Ezra Standish walked purposefully toward the darkened parking garage,
his black Armani suit blending
well with the shadows. This wasn’t the first time he had asked for help from this certain contact and he
was sure it certainly wouldn’t be the last. However, he always had a strange feeling asking the snitch for
information. Not that the information wasn’t always good and reliable, he just felt a little ashamed that he
had to drag them into the situation and possibly put them in danger. Ezra wasn’t known as a
conscientious man but when it came to certain people, such as his six comrades, he always seemed to
find compassion. The lights from the street lamps caused the empty parking garage to have an eerie
glow. Shadows and shapes ran rampant around him and Ezra chided himself for being so jumpy. The
garage was almost completely clear except for a lone car and support columns, not many places for
someone to hide. Ezra’s quick green eyes scanned the area. He was always nervous when meeting an
informant but never let it show through his cool exterior. He kept his well manicured hand next to his
A sound behind him made him turn quickly, gun already out. He watched as the shadowy figure stepped
out from behind one of the parking garage columns. He recognized the outline and put his gun back in
“You’re late,” the soft voice floated to him.
Ezra looked at his watch. 9:05. Technically, he was five minutes late. “Did you expect anything
different?” He drawled.
The figure shrugged its shoulders. “Not really.”
“How have you been?”
“Not bad. You?”
“Fine.” The figure hadn’t moved from its obscured hiding place. “Is there a reason you haven’t stepped
into the light?”
“Just seeing if you brought any of your friends,” it answered.
“You still don’t trust me?”
“Don’t know Standish. Last time you tried to get me back in that orphanage.”
It was Ezra’s turn to shrug his shoulders. “Just don’t think the street is an appropriate place for such a
nice young lady.”
He heard the figure chuckle as she gingerly stepped into a stray moonbeam. Her appearance shocked
him but he hid it well. Lila wore what most street kids did, baggy jeans, layers of shirts, a scarf, a bucket
hat and old worn out boots. Her black hair had grown longer since he had last laid eyes on her. She had
grown maybe an inch or two taller, standing around 5'5". She definitely had lost some weight and her
clothes hung off her lithe frame. She raised her blue eyes to meet his green ones. And as he looked into
those all knowing eyes, it was hard to imagine that she was only fourteen.
“How are you really, Lila?” he asked as he took a step forward.
She took a step backward. “I’m fine. Now do you want the information or not?”
Ezra sighed. “Do you know when the deal is going down?”
“Wednesday, 8:30pm. On the docks of the Aurora Reservoir. The smuggler will be on a fishing boat in
slip nine, and Munford is going to meet him on the boat.”
Ezra smiled. Her wealth of information always amazed him. He pulled out his wallet from inside his
jacket pocket and took out a twenty. “Most informative as always,” he said as he extended the money
to her. She quickly snatched it away from his hand and squirreled it out of view.
“Thanks.” She turned and began to walk away from him. But she suddenly stopped a few steps away.
“Be careful, Standish. I heard Munford isn’t one to be crossed.”
“I’m always careful.” he answered. Then suddenly he added, “Lila, if you ever need any help don’t be
afraid to find me. You know where I work. And if I’m not there, my friends will help you.”
She turned slowly back around to face him. “I know Ez.”
Suddenly, a car swung into the garage, its headlights blinding both of them for a second. Ezra
immediately recognized the car. “Damn!” he cursed. Lila’s eyes widened when she realized that it was
some of Standish’s friends. Then she ran.
Ezra cursed as Tanner’s jeep swung around and stopped next to him. “Y’all have the worst timing,” he
muttered to the two occupants. Larabee and Tanner looked at each other.
“We knew you were meeting someone for information. We were getting worried.” Vin said quietly, a
small crooked grin hiding his genuine concern.
Ezra looked at his watch. The exchange had lasted around fifteen minutes. “Well, next time please wait a
little longer. Your extravagant entrance scared off one of my best informants.”
Chris eyed the undercover agent for a minute. He had only caught a glimpse of the person Ezra had been
talking with but they didn’t look to be a regular sleazy snitch. “What did you find out?”
“I think it would be best to extricate ourselves from this dismal building before I reveal what I have
Chris nodded. “Meet us back at the office.”
Ezra watched as Vin pulled the Jeep out of the parking garage before he began his walk back to the Jag
that was parked on the street. He wasn’t mad at his two friends. They had been worried about him. And
if it had been them he would’ve done the same thing. However, he was disappointed. Maybe he
could’ve talked to Lila a little bit more and possibly gotten her to go to a safe house or back to the
orphanage or maybe even with him. He just wanted to get her off the street.
Ezra made his way back to his car not even bothering to look for the young girl. He knew she was long
gone by now. This had happened once before. Ezra had brought JD with him to gain valuable experience
about dealing with information sellers. Unfortunately, where JD went Buck was not too far behind. What
was meant to be a quick simple meeting ended up in a nightmare.
Buck had tailed the pair to a garbage dump. And when Lila had reached into her pocket to pull out a slip
of paper with information on it, Buck had immediately thought she was pulling a gun. He bounded from
behind a stack of old tires, pulling his gun and yelling. Lila had been scared to death and took off running.
In one swift move, Buck had shattered the already fragile bond of trust Ezra had developed with the
teen. And when Ezra thought he might have some semblance of that trust back, Chris and Vin show up
Lila ran as fast as she could until she was certain Standish and his
friends weren’t following her. She
should’ve known not to trust him. He had been trying to talk her into going back into that damned
orphanage for months now. But she had made up her mind. She was not going back. No matter what.
She had hated that place. Prospective parents always passed her up for the younger cuter kids. No one
wanted a fourteen year old child. Then being sent from foster family to foster family, knowing in the back
of her mind that she never truly belonged. The families tried but when it came down to their real kids or
the foster kid, the real kids always won. Finally she had gotten tired of it and left when the first chance
Soon after she met Standish. Lila had watched a gun deal go down with rapt interest not realizing that the
ATF’s best were also watching. Standish was working undercover and the bust went down smoothly.
Lila had thought she had gone unnoticed but she had been wrong. Standish ended up cornering her and
engaging her in conversation.
“You see a lot on the street, don’t you?” he had asked.
“Here’s my card. You ever think you see something important give me a call and we’ll arrange a
Lila had hesitantly took the card. But soon she had found that by sitting in the right place or knowing the
right people she could find out a wealth of information. And one night, she decided to call the number.
Ever since then, whenever she knew something, she gave him a call. It had worked like that for almost a
Every time she gave him information, she would attend the bust. Always hidden and never again noticed.
Most were routine. But every once in a while something went wrong. The time Ez had gotten shot, Lila
had cried for days. She even had snuck into the hospital to visit him. He had been asleep and so had the
giant agent that snored, but she left him a flower and card.
She didn’t know that Ezra had received a barrage of questions for weeks on end about who Lila was
from the tall mustached agent. She also didn’t know that Ezra had kept the card and flower and that they
now resided on his desk at home. She only knew that she liked the southern agent and could trust him,
Lila made her way back to her ‘home.’ It was nothing more than an old, wrecked Ford Taurus. But the
back seat made and excellent bed. She covered her mouth as she yawned. Once at the car, she climbed
in through the window and laid down on the back seat. In minutes she was asleep dreaming of what the
twenty dollars could buy.
Ezra sat wearily on the side of his bed. He glanced at the alarm clock
and groaned; two in the morning.
He had just finished briefing the seven agents on the information he received about Munford. They had
been after this guy for months but he always managed to elude them. He was a huge gun trafficker but
was known for receiving only small shipments at a time. His philosophy was if he lost one, it wouldn’t be
that big of a deal.
Chris and Ezra had stayed later than everyone else, devising a plan to catch Munford without putting
anyone in immediate danger. It had been decided that Buck and JD would stay and watch from a van in
the parking lot. Vin would get a job at the dock doing some menial task that would keep him near the
action. Before the bust, he would place a bug under the dock where the boat would be. Josiah and
Nathan would disguise themselves as fishermen on the pier. Chris and Ezra themselves would be in a
boat across from the deal.
Once JD and Buck heard the deal go down and the guns and money changed hands, they would radio
Chris. Ezra, Chris, Nathan and Josiah would identify themselves and hopefully catch Munford without a
shot being fired. Vin would cover them from somewhere nearby. Ezra lay down on the bed and sighed.
Hopefully, no one would get hurt. And hopefully this operation would go down without a hitch.
Ezra closed his eyes to try and get some sleep but his thoughts began to wander. He wondered where
Lila was at this moment. Probably asleep somewhere. He just hoped she was safe from harm. After a
few moments of reflection, the undercover agent drifted to sleep.
Two Days Later.....
Ezra checked his watch as he undid the rigging of the small boat across
from slip nine. The hands
showed 8:29 and no sign of Munford. The boat across the way was dark and quiet, and according to
Vin, no one had been in or out of it all day. Standish was beginning to wonder if Lila had been
The moon sparkled off the dark water. It was a cold night and Ezra’s breath hung in the air. A quick
look down the dock reassured him that Nathan and Josiah were in their places. Dressed in jeans and
sweatshirts, complete with folding chairs and empty beer cans, the pair looked like average night
fishermen. Ezra cast a glance at the darkened bait store where Vin had acquired a job. The store usually
closed at 8:30 and Vin managed to get the closing shift. It was only him in the store. It not only cut down
on suspicion but it also reduced the possibility of injuries to bystanders.
Next Ezra scanned the parking lot for the nondescript blue van where Buck and JD were listening to slip
nine. It was there, parked crookedly on the far end of the lot away from the streetlight. The van just
looked as if it was left there for the night. Ezra went back to cleaning up the boat. He made it look like
Chris and himself had just come back from an unsuccessful fishing expedition. He risked a glance at the
leader and was rewarded with a cool gaze. He sighed. He would never hear the end of it if this was a
waste of time.
Ezra checked his watch again. It read 8:35. Where the hell was Munford? As if on cue a car pulled in
the parking lot and immediately killed its lights. Several men got out of the vehicle, all dressed in dark
suits. Ezra picked out Munford immediately. The tall light haired man had grace and style compared to
his lackeys who were all muscle.
As soon as the men had extricated themselves from their vehicle, a small john boat motored in from the
middle of the reservoir. It pulled up along side slip nine and tied off onto the bigger boat, two men
stepped up and onto the dock.
Lila peeked out from underneath the overturned john boat. The owners
had been painting it a tasteless
green color and had left it on small bricks to dry. The perfect hiding place. It was near the action but not
near enough to be seen. Thank God the dock was well lit or she wouldn’t have been able to see anything
at all. She watched as Standish and his partner pretended to put away fishing lures. She guessed that the
two seemingly drunk fishermen on the end of the pier were Standish’s colleagues. She had also noticed
the blue van and the long haired man in the bait shop. She deduced that he was the sharpshooter of the
Lila moved around to get a better view of the five men that made their way to slip nine. All were dressed
in dark suits, and as far as she could tell, all were packing heat. Instant worry sprang into her heart as
she saw them eye Standish suspiciously. A feeling of dread settled over her and she knew something was
going to go wrong.
“What do you hear JD?”
“Nothing yet, Buck. Will you calm down and stop breathing down my neck?”
Buck Wilmington sat down in one of the seats in the back of the van. “Just let me know when you hear
something so I can radio Chris.”
JD rolled his eyes. “I know the plan Buck. Now shut up so I can hear.”
Buck raised his hands in mock surrender. “Sure thing kid.”
“Catch anything yet?” Nathan asked as he leaned back in the plastic
fold out chair.
“Nothing but a suspicious glance.” Josiah answered. He reached down into the cooler between the
chairs and pulled out a Bud.
“I have a bad feeling about this, Josiah.” Nathan cast his hook back into the water.
“Don’t worry my friend. As soon as we see Ezra and Chris move, we’ll be right behind them.”
Nathan nodded and stared at the Bud in his friend’s hand. “You really going to drink that?”
“Nah, I’m on duty.”
Munford walked down the uneven wooden planking of the Aurora Reservoir
dock. His black loafers
making an unusual thump sound when he walked that reverberated off the water underneath. He took in
a deep breath of the cool night air and smiled. It certainly was a good night for a deal.
“What have you got for me, Sammy?” Munford asked as he neared the men on the large fishing boat.
Sammy, who was a short rotund man with a head of red hair and a full beard, shook his head and put a
finger to his lips. “The dock is unusually full tonight,” he whispered to the tall lanky man.
Munford looked around and saw the two drunks and the two men on the boat. He shrugged his
shoulders. “Looks fine to me.”
Sammy shook his head. “No.”
“Alright, alright. I’ll have my boys check it out.” Munford turned to two of his muscular lackeys. “Joey,
check out the drunks. Simon, you do the boat.”
Joey walked down the dock to the two men in the folding chairs. “Excuse me?”
Josiah turned and looked at the man. “Oh hello. Looksh Nate,” he slurred. “We have company.” Nathan
didn’t answer. Josiah looked puzzled for a moment then poked Nathan in the arm. “Nate, now don’t be
rude! We have a guesssht.” Again, Nathan stayed still in the chair. “I’m sorry sir but it looksh like my
friend is asleep.”
Joey laughed. “I think he’s passed out mister.”
“Well, what did ya want?”
“Just wanted to see if you had caught anything.”
“Oh yeah. Look in the bucket.” Joey leaned over and glanced into a white bucket. All that was inside
was some bright orange plastic fishing lures. Josiah started laughing uproariously. “See, they are some
Joey laughed. “Thanks mister. Hey, don’t drink and drive.”
Josiah mocked saluted as the muscle man walked away.
Simon walked across the pier toward the two men in the boat. Chris knew
he was coming. Buck had
already radioed him. So it didn’t take the two agents by surprise.
“Hey, did you guys catch anything?” Simon asked from the pier.
Ezra looked up from where he was hosing off the deck to answer the question. He froze when he saw
who it was. ‘The Magnificent Seven’ had put his boss away months ago for an illegal moonshine
business. Guess he found himself a new employer and a new racket. Recognition flooded Simon’s face.
“Hey, I know you.” he said as he reached for his gun.
Ezra did the only thing he could do. He launched himself from the boat onto the man. They rolled around
on the wooden planks, fighting each other for the loose gun. The other men on the dock began pulling
their own weapons. Chris had his out and fired at the first man, hitting him in the chest and propelling the
body into the cold water. Then he dove to the deck of the boat for cover.
Joey didn’t even make it back to the fray. Josiah had come from behind and knocked the man out with
the butt of his 9mm. However, the action drew attention to both Josiah and Nathan and they had to
quickly hide behind large pilings. Vin managed to take out one man before his cover was blown and they
returned fire at the bait shop. JD and Buck ran from the vehicle taking cover behind various objects
Ezra and Simon grappled for the gun in the midst of the gun battle. The two men were in the middle of
the crossfire. They could feel the bullets whiz buy them. And both knew one had to win soon or both
would be dead.
Ezra rolled the bigger man over onto his back and landed two vicious blows to his face. Simon retaliated
and punched Ezra in the ribs knocking the wind out of him. They wrestled some more until finally Ezra
landed a bone crushing punch to the man’s jaw knocking him unconscious. Ezra stood and smiled
triumphantly as he looked around and saw five men either dead or bleeding. However the smile vanished
as he felt the cold business end of a gun pointed into his neck.
Lila watched in absolute horror as Standish tackled the man on the dock.
Then the gunfire erupted. The
gory scene unfolded before her eyes. One man went down at a time while Ez and Simon fought in the
middle of it all. And she watched as Sammy’s partner went unscathed and took the only man she trusted
as a hostage.
“Drop your guns or he dies!” the man yelled as he pulled Ezra in front
of him as a shield. He turned and
positioned himself diagonal on the dock so that Chris, Nathan and Josiah were all in his sites. The three
agents didn’t show any signs of dropping their weapons. “I swear to God I’ll blow his brains out. Drop
Chris, Josiah and Nathan exchanged glances and slowly put their guns down.
“Kick them into the water.” The guns made significant splashes as their metal components hit the water
and then sunk to the bottom of the reservoir. Ezra caught movement from the corner of his eyes.
Unfortunately his captor saw it too.
“What the hell do you think you’re doing?” he yelled at the advancing JD and Buck. “Drop your guns.
I’ll kill him.” The two agents reluctantly dropped their guns as well. “Now, get your friend out of the bait
shop. I know he’s there.”
Vin silently swore. He hoped the man had forgotten that he was there or hadn’t noticed the gunfire
coming from the bait shop during the shoot out. He raised himself off the floor from underneath the
window and walked out he front door, hands in the air.
“Alright now, he’s coming with me. Any of ya follow and he’s dead.”
Ezra was about to protest but the feeling of the gun moving from his neck to his temple caused the retort
to die in his throat. How in the hell did he always get himself in these types of situations? The man began
to pull Ezra to the other side of the dock, away from the parking lot and away from the six men toward a
flourescent green overturned boat.
“We can’t just let him get away Buck.” JD whispered to his best friend.
“Don’t worry, Chris is thinking of something as we speak.”
Buck was right. Chris’s mind was running through every possible scenario. If they let him get away,
would he shoot Ez anyway or would he just let him go? They might have gotten him in a rush but now he
was too far away. And with Vin exposed, there was no possibility of the sharpshooter playing a role. It
looked like it was up to Ezra to find a way out of it.
Ezra’s mind was turning. He could easily take a man in a fight. A quick blow to the ribs with his elbow,
turn around and nail the bastard in the face. Only problem was that this man had an itchy trigger finger
and was so riled up that as soon as Ezra made any move he would be a dead man. Sometimes life just
Lila watched intently from her hiding place. There was no way Ezra could
get out of it alone and his
friends were basically helpless from their position. She made a quick decision and took a deep breath.
She rolled out from underneath the boat on the side away from the advancing maniac. The man kept
backpedaling toward her and soon he would be close enough for her to act. She took another deep
breath and waited. One step, two steps, three.. Her body tensed as he got closer and she crouched
lower, readying herself for the attack.
His left leg cleared the boat and then his right. Lila sprang into the man’s legs, using the force and her
weight to bring both men down. All three fell and tumbled, the gun flying and landing harmlessly on the
ground. In a cascading heap, the three rolled down a slight embankment.
When they finally stopped rolling, Sammy’s partner lay sprawled on Lila who was in turn on top of an
unmoving Ezra who had blood pooling from a gash on his temple. The larger man struggled to get up and
Lila gave him a push with her legs. Once free from his weight, she scurried on hands and knees to where
the gun lay.
She stretched for the gun, her slim fingers almost grasping the metal barrel when she felt a strong hand
grasp her ankle. He yanked hard, causing her to slide on muddy ground away from the gun. She kicked
him hard in the nose and she was rewarded with a yelp of pain. Lila quickly turned her attention back to
getting the gun.
The kick only enraged the man more. He pounced on the unsuspecting girl and brutally punched her in
the face stunning her. He then moved to the gun and viciously laughed as his fingers wrapped around the
cold handle. He stood unsteadily and pointed the gun at the slight figure trying to recover from the blow.
Seven gunshots rang out at once. Six of them found themselves buried in Sammy’s partner. He stared
disbelieving at his own chest spurting blood before dropping the gun and falling backwards, eyes glazed
It shocked them to say the least. In fact, it had taken more than a
few seconds for the ATF agents to
realize just what had happened. And as soon as they realized what was taking place, the armed smuggler
was raising his gun to shoot the mysterious helper. It hadn’t taken a seconds thought for each of the
agents to find a gun, point and shoot. For Vin, Buck and JD it had been an easy task to pick up their
weapons off the ground. Chris pulled his auxiliary gun and Nathan and Josiah picked up the weapons of
the would be smugglers.
As soon as it was over, Chris started barking out orders. “Josiah and Nathan take care of these guys.
JD call an ambulance and call in the cleanup crew. Vin and Buck come with me and find out what the
hell is going on.”
Lila unsteadily stood and made her way over to the unconscious Ezra. She knelt beside him, not caring
about her own injuries. She gently shook him. “Ez?” Lila whispered in an unsure and scared voice. “Ez?
Please wake up. Ez?” She winced in sympathy at the large cut and bruise across his forehead.
“Stand up and back away!” Chris ordered. Lila looked up and found herself staring into the intense blue
eyes of the leader and down the barrel of a 9mm. She slowly stood, trying to keep the world from
spinning. “Who are you?”
Lila straightened and immediately regretted it. She gasped in pain and her hands flew to her side. She felt
the wet stickiness that was oozing from her gunshot wound. Her head spun as she dropped to her knees
in the mud. She looked over at Ezra and noticed his eyes were beginning to flutter open. She smiled. He
was alright. Then she succumbed to the waiting arms of oblivion.
Ezra let out a soft moan as his eyes fluttered open to reveal a sky
full of stars. Pain was lancing through
his skull. He tried to struggle into a sitting position but a strong hand restrained him.
“Easy there pard,” Vin said as he kept Ezra from rising. “How ya feeling?”
Ezra gingerly lifted a hand to his forehead and felt the goose egg that had formed there. He brought his
hand back down and noticed his fingertips were stained red. “Like hell,” he answered. “What on God’s
green earth happened?”
Vin smiled crookedly. “We thought you could tell us.”
Ezra closed his eyes and thought. Ok, gun pointed at head, being pulled away from the dock, falling.
Ezra’s eyes snapped back open. “Lila!” He struggled to get up but Vin managed to keep him on the
ground. “Lila! Where is she Vin? Is she alright?”
“Calm down, Ez. Chris already took her to the ambulance.” Vin replied in an easy tone trying to keep
the undercover agent calm.
“Ambulance? Why the hell does she need an ambulance?” Ezra pushed Vin’s hand away from his chest
and determinedly got to his feet. He swayed unsteadily and Vin grabbed him to keep him from falling.
Buck hurried over from where he was directing the clean up crew and took Ezra’s other side.
“Hey pard. Let’s get you over to the paramedics.”
“I don’t need the damn paramedics! Where the hell is Lila? What happened to her?” Ezra tried to
physically push Buck and Vin away but his attempts were weak.
“Whoa. Don’t worry. Chris rode with your savior to the hospital.”
“Hospital?” Ezra asked in a hoarse whisper. “What happened? Is she going to be ok?”
Vin and Buck could both see that their words were having no affect. “Hey, how about I take you to the
hospital. You can get checked out while we wait to hear about Lila. Ok?” Buck reasoned.
The undercover agent nodded in defeat. Besides, he needed to stop the hammering that was going inside
of his head.
A long ride, a few stitches and a bandage later, Ezra Standish found
himself nervously pacing the waiting
“Sit down Ez. You’re making me dizzy. Besides, the doctor said you have a mild concussion and need
to be taking it easy. And pacing is not taking it easy.” Chris reprimanded his agent.
Ezra looked up from studying the multi-colored floor tiles and gave his superior a harsh glare. But he
reluctantly sat down in the orange colored vinyl chair. He suddenly realized that this had to be the
absolute gaudiest waiting room he ever had the pleasure to visit. If you could classify visiting waiting
rooms a pleasure.
“Tell me exactly what they said in the ambulance, again.” Ezra turned an expectant gaze to his boss and
Chris sighed. What was this the fifth time now? “They said that she had a lost some blood and that they
would have to take out the bullet. It didn’t look like anything vital was hit but they weren’t sure. That’s
all they said.” Ezra turned his eyes back to the floor and half heartedly nodded. Ezra went to stand but
was assaulted by a wave of dizziness and flopped back into the vinyl chair.
Chris nodded. The silence was really getting to him. Ezra seemed lost in his own thoughts and none of
the other guys had made it to the hospital yet. Buck had dropped Ezra off and then went back to the
dock to finish the cleanup. He figured that pretty soon the five other men would come to the hospital.
Chris finally decided to break the silence.
“Who is she?”
Ezra looked back up from the floor, his green eyes haunted. Obviously trying to deal with the fact that
Lila got injured because of him.
“A...” he didn’t know how to answer. Friend? But he didn’t know anything about her. Informant? But
she had just saved his life. Certainly she was more than that. “An acquaintance. But to tell you the truth I
don’t know much about her.”
“What do you know? What was she doing there?”
Ezra sighed and leaned his head back against the sterile white wall. “Her name is Lila. I’ve known her for
about a year, ever since the Moore bust. I caught her watching the display. I had the insight to give her
my cell phone number and every since then if she knows something important, she’ll call. I, in turn,
exchange money for the information. Other than that, I know she has lived on the streets by herself for
two years now. I took the liberty of going to the orphanage and taking a peek at her file. She is around
fourteen years old and has been passed around from one foster family to the next. No one knows who
her parents are.” Ezra closed his eyes, not wanting to think of why she was there. But he had a pretty
good idea. “She told me about the Munford deal. As to why she was there, I think she has made it a
habit to watch the fruits of her labor.”
“Or she could be watching to make sure a certain friend of hers doesn’t get himself killed.”
Ezra lazily opened his green eyes and stared at Chris. “That could also be the case.” Then he added in a
lower voice, “and that is why her injury is so tragic. It was so unnecessary.”
Chris was shocked at the admission. Could Ezra hold his life in such low regard? Did he not see himself
as worth the courage that the young girl displayed?
“It’s a free country, Ez.”
“Unfortunately,” Ezra interrupted.
Chris ignored him. “You can’t stop people from doing certain things. If it weren’t for her, you’d be
“Yes, and if it weren’t for me, she wouldn’t have gotten hurt.”
“How many times do you think the money you gave her kept her warm, dry, fed? How many times have
you saved her life without even knowing it? Face it Ez, she was just returning the favor.”
Ezra started to retort but snapped his mouth shut. He had never thought about it that way before.
However, it still didn’t relieve his shoulders of the guilt he carried.
“You better be careful Ez.”
“People might start accusing you of having a conscience.”
Ezra met Chris’s gaze, a small smile playing at his lips. “Please keep this between us. I have a reputation
“Sure, I wont tell as long as you promise to get all your reports in on time.”
Ezra feigned indignation. “Blackmail Mr. Larabee? I thought that below you.”
“Yeah, you’re right. I’ll just give you one of the patented ‘go to hell’ Larabee stares. Will that work for
“Undoubtedly. Those could drive Satan back to the gates of hell.”
Chris and Ezra locked gazes and both genuinely smiled.
Chris was about to answer but a doctor walked into the waiting room. He opened up his metal reflective
clipboard and pursed his lips. “I’m looking for a Mr. Standish or a Mr. Larabee.”
Ezra was out of the vinyl seat before the doctor could blink. “I’m Mr. Standish. Is she alright?”
“Mr. Standish, I’m Dr. Roswell.” he stuck out his hand and Ezra shook it quickly, not really caring about
pleasantries and manners. The middle aged doctor seemed to sense this and decided to cut straight to
the point. “She is a very lucky girl to say the least. The bullet only nicked a small artery. We got that
fixed up and the bullet out. She should be back to her old self in a few months.”
Ezra sighed audibly in relief. “Can I see her?”
“In a few minutes. She’ll still be under anesthesia for a while so she won’t be any fun to talk to.”
“Thank you, Dr. Roswell.”
A few minutes later saw Ezra being led into a small recovery room by a large nurse. When they entered
the room, Ezra couldn’t suppress the small gasp that escaped from his parted lips. The nurse looked up
at him with sympathetic brown eyes.
“Your daughter?” she asked.
Ezra slowly shook his head, not daring to take his eyes from the still form. “My....niece.”
She patted his arm. “Well if you need anything, don’t be afraid to ask.” Ezra nodded and the nurse left
the room, softly pulling the door closed behind her.
Ezra studied the child. The right side of her face was covered with a dark purple bruise from her
cheekbone to her chin which was a stark contrast to the pallor of her skin. Her black hair only added to
the effect. Despite the bruise and the paleness of her skin, she looked very peaceful, almost angelic in her
drug induced sleep. Images of a Goth Snow White floated through Ezra’s mind. He couldn’t help but
smile at the thought.
He pulled a chair over to the side of the bed and sat down. Taking her hand in his, he settled in for the
wait, planning to not leave her side until she awoke.
“Alright Chris. Just what in the blue blazes is going on?” Buck asked
as soon as he walked through the
waiting room doors followed by the four other men.
Chris rose from his seat and put up his hands in a calming gesture. “Calm down Buck. I’ll explain
Ezra’s eyelids felt like lead. He snapped them open yet again, determined
to not fall asleep. His eyes
closed and his head drooped onto his chest. He suddenly awoke and threw his head back slamming it
into the wall.
“Ow!” Ezra rubbed the sore spot. “Good Lord. This is going to be a long night.”
“Then go to bed,” the raspy voice answered.
“That’s the name.” She swallowed trying to work some moisture back into her mouth. Ezra must have
noticed because a straw was produced near her mouth. She greedily sucked on the straw. “Oh, Orange
Juice. My fav.”
Ezra chuckled lightly. “How do you feel?”
She seemed to think about the question for a while. “Like I’m on drugs.” She drank some more OJ then
added. “Some really good drugs.”
“I owe you. You saved my life, you know. You are the heroine of the day.”
Lila shrugged her shoulders. “Nah. You’re a friend, Ez. You’ve gotta help your friends. Especially when
you don’t have that many.” The last part of the sentence was punctuated by a yawn.
“Get some sleep, Lila.”
She yawned again and her eyelids began to droop. “Only if you do.”
“Promise.” Ezra didn’t think she heard him answer. She was asleep in a matter of seconds. He yawned
and stretched himself not being able to get her words out of his mind. ‘You’ve gotta help your friends.
Especially when you don’t have that many.’ Little did she know that her words of wisdom applied
directly to him. Or maybe she did know. Ezra looked to the door where his friends where no doubt
gathered discussing the events of the night.
“Yep, gotta take care of your friends,” he whispered.
Ezra propped his feet on the end of Lila’s bed and got as comfortable as possible. He closed his eyes
and was instantly asleep.
Two Weeks Later
Lila eagerly bounced on the side of the hospital bed. She had been laying
in the darn thing for two
weeks. It was about time she was being let out. JD had snuck her some Pixie Sticks earlier and now the
sugar was showing itself in the form of boundless energy. “Come on Standish! I want to get out of
here.” She impatiently muttered as she waited for the undercover agent.
Nathan glanced at the young girl. She certainly looked better than a couple of weeks ago, even if she still
looked a little pale. “Calm down Lila. He’ll be here in a minute.” Nathan admonished. “And if you don’t
stop bouncing, I’m going to tell the doctors to make you stay another week.”
Lila immediately stopped. She made a face at the healer causing the other men in the room to laugh.
“She’s worse than Vin.” Buck laughed.
The tracker threw him an accusatory glare. “As I remember Bucklin, you weren’t Mr. Patient when it
came to your release from the hospital.”
JD laughed and Buck hit him on the back of the head causing his newspaper boy hat to fly off. “What
was that for?”
Lila looked around at her newly acquired friends. “You guys are definitely smoking the good stuff.” Lila
almost began bouncing again but one stern look from Nathan stopped that plan. Instead, she settled for
swinging her feet. “It doesn’t take this long to sign papers, Ez. Quit chatting with the doctor. I want to
Small smiles were on each men’s faces as she made the comment. “Well Lila, even if Ez gets back
anytime soon, we still have to wait for Josiah and Chris to bring the car around.” Vin drawled, teasing
the young girl.
Lila groaned at the comment. “This sucks,” she declared.
“Now, Lila. You know that you have to take it easy for a month or two. That means you’re going to
have to find ways to amuse yourself in that place Ezra calls a home.” Nathan advised. “And, I don’t
want to hear about you rollerblading around on his hardwood floors.” Nathan added giving JD and Buck
a pointed look.
“It was just the one time.” JD defended.
“Yeah, and we heard about it for weeks.” Buck took a swipe at his roommate but this time JD had the
foresight to duck, causing Buck to hit Nathan in the arm. “Sorry, Nate.”
“You guys will come visit right?”
Buck moved over next to Lila and put his arm around her. “Oh yeah. We will turn Ezra’s place into
party central. Movies, music, food, and JD’s Playstation. It will be a blast.”
“Were you planning on consulting me at any point in time Mr. Wilmington?”
Lila giggled. “Busted.”
Buck cleared his throat. “Didn’t hear you come in Ez?”
“Undoubtedly because you couldn’t hear over your own voice.”
“What did Buck do now?” Chris asked as he entered the room.
“Woohoo! Y’all are here. I can leave!”
“Not until the nurse brings the wheelchair.” Ezra corrected.
“Wheelchair? Good Lord, I can walk!”
Chris shot a sympathetic glance over to Ezra. “You’re going to have your hands full.”
Ezra sighed. “I know. But I can always call Buck and JD to tire her out.”
A chorus of cheers went up when the nurse brought the wheelchair in. The nurse beamed and brought
the chair over near the bed. “Looks like someone is going home today,” she said addressing Lila.
Lila shook her head. “Nah, I’m staying with Ez.”
“Well, come on let’s get you there.” Buck lifted Lila off the bed and set her down in the wheel chair. He
got behind her and grabbed the handles. “Now, do you want to go fast, super fast, or ‘take corners on
two wheels’ fast?”
“How about we settle for getting her to the car alive, Mr. Wilmington?”
“Ah, you’re no fun Ez.”
“I don’t care. Let’s just go.” Lila chimed.
A few hours later found Lila settled in to Ezra’s townhouse and a “Welcome
Home” party in full swing.
The seven men and one woman had gorged themselves on Josiah’s chile, Buck’s infamous nachos, pizza
and chocolate cake. And now they were all gathered around the TV watching as Lila kicked JD’s butt
again in Tekken 3.
“Are you sure you’ve never played this game before?”
“Never. Even though I did help a bunch of Playstations fall off the back of a truck once.”
“Alright, alright. Enough with the game. JD pop in one of the movies ya brought.” Buck called from his
place on the leather couch.
Lila moved from her place on the floor to the empty space on the couch between Buck and Ezra. Buck
stretched and put his feet on the coffee table earning a glare from the southerner on the other end of the
couch. Lila tried to mimic Buck’s movements but found her legs were too short to reach the table.
Instead, she opted for putting her feet on Buck’s legs and leaning on Ezra’s shoulder.
“Hey anyone want a beer?” Vin called from the kitchen where Josiah, Nathan and himself were cleaning
“Yeah, I’ll take one,” Chris called from his seat in an overstuffed chair.
“Me too,” Buck yelled.
“Me three,” Lila chimed.
Vin laughed. “How bout a Sunny D?”
“That’ll work too.”
Vin tossed the various drinks from the kitchen. Chris and Lila both caught theirs. Buck wasn’t so lucky.
“And you played football,” Lila teased.
“Hey any room on that couch?”
“Yeah JD.” Lila moved her legs and scooted over closer to Ezra. JD squeezed in the small hole and put
his feet up on the coffee table.
Ezra groaned. “Oh my poor expensive table.” But finally gave in and soon his feet were on it as well.
“What are we watching?”
“The Blair Witch Project.”
“Is this the movie about the teenage morons who go out in the woods armed with just a camera and their
sense of direction?”
A few hours later saw the crowd of agents staring at the blank screen.
“That was horrible.”
“That was weird.”
“It was spooky.”
“It was down right ridiculous.”
“Not worth the two hours I put into watching it.”
“Yeah, I agree Ez. That’s two hours of my life I won’t get back.”
“What did you think Lila? Uh Lila?”
Buck looked over to his left where the teenage girl lay diagonally across JD and Ezra. Her legs propped
up on JD’s knees and her head resting on Ezra’s chest.
“Well I think we have officially tired someone out.”
“She asleep?” Ezra asked, squirming to take a look.
“Well then,” Vin said as he rose from his spot on the floor. “I guess its our cue to leave.” The other men
began to get up as well.
“Hey Ez, I’ll leave ya the Playstation so you two can play.”
“Thanks JD,” the southerner drawled. Once Buck and JD moved from their places on the couch, Ezra
managed to squirm out from underneath Lila. He escorted the other men out, making small talk along the
Chris was the last to leave glancing back at the sleeping form on the couch. “Take a few days off, Ez.”
Ezra nodded. “And when she’s feeling better, bring her out to the ranch.”
“Thank you, Mr. Lara.....Chris.”
Chris smiled and slapped Ezra on the back. “No problem as long as I get your reports in on time.”
Ezra saluted to his boss as he walked out the door.
Two Months Later....
Ezra looked at his watch again. 6:35. Lila was going to wonder where
he was. He typed faster on the
keyboard. He just had to finish this report and he could call it a day. He watched enviously as the other
members of the team where getting ready to leave. He typed faster, not caring about grammar and
flowery words. A few more lines.....done!
He jumped from his chair, while turning on the printer and tapping the mouse for the document to print.
He grabbed his jacket and began to throw things in his briefcase. He suddenly stopped when he realized
that for once in his life, he was excited about going home. It was a strange, yet welcomed feeling.
JD popped his head into Ezra’s office. “Hey Ez, you and Lila are meeting Buck and me at the movies at
“Yeah JD. We’ll be there.”
“Ok, see ya then.” Buck walked by and slapped JD’s newspaper boy hat off his head. “Dang it Buck!”
Ezra laughed. Another thought invaded his mind. Ever since Lila had come to live with him, he had found
that he had spent more time with his colleagues than ever. Baseball games and movies with Buck and
JD, camping with Vin and Josiah, horseback riding with Chris and the theater with Nathan and Rain. He
had done more stuff with his friends in the past two months than he did in the year prior.
But if he didn’t hurry up, there was no way he and Lila would make it to the theater in time to see the
new Ben Affleck and Mat Damon movie. For some reason, she loved them. He didn’t get it.
He grabbed the report that had just finished printing and took it to his superiors office. Ezra opened the
door without knocking and dropped the report in front of his boss. Ezra tipped an imaginary hat. “It’s on
Chris checked his watch. “Yes it is.” Ezra turned to leave but Chris’s voice stopped him. “You and Lila
want to go riding this Saturday?”
Ezra stopped and turned around. “I’ll ask her and let you know tomorrow.”
Ezra quickly gathered his things and made his way to the parking garage. He sped back to his
townhouse, checking his watch the entire way there. He pulled into his parking space and bounded to
the front door. He fiddled with the key, unlocked the door, punched in his number on the security system
and then took a look around.
The house was dark. No lights or stereo or even the computer was turned on. And it was immaculately
cleaned. “Lila?” he called hoping for an answer. He took a step into his house, closing the door behind
him. “Lila? Come on, we’re going to be late for the movie.” He looked into the kitchen, the bedrooms
and the bathroom. The realization hit him like a cold wave of water. She was gone.
He wearily walked into his bedroom, his mind working quickly. Why would she leave? He thought she
liked it here. As Ezra sat down on his bed, he noticed the single flower and a note. With trembling hands
he opened the letter and began to read.
Thanks for everything. I appreciate everything you and the guys have done for me the past few
months. But as the doctor said, in two months I’d be back to my old self. So, I figured it was time
for me to go back. Thanks Ez. You’re my best friend. Don’t worry, I’ll see ya around. I’ll give you
a call when I find out something new. Until then, take care. And go to the movie tonight with
Buck and JD. That’s an order, mister. Bye!
Ezra sighed. He knew it would come to this. He was just hoping he could
keep her here a little bit
longer. Oh well. The doctor was right. She would be back to her old self. Ezra tiredly rubbed his eyes
and seriously thought about climbing into a bottle for the night. He shook the thought off. No, he would
go to the movie with Buck and JD.
Ezra picked up the note and the flower and placed it next to the other flower and card she had given him
a few months back. Maybe one day he would get her to settle down. Maybe one day she would find a
home. Ezra had thought that it could’ve been with him. Not at this point in time. But now, he did know,
that she would come to him if she needed help. And he took solace in the fact that she knew that she had
a friend for life.
Ezra stood and grabbed his jacket from the back of the chair. Yes, she had a friend for life. Something
she needed for a long time. Just as he had. He had found his six friends. It had taken him a while to
realize it and she too would need that time to realize it as well. And when she did, he would be here for
her. Just as JD and Buck were waiting for him at the theater. He donned his jacket and left.