They all tried to concentrate and fill out reports but their thoughts would
ultimately return to the missing member of their group. Chris walked into
the break room to throw away another ignored cup of coffee. He found four
of his agents sitting around the table. He made his way quietly over to the
sink dumping out the cold coffee. Nathan appeared in the doorway, a strange
look on his face. "Nathan, what's wrong?" JD asked, fear causing his mouth
to go dry.
Nathan stared at the five men, still unable to believe what he was about
to tell them.
"Nathan, Ezra's not..." Vin suddenly asked as Nathan's appearance brought
fear to everyone's soul.
"No, no I called the hospital Ezra is still critical but he's alive. It's
just..." Nathan didn't know how to continue, how to tell the others what
he himself found hard to believe. "Josiah managed to track down Mrs. Standish's
cell number. I just got off the phone with her. She's up in Vail."
"That's great! She'll be here soon then," JD exclaimed, not understanding
Nathan's downcast appearance.
"No, she won't, JD."
"What do you mean, 'she won't?'" Chris asked.
Nathan pulled out a chair and sat down. "I told her that Ezra had been seriously
injured and that she should come. She told me it was impossible right now
as she was, and I quote: in the midst of a business venture and could not
break away," Nathan mocked, clasping his hands in front of him to try and
siphon off some of his growing anger at a woman who could care less about
her son. "She did tell me to keep her informed but said it was his own fault
for taking such a dangerous and demeaning job." At that point, Nathan had
hung up on the heartless woman wanting to reach through the phone and strangle
Everyone was dumbfounded. How could Ezra's own mother refuse to see him when
he was in such serious condition? This was another page of Ezra's life opened
up to them. A life they believed was that of a pampered and privileged rich
kid. Instead it was looking more like the story of 'Oliver Twist'. They were
all silent and disbelieving. Each of the men had been loved growing up.
Evidently, that was not the case with Ezra.
The six ATF agents tried to go about their duties, but a dark mood had fallen
over them like a cloud. All anyone could think of was the solitary figure
laying in a hospital bed, alone and fighting for his life. Larabee left without
a word to anyone. Vin also abruptly disappeared.
Tanner managed to slip by security and locate Ezra's room. He entered the
darkened room hearing the beeps and blips of the monitors. A florescent light
above the bed gave Ezra a sallow appearance. Vin pulled a chair up to the
bed and laid his hand on the unconscious man's arm. "Hang in there, pard.
We need you," he whispered.
A nurse poked her head in. Vin was prepared to fight to stay with his friend.
The nurse looked at him, smiled and left. Vin settled back, listening to
the air being forced into Ezra's lungs and the rhythmic beat of his heart.
He put his head down on the bed and was soon asleep.
Vin woke when two forms, one wearing hospital scrubs, rushed into the room
hiding behind the door.
"Hey boys!" Vin said.
Buck and JD jumped at the sound of Vin's Texas drawl. "Shit Vin, don't do
that!" Buck said. The two agents approached the bed and looked down at their
"Buck, why are you wearing hospital garb?"
"Hey, we had to find out what room he was in didn't we?" Buck and JD found
places to settle. They listened to the life music of the machines keeping
their friend alive.
A few moments later Josiah walked smoothly in as if he were invisible to
the hospital staff. How anyone could miss a man of his size was one of life's
mysteries yet to be solved. Vin figured the serene agent gave off an aura
of calmness so people didn't see him as a threat. Usually what people don't
foresee as a problem they ignored, or maybe they just realized the large
man was not someone to hassle. Josiah smiled at the sight of the three agents.
Nathan was the biggest surprise. The highly ethical agent walked in wearing
a doctor's jacket and carrying an empty clipboard. He stared abashedly his
"Ain't it illegal to impersonate a doctor?" JD had to ask. He couldn't believe
that Nathan would do anything outside the lines.
"Only if you're caught, JD," Nathan quipped, quickly removing the jacket
and sticking it in a closet.
Buck looked out the window the lights of the mile high city seeming to hang
in mid air. He could just make out the dark outline of the distant mountains.
Everyone looked up at the darkly dressed agent who slipped in. Larabee smiled
at the sight of his five men surrounding the seventh member of their team.
They really were a team and a family. He went up to the bed and laid the
back of his fingers against Ezra's face for a moment.
The next morning the shift nurse entered the room to find the six men sprawled
in various states of disarray about the floor and furniture. She made her
way to the patient and checked the monitors and various tubes that entered
Ezra's body. Chris watched through hooded eyes.
"How's he doing?" He quietly asked.
The nurse flinched, and then turned to the blond leader who sat slouched
in a chair with his hands resting on his stomach.
"Well, everything seems stable and his fever has come down some. I'm going
to talk to the doctor about taking him off the ventilator to see how he does.
I don't suppose I could get you all to leave." She glanced around the room.
Chris gave the nurse a dubious smile.
"Didn't think so," she quipped, a smile coming to her face.
Doctor Richards entered, not hiding his annoyance at the blatant disregard
for hospital rules. He glared at Larabee, who only matched his deadly stare
until he turned away. The doctor checked over his patient and found a marked
improvement in his vitals. He wondered if the presence of these men could
have had something to do with it.
The doctor and nurse expertly removed the ventilator tube, and then waited
to make sure that the young agent was breathing on his own without any problems.
Ezra was still comatose, but he seemed to be coming out of it. Doctor Richards
spent the next fifteen minutes doing various checks and making several notations
on his chart. The six men stayed out of his way, not wanting to push their
"So, how's he doing?" Larabee finally asked.
"Better. I think I can upgrade his condition and move him out of ICU this
afternoon, as long as there are no complications."
Everyone breathed a sigh of relief. The doctor saw that the agents did not
intend to leave Standish's side. He released an exasperated sigh and left.
Ezra was moved to a room on the general floor, followed by his entourage
of concerned friends. Night was once again blanketing the city. Buck stood
silently at the large pane window staring down at the headlights that moved
slowly through the congested city streets. He turned when JD came bouncing
through the doorway carrying two large pizza boxes.
"JD, you just saved my life," Vin said, snatching one of the boxes. Buck
smiled and his mouth began to water at the smell of hot cheese and pepperoni.
JD and Vin began doling out pieces of pizza.
"I couldn't take anymore egg salad sandwiches from the vending machine,"
JD complained. "I found a pizzeria right down the street."
First, Ezra thought he smelled pizza, and then a distant buzzing sound slowly
morphed into muffled voices. He couldn't discern to whom the voices belonged.
He had been floating in a tranquil sea of blackness, but now he was starting
to feel heavy. He wanted to go back to floating as the heaviness was increasing,
and a dull ache was building in every part of his body.
Larabee sat quietly, reading a book, at Ezra's bedside. A soft moan escaped
Ezra's lips and Chris looked up. He stared at the slack face of his agent
and was about to return to his book when Ezra winced. Chris put the book
down and leaned over the stirring man.
The dull ache was escalating into unadulterated pain. Ezra tried to return
to his blissful oblivion, but it eluded him.
"Ezra, can you hear me?" Chris softly called, laying a hand on the agent's
forehead and rubbing his thumb across the furrowed brow. Buck hung back by
the window still feeling guilty about his part in all this. If he had taken
Haddon's threat serious this might all have been avoided.
The unmistakable voice of Larabee cut through Ezra's fog. What was Larabee
doing here and where was here? Under the lingering smell of pizza, the clearly
identifiable odor of disinfectant assailed him. Ezra groaned. He was in a
hospital. Lord, he hated hospitals. He tried to force his eyes open and managed
a half lidded response. He licked his parched lips then felt his head gently
lifted and an ice chip placed in his mouth, and then just as gently, he was
eased back down. He tried to move his head, but pain shot down his arm and
across his chest causing him to inhale sharply.
"Easy, Ez, take shallow breaths and try not to move," Nathan said. He grabbed
the buzzer at the side of the bed. He could tell that Ezra was in a lot of
"Where am I?" Ezra finally managed to vocalize, though his southern drawl
was thick and raspy, making each word fight to come out of his mouth.
"You're at Denver General," Josiah answered.
"Hey, pard, welcome back," Vin said.
"Good to see you, Ez," JD cheerfully piped in.
Ezra tried to open his eyes a little wider. Why was everyone here?
The nurse entered and smiled when she saw that Ezra was awake.
"I think he's in some pain," Nathan told her.
"I'll go get the doctor and see about administering pain medicine."
"What happened?" Ezra woozily asked when the nurse left.
"You were shot," Nathan explained. "That leap from the building busted your
rib and punctured a lung."
"We thought we were going to lose you, pard," Vin explained.
Ezra wrinkled his brow in confusion then everything started coming back to
him-two men in ski masks, the gunshot, the ultimate dive into a dumpster.
"Buck?" Ezra tried to rise, the reassuring and steady beep of the heart monitor
"I'm right here, Ez." Buck jumped into the agent's field of vision to reassure
the distraught man.
Ezra let out a breath and relaxed back in the bed. He was surprised at the
fear that had hit him. He hadn't been sure if Buck had been hurt or not.
"Well, it seemed like a good idea at the time," Ezra absently remarked.
"I'd say it was a pretty good one," Josiah said. "You and Buck are still
"Ez, I'm so sorry," Buck said.
"We found a note referring to the threat Haddon made on you," Chris supplied.
"Apparently he was trying to get a little pay back."
Ezra brought his unrestricted hand up and rubbed his forehead. He then looked
at the six men surrounding his bed. "What's everyone doing here?"
"Waiting for you to come back to the land of the living," Nathan good-naturedly
chided. Everyone smiled at the Ezra's bewildered scowl.
"Ah Ez, we called your mother," JD began.
"She won't come," Ezra sadly proclaimed.
JD looked toward Buck who shook his head.
The nurse returned and administered some pain medicine into Ezra's IV. As
the pain drifted away so did he, unable to fight the battle to remain conscious.
Sleep once again claimed him, body and soul.
Chris watched as Ezra's eyes closed and his breathing evened out. He shifted
his focus to Josiah, who stared down at Ezra's inert form. "Josiah."
Sanchez raised his blue-gray eyes.
"I want everything you can find out on John Haddon, especially the men who
work for him." Josiah nodded, then reached down and pushed some unruly hair
off of Ezra's brow. He couldn't explain the feeling he had for the maverick
agent. Ever since Ezra's mother refused to come to see him, Josiah was
overwhelmed with a feeling of fatherly love for the young man.
"If these men tried once before they might try again," Chris said. "I want
someone with Ezra at all times."
Everyone nodded their agreement.
Late the next day the six ATF agents met at the hospital, which was fast
becoming a second home. Ezra was more alert. The pain medication dulling
the ache in his shoulder and ribs.
"Ezra, do you know who might have tried to kill you and Buck at the warehouse?"
Chris asked. They had already done some checking, but Chris wanted to see
if there was anything more that Ezra could add.
Ezra was propped up in the bed trying to choke down what the hospital passed
off as food. "My money would be on Tom Lowe and Rick Casco. Both men are
hired guns who Haddon has used in the past." He pushed the plate of food
away only to have Nathan push it back under him.
"Well, that would fit, neither of them are in custody at the moment. Haddon
probably hired them from jail. I doubt Haddon wants you around to testify,"
"I know Haddon is probably pissed at being conned by Ezra, but we have all
kinds of taped information that will probably put him away for ten years
without Ezra's testimony. Why risk a murder rap?" Buck asked.
Ezra looked up at Chris. "It might have something to do with some other
information that I obtained."
Chris's brow arched. "What information?" Ezra had a way of making something
serious sound like just a minor inconvenience.
"I gained access into his office one night and overheard a private conversation.
Haddon was involved with the murder of those government officials last year."
"Holy crap," Buck exclaimed. "No wonder he wants you dead."
Chris wiped his hand down his face and glared at his injured agent. "Why
didn't you tell us?"
"Because the lawyer I talked to during debriefing told me to keep it quiet,
for this reason. Apparently, Haddon somehow found out that I knew."
Everyone grew quiet when Dr. Richards entered the room. He stopped and shook
his head when he spied the six agents. "Don't you guys have homes?" Sheepish
looks appeared on several of the agent's faces. The doctor went to Ezra's
bedside to check his vitals.
"We need to know when Ezra can be released." Chris said. "His life is in
danger and we can't protect him here. We don't want any trouble coming to
Dr. Richards turned to the blond leader and saw that the man was serious.
He looked down at the chart, then back at the monitors. "Well, I'd like him
to stay another three days, but if you can assure me he will be taken care
of I guess I can release him tomorrow."
"We'll take care of him, doc," Nathan assured, snapping a look at Ezra that
caused the undercover man to shut his mouth. "Just give me all his medicines
and instructions. Nathan grinned at the ornery glare that Ezra gave him behind
the doctor's back.
"I can take care of myself, thank you very much," Ezra drawled.
"You don't have a choice," Chris countered.
"C'mon Ez, stop being such a stubborn cuss and let us help," Buck pleaded.
"I'm glad you're volunteering to watch over Ezra at your place, Buck," Chris
said, slapping his friend on the back.
"Hey, cool," JD said, jumping to his feet.
"Good Lord!" Ezra exclaimed.
"I think it's the least you can do Brother Buck," Josiah said.
Buck bowed his head in resignation, looking like a petulant child. "Sure
why not," he finally conceded. Buck looked into Ezra's face and saw that
he was not at all happy with the situation. For some reason this brought
a smile to Buck's face.
The next morning found Chris and Buck at the jail waiting to see Haddon.
"Are the arrangements made to have Ezra released from the hospital this
afternoon?" Chris asked.
"Yeah, Vin's with him now, and we'll all meet at the hospital around one
and take him to our place."
The two men looked over when a uniformed officer escorted John Haddon into
the holding cell and left
Haddon stood confidently and glared at the two agents sitting on the table
in the center of the room. "And what can I do for you gentlemen," Haddon
Buck and Chris regarded each other with similar grins and walked over to
the older man.
"It's simple, call off your men," Chris calmly asked.
Haddon stared into Larabee's cold blue eyes and swallowed the sudden lump
in his throat. He would not let these men intimidate him. How could someone
like Larabee be a Fed? The man looked more dangerous than he was. Haddon
still fumed over being duped by Standish. During his twenty odd years in
the gun business, he had disposed of two undercover agents and derailed numerous
indictments. The Feds had tried for years to dredge up any incriminating
evidence and he had come to believe he was impervious to their legal onslaught.
Standish had fit in so flawlessly. He never suspected the man of being anything
other than what he portrayed.
"I don't know what you're talking about," Haddon sneered.
"Oh, I think you do."
"Your undercover made a fool of me. He deserves whatever he gets."
Buck corkscrewed Haddon's arm behind his back and slammed him against the
Chris came up alongside the arms dealer and snarled, "Call off your men."
"If Ezra dies I know people in prison who will make your life a living hell,"
Chris menacingly whispered into the older man's ear.
A half smile appeared on the visible side of Haddon's face. "If your undercover
has an unfortunate accident before testifying, I won't be in jail long enough
Buck spun Haddon around and delivered two blows to his stomach sending the
man his knees. Haddon choked and gagged. "You'll all pay for that."
Buck grabbed Haddon by the shirt and hauled him to his feet prepared to
administer more punishment. He needed to take out his own guilt on something,
and Haddon was the perfect recipient. Chris grabbed Buck's arm. "Enough,
Buck released his grip and Haddon sunk back to the floor, laughing as the
two agents left.
"Okay, easy Ez, just take it a step at a time," Nathan assured as he maneuvered
himself under the agent's uninjured shoulder. Ezra kept his eyes down to
watch his feet, feeling very unsteady.
They had transported Ezra in Chris's truck, backtracking and taking side
streets all the way. The doctor had medicated him to make the ride more
comfortable, but his shoulder still throbbed and ached from the strain. Ezra
still couldn't take deep breaths without discomfort and it was leaving him
exhausted. Vin remained by the truck keeping an eye on the area as Josiah
and Chris followed everyone else inside. Buck and JD raced ahead to get the
Ezra's senses were dulled by the medication, all except his sense of smell.
He stopped in the doorway and wrinkled his nose as an inexplicable odor offended
his olfactory sense. His eyes focused and then went wide. "I am not stepping
foot in there. I'm sure I haven't been vaccinated for whatever might be growing
or dying in there."
"Sorry, JD forgot to take out the garbage," Buck explained, catching a whiff
of week old trash.
"Me? It was your turn," the young agent countered.
Nathan smiled. Every time he stepped foot in Buck and JD's apartment, Rain
made him take a shower before she would let him near her.
The six men stood in the door way and gazed upon a scattered field of empty
pizza and Chinese food boxes. The garbage can was coughing up styrofoam
containers and two hastily tied garbage bags lay on their sides next to it.
Clothes and dirty laundry covered the mismatched furniture. There was a dark
stain on the rug, which Buck and JD had tried to hide with a table. A pair
of boxer shorts tacked to the wall hid a fist size hole.
"C'mon Ez, I've been in here before and lived," Chris remarked as he stepped
in, his foot immediately sticking to the tile floor of the entrance way.
He glared up at Buck who just grinned guiltily and shrugged.
"Hey, sorry, the maid hasn't been in today," he sarcastically replied to
everyone's disgusted looks.
Nathan started to feel Ezra getting heavier. "Chris, we need to lay him down."
Buck rushed to his room and opened the door. "In here." He quickly threw
clothes and magazines under the bed. Chris smiled when he got a look at the
voluptuous and scantily clad women on the covers of the magazines.
Chris helped Nathan get Ezra to Buck's bed and lay him gently down. "JD,
get me some water. He needs to take these meds before he goes to sleep,"
Nathan placed a hand on Ezra's brow feeling the slight fever
"Is he okay?" Buck asked concern languished in his deep voice.
"Yeah, the trip was just a little too much for him," Nathan explained. "We
need to keep an eye on him and watch that pneumonia doesn't set in." He was
surprised how worried he was about the undercover agent. It wasn't so long
ago he wanted him off the team; afraid he would get one of them killed. Instead,
the cocky agent had saved his and probably Buck's life.
JD returned and handed Nathan the glass of water, and then with Chris's glaring
persuasion, they managed to get Ezra to take his pills before he drifted
Josiah pulled the covers up to Ezra's neck, and then grabbed a chair and
settled in. "I'll stay with him awhile."
Chris, Nathan, Buck and JD quietly left the room. Vin was out in the living
room debating whether he wanted to sit down bad enough to touch the rumpled
clothes on the chair.
"I want two men here at all times," Chris said. "Until we catch the shooters,
or after the trial, Ezra's life is in danger."
"You really think Haddon will try again?" Nathan asked.
"I have no doubt. He has too much to lose," Chris replied.
"Hey, anyone want to stay for dinner?" Buck asked, trying to clear the kitchen
counter of yesterday's meals. Nathan, Vin and Chris gaped at Buck in disbelief
and laughed as they walked out.
Ezra slept most of the next day, only getting up to take his medicine and
get a little bite to eat. He vaguely remembered seeing each of the six agents
at one time or another during the course of the day. Late the following day
Ezra woke feeling better than he had in a long time. He carefully made his
way out of the bedroom and into the living area, noticing that someone had
cleaned. He smiled when he heard Buck singing in the shower.
"Ay, Ez how you feeling?" JD asked from behind his computer terminal. He
watched as Ezra moved stiffly toward the kitchen.
"Better, Mr. Dunne, thank you." Ezra looked toward the glass doors that opened
onto a small private patio. He had been cooped up for several days and really
needed some fresh air.
Buck came out of the bathroom toweling his hair. He searched the living room
hoping to see Vin so he could go out on his date. The sound of pots and pans
clanging together turned his attention toward the kitchen where JD was searching
for something to munch on.
"Where's Ezra?" Buck had noticed that the agent was no longer in bed.
JD nodded toward the sliding glass doors. "He's been out there for the past
hour, just staring up at the stars." JD leaned over the counter. "Figured
he might have wanted a little time to himself."
Buck looked at the clock on the wall then back at the solitary agent. He
let out a breath and headed toward the patio.
"You know you probably shouldn't be out here, pard," Buck quietly admonished
as he stepped out onto the small brick patio.
Ezra's eyes were closed, but a smile creased his handsome face. "Oh, I think
if Haddon's men knew where I was, it wouldn't make much difference."
Buck frowned, grabbed one of the plastic chairs, and sat down. He studied
the southern agent, who was still very pale with dark circles accenting his
eyes. It stayed quiet for a moment, neither man knowing what to say.
"Ah...I guess you've seen a lot of the world?" Buck haltingly asked. He knew
that Ezra had attended boarding schools all over the world.
"Yeah, a bit." Ezra opened his eyes and focused on a bright star that shined
just above a distant mountain peak.
"Lord, I've barely been out of Colorado, you sure are lucky," Buck added.
Ezra's face fell at this statement and he slowly turned his head, wincing
slightly at the pain it caused. "Mr. Wilmington, did you have parents growing
Buck rubbed the back of his neck, taken aback by the question. "Yeah, my
mother mostly, but my father was around from time to time."
"And you and Mr. Larabee have been friends for a long time."
"Almost half my life, I guess." Buck didn't understand where this conversation
was going, but he saw the sadness in Ezra's green eyes.
Ezra looked inside the apartment to see JD planted in front of the TV. Keeping
his eye on the young man he asked, "You and Mr. Dunne are close."
"Yeah, like brothers," Buck quietly replied.
"You Mr. Wilmington are the lucky one." Ezra turned his attention back to
the distant star just above the mountain peak.
Buck turned in his chair seeing that Vin had joined JD on the sofa, he looked
back at Ezra and bowed his head. When Buck first read Ezra's file he had
been envious of all the different schools, in different countries, he had
attended. Now he recalled that those schools had changed almost every year
or two. How could anyone make or keep friends when they moved so much? The
schools were private, with the students living on the campuses. Did he even
see his mother and father? Thinking back to Maude, and how she had refused
to come and see Ezra in the hospital, Buck started to think that the private
and expensive schools were a convenient way to get a child out of the way.
"I don't want your pity, Mr. Wilmington," Ezra angrily exclaimed. He
had noticed the look on Buck's face, one he was all too familiar with.
"It's not pity, Ezra."
"Well, whatever it is, I don't want or need it." Ezra started to get agitated.
He wasn't use to someone giving a damn about him without wanting something
in return. He struggled to stand, grabbing his injured arm. Buck was immediately
at his side.
"C'mon, you should be inside resting," Buck exclaimed.
Ezra took a step back and his head swam.
Buck reached out and grabbed his arm to steady him, suddenly worried. He
heard Ezra's labored breathing from the exertion. "Are you okay, Ezra?"
"Yes, I'm fine. I wish everyone would stop asking and leave me alone!" Ezra
pulled out of Buck's grasp and walked back into the apartment. He headed
for the kitchen to get a glass of water, ignoring the looks from Vin and
Buck followed, motioning for the two men not interfere. He entered the kitchen
noticing how Ezra's hand shook holding the glass of water.
Ezra managed to get his medicine down and take some more water, but as he
went to put the glass down his knees buckled causing him to slam the glass
on the counter, shattering it. Buck grabbed Ezra before he fell.
"C'mon on pard, it's back to bed for you." He didn't get an argument.
Vin and JD watched from the sidelines as Buck helped the weak undercover
agent back to the bedroom. He returned a few moments later. "JD, get a hold
of Nathan, I want him here to look at Ezra!"
"What about your date, Buck?" Vin asked.
Buck looked up at the clock. He could still make it. He looked toward the
bedroom. "I'll call and tell her I can't make it. Something more important
JD managed to catch Nathan at the office and tell him what had happened.
Twenty minutes later, Buck and JD heard the sound of screeching tires and
spraying gravel. JD opened the door to let Nathan in, surprised to see Chris
right behind him. Nathan went directly to the bedroom.
"What happened?" Chris demanded, hoping that Buck wasn't the cause. He had
been at the office when Nathan received the call and insisted on driving
the ex-medic over.
"It's okay, Chris," Buck quickly explained seeing the worry on his friend's
face and fearing for his own life. "It was just that he was breathing rather
hard and was a little unsteady. I just thought it would be a good idea if
Nathan had a look at him."
Chris ran his fingers through his sandy blond hair and took a deep breath.
He was glad everything was okay; he would have hated to hit Buck in front
Nathan came out a few moments later seeing the others gathered around the
"Well, how is he?" Vin anxiously asked, sliding a beer toward the medic.
"He's okay, probably just over did it a little." Nathan plopped down in an
"Hey, Buck, what did you two talk about on the patio?" JD innocently asked.
Chris turned stone, blue eyes to his dark haired agent. "He was outside!"
Buck slouched down in his chair. "He needed some fresh air is all."
Chris downed the last of his beer to put out the sudden flare of anger; maybe
he would have to hit Buck after all.
"What did you two talk about?" Vin asked, hoping to avert any confrontation.
He was glad that someone could get the close-mouthed agent to open up.
"Nothing much, just about family and how lucky we all are," Buck sadly explained.
They all knew that Ezra did not consider himself a part of their family,
but they hoped to change that in time. Each of the six men had seen something
in the solitary agent, something that made him a part of them. Despite the
fact that the seven extraordinary men were as different as night and day,
they shared some inexplicable bond, one that crossed the boundaries of time
and space. Josiah believed they were fated to be together to share one destiny,
and although they all had scoffed at the theory, deep down they knew it was
Three vehicles pulled into empty slots in the underground parking garage
of the Federal courthouse. Vin exited the passenger side of Chris's truck.
He quickly scanned the garage area then nodded and stepped aside to allow
Ezra to slide out. Ezra held his still bound arm and Vin grasped his upper
arm to help him step down from the truck.
JD, Nathan, Buck and Josiah soon joined them and surrounded the threatened
agent. Ezra rolled his eyes at the overzealous display.
"Really Mr. Larabee, is all this subterfuge really necessary?" Ezra quipped.
He couldn't get over all the fuss and concern. He kept telling himself it
was only because he was a key witness, but something deep inside kept nagging
him that this wasn't the only reason.
"Yes, it is!" Chris retorted, coming around the back of the truck. "Haddon's
not going to give up that easily." Chris came up to Ezra and laid a hand
on his shoulder, looking the man right in the eye. "And I'm not going to
risk losin' the best damn undercover, or a good friend."
Ezra's face flushed and everyone bowed or turned their heads to try and minimize
his sudden discomfort at Chris's statement. "And I thoroughly appreciate
the effort," Ezra smoothly replied. His lips twitched as if holding a smile
"Great, when this is over you're buying the first round at Inez's," Buck
broke in, throwing an arm across Ezra's good shoulder.
Ezra smiled and looked at his friends. The word still sounded strange but
that was what these people had become. "It would be my pleasure, Mr. Wilmington."
Chris took the lead. "Alright, let's move and stay sharp."
The seven agents moved cautiously toward the elevator, keeping
Ezra within their protective circle.
Screeching tires caused everyone to turn around, weapons ready. A black,
non-descript van came speeding down the aisle. Its side door was open and
a man dressed all in black sat within holding a semi-automatic.
Tom Lowe and Rick Casco were desperate. They had used all their resources
trying to find the undercover. They ran out of time, and Haddon was running
out of patience. They had little choice but to try and kill the agent at
the court house.
Chris grabbed Ezra by the arm and shoved him forward toward the elevator.
Chris, Vin, and Josiah kneeled and took aim at the fast approaching van.
JD and Nathan took up positions behind a pylon.
Buck saw the other hit man taking aim on the undercover agent from the passenger
side window. He leapt toward Ezra pulling him down at the same time feeling
a bullet rip through his upper thigh. Bullets ricocheted off the cement walls
and everyone hit the floor at the same time.
Ezra bit back the scream that wanted to erupt when his shoulder hit the cement
floor. He desperately needed Buck to get off him as his weight was pressing
down on his injured shoulder.
The agents returned fire as the van raced past. Vin's shot struck a tire
and the van swerved out of control, slamming into another vehicle. They ran
toward the disabled vehicle. Chris grabbed the stunned driver as Josiah and
Vin pulled the two hit men out of the van, throwing them to the floor and
quickly relieving them of their weaponry.
"Hey, Chris! Ain't that the judge's car?" Vin asked over the prone body,
of Rick Casco. He had his knee on the hit man's back to keep him down. Chris
looked over to see the front end of the van, which was firmly imbedded in
the trunk of a black Seville.
"Damn, didn't the judge just buy that yesterday?" JD added, shoving the driver
Chris smiled. "Boys, you probably just added ten more years to your sentence."
Chris hauled Tom Lowe to his feet.
"Buck! Please get off me," Ezra hissed. His eyes were squeezed tight. He
exhaled as Buck rolled off to the side. Ezra didn't even care about the cold
floor beneath him as the waves of pain slowly ebbed away. He opened his eyes
and focused on the piping above him as he tried to even out his breathing.
He suddenly realized that Buck was still on the floor next to him. Ezra turned
his head to see Buck's face scrunched, and his eyes shut tight and then he
saw the blood. "Shit! NATHAN!"
Nathan appeared at their side and pulled off his jacket to apply pressure
to Buck's wound. "Easy Bucklin, you're going to be okay," he assured.
"Buck, say something," Ezra pleaded.
"Why'd you go and do that?" Ezra angrily exclaimed.
Buck opened one eye to look at the distraught southerner.
"Figured one bullet per person was the limit."
Ezra laid a hand on the larger agent's shoulder and smiled.
The solitary figure stood just outside the indoor lighting of the ATF building.
He pulled the collar of his coat up against the cold wind that blew up and
down the corridors between the buildings. Ezra had just finished giving the
last of his disposition for the Haddon case. Buck was back at work, milking
his injury for all its worth with the ladies. Ezra watched the street lights
flicker on as darkness began to shroud the city. He could grow to like this
city, it had a certain charm and character he found endearing. He looked
at the government building thinking of the six men he worked with and then
thought he'd spend the weekend unpacking.
The blond leader stepped up beside him, zipping up his dark leather jacket.
The two men stood silently for a moment.
"Seem to remember you offering to buy drinks," Chris said.
Ezra smiled and turned to face a man he had come to respect more than anyone
he had ever known. He owed this man his life. "Why haven't you asked me why
Chris licked his lips and watched the traffic lights change, releasing their
impatient and eager captives to continue on, until the next set of lights.
"Figured you'd tell me in your own good time."
"This might be a good time."
Chris nodded and the two men walked across the street towards the saloon.