September 1, 2009
Here’s another one I’ve been holding back because I know there’s more to it. Unfortunately, my muse is being stubborn, so just be prepared, there are unanswered questions here.
Vin raced into the bullpen and skidded to a stop as he saw Ezra sitting at his desk. The other five men in the bullpen looked up from their desks, faces showing various signs of worry and concern.
"Ezra!" Vin said with evident relief as he strode across the room to the undercover agent’s desk. "You’re okay?"
"Vin?" Ezra asked, obviously confused.
Vin put his hands on Ezra’s shoulders and pushed him and his chair away from the desk, looking the other man over. "You weren’t hit were you? What happened? Why didn’t you call us?"
Ezra leaned back in his chair as if to get away from Vin’s intense scrutiny. "I have no idea what you are talking about."
Vin shook his head. "I saw your car, Ez. When did it happen? Did you call Chris?" he asked, looking up just as the blond exited his office.
"Call me for what?" Chris asked, joining the others around the Southerner’s desk.
"I do not know," Ezra reiterated.
Vin scowled. "Who shot up your car, Ez?" he growled.
"What!?" Ezra exclaimed as he shot up out of his chair, causing Vin to back pedal. "What are you talking about?"
"That’s what I want you to tell me," Vin insisted. "There’s enough holes in it to use it as a colander."
Ezra stared at the sharpshooter in disbelief, then took off into the hall, presumably to check out his car.
Vin watched him leave. His lips twitched slightly, then he licked them as he recalled his audience. "We’d better go check on him," he said.
"What’d you do, Tanner?" Chris asked.
Vin raised innocent eyebrows and just tipped his head toward the door. "Better hurry," was all he said before racing out of the office. The others were right behind him.
Somehow they managed to reach the garage level not too far behind Ezra. Or maybe the Southerner had just been shocked by the sight of his bullet ridden vehicle.
Ezra stood about ten feet from his parking spot, his jaw slack with disbelief.
Vin came up beside him. "How’d it happen?" he asked quietly.
Ezra opened his mouth then shut it. "I have no idea. It was in perfect condition when I parked it here earlier." He took a few steps toward his Jag. "Surely security would have reported gun fire of this magnitude."
A long low whistle came from one of the others as they all slowly surrounded the car. Ezra finally built up the courage to approach it and reverently laid his hand along one holey panel.
A frown creased his brow as he slid his hand along the metal. "What the…" Elegant fingers traced what appeared to be a bullet hole. Comprehension replaced the frown and then a glint of something flashed deep in his green eyes as Ezra lifted the edge of the plastic cling and removed the apparent bullet hole.
"Tanner!" he growled.
Vin chuckled and took off running for the stairs.
Ezra handed the fake bullet hole to JD and sprinted after the Texan. Threats of bodily harm drifted back to the other five as the pair disappeared up the stairwell.
Josiah lifted another of the plastic holes off the Jag and chuckled. Nathan smiled as he shook his head.
"Dang," JD said. "Wish I’da thought of this."
Buck laughed and clapped a hand on his young roommate’s shoulder. "You’ll be glad you didn’t when you see what Ez does for revenge."
JD nodded thoughtfully, then grinned. "Yeah. But I sure hope we’re around to see what he does to Vin."
Chris snorted. "After this, I have no doubt Ezra will make sure we get to see. Come on, boys, we’d better get upstairs and keep Ezra from shooting that mangy Texan."
The others laughed as they all headed back to their office.
Vin pushed his chair back from the table and stood. "Well, as much fun as I’m havin’ here with y’all," he grinned, "I really gotta go. Early morning, ya know."
Indeed, they did know. Vin had been telling them all week about his plans this weekend to help out at the YMCA’s annual Youth Olympics. It was just the local neighborhood kids competing in various track and field events, but the kids loved it, and Vin was excited, too.
His friends smiled back, waving a hand or a beer mug in farewell as Tanner made his way to the Saloon’s exit. As soon as he was through the door, Ezra jumped to his feet and hurried to the door. The others exchanged looks of confusion then quickly followed.
"Ez?" JD asked.
"Shh," Ezra said with a wave. "Just watch." The grin he wore made the others shake their heads.
Vin got into his old jeep and started it up. He put it in reverse and turned to check behind him. Seeing the way was clear, Vin removed his foot from the brake… and nothing happened. He frowned, checked to make sure the stick was solidly in reverse and gave the jeep a little more gas. The engine revved, but no motion was forthcoming.
"Spinning your wheels, Mr. Tanner?" a slick Southern voice asked.
Vin jerked around and saw Ezra and the others standing along the passenger side of his jeep. "What the hell did you do to my jeep, Ezra?"
Ezra’s eyebrows rose. "I never touched it," he proclaimed innocently, then grimaced. "I’d be afraid that the grease would leave indelible blemishes my apparel."
"Ez," Vin growled as he climbed out of the jeep and popped the hood. Everything seemed to be in order. He walked slowly around the jeep, trying to figure out what the trick was. While the lights in the parking lot gave pretty good illumination for safety, they cast weird shadows.
He ignored his friends’ catcalls and laughter. Vin got down on his hands and knees and peered under the chassis. He rolled his eyes when he saw the four small jacks, one behind each tire. They lifted the jeep off the ground just enough to prevent the wheels from touching, but not enough to be obvious in this light.
He sat back on his knees and shook his head. "Pretty good, Ez," he said with a wry smile.
"As I told you, Mr. Tanner, I never touched your vehicle."
"No. I’m sure you didn’t," Vin grinned. "But you can help me put it back down."
Disbelieving eyebrows rose again. "I think not," Ezra replied snootily. "Coming within even a few feet of that vehicle tends to leave unidentifiable stains on my clothing."
JD and Buck snorted and started laughing.
Chris shook his head. "You boys better not let this little war get out of hand. If it interferes with work…" he trailed off threateningly.
"I have no idea what you are referring to, Mr. Larabee," Ezra denied.
"What war, Chris?" Vin asked innocently at the same time.
Chris just sighed and headed back inside. He needed another drink.
Ezra parked his car and took a good look around the garage. Vin was already here, so he’d just have to pay close attention to where the Texan was throughout the day. He got out and set the alarm, double checking to make sure it was working. He’d lowered the alarm’s threshold last night. It should go off at the slightest attempt to tamper with the vehicle. He grinned and headed for the elevator. No way would Tanner get past the alarm and the guard. Ezra had offered a little cash incentive for the man on duty to watch the Jag more carefully.
He smiled contentedly.
"Damn it, Standish!" Chris yelled as he strode out of his office and over to Ezra’s desk. "Get down to the garage and fix that goddamn alarm. If it goes off one more time today… So help me…"
Ezra swallowed hard and nodded as he rose and hurried out of the office. The first two times the alarm had gone off when a fellow officer had accidentally bumped the vehicle. Ezra had checked the security video to be sure and also knew that Vin had not left the office except to refill his coffee cup. He’d never been gone long enough to do anything to the car.
The last three times the alarm had gone off because of someone slamming their car door nearby. Ezra sighed. It appeared that having the security guard on his payroll would have to be enough to protect his beloved Jag.
Ezra walked around the Jag, checking the tires and the paint job. He sighed. Everything seemed to be in order. He unlocked the car and opened the door.
"TANNER! Where are my seats!?"
Vin stalked into the office, fuming. Ezra had gone too far this time. It would be one thing to remove all the tires from his jeep, but to hang them from the ceiling supports in the garage… And then to also have the jeep similarly strung up??? How the hell did he accomplish that in the Federal Building garage??
Vin stopped in front of Ezra’s desk, breathing hard as he glared down at the man.
"May I help you, Mr. Tanner?" Ezra asked with a smile that should have had a few feathers peeking out.
"Put my jeep back the way you found it," Vin hissed.
"I’m sure I don’t know what you mean," Ezra purred.
"The hell you don’t!" Vin said, leaning his hands on the desk. "This ain’t funny."
"Oh? And having to retrieve my seats from the roof was?" Ezra countered.
Vin straightened, his lips pressed tightly together. "Ya know this means war."
Ezra’s eyebrow rose as if to say, ‘oh, really.’
Vin huffed and strode back out of the office.
"What did you do?" Buck asked coming over to Ezra’s desk.
"I simply answered Mr. Tanner’s challenge. If I recall, he started this little… war."
Buck shook his head. "I hope you boys know what you’re doing."
Nathan walked by Vin and Ezra’s desks and stopped suddenly. He looked at each of them and shook his head. From the expressions on their faces, each had something up their sleeve.
"I hope you two are going to behave yourselves. You wouldn’t want to miss the party because of a prank." Mrs. Evie Travis, Mrs. Potter, and Mrs. Wells were throwing a fund raising dinner and all of the boys had promised to be there.
Two sets of innocent eyes, one blue and one green turned to look at him.
"Nathan," Ezra purred, "you know I would never do anything to disappoint those ladies."
"Yeah, Nate," Vin agreed. "Stop worrying."
Nathan sighed and walked away, shaking his head. Those two were up to something, but darned if he was going to get involved. He wouldn’t miss this party for anything.
Ezra smiled as he hung up the phone. He’d just talked to his date for the evening and planned to pick her up at eight. He looked up and saw Vin talking to JD across the room. Ezra’s smile turned into a smirk. Vin would have to find an alternative method of transport to the festivities.
Ezra entered the garage and cast a quick glance at the empty spot that usually housed Vin’s decrepit jeep. He smirked. Vin would not be happy, but he’d asked for it.
He continued to his own parking place, his mind whirling around the evening’s upcoming events. It promised to be a fun party. Ezra stopped dead still and stared in disbelief. Only one lonely tire sat in the parking spot where he’d left his shiny black Jaguar. He spun slowly in place looking for the rest of his car. Another tire leaned against the far wall by the door leading into the other half of the garage where their car pool vehicles were kept and maintenanced. Ezra shook his head. No, he couldn’t have.
He crossed to the door and went in. Ezra wasn’t too terribly surprised to see Vin standing beside the bay that housed his jeep. Or rather, the parts to his jeep. Vin looked over his shoulder at Ezra, frowned slightly and tilted his head toward the next bay. Ezra slowly and reluctantly moved to take a look.
He sighed loudly. As he’d feared, his Jag was in the same condition as Vin’s jeep. Ezra turned his head toward Vin.
"I didn’t do it, Ez, I swear," Vin said at the same time.
Both men stopped, looked at their vehicles and then back at each other.
"You mean, you didn’t…" Vin said, suddenly confident that Ezra would never go this far.
"I know how much that rattle-trap jeep means to you, Vin," Ezra said sadly, casting a forlorn glance at his own car. "I simply had it moved. I would never do anything this… this…"
"Dastardly," Vin supplied vehemently.
"Yes, exactly. Dastardly."
"Then, who?" Vin wondered aloud.
Ezra inhaled deeply and turned on his heel to face Vin. "I do believe one or more of our compatriots is to blame for this atrocity."
"I wouldn’t put it past Nathan."
"Mr. Sanchez has a vicious streak."
"Chris. Chris would do something like this."
They both fell silent for a moment.
Ezra tugged at his coat jacket and looked Vin in the eye. "We need to discover the culprits and plan our…"
"Revenge," Vin finished the sentence with an evil grin.
"Indeed, Mr. Tanner. Indeed."
The end… for now
Feedback is welcome. JudyL