By Beth ©
FBI (Ezra, Seven)
Please email me with comments or suggestions, email@example.com
When Doctors Corlett and Terry entered the room it was as though the sound of a single pin drop would awaken the world. Four sets of eyes landed on the two men and waited eagerly for what they had to say. It didn’t look good.
Gary Corlett took a seat at the table and rubbed his face before looking at the men eagerly awaiting the results. He watched as they each took a seat before he began. “The gunshot wound Mr. Standish suffered, though severe, was easily treated with a few sutures. The bullet lacerated his liver—and lodged between ribs ten and eleven.” He rested the small projectile on the table, contained within a plastic bag. “The laceration to his liver caused a moderate amount of blood loss that was complicated due to his rising fever—”
“Is he okay?” JD asked.
“The problem isn’t the gunshot wound—that was just the antagonist to the real problem—”
“What are you talking about?” Chris snapped, getting to his feet and shoving his chair under the table.
“Your friend is suffering from what—I believe—is a unrestrained case of encephalitis. I’ve looked at the lab results—though primitive, they are reliable. And, I’ve seen several cases not all dissimilar to this one.”
“What’s that mean?” JD asked, looking fearful.
“His brain is swelling,” Josiah answered, wishing Nathan was there. “Has he slipped into a coma?”
Corlett shrugged: “It’s difficult to say. Coma is an intense state of unconsciousness and though he’d be considered a one on the Glasgow Coma Scale, he is responsive—”
“But he’s not awake?” Chris asked.
Corlett nodded: “I don’t have access to an electroencephalogram—EEG, and we’re limited even with the blood results.”
“This clinic was established less than eight years ago,” Allen said defensively, “everything we’ve got here has been donated or we’ve purchased with minimal funds. Any other time of year...” he sighed, disappointed, frustrated, and lacking the ability to save a life, “...any other time of year, your friend would be on a flight to Fairbanks as we speak.... I do the best with what I’ve got, and yes, I’ve recommended that people leave this town due to their medical conditions—it’s a part of the package.”
“Not our package,” Chris snapped.
“If his condition worsens?” Josiah asked, somberly looking toward the doctors for any help they could offer. He didn’t want to give up...not yet.
“Coma is inevitable if he hasn’t already succumbed to it—”
“But he’s responsive?” JD asked.
Corlett nodded: “Coma is different than sleep...sleep is reversible—coma isn’t. The chances are very good that he’ll awaken and not suffer any complications…that’s if he awakens in less than five days—longer than that his chances diminish. He’s on a respirator to prevent low oxygen levels and we’re keeping him on corticosteroids which—I hope—will reduce inflammation.”
“How can you tell how bad the swelling is without a CAT scan or an MRI?” Buck asked.
“We can’t. We can only prescribe according to his vitals.”
“Then he may not have it...encephalitis?” JD only wanted to hear good news.
“True, he may not—but in all likelihood, he does.”
“What’s the prognosis?” Chris had quieted, standing with his hands on his waist and his head down.
“His age is on his side, and from what I can gather he has no pre-existing neurological conditions, and his immune system is strong—considering. I wish I knew more, but under the circumstances I think he has a chance.” Despite his words, he didn’t sound hopeful.
“What about his temperature—won’t that cause brain damage if it’s too high?” JD questioned naively.
“We’ve managed to get his temperature down to 103…and…it should continue to drop. We’ll continue to monitor his vitals: blood pressure, pulse, respiratory rate, and blood counts, until we have the ability to transport him to a facility that can better assess his needs—the medications he needs—we don’t have access to. Essentially, we’re treating a heart attack with children’s aspirin. Right now, we don’t even have an ample supply of antibiotics.”
“Our shipment was detained due to weather,” Allen answered sadly.
“You don’t think he’s going to make it,” Buck confirmed, getting to his feet, feeling the sudden urge to reach across the table and choke the doctor until his eyes bugged out.
“We need to get him to a facility that can care for this kind of illness and this isn’t the place for it. He needs a CT, MRI, Spinal tap and he may need anticonvulsants—which we don’t have. We are in essence limited to treatments of ice packs, saline solutions, and minimal antibiotics—we don’t have what it takes to save him.” His words were blunt, flat, and difficult to comprehend.
“Then why can’t we move him?”
Allen stepped forward: “It’s impossible for an aircraft to move in this weather—visibility is next to nothing and trying to drive would be impossible, with 40 mile an hour wind gusts with three feet of fresh snow, you might as well try climbing Mt. Everest without any shoes on,” he snapped, frustrated with the fact that nobody, except Alaskans, understood how deadly this kind of weather could be. “This isn’t a game. The best chance your friend has is to treat him the best we can here, and hope he’s able to hold out until the weather clears long enough to fly him out.”
“Hope!” Chris snapped. “I have no intention of sitting here and doing nothing!”
“That’s all you can do.” Doctor Corlett said, getting to his feet. “We’ll do the best we can with what we’ve got, but don’t count on a miracle.” He didn’t want to sound harsh, but reality couldn’t be ignored, nor could the fact that a man—their friend, was closer to death than anyone could predict.
“I want to see him,” Buck said, grabbing his blankets off the floor.
“Don’t be surprised—”
“You know what,” Buck snapped, looking at Terry, keeping him quiet with this bullshit about the weather, “fuck you, fuck this town, and fuck your shitty weather. I’m sittin’ with my friend so if you have a problem with that—fuck you again!” He grabbed the door and swung it open before stomping out of the room.
“Listen,” Allen held up his hand in defense and spoke toward the others, “I understand your concern—but it’s impossible to move your friend—not without risking the lives of countless others.”
“That doesn’t make it any easier,” Josiah said. He looked around the room and sighed. “What could have caused it? What made him sick?”
“It’s difficult to say,” Corlett replied, “technically, it can be picked up anywhere by anything, and it’s not a common illness in the States. But...” he took a deep breath, “...but…given what he does…I’d say it was brought on by stress.” He looked at the men around him. “I’ve seen two others collapse due to this illness simply because of their occupations—Ezra’s my second FBI agent—the first was 25 years ago and he’d nearly worked himself to death, the other was a missionary doctor who’d collapsed from exhaustion and eventually passed away because of it.”
“Stress?” Chris snapped, not believing his assessment.
“I’ve seen cases of this type and worse, Mr. Larabee, and as much as I’d like to say it doesn’t happen enough to warrant research and medical investigation—it does. The more stress the human body is under the more likely it is to suffer the complications of heart failure, depression, asthma, ulcers and more. If your friend was a little under the weather and came in contact with someone with this illness—it’s no wonder he’s here now.”
“Why’d it hit him so fast?” Josiah asked, already knowing the answer.
“It didn’t—he’s probably been feeling ill for some time.”
A warning wouldn’t have helped, not in this case. Buck entered the room and felt his heart lodge in his throat. It wasn’t just the way Ezra looked; it was the complete realization that he may not live. He lay with his head and shoulders slightly elevated, gauze and tape covered each eye, the intubation tube from the ventilator lay taped to his chin and cheek, and a light blue hospital gown had been placed over his chest and over his shoulders. IVs ran from both arms and ice packs had been placed over a blanket at his armpits and groin.
Buck watched as the nurse took Ezra’s blood pressure and then documented the reading on a clipboard. “Why are his eyes covered?” He slowly moved toward the bed and noticed for the first time Ezra’s wrists were restrained, as well as his ankles.
The nurse, tall and slender, had her gray hair stuffed loosely in a bun at the base of her neck. Her dark skin was a stark contrast to her surroundings. Her features were striking, fine, and reflective of a sculpture’s dream. She wore jeans and a smock that covered a white turtleneck. Obviously, she didn’t have time to dress the part of the nurse before being called in. She reached out and gently tucked the light blanket around Ezra’s hips and then she looked up toward the stranger with compassionate eyes. “To keep his eyes closed…Doctor Corlett said with a case like this that it’s not unusual for a patient—”
“I understand,” Buck said, not wanting to hear the details, but understanding them all too well. He pulled the only chair in the room next to the bed that had recently been donated from St. Mary’s Hospital in Fairbanks; the plastic stamp was still evident on the bed supports. Doctor hadn’t been joking when he’d said the clinic’s supplies had been donated. The building itself had been reconstructed from an old mechanic shop, lacking in size and rooms.
Nothing looked real, even Ezra seemed like a wax replica of himself. The heart monitor, old in every aspect of the word, read the pulse of 140 beats per minute. The reading caused Buck’s heart to sink. The harsh sounds of oxygen being forced into lungs, branded his mind like a searing rod. He hated it...above all he hated feeling helpless.
“I worked at St. Luke’s in Los Angeles, got so tired of seeing cases like this come in I quit—moved here.” She brushed at the stray bangs on Ezra’s sweat-beaded forehead and looked back toward Buck. “Never thought something like this would happen in Hanson, Alaska.” She moved around the bed and patted Buck’s shoulder before leaving him alone.
Buck sighed and took a long look around the room that was a third of the size of regular hospital room. Carefully, he reached through the aluminum bedrails and grasped his friend’s hand. “Come on, Ezra…”
Chris stared blankly at the ceiling in his room. Isolating himself in total darkness did little to ease his discomfort. He’d sat with Ezra for eight hours, listening to the sounds of forced breathing and nothing else. Josiah was with him now, and like the others, was waiting for a miracle.
Nathan had preformed an autopsy on Micky Peterson after gaining permission from the state of Alaska and found he’d died of hypothermia brought on by blood loss, not at all undeserving, but seemingly justified. JD had crashed, having spent most of the last 48 hours researching and waiting for the results from Seattle. Nathan had been right, they were all killing themselves for the job, and were all too consumed with their duties to realize it. Even Josiah agreed, seeing the light at the end of the tunnel and wishing for more.
The knock at the door caused Chris to sit up and rub his neck before answering. He wasn’t surprised to see Josiah standing with his heavy coat open and hat off, held tightly in his hand.
“Nathan’s asleep, and I figured you’d still be up,” he said, looking down the hall.
“You figured right.” Chris moved to allow Josiah to enter. “Buck with Ezra?” He moved to flip on the light.
“Yeah,” Josiah sighed, removing his coat and tossing it on the chair across from the one he sat on. He could hear the wind beat against the lodge’s exterior and he could feel a slight draft hit his naked forearm, causing his hairs to stand on end. “What do you want to do?” his question was honest, and full of uncertainty.
Chris retook a seat against the headboard of his bed and crossed his arms over bent knees. He leaned his head back, creating a hollow pop as the headboard hit the wall, and he looked toward the ceiling. “I don’t know.” He took a deep breath and a long pause. “I should have sent him home.”
Josiah didn’t say anything right away, unsure if anything he did say would be useful—or taken the wrong way. The possibility of losing two men in two years had taken its toll. What should have been done? Would it have made a difference? Were they wrong in expecting the worst, or hoping for the best? The questions flooded his mind, but he didn’t have the courage to ask them. “I was able to contact Ezra’s mother.” He changed the subject completely. “She’s on her way back from Austria.”
“How’s she sound?” Chris chastised himself for not thinking of it sooner.
“Worried,” Josiah replied. “She’s not sure how long it will take to get here, but she’ll come as soon as possible.”
“Think she’ll make it in time?”
That was the question Josiah knew he’d hear, and in some distant way the reflection of Chris’ thoughts. “I’m not going to sit here and tell you everything’s going to work out perfectly—but don’t count him out—not yet.”
Chris shook his head and forced a smile that was more symbolic of losing than winning. He looked at the clock next to his bed. “This is a small town, Josiah—a town that has one ventilator that they’ve never had to use…” he looked up and met Josiah’s eyes, “…they have three days worth of oxygen—this storm could last up to seven or eight days.” He rubbed his brow out of frustration.
“Does Nathan know?”
“He’s the one that informed me.” Chris lowered his left leg, feelings of fear, disappointment, regret, and despair hit his mind like a hammer. He sighed, fighting himself as he spoke, “He’s not going to make it…”
There was an uncomfortable silence that seemed to drag on. A tree branch slammed up against the building, and a few voices traveled down the halls. The storm had everyone seeking comfort inside…even the hardiest of hunters.
“If you have a God you believe in,” Chris said softly, looking toward the lamp across the room, “maybe you should start asking for a miracle?”
Buck sat in silence, listening to forced breathing and the vengeful wind as it slammed against the brick building. On occasion, the lights would flicker and he’d shake his head in hopes the power remained on. He’d grabbed hold of Ezra’s hand, keeping a finger on the faint and erratic pulse at his wrist. He seemed dead, despite the rise and fall of his chest, the flicker of blood through veins, or the uncontrolled jerk of his body.
“I’ll admit,” Buck sighed, “I didn’t much care for you when we first met—thought you were takin’ over for Steven…guess I should have realized then that nobody could replace that ol’ son-of-a-bitch. Talk about a prankster. I caught him linin’ the toilet seats with Vaseline one time.” He chuckled and shook his head, remembering a friend. “He was a good guy—and a damn good friend.”
A branch slapped the window, causing Buck to jump. He chuckled again and rubbed his hand against Ezra’s forearm, offering the slightest amount of comfort. It was the least he could do. Slowly, he reached into his pocket and pulled out the brass medal he’d carried with him and looked at the simple, yet symbolic, shape. A medal his mother had won for receiving an injury in Vietnam. Ezra wouldn’t get one…nor had Steven.
“I think she would have liked you,” Buck said, filling the time. “I used to watch her paint her toenails…it always amazed me how she stayed on the nail and not get any paint on her toe—must be some kind of a trick mothers teach their daughters...” He continued to ramble, talking about things that really didn’t matter to anyone except himself. He spoke fondly of his mother, his college days, his time in the academy, and even his first few years with the bureau.
Buck jumped when Ezra pulled his hand out of his grasp, stopping only when the leather strap restraining his arm was pulled tight. Ezra arched his back, strained his neck, causing the veins to protrude from his skin. His heart rate jumped from 96 to nearly 170. Buck clasped onto Ezra’s hand and leaned over the bed, using the railing to keep him from falling over. “Ezra, come on…don’t do this…” he strained, placing his free hand on Ezra’s forehead, trying to keep him still. “Ezra!”
It was that strange state between awareness and sleep, when reality and fantasy collide. He could hear a voice, but it seemed distant, as though blocked by a barrier. The voice wasn’t strong enough to block the images invading his mind like a movie reel that had sped out of control. Everything he’d ever seen, all the children—boys and girls, all the men and women he’d seen that had been brutally murdered were filling his mind—colliding on him like a speeding train.
He could feel their pain, their suffering, the torture enforced on them by the hands of monsters. He could feel it…it was happening to him. He knew he was tied, and tubes were forced in him that didn’t belong—and the pain that followed. All the rapes, molestations, beatings, slashings, whippings, and shootings hit his body as though he were living each and every moment. And he couldn’t stop it. He could see the faces of the men he’d profiled: their anger, bitterness, and their lust for revenge...he could hear their words of warning—their promises of retribution. He felt as though he were living it. He could feel their hands on him—and no one was there to stop them. He could understand now how a victim relented, gave up, allowed themselves to succumb to the pain and humiliation of dominance. He could understand why it was easier to die than it was to live.
He grabbed something and squeezed, pleading through his grip what he couldn’t speak…it didn’t help. He clamped down on the steel like barrier that forced his mouth open, and he tried kicking at the objects that restrained his feet…nothing helped.
“EZRA!” Buck yelled, trying to release his fingers from Standish’s death grip. He turned toward the door again and yelled for some help, watching helplessly as his friend seemed to succumb to a seizure. “I NEED SOME FUCKING HELP IN HERE!”
He couldn’t do anything but watch, knowing his fingers were being crushed, possibly broken. Ezra’s back arched and his neck reminded Buck of a collection of rubber bands about to be snapped. Ezra’s arms pulled and struggled with the restraints and his sock covered feet continued to slam against the bed railing.
“Don’t do this,” Buck pleaded, “come on Ezra…don’t do this.” He watched Ezra’s Adam’s apple bobble up and down franticly, his jaw muscles clenched and strained against the clasp protecting the intubation tube. The gauze pads and tape protecting his eyes slowly became drenched with tears that eventually escaped down the sides of his face.
Doctor Corlett stood in the doorway, unable to enter, knowing he couldn’t do anything except wait for the patient to settle on his own and in his own time. He couldn’t do anything—not without killing him. This was the third time Ezra had seized. The first time, Gary had tried to help, only as a result Ezra’s fever had once again spiked to 105.9. So, in an effort to do what was best, Gary allowed the seizure to stop on its own. Any anticonvulsants the clinic had were gone—used already and they didn’t have a way to get more. It wasn’t easy. He knew the chances were great that his patient would die if given more anti-inflammatory medications—and if he didn’t. It was a fifty-fifty chance he had to make, and he chose the most difficult in hopes his patient could settle—maybe even survive. It was the best thing for him under the circumstances. After 36 hours of waiting, the chances continued to drop that he’d live.
Gary suddenly stood straight when he met the eyes of the man pleading for his friend’s life.
“Do something!” Buck snapped, feeling his fingers snap like twigs. He didn’t care about that.
“I can’t.” This was the first time in his long career that anything like this had ever happened, and he prayed to God it was the last. He didn’t have the facilities, the medications, or the staff to save a life—not this life.
“If you don’t he’ll die!” Buck turned back toward the bed when he felt the grasp on his fingers loosen, and he watched helplessly as the tension slowly left Ezra’s body, leaving nothing but a frantic pulse, quivering chin, and flaring nostrils. “Come on, Ezra,” he pleaded, feeling as though this were the end. He hadn’t realized he’d been crying until he felt a tear drop onto his hand. He didn’t bother to wipe it away.
“Perhaps…” Gary paused, “…perhaps you should contact your friends.” Time was short...he could feel it.
Buck looked at him, and then back at Ezra. “Fuck,” he swore, letting his head drop in defeat. He let the tears roll, and his defeat showed through slumped shoulders. God he was tired...he just wanted everything to stop—just for a moment, he just wanted to catch his breath so he could regroup, but he didn’t have time—none of them did. Slowly, he rubbed his eyes with his thumb and forefinger of his left hand. He nodded and slowly stood and gently reached out and brushed his hand against Ezra’s forehead while gathering his strength. “Hang on.”
Lydia, the nurse, entered the room with a damp cloth and a look of resentment and frustration on her face, although her actions contrasted her inner feelings. She gently wiped the spittle away from her patient’s chin and cheek, and then carefully removed the damp gauze pads from his eyes. Tears continued to seep past closed eyelids and slip unobstructed down the sides of his face. “Don’t worry, son,” she looked at Buck, “I’ll take care of him.”
Buck nodded and slowly turned to leave the room. He paused, coming shoulder to shoulder with Doctor Corlett, and looked at him. “Where I come from…we don’t quit. You ever do that again, I’ll shove your head through that brick wall and pull you out the other side.” He held his bruised and broken hand close to his chest as he headed toward the phone.
“Doctor?” Lydia said, looking up from her patient. “He’s crying.”
“You sure you want to stay here, JD?” Josiah asked, slipping into his jacket.
The kid nodded and fiddled his thumbs, not out of boredom, but fear. He couldn’t look the others in the eyes…he just sat there, next to the fire in the lobby of the lodge. After Buck had called, JD’s knees had given out, and he’d parked himself in the throne style chair.
Chris nodded in acceptance, knowing they all dealt with death in their own ways—it couldn’t be forced. Vin looked ready to burst out of his skin: unsettled, anxious, and mean. Josiah, ever calm and understanding seemed more so, almost catatonic, simply moving through the motions…asking about everyone else, not himself. Nathan had suddenly become the quietest of them, not able to look anyone in the eye...not able to face the fact that he’d failed.
“Ready?” Chris asked, not wanting any answers.
“Yeah,” Vin sighed, zipping up his coat and heading out the door before the others.
It was something that had to be handled individually, because everyone reacted differently. They had all dealt with death before, most having defined their lives by it and what it had done to them. It was a simple fact, and something everyone had to face. Unavoidable like time, it was rarely welcomed.
The word had spread around town that one of the FBI agents had been shot and was near death…that same agent had killed Micky Peterson. Rumors. Rumors had a vengeance all their own, and like most rumors, it was only fed with lies and false facts, not quenched. Chris had answered a few questions, mostly explaining why Sheriff Ford had retired his badge and had locked himself inside his home. He wasn’t suicidal, just hiding from the facts he’d learned. As soon as the weather cleared, Chris guessed the good sheriff would leave—take his son and his wife and move away—hide from the truth and his past.
As Chris walked outside, he could understand how towns were seemingly left abandoned for months out of the year as snowdrifts continued to gain in height. Some stood as tall as seven feet, resting against buildings, trees, and automobiles. Trucks had been traded in for snowmobiles and only the businesses that had to be opened, were. This was a different place...and a different time, and the people here either loved it or hated it, but none of them underestimated the Alaskan Frontier.
“Let’s go,” Josiah said confidently, walking toward the shed that protected the snowmobiles.
JD looked at his hands, concentrating on his thumbnails. His chest hurt, and it scared him...for the first time in his life he was realizing he was alone. Not in the sense of friends, but in the sense of love. He understood his job—he understood the complications of it—and he had nightmares because of it. He knew now, why Buck turned to his lady friends, why Chris visited Sarah’s grave...why Nathan spent his free time with his family...why Ezra disappeared.
Slowly, he reached over and grabbed the white phone from the coffee table and hesitantly dialed her number. His hands shook, and his chest tightened.
“Hello,” she said, kind as ever and full of grace.
“Hey,” he replied, sounding defeated.
“JD,” Casey said.
He could tell she was smiling, probably working on a hot cup of cocoa and wearing her fuzzy pajamas. He missed her. He was just happy to hear his voice. He couldn’t say anything as he listened to the distance between them grow.
“You okay, JD?” she asked, concerned. Her smile disappeared, replaced with a frown.
JD took a deep breath and looked at his thumb, and started picking at the cuticle. He shook his head, wishing she were there...wishing she could see. He choked back a sob and answered, “No.”
Buck sat in the lobby cradling his left hand. He never heard the door open or the unnecessary greeting. He didn’t bother to look up, finding his strength in a small grain of sand imbedded in the orange carpet. He looked up when Nathan reached out to check his injuries.
“What happened?” Chris asked, watching as Nathan checked the twisted fingers.
“Think I broke ‘em,” Buck admitted, wincing with each move of his fingers.
“Don’t think they’re broke,” Nathan said, “but they’re dislocated.”
“How is he?” Josiah asked, gathering his courage…anticipating the worst…hoping for the best.
Buck shrugged: “He ah…had a real bad seizure or somethin’,” he paused and shook his head, trying to keep his concentration on his fingers. “Doctor’s with him now.” God he hurt.
“Buck?” Chris asked.
“I don’t know!” Buck stood, pulling his hand away from Nathan’s examination. “I don’t know!” He clenched his fist so tight the sound of his knuckles cracking filled the air, his other hand he kept pulled to his chest. “He’s dyin’, Chris...” he sighed, finding his strength, “...and damn if I don’t blame him for it.”
Nathan stood and exited the room only to return with a handful of medical supplies. “Let me wrap your hand, Buck.” He had to do something constructive...something that would help someone.
Chris stood off to the side for a brief moment, watching as Nathan—ever so patient, so careful, pulled on sore joints—correcting the wronged position and efficiently braced each finger and wrapped them together. Pain medications would be all Buck would need for a few days...enough to take the edge off. It wouldn’t be enough though...not if they lost one of their own...it would never be enough. Chris turned and watched as Vin took a seat in a chair, keeping his eyes on the window, watching as the snow fell and the brutal wind stole the fate of a friend. Josiah, unwilling to change, offered hope in measures he understood: a look, a word, a touch...even in silence.
Chris sighed before gathering his strength and heading down the hall toward the room—the room. He could hear voices, a man and a woman, but he couldn’t make out what they were saying. When he arrived he tentatively peeked inside, and stood stunned at what he saw.
He’d seen seizures before, some worse than others, but the one he was looking at terrified him. Lydia leaned over the bed railing trying desperately to comfort the man that seemed consumed with tension as muscles contracted and shook. Doctor Corlett spoke loudly, trying to reason with himself, the nurse, and his patient.
Chris entered the room with his heart in his throat and his jaw clenched so tightly his teeth ached. He reached out and grasped Ezra’s arm, below his wrist and moved beside Lydia. “What’s happening?” he asked, looking to the doctor for answers he didn’t have. For the first time Chris hoped that this was the end, he didn’t think he could handle a painful, grueling death...not another one.
“Could be pressure on the brain, pressure on the spinal cord or brain stem...possible infection from the gunshot wound...fever,” he wanted to continue, but focused his attention on his patient. Both his hands were placed on either side of Ezra’s face, trying desperately to keep him still—trying to keep him from slamming his head against the bed that had been lined with pillows—anything to keep him from banging against the metal railings.
Chris watched helplessly as Ezra struggled with his bonds, clamped down on the intubation tube that had broken near the mouth guard. He was breathing on his own, for now. “Ezra!” he snapped, looking down as the IV escaped Standish’s arm and fell toward the ground—spilling valuable saline solution all over the floor. “Damn it, Ezra, look at me!” He kept his grasp on Ezra’s arm and placed his other hand on his shoulder, he could feel muscles twitching and shaking beneath his hand, quivering like a wild colt captured for the first time. He ignored the blood, the sweat, the spit...and the tears. “Go get Josiah,” he ordered, looking toward Lydia and pushing her out of the way.
Reluctantly, she relented, looking up and receiving the nod from the doctor she released her charge and moved from the room and toward the lobby.
“How long’s he been like this?’ Chris asked, wincing as he watched the veins in Ezra’s neck tighten and strain.
“Since your friend left,” Gary replied, wishing he had the courage to end it. At least, at home, he had the medications needed to help terminally ill patients die peacefully, and in their own time—not like this—not fighting and screaming and clawing their way back.
Josiah entered the room with a firm jaw and muscles that wouldn’t quit. Without orders or instruction, he moved beside Doctor Corlett and grabbed hold of Ezra’s right arm. As soon as he had a firm grip he looked at Chris and nodded.
“Take the tube out of his mouth,” Chris ordered, believing it had to be done. He wasn’t a doctor, but he was a friend, and he knew some of what Ezra had seen—what he’d dealt with, and how he dealt with it.
“As soon as he settles down he’ll need to be put back on oxygen,” Gary argued.
“If he’s going to die, he’s going to on his own terms—now take the damn tube out!”
Corlett moved to the head of the bed and quickly tilted his patient’s head back and released the air from the cuff holding the intubation tube in place. Though protest and muscle spasms, he slowly pulled the narrow pipe from Ezra’s mouth and released him, allowing him to cough and choke on the vile object. He seemed to relax, slightly, but enough to allow Josiah enough time to grab a wet cloth and wipe the spit and bile from his lips and chin. It was an ugly business, and one that didn’t allow for weak stomachs.
Tears continued to seep past eyelids that occasionally fluttered, but never opened. Lashes clung together, and dark umber hair continued to mat as moisture fed the bedding beneath. He took a deep breath and pulled one last time on his bonds before slipping away.
Josiah wiped Ezra’s face with the washcloth, pushing matted bangs away from his forehead and wiping tears from his eyes and cheeks. “Think maybe he’s just terrified?” It didn’t sound like a question, but it was. “Maybe, just maybe, he’s fighting all those sick bastards that put him here.” He placed a comforting hand on Ezra’s shoulder.
“I’ll go get another IV line,” Gary said, wishing he better understood the dynamics of friendship combined with medicine.
Chris nodded, more out of need than anything. He rubbed Ezra’s arm gently, as though it brought comfort. “God, Josiah,” he sighed, taking a seat on the chair next to the bed. He looked at his hands, watching as they shook and knowing he couldn’t stop them, and the more exhausted he became the worse it got.
Lydia reentered the room with an armload of clean sheets and bedding. She didn’t need to ask as Josiah unleashed the restraints and carefully moved his arms beneath limp legs and shoulders. He lifted Ezra off the bed as though he weren’t a burden and waited for her to change the sheets. It didn’t take her long and once again their patient was seemingly comfortable, surrounded by pillows, friends, and hope.
“I had a patient one time,” Lydia said softly, carefully laying a clean dry blanket over him, “an older fellow suffering from cancer... He always told me his son was coming to see him.” She smiled tightly, tucking the blanket around narrow hips and waist. “He was there almost eight months and I never saw his son—but he always said, ‘my son’s coming to see me’, I’d just smile and nod—make sure he was comfortable... Then, one day I walk by his room and there’s this young man—handsome, with the gentlest soul I’d ever met,” she let a lone tear make its way down her cheek, “he sat there for many hours—just sitting and for the first time I saw that old man smile—he looked so happy.” She didn’t bother with the restraints—she couldn’t. “He died that day, with that young man sitting beside him—I asked that young man later on how come it took him so long to come and see his father, and he told me his father had died when he was a boy. And I looked at that young man and he just shrugged and said, ‘sometimes it don’t matter who you are, just what they think you are that matters.’ At first I didn’t understand that—but later I learned.” She smiled and gently patted Chris’ shoulder. “I’ll go make us some coffee.”
Josiah reached through the bed railing and took hold of Ezra’s limp hand.
He felt as though every cell in his body had been weighted down with lead. Even his toes felt heavy. His lungs burned, as though he’d been through a fire, and his mouth was dry...feeling like the desert sands. He wanted to lift his hand but he couldn’t, too weak, so he fought with his eyelids. At first it was as though they’d been glued shut, but given a little more time they slowly fluttered. He winced when the light of the room invaded his senses and he had to pause, turning his head just slightly he looked toward the door. He could hear voices in the distance, and he could hear the howling wind slap the sides of the building. A chill suddenly went down his spin as though he’d been dunked in cold water and his skin prickled with Goosebumps. Too tired to reach for the blanket he allowed himself the privilege of shivering.
Chris stood up and grabbed a blanket, checking the oil lamp as he moved toward the bed. Carefully, he laid it out and over his charge, taking the time to tuck it around bare feet that were nearly black from bruises. He reached up and rubbed Ezra’s arm and retook his seat in the chair next to the bed. He smiled, relishing the sound of comfortable breathing. He looked toward the dark hall and then took a deep breath.
“I’m not real sure if you can hear me, Ezra,” Chris said, keeping his voice down, “but I want to tell you some things I should have told you a long time ago—probably should have told myself.” He looked toward the bed, seeking acknowledgement, but finding none. “I think you and me are a lot alike—both hard-headed, stubborn, set in our ways...and I think we both found a sense of justification and purpose with the women we loved.... Sarah...Sarah had a way of balancing me out...making me better than what I thought I could be. She could see past the bullshit better than anyone I’ve ever met...and I loved her for it... She had a way of making me see what was really important. She had this way of looking at things—always seeing the good in people—always bringing a smile to a shitty situation.” He paused, thinking about a better time. “I never thought of myself as much.” He winced, remembering his younger days. Though he had grown up in a good home, like so many young people, his insecurities were strong—despite being a star athlete, and even a forceful debater on his senior team.
“I came home late one time,” Chris continued, suffering the silence, “and that was the first time I’d ever seen her pissed. She was so mad she was shaking and her face was red...turned out she’d seen the news about an abortion clinic that had been bombed—same abortion clinic that I’d been called to, to help investigate.” He shrugged, as though talking with someone who could communicate. “We lost two agents that day... It scared her to death when she realized I was on the site and hadn’t called her—I’d tried to, but couldn’t get through.”
Chris rubbed his knee, looking out the widow and seeing lights as another business got their generator working. He wanted to leave and help Doctor Terry—who’d been busy with other patients, Josiah, and Vin with the medical clinic’s generator—but he wouldn’t leave Ezra, despite the fact that his temperature had dropped to a 101, and his pulse had as well, dropping from 170 to 74...and it continued to fall. He reached through the bed railing and grasped a limp wrist and placed his fingers on the veins and checked his pulse rate one more time—just to make sure. Chris smiled and nodded.
“Sarah was soft,” he leaned back in his seat and glanced toward the oil lamp...feeling somewhat out of time, “she wasn’t like the women you see on TV: harsh, angular, so damn boney. She was the kind of woman you wanted to hug...and keep hugging.” His voice seemed sad, distant in an unfamiliar way. “When I saw myself through her eyes...I couldn’t bear the thought of letting her down.” His voice had softened, growing almost faint. “For five and a half years she was my drug of choice.”
Ezra could hear the words and he understood them, but he didn’t have the energy to offer comment or support. He knew the pain. He’d been there, suffered through it, but continued with his life. He never took time to really say goodbye—it was just too hard. In an effort to forget rather than remember, he’d buried himself in his work. Chris was right, not only had he been a lot like himself, but Li had been a lot like Sarah. She’d been the kind of person he loved because she loved him without questioning his past—without judging him for his life. He loved what she saw in him, and because of it, he cherished her for it. For him, she’d been a mirror, a reflection of what he could be and she pushed him without forcing him to become that person. He missed her…
“When I lost her,” Chris sighed, leaning forward and folding his fingers together, “I turned to the only thing I could that made me forget her.” He spoke of his alcohol addiction. He’d never wanted to forget her, just the pain of losing her. “I was fortunate enough to have a son. I got to know him...I got to see, through my wife, what I was capable of...” He’d been a father, a husband, a friend, and a lover. He’d been able to find in himself what others had seen in him. “The hardest thing anyone will ever face is losing a child, and losing a spouse—we’ve done both.”
“I miss her,” came the soft, and broken words from the bed.
Chris turned and nodded, carefully reaching through the bedrail and placing a comforting hand on a blanket covered shoulder. “You always will.”
Buck stomped his feet on the entry mat, causing the snow to fall off his boots and land haphazardly on the floor. He looked up, taking his hat off at the same time and smiled. He ignored the slight pain in his fingers as he slipped his gloves off. He found JD sitting on a chair reading a magazine. He looked up and nodded.
“How’re you doin’, kid?” Buck asked, removing his coat and tossing it onto a chair.
JD looked up and nodded, simply stating without words he was fine. “Doctor Terry was able to get through to Fairbanks, and their sending a chopper—should be here anytime.”
Buck nodded and took a seat next to JD, slapping his knee and leaning back in his seat. “What’s goin’ on?” he asked bluntly.
JD shrugged, not really wanting to say anything, but needing to. “Doctor Corlett said that Ezra’s going to be fine...with some rest. Said that the hospital will run some more tests on him—”
“That what’s botherin’ you?”
JD took a deep breath and leaned forward. “Is it worth it...? Is all this worth it?” He froze his hands, his feet, and his back and looked toward the floor.
Buck sighed, understanding the implications. “Ezra’s an extreme case, JD—”
“No, Buck,” JD replied firmly, sitting up and looking him in the eye, “that’s the point—he’s not—First it was Steven—now Ezra, who’s next? I’m tired...I want a life outside the job...” he sighed, shaking his head. “I want to know that the next case I work...I’m not going to lose another friend—we’re all tired, and we’re all running on empty, Buck.” He ran his hand over his face and took another deep breath. “What if he hadn’t of gotten shot?”
The sound of someone setting a cup on a counter caused both men to pause.
“I talked to that doctor...Doctor Corlett—and I asked him what would have happened, and you know what he told me?” JD paused and looked at Buck. “He said that Ezra probably would have continued until he dropped—until he got to the point where there was no turning back—he said the only reason Ezra’s alive right now is because of the cold you and him were in after he got shot—otherwise...we’d be burying another teammate... He could have made it home, Buck...he could have made it home and collapsed in his bedroom and died.”
“But he didn’t...he’s going to be fine.”
JD nodded: “Until it happens again.” He stood up and headed for the bathroom, disappointed and frustrated with the lack of appreciation, support, and reserves their employer offered.
Buck sighed and nodded in understanding, knowing something had to be done. He looked up as Josiah stepped inside, stomping the snow off his boots.
“Chopper’s here...they’re ready to take Ezra to Mercy,” he said, wiping his shoulders and opening his coat just slightly.
“Good,” Buck said, getting to his feet, “let’s start headin’ home.”
She hadn’t been what Josiah had expected, and he stood in the hospital doorway, looking toward the bed where a good friend lay sleeping—a deep healing sleep, while his mother sat in a chair looking out the window toward the diamond speckled city. For reasons Josiah didn’t understand, he didn’t want to move—he just looked, appreciating the moment. His friend would live, despite the odds.
Maude Standish was beautiful; enough to make most women half her age strive for perfection. Her blonde hair speckled with gray was cut short, in a classic style, framing her face that accentuated her fine bone structure and near-perfect complexion. Her makeup was mild, not overwhelming, just enough to cast a classic hue. Not a tall woman, she wore heels to make up the difference. When she turned in her seat, probably knowing someone was watching, she smiled and placed a finely boned hand on her son’s arm. He never stirred.
“I’m sorry,” Josiah said, entering the room and setting his cup of coffee on the nightstand next to the bed. “I’m Josiah Sanchez,” he spoke calmly.
“Maude,” she replied, “I’m Ezra’s mother.”
“I can see the resemblance,” he said out kindness.
“He looks like his grandfather on his father’s side—but thank you for the compliment.” She gently brushed Ezra’s arm, as though it was more of a comfort for her, not her son. “Mr. Larabee said you were one of the men who took care of him,” she spoke of her son and his condition. She waited until Josiah nodded before she continued, “I want to thank you.”
“He’s tough…a lot tougher than the doctors thought.” He meant it to sound like a compliment—implying Ezra’s strength of character, but instead it sounded as though he’d almost lost his battle.
Maude smiled: “He’s always been strong,” she said, focusing her attention on the slack features, closed eyes, and the occasional flutter of eyelids. “He’s a lot like his father in that way.”
Josiah nodded, listing to a mother who needed to speak, but was at a loss of what to do and how to react.
“Ezra’s always pushed himself—I taught him how to do that,” she sounded sad, as though it were a trait she’d wished he’d never learned. “As a boy I pushed him, made him do things he didn’t want to do. He wanted to take professional riding lessons…I made him take piano. He wanted to public school—I made him go to private schools… I never wanted him to be lost—like I was…for so long.” She looked up and smiled. “I wanted my son to be independent, and I wanted him to accomplish things on his own.”
“Creates strong individuals,” Josiah replied, seeing the complexity of her situation.
“It also creates havoc,” Maude acknowledged. “When he was 15 he broke his wrist—it was a small break, but it was break all the same,” she sighed, forced a tight smile, “he went two days without telling anyone about it—I don’t think he knew it was broken at first…but, I know he was in a lot of pain…I sometimes think I was too far away from him—he couldn’t reach me, no matter where I was.”
Josiah heard the voice of a mother who’d come too close to losing her only child, a mother realizing for the first time that her time away from her son had pulled him further away. She was gentle with her touches to his cheek, his forehead, and his arm. She pulled the blanket atop him around him, as though he was once again four and needing a little security. It was more for her benefit than his.
“I should have been there for him when he was young.”
“You’re here now.”
Maude nodded, nervously pulling her hands onto her lap and ringing them together. She wanted to be there for him, she wanted to be accepted, but knew she wouldn’t be—not by Ezra—he’d accept her, but she wouldn’t accept herself. That wasn’t her, she was strong, didn’t show emotion, couldn’t allow herself the privilege of telling him she loved him.
She stood, grabbing her purse and pulling it over her shoulder and she reached for her coat. “Tell him when he wakes up I’ll see him in Barbados…he owes me a tequila.” She leaned over the edge of the bed, kissed him on the forehead and turned to leave.
“Why?” Josiah asked, surprising himself—not Maude.
She smiled tightly again, and shrugged. “It’s just my way.”
Josiah nodded, watching the door even after she left, more out of confusion and disappointment. He glanced toward the bed and felt his heart sink as Ezra’s eyes closed and he rolled away—awake the whole time. Josiah nodded to himself, realizing that the relationship between mother and son was best left alone, difficult as it seemed, neither party was ready for reconciliation.
Chris entered the hospital room and found Ezra half dressed and leaning against the edge of his bed. His doctor had signed his release papers and before he could hand the papers back to the nurse, Standish was already preparing to leave. Ten days in a Fairbanks’ hospital was enough to send him reeling. He looked up and nodded, before grabbing a heavy plaid black and blue work shirt and slipping it on. He hated the style, but it was warm.
“Doctor said you have to get plenty of rest,” Chris said, grabbing Ezra’s boots out of the closet. “He said it could take months for you to recover fully.” He caught a glimpse of the city of Fairbanks and smiled, thanking God they’d been close enough to get the help they needed, despite the fact that Ezra had suffered the worst before arriving. “We’re on the next flight to Seattle and then we have a two hour layover until our flight leaves for Washington. Nathan and Josiah will meet us at the airport in Seattle and fly back with us.”
“The others?” Ezra asked, taking a seat in the chair and leaning over to tie his boots.
“Buck’ll pick us up at the airport tonight,” Chris answered, having sent Buck, JD, and Vin home as soon as the weather had cleared. Nathan and Josiah had flown to Seattle to retrieve and gather information from the crime lab in hopes of closing the case as soon as possible. Chris looked toward the room, noticing the stark contrast between here and Hanson, the difference between modern technology and nonexistent.
Ezra nodded and rested his elbows on his knees, letting his head droop between his shoulders as he tried to compete against the lethargy that continued to curse his body. He pulled the hospital identification band off his wrist and tossed it toward the garbage and slowly stood, reaching out for his coat. “Peterson?” he asked, having tried to ignore the impending question that nobody had offered to explain.
Chris grabbed Ezra’s bag and moved toward the door, shaking his head in warning as the nurse headed toward the room with a wheelchair. She stopped and turned, knowing not to bother with the gesture. “You already know most of it,” he replied, moving out of the way as Ezra headed out the door and toward the elevators. He didn’t want to go into detail—there wasn’t any need.
Chris pushed the down button and waited until it rang before taking a step inside. He sighed, watching as Ezra leaned against the wall and rubbed his face. “Did you know about the soup?” he couldn’t help but ask. He felt his stomach stop at his diaphragm when the elevator dropped from the second floor to the first.
Ezra shrugged: “I know he wasn’t killing on a regular basis, and a perp like him would have to feed his need. So,” he sighed, stepping out of the elevator after the doors opened and followed Chris toward the exit, “I knew he was getting his thrills someplace else, and given the circumstances, I figured he was using his position in the community as a respectable businessman.”
“How’d you know he put his victims’ bones in the snowmen?” Chris opened the taxi’s door and placed the bags in the trunk before slipping inside the cab. “Airport,” he ordered, before leaning back against the seat. He looked toward Standish in hopes of getting a reply.
Ezra shrugged, letting his head rest against the seat. “I didn’t,” he said, wiping his brow with a gloved hand.
Chris looked at him critically, watching for the signs of a relapse. It wasn’t common, but it did happen.
“It was just a feeling,” he couldn’t explain it, not in a way that Chris or anyone else would understand. It was a feeling that usually led him to the killer, and sometimes the victim. In many ways, it was the final realization of what he would do if he were the killer, coming together and fully understanding the mind of a monster. The conclusion that many times drove him further over the edge.
Chris nodded in acceptance, knowing he didn’t have to worry about the case anymore. The State of Alaska would close it; they would handle the problems and the issues that arose because of it. He looked toward Ezra again, noticing the half hooded eyes, the clean-shaven face, and the paleness of his features. Chris looked at his own hands, noticing the shaking had stopped, but for how long? “I’ve put in for some vacation time,” he said, looking out into the darkened sky, wishing for the sun.
“So has JD, Buck, Vin, Josiah, and Nathan.”
Ezra looked at Chris.
“You’re on medical leave until I say you’re not.” Chris smiled like a boss who’d just revoked lunch breaks. “I figure we’ll all go down to Mexico, get some sun, relax, spend some time with our families—I hear your mother’s going to be there...guess her son owns a place in Barbados...beachfront property, few neighbors, lots of bedrooms—hell, Nathan’s even bringing his kids.” He sighed and leaned back in his seat, watching the lights from the businesses flash off the reflections of the windows. “Yeah, we’ll have a grand ol’ time. Figure I can catch up on some reading. JD’s already making plans with Casey.” A slight grin appeared at the corner of his mouth, but he quickly quenched it. Mexico would be nice, the sun, the heat, the fresh air…the women. They all needed a break, and they had the perfect place to go…invited or not.
“My mother?” He wouldn’t admit to knowing she’d come to see him…it was better to let everyone think he’d been sleeping.
“She came up for a couple of days—nice woman—a little on the high maintenance side.” He watched Ezra nod in understanding. “She had to leave early—some business thing, she thought it would be a good idea if she and her current fiancé flew down to Mexico and brought their yacht—you know, park it out in front of your place—she’s invited Vin to go scuba diving—guess he loves that shit.”
“She invited Vin to go scuba diving?”
“Yeah,” Chris supplied, “she’s quite a handful.”
Ezra sighed and looked out the window, noticing the bright lights from the airport filling the night sky. He loved her, but it was hard to let her know it…perhaps it was more difficult for her.
Chris chuckled and waited for the taxi to stop at the airport gate and he quickly exited, grabbing his and Ezra’s luggage from the trunk. He paid the cabby and followed Ezra inside the small building. There were a few individuals walking around, most looking to have returned from a warmer climate. They both walked to the ticket counter and checked what luggage they had before walking toward their gate. With only fifteen minutes to spare they didn’t take time to grab a magazine or the newspaper—Ezra didn’t care to read anyway.
“How’d you manage to acquire vacation times for everyone?” Ezra asked, handing his boarding pass to the gate attendant. He winced slightly when he moved wrong, causing his side to pinch and pull.
“I told Director Travis that if he didn’t find a way…I’d quit.”
“Rather drastic wasn’t it?” He moved into his seat, taking the one next to the window. He took a deep breath and let his body adjust to the movement, feeling as though he’d been run through the ringer and was still paying the price. Carefully, he removed his coat—wishing he’d done it earlier, only to have Chris take it and place it on the seat next to him—the plane wasn’t full anyway.
“I told Travis that the team needed to be separated from the rest of the bureau’s departments. I want total control of the amount of work everyone is doing—including you.” He buckled his seatbelt and watched as a few stragglers walked down the isle in search of their seats.
“The bureau’s going to allow that?”
“We’ll find out as soon as we get back from Barbados—which reminds me...how can a man with your salary—and I know how much you make—afford a home in Barbados?”
Ezra smiled and leaned back in his seat. He folded his arms across his chest, still feeling weak, but lucky to be alive. He knew, the moment he woke for the first time in the hospital how lucky he was. It was the looks on the faces of the men that had become his good friends...some as close as brothers. The illness had taken its toll, sending him into a three-day coma, rampant and vengeful fevers that caused his body to convulse and shake, and a heart that had raced for days on end. When he’d come out of his coma, he’d slept. Even during the helicopter ride to the hospital in Fairbanks, he never woke, just slept until his body said he could wake...until his body said it was okay to wake.
“Thank you,” Ezra said, in a tone that was reflective of his situation. He closed his eyes, and ignored the standard speech the stewardess gave that involved props.
Chris didn’t need to ask ‘what for’, he knew why. He smiled and nodded, resting back on his seat. “You’re welcome,” he said, “and don’t ever do that again.”
Nathan lay on the grass beneath the palm tree. One hand propped his head up and the other lay across his wife’s belly. She slept peacefully, knowing their two children were being entertained by JD and his fiancé, Casey. Nathan memorized the lines of Raine’s face, carefully documenting where two moles nearly collided by her jaw. He knew the softness of her features like the back of his hand, but on occasion, he had to be reminded.
Buck and Vin had both found a spot on the beach, their fishing lines pulled tight against the near still water. They’d quickly change direction once the tide came in. Buck fell back against the sand and reached into his backpack and pulled out an apple. He pulled bare knees up and rested his elbows on the temporary table. He looked at Vin, seeing his hopeless drive for a fish—of any kind.
“What’d you do with that shoulder holster?” Buck asked, taking a large bite out of bright red apple.
Vin sighed, checking his line again and then looking up the beach to where Josiah was walking. “I had it tested,” he said, pushing his sunglasses up against his eyes. “Turned out to be elk—” he shrugged, “gave it to my neighbor’s dog.”
“The same dog that chewed the fender off your bike?”
“The one and only,” Vin sighed, “hate that fuckin’ mutt. I figure that if a crazy man made it, maybe I’ll get lucky and that dog will go a little madder than he is.”
“Kind of an expensive chew toy.”
“Yeah,” Vin agreed, “maybe he’ll choke on it.” He laughed and grabbed his fishing pole as it bowed.
“Hang on, Vin!” Buck jumped up, dropping his apple. “Maybe you caught more than a boot this time!”
Josiah chuckled as he watched Buck and Vin’s antics. They reminded him of a couple of kids who could find entertainment out of a cardboard roll from Christmas paper. He continued to walk up and down the length of the beach, picking up stone and seashells. He’d stop on occasion and look out toward the ocean, enjoying the moment, and enjoying the friends he could share it with. His bare feet sank in the sand, and his shorts were wet near the knees from entering the ocean and enjoying the refreshing waters. His sunglasses were pushed high on his nose, and tan lines marked their outline. Though shirtless, his age did little to give way to toned muscles and ample mass.
He paused to laugh as Vin fell headfirst into the ocean, Buck soon followed. When they stood, tangled in fishing line, and fell again, Josiah couldn’t help himself as he sprinted forward to retrieve two fishing lines—he always loved to bring in the big fish.
Chris sat on the hammock that was strung up between two trees, one leg hung over the side, keeping him stationary as he read his latest mystery novel, Naked Prey by John Sanford. He loved the lead character Lucus Davenport—reminding Chris of himself—with Ezra’s money. He could escape in the novel, and leave the crimes in someone else’s hands. His Hawaii tee-shirt, adorned with flowers and palm trees, contrasted his usual attire of black...and more black. His khaki shorts, sunglasses, and Jesus sandals completed his ‘vacation’ attire. Even his own mother—God rest her soul—wouldn’t recognize him.
Ezra stood and leaned against the porch awning. He held an ice tea in his hand and he looked out toward the water and saw the yacht his mother was staying on. He couldn’t help but smile. It had been over a year since he’d last visited, and for the first time in just as long he felt good about it. A gentle wind blew sand up and around the porch steps, and he could smell the slow cooking of Buck’s bar-b-cue ribs. His shirt covered the puffy scar on his side, eventually it would fade, but he had no desire to expose it.
Chris’ cell phone rang and Ezra watched as he nearly fell out of the hammock while trying to retrieve it from his pocket. He spoke only for a few short moments before tossing the phone on the sand next to his drink. Without looking up from his book he said, “We’ve got to be back at work next Tuesday.”
“Thought we had ‘til next Friday?” Nathan asked, moving just slightly to look at Chris.
“Yeah, well,” Chris lowered his book, “seems we’ve got a new division to support.” He smiled and looked toward Ezra and nodded.
Ezra raised his glass in cheer and smiled: “So, do we get a raise as well?...I have a home to pay for.”
“One step at a time, Ezra...one step at a time.”
FBI Files Index