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Sequel to: 07 Suffer
Chris Larrabee slammed the phone down angrily, his body radiating anger with every movement. Five days. It had been five lousy days and there had been no sign of his assassin in the city and no sign that he had left it. They had men posted at every airport, bus terminal, rental car, highway, etc. The drawings done by the police artist, both of the man he had seen at the Dunne estate and the man who had held him hostage at the hospital, were circulated to every newspaper and media outlet in the state and across the nation. Chris frowned, in all his years of police work, both for the Four Corners Police Dept and for the Bureau, he knew criminals who tried to flee or tried to go underground, but they always screwed up somehow. Somebody always spotted them. A clerk at a convenience store. A security guard at a bank. Somebody should have seen something.
Only they hadn't. As far as Chris could determine, Ezra Standish had simply vanished into thin air. A small glimmer of a smile played on his features for a moment before it disappeared. At least he had a name. Ezra Standish. Granted, that was about all he knew of him. He'd sent Josiah to Four Corners to retrieve any hospital documents or school records that they could find, only there hadn't been much on Ezra Standish. No real information on him from before he arrived in Four Corners or after he had left that is. There had been plenty of information about what had happened during his stay.
Not that Chris was likely to forget what happened all those years ago. Sarah's insistence that something was wrong. Driving up to the farm and hearing the screams of the two boys. Shooting the farmer. It had been the first man he had ever killed. Ironic to think that it had happened while he was saving Ezra Standish's life. Maybe it would have been better if they hadn't gotten there in time and the younger boy had.... he stopped himself. He wasn't going there. He was angry and bitter and wanted Standish caught, but he hadn't yet sunk so low that he was going to wish the other man was dead. Especially not like that. Not beaten to death like that. He knew that Sarah had been plagued by nightmares about that night for months afterward and he had often held her as she cried. Sweet, loving Sarah who could not imagine how any person could hurt a child and even though they had to grow up fast, Sarah had considered both boys to be just children. Children who trusted that the adults in their lives would love them and care for them. Not beat them. Or whip them. Children who counted on adults to keep them safe...to be there to stop the monsters from hurting them, or raping them, or killing them.....
With an angry jerk, Chris shoved his desk clear. His hand was trembling as he brought it up to his cover his eyes as if to block out the images. Don't think of Adam. Don't hear his screams. Don't see that monster defiling him. Don't imagine the horror in Sarah's eyes. Don't wonder where you were.
Almost blindly he reached for the phone. Do something. Anything. He picked phone off the floor. Call Mary. Listen to Mary's voice. Focus on the present.
He swore when all he got was the answering machine and hung up without leaving a message.
Throwing the phone back on the phone with the rest of the junk, he reached instead into his top drawer and pulled out a silver flask. He had swallowed a few times when the door to his office opened and he quickly slid the liquor back into the draw.
"I want them called off and I want them called off now!" Vin Tanner's angry voice could be heard throughout the complex as he slammed the door to Larrabee's office behind him. He stopped short when he saw the mess on the floor. "You have a fight with your decorator?"
"Get out Tanner. I'm busy."
"Not until you call them off."
Chris looked up at the other man, hazel eyes cold and impenetrable. "Call off who?"
"Don't play games with me you son-of-a-bitch. You know exactly who I mean. The idiots you have tailing me and watching my hotel room. Hell I wouldn't be surprised if you had my phone bugged." Vin's gaze narrowed at the expression that flickered across the agent's face. "You do, don't you? What the hell do you think you're doing?"
Chris stood up and looked Tanner in the eye. "What I'm doing or trying to do is to catch a cold-blooded killer." His gaze fell on the sling that his shoulder was still in. "I'm trying to catch the bastard who shot me, shot up a hospital full of innocent civilians, and didn't blink an eye. I'm trying to catch the same bastard who kills people, women and children, for money." His voice dropped an octave. "And let me warn you Tanner, I don't give a damn if the two of you shared the same play pen and drank from the same bottle. Hell I don't even care if you were childhood sweethearts. I will bring Standish in and I will see him pay for what he has done."
"So what am I? Some kind of bait to set your trap?"
"If it means I get Standish behind bars, you are whatever I need you to be. Bait. Lure. Whatever it takes. Thanks to you we finally have a name and some information on him. I already know you and Standish have a connection. For as long as I've known you, you've been looking for him and I bet he's been looking for you too. And now that he's found you, he won't stay away. No matter what he said in that elevator, he's going to try to make contact with you again. He won't be able to stop himself. And when he does, we'll be there. Waiting. And if that means I have to have men trailing you every fucking minute of every fucking day than that's what I'll do."
"What if I refuse to let you use me as bait? What if I just got up and left Denver and headed back to the reservation? You going to follow me there?"
Larrabee smiled. "You won't go back home now."
"Why? What's stopping me? You heard Ezra in that elevator."
"Yeah I did. I also saw the way you looked at him. He won't be able to stay away from you and you can't leave him. You know it and I know it. As long as there's a chance that you'll see him again, you won't leave. You can't leave." Vin was silent for a minute but the muscle in his jaw pulsated angrily and his voice when he spoke was low. "You can't do this."
For the first time in five days Chris smiled. "Watch me."
A suburb outside Denver
Buck Wilmington sighed as he leaned back in the chair and closed his eyes, his thoughtful mind pondering the events of the last week. He was tired, the double life he had been living these last few days catching up with him in a rare moment of piece and quiet. He breathed deeply and released it in a soft sigh. He had betrayed the department, not only allowing a prisoner to escape but actually helping him to do so. He had betrayed his best friend, spending his days supposedly leading a citywide search for both Standish and Dunne and never letting on that he knew where the younger man was. Never letting on that the circles under his eyes were there because he spent his nights hovering over the still unconscious prisoner. Buck Wilmington, whose mother had cried the day he graduated from Quantico, had violated everything that his badge had stood for.
And the saddest thing of all was that he would do it again if he had to. He opened his eyes and contemplated the silent figure lying on the bed. He was getting better, or at least Jackson thought he had moved from a coma into a healing kind of sleep that his body needed. Buck didn't know if he trusted or even believed the other man, just that he didn't seem to have a choice. If everything Jackson had told him up to this point was a lie, it almost didn't matter. The man who had tried to kill the kid in the hospital had been real and his need to protect the younger man was still there, still strong. He had contemplated talking to Chris, trying to get Chris to see the real threat that the would be Senator posed, but Chris was too caught up in his own private obsession, to nail Standish, to see reason or behave rationally. Buck was worried about his old friend, worried that this case was pushing him to the brink. Chris was behaving harshly, his determination to keep men tailing Tanner being a prime example of his willingness to stretch the rules until they almost broke.
Chris would never let himself go this far if Sarah was there. Buck smiled as he thought of Sarah, her kindness equaled only by her determination and both outdistanced by her stubbornness. He'd been worried the first time he'd met her, thinking her too quiet and shy for his headstrong friend. He'd only had to been around them for a short time before he had rethought that opinion.
He stood up and walked over to the window, staring down at the rose garden below. Sarah's roses. He'd come up here every couple of weeks and tend them, not really knowing what he was doing but determined not to let them die. In the beginning, right after Adam died, it had been something he could do, something tangible to help. He had imagined Sarah coming home to find her roses still in bloom and hoped that she could still find a touch of beauty after the ugliness of that night. Only over the months it had been apparent that Sarah wasn't coming home. Still he kept coming up to tend the roses, even after Chris had fled the memories the small house contained and moved into an apartment closer to work. It surprised him that Chris had never put the house on the market but they had never talked about it, any of it, so he could never ask why he paid a mortgage on a house that stood empty. Buck moved away from the window. The house hadn't been empty for the last week or so. Knowing that Chris would never come here, he had suggested this house as a safe house to hide Dunne in. So far it had worked fine. One or two neighbors had approached him, but they were used to seeing him doing odd jobs around the house and readily accepted his story about Chris wanting to upgrade the interior a little before he finally put it in the market. They had even seemed relieved that the charming little house would no longer stand in silent testimonial to the horrible crime that had been committed within its walls.
"How is he?" Jackson's voice broke into Buck's reverie as the former medical student walked into the room. Moving to the bed, Nathan quickly took JD's pulse and felt for a fever, grinning slightly when there was none. "Good. He's doing better."
"He's still not awake." Buck grumbled.
"He's still not dead." Nathan responded bluntly. "I told you, his body will wake up when it's ready to. The kid's almost as stubborn as Standish, he ain't going to die that easy."
"You hear from him yet?" Buck shook his head when Jackson didn't answer him. "Look you might as well tell me. Hell I've come this far and done this much, haven't you figured out you can trust me by now?"
Nathan hesitated. In the week or so that he and Wilmington had been watching over JD, he had come to know the other man fairly well and thought he could trust him. Only he wasn't sure. And if he was wrong, well it wasn't just himself that would end up getting hurt.
Buck cursed softly. "Never mind, okay? Forget I asked. Just tell me if Standish told you anything about what Dunne senior is up to." He frowned as he thought back to the press conference the senior Dunne had held when it became clear that his son was missing. Dunne Sr. had held court and answered questions about his misguided son who, despite being the beneficiary of everything positive a loving father could give him, had turned to a life of crime and drugs. Dunne had even managed a tear when he had said that he didn't care if his son was arrested and put in prison as long as he was safe. Buck had almost vomited watching it. "Besides playing the bereaved father that is."
"Ezra says Dunne has men looking everywhere for JD, claims they only want to find him before anything terrible happens to him." Ezra had said more on the subject of JD's father, but Nathan didn't think he had to repeat Ezra's comments since he was pretty sure Wilmington shared the assassin's feelings. Come to think of it, he wouldn't mind getting the wealthy industrialist alone in a room himself.
"Nate?" The soft voice caught both men's attention and they moved to the bedside. Nathan gestured for Buck to get him some water. "Ez?"
"Shh. It's okay JD. You're safe."
"He's safe too okay. Just take it easy."
Soft brown eyes opened and tried to focus on his surroundings. "Where am I?"
"A friend's house."
Memories flashed through the fog...his father's house, the agents about to capture Ezra, the grenade exploding.... "I have to get out of here. It isn't safe." He tried to move and let out a loud moan as the pain exploded in his abdomen.
"Shh. Settle back JD. Come on, relax. I told you its safe and you know I wouldn't lie to you."
"Nate? What are you doing here?"
"Standish called me when you were hurt. Not that I was surprised. I told you running around with someone like Standish was going to get you killed."
"I must be going to live if you're bothering to lecture me. You wouldn't waste a famous Nathan Jackson lecture on the evils of Ezra Standish if I was going to die."
"Have a little faith in my abilities. You are not going to die."
"That's what you say. Where's Ezra? And where's my computer? We have to make arrangements to get out of the country and..."
"Whoa. Settle back. You're not going anywhere for a while yet, okay? You need to rest and get better."
"It isn't safe."
"I told you it was. No one knows where you are."
JD locked eyes with Nathan. "No one?"
Nathan nodded. "No one."
JD seemed to breath easier. "Okay, where's Ezra?" When Nathan didn't reply, JD felt his heart began to race. "Where is Ezra?"
"I asked where you Ezra was Nathan and tell me and tell me now or I am out of here and I don't give a damn what happens to me."
"I told you Standish is fine. He's just lying low for a little while okay. He'll meet up with us when it's a little safer. Told me to tell you that he's taking good care of your computer for you."
JD nodded and for the first time his gaze flickered to the other man by his bedside. An expression of cool hostility crossed his face and Buck found himself wincing internally, he didn't want this boy looking at him like he was the enemy. "Who the hell are you?" JD growled.
"He's a friend JD. He helped get you out of the hospital and found this place to hide." Nathan looked at the other man for a moment. "I trust him."
JD looked like he was going to protest but then closed his eyes as a soft moan escaped him.
"Can't you give him something for the pain?" Buck asked as the boy's face grew pale.
Nathan looked at JD. "You want something for the pain JD? I got something in my bag..."
JD's eyes flew open. "NO! Nothing Nate. Nothing. Promise me." JD glanced at the tracks that scarred JD's arm and his expression became even more grim. "Not again. Never again."
"It's going to be bad...I can give you a light dose and..."
After a moment Nathan nodded. "Okay. No narcotics. I've got some aspirin and some herbs I can mix up in a tea when I know its safe for you to take fluids. I don't like it JD. It's not going to be enough to stop the pain."
"It's going to have to be." JD's voice was filled with a bitter determination.
And watching the scene unfold, Buck suddenly felt a shiver cross his soul at the look that darkened the younger man's face and he knew whatever was coming, it was going to be bad.
The nurse was new, having been hired just a few days ago to fill a vacancy that had suddenly arose. She was also tired and overworked as two other nurses had called in sick to the evening shift which left her in charge. She was even too exhausted to flirt with the dangerously attractive man standing in front of her, a state which was unusual in that having found herself reaching the state of forty in a state of singlehood she tended to flirt with just about anything with two legs in the hopes of finally getting lucky. Instead she tried not to glare too much. "Look, I already told you. Visiting hours were over hours ago. I can't let you into a patient's room. It's against rules and it would mean my job if you were caught."
"I'm not that easy to catch." Ezra smiled at her. "I'm sorry to be such a problem but my layover in Denver is only for a few hours. I really would like to visit my sister before my flight to Thailand leaves."
"McGinnis. Eric McGinnis."
"Mr. McGinnis. I'm really sorry about this but you should have called ahead of time and we would have told you not to bother. Now if you will excuse me..."
"Nurse...Johnson is it? I am sorry about the late hour and I should have called, but I thought I'd take the chance that it would be harder to turn me down in person than on the phone. Like I said my company is sending me to Asia for two years and I won't be able to see Sarah until then. I would really like to say goodbye to my sister.... just in case."
Susan Johnson stopped glaring long enough to look at the other man. He seemed sincere enough. Sighing, she reached over and picked up another chart to fill out. "She's in the room at the end of the hall. You have twenty minutes before I call security."
Ezra was down the hall before she had finished. Quietly he opened the door and slid into the room. He wasn't quite sure why he was there, but then again he wasn't quite sure why he was still in the Denver area at all. If he was smart, or at least as smart as he usually thought he was, he would have Jackson take JD to the safe house in Austin or maybe San Diego and get as far away from this town as he could. Someplace warm with a beach maybe. An island somewhere where JD could get better and Ezra could keep them safe from Michael Dunne and safe from Larrabee. Instead he was here, visiting Larrabee's wife.
He smiled as he saw her, she was still as beautiful as she had been when she had been his teacher back in Four Corners. She would have been his first crush if he hadn't already fallen for another pair of blue-eyes. Still, he remembered her as one of the few teachers who had cared, who had looked at him as a person rather than as someone who occupied a seat in a classroom.
Sarah Larrabee. She'd been Sarah Conner then. Ms. Conner. He frowned as he noted the blank look in her eyes and pulled up a chair to sit next to her. He'd used JD's computer to do some research over the last few days, wanting to know more about this person who had saved him. Saved Vin. He'd seen her wedding picture in the paper. She'd looked so much in love. Hell, even Larrabee had looked softer, younger. He'd read about the men who had assaulted her and murdered her child. They had been her students, young men she had tried to save just as she had saved him. Only they had paid her back by raping and killing her son.
Ezra had seen a lot in his relatively short lifetime. He had killed many time and had watched others die in front of him. Still he could not imagine watching your child be hurt like that and not being able to stop it, watching your child be killed like that and not being able to stop it. It wasn't a surprise that her mind had snapped. It would have been a miracle if it hadn't. To be honest he almost envied her, there were times in his own life when he would have wanted to have retreated into blessed nothingness rather than deal with the reality he had been given.
Gently he picked up her hand and held it in his own. "Hello Ms. Conner. I know its Mrs. Larrabee but I still think of you as Ms. Conner. It's me Ezra. You remember. I was that short skinny kid who sat in the back row hoping that everyone would just forget I was there and I could melt into the background. But you never let me just sit there in your class. I always had to be a part of your class, not just sit and wait for it to be over like I did in my other classes. None of my other teachers cared what I thought or if I understood the assignment or if I agreed with what was being said. You did though. You kept asking me questions and making me answer. You made me care about learning. You were a great teacher. But that's not what I'm here for. I guess you know why I'm here. I want to thank you for that night. I don't mean saving me, but for saving Vin. For making him a part of your family. For taking care of him. For loving him. All these years I've worried about him being alone and he wasn't. He was part of a family." He stopped, clearing his throat and trying to remove the tinge of bitterness from his tone. "It's what he deserved you know. A family. A sister to take care of him. A father to look out for him. He never had that until you came along. You and your father. You did a good job with him. I could tell that the other day. He's grown into a fine man. Honest. Caring. Intelligent. He'll do good with his life. Not like me. I mean I try to do good, but I'm just fooling myself. I can help people who need it and I can buy things for people who need them, but nothing I can do erases who I am and what I've done. There is blood on my hands and no amount of good deeds will wash it out. I wish.... I guess it doesn't matter what I wish. I can't change my past or my future. All I can do is make sure that Vin...stays pure and good. I can't let the blood on my hands stain him too. As much as I want to hold onto him now that I've found him again, I can't. I have to let go of him. At least this time I'll know he's okay and I'll know that he's found a family to belong to."
"I have you to thank for that and I will never forget it. I will find a way to pay you back for all you've done for him."
Standing up, he brushed the hair back from her face and planted a gentle kiss on her forehead. Moving quietly away from her silent form, he stopped when he caught sight of something glinting in the wastebasket by the door. Reaching down he frowned as picked up a syringe, he turned back to Sarah. The nurse should never have left the syringe in the wastebasket, it should have been disposed of properly. Better yet, why was the syringe in the room at all. Sarah was catonic, non-responsive. She was being fed through an IV but they wouldn't be giving her any medication or drugs. The goal was to help her regain awareness, not keep her doped up. Or was it? Making sure that the needle was still capped, he slipped the syringe into his pocket and decided that he would ask Nathan about it in person. It was about time he checked on JD for himself and maybe have Nathan see what he could find out about what kind of substance they would be giving a patient who was already in a catonic state.
As preoccupied as he was, Ezra failed to notice Sarah's hand move as it gripped the blankets tight in a fist as he left.
Suburb outside of Denver.
Ezra parked the Taurus two blocks away from the house and carefully looked around as he got out. He knew that Larrabee would have the rental agencies checked out, so he had skipped renting a car and simply bought one instead. Paid for with cash at one of the used car lots that peppered Denver. He would have preferred a color other than beige, but he appreciated that it at least had a leather interior. The dealer had even thrown in a CD player when he had realized that his customer was paying cash.
Quietly he walked up to the house Jackson had taken JD to. A house that a federal agent had told them to go. He didn't like trusting that agent, but since they were already settled by the time he could make contact with Jackson he didn't have much choice about it. Still if Wilmington betrayed them, Ezra would slit his throat and enjoy the experience.
He scanned the area as he walked, keeping his eye out for Dunne's men. He was still no closer to figuring out why Dunne was after JD, but there was no doubt in his mind that he was, especially after Jackson described the man in JD's hospital room. At first he thought that Dunne was trying to avoid the embarrassment of the world finding out that he had a son with an "interesting" background so to speak, but he seemed to be enjoying the sympathy he had garnered since being "outed" about his son. His spin doctors had done a good job painting him as the loving father who had tried desperately to get his son help. No one would ever believe that he had ordered men to drug and then savagely torture his son. And there was no way that they could ever prove that he was behind what happened in Hong Kong. There was something connected to JD that the older Dunne was afraid of. All Ezra had to do was to find out what that was. He'd thought about just going after Dunne himself. The man was an easy target for an experienced hit man like himself. However he didn't fancy turning Dunne into some kind of martyr and until he knew why they were after JD, he could never be sure that JD was really safe. Which meant that he would have to talk to JD and see if he knew anything.
He froze when he heard footsteps behind him and automatically his gun came up as he turned.
"It's me Ezra." The soft drawl echoed in the night.
"Vin? What are you doing here?"
"Waiting for you."
"How did you....?"
Vin gestured down the street. Old Mrs. Anderson. She saw men coming in and out of a house that was supposed to be empty. Mrs. Anderson and Doc Conner have been friends for decades. She called him to find out what was happening. Doc started to get worried, thought maybe some one had broken in and was squatting. Doc probably should have called Chris but seeing as they aren't exactly talking much these days, he called me instead. I came and checked it out. Didn't find any squatters, but I did find one missing patient that I know a lot of people are looking for." Vin smiled and Ezra's breath caught. "Knew if I waited long enough you'd show up."
Ezra frowned. "You shouldn't be here."
"If you're worried about my being followed don't be. The agents Larrabee had tailing me are still back in the lobby of my hotel waiting for me to leave my room."
"How can you be sure?"
"Spent the last ten years living on a reservation, learned a lot about how to not be seen when I don't want to be. I'm almost as good at disappearing as you are." His eyes glinted dangerously. "Lucky for me I'm better at tracking than you are."
Ezra shook his head. "Look Vin I meant what I said on that elevator. I'm not who you think I am. I'm not the boy I was. Whatever connection there was between us is gone and the sooner you realize it, the better of we'll both be."
Vin took a step forward and Ezra had to force himself to not back away. He was going to play this cool and that meant not letting Vin know how much his nearness was affecting him.
Vin smiled and his gaze reminded Ezra of a cobra he had seen in India once, holding his prey in a similar gaze as he prepared to strike.
"That gun of yours loaded Ezra?"
"Then you might want to make sure the safety is on."
"Because I'm going to kiss you Ezra Standish and I don't fancy getting myself shot for my efforts, that's why."
And as Ezra's eyes widened, Vin moved forward to close the distance between them.
Chris stared at the ceiling, waiting for the alarm to go off. It had been late when he had finally stumbled into the part, but he still hadn't slept any. He wasn't even that drunk, although he had tried his damnest to get there. He'd stopped off at a bar nearby after work and stuck to the hard stuff for a good two to three hours wanting to get completely wasted, before giving up and walking home.
He frowned. Maybe he was building up an immunity against alcohol? God he hoped not. Some days and most nights it was all that got him through. The only thing that could make the images in his head go away.
Only it hadn't worked last night. All he could see was Adam. All he could hear was Adam's voice. Almost like he was trying to tell him something.
The alarm finally went off and Chris swung heavy legs out of bed. His thoughts of Adam hadn't been this intense in a long time.
"Chris?" The soft feminine voice made him glance back down at the bed and at the beautiful body that had slept next to him last night. Mary Travis was beautiful, maybe even the most beautiful women he had ever met. She was smart. Kind. A good mother. She was everything any man could ever want.
It wasn't her fault that she wasn't Sarah. Could never be Sarah. Yet not even Sarah was Sarah anymore. Sarah was gone, replaced by a stranger who looked like Sarah yet stared at him with blank, unseeing eyes. His Sarah was never coming back. Maybe that was the message Adam had been trying to tell him last night. Maybe it was time he started listening.
"I've been thinking."
"About what?" Mary sat up and reached around him from behind to hug him, nuzzling his neck and pressing her bare breasts against his solid chest.
"This apartment is too small. I've been thinking of getting something larger. Maybe finally putting the house on the market and buying something else. Something big enough for three...." His voice trailed off.
He turned to face her. "I mean its time that we moved in together. You . Me. Billy. A family. The way it was meant to be." If his smile faltered as he spoke she didn't seem to notice.
"Oh Chris." And with her face buried against his chest, Chris never saw the evil glinting in Mary Travis's eyes or the expression of victory on her face.
The Dunne Estate
Michael Dunne picked up the phone and dialed a familiar number. His mouth was in flat, grim lines as he spoke. "It's me. Yeah I know. That's why I called. I need your best man in Denver as soon as possible. The target is my son. No matter what it takes, I want him dead by the end of the week. Yeah that's right by Friday I want the sniveling coward dead and his body rotting in the dirt."
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Story posted to A Gambler's Lust, The Magnificent Two