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A look at why JD is tied up with Ezra and Nathan makes an appearance
Sequel to: 03 Symptoms
The battered U-Haul truck pulled up in front of the rundown clapboard house a little after daybreak on a Saturday morning, a time when the streets were quiet and mostly deserted.
JD yawned as he climbed down from the cab and made his way up the steps to the front door. He knocked sharply, even as his careful gaze kept a lookout, not out of fear but out of a streak of practical common sense well developed over the last few years.
The door opened an a young boy stood there, his stance weary with a simmering hostility.
"What you want?"
"Tell the doctor a friend is here to see him."
Dark eyes grew even more hostile. "You don't look sick to me."
"I have a good make-up artist."
"Funny. Ain't nothing worse than a white man who thinks he's funny."
"Just get the doctor for me." JD raised his jacket slightly to show the gun holstered underneath his shirt. "Or I'll have to get him for you."
The boy rolled his eyes. "Whatever." Still, he turned and walked towards the back of the house.
"I'm sorry I don't know who you are but there isn't a doctor here...." The tall young gentleman began before stopping. "What do you want?"
"Good to see you again, too, Nathan." JD sauntered back onto the porch and gestured towards the van. "I brought you a present."
Nathan Jackson stared at the van without moving.
"Oh go on, Doc," JD shrugged impatiently. "It's not a bomb or anything. Go check it out."
"I told him I didn't want anything to do with any of his .... Illegalities."
JD laughed harshly. "Considering what you do here you can't really be moralizing about Ezra's illegal actions."
"I help people." Nathan hissed sharply.
"You practice medicine without a license." JD pointed out calmly. "Unless you've managed to graduate from med school since the last time we spoke."
"Keep your voice down." Nathan turned towards JD. "Look I have no choice. If I didn't help these people they wouldn't get any help. There aren't exactly a lot of doctors lining up to open a clinic in this neighborhood. And most of the people around here can't afford those HMO's where they have to wait 12 weeks for an appointment for a physician's assistant to take five minutes to tell them there's nothing wrong with them. Besides, most of what I do is help people take better care of themselves. And tell them when they need to see a real doctor. Ain't much more that I can do with the little bit of equipment I've managed to gather over the years."
"You ever think about going back to medical school Nathan?"
Nathan shook his head. "Same reason I dropped out still applies. Not enough money. Or time. Between my shifts at the station and my work here, I don't have a lot of time for anything else."
JD looked away and then walked towards the van, beckoning Nathan to follow. "Yeah I know. Look, Nathan, I didn't mean anything. I know you're doing a lot of good for the people around here. I've seen what the public clinic looks like and this place is a hell of a better alternative. I just stopped by to give you a present from Ezra."
JD started to open the door but Nathan stopped him. "Look JD. I already told you and I told Ezra. I don't want anything to do with what he does. I made a few phone calls to some college buddies and found him those bodies last week. He helped out with that problem we had with those crack dealers last Spring."
"And before that you patched him up, put your life on the line to save him." JD shook his head. "Ezra ain't ever going to consider the two of you even and you know it." JD grinned mischievously. "Besides now that he's your landlord so to speak...."
"Don't remind me." Nathan paused. "I appreciate the fact that I don't have to worry about paying the rent anymore but...."
"Just look in the truck Nathan."
With a resigned sigh, Nathan opened the back of the truck and sighed.
JD grinned. "Yeah I know."
"I want to send it back."
"Figured you would."
"But you know that I need it to much to say no."
"Figured that too."
Nathan looked up from the state of the art x-ray machine and at JD. "I suppose he's got the rest covered too."
"Contractor shows up at 7 AM tomorrow to convert that shed in the back into an x-ray room."
"I hate him."
"Man is too arrogant for his own good."
"Arrogant is a pretty good word to describe Ezra."
Nathan looked at JD for a long moment. "So why do you stay with him. You're young. You could go to college. Find some nice girl to settle down with. House with a picket fence in the country."
JD laughed. "Tried college, didn't like it. Picket fences are best used as weapons." JD paused for effect. "And who says I'm looking for a nice girl to settle down with."
JD grew serious. "I owe him."
"Among other things." JD climbed up to get the dolly. "Let's just say that it's a debt it will take me a while to work out." JD changed the subject, not wanting to answer any more questions. "Come on Doc, let's get this unloaded before I lose my deposit on the truck."
Ezra flipped open the laptop as he took a sip of his latte, glancing over the newspaper. Putting the coffee down, he quickly hit the keys that would get him online and into his email.
There were five messages in the email account that JD had set up for him. Two were from disgruntled workers looking to get rid of their bosses. He deleted those automatically. One was from a ten year old girl wanting something bad to happen to her stepfather. He checked that one and saved it. He'd do some checking and find out exactly why she wanted her stepfather to suffer. If he needed it, he'd make sure the man suffered on several levels. The last two emails caught his attention. One was from a contact in the CIA indicating that agency's willingness to pay for the assassination of a certain head of state in a Caribbean country. He grinned. JD had wanted to travel some place warmer for a while. The last message was from an old friend and Ezra felt his heart stop as he read it.
It was one sentence. Less than five words. A sentence cut and pasted from a newspaper article and scanned into the computer.
Industrialist Dunne runs for Senate.
Ezra quickly clicked on the link below the sentence.
There it was, a full article complete with smiling picture.
Wealthy patriarch. Trophy wife. Two point five children.
Swearing heavily, Ezra unplugged the computer and found himself staring at the blank screen.
Three years earlier.
Ezra Standish walked into the bar of the Sheraton Hotel, his gaze flickering over the assorted tourists gathered there before landing on the quiet figure sitting in the back.
"Morgan. It's Mrs. Morgan now. My ex-husband and I have been divorced for ten years."
Ezra stared at the woman, noting the exhaustion that was clearly marked on her face and the dark shadows under her eyes.
"Morgan." Ezra smiled kindly, there was something about the woman in front of him that he liked. A quiet strength and confidence that his own mother had completely lacked. Forcing himself away from that topic, Ezra turned back to Mrs. Morgan.
"How can I help you Mrs. Morgan?"
Catherine Morgan hesitated. "A friend of mine gave me your phone number. You had helped her husband with a business problem. She.... She said you were very good at what you did and very discrete."
"I killed her husband's business rival." Ezra stated bluntly and watched with satisfaction as she paled slightly but didn't falter. "Somehow I don't think you want me to kill anyone for you Mrs. Morgan."
"No.... At least not yet." Catherine took a deep breath. "I'm sorry, this is just a little strange for me."
"Just tell me from the beginning."
"Right. The beginning." Another deep breath. "As you know, I was married to Michael Dunne in 1972. We were both very young. I had a family fortune, left to me by my great-grandfather but Michael... Michael didn't have anything but his charisma and charm. It was enough for me. I was shy, reserved, insecure and he was confident, strong, and sure of himself. We married six months after we met. He didn't even wait until after the honeymoon to start cheating on me. The first few years I blamed myself. I was....not beautiful in the same way Michael was so how could I expect him to be faithful. And really no one I knew had a marriage that was based on fidelity. So I accepted his cheating and went on with my life. I had my charities and he had his work. He started building Dunne Manufacturing using some of the money my family had left me. In 1980 my son Jonathan was born and I was happier than I had ever been. My son was ....is the most important thing in my life. I even thought for a while that my marriage to Michael would grow stronger now that we had a child together."
"I take it it didn't."
"Not a bit. In fact things grew worse. Jonathan we call him JD, was the complete opposite of what Michael wanted in a sun. Where Michael wanted brute force- a football player he could toss the ball to on Sundays, Jonathan was introverted and sensitive. Jonathan loved books and computers, two things his father despised. By the time JD turned ten, they were strangers. And that's when Michael supposedly found true love with his 19 year old secretary."
"That had to hurt."
"Quite the opposite. I think I actually felt relieved. JD and I moved out of the mansion and into a penthouse in Manhattan. It was I think the best time of our lives. Michael married his girlfriend and pretty much left us alone."
"JD got in trouble at school." Catherine sighed. "It was a stupid prank. He got into the school's computer system and changed the grades of every member of his entire class. Completely erased the old grades out of the system in a way that made it so that the school couldn't even retrieve them. The school expelled him and Michael wanted to send him to military school. I couldn't let him do that. JD wouldn't have survived that kind of environment, so I suggested an alternative. Michael was coming to Hong Kong on business for a few years and I suggested that JD go with him and enroll in one of the American schools here in Hong Kong to finish out high school. Michael agreed and JD came here last summer."
"This is all very interesting but I don't see...."
"Here look at this." Catherine handed him a copy of the morning newspaper.
"I don't.... Oh I see." Ezra nodded as he read the article. "Industrialist's Son Kidnapped From School" He skimmed the article briefly before giving it back to the woman. "I know it must be very scary for you and your ex-husband but these kind of things happen all the time here in Hong Kong. They'll contact you or Mr. Dunne demanding some kind of ransom but once you pay it your son will be returned to you."
"My son is going to be killed."
"No he won't, these people don't want your son dead they want the ransom money. I can almost guarantee you that all they want is the money. Nothing else."
"You don't understand." Catherine Morgan's voice shook with hate. "Michael refuses to pay the ransom."
Catherine nodded shaking her head. "The ransom demand came four days ago. It was for one million."
"I know that's a lot but..."
"You don't understand. It's not that Michael can't pay the ransom, it's that he won't. One million is nothing to Michael and apparently that's exactly what his son's life means to him-nothing. He told his lawyer that he wouldn't pay the ransom, that he didn't want to pay the ransom. He said" Catherine's voice almost broke "that it would be a relief if JD died, that JD had always been an embarrassment to him. His new wife had given him two children, a boy and a girl that Michael saw as his true children while JD was only a mistake. I wouldn't even have know what happened if Michael's lawyer hadn't called me. Kent Hamilton had been a friend of both ours when we were younger and he was appalled by what Michael was doing."
Catherine took a deep breath to steady herself. "I called Michael as soon as Kent called me and I begged him to pay the ransom. I told him I would do whatever he wanted, pay him back four or five times what he paid, as long as JD was safe. He laughed at me. Told me not to bother because it was too late." Her hands shook and she tightened her grip on the wine glass to steady them. "I got on the first flight to Hong Kong out of New York but I arrived five hours after the ransom deadline. That was yesterday. Michael, the police....they all think JD is dead by now"
"And you don't."
"I....I can't believe that. Until they show me a body, I have to believe that my son is alive."
"I don't know what you expect me to do."
"Find my son. Bring him back to me alive." Her voice lowered. "And if he's dead, then I want the men who did it dead too."
"It won't be easy..."
"I can pay you whatever you ask."
"It's not that.... It's.... Hong Kong is a city with a lot of places to hide."
"I know. But JD is...the most important thing in my life to me and I will do anything to make sure that he is okay."
Ezra pushed back an old pain. "You love your son, don't you Ms. Morgan?"
"More than anything else."
The two were silent for a moment. "Does he know?"
"Know what?" Catherine turned her gaze away from those piercing green ones.
"That you're dying." Ezra's tone was gentle. "Cancer?"
"I..." Catherine nodded. "Eighteen months ago I was diagnosed with a inoperable tumor. Slow growing. Not really painful. But fatal. Part of why I sent JD to Michael was that I was hoping against hope that Michael would finally see the man JD had become, caring, sensitive, funny, intelligent. A man that Michael could be proud of. Should be proud of. I was hoping.... Except for me, Michael is the only family JD has. I was hoping somehow if JD went to live with Michael that..."
"He would still have a family after you were gone." Ezra finished for her.
Catherine nodded again. "And now my stupidity is going to cost JD his life if you don't help me."
Ezra felt a pang of envy for this young man whose mother loved him so deeply followed up with a pang of sympathy for what it would do to the same young man when he lost her.
"All right. I'll help."
It took Ezra six days to track down JD and his kidnappers. He'd found the teenager tied to a bed in the back room of an opium den, lying in his own waste, his body cut open in places and bruised just about elsewhere. He'd been drugged the entire time he'd been there and listening to his screams, Ezra couldn't be sure what had been reality and what had been hallucinations. He didn't think JD himself knew. And he didn't think it mattered.
It had taken seven days for the drugs to work through JD's system. He'd taken JD to a place he knew in Macaw, refusing to let his mother see the boy until some of the bruises had healed, the cuts had been bandaged, and the shakes subsided. For seven long days and seven even longer nights, Ezra had accompanied JD through hell.
When it was over, he'd watched as JD entered his mother's hotel suite. The reunion had been gratifying to watch. He'd gone with the younger man back to his father's hillside estate, had seen the shock in the older man's face at seeing his son alive. Not joy. Shock. JD had said nothing to his father simply packed a bag and headed for the door. When the bodyguard had tried to restrain him, JD had punched him. When the second one pulled a gun, Ezra had shot his hand off. He'd wanted to shoot the old man, but considering JD's disintegrating control had decided a fast exit was best.
Two hours later he had mother and son back on a plane to New York.
Six months later, JD had tracked him down, showing up at his hotel room in Paris. His mother had died leaving him with a rather significant fortune. In a bit of irony, JD's fortune was slightly larger than his father's. JD could have bought Dunne Manufacturing in a heartbeat. Instead he had used his computer skills to track down the man who had saved his life and stood witness to the darkest moments of his young life with one simple question. Did Ezra need a partner?
It turned out that not only did Ezra need a partner, he also needed a friend.
That had been two and a half years ago.
Ezra stared at the screen and then shook his head. Two and a half years. He'd always meant to pay Mr. Dunne a return visit, but had never quite got around to it.
He remembered again holding JD as he alternated between screaming and shaking as the drugs ravaged his body and tore apart his mind. Ezra had killed many individuals over the last few years. Except for one, they had all been business. Nothing personal involved. He'd made that vow long ago- to never mix business and pleasure.
But for Michael Dunne he might be willing to make an exception.
Buck Wilmington stared at the picture in his hand as he held his cell phone with the other one while he talked to Chris back in Denver.
"Yeah. It looks like we caught a break. A big break. Turns out the government has had Carlos Gambino under surveillance for the last month or so."
"Gambino? The head of the family Gulvani belonged tob?"
"The one and only. Most of what they've got on Gambino is nothing- just the usual meetings at his lawyer's office or checking out business at his warehouse. Except for one meeting. Turns out he met someone for dinner at the Ritz-Carleton."
Buck put the picture down and stared at the young, dark haired man sitting across from Carlos Gambino. "It's only a gut instinct, but something tells me if we can find out the name of our young friend in this picture that it will bring us one step closer to finding our hired killer and taking care of him once and for all."
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Story posted to A Gambler's Lust, The Magnificent Two