Disclaimer: Not Mine.. no profit.
Acknowledgements: Mogs Universe - Thank you.
I had a lot of trouble with this story. I wrote it once and deleted the whole
lot before starting over. Not least of the difficulty was that I know next
to nothing about July 4th. I finally changed the emphasis to the
day before, July 3rd and the events that took place then, skirting
over the holiday celebration as much as possible. This could be a suitable
place to end the series. Let me know what you think (Shameless request for
feedback I know!)
Tuesday 3rd July
The light colored unmarked sedan trailed
behind the ancient suburban as it carefully navigated through the morning
traffic in the Denver suburbs. There was silence in the vehicle as the occupants
concentrated on keeping their target in sight.
Ahead, Josiah Sanchez hummed along as his small passenger sang out the words
to Amazing Grace, her clear soprano echoing around in the confines
of the car. Ezra, Vin and Chris had all had to leave early this morning for
a meeting with representatives of the DAs office. Josiah had volunteered
to collect the Southerners small daughter and run her over to the summer
school since he was due in court a little later and had time to kill. Apart
from the occasional bedtime story, he rarely got the chance to spend time
alone with Team 7s unofficial mascot.
Beautiful, Cherub! Josiah cast a quick glance over his shoulder
at the child as she fell silent, before concentrating back on the road.
Thanks Uncle Josiah. Its my favourite, cept for the Christmas
Mine too. I will be able to face my day with a clearer mind now.
Youve go so many stories and sayings in your mind I am surprised
you can find anything in there!
Josiah laughed, a contagious rumbling belly laugh that automatically made
the child join in. Youre quite right. I cant always find
the one I want. Josiah eased the cumbersome vehicle into a slot outside
the school. Children of all ages milled about in the grounds waiting for
the bell to call them to their lessons. He climbed out and moved around to
let his passenger disembark. Shed already undone the safety buckle
and was gathering her sheet music and lunchbox.
Aurora Standish! His deep voice boomed out chidingly. He looked
pointedly from her to her safety seat and back again.
Sorry, I forgot. She looked sheepish. Climbing out she took hold
of the big mans pinkie in her full fist and the two strolled over to
the gate, manned by a uniformed security guard. Bye Uncle Josiah.
The tall profiler leaned down and picked her up into a big hug. She kissed
Be good. Mrs Greer will be here to pick you up at three. She
nodded and bid the guard good morning as she walked into the schoolyard.
Sanchez climbed back into the old SUV and waved as he pulled away.
Further down the street the two occupants of the sedan looked at each other.
So Sanchez has a weakness. We get his kid and he wont dare
testify. The elder man, seated in the drivers seat, allowed a
satisfied smirk to cross his acne-scarred face.
You wanna snatch that kid? His younger companion was uneasy.
Hed do pretty much anything for Aldo Ramirez, but kidnapping? That
meant serious time. And if she got hurt, he didnt want to think about
The boss told us to find a way to stop him from testifying, anything
short of killing him, and the only reason we cant do that is cause
its too obvious. Cmon. The thickset driver climbed from
the car and headed to the school. His reluctant partner followed.
Denver Court House
Josiah was lounging on the hard bench outside
the courtroom where the murder trial was taking place, waiting to be called
to give his testimony, when his cell phone rang. He fished it out of his
jacket pocket and flipped it open automatically, assuming it was Chris checking
Good morning Mr Sanchez. I am calling to make you an offer you cant
refuse. An unfamiliar voice purred in his ear.
Whatever youre selling I dont want one.
You want this, Im sure. She is such a charmingly cute little
Your daughter. You testify and she dies.
I dont have
Forget it Mr Sanchez. We picked her up this morning right after you
dropped her at that preppy school. Just shut up and listen. You tell the
judge whatever you want, so long as Aldo Ramirez doesnt get convicted,
and youll get your kid back alive. If he goes to jail youd better
get one of those pretty little white coffins ready.
Josiah felt a chill run through his body. Rorie. They were talking about
Let me speak to her. There was a pause. I cant be
sure you have her, you could be bluffing.
Okay wait. There was a clatter and a shuffling noise.
Hello? The tremulous voice was unmistakable.
Josiah swallowed painfully. Hey Sweetheart. Are you Okay?
Yahuh. Whats happening?
Just do exactly what they tell you, dont annoy them. This is
At the other end of the phone Rorie was trying to be brave. She already knew
she was in deep trouble. The seriousness of her uncles tone and his
use of her full name confirmed it. Okay.
Well come for you. Sit tight.
There was a rattle and the mans voice came back. Well be
in touch. The line went dead.
Josiah took a deep breath and speed dialled the Office number.
Hi Josiah, what
Knock it off Buck. Im on the
JD! Shut up and listen. There was silence. JD?
What happened? Dunnes tone was suddenly all business. He
knew by the profilers voice that there was something very wrong and
he held up his hand to forestall Bucks Nerf ball counter attack. Wilmington
raised his brows at the serious face. Nathan got up from his desk and approached.
I just got a call on my cell. You need to see if you can trace it.
Someone has snatched Rorie, threatening to kill her if I testify against
Ramirez. I spoke to her. Shes okay at the moment. Call Chris and let
him know whats happening. Ill try and stall here as long as I
can. He looked up as his name was called. Gotta go JD.
He clipped the phone shut and climbed to his feet. Only then did he realize
his legs were shaky.
In the office JD looked at the phone for a few seconds in shock before quickly
dialling the beeper numbers of the remaining members of the team, sending
an emergency code. He filled Buck and Nathan in on what Josiah had said as
he typed madly at his keyboard, trying to trace the last number to have called
By the time Chris, Vin and Ezra materialized in the office, accompanied by
AD Travis, he had found that the call had originated from a public call box
Who sent the general alarm? Chris glanced around automatically
checking the whereabouts of each member of the team. The only one missing
was Josiah and he was in court. Whats happening?
Youd better sit down. JD looked slightly panicked. Buck
Conference Room. Join us Sir, please. Travis nodded.
The sombre group trooped into the meeting room and closed the door.
Judge James J Stimson took the note handed
to him by the Bailiff.
He was not in the best humor. It seemed the States prime witness to
the murder of Frank Detto was wasting his time and he was fast losing his
patience. Sanchez was churning out parable after parable after obscure quote
and it was making his head ache trying to decipher it all.
He glanced down at the note and his eyes widened as he absorbed the message.
He picked up his gavel and thumped the bench.
I apologise, Counsellors, Members of the Jury. I have received an urgent
message informing me of a family crisis. Court is adjourned until after the
4th July Holiday. We will re-convene at 10am on Thursday.
He rose to his feet and quickly left.
The accused was taken back to the cells, shuffling in his cuffs and leg irons
and casting suspicious looks at the ATF Agent abandoned in the witness box
as he was led away. Sanchez just looked confused. And worried. Ramirez smiled
Josiah scowled at him.
The same bailiff approached the witness with a second note. It was terse.
He concluded it was obviously from Chris, although it was unsigned.
Get back to the office.
Josiah left as quickly as possible.
A thick set man with an acne-scarred face watched from the gallery.
Team 7 Office
Josiah arrived in the bullpen to a hive
of activity. Everyone was on the phone. He headed towards the Undercover
Agent who ended his call when the Profiler stopped in front of his desk.
Ezra, Im sorry
Standish held up his hand, which trembled slightly. He looked anxious and
shaken and unusually dishevelled. Mr Sanchez, Josiah, please do not
start assuming guilt. None of this is your fault. Ours is a dangerous job.
This is one of the more unpleasant consequences. Such a situation could have
arisen when I was testifying, or Vin or any of the others. It would not have
changed the fact that none of us are responsible. He smiled grimly
at the taller man as he rose to his feet and clapped him on the shoulder.
Josiah nodded, reluctantly. Any news?
We are attempting to trace any known associates of Mr Ramirez who are
still at large. Most of them have already been incarcerated, but my last
call may have some possibilities. He headed towards Chriss office.
Yeah Ez? You got something?
Perhaps. One of my snitches wishes to sell me some information. Perhaps
Mr Tanner and I could meet him together? Ezra knew Chris would never
let him go alone, not in his present state of mind, as a worried parent.
He suggested Vin accompany him, knowing he would be the easiest on his frayed
Go ahead. Leave the details of your meet with JD. Josiah come in and
shut the door.
The undercover agent moved off to collect the Texan and the profiler shut
the door and took a seat.
Not your fault.
I know. Doesnt make it any easier. Josiah ran a hand over
his face wearily, forehead to chin.
Travis has agreed to let us handle this. We have to keep it as quiet
as possible if you are to retain credibility as an impartial witness.
He arranged for the Judge to postpone until after the holiday?
Yeah he called in a favour. You will have to testify regardless of
whether we find her Josiah. You know that?
Sanchez was silent for a minute. To testify could mean a death warrant to
the child. Not to testify would mean imprisonment for him, not Ramirez, and
the child could still die. Chris gazed at him steadily. He sighed. I
know, Chris. I just hope we can find her first.
So do I
Abandoned Office Building
Rorie was sitting perched on the edge of
a rough hewn wooden crate. Her jailer, the young man who had been partly
responsible for snatching her from the schoolyard sat across the room, fidgeting
nervously. Rorie eyed him in speculation.
You have anything to play with? The man jumped when she spoke.
Im scared Mister. I just
have you got anything to play
The man, whose name she learned was Steve, looked at her as if shed
grown a second head. Finally he produced a pack of cards from his pocket.
He watched the child for a minute. She was just a baby, she couldnt
possibly cause him any trouble. He actually felt kind of sorry for her.
Hed play cards with her if it helped to ease her fear.
Pretty soon the two were involved in a cutthroat game of go fish.
The game ended abruptly with the arrival of the older thug. He shot his partner
a disgusted look and roughly picked the child up by the arm, dragging her
along a corridor to a darkened office. He shoved her inside and locked the
door. Not a word was spoken during the whole trip. Rorie stood rubbing her
abused arm and bit back the tears.
She would NOT cry. She was a big four year old. She would NOT cry.
Tears tumbled down her cheeks despite her best efforts to hold them back,
leaving white trails in the accumulated dirt. She blinked through them, roughly
brushing the back of her hand across her eyes and further smearing the dirt.
She looked around her prison.
The furnishings consisted of a lopsided desk against one wall, a couple of
three legged chairs and an overturned metal filing cabinet that appeared
to have vomited papers all over the filthy floor. She trotted over to the
grimy window and peered out. They were high up. There was no way she could
Rorie listened to the yelling coming from the other side of the closed door.
Steve was getting told off. It was all in Spanish and she didnt understand
a word but she knew anger when she heard it. Some of the words she recognised
as things Inez had said to Uncle Buck but she didnt know what they
She wondered what her Daddy was doing now.
Marios Bar and Grill
Ezra slid into the shaded booth opposite
his informant, Stan Slink Nyder. He narrowed his eyes at him
and watched, reading his face.
The greasy little snitch smiled at him showing a mouth full of decayed teeth.
The smile vanished as Tanner shoved him over and closed off his escape. He
started to protest
Do you have something for me Mr Nyder? Ezra cut through the
Ya payin? He glanced from one to the other and back again.
I will pay your usual fee, if your information proves pertinent.
He pulled a fat billfold from his pocket and the mans ratty eyes bulged.
Ramirez has a cousin.
Standish just gazed steadily at him with hard green eyes, his expression
inscrutable. Tanner was intimidating purely by his silence. Slink spoke faster.
His names Juan Domingo. Has a place on West Grenada Avenue.
Ezra peeled off a bill but didnt hand it over. And?
He aint been there much today. He cast a quick look at
the silent Texan who seemed to be gazing into space. Crunch the Banker,
saw him and young Stevie Panetti hanging round an old office block on the
corner of Questo and Gandol. Aint nobody been in there for years. Place
There was a silence. That it? The scruffy Texan final spoke.
Slink looked over at the Southerner. Its good info. Worth at
least a fifty. His gaze fell to the billfold in Standishs hand.
Ezra nodded and handed him the money. The two agents quietly melted away.
Nyder lived up to his name and slinked out the back door into an alley before
vanishing into the shadows.
Whaddya think? They were seated in Vins battered blue jeep,
headed back towards the office. He reliable?
Usually. Standish was slumped in his seat, gaze fixed on the
passing scenery, if you could call the rundown streets of the Ghetto scenery.
His eyes were hidden behind designer sunglasses.
Vin glanced at his friend. He was so worried about Rorie, he felt nauseous.
God knew how Ez felt. Well get her back.
Standish smiled grimly. I am prepared to die trying, Mr Tanner.
Vin chuckled. So am I pard, but I hope it dont come ta that!
Ezra looked over at him, realizing for the first time that he was not the
only one who was suffering. Thank you Vin.
The Ex-bounty Hunter nodded, keeping his eyes on the road. I love her
Eleven Blocks away from where Vin and Ezra had met with the snitch, Rorie
had gone from terrified to resigned to angry. She paced around the room,
faster and faster, not unlike a caged tiger at the zoo. On one pass through
the paper debris she kicked something hard with her foot. It clunked.
Curious, she bent down to have a look. It was a tool box! She opened it carefully
only to be mightily disappointed. The only thing inside was a bent screwdriver.
She threw it down and kicked the box, quickly resuming her pacing. She had
completed two more circuits before she came up with a plan.
It took her a few minutes to find the screwdriver. She shuffled along behind
the desk, squeezing into the narrow space. She set to work on the grate in
the wall, partially hidden behind the discarded furniture.
When Steve arrived an hour later with a stale sandwich and a Styrofoam cup
full of water she turned on the crocodile tears. Assuming her sweet
innocent child face she begged him not to lock the door, claiming she
was scared in there by herself and asking him to stay with her.
Steve proved as defenceless against this onslaught as most people. He pulled
out his cards and tried to coax her into another game of cards.
Theyd been playing for an hour when he left her alone to take a leak.
He only went a little way down the corridor but when he returned to the office
moments later shed vanished. Steve panicked. He hunted around for her
for twenty minutes, checking the street and every nook and cranny he could
imagine a small child concealing herself. He was back in the corridor outside
the office when Juan found him. He was furious.
You what? How the hell could you let her escape? Shes just a
little kid! Just how dumb are you, Asshole? He pulled out a gun. Steve
paled. Dont just stand there shithead! Find the little fucker!
They set off in opposite directions but had only gone a few paces when there
was a cry of FREEZE, ATF
Stevie Panetti immediately gave himself up to Nathan and Chris who quickly
cuffed him before moving off to further secure the area.
Domingo tried to run but was quickly brought down by a shot in the thigh
from the sharpshooter. JD and Buck cuffed him and guarded both prisoners
while the others scanned the building and checked for Rorie.
Having searched every level without success, they approached the two suspects.
Chris watched his Undercover Agent as he stood over the two men. He vowed
not to interfere.
Where is she? Standishs tone and expression were chilling,
bordering on madness. He was every inch a killer.
Domingo answered by spitting at his shoes. Wheres who, pig? This
is police brutality! I need medical attention. My lawyers gonna hear
about this and Ill sue you for everything youve got asshole.
Standish held up a yellow and white striped ribbon. Josiah recognised it
as the one Rorie had worn at the end of her braid that morning. Domingo screamed
as the Southerner put his heel on the wounded mans thigh and pressed.
Holy Shit. Get this motherfucker off me hes crazy!
Where. Is. My. Daughter? Ezra emphasised each word with a grind
of his heel on the bloody gunshot wound. Domingo shrieked and passed out.
Think hes out fer a while pard. Wanna try this one? Tanner
lifted the terrified younger suspects head off the floor by his hair
as he crouched over him, blue eyes steely.
Panetti tried to back-pedal as the crazy cop approached. I dont
get it man. We took Sanchezs kid. We dont got
Wrong. You took MY kid. Ezra placed his heel on Panettis
groin. Are you going to tell me where she is? He pressed lightly.
The young suspect winced. This guy was loco. He looked around for support
but saw by the uninterested faces he wasnt going to get any. These
guys were going to stand aside and let the madman torture him. The pressure
on his balls increased to painful. She got away. His voice was
an octave higher than normal, nearly soprano.
The ATF Agents exchanged looks. They really should have been more surprised
but with a Standish, even a small one, you always had to expect the unexpected.
Tell me, all of it, do not omit any details.
Panetti breathlessly related how the little girl had cried and asked him
to keep her company. How hed gone out for just a minute and when hed
returned shed disappeared.
She was unharmed?
Steve Panetti looked over into the cold green eyes of Chris Larabee.
Yessir! I aint got nothing against the kid. It was his idea.
He nodded at the slumbering Domingo. He made me do it.
Buck, JD, take these two scumbags to the nearest lockup then come back
and help us look. Josiah, put an APB out on Rorie. Lets move.
Chris caught his Undercover Agents arm as he passed. Shell
be Okay Ez. Were halfway there.
Ezras response was wry. I just wish shed stay where shes
put Mr Larabee! Life would be infinitely simpler but no, she had to effect
her own emancipation. He wasnt sure whether he should be angry
Vin clapped him on the shoulder. Takes after her old man.
To whom are you referring as old Mr Tanner? Chris
smiled at the banter. They all felt somewhat better but they couldnt
relax yet. They had a miniature escapee to catch.
Three hours later it was getting dark and they were still combing the streets.
They met up in a small park in the centre of the search area. Various on
and off duty cops, ATF Agents and concerned citizens had joined the hunt.
She wouldnt have gone home would she?
Nobodys seen hide nor hair of her. A little kid wandering around
on her own cant be hard to miss, surely.
What concerns me, Gentlemen, is that she knows how to call for help.
Why has she not done so? Ezras soft question had them all sinking
back into deep worry. Inez gripped his hand and squeezed and he responded
with a small unconvincing smile. She hugged him.
Two blocks away, Rorie squirmed uncomfortably and opened her eyes. It took
a full minute for her to work out where she was. It was pitch black and cold.
Whimpering as she tried to get her cramped muscles to cooperate she shuffled
cautiously back the way she came.
The office in the abandoned building was deathly quiet. She lay still for
as long as she could before pushing the grill away from the air vent. It
let out a metallic squeal of protest and she froze.
She held her breath and listened. Nothing.
She stuck her head out and looked around. The room was empty and dark. She
was surprised to see it was nearly nighttime. Shed slept for longer
than she thought.
Climbing out of the low vent she looked around. Everything was as shed
left it except
her ribbon was gone. She peeked out the door but
couldnt see very much in the darkness.
Trying to quell the fear creeping up her spine, she muttered to herself as
she hurried as fast as she could from the building. Her voice echoed loudly
in the emptiness, despite the fact she was mumbling.
Youre a Standish. You are not afraid. You will be fine Rorie.
Dont be a baby. Oh God. Wheres Daddy? Oh God. I am afraid. Oh
God. She stepped outside and slipped into the shadows, taking great
gulps of air and hugging the wall.
Im out. Im free. Im okay. She looked around
and burst into tears. Im lost!
There was a scuffling noise from the alley to her left and she jumped backwards,
losing control of her bladder in shock. Oh No! She cried harder,
backing away from the scary noise.
Its Okay honey. I aint gonna hurt ya. Its jest Old
Thelma, and she aint never hurt nobody.
Rories eyes widened as one of the shadows moved, evolving into a ragged
old woman in filthy clothes. Her black skin was dulled with dirt and her
teeth glowed yellow in the lamplight. The distressed child took another step
backwards. The woman stopped.
I kin help ya honey. Yeah I can. She nodded and pointed up the
street. Theres a phone one block over an ya kin call the
cops iffn yous lost. She stood still, waiting for the small dirty
child to decide.
Rorie darted a quick look up and down the empty street and then nodded slowly.
Ya want I should walk with ya? The child nodded again and Thelma
set off for the phone booth, Rorie trailing behind. At a distance.
The Search Party had been assigned new areas and were beginning to split
up when the Southerners phone rang. The close-knit group gathered in
the centre of the milling crowd all stopped still.
Agent Standish, this is 911 operator Gwen Rogers. We have a caller
on line claiming to be your Missing Juvenile. If we connect you will you
Yes! Ezras heart bumped in double time as he held his breath.
There was a click.
Go ahead caller.
Daddy? His knees gave way and he leaned heavily against a patrol
car. He took a shaky breath and ran his free hand through his hair.
RORIE! Are you all right? Where are you? A grinning Buck howled
and grabbed JD, swinging him round in a circle. Josiah bent forward at the
waist, hands on knees, and breathed again for what felt like the first time
in hours. Nathan patted his back. Inez hugged Chris and Vin who were both
Okay. Stay there. DO NOT MOVE you understand me? I can be there in
two minutes. Stay on the phone. 911?
Yes Agent Standish?
Confirm Missing Juvenile. Ill pick her up. Can you keep the
Yes Sir! Congratulations.
Ezra climbed into the Jag with Inez, still clutching the phone. The others
followed in their own vehicles, with the exception of Chris and Buck who
stayed behind to call off the search and thank those who had given up their
free time on the eve of a holiday to help locate a missing child.
As they pulled away there was a cheer as the good news spread through the
Ezra screeched to a stop in front of the phone booth and leapt out of the
car. A filthy, wet Rorie ran into his outstretched arms.
Honeybee. Are you okay? He kissed the top of her head and looked
down at her. She nodded.
This is Thelma. She helped me find the phone. She pointed to
the place where shed last seen her friend but the woman had gone. There
was a squeal of tyres as the vehicles of the rest of the team pulled up behind
the Jag. Rorie panicked. Daddy quick. You cant let them see me.
I had an accident!
What sort of
oh! He noticed her wet jeans. He shook his
head at the approaching group, hiding his child behind his body. One
moment please, Gentlemen. Rorie just wants to do something before she says
He shoved her into the car to Inez who had already pulled out some spare
clothes from the glove compartment. The young senorita quickly changed her
jeans and washed her face with wet wipes. Ezra watched. The fact that she
was fretting about her Uncles knowing shed wet her pants actually gave
him some relief from his concern about her ability to deal with this latest
trauma. If she was worried about her appearance she was probably okay.
Thanks Miss Recillos. Inez returned the soft kiss and the smile
that so resembled that of the man she secretly adored.
Thank you Inez. Ezra rewarded her with a matching smile, his
green eyes glistening with unshed tears in the streetlights. He picked up
his daughter and hugged her tightly before reluctantly releasing her to Vin
who kissed her forehead and passed her to JD who hugged her before giving
her to Josiah.
The big profiler squeezed the little girl until she protested his grip. She
looked up into his face. Uncle Josiah, why are you crying? Vin
and Ezra exchanged looks.
Im sorry Cherub. They took you to stop me from giving evidence
against their friend. It was my fault. Im so sorry darling. His
voice was choked, rumbling even deeper than usual.
Placing a dirty hand on each bristled cheek the filthy child smiled at him,
baby teeth glowing in the dimness. They did it not you. I wasnt
Josiahs eyebrows shot up,
a little. You gotta put the bad guys in jail Uncle Josiah. Its important.
If you didnt maybe theyd hurt other little girls. You told me
on the phone youd come for me and I knew you would. You always keep
your promises. She shrugged, her faith in her family absolute. Josiah
felt his heart skip a beat at the unconditional trust.
So why didnt you wait for us to come? Nathan took the little
girl from his friend and sat her on the hood of Vins jeep. He quickly
checked her over.
I did wait.
So where were ya? Vin rested one foot on the bumper and watched
as the Medic ran his hands down her arms and legs again, checking for any
injury hed missed and gaining extra reassurance from the contact at
the same time. Shes fine.
In the air vent. She grinned at the astonished expressions.
You took so long I fell asleep.
Ezra scooped her up onto his hip and she rested her head against his shoulder.
Are you chastising us for being tardy, young lady? His tone was
teasing but his face was etched with fatigue from his worrying ordeal. He
felt incredibly old.
If the boots fit
Its iffn the shoe fits pumpkin.
Yeah but most of you wear boots! She chuckled but it was a poor
attempt at humor. Can we go home now? I want to be ready for Uncle
Chriss barbeque tomorrow. Are we having fireworks?
4th July Independence Day
If those familiar with Ezras daughter
were surprised to see her in a dress they didnt comment. The little
white sundress, with embroidered smocking across the bodice and hem made
her look every inch the innocent child. All hoped that shed retained
that innocence despite the trauma of the previous day.
Ezra and Vin sat side by side on deck chairs with their legs stretched out
in front of them as they watched Casey and JD play catch with Rorie and Billy.
Ya think she needs ta see a shrink?
I am considering the possibility. Ezra turned his head towards
Josiah. Mr Sanchez?
The profiler slouched against the porch rail behind them. Wouldnt
hurt. He paused. Although shed probably tie him in
Ezra and Vin laughed. Probably. She would likely confuse him with her
skewed logic and ask impossible questions about the meaning of life. Hed
end up having to have his own head examined.
I reckon shes doin Okay. Iffn she needs ta talk she knows
she kin talk ta one of us.
Well see. Ezra wasnt ruling out the possibility but
neither did he wish to give up his treasured position as her chief confidant.
Ow! Billy! That hurt! The object of their discussion clutched
her hand to her forehead where shed been struck with the baseball.
There was suddenly movement all around the yard as the adults made to rush
to her aid.
Come here and let me see. Ezras voice was startlingly loud,
he almost shouted. The concerned grown-ups came to a collective halt, staring
in astonishment at the usually soft-spoken Southerner. He glared at all of
them. Gentlemen, she is not made of glass. He crooked his finger
at the child but she shook her head at him.
Im okay Daddy! He nodded. The game resumed.
Later, once the two children had been shepherded off by Nettie Welles and
Evie Travis to help with washing the dishes, the men settled in the living
room to watch the game.
You care to explain your yelling Ez? Chris gazed at Standish.
Ezra realized he was the focus of their collective attention.
I do not yell, Mr Larabee. Such uncouth behaviour would be in contradiction
to the refined manners of a gentleman such as myself. I merely raised my
voice to be heard. Chris raised a brow and waited, knowing the verbose
Undercover Agent would explain once hed got that off his chest. He
She is still Rorie. If we were to become excessively protective it
would lead her to conclude something was amiss. If we allow her to continue
to be herself, she will inform us if she requires extra attention.
Josiah nodded. I agree. If we fuss too much shell think shes
done something wrong. It could drive her away. We are a intimidating lot
when we get protective.
Tell me about it! Im grateful not to be the youngest anymore.
JDs comment was heartfelt.
Youre still the Kid, kid. Buck grabbed JD and
Knock it off Buck! The younger Agent fought to free himself.
After the game, once darkness began to fall, it was time for the fireworks.
Most years Ezra was the one who arranged the display of pyrotechnics since
he had a known affinity and flair for things that went boom.
This year he chose to be a spectator, allowing Vin and JD to provide the
entertainment, under his supervision of course.
Sitting on the porch step, with Inez tucked into his side and Rorie on his
lap, surrounded by friends and family, Ezra breathed in the smell of cordite
as he watched the night sky light up with explosions of color and shape.
He looked down at the child on his knee, seeing the innocent slack mouthed
wonder lit up in the colorful flashes of light and felt an incredible sense
of completeness wash over him.
Inez leaned closer, also watching the child rather than the sky, and smiled
softly. She raised her eyes to wink at the handsome Southerner.
Ezra bent down and brushed his lips over hers, gently, without heat. It was
a kiss of companionship and caring rather than lust and she recognized and
welcomed its significance. She smiled at him, the reflection of the exploding
fireworks dancing in her dark eyes.
Ezra grinned, his gold tooth flashing as brilliantly as the fireworks.
He was celebrating his Independence Day with the loss of his personal
He had become a man with responsibilities and dependents.
His life was no longer his alone.
He wouldnt change that for all the gold in Fort Knox.
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