And You Call This Fun?
Contribution # 284948 submitted by aces107
February 9, 2002
Ok.. I wrote this in one day ....so let' just pretend I worked for days on it. Ha
Note: This is for the Feb. Challenge. The guys are separated by water with
the bad guys coming.
I wrote this off the top of my head. Therefore it might have a few holes in it. I, also, did my own beta readin so mistakes are definitly mine.
And You Call This Fun?
Fun. That’s what they called this. Torture was more like it. Ezra sat staring at his plate of what they claimed was edible food. Sighing inwardly he quietly ate his evening offering, wondering for the hundredth time how he wound up here. Oh yes, it was because of the vote. It had been vacation time once again for Team Seven and everyone had put forth a suggestion, all but him. It had been decided by a majority vote that they would once again go camping. Ezra sighed again. Would these guys ever learn that nothing good ever came from these expeditions? Something always happened to them. Always. They had never once had a peaceful vacation. So, he asked himself, why was he here? Simple he didn’t have a choice. He corrected himself, well yes, technically he did have a choice. He could come and be miserable for five days or decline to come and never hear the end of it at work.
So here he was, camping out in the woods, sleeping in a tent and eating food served off a tin plate that had been cooked in a metal pan over an open fire. Oh the joy of it all. He had made a resolve to keep his complaints and suggestions to himself as much as possible this go around. He had learned from previous experience it had not bode well for him when he voiced his observations.
Ezra would admit the last two days had not been as horrifying as he had imagined them to be. They had done a little hiking, a little fishing and tomorrow they would go white water rafting. They planned on going around noon, the trip down the river was supposed to last about four hours. This would still give them time to get back to camp before dark. He finished his food and after everything was cleaned up pulled out his cards. The men gathered around and his type of fun began.
Eric Carleson stood six-six and weighed closed to two-eighty. He was not a man to be with messed with and had no qualms about using his hands to extract the life out of someone. At this moment he lay in his bunk at the local establishment for criminals going over the last of his plans for tomorrow. Tomorrow, him and four of his inmates were being transported to the state penitentiary. Eric had other plans; like freedom.
The morning sun rose and greeted six men with warmth and a promise to be a great day. The seventh still lay in his tent trying to put off the inevitable. The smell of coffee was to strong for his resolve and he exited with his fixed blank face and a smile that felt nothing of the happiness he was hoping to make his friends think he was feeling.
“Mornin’” Chris spoke casually. Ezra merely nodded his greeting as he accepted the cup of coffee from Vin. They were all aware that the man was putting forth a great effort. He might have been miserable but at least he wasn’t making the other that way, too
“About time” Buck shot out with a humorous laugh. He really had to give it to the man, camping was definitely not Ezra’s forte but he had come nonetheless.
The others gave their greetings and a peaceful morning was spent. It soon came time to load up and head out for their afternoon adventure. Ezra wasn’t looking forward to it but he kept his mouth shut for once. He wasn’t about to let them know that he really detested this plan. Camping by the river and floating down it in a little raft were two different things to him
As they stood around waiting for Chris and Josiah to make the arrangements, the others wandered about. Nathan, Ezra and JD walked over to a newsstand to see what the daily headlines were. Though they were off duty they still wanted to find out what kinds of criminal misfortunes were taking place. Nathan and Ezra made their purchases and went to put them back in the suburban before they left on their jaunt.
The lady inside the stand had a portable TV on. JD stopped looking at the comic books when he heard something about escaped convicts. Turning his attention towards the TV he watched as they flashed the five faces of the escapees. Buck chose that moment to come up and clapped the young friend on the back. “Whatcha watching kid?”
JD shushed him and gestured with his head towards the breaking story. The two watched until hailed by their leader to join them. Turning JD glimpsed out of the corner of his eye and took note of the five men walking up to the ticket booth.
“OK. We all here” Chris asked.
Six affirmations were given and they headed towards the raft and its waiting guide. As each one got on the raft they were given their lifejackets. Ezra took his as though it would kill him just to be near him. He couldn’t stand the garish orange bulky object. With much distaste and a look he couldn’t keep sealed he donned the thing praying that nobody, outside the six men and guide, would see him in it.
The others held their amusement in check at the look on Ezra’s face. Buck had a whole slew of comments but decided it was wiser and safer to wait until the end of the journey before putting them forth. Just as Chris was about to enter the raft the guide noticed the handgun tucked in the back of the blondes pant waist.
“I’m sorry sir, but no guns are allowed on the craft.” He pointed to the handgun and licked his lips in hesitation.
“It’s ok we’re ATF” the leader responded, showing his I.D. Believing this was all the explanation needed.
“I’m sorry, sir but those are the rules. If you wish to continue we can provide a lock box that you can take with you. Just put your guns in it and turn it in at the end of the trip.”
The men understood that the nervous guide was just doing his job. With a quick nod Chris turned to his men and they relieved themselves of their weapons. The guide’s eyes grew wide as each man placed their gun in the boxes. It had quickly had become quite apparent that one was not going to be enough. Chris just shrugged his shoulders as the guide gave one last look in the boxes before storing them in the raft.
During this JD noticed the five men that had been at the ticket booth were now stepping into their own raft. JD gave it a quick thought that he knew the guys from somewhere and just as quickly shook the notion off. They were away on vacation; no one they would know would be up here.
Eric Carleson’s plan had gone off without a hitch. The shanks they had made from various articles had done the job. The three guards and driver had been dealt with quickly, efficiently and deadly. The five men exited the bus free of their shackles and headed for the small trading posts Eric knew was in the area. He had been hiding out in this area for over a year when he had finally been apprehended. They entered the small establishment and were greeted by the elderly proprietor. He had not lived long enough to know he was in trouble. The small souvenir/ trading posts carried a few clothing items but none big enough for Eric. He finally found some large overalls in the storage room and quickly shed the loud orange overalls. Grabbing the small handguns that were locked in the showcase and ammunition they started on part two of the plan.
Eric planned to double back from where he came but knew the roads would soon be blocked. He had come up with the idea of the rafting after seeing a show about it on the old TV they had in the jail.
The seven were having an enjoyable time. They had yet to come to the real white water part and for now where in the easy to handle water. Ezra, being placed strategically next to a non-aggravating JD had managed to relax enough to appreciate the beautiful scenery around them. Buck noticed JD had been periodically quiet. “Hey kid whats up?” he questioned hoping the younger man wasn’t having second thoughts about the ride. If he was, thought Buck, it’s to late now.
“Its those guys back there.” Nodding his head to the raft that was coming up behind them. “They look so familiar. Like I should know them from somewhere”
“Relax kid. We’re miles from anyone we know and I don’t think any of our past clients would be out here.” Buck joked, trying to relieve the tension from his friends face.
“Yeah. You’re right” JD agreed. “But I still have that nagging feeling.”
“Well, get over and enjoy yourself” the older man ordered with a laugh.
JD kept peering over his shoulder to the raft behind them and noticed they wee catching up. He thought this was pretty strange but discounted it quickly; maybe these guys were in a bigger hurry than they were.
Chris and Vin had positioned themselves up front. Partly, out of the habit to be the first to spot trouble if it came and second to keep an eye on the lock boxes. They were both having a good time.
Buck, sitting between Chris and Nathan, was admiring the high walls of the canyon they had just entered. A third of the way through and no mishaps so far, maybe they would get lucky.
Nathan and Josiah had positioned themselves in the back as customary. Josiah wanted to be near Ezra just in case he decided he had enough of this wilderness experience. The two men in back were having a deep discussion on who could out paddle the other. Neither tried, it was to dangerous in a raft loaded with people. But they enjoyed the friendly combativeness anyway.
JD, sitting next to Vin, watched as the other raft came closer to passing them. The dreadful feeling grew worse. A mere minute after the other raft passed the realization hit him like a train. “That’s them!” pointing to the other raft. “Those are the escapees.”
All seven looked forward to the other raft to observe what JD was yelling about. At that same time they all took notice of the guns that came out of nowhere and were aimed at them.
“Get down!’ ordered Chris as the hail of bullets flashed their way. Everyone ducked. Nathan heard a loud scream come from the front and looked up. The guide was holding his arm as a big red spot began covering his sleeve.
“The boxes” Chris yelled to Vin who was already grabbing for one. Chris managed to get his box opened first and started returning fire. Vin yanked the box towards him and was pulling out his own gun when a loud pop was heard and the raft they were in suddenly disappeared out from under him faster than a heartbeat. The steel boxes sunk instantly.
“Swim for shore!”
Ezra was not sure who yelled it but was following Josiah off the side of the raft when he spotted an orange vest floating away from where the rest were swimming. Without a second thought he struck out after the floating object. The current of the water made it difficult but he was finally able to catch up to the other person. Grabbing a handful of shirt he kicked out towards shore and prayed they’d make it.
Vin had felt the raft go out from under them and immediately took hold of the guide. Spotting black shorts he took off after his friend and leader, towing his haul along with him. A quick thought flashed through his mind, they had almost made it, but alas an entire uneventful vacation just wasn’t to be had.
Nathan had grabbed the emergency kit all rafts carried and pulled the strap over his head. He figured with their luck they were going to need more than just a little temporary kit. He glanced around and noticed Josiah was downstream from him a ways.
Chris pulled himself up onto the solid ground and tried to regain his breath. After a few seconds he stood and began to take inventory of his surroundings and the placement of his men. He mentally noted the probability that he had floated down the furthest. He began backtracking to find his men. It wasn’t long before he came across Vin and the guide. After inquiring about the man’s health he asked about the others. Vin shook his head, the last he saw everyone was headed towards land but he hadn’t seen anyone since.
Nathan rested a moment then staggered to his feet and headed forwards. It wasn’t long before he encountered Josiah, out of breath and exhausted but alive. Together they trudged forward hoping to come upon the rest of their friends.
Buck was pacing like a caged bear and screaming for JD when Josiah and Nathan found him. “I can’t find JD and he won’t answer” Buck frantically informed his teammates.
“I bet Vin or Chris has him and they’re probably further downstream.” Nathan explained patiently. “Have you seen Ezra?” He asked with worry infected in his voice. If any of them were going to get hurt it would be one the three youngest members of their family.
“No” Buck answered, realizing that JD might not be the only one missing.
“C’mon, lets go see if we can find the rest of our brothers” Josiah stated as he started off.
Ground. He felt solid ground under him, as he dragged his comrade up onto the soil with him. Thank goodness they made it. He knew whoever he had grabbed was alive because he could the exhaustive panting. He, himself, had lain down and was struggling for his own air. He turned his head to see who had come out of the water with him; it was the youngest of their team. He gave up a silent prayer of thanks for their survival.
He slowly rose from his position and began looking for the others. A moment of panic hit when he didn’t spot any of them. He quickly rationalized that the two of them had floated further down stream than the others. They would merely walk back and run upon them. No problem.
The five had been rejoined and a quick plan was formulated. Nathan was kneeling beside the unconscious guide and taking care of the man’s wound. His arm would was serious but not life threatening at this time. Josiah had opened the emergency kit and found a walkie-talkie. He tried several times to raise someone for help but to no avail. Chris, Vin and Buck had split up to look for the missing twosome. Worry, anxiety and frayed nerves abounded. The guide finally came around and informed them the canyon was a “dead zone”.
After thirty minutes of looking the five men regrouped. No one said anything about not finding the duo. No one was going to curse the group; they were in enough trouble already, without bringing on more. Chris rubbed his forehead trying to will away the looming headache.
A short time later Vin was scouting the area for firewood. He surmised if they made a big enough fire maybe someone would come deliver help, or better yet the missing two would find their way to the camp. Vin felt the hairs on the back of his neck stand up. He slowly turned and looked across the wide river and let out a whoop. There on the other side were his friends. They looked wet and ragged but from the way they were moving they appeared relatively unharmed.
JD and Ezra looked up and saw their friend waving madly at them. They noticed Vin was pointing upstream and rationalized that was where the others were. They trudged upstream a little further until they caught sight of their friends, on the other side. Ezra hung his head, he really hated camping.
Buck was ecstatic when Vin raced into camp reporting he had spotted the duo on the other side. They had to wait a long few minutes before the two were directly in front of them. He studied Ezra and JD as they each sat down on the other side. He took note that JD looked exhausted. The euphoria he had felt earlier quickly dissipated when realization hit him. His roommate and little brother was in the care of a man who knew diddley about the outdoor life. He heard Chris shout to them, asking if they were ok and saw them nod yes.
Before he could stop himself he turned into the older protective brother, “Ezra you better take care of JD”. He screamed across the distance. Buck immediately found himself on the ground with a very scary looking Vin standing over him.
“You blankety-blank-blank. That’s the first thing that pops into your mind? You talk about Ezra being a selfish, pompous, jerk. You…you are truly a disappointment to me. Is JD the only one on the team you care about?” Vin knew he didn’t really believe what he had just said but he was wound up with extra adrenaline.
“No wonder he doesn’t trust us. Between you, Nathan and Chris it’s a wonder he even tries to be included.”
The entire group was silent. Vin had never blown his top like that before. Well not directly at them, at least.
“ME!” Chris and Nathan yelled at the same time
“How did I get dragged into this?” Nathan asked incredulously. He had simply been minding to the guide’s arm.
“You’re always ragging on him about his conduct and morals” Vin shot back. The tension that had built up in the last hour needed a let out valve and his friends seemed to be the obvious choice. “You never try to see his life or the job he does through his eyes. You just assume because he has to work with people with no morals that he’s like them.”
Vin took a deep breath and was beginning to feel a little better. This clearing the air thing that Josiah was always talking about might have its advantages afterall.
“And what about me?” Chris asked, barely keeping the burning rage from igniting. This last hour had been nerve wracking to say the least. First, they get shot at, then their raft sinks, then they can’t find two of their family members and when they do they’re on the other side and now it seems Vin has chosen this moment to vent his thoughts. He didn’t need this, he really didn’t. Next year they were taking separate vacation. Chris quickly realized that, too, would be a bad idea. They’d each be on their own and still find trouble. No he was going to lock them all up in an isolated cabin very far from civilization.
Vin looked right into Chris’ blue eyes, unfazed by the burning look in them. “You two are always going at it, which most of the time he does bring it on himself. But, there are times Chris when you get in his face and go into that terrorizing mode of yours and he has absolutely no idea why you’re angry with him. But he stands there and takes it anyway.”
Turning away he muttered “He takes a lot of stuff from us he shouldn’t have to.”
Josiah had been watching the whole scene with amusement. He glanced across the river and guessed at his friend’s sad demeanor from the way he was sitting. To bad Ezra hadn’t been able to hear Vin stand up for him.
On the other side Ezra could hear the raised voices but couldn’t make out the words. He kept his head down and wondered how all this had suddenly become his fault. He had understood Buck’s message perfectly even though he didn’t hear all the words. Doesn’t matter what happens to him just as long as he watched out for JD. He had heard that message all his life, except for the JD part. Ezra sighed, what he wouldn’t give to be dealing with a gunrunner or some type of criminal. At least he was in his element there.
JD’s harsh voice broke into his thoughts. “Wow! It looks like Vin is really giving them what for over there.” JD felt bad for his friend and angry with his roommate. How could Buck do that? “Sometimes I really hate the way he treats me. There are times when I wake up and expect to find that he’s dressed me in pampers and has put a pacifier in my mouth” JD spoke with a tinge of hostility in his voice. He heard a small laugh escape from his friend. “I’m sorry Ez.” The young agent looked over at his friend. “ We’ll get out this together and I don’t expect you to take care of me, either.”
Ezra acknowledged the younger man’s statement with a nod. “Pampers, huh?” with a slight smile. JD shrugged, happy that at least the man wasn’t mad at him.
An hour later JD and Ezra heard their names being shouted. Looking up Ezra noticed his leader was motioning downstream. Ezra guessed that meant for them to get up and start walking. Standing up he pulled his younger teammate to his feet. “C’mon JD, apparently not even a gang of escapees, a river nor separation can stop our illustrious leader from being bossy.”
JD giggled. He was relieved that some of the old Ezra was showing thru. For the last hour the man had barely said a word. JD knew that Buck’s words had stung, heck he was hurt and the words weren’t even meant for him. “Well, at least we don’t have to listen to Nathan fuss about how our wet clothes.” JD mused. Ezra grinned and started out walking. Next year it was going to be the Hyatt.
After everyone had cooled of a bit Chris, Buck and Vin had discussed various possibilities. Chris rejected the idea of anyone striking out on their own and going for help. He believed he had managed to hit the other raft with one his bullets. If that was the case the five fugitives might be equally stranded ahead of them. He wasn’t taking any chances that any of them ran into them alone. It would better if they all got out together.
Nathan had not been to sure about the guide’s ability to walk out of the canyon. The guide, a thirty-three year-old, who was a ten-year veteran, had voiced his own opinions about himself. He would walk as far possible then hole up somewhere in the canyon and let the others continue on. He wasn’t about to be the reason of anyone’s demise. Chris agreed, got the other two’s attention and started walking. Stupid vacations. He wasn’t taking anymore and neither were any of the others.
Eric Carleson couldn’t believe his luck. The escape had been flawless. The plans were being carried out with success and now because of some junior ATF pup and a blond man with a menacing look and a good aim they were in trouble. The raft had made it down a few miles before it began to sink. The guide had jumped from the raft and Eric had shot him, unfortunately the man had just been winged. Now here he was with two of his men on one side and another man on the other side. They had yet to run across the fifth. Eric presumed he was swept under or further down, either way the man was on his own now.
Eric thought about the other men. He couldn’t believe it when he had overheard the blond man stating they were ATF. Knowing they were on a tight schedule they had forced the guide to speed up their trip.
As they headed back upstream Ezra noticed JD was about to remove his life jacket. “JD, I think it might be a wise decision to leave our jackets in place”.
“Why?’ JD asked quizzically. He had no intentions of going back into the water.
“Well for a variety of reasons. First being we’re still by water. Second, in case we happen to run upon those worthless miscreants these…these garish out-of-style atrocities could act as a life saving jacket. And third, well because it’ll be easier for Buck to spot you.” Ezra finished quietly.
“I accept the first two reasons Ez but I refuse to wear it principally so ‘mother hen’ over there can keep tabs on me.” JD replied tersely.
The traveling was slow and cautious. Chris had finally been able to communicate to the separated two that they needed to be on the look out for the escapees. Three hours later Chris called the men to halt and let it be known they would make camp. Even though it was only around six and there was still daylight left he could tell the men were getting tired. The uneven ground and having to climb over boulders ever so often was wearing on them.
Nathan once again took inventory of the kit and found granola bars. He passed them out but only the guide ate his. No one could really eat theirs knowing the two on the other side had nothing.
Chris, Vin and Buck sat on the boulders and stared across at their comrades on the other side. They seem to be huddled discussing something. Buck’s voice broke the silence. “You’re right Vin. I let my protection of JD override my judgment.”
Vin merely nodded. Chris and Buck glance at each other. This was a not a time apparently for any further statements. They all had a lot on their minds. Vin sat and watched the pair across the river intently. What were those two up to, he wondered.
JD stared across the river, “Why haven’t they started a fire yet I wonder”
“Probably out of some since of camaraderie. You know that whole unity, loyalty thing.” Ezra said bitterly, he was still feeling the sting of Buck’s words. Did they really think that less of him, he wondered.
“Well if that’s what they’re waiting for then by all means lets give them fire.” JD stood and started gathering leaves, pine needles and small twigs. Ezra watched in interest. If the young man thought he could make fire without matches who was he to dash his hopes. He knew how that felt.
The two huddled together as JD viscously rubbed two sticks together, placed on top of some pine needles. Ezra was very amazed when a few minutes later an actual wisp of smoke appeared. JD blew gently on the smoke and suddenly a tiny flame took hold, followed by a stronger flame.
Nathan and Josiah jumped and started running towards Vin when they heard him yell. “What?” demanded Chris, staring at the obviously overjoyed man before him. He had quit watching the other pair and began thinking on their current situation and coming up with as many scenarios and solutions as possible.
“It seems our young friends aren’t as helpless as you thought.” Seeing the puzzled looks on their faces Vin pointed. “They’ve made fire.’
The others looked across and sure enough the twosome had a small but efficient fire going. They returned the waves that were directed at them. Buck wasn’t sure but he thought he heard the kid yell, “Take that Buck”
The others returned to camp and made their own small fire. Vin continued to watch over the two men on the other side. He soon noticed Ezra had removed his lifejacket and rolled up his sleeves. A slow smile crept onto Vin’s face when he realized what his friend was up to. “Steady Ezra. You can do it.”
Chris came to sit by his friend. He studied the smile on his face then turned and watched Ezra. “What’s he doing?” he asked quietly.
“He’s catching their supper.” Vin answered softly. After a few missed attempts a fish suddenly flew thru the air and landed on the ground behind the undercover agent. Both men saw the look thrown their way. Even from far away they both could read the expression. Chris rose to his feet, “Cocky son-of –gun ain’t he.”
“ Needs to be. Dealing with unfriendlies all the time.” Vin voiced back, completely thrilled over the small victory his friends had achieved on their own. Chris wasn’t sure if Vin meant the criminals or them. With satisfaction Vin returned to camp to tell of the others accomplishments.
“Well, it looks like they’ve united and are taking care of each other” Josiah stated calmly. “Maybe we should take lessons from our young friends and do the same” he had grown tired of the estranged silence that had followed them for the last couple of hours. The others didn’t miss the non-to subtle message. If they were going to get out of this in one piece they had better put hard feelings aside and work together.
As Ezra and JD sat around their small campfire JD finally mustered the guts to ask the question that had nagged him for days. “Ezra. When we were all throwing out suggestions why didn’t you say what you wanted to do?” JD looked at his friend, “We all know you don’t like camping. Didn’t you want to go somewhere else?”
“Like a spa or something exclusive and expensive?” Ezra had sarcastically. He knew that the others thought he thought of himself as high class.
“Ezra.” JD lowered his head then raised it again. Not all of us see you that way. Where would you have gone if given the choice?”
Ezra was temporarily thrown. Hesitantly he said, “I would like to Colorado Springs one day. You know, see the Seven Falls, Garden of the Gods, Pike’s Peak and the Little Church In The Hills,” Ezra shrugged when he was done signifying he didn’t think it was important.
“Then why didn’t you say so? I bet the guys would have gone for it.” JD asked questionly.
“Because JD they’ve all been to Colorado Springs and done those things.” Ezra tried to explain. Questioning the reason why he was being so open with his young friend.
“We’ve done the camping thing, too. But we keep doing it.” JD responded brightly.
“Yes. And look what always happens.” Ezra laughed.
JD joined him. “Yeah, I guess we need to rethink this vacation thing, huh?”
“Most certainly JD. Most certainly” the two returned to staring into the fire.
The next morning the sun rose with its same warmth and promise. Ezra woke feeling tired and cold. The days may be nice and warm everywhere else but here in the canyon where the sun didn’t shine it was a chilly morning and there was no coffee. JD popped of the ground like he had spent the night in a hotel. They had taken turns during the night keeping the fire going.
“Think you can catch us another fish, Ezra” he didn’t want to put any extra weight on the man’s shoulder but he was hungry.
“I’ll do my best,” replied Ezra, walking towards the cold water.
“That’s good enough for me” JD shot back. Ezra smiled to himself. The youngest agent was an eternal optimist. He had enough faith in the team to see them through anything, asking nothing more than to be treated like an equal member.
Ezra was able to catch a fish but it was much smaller one than the day before. JD cheered like it was biggest trout ever caught. Ezra liked the young man and his easygoing style.
After quickly devouring the paltry meal, they heard Chris whistle at them. It was time to move on. In a couple hours they would be out of “dead zone” and would be able to radio in their position. They were sure they had been missed by last night but there had been no sign of searchers.
Carleson was fuming. Not only had his plan be spoiled but also he was sure that the other team had called in the incident. There would be no ‘crossing the finish line’. There could only be retribution. Revenge for torpedoing his flawless escape. Once he was convinced they were down to four members he made a new plan. A plan that would allow him to extract his hatred on the men who did this to him. He remembered there had been four men on each side of the raft. That would mean the team would be evenly divided between the two shores. That meant the one inmate on the other side was on his own but he and his two cellmates would be able to take out at least four of the other men. How could he fail, there were three of them against four of them. The odds weren’t completely out of his favor. Those ATF men would not be expecting them to double back and attack. This would be easier than licking butter from a knife.
Vin would scout a little way ahead, then wait for the others to catch up. It kept him on edge watching both side of the river. He didn’t like the feeling of impending disaster he was getting. He had scouted ahead a half a mile and had given the all-clear sign to both parties. They had just about reached him when a body appeared a few feet in front of him. He was about to yell a warning when he spotted movement on the other side of the river. A coldness swept over him as he let out a primal scream. “EZRA!”
JD and Ezra kept a constant watch for trouble in front and on the group parallel to them. Ezra was getting weary of the tension that had crept into his bnnes and settled. He was a few steps in front of JD and watching Vin on the other side. He saw the man jerk up and turn their way. He felt the blow a second before he heard the scream.
JD couldn’t believe his eyes, for one second he had looked away and in that fraction of time Ezra had been clobbered by a giant fist. The black haired agent rushed forward to help his friend only to collide with a second person. JD knew he was in for the fight of his life and came out swinging.
Chris had almost reached his friend when the scream shattered the silence. Chris turned to face the opposing side in time to see his men being attacked. A fury rose up in him that had never been felt before. A scuffling noise bought his attention back to his friend in time to see Josiah yank a person off of Vin. Chris raced to his friend’s side who had already bounced back up on his feet. The fiersome leader turned his attention to the inmate.
“Where are the others?” he demanded as he gripped the man’s shirt collar in his hands, tightening his grip to match his hatred.
“They’re…they’re…they’re all over on the other side” the convict stammered.
“Crud!” shouted Chris as turned his attention back to the battle being waged on the other side. His gun was useless.
Nathan and Buck stood horrified. They were so close to being able to help their brothers and yet so far. Buck swung his fist at the foes that were out of his reach. He yelled coaching tips, knowing they fell on deaf ears. Oh Lord help them.
Nathan thought logically ‘two of them against two of ours’. Those were pretty good odds, if you didn’t think about the fact that the two of theirs also happen to be the smallest on the team. Come on guys, you can take them. Fight dirty if you have to, just win.
The five men and the guide watched as their brothers swung it out with men that were as big as Buck and Josiah. Each quietly, mentally giving orders, when to swing, when to duck, which way to move. Chris breathed a little easier when Ezra’s man went down and just as quickly lost his breath again.
Ezra was getting tired of this. Jab, punch, move, and don’t get killed. Just stay alive Standish, he kept telling himself. Out of the corner of his eye he saw JD’s attacker backing him closer to the river. “JD move” he hollered without realizing.
Ezra finally pulled back his arm and gave his assailant all he had right up against the temple. The man fell like a ton of bricks. The brown haired agent was making his way over to help JD, who was now standing precariously close to the edge of the water. The beast that he was fighting had his hands wrapped around the younger man’s throat.
Ezra charged forward to help and had almost reached him when he felt the blow of a heavy object against his skull. Stunned he fell down on all fours. He tried shaking the blurry double vision away. He couldn’t pass out now.
He looked down at the ground trying to steady his spinning world and noticed a shadow coming down on him. Ezra quickly rolled away. The momentum of his forward action with nothing to stop him forced Carleson to crash to the ground. Ezra quickly kicked the man in the head and backed up. Bringing his left leg up he smoothly unholstered his spare gun and shot the man dead.
Hearing a scream over his shoulder at the same moment Ezra turned his head quickly and would have fallen if he had not already been on the ground. He saw the orange life jacket as JD hit the water. “NO!” He jumped up and charged the man, getting a fatal shot off as he went.
On the other side Buck watched as his little brother was pushed closer and closer to waters edge. He sent up a quick cheer as Ezra finally knocked his opponent out. He just as quickly screamed as a large monstrosity of a man came charging out of the tress with a small boulder raised above his head. All the men jerked in unison as Ezra took the full impact of the blow and fell to his knees. When he rolled away they breathed as one, it hadn’t killed him. They watched as Ezra lifted his leg up to him and pulled out a small shining object. “Leave it to Ezra not to follow orders” Chris whispered with hope and pride. The gunshot went off at the same time JD’s man picked him up in the air and threw him into the water.
“No!” Buck screamed as he raced towards the water. Only the strong arms of Nathan and Josiah kept him on the ground.
“Look” Vin screamed as Ezra charged the man, shooting as he went. Then proceeded to jump into the river.
Ezra had thrown the gun aside as he dived into the water after his friend. Panic and fear consumed him; his only thought was to get the kid out of the water. As Ezra popped to the surface he searched frantically for the life saving orange jacket, that only yesterday he had cursed. A few seconds of searching bought his unfocused eyes on the object. He stroked out towards his friend, not really able to tell how far away it was, it didn’t matter. Putting more energy into each stroke than he ever thought possible. After a couple of extremely long minutes his fingertips brushed against his quarry.
As he grabbed hold of his friend JD began to fight him. “JD! Stop! I’ve got you.” Ezra yelled in the younger man’s ear. JD quit fighting and allowed Ezra to take him into his arms.
The ringing in his ears and the dizziness that kept threatening to take him into the darkness was kept at bay by his determination to see JD to safety.
For the awhile they floated down the river facing forward. Suddenly they hit a small whirlpool and were spun around and around. It was becoming increasingly harder to stay conscience but Buck’s voice in his ear gave him the motivation to kick out with the last of his strength, they broke free and once again began floating downstream, this time backwards. Ezra became disoriented
The five men watched as Ezra dove into the water and surfaced. He seemed lost for a minute but quickly struck out down stream. They followed his path with their eyes and caught sight of JD. “GO! GO!” the guide yelled at the men still standing before him like statues. His words broke them out of their trance and they raced forward, trying valiantly to keep an eye on the pair. Nathan grabbed the emergency kit as he ran off after his friends. They kept up the pace, fear being their driving force.
Ezra felt the sudden impact with the tree branch, banging his head soundly. He momentarily lost his grip on JD as his swam in dizziness and lightheadedness but quickly regained it. Ezra managed to look around and noticed the river had become calmer and darker. Tree limbs surrounded them, filling up the very wide stream. Ezra tried to make sense of his new surroundings. The conversation with the guide came back to him. On the way down the river the guide had explained that the river split after the canyon. The river that flowed to the right became narrower and was full of dead trees due to a mudslide the previous year. Ezra quickly deduced this was where JD and him had been swept. He hoped the guys had seen the change in direction, knowing he couldn’t hold out much longer.
Ezra managed to get the two of them turned around facing forward again. Using one hand to guide them he tried to circumvent the tangle of broken limbs, while trying to keep JD from being snagged. He finally came to a branch that seemed to stretch across the whole width of the stream. Ezra studied it for a moment and realized they had come as far as they could. Pinning JD between him and the branch he entwined his arms into the limbs of the branch and waited for help to arrive, hopefully before it was to late. It was becoming more difficult to fight the approaching blackness and JD had only responded a couple of times to his verbal commands, he figured the younger man was in shock.
Vin kept his eyes on both men and sighed a breath of relief when Ezra had caught up to JD. None of the five men let up their grueling pace. They knew without a doubt they had to keep up with the floating pair. When the two got caught in the whirlpool they actually thought the duo was going down. Chris screamed out his frustration, “You two quit horsing around and get over here!” The four other men paid no attention their bosses’ words, knowing he felt the same way they all felt, helpless.
They took up the run when Ezra kicked their way out and started floating down stream once again. Vin was the first to notice when Ezra and JD were spun towards the offshoot. Believing for the first time they might have a chance of getting their friends out of danger.
“Over here” Chris called as he spotted the two entangled in the dead branch.
Buck moved to jump in the water only to be caught once again. He turned to stare at his long time friend as Chris explained, “I need you to stay here with Nathan and Josiah. Nathan’s got to get ready for whatever problems they may have. You have to help Josiah when we bring them to you.”
Buck nodded in agreement as Chris and Vin shucked their boots. They would have taken off their jeans as well since denim becomes so heavy when soaked but the possibility have getting their legs torn up by unseen branches was to great to risk it.
Chris and Vin slowly made their way over to Ezra and JD. The water was calmer in this part but it still ran quite swift. They used the hand over hand method to reach their unmoving brothers. When they finally arrived at the two Chris moved in behind Ezra. He had been calling out their names without any response. Before making any moves he first evaluated the situation and noticed that Ezra had purposely pinned JD. Chris began to remove Ezra’s entwined hand and Ezra came alive. Fighting for a tighter grip Ezra was unaware of Chris or Vin’s presence.
“Ezra. Ezra, its ok. Vin and me are here. We’re going to get you out. Just let us do the work ok?”, after getting a slight nod Chris once again began to remove Ezra’s hand from the entangled limbs.
Chris worked as quickly as possible. He heard Vin call out JD’s name and this time there was a faint response. Chris breathed a little easier. Keeping his left hand on the branch he used the other to move Ezra’s body back enough to remove JD from his trap. Holding onto JD with one hand, Vin grabbed onto the black haired agent with his free hand. While Chris was passing JD off to Vin Ezra went completely lax and slipped free of the branch.
“Chris!” Vin called out as he watched his friend go under. Chris dove and came back up with the unconscious man.
Chris and Vin trek back to ground was slow. Josiah and Buck knelt down on the water edge and relieved Vin of his precious cargo. Vin scrambled onto land and turned to get Ezra out. He felt a hand push him aside as Buck reached in and grabbed the undercover agent. Together the two pulled Ezra ashore. Buck picked up the unresponsive man and carried him out into the sunshine where Nathan was working on the other down agent.
Josiah tried the walkie-talkie again and this time was successful in reaching a person on the other end. After giving general directions they waited for help to arrive and worried it might be to late for one of them.
It had taken the rescue helicopter twenty minutes to reach the incident site. After loading all seven men it took off for the nearest trauma hospital. The fact that Ezra not only had one but two golf ball size contusions and a rather nasty black eye was of great concern. He showed no signs of signs of response, not even to painful stimuli.
That had been two very long days ago. An MRI showed some brain swelling that caused the doctors some concern. They warned that with any head injury there was always the possibility of brain trauma, the six men shook off the warning. Ezra was to hard headed not to come out of this any other way than his normal old self.
JD had regained consciousness by the time the helicopter had arrived and after a night of observation was realized with the precautionary warning to rest. He promised he would, up in Ezra’s ICU room with the rest of them team.
For those two days Chris had been inundated with paperwork and phone calls. Help had been dispatched to help their guide and bring in the one live escapee that had been tied to a tree. Chris had given his gun to the guide to use if he had to. On the way out the rescuers had found the other guide lying along the bank in the deepest part of the canyon. He was alive but wouldn’t have been much longer. Rangers were dispatched to the team’s camp and their stuff along with Josiah’s suburban were bought to the hospital. The bodies of the escapees were bought in to the M.E.’s and an autopsy would be preformed on all three. The rangers also found Ezra’s discarded gun. It had been confiscated as evidence and would be returned when everything was cleared up.
Buck was sitting by the hospital bed when he heard the small hitch in breath coming from Ezra. He quickly stood and this set the others into motion. Knowing the man they way they did they had no doubts what so ever that he was going to panic when he came around.
Ezra couldn’t explain what he felt. Warm. That was it. He was warm and dry. He heard someone far away calling his name. JD’s face popped into his mind and he sat up screaming and fighting imaginary branches. “JD! JD!” he frantically called.
JD was pushed up to the head of the bed so he could calm his friend down. “I’m right here, Ez. Everything is ok. We’re at the hospital. It’s ok” JD continued to talk reassuringly to his friend until he fell back into his pillow and back into the darkness.
Buck had not left Ezra’s side since pulling him out of the river. He couldn’t. He knew rationally it wasn’t his fault what had happened but that didn’t make him feel any better. Especially after JD explained the part where it was Ezra who saved his life in the very beginning. Buck took that time to take stock of what Vin had said. Did they go overboard in their harassment of the man sometimes? JD had told them how Ezra wanted to Colorado Springs and why he had not spoken up. Buck would be glad when his friend woke up and they could go home and life would return to normalcy.
Chris was right they needed to stop taking vacations; they were getting entirely to dangerous.
A few hours after his initial trial with consciousness Ezra tried again. This time he heard Buck’s voice before he could get his eyes opened. The man kept telling him it was ok. Everyone was ok. Ezra finally managed to pry his eyes open and the first thing he saw was a large mustache covered smile staring down at him. Ezra jumped, goodness what a thing to wake to.
“Hey Ez, glad to see you awake.” Buck whispered with relief in his voice.
Ezra glance around the dark room, noticing the others sprawled out everywhere asleep. He guessed it had to be late in the night. Buck held a cup of water to his parched lips and drank greedily. He could have drunk more but Buck took the cup away promising more later.
“JD?” Ezra asked, a little afraid of the answer.
“He’s fine. Going strong like always” Buck replied before turning serious. “You did a great job watching his six. Thanks. But if you two ever scare me like that again I’m going to hang you both. Got it?” Buck ended with a smile.
Ezra nodded in compliance, a little confuse. What had he done that would scare the man?
Buck paused a moment, “Ez, next year you plan our vacation. As meticulous at details as you are I think we’ll be a lot better off.” Giving his friend a pat on the shoulder. “Go back to sleep, I’ll see ya in the mornin’”
After three more days and several tests Ezra was finally released from the hospital. After climbing into the vehicle and heading home JD turned around in his seat to face his friend.
“Guess what Ez? Since the judge gave you another week to recuperate we’re all taking the week off, too. The Judge is even going to let us borrow his cabin so we can be together. Doesn’t that sound fun?”
A very low moan escaped tight lips as Ezra slinked down in his seat. His friends were bound to kill him with all their ‘togetherness’.