Fic: Guess The World Didn't Stop 1/1 Xover Without a Trace
Title: Guess The World Didn't Stop. Author: Lopaka Tanu Disclaimer: I do not own The Magnificent Seven or Without A Trace. Characters: Vin, Jack, Ezra, Chris, Mona Stanfield. Words: 5930 Sequel To: 'Not The Type You Bring Home To Mom.' Fandom: The Magnificent Seven/Without A Trace Pairing: Chris/Vin(Martin) Rating: Adult Warnings: Language, Angst. Summary: Part of returning from a long undercover assignment is seeing a shrink. Martin is no different in that regard. Author's Note: A series of therapy sessions and meetings between agents. ______________________________________
Walking up to the frosted glass door, Martin paused to compose himself. It wasn't just his decision to come. They had given him a choice. He wanted to keep his job, so here he was.
Opening his eyes, he stared at the door. The name stenciled on it was by no means familiar, but the 'Doctor of Psychiatry' underneath was.
He had known the day would come when he had no choice. That was why he set up this appointment, 'a preemptive strike if you will', he had told his mother.
The Bureau's official shrink had cleared him for civilian activities after three days. He knew his name, knew who he was, and could function normally. Aside from case secrets, they had no reason to hold him.
Martin clenched his hands tight to stop them from shaking. There was no reason he should still be standing outside in the hall. It was a perfectly normal visit, he would not be locked away for saying something stupid. This wasn't the first time he had seen a civilian shrink, or one approved by the Bureau, either.
It wasn't the fact that he was afraid to go in that held him firm. What was a little fear in the face of doing what he knew was right? And if he kept thinking long enough his time would be up and she would have a new patient.
Exhaling with more than noise than strictly necessary, he forced himself to grab the door knob and give it a twist. As he pushed his way in, the light of the office hit his eyes. It was dimmer than he would have thought. This low level gave it a more intimate feel.
For some reason, this put him a little at ease. He wasn't exactly sure what he had been expecting but it had definitely involved an over bearing man who believed in drugs over therapy. Then again, not everyone could be Dr. Nelson.
He closed the door behind him. Much to his surprise, there was a pleasant looking young man behind the reception desk. Smiling at the secretary, he fumbled for his wallet. "I'm Martin Fitzgerald, I have an appointment with..."
"There's no need, Mr. Fitzgerald." The man held up his hand and shook his head. "Please go on in, Dr. Stanfield is waiting for you." He pointed to the door at the far side of the office.
With a steadying breath, Martin marched his way to the door. At it, he almost stopped to knock, but remembered at he last second. The handle was warm to the touch as he turned it.
The office beyond looked nothing so much as an old fashioned living room. From the Tiffany Lamps, to the lit fire place, it breathed refinement. A quick look to the woman sitting in her wing-backed chair completed the impression.
Her blonde hair done up in tight curls, the woman smiled fondly at Martin. "Come in. I hope you'll find the amenities to your liking." Raising a hand from a leather bound book, she gestured to matching leather chair beside hers.
Once again, Martin realized he had frozen in place. Feeling silly, he quickly crossed to stand in front of her. He held out his hand for her to grasp. "Martin Fitzgerald."
"Mona Stanfield." Her southern accent was watered down, but still noticeable. She accepted his hand and shook it only once. "I was beginning to think you had backed out of our appointment."
Martin colored about the collar. He used sitting down as an excuse to break her gaze. The chair made a soft sound of protest as he eased himself in to it. "To tell the truth, I almost did."
"Well, I am certainly glad you did not." She patted his hand once. "It takes a great deal of courage to take that first step."
"Can I be frank?" He waited for her to nod before he spoke. Swallowing, he rubbed at his chin. "I don't want to be here. If my job didn't depend upon this, and Dr. Harlon hadn't recommended you, I wouldn't have come. As much as I agree I need this, that doesn't change the fact I hate having to tell a stranger my secrets."
"That's understandable." Her smile was warm as she quirked a single eyebrow. When this earned her a smile in return, she chuckled. "I have no intention of forcing you to divulge your secrets. We will go at your own pace, and only so far as you are comfortable. This is not an interrogation."
"It only feels like it." Martin gave her a nervous chuckle. "Sorry, just a little FBI humor."
She nodded in understanding, like this happened all the time. "Would you like to tell me why you think you need to be here?"
"No." The response was immediate and firm. It almost startled Martin how much he didn't want to talk. "Not yet, at least."
"All right." Mona gave him another smile. "What would you like to talk about then?"
Wracking his brain, Martin tried to come up with something that didn't set off a land mine of emotional turmoil in his head. He said the first thing that came up. "I'm being forced to go back to college."
"Forced?" She sounded dubious.
"Yeah." Too late he realized this also had emotional baggage attached. Sighing, he closed his eyes and pinched his nose. "I have to be recertified in my original courses before I can be cleared for work. That's six months of classes. I'm twenty-eight and I'm having to go back to college like I'm eighteen again! I've been eighteen twice already, once was more than enough, thank you."
"Twice?" She made an impressed face. "I've never heard of anyone voluntarily changing their age back to younger than being legal to drink. Was this for your assignment?"
"It was an undercover operation, and yeah." His voice was raspy, tired from the strain. Martin had been over that one plenty enough times. "It's hard waking up and remembering I'm not twenty-four. Hell, it's hard remembering my own name most of the time."
"That's more common than you might think." When he raised his head to stare at her in surprise, she nodded. "I can't say much, but may it be sufficient to say that I have experience with your situation."
Martin had a nagging suspicion he had been set up.
The phone was ringing. It was late and he was asleep next to his wife. That meant it had to be bad news. Sighing, he reached up and turned on the bedside lamp. Picking up his cell, he opened it. "Malone."
"Do not hang up." The voice sounded strained as if having spent long hours talking.
Clenching his jaw, Jack sat up in bed. "Why the hell not?"
"I have come to collect my due, Jack." He snickered. "You owe me one favor, my good man, and it is time to call it in."
"I don't owe you shit. You made your own bed, Ezra." Feeling a hand on his shoulder, Jack reached back and squeezed it. "Don't ever call me again."
"I'm afraid this is non-negotiable. Besides, if you do hang up, I will simply call back again and again."
Closing his eyes, Jack knew it was true. The bastard was extremely persistent. "What do you want?"
"I have heard from our mutual associates that you have formed a new unit since we last talked." The triumphant smile was clear in Ezra's voice. "There is a case of a certain delicate nature that requires your services."
"Send it to my office." Jack hung up the phone with a slam. After turning off the light, he rolled over in to the blankets.
"I'm not certain how it came about at first." Arms drawn in close, Martin watched the fire flickering in the hearth. "I had spent ten weeks on the streets by that time. After the first night, I was willing to call it quits if I had the option."
Writing in her book, Mona nodded. "I've heard that the first night of an operation is always the worst emotionally."
"Unless it goes down hill." Martin released a dark chuckle. He knew all too well what could happen. "The first time I met him, he picked me up for hustling."
"So he arrested you. Did that scare you a bit?" When he snorted, she raised her eyes to look at him. "Did I say something amusing?"
"I think I phrased that wrong. Chris didn't arrest me." Closing his eyes, he bit his lip. He could feel those strong arms on him even now. "It was rough, he was drunk and out of his mind... Chris' family was murdered a month before we met."
Mona reached out to place a hand on Martin's arm. She lowered her voice to a whisper. "Did he force you?"
"No. I went willingly." He gave her a sad smile. "That was part of Chris' problems. He could never quite believe that he hadn't forced himself on me those first times. Even last year, he was still apologizing. Chris never comes out and says it, but I know."
Squeezing his arm, she smiled for him. "How close were you two in the end?"
"He was my world. I don't know of any other way to explain it." For several moments, Martin was lost in thoughts. He still couldn't believe it had happened. That had been their life, they had been together for almost six years. "Why did he sleep with her?"
Mona looked away at the helpless tone in his voice. She took a steadying breath to keep her reactions under control. "There is never a sufficient answer."
"I know that. My father cheated on my mother when I was a kid." The anger was back, this made Martin feel better. He could at least face that. "He's still as much of a son of a bitch as he was when I left."
But he wasn't here to deal with that. Twenty years of therapy hadn't made him forgive the old man; there was no helping it. So, he refocused on why he was here in the first place. "I was surprised when I met Chris. At that time, I had only wanted women."
While she listened to him speak, Mona continued writing.
"Sure, there had been plenty of offers, I had even turned a few tricks, but none of them made me hot. Then came Chris." Wiping his mouth, Martin took a shuddering breath. "He had this stare, the one that made you feel like he was going to command you. One look and I wanted to know what it felt like to have him inside me."
Her pen paused mid-word. Looking up from the book, Mona blinked at Martin.
"God, he was beautiful, even drunk and red eyed. The passion in his gaze was unlike anyone's I have ever met before." This made Martin shiver. There were times when he sat alone with those memories and worked himself over. "Chris is a quiet man to the outside world. At home, when we're alone, he came alive. My throat still hurts from..." He trailed off as he looked over at Mona.
Clearing her throat, Mona reached up to adjust her immaculate hair. "Yes?"
Taking in her unfastened top button, he smiled. "Sex was never a problem for us." He felt a sudden pain constrict inside his chest. "Until the end."
"So I gather." Tossing her hair back, Mona took a deep breath. "I'm going to ask a serious question, and it may offend you. This is just for me to gage how emotionally attached you still are. Have you felt desire for another person since your breakup?"
"No." Martin didn't even have to think about it. When she wrote something in the book, he felt like she had cut him with the pen. "That's a bad sign, isn't it?"
"It isn't quite as positive as they might have hoped." Closing the book, she set it aside. When she looked up at him, she had a hopeful expression. Reaching out, she took his hand. "But this is not about what they want. You are grieving. A lack of sexual attraction is a sign of the mourning process."
That sense of dread reared its ugly head in his gut again. Martin didn't like the sound of this. "Any idea how long it's going to be?"
"No." She smiled at his sigh. "But this is the positive part. It means you are moving on with your life. You're not stuck in denial that the relationship has ended."
Martin didn't feel positive about it. How could one feel good about anything that ripped their heart out?
Jack could not believe it. He was sitting on a bench in Central Park waiting for a man in a suit. Watching as people passed by only served to make this feel absurd. It was cliched from the get go, which fit perfectly with the man he remembered.
A short time later, said person appeared next to him. Sitting on the bench, Ezra carefully adjusted his suit jacket. His mirrored sunglasses gave away nothing. "Beautiful afternoon, is it not?"
"Cut the crap, Ezra." Slapping a folder of information on the other man's chest, Jack started to stand up. "Here's the damned information you wanted."
"Not so fast, Mr. Malone." Ezra slipped his hand on to Jack's shoulder, pushing him back to the bench. "I wish to inspect the information before I declare our bargain complete."
Sitting back down, Jack took a calming breath. He would humor the man only so far before he was out of there.
"Thank you." Once he was certain Jack wouldn't take off when he was distracted, Ezra opened the folder. He quickly scanned the first bundle of papers. "This is not what I asked for."
"I don't care. That is all we have on one Vin Tanner." Turning to glare at him, Jack made sure to lean over so that his voice could be heard. "Your stupid request nearly got my fingers chopped off for prying in to secret files."
"Secret?" Ezra's eyebrow shot up.
"You got that right." His fingers twitched with the need to form a fist. To say Jack was angry was an understatement. "They came down heavy on my agents and myself when we went looking. You didn't tell me the Bureau was involved on this one!"
"They were not." Adjusting his tie, Ezra made quick work of it. "Mr. Tanner was the lover of a high ranking ATF Official."
"Damn it!" Putting on his own sunglasses, Jack shook his head. "Whatever happened to the man is top secret. Find him yourself. I'm through sticking my neck out for you." This time, when he stood up, there was no hand to keep him there. Shaking his head, he stalked off.
Taking a moment to compose himself, Martin looked up to find Mona studying him. He shook the edge of his hair off his forehead. He was letting it grow out a little bit longer than he had it cut. It would be too long in about a week. "I think I'm ready to tell you now."
This made her smile. "All right." It had been a long time in coming.
"When I was eighteen, I was recruited by the FBI at my father's order." Gripping the arm rests of his chair, he avoided her stare. "I spent four years at college, the only course I took for myself was a computer accounting one. I liked working with them, it just felt natural. Thing is, everything else also came natural to me."
He paused as he rubbed his palms over the leather. "I knew how to recite the oath of an officer before I learned my roommate's last name. They were really proud of my achievements, my teachers that is." Martin licked his lips. "Anyways, I graduated early and transfered to Quantico. My first assignment was the RICO unit."
"That must have pleased your father." Mona knew it wasn't for positive effect. She needed to shake him up to keep him from getting lost in the emotions.
"Not hardly. Victor Fitzgerald does not do pleased." Martin could hardly believe it. He sounded like he was thirteen again. What a friggen joke! "No, I was there to do things for myself, but it wasn't far enough. He still loomed over me. That's why I took the undercover assignment, just so I could get out from under his thumb."
She made a noise of agreement. "Did it work?"
"Of course. Better than I had hoped." A feeling of pure glee went through him. "There was no one to tell me who I had to be, or how to button my shirt. Despite being scared shitless, I enjoyed the freedom of being Vin Tanner."
"Do you regret the things you had to do as Vin?" Her attention was now once more on the book as she scribbled in it.
"No. Surprisingly, I don't." The memories brought a smile to his face. He had some good times even back then. It had been a long time ago, but it had been worth the pain. "I wouldn't trade the life I had away even for the perfect job. I think," his voice broke, "I know I was happy."
"Do you realize you are not to blame for it ending?" She waited for him to look up before she leaned over to him. Putting a hand upon his, she gave him a sad smile. "Your relationship was real, you cannot live six years as someone else. Vin Tanner is a part of you."
Shaking his head, Martin pulled his hand from her grasp. "I lied to him for six years."
"Did he know that?" For a moment, she was left without an answer. Waiting, she tilted her head to the side.
Closing his eyes, Martin shook his head. "No."
"Then you share none of the blame. You are confusing your guilt of hiding the truth from him with the feelings of loss and betrayal." She made an aborted attempt to reach out to him. "What happened, happened to you, not because of you. You did not deserve that."
Martin stood up so fast he almost knocked the chair over. Righting his suit, he popped open the button on his jacket. He fidgeted with the chain coming from his pocket for a bit before he turned to look at her. "Is my time up yet?"
Sighing, she checked the clock over the mantel. "We still have five minutes."
"Time enough for me." Heading for the door, he waved absently over his shoulder. "Later, doc."
Holding the relish covered hotdog an inch from his mouth, Jack glared at his companion. "I thought I told you never to bother me again.
"Actually, your words were that you were through sticking your neck out for me." Ezra studied the hotdog for a moment, then grimaced. He turned his attention to the pretzel box on top of the vendor's cart. "One please."
Ignoring the vendor, Jack lowered his dog. "I'm not risking my team for your friend's screw, Ezra, so you can just forget about asking."
"I would never dream of requesting such a thing, a second time," he added. Accepting the pretzel, Ezra handed off the money. "I have but a few questions regarding the information you provided. Nothing that would require but a moment of your time, I assure you."
"Your assurances don't mean squat." Still, Jack didn't run off like his ass had been burned. He knew it was probably just masochism. "So ask your damn questions and leave me in peace."
"You are a very angry individual, Mr. Malone. I suggest taking in a nice massage." When he earned a glare, Ezra sighed. "Fine. With whom did you inquire about my search?"
"The usual channels. All official FBI. Everything was by the book on this one until I was slapped down." And Jack was still smarting over that one.
"I need names, not excuses." Ezra grabbed Jack by the elbow to stop him from leaving. "Someone close to this has begun to besmirch my good name. The very air of this rodentia doth offend my olfactory senses."
"Fancy words for saying you smell a rat." Jack rolled his eyes when Ezra tapped his nose. "I was told by my supervisor, Assistant Director Abrahams. Where it came down the chain from there, I have no idea. All he would say was that it was from high up and to leave it at that."
Swallowing a mouthful of the pretzel, Ezra grimaced. "I am to believe that is the extent of your knowledge?"
"Believe what you want. It's the truth." Taking his first bite of the hotdog, Jack started away from Ezra. Whatever the man's other questions, he could go shove them up his ass.
"I was a quick lay." Martin said it without any malice. He snorted at the thought that it was true. There was no other way it could have happened if he hadn't been.
"Chris and I just connected on a primal level. I satisfied a need for companionship, someone he could fuck without the hassle of a commitment." It sounded harsh even in his own ears. The truth these days always did. "After the fifth time, I believe it was, he picked me up and gave me an ultimatum. We could end the tryst, or we could make it exclusive."
"What do you mean exclusive? I thought you said there were no strings attached." Frowning, Mona used her pen to push the hair from her face.
"This was no different in that manner. He was still paying me to sleep with him." Martin grinned. He felt rather foolish saying it aloud now. "This was more about exclusivity, he didn't want to share. He mentioned something about the risk of catching something, but I saw right through it."
"So, let me get this straight. He wanted you as his, for lack of a better word, mistress?" Blinking, she gestured at him with her pen. She seemed stunned.
"Essentially, yes." The look on her face was too much for Martin. He started cackling, but quickly put a hand to his mouth to stifle them. After a moment, he finally brought himself under control. Clearing his throat, he wiped off the smile. "Chris wasn't emotionally capable of being anything more until much later on in our relationship."
"That makes sense." She went back to writing in her book. "How did this effect your case?"
"It put me out of constant reach of the neighborhood, but I was never supposed to be there permanently." He took a deep breath as the last of his amusement went the way of the Dodo. "My position was to report on what I saw, to pass along any information I could uncover. It was designed to be a long term assignment."
Exhaling, he puttered his lips. "As I 'grew up'," he emphasized the words with air quotes. "I evolved my cover persona. I worked for a woman named Nettie, a respected business owner in the area. She runs the local Rec Center. If anyone has a problem, they usually come to her first. This worked out better than any of the gang infiltration attempts by the Bureau. Nettie gave me a chance to be something when no one else would."
"You sound very fond of her." Putting the pen to her lips, Mona considered what to write next. When she found it, she nodded. "Do you feel guilty about leaving her without your valued services?"
"Of course. Nettie is a great woman, but she's resourceful. She'll get along, she always has." Reaching up, he scratched at his ear. When she didn't say anything, he looked over at Mona. "What?"
"You've been checking up on her, haven't you?" Her smile was secretive and sweet at the same time.
Martin shrugged. It wasn't like this was a secret. "She needed to be taken care of, if I had a hand in helping her along, it's not a crime."
"No, but it would violate the terms of your post-mission hiatus." At his panicked look, she shook her head. "I won't report you to the Bureau. This was just an informal question, completely off the record."
Nodding, Martin looked back to the fire. "Vin had an account worth over ten thousand dollars." He held his head high. "There was a stipulation with the contract that if no money is deposited for six months, the account would be liquidated and the money handed over to the Rec Center, tax free."
"How very generous of him." She sounded a little tired. Checking the wall clock, she closed her book. "Well, that's about time for us today. Is there anything else you would like to talk about before you go?"
Rising from the chair, Martin shook his head. And he realized it was true. He didn't want to talk any more.
Heading for the elevators, Jack saw the man in black sitting like a spector waiting for him. It was an instinct, he just knew the man was there for him. His fingers went to his jacket where he could feel the comfortable weight of his service piece, just in case.
The man stood up, pushing up the brim of his black hat as he saw Jack approaching. He moved with deliberate ease, as if bracing himself for an attack. Green eyes locked on Jack's blue and he frowned. "Agent Malone?"
Jack stopped two feet from him. He stood at ease to match the stance of the other man. "Yeah. What can I do for you?"
"My name's Chris Larabee. I hear you're the man to talk to about a missing person." Chris' stance spoke of discomfort as he clenched, then unclenched his jaw.
"That is my department, yes." Jack frowned. The name was familiar, but he couldn't quite place from where. "Have we met before?"
"No, sir, but I've heard a great deal about you from a member of my team." A smile touched at Chris' lips. From the way he almost grimaced, it had been the first in a while. "He goes by the name of Ezra Standish."
That name ripped through Jack's brain like a needle being tore off a record. He winced like he had tasted something sour. "You're the man searching for Mr. Tanner."
"I am." Pushing up the brim of his hat again, Chris took on a solemn expression. This was not easy for him to talk about to a stranger. "He and I were very close when he disappeared. I've taken my vacation time to come here in the hopes that you might be able to assist me." He pinned Jack with a hard stare. "I don't take vacation time."
Jack nodded. He could understand that about the man. Chris seemed like the type who would have others shit for him just so he wouldn't have to leave his work. "As I already told Ezra, there is nothing more I can do for you."
"That was Ezra. This is me." Chris looked at someone over Jack's shoulder. "Is there some where we can talk privately? There's a lot I've got to tell you."
Checking his watch, Jack sighed. "I was just heading to lunch. You can join me until I have to come back."
"Thank you." Pushing his hat down, Chris walked to the elevator. He made sure to press the down button before Jack even reached for it.
Jack had a feeling this was going to take more than just his lunch hour.
Martin watched Mona as she resumed her seat. She had changed her hair style to something more sedate since the last time he had saw her. "So, Doc, how am I doing?"
"First impression, you are making excellent progress." The leather bound book in her hand, Mona adjusted the jacket of her pants suit. "It's been four weeks since our last session. Anything new you want to tell me?"
"Well, I passed my courses with flying colors." Leaning on an elbow, he grinned at her. "I graduate next week with the rest of my class."
"Congratulations!" She gave him a brilliant smile as she reached across the short distance between their chairs to grasp his arm. Giving it a squeeze, she chuckled. "I am so proud of you, Vin!"
"Martin." He caught the calculating look in her eye and felt a little thrill run through him. Martin knew he had passed an important test there. Sighing, he dragged a hand over his face. "So, what say you? Am I fit enough to go back to work?"
"Why don't we wait until the end of the session before I make any decisions." Mona cocked her head to the side with a smile at his sigh. "It isn't so much to ask, Martin."
"All right, let's just get this started." He closed his eyes and wished the hour was already up so he could know.
Martin shifted in his seat. Biting his lip, he looked over at Mona. She had been sitting there with her book quietly for the past five minutes. He couldn't quite figure out what would take so long.
Shifting again, he began to drum his fingers along the chair's arm. Six months, it had been six months since he left Denver. It was hard to believe, so little had happened, but it felt like a life time ago.
He had forgotten how boring school could be. When he lived with Chris, it had been a nightly thing three times a week until he earned a degree. That pattern had been his life for the past five years. Taking classes during the day time, five days a week had left him at his wits end for the first month.
Still, he had gotten used to it. Now, he was graduating, there would be no more classes. If everything went well, he would be going back to work. For the first time in almost seven years, he could carry a gun once again.
Martin frowned. That was a strange idea, the need to carry a gun. When he worked the ranch while Chris was at work, had carried the old mare's leg with him in the saddle. To actually wear a holster, though, felt completely alien.
That was just something he would have to get used to doing again.
A throat gently cleared to get his attention.
Looking up in surprise, Martin found Mona smiling at him. Hope began to blossom in his chest. "Well?"
Closing the book, she patted its cover twice. "I've reviewed all your responses. While there is still a need for some counseling, I see no reason to keep you from returning to work at the Bureau."
"Yes!" Martin jumped up from his chair. Pumping his fists, he mock punched the fire place. He finished with a relieved laugh. Taking a deep breath, he turned to smile at her. "Thanks, Mona."
Nodding, she smiled at him. "My recommendation will be on your supervisor's desk by the end of the day. With any luck, you will be reinstated by Monday."
Tears were in his eyes as he nodded his understanding. Six years and six months, and he was finally back. He was Agent Martin Fitzgerald once more. His smile slipped a little as he felt himself settle in.
Closing the door behind him, Jack felt a heavy weight settle on his chest. He did not want to be in here with this man. The conference room was quiet as he turned to face Chris across the table. As he approached, he lowered the folder in his hands to the table. He slid it across to Chris.
Staring at it, Chris sighed. It was disappointingly thin. "Do I even need to open this?"
"This is the best I could do." Jack's voice took on a gruff tinge as he spoke. He took a shallow breath to speak. "I went up as far as I could get. This comes from the top man himself."
His hand trembled only once as Chris reached up to grab the folder. It was dark green with a darker green mixed in. The tab read 'Official Bureau Documents'. He turned it so that he could open up and read it immediately. With a bracing breath, he opened the folder.
He immediately closed it.
"I'm sorry, Mr. Larabee." Clenching his jaw, Jack couldn't bare to look at the other man any more. "It was quick, for all that matters."
"I, uh..." Sucking in a quick breath, Chris closed his eyes. "Can you give me a minute?"
"Yes, of course." Almost gratefully, Jack turned and walked to the door. He could hear the other man's breath hitch as he stepped through back in to the office.
Humming to herself, Mona twirled the pen between her fingers. As she waited for the line to ring, she glanced down at the book in her lap. The script was legible and written in a loving hand. Large flowing letters scrawled across every page.
The phone was picked up on the third ring. "Hello."
"Hello, Ezra." She chuckled at his quick inhale. Giving him a moment to compose himself for a response, she closed her book.
Clearing his throat, Ezra swallowed loud enough to be heard over the phone. "Hello, Mother. To what do I owe the pleasure of your call?"
"Oh," she almost moaned in pleasure at being able to tease him. "I have it on the best authority that you are looking for someone."
"I have no idea what you mean." His voice was muffled as if he had stuck the phone between his ear and shoulder.
Mona knew he was getting something to write with and probably signaling someone to trace the call. He wouldn't get any where. "Do not lie to your mother, Ezra, it is unseemly. Just for that, I should hang up and leave you to wondering."
"No!" Ezra's breath froze. "Please forgive me, Mother, I meant no disrespect. I am simply trying to hedge my bets on this one."
"Understandable. Do not worry, I forgive you." She reached up to fix her hair. "Your friend is just fine and is settling well back in to his life."
"Back? Mother, what do you mean?"
"Good bye, Ezra." Turning over the receiver, she set it down gently in the cradle. Humming to herself once more, she stood up and carried the book over to the shelf. It fit nicely along with twenty other identical volumes. Tapping her finger along their spines, she shook her tiny, bell earrings.
Staring at the sheet of paper, Martin could only half smile. It gave his orders to report to Seattle for duty next week. This was what he had been hoping for, but not everything he wanted.
He pulled the gun from his waist clip and set it on the table. His fingers automatically went to check the safety as they skimmed over it. Satisfied it was guarded, he pulled out a chair and sat down.
The dim hum of the fluorescent bulb over head was the only sound to be heard. Glancing about the tiny apartment kitchen, he almost expected to find someone at the counter. It took him a moment to realize who, and then another to remember why he wasn't there.