Rebuilding the Past
“So yer starting to remember things?”
“No!” Ezra retorted angrily,
disappearing into the bathroom. The taps were turned on and water sprayed
from the faucet, when he returned his face and hair were damp. “You
don’t understand. That man is…was, Clayton Standish. And before
you go jumping to any more conclusions, I’ve never met him, nor known him by
any other monikers. Maude showed me a picture of him once after the…”
he couldn’t bring himself to say car accident, “incident, but insisted he
had died when I was seven. I had no reason to doubt her at the time.”
Buck rubbed his jaw thoughtfully, taking a
moment to comprehend what Ezra was saying. “Clayton Standish is the same
person as Vladimir Lukchenski? Does that mean Maude is this…Leonie
Boulay?” Chris had spoken to Buck about the birth and death
registrations for Ezra Patrick Standish. “So if they both went under
other aliases, doesn’t that mean Maude could be your natural mother?”
“There’s one way to find out. Why
don’t I call my lovely mother?”
Wilmington knew he should return to his
room and give the Southerner some privacy while he spoke with his mother, but he
couldn’t convince his legs to make the first move. Instead, Buck chose
to abscond to the balcony. He dragged a patio chair close to he sliding
doors he deliberately left open, and flagrantly eavesdropped on Standish’s
“Mother!” Standish drawled.
“How are you?”
Wilmington smirked. Small chat with
Maude was the last thing Ezra had on his mind.
“Indeed. You are correct,” he
said after a brief pause. “I was just curious about my twenty years
prior to the car crash. There seems to be some conflicting information,
and I’d like some clear answers.”
Buck leaned his head into the opening,
wishing he were privy to the spiel Maude was giving Ezra. He watched the
intense concentration on the agent’s face while he impatiently listened,
holding the cell phone to his ear.
“Oh, I’m surprised after all these
years you hadn’t refined your story,” he practically growled down the line.
“No, I’m not being facetious.
Perhaps we could start with an summary of who Vladimir Lukchenski and Leonie
Buck leaned further from his seat,
straining to catch all the words as Ezra had turned on his back. He
watched the subtle changes as muscles tensed in the undercover agent’s
shoulders and the agitated steps as he paced in the room. There was a long
silence before Standish spoke again and then it was only a simple; “No.”
Wilmington picked up the chair and placed
it in the open doorway, giving up any facsimile of decorum. He tapped his
fingers impatiently on his knee and kept his gaze riveted on Standish; he
didn’t want to miss a thing.
“Why?” the single softly spoken word
was charged with emotion. He turned and faced Buck, their eyes meeting for
a fraction of a second before Ezra lost contact. His face was pale and the
tight hold on his emotions was showing signs of crumbling.
“Of course,” he agreed derisively.
Finally ending the call he dropped the cell phone on the bed and fell lengthwise
“Ezra? Buddy?” Wilmington drifted
over to the bed and sank down on the corner.
Standish sighed and rolled onto his back.
“What didn’t you hear?”
“Aw, come on,” he protested in a whine.
“It weren’t as if I could hear both sides.”
“Naturally. How inconsiderate.”
“Would you rather wait ‘til we get back
to Denver and talk to Chris?” Larabee had been the one Standish had
originally confessed to.
“You were wrong in assuming Vladimir
Lukchenski and Clayton Standish are one and the same.”
“No. Or so Maude assures me.
Although both couples knew each other. If you were to believe what mother
has to say, then Clayton Standish had left Maude after their son, Ezra had died
in his sleep, to pursue a relationship with Leonie, my mother. She claims
it was only a marriage of convenience in any rate. Clayton and Leonie
Boulay Lukchenski were both coincidently killed in a skiing accident in
Switzerland on the same day.”
“Vladimir, my father, assumed the role of
Clayton Standish and returned to America as the husband of Maude, with their
“So Maude is like yer step ma?”
“Hardly,” Ezra drawled. “Once
Vladimir was on American soil, he deserted Maude, taking me with him. She
didn’t hear anything more from him until my so-called accident fifteen years
ago, and she swears it wasn’t Lukchenski who orchestrated the cover up.”
“Lukchenski still alive?”
“Why did Maude show you a picture of
Lukchenski, when you wanted to see your father? Why not just show you a
picture of the real Clayton Standish?”
“That was one of the stipulations of the
conspiracy. She was given a set agenda, regarding my past life and claims
she had to follow it implicitly.”
“I swear, the traffic on Mondays gets
worse every week,” Nathan Jackson moaned as he dumped his briefcase on his
Tanner grinned, shaking his head.
“Ezra would loved to have seen this; Nathan Jackson arriving half an hour
late,” Vin chuckled.
“I’m not that late,” the dark-skinned
“You might consider leaving home that
little bit earlier,” Chris stated smugly.
“Morning, Chris. You back from your
meeting with Travis already?” Jackson attempted to shift the attention off
“I’m about to head up now. Please
behave while I’m gone,” he admonished.
“Ya think he’d trust us more,” Dunne
“Yeah…what could we possibly get up
to?” Tanner grinned devilishly and tossed a wad of paper hitting JD on the
side of the head.
“Hey!” Dunne retaliated by
flinging a rubber band at the longhaired agent, and ducking behind the desk for
cover before Tanner returned fire.
“You were saying?” Josiah Sanchez had
the gall to ask
Chris Larabee was the last to arrive for
the meeting. His eyes warily travelled around the unfamiliar suits that
lined the wall. He could feel the vein in his forehead begin to throb and
indolently returned the intrusive stares. He glanced at Travis, but the
stack of files on the table held his attention. The muscles around his
mouth ticked as he recognised Ezra and Buck’s names on top. He wondered
if the other files were on the rest of his team and why Travis was sharing this
information. His spine stiffened and his eyes narrowed to a slit.
“Chris Larabee,” a rough voice greeted,
stepping forward from the group and holding out his hand. The suit was
approaching retirement, and his hard chiselled face was testament to a life long
career of never smiling. The frown lines were deep in his forehead
and the crow’s feet clawed thickly from the corners of his eyes. His
hand was lined, but there was an undeniable strength in it as it was held out
firmly. Under the suit coat and white shirt, he suspected the man’s body
was an armour of muscle, worked hard and fine-tuned over the many years.
“Yeah.” Chris refused to shake
the offered hand.
“We understand you are missing two agents
from your team at the moment.”
“Who are you? And what business of
this is yours?” he snarled.
“Chris,” Orin Travis interrupted.
“These gentlemen are from the CIA.” As one, the six agents displayed
their badges. “This is Agent Eugene Carmichael,” Travis introduced the
older man and quickly ran through the names of the other men present.
“They say they are investigating a possible fraud.”
“What’s that have to do with me, and my
“Where is Agent Standish?” Carmichael
“Ezra is off on sick leave, as I’m sure
AD Travis informed you.”
“And Agent… Wilmington?” he consulted
“Buck is on leave.”
“Please sit, Mr. Larabee…”
“As you wish,” Carmichael obliged.
“How much do you know about Agent Standish’s past?”
“His file’s there,” Larabee pointed
in disgust at the report on the table. “I’m sure you’ve read it.”
“Indeed we have. But Mr.
Standish’s file isn’t very complete, as you would well be aware.”
“What is it you’re trying to say?”
“We urgently need to contact your agent.
He isn’t at his home. But I presume you know where he is.”
“I’d advise you to assist however
possible, Chris,” Travis warned.
“If you can’t be any more specific as
to why you want my agent, then you’ll have to wait like the rest of us.
Ezra didn’t leave a vacation itinerary and we don’t expect him back at the
office until next Monday. If that is all, I have a job to do,” he
sneered at Carmichael and each of the other CIA agents.
Chris seethed with anger. He slammed
the door of his office with an almighty bang and snibbed the lock. He was
getting some bad vibes from the CIA agents upstairs and his gut instinct said
they weren’t here to recommend Standish for a commendation. He picked up
the handset and began dialling Buck’s cell, but quickly replaced the receiver
back in the cradle and made the call from his mobile. He’d have JD
organise a search for bugs once he was through.
“Buck…Where are you?” Larabee
requested. “Don’t go there, you won’t enjoy it. I have a
suggestion for you, why don’t you to take our young friend to Disneyland, I
think he’ll enjoy the break. Go on all the rides and I want to know if
he throws up,” Chris laughed. “Don’t forget Space Mountain, and
bring me back a souvenir; you can drop it off at the ranch when you get back
into town. Tell the kid he’s not allowed to stay up and watch TV all
hours of the night. See you in a week. Yeah…have fun.”
“Buck? Who was that, and why are
you wearing that ridiculous grin?”
Wilmington chuckled. “That was
“And what does our illustrious leader
have to say?”
“He wants me to take you to
Buck led Standish from the terminal,
ignoring the peculiar looks Ezra bestowed on him. “He doesn’t want us
to fly back into Denver, so we’ll get a rental and drive. You got much
cash, ‘cause I’m about strapped? Then we’re to go straight out to
Chris’ ranch, since your place is being watched.”
Ezra sorted through the message and finally
asked; “What has going to Disneyland have to do with this?”
Buck barked with laughter. “It was
just part of the code. We haven’t used this set for years, not since we
were in the SEALS together. I’m guessing Chris reckons his office is
bugged. He also wants to know if you throw up on any of the rides, to ride
on Space Mountain and not to stay up late watching TV.” Wilmington
continued to laugh at the rolled eyes and moan from Ezra. “Oh, he wants a
Larabee skidded the Ram to a halt and
bolted from the vehicle. He was pleased to find nothing amiss and happy to
discover Wilmington had concealed the transportation they’d used. It
wouldn’t pay to advertise that he had company. And it had been a
harrowing two days, avoiding the grimfaced CIA agents that dogged his teams’
Chris hoped he’d sufficiently fooled
Carmichael by sending his men on wild goose chases after Vin, Nathan, JD and
Josiah. Larabee had shrewdly sent them out one at a time, and as usual,
Carmichael accepted the bait and dispatched two of his agents after Tanner, who
was the first to leave the building. As per instructions, Chris had given
each of his men a set of places to visit; trivial excursions, but necessary to
some ongoing investigations. The only proviso was to take their time.
There was only one CIA agent assigned to JD, Nathan and Josiah, leaving
Carmichael to watch Larabee.
Chris bristled; Carmichael and his team
were becoming a nuisance and it irked him to know they had Travis’ blessing.
Larabee would go out of his way to protect one of his own, and there was no way
in hell he was handing Standish over to the CIA agents. He was the last to
leave the office, and by all accounts showed no concern that Carmichael was
single-mindedly on his trail. Chris quickly lost his tail, with a few
imaginative car swaps; it was unfortunate he had to leave Josiah’s Suburban
unattended at a set of traffic lights.
“Buck? Ezra? You guys
here?” Chris glanced in both directions quickly searching his ranch
house for occupants.
Wilmington waved a milky spoon from the
kitchen. “Yer out of ice-cream.”
“Buck…oh why do I bother?”
“He needs a fix, so don’t be too hard
on him, Chris,” Ezra drawled. “I think something along the lines of a
“When’d you get here?” It
couldn’t have been too long, because Chris noticed Ezra’s hair was damp,
obviously he’d only recently stepped out of the shower. “You look like
“So do you, but I wouldn’t presume to
tell you so.”
Wilmington guffawed. “You just did,
Larabee relaxed marginally, pleased to find
Ezra and Buck on talking terms. “How’s the head?” he pointed at the
“It’s fine,” he dismissed easily.
“You up for a ride? We’ll take
out a couple of horses and I can fill you in on what’s been going on while you
“Could do with a ride myself,”
Wilmington smirked, wiggling his eyebrows suggestively.
“Does this man ever think of anything
else?” Ezra questioned Larabee in mock exasperation.
“Not while I’ve known him,” he
grinned answering Standish. “But I would like you to go home, Buck.
Check in with JD and the boys at the office. I’ve got a few things I’d
like to discuss with Ezra in private.”
“No sweat, Chris. I’ll drop off
the rental and I’ll be seeing you.” He waved and exited through the
back of the house.
“You two have a good time in Seattle?”
“Marvellous!” Ezra groused
“You can tell me everything shortly.”
Wilmington was stunned. He
couldn’t fathom how they could be cooling their heels in the Goddamned
Hospital waiting room – again. Josiah and Nathan appeared to be the most
relaxed, though appearances were deceiving – he knew they both would be
worried about the Southerner. JD alternated between pacing and slouching
in the lounge and pretending to read the two-year-old Sports Illustrated
magazine from the coffee table. Vin Tanner leaned against the wall,
keeping an eye on the seven CIA agents, Chris and the aisle that lead to where
Standish was being examined. Chris just kept his peace. After
answering all their questions regarding Ezra’s accident, he had resorted to
silence, but the looks he bestowed on the Federal agents intermittently were a
thinly veiled and ominous threat. Buck couldn’t find a comfortable space
to sit and so he traced an erratic track up and down the corridor. Each
time he passed the blood-sucking leaches, said CIA agents; he scowled in their
Buck had only just made it to their
office block when his cell rang informing him that Standish had been taken to
the hospital. He scrubbed his weary face and not for the first time
wondered who had called Travis. Surely Chris wouldn’t have bothered.
Orin was currently holding Carmichael’s crew apart from Larabee’s men, but
the tension was rife between the factions. It was only a natural
conclusion to have Carmichael’s agents arriving simultaneously at the ER as
they’d just followed in the wake of the team seven’s agent they were each
assigned. Wilmington had been ready to rip their heads off when Larabee
had informed him who they were and why they were here. He looked down his
nose in disgust at the vultures. So these were the watchdogs assigned to
tear Ezra apart. He couldn’t hold in the contempt he felt for these
agents. His hands clenched convulsively by his sides, and it was only with
an enormous effort he restrained himself from addressing the Feds. He
could do Ezra no good if he was locked in the slammer for assaulting a fellow
“What the fuck happened?” Wilmington
ranted, his face bubbled red with rage.
“It was an accident, Buck,” Chris
retorted. “The horse spooked and threw him off.”
“That what you told them?” he gestured
over his shoulder to the CIA agents. “There’s got to be more.
Just what is it you ain’t telling us, Chris?”
“As if I’d tell them fucking
anything!” Chris ranted, jumping from his seat, his eyes glowering as he spoke
of Carmichael’s team.
“Calm down, Buck.” Sanchez grabbed him
by the arm and pulled him back a step. “Chris.”
“I ain’t gonna calm down,” he yelled
at Josiah. He rounded on Larabee, eyes flaring wildly and pushed his boss
backward and slammed him against the plaster. “Don’t this seem just a
little suspicious to you?” he aimed the question at the five agents.
“We’ve been friends for a lot of years,
Buck, but I ain’t ever gonna take this shit, even from you.” He glared
meaningfully at the grip Wilmington had on his shirt. When Buck released
the hold, Chris nodded. Larabee pointed with his chin in the direction of
the Feds. Although they were casually leaning in easy repose, it would go
against their nature not to be straining their ears to listen to the
conversation between his men. He signalled for them to move deeper into
the waiting area. “Yer right,” Chris quietly acknowledged. “Standish
was edgy, couldn’t seem to keep his mind in one place. Reckons he saw
something, a light flashing…”
“Binoculars,” Tanner surmised.
Or the scope of a rifle, Buck mulled over.
Maybe Chris hadn’t lost his tail after all. Wilmington mentally replayed
the scene at the ranch, he watched his six all the way to his house and then to
the office – nobody had followed him from the ranch. But Carmichael, or
someone else, could have found a secluded spot to sit and hide out, until they
had Standish in their range. And riding out on the horses would have been
ideal. Buck tried to recall when Carmichael had arrived at the ER; he
scowled in scrutiny at the older agent, but he couldn’t remember. He
hadn’t been paying any notice to the agents when they first started coming in,
as he didn’t know whom they were.
“Could be,” Chris agreed “Might
easily just have been the sun reflecting off an old bottle, but I didn’t see
anything. He took off, like a bull at a gate, really crazed. And he
was riding Warrior, you know how much trouble that horse can be Buck, if you
haven’t got him on a tight rein,” he paused waiting for Wilmington to agree.
“He was heading back to the ranch, so I just followed as fast as I could.
By the time I caught up with him the damned horse had thrown him and he was
“Dammit, Chris! I left him under
your protection. You knew he was in danger,” Buck chided. “Did you
even consider he’d be more of a target? Have you considered your place
might have been watched?”
Chris held up his hands in anger.
“Fuck you, Wilmington! You think I led the Feds straight to him? There
was nobody tagging me back to the ranch,” he swore vehemently. “And if
I had thought for one minute that he wasn’t up to going for a ride, or that
he’d be in any danger, then I would never have suggested it. You
couldn’t have been too concerned, ” he accused. “You knew we were
planning on taking a ride and you didn’t stop us!”
“You’re turning this around onto me?”
Buck wailed incredulously.
“No one is blaming you, Buck,” Josiah
intervened, planting himself between Chris and facing Buck. “And Chris
isn’t at fault either. It was just an accident. These things
happen.” He couldn’t understand why these two friends thought the CIA
agents were somehow to blame for Standish’s accident. There were parts
of the puzzle that seemed to be missing, and Nathan, JD, Vin and himself were
apparently on the outer, although Dunne was rather accepting of the whole
situation. And Josiah was not completely satisfied with the explanation
Larabee had given them as to why Carmichael wanted Ezra.
He scratched his goatee beard and attempted
to draw some new insight into the incident. They were obviously involved
in some activity together and Chris, Buck and perhaps even JD were privy to this
information. It didn’t bother him that he wasn’t on the inside, but he
hoped sometime in the future he and the others would be afforded the same trust.
What came as a total surprise was to discover Buck and Ezra had spent the past
few days together. Sanchez hadn’t realised the two were that close.
But as they were both off on leave at the same time, it was inevitable he
“Josiah you aren’t listening.
Ezra saw something, and it could just as easily have been one of those
bastards,” he glared pointedly up the corridor.
“Why? What brings you to that
“Buck,” Chris growled in warning,
sharing a message within his eyes. “Let it be, Josiah. But if we
find anything to implicate them to this, then I’ll rip their hides apart and
turn them inside out! But for now I want to know how Ezra is. What
do you think, Nathan? Shouldn’t we know something by now?”
Jackson glanced grimly at the bloody shirt
Larabee wore. There was a lot of blood, and although head injuries tended
to bleed quite a lot, Standish was still recovering from the last injury.
In Jackson’s opinion, Ezra shouldn’t have been out riding, if he was as
distracted as Larabee implied. Falling from a horse could have resulted in
many assorted injuries, broken bones, bruising and internal injuries.
He’d be lucky to come out of this with a headache, seeing as how he apparently
hit his head. “How long was he unconscious for, Chris?”
Larabee rubbed the back of his neck.
“He was out when I reached him and I had the devil’s own job getting him
back to the ranch. He didn’t come to and he was still out when the
ambulance brought him in.”
“Hell!” Nathan swore. All team 7
turned their attention on the former medic. “That’s not good,” he
started to explain. “On top of the head injury he already received last
week, it’s not good,” he finished lamely.
A white-jacketed doctor cleared his throat,
and knowing the reputation of the seven he steeled himself to not take a step
backwards. His resolve broke when he looked into the determined blue eyes of the
blond-headed leader, Chris Larabee. He swallowed, his Adam’s apple
rising and causing his normally clear speech come out in a raspy croak. “Are
you gentlemen here for Mr. Standish?”
“How is he?” Larabee spun on his heels
and practically growled.
“There doesn’t seem to be any further
damage since his last admission, other than reopening that gash on his cranium,
which has been restitched, but it is a concern that he hasn’t regained
consciousness yet. We’ve done a number of tests and a repeat CT scan,
but there doesn’t seem to be any significant swelling. We will just have
to wait now until he is ready to wake.”
“But he’ll be okay when he does?”
“Well, at present his chances are good,
so long as he regains consciousness soon. Of course, the longer he remains
unconscious the greater the probability there could be some permanent
disability.” JD gasped. “Is there any family we could
“We’ve already sent word to his
mother,” Larabee interjected. “Otherwise, we’re his family.”
“Can we go in?” Buck queried, anxious
to see his friend. One of the others could update him, if there was
anything else he needed to know.
“Yes, I’d like to see Mr. Standish for
myself.” Eugene Carmichael separated from his group and nailed the
doctor with a simpering smile.
“You aren’t going anywhere near him!”
Buck snarled at the CIA agent. “He doesn’t need to see your ugly mug
when he comes to.”
“Mr. Wilmington,” Orin Travis
“Keep them out!” he demanded and
stalked to the curtained off cubicle.
“Ezra’s hurt, Carmichael. You will wait until I say he is ready to talk to you. Then there will be at least one of us, and his attorney present when it happens. Got that?” Chris jabbed an index finger into the agent’s chest, well aware that he had the whole team’s support, if not that of AD Travis. He cast a fierce look at Ezra’s doctor, daring him to challenge the arrangements he’d established; Chris would not be dictated to by hospital routine and damned visitation procedures.
Standish wrinkled his nose, immediately
becoming aware of the starched sheets and disinfectant. God he hated
finding himself waking up in the hospital. Something had obviously gone
wrong. He hoped none of the others had been hurt. He lay quietly on
the narrow bed, unavoidably listening to the intense argument that transpired
between Buck and Chris – it had been going on for some time with occasional
objections from Vin and JD thrown in. He sensed the entire team inside the
small-enclosed area and was rather surprised to hear Travis’s thick tones join
in. What the hell was Travis doing here? The tension between his
friends was causing his head to throb. He turned his head to the side,
eyes flickering and wincing as the light invaded the opened pupils. He
moaned audibly, calling a halt to the dispute.
“Ezra…how you doing?” Josiah was the
first to notice the Southerner waking. So pleased, he forgot to temper his
deep baritone and fairly shouted at the concussed patient.
“Mr. Sanchez…” Standish rasped,
squinting his eyes to block out the harsh light. “Is it possible to
lower your voice?”
“Sorry,” he apologised contritely.
In a much lower voice he continued. “It is good to see you have decided
to share your presence with us, Ezra.” Josiah patted the agent on the
Standish started to nod, but thought it
prudent not to shake his head around too much, as it was riding on waves of pure
agony. Instead he lifted his hand to reach his bandaged head, but Tanner
captured the rising limb and pushed it back to the sheets. “Ya got some
more stitches put in yer thick skull, so it’d be best not to touch them,”
“Why is everyone here?” Standish asked,
clearly confused and a little embarrassed. “And what where you two
discussing?” he glanced at Larabee and Wilmington.
“Nothing for you to worry about,” Buck
answered for them both.
Standish shut his eyes, hoping to quell the
dizziness and soften the blows that resounded inside his head. “I was
the only one injured,” he sighed in a depressed tone and pressed the palm of
his hand over his face.
“Sounds like he wanted one of us to get
hurt also,” Dunne said in a wounded voice.
Behind his hand Ezra replied, the words
slightly muffled. “No, never that, Mr. Dunne,” he quickly reassured.
“But it does divide the team and then I wouldn’t now be surrounded by
six…ah seven,” he corrected, remembering Orin Travis was also within the
curtained cubicle, “of you gentlemen.”
“Well, iffen you didn’t go falling off
yer horse, then we wouldn’t be fretting to see if you were gonna wake up,”
Vin accused, but softened the claim with a grin.
“Horse?” Ezra whispered, frowning and
shaking his head in confusion. Did Tanner just say a horse? Surely
he had misunderstood.
“Yeah. And I actually thought you
were a better rider than that. Reckon you shouldn’t have let Chris talk
you into going for a ride if you weren’t feeling up to it.” Should
Tanner mention to Ezra about what he thought he’d seen, before the accident?
Vin could probably do some scouting around Larabee’s ranch, suss out if
anybody had been hanging around. It might put all their overactive minds
Ezra stared blankly at the Texan, not
considering that he with showing his bewilderment. “Pardon?”
“You took a tumble off one of Larabee’s
horses,” Vin supplied, then chuckled. “Warrior was too much for you to
handle, huh? He’s a beauty though, ain’t he?”
Ezra continued to frown at Tanner.
His head was really beginning to pound in a most erratic rhythm. “I have
no idea what you are alluding to, Mr. Tanner. What has Mr. Larabee’s
steeds have to do with my current disposition? I thought you gentlemen
would be more interested with the outcome of the raid? Would it be too
precipitous to enquire how it concluded?” He arched his eyebrows and
they disappeared under the bandage.
The group of agents surrounding the bed
reacted slowly, each man stunned into silence.
“Which bust are you referring to, Mr.
Standish?” Travis filled the gap.
“The one this morning,” he responded in
annoyance. “Or was it yesterday?” He licked his lips and turned
his wrist to check the date on his wristwatch, but it had been removed.
“We did get them all, didn’t we?” He passed a questing gaze in
Larabee’s direction. “Averill Torres and Hoi Chung Li?” he added
helpfully, astounded at the thick-witted reactions he was receiving to his
questions. Arg! This was worse than pulling teeth from a horse –
not that he’d ever tried. The raid must have failed miserably, if they
were so circumspect about discussing it. Lord, another reprimand!
Another black mark to add to his file. Perhaps that was why Travis was
“Ah, that was last week, Ezra,” Larabee
“Last week? I’ve been in this
medical facility for an entire week?” the Southerner muttered dumbfounded.
“Nope. You only stayed in for a
couple of days and went home on Wednesday. You’ve been off on sick leave
since,” Sanchez helped.
“Wednesday?” he scratched his head and
frowned in consternation. “And today’s date, please?”
“Today is Thursday, the 25th,” Nathan
“And what exactly happened during the
past week? And why am I back here?” he thumped the edge of the mattress
“Don’t go getting all excited,”
Jackson placated. “Trouble with head injuries is they can be real
finicky. Losing a week doesn’t seem so bad in the long run. And it
may come back at any given time,” he smiled encouragingly, “then again you
might never recall those events lost. Just don’t try and force it.”
“And if it doesn’t return?”
Jackson sighed. “As with most
cases, you’ll just have to accept it. We could tell you what occurred
during that time, but it would not be the same as your own memories.”
The undercover agent squeezed the bridge of
his nose, and rested back into the backrest of pillows. “Would it be too
much trouble to acquire some pain killers, my head is about set to burst?” he
“Why didn’t you say something
sooner?” he admonished. Jackson picked up the chart from the end of the
bed. “I’ll get someone,” he volunteered and vanished behind the
“What is the last thing you do remember,
Ezra?” Travis probed.
Ezra remained silent for a moment,
considering the last vivid memory. “The crates at the warehouse were
empty… there was a flash… and then waking up in here.” He watched
Chris and Buck share a look of…relief? They were hiding something from
him. He swallowed; his throat was dry and raw. Reaching for the
tumbler, Vin anticipated the need and filled the glass and handed it to Ezra.
“Anything else?” Orin persisted.
Standish’s shoulders sagged. “No.
Did something happen, that I should remember? I didn’t perform some
reprehensible act did I?” Ezra opened his eyes and scanned the line of
serious faces. “Offended some VIP? Or insult one of you
gentlemen?” He blanched as a sudden thought entered his mind.
“My mother?” he asked worriedly.
“Maude’s fine…far as we know,”
Chris answered. “And no to all the above.”
“It ain’t nothing to get concerned
about,” Wilmington added.
“Then there is something,” Standish
Returning to the bay, Nathan was still
holding Ezra’s chart; Standish couldn’t have any analgesics until his doctor
had reassessed the Southerner and he was busy attending an emergency at present.
“Hey, what are you doing here?” Nathan growled and his face contorted.
“You all heard what Chris had to say. He doesn’t want any of you near
“Keep your voice down, Mr. Jackson!”
Eugene Carmichael ordered. “There are some sick people in this unit.”
Jackson took offence at the implied insult.
“You saying Ezra ain’t worthy of your consideration? That he isn’t
one of the patients in this ER? I’ve got his chart here…You want to
check this first to see if he is in need of medical attention?” Nathan
waved the thick file at the agents, but had no intention of handing it over.
They had no right prying into other people’s medical history. He snorted
in disgust and parted the curtains. He was moderately surprised when Buck
or Chris hadn’t come out to support him, but he felt confident handling the
“Is there some trouble, Mr. Jackson?”
Ezra drawled curiously, attempting to catch a glimpse of the persons beyond the
screen when Nathan had entered the cubical.
The curtain was drawn back and Eugene
Carmichael revealed himself. His agents flanked his back. He’d
been brazenly eavesdropping on the conversation between Standish and his team,
prior to Jackson’s interruption. Wilmington took a step towards the
federal agents, but Travis intervened.
“Get the hell out of here!” Buck
roared. If he wasn’t allowed to throw them out, then he’d use whatever
means were left to him.
“Mr… Carmichael… isn’t it?”
Standish inquired, recognising the CIA agent immediately, he sat up higher in
the bed and rearranged the covers. Ezra hadn’t seen the older man for
many years; the last time in fact was when he graduated from the police academy.
“What brings you up this way?” Standish wracked his brain to recall
which division Carmichael had been assigned to, but in the prevailing years that
could had changed any number of times. And Ezra certainly hadn’t kept up
to date with the older agent.
“Eugene,” Carmichael supplied, reaching
out to grasp Ezra’s outstretched hand, and shoving Buck aside as he did so.
Chris physically had to close his mouth.
He watched in fascination as the CIA agent and his undercover agent greeted each
other as old friends. Ezra what the hell are you pulling? he inwardly
screamed. And why the hell hadn’t Carmichael made it clear to Chris that
he knew the Southerner? And Ezra’s reaction to the CIA agent was
unusual; there was evidently some history between the pair and Standish thought
there was no animosity between them. Wait until Chris told Ezra what
this bastard had been up to during his absence.
“You two know each other?” Jackson
glanced from the injured man in the bed to the CIA agent.
Standish nodded, wincing as he did so.
“Mr. Carmichael and I shared the same hospital room for about a month, he was
recovering from a broken leg while I was interned from an unfortunate car
accident. Eugene was instrumental to my joining the force,” he smiled
smugly at Larabee. Standish couldn’t help wondering why the federal
agent was here in Denver. It was fifteen years since that horrific car
accident and he still had trouble recalling specifics regarding that time.
After all this time he assumed he’d never remember. The parallels
between then and now were staggering.
“I can’t take the credit for that,
especially as you’d already signed on the dotted line before the accident,”
“Ah, but I might have changed my mind, if
you hadn’t convinced me of the merits to be gained.” Does Carmichael
want to seconder him for an assignment perhaps? Standish had never worked
with the CIA; perhaps Eugene was on a headhunting expedition, recruiting new
agents for his team?
Carmichael shrugged. “I hear you
had a riding accident?”
Standish deepened his frown, plainly
confused by the switch in conversation. How did Carmichael know this?
Was the hospital staff handing out information on patients to whoever wanted to
know? And why would Eugene Carmichael be in the slightest bit interested
in an undercover ATF agent? “So I’ve been informed, but it isn’t the
last thing I recall,” he puzzled out loud.
“Mr. Standish has no memories of the
previous week,” Orin Travis interjected.
“I see. You don’t recall
anything?” Carmichael persisted, his tone clipped.
“No,” he shook his head negatively.
“Oh… had we become reacquainted during the week? I apologise if that
is the case, as I have no recollections.”
“This is the first time we’ve seen each
other, Ezra. And you don’t recall anything during the last week?
Nothing at all?” Carmichael prompted. Ezra’s face stared blankly at
the CIA agent not comprehending the message that was hidden in the question.
Standish threw his hands in the air.
“I wish somebody would tell me, WHAT THE HELL I AM SUPPOSED TO HAVE DONE!”
“Nothing happened, Ezra,” Larabee
claimed. “You’ve been off on sick leave, and spent most of that time
in your apartment recovering. You came into the office one day last week
and some of the guys have checked up on you,” Chris lied, daring Carmichael to
refute the facts.
“And the reason I was out riding?”
“You turned up there this morning and
felt the urge to ride. You insisted that you were fine and would have no
problems with Warrior. I went with you.” Larabee figured it was
best to stick as close to the truth as possible.
Ezra bobbed his head. “Well that
explains why I am here, I guess,” he added hesitantly. “But why
exactly are you are here Eugene?” he asked bluntly. Glancing past
Carmichael’s right shoulder, and noticing for the first time the other agents
cordoned about the room – people he was certain he had never met or seen
before in his life - Ezra nervously slipped down in the bed and pulled the
covers up a little higher. “Do I know these individuals?”
Carmichael answered, watching the
undercover agent carefully. “Sorry, Ezra. These are my
co-workers…and they shouldn’t have followed me in here,” he paused and
gave the group a telling look and they immediately took the hint and left.
“As to why I’m here…” again he paused, nodding once at Orin and finally
at Larabee before continuing. “I’m just visiting a friend down the
hall, and heard you were in and thought I’d drop by and say hello.”
There was a long pause following the
revelation. “That was… very thoughtful of you.” What else
could he say? It seemed totally ridiculous to consider Carmichael had
alternate agenda; they had known each other for a lifetime. “Are you
staying in Denver for long? Perhaps we could catch up over drink before
you head back?” Maybe Ezra could pry out of the CIA agent what his real
purpose for visiting Denver had to do with the Southerner.
“Sorry, no can do…we’ll have to make
it another time, under better circumstances,” he chuckled. “But it was
good to see you again after so many years, Ezra.”
“Most assuredly. And yes another
time,” he agreed.
The hospital room was quiet, now that
most of team 7 had gone home along with the CIA agents and Orin Travis.
The only two remaining with Ezra in his new room were Larabee and Wilmington.
“I feel like it was only yesterday we
were sitting in these same chairs waiting for him to come around,” the
ladies’ man whispered. “I know what happened to Ezra
weren’t yer fault, I was just blowin’ off steam. Could have still
happened if I went riding with you. I guess we were lucky he only split
open his stitches and didn’t break his neck. Think he’s gonna ever
remember everything that went on?”
“Carmichael seemed content to not press
things. I’d love to tap into his mind, find out what he’s got planned
and how he ticks. As for Ezra, I think it worked out for the best, don’t
Wilmington shrugged. “After the
road trip back to your place, I felt like I had finally broken through all his
barriers. We were working on the same wavelength. It’s going to be
hard going back to how we were before.”
“So you’ve just got to work a little
harder at the stubborn cuss. If you got through to him once, then you’ll
do it again,” Chris smiled in encouragement. “And it should be easier
this time round…”
“How do you figure?”
“You now know stuff about Ezra that he
doesn’t know he’s told you.”
Wilmington grinned, and finger combed his
moustache thoughtfully. He glanced smugly at the Southerner in the
“Buck…would you do something for me?
Could you go over to Ezra’s place and collect anything that connected him with
Venkov and take it out to my place. I don’t want you to leave anything,
so check everywhere, even the Jag. Keep an eye out for Carmichael’s
dogs. We don’t need them to know what you’re up to.”
“You reckon they’ll still be watching
“Wouldn’t put it past him.”
“Yeah. What’re you gonna do with
all the documents?”
“I’ll file them in a safe place.”
“You don’t think after everything
he’s gone through this past week that we shouldn’t tell him?”
“Buck, you watched him. You saw how
he handled it - he was a mess! Let’s leave it for a bit, give him a chance
first to see if he’s going to remember on his own. But considering he
totally forgot his entire life before fifteen years ago, remembering one week
doesn’t seem likely.”
“But you will tell him?”
“Only if he brings it up. Reckon
you can put it all on the backburner? Seems to me, that someone out
there,” he waved at the world beyond the inner domains, “wants to keep Ezra
from remembering his old life. And if, or when he does, then they plan on
causing him an awful lot of grief. We might have to find an excuse to
watch his back more often than just while he’s on a case.” When Ezra
was ready to discuss it, he’d have to highlight the necessity to play dumb.
Following up leads on this mystery was going to stir up the hornet’s nest;
they’d have to be very discreet in any further investigations. Whoever
is, or was, behind this scam would, from now on, be paying particularly close
attention to Standish’s every movement.
“I hear, ya, pard. I’ll get right
on to it.”
“You satisfied with the
arrangements?” Chris questioned the apparently slumbering agent.
Standish blinked at the ceiling.
“Do you think it prudent to allow Buck to think I don’t remember?”
Wilmington had played a major role in the whole fiasco.
“The less people who know, the better.
For the time being.”
Standish sighed in resignation.
“And the others?”
“Vin, Josiah and Nathan have no idea what
was really going on. They knew Carmichael was after you, but not why.
And JD…I’m not sure how much he’s grasped, but I’d guess after talking
it over with Buck, he won’t mention it.”
“Do you think they believed?”
“For the moment. No more
investigating your past and don’t mention any Russian names for the time
being. They’re gonna be watching you closely, any slip-ups and they’ll
be ready to rip you eyes out and eat them in one swallow.”
“That’s rather gruesome.”
“We’ll all be there to watch your back.
When you’re ready to discuss it with the rest of the Team, we’ll work out
some form of Schedule.”
“Don’t’ argue with me on this, Ezra.
“I can’t get over, you knowing
Carmichael. The bastard didn’t mention that he knew you.”
“I’m not surprised. I haven’t
had anything to do with him since our incarceration together, and I wouldn’t
dismiss the possibility that he was playing a part even back then. But I
couldn’t have pretended to not recognise him, he would have jumped on that.
He probably didn’t even have a broken leg,” Standish added sceptically.
“I’d love to see the paperwork I supposedly filled out prior to
“Ezra,” Larabee growled a warning.
“Leave it for now.”
“Fine! By the way, you’d make an
excellent undercover operative. You’re acting skills were very
believable,” he congratulated. “Although I was not privy to what
occurred in the waiting room. I thought Buck was going to throttle
Carmichael, and then Nathan’s little spat with them was priceless. He
never did fulfil his promised to procure some pain relief, though.”
Chris grinned slyly and threw back his head and laughed.
“You did a good job of convincing
everyone too and I’d do it again. That’s what friends do for each
other.” Ezra smiled wanly.
“When can I depart this medical
infirmary?” he moaned, screwing up his face in disgust.
“Not until tomorrow. After all, you
did hit your head when you fell off the horse…”
Ezra groaned. “I have never fallen
off any equine and I didn’t hit my head! There is nothing wrong with
me,” he hissed.
Chris glanced apprehensively at the door.
“Don’t say that too loudly. We went to a lot of trouble to convince
Standish grumbled under his breath.
“What exactly is that covering your shirt? It looks suspiciously like
Standish raised both eyebrows
incredulously. “Dare I ask who’s?”
Chris rolled up the sleeve of his shirt and
revealed a badly bandaged wound. “Had to make it look good. And I
didn’t think you’d appreciate bleeding on my shirt.”
“You cut yourself?” he exclaimed in
“Well taking out those stitches with a
pocket-knife didn’t do the trick,” Chris joked.
“You ought to have it seen to, especially
as you’re in the right place.”
“I’ll be fine. Don’t reckon
I’d be able to justify how I came to be injured, when I already told them the
blood had come from you. Was quite effective really, it kept drawing the
fed’s eyes like a beckon.”
Ezra rubbed his chin, wincing at the
slightly swollen jaw. “Was it necessary to hit me quite so hard?”
“You agreed,” Chris grinned in
amusement. “How was I gonna convince the paramedics to take you if you
were sitting up and discussing politics with them?”
Standish nodded in agreement.
“Point taken. Thanks again, Chris.”
Chris Larabee picked up the case file from
his desk and headed for the bullpen. He was happy to finally have his
family back together. Two weeks had flown and with Standish taking another
week off he had only returned to the team that morning. Chris smiled at
the antics of Buck and JD as they tossed small projectiles back and forth across
their desks. Josiah and Nathan tapped industriously at their keyboards
attempting to ignore the two juveniles and Tanner was pretending absorption in
his work, but kept an interested eye on the proceedings. It was good to
have things back to normal.
So engrossed in their tasks, nobody noticed
where Chris stood watching them. He cleared his throat and held the file
aloft. “Got us a case, boys. Conference room.”
Five agents loudly protested and filed into
the large room. Standish was still sitting at his desk, eyes wide and
staring at the computer screen. “Ezra? You plan on joining us?”
Larabee took three steps to follow the
others when he noticed Standish hadn’t moved an inch. “Ezra!”
He was stunned by the startled look that met his eyes. “What?”
Chris stepped behind his undercover agent and read over his shoulder. The
mailbox was opened and a message was displayed on the screen.
Chris swallowed hard. So it starts.
“You gonna reply?”
Standish licked his lips. Without
answering he deleted the message. He wasn’t nearly ready for this.
“Shall we join the others? That case isn’t going to solve itself.”
He pushed back his chair and slid from his seat.
Chris watched the Southerner disappear into the conference room. Leaning over Ezra’s desk he clicked on the deleted mail and saved the message to a floppy, tucking it inside his jacket. One day soon, Standish will want to follow this up.
I do hope you enjoyed reading this. I would love to hear your comments.
* - ‘Net’ - No
* - ‘Do skoroy vstryechee’ – See you soon.
* - ‘Da’ - Yes