Willow '05: What We Do

Buck Wilmington hated stakeouts with a passion. They were usually boring, tedious affairs. 'A necessary evil' Ezra called them. Buck reluctantly had to agree. A large part of their investigation business was just watching and waiting for something to happen.

He kept a wary eye out, waiting for Ezra to get back. Their suspect wasn't due to return for another half hour and Vin hadn't called in yet to give him a heads up. Buck took that to be a good sign, that everything was still according to schedule.

He sighed quietly, wishing they didn't have to maintain a constant watch on this guy. At least it wasn't some messy divorce case. Buck wasn't interested in catching some guy cheating on his wife, or a woman doing the same to her husband. Tracking down a dead beat parent behind on child support he might consider doing, but looking for proof so one person could put the screws to another out of petty spite just wasn't his cup of tea.

“We ain't interested in being peeping toms.” Vin stated succinctly the first time a would be client had made a rather lucrative offer to Three Aces Investigations to gather evidence that her husband was having an affair. An affair would have been a violation of the prenuptial agreement and substantially increased her alimony payment. She wanted proof before filing for divorce.

Buck had half expected Ezra to jump at the job, given what she offered them and that they were still in the first year of the business. The money would have been a nice shot in the arm for them. But his green eyed lover had simply shaken his head.

“As Mr. Tanner so clearly stated, Madam, we are not voyeurs. Nor do we wish to become so.” Ezra had given her a charming smile, smoothing over her ruffled feathers as neatly as he did everything else. “Thank you for your offer, but I believe your cause would be better served by engaging the employment of another agency. I have the names and numbers of several that specialize in providing what you require. I can give those to you if you'd like.”

Sending good, but unwanted business, to their competitors had proved to be a surprisingly sound management decision. It did wonders for their reputation among their peers, and got them several referrals as well. Occasionally, someone sent them a shitty deal, but Buck was pleased that most of what came their way were solid money makers that easily fell within their specialties of embezzlement, fraud, and missing persons.

A lot of their business ended up in criminal court when it was all said and done, so establishing a good working relationship with the local police force hadn't hurt either. They regularly traded favors and information. And always gave credit where it was due, letting the Denver PD take the spotlight when possible.

Buck liked knowing they could call in back up if they needed it. And the years spent in law enforcement made them all eager to see their criminal cases carried through to their natural conclusion. Best of both worlds in Buck's opinion.

Vin had renewed relationships with the local bail bondsmen in the area from his days as a bounty hunter. They didn't really do that many skip traces, but bail bondsmen were a great source for information no matter who you were trying to track down. They often knew a lot of the pawnbrokers as well; guys looking to leave town were usually hard up for cash. And the runaways Three Aces sometimes found themselves looking for were in similar straights, unloading most of their valuables before they ended up selling themselves on some street corner.

Ezra's degrees in business and finance had languished while in federal employment, but they had definitely come into their own for Three Aces. He wasn't quite a forensic accountant, but Ezra had sufficient knowledge and experience to be able to spot forgeries, cooked books and track the numbers to find where the money went. He was also on very good terms with the business and banking community, easily ferreting out information about business deals and quiet holdings that would otherwise have remained unnoticed or remarked.

Buck shifted in his seat, dragging his mind away from the agency and back to the matter at hand. He'd much rather be tailing their suspect, Aaron Dibble, but that job had fallen to Vin. His job was to make sure Ezra didn't get surprised while bugging the man's apartment.

Ezra had already gotten into the man's office, posing as one of the many maintenance crewmen working to update the heating and cooling system in the building. He'd planted a miniature microphone and digital camera. Both devices were prototypes JD was working on with his computer firm. Three Aces agreed to field test them and so far they worked perfectly. Although their transmission range was rather limited and required one of them to be within a three block radius to receive the signal, the information they'd gotten had so far been very helpful in establishing the fact that Dibble was selling company secrets.

Buck grimaced. Industrial espionage sounds so much more exciting than it really was. All they had left do was show how Gibble had profited from the sale and who he'd sold the information to. By having Vin follow him from home to work and back, Buck and Ezra keeping his home under surveillance they had hoped to spot any leads on who his buyer might be.

The mini mic they'd planted at Gibble's office gave them some details but no names were ever used nor was a specific drop point or means of transfer of goods mentioned. Ezra had gotten permission from the company owner, Grayon Taylor, to examine the phone logs but since all in coming calls were routed through a receptionist it was proving to be less help than they'd hoped for. Ezra had checked out a few outgoing numbers from Gibble's phone giving them a better idea of who he might be working with. They'd narrowed the possible buyers from over a dozen to four.

Ezra had reviewed all Gibble's e-mails from work, since the company server regularly kept backups. But the messages appeared to be coded so as to seem innocent. Ezra had sent several to Josiah, knowing who much the big man had enjoyed cryptography hoping he'd be able to shed a little light on them. Josiah was laid up for the next two weeks after having orthoscopic knee surgery done, and they all thought participating in this case would give him something else to concentrate on. It wasn't uncommon for them to bounce ideas off the older man; he often had good insight and it was a way for them to stay in touch with their former teammate.

They'd tried hacking into his home computer remotely but had not had much luck so far. Bugging his home was their next move. Buck checked his watch. He tapped the mic he was wearing.

”You about done, Ez?”

“On my way down now.” Ezra sounded calm, unconcerned. "Trouble?"

“No.” Buck smiled relieved Ezra was on his way. “Just checking in.”

“Worry wart.” Ezra snickered. “Gibble is five foot five, and weighs one hundred forty pounds, if he's soaking wet and holding a brick. I think I could take him.”

Buck rolled his eyes. He didn't think Ezra couldn't handle their suspect… he just didn't think he should have to. Ezra had enough flying solo when they were with the ATF. Buck thought his lover needed to be reminded from time to time that Three Aces was a much different organization than Team 7 had been.

“You know Mr. Taylor doesn't want Gibble to know he's on to him.” Buck sighed softly. “Finding you in his place would sort of give away the game, Ez.”

“True.” Ezra chuckled. “But that's why you are serving as my look out and watch my back.”

Buck got a little thrill every time Ezra said something that so clearly relayed his confidence and faith in him. It wasn't like he didn't know Ezra trusted him---it was just nice to hear him say it, and mean it. He never wanted to do anything that would make Ezra think otherwise.

“Everything still quiet?”

“As a Church on a Monday morning.” This part of town only saw a lot of activity as people came and went on their way to work. Even though it was only eight pm, everyone except those like Gibble who routinely worked late, was home with the doors locked, watching TV, eating dinner, or tucking their kids into bed.

Gibble's building was in a nice neighborhood, but it wasn't exactly high security. It did have cameras positioned at all the doors; decorative iron bars on the lower windows managed to imply safety without making the exterior look like a prison. There were also security locks to keep anyone from loitering in the lobby who didn't belong there. Buck snorted to himself. It was an urban version of a gated community.

For Ezra, picking the locks was a piece of cake but getting caught on camera doing so wasn't a good idea. There was no guard but they really weren't sure how often the tapes were checked, and if some crime were committed in the building, the last think they wanted was for Ezra to be a prime suspect. While Ezra worked the lock, Buck used a transmitter that disrupted the camera signal, obscuring Ezra's image for the few seconds it took to enter and leave the lobby.

“I'm in the lobby stairwell.”

Buck nodded even though Ezra couldn't see him do it. “Give me four seconds. Want to block out enough time.” Since the camera had no record of Ezra entering, they didn't want any record of him leaving either.

“Will do.”

Buck silently counted to himself. He mentally pictured Ezra doing the same, waiting on the stair landing out of sight of the camera until a few seconds passed before jogging down the stairs and out of the building. Buck waited until Ezra was down the front steps and half way across the street before he let the camera resume normal function. The 'glich' would amount to no more than 20 or 30 seconds. They knew the building managers reused the same tape over and over, keeping only a week's worth of video at a time, so those sorts of gliches were probably common as the tape wore out and wouldn't be commented on if viewed later.

Ezra slid into the car with a smile. “Miss me?”

“Always.” Buck leaned in for a quick kiss, pleased with how easily Ezra casually allowed that intimacy, even if only briefly. Buck saw nothing wrong with making out in the car, but Ezra said he preferred 'less exposed environs in which to fully express my physical affection'. And they were working---it wouldn't do to get distracted.

Ezra pulled away with soft sigh. He rearranged himself so that his back rested against Buck's chest, making himself comfortable. Buck wrapped his arms loosely around Ezra. It wasn't cold by his standards, but Ezra had always felt the chill more than he had.

“Buck…you awake?” Vin's voice carried easily through the two way radio that they used to stay in touch when in separate vehicles.

Buck snorted. “No, I dozed off while on duty.”

Vin's light laugh was only slightly distorted by the radio. “Gibble is about ten minutes from home. Better tell Ez ta wrap it up.”

“I'm already finished, Mr. Tanner.”

“Find anythin' interestin' while you were in there?”

“Mr. Gibble excellent taste in furniture and artwork.” Ezra held up a small digital camera, positioning it so Buck could easily see the pictures from over his shoulder. “I believe I may have proof of where he's been spending his ill gotten gains.”

Buck whistled. “No expert or anything, but even I can tell some o' that stuff cost a pretty penny.”

“What he hasn't spent on furnishings, I believe he may be hiding in a wall safe I located in his den.”

“You open it?” Vin asked, tone relaying an eager curiosity that reminded Buck of a little kid at a birthday party.

Ezra sighed, settling his weight more firmly against Buck. “Unfortunately, no.” He shook his head, soft curls brushing against Buck's lightweight jacket as he moved. “I did not have the right equipment on hand to deal efficiently with the combination lock.”

“Ya need to plan better, Ez.”

Buck wasn't sure the radio transmitted clearly the snort and muttered insult Ezra gave in reply, but he was certain Vin got the sentiment just the same. Confirmation of what was in Gibble's safe could wait until the man was arrested. They weren't hired to trail the money or help the company recoup its losses. All they were hired to do was confirm the suspicions about who was stealing and selling their designs and identify the buyer.

“Should have a visual on the target any time.” Vin stated quietly, once more all business.

“I see him.” Gibble's Subaru wasn't a flashy car, and Buck thought it suited the small man's understated personality.

Vin passed them in unassuming sedan that was nearly identical to the one Buck and Ezra were in. Three Aces kept a small fleet of vehicles for tailing suspects and blending in with whatever cover they'd established. Their own personal vehicles are a bit too distinctive and memorable for that sort of work. Although, Ezra's jag had come in handy once or twice just as Buck's truck and Vin's jeep had.

Gibble parked in the small lot next to his building reserved for that purpose before heading into the building carrying his usual briefcase. Buck was glad he didn't need to carry one of those damn things. If it didn't fit in his pockets or clip to his belt, he was fairly certain he didn't need it.

“Vin…you can head on home.”

“I'll be back at eight.” Vin would follow Gibble to the office while Buck and Ezra headed home for some sleep. “You boys have a good night.”

“G'night, Vin” Buck waited for Ezra to add his own adieu before turning off the radio.

Buck wrapped his arms more securely around his lover when Ezra shivered. “You should have taken the day shift.”

Ezra sighed, wrapping one of his hands in Buck's. “Vin is better at tailing without being noticed. And I'm better at picking locks.”

It was hard to argue with the effective division of labor. And this way he got to spend time with Ezra, something that always seemed in short supply. He placed a soft kiss in Ezra's hair.

“Be glad with this case wraps up.”

Ezra chuckled. “As will I.”

They fell silent as the sound activated recording device clicked on indicating Gibble was talking. Buck grinned as he listened to the conversation being recorded. Yes. They had a name. Finally.

“I recognize that name.” Ezra stated quietly.


“Matches one of the phone numbers I ran.”

“Cool.” Buck grinned. “We can run with that.”

“Definitely.” Ezra held up a hand, hushing Buck as he listened closely to the rest of the conversation. Buck focused, grin widening. A meet was being set up. Even better.

“I believe an anonymous call might be in order.” Ezra tilted his head to give Buck an amused slant eyed look.

“I think you might be right about that.” Buck chuckled. “But we have to call Taylor first.”

“True.” Ezra held up his cell phone. “Shall I do the honors, or did you want to?”

“You do it.” Buck snickered. “He likes you better.”

Ezra laughed, pulling away to look directly at Buck. “He does not.”

“Oh yes he does.” Buck tapped the tip of Ezra's nose. “Likes that you wear a suit and talk like him. He thinks I'm just the hired help. You, he thinks of as an equal.”

Ezra arched an eyebrow. “We should charge him extra for his impertinent assumption.”

Buck smiled. He liked having Ezra think he needed defending, and knew where to hit Taylor where it would likely hurt him the most, but that wasn't how they did business. “Nah. Don't matter what he thinks of me. Besides, we already quoted him a price.”

Ezra pursed his lips. “We also gave him an estimated time frame. One that we have not used up yet.”

“So you think we should charge extra for speedy service?”

“I don't see why not.” Ezra smiled. “We are likely saving him millions. Not to mention what he may yet recover from Gibble's apartment.”

“Good point.”

“Thank you.” Ezra kissed him soundly before pulling away. “You drive. I'll talk. And when we get home---“

“We celebrate.” Buck waggled his eyebrows.

“Indeed.” Green eyes sparkled.

“I tell you I love you, today?”

“Yes.” Ezra's dimples flashed. “But I never tire of hearing you say it.”

“Love you, Ezra P. Standish.”