Disclaimer: Dont own em but I wish I did. And no money made off this story. It was just for the pure enjoyment of writing.
Authors Notes: It would be a good idea to read 'The Informant' and 'Girls Just Wanna Have Fun' first or youll be kind of lost.
Rating: PG-13, language and violence
Thanks to Mog for the wonderful universe and Sara for the encouragement and the beta reading. Also thanks to everyone who reads this. :-) Feedback is always welcome
Maybe this wasnt such a good idea. In fact, maybe it was a bad idea. But it was a little late to think about that now, wasnt it? She tested the ropes around her wrists again. And again, there was little movement. She struggled a little harder and was only rewarded with pain shooting up her stiff arms. Ok, maybe it was a very bad idea.
But it had seemed a good idea at the time. Find out a little more information for the undercover agent at the ATF who happened to also be her best friend. Ezra always seemed to find trouble somehow and maybe this time if she knew a little bit more, he wouldnt. Well, bad idea but good intentions. What was it that Josiah always said? Something about a road to hell? Shed have to ask him when she got out of this mess.
If she got out. They had trussed her up good and the only means of escape was through that door. The door that the really big ugly guy was guarding. And Lila hadnt told anyone where she was going. She couldnt have. They wouldve said no. And now she sort of wished she had mentioned something. But, she hadnt been able to get in touch with Ezra for a week or two. His number was automatically forwarded to Larabee. That meant Ez was either undercover or on vacation. And she wasnt about to ask Chris. One of his looks alone could kill. That meant she would have to wait for Ez to return.
She silently hoped he was on vacation. He needed some time off. The southerner worked too hard in Lilas opinion. And he always managed to get himself in trouble with someone, be it the bad guys, Larabee or the judge. Hopefully, he was off in the Carribean somewhere, relaxing, soaking up the sun, and listening to tropical music. And Lila wished she was with him.
The teenager tried to find a more comfortable position on the hardwood floor. She stretched out her sore legs and grimaced when her knees made a popping sound from staying crossed for too long. How long had she been tied up? Maybe a couple of hours since they found her snooping around the building.
Lila really had been snooping but she had tried to play it off. "Just looking for a place to get warm..." It was a legitimate excuse. It had just recently snowed and the temperature had been dropping lately.
"Then you wont mind coming inside and meeting my boss," the big guy had said.
Crap! She had tried to make a break for it but he caught her. Thanks to the ice that had formed on the sidewalk. Her legs had slipped right out from under her and she landed squarely on her back. Guess they had forgotten to salt that particular spot. The big guy grabbed her by her long black hair and had pulled her into the building. And she had met the boss.
"Looking for shelter eh?" The tall man asked. To Lila he looked a little big like Gumby but she wasnt about to say that to his face.
"Something like that."
They hadnt found anything, except for a small scrap of paper with a phone number. It was just her luck that the number happened to be to Bucks office. He was away from his desk when they dialed it. So it went to his voice mail.
"Youve reached the office of Agent Buck Wilmington. Im not in right now but if you could leave a detailed message after the beep Ill get back to you as soon as possible. If this is an emergency then call the Denver ATF headquarters..."
That was all they needed to hear. Lilas goose was cooked. And all because she wanted Buck to make her tapes of his Jimmy Buffet CDs.
She had smiled sweetly and innocently at the boss guy. (Who she found out later wasnt the real boss.) But it didnt work. He ordered her captor to take her upstairs and tie her up and wait. She had realized that they were waiting for the real boss to show up and decide what to do with her. She hoped it involved untying her and letting her go. But Lila knew it probably would end with a bullet hole or with cement shoes and the Platte River.
Lila gulped and worked harder at the knots that held her. Still nothing but at least the action took her mind off her impending death. Death. She hadnt really thought about it before. She never really thought she would die or if she did, she wouldnt have the time to think about it. Wrong again! It seemed she was wrong a lot lately.
Her mind drifted as she worked on the knots that held her hands and wondered if there was a heaven. She swallowed. Or a hell. The phrase that she was searching for earlier flitted through her mind. The road to hell was paved with good intentions. She laughed half heartedly. She certainly was in hell.
Blood began to slick her wrists. It hurt but maybe it would loosen the rope a bit. Lila looked around the room. It looked to be an office or some sort. Of course, it was bare. Only a chair sat in the far corner but that wouldnt help unless she got her hands loose. And then there was the window. Except it was too high. She doubted Buck could even reach it.
Maybe if she pulled the chair underneath the window...No that wouldnt work. She was too short. Now, if she were the height of Buck or Nathan or Josiah she could reach it. Or maybe even if she was Ezs height. She cursed her luck. Well, she could always blame her parents. They might have been short. Not like she knew, or even cared but she had to blame someone.
Lila noted to herself that her thoughts were wandering too much. She had to keep her mind on the task at hand. She looked around the room again and sighed in frustration. Nothing. Absolutely nothing. Tears began welling up in her eyes when the realization that she might die finally hit her.
"No, Pull yourself together. I can get out of this." she whispered to herself.
She started working harder on the ropes, not caring about the pain that radiated from her torn wrists. Part of the rope slipped and she smiled. A few more minutes and she might actually be able to get free. Now if she could only see her progress. Maybe, if she maneuvered her arms above her head she could get them in front of her and use her teeth...she stopped suddenly when the door flung open and three men entered.
"Miss us?" the boss from earlier asked cheerfully.
"Hardly," Lila answered staring unflinchingly at the tall man.
The two other men hauled the young woman to her feet. "We called the boss. Hes on his way but he gave us permission to ask you some questions." He sneered as he came and stood in front of Lila. "Now, who are you?"
"No one special." She answered.
That earned her a backhand across her cheek. The blow came quick and hard not giving Lila anytime to prepare for it. She ran her tongue over her busted lip and tasted the coppery liquid. That remark wasnt even sarcastic. It was the truth. She raised her head and met his cruel gaze with a defiant one. Possibly not the best tactic but she wasnt on a roll for ideas today.
He just laughed at her. "Maybe youll cooperate now." He pulled out his gun and began to check the ammunition. "Now, what do you know?" Lilas eyes widened in fear but her mouth remained closed. "Ill ask again. What do you know?"
"I dont know anything. I dont know what youre talking about."
The tall man eyed her suspiciously. "Why did you have the ATF agents number?"
"He was going to copy his Jimmy Buffet CDs for me."
He laughed but it had no humor in it. This time Lila was ready for the blow. But instead of just a hand, it was the butt of his pistol that connected with her already bruised face. Blood poured from her lips and mouth. She spat the blood and saliva out onto the wooden floor and raised her head. weakly meeting Gumbys stare.
"What did you tell them?"
Another blow. Lila felt her legs collapse from underneath her. The iron grip of the two men that flanked her was the only reason she was still on her feet. Blood ran from her nose and down the back of her throat. She felt as if she was going to be sick. Good, shed do it on the bastard that kept hitting her.
She was saved from another question when the door opened and another man walked in. He was short and balding with a little more weight than he should have had. He entered with a cautious air and tapped Gumby on the shoulder. "Max, Mr. Marcum is here and so is Mr. Smith."
Ah, so Gumby had a name. She almost laughed but realized it wouldnt be such a good idea. "Bring them in, Alex."
A few moments later, Lila heard steps outside the door. She kept her eyes on the ground, at the puddle of blood that was dripping from her mouth and nose. Not only did she not want to meet their eyes, she really couldnt raise her head. It just hurt too damn much. It also didnt help that her vision was blurrier than an unwashed window.
She heard them enter the room. "Who is she?" a rough voice barked.
"She hasnt said anything."
"Even after that?" the rough voice asked again.
"No." Max said weakly.
Lila chuckled. He was in trouble. Thats what he gets for hitting a woman.
"It seems as if your method of questioning has not produced the required results." Another voice joined.
Lila knew that voice. That sarcastic southern drawl was music to her ears. Despite the pain, she snapped her head up and met the pair of emerald green eyes. A small smirk graced her bloody lips. At least she wasnt alone in hell anymore.
Two hours prior...
Ezra Standish looked down the hallway again and made sure that no one was coming. He always had to be careful when dialing the ATF office. He reached into the inside pocket of his stylish blue suit jacket and pulled out the sleek cellular phone. One last look around the corner revealed no one and he knew for certain that the room he was in was not bugged. One last quick look and he dialed Larabee.
For two weeks now, Ezra had been playing the part of Eli Smith, a well known businessman with connections to the unsavory world of gun smuggling. And right now, he was working for none other than Mr. Joshua Marcum. The king of recent smuggling operations in Florida, California and Texas. But his home office had been moved to just outside of Denver when the heat got too much for him in Florida.
And that is when Eli Smith stepped in. It seemed that Marcums last right hand man was the one who had spilled the beans in Florida. It was unfortunate for him but a stroke of luck for the Denver ATF. Ezra waltzed in with a past record of underhanded deals, connections to the New York mafia and dazzling charm. Marcum was won over in less than two weeks. And now, the boss had even given Eli the responsibility of setting up the next deal. It was perfect.
Ezra waited as the phone to Larabees desk rang. He looked down the hall again. It would be a complete and utter shame if someone discovered him now. Not only would two weeks of work be destroyed, but also there would be the possibility of Ezra returning home in a body bag.
"Larabee." The voice snapped Ezra out of his morbid reverie.
"Tomorrow, 9 oclock, old shoe factory." Ezra closed the phone and walked out of the room and toward Marcums office.
He rapped lightly on the solid oak door that led to Marcums legitimate business. He ran his gun smuggling operations out of a well known and highly popular shoe company. That was the reason he was able to have so many operations and not get caught. He had the best number crunchers and since his shoe business was booming, it was easy to get the gun smuggling profits lost. Ezra actually had respect for someone who had such business savvy. If he had been doing a different business, Ezra might even have invested.
"Come in," the rough voice commanded.
Ezra grimaced. That man really had to stop smoking. It was killing his voice and throat. Hed probably be diagnosed with cancer soon and would have to leave his business to his boorish son, Max. For a man that had class, refinement and charm, he definitely was not blessed with the best of offspring.
Ezra walked through the door and smiled, immediately becoming Eli.
"Ah, Eli. Its a pleasure to see you. I trust everything is well."
Ezra picked up on the hidden message. "Everything is fine, thank you. "
A toothy smile lit up Marcums features. "Great! Can I interest you in a drink, Eli?" He asked as he stood to his full height of 6'2".
"Thank you, sir."
"The pleasure is all mine. I must say that I am most impressed with your abilities. Ever since that Florida incident I didnt know if I would ever find another good man." Marcum gushed and handed a glass of brandy to the undercover agent.
"I am flattered, sir."
"Dont be son! Its the truth. And my son will need a good man when he takes over. And you do know, I have a daughter." Marcums blue eyes twinkled. "Shes single. Shed make a good wife."
Ezras mouth dropped. Was this man actually offering his daughter to a man that hed only known two weeks? He recovered quickly and smiled broadly. "Ill have to meet her."
"How about tonight?"
Ezra almost choked on his brandy. "Tonight sir?"
"Come have dinner with my family. You can meet them all. You know Max. Then there is Sara," he slapped Ezra hard on the back.
Ezra was about to reply with an affirmative when the phone rang. Marcum reached for it and held the device to his ear. "Yes?" a pause. "What? Eli and I will be there in an hour. Try to see what they know." A puzzled look crossed Ezras face when Marcum hung up the phone. "We have a problem"
Ezra swallowed. What exactly was the problem? He didnt have the time to reflect before Marcum started where he had left off.
"So about dinner..."
An hour later, Marcum and Ezra entered the low lit factory. Dust hung heavy in the air, and the sun played on the floating particles. Ezra had to squelch a building sneeze. No wonder this place was such an ideal spot. No one would want to enter the grimy, unwashed excuse for a building.
The two men were both surrounded quickly by Marcums employees. Alex, a short balding man, grabbed Ezras hand and shook it violently. "How are you doing, Eli?"
Standish frowned at the shorter man. "Ill be much better when I find out what is going on."
"I will be too." Marcum added. "Where is Max?"
"Upstairs sir." another man added.
"Then I strongly suggest we ascend those stairs and find out the problem." Marcum slapped Ezra hard on the back again. He just gave the smuggler a broad smile.
"Im sure there isnt a problem that we cant fix."
Ezra kept smiling but the hackles rose on the back of his neck. This couldnt be good.
The group of men climbed the stairs and stopped in front of a small plain looking door. One of Marcums goons opened it and stepped back waiting for his boss to enter. Ezra noted that the man wasnt too tall but was huge. His biceps almost didnt fit in the sleeves of his shirt. He gave Ezra a hard stare but the undercover agent didnt flinch.
They walked in and Ezra almost stopped in his tracks. A breath caught in his throat at the scene that was unfolding before him. The problem was no longer just a problem for Eli but one for Ezra Standish as well. Recovering quickly, the suave agent side stepped the other men and stood in the corner contemplating his next move.
What the hell was she doing here? He thought that the last incident was exactly that, the last. He looked up from studying his hands and fixed his gaze on the bloody mess that was being held up between two men. Great, now he not only had to worry about his own hide, he had to worry about hers as well.
"Who is she?" Marcum barked. It was obvious he was upset.
"She hasnt said anything." Max replied.
"Even after that?"
"No." Max said weakly.
Standish heard Lila chuckle to herself. It seemed she was enjoying that Max was in hot water with his father. To tell the truth, Ezra was glad himself. The bastard shouldnt be hitting women. He took a steadying breath. He had to remain Eli Smith and Eli didnt care about the young woman that had blood flowing out of her nose. But Ezra Standish did and he was having trouble hiding the anger that coursed through his veins.
"It seems as if your method of questioning has not produced the required results." he finally voiced.
Lila raised her head weakly at the sound, a smirk gracing her lips. He locked eyes with the teen and gave a quick wink while the wheels in his mind turned. Lila let her head drop again, weak from the exertion but found herself smiling. Maybe, she would get out of this hell.
Max whirled on Ezra after his comment. "Do you think you can do better?"
Ezra smiled congenially. "Maybe," he said while shrugging his shoulders. "But first, I must ask. Why is she being held here? Exactly, what has she done to arouse your suspicion?"
Max glared at Ezra. He hated this man. The man that had walked in and took Maxs job right out from underneath him. How the hell was he supposed to learn the family business and take over when his father didnt even trust him? And yet, he trusted this man, who had only been with them for two weeks.
"She was found snooping around. And she had a phone number to an ATF agent named Wilmington," Max spat.
Ezra made a show of wiping the spit from his eye. Inside, his heart had sunk but he kept it behind his calm facade. No wonder Lila looked like she had gone some rounds with Evander Holyfield.
"And she has said nothing?"
"Are you deaf? I just said that. She hasnt said a word."
"Thats...not true...Ive said...several words." the weak voice floated across the room and stopped the rising confrontation.
Max turned around and strode back across the room. "No one asked you." He raised the butt of his gun to strike her again. Lila closed her eyes and mentally prepared herself for the blow but it never came. Ezra had made it across the room in two steps as soon as he realized what Max was preparing to do. In a flash, he had grabbed Maxs arm and pulled it behind him. Then he forcefully pushed Max up against the nearest wall, the wood scratching him across the cheek.
Several of Marcums men made a move against Standish, but one motion from Marcum himself stopped them dead in their tracks.
"I do not tolerate the hitting of children." Ezra emphasized his point by pushing the younger Marcum to the other corner of the room.
Max wiped the blood from his cheek and took a menacing step at the smaller man. His fathers voice stopped him. "I told you to ask her questions not beat the living shit out of her." Max looked wide eyed from his father back to Standish. Then he turned on his heel and marched out of the room. Marcum rolled his eyes and muttered something about respect and children.
"Mr. Smith, what do you think we should do?"
Ezras mind worked fast, thinking up the best scenario possible. One that would keep Lila alive and not waste his work. "Well, we cant very well release her now. Not after the reckless and imprudent actions your son has taken." He paused as if thinking. "I believe it would be in our best interests to concentrate on the deal and worry about this....little problem later." Marcum nodded. "And, just in case she has leaked any information, we should change the deal date and time, preferably to an earlier one."
The older man rubbed his chin and remained silent for a moment. "Fine, tonight at six. You arrange it, Eli." He started for the door, then stopped. "Oh and leave her in here. Post a guard and well figure it out later."
Ezra sighed out of relief. Thank God he wouldnt have to attend dinner at the Marcums tonight. The two men that had been holding Lila let go of their grip and she slid to the floor in a heap. Men began to file out of the small room after Marcum left but Ezra managed to grab Alex.
"Alex, I have a job for you."
The short man beamed. Finally, some responsibility. "Sure, Eli. What do you need?"
Ezra smiled and nodded toward the figure on the floor. "Post a guard at the door. Clean her up and get her some food. She might want to talk after better treatment." The portly man nodded. Ezra lowered his voice. "The more important part is if Max tries to question her again, call me immediately. Understand?"
Alex gave him a questioning gaze. "Why?"
"Lets just say I dont want her leaving here in a body bag. Just imagine, if she is getting paid to spy on us then whos to say she wont spy on the ATF if we pay her. She could be a valuable asset."
Alex features lit up. "Wow, Eli! You sure know how to work an angle."
Ezra just smiled and walked out of the room. You have no idea. he thought as he closed the door behind him.
Chris Larabee slammed down the phone in his office. His almost jovial mood turned into one almost as black as the clothes he wore. The deal had changed, to an earlier date. That means that his team had very little time to prepare. But that wasnt what was worrying him so much. It was something in Ezras voice. Something was wrong.
Chris pushed the thoughts to the back of his mind. He had to be calm and think clearly. He strode to his office door and forcefully pulled it open. "Everyone, in here now!" So much for being calm.
The five agents filed into the room. Looks of concern, confusion and one look of apprehension all came his way. Buck leaned over to JD and whispered harshly in his ear.
"What have you done now, JD?"
"Nothing. I bet this has something to do with you swiping coffee from the other offices."
Buck swallowed. He had forgotten about that.
It was Vin who spoke first. "Chris, if this about your pens being glued to your desk..." Chris shot him one of the patented Larabee stares. Vin just gave him a sheepish grin back.
"No, Its not about the pens." Vin let out a sigh of relief. "Well discuss that later." Vin tensed and mentally berated himself. He should learn to keep his mouth shut.
"We have a problem. The bust has moved up to six oclock tonight. That gives us three hours to get prepared and get there."
All the agents were a bit confused but it was JD who voiced it. "Why would they change the date and time?"
Josiah met Chris eyes and saw the worry and nervousness there. "Well, one of two reasons. Either they just felt like it or..."
"They know theyre being watched." Nathan finished for him.
"Does that mean Ezras in trouble?" JD asked again, fear making his voice shake.
"He seemed fine on the phone, JD." Chris answered. "But well have to be careful. Now, JD, Buck get the surveillance van ready. Josiah, contact the other teams and tell them whats going on. Vin and Nathan get a plan of the old shoe factory. We need to be as ready as possible just in case the southern smartass is in trouble."
Eli Smith had just finished arranging everything for the deal to go down tonight at six. And Eli was feeling good that he had gotten it all done with two hours to spare. He didnt have a care in the world. All he had to do was wait til six.
Unfortunately, Ezra Standish did. He was worried. Alex hadnt called him but that didnt mean anything. What the hell was she doing there? Well, he knew damn well what she was doing. She was making sure that he was safe. This was the third time that she had risked her own well being for his. What had he done to instill such a sense of devotion? Why had she taken on the roll of guardian angel? What did she see in him that was worth protecting?
Maybe, the same thing that Larabee saw even after he had run out. The same thing that kept him on the team and that made the others trust him with their lives. He had once tried to chalk it up to naivete. But, as Chris had pointed out before, it was wrong of him to brush it off as such. No, she had a reason. But hed be damned if he could figure it out.
Ezra prided himself on being able to spot a swindle or a scam a mile away. He could always ascertain when affection was just a means to something else. He had spent his life doing it. For some odd reason, he could sense no con or slight of hand in either Lila or his six compatriots. And, now, she was at the hands of a sadistic smuggler and there was nothing he could do.
He sighed heavily and rubbed his brow. No, shell be alright. Larabee knew of the new time and Ezra was certain that the others could pull off the bust but it didnt stop him from worrying. Something could go wrong. It seemed something always went wrong. It never failed. The bust could go absolutely perfect and then something strange would happen.
This time the one thing that went wrong happened to be one inquisitive teenager. How many times had he told her to stay away from things like this? He should be angry but right now he was just worried. Hed be angry later. Ezra stopped and realized he had been pacing. He checked his watch again. An hour and 45 minutes. That gave him enough time to get over to the factory and check on the problem.
Lila groaned and opened on eye. She was alone again. Good. She struggled into a sitting position, using her shoulder for leverage. After a few agonizing seconds of dizziness, she doggedly went back to work on the ropes that held her. She managed to get them looser and she almost could slide her hands out of them.
Now she had to rest. Lila leaned her head back on the rough wood wall and closed her eyes. If the room stopped spinning, she might be able to pull this off. But only, if the room stopped spinning.
Ezra had winked. At least she thought he had. It couldve been a figment of her imagination. Hell, Ezra himself couldve been an apparition. Shed been pretty out of it when those other men had entered the room. No, he had been there. But she could tell he was mad. More than mad actually. Furious, aggravated, upset, enraged, and frustrated. Whichever synonym, it was still the same emotion.
She didnt blame him. In fact, she was angry at herself too. How stupid could she have been? Getting caught wasnt the best move possible. Hell, even coming out here was down right dumb. It had been a bad idea. But she had good intentions. Didnt that count for something? Probably not.
If Ez didnt kill her, Chris would. Make no mistake about it. She was toast one way or the other. She had gotten a tongue lashing after the last episode. But then she had gotten a thank you for saving his life. Straight from Larabee himself. Now if that wasnt mixed signals, she didnt know what was.
But this time, she was in for it. Chris was going to kill her. This time she wasnt saving anyone. She had endangered Ez. She couldve blown his cover. And she might have very easily gotten Buck into trouble too. What if they followed up on that lead? Lila groaned from the pain. Not to mention she got herself pretty beat up. Nathan was going to have her hide. She also couldve blown a lot of work. That would piss Vin and JD off. Those two hated wasting time and energy.
Great, the only person she didnt piss off was Josiah. But everyone else would be so mad at her, he probably would follow suite. Well after this, and the stay in the hospital and house arrest that Nathan would put her through, she was gone. For good. Besides, shed been in Denver too long. Maybe a trip east would be good. Or farther west. California she heard was nice.
The door opened and Lila snapped her eyes open. Ah, it was the portly man from before. Alex, she believed his name was and he was holding a covered tray. It smelt like something akin to food. He took a few tentative steps toward her. She gave him a piercing glare. "Stay away from me you rat bastard."
"Eli warned me you might be ornery." She raised an eyebrow. It hurt. "Those were his exact words."
"The southern man." Lila nodded her head. Ezra. Even if he was mad, he was still looking after her. "Here, he told me to bring you some food."
Lila almost puked. Food was far from what she wanted at this point in time. She shook her head. He seemed to notice that she was turning a peculiar shade of green. "Hmm, food is probably not what you want."
"You are correct in that assumption."
He gave her a strange look. "Wow, that sounds like something Eli wouldve said."
"Did I hear my name mentioned?"
Lila looked over Alexs shoulder at the nicely dressed undercover agent. She almost smiled but stopped. Instead she fixed him with a cool gaze.
"Alex, youre needed downstairs to sort the inventory. And take the guard with you. Im certain hell be needed to lift boxes."
Alex left the room and closed the door behind him. Ezra listened for two pairs of feet to descend the stairs. Once he was certain they were both gone, he turned his attention back to the teenager.
"What the hell were you thinking?" He asked as he knelt beside her and picked up the rag that Alex had been holding. He gently wiped the blood from her face.
"I was thinking I could help," she said meekly.
"Help? How many times have I told you that I dont need help? Im a professional. You know, dont try this at home." Lila grinned in spite of herself. "Stop smiling. This is far from humourous."
Ezra sighed. "Do you know what you have jeopardized?" Lila didnt say anything, just bowed her head in defeat. "I wouldve thought my self serving nature wouldve rubbed off on you by now." It was a joke but Lila didnt feel like laughing. "Well discuss this later. Just try to stay out of trouble." He stood and turned to leave.
"Ez," her voice was soft and shaky. "Im scared."
Ezra turned around, surprised at the admission. She had never admitted it before. Sure, he knew that at times she had been frightened but this is the first time she had voiced it. He smiled warmly. "No worries, darling. Its under control." He tipped his imaginary hat and disappeared out the door.
Once outside, Ezra rubbed his brow and tried to quell the rising headache. She was counting on him. Larabee was counting on him. Hell, even Marcum was counting on him. This was getting worse by the minute. After a quick check of his watch, Ezra exhaled loudly. Thirty minutes til six.
Footsteps on the stairs caught Ezra by surprise. He raised his gaze and saw Max and the big bodyguard on their way back up the stairs. Shit!
"Ah, Eli. Get anything out of her?"
Ezra shook his head. "Nothing. But I wouldnt worry about it. Well handle it after the deal."
Max smiled and Ezra almost shivered. "Well then, there is nothing for me to do up here." He turned to his muscle man. "Garth, Please stay up here and watch the child while Eli and I make the final preparations." Max walked back down the stairs but at the last moment turned around. "Oh and Garth, if anything goes wrong with the deal. Kill her."
"Excuse me?" Ezra asked.
"Well, if something goes wrong, say the ATF busts in here and arrests us all. Then we know that she was an informant. I talked to Alex, by the way. Your plan is brilliant! But we have no use for her if we get caught. We might be able to use her to make a get away. Geez, Eli. You look a little pale. Do you have a problem with killing a child?" Ezra opened his mouth to respond but Max cut him off. "Eli, Eli, Eli. You arent the only one who can work an angle." Before Ezra could even squeak a word out, Max had his arm draped brotherly around Ezras shoulders. "Come on. We have work to do. You know I heard Dad talking about you and Sara. Shes a great gal. We could be brothers!"
"Wonderful," Ezra half heartedly responded. Shit! Could anything else go wrong?
Ezra fingered the listening device that rested in his slacks pocket. Now, all he had to do was put it near the action and turn it on. Hopefully, JD and Buck would be in the surveillance van listening. If they had managed to put the bust together in the little allotment of time that was allowed. If...No, Ezra. Stop doubting. They truly lived up to the appellation of Magnificent.
After shedding Maxs unwanted arm, Ezra wandered about the bottom of the factory searching for the ideal spot for the bug. He found it. Under an abandoned table, near the center of the factory floor. Ezra pulled the table over to the stack of crates filled with illegal firearms, using the action as a distraction to plant the device. Marcum shot him a questioning look.
"A physical barrier between us and the buyers is always an intelligent and advisable precaution. Just in case, they find the merchandise less than impressive and decide to take disagreeable actions."
"Eli, you sure are a smart one."
Ezra checked his watch again. Less than five minutes. Thank God. The waiting was killing him. He glanced up the stairway and saw the gargantuan standing faithfully by the door. He pried his eyes and mind away from the situation at the top of the stairs. He had to keep his mind clear and that meant he had to stop worrying. An almost impossible feat.
Promptly, at 6:01 five men walked into the factory. One man carried two large briefcases that one could guess contained a large amount of American currency. Three of the others were adequately armed while the last carried nothing but a sophisticated air. They approached the table where Joshua, Max and Ezra were all standing. Behind them stood Alex and eight more men armed to the teeth. .
The deal went surprisingly well for both parties. Each had the required amount of goods. Everything was going well for both the seller and the buyer. Until the first yell of "ATF Freeze!"
Lila knew she had only a few minutes until the date with death. She had heard Gumbys order. And she had no plans to be an easy target. After rest that cleared both her head and her vision, she was ready.
The bonds that she had been struggling with for the better part of the day finally slipped off her bloody and torn wrists. She brought her arms carefully from behind her back and stretched. She winced as pain lanced up her limbs but at least, now, she was free.
With deliberate slowness, Lila made it on her feet. She closed her eyes and leaned against the rough wood, taking several seconds before making her next move. It would be brilliant for her to get dizzy and fall. Almost as brilliant as getting caught.
Being as careful and quiet as possible, Lila crept to the lone chair. She picked it up and moved it underneath the window. Just as she thought earlier. She was too short. Damn her genetic makeup. Alright, that means shed have to go with plan B.
After the initial yell, everyone did as told. They froze. That was until their brains processed just what was occurring and all hell broke loose. Fortunately, the buyers decided not to stick around and just fled out the door into Team 3's waiting arms. It was Marcum who put up the fight.
Ezra wouldnt have thought that Max was fast on the draw. But he was. And soon, the air erupted with the sound of gunfire. The rogue agent was known for his gambling expertise but the odds of him surviving in a gunfight standing out in the open were definitely not in his favor. And he rarely gambled with his life or anyone elses. So once the bullets started flying, he knew he had to get out of harms way and up those stairs before Maxs order was carried out.
However, he couldnt resist the slight advantage that he had right there. Marcum, not being the brightest crayon in the box, turned to Standish for help. All he found was a fist that laid him out cold on the factory floor. Then Ezra darted for cover.
He sprinted quickly to a large assemblage of old boxes and crates, ducking every now and then trying to avoid deadly projectiles. Not like the action really helped any, but it did reassure him. When only a few feet from his salvation, Ezra dropped into a feet first slide that wouldve done any baseball player proud. And it caused him to bump solidly into his boss.
Chris swung his gun around when he felt someone hit his leg. "Damn it, Ezra." he muttered as he went back to firing at the smugglers.
"Ah, Mr. Larabee. Your timing is impeccable, as always."
Chris turned to his undercover agent and grinned. "You planning on drawing your gun and helping out?" he asked.
Ezra smiled broadly back. "Actually, I have something else in mind." Ezra lifted his gaze to the office door and swore. Somehow Max had made it up to the landing unscathed. "On, second thought," he added as he pulled his gun out and started firing at the tall man. He only managed to get off a few shots before Max disappeared into the doorway. "Shit! Chris!"
"Cover me!" Ezra ran from his cover to the base of the stairs.
Lila heard the yell then the gunfire. This was it. She quickly scurried behind the door, dragging the chair with her. Her heart raced and her palms grew sweaty. She wondered if this is what Ezra felt like everyday. A sense of admiration for the undercover agent flooded her being. How could he deal with always being pumped full of adrenaline? How did he deal with the fear of death? Shed have to ask him later. As soon as they both got out of this alive.
Lila no longer doubted that she would survive. She and Ezra both. And when this fiasco was all over, she promised that she would never walk down the road to hell again. That is, until next time.
Soon, the big brute walked through the door, gun drawn. He was met with a chair across the back of his head. The impact broke the chair and laid the big man out cold.
Lila smiled and grabbed the gun from the limp hand. She tucked it into her waistband.
She turned to walk out the door but found herself staring down the barrel of a .38.
"You werent thinking of leaving were ya? I was just beginning to like you." Max sneered as he pulled back the hammer on his gun.
Lila was dead. She knew it. But if she was going to go out, she was going out fighting and with style. "Bite me."
Ezra watched in utter horror as Max pulled the gun on the street kid. He had only made it two steps up the stairs and was under a barrage of bullets. He wondered how the hell he wasnt getting shot and realized that Chris was taking his job of covering Ezra seriously. However, he still didnt have time to raise his gun. He did the next best thing.
Max turned his head, a natural reaction to hearing his name yelled. Lila saw her opening and barreled into the man, wrapping her arms around his midsection. The gun discharged harmlessly over her head as the two lost their balance and fell head over heels down the stairs.
Ezra stood stock still as the two tumbled in a heap of flailing arms and legs down the stairs and proved that gravity did, in fact, exist. He was brought out of shock when he felt a bullet whiz by his head. Ezra turned, raised his gun and aimed with deadly accuracy. The last man standing fell to the floor in a puddle of his own blood. The gun fight was over.
The fall only lasted a few seconds but to Lila it felt like she was tumbling forever. Then all of a sudden it stopped. The impact with the factory floor forced all of the air out of her lungs. At least she had landed on Max and not on the floor. But that was not what Lila was concentrating on or anyone for that matter. It was the deafening THUD followed by a loud SNAP.
Lila lay for a moment, wondering if the snap came from her. But after a quick check, she realized it hadnt been her body that made the gruesome sound. She carefully pried her eyes open and let them travel up Gumbys body. She stopped when she saw his neck. Bile appeared in her throat and she quickly swallowed several times to keep from getting sick. Max Marcums neck was twisted at grisly angle.
She tore her eyes away from the grotesque scene only to find herself staring into his unseeing brown eyes. They stared back at her, accusing her for their owners untimely demise. It was then that she thought it would be a good idea for her to move.
Ezra held his breath but his heart raced. Neither of the two figures moved. And neither did he. After that horrific sound, no one moved. Not even Chris. All were scared at what they might find. Sure, Lila was a pain in the ass some of the time but somehow, she had grown on them. Larabee quietly chided himself. He would have to stop picking up strays. First six men, a cat in the parking garage, and now a fourteen year old girl. Finally, when she moved, everyone let out a collective breath.
Lila scurried and backpedaled away from the dead man. She had no intention of stopping until she was in another state but she ran into someone. Quickly, she turned and pulled the gun out of her waistband shakily pointing it at the person who stopped her retreat.
"Whoa now," came the southern drawl, "I dont think that is the best idea."
Lila looked at the undercover agent with wide, dazed eyes and slowly dropped her arm. "Ezra?"
"In the flesh."
The gun clattered to the ground. "Im sorry." Ezra had to strain to hear the soft apology over the background noise. Team 3 had come in to clean up the bodies and arrest the living. Also, a group of paramedics had arrived.
"Its alright." he answered while pulling her into a hug.
Lila felt light headed. She had just fallen down a flight of stairs and killed a man. The realization hit her like a cold wave. She had killed a man. She tried to stop the falling tears but couldnt. Soon, she found herself sobbing like a child, her arms wrapped tightly around Ezra and her face buried in his chest.
Ezra was at a loss, his poker face failing him. He hugged the child closer and lightly stroked her hair. "Its alright, darling. Shhh. Its alright."
But it wasnt alright. She felt the need to explain. She forced the words out between sobs.
Ezra couldnt catch every word. In fact he couldnt even catch most of the conversation. But he managed to pick up a few key words. Sorry, JD, Vin,and Chris is going to kill me.
Ezra smiled at the last one. "Well, Mr. Larabee is known for his rash actions but I doubt that murder is one of those. Of course, I could be wrong." He heard a small laugh. A small one. But it was there.
Ezra managed to catch Nathans eye and the tall black healer ambled over. "Now, why dont you let Nathan take a look at you."
Lila slowly and reluctantly let go of the conman. She wiped the tears from her eyes and sheepishly smiled. "Sorry."
Ezra just smiled and handed the young woman over to Nathan. Nathan put his arm around her shoulders in a brotherly hug. "Come on, Lila. Lets go see Buck and JD and I can take a look at those bruises." Lila and Nathan walked away, Ezra catching part of their conversation. "That was quite a fall. But you know, Buck once fell down the stairs to the garage. He had the biggest bruise..."
Ezra ran a hand tiredly over his face. He was going to sleep for a week after this. He muttered a curse when he saw Chris make his way over to him. He really wasnt up for this.
"She alright?" Chris asked.
"Just shook up a bit."
Chris nodded. Ezra waited for the inevitable question but it never came. Instead, he got something completely different. "Good work, Ez." Again, Ezras poker face failed him. Chris smiled. "Dont look so shocked." He slapped Ezra hard on the back. "Good job." Ezra was totally and utterly confused.
Chris smiled again and walked away.
Ezra closed his mouth from where it had fallen open. Sometimes, Chris was the hardest man to figure out.
Ezra watched the figure sprawled on the double bed take the slow even breaths of sleep. The bruises had faded a few weeks before, but the nightmares had remained vivid. Ezra checked the alarm clock that rested on the small table by the bed. 2:30 am. She had gone back to sleep quicker this time. Maybe, the dreams had finally begun to release their hold.
Ezra slowly backed out of the extra bedroom and softly shut the door behind him. He rubbed his tired eyes and made his way back to his own bed. The past month had been rough on them both. But he knew they were steadily making their way back to normal. As normal as their lives could get, anyway.
He had finally managed to convince the young street girl that Max Marcums death was not her fault. It was just a freak happening. And after some time, he was sure that she would believe it. He was less successful on the other issue he had addressed. They had agreed that she could still search out information as long as she did not put herself in danger. But she was no longer allowed to tag along.
And on a lighter note, he was able to finally put to rest her fears that he, as long as the six others were not mad at her. They were only concerned for her personal safety.
Ezra yawned and climbed into his bed, pulling the heavy down comforter around his shoulders. Another hard day at work awaited him tomorrow. Sleep began to pull the undercover agents eyelids closed. He reluctantly gave in and drifted off to face his own nightmares.
E-mail: The Immortal