Ezra Standish, now dressed resplendently in dirty overalls and filthy rubber boots turned to his boss and read from the paper in front of him.
" 'Bugs Are Ours Exterminators,' date of service May 11th, complaint 'cockroaches and spiders found in office of S. Johnson and surrounding area on fourth floor of Federal Building located on Vista St. Denver, Colorado." Will that be adequate, Mr. Larabee?" Ezra looked over the official exterminator work request that JD had perfected on his computer. "This is very fine work. The paper and binding is especially good, almost like the real thing."
"That's because it is the real thing. I never ask and JD never said." Chris drove the van up to the gate entry and showed the attendant their work order.
After a moment, the attendant handed it back. "Know your way?" He queried.
Chris pulled his baseball hat lower and shook his head "yes''. Driving forward they found a parking space next to the service elevators and started unloading their equipment. After lifting two 'toxic tanks' Ezra leaned against the door and looked at Chris rolling their dolly around to the front of the van. "You have your usual complaint against menial labor, Ez?" Chris smiled and looked down at Ezra's boots again. "Those really do make your outfit." Ezra gave Chris his most disparaging look and pointed to the name on his overalls.
"It's not the task involved, Mr. Larabee. It is the moniker I am being asked to use." Looking down at the nametag sewn into the work suit. "I am a lot of things. But I am not by any stretch of the imagination an "ERNIE". Ezra flicked a dark flaky substance from the nametag.
"Well, sorry about that Ez, but Royce's suit was too long in the legs for you. So you're Ernie and I'm Royce. Now some of the men may know me if they hear me talk so I am leaving the dialogue to you. We need time inside Sam Johnson's room to gather files. And I don't care what you say to get us that time. Do we understand each other?" Chris pushed the elevator button for the forth floor looking directly at Ezra.
Seeing the serious expression on Chris's face, Ezra nodded. Taking a deep breath, Ezra began to format his opening statement. Chris watched in amazement as Ezra seemed to slouch and move his head in a decidedly un-Ezra way. By the time the elevator opened to the forth floor, Ezra Standish was Ernie, the exterminator.
Stepping out of the elevator holding his work order in his hand, Ezra approached the man sitting at the desk closest to the door. "Hey, mister? Can you all tell us who a..." Ezra brought the paper closer to his face, "...a Sam Johnson is?" Looking back at Chris, he continued. "The both of us is looking to eliminate crawly things from his office. It over here?" Ezra started in the direction of Johnson's office having noticed a gold lettered sign above the door.
The intelligence agent working for Johnson rounded his desk and grabbed Chris's arm. Even playing the part, Chris couldn't hide the authority that flowed from his arm to the man who held him. Looking at the cold expressionless eyes, the man let go of Chris and turned to follow Ezra. "Ah, listen nothing was said about exterminators coming today." Looking at the impassioned faces of Ezra and Chris, the man continued. "Well, look Sam's out of his office and I can't let you in there unless he's here."
Chris popped the lid of a small box of large cockroaches and let them drop softly to the ground as he pretended to inspect a hose to one of the tanks. Pushing them slightly with his boot, Chris saw with satisfaction two of them scurry under Johnson's door.
Ezra noticed Chris while he shoved the work order under the man's face. "Well, lookie here!" Ezra pulled the work order away before the agent could finish reading it. "There are some of them critters right now." Turning back to the agent, he continued. "Well, I guess we could come back later when your Mr. Johnson will be here. But, Royce, don't we have something to do each day for the next ten days or so?" Holding up his hands, Ezra started pointing to each finger while reciting work orders. "Why, tomorrow is the Italian place over on Beeker Street." Shaking his head, he frowned. Looking at Chris, he remarked. "We gotta get some of that new stuff grandpa was making up the other day for that place. Them cockroaches is at least..." Ezra was about to show the agent the length of the roaches but he noticed one of Chris's roaches scurry between desks and gestured to Johnson's office. Johnson's agent saw it too.
Frowning, the man injected, "Okay, I guess it's okay. But I gotta stay here while you are in there." The man spread his feet and crossed his arms as if to make a point.
Putting on a heavy respirator that Chris handed him, Ezra pointed to the tank and said in a muffled voice through the filter of the respirator. "Well if you are gonna, then I gotta warn you the last time we used this stuff to kill the really big buggers, it took out all the fig plants in the office we was at. We got an extra breather thing, but the last man who used it ended up in the ER. Something about a leak. Ain't he still using them breathing medicines, Royce?" Pointing to his own head and making a circling motion, Ezra continued. "He ain't ever been quite right since, ya know?"
The agent looked at both men trying to make a decision. Chris took that opportunity to open one of the tanks and began spraying. The foul smelling gas started to fill the air. Chris smiled. He really enjoyed watching the always reluctant 'victim' scurry after a whiff of Nathan's 'bug gas'.
"Okay listen, just don't mess with anything in the office. I know where everything is located and I'm gonna check when I get back." The agent said covering his mouth as he left the room.
Ezra nodded and waved at the man. Not being able to resist the temptation, Ezra leaned over and hit the delete button on the man's computer. Whatever the agent had been working on was now lost in cyberspace. Chris saw Ezra and laughed.
"You are incorrigible." Chris moved to the outer office door and checked the hallway. Noting it was clear, he hung an "Exterminator at Work" sign on the outside handle and made his way back to Ezra. The con man already had Johnson's office door open and was scanning it taking in the layout.
"It's my mother's fault. She always said you can't be too rich, thin or incorrigible." Catching Chris's smile, Ezra turned back to check out Johnson's desk. Letting his sensitive hands run along the underside of Johnson's computer desk tray, he found a button and pressed it slightly.
Chris looked over to see Ezra's triumphant grin, he worked his way to the desk spraying enough of the 'bug gas' to keep up appearances. Ezra waved his hand in the air as he caught a whiff of the smell. "Mr. Larabee? Must you?"
Not able to resist, Chris sat the sprayer down and looked innocently at Ezra. "Appearances are everything." Catching Ezra's return grimace, Chris pointed at the papers Ezra held in his hands. "Anything?"
"Hard to tell. Why don't you make copies and I'll liberate Mr. Johnson's file cabinet of its goodies?" Leaving the files to Chris, Ezra pulled out his set of keys and went to work.
Chris quickly scanned the files Ezra had found in the hidden drawer under the keyboard. The files began to reveal a story of regular payments by a list of men and woman. A couple of the names where familiar to Chris as well-respected bounty hunters. Shaking his head, Chris quickly double checked the outer office and started faxing the files to a fax number JD had developed that would send the files to their offices but was untraceable.
"Ah, Mr. Larabee?" Chris turned to see Ezra holding a folder in his hand. "You might want to look at this." Handing the file to Chris, Ezra went back to searching the file drawers.
Opening the file, Chris was greeted with a picture of Vin. Brown hair longer than it was now, he was standing talking to another man. Chris recognized the man as local bounty hunter. Vin was standing next to a beautiful Harley Davidson motorcycle. It was a "low rider" black with a few flashes of highly polished chrome. Chris smiled and committed that information to memory. Weapons for the next time Vin said anything about his Ram truck.
Ezra heard Chris chuckle and looked up. "Something funny Mr. Larabee?" Chris continued looking through the file.
"File seems to contain a lot of pictures of Vin meeting with various people. Couple I recognize as bounty hunters." Searching through the file Chris saw copies of various bounty money paid out to Vin. Chris whistled at the frequency of the checks and some of the amounts. Seeing Ezra raise his head from his searching, Chris smiled. "Vin was a very good bounty hunter."
Ezra smiled. "I can believe that." Scooping up a folder of files, he began packing them into one of the false compartments in the "gas tanks".
Nodding to them, Chris raised an eyebrow. "What?"
Ezra looked up from folding in more files. "I'd say we have a folder on just about every major bounty hunter in the tri-state area. This I believe is the bases for the black mailing Mr. Johnson has running. I'm thinking all these peaceable folks might like to have the evidence that is being used against them?" Smiling he continued to drag files and load them. Finishing that he started to shift files around so the now empty file drawer looked almost normal.
"Ezra?" Chris started.
"I know Mr. Larabee. It was nothing." Ezra straightened and closed the drawer to the file cabinet. Turning he looked at Chris pulling out one more jar of dead cockroaches.
"Nothing like clapping your own back." Placing the jar in the drawer under the keyboard, Chris taped a message to the jar. Ezra leaded over Chris's shoulder to read what the note.
"Careful Johnson, you never know what's been bugged." Clapping Chris on the back, Ezra laughed in appreciation. "Impressive."
Closing the door carefully, Chris started to spray again creating an atmosphere. Ezra carefully wiped the area for prints even though both men had been wearing gloves. Looking around to check for any signs of their work, Ezra smiled despite himself. About to step on the offending insect, Ezra stopped himself. "We didn't offer them a guarantee did we?" Getting a smile back and negative shake from Chris, Ezra stepped back. Looking down at the offending insect, Ezra saluted it. "Do you best Agent Roach!"
Laughing quietly, Chris caught Ezra's return smile as both men packed up supplies quickly and exited the office. Spraying trails of noxious gas behind them, the "exterminators" headed out quickly for their van. Passing the intelligence agent, Ezra pulled up his mask to speak. "Got your buggies. Watch that nest in the john. They put up quite a battle. Call us if they decide to invade you toilet seats again." Holding up two fingers in the 'peace' sign, Ezra followed Chris outside.
Reaching the van, they loaded equipment quickly and headed back to the garage. Ezra stood holding the rubber boots with his fingertips as the last of the equipment was stored. "I should have left these for our friend up there. I think after the bounty hunters get their files back he's gonna be deep in doodo, don't you?"
Taking the metallic signs off the van, they got back in and drove to JD's condo. Flipping open his phone, Chris watched Ezra maneuver the van through traffic. Speed dialing Buck's number, he waited.
Buck was enjoying the way Sam Johnson was reacting to Buck's 'information' on Vin. Taking notes quickly, the head of the Intelligence section recognized the value of what Buck was giving him. Buck's fake information included a "past arrest for drunk and disorderly conduct" in Texas for which Vin had supposedly spent thirty days in jail. There was force involved and so was actually a type C felony. But any felony charge meant that Vin couldn't carry weapons or get a permit. Since Vin obviously had guns and plenty of them, Johnson was practically salivating over the news.
As Buck continued to give Johnson fake arrest times, places and file numbers, his phone rang. "Sorry, Sam." Buck said as he flipped open his phone. Hearing Chris's voice, Buck kept his business like voice in use. "Wilmington." Buck listened to Chris's short message telling him that the job was finished and for him to get back to the condo. "Okay, got ya!"
Buck shut off his phone. Looking at Johnson, Buck tried not to laugh knowing what the man was facing when he got back to work. "Look I've got to get back to the office. Larabee is on my butt about a missing report I was supposed to locate. Standing up, Buck tossed a few bills on the table. Johnson stood to shake Buck's hand.
"Listen. This was very generous of you. I thought you never really liked me. Why would you give me all this?" Johnson finished his handshake and scooped up the papers about Vin.
"Well, Sam it's an old case of jealously raising its ugly head, I guess. I want my relationship back with Larabee and all the power it brought me. This should be enough for you to make Tanner's life miserable enough that he'll leave on his own, right Johnson?" Buck smiled looking over his shoulder at Johnson as he walked out of the bar.
With a second nurse to help, Peggy quickly peeled back the dressings covering the groin incision. Studying it carefully she noted that the bleeding was coming from a place where the staples holding the wound together had been torn by the fall. Standing back, she let the other nurse gather sutures for the resident to repair its open area. Peggy again rechecked Vin's blood pressure and pulse and was satisfied. Seeing JD standing in the doorway, she motioned him over. "Vin will be fine. He just tore some staples out when he dove after the glass. You and I are gonna have a talk with him about that business." Smiling, she got JD to smile too and he relaxed.
"What business?" There was a faint soft voice coming from the pillow bunched around Vin's head.
"Well, he speaks." Peggy leaned over and took in the color of Vin's face and the slightly confused smile.
"What happened? Something? I...the glass it...." Vin's pain and fatigue was evident in his voice. JD leaned over and placed a hand on Vin's arm.
"Hey, it's okay. Sorry I didn't leave the table closer so you could get to the glass. It was my fault." Peggy looked over and smiled graciously at JD. He blushed at the nurse's attention and turned back to Vin. "I brought you a Coke. Do you want some while they fix up your leg?" Realizing that the statement might seem a bit strange under the circumstances, JD started to speak again.
Vin saw the embarrassment on JD's face and raised his head to look down his body. Seeing the doctor working quietly and not feeling any increase in pain, Vin relaxed and let his head drop back. "Yeah, a Coke would be great."
JD grinned and turned to get Vin a drink. Peggy leaned forward and studied Vin. "You sure you want something? Youre still looking a bit pale."
"Thats cause you all aint fed me any Coke for days. Its one of the five food groups." Vin smiled with a look of teasing in his eye.
"It is, huh?" Peggy played along with Vin watching the color improve in his face at the banter.
"Yeah, theres Coke. And chocolate cup cakes. Pizza and..." Vin started to continue but JD turned back with the Coke and continued.
"Theres also peach pie. Gotta have peach pie as a food group." JD added with conviction.
Vin looked up in surprise at JDs words. "You too? There is a place over on Halston St. that has the best peach pie!"
Peggy laughed and started to push the morphine pump beside Vins head. She had seen his eyes tighten as the doctor worked to put in the necessary stitches. She knew he was trying to be brave but she didnt want her patient to be stressed at all after his last event. Vins hand caught hers as she reached.
"Cant I have some pain medicine that doesnt make me so dopey feeling when I wake up? Some pills or something?" Peggy looked at the resident who shrugged his shoulders.
"Okay, but if the pills dont work, then its back to something stronger. Agreed?" Peggy saw Vin nod and left him with JD and the resident.
Ramsey Kailer finished suturing Vins groin incision and placed a thick dressing on it. Walking up to Vins head he watched as the young man drank soda held by his friend. "You two guys are real ATF agents, huh? I mean, Im sorry, but you both look so young." Seeing both men smile in unison, he smiled with them.
"Yep, Doc," Vin said taking a break from his coke, "Were your last line against the bad guys. Scary aint it?"
Kailer looked at the two young men and imagined in his mind the events that had brought Vin to him as a patient. His mind flipped to the first time he had seen Vin in the ER covered in blood and his teammates stalking the waiting room. Now he looked at a healing patient who obviously was a part of a team so important to him that he would risk his own life to save someone else. Still not knowing what to say, Kailer went back to doctor talk to ease himself from the room. "Okay, you take care and no more bed diving, all right?"
JD gave the resident his best boy scout salute and watched as the man left the room. Turning back to Vin, he held out more soda. "Want some more?" Vin shook his head no. He was beginning to feel the effects of his fall and didnt want JD to know it. Seeing Peggy at the door talking to the doctor, he smiled at JD and said, "Well, just a little more while I take those pills, okay?"
Peggy finished giving Vin his medications and checking his vital signs before leaving. "You going to stay a while, JD?"
"Yes. Im here 'til we hear from the rest of the team. They had something to do this evening." Watching Vins eyes close and the slight frown still present on his face, JD walked to the far side of the room and dialed the phone carefully.
Ezra and Chris were already at the hospital going over the files they had lifted from Johnsons office. Both men were amazed at the amount of information Johnson had obtained about each bounty hunter. Some of it he had obviously used to blackmail them for money. Others he seemed to have let off without giving a kickback if they became an informant for him.
From looking at Vins file, it was obvious that Johnson had tried to get Vin to become an informer. Vins file was filled with multiple unanswered phone calls as well as complete daily surveys where Johnson had obviously had him followed. Chris grinned as he read one daily summary. It was quite obvious that Vin had been leading the man in circles and into dead ends all day long.
What was very disturbing were notations that Johnson had made plans for Vin in the future. Small things that could be explained away if Johnson was caught but put together would prove bad for Vins career. Chris also noticed other papers that were very personal, but Chris couldnt resist looking. A copy of Vins birth certificate showing no father listed just a mother named Mary Louise Tanner. A birth date of May 24th and the year that showed he was just two years older than JD
There were military records and other things like college transcripts and fitness reports. Shaking his head, he worried that a man like Johnson could get his hands on such secret files. He heard the phone ring just as the door opened and Buck came into the room.
Buck reached for the phone and nodded to both men. "Wilmington." Buck listened for a moment and then told JD to hold on. "Chris did you guys know about Vins accident at the hospital?"
Chris rose quickly letting the file land on the floor. "What? No, whats going on? Get JD. No, never mind Im going over there myself." Chris was reaching for the keys of his truck when Buck put a restraining hand on his shoulder.
Talking out loud for Ezra and Chriss sake, Buck repeated. "So while you went out for sodas, Vin almost fell out of bed reaching for a glass of water?" He listened for a minute before continuing still with his hand on Chriss arm. "He pulled some stitches out of his leg incision and is a bit sore but otherwise okay. Youre watching Terminator? Chriss favorite look-a-like is in that. Okay, yeah. Let us get organized here and well come on over. Tell Vin weve got a little something that might brighten up his evening."
Hanging up, Buck grinned. "Hes okay. JDs with him and Josiah just called to say he was coming over. So what do ya think?" Ezra explained the scene at Johnsons office in detail leaving out only the part about the boots, which of course, Chris felt compelled to add. By the time the three men reached the hospital parking lot, the next part of their plan was formulated. Agreeing to let the Johnsons victim bounty hunters become part of the plan, they decided to start work on the second phase of Sam Johnsons revenge the next day.
Approaching Vins room, Buck handed the evening shift nurses a "Italian special pizza" and paused to chat. Nathan stuck his head out of the room at the sound of Bucks voice and saw Ezra grab three more pizzas from Bucks hands. Nathan could smell the wonderful aroma all the way down the hall.
Chris lead the way into the room expecting to see a pale and sleeping Vin Tanner. Instead he found a sleepy sharpshooter sipping on a Coke while watching a movie on the VCR. JD was running around finding chairs for everyone and Ezra planted the pizzas on Vins side table much to the delight of the injured man.
"Pizza?" Vin raised his head at the lovely aroma coming from the hot boxes.
Chris came close to the bed and took Vins hand. "You sure youre okay? JD said you were bleeding and..."
Vin smiled shyly and muttered "Im fine. All my fault. JD was just being nice. Aint his fault."
"Isnt his fault." Ezra came to the bed and laid Johnsons file on Vins stomach. "If you are going to be a permanent member of this team, then we will have to work on your English." Getting a frown from Chris, Ezra continued, "A man must endeavor to improve himself at every opportunity."
"Well if thats the case, then it sounds like Vins gonna have a long, hard road teaching Ezra to improve his long range shooting abilities. Last time he had to hit the 100 foot target at the range he missed a few." Josiah stepped out of the bathroom and joined the group at the bedside.
"I am deeply offended, Mr. Sanchez. Most of my work requires that I be deadly accurate at short range. I leave the long distant targets to men of Mr. Tanners skill." Josiah grabbed Ezra in a headlock and pulled him over to sit on the empty bed next to Vins.
Buck stood outside the door listening to the team banter on around Vin. He had used the flirting with the nurses as an excuse to delay going into Vins room. Still not knowing what to say, Buck slipped into the doorway and stood silently. Chris was showing Vin some of the pictures from Johnsons file. Vin was pointing out people and giving names and comments about some of the people. Josiah, Nathan, Ezra and JD were working on the first of the pizzas.
Vin was the first to see Buck. Laying down the pictures, Vin looked from Chris to Buck and called out, "Buck! Come here, please. Let me see for myself that youre okay."
With a physical nudge from JD, Buck crossed to Vins bed. Looking down at Vin still pale and small looking in the hospital bed, Buck felt shame fill him.
Holding out his hand, Vin motioned for Chris to give him the sports section of the newspaper. Keeping his eyes on Bucks face, Vin rolled it carefully into a long roll. Suddenly raising it, he smacked Buck on the shoulder and then on the belt buckle. Everyone held their breaths as Buck jumped back in surprise and looked straight at Vin.
Vin held a very serious sniper ranger look on his face. Placing the newspaper weapon down at his side, Vin took another moment and then started to speak.
"Buck. Ive seen some stuff in my time. Done some terrible things as a soldier Id never imagined I do. Gotten out of more dumb situations while going after bounty by sheer dumb luck. But I dont think Ive ever, ever seen anyone do something as stupid as you did, what is it...two days ago?" See Chris nod yes, Vin continued. "Now see? Not only am I trapped in this bed for the next week they tell me, but I have to listen to a series of lectures about my "tactile approaches to sticking my butt out for teammates who dont have the sense to trust someone to watch their back and everyone elses." Vin grabbed a deep breath and motioned to Chris for a drink.
"Amen, brother!" Josiah said softly from his chair.
Ezra quickly swallowed his pizza and added, "The grammar requires some work but the sentiment is well said Mr. Tanner."
Buck put up his hand as JD started to speak. "Huh, Vin. Ive had so much time to go over this in my mind. I let jealousy cloud my mind and ignored the natural good judgment of my closest friends and teammates. I was stubborn. I made a big mistake about you and it ended up getting you hurt. Im sorry for that and I admit it before you and all the other members of this team. Anything I can do to make up for it, you let me know. Okay?" Buck stuck his hand out and Vin reached up slowly and shook it, holding on for just a second at the end. Buck reached up and wrapped his other big hand around Vins slim long fingers.
Vin nodded and let his hand fall to his side. Looking from Chris to Buck, a small twinkle appeared in his eyes. Looking back at Buck, Vin started. "Well there are these lectures Chris says I have to have about techniques, so..."
"Oh no! Not a chance, Junior. Bucks got his own lectures to attend," said Chris. "Well have plenty of time to talk about that stuff while you get better." Reaching over he grabbed a piece of pizza from the table and sat in the recliner next to Vin. Buck settled in a straight chair picking out a large piece of sausage pizza and sighed deeply. Nathan clapped him on the back and soon all six men were settled with their feet up watching the Terminator chase Michael Biehn in a police car.
Peggy tapped softly on the door to Vins room. Looking inside she saw her patient soundly asleep surrounded by an amazing collection of feet and legs and arms and snoring heads all draped on room furniture. The very handsome blonde leader sitting in the chair lifted his head and raised an eyebrow in question.
Slipping softly past JD and Buck spread out on the floor with pillows, she quickly hung Vins antibiotics. Looking down at Chris she said. "Dont suppose any of you are heading home tonight, right?"
Seeing Chris smile and shake his head no, she joined him in smiling. Chris raised his voice just above a whisper and spoke. "Were a team. Anyone of us gets hurt, lost or needs help, were there. Were kind of like family. Not always agreeing but always forgiving. And we never leave one of ours alone when their not able to help themselves. So Im afraid you are just stuck with us for a while."
Stunned by the power and emotion behind Chriss words, Peggy turned and looked around at each one of the members. "Well, if this," she waved her arm around the room, "is an indication of your familys care and protection, then I say stay as long as you need to, 'til the newest one is ready to care for himself again."
Chris smiled a thanks and watched her leave. Seeing Vin become restless in his sleep, Chris leaned over and stroked Vins arm until he became quiet again. Looking around the room at his entire team, Chris swallowed and fought back the tears that wanted to form. Hed waited so long for family again. After loosing Sarah and Adam, hed pretty much given up hope. But counting heads, his eyes turned back to Vin quietly sleeping. Resting back in the chair, he closed his eyes. The hope that had come to Team 7s family wore the name of Vin Tanner.
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