Vin awoke with a start! His first response was to try to turn over but the
shifting grain beneath him reminded him not to move. The sun was just coming
up, he could see it shining thru the cracks in the top of the silo. His head
still hurt like hell and he was thirsty. His hands had long since gone numb
from lack of circulation. Tanner knew that if he didnt get out soon,
he wouldnt get out at all.
Ezra began to awaken around daybreak. He whimpered in his sleep and tugged
against the blankets that had gotten twisted around him as he slept. Josiah
touched his shoulder gently and tried to calm him. His eyes opened and struggled
to focus before filling with terror. He pulled away from his friend and began
to scream at the top of his lungs. Josiah tried unsuccessfully to quiet him.
Ezras screams gradually tapered off to whimpers and then to ragged
Chris was pissed. Josiah didnt show up with Nathan to relieve him from
the van. He had dialed Josiahs cell phone repeatedly but the phone
was turned off. He rang Josiahs house and got the machine. He tried
Vins home and cell phone and got no answer. Buck agreed to stay another
shift in the van with Nathan.
Something was happening in the compound around mid-morning. They were loading
boxes into the cars. Chris called Judge Travis to tell him that they needed
backup. He didnt tell Travis that Josiah was missing. Somehow he knew
it had to do with their undercover agent and he wanted to let him have as
much time as needed to solve that problem.
Team 9 arrived as the convoy of cars left the compound. The ATF agents were
forced to scramble as the cars split up in small groups. Chris rode with
one of the other agents as they followed one of the cars. He had radioed
for permission to stop the cars and search them. When the cars reached the
outskirts of Denver, the state patrol set up a roadblock and stopped them.
Chris jumped from the first car as the others jumped from the van they were
riding in. The people in the cars meekly surrendered and sat passively as
the boxes were searched. Books and clothing! Every box was filled with cast
off clothing and second-hand books. It looked like a yard sale had exploded
along the roadside as the agents emptied the boxes.
Josiah sat at the bedside after Ezra drifted off to sleep. He debated calling
Chris and the others but didnt, not until he had something to tell
him one way or the other. He rested his feet on the edge of the bed and lowered
his weary head onto his shoulder for a few minutes of precious sleep.
When he wakened later, he could hear Ezra moving around on the bed. He went
to the kitchen and made another pot of strong, black coffee before returning
to the bedroom.
Josiah rubbed Ezras hand and then lightly touched his shoulder. He
had seen that the younger man was beginning to awaken and he wanted desperately
to talk to him. Ezra began to pull away from his touch again and Josiah took
his hand, Its okay. Just take it easy.
Ezra had shut down. He refused to speak or even to look at Josiah. He pulled
and twisted away from Josiah. He refused to eat or drink anything and that
had the older man worried. Not wanting a repeat of the last nights
physical confrontation, Josiah gave up for a while and let Ezra rest.
The sun beat down on the metal silo and the temperature rose quickly. Vins
hair was plastered to his head and his clothes were ringing wet. He continued
to try to free his hands as he lay on his stomach so as not to sink further
into the grain. It was difficult because he kept inhaling the dust from the
milo as well as the tiny round pods. The ropes rubbed bloody tracks on his
wrists and the grain dust stung as it was rubbed into the raw skin.
When Josiah returned to the room an hour later, he tried to talk to Ezra.
It was about as bad as it could be in his estimation. Ezras eyes were
dull and glassy, either from the drugs still in his system or from giving
up. He only slept for a few minutes at a time and woke up pulling at the
blankets and wringing wet with sweat.
Josiah decided to move Ezra before any of the team decided to come looking
for him. He bundled his friend in a blanket and carried him out to the suburban
before returning for the bag of clothes. The mission where he helped out
was not far away and they would give him a room and not ask questions.
He knew that moving Ezra from his familiar surroundings would jar him and
hopefully cause him to respond. It was also the only way he could keep the
suicide attempt from the others. After getting settled in an empty room at
the far end of the hall, he paid one of the teenagers at the mission to go
and bring back lunch for them.
Talk to me, Ezra. Tell me what happened. What did they do to you that
could be so awful that you would want to die? You have never let anything
get you down before.
The only answer he received was a green-eyed gaze. Ezras eyes were
unfocused and he shuddered periodically as if he was cold. Josiah bundled
him in another blanket and settled him on a pillow. Father Ramirez knocked
on the door and Sanchez stepped into the hallway to speak with him.
How is your friend, brother?
Not well. Something troubles his spirit and he hasnt found the
words to share it with me.
He is a young man to be so burdened.
Josiah stared hard at the older priest. You have no idea, Father. That
young man has been carrying more than his share all of his life. Pray for
him. He needs all the help he can get.
Chris was getting worried. He had been trying Vins cell phone all morning.
The longer he went without reaching the sharpshooter, the angrier he became.
He drove by Tanners Purgatorio apartment and knocked on the door before
letting himself in with his spare key. The jeep was sitting on the parking
lot, but the dirt bike was not in its usual place in the middle of the living
room. Larabee swore at the empty room before getting back into his truck
and calling Buck.
Judge Travis looked up from the file he was reading when Evie stuck her head
into the study. Orrin, phone call, its Chris. Sounds
Travis. His voice tightened as the hair on the back of his neck
stood on end, Larabee wouldnt call him at home on a Saturday unless
it was urgent.
Im sorry to bother you at home, sir, but Vin has gone missing.
I havent been able to contact him all day and his bike is missing.
Id like to get someone from Team 9 to sit on the compound while we
search for him.
What about Sanchez and Standish, cant they help you?
Well, sir, thats another problem. I dont know where they
are. Ezra took another week off and Josiah went to check on him last night
and now theyre both gone as well.
Larabee, what in the hell is going on with your Team? How can you not
know where they are? Dont they check in with you? If you couldnt
handle this mission, why didnt you tell me before I put you on it?
Im sorry, Judge. I had no idea that Josiah would disappear with
Ezra. Theres something bothering him and weve been trying to
give him room to work it out. Im really concerned for Vin, though,
I think he may have gone into the compound to look around. Im afraid
hes in trouble, I just feel it in my gut.
Orrin nodded his head as he listened. He knew that Larabee and Tanner had
an almost cosmic connection and if Chris felt that Vin was in trouble, you
could bet the farm that he was. Travis sighed. All right, Ill
send Team 9 in to relieve your men in the van. Keep me appraised of the
Vin had dosed off. The heat in the silo had decreased somewhat, signaling
that the sun was going down. He was desperately, achingly thirsty. His head
was pounding. It felt like someone was trying to tunnel their way out of
his skull with tiny, little jackhammers. He winced and cursed as he resumed
trying to loosen the ropes that bound his hands.
The people from the compound assembled their convoy again the next day. Jim
Kline, the leader of Team 9, radioed to the agents at the gate to search
the cars as they entered the roadway. Each car was identically filled with
boxes and each box was filled with clothing or books. Judge Travis was becoming
angry, he did not like being made to look foolish and these people were doing
Buck called Chris early that evening. Josiah hasnt been back
to his place and the door was kicked in at Ezras place the other night.
The Jag is still on the lot and we havent found Josiahs suburban
anywhere. Do you want us to keep looking?
No, Josiah will call me when hes ready. Hes with Ezra and
hopefully they can work out whatever is bothering him. Id sure hate
to lose Ezra, he is the best at what he does.
JD is worried sick about them both. Howd things go with the Judge
Chris sighed, the people in the compound had gotten a lawyer and gotten an
injunction to prevent the harassment of their people by the ATF agents. There
was the veiled threat of a lawsuit hanging over Traviss head if they
violated the injunction.
Vins head jerked up as he heard cars passing the silo. Enraged that
they were leaving him there to die, he pulled harder at his bonds, screaming
in pain as the ropes tore into his flesh. As the blood flowed from his wrists,
the ropes finally began to slip. With a last yell, his hands slipped free
of the bonds and flopped loosely at his sides.
Ignoring the tearing pain in his shoulder, Vin drew his hands up and tried
to push himself up off of the grain. His hands only sank into the grain up
to his elbows. Finally, in frustration, he rolled onto his back and passed
Ezra mumbled in his sleep and shifted uncomfortably on the strange bed. He
still had not spoken or responded to Josiah. The only time he tolerated being
touched was when he was asleep. He had actually become hysterical when his
friend tried to change him out of his sweat soaked pajamas.
Josiah had gently eased the younger man into a sitting position and tugged
the nightshirt up his back. As soon as his hands touched bare skin, Ezra
began to scream and flail against Josiah. His eyes were open, but there was
no recognition in their depths. The nightshirt entangled his arms and only
served to increase his panic. Sanchez did the only thing he could do, he
continued to try to ease the shirt off, freeing the hands that sought to
push him away.
As soon as the shirt came free, Ezra wrapped his arms around his ribs and
shuddered. Josiah eased off of the bed and picked up the clean shirt. Holding
it in front of the unseeing eyes, he spoke softly.
Ezra, put this on. Okay? Come on now, put the dry shirt on and you
can go back to sleep.
Whether it was his voice or the sight of the shirt before his eyes, Ezra
finally stretched out a tentative hand and took the nightshirt. Trembling
violently, he pulled it on and retreated into the blankets again. When Josiah
sat on the edge of the bed and reached out to touch the southerner, he jumped
and lay shaking under the gentle hand. After several moments, the shaking
stopped and the breathing deepened.
Josiah sat at Ezras side as he slept. He managed to coax some soup
into the reluctant agent when he woke the next time. Josiah suspected it
was purely in self-defense though; he had threatened to pour it down his
throat if he didnt eat it on his own. Knowing that if he made the larger
man to force him to eat that it would require direct, physical contact between
them, Ezra had meekly consumed the soup. Almost immediately after he finished
the soup, his eyelids drooped and he eased back into the pillow.
He was at the warehouse again. An assortment of vehicles was haphazardly
parked on the unlined lot. His eyes scanned the area quickly. He was beginning
to regret not contacting Mr. Larabee to tell him that they had moved up the
meeting. As the other men got out of the car, some inner sense told Ezra
that something was wrong. The hair on the back of his neck stood on end as
someone pushed him from behind.
The green eyes popped open and he grasped Josiahs hand. He calmed slightly
when he saw the familiar face. What happened?
Which time? Ezra, you tried to kill yourself. You woke up yesterday
and completely wigged out when I touched you. You have been crying in your
sleep and you wont tell anyone whats bothering you.
Ezra digested all of the information before he turned away. I dont
want to die, Josiah, I just want the screams to stop. I dont want to
be afraid anymore. I dont want to talk about what happened, I just
want to forget.
Chris, Nathan, Buck and JD crept along the fence surrounding the compound.
In the near dark, they stumbled as they searched for some sign of their missing
friend. Using night-vision glasses, they scanned the fields and the trees.
By the time they came to the gravel road that came out of the other side
of the compound, they had passed so close to Vins bike that they could
have touched it if they had reached out.
Chris and Buck climbed the gate and entered the compound while Nathan and
JD continued on around the perimeter. In the nearly moonless night, the men
had to rely heavily on the night-vision glasses. Buck noticed the broken
round bales along the fence but it didnt mean anything to him.
Nathan and JD crept along the fence. Both men were keenly aware of the danger
if they were spotted. JD heard something and stopped suddenly. His head turned
slowly, letting the cup of his ear capture the dull tapping sound. Nathan
stopped when he realized that the young agent was not following him. Returning
to JDs side he studied the pale face.
What is it?
I heard something. A knocking or tapping sound. JD scanned the
compound with the night-vision glasses. Theres a silo over there.
I wish we could get in there and look around.
Nathan pulled out his cell phone and dialed Chris.
Larabee jumped like he had been shot when the phone rang in his pocket. Hissing
and cussing under his breath, he ripped the offensive instrument from his
pocket. Seeing that it was Nathans number was the only thing that prevented
him from ripping the battery out of the phone.
Chris, JD heard something coming from that silo about fifteen degrees
west of your position. Is there any way you can get there to check it out?
Larabees head lifted as he scanned the westward horizon. Yeah,
Well check it out. Make sure your phone is set to vibrate, you scared
the shit out of me just now.
Okay boss. Nathan chuckled softly as he closed the phone and
checked to see that it was set to vibrate instead of ring. Come on,
JD, lets see if we can find anything else.
Josiah watched as Ezra rolled away from him and pulled the blankets tightly
around himself. He had scarcely touched his supper and had retreated into
silence immediately afterward. Finally, the tension left his shoulders and
his breathing deepened as he slept. At least he had admitted that he didnt
want to die, that was a good sign. If only he would talk about what had him
Buck and Chris reached the edge of the clearing where the silo stood. Like
JD, they could hear the steady thumping noise. The only thing keeping them
from getting closer to the structure was the light mounted on the side, which
illuminated the entire clearing. They would have no cover.
Peter and Kim jogged down the gravel road. They had snuck away from the big
house after lights out. The pair of young lovers was headed for the haystack
near the far perimeter fence. They had brought a blanket so they could make
out. Kim Hagan knew her father would beat her if he found out that she was
fooling around with Peter.
Buck grabbed Chris by the shoulder as soon as he saw the kids top the hill.
Unfortunately, Chris fell, knocking down several corn stalks. Both men fell
to the ground on their stomachs and prayed that the kids had neither seen
nor heard them.
Peter grabbed Kim and jerked her to a stop as his sharp eyes scanned the
Theres someone in the field! Quick, run and get the others!
Go! He shouted at the girl to shake her out of her frozen stare. Peter
watched as Kim ran back toward the house before dropping the blanket and
pulling the pistol from his waistband. He cautiously approached the end of
the row of corn stalks.
Chris pulled himself up to Bucks ear. I dont want to have
to kill that kid. See if you can get behind him and knock him on the head
or something. He released his friend and watched him as he crawled
Peter pointed the gun at the fallen stalks and crept closer. The snub-nosed
38 trembled in his hands as he stared intently at the plants hoping for a
glimpse of whatever hed heard. He heard the rustle of the stalks moving
and jerked the gun toward the sound.
Buck darted into the clearing as Chris created the diversion. He grabbed
the boy with one hand and struck the back of his head with the butt of his
gun with the other. Unfortunately, the last thought Peter had caused him
to squeeze the trigger of the gun.
Vin jumped upright as he heard the gunshot. His heart leapt into his throat
as he strained to hear what was happening. He struggled to his knees and
began to beat on the sides of the silo with his pocketknife, the only weapon
they hadnt taken from him when they imprisoned him in the silo.
Buck dropped the boy and turned as he heard the banging from inside the silo
again. Hard on that sound came the baying cry of dogs being turned out. He
looked up as Chris left the end of the row and both men ran for the gate.
Vin heard the dogs barking and pounded harder on the silo. He heard the sound
of footfalls on the gravel road. The next sound he heard caused him to dive
away from the silo wall as it was the sound of a shotgun being pumped. Suddenly,
several new holes appeared in the silo wall where he had been kneeling only
a moment before.
Chris and Buck dove into the bushes as the rifle discharged. In the dim
moonlight, they could see several men with dogs walking the fence. The dogs
continued to bay and pull at the leashes as they followed the scent of the
intruders. As Buck was backing away from the fence, his foot struck the dirt
bike in the bushes and it fell over. Both men rolled quickly and ran off
at in a crouch.
Jonathan stood over Peter as his father eased him up from the ground. He
hadnt missed the quilt lying on the road. His mouth set in a tight
line as he glared at the boy he knew had defiled his daughter. The others
returned from the fence, rolling the dirt bike.
Ezra woke up and stared at the unfamiliar wall. Where in the world
am I now? He struggled to remember if he was on an assignment or not.
Rolling onto his back, he glanced around the room. A hovel. I am in
some kind of hovel. He couldnt remember what assignment he was
Finally, he noticed the soft snoring coming from the far side of the room.
The early morning sunlight streamed from that direction and the undercover
agent had been unwilling to waken enough to look in that direction. Shading
his eyes with one hand, he saw Josiah sprawled out on a bed at the other
side of the room.
Ezras eyes finally fell upon the bedside table. The take-out food boxes
and the cup that the soup had been poured into caught his attention. The
past few days suddenly slammed into his mind like a freight train and he
Josiah opened his eyes immediately at the startled, anguished gasp from the
other side of the room. Rolling quickly out of bed, he stumbled as the blankets
wrapped around his feet. After kicking free of the encumbrance, he cautiously
approached the other bed.
Hey, Ezra. You all right?
For a moment, Josiah thought Ezra might break down and cry but, as he watched,
the poker face slid into place. Only the light sheen of sweat on his upper
lip betrayed the calm exterior.
Mr. Sanchez, where are we and why are we here?
What is the last thing you remember?
Ezra looked away. Going to sleep in my bed.
Thats the way you remember it? He didnt miss the
slight blanch that crossed the younger mans face. You dont
remember me coming into the apartment? You dont remember why I was
I dont want to talk about it, Josiah. Im tired and hungry
and I desperately need to shower and shave.
He caught the slip from the formal to the familiar as Ezra used his first
name. You need to talk about it. Leaving it festering inside is only
going to keep you hurting. Can you honestly tell me that you dont remember
what you were doing before you went to sleep the other night?
Ezra picked at the blankets before glaring at his hand for betraying the
emotional turmoil he was feeling. His mothers words echoed in his mind,
You cant trust anyone except yourself and Emotional
entanglements are to be avoided at all costs, no one will ever give you something
If I tell you, will you promise not to tell them?
Depends on what you tell me. Ezra, youve been acting really strange
and everyone is worried sick about you. There isnt anything you can
say that will change their feelings about you.
I wont tell you unless you promise not to tell them. I cant
take everyone knowing.
As long as it isnt something that will endanger them later.
Ezra considered the offer. Okay. But you cant say anything until
its all out. You cant ask any questions. And you have to keep
hold of me, okay?
Josiah tightened his grip on Ezras hand.
My cover was blown and they took me at gunpoint to this factory building.
But it wasnt a factory, it was some kind of rave or something. There
were all these teenagers, dancing and partying. They took me to the
He fell silent for a few minutes as he organized his thoughts. He checked
to make sure that he had a firm grip on Josiahs hand.
They brought down these two boys and they forced me to watch while
Josiahs stomach rolled, Ezra, dont.
You promised. They forced me to watch while they raped the boys and
killed them. They eviscerated them. Ezras breathing quickened
and he shuddered. He couldnt close his eyes without seeing it happening
all over again. Then they came for me. They held me down
Oh, God, Josiah! They
Ezras body was drenched in sweat as his mind replayed the pain and
horror. He gave in to the wracking sobs again. Josiah didnt think about
it, he gathered Ezra against his chest and rocked him gently.
Chris paced in Judge Traviss office as he waited to see if they could
get a warrant to search the area around the silo. He was certain that Vin
was in there, especially after Buck kicked over his dirt bike as they were
trying to get away.
Kim whimpered as she got dressed that morning. Her father had followed her
back to the house and taken her to the barn. He had beaten her with his belt
for half an hour. She could still feel the places where her gown was stuck
to the newly formed scabs on her lower back and hips. The worst part of the
whole ordeal had been when Peters father had dragged him into the barn
and proceeded to beat him with a riding crop. Her father had slapped her
repeatedly in the face as she screamed for Peter.
Vin used his knife to try to connect some of the holes that the buckshot
had made in the silo wall. He hoped to be able to get out of the silo that
way. He flinched as the corrugated metal cut his hands yet again. None of
the cuts were deep, but they stung every time he wiped the sweat from his
For nearly an hour, Ezra simply leaned against Josiah and sobbed. After the
sobbing eased, he actually tightened his arms around the older man and clung
Every time one of you touched me I felt, dirty and disgusting. I took
shower after scalding bath. Every time I closed my eyes I could f-f-feel
them holding me down. I hear the screams in my sleep. First the two boys
and then my own. And you, Chris and the others asking me what happened. I
wanted to scream at you all to leave me alone. I dont want to be afraid
anymore, Josiah. Every day at work, I kept thinking that I could just go
on with my life like it never happened, but I cant. I dont know
Josiah gently massaged circles on Ezras back as he fought to control
his own emotions. Of all the situations the undercover agent had been in,
of all the injuries he had suffered, the shame of his own violation was the
thing that nearly cost him his life. He knew he would never tell the others
what had happened to Ezra. It was too deeply personal a thing to share even
with the people who cared about him most.
When Ezra finally pushed away from Josiah he realized that he did feel a
little better. Perhaps it was time to begin to trust someone else. He knew
that those men would lay down their lives for him. He accepted it on an
intellectual level, it was part of the job, but on a purely emotional level
he had never realized or accepted what that could mean.
Judge Travis stormed into the office and flung the folder across his desk.
He looked into the hazel eyes of the leader of Team 7 and shook his head.
They wont give it to me. The injunction stands, we cant
go onto the compound unless we can provide hard proof that they are holding
Tanner. You are hereby ordered to avoid all contact with the people in the
Damn, do they understand that hes been missing for three days
now? He was alive last night, he may not be much longer if we dont
get in there and get him out! I cant just sit here and leave my man
Chris, calm down. I dont like it any better than you do, but
my hands are tied for now.
Even before Judge Travis had completed his sentence, Larabee had slammed
Vin kicked at the metal while holding himself up by using the cross beams
in the ceiling. He felt the metal pop as the sections he had not been able
to cut thru gave way. The next blow caused the metal to begin to bend outward.
After several more kicks, the opening was clear. He dropped carefully, reaching
for the hole in case he sank in the loose grain. Pulling himself out of the
opening, he dropped the ten or twelve feet to the ground.
Josiah could see that Standish was still mulling over the situation and decided
to give him some time and space to think. He slipped out of the room and
sent someone to get breakfast for the two of them. When he came back, Ezra
was sitting on the edge of the bed running his hands thru his hair.
So much of the undercover agents behavior over the past couple of weeks
made sense now. Shame at what had happened had driven him to check into the
other hospital and hide from his co-workers. Shame and fear had put the barbs
on the walls he had built around himself. The fear and the strange body language
that the others had noticed suddenly seemed perfectly clear. He looked up
to see that Ezra was staring at him.
You want to talk about it some more?
Not yet, Josiah. What I would really like is a shower and shave and
then a nice, hot breakfast. What day is it anyway?
Its Monday. You were pretty much out of it Saturday and
The soft knock at the door distracted Josiah from saying anything else. He
told the kid to share the food with his friends and took only the two cups
of coffee back into the room with him. Handing one to Ezra, he sat down with
the other cup and blew on it for a moment while feeling around on the floor
with his feet for his shoes.
The remaining members of Team 7 met in the conference room. Regardless of
what the judge had said, they were going to try to rescue Vin. They piled
into Bucks truck and headed out.
After Ezra had showered and put on clean clothes, both men climbed into the
suburban and sought a restaurant to get that hot breakfast that Ezra wanted.
When the convoy left the compound, the ATF agents could only watch helplessly
as the cars drove past them. They followed the cars into the city limits
of Denver. The convoy assembled around the ATF building in the middle of
the day. The Denver police converged on the group to remove them. No one
noticed the delivery truck as it left the compound and headed for the courthouse.
Vin stumbled over to the pump at the edge of the clearing. He looked skyward
as he prayed for it to work. As the first jets of water shot out of the spigot,
Tanner wept for joy. He dropped to his knees and stuck his face in the cold,
clear water. When he had drunk his fill, he got slowly to his feet. In spite
of his hunger, he felt like he could take on the world.
Buck brought the truck to a stop and stared at the open gate. Just as he
was turning to Chris to ask what he wanted to do, JD yelled.
Theres Vin! Buck, do you see him? Its Vin! The young
agent leapt from the bed of the truck and raced to Tanners side. The
others jumped from the cab and followed him. The sharpshooter all but collapsed
into JDs arms as the excited youth tackled him.
Vin looked at Chris and the memory of what he had seen the other night came
Chris, theyre using a delivery truck! They have barrels and barrels
of fertilizer and chemicals! The convoy of cars is just a distraction!
Theyre using the UPS delivery truck! The barrels were here all along,
in the round bales, thats why we couldnt find them!
Nathan noticed the bloody cuts on Vins hands and forearms and reached
for him. Chris, he needs tending to and we gotta get out of here.
Lets get out of here.
Chris was on the phone with the judge before Buck made it to the highway.
Judge Travis, Larabee here. The convoy is a decoy. Theyre using
a delivery truck to haul the bomb! Vin saw it the other night. Theyve
got a UPS truck!
Looking out the window, Orrin Travis felt his throat go dry. A UPS truck
sat in front of the building and the driver was just climbing out. Oh
Chris heard the startled cry and then a muffled explosion before the line
went dead. Out of the corner of his eye, Buck saw his friend pale.
Buck, they hit our building.
During breakfast, Josiah saw the news report about the explosion at the Federal
Building. Pulling out his cell phone, he called Chris.
Chris, its Josiah. Is everyone all right? I just saw the news
Yeah, were fine. What about you? Ezras with you, isnt
Were okay. He let his gaze rest on the undercover agent
for a moment. Is there anything we can do? Do you know how bad it
I dont know anything yet, Josiah. We were at the compound when
it blew. I know that the Judge was in the building. Were going to try
to find Evie and Mary. Are you coming in?
I dont know if Ezras ready for that, Chris. Let me ask
him and Ill call you back.
What happened to him, Josiah? Getting no answer, Larabee felt
his hackles rising. Where are you? We went by your place and by
Ill have to call you back, Chris.
As the line went dead in his hand, Bucks truck came to a stop at the
roadblock that the police had set up several blocks from the building. Flashing
his badge and ID, Chris asked where the families were gathering. The officer
radioed and told them to go to the Convention Center building.
Josiah turned to watch the newscaster as he explained what little information
they had on the situation.
Ezra? Do you think you can go with me down there? Chris said that the
judge was in the building and hes going to be with Mary and Evie until
they get word.
The newscaster cut to a reporter who was at the Convention Center. The scene
was a mad house filled with people hugging and hanging on each other and
crying. Ezra shuddered at the thought of all those people crowding around
him. A moment later, the first of the injured was shown being loaded into
an ambulance and the southerner bolted from the table.
Josiah pulled his phone and called Chris back.
Im going to need a few vacation days, Chris. I cant tell
you any more than that. Please tell Mary and Evie that we are thinking about
them and I hope that the judge is all right. Youll just have to trust
me on this one. I have to go now. Please call me when you find out
Ezra returned from the restroom looking pale and clutching his stomach.
Mr. Larabee is not happy?
Josiah chuckled. Your habit of irritating him may have rubbed off on
I appreciate you not telling him.
I said I wouldnt and I wont.
Have they any information on the judge yet?
Not yet. I told him Id leave my phone on so he can call me. Do
you want to try to eat something else?
Ezra blanched as he watched the television. I dont think I could
keep it down. Perhaps it would be better if we returned to the mission so
I can lay back down.
Chris filled the others in on Josiah and Ezra on the way. He and the others
flashed their badges to gain entry to the Convention Center. It took only
a few minutes for them to find the Travis women. Mary immediately buried
her face in Chriss chest as soon as she saw him. Buck enveloped Evie
in his arms as she finally broke down. The two women had been putting on
their brave faces for each other.
Nathan touched Chris on the shoulder and gestured toward Vin. When Chris
nodded, he led the younger man toward a folding chair and set out the first
aid kit he had taken from behind the seat of Bucks truck. JD followed
Vin and took the chair next to him as Nathan began to clean the small cuts
on Tanners hands and arms.
A few minutes later, Casey threw herself into JDs arms, sobbing. Nettie
stood behind her niece with tears streaming down her cheeks as she watched
Nathan tending to Vin.
JD pushed Casey away and held her by the shoulders. Casey, whats
Oh, JD, we saw the news report and we were afraid you might have been
in the building! I was so afraid I would never see you again! She buried
her face in his chest and cried again.
Vin looked up at Nettie. Howd you two get in here? I thought
they were only letting family in.
Have you forgotten that you listed me as your emergency contact? Casey
is shown on JDs file and so they let both of us in to wait for news.
Nathan finished cleaning the wounds on Vins arms and moved out of the
way as the young man wrapped his arms around Nettie Wells and buried his
face in her stomach. The stress of the past few days poured out of him as
he broke down and cried.
Chris steered Mary and Evie to the chairs next to the others and went to
try to find out how the information would be distributed regarding the injured
and deceased. Nathan went to get something for Vin to eat, knowing that he
hadnt had anything for the past few days.
Where are Josiah and Ezra? Mary asked when she realized that
they werent there.
Ezra wasnt feeling well and Josiah was staying with him for the
past few days. They called as soon as they heard. Ezra wasnt feeling
up to being around people. Josiah said to tell you that he was praying for
you and for the judge. Buck explained.
Josiah borrowed a portable television and carried it to the room he and Ezra
were using. He cruised the channels, catching as much information as he could
about the damage to the building and the people. It didnt look that
bad from what he could tell. The reports said that the fire department was
confident that the building was structurally sound and that there wouldnt
be the catastrophic collapse that had devastated the Oklahoma City building.
Some time after one in the afternoon, a police officer approached Evie and
told her that the judge had been transported to the hospital with only minor
cuts from the window that had shattered in his office. Chris volunteered
to drive them to the hospital while the rest of the team followed in Bucks
Nathan called Josiah to let him know that the judge was all right.
By the time darkness descended on Denver, the tally of the deaths was
surprisingly low. One security guard was killed along with one man who just
happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. The driver of the truck,
a man identified as Jonathan Hagan, was also killed.
The five members of Team 7 sat in the bar toasting the fickle hand of fate.
Who ever had set up the bomb had mixed the chemicals incorrectly, resulting
in a much smaller explosion than they had hoped for. It would only take a
few days to replace the broken glass and repair the minor damage to the front
of the building. Because their office was on the other side of the building,
they were undamaged.
Josiah turned off the television and settled down to sleep.
That night was a precursor for the days to come. Ezra slept for only a few
hours before he awoke, screaming and shaking. Josiah couldnt touch
him until he had come out from under the nightmare because Ezra was strong
enough to hurt him.
Josiah waited until Ezra was asleep again before settling into the chair
in the corner. He wanted to be there when the nightmares began in the hope
of waking him or comforting him before it got too bad.
It started almost the moment he closed his eyes. He could feel the vibration
of the music pouring from the speakers. He could see the dancers under the
strobe lights. The pungent smell of beer and sweat and illicit drugs hung
thick in the air, his nose twitched. He felt something hard shoved into his
ribs as a firm hand took hold of his arm.
This way, Agent Standish.
He had blinked hard at that statement. Suddenly, he knew his cover had
been blown. He felt the hand that crept around and relieved him of his gun.
Someone shoved him from behind and he stumbled into a young woman.
She couldnt have been more than 17 or 18. The white halter-top
she wore was a stark contrast to the deep tan and dark eyes. She reached
out and wrapped her arms around his neck as her body molded itself to his.
Her lips sought his and Ezra remembered the taste and smell of her.
The woman was shoved away from him as he was led to the stairs. His mind
raced as he tried to figure a way out of the predicament he found himself
in. Scanning the building for exits as he was shoved down the steps, he was
dazed by the blow to the back of his head.
When his vision cleared, he was in a cavernous room. The music was somewhat
muted. His hands were cuffed behind his back around a steel beam. He allowed
a small smile to cross his face, if they thought they could hold Ezra P.
Standish with his own handcuffs, they had better think again.
Then they brought in the two young men. Standing just at the edge of
the circle of light, they began to beat the captives. He could hear the blows
falling and groans of pain. Finally, one of the boys began to plead for them
to stop. Ezra closed his eyes as the battered, half naked body was thrown
directly into the circle of light.
The man who had been his contact stepped into the light. The glint of
the knife struck Ezras eyes as he knelt down and rolled the boy onto
The sudden change in Ezras breathing signaled the beginning of the
nightmare. Josiah called his name as he approached the bed. He carefully
reached out and touched Ezra on the shoulder. The undercover agent struggled
against the blankets. Josiah removed the heavy comforter from the bed and
let it fall to the floor. He noticed that Ezra had both hands wrapped tightly
around the spindles on the headboard. Gently, he pried Ezras hands
from the spindles. Immediately, he clasped Josiahs hand.
The green eyes sprang open as the gasp of terror stuck in Ezras throat.
His breathing was coming in ragged heaves as he scanned the room before settling
Dear God. I simply cannot go thru this again. Ezras voice
was a hoarse whisper.
Josiah watched as Ezra sank back into the pillow and wrapped his arms tightly
around his ribs as he shook. Unable to close his eyes, Standish lay staring
at the ceiling as the headlights of the cars on the street below cast moving
shadows. Sanchez waited to see if his young friend would talk about the dream
but dozed off a couple of hours later, leaving Ezra alone with his demons.