabee doit être ici."
Smiling as she said the words the younger woman added.
The woman hesitated for a moment before responding.
"Soyez un amour, et dites Branson révélateur que je souhaite parler avec lui."
The young woman got up and tapped on the mirrored glass in front of Branson motioning for him to come in.
Branson had made the requested call. Larabee was on his way down, the young woman passed the detective on her way out. Almost collided with Chris in the hallway.
"Mr. Larabee... I hope you get your answers..."
The man was shocked to see a very well dressed Tilly DuPrea exiting the interrogation room.
"I'll explain later... but I thought I should try and persuade old Maude myself."
She didn't allow him a chance to respond before she quickly walked away.
J.D. headed to the 4C offices with Ezra in tow. He was going to meet Buck there before heading out to the ranch. Josiah was in Chris' office when they arrived.
"Hey where's Buck?"
"Ah he should back in a couple minutes he went to pick up lunch."
"Josiah, I got these files from Tilly I'm going to leave them here for Chris."
J.D. placed the file on the desk before ushering Ezra out of the office.
Nate was scanning through some surveillance photo's and Vin was typing notes on the computer hunt and peck method.
"Gentlemen whose idea was it for Mr. Wilmington to procure the noon meal?"
"Because his culinary tastes want."
"Want for what?"
"Ezra that ain't right... Buck's mind is jist wrapped up in those lady friends of his."
Vin didn't even turn around as he piped in a drawled out answer.
"Some one just mention my name?"
"What's for lunch?"
"I stopped in the deli, so its sandwiches, chips and soda."
"Mr. Wilmington my palate is going to die of boredom..."
"Not everybody likes raw fish..."
"Buck, I think the kid is trying to tell ya the raw fish is called Sushi... gimme my roast beef and did ya git pickles?"
"Why didn't he say so and Vin yer pickle is wrapped up in the bag with your sandwich."
"Hey Buck where's my turkey veggie salad?"
"Nate, it should be still be in the box with Josiah's soup. J.D. want to bring that to him?"
"Sure give it here..."
J.D. gently rapped on the door, Josiah had the packet of Tilly's files spread out over the desk.
The young man had called out the older man's a few times before he got a response.
"Lunch...is everything okay?"
"These are the files that Chris was supposed to look at?"
"Uh huh, those are the ones Tilly brought. You find something?"
"Apparently Maude privately adopted Ezra..."
"There only initials of the parties involved... M.S. has to be Maude Standish but there's I.C. I wonder who this I.C. is?"
Josiah glanced up at J.D. while he listened to Ezra arguing with Buck in the other room over the man's lack of culinary taste. The large man sighed this was bigger than they had thought.
Officer Denby was in the room taking notes while Larabee and Branson got settled. Maude didn't look nervous as she sat waiting for the camera to be turned on for her 'confession'.
"I suppose I should begin. I adopted Ezra through a private adoption after my son died. Everything had been arranged through the wife of distant cousin Isabella Caidin, she had a child she no longer could care for and I wanted one. I had privately gotten my daughter Euphemia through her as well. The poor woman was distraught of the death of her husband, unable to financially care for the boy and she wanted to keep them together. The last I heard she had married another gentleman that owns a ranch outside of Denver called the Red Fork. I can go into further details if you like but I didn't kidnap your boy or murder anyone my daughter pointed out these horrendous facts to me. She told me that it might be my best interest to tell you want to know."
It hadn't been the bombshell they were hoping for but it definitely had them headed in the right direction. The case long cold was beginning to heat up.
In a nearby luncheonette, Miss DuPrea was slowly drink a cup of bitter coffee, a small cup of soup remained virtually untouched. The stunt she had pulled earlier in the day had gone well. All she hoped now was that Mr. Larabee didn't hate her. She really had missed Ezra and wanted to see him again. Her phone bean to ring, it was Larabee.
"You knew all along..."
"Mr. Larabee I would prefer if we had this conversation in person. Can I meet you somewhere?"
"Where are you now?"
"I am at Sue's, it's two blocks from the station..."
"I'll meet you there."
Chris entered the diner and found Tilly sitting in the back nursing a cup of cold coffee. A quick glance told him of her uncertainty. But it quickly faded.
She gestured for him to take a seat.
"I apologize for not telling you... I didn't know if my scheme was going to work or not."
"It did...who is Euphemia Standish?"
"I am. I like Tilly better no baggage... I take it she told you what you wanted to know."
"Yeah... do you know who Isabella Caidin is?"
"No clue... I just know Maude wasn't behind the attacks on Ezra, she may steal the clothes off your back, abandon her children but she's no killer. Mr. Larabee I hope I haven't screw up my chances for seeing Ezra? I know he isn't legally my brother but he still is one to me."
Chris just sighed.
" I know and you are important to him, Ezra still hasn't remembered everything but you are one person he does. Why don't you come out to my ranch and visit your 'little brother' for a while. Maybe you can help him fill in those gaps?"
"You have yourself a deal."
Although the immediate danger wasn't over Chris wanted to share his son's return with his family. Since his parents had passed on years before he contacted the only other person that mattered Sarah's father Hank Connelly with the news. The older man had rented out his ranch and moved to Tulsa Oklahoma shortly after the murder unable to face the constant reminder of his daughter's death. When Larabee broke the news to him, Hank told him he would be on the next flight out to Denver to see his grandson.
"Damn good to see you Hank... it's been too long."
Larabee hardly shook his former father in-law's hand and was pulled into a brief hug by the man then released.
"God... I can't believe it's true... Adam's alive."
"Yeah but he goes by Ezra, come on in I know you want to see him..."
Hank followed Chris into the living room where Ezra and Tilly were engaged in a game of speed chess. Connelly froze when he first saw the pair.
"She looks just like him."
"The girl she looks a lot like Adam..."
Chris was about to disagree when he saw the fleeting resemblance as well. Why hadn't he noticed that before?
Stupid Questions: Part seven
What thoughts about Tilly's background Chris had he kept to himself. He had privately asked Hank to do the same. There were only two people that knew about Miss DuPrea or Euphemia Standish was the young woman and Maude Standish. The elder woman didn't want to further incriminate herself. She kept her mouth shut. Larabee hoped that Tilly would go into further detail but in the week since Maude's arrest she said very little about her own past instead regaling everyone with bits of Ezra's childhood adventures. His co-workers didn't keep their word quietly they investigated the young woman that had fixed herself in the middle of the Larabee household.
Hank had stayed on delighted with his grandson. Tilly had moved out of her hotel and temporarily into the guest room. Since their arrival the ranch was hectic place to be, Chris had decided to redecorate Adam's now Ezra's room with the able bodied assistance of Hank and Ezra, simply stating it was the boy's and he should have it the way he wanted. The production ensued. Chris encouraged and assisted his son in his choices. The old children's furniture, toys and books were quietly relegated to the attic to make room for a comfortable twin bed covered by one of Sarah hand made quilts, a small selection of modest furniture replaced the old. Larabee wanted, in spite of the round the clock police protection for Ezra, life to be as normal as possible.
Josiah kept digging into the adoption records and with Dunne's assistance he found out they weren't exactly legal. No surprise there. Between the pair they managed to locate the lawyer involved. Vin and Buck had gone to speak with Caroline Madigan the woman had moved her practice to Boulder. But they weren't any closer to finding out just who the hell Isabella Caidin was? The Red Fork Ranch was under new ownership and the trail seemed to end there with her abrupt departure following the adoption of Ezra. Rumors ranged from she was a gold digger after Martin Caidin's money or an unfortunate socialite that had fallen out of the graces of her family due to scandal, it was all they found. They were going to try another angle since the woman had received the bulk of Martin Caidin's estate they would have to follow the paper trail it just a matter of sifting through the right mountain of paperwork and red tape involved.
"So what's this about Vegas?"
"Branson said you mentioned it to Maude but you were speaking what he thought was French."
The smile turned into a smirk
"I see... You might say I made Maude a tempting offer."
"I'm not going to a better answer am I?"
The woman shook her head as she laughed and walked back into the kitchen to find Ezra kneeling on a stool with his nose in a cookbook.
"So what's on the menu Runt?"
Chris chuckled at the face Ezra made, he was acting like an eleven year-old finally, not all the time but a glimmer of it shone through from time to time.
The first bit of information came from some thing that Chris had said. It had sent the agency's apprentice J.D. looking through the archives in the major Las Vegas papers. It was long before he found out what it was. A few articles about Tilly DuPrea were a year old newspaper article and they pertained to a young woman going by the name of Frieda Fitzroy who had been arrested for gambling underage in Las Vegas, the charge wasn't unique it was the amount of money on the roulette table she was at after a three day gambling spree through all the major casinos in the desert city. Almost eight hundred thousand was parleyed from almost nothing on that day alone. The management refused to disclose her earlier winnings but it was rumored in the millions. The charges against the young lady were dropped when she agreed not to step into a casino in Nevada ever again. The picture next to one of the articles showed a smiling Tilly DuPrea waving at photographers.
+ + + + + + +
Isabella Caidin waited patiently for her men in the unoccupied warehouse it certainly wasn't her presidential suite at the Sheraton but it would serve its purpose. So many obstacles had been over come to reach her goal. She was so close... so close to having it all. Tomorrow she would have what was rightful hers.
Chris Larabee was sitting with a cup a warm coffee the kitchen table having risen with the sun. Hank sat next to him feeling the discomfort that went along with spending the night on the couch. He had finally given in after a long day of moving furniture and painting.
The elder man finally spoke up.
Chris turned and looked at Hank.
Chris I know you asked me not to say anything but... the young woman?"
"She looks just like my Sarah..."
"I know... I don't have an explanation Hank."
"You don't think..."
The question went unasked as a darkly dressed masked man stepped into the kitchen, and shot the older man while in mid sentence. Larabee reacted with a violent out burst that sent the table flying at his foe, and twisted away into the living room only to collide with one of the other intruders, he fought like a mad man to escape.
The noise had awakened Ezra, who immediately knew something was wrong he quietly made his way to the phone but the line was dead inside Chris' bedroom. Outside he had to get out of the house without being noticed there wasn't a chance to warn Tilly the guest room he had to take the chance and run. Again slipping away from the house through a window he was careful not to dash out into the open and stay out of sight of the windows until he reached the grove of trees near the barn.
The men entering the house just before dawn had taken care of the outside interference long before the attack began the phone line had been cut the guards taken down. Their man Larabee was in the kitchen having coffee with he former father in law as they came in, a single shot had taken down the old man. The younger man put up a fight it had taken four men to subdue him long enough for him to be tranquilized. Two men were sent to find the boy discovered he was gone along with the young woman.
He thought he lungs were going to burst as he ran. He was in the wood behind the barn the memories of another violent day propelled him blindly through the trees. Panicking as he heard running footsteps behind. Ezra was tiring as his lung felt like they were on fire. He still hadn't completely recovered from his near drowning. His mind was wrapped in terror as he tripped and tumbled the rest of the way down the steep inline when the downward momentum stopped his was laying face down in the dirt as the running footsteps got closer. Ezra looked up and realized it was Tilly.
She hissed at him as she knelt by his side.
"Tilly they're going to kill him..."
"You have to understand...I don't want to do this..."
A terrifying reality struck Ezra as his beloved 'sister' pinned him to the ground where a sickly sweet smelling damp cloth was clamped tightly over his mouth and nose until his vision swam and he blacked out.
They were gone.
The red and blue lights from the half a dozen police cars flickered of the windows of the house. Chris, Ezra and Tilly had disappeared from the ranch. After a desperate call from one into dispatch, other units with sent to the scene upon the arrival of the first squad car responding the officers assigned to protect the Larabee family were found mortally wounded in their patrol car having been shot several times, they had left to die. Officer Benton who had been assigned to protect the boy from the beginning had with his dying breath called in the attack on the Larabee's home.
Hank Connelly was removed from where he laid unconscious in a thickening pool of his own blood on the kitchen floor seriously injured, unable to tell them what had happened. Toppled furniture and blood splattered strewn in stark testament of the major battle that that had been waged through the home.
Buck's truck pulled into the driveway his fear evident on his face he asked a nearby uniformed officer what was going on. The Officer told him he thought the occupants of the house were dead. What happened next took them all by surprise. The normally gregarious ladies man flipped out. Wilmington swung at the man the blow breaking his nose sent him flying and Buck began belligerently screaming, roaring to high heaven swinging and kicking violently lashing out at all that came near him. Five plain-clothes detectives had to restrain him while he was handcuffed. The paramedics quickly sedated the hysterically bereaved man.
Just as the first black and white arrived at the ranch, Tilly DuPrea was driving away along the highway in her rental car when her cell phone rang. She pulled off the road and picked up.
"Yeah... No I took care of him I told you I would. I'm on my way there now..."
X marks the day:
...Well you can kill with the best of them
But your smile remains so sweet...
If you really want I can name the names
Be an angel of death at the children's games
Don't ask any more stupid questions
You already know the answers toStupid Questions- New Model Army-1989
...Funny how your racing mind
Drives you so mad
When all the while you feel so numb
Too old to be clean far too young
To be broken...The Ballad of Bodmin Pill- New Model Army-1989
Not at all what she had planned for the day, her hand gently caressed his face being careful to avoid the cuts and bruises. The widow of Mr. Caidin kissed the unconscious man passionately on his swollen lips. It was a shame to have to go this far...but he refused to understand that they were meant to be together. Chris Larabee had failed to see the depth of her love for him. She had done what she had deemed necessary to bring about their reunion. That damn child Adam was never supposed to find his way home, hell if Fowler had listened to her original plan. Damn them. Damn the medical profession, she cursed the day she had been locked away... her cousin by law Maude had gotten a hold of her boy. The years she had spent trying to find that damn woman... but she would pay for stealing her child getting in way of the plan. Oh they would pay she would make sure of that.
Handling the phone and steering proved to be a challenge but Tilly didn't want to chance pulling off again. Ezra lay unconscious under a blanket on the floor in rear passenger area, and she had driven passed at least one cruiser. Now wasn't a time for explanations.
"Nah I should be there in two... we'll swap cars."
She threw the phone into the shotgun seat scanning the roadside for the turn off. If she had blinked she would have missed the road. Slowing the vehicle as she pulled in she saw her man and got out of the car.
"Hey Bernie, remember we're doing this by the numbers..."
She said as she exchanged the keys with the older slightly graying man.
"I know... take care of him... I said I would do just like you asked."
They parted company. The man drove away in the rental car and Tilly in the beat up rusted out Volkswagen van reminiscent of the flower power days in the late '60's.
Bernie Jacobs drove into the lot knowing he would have some explaining to do. He was going to do this by the numbers he owed Tilly that much. The girl had come to him with this crazy plan and begged for the chloroform. The child was going to have a nasty headache when he woke up he thought to him self as he gathered the boy into his arms.
Hank Connelly had been brought into Denver Memorial Hospital for emergency surgery, the damage cause by the gunshot wound wasn't extensive but the blood loss was severe. A chemically subdued Buck Wilmington was still in the entry of emergency room on his cell phone quietly calling his friends informing them about what had happened at the ranch when he noticed an older man with a child in his arms disappearing through the entry.
"What the fuck?"
Buck jammed the phone back into its holster and ran after the man.
"Put the kid down!"
The older gentleman turned around to revealing the fact he indeed carried a very limp Ezra Standish.
"Mister, I'm only doing what I was asked to.... take care of him. Can we let a doctor look the kid over while we have it out?"
Wilmington reluctantly agreed as a few members of the hospital staff approached the pair of men.
The pain radiated from his skull down, there wasn't a place on his body that didn't ache or hurt in some manner. One thing he quickly realized was bound hand and foot. Damn this was getting old. The trick was to remain calm, since he had no clue as to why he was lying face down in a filthy whatever the hell it was. Larabee was having trouble recalling a lot of things, like why he couldn't see straight or better yet where the hell here was. Chris painfully blinked his eyes trying to clear his vision. A slight figure stood in the shadows gazing out a dirty window. A warehouse. He was in a warehouse...why?
"Oh my darling you are awake."
Almost twenty years had passed since she first laid eyes on him back when she was known as Ella Gaines, Chris was a strong young man with blonde hair, hazel eyes and a healthy tan on his muscular frame, she had fallen for him on sight their romance was cut short by that bitch Sarah Connelly. That cow stole him from her, after a whirlwind romance she claimed to be pregnant with his baby and they quickly married. Ella had made sure that she didn't get to keep that child certain it was the only thing holding the sham of a union together. But Sarah had her claws deep into Chris Larabee because he remained at her side.
Mrs. Caidin sighed deeply, shortly after that is when she had her first long term stay in an institution just because she lost her temper and assaulted a clerk in a department store for telling her about the three day waiting period for a hand gun permit. They never understood. Why didn't these people didn't understand the depth of true love.
In the emergency room Ezra had returned to the waking world just not entirely coherent, he kept climbing off the gurney. Wandering away while the 4C agency's men converged on the hospital. Bernie Jacobs had turned out to be very informative old friend of Tilly's.
"Whoa there little brother... where do you think you're going?"
It was the third time in a half hour that he had tried to get down. Josiah had taken up a position at his side gently restraining the dazed boy with one hand. The ER staff had given up after failing to remove the men from the eleven year-old's cubicle. Jacobs quickly and quietly explained to the four other men about how he ended up with the boy. Buck had gone to call Captain Mitchell.
+ + + + + + +
Darling? The woman stepped through a sunbeam her face lit up for an instant before it was cast back into the shadows again. It took a moment but Chris realized who the woman was. They weren't alone, a man stood off in a corner of the warehouse that was almost out of Chris' line of sight.
"You've come back to me..."
Larabee looked everywhere but the approaching woman. Another figure was in position in the overhead rafters as well as by the loading bay doors. He was sure there were others just not their positions. This wasn't looking good. What the hell had happened? Last thing he remember was... Hank. The woman was next to him before his realized it engaging him in a passionate kiss. He tried to jerk away from her. Lacking the strength to do so as she roughly gripped his hair.
+ + + + + + +
Ella was distracted from her prize by the sudden entry of two people. The larger person was forcibly dragging along the much smaller and shorter one. The woman went from seductively cooing to rabidly raving inside a split second.
"WHERE IS HE?"
The apparently bound person balked trying to halt the forward momentum faltered and stumbled falling face first onto the filthy cement floor only to dragged unwilling closer to the crazed woman. She kept repeating the words.
"WHERE IS HE? WHERE IS HE?"
Came a smooth drawl Chris immediately recognized in his addled state. Tilly.
"Caught her outside"
The mammoth man's voice boomed as he held on tightly to his handcuffed captive.
"Bring her to me!"
As the pair got closer Ella hissed out.
"I'm not going to ask again where is he?"
"Did I ruin your fun?"
"WHAT THE FUCK IS GOING ON?"
Chris screamed regretting it before the sound had died. A searing bolt of pain traveled through his head.
"Yes why don't you tell him just what is going on?"
Ella had switched to a sweet tone that more terrifying than the ranting.
"Mr. Larabee I have no idea what this psychotic bitch is talking about."
"Is that any way to speak to your mother?"
"Lady, you are not my mother... I don't care what you say!"
"Where is he?"
Tilly just smiled. Ella nodded to her man and he slapped the young woman hard enough for her to land painfully on her backside. Ringing came from her side. She shrugged trying to wipe the blood dripping from her nose off onto her shoulder and smiled when the phone rang again.
"If you think I was ever going to tell you.... You're nuts! You may want to answer that I think it for you."
The thug plucked the phone up and handed it to Ella.
"Hello... She came alone... I'll see you in a few minutes."
A realization hit Larabee.
"Who did you tell that you were coming here?"
The dark sedan parked away from the street, Branson got out of the car. Knowing that he would walk away from what had been his life for the past thirteen years as a changed man anticipating a vastly different future.
Dunne had been elected to remain behind with a very crotchety Ezra, although not pleased about being left behind he took his job of guarding the boy seriously. The effects of the drug were finally wearing off leaving the youngster with a splitting headache and tad nauseous but he was aware of his surroundings. Ezra had lay quiet in a hospital room. For his safety he had been admitted, an armed guarded personally picked by Captain Mitchell sat outside the door with orders to allow no one in other than two cleared nurses and the boy's physician Dr. Dunkling. J.D. was reading a ratty magazine tilting his head up when the boy lightly coughed.
"Is Chris okay?"
Ezra had taken to calling his father by his Christian name...he just wasn't comfortable enough to call him Dad. Now he was afraid he might never have the chance. Through slightly blurry eyes he watched as the young man let out of sigh. J.D. didn't want to lie to Ezra nor did he want to answer the question.
"I don't know..."
"How's Grandpa Hank?"
The older man had insisted Ezra call him grandpa, not quite comfortable with that settled on a compromise. The boy was scared, finally he had his family and it was cruelly taken away.
"He got out of surgery not too long ago, they said he was doing better than expected."
"Can I see him?"
"Mr. Dunne can I ask you something?"
J.D. dark bangs shifted as he nodded his head.
"Why did Tilly do what she did?"
"I think she was trying to help... I don't know... she did have her friend bring you to the hospital. Buck and the others will call as soon as they hear something."
"You'll tell me no matter what happens?"
Ezra closed his eyes again unable to fight the lethargy that was pulling him in a restless slumber. Dunne stared at the boy for a moment praying he wouldn't have to tell Ezra something awful before all of this was over
Green and Gray:
The money wasn't what enticed him. Though tax free millions was enough to give most ethical men pause. Branson's morals had been severely tarnished, ever since accepting that first payoff a lifetime ago for sending a simple radio message. The truth was the man despised the department's golden boy, some how the man seemed to get wind of his questionable investigative tactics. But it hadn't gone down as planned, Larabee who scheduled off that day was called into work. In the end it hadn't mattered the result was the same, the golden boy destroyed emotionally had left the police force. Branson had been paid a small portion for the unexpected results by the woman. Years had passed before she had contacted him again. He received a phone call from her after the fiasco with Fowler she had wanted the boy dead in the end the man had failed her.
The lure of money more than the threats compelled him to aid in taking down the former police detective, he didn't care what the bitch wanted the man for as long as he got the cash. That morning he had arranged for Chris Larabee and his son to be taken by force from their home. A successfully arranged assault and now all he had to do was pick up the other half of his money. Even the loose end had been tied up the young woman had confided in him that she knew who was behind the attacks on young Standish and Larabee. Unfortunate for her, a lucky stroke for him she could easily be deposed of. That was other reason why he was meeting the bitch in the remote warehouse.
Every muscle ached for release. The tight bonds on his hands and feet were beginning to cut off his circulation. He shifted again to look again at the young woman who sat next to him nervously tugging at the handcuffs locked behind her. After scanning the large warehouse seeing that Ella and the others where out of earshot she glanced in his direction and whispered to him.
Larabee looked visibly relieved, he knew she wasn't lying as he watched her as she continued to whisper in his direction.
"Branson wasn't the only person I talked to today."
Tilly rued the destruction of her phone but it was a blessing as well. Hopefully when she couldn't be reached they would understand.
"I left a voicemail..."
Wilmington's head was finally clearing as he searched through the thick files for a clue. After talking with Bernie Jacobs he realized there was more to Tilly DuPrea's involvement than they had originally believed. The only person that would know why was Maude Standish, she had posted bond only hours earlier.
"Hey Vin let's go..."
Tanner looked up from the mountain of paperwork in front of him and nodded, knowing that his friend was on to something.
"Where we going?"
"To see a lady about a baby..."
Thanks to some good maneuvering by her lawyer, Maude Standish was once again within the comforts of the Denver Hilton's presidential suite, she was contemplating an escape when there was a knock at her door after peering through the peephole she let the ruffians in her suite.
"What can I do for you gentlemen?"
"Tell us about Tilly..."
"You mean Euphemia?"
"What ever... You said she got her from your cousin..."
"I told the police and Mr. Larabee that already...."
"When was this?"
"Eighteen years ago... Ella said..."
"Isabella Caidin... she used to go by Ella... "
"Oh my god..."
Wilmington pulled out his cell, noticing he had a voice mail listened to it, cursing as the message played to the end.
"Shit... shit... shit..."
He immediately dialed 911 speaking rapidly to the operator.
"I have an emergency..."
Finally Ezra was asleep J.D. sat close to the bed absentmindedly thumbing through the same tattered magazine not paying attention at all to what was within the pages. He had just gotten word that Hank Connelly had regained consciousness and under the doctor supervision was giving a statement to the police. There had been no other word about Chris and Tilly seemed to have disappeared as well. He had spent sometime trying to reassure Ezra. He would lie to the boy but he tried not to reveal his own fear that they may never see the elder Larabee again.
Ella was started arguing with Branson the moment he walked.
"Where's the boy?"
"I don't know..."
"That was part of the agreement..."
"Not any more... I want my cut..."
"Find the boy..."
"No way Lady that's your problem now... give me my money so I can get the fuck outta Dodge!"
Ella shook her head and walked away nodding to one of her muscle men Chris had since dubbed Romulus. A single bullet had plowed through his brain effectively and permanently stopping Branson's protests.
A lone patrol car drove in to the lot next to the warehouse to investigate a potential kidnapping. There were several cars occupying the supposedly idle building, one of the officers Tate was in the process of taking down plate numbers when they heard a single gun shot. His partner Cohen called in that shots had been fired with in the warehouse and requested additional back up before they entered the building. Cohen and Tate entered the building with guns drawn and were brutally cut down in a barrage of fire before they even had a chance to announce themselves let alone put up a defense.
The sudden onslaught had Larabee struggling against his bindings. While Ella and crew were distracted Tilly managed to slip off one of the cuffs, pulling a small knife from her boot and freed the battered man. With her assistance he manage to scramble away. There was nowhere to hide and their efforts didn't go unnoticed, Romulus and Remus two hulking individuals began to chase them down. Larabee was leaning heavily on the girl when the smaller of the two whom Tilly thought as Remus quickly stepped after them where his unwavering aim held true and hitting Chris just above his left hip, the leg gave out from under him causing him to land heavily on top of the girl.
"I suggest you stay where you are..."
"Great another menacing idiot... wonderful..."
Larabee hissed through the pain at Romulus who had now stood by Remus' side.
"Christopher are trying to ruin this... I've gone through an awful lot of trouble for this reunion with you my love..."
Remus dragged him to his feet while his larger half held a gun to Tilly's head. Given little choice he had to cooperate, he was numb at the moment but knew that wouldn't last long. He was hauled back to the filthy mat where his hands and feet were duct taped. Miss DuPrea endured a similar restraint.
"Foolish... foolish girl... Chris, do you know who this wretched creature is? This should have been our child... The slut trapped you with that..."
Ella made an elaborate gesture towards Tilly.
"I tried to free you... if there wasn't a child... then there would be no reason for you to stay... Why did you stay...WHY?" Ella howled and started to rant as she kicked Larabee in the side. His vision began to dim and blackness crept in from the edges as the sudden explosion of pain threatened his hold on consciousness leaving him gasping for breath.
"Oh no you don't..."
Ella knelt by him, grasped his face tightly in her hand and shook his head. Chris sucked in a quick breath as he tried valiantly to maintain a grip on reality. Ella practically spit in his face as she continued ranting.
"I'm not finished... that bitch if she was a real mother she would have known... and this vile child denied me just like the boy... she was supposed to help me her professed mother...not help the boy..."
The shock on Chris' face was apparent to the irate woman.
"She didn't tell you..."
She violently pushed him away as she got up. Chris jaw was clenched as the torrents of pain washed over him. Ella lightly brushed away the wrinkles in her clothing as she stepped away as she quietly laughed. Tilly had watched the scene wide-eyed and mute.
Romulus made his move but as the sound of falling glass was heard. The man abrupt jerked and spun slightly before he crumbled unhampered to the floor. Doors slammed open and windows exploded in shattered glass flying everywhere as the heavily armored S.W.A.T. team stormed the building. Remus was cut down seconds later as he drew and fired upon the invaders. What tendrils that held Ella Gaines, the widow of Mr. Caidin, sanity together snapped. She lunged for the fallen Romulus' weapon and was shot dead for her effort.
Buck and Vin followed in a tight line behind Captain Mitchell they had met him in the lot by the police barricade he escorted them into the warehouse where Chris had been held. As they got closer they could see the paramedics desperately working on someone for a fleeting second they thought it was Chris. The person was larger and darker than their friend, Wilmington scanned the area and saw amid a flurry of activity was Larabee. Tanner had already started walking in that direction Buck wasn't far behind.
Vin crouched by Chris' side just out of the way of the paramedics. The wounded man mustered a weak glare at the scruffy bounty hunter. Tanner lightly squeezed his shoulder and let Buck take his place.
"Shit pard, ya keep doing this an' ya gonna make me gray before my time... Ez is okay and Hank is hanging in there so don't you worry about that...."
The big man glanced over his shoulder at the young woman, she was being questioned by a detective.
"Something I gotta tell ya... shoot I'll just say it... that girl is yours Chris..."
"Ella said as much..."
"That bitch... that's Sarah's girl..."
"God Buck... she gloated over it... tell Tilly its true... "
Wilmington stood up, walked towards the girl and waited patiently to speak with her. Tanner resumed his position by Chris' head maintaining a light hold on his shoulder while the E.M.T. established an I.V. they had already had gotten the bleeding under control, but the blood loss left the stoic P.I. weak and dizzy as he watched a conversation that went on across the room. Tanner didn't say a word instead he lightly squeezed the man's shoulder then moved out of the way as they lifted him onto the gurney.
Chris was still conscious and in a lot of pain when they loaded him into the back of the ambulance. Tilly climbed in behind the stretcher she hadn't said anything in a while. Wilmington stood at the back watching her as the doors shut, knowing what he had said was true. Larabee weakly reached for her hand and she returned the grip trying her best to stay out of the way.
The long time friend of Chris Larabee thought it was news he should deliver in person, as he quietly entered Ezra's room. Dune looked up unsuccessfully pushing his black bangs from his eyes.
"Hey Kid...how's little Ez?"
"Been sleeping for awhile..."
"Well wake him up I got some good news..."
The statement caused a wide grin the break across the young apprentice's face. Buck walked to the bedside and gently touched Ezra's face.
"Ez? Wake up..."
The boy's eye's snapped open, a little bewildered as he stared at the mustached man. It was a moment before he nervously asked.
"Is Chris okay?"
"Yeah he is, He got hurt I ain't gonna lie about that... He's in surgery now but they say is doing okay though...."
"She's okay she's getting checked over by the docs now..."
Wilmington's words were abruptly cut off when the distraught boy threw his arms around him holding him in a tight embrace. Buck quickly returned the hug quietly murmuring reassuring words into the boy's ear.
Vin Tanner had stayed with Tilly, who was understandably shocked and frightened by the day's events, as she silent sat through the doctor cursory examination. Save a few bumps and bruises she was unharmed but far from being okay. Chris had asked him to watch over her. Vin had taken a moment earlier to call Nate and Josiah to let them know that Larabee was in the hospital. The rapid turn of events had left them out of the loop when Chris was found, the pair was grateful that their friend was alive and told Vin that they would be there soon.
Mitchell had kept the reporters as well as his detectives away from the hospital room and the cramped waiting area where Chris' friends sat, paced and generally drove the doctors crazy. Tilly had settled down next to her brother instead as he lightly dozed with a tenuous grip on her hand. She had gone to the I.C.U. to see Hank. She gazed at him for a moment while he slept before she left to see Ezra. The young woman hadn't known what to expect, she felt she had betrayed him by drugging him the way she had. Apparently he had understood her reasoning, although still tired he gave a huge hug and wouldn't let her go for along time. Eventually he tired and she just held his hand.
Josiah walked in a few hours later pushing followed by nurse pushing a wheelchair, with the news.
"Chris is awake and out of recovery... they are moving him into a private room right now. He wants to see both of you."
Tilly just looked at the former missionary as he assisted the nurse with putting Ezra into the wheelchair, who just let them do that without complaining because he wanted to see Chris. Tilly rushed out of the room unable to face Chris Larabee after everything that had happened.
A young boy with green eyes rushed barefooted through the corridors of Denver Memorial desperately searching the halls for a familiar face wearing nothing more than a hospital Johnny and a cotton robe. He caught up with her in the lobby latching onto her arm.
"Ezra, I can't...."
"Tilly, please ..."
Ezra had a tight grip on her arm and had no intention of letting her go.
"Runt I just need some time to think things through..."
The boy stared at her for a moment knowing it was futile, before pushing her away.
She slumped down into one of the hard plastic chairs. The kid was still watching her with apprehension clearly written across his face, he was forgetting Maude's training. Thank God. The last twenty-four hours had been a rough on both of them. Tilly was having a hard time dealing with the truth. A truth she had known before she had come to Denver, a least part of it believing Larabee was her father and the mad woman was her mother. Ella wasn't, but a woman she had never had the chance to meet was. Tilly DuPrea let out a heavy sigh.
Ezra grasped her hand and pulled her up. Dragged down the hall by her younger brother she went to talk to man who just recently found out he was her father. Oh yeah life was crazy but for the first time she realized it might be in a good way and maybe even stay that way from that moment on.The time I think most clearly
The time I drift away...
...These Valleys of green and gray
I got to think about what might have been
And what may yet come true
And I got to pass a rainy mile
Thinking of youGreen and Gray- New Model Army-1989
Conversations- an epilogue
So many conversations remained unspoken. The world had been turned inside out nothing would ever be the same again, that in and of itself was both good and bad.
The others had gone home with the exception of Buck and Ezra. He adamantly refused to leave Chris' side. Some time during the past week had taken to calling his father that, a step in the right direction infinitely better than Mr. Larabee. The doctors relented easily enough after Buck explained the reasons why. An orderly had brought in a fold-up bed and pushed it next to Larabee's, Ezra was sound asleep in it his hand wrapped loosely around Chris' own. Buck was asleep on the other side twisted in an awkward position in a plastic chair. His head rested on folded arms by Larabee's feet. Chris smiled. His old friend was going to wake up in a world of hurt in the morning. Far be it for him to disturb the ladies man, especially after hearing what happened earlier. Buck was his rock during all the insanity, but the man had lost it when he thought....
The memories of that day, Chris sometimes forgot that Sarah and Adam were a big part of Buck's life too, as a surrogate brother to his wife and as a Godfather. He was there through the worse when Larabee had fallen into the black drunken hell that consumed his soul and had been there to help him climb back into the light. The big mustached man had become an integral member of his family. Always there as an anchor, he was his best man when they had eloped. The man had been there for them when sadistic stalker started with the malicious campaign. Buck had been at the hospital for the birth of the Larabee's first child, supporting them in their grief. The baby girl named Chloe had died before he had reached the hospital. Sarah insisted their daughter was still alive.
Alive...Sarah she's alive.
Sarah had been right all along. The vicious phone calls and letters stopped right after. Buck's raucous sense of humor kept them sane in the months and years that followed. Chris had to remember to thank his friend again, it didn't seem like he said it enough.
She had stolen Adam why the hell hadn't even thought that she had taken his daughter, because people weren't supposed to be that sick and demented. Ella Gaines was one sick twisted obsessed bitch. Eighteen years of grief and he hadn't known it was her and now she was dead depriving him of the pleasure.
In a cosmic twist of fate his lost children were brought home again, somehow he thought Sarah led them back to him.
She looked so much like her mother. He wondered what Ella had said to the girl, what lies had been told. Tilly had visited earlier after being dragged in by Ezra. The boy, his son looked well considering. Tilly just sat stone-faced in the corner refusing to get any closer instead watched as Ezra hunkered down close in a chair next to Chris' bed. She had stayed awhile before quietly excusing herself from the room. Tilly almost seemed to be embarrassed by her presence by his side, but she had come. That alone spoke volumes.
At some point Ezra had awoke up, because when Chris turned his head a pair of green eyes were watching him.
"Hey Ez you should be sleeping..."
"As should you..."
Chris tightened his grip on his son's hand as he nodded.
"Tilly's really my sister?"
"Yeah she is..."
+ + + + + + +
The aroma of barbeque chicken wafted through the air. Two weeks had gone by since Chris' release from the hospital. It was Hank's third day out, the man sat in his wheel chair by the picnic table. The party itself had been Buck's idea. He was manning the grill much to the chagrin of the other partygoers he insisting on singing claiming chef's prerogative. After twenty minutes J.D. drowned him out by playing some CD's on his boom box, as Vin and Nathan chuckled while setting up their mini buffet of salads, beans and chips. Josiah brought his infamous chili. Orrin and Evie Travis showed up along with Mary and Billy who brought home made apple pie and vanilla ice cream for dessert. Tilly and Ezra had been sitting at the table earlier with Hank playing cards arguing over what the bets would be.
Ezra and Tilly had found a high perch they could see everybody from there. In spite of her reservations Tilly stayed at the ranch with Chris and Ezra. They both were happy about her decision and made little effort to hide their joy. The siblings had snuck off earlier and gazed down at the new people in their lives.
"Matilda, are you going to stay?"
"Sure Runt... these people kind of grown on you... like fungus."
"That they do... "
They sat for a while in an amicable silence then Ezra spoke up.
"You know that Ella Gaines was crazy."
"I know that."
"I hope you know that Chris is... well..."
The boy wasn't quite sure how to word his question.
"I like him too...its the rest I had to get used to."
"No... the lies. Remembering that they were just that... lies."
"Why did she do it?"
"I don't know. Don't think they'll ever figure out why except she thought was in love."
"Except that ain't love... you ready?"
Tilly quickly changed the subject and Ezra didn't seem to mind.
"Then let's get to it..."
Chris sighed as he leaned back in his lawn chair, no longer angry over what had happened. Too much time had been lost already he didn't intend to waste any more. His children were home and he would get to know them. A small smile spread across his face as he closed his eyes and relaxed. He didn't know that two fiends had plotted against him and had him within their sights.
Larabee settled back for a quick nap only to be jolted awaked as he was smacked in the chest with something that immediately drenched him with frigid water. Roars of laughter filled the yard as he bolted out of the chair trying to find the culprit who had nailed him with a water balloon.
"ALRIGHT WHO WAS IT?"
The laughter continued as he eyed the usual suspects Vin and Buck were across the yard too far to score a hit. J.D. was next to the grille then who? He didn't have time to contemplate that question before he was hit with another whoosh of water from above.
Chris looked up at the roof, seeing where the missile came from and just who had lobbed it.
"GET DOWN FROM THERE!"
Both Ezra and Tilly were leaning over the edge of the roof with ammo is hand. They let the balloons fly and laughed as they hit their target before scrambling off the roof. Moments later they were running across the lawn with a red-faced Larabee hot on their trail as everyone else tried to stay out of the line of fire. That didn't last long when the drenched man hauled out a garden hose and proceeded to saturate everyone.