by Winnie


Part 5


Carl Sheppard lifted the receiver as the phone began ringing. He smiled as he heard the familiar voice and hurried to get the file in question.


“I’ve got it right here...Yes, he’s worth millions...I’ll find out what I can, but I think the brother... Ezra, could be in financial difficulty...Yes, I heard that part too. Chris kept alluding to gambling debts...I’ll get Marcus on it right away....Yes, should take a week or so at the most...He was extremely violent when they brought him in....Really! How bad was it...Six stitches!...Okay, I’ll let you know as soon as I hear from Marcus.”


Sheppard hung up the phone and dialed a new number. As soon as it rang a man’s heavily accented voice answered.


“Marcus, it’s Carl Sheppard.”


“Hi, Carl, what have you got for me?”


“I need you to find out all you can about two men. Chris and Ezra Jacobson of Jacobson Enterprises. Concentrate on Ezra...find out if he’s in the hole and if so for how much and to whom.”


“Got it. Is this one of those special clients?”


“It could be. We may be looking at something in the millions this time...”


“Millions, haven’t had one of those since...”


“I know. Look, just check it out and get back to me as soon as possible.”


“It could take a while, especially if Ezra Jacobson is in the hole to more than one person.”


“We have the time. Chris Jacobson has been committed to Shady Acres.”


“Excellent, at least you can keep an eye on him there.”


“Well, I can’t but my contacts can. Call me.”


“I will, later,” the phone clicked as the man hung up and Sheppard eased back in his chair. He looked at the report before him and smiled as he realized this could be the one that would put him on easy street for the rest of his life.




Chris’ mind felt as if it was mired down in thick sludge and he tried to open his eyes. The bright overhead light stabbed at his skull and he tried to reach for the source of his discomfort, but suddenly realized his arms and legs were impossibly immobile and he could barely move. He tried calling out, but no one answered and it took a few minutes to calm down enough for rational thinking. Flashes of memory returned and he knew it was important he keep up the charade, but could not quite grasp what kind of charade.


‘Shady Acres,’ the two words brought everything crashing down and he renewed his efforts to get free, but no one answered his call. *‘Get a hold of yourself, Larabee, this is only the beginning. You knew what you signed on for and it’s not as if you’re in here for the rest of your life,’* Chris found solace in his thoughts and knew he could do this as long as he remembered it was a job, a tough one, but still just a job. He turned toward the door as it opened and a nurse entered carrying something in her hand, his stomach churned when he recognized the capped syringe.


“Good morning, Mr. Jacobson, my name is Ellen and I’m going to give you your meds by injection. Dr. Kent will be here shortly and he will decide whether to change the order to oral or continue with the injection form,” the nurse explained, smiling when she realized he seemed to be much calmer than the notes from the day before suggested.


“I don’t need…”


“Well, for now that decision is not yours to make.”


Chris knew the feeling of helplessness that washed over him was only the beginning and felt the cold swab swiped across his upper arm before she injected the drugs. He licked at dry lips, closed his eyes and knew it wouldn’t take long for the medications to take affect.


“I will be back in a few minutes with your breakfast and then we’ll see about getting you washed and dressed before Dr. Kent gets here,” Ellen explained.


Chris heard her leave and kept swallowing as the medication began to influence his mind. He knew he had to try and hold on to reality, but it was getting harder and harder to think straight. He felt slightly detached from his surroundings as a hint of a smile formed on his face. Larabee lost track of time, but heard the door open and a nurse and orderly entered the room.


“Mr. Jacobson, I have your breakfast here and I must say the waffles this morning are delicious,” Ellen Morton explained and turned to the orderly. “Craig, release the restraints, but stand by in case he’s not as out of it as he seems.”


“Just be careful, Miss Morton,” Styles warned and moved in. He watched the patient’s face as he released his wrists and ankles and knew he was going to enjoy keeping tabs on Chris Jacobson. “All right, Chris, let’s sit you up and get you into the chair.”


Chris frowned and turned to the left as he sat up, closing his eyes as the world seemed to spin in ever increasing concentric circles that threatened to land him on the floor, but the nurse touched his arm and smiled sympathetically at him. “Thanks…got up too fast.”


“Take it easy and let us know when you’re ready to move to the chair,” Ellen explained.




“Craig brought it in before he released you,” the nurse answered, noting the confusion in his face and wondered if the drugs and head wound were the cause or a combination of both.


Chris found it increasingly difficult to focus, but he knew he had to keep as much of his faculties together as possible. He let the duo help him to the chair and chuckled softly when he nearly tripped them all up. “Sorry…clumsy…”


“That’s okay…there you go,” Ellen said and removed the lid from the tray.


Chris looked at the waffles and searched the tray for something he could use to eat them with. It suddenly dawned on him that the waffles were done in such a way that they could be eaten like toast. He looked for a coffee cup, but the only thing present was a plastic glass filled with orange juice. “Fucking…bas…bastard…”


“Did you say something, Mr. Jacobson?” Ellen asked.


“Bro…brother’s a bas…bastard,” Larabee repeated and picked up the waffle. He bit into it and could hear the nurse and orderly speaking behind him. He knew they were nervous of him and was certain the background was firmly in place. His anger and alcohol dependency were well known facts of Chris Jacobson’s life. He ate the rest of his meal and drank the orange juice before pushing the table away and standing up.


“Mr. Jacobson, I’m going to bring in a basin of water and you can get washed before you change into day clothes,” Morton explained and turned to go.


“Tell K…Kent…”


“You can speak with Dr. Kent yourself shortly,” the nurse said and hurried from the room.


“Better watch yourself, Jacobson, because I’m not as easily fooled as some of the nurses,” Styles warned.


Chris could feel the underlying threat and knew Styles was someone he’d need to keep an eye on while he was here. Something about the orderly didn’t sit right with him and Chris knew his instincts were rarely mistaken. He took a deep breath and made his way to the bed to wait for the nurse. Larabee hoped he’d see one of the guys today because he wanted them to look into Styles’ background.




Buck sat up and fumbled for the phone beside his bed and quickly placed the receiver to his ear. The line was in his name and would remain in place during this case. The others were also given a number and phone that would be part of their undercover personas. “This better be good…”


*“Buck, it’s Phyllis Carrington from Shady Acres.”*


“Good morning, Pretty Lady, I’m hoping this is a social call because I know I’m not scheduled to work today,” Wilmington said. He’d flirted with several of the female coworkers during his shifts and Phyllis was no exception. The woman was in her late thirties and worked out several days a week. She was quite pretty with flaming red, shoulder length hair and hazel eyes.


*“You wish…sorry, Buck, I know this is your day off, but John called in sick and we really need you to come in and take his shift.”*


“Well, I did have plans for today, but I guess I could cancel them. Where do I report?”


*“You’ll be working in the secure section so make sure you have your Card and ID with you.”*


“I will, Phyllis,” Wilmington said and hung up the phone.


“Who was that?” Dunne asked from the open doorway. The young man was dressed in a pair of boxers and a rumpled T-shirt and hadn’t bothered combing his hair.


“Phyllis, my supervisor at Shady Acres,” Wilmington answered and stood up, stretching the kinks from his back. “One of the cleaners scheduled to work in the secure area called in sick and she wants me to take his place.”


“You might get to see Chris,” Dunne said.


“Hope so, Kid…look I need to grab a shower…would you make coffee and call Josiah and let him know what’s happening,” Wilmington asked, making his way toward the bathroom before JD could answer. He knew he might not get to see Chris, but there was a chance, and that was something he was willing to take.




Samantha Parker looked at the file in front of her and knew the newest patient had serious problems that started when his wife and son were murdered. She knew she should look into the tragedy, but according to the report they had, Jacobson refused to speak of their deaths and would only say they died while vacationing in some little out of the way island in the South Pacific. She looked up when a knock sounded and hid her distaste when Ray Kent stuck his head inside.


“Good morning,” Kent greeted and smiled upon entering the office and making his way to the empty chair. “Is that Jacobson’s file?”


“Yes, it is. I want to familiarize myself with his case before he attends Monday’s group session,” Parker answered. “How is he doing?”


“According to the nurses he had a quiet night. I was just headed to his room if you’d like to join me.”


“As a matter of fact I would. Perhaps, if he’s lucid enough we could let him spend some time in the common area and see how he interacts with the other patients.”


“Do you think that’s wise after what we witnessed yesterday?” Kent asked.


“We could always assign an orderly to stay with him,” Parker said. “I think it’s best that we get him involved as soon as possible.”


“You always were a soft heart where your patients are concerned, but I want to remind you that I am Jacobson’s primary psychiatrist.”


“I know, but you asked me to be a part of his therapy and I’m simply giving you my insight. Jacobson’s anger is not going to simply disappear just because he’s started on the drug therapy you’ve initiated…”


“With your approval, Samantha,” Kent reminded her.


“Yes, I know,” Parker said, closing the file and standing up. She walked to the door and held it for Kent before exiting and locking it behind her. She spoke with her secretary and told her to hold all calls and that she’d be back in half an hour. They reached the small room where their patient had spent the night and waited for the nurse to use her key card and code to open the door.


“How was his night?” Parker asked.


“He slept straight through,” Ellen Morton answered.


“Did you give him his medications this morning?” Kent asked.


“Yes, Doctor, and he ate his breakfast, but he also cursed his brother while I was in the room,” Morton told them.


“That’s normal considering his brother is the one who arranged for his stay here,” Kent explained and nodded for her to open the door. He stepped through and spotted his patient sitting on the edge of the bed.


Samantha Parker’s first instincts had her checking the head wound and she could see the bruising that peeked out beneath the bandage. She moved forward and looked into the sea green eyes and noted the effects of the medication. “How do you feel, Chris?”


“Angry,” the blond answered softly.


“I expect you would be…does your head hurt?”


“A little? What happened…Ezra blindside me?”


“No, Ezra wasn’t here when this happened,” Kent explained. “How would you like to spend some time in the common area?”


“With the crazies?” Chris asked, a hint of a smile on his face.


“No, with your fellow patients,” Parker told him, and there was no mistaking the distaste his words caused. “You really should watch what you say in here…”


“Why? I’m calm right now thanks to the shit you’re pumping me full of,” Chris snapped.


“Chris, you need to realize that you’re here for your own good and the faster you accept that the easier it will be,” Parker told him.


“No, Doc, the reason I’m in here is that bastard brother of mine and when I see him I’ll rip his traitorous heart out and shove it down his throat!”


“You really do need to curb your anger, Chris,” Kent said, smiling inwardly at the thought of taking this man down a few pegs. “Perhaps you’d rather stay in here and meditate today…”


“No, that’s all right. I’d like to mingle with the craz…with the patients,” Chris said snidely. “After all, it is part of the treatment…right, Doc?”


“Right,” Parker said, but her eyes told Chris she was seeing right through him, and he hoped it was only his undercover persona she was seeing through.


“Chris, if I feel you are doing anything you shouldn’t be I will have you brought back here and placed in restraints again if necessary,” Kent warned.


“I hear you, Doc,” Chris said, amazed at how easy it seemed to play the part this morning. He wondered about the medications he was being given and whether or not someone was messing with his and making sure he got lower doses. He walked docilely between his two psychiatrists and memorized everything he saw before they stopped in front of an open doorway.


“Chris, don’t do anything to upset the other patients,” Kent warned and stepped into the room. There were several patients present, two orderlies who kept back and allowed the patients to relax, and a cleaner who was busily sweeping the floor. Family and friends were allowed to visit for a few hours Saturday afternoons and the cleaners would be making sure everything was squeaky clean in case some of them wanted to see the facilities.


“Would you like to hold my baby?”


“Melanie, remember what we agreed to about your baby?” Parker asked and smiled at the woman standing in front of them.


“I shouldn’t let strangers touch my baby…”


Chris watched the psychiatrist as she spoke to the patient and his admiration for her abilities grew. He recognized the patient as the one who’d tried to speak with him the day before and wished there’d been some other way, but his treatment of her went a long way toward showing his undercover ego. “Doc, can we get on with this?”


“Ray, why don’t you introduce Chris to the others while I help Melanie with her baby,” Parker suggested and led Melanie away from the others.


Chris followed Kent around the room, listening to the muted conversations and hiding his recognition of the man holding the broom and acting as if he didn’t have a care in the world. Buck didn’t speak with the patients unless they spoke to him and even then he kept his answers short and crisp as if to keep his distance. Chris followed Kent toward a table where four men were playing some kind of board game and was able to cast a quick glance in Wilmington’s direction. The few seconds their eyes connected was enough to tell Chris that Buck had noticed the bandage above his left eyes, but he shook his head imperceptibly to show he was okay.


“Chris, would you like to play?” Kent asked.


“Board games are for cra…kids,” the blond corrected and spotted a man sitting off on his own reading a book. It was the same man he’d noticed the day before and something about the slight smile made him think of a child. There was no mistaking the fact that he was a full grown adult and his size alone spoke of power, but a small laugh, barely recognizable as such made Chris want to reach out to him. Without a word Larabee made his way toward the big man and he turned his head slightly so he could read the title of the book. The Adventures of Huckleberry Fin glared out at him and Chris looked into the soft brown eyes that lit up with childish glee.


“Chris, leave him alone and come this way,” Kent ordered.


“Hey, Big Fella, I’m Chris,” Larabee said by way of introduction and smiled when the man’s head came up and slanted a sideways glance in his direction. Chris was reminded of an actor he’d seen in a movie Josiah had brought along on one of their weekend retreats. The guy’s nickname had been ‘Bear’ and Chris realized this guy was just that...a warm cuddly overstuffed Teddy Bear.


“He won’t talk to you, Chris,” Kent explained and reached for Larabee’s arm, only to have the blond pull away from him.


“Sure he will…right, Bear?” the blond asked, but saw a hint of fear in the soft brown eyes when Kent moved closer to him.


“Chris, I don’t want you scaring the other patients…”


“I’m not scaring him, Doc, I’m just talking to him.”


“Chris, it’s time to go!” Kent ordered and signaled the orderly to come forward.


“Damn it, Doc…I’m coming,” Larabee snapped and pulled away when the orderly latched onto his arm.


“Problems, Ray?” Parker asked upon rejoining the group.


“Nothing I can’t handle,” Kent answered impatiently. “It’s time Chris went back to his room.”


“All I did was talk to Bear,” Larabee explained, anger and impatience evident in his voice.


“Bear?” Parker asked.


“Him…he looks like a big bear, but not the grizzly kind…a Teddy Bear,” the blond told her.


“Makes sense…he does look like a Teddy Bear, but you have to realize some of the patients are fragile, Chris, and we have to be careful what we say or do around them. Brian may look like a Teddy Bear, but he killed three people with his bare hands,” Parker explained and motioned for the others to join her at a nearby table. She waited for their patient to sit down and could tell he was fighting for control.


“Chris, you need to leave Brian alone…”


“I wasn’t doing anything to hurt him!” Larabee snapped. “Jesus, you’d think I was going to start a fucking fight with him!”


“Chris, calm down!” Kent ordered, looking around at the help that was available should Jacobson’s anger get any worse.


“Calm, Kent, you haven’t seen calm!” the blond swore and stood up, pushing his chair away as he caught sight of Wilmington standing to his right. He could see the fear in the steady gaze and sat back in the chair once more. “Look…I’m not angry…I just…”


“Anger is something you have a problem with, Chris,” Parker told him, shaking her head when the orderly moved toward him.


“I don’t have a problem with anger, but Ezra will when I get my hands on the little bastard,” Larabee spat.


“Your brother is simply doing what he thinks is best for you,” Kent stated.


“Wrong…Ezra only does things that are good for Ezra. He’s probably draining the bank accounts dry and running Jacobson Enterprises into the ground…”


“I don’t think your brother…”


“Dr. Parker, you don’t know my brother. Ezra’s a conniving sonofabitch and he’ll do anything to get his hands on the company’s finances,” Larabee told her, slamming his fist on the table, before running his hands through his disheveled hair. “Jesus, I need a drink!”


Buck watched his friend while sweeping the floor nearby and was amazed at Chris Larabee’s actions. The man was unbelievably good and even Buck felt as if he was watching a caged animal as Larabee stood up and paced the small area between the table and the space where he stood.


“What the fuck are you looking at?”  Larabee spat, hands clenching and unclenching as if enraged.


“Buck, just move back, please,” Parker ordered, having read his name on the ID badge he wore.


“Sure, Doc…”


“Get the hell out of my way!” the blond snarled, but found two burly orderlies standing before him, effectively blocking his exit. He glared at the two men, something his men would have been proud of had they been there, but before he could look toward Buck, he was forced to the floor and held down by the orderlies with a knee pressing down on the middle of his back. He knew Wilmington was watching this, and prayed the man would do nothing to screw up the operation they’d put in place.


Buck held himself in check as the two orderlies forced his friend to the floor and secured him in position with a knee pressing down on his back. He leaned on his broom and held his own temper in check until Parker ordered him to leave the room. His last sight of Chris Larabee was one that stabbed at his heart as Kent swabbed an area on his upper arm and injected something into him. *‘God, Ol’ Son, what have we done?’*  




Vin looked up as Buck entered the stable and knew something had happened at the institute that didn’t sit well with him. He handed the older man a brush and moved back so that Buck could rub Pony down. He knew the other man’s nerves were on edge and waited for him to speak.


“Vin, tell me we get Chris out of there by the end of the week whether we have the answers or not,” Wilmington stated.


“I’d rather pull him out now…what happened, Buck?”


“He was putting on a show for his doctors, but Jesus, Vin if I didn’t know any better I’d swear he was a madman,” Wilmington explained. “There was so much rage and the way he said Ezra’s name you’d swear he was talking about the vilest creature ever born.”


“Ya know this is harder on Ez then the rest of us…he’s the one who signed the papers and had Chris put in that place,” Tanner told him. “I talked ta him this mornin’ and he’s tryin’ ta hide it, but I know he’s goin’ through hell.”


“I think Ez is going to need someone to lean on before this is over.”


“I think we all will,” the Texan agreed. He began putting away the items he’d used to clean the stable and watched his friend gently brush Pony’s mane while he talked soothingly to the animal. This case was hard on all of them, but there were two men who suffered the worst affects. He vowed he would speak with Ezra before the gambler had to visit Chris at Shady Acres.




Carl Sheppard watched the man striding toward him and hoped Marcus Turner had something new for him. He wanted the dirt on Ezra and Chris Jacobson and was more than willing to pay for it. Jacobson Enterprises was worth millions, but it looked as if the older brother had controlling interest in it even though the younger brother was CEO. From what he’d been able to find out Chris Jacobson was about to have his brother thrown out of office, but he needed to know the reason this was happening before he spoke to his associate about implementing another ‘natural death’ at Shady Acres.


It was late Sunday afternoon and he’d gotten a call from Marcus Turner less than an hour ago to meet him here. “Tell me you have something, Marcus,” Sheppard declared.


“I have something, Carl, but it’ll cost you,” Marcus told him and ordered a Scotch when the waitress asked if he wanted something to drink. He waited until she was out of earshot before continuing. “Jacobson Enterprises is worth close to fifty million, but it’s been rocked by several major losses lately.”


“What kind of losses?” Sheppard asked interestedly.


“There have been three bad investments that cost the company a couple of million, but that’s a drop in the bucket to the Jacobson fortune,” Marcus explained.


“That can’t be all of it? Ezra and Chris Jacobson seem to be at war with each other.”


“They are, but it took some digging to find out exactly what’s happening between the brothers,” Marcus explained, growing quiet when the waitress returned and placed the drink in front of him.


“Put it on my tab,” Sheppard ordered and waited for the woman to leave. “Tell me what you found out.”


“Chris Jacobson was put in charge of the family business when their parents were killed in a plane crash and he was supposed to allow Ezra a small dividend each month…small meaning ten grand,” Marcus explained. “Not such a small dividend when you consider everything else is paid for.”


“So how did Ezra end up as CEO?”


“Several years ago Chris Jacobson’s family was killed while they were on vacation. He started drinking and ignoring his duty to the company and within six months Ezra had enough backing to have his brother voted out and he took over the position. Things ran smoothly…at least that’s how it seemed until another loss shook the company and there was a scandal that shattered the image the board of directors wanted. Chris was seen drinking and totally out of it with several ladies of the evening and he started a rumor that Ezra was putting one over on the board because he was scamming the company and taking money from several areas before there was any record of a profit having been made.”


“Ezra was scamming his own company?” Sheppard asked, already counting the money that could be made from this deal.


“That’s not all he was doing. Ezra Jacobson is a gambler…a very bad gambler and he’s in debt up to his ears and then some,” Marcus explained. “There are several people who think Chris Jacobson was about to oust his brother and take control.”


“So they’d wind up with a drunk in place of a gambling thief,” Sheppard said with a hint of a smile.


“That’s probably what prompted Ezra to have his brother committed,” Marcus suggested.


“If I was a betting man I’d say that psychiatrist had something to do with Ezra’s decision to have his brother become a resident of Shady Acres.”


“From what I heard she’s as much a gambler as he is, but she wins a few here and there,” Turner told him.


“Any idea how much Ezra owes and who he owes it to?”


“Well, he owes 2.4 million to Joseph Spalding…”


“The Joseph Spalding?”


“The one and only and Spalding is rumored to be out for blood if it isn’t paid off in thirty days,” Marcus explained.


“Spalding has a reputation of cracking down hard on the people who owe him,” Sheppard said and signaled the waitress to bring another round. It seemed they did have a reason to celebrate and he was sure his partner would be very interested in what they now knew about the Jacobsons.


“Do I tell my informants they get a bonus?”


“If all goes well tell them they can expect a nice bonus,” Sheppard told him and took the drinks from the waitress. “To Ezra Jacobson whose luck is about to change.”


“Yeah, but is it better or worse than what it was?”


“That’s the question of the day,” Sheppard said and drank the bourbon before ordering another one and sitting back to enjoy the new found feeling that only came when they had a new mark. Carl reached for his phone and dialed the familiar number, waiting anxiously for his partner to answer and smiling when the phone was picked up.


*“Tell me you have something.”*


“I have something…Chris and Ezra Jacobson are worth far more than we ever imagined and it should be easy to make a killing off them. Ezra Jacobson has several IOUs out there, but the one that gives us some leverage is Joseph Spalding…the casino owner.”


*“Spalding has one hell of a bad reputation…how much is Ezra into him for?”*


“2.4 million,” Sheppard answered and heard the shrill whistle from the other end of the line. “That’s what I thought. I figure I could speak with Ezra Jacobson after he visits with his brother and ask him how badly he wants his brother out of the way. I’ll do it in our usual manner and just maybe we can net ourselves a couple of hundred thousand to get this monkey off his back.”


*“You think too small, Carl, start him off at one million and tell him the longer it takes him to make up his mind the higher the price goes.”*


“I will…I’ll call you later and let you know what’s happening.” Sheppard hung up the phone wearing a Cheshire-like grin that did not bode well for the Jacobson Brothers.




Chris could feel the affects of the sedatives, but he also realized he could think a little more clearly and wondered if Coburn had arranged for his meds to be ‘fixed’. He knew he had to pretend that the drugs were affecting him as they were supposed to and fought to maintain control when the nurse and orderly entered his room.


“Good morning, Chris, it’s time for your medication and then we’ll see about getting you down to the cafeteria so you can eat with the others. How does that sound?”


“Sounds good,” Larabee told her and hid his surprise when she handed him two pills and a glass of water. He popped them into his mouth and held them under his tongue while draining the water.


“Let me see your hands,” the orderly said and nodded his head when he saw there was nothing in them.


“All right, Chris, now why don’t you change into the day clothes and I’ll be back for you in ten minutes,” Julie Robinson offered and left the room.


As soon as they were out of the room Chris pretended to cough, grabbed a tissue from the box on the bed and spit the pills into it. He knew he would have to find a way to get rid of the pills and hoped he’d be given the chance before anyone became suspicious. The orderly was smart, and Chris knew he was lucky the man hadn’t made him open his mouth too.


Chris slowly dressed, placed the tissue into the pocket of the blue pants he now wore, reached for the shirt and pulled it on. He sat on the edge of the bed and pretended he was calm in spite of the way his stomach churned. He knew if he ran into Buck or Vin or one of the others he could find a way to give them the pills and hopefully they’d get them tested in case they were something other than what they were supposed to be. The door opened and the nurse stepped into the room and moved to sit beside him on the bed.


“Well, Chris, are you ready?”


“Guess so…my brother here?”


“Not yet…but I believe he’s going to visit you this afternoon. I’m sure he’ll be glad to see you’re making progress,” Robinson offered.


“I don’t think so,” Chris said, sighing tiredly before he stood and made his way toward the door. “I’m hungry…”


“Yes, I expect you are,” the nurse said and walked beside him. There were several orderlies in the hallway and she knew they would make sure nothing happened as she escorted her patient to the cafeteria.


Once they entered the busy room, Chris reached for a tray and joined the line-up leading to the hot plates and was somewhat surprised to find his stomach rumbling. He tried to remember the last time he’d eaten, but it was hard to think and he knew some of the medications had entered his blood stream. He looked at the scrambled eggs and bacon that was placed on his tray and reached for a tea biscuit before glancing around for a place to sit.


Chris spotted the man he’d nicknamed ‘Bear’ sitting on his own at a table near a big window and made his way toward him. “This seat taken?” When no answer was forthcoming, Chris sat down and began eating the eggs, amazed that they actually tasted like eggs and weren’t rubbery. He glanced at the man and noticed he was still reading ‘The Adventures of Huckleberry Fin’. “I love that book.” ‘Bear’s’ head came up and Chris felt as if the man could see right through him, but the bald head quickly dropped down and he seemed to lose himself in the book again.


Chris knew the man had supposedly killed someone and wondered what it was about ‘Bear’ that made him feel protective. He knew the man’s first name and hoped he could get a message to one of the guys and have them check into ‘Bear’s’ background. If there were ‘shady’ things happening at Shady Acres then maybe some of the patients were not as guilty as their files showed. Maybe the man was so heavily sedated he couldn’t make sense of what was happening to him and discovered a book to get lost in. *‘Is that it, Bear, are you innocent and just unable to understand what’s happening to you?’* Larabee thought.


“Hey, dummy, you gonna finish that?”


Chris looked up into a face that had seen more than its share of fights and even now showed a fading bruise that covered the left side of his face. He stood up and faced the larger man and glared at him. “Leave him alone?”


“Who the hell do you think you are?”


“Doesn’t matter who I am…just leave him alone.” Larabee said and sat down.


“What’s the matter? You scared of me?”


“There’s a couple of ladies I’m scared of, but you’re not one of them,” the blond ground out and thought he saw a hint of a smile on ‘Bear’s’ face.


“All right, Dugan, back off!” Craig Styles warned.


“He started it!”


“Well I’ll finish it if you don’t go back to your seat!” the orderly warned and watched the big man leave before he got in Larabee’s face. “Watch yourself, Jacobson, because I’m not all that convinced you’re what the others think you are.”


Chris just smiled and pretended to dig into what was left of his meal and sat back, pretending to scratch his leg as he retrieved the tissue holding the pills and placed it in his pocket in case he ran into one of the others. He wiped his mouth and placed it on his tray before making his way toward the rack and disposing of the garbage in the bin. 


Chris made his way to the door and exited the cafeteria. He spotted a familiar figure sweeping the floor to the right of the cafeteria. He placed his hands in his pocket and walked slowly toward the common area, dropping the tissue in the pile of trash Wilmington had just swept up. He glanced sideways and tried to let the other man know he was all right and saw a slight nod of the dark head. He wanted to speak, and was relieved when Tanner strode toward him.


“All right, Jacobson, it’s time to go back to your room,” the Texan said, relieved to see a hint of a smile on Larabee’s face when the man pretended to stumble against him.


“Check out the big black guy…looks like ‘Bear’ from Armageddon…name’s Brian,” Larabee managed before straightening and walking beside his friend. He knew they were being watched and remained quiet until they reached his room and he stepped inside. He moved to the bed and sat down, ignoring the fact that the camera above him caught his every move.




Nathan Jackson looked around at the patients who worked in the gardens and realized that there were some things about Shady Acres that he really admired. There was a lot of therapeutic value to giving people a chance to work at something they enjoyed and see their faces light up when they accomplished something as simple as seeing a flower they planted bloom. He turned away and entered through the main gate into the secure area of the private hospital and immediately spotted Vin Tanner working with several patients who seemed to enjoy listening to his instructions on how to plant several rose bushes.


Nathan knew Josiah and Ezra were supposed to visit Chris later in the afternoon and wondered how Standish would react to Larabee’s portrayal of an angry brother. He knew Ezra was feeling lower than a snake’s belly, but they needed to keep up the charade and hope things panned out soon.


“Good morning, Dr. Bradley,” Samantha Parker greeted him as he rounded the corner and made his way toward the main entrance.


“Good morning, Dr. Parker,” Jackson said and smiled as she fell into step beside him. “Please, call me Nathan since it looks like we’ll be working together for a while.”


“Thank you, Nathan, but only if you do the same and call me Samantha or Sam,” Parker told him and used her key card to open the door and log in. She watched him do the same and the two made their way to the desk to check in before entering the main area. “Would you like to sit in on this morning’s group therapy session?”


“That’d be great as long as Dr. Kent doesn’t have other plans for me,” Nathan told her. “How many patients take part in the session?”


“There are usually six in total,” Parker answered. “There’ll be an orderly present in case there’s trouble, but he is not allowed to interfere with the session unless it gets out of hand and we lose control.”


“Does that happen often?”


“Not really, but it’s nice to know there are safety features like the red button if we need it. If I’m unable to reach the button and summon help then it’ll be up to you. That button is only used in extreme emergencies because it basically locks everything down and terrifies most of the patients. There’s Dr. Kent…why don’t we see if he needs you this morning or if I can use you in the session?”


Nathan walked over to the nurses’ station and listened as the two psychiatrists discussed their morning plans. He spotted several patients being escorted to the common area while nurses completed their morning rituals.


“Nathan, Dr. Kent has a meeting with the board of directors this morning so you’re more than welcome to sit in on the session,” Parker explained and led the way toward the room where her group always met. The chairs were arranged in a semi-circle with a single chair facing the others.


Nathan quickly spotted the ‘panic’ button near the door as Parker handed him several typed notes on the participants of this morning’s session. He quickly hid his surprise at seeing Chris’ name hand written at the bottom of the list. There were six male clients and he knew they would be brought in shortly. He read the reports on each patient which included a list of the medications being given; hiding his distaste at the idea that Larabee was being medicated with sedatives.


“Nathan, would you bring another chair and place it next to mine?”


“Sure, Samantha,” Jackson said and did as she asked. He glanced at the clock and realized the patients would soon be brought in, and he hoped Chris hadn’t antagonized the staff too much.




Chris followed the other four to the group session chambers and took a seat at the end of the half circle. He spotted Nathan as soon as he entered, but never acknowledge the man who was busy going through some papers with Samantha Parker. He listened to the other patients and looked toward the door as the sixth patient entered and saw a hint of a smile that promised retribution for Chris’ interference earlier in the morning.


“Take a seat, Joseph,” Parker ordered, taking note of the look that passed between Jacobson and Dugan. She wondered what had transpired and knew she would get the story at some point in the session. She waited for the others to take their seat and watched Jacobson closely, wondering what was going on inside his head. “I’d like you all to say hello to Dr. Nathan Bradley who’ll be sitting in on some of our sessions. Would each of you introduce yourselves and tell us a little about your life? Why don’t you start, Joseph?”


“Name’s Joseph Dugan and I’m here because I do drugs and my bitch of a wife said I hit her,” the big man snapped and slapped his hand on his leg as Parker turned to the man seated next to him.


“Go ahead, Danny,” the psychiatrist said.


“My name is Danny Baker and my mom put me in here after I wrecked the house and hurt my baby sister…I told her I was sorry, but she said I need help. When can I go home, Dr. Parker?”


“Do you think you’re ready to go home, Danny?” Parker asked.


“I think so…maybe…I don’t know…”


“Then it’s best for you to stay here until you do know,” the woman said and turned to the third male. “Ryan, would you like to say hello to Dr. Bradley?”


“Not really…I’m Ryan Fieldgate and I don’t know why the hell I’m here.”


“Ryan, watch your language,” Parker warned and turned to the next man. “Colin, how are you this morning?”


“I’s fine, Doc…”


“If you’re so fine why the hell are you in here?” Dugan snapped.


“Joseph, that’s enough,” Parker warned and returned her attention to Colin Galt.


“My name is Colin Galt and I’m here because I can’t take care of myself,” the small man answered and looked down when Parker turned to the fifth patient.


“My name is Evan Sprole and I’m here because I see dead people…they talk to me…”


“Dodododo dodododo,” Dugan said in a singsong voice that mocked the theme from The Twilight Zone.


“Jerk,” Larabee ground out and stared at the angry man seated at the other end of the group.


“Chris, before you’re allowed to make comments you need to introduce yourself and tell us something about your life,” Parker warned.


“The name is Chris Jacobson and my bastard brother signed me in with the help of his psychiatric bitch,” Larabee stated and glared at the two staff members.


“I’m sure your brother did what he thought was best,” Jackson said.


“Not fucking likely…the bastard wants to control my company and he’s not going to get away with it!”


“Looks like he already has…you’re in here and he’s out there spending your money!”


“Shut the hell up, Dugan!” Larabee snarled.


“You’re not man enough to make me!” Dugan spat.


“Gentlemen, we’re here to talk…not to start WWIII,” Parker told them. “Joseph, apologize…"


“Not fucking likely,” Dugan snapped.


“Joseph, if you keep talking like that you’ll be sent to the meditation room and lose privileges for the rest of the day,” Parker warned.


“What about Jacobson?”


“I’m not talking about Chris, Joseph, I’m talking about you. Are you willing to apologize or do I take away your privileges?”


“Sorry,” Dugan spat and slammed his fists onto his legs. “What about him…you gonna make him apologize?”


“I don’t have anything to apologize for,” Larabee told him and let a smirk form on his face. He knew he was pushing the other man, but there was something about Dugan that rubbed him the wrong way.




“What?” the blond snarled.


“Do you want to see your brother this afternoon?” Parker asked.


“The little weasel is coming here?” Larabee asked.


“Ezra and a man named Josiah Arnott…”


“Josiah’s coming here…he’ll listen,” the blond said.


“Chris, why are you so angry at your brother?” Jackson asked.


“The bastard had Susan bring me here under the pretext that we were going to invest in this dump…he’ll see me invest my foot up his ass when I get Josiah to help me out,” Larabee stated.


“Are you sure Josiah will help you? What if he believes Ezra is right? You do have an anger problem and from what I’ve read in your file you have been drinking more than you should,” Parker said and watched as Jacobson’s face filled with rage.


“You don’t know anything about me. You read second hand trash that my brother probably wrote and think you can analyze me, but you don’t know jack shit!” Larabee said and heard Dugan chuckling softly.


“You tell her, Jacobson!” Dugan said and made a whooping sound before making a show of clapping his hands.


“Shut the hell up, Dugan, I didn’t ask for your help and I certainly don’t need it!” Larabee snapped.


“Who the fuck do you think you are Jacobson? I…”


“All right, Gentlemen, that’s enough, or should I have you both confined to quarters and your privileges revoked?” Parker warned and watched as both men grew quiet. She knew it was important to maintain control before things got out of hand and turned the session toward the other four participants. There was nothing further from Jacobson, but Dugan continued to be his obnoxious, self-centered self. “Well, I’m getting kind of hungry and I’m sure all of you would like to have lunch before your visitors arrive this afternoon. So please return to your rooms and I’ll see you at tomorrow’s session.”


“Are the sessions always so lively?” Jackson asked once the others had left.


“Whenever Dugan participates, things kind of get loud,” Parker said and finished making several notations on her files. “So, Nathan, would you like to join me for an early lunch?”


“I’d love to,” Jackson told her and followed her out of the room.




Josiah Sanchez studied the man seated beside him out of the corner of his eyes. Ezra was immaculately dressed in a dark Armani suit and highly polished black shoes. Ezra looked to be everything his persona claimed and Josiah knew it was the gambler’s own experiences that made him the perfect man for this type of job. Anyone who met Ezra would think he was born to a position of money, but the truth was Maude Standish wasn’t rich, not by a long shot, but she’d used her own charms and personality to keep up appearances. Some people accused Ezra of the same thing, but those who knew him understood how much he’d changed in the years since joining the agency and making six men his brothers.


Josiah knew how hard this particular case was on Ezra and wished there was something he could do to ease the younger man’s troubled conscience, but that wouldn’t happen until Chris Larabee was no longer a patient at Shady Acres. This was tough on the whole team, but it was par for the course when it involved their jobs. They’d all be undercover at some point in time and the guilt felt could be shared equally amongst each of them.


Josiah caught sight of Rafael watching them and knew the man could be trusted. That was one of the reasons they used Rafael whenever they needed someone to act as a chauffeur or any other part of an undercover operation where they needed an extra set of arms or legs. Chris had offered the man a full time position, but Rafael liked being able to play it by ear and take the jobs he wanted instead of those he was assigned to. Josiah turned and looked at Standish once more as they entered through the main gates of Shady Acres.


“Ezra, are you sure you’re ready for this?” Sanchez asked while Rafael looked for a parking spot in the busy lot.


“I’m fine, Josiah…I’m not the one locked in there,” Standish said, his voice deceptively calm as he stared out the window.


“No, but you are the one who put him there, at least in a sense you are,” Sanchez told him. “You can’t blame yourself for this one, Ezra. Chris knew what he was getting in to…and while we may not agree with his decision we should look at it from his point of view. The background story on Chris Jacobson has distinct parallels to Chris Larabee’s life and he can draw on his own experiences to make this all the more realistic.”


“That’s part of the problem with this whole scenario, Josiah, Chris has been through his family’s death and acting the part of an angry survivor is going to bring it all back with a bang,” Standish said. “We all know what he went through…the pain…the withdrawal… the alcohol…it nearly killed him when we ganged up on him and stepped in…”


“Yes, it did, but the intervention was the right thing at the time and he survived and it made him…made all of us stronger. Just remember he is acting when you go in there and you’ll both be fine,” the ex-preacher assured him as the car pulled to a stop near the back of the visitor’s parking area. “Are you ready for this?”


“No, but let’s get it done!” the gambler waited for Rafael to open the passenger door and exited the car, immediately straightening his suit and tie before walking toward the main entrance. He knew they would have to go through a rigorous check in and would allow Josiah to take care of the details. It didn’t take long to go through the outer checkpoints, but once they reached the secure area it took several long minutes of explanations before they were allowed access to that section. They were assigned an escort who would stay with them until they left Shady Acres.


“Just remember these people are here for a reason and you’ll do fine,” Tony Rocco explained as he led them along a path that wound through the flowerbeds and ended up in a courtyard that bordered the cafeteria. He knew Chris Jacobson would have already been informed of his visitors and should already be present.


“There’s Chris,” Standish said and pointed to the man seated on a small bench near a spectacular rose bush that seemed to have thrived on the patient’s attention. His heart felt like it was lodged in his throat when he saw the bandage over Larabee’s left eye.


“It’s okay, Ezra, you don’t need to fear him now that he’s on medications to help curb his anger,” Sanchez said, holding the Bible so that it was plainly visible for all to see. Around his neck was a gold chain and dangling from the end was a white gold crucifix, a birthday gift from the rest of the team. He knew their escort had overheard his words and knew word would get around that Ezra Jacobson was ‘afraid’ of visiting his brother. They reached the bench and Josiah was the first to speak. “Hello, Chris, I hope they are treating you well.”


“What the hell are you doing here, Preacher Man? Ezra got you under his control too?”


“You should know me by now, Chris…no one controls me,” Sanchez told him and sat beside the blond. “I came because I wanted to see how you were doing not because of anything Ezra did or said.”


“You tell him to stay the fuck away from me…”


“Chris, Ezra came all this way to see how you’re adjusting to the changes…”


“Changes he arranged, Josiah…the little bastard signed the papers and had me committed, but I’m not staying here! I’m getting out of here and when I do I’m going to see to it that the board knows about his gambling and that he’s been embezzling funds from the company since he took control,” Larabee said, his voice rising several octaves as he stared at his ‘brother’. “You hear me, Ezra, I know you’ve turned everyone against me…”


“Chris, you’re delusional…”


“Like hell I am, Brother Dear! You, however, are delusional if you think you’ll get away with this! I’m going to make sure you pay…pay dearly for putting me in here with the crazies!”


“Mr. Jacobson, you need to calm down,” the orderly scolded from nearby.


“I am calm! This bastard is not going to take my life from me!”


“Chris, Ezra isn’t doing anything to hurt you…he’s worried…”


“You side with him, Josiah, and you’ll lose too!” Larabee ground out and stood up to face his ‘brother’. “I’m not stupid, Ezra, and it’s time you realized who you’re dealing with!”




“Get your hands off me, Preacher Man!” Larabee’ snarled and pulled away from the older man. He acted before anyone could stop him and landed a devastating blow to the left side of Ezra’s face that staggered the gambler and nearly drove him to his knees. Chris soon found both his arms held tight as Sanchez reacted instinctively and grabbed him, keeping him away from Standish.


“We’ll take him from here, Sir,” an orderly said and moved to Larabee’s right.


Chris growled deep in his throat and lunged for his ‘brother’ as Vin and a second orderly grabbed his arms and forced him to the ground. “You won’t get away with this, Ezra, I’ll fucking kill you! Let go of me!”


“Calm down, Jacobson!” Tanner warned and felt the body beneath him ease up slightly. He looked up to see Kent hurrying toward him and prayed they could get Larabee to realize how much trouble he could be in if he didn’t stop struggling.


Chris felt the change in the Texan and knew something had changed. He stopped struggling and glanced up to see Ezra wiping the blood from his face and realized he might have put a little too much power in the swing. There was nothing he could do about that as Tanner and the other orderly pulled him to his feet and turned him to face the newcomer.


“Well, Chris, I see I was right in thinking it was too early for you to have outside visitors. Do you have something to say to your brother before you’re returned to your room for some quiet meditation?” Kent asked.


“Yes, I do,” Larabee told him and turned to Standish. “I’m sorry…”


“Very good…”


“Sorry I didn’t knock you on your ass!”


“That’s enough, Son…”


“Shut the fuck up, Preacher Man and save your sermon for someone who needs it!” Larabee spat as he was dragged toward the main doors.


“I’m sorry, Gentlemen, you’ll have to leave,” Kent said and turned away before he revealed just how much he’d enjoyed Jacobson’s display.


“Will he be all right?” Ezra asked, holding a cloth against his split lip.


“I assure you he’ll be fine once he calms down and realizes what he did was wrong,” Kent explained. “Now if you’ll excuse me I’ll go speak with my patient and let him know what privileges he’ll lose as a result of his actions.”


“Did we just make things worse for Chris?”


“I hope not, Ezra, but it was a necessary part of the ruse to make Chris’ actions believable,” Sanchez said, walking beside the younger man. “Did he break anything?”


“He may have loosened several teeth, but aside from the split lip and bruised ego I’m fine,” Standish assured him, but his voice lacked the certainty he’d tried to instill in his words.


“You did your job perfectly, Ezra, and Chris would be the first one to tell you that.”


“How long do you think it will take the guilty party to contact us?” Standish asked, effectively deflecting the attention away from himself.


“Well it depends on how long it takes for word to get around. Whoever is responsible for the murders has to be working closely with the patients in order to pick the ones most likely to give them the big payday,” Sanchez explained.


“He has one hell of a right cross,” Ezra said and moved his jaw from side to side. They exited the secure area and made their way toward the main gates, and Ezra looked around when he felt someone watching him. He spotted Carl Sheppard and a shudder ran down his spine at the way the other man seemed to be looking right through him. “I have a feeling we had an audience.”


“I believe you’re right, Ezra,” Sanchez agreed, making a point of diverting his eyes from the man who stood watching them. “Do you know who he is?”


“I believe he’s the financial advisor and I would hazard a guess that he’s involved in the killings somehow,” Standish answered.


“Makes sense…he’d know which clients had enough money to make it worthwhile,” Sanchez agreed as they exited through the main gates.


“There has to be a mastermind behind this and somehow I don’t believe Sheppard is that smart,” the gambler said and made his way toward the black Limo. He smiled at Cordova when the man winced sympathetically.


“You should let Nathan take a look at your mouth,” Sanchez suggested.


“I will when we meet at Vin’s tonight,” Standish told him and reached for his laptop. He punched in his password and waited for the correct files to pop into place. “While we’re waiting for the others I figured I’d do a little background check on Carl Sheppard…go a little deeper than what’s in his records.”


“Sounds like a plan,” Sanchez said and reached for a bottle of Perrier water.




Chris struggled against the two men holding him and wished he could strike out at the second orderly who squeezed his right arm so tightly it would probably leave bruises. He let them drag him back inside, with just a token struggle and was soon placed in his room where he sat on the edge of the bed and waited for Kent to show up. The door was closed and locked and he stretched out on the bed with his hands locked behind his head, eyes staring straight up as someone entered the room.


“Well, Chris, that was quite the show. Do you feel better?”


“Hell yes!” Larabee snapped and sat up, easing his legs over the side of the bed. “It was more than worth it to smack that smug bastard in the face.”


“You do realize you’ve lost your special privileges for the next two days.”


“There’s a big fucking surprise!”


“Chris, your temper is just going to keep getting you in trouble and…”


“My temper is my business…”


“Not while you’re a patient here….”


“Then give me the papers and I’ll sign myself out!” Larabee told him.


“You know that’s not going to happen, Chris. You were signed in and your care is being paid for by your brother with your corporation’s blessing I might add,” Kent said, leaning against the wall and watching his patient clearly. “Now you are going to be confined to your room for the next 24 hours and I want you to think about why you’re here…”


“I don’t need 24 hours, Doc, I know why I’m here and I’m going to make damn sure Ezra loses everything for signing those fucking papers.”


“Why do you blame your brother for what you brought on yourself?” Kent asked and knew he’d struck a chord as he felt Jacobson’s anger.


“You don’t know Jack shit about me, Doc, so quit the psycho babble and the analyzing bullshit and leave me the hell alone!”


“I’m afraid that’s not going to happen, Chris,” Kent said when the door opened and a nurse and orderly entered. “Craig, would you make sure Chris does not try anything?”


“My pleasure, Dr. Kent,” Styles said and moved closer to the bed.


“What are you doing, Kent?” Larabee snapped.


“It seems we have to adjust your medications since it’s obvious you’re still showing signs of anger and paranoia,” Kent said and took the syringe from the nurse.


“I’m not paranoid…”


“I believe you are, Chris,” Kent said. “I have seen your reaction to your brother and to the other patients and I believe you have shown the classic signs of paranoia bordering on schizophrenia…”


“Like hell…get that fucking thing away from me!” Larabee snarled, but was quickly pinned to the bed by the orderly. He felt the cold swab against his arm and the sharp prick as the needle entered and the strong sedative was delivered. A sense of calm quickly washed over him and he licked his lips several times as his mouth was suddenly dry.


“How do you feel, Chris?” Kent asked.


“Tired,” was the slurred answer.


“You can let him go now, Craig…I doubt he’ll give us any more trouble. Why don’t you take a little nap and one of the nurses will come get you and take you to the common area shortly.”


“…k…” Larabee said and felt the blanket pulled up over him. His mind drifted and sleep reached out for him and he welcomed its promise of warm dreams.


“I don’t think he’ll give you any trouble now, but let him sleep for a while, Sandra, then bring him to the common area and make sure the orderlies watch him.”


“Yes, Doctor,” the nurse said and the trio left the blond to sleep in solitude.


Kent made his way to his office and closed the door behind him as he reached for his recorder and pressed the button before speaking into the small, hand held device. “Patient number 267 Chris Jacobson. Made an adjustment to his medications and will have to monitor him because of the large dose he seems to need to curb his anger. Patient is definitely showing signs of paranoid schizophrenia and is delusional. He blames his anger on his brother, Ezra, or anyone else he thinks has wronged him. He has a dependency on alcohol, and has asked for a drink on several occasions.” He pressed the stop button and thought about Chris Jacobson and the plans he had for the man, plans that just might be the turning point for him and mean more money for research.




JD prided himself on being able to access any file on any computer, but so far he’d been unable to crack the password protected files in the hospital’s mainframe. He could check on the patients and see exactly what was being done for them, but there were several notations about files being moved. So far the ones that had been moved were patients that had died or been removed from the facility for one reason or another.


“JD, could you help me?”


“Sure, Melissa, what’s wrong?” Dunne asked and closed down the program he’d been using before moving to help the woman seated at the next desk.


“I can’t find the new patient files…I think I may have deleted them. God if I did I’ll lose my job,” Melissa told him.


“Hold on…let me take a look,” Dunne said and took the seat she vacated. “What files are you looking for?”


“New patient info,” Melissa answered. “It’s everything I’ve inputted over the last week and I destroyed the notes that were made.”


“Don’t they keep paper files on the patients?”


“Yes, but I already sent them to storage and if I have to get them they’ll know I screwed up again. I can’t afford another black mark on my record because they’ll fire me.”


“Just give me a minute to access the hard drive,” Dunne told her as his fingers tapped the keys and peeled back the layers of paper trail she’d left on her computer. One file in particular caught his attention and he memorized the password in hopes of accessing it from The Firm’s computer when he left Shady Acres at the end of the shift. He knew with the single password there wasn’t a lot he could do, but at least he’d know what was being written about Chris.


“Please tell me you found it,” Melissa asked when JD tapped several keys and brought up the document she’d been working on.


“Maybe,” Dunne told her and pushed away from the desk so she could see what was on the monitor. “Was that what you were working on?”


“That’s it,” Melissa said and hugged her co-worker when he stood up. “Thank you so much. Dr. Kent is a tough man when it comes to making sure everything is filed properly.”


“You’re welcome, Melissa,” Dunne said and moved back to his desk, armed with a new password he hoped would shed some light on what was happening at the institute. He sat down and typed in several key phrases and brought up the file he’d been gathering and added the password before sending the whole thing to his laptop. He deleted any record of sending the information from his hard drive and went back to work on his assigned duties.




Ezra looked up when his private line signaled that someone was calling him. Josiah also came to attention when the phone began to ring. Both men knew it could only be someone from Shady Acres or the possible perpetrator of the murders, meaning it could and probably was one and the same person. Ezra pressed the record button before answering




“Mr. Jacobson,” the voice sounded distorted with static creating strange inflections on the wrong syllables. “I believe you are in need of my help.”


“Who is this?”


“Who it is doesn’t matter…what matters is I can help you get rid of one of your problems and make it possible for you to get your hands on the funds you need.”


Ezra nodded to Sanchez who held up a piece of paper that said simply to keep whoever it was talking. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”


“Don’t you, Mr. Jacobson? I know about the money and the embezzled funds and that your brother was going to take you down until you managed to have him committed. You know you won’t be able to keep him in there indefinitely even with your money. Sooner or later someone will realize he’s due for an assessment and if they stop giving him the heavy duty sedatives he’ll be able to make someone listen to him. I can arrange to have those drugs stopped and he’ll be able to tell everyone the real reason behind his illegal committal. Or I can arrange to keep him sedated and then you can make up your mind about whether or not you want to be rid of him forever. It’s your call, but I’ll warn you right now that the longer you wait the more it will cost you to get rid of your problem. Think about what I said and I’ll contact you tomorrow morning…oh, I’d advise you to ice your jaw, because that must have been a devastating blow.”


Ezra hit the end button when the line went dead and turned to see Josiah watching him. “Did you get all that?”


“I did…and it appears we have a fish on the line and we just need to set the hook,” Sanchez told him.


“If only it was that simple,” Standish told him and unconsciously touched his hand against his mouth.


“Ezra…” Sanchez began, but he could tell Standish was not in the mood for small talk as he walked into Larabee’s office and onto the balcony that overlooked the city of Billings. “Lord, give us all the strength to see this through and let us come out of it with our sanity intact.”




Ezra knew if he stayed where he was he’d lose control and that was something he would not allow. He needed to keep his wits about him and see this case through no matter how it affected him to see Larabee locked away. Chris was a strong man and had shown him what it was like to be part of a team and to have family, real family who cared about him. When Josiah said his name, Ezra knew how close to the edge he was and did not want Sanchez to see how badly this affected him.


Ezra made it to the balcony and stood looking out over the city that had become his home in spite of, or because of his mother’s dislike of the lack of an ‘Upper Echelon’. He’d lost track of how many times his mother had tried to interfere in his life since he’d joined Larabee’s team. Oh, he missed hobnobbing with the big wigs, but deep down he knew he could never go back to her lifestyle. The Armani suits, classy restaurants, and penthouse apartment were paid for by money he’d made before coming to work for The Firm. He’d managed to stockpile a nice portfolio and would be considered very well-off by most people, but he wanted to work, wanted to keep making a difference in the world and gambling no longer did that for him.


Ezra rubbed his arms, but the breeze wasn’t the cause of the chill running down his spine, it had more to do with the thought of being locked away from everything you cared about. Chris Larabee was a man who enjoyed the outdoors, loved riding Pony through the back trails, enjoyed swimming in Sarah’s special lake, but all of those were out of bounds for him for the duration. “The duration endures,” Standish muttered and turned to find Sanchez holding a glass of amber colored liquid out to him.


“I figured you could use this,” the older man advised.


Ezra nodded his thanks and drank half the liquid before turning his attention back to the streets below.


“I don’t think you’ll find any answers out there, son,” Sanchez told him.


“I know, but this is where Chris comes when he has some serious thinking to do…it’s probably where he came up with the assignments for this job.”


“Probably…and Chris is rarely wrong when he makes a decision based on everything he knows about a case.”


“There are too many variables with this particular case. We don’t even know who to trust at Shady Acres and he’s already been injured,” Standish said.


“I know, but at least we know the others are there in case he needs to be pulled out,” Sanchez explained.


“Yes, but will he be lucid enough to tell the others it’s time to pull the plug. I’ve seen what happens in those places and I wish I could say he’ll be all right,” Standish said.


“That’s the thing about our job, Ezra, we don’t know what’s going to happen, but we need to be ready for anything,” the ex-preacher told him.



PART 1 / PART 2 / PART 3 / PART 4 / PART 6 / PART 7 / PART 8 / PART 9 / PART 10 / PART 11




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