Disclaimer: Ain't ours, just playing.
Ezra Standish was a man who lived to gamble. Every waking hour
moment of chance to another. This day wasn't any different, except today
the conman knew from the moment he crawled out of bed was a day of hell.
Every fiber of his being had screamed to jump back under the covers and
call off any and all appointments. Unfortunately, the agent's need to not
disappoint one Chris Larabee went against those voices.
And now he and Vin Tanner were paying the consequences.
"Stand up!" A giant of a man grabbed Standish's Armani jacket
collar and jerked the man to his feet.
"Do you mind? This piece of haberdashery is worth more than your
Ezra gritted his teeth as he heard the fabric rip.
"Really, little man. I wouldn't worry about it if I were you.
they'll buy you a new one for your funeral." The captor laughed loudly.
"That's better than what you'll get." Tanner's Texas drawl floated
The bad guy shoved the undercover agent against the wall and was about
turn to deliver a silent spell to the sharpshooter when another voice
"Leave him, Harry. You'll get your chance to make them hurt later.
now we have to move." A sharp dressed man of middle age stepped from the
shadows, bringing a 9mm glock to rest on the two captives. "That was a
very bad move, Mr. Simpson, or is it Standish?" Enrique Coronado smiled
"It's Agent Standish." Ezra tried to straighten to his full height,
his already bruised ribs protested.
"Ah, yes. Agent Standish of the ATF. Tsk, tsk, tsk.
You should have
known better. I am not a man to play with because, in the end, it's a
lose-lose situation. Get them into the van, Harry. The plane leaves in an
hour." Coronado turned and left as quickly as he had arrived.
The muscle man let his grin widen as his boss disappeared around the
corner. "Now to finish what I started." Harry landed a vicious kick to
Tanner's side and smirked as the agent doubled over on the floor gasping in
"Get the hell away from him." The conman stepped forward, forgetting
"You want some too, little man?" The captor started to give the
agent his complete attention when a whispered plea interrupted him.
"Ez, don't." Vin raised his head slowly, still trying to get his
under control. "He's not worth it."
Standish tried to ignore his partner's sound words, but in the end,
his friend was right. The confrontation would have to wait for another day.
Harry pulled Ezra over to an old work van and yanked open the rear doors.
Ezra contemplated the two feet between the floor of the van and the ground
and sighed. Considering the pain from the beating he'd already endured and
the fact that his hands were cuffed behind his back, he wasn't sure that he
would be able to manage to get into the van without assistance. He hated
the thought of asking his captor for anything.
Ezra was spared the indignity of asking for aid when Harry took his
steadied him as he stepped painfully into the back of the van. The
southerner didn't quite trust Harry's benevolence and was prepared for the
vicious shove the criminal gave him. He stumbled but didn't fall, and felt
a grim satisfaction at the blatant disappointment on Harry's face. If the
situation hadn't been so dire, Ezra would have laughed in his face.
Harry turned his attention to the long haired agent on the floor.
finally managed to get his breathing under control. His ribs hurt like
hell. It felt like at least a couple were broken. Just like the rest of
him. This assignment had weighed heavily on all of them from the minute
Chris had told them about it.
"Black Monday" was a notoriously succesful gang of smugglers.
smuggle anything you wanted and guaranteed delivery, as long as you could
pay. And no one ever welshed on a deal with the gang. At least no one
alive had ever welshed on a deal. They'd left a string of 32 bodies across
Florida, Texas and California, not all of them customers. Vin knew that at
least six undercover agents had died at the hands of the gang. They'd been
tortured and killed and dumped in public places with a note that read only
"BLACK MONDAY" pinned to their bodies.
Vin's thoughts were interrupted when he felt the pain in his ribs flare
as Harry practically jerked his handcuffed arm out of its socket, hauling
him to his feet. Gasping in pain, Vin was pulled towards the van.
Ezra managed to get his body between Vin and the metal floor as the
sharpshooter was shoved roughly into the van.
"Mr. Tanner, I would appreciate it if you would not bleed onto my leather
shoes," Ezra spoke dryly.
"I'll try to avoid doin' that, Ez." Vin gave him a weak imitation
The two men fell silent as their tormenter slid into the driver's seat
the van, and Enrique Coronado took the passenger seat.
"Let's get rolling," snapped Coronado. "If we miss that plane,
will have our asses. He wants that money in Mexico City by Friday night,
or the buyer backs out. No American cash, no guns ... no guns, no deal
with McDermott and his boys and no return trip to Denver. No deal with
McDermott, and we're stuck in Mexico with our lives worth less than a
The men in the back heard the hollow echo of the engine reverberate
the corrogated tin walls of the warehouse and the soft whir of the garage
opener as the mechanism pulleyed the heavy door up and open. The van
lurched forward, out into the damp darkness of a midsummer Denver night.
The abrupt motion rolled Vin onto his side, and Ezra watched with sudden
concern as his partner groaned and fell into a racking spasm of coughing,
recovered, and licked with his tongue at a trickle of blood that escaped
"Don't worry 'bout it, Ez," the younger man whispered. He coughed
his face twisting in pain, then gathered the breath to continue. "Best be
thinkin' 'bout what we're gonna do when we get to the airport."
Ezra nodded, hiding his worry from both of them. "I somehow doubt
will be going all the way to Mexico with the rest of this party," he
whispered back. "Hence, we must do something to escape before we get to
the plane. I am willing to entertain suggestions."
Tanner calculated the travel time. "We got half an hour, maybe
longer, to come up with something. But bailin' out the back doors ain't
gonna help us much, even if we could do it."
"Not part of my plan, my friend," Ezra murmured. He grunted in
pain as the
van took a sharp right and threw him against one of the steet struts of the
vehicle's unpaneled interior. Vin rolled against another and gasped aloud
as it dug into his already battered side.
"Sorry the limo service ain't up to your standards, boys," Harry laughed
from the front seat. He slammed on the brakes, and the two men were tossed
against the metal legs of the rear seat. Ezra winced at the sound Vin
made. He whispered the man's name again, but Vin just grunted and dropped
his head to the floor, eyes closed.
The southerner shifted his weight slightly, curling his legs into a
for the inert form of his partner. Another sharp turn ground Ezra's cuffed
hands against the sharp edges of a metal support, but Vin's body was held
in place by Ezra's own, protected from further movement.
*Not that it will make much difference in the long run,* the southerner
thought ruefully. He'd read the reports ... he knew what the Black Monday
gang likely had in store for the two of them. If Vin was lucky, he'd never
The truck turned another corner, and Ezra strained to keep Vin within
security of his legs as the vehicle jolted to a stop. He gasped for
breath, his own bruised ribs protesting the pull of the damaged muscles
anchored to them, and coughed at the fumes from the van's exhaust as the
engine idled at what he assumed was a stop light. In the distance, Ezra
could hear a siren. It would be a small miracle if they got pulled over
... a small miracle that might save his and Vin's lives, and allow them to
deliver the information that would bring Black Monday down.
But Ezra didn't believe in miracles. Didn't Josiah always say
Lord helped those who helped themselves?
The light changed, and the truck lurched forward. Ezra held Vin
studied the interior of the van with sharp eyes. No tool box ... no tire
iron or jack ... nothing but bare metal floors, stained with Vin Tanner's
blood. The unconcious man caught in the makeshift embrace of Ezra's limbs
coughed again and let out a gurgling gasp. Alarmed, Standish tried to turn
the younger man further on his side, hoping gravity would pull the fluid
from his windpipe and ease his breathing. Fear lanced through him ... fear
that he might lose this man, whose stubborn refusal to be turned away had
made him the first real friend that the southerner had had in far too long
a time. Ezra fought it down and struggled to center himself. There must
be a way out ...
He resumed his intense scrutiny of their moving prison. There
... nothing but bare metal walls and wiring.
*Dear Lord,* he thought. Maybe Josiah's god had been listening.
He looked down at Vin, saw the puddling of blood and viscous fluid that
drained from his parted lips, listened to the breathing that had eased
slightly. Biting his lip against the protests of his own bruised body,
Ezra used his feet to manuever Vin's limp form until the man was sprawled
face down, his cheek to the floor, his legs spread wide to keep him from
rolling. Then another small miracle; the van swung into another sharp turn
and Ezra allowed himself to be thrown across the floor and into a rear
corner of the van's hollow shell. Bracing himself as best he could, Ezra
strained to raise his cuffed hands to the wiring that fed battery power to
the tail lights. His shoulders ached and pain lanced across his ribcage,
but he persisted until he achieved the small triumph of feeling his fingers
curl around the small plastic-coated strands.
He hesitated, knowing what the cost of his desperate deed might be.
coughed again, his body shuddering and then relaxing as his labored
breathing resumed. Images flashed through Ezra's mind: an easy grin of
welcome ... a glass of champagne paid for and waiting for him, on the table
at Inez' saloon ... a shadowy figure sitting by his hospital bed ... a
young man walking unwelcomed into his condo ... a framed postcard and a
cactus and a conch shell on his desk.
Ezra tightened his fingers and yanked at the wiring.
His desperate gambit worked. Every electrical system in the old
out. The driver cursed, ignoring the passenger's demand to know what was
going on, concentrating instead on steering the van down a darkened street
with no headlights, running lights, or brake lights.
But the recklessness that had driven Standish to draw to that inside
straight had a price; the electrical power deprived of its route to the
rear lighting arced into the handcuffs binding the bloodied wrists of the
man who had broken that connection. Ezra's body spasmed at the small but
painful shock that jolted through him. He came to rest on his side, his
fingers twitching and the taste of copper in his mouth, dazed and only
semi-aware of his surroundings. When white light suddenly flooded the back
of the van, and the blare of an air horn split his ringing ears, Ezra had
only moments to comprehend what was happening and try desperately to curl
himself around Vin Tanner's body before the back doors crumpled inward and
the whole vehicle shuddered, lurched sideways, and rolled over.
* * *
Peering through the high ground cover that bordered the clearing, JD nudged
his partner. "There's Ezra's Jag," he said, pointing to a car parked in
front of a run-down warehouse building in the center of the clearing. "The
guys must be inside. Looks like Vin's worrying about getting past the
front door was for nothin'. I guess those 'Black Monday' guys aren't as
sharp as we thought," he added with a light chuckle. Realizing that his
fellow agent hadn't responded to anything he'd just said, the young ATF man
glanced at Buck to see if he'd been listening. He was surprised to find
his teammate intently studying the area before them. "What's up, Buck?"
"Well, you keep an eye on things while I go let Chris know that everything
is going according to plan." Keeping his body low to the ground, JD rose
to head back to report their findings to their superior.
"Wait a minute, kid," the older agent said as he grasped JD's arm and
pulled him down beside him.
"What's wrong, Buck? Did you see something?" JD whispered, as his eyes
quickly scanned the perimeter for any movement.
"Naw, that's just it, kid. It's too quiet. You'd think they
least have a lookout posted. Somethin' don't seem right about this. I
think we better go in for a closer look."
As the two cautiously made their way toward the building, Buck motioned
JD to take the rear as he headed toward a side window. Crouching below the
window, gun in hand, the seasoned ATF agent slowly raised up to take a
quick look inside the old warehouse. His cursory examination showed no
signs of life within the dilapidated structure. Thumbing the button on his
radio, he said, "JD, the place looks empty. Give me a minute to get up
front and then we both go in."
"Gotcha, Buck," his radio crackled back.
Buck pushed open the front door about the same time that JD entered
the rear. Guns drawn, both agents carefully swept the expanse of the room,
slowly making their way toward each other, looking for telltale signs along
the way that the space had been recently occupied.
As the two agents approached each other, Buck suddenly stopped.
he cursed, an angry edge to his voice.
"What is it, Buck?" JD looked up to see his partner stooping down to
retrieve an object from the floor. He continued to scan the building for
danger as he waited for Wilmington to respond.
"It's Ezra's watch," the tall man answered softly.
"Oh, God," Dunne uttered. "That means they've been made, Buck."
"F*CK!" Buck stood up and looked directly at his partner, a mixture
anger and fear clearly readable in Wilmington's eyes. "Damn that f**king
Martin for insisting they wear a tracking device. That's probably what
gave them away."
"I don't get it, Buck. Knowing all the high tech gadgets that
Monday' has at its disposal, why did Chris go along with Martin, especially
when both Vin and Ezra thought wearing a tracker was a bad idea?"
"Because Chris didn't have a choice, kid," Wilmington said disgustedly.
"That FBI dick evidently has connections with more clout than Travis,
somebody trying to ride on the coattails of a big bust. When Chris refused
to have the guys wear the tracker, Travis said it was an order that went
beyond his powers to supercede. Travis said Chris should consider himself
lucky that Vin and Ezra weren't forced to partner up with two of Martin's
"What are we gonna do now, Buck? We got no idea where the guys
are. Or if
they are all right," he added, making no attempt to keep the worry out of
"I'm going to keep looking, maybe there's a clue around here somewhere.
You are going to head back to the car and apprise Chris of the situation."
As JD turned to leave the same way he had entered, Buck added, "Watch your
JD gave the older agent a weak smile and said, "I will, Buck."
On his way
out he followed closer to the wall, still wary of possible trouble. About
half way to the rear exit, he stopped short. Bending down, he touched his
fingers to the floor. "SH*T!" he exclaimed. "Buck, you better come over
here and see this."
Concerned, Wilmington looked up from the desk he had been rifling through,
stuffed a piece of paper in his pocket and bounded over to his partner.
"Whatcha got, kid?"
Raising up and turning to face his friend, JD held out his fingers,
tips covered with a red, wet substance. "It's blood, Buck. Looks like one
or both of the guys has been hurt."
"DAMN! As if Vin and Ezra don't have enough problems already."
worry etched on his young partner's face, the taller man tried to reassure
him with, "But, hey, you know Vin and Ezra. If anybody can get themselves
out of a jam, it's those two. They'll be all right, kid," he added, more
to convince himself than JD.
"Hey, let's go talk to Chris," Wilmington said as he clapped the smaller
agent on the back. "I found something in the papers on the desk that just
might lead us to the boys." Reaching into his pocket, he pulled out the
piece of paper he had put there earlier. Handing the paper to JD, he
asked, "What do you make of this, kid?"
Dunne studied the paper for a second and then looked up at his partner,
slight grin tugging at the corners of his mouth. "Some sorta number ... I
don't know. But it's on Skyline Airways stationary. A number for a tie-down
space, maybe? For a private plane?" he said encouragingly.
A broad grin spread across Wilmington's face. "Yeah, that's what
too, kid. It's time to round up the posse. We got us some bad guys to
nail and some pards to rescue." He laughed as the two headed back to their
* * *
The first sensation that hit him was pain. *I couldn't have been out
long,* Ezra thought as he heard Harry and Enrique get out of the van.
"Damn, Vin, I'm sorry," he spoke to the nearly unconscious man he was half
laying on. Ezra struggled to move off of his injured friend.
Ezra was answered with only a moan from the sharpshooter. "Vin,
we have to
get out of here." The undercover agent had given up using his 'five dollar
words' as Vin called them.
Vin tried to sit up when the intense pain forced him back down again.
Instead of answering Ezra, he just shook his head.
"Vin, the vehicle is on fire. We have to get out." The smoke
almost too thick to breathe.
"I ... can't ... you ... go," Vin gasped.
"Tanner, don't you quit on me, now," Ezra yelled at the injured man.
"I'm sorry." Vin said nothing more as he lost the fight to stay conscious.
"Damn it,Vin, you're the first person I ever let get close to me.
going to let you die." Ezra made himself stop and think. *What the hell
can I do handcuffed?* He could hear the voices outside the van. He wasn't
sure what they were saying, but he could definitely hear them. *There has
to be a way for me to let them know we're here.* Ezra started coughing,
the smoke was getting too thick. *Oh damn, this is going to hurt!* Ezra
drew his legs up then kicked as hard as he could straight out against the
metal doors of the van.
* * *
Police Officer Michael Wiseman heard the sound coming from the back of the
van. "Shit, someone's in there." He ran to the back of the vehicle and
jerked open the doors. The smoke was thick, but he could make out the form
of two people. He grabbed Ezra and was pulling him out.
"No, my friend, get him, he's worse," Ezra said between coughs, as he
trying to breathe.
Michael carried the other man and laid him on the ground, then went
"Listen," Ezra began, "we're undercover." Ezra knew he had to
get this man
to understand. "Someone's trying to kill us."
"Why are you handcuffed?" the officer asked.
A paramedic was trying to give Ezra oxygen to help him breathe but,
moving away from the mask. "We're ATF ... undercover ... gang ... Black
Monday." He had to get a message to Chris and the others.
"Shit, I've heard of them." Every officer of every department
had heard of
Black Monday. Michael used the key to his handcuffs to release Ezra and
"Two men that were in the front of the van, where are they?" Ezra
as his breathing was getting better now that he was out of the smoke-filled
"I don't know. They disappeared."
Ezra stopped to listen to the paramedic that was working on Vin.
ahead to the hospital. Have a surgeon on stand-by. We have extreme
"I'm going with him."
"Mister?" the paramedic looked at Ezra.
"Mr. Jones, you'll need to be seen by a doctor as well. We'll
care of your friend."
"NO!! I'm staying with him!" Ezra looked at the police officer,
asking for his help.
Michael pulled Ezra aside. "What can I do?"
"As long as we're alive, we're in danger. I have to stay with
don't even know who we can trust anymore."
"What do you mean?" the officer asked, confused.
Ezra took a deep breath, deciding how much he should tell this man.
if he would have been one of them, he and Vin would both be dead. "My name
is Ezra Standish." He pointed to his fallen friend. "He's Vin Tanner. We
are part of the--"
Michael Wiseman smiled, "The Magnificent Seven, hell everyone in law
enforcement has heard of you."
"There's an FBI agent, Daniel Martin, he's on the take. He set us up."
Michael frowned, he hated to hear of a cop gone bad. "All right,
with Mr. Tanner in the hospital."
"We'll need to be checked in under an alias."
"Agreed. I'll stay with you, too," Michael offered.
"No, just contact Larabee in person, no phone calls." Ezra tried
on the man, but he couldn't keep his gaze from returning to Vin as he was
being loaded into the ambulance.
"And officer." Ezra made sure there was no mistaking the threat
tone. "No one else will know of this, understand?"
Officer Wiseman nodded as Ezra let himself be helped into the back of
ambulance with Vin.
* * *