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Sequel to: 05 Strength
The storm hit with a fierceness and a speed that took Denver by surprise. Power lines were down throughout the city and emergency response teams were spread thin dealing with the random emergencies that came up as the city slipped into the darkness.
Vin Tanner stood in his hotel room staring down at the packed duffel bag sitting on the bed. Sighing softly, he walked over to the window and found himself staring at the city in front of him. It was time for him to go back to the reservation, the list of things he needed to do had multiplied with every day of his absence. He'd done what he had come to the city to do, check up on Sarah and confront Larrabee.
His eyes closed briefly and then opened again. Maybe that explained his unease, his unwillingness to leave even though he knew it was time to go. What had he hoped to achieve with this trip? Sarah was still in the institution, shut away in her mind as firmly as her body was cement walls. And Larrabee... Vin turned away from the window. Larrabee was...drifting...away from Sarah....away from whom he had been. Vin had never been that close to the silent law enforcement officer, but he had respected the man and admired the way his silent strength anchored Sarah's ebullient nature.
He didn't know the man Chris had become and sadly he didn't think Sarah would have recognized him either. And now he would have to go back and try to convince Sarah's dad that the situation in Denver wasn't as bad as he feared it was.
Maybe it was a mistake to have come.
Still he couldn't have stayed away. Not after the dreams had started. Dreams where he looked up into a crowded city street and found himself staring into eyes a shade of green that still haunted him. He'd look into those eyes, see that smile, and know, really know for the first time, that Ezra was okay. And the ache in his heart would finally lessen.
Vin picked up the duffel bag and looked around the hotel room. It had been a stupid idea. He had been looking for Ezra since he had lost him. What made him think finding him would be this simple? He should have known better.
He didn't belong in the city. He didn't really belong anywhere without Ezra but he especially didn't belong in this city.
With one last look around the room, Vin departed as silently as he had arrived.
The dark figure moved gracefully through the hotel lobby, a leather satchel flung over his shoulder, his trench coat pulled close around him. Not taking much notice of the opulence of his surroundings, he entered the elevator and pushed the button.
Stepping off the elevator on the fifth floor, he made his way down the hallway to room 507. Knocking twice, he waited until the door was opened before walking inside.
Taking off his coat and putting down his bags, he turned to the figure in the corner.
"I'm here." Nathan Jackson failed to keep the slight tinge of bitterness out of his voice. "Now what the hell was so important you needed me here and why all the cloak and dagger...no forget it. I don't want to know what kind of trouble you're in. Just tell me what you want to me to do so I can get back to Portland...."
Nathan stopped as he looked at Standish for the first time.
The man looked like hell. His normally immaculate clothes were wrinkled and his eyes were bloodshot. His gaze darkened as he took in the amber liquid in the glass Standish held.
Nathan growled. "If you brought me here to help nurse you through a hangover I'm going to..."
Ezra's laughter was harsh. "It's scotch my dear Mr. Jackson and I trust that I am far from intoxicated although getting closer by the minute I believe."
"Where's JD?" Nathan stepped closer, flicking on the light as he did so.
The look of pain on Ezra's face made Nathan's stomach tie up in knots.
"Standish? Where the hell is the kid?"
Ezra turned away from Jackson, his eyes dark and bleak. It had been 24 hours since he had left JD and all he had been able to do since was to relive that moment over and over. He'd returned to Denver on automatic pilot, instinct getting him to the relative safety of the hotel, need driving him to contact Jackson and pretty much blackmail the other man into coming to Denver. He'd set up JD's surveillance equipment and patrolled the airwaves searching for some information about his friend's fate.
He'd only started breathing again when he heard that JD was still alive.
And when the panic and the pain had began to recede a little, Ezra had started to plan.
He was going to get JD back. He would not let the other man down.
He wasn't losing someone else he cared about, not like he had lost...
Don't go there....he stopped himself.
And with a glint in his eyes that would even have scared JD, Ezra turned back to the healer.
Denver Memorial Hospital
Buck Wilmington ran a hand through his dark hair as he approached the two police officers that stood guard in front of the room. Sighing wearily, he flashed them his badge and entered the room.
His gaze fell on the still figure lying on the bed and the row of machines that carefully monitored his every shallow breath. Buck whistled softly. He was just a boy. A kid. How had he ended up in this mess anyway.
Buck leaned back against the vinyl chair and his mind went back to those last minutes before the explosion.
He had seen the younger man reach for the grenade. He had seen the last glance between the two men, the resolute expression on Dunne's face and the hint of satisfaction as the other man had escaped.
The determination as he pulled the pin and threw the grenade.
Not caring that he was too close to the explosion.
When the smoke had cleared and the thunder in his ears fell silent, they had found him, lying deathly still.
The doctors had called it a miracle that he had survived the surgery to stop the internal bleeding and repair the damage.
Buck had looked into Chris's eyes as they sat in the waiting room and had known that even if the man lying on the bed survived he'd face a devil of another kind in the form of the tenacious agent. He found his attention caught once more by the youth they had been searching boy. The contradictions in the boy intrigued him. He wasn't a psychologist like Josiah and he didn't claim to understand people like the other man did. But this boy...this kid...this man was a study in contradictions. Unconscious, his eyes closed, he seemed to personify innocence itself. Yet there was something about him, some hint of an expression on his face, that told him that this was a young man who had seen more than his fair share of the dark side of human nature. Buck's gaze trailed to the tracks of heroin scars up and down Dunne's arms. Another contradiction. Dunne had enough strength of character to sacrifice himself to save another and yet if Michael Dunne was to be believed, and Buck wasn't so sure of that fact, his eldest son was nothing but a junkie. A wastrel.
He heard the door open behind him and knew who it was without turning around.
"It doesn't make sense Josiah."
"This. Any of this. How does a kid born with a silver spoon end up working for a killer?"
Josiah was quiet for a moment before pulling up a chair to join Buck in his vigil. "Sometimes." Josiah's voice was soft in the still room. "Sometimes a silver spoon can tarnish."
Buck was silent for a moment remembering the cold expression on the elder Dunne's voice as he described his eldest son. He remembered again all the pictures of his other children and none of this one. And Dunne had yet to visit his son who still lay fighting for his life. Maybe Josiah was right.
"Still with the sketch artist trying to put together a picture of our suspect. I imagine he'll have it on every newscast in the region by 6 o'clock." Josiah was silent for a moment. "I guess we'll have our man soon."
"Reckon so." Buck replied softly his gaze still centered on the unconscious man.
The man who murdered children while they slept.
Chris allowed himself to feel a moment of pure pleasure.
The bastard was his.
He strode into the hospital room and flicked a glance in the direction of the hospital bed before turning to Buck who still maintained his silent vigil.
"How is he?"
"Doc was just in. He's holding his own."
"When can they wake him up? I want some answers and I want them soon."
"Hell Chris ten hours ago he almost died on the table."
Chris's eyes narrowed. "Because he tried to kill himself and us, don't forget that Buck. For all we know he's the killer and the other man....this Evan Sanders is just his accomplice."
Buck laughed. "You don't believe that. He's just a kid Chris."
"He's a prisoner. Our prisoner." Chris's voice was flat. "And even if he isn't our killer he's an accomplice."
Buck drew a deep breath and expelled it slowly. "Look Chris. I know this sounds crazy but I can't help but think that there's something wrong about this. Something were not missing."
"The only thing I'm missing is that bastard behind bars. And something tells me that moment is coming soon. We have a picture Buck. We finally have a face to pin all of his crimes on." Chris gestured to the unconscious man. "And we have him. As soon as he's awake I want him interrogated." A pause. "I want to know what he knows about Evan Sanders or whatever his name really is."
Buck shook his head as he turned his back on Chris for a moment and walked over to the window. "I still think there's..."
"Forget it Buck. Look I appreciate that you like to solve puzzles but as far as I'm concerned this one is already solved." Chris approached the bed. "He's young but we've caught killers who were younger." Buck started to say something but stopped as Chris continued. "Who knows. Maybe the other man took advantage of his drug addiction. Manipulated him. Brainwashed him. It doesn't matter. We'll get the information we need from him and then we'll catch our killer."
The two men were interrupted as Josiah reentered the room. "Mr. Dunne senior is here to see his son. Along with his campaign manager and half the lawyers in Denver. Should I let him in or you want me to stall?"
Chris swore. The last thing he wanted was to have his only witness silenced by a bevy of lawyers. "I don't want him near our prisoner."
"Chris..." Josiah's voice was even. "You can't keep a father from seeing his son."
"No but I can damn well see to it that it happens after we talk to him."
Whatever reply Josiah would have made was lost as the door to the room opened and Michael Dunne entered, his voice loud and booming.
"I want to see my son."
Buck moved from the window. "You mean the same son whose existence you've pretty much ignored."
"Jonathan is my son Agent Wilmington and his relationship with me is none of your business."
"No but the fact that he tried to blow up two federal agents with a grenade is my business." Chris glared at Dunne. "You can talk to your son after we do."
"You blink at my son and I will have your badge." Michael Dunne's voice was cold and Buck found himself wondering at the man's motivation in showing up and playing the protective papa. It wasn't out of any paternal instincts. He'd bet his life on that.
Dunne continued, "I plan on transferring my son to a private facility as soon as the doctors say he can be moved."
Buck turned at the voice that came from the bed and the eyes that flickered open. The tone was harsh and even, but the words were clear.
Buck moved forward and his gaze caught and held the younger man's.
"Keep the bastard away from me." The words came out labored, as if each one was the effort of a lifetime.
The statement was met with silence until Chris broke it with a harsh laugh. "Okay you heard him. Get out."
"He doesn't know what he's saying."
"Get out." Chris repeated himself as he took a step in Dunne's direction looking forward to throwing the other man out if he resisted.
The alarm in Buck's voice caught his attention and Chris turned back to the bed in time to see his witness began to go into convulsions.
"Shit. Josiah get a doctor and Dunne get the hell out of here."
A flurry of activity followed Chris's statement and even as Chris watched the monitor flat lined.
In the hallway, Michael Dunne watched as hospital staff raced into his son's room. Damn Jonathan for showing up like this, just as he was about to get everything he had ever wanted.
"It didn't work."
"They wouldn't let me see him. Dammit." Michael turned to his chief lawyer and trusted friend. "We won't be able to get near him again."
Jacob Hardaway nodded. "I don't think we have any choice here. Your son could destroy everything."
"He's not my son. He was never my son. He always belonged to his mother." Dunne looked straight at Hardaway. "If he makes it, tell the boys to do whatever it takes. I want him dead. The sooner the better."
And with those words Michael Dunne headed down the hallway leaving his lawyer to issue a quiet command to his assistant.
"I don't like this," Nathan whispered to Ezra as they moved the gurney between them.
Ezra almost grinned at the other man from beneath an uneven shock of bleached blonde hair, wire framed glasses, and a gold cross dangling from his ear. He'd spent the hours since JD had been injured caught up in a wave of self-doubt and self-hatred made worse by alcohol and forced inactivity. Now that he was finally doing something, even something as dangerous as they planned, he felt better, stronger.
Less the helpless victim.
More the avenging angel.
"You don't have to like this." Ezra followed the other man onto the elevator. "Just don't forget what you need to do."
"You mean pass myself off as a doctor and get into see a patient whose probably guarded better than the gold at Fort Knox."
"Why Mr. Jackson you make it sound so easy," Ezra replied.
Nathan laughed and then took a deep breath. He could do this. If Standish could play this game than he could play it too. Maybe even better. He'd go in and find out how JD was doing. If it looked like he was able to be moved, they'd move him. How they would accomplish that without the FBI catching them he wasn't quite sure of.
The elevator stopped and Nathan grinned grabbed the bedding and towels from beneath the gurney. The door to the ICU unit was at the end of the hall. Two police officers stood guard at the ICU entrance. He expected to find several more waiting in front of JD's room.
He fingered the ID badges that Ezra had made up for him after using JD's computer to hack into the hospital security system. They looked real to him. Now he just had to hope they looked real to the officers.
"Relax Mr. Jackson." Ezra reminded him as they began to wheel the gurney down the hall. "Act natural and everything will be fine."
"If I was acting natural I'd be back at the clinic in Portland."
"So imagine this is your clinic and I'm your nurse."
Nathan just barely managed to stop himself from laughing as they approached the two police officers.
As Ezra kept his gaze focused on the gurney, Nathan showed the false ID to the officer.
"We're here to pick up a patient to take down to surgery. Mrs. Johnson in 217 A." Nathan was surprised by how calm he was.
"You guys here to guard that kid they brought in. I heard some of the techs in the ER talking about how messed up he was. I guess he thought he was tough enough to go up against a grenade." Ezra kept his voice casual, light, and friendly. "The whole place is talking about him. I'm just glad you guys are here to watch him and make sure he stays locked up."
"Don't worry. He's not going anywhere."
"I heard he was hurt pretty bad."
"Yeah. They even had a code blue in his room a little while ago." Enjoying the conversation as a break from his sentry duties, the officer failed to notice the sudden pallor of the other man as he continued. "Of course the lucky bastard survived. Docs should probably have just die and save the state the cost of locking him up."
"Yeah well," Nathan decided to intervene before Ezra said something that would get them in trouble. "It's been nice talking to you pal but we need to get going or Doctor Wilkes will have our asses for being late."
Nathan breathed a sigh of relief as they slipped inside the ICU unit.
"Okay, JD's room should be...." Nathan stopped as he spotted the police officer at the end of the hall just past the nurses station. "Right there. You wait here I'm going to see if I can get a look at his chart and then check on JD."
"Wait a minute. You're going to need a distraction if you want to get past the Nurse Ratchett."
Nathan took one look at the formidable nurse and nodded.
Vin walked into the hospital uneasily as he never felt comfortable in hospitals or doctor's offices for that matter, no matter how often he helped out Doc Conner at the clinic.
Maybe he should wait for Larrabee back at his office.... Vin shook his head. The sooner he said his good-byes the sooner he could hit the road.
He walked through the admitting area, his gaze stopping on the waiting room near the ER. Staring at the vinyl chairs he found himself remembering the last time he had sat in a waiting room....
"We shouldn't be here." Ezra's voice was shaky and his breathing rapid as he sat next to Vin. "He's not going to like this."
"I don't give a damn." Vin could feel the anger burning inside him. "He broke your arm this time Ez and a doctor's going to look at it."
"I don't think...it may not be broken you know and...." Ezra grimaced as he tried to move his fingers.
"Don't Ez. Just sit there till they call us okay. Don't try to move it again." Unconsciously Vin put his arm around the other boy and drew him closer, his fingers gently brushing the chestnut hair. "It's going to be okay. I'm not going to let him hurt you."
"Not your fault Vin. I should have been more careful."
"Ez..." Vin began and then sighed. In the months since the other boy had moved in the old man had stopped beating him and focused his attention on the younger and more vulnerable boy. And no matter how often he tried to convince Ezra that he wasn't to blame, the more Ez tried to make excuses for the violence.
Vin knew that Ezra was afraid, afraid to do anything that would get him kicked out before his mother came back for him.
Personally Vin was no longer sure that Ezra's mother was coming back. There had been no word from her, no phone calls or letters or anything. Vin's own mother had died of cancer when he was just a kid but Vin had never doubted her love for him.
He doubted that Maude Standish, wherever she was, ever spared her son a thought. Vin's tightened his hold a fraction. He would do anything to protect Ezra and just that thought alone scared him. He'd been in and out of foster homes since his mother died and in all that time he had never cared about anyone else. Never until Ezra.
And the thought of why that was scared him too.
"Yeah Ez? You need anything? I can get the doctor to see you now if you can't wait."
"No I'm okay but.... Vin we don't have any money and if they get the bill for this they'll just and he'll just...maybe we should leave."
"No!" Vin's voice was firm. "Look this is the county hospital so the bill won't be too high. And I still have that money I made helping with the harvest at the Smithfield place over the summer. We'll take care of it."
"They're going to ask what happened."
"I'll take care of it."
"And what if..."
"Ez, I said I'll take care of it." Vin's voice softened. "And more importantly I'm going to take care of you." Vin paused. "Always."
Despite the pain in his arm, Ezra rested his head against Vin's shoulder as he nodded softly.
Vin tore his gaze away from the waiting room and his mind away from the past.
At this moment he didn't want to think about Ezra or the past. Not right now. He wanted to get back to the reservation where he was safe. Then he'd breakdown there.
But first he had to find Larrabee.
With a determined stride, Vin headed to the elevator and up to the floor where the FBI receptionist said he could find the agent.
Ezra smiled at the duty nurse while he kept his attention focused on the room Nathan had just entered Whatever was in JD's chart had made Nathan frown as he stared at it, but the two men did not exchange any words before Nathan had picked up a tray left behind from housekeeping and slipped into JD's room to see if he could check out the younger man's condition himself.
Ezra frowned, he trusted Nathan....had no choice but to trust Nathan. He just hoped Nathan could keep his cover with the agents in JD's room.
The nurse looked up from the stack of papers in front of her with a smile and gestured to a vase of flowers that had just been delivered.
"I don't suppose you could take those to room 219 for me."
Ezra smiled. "I'd be glad to my dear lady."
He moved forward, taking the opportunity to look through the window into JD's room and his heart lurched to see JD lying there.
It was his fault JD was hurt. He should have turned JD away when he showed up at his door. He should never have let his loneliness make him take JD in as a partner and then a friend.
Ezra stared for one second longer. He was an assassin. Men, and women, paid him to kill, to terminate the lives of others. He had started in this life because he had no choice and then stayed in it because he liked not being a victim. He liked being the one in control. The people he killed were scum in their own right, but with every kill he knew he was preventing someone else from becoming the same kind of victim that he had once been. And he liked that.
But he knew that in the eyes of the law and the morals of most people he was a murderer. He could live with that.
What he could not live with was the idea that involving him in his world had hurt JD.
So lost in thought was Ezra for that split second that he didn't see the man storming out of JD's room until they had run into each other and the flowers he was holding dropped, the crystal vase shattering.
Chris automatically bent down to pick up the vase, wondering what else could possibly wrong. His prisoner had recovered from the heart attack, but according to his doctor's the seizure had deepened his coma and they were worried about possible brain damage. Josiah had just called to let them know that even with the pictures of their prime suspect spread all over the city, no one had spotted Sanders or whoever the hell he really was. It was like he had disappeared back into the sewage he come out of. Then Mary had called him, upset that he had forgotten their lunch date and he'd promised to make it up to her later when they met for dinner. And as he promised to meet Mary that evening, knowing full well what he was promising her, he'd found Buck looking at him. Buck's eyes seemed to reflect Chris's own guilt and he remembered how much Buck had liked Sarah. Trying to escape that look, and his own guilt, he'd barked orders at Buck, moved past the orderly who'd been carefully changing the bedding, and stormed out of the room.
Only to run right into another orderly.
"Damn it. I'm sorry I wasn't watching where I was going. Let me help you with this." He carefully began to pick up the flowers, hoping the flowers could be saved. If not he'd buy more flowers for whoever these were meant for.
"It's okay." The orderly replied in a soft British accent. "I've got it."
"No It's my fault and..." Chris stopped as he looked at the other man for the first time, taking in the punked hair and the earring.
And the eyes.
Eyes that he had first seen in Dunne's study.
Ezra saw the recognition in the FBI's agent eyes and swore. Reaching reflexively for the gun he had hidden under his scrubs he had it aimed at the other man before he could react.
"I wouldn't Agent Larrabee." Gone was the British accent or the slacker mannerisms and in their place was a lethal deadliness.
Ezra cocked his gun. "I don't have any problems adding the murder of an FBI agent to my other crimes and misdemeanors."
"What do you want?"
Ezra looked over at the officer and the other agent, both of whom had drawn their weapons.
"I want you to call of your men. Unless of course you want to see if this hospital's trauma team is as good as they say they are."
Even as he motioned Buck and the officers assigned to guard the prisoner back, Chris glared at the other man.
"You won't get away with this."
"You know people have told me that before. Usually just before I kill them." Ezra looked over at Nathan who had emerged from JD's room. Catching Nathan's eye, Ezra hope he got the message. Stay out of this. Don't let them know you're with me.
"What do you want?"
"World Peace. Brotherly Love. The usual. But I'll settle for you as a hostage."
Chris's eyes darkened with hatred. "I won't go with you."
"Yeah you will. Because otherwise I'll turn this place into a bloodbath and you're too much of a white hat to let that happen." Ezra pushed his gun against Chris side. "Move."
Carefully, as the hospital staff, police officers, and Buck stood by in shock, Ezra and Chris made their way carefully down the hallway to the stairwell.
Ezra figured if he could make the stairwell, he had a shot at getting out of here alive. Despite his threat to Chris, he didn't intend to keep the man hostage any longer than necessary.
"I will kill you for this."
"Probably." Ezra replied softly.
Just as Ezra and his hostage neared the stairwell, the elevator doors opened and Vin Tanner emerged.
Ezra almost closed his eyes as he recognized that voice. Keeping his gun firm against his hostage, he looked up and his world stopped.
Vin couldn't believe it. "Ez?"
Before anyone could reply, a shot rang out in the hospital corridor.
A private institution
Locked up insider her own mind, Sarah Larrabee smiled as she watched her son play in the sandbox. It was a beautiful day, the sun was shining, and she was glad that she had decided to take the day off from work and play hooky with her son.
She was happy and content. More than content. Adam was with her and he was safe and happy.
That was all that mattered. Nothing else.
She didn't want to be anywhere else.
She shivered as something cold raced through the air. A voice from a distance trying to tell her that something was wrong, calling her back. She closed her eyes, refusing to listen. She didn't want to be there, where there was only pain and nothing else.
She wanted to be here where she could hold her son and keep him safe.
Adam looked up from the castle he was building.
Sarah immediately dropped to her knees
"It's okay Adam. Mommy's here and she's not going anywhere. She's going to stay with you forever."
As Sarah held her child in her embrace she ignored the clouds beginning to form in the distant sky.
Beyond those clouds, the two figures in her darkened room spoke to each other quietly.
"I wonder what she's thinking." The nurse looked at her patient who stared up at the ceiling, unblinking and unseeing.
"Don't know and don't care." The doctor shrugged as he held up the syringe the nurse gave him.
"I don't think her family would approve of this treatment." The nurse murmured faintly.
"What they don't know won't hurt them." The doctor replied as he administered the required dosage. "This is what the boss ordered and this is what the boss gets."
"I still don't like it."
"You don't have to." The doctor withdrew the needle. "Just keep your mouth shut and enjoy spending the little bonus payment you get for doing so."
Even as she frowned, the nurse nodded and followed the doctor out of the room, knowing as she did so that no amount of money was going to banish the image of those blank eyes staring at her out of her mind.
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Story posted to A Gambler's Lust, The Magnificent Two