The Case M7 ATF
Five of the members of the ATF's Team Seven looked up as Assistant Director Orin Travis entered the bullpen. Conspicuously missing was the undercover operative. The older man nodded to the assorted greetings he received as he headed for Chris Larabee's office. Knocking lightly at the half-open door, he strolled inside when the team leader waved him to the chair in front of his desk.
"I heard Standish got a call form Mendes early this morning."
The leader's blond head nodded.
"Yes, sir. He wanted to meet this afternoon, but Ezra put him off until tomorrow. He wants to meet at his nightclub on the west side of town."
"Is that doable?"
"Well, it's a public place with lots of people, so it's reasonably safe for a meet. Plus we can easily put people in to keep an eye on what's happening. But all those people and the music and electronic devices also mean that it will be hard to hear and record whatever is said." Chris shrugged one broad shoulder.
"Can't we put a mike on Standish?"
The tall figure shook his head.
"Since its Mendes' club, it's likely that he has security and they may sweep Ez for bugs when he enters, so we can't really risk it if we want to set up a buy later. We might find some way to get one to him after he's been inside a while, but we're not sure exactly how that will work yet, or if it will at all." Sculpted lips curved in a wry grin. "Ezra is an accomplished pick-pocket when he needs to be, but I don't know if we can find an opportunity to get something to him. If Mendes doesn't let him out of his sight or they go to a back room, there's not really much we can work with."
The judge nodded in understanding.
"All right, keep me in the loop."
Rising, the still attractive form stretched a bit and grimaced as a couple of vertebrae popped. Stepping to the door, one hand waved a brief farewell, then the well-dressed figure headed to the outer entrance, again acknowledging the comments of the others as he passed.
Late the next afternoon, Travis entered Team Seven's offices as the men were getting ready for the preliminary meeting with Mendes. Buck greeted the AD with his usual wide smile. The former judge looked the tall brunet over as he replied to the hello.
The ladies' man had changed in preparation for his appearance at the club. Gone were the blue jeans and checked shirt he'd worn earlier. A pair of tight black dress pants now hugged the long legs and rider's hips and a sapphire blue silk shirt strained across the broad shoulders and back. A pair of polished black patent dress shoes covered his feet and a matching belt drew attention to his waist. He was adjusting a black silk tie as he spoke and a tailored black jacket hung across the back of his chair.
Travis nodded in approval and then swung his gaze to take in the rest of the men in the room.
Ezra was dapperly dressed for his meet in a tailored navy suit and white Egyptian cotton shirt with a navy and white paisley silk tie. Expensive but unremarkable dress shoes adorned his feet and a gold watch glinted briefly as long fingers adjusted his cuffs. Since he was portraying a middle man, his really expensive haberdashery had been left at home, but the chestnut-haired form was still elegant.
Nathan was just pulling on the jacket to a black suit over his dark green cotton shirt. A black and green check tie was neatly tied around his neck and dark dress shoes adorned his feet. The tall, well-muscled man made an attractive sight as he shrugged the coat into place. He and JD would be arriving a little after Ezra put in his appearance.
The surveillance tech already looked uncomfortable in the dark brown suit he was wearing with a cream colored shirt. The kid was moving between fidgeting with his brown tie and tinkering with the miniature microphone he was taking with him to try to hear Ezra's conversation. His dark hair was hanging in his face at the moment, but would be slicked back when it came time to leave. The young agent was appealing in spite of the doomed expression he wore every time he had to put on a tie, and he would undoubtedly attract the attention of some of the younger women at the club.
Josiah and Vin were the only two still dressed in jeans and casual shirts.
When the director raised one eyebrow in query, Vin answered with a wink.
"I'm gonna watch the back in case Mendes tries to take Ez out of the club or anyone else tries to sneak in." the sniper drawled with a hint of thankfulness in his tones. "'Sides, I ain't much of a partier… them places make me nervous."
Buck laughed delightedly. "Ya mean the women make ya nervous, Junior."
The sandy head nodded emphatically. "Them, too! It's worse'n them society events… ya never know what part of ya is gonna get grabbed! It ain't that I don't like women, but the ones at places like that are more like piranha sometimes."
Josiah was grinning when Orin looked over at him.
"I'm gettin' a little too old to go clubbin'. Besides, I'm a little distinctive if we're tryin' to blend in."
Nathan chuckled. "Josiah's more the quiet bar or jazz club type. Or one of them places that looks like an old speakeasy or somethin."
"Hey, I don't mind dancing as long as it looks like dancing." the profiler grumbled. "Some of that stuff they do now looks more like a worm in hot ashes than it does anything else."
"Amen" Chris added as he stepped out of the team's bathroom.
The tall figure was impressive when the judge turned toward him. Tailored black dress pants clung to his lower body, emphasizing the long legs and lean hips. A dark red shirt was in place, accompanied by a solid black silk tie and fitted black jacket. Leather dress shoes had replaced the boots and an expensive gold watch encircled one of the powerful wrists. The dark blond hair was damp and had been hand tousled instead of combed back in his usual style. One lock fell across his forehead in an attractive way, drawing attention to the icy green eyes that could look as deadly as any weapon when the lean form wanted them to.
Orin nodded in approval. Most of the men might not always enjoy dressing up, but no one could deny that they all cleaned up really well. Maybe he should take a quick pic for Evie, he thought with an indulgent grin. His wife did think the seven agents were magnificent!
Chris seemed to read his mind however. Raising one eyebrow, he turned to the others.
"Alright we better go. Buck…"
The lanky explosives expert rose easily to his feet.
"On my way, stud." The tall form moved lightly across to the door as though practicing his dance steps.
"See y'all there. Don't be offended if I act like I don't know ya." he laughed.
The dark mustache twitched in amusement. He'd trimmed it into a slightly different shape so that it wasn't so recognizable, but it was still thick and luxurious. Orin understood why women were attracted to the handsome figure and he grinned as the brunet ran his fingers over the mustache to smooth it into place as he opened the door. With a casual wave, he was gone.
Chris and the remaining team members quickly went over the plan for the evening and then the lean figure headed out himself. Vin followed so he could get into place to watch the back of the building before Ezra arrived. The others would appear shortly after. Josiah was going to man the surveillance van, just in case they got lucky and could record some of the undercover agent's conversation with Mendes. Orin followed them out, wishing them luck.
When they arrived at the club, Chris parked the car he had borrowed from impound in the designated lot. There were quite a few vehicles considering how early it was. That would actually help the agents to blend in, but would also make it harder to keep up with Ezra when he arrived.
One by one they got in line to enter, each with a fake ID to show at the door. Buck was already inside apparently since they had seen the black Mustang that he was driving, but the tall brunet wasn't visible among the waiting patrons.
The queue was fairly short, so they all arrived at the door in just a few minutes. Each showed their IDs and acted casually impatient as they were checked. All the lady at the door was interested in was their ages to be sure they were legal to drink though, so she simply glanced at the cards and quickly handed them back.
Chris was shown to a small table near the bar. The room was fairly large and could accommodate a couple hundred people at peak occupancy probably. The floor was white and black tile with mirrored squares interspaced between. More mirrored tiles covered two walls near the dance floor and the other walls were a silver gray with decorations of music posters and old vinyl records. Disco balls hung above the dance floor and the rest of the room had recessed lights with various colored filters for a dim but multihued effect.
The bar was fronted with mirrored tiles and chrome, and black leather stools lined the length of it. The top was also chrome that reflected the colorful drinks and gaily dressed patrons. More mirrored tiles covered the back of the bar and chrome and glass shelves held glittering bottles of liquor. The corner near the dance floor where the DJ sat had colored strobe lights flashing in moving arcs that could make a person a little dizzy if they watched them too long.
Chris ordered a beer since he needed his wits about him, as did the others who were spaced around the room.
To all appearances the men were totally engrossed in their own activities when Ezra entered the club about twenty minutes later. Buck was leaning on the bar flirting with a pretty brunette and had given no sign that he recognized Chris and the others, while Larabee was apparently focused on his drink and the rest seemed to be checking out the other occupants of the large space.
Ezra entered and moved to the bar, ordering a scotch on the rocks. Soon one of the men who worked as a bouncer came up to the southerner and whispered in his ear, pointing to a table in the far corner near a door that apparently led to a private office. The undercover agent got his drink and followed the burly employee to the table, where he was soon joined by Mendes himself.
The gun seller had just set down when JD and Nathan entered the club. Both headed to the bar and leaned back against it, looking around as if surveying the available women after they ordered. Chris' expert vision caught just a hint of movement as the kid reached in his jacket and activated his miniature microphone. With all the surrounding noise it was going to be hard to isolate the conversation between Mendes and Standish, though.
All of the agents except Ezra took advantage of the club setting and chatted with a few other patrons as they sipped their drinks. Buck and Nathan even strolled to the dance floor a couple times as Ezra's character spoke earnestly with Mendes. One of them had the undercover agent in direct line of sight at all times, but the gun seller appeared comfortable with Ezra's alter-ego and didn't make any threatening moves or even get a suspicious look on his face.
Ezra was one of the best undercover operatives in any of the federal bureaus and always played his part with consummate skill. Which was one reason why people in the past had believed the agent was on the take. Chris had been a little unsure of the gambler's intentions where valuables were concerned at first, but he'd known instinctively that Ezra's skills would be useful to the team. The leader now had the undercover agent's complete respect and even fealty and Chris in turn now trusted Ezra with anything, no matter how valuable, including his life. The two of them delighted in sparring, both verbally and on occasion physically, but both now trusted the other implicitly. Chris had a slight smile as he watched Standish work without appearing to do so while he sat sipping his beer and acknowledging the interested looks some of the surrounding ladies were shooting his way. The men were all attractive, so it was inevitable that they would receive some attention in the now crowded room.
JD went to the bathroom once and fiddled with the small mike in his pocket. He used the opportunity when he got back to settle at a spot a bit closer to Standish and the gunrunner.
The device picked up most of the continued conversation that Ezra had with Mendes, but the man was careful not to say anything straight out that would incriminate him. Everything was couched in such a way that both parties knew what they were talking about, but nothing could actually be used as positive evidence. Chris and Ezra had expected nothing more, so neither gave any sign of disappointment, simply accepting that they would have to set up an actual buy to be able to arrest the little-known gun trafficker.
When Ezra finished his negotiations, 'Sullivan' as he was known to Mendes took his leave. The svelte form nodded politely to Chris as he made his way out of the building, briefcase in hand. The others would leave gradually after him so as not to draw any unwanted attention or raise any ideas of a connection.
All of the agents except Ezra arrived at the federal building at their usual time the next morning. Standish was having to pretend to get his boss' approval for the prospective gun buy, so he was avoiding the office just in case.
About eight-thirty Buck's cell phone rang.
When he looked at it, it showed the code name for Ezra.
The tall form pushed the button to accept the call and simply said "Good morning. How may I help you?" as he kept his voice neutral and avoided his trademark way of speaking.
He recognized the accent the undercover agent was currently using when Standish replied.
"Good morning. This is Sullivan. I'm with a prospective business associate and he would like to speak to my boss for verification of some information. Would you please let Mr. Lee know and tell him that it's important? I realize he'll be a bit testy to be disturbed this early, but my companion joined me while I was out to breakfast this morning."
Wilmington made quick notes of the information Ezra was putting into his seemingly casual conversation and then responded professionally.
"Of course, Mr. Sullivan. I'll let Mr. Lee know right away. One moment please…"
He pushed the mute button on the cell and checked it to be sure it was working and then dialed Chris' extension on the office phone.
"Chris, I have Mr. Sullivan on the cell phone askin' for Mr. Lee. He says he's with a prospective business associate and that the man would like to speak to you. Apparently he wants to verify some information with Sullivan's boss."
"Damn! Ezra's supposed to let me know before he has a meeting with someone, so that means his 'prospective associate' must have surprised him."
"He said that the man joined him while he was out having breakfast. I'm not sure, but I think he might have the phone on speaker. Want me to bring the cell to you?"
"Yeah. It's quieter here and more private. Let Sullivan know you're getting me."
The brunet went back to the cell phone even as he was hanging the other receiver up.
"I spoke to Mr. Lee and let him know what was going on. He'll be here in just a minute."
Ezra's accent seemed to have just a hint of relief in it as he answered.
Just then Buck made it to Chris' office. His boots made purposeful clicks as he strode to the desk.
"He does have it on speaker; I can hear the sound of someone else breathin'…" the explosives tech mouthed.
The blond head nodded in understanding. One hand reached for the phone as Buck handed it over.
"Lee" Chris snapped brusquely into the phone, playing the part of an annoyed boss, which wasn't that hard to do under the circumstances. Having Ezra in a position where he could be surprised and tailed was one of the parts of undercover work that the leader hated.
"You know I don't like being asked to speak to a prospective business partner cold turkey."
"Mr. Lee. I know and I'm sorry to bother you so early, but the gentleman that I had the meeting with yesterday joined me at the restaurant for breakfast this morning, so I didn't have an opportunity to inform you he would be wanting to speak to you. I do apologize."
Chris digested the information, making the men on the line wait a minute just to reinforce his position.
"Alright. So what's so important that I have to be disturbed before I've even had my first cup of coffee?" His tone was direct, imposing and slightly annoyed. It was easy to see why the team usually chose him to be the 'boss' when they had a meeting… even over the phone he was impressive and formidable.
Mendes apparently spoke next. Chris listened with a blank expression on his face as if the man could also see him.
His voice when he answered was deceptively soft.
"Mr. Mendes…you are aware that you are not the only 'businessman' in the area that handles the 'merchandise' I want, correct?" The low tones were impressively intimidating in spite of their soft timbre.
Apparently the veiled threat of taking his business elsewhere had the effect Chris wanted since his mouth moved into a mocking semblance of a grin as Mendes tried to placate him.
When Chris motioned for something to write with, Buck handed over a note pad and pen.
Mendes was informing Lee that he had most of the merchandise that he wanted already in stock, but that the more 'expensive' items wouldn't arrive until next week. When the man seemed to try to get Lee to take the merchandise he already had, Chris' response was curt.
"I don't do partial deliveries, Mr. Mendes. You get all of the order and deliver it completely or I'll find someone who can. I'm not paying out money for something I can't take immediate possession of. Take it or leave it."
Even Wilmington cringed reflexively at the stony tone. No wonder most people were intimidated by the lean leader. He was indeed downright scary in his current persona and it fit him perfectly.
His ultimatum seemed to have the desired effect.
"Alright. Have Sullivan let me know when the rest of the merchandise arrives. You have until the end of next week. If you can't produce the complete order by then, consider our arrangement terminated." His voice got silky soft, which somehow made it sound even more dangerous.
"And Mendes… if anyone comes sniffing around my business because of my dealings with you, our arrangement won't be the only thing I'll consider terminating."
Buck felt a shiver skitter up his spine, so he could imagine how the man on the other end of the line felt.
"I don't expect any more spontaneous phone calls to interrupt my day and I want you to stop following Sullivan. What other things he does for me are none of your business. Do we understand each other? Good. Now I need to speak to Sullivan privately. I hope you have a 'productive' day."
Ezra apparently went off speaker, but Chris kept up the façade anyway.
"Sullivan, let me know when the rest of the merchandise arrives. And if you notice anyone following you or if they join you unexpectedly again let me know. I won't have that. My business is my own. I expect a call from you by lunch to flesh out the details, understood? Alright. Watch your back."
Chris' voice was firm but understanding as he spoke to his undercover agent, both reading between the lines of the brief conversation. If Ezra was followed again, Chris would intervene and make sure it stopped. If Mendes was smart, he wouldn't want to have to face a pissed 'Mr. Lee'. And Chris wouldn't expose his agent to extra danger, even if it meant pulling him and cancelling the buy.
On the other end, Ezra was controlling the faint smirk Chris' conversation had caused. He didn't have to control the warm feeling the intention between the lines gave him. While the two agents appeared to fight like cats and dogs sometimes, Ezra knew Chris always had his best interests in mind over the case and that the leader would do whatever it took to protect his undercover agent and friend. Chris' demeanor didn't bother the gambler…in fact he appreciated it. Chris' bad ass persona was perfect for the 'boss' role, plus it helped protect his people.
Both men hung up at the same time. Chris called JD to see if the surveillance tech had managed to tap the call. The kid had remotely turned on the voice recorder of Buck's cell, so the answer was affirmative. The leader nodded in approval.
Rubbing his temple, the impressive form rose to his full height and followed Buck to the bullpen to brief the rest of the team on the conversation. His quiet movements made almost no sound and his lithe figure reminded those who looked up of a panther on the prowl. It made each one very grateful they weren't the prey. Anybody who didn't realize the dark figure was dangerous didn't have the sense God gave a goose.
Judge Travis appeared at the office a little after lunch to be brought up to date on the recent events as well.
Chris filled the older man in on the brief conversation. The assistant director stayed for thirty minutes or so to discuss the situation. When they were done, he rose, a concerned expression still on his face.
"Chris, keep me informed with what's happening. I don't like the fact that Mendes had him followed and joined him in the restaurant. We may have to surveil him ourselves to make sure Mendes doesn't get to him again."
"I don't like it either, but Ezra thinks my warning took with Mendes and that he'll be alright from now on. The weapons he's supposed to be acquiring will be a big bust if we can keep Ez safe until then. And he'll be more cautious from now on. He didn't expect Mendes to be that bold, but he'll be on the lookout for any of Mendes' men now. And you know Ezra can shake a tail when he wants to."
The judge nodded. The undercover agent had shaken his own team members a time or two when he thought he would put them in danger if he let them get too close. Vin was the only one who could keep up with the wily agent if he wanted to disappear.
Chris didn't bother tracking Ezra if he was the one looking for him. The leader had an uncanny knack of knowing where any of his men would go or what they would do in any given situation and he just went to where he figured they would show up, and he had always been right on the money. It was one of the things that made Larabee such a perfect team leader. His instincts were usually flawless. The only exception was where an ex-girlfriend had been concerned, and the team had eventually tracked her down and Chris had gotten justice for his family. He'd never made the same mistake again.
Travis shook his head to banish the train of thought.
"I'll see you later. Be careful, all of you. You know you're like family to Evie and me." He gave a wry grin as he started toward the exit. "Even Standish, in spite of his numerous attempts to get me to reimburse him for his thousand dollar suits!"
The rest chuckled as the older man made his way into the hall, then they settled down to work on their plans for the buy.
Ezra's cell phone rang the next Tuesday while the team was having lunch. The group was still at the table in the break room. At a motion from the undercover agent, the room grew quiet as he answered as Ezra Sullivan.
The caller was Mendes, who wanted to set up the buy with Mr. Lee for Thursday. Ezra tried to handle it without involving Chris, but the gun seller insisted that the supposed 'buyer' be in attendance. When the man asked to speak to Sullivan's boss, Ezra said that he wasn't with Lee at the moment . He told the man he would get with his boss as soon as possible and they would call Mendes back later in the day. Chris nodded agreement and Ezra ended the call as soon as he could. That would give them time to review their options before speaking to the gun seller again.
An hour or so later, Travis entered the bullpen to be updated.
"So what's happening with Mendes?"
Chris explained about the call that morning. The director nodded in approval.
"Can we get things set up that fast?"
The lean figure tilted his head in the affirmative. "Yeah. We've got most of the plans already worked out, we just need a definite time and place. We should get that when Ez and 'Lee' call Mendes back."
"Alright, let me know when you get the information." Travis smiled at the men. "Good job so far. Let's hope things go quickly and uneventfully this time."
"Amen" was chorused by seven voices. The team members were entirely too well known at the local hospitals and didn't need another visit.
A little after one Ezra headed to Chris' office.
He and the leader discussed what to say on the impending phone call for a few minutes. To the best of his knowledge, the gun seller had not had anyone following 'Sullivan' since Larabee's warning, so there should be no suspicion on Mendes' part.
When Chris nodded that he was ready, Ezra took a deep breath and dialed the gun runner's private number.
In response to the answer on the other end, 'Sullivan' informed Mendes that he had just joined his boss. The two men spoke for a couple of minutes and then 'Sullivan' handed the phone to 'Mr. Lee'.
The intimidating persona was back in place as the lean blond spoke to the gun seller. His expression was almost harsh, as if they were on a video chat, and the low voice was steely and formidable with a definite hint of danger in the quiet tone. The very lack of volume and emotion was more intimidating than yelling would have been. The implacable and authoritative sound was enough to inspire chills, so Standish could imagine how it was affecting Mendes. A tiny smirk curved his lips at the thought.
"Alright. Six o'clock at your club." The voice got even lower. "Understand Mendes… if anyone comes sniffin' around me because of you, hell will look like a tea party compared to the suffering you're gonna endure. Do you understand me?"
Ezra could vaguely hear Mendes' voice on the other end and it appeared to be shaking just a bit.
The gun runner hastened to assure the stern 'Lee' that his club was perfectly safe for their transaction. Due to the liquor and supply trucks that arrived almost daily, no one would suspect that one of them held illegal cargo instead of alcohol. He mentioned that he'd done a half dozen or more deals behind his establishment in the last year alone and no one in law enforcement was the wiser.
Chris and Ezra both thinned their lips into dangerous smirks. The man had just incriminated himself, but since he'd been careful not to actually name what the merchandise they were bargaining for was, they would still have to go through with the buy.
"You better be right." Chris answered, the tone openly threatening. "Alright. Finalize the plans with Sullivan. I've got things to do."
With that, the leader handed the phone back to Ezra who got a pad and pen and scribbled down all the pertinent information. When he was done, both men looked at each other and gave wicked grins. Should be a piece of cake. Chris didn't want to get too cocky, though. Sometimes those 'easy' busts were the ones that went all to hell in a way that the agents never expected. Ezra picked up the paper and hurried out to brief the rest of the team.
Thursday the team cleaned and checked their weapons and JD worked on his recording equipment. Ezra received a call from Mendes confirming the time and place for the proposed gun buy. The undercover agent and his boss had been a bit afraid the nervous man would change the location at the the last minute, but the arms broker seemed confident that his club was safe. Chris and Ezra would be inside the building along with Buck and JD. Vin, Josiah and Nathan would be outside along with several members of Team Six, who would be providing backup. Wilmington and Dunne would identify themselves as federal agents when it came time for the bust, pretending to 'arrest' both Standish and Larabee so that they could preserve the 'Sullivan' and 'Lee' undercover personas.
By the time the men had checked and rechecked every item they would be using and gone over every scenario they could think of, it was an hour or so until the meet. Chris briefed the men of Team Six who would be joining Vin, Josiah, and Nathan outside the club. He and Ezra, Buck, and JD then went in to change.
A short time later they were all back in the bullpen. Buck was now dressed in a charcoal gray two-piece suit that showcased his long legs and broad shoulders. A dark red Egyptian cotton shirt strained across his chest and a plain black tie was fastened neatly at his neck. Black leather dress shoes had replaced the cowboy boots and the ebony hair was combed back, but one lock curved down onto his forehead in a sexy fashion. The mustache had been trimmed, but was still luxurious and attractive.
Larabee looked at the tall form. "You ready?"
The brunet nodded. "Yeah. I'll leave now so I can get there a little before you and Ez. Kid'll be a little behind me."
Chris reached to put one hand on his oldest friend's shoulder and squeeze gently.
"Watch your back."
Buck smiled. "That's Junior's job, but I'll keep an eye out. See y'all there."
The others nodded and with a dip of his head, the handsome figure headed for the door.
JD was again looking uncomfortable. He wore fitted khaki pants and a dark brown suit jacket with a cream cotton shirt and a brown striped tie. Brown leather dress shoes adorned his feet and the black hair was slicked back from his face and gelled in place.
Chris spoke quietly. "You got everything, JD?"
The younger man moved to his desk and slid the tiny parabolic mike into his jacket pocket. He had a 9mm discreetly placed at the back of his waist and a small backup gun strapped to his ankle.
"Yeah, Chris. I think I'm ready." One finger reached to run around the inside of his collar absently. Josiah leaned over and pushed the hand down.
"Stop fidgeting, John Daniel."
The kid dropped his hand with a little grimace. "Oh yeah, right."
Chris looked at his watch.
"Alright, Kid. You better get going."
JD nodded and grabbed the keys off his desk. He was using a car from impound instead of his Ninja. "Alright. I'll see you guys there."
The others nodded and murmured quiet answers as the smaller figure headed for the door. They had discovered that there wasn't much security at the club for regular patrons, so they all had discreetly hidden weapons and ear pieces that they would put in place before they entered. JD let himself out and made sure the door clicked behind him.
Ezra was already dressed in his chosen clothing. A dark brown mid-price suit was in place, along with a maroon Egyptian cotton shirt similar to Buck's. A dark red and brown striped tie was neatly fastened around his neck and generic brown leather dress shoes covered his feet. The chestnut hair was parted on the side in the style favored by 'Sullivan' and the southern accent had been replaced by the non-distinctive upper class one he was using.
Vin gave a grin. "Not as fancy as ya usually look, Ez."
The shorter figure gave a slightly unhappy frown.
"As a mid-level facilitator, Mr. Sullivan wouldn't be able to afford terribly expensive haberdashery, so I'm afraid my Italian suits had to remain in their closets for this case."
Chris gave a slightly wolfish grin. "At least I didn't put you in as the club janitor or something."
Emerald eyes glanced at the icy green ones. "A fact I am immensely grateful for, Mr. Larabee. I do not do well mopping floors and digging through trash."
The others laughed out loud.
"A fact we're all very aware of, Ezra." Josiah added with a sparkle in his eyes.
Standish gave the profiler a nice impersonation of the Larabee glare, but didn't deign to answer verbally.
Chris himself was dressed in a tailored but unremarkable ebony suit, with a pale gray shirt and silver tie drawing attention to the broad chest. Black leather dress shoes clung to his feet and the gold watch gleamed on his left wrist. He'd slicked the dark gold hair back and the icy eyes gleamed like a predator eyeing its prey. An unregistered 9mm was tucked into the back of his waist and like JD, a smaller backup rested in a holster strapped to his ankle.
Vin, Josiah, and Nathan were securing their arms and communication devices and bullet-proof ATF vests lay at the ready. All three men now wore jeans and long sleeve black tees, with lined law-enforcement gloves in place. Black balaclavas rested with the vests and would be pulled on before the bust to protect the men's identities.
When everyone was ready, Chris looked at his watch.
"Alright, it's about that time. Josiah, you and Nate know where to set up the van. Vin…"
The sniper nodded. "I'll be in back. Ez and I saw a semi-trailer at the loadin' dock that had an alcohol picture on the side, but no actual company name. We figure it may have the weapons on it and already be sittin' there right under everybody's noses."
Chris nodded. "Since Mendes said he's used liquor deliveries as cover before, could very well be. If so, that's actually better for us." The green eyes looked around. "Everybody ready?"
When the other four men nodded, the leader motioned to the door.
"Alright, let's do this." The low voice was determined and the predatory smile the blond wore was downright scary. "Everybody watch your backs."
Vin grinned. "Always do, Cowboy. Got yours, too."
Chris nodded and watched the lithe form of the sniper head for the doors. Larabee and Standish moved out behind him, and Josiah and Nathan brought up the rear. The figures resembled powerful, dangerous jungle cats as they exited the office. Mendes didn't have a chance!
The group separated at the garage, Ezra sliding into a rented BMW while Chris entered the same silver Lexus he'd used the last time they went to the club. Josiah, Nathan and Vin all climbed into the nondescript surveillance van and pulled out first. Chris and Ezra gave them a few minutes lead, then the two vehicles exited together and headed for the other side of town.
When they reached the club, 'Sullivan' got out and waited for 'Lee'. The duo then walked confidently toward the club entrance.
It was about ten minutes to six when they got inside. Both showed their fake IDs and were easily admitted.
Once they were inside, the pair headed to a free table near the bar that sat in sight of both the dance area and the door to the private office that Mendes had used before. Ezra moved to the bar to tell the man behind it that Mr. Sullivan and Mr. Lee had arrived for their six o'clock appointment with Mr. Mendes. The guy nodded and stepped toward the office door.
The undercover agent rejoined his companion and both ordered drinks when the waitress arrived. Neither of them wanted to be impaired, so they both choose beer. The bartender came back out of the private office and nodded to Ezra that Mendes was aware that the men were there.
Six came and went, so the agents figured Mendes wanted to be sure they were alone before he initiated the gun buy.
He finally stepped out of his office and motioned to Ezra. The chestnut-haired man took the last sip of his drink and then rose to leisurely amble to the bar to speak to the gun seller. All of the agents had their coms in by this time, so Chris and the others could hear the quiet conversation, which was being recorded as well.
Larabee waited until 'Sullivan' motioned to him to join them, then 'Lee' stood to his full height and prowled toward the waiting men, eyes now hard as diamonds.
Buck excused himself to the redhead he was flirting with and ambled toward the restrooms. He could see Chris and Ezra moving with Mendes toward doors at the back of a short hallway, which seemed to confirm Vin and Ezra's deductions that the weapons were located in the trailer parked at the loading dock. The gun seller had a nervous look to him and kept cutting his eyes toward the imposing dark figure of Mr. Lee, indicating that Chris' intimidation factor was having the desired effect.
Josiah was recording the conversation between Ezra, Chris, and Mendes as they exited onto the loading dock and then entered the 'liquor' trailer, while Nathan stood at the back door of the van in readiness.
The merchandise was examined and accepted, Chris' low tones chastising Mendes when the man tried to get more money. The dangerous voice and glare had the desired effect, especially when the impressive form reached for one of the weapons and slid a loaded clip in with an audible click. When he asked if he needed to test the merchandise and swung the muzzle toward Mendes, the man quickly backed down and everyone could hear the fear in the slightly quivering voice. The agents on the other end of the coms gave feral grins. No one could terrorize a suspect quite like Larabee.
As soon as the money changed hands and the men stepped out of the trailer, loud calls of "ATF! Drop your weapons and put your hands behind your head!" were heard over the coms as Nathan and several of the black-clad members of Team Six rushed the seller and supposed gun buyers. Buck moved out to block the back door and JD discreetly covered the bartender. Jackson 'apprehended' a furious looking 'Lee', who snarled venomously at Mendes as he was 'disarmed'.
"I told you what would happen if anyone came after me because of you, Mendes. Consider our association 'terminated'…"
Even Nathan flinched at the deadly look that skewered the gun seller from icy green eyes. Chris got in one solid punch to Mendes' chin, causing the man to falter and go to his knees before the medic got Chris' hands behind his back and apparently 'restrained.' One of the members of Team Six had supposedly 'cuffed' Sullivan, so Nathan hauled both angry men off, keeping their alias' intact.
Agents from Team Six gathered up Mendes and his men, cuffing them securely and confiscating the weapons. Vin remained in his positon until all the men were secured. A couple of well-places shots that threw up pieces of blacktop near their feet kept anyone from trying to make a run for it. The sniper then fluidly descended from the roof of the storage shed he'd been perched on behind the club.
Nathan escorted his 'prisoners' around to the surveillance van and pushed them inside. Josiah watched amused as the two men slipped out of the loose security ties that 'bound' their wrists. Both smirked at the profiler and then grabbed extra weapons in case they were needed. Everything went smoothly however, and Mendes and his men were soon loaded into waiting vehicles.
Just as they were being lowered inside the cars, a cry went up from Nathan that Lee and Sullivan had made a break for it. The last Mendes and his men saw was Nathan and Vin running down an alley apparently in hot pursuit of the 'fleeing' gunman and his associate. Tanner paused and squeezed off a couple of rounds just to make it convincing.
The whole event had taken barely thirty minutes and was over by 7 o'clock. Due to the loud music and talking, most of the patrons in the club remained totally unaware that anything was taking place outside. The bartender JD had been watching didn't appear to know anything was going on either, so the team simply took him in a back room and questioned him and then let him go. The night manager was equally clueless as to what the club owner did behind the scenes, so the consensus was to let the employees that were left finish out the night. That way the customers inside wouldn't be any the wiser to what had transpired.
Judge Travis and the bureau would decide in the next couple of days whether the club would be closed and the property seized or whether it would be left open. Chris and Ezra personally thought that the place would be excellent as a meeting spot if it was run by someone sympathetic to law enforcement.
The recordings were checked and the preliminary paperwork finished by eight. Travis had been contacted with the results and the director gave the team permission to handle the rest of the details the next day. The older man was so delighted that none of the agents had received so much as a splinter that he was in a particularly pleased and generous mood.
Nathan was equally happy that his services as medic weren't needed by any of his teammates. Jackson knew however not to comment on the occurrence just yet. Best to wait until the team actually left the premises and made it safely somewhere else, since things had been known to happen to the agents even after a bust was concluded.
Being as it was so early and part of the team were already dressed up, Ezra suggested they go someplace nice and get something to eat. There was a bit of grumbling from Tanner at first, but when the undercover agent mentioned a high-class Italian eatery nearby, the sniper decided he could put on a jacket and tie after all.
Smiling, the three who had been outside cleaned themselves up and then the seven headed for the restaurant.
Chris looked around and nodded in satisfaction as they parked and headed to the hostess desk, everyone laughing and joking as they walked. Even though nothing had gone wrong this time, the men were still on a bit of an adrenalin high. Giving a wide grin himself as Vin picked on Ezra, the blond led the way into the lobby. Entering a restaurant, not the ER… now this was the way to end the case!