The third day had arrived much to everyone's relief. Four o'clock in the afternoon had six of the seven members in the conference room. Ezra still had sixteen hours before he would be released. A look of respite was slowly spreading across Josiah's face. Something Chris was pleased to see. The team leader had ordered his men into the conference room to discuss what Judge Travis had told him the night before. He had debated all night on whether or not he would call his long time friend Harry Kessler and ask him about Ezra. But he didn't. He decided to wait until he could get more information. Chris wouldn't alarm his men with the new information until he had to, after all, the Southerner deserved to hear it from him first.
Chris sat his cup of coffee on the table and looked around to the faces of his men. "Judge Travis has instructed that the rest of us join the case that Agent Carson is investigating."
"I thought we were getting some time off," Buck complained. He wanted to meet up with his new lady friend and spend his days off in bed.
"When we're done with this case the Judge said we could take some quality time," Chris responded to Buck's complaint.
"Carson ain't goin' to like it," Vin drawled, knowing the FBI Agent wouldn't be happy with the idea of working with this team.
"He has his orders and so do we." Chris handed everyone a file that briefly described the case.
"This ain't exactly the kind of case we'd normally take on," Buck said, reading through the file. "I can see where Josiah and Ezra would qualify but the rest of us..." The ladies man shrugged his shoulders.
"That's for Carson to deal with tomorrow at the meeting." Chris pointed out. "Ezra's undercover assignment is officially over at 10:00 in the morning, then we all have a meeting with the other agents who have been working on this case."
"Why does the Judge want us workin' on this? Can't the FBI and Denver PD take care of it?" JD asked, looking across the table.
"The Judge is goin' before the State Supreme Court in six weeks. I think he wants as much ammunition as he can get before he tries to argue on our behalf. There are two Judges that are goin' to want to see numbers and results before they're convinced that we deserve to be part of the law enforcement community." Chris cleared his throat and looked at his men. He wasn't going to tell them that the Judge was getting a bad feeling about the case.
"It's good that they're goin' to give Judge Travis a chance to fight for us." Nathan understood how much the situation had been weighing on the team leader. Nobody wanted to see the team shut down.
Chris agreed, "The Judge is encouraged. He thinks if all the Judges agree on us staying a team we'll be a permanent fixture here in Denver."
"Awesome," JD said, receiving a smack on the back of his head from Buck. "Dang it," he snapped at the older agent.
Chris ignored the antics and looked toward Josiah. "Who's picking Ezra up tomorrow morning?"
"Nobody." Josiah returned his look from his folder to his boss. "After seventy-two hours any patient can sign themselves out. State law prohibits containing a patient for any amount of time after that. Ezra will be able to sign himself out and return home." The big man smiled. "And he told me today, 'if he didn't get home to change, forces of nature would bend to his demand, after of course, he punishes those who ordered him to wear the appalling attire he is currently detained in'."
Chris couldn't help but smile when the rest of his men tried to stifle their chuckles. He, and apparently everyone else, could just see the look on the Southerner's face when he said those words to Josiah. Ezra was probably the most hygienic person he knew, almost to a fault. He was never one to wear the same clothes two days in a row, or at this point in time, three days.
Ezra looked up at the ceiling from his bed and sighed. In three days of being trapped in this hellhole he hadn't learned anything. He was thankful that he was no longer under direct hourly supervision. The hospital staff had even given him a blanket to use and they'd turned off the light in his room, a welcome change from it being constantly on. Dr. Karen Ryder had been incredibly professional and as far as the Southerner was concerned, so was her staff. He did have questions regarding the private hospital next door. The mental hospital and medical hospital were attached at the south wing entrance. Doctors from both hospitals went in and out without much regard to each other. Ezra figured anyone that had access to the patients in either ward could obtain whatever they were looking for through any computer in the hospital.
Ezra sat up and rested his stocking covered feet on the cold floor of his room. It wasn't uncommon for hospitals and mental wards to work together for treatment of patients. Sometimes the two went hand in hand. Maybe it wasn't anyone in the mental hospitals they were after, what if it was medical doctors? All the victims had one or two organs removed. None of them had any family to speak of and all of them were relatively healthy. "Shit," Ezra said to himself getting to his feet. They were looking in the wrong area. It had been rumored that people could pay large amounts of money to get an organ transplant. It wasn't all that uncommon in Europe or Asia. In the States, however, it would be almost impossible. Patients in need of a transplant were put on a waiting list and only when an organ, from a qualified donor, was available then the transplant would take place. Now, however, if doctors were willing to harvest organs from unsuspecting donors, who wouldn't be missed, and for a price, what would stop them?
The undercover agent quickly changed into his jeans and tee shirt and examined the lock on his door. He needed to get access to the computer systems. With the use of the hairpin and paperclip he'd picked up out of habit earlier, he started to pick the lock on his door. The lock to his room door snapped open and Ezra quietly peeked out into the hall. It was almost 10:00pm and the hospital orderly had just passed by. The Southerner had twenty minutes before he would come by again. In stocking feet he ran down the hall and toward the staff offices.
Gut instincts took Ezra to the office of Dr. Gary Wade, the MD who'd been ordered to work side by side with Dr. Ryder. Ezra picked the lock and was in the darkened office within seconds. Books and file cabinets lined the walls. A large desk covered with a few photos, a computer, and other desk ornaments was set in the center of the room.
Ezra turned the computer on and sighed when the enter password command came on the screen. He tried a few names and words related to the medical profession but failed to get passed the password. Ezra grabbed the first frame and removed the photo. He typed the name from the back of the picture into the computer and smiled when the command was accepted. He checked all the files on the computer and wasn't having any luck until he stumbled upon a coded document. Ezra smiled, "Amateurs," he whispered softly. He printed out the document and saved everything to disk. He had managed to break the code without any problem and understood exactly what had been happening across the country. Doctors were abusing their roles and removing healthy organs from patients wouldn't be missed. Most of the victims had attempted to take there own lives, so what did it matter, they didn't want to live anyway and here was someone willing to pay a large amount of money for a few more years of life.
The document contained procedures, names of the victims, names of the doctors, and names of the patients. It also contained dates and the price for the procedures. Ezra had to sigh to himself. They were paying taxes on this blood money. He shut the computer off and placed all the information in a manila envelope and wrote 'Chris Larabee' on the outside. He pulled the pant leg of his right leg up and quickly taped the envelope to his calf. He then located the electronic device on his jeans and hoped it worked as fast as Carson had claimed.
+ + + + + + +
Agent Carson tossed his paper coffee cup into the garbage can and leaned back in his chair. He watched the monitors wondering when a break was going to happen to crack open this case. He needed a promotion. He was tired of working street cases. And now he was going to have to work with Chris Larabee. Standish was bad enough. Carson looked up to the third monitor when it started beeping. He grunted and flipped the switch off, shutting the locating device down. Considering how quiet the hospital was he wasn't about to risk this case on Standish's behalf just because he got cold feet. The man never followed the book.
+ + + + + + +
Ezra made it back to his room without being seen. He locked himself back in and waited for the FBI team to get him out. Something deep down inside told him he was a perfect candidate for one of these procedures. Ezra ran his hand through his hair and paced the floor. He tried to listen to everything outside his room, ten minutes, that's how long Carson said it would take the teams to get to him. "Damn," Ezra slid down the wall to the floor. The cavalry wasn't coming.
+ + + + + + +
Nathan looked at his living room clock when he heard the knock at the door. Who could it be he wondered and shrugged his shoulders when Rain looked questionably at him from the kitchen? The healer looked through the peephole in his front door and sighed. "Josiah?" he asked opening the door allowing the big man to enter.
"Nathan," Josiah acknowledged.
"What's goin' on?"
Josiah looked at his friend and shrugged. "I got this real bad feeling..."
Josiah shook his head. "I don't think so." He smiled and tipped his head when Rain came out of the kitchen carrying a cup of hot tea for him. "Thank you Rain."
Rain squeezed his arm and headed back toward her office knowing Josiah and Nathan would want to talk.
"Something's wrong Brother...I can feel it." Josiah looked hard at Nathan wanting to make sure the medic knew how serious he was.
"You think it's one of the others?"
"Don't know," Josiah shrugged his shoulders, "I called Agent Hanson to check in with Ezra, and he said everything looked fine. I called Vin, Buck and JD just to make sure they were fine...said they were. Even called Chris," he looked at Nathan again, "he said everything's fine."
"You've had a rough couple of days, maybe things are just gettin' to you." Nathan took Josiah's coat and hung it in the closet and then he directed the older man toward the living room couch. "Why don't you stay here tonight, get a good nights sleep. Things will look up in the morning."
"I don't want to put you out Brother."
"It's not a problem. I was goin' to call you in the mornin' anyway to get a ride to work, Rain has classes all day tomorrow and needs to use the Blazer." Nathan looked worriedly at his friend before going off to find him a blanket and some pillows.
+ + + + + + +
Ezra wasn't sure how long he'd been sitting on the floor of his room when the lights came on almost blinding him. He threw his right arm up over his face and felt someone roughly grab his arms. He tried to pull away when more hands seemed to grab him from every angle and he struggled to fight them off. He couldn't see because the lights were brighter than he'd ever remembered them being. He tried to call out but on his first attempt a gag was roughly placed in his mouth keeping him from doing so. When the Southerner's eyes finally adjusted to the light there were four men all dressed in white struggling to maintain their control. Ezra fought for all it was worth but they managed to over come him. Quickly they threw him on a gurney and strapped his arms and legs down. He could feel his heart racing as he continued to fight with the leather straps that held his wrists and ankles. The men pushed the gurney down the hall and Ezra looked for anyone who could help. He knew what would was going to happen and he didn't want any part of it.
The men rolled the gurney into a well-lit room and left, leaving Ezra to continue to fight with the restraints. The undercover agent pressed the device that was attached to his jeans again hoping for some kind of help. Ezra pulled again at the restraints on his wrists and he could feel his skin abrade and tear but he didn't care. His wrists and ankles would heal in time. He didn't want to be found naked and cut open like the images he'd seen just four days earlier. So he continued to fight.
Dr. Gary Wade sat beside the woman whose daughter was slowly dying due to liver disease. The woman couldn't understand how her six-year-old baby girl, who had barely lived, was facing death. Dr. Gary gently squeezed the woman's hand trying to reassure her.
"I can't believe you found a donor." Lisa Revell wiped her tears away with the tissue the doctor had handed her earlier.
"We need to get your daughter prepped," Wade spoke in a low even tone wanting more than anything to let the young mother know that everything would be all right. The woman's estranged father had searched Dr. Wade out and offered to pay him a large sum of money to save his only grandchild. No matter the cost. Wade had immediately agreed. Difficulties, however, had arisen when a suitable donor couldn't be found. The child had a rare blood type coupled with consistent illness had made any kind of a surgery impossible. Two years later the situation was different. A new procedure would now make it possible for the young girl to receive a portion of a healthy liver, which in turn would retrain her own liver to regenerate itself. Dr. Wade had recently moved from New York City and by chance had found a suitable donor for the young girl here in the hospital. The child's grandfather had made his final payment and was expecting results.
He didn't care how they were obtained. He just wanted his granddaughter to receive the care she needed.
"Can I see her before the procedure?" Lisa pleaded. She was afraid that this would be the last time she would ever see her child again.
"Of course." Dr. Wade took her hand and walked her down the hospital corridor toward the room her daughter was in. The nurses and staff were preparing the child for the six-hour procedure.
Dr. Wade stood in the doorway and watched the mother and child, feeling in his heart that he was doing the right thing. His ever-growing bank account didn't detour his judgment at all. Gary Wade turned when he felt a hand tap his shoulder. He turned and noticed the worrisome look on his assistant's face. "Go to my office...I'll be there shortly," he instructed before entering the hospital room of his patient.
+ + + + + + +
Dr. Wade entered his office and looked hard at his assistant. The assistant ran a hand over his face and sighed. What he had to say wasn't going to be good. He looked down at his white pants and cleared his throat. "Your donor is an undercover cop," he spit it out not bothering to dance around the subject.
"Excuse me?" Wade looked at his assistant in disbelief.
"I fuckin' heard what you said!" Wade yelled, then he ran his hand over his face. "Shit."
"He's not been prepped," the assistant stammered, trying to widen their playing field.
Wade continued to pace his office floor. "His heart was to go to Miami, shit," he swore again more out of a realization that his plans had been changed.
"What do you want me to do?"
Gary Wade stopped in mid floor and looked up at his assistant. "We change procedures."
"Sir?" the assistant looked questionably at the doctor.
"We'll do the La Strioux Procedure." Wade nodded his head confirming in his own mind what was going to take place. "Don't sedate him, the procedure is less complex than the traditional split liver transplant we had planned." He pulled a book out of his bookshelf, "We'll need less than five percent of his liver," Wade smiled evilly, "and he'll die of blood loss before organ failure. It'll make it easier to disguise the procedure, make it look like a stabbing." The doctor smiled wider before heading out the door.
+ + + + + + +
Ezra could see and feel blood coating the gurney mattress and on the leather straps that bound his ankles and wrists. When the door to the room he was in opened and four men wearing scrubs surrounded the gurney. Ezra looked up at them with eyes opened wide. He continued to pull at the restraints only to find that another leather strap was placed across his hips and shoulders making it almost impossible to move. He reached up and squeezed the device attached to his jean pocket once again and prayed for some help.
Chris entered the situation room with five of his team members on his heels. It was obvious to everyone in the room that these men moved with a single purpose. They had all arrived early feeling something was wrong.
Agent Nick Carson looked up when Chris and his men sat down. The man knew things would be tense. The look on Larabee's face told him so. When Judge Travis entered the room all eyes locked on him. Looks of support came from Chris and his men while looks of anger and mistrust came from Carson.
The room quickly filled with agents as the clocked ticked down. Josiah looked at Chris when Ezra had yet to show. It wasn't unusual for the Southerner to be late. But something was wrong and everyone knew it.
"Where is Standish?" Carson snapped, looking toward Larabee. He looked at his watch and sighed Standish was a half hour late.
"He signed out at 10:00 this morning," Agent Stevens said. He had been one of the Agent's posing as an orderly at the hospital where Ezra was undercover.
Chris didn't wait. He'd hated the idea of his men working on this case from the beginning. "Buck," Chris started to order his men, "get out to Ezra's apartment. Vin head out to my place see if he went up there for any reason. Josiah and Nathan, both of you go to the hospital and check with them make sure it was really him that signed out."
"What about the positioning device that he was wearing?" Josiah spoke up looking toward Carson.
"It was never activated," the FBI agent lied.
"JD," Chris looked to the kid, "take a look at the surveillance and make sure that the 'positioning device' wasn't activated." The team leader threw an accusing glare at Agent Carson.
"This is my case I'll find your absent agent," Carson snapped, getting to his feet preparing to fight for what was his.
"You couldn't find your ass with both hands!" Chris snapped back, motioning for his men to do what he'd ordered. "I want to know who saw Agent Standish last?" Chris looked around the room at the stunned agents.
+ + + + + + +
Vin entered the small surveillance room where everyone closely affiliated with the case had gathered. JD had brought up all the positioning equipment from the van and was working diligently on finding anything that could prove useful. Chris had his arms crossed over his chest and he watched JD with an intensity the sharpshooter hadn't seen before. Vin shook his head when the team leader looked up at him. Chris clenched his jaw and waited for JD to find something, anything.
Carson stood back and watched as the young electronics expert worked his magic. He knew it would only be a matter of time before they discovered that the positioning device had been activated. He also knew that unless the positioning receiver was reset for a broader search they wouldn't be able to find the Southerner if he had left the hospital. He doubted very much that he was still there.
"I got somethin'," JD spoke up, breaking the tension in the room. He waited a few minutes then sighed regretfully, "the device Ez was wearin' went off over eighteen hours ago."
"It's not going off now?" Chris asked, furrowing his brow.
"It could be that he's out of range," JD tried to explain.
Chris jumped at Carson and threw him up against the wall forcing his forearm up against the FBI Agent's throat. "Where the fuck is my agent?" there was no mistaking the malice in the team leader's voice. When Carson didn't answer Chris threw him an uppercut sending the stout balding agent to the floor. The team leader reached for him again but was stopped by Buck and Josiah's hands.
"Chris!" Buck called trying to get the irate leader under control.
"You saw what happened!" Carson snapped at Judge Travis who was standing in the room when the incident took place. "I want him suspended!"
"The only one who is looking at a suspension here is you." Travis looked down at the agent. His face was firm and his voice was as threatening as Chris's. "If I find out you put an agent at risk on this case because of your own ill feelings toward the man you'll be looking at jail time. Do you know what happens to a cop who's an accessory to murder or attempted murder?"
"I followed procedure, don't blame me because your agent didn't go by the book."
Chris made another attempt to get to the still downed agent but was held back by Josiah and Buck. "You son-of-a-bitch!" the team leader yelled. "JD!" Chris snapped meeting the kid's gaze, "can you widen the range, maybe pick up Ezra's signal someplace else." JD nodded his head and got right on it. Chris turned his attention to Judge Travis. "Can we get a search warrant and search the hospital Ezra was at?"
"Not unless we have probable cause to believe something illegal happened there." The Judge shook his head knowing Chris wouldn't accept his offer.
"Probable cause?" Chris questioned, looking almost unbelievable at Travis. "How much more 'probable cause' do you need? We have a missing agent that was last seen in that facility."
"I will not move beyond the means of the law." Travis stated. "You get me any, shred of evidence I will write you up a warrant faster than you can blink. I can't, however, write up a warrant because of a 'hunch'."
"Son-of-a-bitch!" Chris yelled slamming his fist into the wall. He should never had agreed to let Josiah and Ezra work this case. He could have come up with a feasible excuse to why they couldn't have done the job.
"We'll find 'im Chris," Vin spoke up for the first time since arriving.
"But will we find him alive?" Chris looked around the room to the faces of his stunned agents. It was something they were all going to have to face. They had all read the files on the case Carson was working on and they all had seen the photographs.
JD heard the despair in Chris's voice and he worked harder on the computer system in front of him. This was modern technology at its best. He would find Ezra.
+ + + + + + +
Travis ordered everyone out of the surveillance room except Larabee and his men. He didn't want any more outbursts and he didn't want Carson within arms' reach of Chris. The man was a bomb ready to explode. Ezra was his agent and the Judge intended to give full authority to the team leader if and when Standish was located. Chris had already made it clear to everyone that he wouldn't work willingly with Agent Carson or his men, or any FBI agent for that matter. The team leader had already discussed bringing in Police Lt. Dave Mathews if need be. Judge Travis agreed, he would do whatever it took to get Ezra back. He felt partially responsible for the Southerner's disappearance and would do whatever it took to get Ezra back.
Travis stood to attention, as well as everyone else in the room, when JD started making noises like a kid playing a game boy in a library. He was hardly able to contain himself.
"What did you find kid?" Buck asked, getting annoyed with the waiting. It had been over an hour since they discovered Ezra's positioning alarm had gone off.
"I think I've found 'im." JD pressed a few more computer keys and looked up at the screen that displayed a primitive road map of the Denver area. The others in the room fought for space over the kids shoulder. "Got 'im!" JD shouted zooming in on the faint red dot coming into view on the computer screen.
Before the location was given Chris started shouting out orders, "Nathan grab your medical bag. Vin and Buck get a couple of the bureau Suburbans. Josiah go find some blankets or anything else we might need. JD," Chris looked to the kid, "where the hell is he?"
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