A Raven in the Snow

Book EIght

by Beth AKA Midge

ATF Universe

Chapter 15
JD grabbed the file box out of the back of Chris's truck and followed Vin into the house. They found everyone, except Ezra, at the kitchen table discussing the circumstances surrounding their undercover agent. The kid dropped the box on the table letting the sound echo throughout the room.

After a couple of hours, files were spread out on the table, chairs, and counter tops. Again and again the team read all the information they had gathered and still they found nothing. Chris couldn't get it out of his head that Ezra was holding something back. He threw the file he'd been reading down onto the table and sighed. They needed a break and they needed one badly.

"You gonna sit down and relax or just have a heart attack?" Vin asked, getting annoyed with Chris' constant sighs and pacing. It was like watching a tiger pacing a cage, just waiting for that door to open so he could escape. "There ain't nothin' here," the sharpshooter motioned toward the files.

"If there wasn't anything here than why is someone still tryin' to kill 'im?" Chris looked from his men to the bedroom where Ezra was sleeping.

"Because we don't know everything," JD responded tiredly. He threw the folder he'd been reading down on the coffee table and leaned back against the comfortable couch.

"He's right Chris," Buck agreed with JD. He turned his attention to his long time friend and waited for him to acknowledge it as well. Chris was never one to give up and as most of this team was learning, he never gave up on his friends.

Chris reluctantly agreed and he sat himself down in the over stuffed chair across from the sofa and ran his hand over his face. They needed help.

"Why don't you give your friend Harry a call?" Nathan spoke up stepping out of the bedroom. He'd woken Ezra only long enough to get him to drink some fluids and take his medication. Nobody wanted to rush the undercover agent back to the hospital for dehydration or an infection.

"I trust him," Chris admitted. "I honestly think that if he knew more than what any of us do, he would have told me already." Harry Kessler had done more for Chris than his own father ever had. In many ways the team leader looked at Kessler as a father figure, though he'd never admit it. Harry understood and so did Chris. Chris had met Harry six years before he met Buck and in many ways their relationship was a lot like Vin and his relationship now, an instant feeling of understanding and trust. Harry showed a young Chris Larabee the ropes. Showed him how to do his job better than anyone else. He taught him everything that Chris's father should have but never did. He trusted Harry, trusted him with his life and now he trusted him with his team's lives.

Buck understood and he wasn't going to force his friend on the matter. He knew nobody else would either. Chris had about as many friends as he did, most of which consisted of the men on this team and a few of the boys from the precinct. Working SWAT with those men, and women, day in and day out made you to get close. Working under stressful circumstances you needed friends you that you could count on and you got close to people that maybe you wouldn't even know in the 'real world'. Buck ran his hand through his hair and looked at JD. Chris was the best because he was trained by the best and Buck wouldn't ever challenge that.

"If you believe that Chris," Josiah looked up with tired eyes, "then so do the rest of us."

"Go get some sleep, all of you." The team leader got to his feet and looked around the room. "We'll give this a fresh start in the morning." He watched as everyone stood up and headed off to their rooms, he hoped and prayed that he wasn't leading his men down a path of destruction.

+ + + + + + +

Ezra awoke with a start and looked toward the window. It had to be early as the sun was just starting to come up over the horizon. The undercover agent sat up and set his feet on the floor. He needed to pull his socks up because he knew he wouldn't make to the bathroom without tripping over them. He was alone and for that he was thankful because he didn't feel like talking at the moment. He remembered, or rather his bladder did, that someone had woke him up and had him drink a glass of warm water and Gatorade. It had to have been Nathan, who else would mix those two ingredients together.

Ezra stood up and sighed when he realized he was standing in the middle of the room dressed only in his boxer shorts. He was seriously going to have to complain. Being undressed by someone else was not an option. Carefully he reached out and grabbed his jeans off the chair next to the bed as well as his shirt and headed to the bathroom. The pain in his side wasn't as bad as it was the day before and for that he was thankful but it was still there as well as the pounding in his head. However, the sledgehammer had been replaced with a rock or perhaps the butt of a pistol. Anything was better than the sledgehammer.

Obviously Nathan had replaced the braces around his wrists and Ezra quickly removed them when he entered the bathroom. He intended to shower and get cleaned up as best he could.

+ + + + + + +

Chris heard the sound of the shower and he knew immediately who it was. By all rights Ezra should still be down for the count but the undercover agent's determination was amazing. Dr. Straus had told them that her biggest concern was Ezra's blood loss; everything else was small potatoes in comparison. His liver would heal because only a small portion had been removed. No permanent damage had been done. If he had gone through more, then he wouldn't have made it. The good doctor had told them what Ezra needed were fluids, medication, and lots of sleep. Thanks to Nathan he was getting all of that.

The team leader threw off the covers and sat up from his spot on the couch. He slipped into his traditional black jeans and grabbed the cigarettes out of his shirt pocket. Before he'd started this job he'd quit smoking but now he was back to smoking three a day, hardly anything by most smoker's accounts, but enough to remind him that he really needed to quit again. At least he wasn't back to his two packs a day. Chris put on his shirt and headed for the kitchen to make a strong pot of coffee, on his way he paused to chuck his cigarettes into the garbage determined not to lose this inner war.

He heard the shower shut off as he poured himself a cup of the hot liquid. Chris made the decision not to crowd his undercover agent. They weren't getting anywhere by doing it. Ezra was going to have to make the first move.

+ + + + + + +

Ezra carefully stepped out of the shower and toweled off. He was relieved to be clean. He managed to get himself dressed while leaning against the bathroom counter. Nathan was going to be pissed about his bandages getting wet but he didn't care. If the medic wasn't awake by the time he made it to the kitchen he'd change his own bandages. No one had to be the wiser.

Feeling refreshed Ezra stepped out of the bathroom to find the house still quiet considering the hour in the morning. He headed to the kitchen intending on grabbing a cup of hot coffee and some crackers to settle his grumbling stomach. Nobody was around so he didn't have to hide the grimaces on his face when he moved wrong or that he had to take a break on occasion often using the back of a chair or table for a moment of support. He hadn't bothered to button up his shirt knowing he would have to change the wet bandages covering on his side. He hadn't bothered to take them off before stepping into the shower, the fear of looking at the damage keeping him from doing so.

Ezra managed to get himself a cup of coffee and a package of saltine crackers without much effort. Sitting at the table he noticed for the first time the files that were spread out over the tabletop. He sighed and shook his head in disbelief; he knew from previous experience that they wouldn't get anywhere reading these files. Pushing the coffee and crackers aside he reached for the package of bandages that rested nearby.

+ + + + + + +

Chris brought the cup of coffee up to his lips as he watched Ezra through the window. He was thankful the man was up and moving around. He hadn't bothered to move the files. There wasn't any need to hide that they were trying to find who was behind this. Chris continued to watch as Ezra placed bandages on his side and he had to chuckle at the sight. He knew Ezra was only doing it to keep Nathan away for as long as possible. None of the men on his team liked to be fussed over. Chris couldn't blame them. He also understood that the Southerner was having a more difficult time simply because of the circumstances behind his injuries.

Chris stood back when he saw Ezra get to his feet, pick up his coffee and crackers and then reach for the cordless phone. The Southerner was headed his way. Chris moved to the corner of the enclosed patio and sat in a chair, trying to hide without looking like he was hiding.

+ + + + + + +

Ezra slid the glass door open and grabbed the first chair he saw. He took a sip of the coffee trying to work up the courage to make a phone call. A call he should have made six months ago before he started working with these men. He paused and looked at the phone chastising himself for doing something that he'd promised himself he'd never do. He dialed the number and waited for the phone to get picked up on the other end. He didn't notice Chris watching and listening from the corner of the porch.

Agent Mike Barrows picked up the phone on the third ring. He wasn't the most popular FBI Agent in Washington and was surprised someone was calling him. He was known for being one of the most paranoid people in the Agency. He taped all his incoming and outgoing phone calls, scanning his letters into a data base and documenting everything touching him from hunger in Africa to Hollywood stars accused of illegal actions. That was why the Bureau kept him around. He knew everything there was to know about anyone especially his colleagues.

"Agent Barrows," Mike said into the phone, while looking at his recorder to make sure the conversation was being taped.

"Is this line secure?" came the Southern accented reply.

Mike smiled, "Sure it is." He knew who it was and he'd been expecting Standish to call him. Not only because he knew the man on a personal basis but because he knew the amount of trouble the agent was in.

"Turn the fucking tape off!" Ezra snapped over the phone line. He wasn't an idiot and he hated being treated like one.

"Damn you're a hard sell," Mike said flipping the switch off. He owed Standish; he owed him a lot really. They had only spent a few days together while at the academy. A few days that almost got Mike Barrows kicked out. The Feds didn't take kindly to having students steal exam files and Barrows had gotten caught doing so. Ezra defended Mike before his termination hearing saying that if Barrows was good enough to sneak into the FBI's sealed files then he should be working for this agency. The FBI agreed. "What do you want?"

"I need the full personnel file on an FBI Agent, and not the standard files you can request."

Mike paused and thought a moment. "Those files are sealed, shit, you couldn't even get your own."

"But you can," Ezra replied.

Mike groaned out loud. "Who do you need?"

"Nicholas Carson, he's the AC in Denver."

"Ain't he a friend of Assistant Director Anderson down in Atlanta?" Mike asked, looking through the files in his office. The room was packed with paper, files, books, reports, and handwritten notes.

Ezra paused a moment and he heard Barrows grunt as though he found something. "Can you prove that on paper?"

Mike looked through the file that he wasn't supposed to have, "Yep." There was a smile in his voice. "It would seem, Anderson and Carson served in Vietnam together. They served in Bravo Company the last leg of the 'police action'." Barrows refused to say war; after all he 'supposedly' knew what was behind the Police Action in Vietnam. "They were both just a couple of kids...Hey did you know Anderson is up for the directorship when Luna retires next year?"

"It's been rumored." Ezra responded distastefully. "Can you send me the file?" He wanted an answer not to bend an ear with someone who obviously didn't get to speak with people very much.

"Yeah," Mike agreed. "Do you want anyone else?" Again there was the smile. "I'd send you Anderson's but his is currently under review by the President of the United States."

"Just send me Carson's and don't send it inner office, send it to E.S. Kalhar," Ezra proceeded to relay the mailing address to the man on the phone while Chris sat perfectly still. An alias, Ezra was used to those, and the address was in a small community outside of Denver. He knew what he was doing.

Chris watched, as Ezra pressed the off button on the phone and leaned back in his chair, he got the feeling that Ezra was taking something on he wasn't ready for. However, he would be, now he had six men willing to back him at every turn. He continued to watch as his undercover agent tentatively ate some crackers.

"Are you going to sit in the corner all day Mr. Larabee?" Ezra asked, not bothering to turn around and look at the man.

Chris chuckled lightly and stood up picking up his chair as he did so. He sat it right in front of the Southerner and seated himself so he could maintain eye contact. "I'm not goin' to apologize to you for my actions yesterday but I do want to know what is goin' on and I don't want the run around."

"I have never given you the so called 'run around'."

"You scared the shit out of JD and the rest of us Ezra and I don't take kindly to that." Chris met Ezra's eyes before the undercover agent returned his attention to the table next to his chair. "I want you to take a look this situation from our perspective."

"Mr. Larabee..."

"You're not exactly the kind of person I would pick out of a crowd to be friends with." Chris was shocked by the look Ezra threw him, not one of anger or frustration but of pain. "You're arrogant, cocky, it's no damn wonder you drive everyone nuts. I've never met anyone with a mouth that works faster than yours, I would seriously like to know how your brain keeps up with it." Chris leaned back in his seat and watched as Ezra started rubbing his thigh with his left hand, he was either nervous or cold, maybe even both. The blonde stood up and grabbed the jacket he'd brought out with him and handed it to Ezra who took it without hesitation. "You don't own the corner market on keepin' things to yourself...I do." He returned to his seat and looked hard at Ezra wanting him to understand his meaning. "I lost my wife and son because of it and I'm not about to sit here and watch you make the same mistake. I can't stand by and watch this team fall apart because of it...we're here to help...we want to help."

"It may cost you more if you get involved."

"I'm ready," Chris almost smiled, "are you?" After all, he did love a challenge.

Ezra sighed trying to maintain his composure while trying to keep the chill from his bones. "If you and this team get involved you may be looking at more than anyone is ready for."

"Don't try and intimidate me Ezra, after this past week I've seen all I'm goin' to take. We fix this...and then we move on." Chris looked at the undercover agent with confidence burning in his eyes. "Do you know Harry Kessler?" he asked again hoping this time for some results.

Ezra shook his head, "I don't know the man."

"What about your father?" Chris prayed he wasn't taking this too far.

Ezra looked at Chris searching for that sign that he might turn on him but he didn't find any. "The memories I have of my father are very few." He cleared his throat. "He...he never spoke to me in English," Ezra met the team leader's gaze, "he would only speak to me in Russian."

Chris nodded his head in understanding, thankful for one answered question. "Why didn't you just say so?"

"It wasn't any of your business."

No it really wasn't any of Chris's business and he couldn't deny that. "Harry Kessler is a friend of mine, I've known him longer than I've known Buck and I trust what he tells me. I received some information that your father and Harry worked together for the CIA."

Ezra agreed and the information wasn't as shocking to him, he'd always known his father worked for the government. "Because my father was Russian, are you questioning his loyalties?"

"No," Chris answered.

"My Grandfather was an American soldier in World War II, he didn't return home until 1960 after the death of his wife. He returned with his son, my father. I was born nine and a half years later."

"How'd your dad die?" Chris asked, he wanted to know if Ezra knew anything about his father's death.

"Car accident," came the quick reply. "How'd your father die?" Ezra retorted. This had nothing to do with the FBI, or so he thought.

"Farming accident, had a heart attack while working on a tractor. My mother drowned in a bottle of booze a year later." Chris didn't pull any punches.

"I'm sorry," Ezra apologized, knowing he'd asked out of anger not concern.

"Why, did you kill 'em?" Chris didn't react to the questioning look Ezra threw him. "I'm not going to pretend what is happening with you doesn't affect this team, because it does. These past few days are proof of it. You almost died!" Chris hoped the Southerner understood how close he'd come to losing his life. "I have never lost a man on my teams: SEAL, SWAT, and now this one. I'm not about to let it happen...we're involved in this and all of us intend to see you through it." He watched as Ezra's jaw clenched in reaction. "What is it that you know?"

Ezra paused, debating with himself if he should share what little information he had. This time, however, he had friends who didn't care if he had proof of they only cared for him. Substantial proof or not he'd tell Chris. "Jared Harrison was and probably still is supplying drugs and weapons to dealers throughout this country. Large amounts..."

"We already know this," Chris said in defeat.

"I believe the weapons and narcotics being supplied are confiscated from government warehouses."

"You mean weapons and drugs that have been collected over the years are being stolen and resold right out from under our noses?" Chris leaned back in his chair and took a deep breath. "So who's Harrison?"

"I believe it to be an alias for someone within the system. Whoever he or she is, has to have access to storage facilities, case information, and the times of weapon and drug confiscation."

"Anderson?" Chris looked almost disbelievingly at the Southerner.

Ezra shook his head. "I don't know and you're going to have a hard time proving it. Anderson is currently up for review for the Directorship and you're not going to find something on him or anyone else looking through files supplied by the FBI."

"Shit...you don't think someone might just be selling the information?" Chris leaned foreword and rested his elbows on his knees.

"It's plausible but I don't think attainable. Not with the amount weapons being stolen or sold." Ezra disagreed, "This isn't someone stealing files and selling them down the street to the highest bidder. It's too methodical, to hands on, they know when and where the merchandise is at, almost before the agents working on the cases do."

Chris nodded his head understanding and agreeing with the Southerner's assessment. "So we're lookin' for someone on the inside. How do we prove it and how do we find them?"

"If I knew the answer to that Mr. Larabee, I wouldn't be sitting here with you now."

"At least we have a start." Chris looked to Ezra wanting him to know he wouldn't let him or this team down.

"Maybe," Ezra agreed, looking out the window to the snow covered field.

Vin stepped out onto the porch surprised to see Ezra awake and talking with Chris. It wasn't something the sharpshooter ever thought he'd see. "How goes it?" he asked, stepping up to the window overlooking the field.

"Good," Chris replied. He was pleased with everything that had been said. Now the only thing that remained was figuring out the puzzle. There was still the possibility that Ezra was hiding something but for now all the information that he'd given was good enough.

Chapter 16

Josiah hung up the phone and looked at the form covered in blankets asleep on the couch. It had taken both Vin and Chris to get Ezra back inside. Sitting out in the cold had taken a greater toll than he'd expected. When he tried to stand on his own he dropped his coffee cup and sent it crashing to the floor. Vin and Chris both were right there by his side not allowing him to fall. They'd brought him in and got him on the couch where he proceeded to fall asleep almost immediately. Chris covered him with a blanket and waited for the others to awaken while he and Vin sat guard.

Judge Travis had called and reminded Josiah that the team needed to get their reports done as soon as possible. Dr. Wade, due to the increasing amount of evidence that continued to be gathered, had agreed to plead no contest at his arraignment hearing. Which was a surprise not only to the law enforcement community but the doctor's associates as well. Many believed he agreed to plea so he wouldn't be indicted on further charges, however, he did agree to turn states evidence to avoid the death penalty. On the basis of his testimony and incriminating evidence, four other doctors scattered around the country were also arrested and charged with first-degree murder. Seven deaths were a result of their 'organs harvested for money' crime ring. Another four medical personnel were being charged with conspiracy to commit murder while three others were charged with the lesser crime of accessory to murder.

What made this case so difficult was that the recipients of these illegally begotten organs were often innocent or left no trails to follow. The FBI decided to carefully investigate each case and make their indictments from evidence gathered after the fact. Who really knew what was happening, did they know, or where they completely oblivious to the condition of the donors? Until questions such as these could be answered the main arrests took place first, arresting those who did know, and those who were undeniably involved.

Greed had been the prime motivation. The organ transplant business had been very lucrative; over two million dollars had exchanged hands. To make it look legitimate taxes had been paid on the moneys earned. The medical community didn't want this case to be over publicized. They were afraid people might be turned off of the idea of donating their organs in case of their untimely deaths. People were still in need and just because a few doctors had taken part in such a scandal didn't mean the whole medical community was tarnished.

Agent Nick Carson, however, was a different matter. Upon further examination of the computers and surveillance tapes nothing could be found to convict the agent of neglect of duty. He would, however, be placed under strict supervision. He would have to report back to Quantico for further training. The FBI didn't find Judge Travis's recommendation to have Agent Carson demoted reasonable, claiming that a lack of training wasn't reason enough to warrant such a harsh disciplinary action.

Josiah ran his hand over his face and he relayed this new information to the others. They were pleased with the fact that the medical doctors and staff would be punished accordingly. However, the thought of Carson getting away with what he did nothing but get them angry. No matter what happened in the future, they would stand by Ezra and make sure he was never left to work alone with the man again.

"What about Ezra?" JD asked, finishing up his scrambled eggs.

"Judge says he'll meet with the attorneys for the defense, the prosecution, and the Judge who'll be presiding over the case. They'll want to hear what he has to say. The Judge says they'll keep it quiet and keep him off the stand...treat it like a regular deposition," Josiah responded.

"Good," Chris nodded his head in agreement. "It'll keep 'im out of it." He looked toward the couch at his agent and back to his men. "When do they want to see 'im?"

"Wednesday," Josiah quietly replied.

"He gonna be up to it?" Vin asked, resting his feet on the edge of the table.

"If we can keep him from wearing himself out before then," Nathan responded. If Ezra didn't slow down and take it easy he was going to be a lot longer in recovery.

"That ain't what I meant." Vin looked towards Josiah who did understand the sharpshooter's question.

"He'll tell it like a well rehearsed speech...nothing but the facts." Josiah rested his elbows on the table and looked around the room.

"Probably be more than what we'll get out of 'im," Buck said, flipping the corners of a file with his thumb and forefinger.

"As long as somebody does," Chris replied while getting to his feet. Wednesday was only two days away and he intended to make sure the Judge had everything he was possibly going to need including the reports they all needed to finish writing. "Let's get to it."

The End

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Continues in: My Noble Friend