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Persona Non Grata - Part Five

Part Five - Blast

Amid the wild hail of gunfire, Chris and Buck broke cover so they could get Vin and JD to safety. Across the great warehouse, Chris could see Josiah emerge, firing on a hidden enemy. The enemy still managed to squeeze off a shot, but thank god, the sniper's aim was skewed and the bullet whistled just beside the Vin's ear. The sharpshooter dropped to his knees and lay JD on the concrete floor, doing his best to shield him. He looked to Chris.

Chris motioned frantically for Vin to keep running, and he took a couple of steps toward them. He watched as Vin lifted JD in his arms and stood up awkwardly. Vin ran the last few feet, finally reaching cover behind him. Buck was still shooting, giving Chris a chance to get back.

There was too much happening all at once. Vaguely, Chris heard Nathan call out for Josiah. Chris' eyes darted to the other side of the warehouse, and saw that Nathan was in trouble.

"Cover me!" Chris called to Buck, then he took off.

"G**d****t, Chris!!" Buck screamed at his back, but Chris knew his old friend would get him across. . .

Or die trying.


Vin lay JD down behind some broken down boxes, then he scurried out to see if he could help.

"Where the hell's Chris?" he called to Buck.

"Nathan's in trouble," Buck called back. He was still firing, but Vin realized after a moment that no one was firing in their direction anymore.

"Buck!" Vin said sharply, but the tall agent didn't seem to hear him. Vin reached out and touched his arm. Buck spun around and glared at him. Vin spoke more gently. "JD needs help."

Buck nodded and holstered his weapon. Vin took his arm and led him to where he'd left the kid. He could only hope they'd find him alive.


Ezra Standish could hear gunfire as the van approached the warehouse. He looked around at the unusual assortment of gunmen he had assembled to help. One was dressed to the nines, and carried two automatic weapons under his Gucci custom cut suit jacket. The man sitting next to him wore a suit as well, and black sunglasses. Ezra refrained from commenting about the prudence of entering into a gun battle with impaired vision. Better to leave it alone. There were two men in black turtlenecks who were telling jokes that would have made a longshoreman blush. Sitting next to Ezra was a nervous man with a comb-over that wouldn't stay "over"--a man who laughed for no reason and stayed huddled next to Ezra. Ezra himself was dressed in black. It might be important for him to be able to move through the warehouse without being detected. He decided that he looked like a jewel thief. Well, he had at one time broken into a diamond brokerage, but he had been on the right side of the law. He wondered for a moment if this current mission crossed that line. He was disobeying direct orders by tracking JD. He was about to break and enter. That was certainly illegal, as was trespassing, which he would surely do as well. He was teaming with men who were not police, nor were they federal agents. Even Chris Larabee would no doubt disapprove of the rescue team he had assembled. But right now, they had to get JD out of there. They could deal with the rest later.

Ezra Standish didn't pray--not in earnest anyway. Oh, he uttered an occasional "Dear Lord" when he was overwhelmed with an observation, but he certainlywas not invoking the assistance of a higher power. He spoke that oath when he was struck with the fact that his mother's five-piece luggage ensemble was laden, not with designer clothes or precious gems, but with rocks. And when he was angry that another gambler could come to town and beat him without cheating (although he had discovered later that the other man was in fact a conman of the greatest skill). He had uttered the phrase when he witnessed the blatant mistreatment of a young Asian girl in Chinatown.

But this time Ezra prayed for real as he heard the fierce gun battle raging inside the warehouse. God, they couldn't be too late. Please.

Once the van was within a few yards of the destination, the driver pulled it to a stop and Ezra issued a few "suggestions" to the men who had come to his aide. He dared not command them, and once he had described the layout, he turned to the man with the Gucci suit and waited for him to make the call.


Nathan was pinned down in a corner of the warehouse. He was out of ammunition and out of options. At least he'd been able to distract some of the men who would have mowed down Vin and JD. That was something anyway. He watched as Josiah worked to reach him. All he could do at that point was watch. Where had all these people come from? There had only been three or four when he'd first approached. Now there were . . . ten? Twelve? It would only take one with a good aim and it would be over for him. There was no place to hide anymore.


Buck ran ahead of Vin to the boxes which had been stacked close to the wall. He could see the familiar sneakers, and he slid to the ground almost before he reached his partner.

His breath caught in his throat when he saw JD. The young man already looked like a corpse--blue-tinge to his skin, no breathing, no . . . nothing. Frantically, Buck pressed his fingers into the boy's neck. No pulse either.

"No," he muttered. He tilted JD's head back and pinched his partner's nose closed as he pressed his mouth over JD's. He tried to breathe life into the kid. He watched the boy's chest fall. Vin pressed the heel of his hand into JD's sternum . . . one, two, three, four, five. Again Buck breathed into the boy, and they repeated the cycle. Sweet Jesus--Buck realized that his lips felt as though they were on fire.

Suddenly the boy wheezed--a strangled breath.

"Come on, kid!" Buck yelled. "Come on!"

For a moment JD's eyes opened, but they rolled back and he gagged.

"Life Flight?" Vin asked.

"Not until the shooting is over." Buck started pulling off his own flannel shirt. "We gotta take him now." Buck nodded to the door as he wrapped JD in his shirt. He dug into his pocket for the keys. He tossed them to Vin. "Crank it up. I'm right behind you."


Josiah couldn't let them get to Nathan. He had managed to make his way to the top of a stack of old crates. The wood creaked beneath him and he knew that any minute, he could fall through the rickety pile.

But he had to try. He had to figure out a way to get his partner out of there.

From his vantage point, he could see the men advancing from the back of the warehouse. But he knew Nathan couldn't. Josiah raised his rifle and tried to gauge the distance from the would-be attackers. He didn't want to tip off the men who had been holding JD.

He glanced to his left and saw Chris running toward him.


He was glad for the help, but he couldn't afford to take his attention off of Nathan. Still, he lay cover for Chris and signaled to their leader to hide just beneath him. Chris would be able to intercept the men coming from the back, affording Josiah the opportunity to make his way over to Nathan.

OK, this would work. There was a slight lull in the volley of gunfire. Josiah dared not move during the lull, as he would no doubt be spotted. But he realized that Nathan was out of immediate danger and Chris had gotten safely into position.

Josiah breathed a word of thanks.

He was about to take a step down when one of the men he was covering pointed to the belt that had been wrapped around JD's waist. Josiah followed his gaze.

"IT'S GONNA BLOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


The room erupted again. This time it was not bullets. It was a dozen men yelling and thundering out of the old warehouse. Those men who had come into the back of the room, turned and retreated the way they had come. Chris ran toward Nathan.

"Josiah, back door!" he cried, and covered Josiah's move down from the stack of crates. He heard the wood groan as the big man descended.

"Get Nathan!" Josiah yelled back.

"Yeah, just go." Chris pulled out his back-up revolver and, when he reached Nathan, he thrust it in his friend's hand. "Come on!" Chris ran toward the door, yelling at him. "Chris, help me!" Nathan called, as he struggled to pull himself up. Chris spun on his heel and ran back. Suddenly, Nathan pointed the pistol in Chris' direction and pulled the trigger.

Chris dove to the floor just as the shot rang out. He looked back over his shoulder and saw the gunman that had nearly shot him in the back.

Chris jumped to his feet again and caught Nathan staggering toward him. "Thanks," Chris said breathlessly. Nathan tried to respond, but could only nod. Chris leaned over and lifted the agent in a fireman's carry. He wanted to know how badly Nathan had been hurt, but there was no time. He ran as fast as he could to a side door and, glancing once to be sure he wasn't about to be ambushed, he bolted.

For a split second, he'd seen Ezra peer around a black van waiting some distance away. Slowed considerably by Nathan's weight, Chris ran hard toward the vehicle.

Chris had almost reached the van when the blast behind him drove him to the ground. He landed heavily and lay there dazed. Nathan rolled several feet ahead of him.


"IT'S GONNA BLOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

Ezra Standish saw a surge of men thundering from the warehouse. Chris was running toward him, Nathan hoisted over his shoulder. Ezra and the man in the black turtleneck covered their run to safety, but when the bomb detonated, all Ezra could do was dive behind the van, his hands covering his ears.

The blast shook the ground beneath him and for a moment, he thought he was going to be sick. JD had been wearing that plastique and Ezra knew for a fact that there had been no bomb squad there to get it off of the young agent. Ezra had brought an explosives expert and he'd gotten him there too late. Too late . . .

Ezra forced himself to get up. //Get up! This isn't over.// He dragged himself around the side of the van.

"Cover me!" he called to the turtleneck man and he ran shakily to get Chris and Nathan. Their leader was already propping himself up on an elbow when Ezra reached them. The gambler knelt beside Chris and helped him lift Nathan to his own shoulder. "I've got him, Chris!" Ezra awkwardly hooked his hand under Chris' arm and tried to help him up, but Nathan's weight made that nearly impossible.

"Chris!" Ezra yelled, more harshly this time.

"Huh?" Chris appeared confused--still dazed.

"Come on!"

"Nathan . . ." Chris mumbled.

"I got him. Come on!"

Not waiting for Chris, Ezra ran back to the van and lay Nathan on the ground behind it. Then he backtracked so he could help their leader. Chris was running sluggishly toward him. When Ezra reached him, he pulled Chris' arm over his shoulder, holding on to his wrist. Then he slid his arm around Chris' waist and ran with him to the van.

Ezra eased him to the ground beside Nathan. Nathan lay unconscious.

"How is he?" Chris asked, seemingly more alert now.

"He's got a slug in the thigh. We need to get him to the hospital. Looks like he's already lost a lot of blood."

Chris frowned and he nodded his understanding.

"Are you hurt?" Ezra asked their leader, although he never looked away from Nathan. He was rigging a tourniquet above the wound.

"Shook up's all." Chris still seemed like he was talking in slow motion. "You?" he asked Ezra.

Ezra ignored that question and asked another. "JD?"

"He wasn't wearing the bomb."

Ezra looked up suddenly. "He wasn't?"

Chris shook his head, then tried to stand up. Too quickly, evidently. He weaved on his feet. "I don't know if Vin and Buck were able to get him out in time."

Ezra was exasperated. "Sit down, Mr. Larabee," Ezra said sharply, catching Chris before he could fall. "We'll check it all out, but you can't help anybody right now. And I can't help Nathan if I have to waste time . . . restraining you."

"Gotta get Josiah . . . " Chris said, remembering that Josiah had been in there with them too.

"I'll send someone after him."

Ezra called one of the men he'd recruited and gave more . . . suggestions. The man took off and Ezra finished dressing Nathan's leg, then he opened the back door of the van. They were gonna need more ammunition. While he gathered a few weapons (most of them illegal), he could hear a volley of gunfire a little ways away.

The Southerner got what he needed then slammed the door to the van. Ezra rounded the corner again and knelt beside Chris Larabee. He handed him a couple of automatic weapons. "Where the hell did you get this stuff?" Chris asked.

"Believe me, you don't want to know." For a split second, Ezra thought he could detect the hint of a grin playing on Chris' lips.

"Now, I'm going after Josiah. You stay here and take care of Nathan. Shoot anything that moves."

Ezra stood up then halted abruptly. "Unless it's me. . . or anyone in black or in a suit." Ezra slapped the side of the van. "Well, you better look before you shoot."

"Get outa here!" Chris called. "I've got it covered."

Ezra took off to investigate the battle taking place on the other side of the flaming warehouse. The smoke almost overcame him, but he pressed on. He had to do what he could to make this right.

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