The Assassin

by KellyA

Part 7

The men arrived at Ezra's apartment in three different vehicles, two of which ignored the lack of parking, driving up on the small spot of lawn. Tanner was removing his lock picking equipment when Lenny pushed his way through and produced a key, much to everyone's astonishment. They began searching the apartment for clues to their wayward agent's whereabouts. 

Larabee came upon the folder with his name embossed on it and opened it.  It was like opening a door and releasing a ghost.  Wilmington sensed it first, and saw the familiar anguish come over his old friend's face.  Chris' heart stopped, and his anger was swallowed up by an immense sadness.  He slowly sat down in the chair his face seeming to age right before everyone's eyes.  Everyone noticed how deathly quiet their leader had become and moved toward the dining room table.

Lenny noticed the disheartened appearance of the usually stoic leader and found himself in sympathy for the man.  

"Chris, what is it?" Vin quietly asked, finding it hard to break the quiet that had descended.  He felt like an intruder.  Vin bowed out as Buck moved to Chris' side.  This had something to do with Chris' past, only Buck had the right to infringe on this dark part of his life.

Chris looked up at the FBI agent with questioning blue eyes.  Lenny thought he could almost see into the somber agent's soul weep. "Ezra got those out of Damhoff's office," Lenny explained.

Buck looked over Chris' shoulder and noticed the old news clippings of his family's death.  Then he saw the 3 x 5 cards and picked them up.

"El Diablo is that the name of the assassin?" Buck asked, placing a hand on Chris' shoulder.

"Yes," the FBI agent confirmed.

Buck swallowed as the pieces started to fall in place.  "This El Diablo, he the one who's after Ezra?"  Buck voiced, trying to make sense of the whole thing. 

Lenny nodded his head. "And apparently the same one who killed Larabee's family 10 years ago," Hoskins finally admitted.

Wilmington felt Chris tense under his hand.

"Oh sweet Jesus," Josiah muttered.

"Ezra was afraid of what this might bring up, so he wanted to try and smoke the assassin out himself.  We don't have any concrete evidence tying this El Diablo to Berend Damhoff," Hoskins added.

"What about the cards and folders that Ezra got?" JD asked.

"No good, son.  Especially since they were taken without a proper search warrant and they're still only circumstantial," Josiah explained. Chris remained silent, running a finger over the yellowed newspaper picture of his family.

The FBI agent turned his head away to give the ATF leader a little measure of privacy as he relived a personal hell, something everyone in the room understood.  Lenny actually felt a little of his animosity toward Larabee melt away.  He now knew the man was not a cold,  unfeeling SOB.  The man had a soul that had been torn apart years ago and was probably just now coming back together.

"Chris, do you know any reason Damhoff might have had for hiring an assassin ten years ago? " Nathan asked.

Larabee's brow furrowed in concentration, trying to pick the name out of the hundreds that he dealt with, but nothing came to mind.

He shook his head and came back to the present.  They had to find Ezra.  His family was dead.  He would not allow this El Diablo to steal someone else from him.

"Look at this."  JD produced the note paper with the word 'Crystal Rose' written on it.

"There are several Crystal Roses around Denver," Buck added.

Chris looked at Josiah and they both thought of the tractor rig with the black paint.

"Yeah, but only one atop a mountain," Chris reminded them.

Everyone ran for their vehicles.


When they reached the bottom of LookOut Mountain the agents all piled out of their respective vehicles.  Chris had JD drive his king cab truck and slowly follow as they walked up the road, searching the side for any indication of a car going over.

After almost an hour of walking up hill and searching the terrain, Vin waved everyone forward.  He had spotted the busted guard rail and fresh tire tracks in the soft shoulder.  They looked down to see a path, which had been torn through the underbrush; there was no sign of Ezra's car.

"JD, call for paramedics!"  Chris yelled over his shoulder as he followed Hoskins down the steep slope.  

"Slow down Hoskins, before you break your neck," Chris yelled toward him.  Hoskins didn't answer, but he did slow his descent.  He stopped suddenly and swore, looking upon the mangled metal of Ezra's jag in front of him.

Part 8

"Oh, God! No,"  Lenny voiced as he took a good look at the mangled jag.  The front end was wrapped around a tree.  The windshield was so spider-webbed one couldn't see inside, the passenger side roof was partially caved in.  Lenny reached the driver's door and tried to open it without success.  He could see Ezra's unconscious form held up by the seat belt, which hopefully saved his life.  He started pounding on the driver's window.

Vin and Josiah went to the passenger side window.  Sanchez removed his gun and smashed in the already shattered window then threw his heavy coat over the ragged edges.  He helped the lean sharpshooter to crawl inside.   Tanner licked his lips, looking at the blood that covered the left side of the pale agent's face.  He checked for a pulse relieved to find one.  He looked out the driver's window seeing the anxious faces peer in.

"Josiah, give me something to cover Ezra with," Vin shouted back out.  He immediately received Buck's coat, which he placed over Ezra's head.  The lean agent then sat back in the passenger seat raising his foot up, and across Ezra's body.  The others realized what the sharpshooter was about to do and backed off.  Vin struck the window, once then twice punching out the glass.

Hoskins came quickly up to Ezra grabbing his shoulder and squeezing, his panic causing the words to rush out.  "Ezra! Ezra! Can you hear me?"

Nathan pushed the worried agent aside and began to assess the southerner's injuries.  He placed a dark hand on the undercover agent's warm face bringing forth a slight moan.

"Easy Ezra, it's Nathan.  You're going to be alright," he tried to soothe.  Vin rested a hand on Ezra's uninjured arm as Jackson examined  the deep laceration at his temple.  Nate looked down, seeing that the dashboard was pinning the smooth-talking agent's legs.

Vin was also examining the crumpled dash, seeing blood pooling on the floor.

"Someone check and see if they can get in the trunk and get Ezra's jack," Vin suggested.  Wilmington immediately went to the back of the car, eager to be of any help.  He was able to force the trunk open and quickly removed the jack and a tire iron, passing them to Vin.

"Nathan?" Ezra whispered. His eyes tried to open, but they were to heavy and he soon gave up.  He grimaced as he tried to move his left arm.  His head felt strange, and it hurt like the worst hangover he ever had.  He could hear voices but couldn't separate them.  His brow furrowed trying to discern and isolate the different voices.

"Easy Ez, don't try and move, your legs are trapped," Nathan explained as Standish seemed to be growing agitated for some reason.

Ezra didn't seem to hear the warning.  He tried to move his right leg up causing a searing bolt of pain to shoot up the leg. He screamed in pain, his green eyes flashing open, his face contorting in agony.  Tanner grabbed the struggling agent trying to keep him from hurting himself anymore.  Nathan reached in through the window grabbing his shoulders.  Chris stood silently, his eyes closed and his fists clenched in helpless rage.  Buck turned another shade white at the sound of his fellow agent and friend's pain.

"Ezra, calm down, please!" Hoskins yelled from over Nathan's shoulder.  Ezra shuddered once then passed out, his chin falling to his chest.  Jackson released his hold on the unconscious man and placed a hand on Ezra's chest feeling the labored breaths.

"We have to get him out of here, now," the ex-medic exclaimed.

Hoskins nervously shifted his feet behind Nathan, trying to get a look at his friend. He held his questions, allowing the ex-medic to do his job, but it was tearing him apart.  He felt responsible and if Ezra died he would never forgive himself.  He didn't know that Larabee was feeling the exact same thing.  Lenny turned to look up the hill and caught the glint of metal.  He knew it was a rifle and knew it was pointed right at Larabee.

Before anyone else could react, Hoskins yelled, "Look out!" and dove sideways, catching Chris around the waist, at the same instant that a shot was fired.  The two men slammed into the rocky ground.  The others immediately took cover pulling out their weapons.  Nathan hesitated leaving Ezra's side, but he couldn't help the man if he got shot.  Vin kept down inside the car and quickly cut Ezra's seat belt and leaned him down as far as he could, getting his head out of the line of fire.

Chris felt Hoskins heavier weight on top of him and tried to push him off hearing the hiss of pain from the FBI agent.  Lenny managed to roll off of the blond leader grabbing his arm.

"You alright?" Chris asked, concern flashed across his face.

"Yeah, it just nicked me," Lenny answered. "The shooter is up in those rocks at about two o'clock."  Chris pulled out his gun and searched the hillside.  Wilmington slid in next to him, gun drawn. 

"He's mine, Buck.  Take care of Hoskins."  With that Chris disappeared up the hill.  He was going to face the man that had murdered his family ten years ago; it was a dream come true.

El Diablo had known that the other agents, and especially Chris Larabee would eventually find Standish.  He had returned hoping for another chance at the now famous ATF leader.  He would have had him too if that other agent hadn't saved his life.  Larabee definitely surrounded himself with good men.

Chris cautiously made his way up the mountainside.  He caught a glimpse of someone between a couple rocks.  He stood, forcing the man to fire then quickly ducked down and rolled to the right, firing as he grabbed cover.  He stood up again, but this time no shots came.  He carefully made his way up the mountain coming upon Thomas Cruz blood bubbling from a wound in his chest.  The man was still alive, but just barely.

The assassin coughed, blood spitting up from his insides.  "Well Mr. Larabee, we meet face to face," the assassin gasped, knowing he was dying.  No one would ever know that for the past ten years Thomas Cruz had suffered, suffered with the knowledge that he had killed an innocent woman and child.  This was probably why it had been so easy for Larabee to kill him; something deep down forced the career assassin to make amends the only way he knew how.

Chris squatted down beside the dying man, staring at him like some new type of fungus he had just discovered.

"Why?" Chris whispered.

"Oh, nothing personal I assure you, all business.  I was truly sorry about your family that was not suppose to happen."  Thomas Cruz tried to take a deep breath, but found it impossible.  "I was young and inexperienced then.  I didn't even get paid."  He chuckled, wincing at the pain it caused.  Then El Diablo turned his dark eyes to meet Larabee's cold blue ones.  "It's ironic really, my first and only mistake kills me."  The light left the man's eyes and he stared sightlessly up into the blue sky.

Chris thought he would feel something, a revelation; feel the darkness and despair lift from his soul, the ache diminish from his heart.  But he felt nothing.  He looked at the man who had murdered his family, and he still felt the agonizing sorrow that they left behind.  Nothing would relieve the pain of losing his wife and son, but at least he had avenged their death, hopefully they were at peace.

Vin had placed the jack under the dash and was vigorously pumping it to raise the dashboard off of Ezra's legs. 

"We're going to get you out of here, Ez, don't you worry," Vin calmly talked to his unconscious compatriot.

Nathan called from his place of cover to Vin.  "Vin, how is he?"

Tanner placed a couple fingers to the southerner's throat, feeling the weak pulse.  "Not good Nate, we have to get him out of here soon.  I almost have the dash off his legs." 

"Damn!" No one knew what was happening with the assassin or if it was safe to leave cover.

Buck raised his gun at the sound of someone approaching.  He lowered it at the sight of his old friend, relief lifting the sober mask from his face.  Chris walked past him and up to the car.  He picked up the crow bar and thrust it into the door frame, putting all his anger, despair and anguish behind it.  The door popped open just as Vin got the dash up far enough so they could slide the injured man out.  They all heard the siren up on the road.  Chris, Buck and Nathan gently laid Ezra out on the ground.  Nathan applied pressure the deep laceration on Ezra's leg.  Hoskins was at his friend's head gently pushing back the unruly hair from his brow.  Agent Dunne followed the medics as they hurried down the hillside carrying a gurney. 

The paramedics quickly stopped the bleeding from Ezra's leg, wrapped his head wound, and splinted his arm.  Ezra was then placed on a gurney and with Buck, Chris, Vin and Josiah's help quickly carried back up the hillside to the waiting ambulance.  Nathan worried that through the whole thing Ezra never made a sound. 

Part 9

"Oh, not Standish again," Dr. Lauren Murry groaned as she met the gurney in the hospital lobby and looked down into the handsome features of the southerner.  She knew the other six agents would be tearing through the doors any minute and she wasn't disappointed.  She did a quick check then started barking out orders to the other doctors and nurses.  Larabee watched as his old-family friend did what she did best, take charge.  Ezra was quickly spirited away leaving seven forlorn expressions in his wake.

Dr. Murry turned to the seven men who stood before her.  They were all dirty, scratched and bruised, and looked ready to collapse from exhaustion.  But what really scared her was the fear she saw in each of these stalwart men's faces.  Her brown eyes stopped on the handsome older gentleman, who she didn't recognize, but who carried the same fear stricken expression as the rest.

"Sir, why are you bleeding all over my floor?"  Murry simply asked, pushing her sandy-blond hair behind her ear and staring at the pale FBI agent.

Lenny looked down seeing the blood dripping from his arm and landing on the clean white linoleum floor.  "Aww hell."  His eyes rolled up into his head and his legs buckled.  Chris and Josiah grabbed the agent before he hit the floor.  Dr. Murry shook her head and pointed toward an empty room.

"Take him in there. I'll send a nurse in to take care of him."  She wasn't overly concerned; the man had managed to walk into the hospital under his own power.  He was probably just weak from blood loss.  She was more concerned about Agent Standish.

"Just a nick, huh?" Larabee grunted at the unconscious FBI agent.  They carried the limp man into the room and laid him on the table.  Sanchez removed the agent's leather jacket and Nathan came in and quickly looked at the wound.

"It went straight through.  He should be alright, probably just nicked an artery, just lost too much blood," he assured the others.


A couple hours later Lenny was wheeled into the waiting room where six worried lawmen waited for word on their seventh.  They had all managed to clean themselves up a little.  The orderly left Hoskins there and he remained in the chair, not yet ready to trust his legs to hold him.  He had a glass of orange juice in his hand, which he tried to force down.

"Any news?"  He finally asked, looking at the six agents who sat in various positions in the stiff back chairs.   He noticed that Vin sported a bandage around his hand where he had cut it going through the broken window.  JD had a bruise on the side of his cheek where he had fallen running down the hillside after the medics.  Larabee reminded him of the walking wounded in Nam.  His wounds were too deep to just patch up.  The respected leader had lost some of his fervor and for some reason Lenny was sadden by this.  He actually enjoyed his life-threatening confrontations with the intimidating ATF agent.

"He's still in surgery, there were internal injuries," Nathan quietly explained.

JD was about to stand and start pacing again until Buck grabbed his shoulder forcing him back down in the chair.  Dunne's nervous energy was driving him crazy.

Chris glared at the wheel-chair bound agent.

"Is there a problem, Mr. Larabee?" Hoskins sneered not really in the mood for a showdown right now, but then again it would help to get his mind off of Ezra.

Chris licked his lips and stood.  "Yeah, why did you let Ezra risk his life?"

"He is a grown man, Mr. Larabee."

"Not good enough.  You're supposed to be his friend you know how he is.  You should have told us." 

Lenny glared back up at the blond agent then noticed that the others were also not looking upon him to fondly.  The problem was they were right; he should never have let Ezra talk him into keeping this under wraps.

Lenny released a breath, sinking back into the chair.  "Yeah I do know how he is, and so do you.  Ezra didn't want anyone getting hurt because of him.  He still has a hard time with this team thing."

"Well, when he comes out of this you're going to help us explain it to him," Chris replied the hint of a smile tempering his words.  Lenny nodded, for the first time in agreement with the exacting leader.

Larabee would one day have to tell Ezra how grateful he really was.  If he hadn't taken it upon himself to check out Damhoff, they may never have found the killer of his family.  But Chris also realized he had been scared, scared of losing someone close to him again and the only way he could deal with this fear was to be angry.

Dr. Lauren Murry interrupted his heated thoughts.  "Gentlemen, Mr. Standish is out of surgery and in ICU."

"Is he going to be alright?" Buck hurriedly asked.

"Well, there was considerable blood loss and some internal hemorrhaging and he has a severe concussion also three broken ribs, and a broken arm.  His leg isn't going to be in such good shape for awhile either, but he should make a full recovery."

"Can we see him?"  Larabee asked.

Lauren looked at the concerned faces of the seven men.  "Yes, but don't stay to long."

The Seven government agents crowded into the small room.  Lenny's heart almost broke at the sight of his friend.  Various IV lines stuck out of Ezra's arms.  His face was pale and slack with a large, deep purplish bruise covering half his face.  They could hardly tell he was even breathing and they all glanced at the heart monitor for assurance.  Hoskins went to the other side and placed a hand on Ezra's shoulder.  Ezra was the closest thing he had to family, and he couldn't imagine losing him.  He looked over at Larabee, who stared down at his undercover agent.  Lenny squeezed Ezra's shoulder hoping he could somehow feel his presence.


The next day Doctor Murry entered Standish's room to find six men sprawled out all over the room.  She shook her head in disbelief and went over to check on her patient's condition.  Chris woke up as she was writing something down in a chart.

"Is he okay?"

"Yes, Chris, he's doing fine.  I thought I told you all not to stay to long," she chided.

"Sorry doc."  Chris gave her a contrite smirk.  They had known each other for a long time and he knew he could probably get away with murder with her, but he didn't want to take advantage.

Chris looked down at the ashen features of his, at times, difficult agent.  He looked around the room and smiled at the others trying to wake up from a very restless and uncomfortable sleep.  He noticed that Sanchez was missing.

Ezra groaned causing the doctor to lean over and open one of his eyes.  She smiled.  "I think he's coming out of it."  These words brought instant life to the others.

Dr. Murry glared at Chris.  "Now, you have fifteen minutes then I want you all out of here, or I'll admit the lot of you and let the new nurses practice procedures on you."

Lauren saw the lascivious smile on Buck's face at the mention of nurses.  "There are male nurses who need practice too, Mr. Wilmington."  She had to bite her tongue to keep from laughing when Buck's smile fell dramatically from his handsome face.

"We'll leave," Larabee promised.

Ezra's green eyes fluttered a moment then were still.  A moment later, he tried again. This time they opened and stayed open looking at the worried faces surrounding his bed.

"Hey kid, how you feeling?" Lenny asked, taking his friend's hand and squeezing it.

"Like I went off a cliff,"  Ezra rasped.  JD handed Lenny a glass of water and with Chris' help they managed to get a couple sips down his dry throat.

Standish noticed that Lenny's arm was in a sling.  "What happened to you, did Larabee finally shoot you?"  Everyone in the room had to laugh.

"No, but I hate to tell you, I saved your boss' ass," Lenny admitted.

"Why in the hell would you do that?" Ezra good-naturedly asked, the faint smile on his face remained as he drifted off.

Sanchez had silently slipped in, a smile coming to his face when he heard the familiar southern drawl waft across the room.  Larabee turned his head catching sight of the big agent entering the room.  He reluctantly moved away from his injured man and went up to Josiah.

Larabee could tell the steadfast agent had something to say.  "Last night, Damhoff trucking burned down.  Very suspiciously," Sanchez replied, getting everyone's attention.  "They didn't find any bodies so it can be assumed that Damhoff escaped," he added.

The vein on Chris' forehead began to turn red, his icy blue eyes blazed in anger and his jaw clenched.  Josiah placed a calming hand on the slowly simmering man.  "Maybe you should share some of those feelings, brother Larabee?"

Chris didn't look up at the taller agent; instead, his eyes fell on Ezra's broken form lying in the hospital bed.  "I don't want to share my feelings right now.  I want to find the son-of-a-bitch responsible for this whole thing, then look him in the eye and share my feelings."  The other agents did not miss the menacing tone in the somber agent's voice; a slight shiver went down Hoskins' spine.

"Alright I want everyone working round the clock to scrape up every bit of information on Berend Damhoff and El Diablo."  Everyone started to file out of the room.

Chris grabbed Tanner's upper arm.  "Sorry pard, I need you and Hoskins to guard Ezra in case Damhoff hires someone else to try again."

Vin scowled at the thought of spending time with the egotistical agent, but he knew Chris was right.

"This won't be a party for me either, Mr. Tanner," Hoskins quipped.

Chris glared at the FBI agent.  "Play nice, both of you."  He turned to his best friend. "That's an order."

Part 10

After three days, Standish was to be released from the hospital. Chris and Josiah heard Dr. Murry yelling from inside Ezra's room.  The two men entered to see Vin and Hoskins leaning against the wall as Lauren poked and prodded the ungrateful southerner.  Ezra sat on the edge of the bed his arm in a sling and his leg wrapped. 

"If you don't sit still, Mr. Standish I will have an orderly tie you down until I finish my examination."

Ezra glared at the sandy hair doctor then turned his attention to the two men who had just entered, giving them both deadly stares.

"I do believe our brother is feeling better," Josiah mused, a grin on his long face.

"Well then this is going to make him feel great," Chris remarked.  Ezra gave his leader a bewildered look.  "You're going to be staying at Buck and JD's until you fully recover."

Hoskins had never seen the look that now graced his friend's handsome visage and had to hold back the laugh that threatened to erupt.

"I refuse to stay in that cesspool they call a home," Ezra sneered.

"They're cleaning it up as we speak," Josiah added.

"Nothing short of the sanitation department coming in could clean that place."

"Listen, it's simple, you go there so we can keep an eye on you or you stay here," Chris calmly but most assuringly stated.

Hoskins came up to his friend placing his hands on his shoulders and looking into the green eyes.  "Well, as much as I'd like to see this new superfund site I'm afraid I have to say good-bye.  My boss thinks I've deserted.  I have to get back, but I need to know you're going to be safe."

"I will be, don't worry Lenny and thanks for all your help."

"No problem, kid."  He looked over at Chris and Josiah.  "You're in good hands, whether you know it or not."


Buck, JD and Nathan were waiting when Josiah, Vin and Chris pulled up in Chris' truck.  Dr. Murry had given Ezra a sedative to make the trip more comfortable.  By the time they reached Buck and JD's place Ezra's face was bathed in sweat.  They eased the semi-conscious man out of the truck and into the apartment.  Chris and Josiah eased him down into Buck's bed.  Vin quickly removed his boots as Nathan went to his side to check him over.

"Maybe, it was to soon for him to leave the hospital?" Agent Dunne worriedly remarked.

"No, the ride was just a little harder on him than expected.  He just needs to rest," Nathan assured everyone.  Chris pushed back the sandy-brown hair from Ezra's brow, the agent already in a deep sleep.  They all quietly left the room.


It was another two days before Standish could move around the apartment with the use of a cane.  He was grateful the dynamic duo was keeping their place relatively clean while he recuperated.  He was getting tired of being babysitted and wished to get back to his own place.  He made his way to one of the two mis-matched sofas, needing a change of scenery from Buck's shrine to women bedroom.  He heard, before the door even opened, Wilmington and JD's boisterous argument.  The two bounded into the living room almost stumbling over the relaxing agent.

"Hey, you're up," JD voiced. 

"How you feeling?" Buck asked, noticing that some of the smaller agent's color had returned.

"Much better, Mr. Wilmington.  In fact good enough to no longer further impose on you or Mr. Dunne's hospitality."

"You better wait to see what Nathan has to say about that," Vin replied entering the living area from the back room.  Ezra cringed, forgetting that the quiet sharpshooter had been watching over him for the last couple hours.

Buck and JD went into the kitchen to make lunch until they heard Josiah, Chris and Nathan enter the apartment all three lawmen giving smiles to the put upon undercover agent.

"We have some news," Josiah explained.  Chris nodded for Sanchez to continue.

"We discovered that Berend Damhoff was really Vernon Hiler."

"Holy shit!" Buck exclaimed.

"Does that mean something?"  Vin asked.

Larabee sat down in one of the recliners his arms resting on his knees, his hands clasped.  "I killed his son George in a drug raid, a month before my family was killed."

"Hiler hired an inexperienced assassin ten years ago, who messed up then ran back to Mexico.  Afraid of being busted he changed his name to Damhoff and left the area deciding to bide his time," Josiah continued.

"But why did he go after Ezra?"  JD asked.

"He planned on going after all of us," Ezra added. "There were folders for each of us in his office."

"I think Damhoff was doing someone else a favor.  We found the name of one of your old acquaintance, a Mr. Harry Wells," Chris exclaimed, turning to Ezra.

Standish leaned his head back on the couch.  "Good Lord, I got his brother arrested a couple months ago. I was getting ready to supply evidence against him to the DA."

"The fire burned all of Damhoff's records and probably any evidence to tie the two men together, but we know that they at least knew each other and it's a good bet that Damhoff hired this El Diablo for Wells, figuring he would also want to clean up his first mistake," Nathan replied.

"Sort of a two for one sale," Wilmington blurted out, receiving withering glares from the others.  JD slapped the tactless agent's head.

"Does anyone know the whereabouts of our Mr. Hiler?" Ezra hazard to ask.

"Afraid not, the police have been looking, but so far no luck.  He probably already left the country," Nathan replied.

"Should we try and track him down?" Vin asked.

"Nah, he'll be back to try again someday," Chris answered.  "I just wonder if he realizes killing me won't take away the demons he's carrying."

The End