BROKEN

Word Count 13,133

By Sarah (winks7985)

 

Broken image created by LaraMee

 

"Broken" nominated for 2009 M.O.M. Award
Nomination Category: 2009 Best Gen Hurt Comfort

Image created by LaraMee

Rated R for Language and Violence
2009 Ezzie Nominee
Nomination Category: Best ATF Gen Short Story

 

 

Chris pulled his truck to a screeching halt outside of Ezra’s townhouse.  How he got here in one piece, having not caused any traffic accidents at the speed he was going, Chris had no idea.  He knew the others were only a matter of minutes behind him, all of them having left the office in a similar manner.

 

Chris exited the truck, leaving the door open.  His gun was drawn and he began to advance on Ezra’s front door in a crouching stance.  He really should wait for the others, but…

 

The phone in Chris’s office rang shrilly that morning.  He answered it in his usual, gruff way. “Larabee.”

 

The voice on the other end was cruel. “I know.” There was almost a sing-song quality to it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chris was confused.  “I’m sorry?”

 

“I know.”

 

“Who is this?” he asked, a sickening feeling creeping up his gut.

 

“I know who you are, Mr. ATF Man.”

 

Chris was filled with a sense of unexplainable dread.  He glanced out his open office door and took a head count of his team.  All were there… except…

 

He looked at the clock on his wall.  It was still within the time that Ezra would normally show up at the office. 

 

“Who the fuck is this?” Chris snarled.

 

There was a rustling on the other end, and the distinct sound of flesh hitting flesh, followed by a grunt.  More shuffling, and a new voice came on the line.

 

“Chris…” Ezra’s voice sounded pained.

 

“Ezra?!  What’s going on?”  Chris flagged Buck’s attention through his open door, making a motion with his free hand signaling ‘Round em up’.  Buck was in motion.

 

Ezra had tried to reply, but there was another thump and the sound of shuffling, and the original voice came back on.

 

“You should never have crossed me,” was all the voice said.  Then the receiver was placed on a surface, but not hung up.  The line remained open.

 

“EZRA!” Chris said, concern and panic in his voice. He could hear something muffled in the background.  Chris hit the mute button on his phone before he called out.

 

“JD!  Run a trace on my line.  It’s still open.”

 

“On it Chris.” JD replied. 

 

“Chris, what the hell happened?” Buck was in his office now.  The others weren’t far behind.

 

“I don’t know Buck, but I think O’Brien knows who we are, and who Ezra is.”

 

Buck looked at his friend, his face a mask of panic, the clear question of ‘How?’ written on his face.  Chris put the receiver down on his desk, and resignedly hit ‘speaker.’

 

Buck came up close to the phone and listened.  The distinctive thwack of fists and flesh, muffled grunts, and indistinguishable voices were the only things to come through on the speaker.

 

“JD!” Chris yelled.

 

JD came running to the door just as Chris yelled.  “Chris, it’s Ezra’s phone.  It’s his house line.  His second line.” Ezra had a second phone that was unlisted that he used for his undercover work.  It was, by all rights, untraceable.  He used it when recording conversations or making contacts so that nothing could be traced back to him or the rest of the team.  The line, like Ezra’s undercover identities, was untraceable and clean.   JD was shrugging into his jacket as he spoke, “They’re at his house.”

 

Shaking his head, trying to expel the memories of the last hour, Chris continued his advance on Ezra’s front door.  As he approached, he could plainly see that it had been kicked in.  They had taken the Southerner by surprise.  Chris could hear the first of the other cars pull up, and knew it was the rest of the team.  Chris glanced over his shoulder briefly and saw Buck and Vin approaching the townhouse much the same way Chris had just done.  Josiah, Nathan and JD were pulling up and spilling from Josiah’s suburban.  Without speaking, Chris laid out their plan of entry.  Three in the front, three take the back.  Josiah, Nathan and JD went around the building and out of sight.

 

Giving the others a minute to get into position, Chris placed his hand on the slightly opened door.  He opened the door slowly with his left hand, pushing it back until it touched the wall.  He advanced slowly, Buck and Vin right behind him. 

 

Opening the closet in the foyer, Vin nodded a ‘clear’ to Buck and Chris.  They advanced on the living room, only to find it in disarray.  The wooden coffee table lay broken in bits, the overstuffed chair overturned, and the couch askew.  They met up with Josiah, Nathan and JD, the trio having come through the back door, which was also battered.

 

Chris signaled for Nathan to take to back bedroom with Josiah, and for JD to cover the study with Vin.  Chris and Buck approached the kitchen. 

 

Broken glass littered the floor.  Appliances that usually sat on the counter lay on the floor or scattered on the counter.  The refrigerator door hung open, and all the meager contents either lay on the floor just outside the door or scattered on the shelves within. 

 

Vin and Josiah came to the doorway of the kitchen only to meet equally concerned eyes. 

 

“Nothing,” Vin said.

 

“Same,” said Josiah.

 

“Nathan and JD?” Chris asked.

 

“Checking outside,” replied Vin.

 

Josiah walked over to the counter and looked at the destruction.  “Brothers?” he asked, garnering their attention.  The three of them joined Josiah at the counter.  “Is this what I think it is?”

 

Vin started at the counter.  It was blood.

 

“What the fuck happened in here?” Vin mused aloud, not expecting an answer.

 

Chris walked over to the kitchen table.  As he reached to right it onto its four legs, he beheld the scene in between the tabletop and the wall.  All color drained from his face as he stared.

 

Buck, Vin and Josiah came to his side immediately, unbidden.  They too gaped at the scene before them.  A small pool of blood decorated the stark white floor in the small space created between the tabletop and the wall, as though someone lay there for a while, bleeding.  Bits of blood were smeared around.  A large, bloody boot print tracked away from the mess.

 

JD and Nathan came in through the back door.  “Outside is clear,” Nathan said and they joined the others in the kitchen.

 

“Oh my god,” Josiah quietly stated.  Vin and Buck righted the table, placing it out of the way.  It wobbled due to a cracked leg, but was still upright.  Josiah took a step away, but stopped when he kicked something small and it skittered across the floor.  It didn’t sound like broken glass.

 

Vin stooped down and picked up the object.  He almost choked on is own breath as he looked at it.  Still squatted, he held his hand out to the others and presented the object.

 

It was a gold tooth.

 

***

 

JD backed out of the kitchen after seeing what Vin held.  His head swam as he tried to wrap his mind around the situation.  What kind of force would have to be used in order to knock a tooth out of a head?  That thought had him feeling sick.  He turned for the bathroom, intending to splash cold water on his face.

 

He entered the room and turned the faucet on.  Nathan followed him and stood at the doorway while JD hovered over the sink.

 

“JD, you all right?” he asked.  JD’s head hung and he watched the water run.  Both of his hands were on the countertop.

 

“No.  No Nathan, I’m not all right.  What the fuck happened?” he asked as he looked at Nathan in the mirror.

 

Nathan looked back at JD’s eyes in the mirror’s reflection.  “I don’t know JD.  We’ll… find… him, JD what’s wrong?”  As Nathan had been speaking, JD’s expression had changed.  His eyes squinted in the mirror, then opened wide as he turned and shoved past Nathan to the shower.  He whipped the partially open shower curtain all the way open, staring at the blue tile.

 

“Jesus Nathan, look at this…” JD’s hand caressed the holes in the shattered tile.  “That’s a fuckin bullet hole.”

 

“Shit.  Chris!” Nathan yelled.  Within ten seconds, the doorway was crowded and Chris had entered the bathroom. 

 

“Nathan?” Chris asked.

 

Nathan pointed to where JD was still caressing the tile.  “Bullet hole,” JD sadly remarked.

 

“But no blood,” Nathan added, as much for himself as for the rest of the guys. 

 

They made their way back out to the living room.  Josiah righted the overturned chair and sat in it heavily.  “So what do we do?” he asked.

 

The other five took up various positions around the room. 

 

“We call Travis, get the FBI involved, you know the drill,” said Buck.

 

“It’s O’Brien.  I fucking know it is,” Chris fumed.

 

“We can’t just go after him Chris,” Vin said.  Even though that was exactly what he wanted to do himself.  “He’ll get off in the end if we don’t go by the book.”

 

“I don’t give a flying fuck about the book, I’m gonna kill him.”  Chris paced back and forth in Ezra’s living room. 

 

“Chris…” Buck started.

 

“NO!  For all we know he killed Ezra and dumped his body somewhere!”  Chris was yelling, his thoughts irrational.  “He wanted me, wanted us, to know what would happen… to make an example…” Chris grabbed two fistfuls of his own hair in agony.  “I fucking did this!”

 

“No you didn’t Chris,” Josiah’s deep voice was calm, but he made no move to stand. 

 

“Chris, calm down,” Buck said.  “We’ll find him.  This is not your fault.”  He moved to Chris and laid a hand on the distraught leader’s back.

 

Chris bent at the waist, putting his hands on his knees.  He felt sick.  “Yeah it is.  I told him… I told him we needed to nail this guy.  I told him to get closer.  I gave him shit about doing his job.  I pushed him too hard…”  Why did he do that?  Why, for that matter, did Ezra listen to him?  Of all times to start listening to him…

 

Buck looked up at the rest of the team.  He took charge.  “Vin, get on the phone to Travis.  Let him know what’s going on.  JD, dump Ezra’s phones, try to get a location on his cell, anything you can think of, and I don’t care what you have to do to do it.”  The two moved off, accepting their tasks without question.  “Josiah, Nathan, I know we already trampled this place, but call the PD and get a forensic team in here.  I want a K9 unit to check the grounds.  If he’s here, we’ll find him.”

 

Chris kept his head down, unable to face the reality of the situation.  He spoke without looking up, “Jesus Buck, what have I done?”

 

Buck steered Chris to the seat recently vacated by Josiah.  “Chris, I need you to tell me what was said on the phone.  What did the guy say?”

 

“He kept saying ‘I know.’ I didn’t know what he meant.  Then he called me ‘Mr. ATF’, and put Ezra on the phone.”

 

“How did he sound?”  Buck asked.

 

Chris looked harshly at his friend.  “Like he was getting the fuck beat out of him Buck, what do you think?”

 

“But it was definitely him?  You’re certain of that?”

 

Chris looked at Buck like he had two heads.  “What are you getting at?  Just spit it out.” 

 

“He didn’t die here Chris.”  Buck’s voice was low, barely more than a whisper.

 

“What?”

 

“Chris, we left as soon as we had the location.  You talked to him then.  We got here 20 minutes later.  The blood in the kitchen,” he nodded his head in the direction, “is older than that.  All the destruction, that would take time.  I think they took him with them.  You said it yourself.  They don’t just want him, they want us I think they have something else in store, and for that they’ll need Ezra alive.  So right this moment, I know, in my heart, he’s alive.  As long as he’s alive, we haven’t lost.”  Buck looked behind him, seeing where the others were.  “I need your head in the game Chris.  We all do.”

 

Chris nodded and sat up.  The others started to reconvene in the living room.  JD was in the study, using Ezra’s computer to try to find anything useful.

 

“Travis is on his way, he called the feebs,” Vin announced as he rejoined the group.

 

“PD and K9 are en route as well,” Josiah said.

 

“All right,” Chris said.  “What do we know about O’Brien?”

 

***

 

Ezra Standish slowly began the ascent back to consciousness.  As his muddled mind started to come out of the fog, he wondered where he was.  He lay facedown on a hard surface, arms secured behind his back.  The right side of his face hurt immensely.

 

What the hell had happened?

 

His tongue pushed forth out of his parted lips, trying to deliver some moisture to the cracked and swollen flesh.  He felt the space where his gold tooth should be.  He started to remember.

 

It had been a normal morning.  The O’Brien case was going well enough.  He had yet to get close to O’Brien himself.  He had been undercover with the arms dealer’s organization for almost a month and a half, but it was proving difficult to move up.  Still, it wasn’t all for naught.  He was collecting some damning evidence as he went.  Regardless of whether or not he would get to meet and work with the man himself, Ezra was determined to bring O’Brien’s organization down.  He was supplying guns to local gangs and drug dealers, and just two months ago, two of Denver’s finest had been gunned down with O’Brien’s merchandise. Needless to say, everyone wanted him put out of business, and soon.

 

Just last week, Chris had, in his own way, implored Ezra to try harder.  ‘No shit,’ Ezra had thought.  But he understood the pressure Chris was under.  So he did try harder.  He wasn’t stupid about it, but he made moves and comments to people in O’Brien’s organization sooner than he normally would have.  All to no avail.  The progress was no better. 

 

This was what Ezra had been pondering while he sat in his living room this morning, lounging in his jeans and tee shirt, two days worth of growth on his face.  This is what Ezekiel Murphy looked like, what he wore, and generally how he acted.  Not that Ezra was complaining.  The growth tended to be a little uncomfortable, but the casual clothing was a nice change.  He was due to meet up with the rest of the guys at the office briefly this morning before going off to continue being Zeke Murphy. 

 

Then, as one, his front and back door crashed open, and three men came rushing in.  Ezra had launched himself out of the overstuffed chair he had been sitting in, turning it upward.  He was sprinting behind the couch, heading for the table near the kitchen doorway, where his gun lay.  He didn’t make it.  He was struck across the face, followed by a blow to the gut, and in one smooth fluid motion, he was launched over the back of the couch and landed on the coffee table, shattering the wooden piece of furniture.

 

Winded, he rolled to his hands and knees, ready to ward off another attack.  Two of the men came for him, while the third stayed off to the side, leaning on a cane.  Ezra vaulted the couch, turning to head for the study, where he kept his backup piece.  He expected a bullet to the back at any point, so he never saw the blow come from the man with the cane.  Hit squarely in the stomach with the cane, he bent over and started to stagger backwards, entering the bathroom.  He stumbled, landing in the bathtub with a thump.  He was trapped, but would go down fighting.  He looked up at the doorway, now filled with the man with the cane, now not leaning on it at all.  He held the cane, which Ezra could now see looked more like a stick, in his left hand, about halfway down the stick’s length.  In his right hand was a 9MM with a silencer screwed into the end.  Ezra readied himself for the bullet that would end his life.

 

He had turned his head instinctively from the danger, eyes closing.  One shot was fired and passed so close to his face that he felt the heat from the bullet as it impacted with the blue tile.  He recoiled from the shattered porcelain.  The second shot impacted on the other side of his head, still too close for comfort.  When no third shot came, Ezra slowly opened his eyes and looked at the man who had just shot at him. 

 

The man stood like a statue, gun still trained on Ezra.  He spoke with no emotion, “I hear you’re looking for me.”

 

So this was O’Brien.

 

“There are better ways to garner my full attention, sir,” Ezra said with as much bravado as he could muster. His heart was thundering against his ribs, his panic full blown.

 

 “Shut up.”  He turned his head over his shoulder but didn’t take his eyes off of Ezra.  “Rick, Jimmy, get him out of there.”

 

The two men who had barged through his doors not three minutes earlier made their way into the suddenly too small bathroom as O’Brien lowered the gun and backed out.  Rick and Jimmy wrestled Ezra to his feet.  Once upright, Jimmy shoved him out the open bathroom door and slammed him into the wall opposite.  Ezra turned to glare at the man, but Jimmy just gave him a look that could kill and pointed towards the kitchen where O’Brien had gone.  Ezra started that way, and saw the two gunmen exchange a look before Rick headed in the opposite direction towards the study and the bedroom.  God only knew what he was doing, but Ezra had a sick feeling in his stomach.

 

“Come here Zeke,” O’Brien said from Ezra’s kitchen.  The man had sat down at the table, his cane-stick laid out in front of him.  One of his hands rested on the object, never wavering from it.  Ezra walked cautiously into his kitchen, stopping when he stood in front of the man.  Jimmy stayed right behind him.  “Sit.”

 

“I would prefer not.”  Ezra was trying to stay calm, with Jimmy behind him, Rick somewhere in his house, and O’Brien sitting staring at him intently.  If he sat, he would take away his only control in the situation.  His mind was already racing trying to figure a way out of this.

 

“You have been very interested in my operation as of late.”  O’Brien’s gaze never wavered.  There was a lilt in the man’s speech pattern that held the faintest hint of a faded brogue.

 

Ezra stared back, but said nothing.  His face was impassive, as though he was not fazed by the fact that these men had invaded his home and taken shots at him.  He was, in fact, taking stock of where his guns were.

 

“Why?” O’Brien elaborated when the southerner stayed quiet.

 

Ezra smiled at the arms dealer as if the answer were simple.  “I don’t wish to be in this position all my life.  I’m simply interested in making money, both for me and for you.”  There was a gun in the drawer next to the fridge.  “Might I interest you in a drink while we talk?” Ezra started to move towards the fridge but ran into the wall known as Jimmy.  Ezra looked into Jimmy’s eyes, and Jimmy shifted his glance towards his boss.  Ezra didn’t know what was communicated between the two men, but Jimmy looked back into Ezra’s eyes and turned towards the fridge.

 

Shit.  That was stupid.

 

Ezra glanced back at O’Brien, who had the silenced 9MM out again and trained on him.  His other hand tightly clutched the stick.  Not good.

 

Jimmy opened the fridge and started rifling through it, scattering the contents however he so desired.  Once the fridge had been thoroughly searched, Jimmy started going through the drawers nearby.  He found the gun in one of the drawers.  Turning towards his boss, he held up his booty.

 

“Sit.” O’Brien’s voice held no humor.  He gestured to the chair with the barrel of the gun.

 

Ezra complied, but did not face the arms dealer directly. O’Brien’s grip on the stick slackened slightly. Ezra’s chair remained askew so that he could watch O’Brien and Jimmy, who was now rifling through other cabinets looking for further hidden armory. 

 

“I don’t know you.  I don’t trust you.  What makes you think that being in my operation only a little over a month, you could meet with me, or that you could possibly have anything to offer?”

 

Ezra didn’t answer as he licked his lip, keeping an eye on Jimmy.  Jimmy crashed plates to the floor, shattering them as he went.  Pots and pans were removed haphazardly and strewn about.  After a short minute, Jimmy turned to O’Brien and said “Nothing else.”  No, thought Ezra, that was the only one in the kitchen.

 

Jimmy’s attention now back on Ezra and his own boss, the 9MM was put away yet again. 

 

“Well then,” said O’Brien.  “Let’s start with an easy one.  What’s with the phones?”  He nodded towards the counter where Ezra kept his two land lines.  One phone was black and the other white, and they sat right next to each other on the counter.  The black one had tape over the receiver, keeping it attached to the base.

 

“What’s with the stick?” the Southerner retorted just as quickly.

 

O’Brien smiled.  “You tell me, I’ll tell you.”  The man’s smile could only be described as evil.

 

Ezra turned towards O’Brien to face him squarely.  He was trying to come up with a good reason for the second phone.  He was about to spout out a tale about always being prepared when something sailed over his shoulder to land face up on the table.  Rick now stood behind Ezra with Jimmy.  He was breathing a little raggedly.  Ezra had turned to look at the gunman when the object flew through the air.  He had never even heard Rick come into the kitchen.  He kept his sight on both Jimmy and Rick, ready for what would undoubtedly come next.  On the table, face up, staring unwaveringly at O’Brien, was the object that just may cause his death. 

 

His ATF badge.

 

***

 

Chris and the others returned to their office, where they could better investigate Ezra’s disappearance.  Currently, they were camped out in the bullpen, rifling through all the information they had on O’Brien.  It wasn’t much.  The man was the son of immigrants from Ireland, with suspected ties to the IRA.  The man had been in the gun trade for so long that they didn’t doubt that it was handed down from his own father. 

 

Charles O’Brien was a vicious man.  He did not take well to being crossed, and had murdered his own people when he felt they had betrayed him.  The conditions that his own people’s bodies had been found in had all of Team Seven worried… these were people O’Brien knew and trusted.  What would he do to someone he didn’t trust to start with?  What if he had found out Ezra was an agent?   

 

O’Brien seemed to like to carry out his own punishments, rather than rely on hired muscle.  He was known to carry a 9MM with him at all times, rumored to even bring it to church every Sunday.  He was not shy in using it.  Some of his own people had been found with shot out kneecaps, extensive bruising, and broken bones.  One of the descriptions they had from the FBI, who had been watching him for a long time according to the files, had O’Brien as carrying a cane, while a contradictory report had him in sound health.

 

“Hey, how come there’s no pictures of this guy, O’Brien, in any of these files?” Vin asked.  “Is he really that hard to get to?”

 

“Appears so,” a somber Josiah put in.  It was true.  The only photographs of the man were of his old school pictures.  The man seemed to have disappeared after his 18th birthday.  There wasn’t even an active driver’s license photo of the man.

 

“Wait, I got one here,” Nathan sprang out of his seat and brought a fuzzy picture to the center of the room and splayed it out on Ezra’s empty desk.  “It’s not great, but it’s something.”  The picture had been taken from a security camera across from a bank in Denver.  It showed a grainy image of two men speaking, one of them holding a cane.   

 

“That’s not much Nathan,” said Vin as he sat back down in his desk chair.

 

JD’s eyes were transfixed on the picture.  As the rest of the team, one by one, returned to their seats, JD picked up the picture.

 

“JD, son, is there any way to clean that picture up?” asked Josiah, taking note of JD’s interest.

 

JD never lifted his eyes from the photo as he answered Josiah.  “Doubt it Josiah, this was already cleaned up by the FBI, so it’s about as clean as it will get.”

 

“What’s so interesting about it then?” asked Buck from his desk.

 

JD squinted his eyes at the picture again, then looked up at Buck.  “This ain’t a cane.”

 

“What?” Buck asked, rising out of his chair to look again.

 

“It’s not a cane.”  His voice was more sure now.

 

“So?”  Buck asked again.

 

“This guy doesn’t need a cane.  We’re not looking for someone with a limp or anything like that.”

 

“How can you be so sure of that, son?” asked Josiah.  Chris was at the door to his office, having been there since Nathan announced he had a picture.  He looked at JD with the same interest as the rest of the team.

 

“Because this,” he turned the picture to show the cane, “is a shillelagh.” 

 

“Just looks like a walking stick JD,” Vin commented.

 

“It is, Vin.  But this guy is Irish, right?”  At the others’ nods he continued.  “I’m willing to bet that that thing is a shillelagh.”  He put the photo back down on the Southerner’s desk.  “A shillelagh is a stick made of wood, with a big knob on the end.”  He gestured with his hands.  “The knob on the end is a rootknob, and it packs a fuck of a punch.”

 

“How do you know this JD?” Nathan asked.

 

“A wannabe gang in Boston used to carry them, thought it made them look tough.  This is when I was on the force there.  This gang thought we couldn’t do anything to them because they were just ‘walking sticks’.”  He turned to his desk and grabbed something.  Turning back to the rest of the team he held up his mug with the Boston Celtics logo, with the leprechaun.  “This is one too.”  He pointed to the cane-like item the leprechaun was leaning on. 

 

“Don’t look too bad,” Buck commented.

 

“Yeah, this one don’t, but I’ve seen the root knobs hollowed out and filled with lead.  They call that a ‘loaded stick.’  The ME in Boston said it was the same as getting beat with a golf club.  Some of them have leather straps on the other end, so you can swing it like a billy club.  They traditionally go for elbows and knees, but these things will fuck you up.”  He paused, considering.  “I been hit with one of these things, and it was just a glancing blow, but it put me out of commission for a couple of days.”  He picked the picture up off the desk.  “If this is the guy that has Ezra, we need to find him fast.  If he’s got one of these things, I’m willing to bet he knows how to use it.”

 

“How does that help us?” Chris asked from his doorway.

 

“You’re looking for a guy with no limp, who will be carrying this thing with him wherever he goes,” JD said, pointing to the picture.  “I’ve never seen one of these things used as a cane.  Walking stick, yes; stupid keepsake, yes; weapon, hell yes.  Never a cane.”

 

“Wouldn’t hold the weight,” Nathan added.

 

“It would make sense,” Josiah added.  “Fits with the profile that the FBI put together.  It would be a very effective display of his authority and power.”

 

“And it looks like he’s got short dark hair,” JD continued.  “He might even have a little bit of a brogue, if his parents are from Ireland.  Like Frankie Corcoran.”  Francis Corcoran was a local cop who had worked with Team Seven a few times.  He was always a happy guy, and a good cop.  His gentle accent flitted through when he said certain words or phrases.  “It’s a start.”

 

“Put the word out,” Chris said as he walked back into his office.

 

 

 

PART 2 / PART 3

 

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