IN SPADES

By Sarah (winks7985)

The Magnificent Seven / ATF AU

Rated R

 

 

Part 2

At 3:27 AM Vin, Chris, Buck and JD were in the office in varying states of wakefulness.  Nathan and Josiah were on their way but had yet to arrive.   Regardless, nothing could be done until they had whatever footage Ezra had told Vin about, and for that they needed JD. 

To say that JD was not a morning person was an understatement.  Rousing him at such an early hour had been a chore.  Since their arrival, Buck had been feeding the kid caffeine to try to get him to perk up.  JD wasn’t exactly bright eyed and bushy tailed, but he was awake and sitting at his desk, his heavy head resting on his propped up fist.

As Vin explained what Ezra had said, JD snapped awake and immediately started working.  It took him about 40 minutes to locate the footage and make a copy, then retreat out of the system he‘d hacked, covering his tracks as he went. 
 
Josiah and Nathan had arrived while JD was engrossed in his computer work.  The two agents were both a little disheveled, but they were alert and attentive.  They, like the others, grabbed cups of coffee from the break room and settled in to wait. 
 
At 4:19 AM, six members of Team 7 sat at the conference room table, the door to the room closed securely to ensure privacy.  Even this early in the morning, you couldn’t be too careful. JD patched the footage on his laptop into the flat-screen at the head of the room.
 
The footage, somewhat scratchy and lo-definition, began with Officer Fred Anderson announcing that he was pulling over a truck for speeding and a broken taillight.  He radioed the remote location as best he could, right down to the mile marker.
 
The dispatcher’s static-filled acknowledgment came as the officer pulled his cruiser to a complete stop. 
 
Anderson got out of the car and sauntered towards the truck.  Normally, the team would have had some snarky remarks about the officer’s ‘mosey’, but not today – instead they were completely silent, their eyes riveted to the screen.  The officer stopped next to the driver’s window and stood there, talking to the driver.  Although there was no audio of his dialog, every Law Enforcement Officer knew how the traffic stop would work – should work.
 
After a minute, the officer opened the door for the driver to exit.  The subject complied, and headed for the back of the truck.  The team could all see that Anderson had drawn his weapon and held it down beside him. 
 
The tension in the room ratcheted up a bit when they saw the driver reach under his sweatshirt and pull a handgun from the front of his pants.
 
“Oh shit,” Nathan hissed out.
 
The ensuing firefight was short; less than ten seconds before they heard Anderson again calling on the radio for assistance.  As the officer frantically repeated his request over the radio, it was cut short of completion by a grunt of pain.  Not five second later, the third man entered the scene from the driver’s side of the cruiser.  He also held a handgun lowered by his side. 
 
“Christ, that’s Ezra,” JD said.
 
Although all the men seated at the table knew that Ezra was going to show up on the video, his arrival on the screen was unsettling.  They all watched more closely, noticing that his movements were different and his mannerisms were off.  He wore jeans and a short leather jacket, and his hair was too long and shaggy.  This was the first time since this undercover assignment started that the rest of the team saw how “Eddie” actually looked as a real person and not one of Ezra’s dossiers. 
 
Standish was clearly shouting, obviously for the other man.  When the driver came around the back of the truck, they both drew on each other.  As the guns were lowered, Standish grabbed hold of the driver’s sweatshirt and shouted something into his face, then threw the driver towards the passenger side of the truck.  As the southerner walked around to the driver’s side, he looked directly at the camera he knew was on the dashboard of the cruiser. 
 
The truck took off into the night, leaving gravel and dust in its wake.
 
JD cued the footage forward, showing that not even two minutes later, a second cruiser was on scene.  The footage ended.
 
All six men sat back in their chairs.  A contemplative silence descended. 
 
JD was the first to speak.  “I saw a copy of the preliminary report.  Anderson is ok – he has a concussion.  He was hit hard.”
 
“Ez had to be sure that Anderson wasn’t gonna get up and try to fight,” Vin said quietly.  “Else the guy woulda gotten killed.”
 
They were silent for another moment; the implications setting in.
 
“That’s a shit decision to have to make,” Buck said sadly.
 
“He hit the guy,” said Nathan.  When they all looked at him, he clarified.  “Anderson.  He hit the driver, in the arm I think.”
 
“We might get lucky and get a hit with local hospitals,” Josiah suggested.
 
“I doubt it,” Vin added.  “Ezra kept saying ‘they killed him’, and I think it was that guy,” Vin pointed to the now blank screen.
 
After a moment of silence, Josiah spoke up and asked the question they were all thinking.  “Do we pull him out?”
 
Glances shot to Chris, who slowly shook his head once.  “If we do, the DEA are going to crucify him, especially if this case falls apart.”
 
“If we leave him in,” JD said, looking quizzically down at his folded hands on the table, “how can he stay safe?”  He looked up to Chris.  “Local PD is gonna plaster his face all over the place for attacking a cop.  Christ, they probably already have.  And if we tell them who he is…”
 
“His cover’s blown, and we’re back to the DEA crucifying him,” Buck said, leaning back in his chair, running his hands over his face.
 
“Not to mention IA,” Nathan added solemnly.  “They’ll rip him apart.”
 
Chris leaned back in his chair and looked at his watch.  “Travis will be here in less than an hour.  I’m gonna have to take it to him, see if he can smooth things out with the DEA.”
 
“And then what?” Buck asked.
 
Chris looked at Vin.  “We’re gonna need to talk to Ezra, face to face.  And we’re gonna have to do it discreetly.”
 
Vin nodded.
 
“JD,” Chris said.  He jutted his chin towards the now dark screen.  “Play it again.  I want to know every grain of this film when I talk to Travis.”
 
JD cued the footage again.
 
7777777
 
Travis’s shoes sounded out a staccato rhythm as he walked down the hallway towards his office.  Always an early riser, a 6:00 AM workday start wasn’t unheard of for him.  What was unusual was the message on his phone from Chris Larabee asking what time he would be in, because there was a problem.  The cryptic message came through at roughly 5AM, and Travis was up.
 
Approaching the doors to his outer office, he found Larabee waiting for him.  The man looked as though he had been up all night – his stance tired and leaning against the wall.  He looked up as Travis approached and stood up straight.  The blond’s eyes betrayed his exhaustion and stress.   
 
“That bad, huh?”
 
Chris just nodded.
 
Travis unlocked the outer office door and held it open for his agent to follow him into the waiting area while he unlocked his own office door.  Chris followed him silently. 
 
When the inner office door closed securely behind his agent, Travis turned and leaned back on the edge of his large cherry desk, and simply said, “Tell me.”
 
Chris sighed audibly, then spoke.  “We have a problem.  Vin got a call from Ezra last night, said they had picked up a shipment, but there was an incident during transit.  He told Vin it would be on the cruiser’s dash cam.”
 
“What happened?” the Judge asked in a voice that was calmer than he actually was.
 
“Local police got involved, and there were shots fired.”
 
“Jesus.”
 
“Ezra had to incapacitate the officer to defuse the situation.”
 
Travis’s eyes went wide.  “Please tell me he didn’t shoot him!”
 
“No, no,” Chris replied quickly.  “But he did hit him hard enough to knock him out and give him a concussion.  Then he and the driver left.”
 
“Why didn’t the officer see Standish?”
 
“He came up from behind.  He wasn’t in the truck to start.”
 
“So there was another vehicle?”
 
Chris nodded.  “Local PD had it towed; it was about twenty feet behind the cruiser and off the shoulder.”
 
Travis blew his breath out, then went around his desk and sat.  He indicated for Chris to do the same in one of the facing leather chairs.
 
Travis took another deep breath and blew it out.  “Wow.  What a mess.”
 
“About covers it, sir.”
 
“And Standish is fine?  His cover’s still intact?”
 
“For the time being.”  When Travis’s face conveyed his confusion, Chris elaborated.  “If we pull him, DEA will crucify him if the case falls apart.  At the same time, if we leave him in, cops are going to be on the lookout for him for assaulting the officer.  If we tell them who he is, then his cover is compromised, and we’re back to the DEA crucifying him.”
 
Travis considered Chris’s statement for a moment.  “I’ll make some phone calls.”  Chris nodded.  Travis continued, “This could get even messier.”
 
“I have no doubt about that.”
 
Travis sat forward and reached for his phone.  He gestured at the door, signifying Chris should leave.  “I’ll let you know as soon as I have anything.”
 
“Thanks, Judge,” Chris said, then turned and left the office, shutting the door as he went.
 
“Don’t thank me yet,” Travis said quietly to the empty office. 
 
7777777
 
“Eddie!  Come here for a minute,” Sheppard called from across the shop.
 
Ezra turned and headed for the office.  During daylight hours, the place was just like any other business.  Most of these employees had no idea what transpired after-hours.  In his casual walk towards his beckoning boss, Ezra found himself glancing at the spot where Jon had died the night before.  There wasn’t so much as a stain on the floor.  The boy had died right there, and there was no evidence of it anywhere, like it never happened.  Daytime employees happily chattered about the weather or last night’s news, oblivious to the violence that took place here not 15 hours before.  The kid was nothing to them, not even a curious stain on the floor.  He avoided walking on the spot where he had last seen the young man’s body.  He shook his head slightly trying to clear it of the thought of a boy in a watery grave.
 
Plastering a more pleasant look on his face, he hopped up the two steps to the open office door and leaned in on the door frame.  “What’s up, Shep?”
 
Sheppard turned towards Ezra, putting the bundle of shipping invoices he was flipping through down on his desk.  “Come in,” he gestured to the other chair in the office.  “Shut the door.”
 
Ezra did as asked and took a seat in the indicated chair.  “Anything wrong?”
 
“Eddie,” Sheppard began, seeming to have a problem spitting out his words.  He shut his eyes and took a deep breath.  “I wanted to apologize for last night…” 
 
Standish waved his hand dismissively.  “Don’t worry about it, it just surprised me.”
 
“No, I know you were more than bothered by it.  Such things are always unpleasant.  But I want to explain it to you; I feel I owe you that.”
 
Ezra waited for him to continue.
 
“See, Jon has been a fuck up for a long time.  I caught him stealing from me a couple of months ago, and I decided that since he was young and stupid, like we all once were, I would give him another chance.  While he had some annoying slip-ups along the way, he seemed to do better and really be trying.  But even with his second chance, last night happened.”
 
Standish just nodded.
 
“He could have gotten someone seriously hurt with that stunt; it was reckless.  Thankfully, it was just Jon that got hurt.”
 
“How do you know about last night?” Standish asked, a feeling of fear floating about in his stomach.
 
“I hear things.  I know Jon decided to try to take out that cop, and you came along at the right minute to keep the situation from getting worse.”
 
“Still wasn’t very good.”  Ezra started to wonder who it was that Sheppard might hear things from.  A cop?  A civilian employee within the police department?  Maybe a reporter?
 
Sheppard smiled in response.  “Still…”  He then slapped both of his hands on his thighs and announced in a far more chipper voice, “Ok.  That’s not the only reason I called you in here.”
 
Ezra watched in confusion as Sheppard went into his locked file cabinet in the back of the office.  His set of keys jingled in his hand while he found the right one, then he unlocked the drawer and pulled out a ledger.  Standish already knew what it was, and he had already seen its contents; he had copied it one night weeks ago, unbeknownst to its owner.  That copy was already in Larabee’s hands. 
 
It was Sheppard’s second set of books.  The ones where he kept a record of all his illegal gains: deliveries, pickups, payouts to his friends and employees involved.  Habits of an old businessman
were hard to break.
 
“What’s that?” Ezra asked in feigned interest.
 
“This,” he said as he opened it, “is the record of money in and money out for our after-hours business.”
 
“You should probably keep something like that in a safe.”
 
Sheppard waved his hands in dismissal.  “No need.  That cabinet is always locked, and I have the only key.  No one knows this exists; no one would have reason to look for such a thing.”  He looked at Ezra with hard eyes.  “I don’t keep anyone around me I can’t trust.”
 
Ezra’s brows furrowed in confusion.  “Why are you showing me this?”
 
The man put on a sincere smile.  “Because I trust you.  And I want you to take over this location.”
 
Ezra was genuinely shocked, and knew his expression reflected it.  “Wait, what?”
 
“I have been thinking lately,” he started, getting up out of his seat and looking out one of the windows to observe his employees working, oblivious.  “I figured diversity is key.  And I shouldn’t have all my eggs in one basket,” he finished with a laugh, then turned back to face Ezra.
 
Standish remained sitting, trying to take in what he had just been told.  “Where are you going to have another setup?”
 
“Haven’t decided yet.  I hear Pennsylvania is nice.”  He laughed at his own joke.
 
Ezra snorted in feigned amusement. 
 
“I think it would open up options to distributors and customers in both regions, especially if we ship from one of our locations to another; we wouldn’t need to deal with anyone outside of our own company, which makes it more secure.”
 
Still genuinely confused, Standish asked, “Why me?”
 
Sheppard sat back down in his chair and took a deep breath before he spoke.  “You remind me of someone I used to know; a cousin.  I think it’s the eyes,” he said as he gestured lazily at Ezra.  “He was a good kid.  He was killed in a car accident a few months shy of his 24th birthday.  He always was pretty clever…”  His voice drifted in fond remembrance.  He took a short breath and huffed it out.  “Well, it’s like this.  My family doesn’t know about our after-hours doings, and I would like to keep it that way.  I don’t have any kids to take over this business, so I need a partner.  I like you.  You’re good people.”
 
“Thanks,” he said, smiling a smile he didn’t mean.
 
“No, it’s true.  I’ve watched how you’ve handled situations that have come up, and I’ve seen how you can take command of people.  I know you’re good with numbers and figures, you think things through and are always on your toes.  I know you’re good under pressure, like last night.”
 
“Who told you about last night?” he asked again as nonchalantly as he could.  It would be good to know how that flow of information went.
 
Sheppard shrugged noncommittally.  “I can put it together pretty well.  Jon fucked up, and you fixed the situation and pulled it through to the end, saving the whole thing.”
 
“I think you give me too much credit.”
 
“Don’t be so modest.  It isn’t a Miss America title,” he added with an amused smile.
 
Ezra shrugged, like he was considering Sheppard’s proposition. 
 
“How about a trial run?  You don’t like it, you go back to doing what you’re doing now.”
 
Ezra’s eyes widened in genuine surprise.  It was perfect; he would be in the heart of the operation.  He would learn names of suppliers, as well as customers.  Suppliers, distributors, customers; soup to nuts.  And it was being handed to him, like a fuckin’ birthday present.
 
“Come on…” Sheppard wheedled, a hopeful smile on his face.
 
Ezra smiled, then nodded once.  “On a trial basis, for now.”
 
Sheppard stood up and extended his hand.  Standish stood and shook it.  Sheppard then pulled him into an embrace and patted his back.  Standish returned the gesture without hesitation.
 
“You’re gonna do great; you’ll love it!”  Sheppard sat back down and delved into the books in front of him, showing Standish everything.
 
Not as much as I’m gonna love nailing your ass to the wall.
 
7777777
 
Travis walked with a purpose into Team Seven’s office area, but as he came through the door, he couldn’t help but stop and stare at the five agents at their desks.  The shenanigans and camaraderie that were associated with the team were absent.
 
The Judge’s sudden halt in his tracks attracted the attention of Buck Wilmington, sitting at his desk and seriously contemplating the half-full coffee cup in front of him.
 
“Judge?” he looked up in askance, and all four of his teammates’ attention turned to their visitor.  “Somethin’ wrong?”
 
Chris appeared in his doorway and turned expectant eyes towards his boss.
 
“Nothing is wrong, per se, gentlemen, but I do have some information.”
 
Five agents all seemed to simultaneously fire off questions, while their leader stayed silent, leaning against the door jamb to his office.
 
“Gentlemen please!” Travis announced loudly, holding his hands in a settle down motion.  “It will be far easier if I talk and you listen.”
 
 The men settled back into their seats, all of them turning in their seats to have a clear view of Travis.
 
“My first call was to the Director of the DEA, who was less than pleased at being woken up so early.  I explained the situation to him, and after a somewhat lengthy conversation, he agreed to call off his dogs.”
 
“Well, that’s good news, right?” JD asked.
 
Josiah noted the body language of the man in front of them.  “There’s something else, isn’t there?”
 
Expectant, questioning eyes waited for the catch.
 
The judge’s mouth tightened in a straight line, obviously not happy with the caveat the DEA had insisted on.  “The Director asked, and I agreed, that a DEA agent be assigned to work on this case with you.”
 
Grumbling and other sounds of disagreement answered him.
 
“That sucks,” Tanner drawled from his desk.
 
“Gums up the works, having to adjust to a new man,” Buck said.
 
“Boys,” Chris spoke for the first time. 
 
“He will be here as a courtesy only,” the Judge added.  “The Director agreed to that.  And that he would act as a liaison between our two offices.  He won’t be an acting agent on the case; he’s just there to protect the DEA’s interest in this situation.”
 
“What else?” Chris asked, still leaning against his door frame.
 
Travis took a breath and then began.  “My second call was to the Oak Falls Police Chief.  After getting the runaround in their phone system for a couple of minutes, I got the Chief.  I explained to her that the man they were putting out BOLOs for was wanted in connection to an active ATF case.  As a professional courtesy, I requested her assistance in keeping her men in check; that it was imperative that the ATF catch this man in the criminal act and not after, or else he would walk.”
 
“Clever,” Nathan said with approval from his desk. 
 
“She said she would instruct everyone explicitly and clearly as to the importance of this, which is the best we can hope for.  So no, the police will not be ‘gunning’ for him.”
 
“That’s a relief,” JD added.
 
“Yes, but if he does commit some other transgression,” Josiah intoned, “there may be some boys in blue willing to exact some revenge for their injured comrade.  They’ve already passed out his picture from the video.”
 
“Damn,” Tanner said quietly.
 
“It’s a risk that we’ll have to take,” Chris announced, pushing off the door frame and rubbing his tired eyes.  “The only way to ensure his complete safety would be to blow his cover.”
 
“Oak Falls Police Department expecting us?” Tanner asked.
 
“I told them to expect you there today.  The DEA agent will meet you at the Oak Falls Police Station this afternoon.”
 
“Alright boys, start packing up whatever you need,” Chris said as he walked towards the Judge.  He extended his hand to the older man, who clasped it without hesitation.  “Thank you for this, Orin.”
 
Travis nodded tightly.  “I hope it’s enough.”
 
Chris half-shrugged.  “Me too.”




PART 1 | PART 3 | PART 4 | PART 5 | PART 6 

 

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Sarah 2012