It had been a lousy week and was looking to be an even lousier weekend. We had been playing backup for Team 3 and the bust had gone sour. Buck had gotten shot and Josiah had ended up with a concussion, but nobody had died so that was good I guess. I'd called Casey about going somewhere for the weekend and we'd ended up having a knock-down drag-out fight that had ended with both of us saying things we hadn't meant.
So here it was Saturday night and I was sitting at the Saloon nursing a beer alone. Ezra was undercover, Chris and Vin were out of town for a conference, Josiah and Buck were both home recovering and Nathan had taken Rain out of town for a romantic weekend. Inez had teased me about coming in here looking for a woman, but I knew she didn't mean any harm.
"JD?" Inez came up to me with a confused look on her face, "There was just a very strange phone call, the man said he had called to check on the delivery of his food, but we don't deliver! Then he said he'd call back in 10 minutes and hoped we'd have everything straightened out by then."
"Well that's not so strange, it's just somebody with the wrong phone number." I told her.
"The funny part was that I swear it was Seņor Standish's voice. I'm not sure, but I think that is who it was."
"When this guy calls back, if he calls back, let me talk to him. I'll know if it's Ezra. He's undercover so maybe something is wrong."
She led me back into the office and I had a seat while thinking about what could possibly be wrong? With Ezra undercover that could be anything, but why hadn't he called someone on the team? I started thinking and pulled my cell phone out and checked it, dead battery; Josiah and Buck were both sleeping the sleep of the drugged and with everyone else out of town he probably thought this was his best chance, either that or they were monitoring his calls. Inez stuck her head back and pointed to the phone and held up two fingers, I grabbed the phone and pushed line 2.
"How may I help you sir?"
"I called over an hour ago and placed my order and I still haven't received it."
Yep it was Ezra, "What did you order sir and what address was it to be delivered to and I'll check and see what happened to it." He reeled off an order that I quickly scribbled down and then an address. "Hold on moment and let me check with our delivery driver." I wandered out and cornered Inez, "I need you to make me up an order as soon as possible, also make me up a double order of jalapeņo poppers. Something's wrong and I think Ezra's in trouble."
Inez turned and yelled at the cook, "I know Ezra never eats poppers, maybe we could do something to them, would that help?"
"Whatcha got in mind?"
She yelled at the cook again and he answered her, "Ramon is on some medication and it makes him unable to go to the bathroom so the doctor prescribed something that makes him able to go. Not pee, but the other thing."
"You mean like a laxative, something that would give the bad guys diarrhea? Go for it Inez." I went back and picked up the phone and started talking. "I am so sorry sir. Apparently our delivery driver went to the wrong address, I'll send him right out with the order, cooked fresh and we'll throw in some of our famous jalapeņo poppers for free to make up for the mistake."
"Well I suppose that will have to do, I hope the driver manages to find us okay this time."
I hung up the phone and went to find Inez. She'd packaged up the order and put it in a box for me, "I know which item is Ezra's and it is good, the rest have all been doctored a bit so don't let him eat anything else, I threw in some of those cheese quesadillas he likes, I packed his food in the double bag so you'll know it's his."
"Thank you Inez, I'll let you know what I learn." I grabbed the box and headed for my car, I found an old baseball hat and Rockies t-shirt in the back seat and pulled the hat on backwards and switched my shirt for the t-shirt and headed out.
I didn't have any problem finding the house and putting on my dumbest look I rang the doorbell. When Ezra answered the door I started my act, "Oh gosh mister, I'm so sorry, the guy who took the order musta wrote the address down wrong. I wondered how come those people got so mad when I tried to make them pay." He turned as if to get some money and I followed him into the house. I saw three different men, but saw signs of at least two more; one of the guys was cleaning his weapon. His head snapped up when he saw me, "Gosh, are you guys cops? Hey I bet you work for the government. That must be so cool! When I get outta school maybe I'll do that too. I bet I could. I ain't near as dumb as everyone says I am. Oh, hey, here's the jalapeņo poppers! The boss says they're free cuz of the screw-up which wasn't really my fault after all. Anyhow we have the best poppers in the city." I grabbed the poppers and handed them out to everyone and turned to Ezra and offered him the bag all the while giving him the 'don't eat any' look.
"Thank you, but no thank you young man. I am not fond of those things."
"Your loss mister, hey who ordered what?" Ezra answered first and I felt for the thickness of the double bag and handed it to him, then I passed out the rest of the food.
Ezra walked me to the door and stuffed some bills in my hand. "That will be all, thank you young man." I gave him that two-fingered salute he uses all the time and headed back to the car. Once I'd driven off a ways I checked the bills he had given me and wrapped in the middle was a note.
My cover has been compromised.
Need retrieval ASAP!
Do not notify DPD!
Sure, nothing big! I headed back to the Saloon and told Inez what I'd learned and then I tried to call everyone. There was no answer at our place or Josiah's. Hell I couldn't even get a hold of Chris or Vin. The hotel said they weren't in the room and didn't know how to reach them so I left a life-or-death message for them to call me on my cell as soon as they got the message. I'd plugged my phone in with the speed charger at Inez's before I left to deliver the food earlier so hopefully it was charged.
It was time to think. I had my gun locked in the gun safe in my trunk so I was armed. "Inez, I need you to do another favor for me? If I leave you the numbers will you keep calling and see if you can get a hold of any of the guys? Chris and Vin are outta town and Buck and Josiah are down with injuries. I'm pretty sure Nathan's gone for the weekend like I was supposed to be." She gave me a quizzical look that asked what had happened. "Casey and I had a fight, she told me that if I died tomorrow she wouldn't care... I know she didn't mean that but it shot our plans all to hell." She gave me a quick hug, "I'll be okay, we have to worry about Ezra now. I guess I'm on my own, ask Ramon how fast that stuff is supposed to work?"
She left and came back in just a few seconds, "He says that it works real fast if you aren't already plugged up." I grabbed my cell and checked the charge. It wasn't full but it was good enough. I switched it to vibrate and headed to the door. "JD? You be careful, okay! I don't want to have to tell Seņor Larabee or Buck how you got hurt." I nodded and headed to my car and opened up the trunk and the gun safe. Luckily I'd left my shoulder holster in there too; I put the gun and holster on and headed back to Ezra's location.
I parked around the corner and took a few deep breaths before I headed down the alley to the house and slipped in the back. I slowly edged up to the house and saw that a window was open with the shade up. I started to peek in and heard a noise, then I got a whiff... euww! Bathroom. Guess Ramon's medicine was working. I slid around until I reached a set of sliding glass patio doors; I could hear noise coming from inside. It sounded like they were working over Ezra real bad. I needed to get him out NOW!
I looked around and saw a cat wandering around the yard. 'Sorry kitty but you're gonna help whether ya want to or not.' I grabbed the cat and headed back for the bathroom, I eased off the screen just in time as another popper victim came running into the small room. I threw the cat in the bedroom and ducked out of the way. I could hear screaming, cussing and running. The great cat chase was on!
I went back to the room that I had heard the beating happening in and knocked on the sliding glass doors. When someone came and opened the door I said, "Hi! Remember me? You forgot to tip." just as I slammed him alongside the head with my gun butt. Ezra wasn't in too good of shape, I pulled him up and slung him over my shoulder in a fireman's hold and headed out the door as fast as I could. I dumped his body over the fence into the neighbors yard and climbed over after him, I looked around for someplace to hide and found myself staring into the face of the biggest dog I had ever seen. I quietly started praying and tried to keep Ezra between the fence and me. I was surprised when the dog came forward and started licking Ezra's face. It figures. Kids and animals all seem to know what a marshmallow he really is. They all like him.
I heard noise from next door and flattened both of us to the fence; the dog jumped up and put his front paws on the fence and started barking and growling until the bad guy left. I saw the doghouse and pulled Ezra toward it, shoved him in and followed right behind him. Nice doghouse. Roomy too! The dog followed us and settled down in the entrance. Hell of a guardian angel! I could feel my phone vibrate and pulled it out of my pocket and quietly answered, "Dunne."
"JD, what the hell is going on? We had a message waiting to call you and another to call Inez. Vin called her and she said something about Ezra being in trouble, so I tried your place... no answer. Your message said it was urgent."
I whispered into the phone, "Inez got a call from Ezra then she got a hold of me. I managed to make contact with Ezra and he slipped me a message saying his cover had been blown and not to call the DPD. I managed to get him out but they worked him over pretty good." I could hear noise outside, someone was in the yard and our guardian dog was growling.
"Where are you, JD?" Chris asked, "That sounds like a dog..."
"Quiet Chris!" I could hear voices right outside the doghouse. They were searching the yard; I hoped nobody was home because they could get hurt if they accidentally walked out into these guys. I remembered that we could input messages and send them to the person on the other end of the line so I carefully entered the address where Ezra had been held and sent it. I hoped Chris wouldn't say anything but I also hoped he'd find some way to let me know that he had received it. About then I heard a quick beep on the phone. Chris musta depressed the number pad on his end indicating that he'd gotten the message. Hopefully help was on the way. The bad guys left the yard and I whispered again, "All clear for a minute or two Chris."
"JD, I got hold of Nathan He and Rain had apparently had car trouble and are headed back to Denver. We gave him your location and told him to call in the cavalry, they should be there anytime now. Does Ezra have what we need to make the bust or should we just extract and ignore the bad guys?"
I nudged Ezra to see if he'd wake up and, when he did, I whispered, "Chris wants to know if you got what we need to make the bust?" Ezra nodded yes and drifted back into unconsciousness. "Chris, Ezra says it's a go. He's got what we need." I could hear Chris talking to Vin who was repeating the message, he must have someone on a different line while Chris was on with me.
"JD, what is your exact location? Nathan and Rain are on their way. Where can they find you at?"
"I'm at the house on the right of the location given, in the back yard, in the doghouse. Chris, I don't want to hear a word about this, okay. If I do, I plan to sic this very big dog on you." I could hear Chris chuckling as he passed the message along to Vin, who started giggling. I knew it. I might have to shoot both of them before this was over. I could hear yelling coming from next door, it must of been one of the other teams cuz I could hear the familiar "ATF! You're under arrest!" I heard someone in the back yard and my friend, the dog, started growling again. Maybe some of the bad guys had gotten away?
"JD? Ezra?" It was Nathan's voice. Then I could hear Rain saying, "Are you sure this is where Vin said they are?"
"Hey! Nathan! Rain! Back here!" I yelled. I gave the dog a push and started to crawl out of the doghouse pulling Ezra behind me. "Ezra's hurt! He's unconscious and they beat him pretty bad." Nathan grabbed him and carried him to the front of the house. Rain had run to get his bag from their car as Nathan started looking him over.
"I'd say he probably has a major concussion to begin with. His face is pretty bruised. I wonder what the rest of him looks like." He pulled open Ezra's shirt and we all gasped when we saw that he was covered black and blue over every inch of him. You could even see the imprint of a shoe on his abdomen. Nathan started feeling his stomach and chest and told us, "I'm sure he's got at least on broken rib, probably more but we won't know for sure until they take x-rays. He might have some internal injuries and need surgery. Just about then we heard the ambulance pull up and I waved them over to where we were. They started an IV and loaded him up. Nathan hopped in to ride with him and asked me to get Rain home.
She told me "I can get home by myself, JD. I imagine you want to go to the hospital and check on Ezra. Just make sure someone calls me and lets me know how he is, okay?" I nodded yes and walked her to the car.
Yeah, I wanted to go to the hospital, but right now I had a job to do here. We usually take turns with the clean-up but there was only me this time. I knew there were gonna be questions and I was the only one that might have any of the answers.
By the time I got to the hospital several hours had gone by. I found Nathan sitting with Buck, Josiah and Inez. "How's Ezra?" I asked Nathan.
"He's in surgery. The x-rays showed three broken ribs and some internal bleeding so they took him in to get the bleeding stopped. Chris called a little while ago. He and Vin are on their way home. They caught the first flight out for Denver and should be here in an hour. Somebody will need to pick them up at the airport."
"I'll go get them. Who managed to wake you two up and let you know what was happening?" I asked Buck and Josiah.
"I did." I looked at Inez with a questioning look. "You said that you couldn't get hold of them so, when they didn't answer the phone, I went to Seņor Josiah's and rang his doorbell until he answered. After I told him what was happening, he told me to meet them at the hospital and he would go and get Buck. When I got here Nathan told me Ezra had just been taken in to get x-rays. What happened JD?"
I explained as best as I could what had happened and when I got to the part about the bathroom and the great cat chase, Inez started laughing. "It's a good thing Ezra didn't eat any poppers. I'll have to tell Ramon what a good thing his medicine was."
Buck, Josiah and Nathan were all staring at us so after I explained, I turned to Inez and said, "Tell Ramon that I'll pay for his next prescription." I looked at my watch before getting up, "I had better go pick up Chris and Vin. Inez can tell you about her part in the whole thing."
Josiah stood up and handed me his keys, "Why don't you take my vehicle? There's a little more room for the three of you plus their luggage." I took the keys and Josiah gave me a quick bear hug. "You've done well, JD. We always seem to treat you like a child, but then you remind us that you aren't by acting like the man you are. I'm very proud of you son!"
Buck stood up and put his hand on my shoulder, "The same thing here, Kid. You done real good. Ezra needed back-up and ya did what ya had ta. Ya got him out and kept him alive. Maybe I call ya 'Kid', but tonight ya reminded me yer a man. Just don't think I'm gonna stop callin' ya 'Kid', Kid." He ruffled my hair and gave me a quick hug. "Now, ya best go pick up the boss. Don't wanna make him wait. If we hear anything about Ezra, we'll give ya a call."
I took off for DIA and was getting ready to look for a place to park when I saw Chris coming out of the door so I cut across the traffic lane and pulled up into the no parking zone. When security came to tell me to move it, I flashed my badge and told them I was on official business. I got Chris and Vin and their luggage loaded and headed back to the hospital. "What happened, JD?" Chris asked and I told the story yet again. Maybe I should have stopped at the office first and written it up in a report. That way I could have just handed a copy to whomever and told them to read it. "How's Ezra?" he asked after I finished my tale.
I started to answer when I felt my phone vibrating. I answered it quickly and Nathan gave me the update before I reminded him to call Rain and let her know before I hung up. "That was Nathan. He says Ezra's out of surgery and everything looks good. They got the internal bleeding stopped and his ribs taped up. They're getting him settled in his room. He hasn't woke up yet, but Nathan says that's just a matter of time."
We got to the hospital and went up to see Ezra. He had just come to and was trying to talk. A nurse brought him in some ice chips and I tried to hand them to Nathan but he just moved out of the way and motioned to me to give them to Ezra. After I had spooned a few into his mouth, he started talking. He told us about what had happened before and how he believed his cover had been blown. He turned to me and said, "I just hoped Inez might recognize my voice and mentioned it to anyone. I knew Nathan and you had plans and I figured Buck and Josiah wouldn't be up to answering the phone. Besides they watched the number I had dialed and checked it with what the phone book said for The Saloon. I have never been so glad to hear your voice as I was then. I know how bright you are and knew you would catch on and think of something. All I could do was hope you didn't call the police because that is where the leak was. That's how my cover was compromised When I saw your face at the door and knew I could get the message out, I felt better, but when ya'll headed into the house, I almost had heart failure. Got to admit, you looked so wide-eyed and innocent they bought your entire routine. I do have one question though. What did ya'll do to the poppers?"
Inez and I looked at each other and started laughing, "I owe Ramon a refill on his medicine. It was basically a super-laxative. Inez mixed it in the batter before they fried up the poppers. We knew you wouldn't eat any and I tried to make sure you knew not to have any."
"Well, after your wild-eyed look, I definitely stayed away from them. They all seemed to think that I had purposely picked a place that had given them food poisoning. I heard about that while they were beating on me."
I stopped laughing. "I'm sorry Ezra. All I could think of was slowing them down some. I'm sorry I didn't get there sooner, before they'd hurt you."
"JD, ya'll did slow them down. They had to keep taking turns running to the bathroom. Two questions? Why do I remember hearing a cat and why do I keep thinking about Clifford -- ya'll know, that big, red, dog?"
"The reason for the cat is I threw one in the bathroom window and they started chasing it. That's how I got you out. And, as for the dog, we hid in the doghouse next door -- and he was a BIG dog, but he seemed to like you, so he let us hide in his house and even stood guard. I owe that dog a steak dinner!"
Ezra yawned before smiling tiredly. "I owe YOU a steak dinner, my friend. You proved to everyone else that you could get the job done. Something I have been tellin' you as long as I've know you. Now, if you gentlemen and lady could please leave, I would like to try to get a few hours sleep before they wake me up to see if ah was asleep."
Just as we left the room, my cell phone started vibrating again. It was Casey. "JD. I'm so sorry that I said what I did. You know I didn't mean it. Why don't you come for dinner tomorrow and we'll talk? Let me make it up to you. Okay?"
"Actually, Casey, why don't I take you out for dinner? I have to pick up a steak for a new friend. I'll tell you all about it then. I love you and I know you didn't mean anything any more than I did, we'll talk. It'll be okay."
Buck looked at me and remarked "Hot date tomorrow, Kid?"
"Buck, I ain't a kid. Don't call me that!" Yep things were back to normal.