To The Very End
by Angela B.
Back to: To The Very End Part 1
The day after discussing Nathan, the picture of Josiah flashed up before him.
The voice began, "He calls you 'son' but, does he really treat you as a son he would be proud of? Or does he treat you like an incompetent child who constantly needs supervision? Does he pat you on the back and tell you, "Good job" or critique your work? How often has he stood back and allowed Chris to yell at you? Attack you verbally? Physically? Does a real father allow people to hurt their children? Does a real father stand back and let their children be put in danger? Remember when Nathan, Vin, JD and you were held captive? You managed to escape and get help. Remember, you led Chris, Buck and Josiah back to where they were being held captive and what happened? Chris and Buck both hit you. What did Josiah do? He stood back and watched. Did he intervene? No. He just let those two hurt you and he said nothing.
Do you trust him enough to share your past with him? A true son would have no qualms about sharing his problems with a father that really loved him. Do you trust Josiah that much? Or do you know, inside, he is not a man worthy of your secrets? Have you ever gone to him with a problem or a secret and he betray you? He has, hasn't he? Josiah is not a father to a son whom he's proud of. Josiah is a father to a child who he feels is incompetent. A child that doesn't need love or protection , but chastisement and rebuke," the voice declared.
"Then there is Maude. He fell in love with your mother, didn't he? You tried to warn him, but did he listen? Did he take your side when he learned how she had dumped you time after time? Or did he try to make excuses for her, defend her? Tell you that she was just doing what she had to as a single mother? See, Ezra, you're not thought of as a son. A father would kill to protect his child, not make excuses.
He allows people who should care for you to hurt you, like Chris, because he doesn't have the love for you as a real father to stop him. Has he come to help you? No. Because Chris Larabee has made Josiah's choice for him and Josiah has let him. Chris Larabee is thought of more than your safety. Chris Larabee deservers to die," the voice ended like always.
The undercover awoke from his ritual evening nap, another routine that had come into play. He thought about the earlier session. While he had tried to fight the images, he realized the undeniable truth. Josiah didn't protect him from anyone, especially not Maude. Maude! The name sprang forth like the preverbal rope being thrown at the very last second. He would simply locate Maude and have her effect his release. She would be greatly displeased that he had not been able to emancipate himself from this place, but he would gladly take her criticism if it meant release from this place. He was beginning to wonder if Dr. C was ever really going to help him get free. Maybe, he could get Dr. Belvin to place the call instead. He didn't seem to interested in him and he was sure the good doctor would be keen on the offered reward if he were to help. Ezra suddenly felt better. He could hold on a couple more days until Maude's arrival. With the new plan in place, Ezra readily ate his supper and went back to bed.
It was getting to the point that Ezra no longer tried to resist the injections. In fact, he welcomed them. With the injections, he didn't have to live with the knowledge he was a loser; a sucker who had fallen for the biggest fool's game. He didn't have to remember how he was rejected by his mother, again. Permanently.
Dr. Belvin had come back the next morning after Ezra had proposed to him to let him call Maude. The doctor had been very kind about the matter and had led Ezra down the corridor of the psyche ward to a small office. The doctor had picked up the phone and telling Ezra it was hospital rules for the psyche ward, he would have to punch in the numbers, plus his own pin number. Ezra had willingly given what he hoped was the correct number. After all the weeks of drugs; he was unsure of anything one hundred percent. The doctor had asked if he had reached the correct household, listened for a minute and then handed the phone to Ezra and stepped out of the office.
Ezra asked tentatively, "Mother?"
"No, Senor Standish, this Ms. Luiz. I'm Mrs. Cargill's maid," the woman on the other end informed him.
"Ah," Ezra said, rubbing his forehead, trying to recall if Maude had been married before all this had happened or merely engaged like so many other times. "Senorita Luiz, may I please speak with my mother," Ezra asked, retaining civility in the moment of crisis.
There was a long pause before the woman spoke again. "I am truly sorry, Senor Standish but, I am told to inform you, that your mother wishes to have no more contact with you. Mrs. Standish said…," the woman on the end paused again, seemingly regretting being put in the middle. Ezra felt sorry for her, Maude had done that to more than one servant when she was upset with him. "…She said, 'She wishes her son would realize she is tired of carrying the load of having a no-account son who has done nothing but plague her life and ruined her existence and whatever predicament you have found yourself in, it is up to you to get yourself out. She is tired of bailing you out.' " The maid heaved a heavy sigh. "I am sorry, Senor Standish," she said in a sorrowful tone.
Ezra was still trying to regain both his breath and his balance. He had always known Maude had times when she couldn't cope with being a single mother, but he never realized just how much of an imposition he had been on her. Retaining his manners, Ezra said in low voice, "Don't be, Senorita Luiz. It is not your fault. Thank you very much and please inform my mother I will not be bothering her any more."
The woman on the other end hung up the phone. She walked past the man in the suit and picked the folded money from his hand as she continued out the door.
It had been two weeks since Ezra had gone missing. Doubts that they would ever find their missing comrade slowly began to sneak in. The six men that made up Team Seven had dutifully carried out their tasks at work. After work, they had worked on every lead, idea or whisper from a snitch. It was becoming oppressive. If they could just find out if Ezra had left on his own accord or with the help, wanted or not, from someone else that would answer a lot of questions.
Josiah and Vin kept working their way through the many files containing all the criminals and the subsequent 'friends'. So far they had found, much to their relief, that the majority of them were still behind bars. Those that were not were passed on to JD. The computer wizard would search through DMV records, parole files, and anything else that would help locate the released convict. The team had to admit one thing: Ezra had wracked up a pretty amazing arrest record. If JD couldn't find the perp through computer networking, the case was turned over to Nathan, who searched the old fashion way.
Chris held off on choosing a replacement: always finding fault with each suggestion; scaring off the two that showed up for a personal interview. Travis had held his tongue, he knew what Chris was doing. He had always dreaded the day when Team Seven would have to replace a member. He knew it was like trying to replace a family member. He decided to give the team another couple of weeks to come to terms with losing their undercover man, while secretly hoping that they could find Ezra in that amount of time. It wasn't looking good.
Buck walked into Chris' office. The mood out in the bullpen was depressing. Worry had turned to anger, which turned to despair. Sinking down into the chair in front of the big oak desk, Buck propped his feet up on the edge and crossed his arms in back of his head. "Not looking good, Chris. The guys are sinking out there."
Chris looked up into his friend's face. Buck was the most loyal person he knew. He was more faithful than a dog. Chris easily read the lines that had appeared the other man's face over the last couple of weeks. Heaving a sigh, Chris leaned back in his chair. "I know, Buck. I don't know where else to have them look. Between JD working on the computer and Vin and Josiah doing leg work, they've just about located everyone on the list of released perps. They even put some names on that list that are still in prison, but would have the money to carry out a kidnapping."
Buck nodded. "Chris, not hearing anything from him this long it's not looking good," Buck said softly. "You know what search and rescue calls it after a certain length of time?" he asked reluctantly.
Chris shut his eyes to the possibility. "Body recovering," he whispered.
Buck continued, "Ezra hasn't been heard from at all. We haven't received any demand signifying he's been kidnapped. No trial is coming up that might be judged in a different light if he weren't there to testify," Buck stated the obvious. "I don't want to say it out loud, Chris. It just makes it seem more plausible, but we have to prepare the others for the possibility when we do find him, it's his body."
Chris drew in a deep breath. He didn't want to be forced down this avenue. Not yet. He was just getting on solid ground from the death of his wife and child. Now he was being asked to ponder the possibility of losing another family member. "We keep looking, Buck. Only when every single rock has been tossed over twice will I go down that road."
Buck gave one sharp nod and seemed relieved that Chris wasn't giving up on their friend just yet. "I'll tell JD to keep searching through the computer banks. The others will go back over the lists and see if they missed anything," Buck stated as he drew his legs back off the desk and set them down. Rising from his chair like a weary old man, Buck cast his friend one last look before leaving.
The next afternoon Dr. Blevins came for him and Ezra realized something else: Dr. C was never seen in this part of the ward. He shook his head at his incompetence processing such information. He had talked to Dr. Belvin about reducing his medication; explaining how detached he felt and how hard it was to think straight. The doctor had agreed to try reducing his medication, but cautioned he would have to do in way that would not draw suspicion from the nurses dispensing the medication. They weren't as incompetent as all the jokes and rumors led people to believe. In fact, it was the nurses who often caught prescription mistakes. Dr. Belvin had explained if he were to suddenly cut out his meds all together it would raise suspicion. Ezra would just have to be patient.
Ezra had then tried to persuade the doctor to give him the meds orally instead of by injection. Once again, the doctor came back with a valid sounding reason for not doing so. It seemed to Ezra if he was almost expecting these arguments and had already prepared answers for him. When he approached the doctor about calling his mother and how as a patient he did have that right to place phone calls, the doctor had actually been stumped for an answer. He had instead guided Ezra onto another topic. Ezra recognized later that the doctor had been too capable of distracting him. It was like he knew what was going on around was wrong, but he couldn't get his thoughts organized enough to figure out a sound solution.
The next couple of days progressed much the same as the day before. Ezra woke feeling refreshed and positive he would be leaving soon, only to be returned to his room after therapy: tired, depleted and depressed. His hate for Chris Larabee growing each day. He would now have to agree with Dr. C.; this entire situation was indeed the agent's planning. There were enough people who either respected the man or feared him to help him carry out such a plan.
It seemed his mind was categorically challenging his trust in each member. He never recalled specifics of each session; he just knew he felt more distrustful of each one daily.
His mind focused on the youngest member of the team when he visited the psychiatrists next.
Like all the previous times, weight forced his eyes closed, he felt overwhelmingly tired. When he had settled, the voice came and with it the pictures. His eyes, like every other time, popping back open with the starting of the voice.
The young face loomed before him. The bright smile that JD flashed so eagerly. The bright shiny eyes that relayed trust, eagerness, innocence, youthfulness and honesty.
"He looks so innocent doesn't he?" the deep voice that Ezra had slowly grown accustom to whispered. "Is he really all that innocent or is he just a better player than you saw him as? Can anyone who went through the police academy and then worked for three years on the force, and then work for the ATF for four years really be all that naïve and innocent? Maybe he simply played you, Ezra? Perhaps he saw you as the biggest threat. The one that would eventually see through his guise. He played all of them with his act. He was the youngest and therefore the most susceptible to pranks, jokes and the first one to be let go. But with his 'innocence' he was everyone's little brother. The one they all protected. And they did protect him, didn't they? Buck took the kid under his wing. Invited JD to move in with him and became his protector. All the while, John Dunne knowing exactly what he was doing. He was enduring himself to all of them, that way, no matter what went wrong, no one would have the ability to blame him. They would blame it on someone else first before ever blaming the kid. JD knew that, didn't he? And who was the best possibility of taking the blame? The black sheep. You.
He played his trump card well and frequently. When he got hurt, he had everyone hovering over him. They would leave you to bleed on some cold concrete warehouse floor if JD had been shot. You were a threat to him. He knew that you would eventually see through his charade. He was always so eager to go undercover with you. Did you wonder why a computer whiz would want to go undercover? Did he want your job? Become more than just another computer genius on the list of the ATF? He wanted your job, your title, and your place. In order to achieve his goals he needed to get you out of the way. What better way than going along with Chris' plan? Chris is to blame for all this. Chris Larabee should die.
Ezra sat on the edge of his bed thinking. He thought back over the last couple of days and realized his mind was only acknowledging what he must have known for a long time, but had tried to fight. He was not the member of the group he had led himself to believe he had been. He haltingly realized that he had been played the fool. How could he have been as tight with the team as the others were? He was gone most of the time on assignment. While they sat around the office, or gathered at Inez, or Chris', he was out doing a job. While they worked eight hours a day for five days, he worked twenty-four/seven. He was coming to terms with the fact that he wasn't really a team member, not like the others were. He decided he had to quit waiting for the doctor to help him. He had to help himself.
Sliding out of bed, he ducked under the bed and removed another strip of wiring. He quickly affected his release from the secured floor like he had managed to do the previous time. This time, though, he wouldn't follow the same plan. Instead, he took the elevator, but instead of going all the way to the floor, he got off two floors later. Ezra stepped off the elevator and took in his surroundings. The bank of elevators had been located at the end of a hall. The nurses station looked to be about three-fourths of the way down. Ezra began walking down the hallway, staying against the same wall as the nursing station. Judging by the way not one room had its lights on, he assumed it to be quite late. That would be good, it meant the late shift and fewer nurses worked the graveyard shift. Slipping along his path, he came to another hall that intersected with the one he was on. Peeking around the corner, he was relieved to find no nursing station. It appeared that this was a walkthrough hall, a corridor that led from one section of the floor to another. Walking more comfortably, he kept walking until he came to a stairwell. Hoping for the best, he pushed on the bar and was relieved when an alarm didn't go off.
Walking as quickly, but quietly, as possible, he made it to the bottom floor. Stepping up to the door, he froze. Imaging the worst, Nathan or one of the others stood just on the other side waiting to grab him. He knew if he was caught again, he might not ever get out of the hospital alive. He would either be killed or taken to another hospital where he would reside for the remainder of his years. He would never be able to garner anyone else's believe that he was who he said he was. Taking several deep breaths, he tried to calm his pounding heart so he could listen for noise coming from the other side. After several minutes, he took a deep breath and cautiously opened the door. When he realized it was an empty foyer, he let out his breath in a sigh of relief.
If this hospital was designed anything like Memorial, he could easily escape. He had done it numerous times. He couldn't keep the smile from spreading on his face. He was in the home stretch, just a little further and he would be out of here and in a few minutes he would disappear into the darkness never to be seen or heard of again. Ezra was almost giddy with happiness. Slipping into one of the numerous general doctors' offices that were located throughout the hospital, he closed the door behind him and did a quick search of the area. This doctor obviously didn't make this office his home because it held a sparse number of things; a prescription pad and doctor cards would do him no good. Looking through the drawers, he finally hit the gold mine. A fresh set of scrubs, the flimsy slip on's one wore over their shoes during surgery and a white coat, obviously stored in case of emergencies. Slipping out of his clothes, he slipped on the green scrubs. The man must have been Nathan's size because the shirt was too large as well as the pants, but the pants had drawstrings. Tightening the pants as tight as possible, he put the white coat over his top and hoped if he met anyone, they wouldn't noticed that the sleeves almost hung off his shoulders. Opening the door, he made a quick check of his surroundings and stepped out into the hall like he belonged.
Ezra could see the doors in sight. He held himself in check and kept his gait steady. Taking a deep breath, he knew it was now or never. Pushing the door open, he peered around the door and stepped out into the dark night. The door he had taken led out into the back of the hospital, at this hour all was deserted. Pausing for a moment, he tilted his head up and looked at stars and the bright moon. Feeling the cool breeze brushing against his cheeks, Ezra had never realized how much he had taken moments like this for granted before. Shaking his head, he realized he needed to be moving along. Stealing across the empty lot, he headed for the nearest street. A figure pushed himself off the wall and slid into the shadows cast by the building. Immediately, Ezra became aware of a presence. Trying to ignore the rising hairs on the back of his neck, he kept walking, afraid to look back. The kicking of a stone had Ezra whipping around to face the stalker lurking in the shadows. He stopped in shock as he came face-to-face with Josiah.
"You didn't think it would be that easy did you?" the big man smirked.
Ezra's determination to be free grew with force as he threw a right cross, striking the other man in the temple. Ezra winced when the man's face snapped to the side, but immediately recoiled at the look the man shot his way when the eyes came back to settle on him. Ezra blocked and parried with the other man for a couple of minutes before the agent landed a blow to the side of cheek. The blow was hard and did the trick as darkness crowded in and he slumped to the ground.
Sitting out in the big living room, Ezra watched the clock on the wall. It was almost time for his session with the doctor and, with it, the drugs. Ezra no longer fought the injections. Instead it was a relief to be drugged, he almost craved it now. After his dose, Dr. Belvin came and got him. Ezra no longer questioned Dr. C about getting out, he now knew it was futile. The undercover agent was slowly losing hope of ever leaving this sanctuary. As he sat down in the chair, Vin's picture flashed before his eyes. The realization that the sharpshooter was less faithful than he had let himself believe burned almost as bad as realizing Buck's deceit.
Several different scenarios involving the sharpshooter flashed before him. Ezra was no longer able to discern whether the images were photo or really in his mind and bought forth by the voice. The voice was always there, guiding him through the memories. "Do you remember your first nation-wide agency gathering? The whole team had gathered to watch Vin win his spot towards the championship finals, but did one of them show up to see you win your placement? No. They didn't care about you. They never did. You were nothing but a token to achieve their goal. When you and Vin went scouting the back roads for those punks and Vin rolled the SUV that ya'll had borrowed from the car dealership that morning, who was the first person they pulled from the wreckage? Vin. Mr. Larabee didn't even bother caring that you were injured. All he wanted to do was rescue his fair-haired sharpshooter. Whose side did he sit by in the hospital? Whose side does Chris Larabee always chose to be by? You are cast aside like nothing and Vin knows it and does nothing about it, does he? Who would Chris pick to save if it was between you and that sharpshooter? You know the answer, don't you? Of course you do. You mean nothing to Chris Larabee. Vin is everything. Heck, Vin was the one who masterminded that little prank that involved getting you to witness that explosion. He set it up for you to take the blame. And you did, didn't you. You played right into his hand."
The voice continued on, "Him, playing the dumb Texan with his 'Aw shucks' attitude. How many times has he spilled all your secrets to Chris? How many times have the two of them laughed over your gullibility to trust in that sharpshooter. Getting you to trust him and all the while he was sharing your secrets with his good friend, Chris. It was a trick and you fell for it. How often have the two of you played pranks on the other team members? And who is the one that always catches the revenge?Nobody is going to touch Vin; he's Chris'pal, his right-hand man, and his brother. You will always be the scapegoat and that's just how he liked it. He came to the hospital and did he stand up for you when he had the chance? No. He's Chris compatriot to the very end. Chris should learn how it feels come in second place. Chris Larabee should die."
Ezra lay in his bed staring up at the ceiling. Time was no longer traceable. He had no idea how long he had been locked up in this hospital. He knew in the beginning he had been determined to escape, but over time it seemed so futile. There was no way to get out without being caught. Dr. C. had informed him that there was always someone loitering around that looked suspicious to him.
Dr. Comantaryian had steadily increased the length of his sessions. At first, Ezra had protested, but the doctor had convinced him they had to keep up the charade for any interested parties that were keeping tabs on the situation. After a few sessions, Ezra didn't really pay attention to the length of his sessions. Patients like him usually had longer sessions once the patient began showing signs of improvement and wanting to get better. He was counting on the doctor more than he was comfortable with, but he was stuck and he knew it. Maude had always said, "Lord helps those who help themselves. Everyone else was on their own." So he tried to help himself by befriending the only person who believed him and had promised to help him get out.
Axle Coltrane sat back in his wingback chair watching the light dance of the amber colored contents in the snifter twirling gently in his hand. A smile that was meant to be pleasant, but would scare most men, graced his face; an evil looking gleam resided in his hazel eyes. Earlier in the day he had began making the preparations for the finale of his macabre play. The details were coming together nicely and he was enjoying the evening in silent celebration. In less than a week, he would watch the downfall of the touted Magnificent Team Seven of the ATF. Afterwards, he would board a plane and leave the country.
The liquid swirled lazily in the glass. Around and around it went, lapping up on the sides every so often. Coltrane found the motion almost hypnotic and laughed at the irony of such a thought. He had been doing the same thing to a certain undercover agent for over two weeks, using drugs and yet a simple motion like his brandy was doing the same thing to him, relaxing him into a comfort zone where he let go of his control over his mind and let it freely roam.
The mind was a wonderful and complicated organ of the brain. to control the rest of the body; --breathing, heart rate, the ability to think about and then move a limb--was faster than the speed of sound. The ability to process and store memory was far greater than the first computer ever made. In fact, it had taken scientist decades to create something that could be equated with the brain. Coltrane had always been interested in knowing what made a person tick. How was the brain involved in the makeup of one's personality. Only after going to prison, did he start really studying about the interest. Then he had focused his learning in how to manipulate it. He had been surprised at how easy it was. It just took time and patience. If time wasn't allowed then there were drugs.
When Coltrane had first pledged to destroy team Seven, he had been unsure how he was going to do it. He just knew he would. After deciding that it would be best if one of their own began the destruction, he began to slowly formulate a plan. He had looked over every piece of information his lawyer could get his hands on, and then he had began the process of elimination. He knew what he wanted, he just had to pick the best person for the job. That's when he had decided on the undercover agent. He was gone most of the time on assignment and therefore, while close to his teammates, he didn't get to enjoy the constant day-to-day interaction like the rest did. Getting Agent Standish to allow himself to be subjected to treatment had been planned out very carefully and timing had been crucial. Coltrane had waited through three busts before the right one presented it to him and Chris Larabee was the one who made his choice for him. The thought of the tall blond leader made his heart beat a bit faster. Today had been the best session yet. Today they had targeted Chris Larabee. Using the man who bought him down to bring Larabee down was what made this effort so sweet.
Ezra had quit fighting. A man can only struggle against the truth for so long before succumbing to the truth or that which is perceived as the truth. The day-to-day schedule had become a new part of his life. He had lost hope of ever getting out. He wasn't aware of his lost hope. It just seemed natural. As he sat in the outer room, the other patients around him went unnoticed. His mind no longer functioning like the fine tune machine it once was. Now it was blank and unthinking, Ezra had to admit it was actually nice to be able to sit and let his mind be completely blank. Nothing hurt anymore, the memories, the pain of past injustices, nothing. Ezra took a deep breath and settled deeper into the chair.
Chris' face flickered in front of him and pure rage flowed through Ezra's system. Larabee -- the man to whom he had given his explicit trust and had it thrown back in his face. As he stared at the face before him, Ezra studied the green eyes staring back at him. Those eyes had held so much faith, promise, loyalty and Ezra had given him everything back in spades. He had given the man his respect, something precious few other men had garnered unwaveringly.
The voice was barely a whisper as Ezra recounted the number of times, he had gone out on a limb for the man. He had put his life in jeopardy more than he could count because bringing in the case meant a lot to the blond. He had starting caring what the blond thought of him as, not only an agent, but a man and had put it all on the line to prove to Chris that he was worth the respect Chris had shown him. Now it was apparent it had all been a ploy to get recognition for the team. The team, and Chris, would not have the record they did if not for him and they had all turned on him, on Chris' simple word.
"Who is it that Chris let his ire out on the most?" The voice asked. "How long did it take for Chris to warm up to the other members of the team? How long was it before Chris even began to treat you with a reasonable amount of civility? Who came last on his list of concern? When you were drained from a case, did Mr. Larabee care? How fast did he expect you to jump from one case to another? Did he ever give you the credit you deserved when he was up there beside the mayor accepting any of the many awards the team was given? Or did he give the team the credit? Where was the team when things went wrong? Who got blamed when, on the rare occasion, the case didn't go through right? Or worse, when someone was injured? You. It was always like that wasn't it? The team got the credit and you got the blame. When Colonel Norton took Nathan, Vin, JD and you hostage, Chris blamed you automatically, didn't he? He didn't care about your welfare. Instead, he lashed out and hit you, like he always did. He took the others to the hospital, but left you behind to not only fend for yourself, but to take care of the horses. But, who was it that he expected to save them all, when Norton came back and captured all of you? Norton was after Larabee, and Larabee turned to you to save them, instead of saving his own men. He plays both sides of fence. Using you when it's to his benefit, casting you aside when you have nothing of value to offer him.
The voice kept going. "Which one would he sacrifice at a moment's notice without any pretext of thought? You. You were only wanted for what you could offer the team. You were only accepted because you had a talent so few have. But the rewards didn't match having to put up with you. You are worthless except for your talent of lying and deceiving people. Everyone gets tired of you. Even your own mother. Did you really think Mr. Larabee was any different? He tired of you and had to think of a way that he could get rid of you where no questions were asked. Do you know what he's saying about you? He's telling everyone you turned to the other side. He's reinforcing everyone's belief that you are the dirty agent they had you pegged for in Atlanta. This is the reward you get for letting your guard down and trusting the man."
Ezra fought the pain ripping him apart from the inside out. It was all so true. He had put it all out there for the blond who had promised a new life. Chris had been the light at the end of the tunnel back in Atlanta, when he walked through those doors and offered him a clean slate. A new job, a new home and new beginning and in the end, Chris had yanked that all away from him. He could not longer fight the indelible truth, he was nothing more to the team than an ends to their means. He felt himself breaking on the inside and no longer had the strength to fight it. As he looked up at the large screened picture of Chris Larabee, the voice told him what he needed to do to make the pain stop. He must kill Chris Larabee.
Ezra woke in his room, tired and drained. His limbs felt like limp rags. He needed to use the facilities, but didn't have the strength to even buzz the nurses. He laid there on his side, staring out into the darkness, seeing nothing, both figuratively and literally. Life held nothing for him anymore. He only had one mission in life now and he would fail at that simply because he couldn't emancipate himself from what was once such an easy predicament. The darkness remained, both on the outside and the inside of Ezra's world. Finally closing his eyes, Ezra let himself slip back into a world of painless slumber.
The next morning he awoke feeling no better. Nurse Mandlin walked into his room with a small syringe. He held out his arm for her to put it in the IV and realized with a certain amount of surprise that his IV line had been removed. Looking quizzically at the nurse, he asked, "I didn't realize it had been removed." The words seeming too much even for the simplicity in which they were spoken.
The nurse smiled gently, but slightly confused and replied, "Took out two weeks ago, sweetie. Don't you remember? She made a mental note to mention this to the doctor. Mandlin brightened up a bit as she went on, "Dr. Belvin said you had a real break through though and has high hopes for a faster recovery now."
"Yes, I did come to some enlightening revelations," Ezra said morosely.
"That's good," the nurse said encouragingly. "I know it's hard, but in the end it'll be better," she said, not knowing how close to the truth she was getting.
"Yes, I suppose in the end we all get what we deserve," Ezra said flatly, as he watched detachedly as the nurse gave him the small injection of whatever medicine he would be receiving. "I'll come by later and check on you, okay,doll?" Nurse Mandlin said as she left the room.
"I'll await your kind visage," Ezra said, feeling the tiniest bit better.
Later after lunch, Ezra laid on his bed waiting his daily session with Dr. C, not caring how he looked anymore. What good were appearances in a place like this? He taken his mandatory shower and shaved his face. He hated the scratchy feeling facial hair caused him. He really didn't know why it was necessary to keep up the charade, but Mandlin had been by and told him, he would be going to his regular counseling session. A few minutes later, he heard the click of the lock on his room door, but didn't bother to turn over and see whom it was. It didn't matter. Nothing mattered.
Dr. Belvin walked around the bed and leaned down on the mattress. His face was uncomfortably close to Ezra's and he tried to back up, but was restrained by a hand on his arm. "Dr. C and I have come up with a plan to get you out of here," the man in the white coat whispered.
Ezra stilled. Looking for any traces of a lie, he stared at the physician and waited. Dr. Belvin continued, "You'll escape on your way to the session. Dr. C and I couldn't believe we hadn't thought of this earlier," he said in a way of an apology.
Ezra asked hesitantly, "What about those who wait and watch?"
"That's the beauty of the plan. We figure they won't be watching during that time because they'll be expecting you to be in session and you've never tried to escape during that time," Dr. Belvin explained, having to wing it as he went.
Suddenly Ezra realized the truth of it. He mentally kicked himself. Why hadn't he tried that? he asked himself, chastising himself over his own stupidity. The plan in its simplest form just might work. Suddenly he began seeing a hint of light in an otherwise dark room he feared he would spend the rest of life in.
"What about clothes?" Ezra asked, knowing a person walking around in hospital wear would draw attention.
Dr. Belvin explained the rest of the plan, "Dr. C will be waiting for you in his office like always. Once inside, he has clothes waiting for you. Once you've changed, Dr. C will escort you out as if you are a colleague. Dr. C will take you a hotel where you can stay and rest for a couple of days," the doctor finished his outlined plan with sincerity worthy an Oscar. Of course, if it had been in the beginning and without the drugs, Ezra would have seen through the lie like a three-dollar bill, but not any more. What and who Ezra once was had been stripped away by time, drugs and suggestions.
Ezra stood up and followed the doctor out his room. He was hesitant to believe he would really be getting out of here. He would refrain from true belief until he was safely ensconced in that motel room with his own room key and locks on the door to keep whoever he wanted out.
Arriving in Dr. C's presence, Ezra felt hope flicker ever so lightly when the man presented him with a suit. Slipping into the private bathroom, Ezra relished the feel of the clothes as he slipped them on. Looking into the mirror, he felt a little bit like his old self.
Stepping out of the bathroom, his appearance met with approval. "Let's get you out of here, shall we?" Coltrane said as he opened up the outer door and checked the hallway. After confirming it was empty, he motioned for Ezra to follow him. The undercover felt as nervous as he had on his first solo mission. Checking the halls for himself before following, Ezra couldn't help but feel like a character in one those silly TV comedies. Walking down the hall, butterflies emerged in his stomach. He entered the elevator with Dr. C at his side. Coltrane looked over at his stool pigeon and offered some reassurance, "We're going to make it."
Ezra nodded politely. "I sure hope so," he said quietly.
Arriving at the basement floor, Ezra was almost reluctant to step off. Gathering his breath, he walked out into the hallway. Walking down the hallway, he followed Coltrane out the door at the far end. Fresh air never felt so good. Stopping to take a look around, Ezra never thought he'd never be so happy to see the outside of a hospital as he was at that point. Dr. C gestured to a car that was parked at the entryway.
Ezra climbed into the car and buckled up. A fleeting thought crossed his mind that he should be apprehensive about this particular ordeal, but he realized he had nowhere else to go; literally,
Fifteen minutes later, the car pulled into a moderately nice looking hotel. The agent waited in the car while Coltrane went in a paid for a room, the less people to see him the better. Coltrane exited the lobby and drove the car around to the far end of the building. The two got out of the car and Dr. C slid the card through the glide and opened the door. Ezra felt a sudden rush of euphoria as the idea that he was finally free began to sink in. Bouncing down on the bed, he couldn't help but grin. The rushing of emotions was almost too much for him. He laid back on the bed and crossed his arms under his head as he watched Coltrane place the lone piece of luggage he'd retrieved from the trunk into the small closet. The man who had had promised him freedom and risked his license to help was truly a good man.
Coltrane handed him the card and told Ezra he would be back later to check on him. Taking a wad of twenties, he handed them to Ezra. " In case you want to order in some food," he explained.
Ezra accepted the cash with gratitude. "Thank you," Ezra said, sticking out his hand. He found himself suddenly at a loss of words to adequately thank his savior.
"Think nothing of it. I'm glad to have helped," Coltrane said as he returned the handshake.
The next three days were passed in quiet solitude. Dr. Belvin had stopped by once a day in the morning while the ever-loyal Dr. C stopped by in the evening to dispense a small amount of the medications. The doctor had informed the agent that the types of medications he had been on were not the kind that could be cut cold turkey. He would have to slowly reduce the intake or else the repercussions could land the man in the hospital. That threat alone was enough to ensure that Ezra took the pills obligingly. During these visits, the voice always appeared, whispering its desire for revenge upon Chris Larabee and Team Seven.
It was on the third day when the loyal Dr. C stopped by for his evening visit and bought news to Ezra about his old teammates. Coltrane set out the boxes of food he had picked up at the Chinese restaurant on his way to initiating his last step in the destruction of Team Seven. "I heard some news today about your old colleagues," he said impassively, watching Ezra's reaction from the corner of his eye
Ezra tried to hard to appear nonchalant, but wanted to know what the latest was on his colleagues. The desire to rip them apart stilled fueled him daily. "Really? And what's being said these days about the infamous team of men who are no better than canis familiaris "
Coltrane wondered at the irony of those words. Ezra had compared the men to dogs and yet most people who knew Team seven and their loyalty to each other often referred them as a pack of wolves. Turning his attention back to the issues at hand, Coltrane offered the lie, only throwing in tidbits of truth. "I have a friend over at Memorial, who works with your Mr. Jackson's girlfriend," he began before being shut off by Ezra.
He's not 'my Mr. Jackson'," Ezra retorted heatedly.
Coltrane hid his the smile that touched the corners of his mouth and shrugged. "Anyway, Rain, I believer her name is, was telling him that the team has a bust going down tomorrow. Apparently, Mr. Jackson has no problem telling his girlfriend everything that goes on at the office. Including the confidential stuff," the convict said, easily lying.
"So, it's business as usual?" Ezra said more to himself than to the man in the room with him. The tone was sad and heavy.
"It appears that way," Coltrane replied, letting the other man feel in charge of the situation. "Guess Mr. Larabee is going to get away with what he did,scot-free."
The anger and rage built like a storm inside of Ezra, as the memories of all the injustices he had incurred over the past few years with these men gathered and forged together. Hundreds of different scenes smashed and collided, formed and reinforced the structure of Ezra's will to not be beaten down by those men who once called him friend. The tide inside bubbled to an over cascading desire to seek his vengeance, the voice in his head now telling him over and over what he must do. Without a doubt, the only way to save himself was to destroy Team Seven and the only way to do that was to kill Chris Larabee.
Reigning in his feelings, Ezra asked carefully, "So, perchance did Miss Rain tell your good friend where this operation would be taking place?"
"Indeed she did. It's a warehouse." Coltrane rolled his eyes for dramatic effect. "But isn't that always the case?"
Ezra let out a genuine chuckle. It was true; more times than he wished to think about, he had concluded the end of business in one of those hallow buildings.
"I believe he said it would be by the old dog food cannery." Coltrane had to let the smile grow a little as he recognized another referral to dogs had been made. Shrugging indifferently, Dr. C. went to his briefcase and pulled out a 9mm gun. Seeing Ezra's lightened, but confused expression, he explained, "I figured you felt…incomplete being without one. I picked it up off one of the many hoodlums that grace our ER frequently. No trace," he finished, placing the gun on the bed. "I have be out of town for a couple of days. I will see you when I get back," Coltrane said professionally as he snapped his case shut and headed for the door. "Take care," he said softly.
"As you," Ezra replied, showing him out the door. "Thank you for all your help."
Without saying anything, the two men knew they would never see one another again. Only Coltrane knew the real reason why.
Ezra closed the door on his friend and went back to the bed and sat down. He didn't realize that Coltrane had not given him the required pills. Reaching over, he picked up the shiny black piece and rubbed it unconsciously. Slipping the clip out of the end, he checked the cartridges. Smiling, he slipped the clip back in and laid back on the bed, the gun resting on his chest. By tomorrow night, all his problems would be over with.
Vin sat typing up his report on their latest mission. It had been a little over four weeks since Ezra had disappeared. The team had managed to go on. They started taking on their own cases, but the men, themselves, were not the same. The widely known pranks had stopped. Instead of normal riotous behavior, the bullpen was quiet to a point it was wrecking havoc on the secretaries' nerves. Everyone knew without one of their men, the whole team felt unbalanced. The other teams were sure the same thing would be happening if Jackson, Sanchez or even the kid, Dunne, were the one gone. Without all seven, the team just wasn't complete.
The phone on Vin's rang and the sharpshooter answered without bothering to look at it. On the end came the voice of one his snitches, 'Tony'.
"Hello," Vin answered.
"Hey, Vin," Tony replied.
"Hey, T," Vin said. He never said Tony's name out loud, professional courtesy. Of all his snitches, Tony was one the more reliable ones.
"Look, I got news about your missing man. That fancy undercover one that went missing," Tony said quickly. The guy reminded Vin of JD when he was excited, except Tony talked like that all the time.
Vin perked up and the sudden change in mood had all the guys wondering what was going on. "Ezra? You saw him?" Vin asked, trying not to get his hopes up.
"Yeah, man, that's what I called for," the snitch said.
I'm listening," the agent said, watching the others perk up at the possibility of finding their lost brother.
"Well, I seen him other day with Mr. Richards and just awhile ago I saw two of Mr. Richard's goons drive up to that warehouse near the old dog food cannery. Looked like they were dragging a body into it. Could be your boy got made," Tony said in a hurried breath.
Vin tried to calm his racing heart. "Thanks, Tony, I'll check it out," Vin said casually, already standing and reaching for his coat.
"Anytime, man," Tony said and hung up the phone. Turning to the man standing beside him, he waited expectantly to be handed the folded bills that he had been promised. Instead he got a bullet. He crumpled to the ground dead before he could even process what had happened.
Josiah's heart had sped up at the sound of Ezra's name. He, like Vin, tried not to get his hopes up. Seeing Vin reach for his coat, the profiler stood, as did the others, and started pulling on his own jacket. With any luck, they would be bringing that southern pain-in-the-neck home and not let him out of their sight for quite a while.
Buck had stood up and practically raced into Chris' office at the sound of Ezra's name. Pushing the door open without knocking, he excitedly claimed, "We got a line on Ezra."
Chris' head jerked up at the sound of someone crashing through his door. Before he could yell at Buck, the word, 'Ezra', was resounding through his head. Grabbing his coat from the back of his chair, the blond followed his best friend out the door and noticed everyone else was already gathered.
Team Seven was on a mission and nothing was going to get in their way. They split up once they got to the parking garage. Josiah and Nathan getting in with Chris and Vin, while Buck and JD taking the older man's truck. Everyone's hearts were beating like a jet taking off in their chests. They had had several tips before and false leads, but Vin was almost sure this was not either one of those and everyone else was feeding of Vin's vibrations.
Pulling up to vacant warehouse, Chris fell into his leadership role. He motioned for Josiah and Nathan to scout around the back and Buck and JD to take the side entrances. He and Vin gave the men a hundred count, wanting to give Josiah and Nathan plenty of time to exit from the back. Entering cautiously, Chris and Vin kept their weapons out front, constantly scoping for danger in case of a set up. Meeting up with Buck and JD, each showing their disappointment at not finding their comrades, they nearly jumped out of their skins when a southern drawl exclaimed, "Well, Mr. Larabee, today is not your day." The four men whipped around towards the voice and found their friend and brother pointing a gun at them with a deadly look on his face.
Ezra had taken a cab to the old warehouse and sent the driver on his way; never realizing that the warehouse he had been sent to was the same one where he and his team had taken down Coltrane two years earlier. Walking into the large building, he wondered if Dr. C had gotten his information right. He had had the cab driver drive around the blocks a couple of times and never spotted any of the usual tells that an agent would know to look for when other agents were in the area, no matter how well hidden. He thought he had perhaps arrived earlier than the set timetable and finally gotten out and walked into the warehouse. He had been in one of the deserted offices when he heard footsteps out in the open building, the voices ricocheting off the tin walls. Walking quietly out into the main factory, he saw four of his ex-friends gathered at one end of the structure. Slowly he made his way towards them, the pictures of their betrayal that had been dredged up over the past couple of weeks flashing through his mind at a dizzying speed. Gun drawn, he approached the traitors.
"Ezra!" The four men shouted in various stages of emotions.
"Shut up!" he snapped. The men froze in shock.
Giving an ugly snort, the southerner said, "You thought you had gotten rid of me, didn't you. Well, surprise, Mr. Larabee! Looks like this time I'm in control." His normal loquacious, fancy words gone, replaced by cold hard ones.
Chris looked at the other men and realized they were just as confused about this scene as he was. Looking back at the man holding the gun on them, he realized by the look in the hard, cold green eyes that the man that stood before them wasn't the same man he called friend. Putting his hands out to the sides, he knew he had become Ezra's main focus and had to keep it centered on him for the sake of his men's lives. "Ezra, what are you talking about," he asked more calmly than he felt.
"Don't act innocent with me," the undercover agent snarled.
A bone-chilling smile appeared on his face. "When we're in front of a crowd, you have no trouble yelling and humiliating me, but now it's smooth talking and 'let's talk'. Well, time for talking is over," he finished.
"Ezra, don't! " Buck exclaimed, taking the attention off his blond friend. He had seen the look in Ezra's eyes before and it wasn't good. Ezra had murder on his mind and the only way out of this was keeping the man with the gun off-balanced until they could contain him.
Swiveling his head to focus on the big agent, Ezra's expression turned to rage. The gun stayed pointed at the blond. Don't? Don't what, Mr. Wilmington? Don't shoot, like you shot me? Even though it was with drugs instead a bullet." Turning to Chris, he said, "Sending your lackey to carry out your orders didn't work, did it? So then, you had to cover your tracks. Though I have to admit, putting me in a psychiatric hospital was a clever idea on your part," he ended with a mock look of appreciation.
"Ezra, what's wrong with you?" Buck asked. He didn't understand any of this and he was certainly confused at being labeled a murderer. "I have never shot you," he said in disbelief.
Seeing Buck's shocked face, Ezra said, "Don't act surprised with me, Mr. Wilmington. I saw you shoot me and we both know it wasn't the first time you tried killing me. You left me with those beastly carnivores at the zoo. Planned failed, though, didn't it? Had to try again?"
No one interrupted Ezra. They couldn't, even if they wanted to. The scene being played out was too unreal. Like being sucked down the rabbit hole. Everything was upside down and backwards. Surreptitiously, Buck took a step in front of JD. Ezra saw the move and his anger only seemed to grow. "Taking care of little innocent JD, are you, Mr. Wilmington?" Ezra asked heatedly.
Turning his attention to the young computer genius, Ezra sneered, "But we both know you're not as innocent and naïve as you pretend, don't we, Mr. Dunne? Had to go along with Chris' plan so I couldn't blow the whistle on you, huh? Going so far as to come to the hospital and look ever so sorrowful while you lied to the doctors and denied my identity."
JD opened his mouth to say something, but was interrupted by more of Ezra's ranting.
"Just like you!" Ezra shouted, turning his attention suddenly to the longhaired sharpshooter. "Now, who's laughing, Mr. Tanner. Playing all young and concerned," the undercover agent began trembling with hurt. "All those pranks we played as a team. But, we weren't a team, were we? It was just me getting the reprisals while you skipped away scot-free because nobody messes with Larabee's golden boy. Right? That's why it was so easy for you to set up that Jeep explosion? You knew I would get the blame. Or were you hoping I would get killed?" Ezra asked, the pain showing plainly on his face.
"Ezra!" Vin said shocked. Being called Larabee's golden boy didn't hurt half as much as seeing how much Ezra believed the accusations. He wondered just what had happened to his friend in those four weeks.
The four men stood frozen, trying desperately to get a grasp on the situation. Chris wanted this to end well. Killing another agent would have sat hard on him in any circumstance, but having to kill a man that was as close to him as a brother would destroy him and everyone else on the team. Knowing he had to keep Ezra's attention, Chris bit down the urge to run over Ezra and take him down forcibly; there were too many variables were in the way, namely his other friends.
"Ezra," Chris called sharply to get the man's attention. "If I wanted you gone like you think I do, why didn't I do it myself? Do you honestly think I'm the type of man that sends other people to do mywork?"
"You're the type of man that stays alive, Mr. Larabee," Ezra answered truthfully.
The gun began wavering ever so slightly as his vision clouded with moisture. "Why didn't you just tell me to leave? You wouldn't be the first not to want me. I could have dealt with that. I would have bowed out gracefully and quietly. I would have left your team intact and not smeared the good reputation we had built. Why did you have to destroy me? Why did you have them destroy me?" Ezra's voice quivered just enough to be noticed.
"I didn't do this, Ezra. No matter what you think I, or we, did, you have to know that in your heart. You're good at reading people. You would have seen the lie if my hate really existed," Chris said, trying to reach through whatever muddled brains his friend had to reach the inner core, the core that knew the absolute truth.
Ezra's hand shook. It was a trick. Larabee was just trying to save his skin and those of his men. The green eyes closed briefly, different images than the ones he had recently been seeing warped through his mind. He wouldn't listen to any more lies this man told him. Opening his eyes, he pressed his thumb to the grip and squeezed his finger as a force hit him from behind, knocking him to the ground and dazing him.
Ezra looked up to find the largest agent straddling him. The big hands forced his fingers opened to get the gun away. "Noooo!" The southerner screamed. "You're not taking me back there."
Ezra tried to fight back, but looking up into the gray-blue eyes he had once trusted, he realized it was futile. They had won after all. Fear raced up through him as he realized he would never get away now. They would either kill him or send him to another psyche unit for the rest of his life. The reality seeped into his brain with intense clarity. The only way to survive until his death was to stop existing in reality. Ezra withdrew inside of himself. His failure laughed at him all the way into the darkness until he could longer hear the voices or the taunting.
Nathan dodged Josiah and raced to where Chris laid. Buck and Vin had hit their knees and began assessing the damage. Ezra had jerked the gun at the last second and had only shot Chris in the arm. Ripping the sleeve open, Buck's hand shook as he tried to put pressure on the bleeding wound. Chris hissed at the fresh pain. "Sit me up," he ordered.
Without argument, Vin and Buck sat the leader up as Nathan began attending the gunshot wound. Chris leaned heavily on his oldest friend. Looking over to where Josiah straddled the undercover agent, Chris asked quietly, "Josiah?"
The profiler looked down on the man he considered a friend. He realized wherever Ezra's mind was, it wasn't in the present. Turning his sad gray eyes toward his leader, he answered, "Gone." That was the only explanation he had for what Ezra was mentally.
His plan had failed. Coltrane had set up the inside of the warehouse with a live feed cam recorder so he could watch the downfall of the team he had so carefully constructed. Now he was slamming the side of the car door with his fist repeatedly. What had gone wrong? Ezra was raging on about the injustices done to him, just like he should have been doing and was perfect for killing the team leader. Why then had he jerked the gun at the last second? Why hadn't the team killed him for shooting Larabee, or even before Ezra could shoot the leader? That's what he had counted on. It was well-known these men were completely devoted to the man and would seek retribution on those who did one of their own harm, so why not kill Ezra for his attempt to kill the blond leader?
Coltrane slammed his hand against the upholstery once again before ordering his driver to vacate the premises. He would catch his plane tonight as planned and leave the country forever. He had no worries about being connected to any of this. If someone were to halfway listen to the mind mush talk of the agent and do some follow up research, they would learn that Lakeside had no records of the agent ever being admitted to the hospital and they would find no record for a Dr. Comantaryian. He was safe. Let Belvin worry about himself.
News that the missing agent had been found buzzed through the ER long before his arrival. How he became to the state he was in upon his arrival, however, was not known and the information was not forthcoming. The six men were still loyal to the seventh, no matter what had gone down in the warehouse. Chris was whisked into a surgical ER room, followed by JD, Buck and Vin. They would stay with their leader while Nathan and Josiah followed Ezra into another examination room. The undercover agent was still locked away in his own world. Nathan and Josiah backed up against the wall and waited for a physician to appear. Since Ezra had no apparent injury, they would have to wait until a physician became available or, more likely whichever one drew the short stick.
Josiah mentally replayed the entire scene at the warehouse over again in his mind. When he and Nathan had first come upon their lost brother, ranting and waving a gun at the four other family members, they had nearly had a stroke. Watching Chris garner most of Ezra's wrath, the two men had quietly snuck up behind the agent. They waited for the agent to come to his senses or give them some kind of signal that it was all a ploy. The had hoped the undercover agent had found himself mixed up with a case. They knew it was farfetched, but it was better than believing the alternative. When neither occurred and it appeared the Ezra was going to shoot Chris, Josiah had tackled the man before he could get off a second shot.
Nathan interrupted the profiler's thoughts, "Can't believe he cracked. I figured he'd drive one of us crazy before he went."
Josiah heaved a heavy sigh. "Not sure he went willingly," he said.
Nathan whirled around to look at the large man. "What are you saying?" Nathan demanded.
"I'm saying, I think he had help," the profiler explained. Seeing the troubled look on his friend's face, he began explaining all the troubling details he had found with Ezra's ranting. "For starters, he accused Chris of putting him in a psyche ward. Then, he blamed Vin for setting up the Jeep to explode. Chris and Vin, both, had thought it would be funny to leave the table and go outside, and neither knew about Jarvis waiting for them in the car."
Josiah drew in another breath. "Then he claims he saw Buck shoot him. If you're telling me something that happened to you, you don't say, 'I saw it.' You would say something like, 'I was there,' or, 'I know what happened.' " Shrugging his shoulders, Josiah said tiredly, "I don't know. I just have a feeling that Ezra had help falling over the edge."
Josiah went quiet. He knew something was wrong with the picture, knew to the core of his being. Ezra skated on the edge of life, but that's where he liked it, where he lived the best. Ezra wouldn't just fall over that edge, not without help. The profiler shook his head. All they had to do was figure out who did this, what was done and how to reverse the effects. Josiah looked down at his crossed arms. It always seemed to him if something wrong was going to happen to one of them, it was always one of the three youngest members of the team, more Ezra than the others.
Nathan looked at his troubled friend's face and said, "If you believe it, then it's good enough for me."
The curtain was pulled aside, drawing Nathan and Josiah's attention as a young nurse walked in. Nurse Mandlin, being engaged, needed every dollar she could get her hands on. When they had posted a sign-up sheet for nurses to work extra shifts on different floors due to the nursing shortage, she hadn't hesitated. She had been a bit apprehensive though when they placed her in the ER. The only time she spent time here was during her nursing school rotations, but it was where she had been assigned so she had showed up and been prepared to be used as a go-fer.
She had been truly surprised when she had been asked take the blood pressure of the patient in exam one. By then rumors were flying that the man had tried to kill the leader of the infamous Team Seven. Walking towards the room, she had a sinking feeling in the pit of her stomach. Every since Mr. Hammond had disappeared from the floor four days ago, she had been worried about the man. She hoped the patient behind the curtain wasn't going to be Mr. Hammond, himself.
Walking into the small exam room, she took note of the two big agents standing off in the corner. She nodded once to them and forced a weak smile. Stepping up to the bed where the patient laid, she sighed. "Oh, Mr. Hammond, what have you done?"
At the familiarity the nurse seemed to have with their friend, both men became more interested. Stepping forward, Josiah asked casually, "You know this man?"
Mandlin nodded sadly. "This is Mr. Hammond. He came to the floor about a month ago, delusional and suicidal. He kept claiming to be a member of your team. Dr. Belvin became his psychiatrist; he really cared a lot about Mr. Hammond. Even persuaded that Mr. Larabee and two of his agents to come up and talk with him," the nurse rattled on as she took the man's vitals. "Dr. Belvin was making wonderful progress with man, devoted a lot of time to him before he escaped four days ago."
Josiah and Nathan had come to full attention by now. The news flowing over them like a tidal wave. Barely glancing at one another, Josiah stepped forward a bit more and prepared to draw more information out of the helpful nurse.
"This Dr. Belvin, is he on staff here?" Josiah asked.
"Well, yes," Mandlin answered confusedly. A sneaking suspicion that something was wrong niggled at her. "In fact, he's on call tonight, so if the ER doctor has called him yet, he should be coming down in a minute. Then he'll have Mr. Hammond readmitted to the psyche floor," she added, suddenly feeling the need to be very helpful to these particular gentlemen.
"Is that so? Well, I'm glad. Be nice to meet the doctor who has been treating Mr. Hammond," Nathan said, his voice a little too sugary for the nurse's taste.
It didn't bode well for Dr. Belvin. Whatever Dr. Belvin had done, she didn't want to get mixed up in any of it. The look on these men's faces told her that would be the biggest mistake of her young life. "In fact, I think I'll go make sure they page Doctor Belvin," Nathan added before stepping outside the room.
Stepping out of the cubicle and walking through the doors to the waiting room, Nathan pulled out his cell phone and hit the hit the speed dial; immediately getting a hold of Buck. "Yeah?" the gregarious man answered, his voice thick with sadness.
"Yeah, Buck. How's Chris doing?" Nathan asked first.
"Too ticked off to do anything but growl at everyone in sight," Buck answered heavily.
"Listen, I need you and Vin to get over to this side, now. We got a big problem and it isn't Ezra," Nathan directed, then sighed. "Well, it is, but it isn't," Nathan shook his already confused mind. "Just get over here."
"Be right there," Buck said, the seriousness catching the other's attention.
Clicking his phone off, he looked over at Chris who was glaring at him for information. "Don't know, Chris. Nathan needs Vin and me over where they're at; now," Buck stated factually, but unable to keep the concern out of his voice.
Chris raised his brow and nodded his consent. The pain medication was finally kicking in and making him extremely tired. Vin and Buck headed for the door, JD watched them leave. JD took Vin's chair that sat closer to the bed where his boss was finally losing his battle against the medicine and falling asleep. JD stared against the far wall and pondered the events leading up to this moment. Ezra had insinuated he was trying to pull some kind of con over on the rest of the guys by acting naive. He wondered if that was really how Ezra saw him, just another liar and betrayer. The young agent closed his eyes and prayed that they, as a team, weren't done just yet. He had had so much faith in them as a whole. There was nothing they couldn't get through if they just stuck together. He knew it. Like Josiah said, "It was destiny they had come together."
Memorial was a large hospital with forty-eight beds in the ER alone. Buck and Vin made the short trip around the corner in a matter of minutes. Meeting up with Nathan out in the hall, the medic gave a brief rundown of everything he and Josiah had learned in the past few minutes before sliding back the curtain and stepping into the small cubicle.
Nurse Mandlin looked up at the newcomers and gasped. Staring at Vin, she shook her head and took another look. The four agents wondered what was wrong. Josiah stepped forward and placed a hand on her elbow. "Are you all right, Ms.?"
"I…I'm sorry. You just look so much like that nice young agent, Mr. Larabee bought up to visit Mr. Hammond," she said, trying to get over the likeness of the two men.
She stopped talking for a moment and then said, "Funny, but I always imagined the leader to be taller and more…" animating with her hands, she grasped for the right words. "I don't know...more fearsome. I don't know. The man just wasn't that scary. Not like I heard he was anyway," looking at Josiah to see if she made sense. He kindly nodded his head.
The nurse looked over at Vin again. "When you… or the one who looked like you came to visit, he," she paused and looked down on Ezra with a smile. "He was so happy to see you. After you left though, Mr. Hammond became quite depressed. He couldn't understand why his friends wouldn't acknowledge him."
Vin felt anger boiling up inside of threatening to explode. Just how far did this culprit, whoever he is, go to destroy Ezra's faith in them? He wanted to shake her and tell this nurse, he wasn't that person. He didn't turn his back on his friends. He wasn't the type of person to hurt the people he cared about. Instead all Vin could do was stand there and take the comparison. The sharpshooter tightened his jaw and formulated a plan of his own for the villain who thought he could get away with messing with his family.
It wasn't long until Dr. Belvin was paged to the ER. Muttering under his breath, he sat up in his leather office chair and made his way down the hall to the elevators. Walking through the ER, he stopped at the circular nurses desk and asked about the patient that he had been called down to do an evaluation on.
"Some nut job. Tried to take on the world and lost," the nurse at the desk explained briefly. She had already been coached on what she was to say by the very sweet but serious ladies' man.
Dr. Belvin rubbed his brow, picked up the chart and headed for the room. Walking into the small area, he walked up to the bed and froze. "What the…What are you doing back here? You're suppose to have killed Larabee and be dead yourself," he whispered angrily. He could feel sweat popping out everywhere and he took deep breaths to retain his breathing. Something had gone very wrong with Coltrane's plan.
His mind whirled as to what to do. Noting with relief that no one, especially agents, was around, he decided he would simply slip back into his previous role and get the man upstairs as quickly as possible. Patting the isolated agent on the arm, the doctor said loud enough for passerby's to hear, "Don't worry, Mr. Hammond, I'll take care of you."
"I bet you, you don't," Josiah said angrily as he and the other big agents walked into the confined space.
Dr. Belvin turned at the sound and gulped hard at finding himself face to face with members of the elite ATF squad. He couldn't think of enough words to get himself out of this mess. He wondered if Coltrane knew about this and had no doubt the man did. He then wondered why the convict hadn't contacted him and warned him. So many thoughts were flying through his muddled brain that he didn't realize he had been handcuffed until Vin was halfway through the Mirandizing. Buck grabbed the physician roughly and turned him to face the other three men.
"You can either help us out or take the fall entirely by yourself, and let me promise you something: interfering with a federal agent's life will not go well for you," Buck growled, the true fury of his hatred could be felt.
Dr. Belvin merely nodded his head, swallowed hard and accepted the terms as he was manhandled out into the hall. He wasn't going down for what Coltrane had done and obviously left him to take the fall for.
Nathan and Vin moved over to Ezra's side. Looking down into the green eyes that stared blankly into space, Vin leaned over, took his friend's hand and whispered, "Not letting you go that easy, pard."
Nathan stood on the other side of the bed, absently patting a limp arm. Never before had he felt so utterly helpless. Reinforcing Vin's words, he added his own sentiment, "Don't know what all happened to you, Ezra, but we aren't quitting that easy. Don't you quit either."
The emergency room staff stood where they were, as they watched in shock and a deep sinking feeling in the pits of their stomachs as Buck and Josiah yanked Dr. Belvin down the corridor to where Chris lay resting. The staff was waiting for a room to be assigned to the unhappy blond agent. If the truth was known, the floors where the members of this team usually went were having a fight over who had to take them this time. Surgical touted they had the men the last time, while Orthopedics was screaming they were still trying to recover from the team's last visit to the floor. The ER had seen bad news written all over the two big agents dragging the doctor to the blond's room and encouraged everyone to step up the process. The news only made things worse. It was going to be awhile before Chris Larabee got a room off the Emergency floor.
Chris half-roused when Buck came back into the room. JD took one look at his good friend and knew, whatever Buck had to say, it wasn't going to be good. He looked expectantly at his friend and got a curt nod. JD let out a deep breath, at least Ezra was still okay. Gently, Buck shook his friend's good arm. "Chris, need you to wake up. It's important," Buck said gruffly.
The blond opened his eyes and then closed them. He was just too tired to deal with any more problems tonight, besides the pain medication was in full swing. "Deal with it, Buck," he ordered.
"Someone messed with your boy," Buck stated heatedly, knowing what those words would do to the blond. "Ezra was a victim sent to destroy you, to destroy us," Buck said, the last part stated with more venom.
Chris came awake instantly. Anyone hurting one of his men to get to him was not acceptable. He was a man who belonged in times of old, when a handshake was a man's bond and, if you had a problem with a person, you took the problem to them and didn't pick on an innocent. Chris struggled to find the remote to sit the bed up and struggled to get his faculties up and running.
Buck called Josiah's name and the profiler dragged the doctor into the room by his lapels. Chris' eyes opened wide and looked to Buck for an explanation. The black-haired man introduced the doctor and then Josiah gave the man a good shake by the arm to prompt him in telling everything he knew.
Dr. Belvin spilled everything. He started when Coltrane paid for his schooling, Coltrane's release from prison, and the man's visit to insure he had Belvin's cooperation in the plan. Belvin explained in detail how Coltrane had paid the wannabe actors to portray different members of the team at different times. How they shot Ezra at his home with the sedative and removed him to another location before bringing him to hospital. Belvin told how Ezra had fought against being a patient and believing it was the leader who set it all up. He told how Ezra had almost escaped twice. He named the medications Ezra was given so his mind was more susceptible to indoctrination. The doctor told how Coltrane used the drugs and brainwashing to turn Ezra against Chris and the others and how Ezra finally quit fighting and succumbed to the beliefs that he should kill Chris. Finally, he retold how Coltrane had set up the meeting between Ezra and the team. He even hazarded a guess that Coltrane had witnessed the entire proceedings somehow.
By the end of his spill, Dr. Belvin was having his doubts about leaving the room alive. The looks from his two arresting officers were scary as it was, but the look coming from the blond man ripping the IV out of his arm and stalking towards him made him a death-row convert.
Chris grabbed the man around the throat and pushed him against the wall. None of the other three men moved to stop him. Buck and Josiah were seething at the torment their friend must have gone through. The mental fight he must have put up at the beginning to believe that it wasn't true and then the crushing reality that was real, as the brainwashing and drugs took their toll, that his teammates, his family had turned against him.
"How did Coltrane do all this? He couldn't have done it all by himself. Someone had to have helped him," Chris declared forcibly, tightening his grip a little tighter.
"A lawyer. I think the man was his lawyer," Belvin supplied.
Chris slowly eased off his grip and let Josiah have the man back. It was almost too much too fast. The leader looked at the sniveling weasel with such a hate-filled glare, the doctor was pretty sure he was going to melt right into a puddle. Now he understood about the fractious animosity this team caused amongst hospital staff.
JD had stood in shock listening to the blow-by-blow account of Ezra's so-called treatment. The fact that he, or rather a look-alike had been used against his friend ate at JD. The young agent was crushed. How were they ever going to convince Ezra none of the bad stuff was true? Chris stared hard into the pale eyes of the wimpy doctor before him, restraining the desire to kill him. "You helped destroy a man's life, now you're going to help destroy another's," Chris demanded. Dr. Belvin's agreed without a second thought.
End Part 2
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