The Easter Bunny Cometh

by Helen Adams

“Hey! Where’d these come from?” JD exclaimed excitedly as he switched on the lights in the office and beheld a surprise. Upon each of the six desks in the outer office of the ATF’s team Seven sat a large cellophane-encased basket. Hurrying to his desk, the young man asked over his shoulder, “Did you do this, Chris?”

Behind him Chris Larabee frowned at the display. “No, JD, I didn’t.” He glanced around at the rest of the team. They had just returned from lunch and while it wasn’t unheard of for one of them to have had a secretary or someone sneak in a treat, the looks of alternating surprise and delight on their faces suggested that none of his men were responsible. As JD began to fuss with the ribbon holding the colored plastic on his basket closed, Chris barked, “Be careful with that!”

JD jumped back, blinking in confusion. “Why? It’s just an Easter basket.”

Brows lowering, Buck answered in his supervisor’s stead, “Because Easter was yesterday, kid, and because nobody should have been in our office while all seven of us were out. It won’t hurt to show a little caution.”

“He’s right,” Vin agreed, stepping forward to investigate his own desktop decoration. He peered at it from all angles without touching it, eyes checking carefully for any sign of wires, trigger devices or other potential dangers. “Ain’t everybody wants to kiss us for all the good work we do gettin’ scum off the street, ya know.”

The other men waited, not interrupting as Vin and Buck moved from desk to desk checking over the packages. Chris went to unlock the door of his private office and called out, “Got one in here, too.”

With a nod, Vin headed in to check. “Looks clean,” he decided after a moment, returning to find Buck checking the final basket, which sat on Ezra’s desk in the far corner.

“Ah, hah!” the mustached man bellowed, causing more than one man to jump. Triumphantly, he picked up a small white envelope by a careful grasp of the edges and showed it to the others.

“What does it say?” Chris demanded.

Squinting suspiciously at the surface, Buck responded, “Happy Easter.”

Ezra heaved an exasperated breath. “Let me see that.” Without waiting for permission he snatched the envelope from Buck’s hand, ignoring his protest, and tore it open. Pulling out a plain card, he read it and then surprised everyone by laughing. “You can stand down, gentlemen. It seems that my mother has sent us a present. I should have guessed, given that she sent them a day late for the actual holiday. My dear mother has never been less than fashionably late for anything in her entire life.”

Relieved, the rest of the team relaxed.

“What does the note say?” Vin asked, fingering the concealing plastic over his basket and licking his lips in anticipation. Easter baskets usually contained candy…

Glancing over the card again, Ezra replied, “She says that if I insist upon hobnobbing with the lower classes, I should at least have the manners to attempt a raise of your culinary standards. Since I have evidently been remiss in this regard, she has for each of us left a small token of her affection.”

“She calls us low class bums then leaves us each a present with her affection?” Nathan mused with a raise of his left eyebrow. “I can’t decided if I want to be insulted by that or not.”

Ezra laughed again. “No, please take it in the spirit with which it was intended,” he advised. “For while she cannot seem to refrain from inserting a cutting remark with any kind gesture, my mother would never have bothered to give gifts, much less attach a sentiment of any kind, if she didn’t mean it. After all, it isn’t as though she’s going to get anything from you for doing so.”

“So, does that mean we can open them?” JD asked hopefully, again fingering the ribbon atop his basket.

“In a minute,” Chris decided. Walking back to his office, he fished his own gift off the desk and brought it out to join the others. “Might as well do ‘em all together.”

Josiah grinned and picked up one end of his ribbon. “On your mark?” The other followed suit, laughing as he speedily said, “Get-set-Go!” and pulled the decoration free in one smooth motion, allowing the cellophane to fall away in a graceful heap.

“Cool, a half pound box of chocolate!” JD exclaimed with glee as he pulled out the top item. Frowning at the label, he asked, “What the heck is Fazer Blue? I never heard of that brand.”

Ezra sighed rapturously as he pulled out his own box. “It’s only the finest chocolate in the world, bar none,” he explained dreamily, stroking the top of the box reverently. “It comes from Finland. Truly the stuff that dreams are made of.”

Laughing at his unusually loving tone, Buck said, “You need to work on your dreams, bud. There’s things a lot more worth fantasizing about at night than a fancy box of chocolate.”

“I dunno, Bucklin,” Vin said, popping a candy into his mouth and closing his eyes in ecstasy. “A few of these and you just might change your mind.”

Curious, Buck likewise tried out a chocolate. Chewing thoughtfully, he bobbed his head from side to side. “Tasty. I dunno that it’s any better than Hershey though.”

Ezra looked disgusted. “Sometimes I think you truly are a barbarian, Mr. Wilmington.”

“All right, Kona!” Josiah interrupted happily, pulling out a bag of coffee beans. “Your lovely mother really does have exquisite taste, Ezra.”

“That she does,” he agreed with a grin. “We stayed in Hawaii for a couple of months one summer and Mother became absolutely addicted to their private reserve blend. Being still a child, I was more impressed with the Macadamia nuts.”

Nathan laughed, “I guess she remembered that, too” he said, pulling a large can of them free from the Easter grass lining his package.

Surprised, Ezra went back to digging through his basket, as did the other men. Exclamations of pleasure sounded as they each discovered small bottles of expensive French Cognac, fine Cuban cigars, packets of Italian Bigio cheese and lastly, 32 ounce jars of gourmet Jelly Beans.

“From right here in the good ol’ U.S. of A,” Vin said happily, popping open the jar to snag a few of the fruit-flavored candies. “You got any idea where your Ma is right now, Ezra? Reckon we ought to send her some flowers or something to say thanks.”

“Just what I was thinking,” Josiah agreed, lovingly fingering his bottle of cognac.

Ezra frowned thoughtfully, “I believe she’s still in New Orleans, working on her latest matrimonial conquest. I’m sure she would be pleased to receive such a token.”

Rolling one of his new cigars between his fingers, Chris nodded. “Get her address and we’ll take care of it first thing.”

“I’ll check online and find a good flower shop in the city,” JD volunteered, snatching another chocolate before sitting down at his computer and disengaging the screen saver. “It’s still early enough that we might be able to get them delivered today if we hurry.”

The team’s youngest member quickly found what he was looking for and after a few minutes’ debate, the men decided upon a bouquet of seven different colored roses surrounded by assorted greenery and filler. As soon as Ezra found his mother’s hotel information Chris called the florist direct, rather than using the on-line ordering system.

After a few moments conversation, Chris held the phone away from his ear. “What do we want on the card?”

“Thank you and Happy Easter---with affection,” Nathan suggested with a smile. The other men grinned and nodded.

Chris relayed the sentiment to the clerk at the other end. “Perfect. Thanks very much.” Hanging up he told them, “They’ll be delivered this evening before 6pm.”

“I still can’t believe your mom did something so nice,” JD commented absently, then instantly colored, his eyes going wide as he looked at Ezra and blurted, “I mean, not that she’s not capable or anything. Um, no that isn’t what I mean either. That is-”

“Such a gesture is rather unusual for her?” Ezra supplied, smiling to alleviate his young friend’s distress. “It is indeed, but I can assure you that neither is it completely out of character. I remember one year on my birthday, she showed up out of the blue on the doorstep of the house where I was staying with my aunt and took me out to a park where we spent the entire day together having a picnic. She spent the whole afternoon just playing games with me and never asked for a thing in return, which as you know is rather unusual in itself.”

Josiah patted him on the shoulder. “I’m glad to hear it. Even if it didn’t happen often enough, it’s good to know that she was just a normal mother once in a while.”

Ezra’s smile had grown warm and wistful at the memory. “She does love surprises,” he said. Shaking off the sentimental mood, he began placing his gifts back in their basket. “Well, I don’t know about you gentlemen, but I’d like to get out of here at a decent hour this afternoon so I suppose I had best get to work on the report that Mr. Larabee asked for.”

“You heard the man,” Chris agreed with a grin. “Can’t have Ezra making the rest of look like slackers. Get to work!”

Sloppy salutes and mutterings of, “Yes, sir,” sounded throughout the room as the men hoarded their goodies together and returned to their own desks.

Silence reigned for about a minute, then JD’s voice rang out, “Hey, anybody want to trade their jelly beans for my cigars?”

The End