Disclaimer: This story is the product of different minds coming together to have some fun. All rights to these characters belongs to others. This is strictly for entertainment and we will make no profit.
Relief swept over Ezra as he stood in the doorway to his office. In the week he'd been away only one folder and a couple of official looking documents had been placed in the centre of his desk. Besides writing up the report on the assignment he'd undertaken with the Denver Police, it seemed he had very little in the way of catching up to do. Although, to be honest, Ezra's workload wasn't the reason for the overwhelming sense of calm. It was the fact that everything had been exactly as he'd left it a week ago. His desk, chair, filing cabinet, plant and the very few ornaments he had were in exactly the right place. Moving around his desk to sit down, Ezra quickly opened the drawers, again finding everything untouched and in complete order. Dear Lord, that sounded anal even in his own mind. He knew he was fastidious, everyone did, but this is the first time he'd taken to checking that his stationery supply was as neat and tidy. Ezra just felt so unsettled lately, like the world had shifted slightly and hadn't taken him along with it. He couldn't pinpoint anything specific that could possibly be having this effect on him, nothing had happened.
Perhaps it was the fact that he'd spent last week suffocating in a broom closet the Denver Police had the nerve to call an office. Two police officers already occupied the room and when Ezra had been requested to help them with a fraud case, the three men had been forced to share the ridiculously cramped space. And as if that hadn't been bad enough, the office they occupied rivalled Buck's as far as neatness was concerned. Although Ezra had to admit it hadn't been toys that littered the small area, it had been paper. There had been files, transcripts, reports and sheets of data stacked everywhere, some of them toppling over under the weight and left where they'd fallen. And it just kept coming, piles of paper were delivered to the office daily without anyone ever removing what was already in there, so that every day desks, chairs and cabinets had to be rearranged to accommodate the never ending stream. The only way to find the phone was to wade through all the documents towards the ringing sound, and if you needed to make a call it was much easier to use one of the secretaries' phones. Luckily, with Ezra undercover as a dealer in used goods, they'd quickly apprehended the felons who were selling off their employer's stock and furniture under the company name without the company's knowledge or consent.
Ezra wasn't claustrophobic, but by they end of the week he couldn't wait to escape the stifling environment. That had to be it, he hadn't felt comfortable working in those conditions and that unease had lingered after hours. Now that he was back on Team 7's floor where he belonged, Ezra felt completely at ease. His green eyes swept over his surroundings once more, everything was normal again. Right down to the fact that JD was bounding towards his office. "What can I do for you?" Ezra asked when JD finally reached the doorway.
"Welcome back, Ez." JD smiled ingratiatingly before continuing, "Sorry to give this to you on your first day back, but Chris wanted you to look over this." JD handed over the sheets he'd been holding and, before his hands could be idle for too long, picked up the paperweight on Ezra's desk and began fiddling with it.
Ezra quickly scanned what looked to be a list of names, "And what does our illustrious leader require me to do?"
"It's a list of employees that work at ABP Limited," JD replied. "Some of them are involved in a gunrunning gig on the side and Nathan and Josiah are interviewing everyone on that list now trying to figure out which workers are in on it. Chris just wanted to know if you recognised any of the names. Maybe one of them bought or sold a gun while you were undercover on another case."
"That doesn't seem too strenuous for my first day back," Ezra stated. "I think I can handle it."
"Thanks, Ez," JD said as he put down the paperweight and turned to leave.
Ezra reached over and moved the paperweight slightly so that it was positioned in precisely the same place it had been before JD had picked it up. Looking up, Ezra realised that the kid had actually turned back around and was watching him. Realising he'd been caught being pedantic, Ezra gave JD a sheepish grin, "Was there anything else?"
"Yeah, I almost forgot to tell you. There's a meeting in the conference room at three," JD answered.
This time Ezra waited until JD had definitely left before contentedly delving into the work that had been left for him. Glad to be back in his own neat and ordered office.
* * * * * * *
Chris was the only other person in the conference room when Ezra walked in ten minutes late. Checking his watch, Ezra looked around the room a little disconcerted, he couldn't remember the last time he'd been one of the first people to arrive.
"Doesn't happen very often, does it," Chris vocalised what Ezra was thinking.
Ezra watched Chris shuffle some papers before sliding into a seat next to their leader. "No, and I must say I find our associates' tardiness most disturbing. I believe their attitudes toward their job and their leader is slipping."
Chris smiled, "They were just filling the void while you were away."
"Well, I'm back," Ezra mumbled.
"How did it go at the Denver Police Department?" Chris asked.
"Hot, cramped and dusty," Ezra stated. "And the coffee was horrific. I had to abstain from caffeine for the whole week."
"So you're happy to be back?" Chris' gaze drifted towards the door as he spoke.
Ezra followed Chris' line of sight in time to see Vin stroll into the room and drop into a chair opposite him.
"Of course Ez is glad to be back," Vin looked directly at the undercover agent and nodded in greeting. "He missed us."
"Actually, it was my office I missed," Ezra drawled.
"Why, didn't they give you the Captain's office to use while you were there?" Nathan queried as he walked into the room, Josiah right behind him.
"No," Josiah said, remembering his days on the beat. "They would have forced Ezra to share with at least two or three other officers."
Nathan cocked an eyebrow, "So, I gather you've finally learned the meaning of the word 'share'."
"I was familiar with that particular word before last week," Ezra muttered.
"Just never put it into practice before then," Chris grinned.
"You know, perhaps a permanent position with the Denver Police would be preferable than working with all of you, despite the need to cohabitate," Ezra glared the four men in turn.
"See, I told you we'd be late," JD grumbled as he walked in and sat down.
"Yeah, but I thought for sure we'd get here before Ezra," Buck closed the door behind him before taking a seat.
"What's happening?" JD asked, not wanting to have missed anything.
"Ez is quitting to become a police officer," Vin answered.
JD's face showed his bewilderment as he stared at the undercover agent.
"That decision is still under consideration," Ezra stated. "I've been back five minutes and my sense of benevolence has already come under attack. Either that or my vocabulary."
"We were teasing him because he had to share an office," Nathan filled in when he noticed JD's expression wasn't about to change.
"So you're not really going to leave?" JD needed to make sure, otherwise he'd be the first to apologise even though he hadn't offended the undercover agent in any way.
"Don't worry Kid," Buck smiled. "There's no way Ez would leave us. For all the whingeing, he loves it when we tease him."
"I must vehemently disagree," Ezra stated. "First of all, I don't whinge. And secondly..."
"Okay, that's enough," Chris interrupted. "We can pick on Ezra after the meeting."
Chris scanned the now serious faces at the table and wished he had something more exciting to tell them. He had just wanted the meeting to get on track, he hadn't meant it to sound as though a big case had come up. Coughing slightly, Chris turned to Josiah and Nathan and asked, "How are the interviews going at ABP?"
"Slowly," Josiah responded. "But we do have one or two possible suspects."
"Yeah, some of those employees know more than they're saying," Nathan added.
"Have you had a chance to take a look at that list Ezra?" Chris queried.
"I have," Ezra answered. "However, I'm afraid I didn't recognise any names. Of course, that doesn't mean these miscreants aren't using an alias I'm not familiar with."
"Well, keep at it," Chris said turning back to Nathan and Josiah. "And give Team 3 your report daily. Also, let them know we'll be on standby when they're ready to go in."
Josiah nodded, "Will do."
"Okay, next it's come to the Judge's attention that some restaurants and cafés in the area are selling liquor without a licence. Buck and JD, could you guys go down, check it out and scare the owners into either getting a licence or quit selling alcohol," Chris handed JD the list, then turned to stare at Buck.
Buck was about to protest when we saw the look directed at him and changed his mind, "No problem."
"Lastly, there's a whole warehouse full of weapons and ammunition in one of our storage sheds downtown that are just sitting there. Ezra and Vin, could you guys..."
"No," came the simultaneous interruption from both men.
"Well then, let me rephrase," Chris continued. "Ezra, Vin, you two will be going downtown to categorise and label a warehouse full of weapons, right down to the last individual bullet. And you will have it done by the end of the week."
"Since you put it that way, how could we refuse," Ezra drawled.
"Good," Chris nodded. "That's it for the meeting. Sorry it wasn't anything more interesting."
Everyone stood and began filing out of the room. Ezra carefully placed his seat neatly under the table, then lined the next chair up with his own before reaching for the third.
"Since when do you straighten up the conference room after a meeting?"
Ezra looked up to find Chris watching him with an amused expression on his face.
"Just doing my part," Ezra mumbled before hastily making his exit.
Buck caught the undercover agent by the arm as he rushed past, "So, you really shared an office? I didn't think you knew the meaning of the word."
Ezra bowed his head to hide the grin. He really had missed these guys, but there was no way he'd ever admit it.
* * * * * * *
Turning the key in the lock, Ezra noted that he felt better than he had in a long while. The unsettled feelings he'd had for weeks seemed to have evaporated over the course of the day. Nothing about work or the office had changed, his teammates certainly hadn't changed. Everything was in order, normal and good. That is, until Ezra stepped into his apartment.
Ezra stood in the doorway, silently surveying the layout of the room. He could see that everything was in it's place, yet it seemed to Ezra that nothing was in it's place. Ezra reached for his gun, the weight and cold steel of the weapon giving him the perception of security, before slowly walking further into his apartment as his eyes darted in every direction trying to look around the corners before he got to them.
Feeling a little foolish for overreacting, Ezra put the gun down and came out of the bedroom back into the main living area. After his initial sweep, Ezra was positive that there was no attacker or burglar in his apartment. And on closer inspection, Ezra noted that nothing was missing. Taking a deep breath, Ezra stayed completely still in an attempt to let the calmness of his discovery flow over him. It never came, so instead the undercover agent moved over to straighten one of the chairs at the dining table. A chair that shouldn't have been pulled out in the first place, Ezra never sat there, in fact he hadn't sat anywhere at his dining table since yesterday afternoon. And wasn't that vase supposed to be in the centre of the stand? Ezra glanced towards the bookshelf, noticing that the spines of the books weren't lined up as they usually were, it was as though someone had pulled a couple of books out, flipped through them, and then hadn't put them back properly. In fact, the whole apartment felt as though someone had been rifling through it, putting everything back where they'd found it after they'd finished, managing only to create the illusion of normalcy when they'd tried to cover their tracks.
Of course, Ezra could have moved the books himself, he had read them and it wasn't like he ever consciously lined the books up when he replaced them. He could have bumped into the chair, and he'd never measured exact centre of the stand where the vase was. Nothing was dramatically out of place and, Ezra reminded himself, nothing had been stolen. Now he felt more than a little foolish, it was obviously his imagination. It had to be, because that's what he'd been telling himself over and over again for the past few weeks. Ezra had become an expert at making up thousands of small, believable excuses for why things were out of sync. It was tiring and Ezra didn't think he'd be able to rationalise anything for much longer, so blaming his imagination was becoming easier by the day.
Still, Ezra decided to dine out tonight, maybe go for a walk, catch a movie. It didn't really matter as long as he didn't return home too soon. Ezra grabbed his keys and headed out the door hoping to escape the creepy sensations that, imagination or not, hovered over his apartment.
* * * * * * *
"I've already told you, the spare key to your apartment is where it should be and nobody's taken it, ever. Is there anything else?"
"No, thank you for checking anyway," Ezra sighed as he hung up the telephone.
After having stayed out of his apartment until the early hours of the morning, it had occurred to Ezra that perhaps someone from maintenance or management of the apartment building was using the only other key to his place. Writing up reports had preoccupied Ezra for most of the day, but his paranoia had caught up with him late in the afternoon and the undercover agent had given in and called the landlord. Unfortunately, that hadn't appeased the anxiety that was steadily creeping up on Ezra the closer the end of the working day approached.
"Everything alright?" Josiah asked in concern. He couldn't help but notice the worry playing over Ezra's features when he'd walked past the undercover agent's office.
Ezra plastered a small smile on his face as he looked up to meet the older man's gaze, "Fine."
Josiah tilted his head slightly still staring at Ezra. He knew that something was wrong, but he also knew pushing Ezra to reveal anything was impossible and that it would probably be best to give him time. "If you say so," Josiah stated as he began to move on.
"Although," Ezra called and waited for Josiah to step back into his doorway. "Perhaps we could organise to go somewhere for dinner."
"It's on me," Ezra interrupted quickly. He didn't want to hear that his teammates couldn't or wouldn't join him. Ezra wanted company, he wanted amiable, loud conversation surrounding him, and he wanted as much time to pass before he had to go back to his apartment.
"I was about to say, I don't think anyone would say no," Josiah said noting the slight hint of desperation that had tinged Ezra's voice. "I'll ask the others."
"Ask us what?" Buck wanted to know as he strode up behind Josiah.
"Ezra's offered to take us all out to eat," Josiah supplied.
Buck looked to the undercover agent for confirmation and when Ezra nodded in assent, Buck smiled, "Wow, your second day back and you're actually offering to pay for something. You really must have missed us."
* * * * * * *
Chris stepped off the elevator and automatically waved in the direction of Vin's office, the sharpshooter always made it into the office before he did. Then hearing movement from another office, Chris looked quizzically at the sharpshooter and mouthed the word "Ezra?"
Vin nodded slightly in affirmation.
Chris continued staring at Vin with the curious expression still set in place. When Vin shrugged indicating that he didn't know any more, Chris made his way to the undercover agent's office.
Chris would have been surprised to see Ezra at work this early under normal circumstances, let alone after Team 7 had spend most of the night eating and drinking at Ezra's favourite restaurant, the lateness of the evening instigated mostly by Ezra. Now that Chris thought about it, Ezra had seemed very reluctant to part with their company, as if he hadn't wanted to go home. He'd even asked them to go onto a bar or nightclub after they'd left the restaurant, however they rest of the team had wanted to get some sleep before another workday. Which is precisely what Chris had thought Ezra would be doing now - sleeping in. Their late night providing a perfect excuse for his tardiness, not that he ever needed one.
"Mornin' Ezra," Chris smiled. "You're in early."
Ezra looked up from the file spread open on his desk, "Yes, although I wasn't the earliest."
"It's pretty hard to beat Vin," Chris commented, watching Ezra carefully and noting the dark circles forming under the glassy, green eyes. It looked as though Ezra hadn't slept at all, and Chris began to wonder if Ezra had gone home at all last night or headed to the bar as he'd suggested after the meal. Realising that Ezra was wearing a different suit today didn't entirely dismiss the possibility of the undercover agent staying out until the early hours of the morning, it just proved that he must have been at his apartment at some point. "You don't look well. Is anything wrong?" Chris asked in concern.
Ezra wanted to say yes. He wanted to tell Chris that things in his apartment kept moving around. That the desk lamp was turned on when he got in last night, that it looked as though someone had rifled through his medicine cabinet, and that he'd noticed his ties were in a different order on tie rack this morning. But then he'd have to mention that nothing was actually taken, that he used the lamp all the time and may have forgotten to switch it off, that he himself rifles through the medicine cabinet when he's looking for something to relieve any pain after an injury or late night, and that he couldn't recall the exact order he kept his ties in. Ezra was sure Chris would think he was losing his mind, and the undercover agent would be inclined to agree with him. Until a crime had actually been committed or he could find some hard evidence, there was no way Ezra was going to admit to their leader that anything was wrong. And nothing was wrong, it was just his own imagination playing tricks on him. Instead Ezra answered, "You don't look as though you've fully awoken yourself."
Chris sighed, he still felt as though something was bothering Ezra but if the undercover agent didn't want to talk about it, then Chris wouldn't push. He hoped Ezra would come to him, or one of his friends, in his own time. "I'm blaming that on you," Chris acknowledged Ezra's statement before continuing, "My door's always open, in case you change your mind and want to tell me what's wrong."
Ezra nodded his thanks as he watched Chris amble towards his own office. He knew Chris would listen to him, as would the other members of Team 7. However Ezra knew his anxiety was unjustified, so how could anyone else come to a different conclusion. No, as tempting as it was to walk through Chris' open door, Ezra decided that he'd prefer to deal with his overactive imagination himself.
* * * * * * *
Vin lightly rapped on the already open door and waited for the undercover agent to stop typing and focus on him. Instead Ezra continued his task and without looking away from the screen asked, "What can I do for you Mr Tanner?"
Vin noticed the flat, exhausted tone and it worried the sharpshooter that Ezra looked as bad as he sounded. It was becoming obvious to everyone on Team 7 that Ezra wasn't sleeping, in fact he seemed to avoid going home at all costs. However, Vin had also noticed the increased agitation Ezra seemed to be displaying, especially with the objects around the office. Vin had watched Ezra as he returned files, staplers and even pens back to their original place, sometimes before one of the others had finished with it. His teammates thought Ezra was just being his fussy self, but Vin felt an underlying current that disturbed him. If Ezra would just tell someone what was wrong, maybe they could help. But as usual the undercover agent kept it locked up inside, and Vin knew that he'd have to find the perfect time, place and way to broach the subject with Ezra without getting pushed further away. Better still, Vin might find out what's going on by accident and then be able to help Ezra whether the stubborn fool wanted him to or not.
"Well?" Ezra raised an eyebrow as he stopped to look at Vin. He hoped that the sharpshooter wouldn't ask him what was wrong. Ezra knew he hadn't been at his best the past week, but he was handling it. Actually there was nothing to handle, Ezra reminded himself, it was just all his imagination.
"It's Thursday," Vin stated bluntly after being startled out of his reverie.
"I'm aware of that fact," Ezra tilted his head slightly hoping that Vin hadn't disturbed him just to inform him which day of the week it was.
"Chris wants those weapons downtown categorised by the end of the week," Vin continued. "And since tomorrow is the end of the week, I thought I'd pick you up tomorrow morning and we could head straight to the warehouse. That way we'll have the job finished by the end of the day."
"Sounds like a perfectly delightful way to spend a Friday," Ezra drawled.
"Yeah, I know," Vin agreed. "I'll pick you up around eight."
"Ah, perhaps seven would be a better time," Ezra automatically seized on the opportunity to escape the uncomfortable feeling in his apartment as soon as possible. "You know the sooner we get started and all that."
"Okay," Vin stared at Ezra for a moment before heading back to his own office mumbling, "Whatever you want."
* * * * * * *
The hesitation when opening the door; the relief in the eyes when they registered who it was; and the fact the Ezra wanted to leave right at that moment, didn't go unnoticed by the sharpshooter after he'd knocked on the door at 7 am sharp. Curious as to why Ezra was acting this way, Vin stepped forward instead of backwards and peered over the undercover agent's shoulder into the apartment.
Realising Vin wasn't about to move any time soon, Ezra reluctantly moved aside to allow Vin inside.
"Doin' some redecorating?" Vin asked, thinking that maybe Ezra hadn't wanted anyone to come in before he'd finished.
"What?" Ezra answered with a question of this own.
"Didn't that vase used to be over there?" Vin pointed to the object in question.
"I didn't move it," Ezra mumbled. When he noticed Vin was staring at him waiting, Ezra continued, "For about five weeks now I've noticed things moving around the apartment. Vases and ornaments - small things. Chairs have also been pulled out, books in the wrong order, cupboard doors slightly ajar. However nothing is ever missing, I thought it was just my..."
Ezra's words faded as he watched Vin crouch in front of the door and examine the lock carefully. Vin then stood and scanned the room with the same expression Ezra had seen him use when checking a crime scene or surveying a vantage point. Vin was taking this situation seriously, and Ezra could barely comprehend the immense sense of relief that washed over him. Ezra felt he should have told someone about this sooner, he knew that anyone of his teammates would have reacted the same way Vin was now. The burden Ezra had been carrying around could have been lifted weeks ago, not to mention and end to the sleepless nights.
"When did you notice the vase had moved?" Vin questioned.
"I had thought it was in its original position last night," Ezra answered honestly.
Vin's eyes widened as he started searching the whole apartment. Ezra stayed in the living room and waited patiently. He knew Vin wouldn't find anything, he'd searched the place just before the sharpshooter had arrived. For all the uneasiness Ezra had been feeling and the fact that he hated the thought of someone else going through his home, the fact that Vin was thoroughly searching every room in the apartment didn't bother the undercover agent at all. It wasn't like the sharpshooter hadn't seen his the place before. In fact Vin and the rest of Team 7 were always welcome and although he always complains about the mess they left behind, Ezra was always comfortable with it.
"It's clean," Vin stated what Ezra already knew. "And it doesn't look like anyone's been tampering with the lock. Who else has a key?"
"The manager of the building," Ezra replied. "But I have already checked with him and the key was never moved."
"Do you have another spare?" Vin asked. "You know that you give to someone so that they can get into the place in case of an emergency or something."
"I keep both the original and spare key," Ezra said a little defensively. He didn't want to admit that he couldn't bring himself to trust anyone enough to actually hand over a key to his apartment, hell his life. "Why? I wouldn't assume you would hand over the keys to your apartment to just anybody either.
"Good point," Vin conceded, his eyes sweeping over the living room once more.
"It's a terrible point," Ezra stated. "You keep your door unlocked at all times."
"True," Vin grinned slightly before turning serious. "Still, you should get the lock changed."
"Alright Mr Tanner," Ezra agreed.
"No time like the present," Vin said.
"Don't we have a warehouse full of arms that we are required to catalogue," Ezra drawled.
"It can wait," Vin smiled. "Besides I wouldn't have thought you'd be in a hurry to get to work."
* * * * * * *
It had been a long day which had seemed to drag out even more due to their tedious task, but Ezra and Vin finally logged everything stored in the warehouse and even dropped by the office to place all the documentation on Chris' desk. Their leader could sort the jumble of papers out, and he wouldn't be able to complain that they hadn't completed their duty in time.
Ezra hoped that Vin had missed the slight hesitation he'd shown as he fitted his new key into the lock. Although, if he had been given the choice between Vin spotting his nervousness or Vin not being there at all, Ezra would definitely have chosen the first option. He had to admit, since talking to the sharpshooter this morning, Ezra had felt a lot better. And now, although he was a little anxious, having Vin at his back seemed to settle Ezra's fears.
As the door swung open, Ezra breathed a sigh of relief. Nothing had been moved. Ezra blinked, a little surprised at himself for having known that already. He really wasn't that fussy, and didn't catalogue exactly where he kept everything, but over the past couple of weeks there had always been something shifted and he supposed he'd learnt to notice. Stepping into the room, Ezra noticed that Vin was right behind him. Turning, Ezra smiled, "Everything's fine."
"Are you sure?" Vin asked no one in particular as Ezra had already moved onto the next room. The sharpshooter took the opportunity to scan the room more carefully. Vin didn't know the exact layout of every piece of furniture or ornament in Ezra's apartment, but he had a fair idea, and he had scrutinised the place that morning. Ezra was right, nothing appeared to have been moved, although anything in cupboards or drawers would have to be something that only the undercover agent would know about.
"Everything's fine," Ezra repeated, looking exultant as he came out of one of the rooms.
"I could hang around..." Vin began.
"There's no need," Ezra interrupted, a little disappointed that Vin didn't seem as relieved as he himself felt.
"Someone has been breaking into this place," Vin stated.
"Perhaps," Ezra conceded. "But obviously it was just some miscreants playing some kind of prank. And if you weren't standing here looking so tense, I'd have accused you of the practical joke."
"It's not funny," Vin mumbled.
Ezra sighed, "I'm sorry for overreacting earlier, and that it's made you overprotective. However, I'm fine, my apartment's fine, in fact everything's fine except you." Realising that Vin still wasn't satisfied and a little disgruntled at the uneasiness surrounding the young man, Ezra continued, "I would appreciate it if you wouldn't make me feel an even bigger fool, and let me relax in my own home. I won't repeat this again Mr Tanner, everything's fine."
"Okay Ez, I'm going," Vin didn't want to be making Ezra uncomfortable, especially since the heaviness seemed to have been lifted from the undercover agent. "If you find anything..."
"I'll know who to call," Ezra grinned as he finally shut the door and looked forward to a wonderful night's sleep.
* * * * * * *
Vin stood in the foyer waiting for the elevator, wishing the damn thing would hurry up and get here. His impatience increased with every second, and the nagging sensation that something was wrong wasn't helping any. Vin had been feeling uncomfortable about leaving Ezra alone in that apartment, which the sharpshooter hadn't even checked out properly himself before departing. On impulse Vin had turned into a takeout joint on his way home, before turning around and heading back the way he'd come. The food was meant to be the excuse for his return, which was sure to be unwelcome. Those eternally closed steel doors continued to mock him and, needing to feel he was doing something, Vin headed for the stairs instead.
Finally, Ezra's front door was in sight and Vin quickened his pace. As he drew closer, the sharpshooter could see that the door was slightly ajar and he finally slowed, his movements now cautious. Leaving the food outside, Vin gently pushed open the door hoping that Ezra would be glaring at him on the other side. When that wasn't the case, the sharpshooter quickly scanned the room looking for any abnormalities. The biggest and only abnormality being Ezra's body lying broken and bloody towards the back of the room.
Fighting the almost overwhelming urge to run to his friend's side, Vin drew his weapon and stealthily began checking the whole apartment. Vin had to check that the perpetrator wasn't still hiding somewhere as he knew he couldn't afford to be caught by surprise, he wouldn't be able to help Ezra otherwise. After clearing the fire escape, Vin was finally satisfied that the perp had gone. Grabbing his cell phone with his free hand, Vin quickly called it in making sure the operator understood the urgency. Keeping the doorway leading into the closest room and the front door in his circle of vision, Vin dropped to his knees beside the fallen undercover agent.
The most menacing wound Vin could find was the severe blow to the back of Ezra's head. It appeared to Vin that, after knocking Ezra out, the perp had continued beating at his body, the blows raining down irregularly and indiscriminately as if whoever had done this had been in a rage. Vin wouldn't or couldn't release his grip on the gun, so he placed the cell phone on the floor and reached out the shaking hand to check for a pulse. A small shuddering sigh escaped his lips when he felt the weak heartbeat under his fingertips. Not wanting to harm his friend any further, Vin didn't dare move or touch the undercover anymore. Instead, he picked up his phone and hit one button, "Chris, it's Vin...."
* * * * * * *
"There's room, if you'd like to ride in the rig with your friend."
Vin's eyes flicked from the man lying on the stretcher to the paramedic who was talking to him. Registering what had been offered, Vin automatically stepped forward, before catching himself, "No, I need to.... I have to finish up here."
"Okay," the paramedic said, understanding that the stunned man in front of him needed to be doing something instead of sitting still.
Vin would have loved to have gone with Ezra, in fact it was usually himself or Chris who fought to jump in the back of an ambulance with an injured teammate without having to worry that there weren't enough people to clean up the scene. But no-one else from Team 7 was here, they were all on their way to the hospital as Vin had instructed. So Vin didn't feel as though he had a choice, he had to stay and make sure the police officers that had arrived with the ambulance gathered every piece of evidence they possibly could.
Maybe they could do a good enough job on their own, after all it was what they were trained for. But Vin was the only person here that knew what had been going on for the last couple of weeks, he knew the exact layout of Ezra's apartment, hell he knew the man.
Vin was ready to go over this place with fine toothed comb, and he scrutinised everything down to the finest detail, noting the slightest thing out of place and then direct whichever officer was closest to have it photographed, bagged or written down.
When he got to the still wet blood that was seeping into the carpet, Vin crouched as he stared, mesmerised by the colour and became even more determined to find the bastard that had done this. Standing suddenly, the sharpshooter moved to the nearest closet, noting that there would have been plenty of room for someone to hide in there. Going over the area until he'd picked it clean and had every hair or fibre in a plastic bag, Vin then moved once more towards the stain, continuing on around the apartment, trying to follow what he imagined the perpetrator's course would have been.
Everyone else working in the apartment moved out of Vin's way as he neared them, allowing him room to move and observe, and not wanting to be the person who snapped the ATF agent out of whatever instinct was leading him.