Chapter 1: NCIS: Act 1
Gibbs hung up the phone. "Grab your gear," he said, taking his badge and SIG from his desk drawer.
DiNozzo and McGee followed him to the elevator.
"We need to get Ducky, Boss?" Tony asked.
Gibbs shook his head. "Vic's not dead," he said. "Beaten. Badly."
"What else do we know?" McGee asked. "Is a sailor the suspect or the victim?"
"Victim," Gibbs said. "Lieutenant commander, full dress blues, so Metro called. Two blocks from the Hotel Washington."
"You figure he was staying there?" DiNozzo asked. "That's a prime spot for an officer, and not cheap."
"If he was in dress blues in the middle of a weekday, he had to be here for something important," McGee said. "If it was business, even in front of Congress, he'd be wearing khakis."
"It's the wrong time of year for awards ceremonies," DiNozzo said.
Gibbs focused on getting them to the crime scene fast.
When they got there, Metro had the area cordoned off. Gibbs showed his badge and walked on through to where one of the Metro detectives stood.
"Robbery?" he asked.
"Nice to see you, too, Gibbs," the sergeant said. "His hotel key card and wallet were on the ground next to him." He held out an evidence bag. "We started shooting the scene and bagged the evidence for you."
"Man's a sailor," Gibbs said, taking the bag and signing for it.
"This is a block from the White House, Gibbs. We're under orders to get this cleaned up as quickly as possible, especially after that shooting a few weeks ago. Secret Service is on our ass. You guys are both feds, so dick it out with them."
Gibbs managed not to growl as DiNozzo and McGee walked up. "Any other evidence?" Gibbs asked.
The detective motioned to the bags next to him. "EMTs cut off his jacket to start working on him," he said.
DiNozzo picked up the bags and signed for them. "Sgt. Sparhawk will send over the photos as soon as he uploads them to the server," he said.
"You've got your evidence," the sergeant said. "Now go investigate while I release the crime scene."
Gibbs did growl at that, but the Metro cop was already walking away.
"Gibbs, this guy's a SEAL," DiNozzo said.
"You sure?" Gibbs asked.
DiNozzo turned the bag to face him, the SPECWAR trident visible through the clear plastic, blood smeared on the globe.
"Boss, who takes down a SEAL in broad daylight?" McGee asked.
Gibbs held out his bag. "Let's find out."
McGee took the bag and examined the key card inside it. "Hotel Washington, like you thought, Tony."
"ID?" Gibbs asked.
McGee opened the bag and used a rubber glove to flip open the wallet inside it. "McGarrett, Steven J.," he said. "Hawaii driver's license, so he was stationed at Pearl at some point."
"Let's go find out what the hotel can tell us about Lt. Commander McGarrett," Tony said. "Boss, we'll walk over while you move the car. You're more intimidating to valet drivers."
Gibbs ignored DiNozzo, but once the evidence was loaded into the bags, he pulled out, leaving his agents on the sidewalk.
Tony was glad the manager at the hotel didn't put up a fuss over letting them up into McGarrett's room.
"OK, McWiFi, what do we have on McGarrett?" Tony asked.
"Single, Annapolis grad, and in the reserves," McGee said. "Transferred to the reserves four years ago after his father died. He's done his reserve drills out of Pearl since then."
"He retired to Hawaii?" Tony asked as they got off the elevator.
"He graduated from high school there," McGee said. "He got into Annapolis in part because his grandfather was killed at Pearl. Also a Steven John McGarrett, from what I can find. His father, John McGarrett, served during Vietnam then became a cop with the Honolulu Police Department."
"So he's third-generation Navy," DiNozzo said. "That doesn't explain the dress blues on a weekday afternoon."
Then they opened the door and he stopped in the doorway.
"Tony, move," McGee said.
"You said McGarrett was single, right?" DiNozzo asked.
"That's what his file says," McGee said. "No dependents listed."
"Then what's all this?" DiNozzo stepped aside so McGee could see into the room, which had two beds, two sets of adult suitcases, and a rollaway cot with a pink stuffed rabbit on top of it.
"I don't know," McGee said. "Where's a suitcase for the girl?"
They spread out through the room and searched.
"Tony, I don't see any children's clothes," McGee said. "And both sets of adult clothes are men's."
Tony stuck his head out of the bathroom. "None in here." He looked over the bathroom one last time and walked back out. "McGee, are you sure about that?"
McGee pointed to the suitcases. "Check for yourself. The sizes are different, so it's not all McGarrett's stuff."
"Does he have a brother?" Tony asked.
McGee shook his head. "One sister, Mary, who's three years younger. Their mother died when McGarrett was fifteen. That's all that's in his personnel file. Abby’s running down other SEALs he served with to see if there are any anomalies, but she won’t have anything until we get back."
Tony frowned. "Boyfriend?"
"Two beds," McGee said.
"Maybe the little girl doesn't know?" Tony asked.
"We don't even know if there is a little girl," McGee said. "Bigger question: Where's the other man?"
They just looked at each other, unable to come up with an answer.
Danny held the handle of the rolling pink suitcase with one hand, looped his other arm around the pole in the Metro and then held Gracie's hand.
"Danno," she whined. "I'm a big girl. I can hold it myself."
"Yes, Grace, yes, you are a big girl," Danny said, looking over at the daughter who was almost as tall as his shoulder already. "But this is not Hawaii and it's not New Jersey and you don't know your way around, so we're going to stick close. I do not want to have to send Super SEAL on a Monkey hunt unless we're visiting the zoo."
"How many stops?" Grace asked.
Danny checked the colorful map on the wall of the subway car. "This next one is ours," he said. "Now, stick close to Danno in the station, all right?"
"Yes, Danno," she said.
Danny decided to ignore the eyeroll, just like he was ignoring the faint hint of a British accent that always colored Grace's voice after she visited Rachel's family in England. After a couple of days in Washington, they would take Steve up to New Jersey for a few days with Danny's family before heading back to Hawaii. Danny had been counting the days since Rachel and Steve and Grace had blindsided him with the plan a month ago. When Rachel and Steve had started conspiring, he did not know.
By the time they made their way out of the station and were walking down toward the hotel — well, Danny was limping and Grace was skipping — he was hoping Steve had finished his business at Annapolis and the three of them could get an early dinner and have a quiet night. Steve had said something about the monuments at night, but Danny was already planning to argue that they do that tomorrow night.
When they reached the hotel and got off at their floor, Grace insisted on taking her suitcase. Danny let her walk ahead of him, keeping his feet clear of the rolling bag trailing behind her. But when he got close to their room, he noticed the door was ajar and he could hear multiple voices inside.
"Gracie, let Danno go first," he said, keeping his voice low. "I have the key."
His beautiful, bright daughter just nodded, a big smile on her face. Danny hoped whatever he was going to find on the other side of the door wasn't going to change that. He had his badge with him, but since he was off-duty, DC's strict gun laws meant he couldn't carry his gun. It was sitting in the locked box Steve had in his suitcase for traveling.
Danny looked through the crack in the door and saw two men, both about six feet, wearing jackets with the familiar NCIS logo on the back. He pulled back and put his hand on the door handle, then deliberately raised his voice. "Come on, Gracie, let's see if Uncle Steve's back yet."
As he opened the door, he kept himself between the men and Grace, but when he opened it, they didn't have guns drawn. They both had their hands to their hips, but the weapons were holstered.
"What's NCIS doing in my hotel room?" Danny asked, stepping aside to let Grace in.
"Special Agent Anthony DiNozzo, and this is Agent McGee," the older one said. "And you are?"
"Detective Danny Williams, Hawaii 5-0," Danny said. "This is my daughter, Grace, and if you're NCIS, I'm guessing you're looking for my partner."
"McGarrett's your partner?" DiNozzo asked.
"Uncle Steve and Danno can do anything," Grace said. "But they're on vacation this week." She dropped her suitcase and bounced over to the rollaway cot. "Danno, is this for me?"
Before anybody could reply to that, DiNozzo and McGee's eyes shifted to the door behind Danny.
He turned to see another agent standing there, this one near retirement age.
"Boss, this is McGarrett's partner and their little girl, Grace," DiNozzo said. "We haven't told him yet."
Danny started to correct DiNozzo about Grace, then the second sentence registered.
"Told me what?" he asked, looking at each agent in turn.
"DiNozzo, McGee, why don't you three go out in the hallway. I'll stay here with Grace and her new friend," said the man DiNozzo called Boss. Danny wanted to object to leaving his daughter with a stranger, but he had a bad feeling that there was a reason they wanted to talk to him without Grace nearby.
"Grace, do you mind staying with..."
"Agent Gibbs," the man said.
"With Agent Gibbs, while I go talk to the agents for a few minutes," he finished. "They just need to talk to me about Uncle Steve."
"OK, Danno," she said.
Danny followed the two agents out of the room and and halfway down the hallway. "What happened to Steve?"
"Commander McGarrett was beaten a few blocks from here," McGee said. "He's over at University Hospital now. We're investigating."
"You're looking for at least three men, or somebody with a stun gun," Danny said. "The only two times I've seen Steve taken out in hand-to-hand in four years of working together was when he was knocked out with a stun gun."
"Working together?" DiNozzo asked.
"Like I said, Hawaii 5-0," Danny said, then realized they wouldn't know what that was. "The governor has a task force, and McGarrett heads it up. There are four of us — the other two are cousins, Chin-Ho Kelly and Kono Kalukaua."
McGee, who hadn't said much up until this point, looked at him. "When you said you and McGarrett are partners, did you mean work or-"
Danny threw up his hands. "Work partners, just like you two," he said. "We are not married, no matter what anybody says. I do not have the type of death wish it would take to be involved with that crazy Neanderthal." He shook his head. "So, how bad is it?"
"We don't know yet," McGee said. "We just caught the case about an hour ago, and we wanted to come here and see if we could figure anything else out before going to see McGarrett in the hospital."
"That was your first mistake," Danny said. "The goof won't stay any longer than he has to, so if you want to catch him before he forgets we don't have full means and immunity in Washington, you'd better get over there."
"Full means-" DiNozzo started to say.
"Governor's task force," Danny said. "I don't know what the DC equivalent of a shark tank is, but if we don't get to Steve before he checks himself out - and if he knows who did this - he's going to be interrogating them in ways that will probably prevent the case from ever coming to trial."
"Shark tank?" McGee asked.
"Trust me, you do not want to know," Danny said. He turned and headed back to the room.
"Hey, Gracie," he said. "Uncle Steve got in a little bit of an accident, and they had to take him over to the hospital. So let's say we head on over there and make sure he doesn't do something silly, all right?"
"Can Agent Gibbs come with us?" Grace asked. "He's really nice. His daughter Kelly played softball, too, when she was my age."
"Sure, Grace," Danny said. "Maybe Agent Gibbs can even give us a ride, since he knows where we need to go."
Gibbs stood and headed out, the other two falling in behind him. Danny made sure he had his card key, then let the room door lock behind Grace. He only hoped they would get back here sometime tonight.
The car turned out to be a government-issue navy sedan, and Danny watched as Grace got into the back seat between DiNozzo and McGee. He turned to Gibbs. "How old is your daughter now?" he asked Gibbs.
"She was eight," Gibbs said. "Grace reminds me of her."
At the past tense, Danny's hands tightened on the roof of the car. "I'm sorry," he said. Danny sat in the passenger seat, silent. He couldn't even imagine what he would do if something happened to Grace.
Fortunately, his daughter didn't notice he wasn't his usual talkative self because she was too busy being entertained by the other two agents in the back seat. He only hoped they were helping her forget where they were headed.
Danny wondered again: Who and what could have taken down Steve, and why?
Chapter 2: NCIS: Act 2
Been wondering about the LA team's connection to this case? Wonder no longer.
NCIS: Act 2
Tony stayed two steps behind Gibbs as they entered the emergency room at University Hospital. Between the short detective and the little girl, there were a few too many people here and he didn't know how Gibbs was going to handle it.
As they walked in, Tony could hear an argument down the hallway.
"Oh, good. At least I'm in time for something today," Williams said. "Gracie, can you stay with Agent McGee here while I go talk some sense into Uncle Steve?"
"Danno, you know he won't listen," Grace said, and Tony laughed before he could help himself.
"Not helping, DiNozzo," Williams said.
"McGarrett not a big fan of hospitals?" Tony asked.
Gibbs looked back at him, the eyebrow lift as clear as a paragraph from Williams would have been.
"Yes, Boss," Tony said.
"What, you guys use telepathy?" Williams said.
"If Gibbs wasn't a functional mute, he'd be listing off all the times I've checked myself AMA or refused to go to the hospital," Tony said. He didn't even bother trying to duck from the headslap.
"What the-?" William said, as Grace chimed in, "Agent Gibbs, it's not nice to hit people."
Tony couldn't help but snort at that, and when he looked over, McHysterics looked like he might explode from trying to hold in laughter.
"Boss, if that's McGarrett arguing, you'd better see if we can help," McGee said, snickers escaping between his words. "Grace and I will stay out here."
Tony followed Gibbs and Williams down the hall to the bed with a curtain around it.
"Steven, you cannot expect these fine medical professionals to treat you the same as the ones at Queen's," Danny said as they approached. "It took three years for the doctors to realize you're a Super SEAL and not mortal like the rest of us."
"Danno?" A hand pulled the curtain aside to reveal a man wearing ripped, stained uniform slacks and bandages in four places. McGarrett's hair was longer than in his SRB photo, and it was spiky above his forehead. The tattoos on his arms were colorful and detailed, but the bruises covering his torso were going to compete with the rainbow on his arms before too long.
"NCIS," Gibbs said, holding up his ID. "Commander McGarrett, when the doctors are finished with you, we need to talk to you."
"Oh, I'm finished with him," the doctor said.
"I can go?" McGarrett started to stand, but wobbled as his feet hit the floor. He pressed a hand to the bed and stood, but Tony could see the lines of pain on his face.
"Babe, you're going to scare Grace like that, and you can't go outside in October with no shirt," Williams said. "This isn't Hawaii. Washington has actual weather."
Babe? Tony repeated to himself.
"I'll have one of the nurses bring you a set of scrubs," the doctor said. He thrust a clipboard at McGarrett. "If you insist on signing yourself out, you'll need to sign these forms."
"Yes, sir," Steve said, but Tony noticed he leaned back against the bed before raising the hand supporting himself to sign the forms.
"Ducky, Boss?" Tony said, keeping his voice low.
A fraction of a nod was all Gibbs gave him.
The detective cut Tony off. "Danny, please."
"Danny, let's take this back to NCIS," Tony said. "We won't all fit in the car. Why don't you and Grace go with McGee — he can hail a cab — and we'll wait here with Commander McGarrett."
"Yeah, Danno," McGarrett said. "Go with Gracie."
"This does not mean you're getting out of a lecture, Steven, don't even think that," Danny said. "And you're going to be the one to explain to Grace how you managed to get hurt and involved in a police investigation on her vacation."
McGarrett nodded like he'd expected that, and Tony wondered again what had happened earlier that morning.
Once Danny left, still muttering under his breath, Tony turned his attention back to McGarrett. "Need a hand?" he asked.
"I'm good." McGarrett set the clipboard down and straightened up, grimacing. "Where are those scrubs so I can go find this son of a bitch?"
"Commander, the only place you're going is NCIS headquarters," Gibbs said. "Until we know more about what happened and if you were targeted, we're not taking chances."
"Three men," McGarrett said. "White, so not Yakuza. They had special forces-level training — Krav Maga and some jujitsu. I knocked out one of them — he hit his head on the pavement — but the big guy held me down while the third man used my ribs as a punching bag. I managed to get a couple good kicks in, almost dislocated the big guy's kneecap. I heard somebody yell. That's when they dropped me and pulled out the stun gun."
"That must have been the person who called Metro, Boss," Tony said. "McGarrett, did you get a look at their faces?"
"Steve," he said. "Not really. They wore hoodies, and something pulled up over the lower part of their faces. They all had light eyes — blue or green. Dark hair, based on their eyebrows. No scars, no tats. Nothing useful."
"Rules out Mossad, at least," Tony said.
"Do your cases normally involve Mossad?" Steve asked.
"Probably as often as yours involve the Yakuza," Tony replied. "The Krav Maga made it a possibility."
"Did they speak?" Gibbs asked.
"No." McGarrett paused. "You're thinking accent?"
"I'm thinking we need to get you back to headquarters," Gibbs said. "DiNozzo."
"On it, Boss." Tony headed out to look for the nurse with scrubs, only to run into her. "Well, that was easy." He passed the scrubs to McGarrett. "As soon as you're ready, we'll go."
McGee paid the cabbie when they pulled up at the Navy Yard. Once they made it through security, he headed downstairs to the lab.
"Where are we going?" Danny asked.
"I thought while we sorted through the case, Grace could stay with our forensic scientist, Abby Scuito," McGee said. "She's great with kids, and that's probably a better place than either with Ducky and Jimmy in Autopsy or in the squadroom while we're talking about the case."
"How about that, Monkey? You want to stay with McGee's friend Abby?" Danny looked down at his daughter.
"What about Uncle Steve?" she asked.
"When they get back here, you can come up and see him, or he can come down to see you," McGee said. "But you'll have more fun with Abby. Her lab's pretty cool." He squatted down so he was looking at Grace. "And maybe she'll let your rabbit meet Bert."
"Who's Bert?" Grace asked. "Is he a bunny?"
"No, he's a hippo," McGee said, and stood as the elevator stopped.
They walked off and loud music filled the hallways.
"This is a workplace?" Danny said. "You people are all going to be deaf."
"Abby has issues with quiet spaces," McGee said. "She'll turn it off or down with Grace there, once she has somebody to talk to."
They walked into the lab, where Abby had her back to the door.
"Abbs, music," McGee called.
The sound lowered as Abby turned around. Her red T-shirt and plaid skirt were visible under her lab coat. McGee hadn't seen the red knee socks with black skulls before, but Abby had on her favorite spiked collar and cuffs.
"You're…" Danny put his hands over Grace's ears. "McGee, I have spent years telling my daughter not to wear short skirts and tight clothes and makeup, especially around boys, and you want me to leave her with-"
"Danno, I can still hear you," Grace said.
"Yeah, Danno, we can hear you," Abby said. McGee recognized that look on her face and tried to do damage control.
"Abby, this is Detective Danny Williams from Hawaii and his daughter, Grace. Danny's Commander McGarrett's partner. We were hoping Grace could stay down here instead of having to sit around in the squadroom while we talk about what happened to her Uncle Steve." McGee glared and wished he could channel Gibbs. "They've had a rough morning."
"Danny, Grace, this is Abby Scuito, one of the best forensic scientists in the world," McGee added.
"Sorry, Ms. Scuito," Danny said. "I didn't mean to-"
Abby raised one eyebrow.
"Abbs," McGee said.
"It's nice to meet you," Abby said. "Grace, why don't we go back into my office? McGee, don't move."
Grace hesitated, but Danny motioned her to go, and McGee breathed a sigh of relief. Now to see how badly Abby was going to rip into Danny.
But when she walked back into the main lab, she ignored Danny. "McGee, I'm still hunting down McGarrett's fellow SEALs. The ones that are out have pinged, but anybody who's still serving is locked. Leon's helping me unlock them. I'll let you know when I find something."
"Thanks, Abbs." McGee kissed her cheek.
"You're not Gibbs, Timmy," she said, but she was smiling, so McGee figured he'd at least stopped Hurricane Abby for now.
By the time he and Danny made it back to the squadroom, Gibbs, Tony, and McGarrett were just getting off the elevator.
Tony joined McGee at his desk. "He freak when he saw Abby?" Tony whispered.
"Oh, yeah," McGee replied. "I definitely owe her a Caf-Pow or six."
"You two finished?" Gibbs said.
"Yes, Boss," they replied in unison.
"Whataya got, McGee," Gibbs asked.
McGee sent some information to the plasma, and Tony moved over to read it. "Boss, Abby's got some of McGarrett's old teammates, and she's looking for the rest. Director Vance is helping her unlock the classified ones," McGee said.
"Why is everything with you people classified?" Danny asked. "Steven, help these nice Navy cops out and tell them who they're looking for."
"Oh, I'm supposed to know who was trying to kill me?" Steve said. "It wasn't the Yakuza, and it probably wasn't Wo Fat. Beyond that, I don't know who would want me dead who hasn't already tried to kill me."
"Wo Fat?" Tony asked. "Sounds like part of a pupu platter."
"He's an international arms dealer and criminal mastermind who somehow seems to always have a get out of jail free card," Danny said.
"Oh, goody. I love it when we get international arms dealers for lunch," Tony said. "McHacker?"
"I can. Boss?"
"Do it, Tim."
Tony noticed McGarrett starting to sag a bit on one side and rolled his chair toward him. "Sit before you fall over and we have to get Ducky up here."
"The one McGee said was in Autopsy?" Danny said.
"Dr. Mallard is our medical examiner," Tony replied. "Also, he talks even more than you do, Williams."
McGee snorted. "Pot, meet kettle," he said as Danny started to protest.
McGarrett started to laugh, then clutched his side, teeth gritted. Tony was impressed — broken ribs were painful, and his meds couldn't have kicked in yet, but he never made a sound.
"Knock it off," Gibbs said. "McGee."
"On it, Boss."
As McFirewall started hacking, Tony looked at Gibbs, then McGarrett.
"Why were you wearing dress blues?" he asked.
"Ceremony at the Academy," McGarrett said. "A classmate of mine was receiving several awards — all posthumous. Since the dates coincided with the end of Grace's vacation, it was a good chance to shut Danny up about the wonders of New Jersey."
"Just because I prefer cities and asphalt to pineapple-infested hell holes-"
"Enough." Gibbs glared, and it shut them up. Although Danny wasn't cowed, and that was interesting right there, to find somebody Gibbs didn't scare, especially somebody who clearly wasn't military. Tony wondered what McGee could dig up on him, but made himself focus on the case.
"How long ago did you make your plans?" Tony asked.
"July," McGarrett said. "Rachel, Grace's mom, already had the trip to England planned when I got the word about the ceremony, and it only took a few days to work out the details."
"Rachel's your wife?" Tony asked Danny.
"Ex-wife," Danny said. "Step-Stan had business on Hawaii, so I followed my daughter halfway across the country, only to get hijacked by this Neanderthal into his task force. This is the first time Grace has been back to see my family since Rachel and Step-Stan moved almost four years ago."
"We'll try to clear this up so you can keep your plans," Gibbs said. "McGarrett, what was your area of expertise?"
"Classified," Steve said.
"Commander, we have top-secret clearance." Gibbs set his coffee cup down.
"Danny doesn't," Steve said. "And even if you do, most of my missions were eyes-only."
"I can get into the Office of Special Projects in LA for that case last year, but you can't tell me what you did in the SEALs?" Danny said.
"You were in OSP?" McGee looked up. "Callen's team?"
Danny nodded. "This goof was off ghost-hunting when we caught a case that involved them," he said. "Chin and I ended up in LA trying to stop a religious nutcase from causing a global smallpox pandemic. I've seen OSP, and I've met Hetty."
"And lived to tell the tale?" Tony said. "Impressive."
Before Gibbs could glare again, Ducky joined them in the bullpen.
"Duck?" Gibbs asked.
"Jethro, I do believe I have some information that would be of use," Ducky said. "One of Commander McGarrett's former teammates died six days ago. It was ruled a heart attack, but when I had the autopsy file sent over, it continued a peculiarity. The heart failed because the cardiac muscle cells collected an excess of fluid and burst."
"Ducky, did you just say the guy's heart exploded?" McGee said.
Tony saw McGarrett stiffen, and Gibbs noticed it too.
"McGarrett," Gibbs said.
"The dead man is either Master Chief Ollie Wardell or Lt. Marc Singer," McGarrett said.
"Lt. Singer," Ducky said. "My dear boy, how did you know?"
"I know what mission this involves," McGarrett said, turning to Gibbs. "Highly classified. Even I don't know all the details."
"Let me guess, Operation Strawberry Fields," Danny said.
"Yes, actually," McGarrett said.
"Seriously?" Danny said. "You're not just telling me it's classified?"
"McGee," Gibbs said.
"On it, Boss," he said. "Wo Fat's not CIA. Lodestone's been shut down, and there's no other op I can find that involves him."
McGarrett winced as he straightened up. "Did you just hack the CIA?" he asked.
When McGee smirked, Tony had to stifle a grin.
"Let's just say we have some experience with that department of the CIA," Tony said. "We knew where to look."
"If we're going to talk about this op, we need a secure room," McGarrett said.
"MTAC," Gibbs said. "DiNozzo, show McGarrett and Williams to the elevator."
"Yes, Boss." Tony offered McGarrett a hand, which he refused. But when Danny started mother-henning him, McGarrett rolled his eyes, but let Danny help him up and leaned on him as they made their way slowly to the elevator. When they finally got to MTAC, Tony wasn't surprised to see Vance there.
"Commander McGarrett, Detective Williams. I'm sorry we had to meet under these circumstances," Vance said. "Please, have a seat." He looked over to McGee. "Bring it up, Agent McGee."
When Vance opened a conference call, Tony wondered who he was bringing in before even they had been briefed.
"Leon, what was so bloody important that I had to clear ops?" said the small woman on the screen.
"It's nice to see you, too, Hetty," Vance said. "We believe Operation Strawberry Fields has been compromised."
"Oh, bugger," Hetty said. "That does put rather a nasty slant on the case I was telling you about earlier, doesn't it."
"What case?" McGarrett asked.
"Since I see Detective-Sergeant Williams there, I assume you, young man, are Commander McGarrett," she said. "Agent Hanna speaks highly of you, but I suppose being paired with a cheeky bastard like Detective Williams would have its effects."
"You must be Hetty," McGarrett said. "Sam's told me many stories, and I think I'm beginning to believe a few more of them now."
"Not that I mind old home week, but don't we have a top-secret SEAL mission that's been compromised, one dead SEAL and one severely beaten SEAL," Tony said. "McGarrett, are any more SEALs from this op in danger? Is the other man you mentioned the only other person on the team?"
"There were four of us," McGarrett said. "Sam Hanna was the fourth SEAL."
Chapter 3: NCIS: Act 3
Now, on to the case! Huge thanks to Kesterpan for working out the science behind it.
Before the babble of voices could get out of hand, Gibbs whistled and the rooms were silent.
"Hetty, where's Hanna now?" Gibbs asked.
The operations manager pressed her lips together. "In the field, with Detective Deeks. Agents Callen and Blye are undercover at a Naval R&D lab where we suspect somebody is stealing research to sell to the highest bidder." She held up a hand. "Yes, Commander, I believe that research could be part of the missing material."
McGarrett held up his hands. "I never knew much about what that research was. How do you know?"
"Why, Commander, who do you think told the Agency about the Russian mission in the first place?" Hetty smiled, and McGarrett suddenly had a very bad feeling about this.
"Does somebody want to fill in the rest of us?" McGee asked.
Vance nodded, then looked at each person in the room, plus Hetty, before speaking.
"Operation Strawberry Fields began in 1980," Vance said. The director held up a hand before Danny could point out that Steve was just a child then. Steve wondered when he had started being able to predict what Danny was going to rant.
Vance explained: "Acting on information received from an agent who had been in Afghanistan" — he tipped his head toward Hetty — "when the Soviets invaded on Christmas Eve 1979, the CIA opened a file and codenamed it Strawberry Fields."
"The Soviets doubted their ability to retain influence in Afghanistan for the long haul," Hetty said. "They knew the Mujahideen had the hearts of much of the nation, and they wanted a way to destabilize the regime from within. So the Soviets sent a pair of Russian scientists into a remote region of the country."
"Isn't all of Afghanistan remote?" DiNozzo asked.
"Much of it is, Agent DiNozzo, and that is what the Soviets counted on," Hetty replied. "I learned that the Soviets were determined to attack the Mujahideen from the inside by undermining the opium trade."
"That's the key source of funding for the Mujahideen," Steve said. "Poppies from the mountainous regions provide more opium and heroin than the Afghani people can export to drug dealers the world over." He felt his legs tremble and forced himself to stay in parade rest.
"The Soviets were bloody clever," Hetty said. "They brought two of their own scientists into the mountainous region near the Pakistan border and set them up with a lab where they could work to engineer a new type of poppy — one that targeted the cardiac cells in the body."
"Doing what?" Gibbs asked.
"The drug was altered to block the receptors in the cardiac cells so that they couldn't handle the normal cellular functions," Hetty said. "When the Soviets first invaded, the effects were swift. Within two days of ingesting drugs from the altered plants, the user's cardiac cells would fill with water and burst."
"That's why the SEAL's heart exploded," McGee said. "But why now, after more than 30 years?"
"Because," Hetty said. "When the experiment began, the effects were too quick. Putting that opium on the market would have caused short-term pain. Once the word got out that Afghani opium and heroin were dangerous, nobody would buy them."
"Thus drying up the funding source for the Mujahideen," Vance said. "But that's not what happened."
"No," Hetty said. "The Soviets had something far more sinister in mind. As a result, even after they left Afghanistan, the scientists remained, up until one of them died about 10 years ago."
"That's when our team was brought in," Steve said, after doing the math in his head.
"You've been playing around with drugs, babe?" Danny asked, putting a hand on Steve's back. Steve refused to admit that he leaned into the arm behind him for support.
"We did a swap," Steve said. "Permission to read them in?" he asked Hetty.
"Yes, but not until you sit down before you fall down," she replied. "Honestly, Jethro, I know he's not one of yours, but you should be taking care of him."
"I'm-" Steve started.
"No, you're not," Danny said. "Sit, before I go find Grace so she can tell you."
Steve rolled his eyes, but moved to the front row of the theater-style seats and sat. "About ten years ago, my CO put me on a five-man team with an eyes-only mission," he said.
"Five?" Tony said. "You said four before."
"There were five of us going in," Steve said. "Walters, the fifth man, had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer three weeks earlier."
"He also was very similar in appearance to the one remaining Russian scientist," Hetty said. "The Agency and the Navy approached Chief Walters with a proposal for a terminal mission."
"We took Walters into the mountains to locate the lab," Steve continued. "Once we got there, we extracted the scientist and Walters took his place. There were no doctors there besides the scientist, and no modern medicine except the lab experiments. Walters knew that without treatment, he'd be dead within the month, and everybody who knew about the lab would think the last scientist was dead. He also was supposed to destroy enough of the research that nobody would be able to replicate it."
"Once the SEAL team returned with the scientist, the Navy brought him to the United States and installed him at a lab in Los Angeles," Hetty said. "He has been continuing his research there, with every available resource. At this point the experiment has gone past the original goal. The Navy wanted to destroy the original lab because the scientists had been successful far beyond what anybody imagined."
"Successful how?" Danny asked. "Successful in killing a SEAL?"
Steve reached over and put a hand on Danny's arm, restraining him.
"When the SEAL team completed its mission, we discovered that the mountain lab had entirely new strains of several plants," Hetty said. "All had been altered to impact the cardiac cells of any living being that ingested them. Once ingested, the person was doomed. In two to three weeks, the person's cardiac cells would be irreparably damaged, or to use Agent McGee's term, they would explode. If animals ate them, the flesh of the animals also was contaminated."
"And after two weeks, nobody would link the original substance to the death," Tony said. "They developed a bioweapon that would be almost impossible to contain before it caused havoc."
"Indeed," Hetty said. "Imagine infesting the feed of cattle just a week away from slaughter. The flesh would be contaminated, yet the animals would be killed before they started dying. As their meat was sold and spread around the country, people would begin dying, but far too late to stop this. The chain could go on forever."
"So why is this just coming up now?" Steve asked. "Our mission was ten years ago."
"Hetty mentioned the case her team is assigned to," Vance said. "That lab is the one where the research was moved to once your team extracted the scientist. About two weeks ago, we received a tip that the lab had been compromised."
"I sent agents Callen and Blye in undercover," Hetty said. "Detective Deeks, as Detective Williams can attest to, does not fit the mold of a Navy scientist, and I didn't want to risk Sam encountering any former colleagues."
"But if the infected food or drug takes two weeks to kill, and the SEAL died a week ago, that means he was already infected by the time you got the tip," McGee said.
"McCalculator has a point," Tony said. "How do we know this hasn't already started?"
"We don't," Hetty said. "But our Miss Jones has picked up chatter about the sale of the research, not its use. We just didn't know what was on the market until your investigation into the attack on Commander McGarrett."
Gibbs held up a hand. "Hetty, you get your team in from the field as quickly as possible without blowing their cover. DiNozzo, McGee-"
"Figure out how Lt. Singer was poisoned and why McGarrett was only attacked," Tony said.
"And check into the fourth SEAL to find out where he is and warn him," McGee said. "On it, Boss."
The two men hurried out.
"Leon, I'll contact you once I have my team rounded up so we can continue this discussion," Hetty said. She cut the video feed, leaving a test pattern on the screen.
"What can we do to help?" Steve asked.
"Duck, check him over," Gibbs said. "McGarrett, go see Grace."
"Absolutely," Dr. Mallard said. "Come, my dear boy. I can examine you in Abby's lab."
Steve nodded, and didn't argue when Danny helped him up. His ribs ached despite being taped, and his muscles were starting to stiffen.
Abby looked through the glass doors to her office to see Grace sitting at the lab table with her bunny and Bert, talking to them. She turned back to the main lab just as Ducky led in Grace's dad and a tall man who could only be McGarrett.
"Ah, Abigail. Could we borrow your office table so I can examine Commander McGarrett? Once he's seen your young charge, that is."
"Sure, Duckman," Abby said. "Right back here, Steve."
"How is Grace?" Danny asked. "Where is Grace?"
"Relax, Danny," Abby said. "She and her fuzzy friends are in my office." She pressed the button to open the slider. "Grace, somebody's here to see you."
When the girl looked up and saw Steve and Danny, her eyes got big and she almost tripped trying to get down to see them. Abby caught her as she was about to rush past.
"Remember what we talked about Grace, about gentle hugs?" Abby said.
"I remember, Miss Abby," Grace said, and she slowed down before going over and wrapping her arms around Steve's waist. "Uncle Steve! Did you catch the bad men who did this to you yet?"
"No, Gracie, but we will, real soon." Steve lay a hand on her head and the other on her shoulder. "Now, why don't you go see Danno. Dr. Mallard has to take a look at me, okay?"
"Call me Ducky," the medical examiner said. "Everybody does."
Grace giggled. "Ducky's a funny name," she said.
"You must be Grace," Ducky said, bending down to be closer to her height. "It's because a mallard is a kind of duck."
"You remember the birds with the green heads that would swim in the river near Nana and Grandpa's house, right Monkey?" Danny asked, reaching out to put an arm around her. "Those are mallards."
"I remember, Danno." Grace nodded. "Dr. Ducky, are you taking care of Uncle Steve?"
"I am indeed," he said. "Now, why don't you and Abigail and your father go wait in the lab."
Abby took the hint and herded Danny and Grace out of the room.
Once the door to the main lab was shut, Danny stopped. "Look, Abby, I'm sorry about earlier. I just- You weren't what I was expecting."
"Just don't let it happen again," Abby said. She smiled to take the sting out of her words and walked over to where Grace was staring at the photo on the wall above the printer. She decided she'd better distract the girl before she asked Abby what it was and Danny started ranting all over again.
Gibbs stayed behind the others in MTAC.
"How bad?" he asked Vance.
"I don't need to tell you that, Gibbs," Vance replied. "The one thing the Navy hasn't figured out is an accurate test to determine if somebody's infected. With that two-week window, once a foreign power or terrorist cell unleashes this weapon, it will be almost impossible to stop it."
"McGarrett?" Gibbs asked.
"We can't test him," Vance said. "Or Agent Hanna or Master Chief Wardell. We just have to wait, and hope that whoever these bastards are, they stick to methods we can detect and stop."
Gibbs nodded and left. By the time he reached the bullpen, McGee was just setting the phone down.
"Master Chief Wardell is still in the SEALs and on a classified overseas mission, Boss," McGee said. "His CO said they've been on the mission for six weeks, no security breaches that he's aware of. It'll be another week before they're due to make contact again, and his CO asked that we keep him informed."
Gibbs nodded and turned toward DiNozzo.
"Boss, I've got NCIS in Newport going to Lt. Singer's house to talk to his widow and get as much detail as possible about his movements in a one-week window around when we think he was poisoned," DiNozzo said.
"McGarrett?" Gibbs asked.
"I've got a theory," DiNozzo said. "The man lives on Hawaii, and any food going on or off the island is subject to inspection and quarantine or confiscation. They couldn't risk drugging him because he would notice and the whole point of this seems to be keeping the victim in the dark until it's too late."
"So you're thinking that they used his trip as a chance to attack him and figured Metro would put it down to a random mugging?" McGee said. "But that means they had to know about the trip."
"That's not the real question, McObvious," Tony said. "Did they know about the trip before they poisoned Lt. Singer?"
"That was three weeks ago," McGee said. "McGarrett said he planned the trip back in July, so it's possible."
"Lab tip?" Gibbs asked.
"Eric in LA is probably working on that angle," McGee said. "I can ask him, but I wasn't sure if you wanted me to before we talked to the LA team."
Gibbs shook his head. "Surveillance?"
DiNozzo sent something to the plasma. "They picked their spot well, Boss," he said. "There are cameras at either end of the alley, but none on the alley itself." He started a clip. "This is the dirtbags leaving, but they split up on foot and disappeared within a block."
"Black hoodies are common this time of year," McGee said. "All they had to do was duck into a doorway and take the cap off, ditch it and the hoodie, and they could blend into the crowd. Even with McGarrett's descriptions, we don't have much to go on."
"Keep looking," Gibbs said. He headed out to get coffee. He had a feeling this was going to be a long day.
Vance made a few calls once the team had scattered, including one to Hawaii. He checked his watch, then headed back to MTAC. He stopped on the catwalk to catch Gibbs' eye. The team leader nodded, and Vance knew everybody who needed to be there would.
By the time he had both sites up on screen in MTAC, the MCRT, plus McGarrett and Williams, were walking in.
"Chin, Kono?" McGarrett said.
"You two can't even take a vacation without getting into trouble," said Chin-Ho Kelly. "Director Vance, thank you again for looping us in."
"You're quite welcome, Detective Kelly," Vance said. "Now, as I believe Detective Williams is the only person that everybody here has met, let me do some introductions. Lieutenant Kelly, Officer Kalukaua, I'm Leon Vance, director of NCIS. Agent Gibbs leads our Major Case Response Team, working with agents DiNozzo and McGee." He pointed to each person in turn, and they raised a hand. "In Los Angeles, we have our Office of Special Projects, led by Operations Manager Hetty Lange. Most of you have met Agents G Callen, Sam Hanna and Kensi Blye. Detective Deeks is our LAPD liaison, Eric Beale is our tech ops specialist and Nell Jones is our intelligence analyst." He looked to Lt. Commander McGarrett, who stepped forward.
"I'm Lt. Commander Steve McGarrett, and this is Detective Danny Williams with me in Washington. In Hawaii, Lt. Chin-Ho Kelly and Officer Kono Kalukaua make up the other half of Hawaii 5-0, which is the governor's task force."
Vance nodded. "Thank you, Commander. Agent Callen, has Hetty briefed you?"
"She has, Director," Callen said. "We've made some inroads at the lab, but we haven't been able to figure out who's leaking the intel, yet. We have been able to confirm that the scientist McGarrett and Sam smuggled out of Afghanistan is still there. Kensi and Eric are working on getting her switched to his lab as a tech, now that we know that's the leaked intel."
Vance nodded. "Lt. Kelly, do you have anything to add?"
"Kono and I went to check out Steve's house on our way here, and it's secure," Kelly said. "I've checked our system for breaches, but nothing comes up. So either this guy is good at hacking or they found out the information about Steve and Danny's plans from another source."
"Thank you, Lt. Kelly," Vance said. "Now, all of you. Because of the unprecedented nature of this case and its importance to national security, I've spoken to Governor Denning and he's agreed to allow NCIS to borrow 5-0 until we can solve this. Since Agent Hanna is likely still a target and the research was leaked from the lab in California, OSP will be the headquarters for the investigation. Gibbs, you and your team, including Abby, will leave from Anacostia in thirty on a C-130. Commander McGarrett, you, Detective Williams and his daughter will accompany them." He turned to look at the screen. "Lt. Kelly, I will have a C-130 for you and Officer Kalukaua at Pearl Harbor/Hickam in 50 minutes. Hetty, both teams should land within 30 minutes of each other."
"Very good," Hetty said. "Commander McGarrett, I'll expect your team in six hours. Jethro, I'll have that rotgut you insist on drinking ready so we can celebrate once our combined teams end this. The rest of us will enjoy a good single malt."
"Thank you," Vance said. "Lt. Kelly, your C-130 will be ready in 47 minutes."
"Mahalo," Chin said. "Come on, cuz." The Hawaii feed cut out.
"Gibbs, you have 25 minutes to get to Anacostia before your ride leaves," Vance said.
"Boss, we've still got to get Abby and Grace," Tony said.
"Hang on, what about all our stuff?" Danny asked.
"As soon as we realized the LA connection, I sent agents to your hotel to get it, Detective Williams," Vance said. "They will meet you at the plane." He looked at his wrist. "In 23 minutes."
Gibbs nodded and headed out of MTAC, everybody following behind.
Thanks to those who have reviewed - I really appreciate that you took the time to do that. Also, this chapter has one blink-and-you'll-miss-it NOLA bit, just to round out the universe. ;)
As soon as NCIS killed the feed from Washington, Kono turned to look at Chin. "Come on, cuz," she said. "We'd better get moving — the Navy doesn't waste time."
"Four years working for McGarrett and you didn't already know that?" He arched an eyebrow at her. "Come on, or we'll miss that plane."
They split up and met back at Hickam in 40 minutes. Once they were on the plane and it was in the air, Kono looked across the aisle at her cousin. "Now: What the hell is going on? And how did they find out about Steve's plans?"
"They managed to steal top secret Navy research, so finding out travel plans can't have been too difficult," Chin replied. "If the Washington agents' theory that McGarrett was attacked in Maryland because they couldn't get the bioweapon through to Hawaii is right, they could have been looking for him on travel manifests."
"Steve doesn't travel a lot," Kono said. "For them to hit on the one time he was leaving Hawaii, they either had flags out on all the airlines, which is the type of hack that should have triggered an alarm someplace, or-"
"Or they had inside information somehow," Chin said. "And since they knew which SEALs to target on a mission classified enough that even McGarrett didn't know everything about it and they knew that this research existed and where to steal it from, that's the most likely option."
"The most likely of a lot of unlikely ones, you mean," Kono said. "I don't like this."
"Neither do I," Chin replied.
Gibbs split the team up into two cars. He gave DiNozzo and McGee responsibility for McGarrett and Abby, while he took Williams and his daughter with him. Until they knew what was going on, protecting her had to be a top priority.
By the time they reached Anacostia, Gibbs was ready to muzzle Williams. Even DiNozzo didn't talk this much. The best he could do was wait for Williams to get settled on the plane, McGarrett next to him.
"Grace, why don't you come sit with me and McGee so Uncle Steve can rest," Abby said, sitting across from the two Hawaiian detectives and patting the bench next to her.
"This is a weird plane, Abby," Grace said. "It has no seats."
Gibbs took a seat further back, out of earshot of Williams, but where he could observe. DiNozzo sat next to him. Once the plane was in the air, Gibbs angled himself so it looked like he was talking to DiNozzo. Really, he watched the others.
Williams had talked McGarrett into lying down in the sling seat, the SEAL's head resting on his partner's leg. Williams' hands were moving, so he must be talking, but Gibbs didn't have to listen.
"He never stays quiet, does he, Boss," DiNozzo said. "Even I don't-"
Gibbs cut him off with a look.
"OK, so sometimes I do. But not like that." DiNozzo fell silent, but not for long. "I know Vance said Balboa's team would handle our case, but is LA really where we should be?"
"Hanna and the lab are there," Gibbs said. "We put McGarrett there, too, we get all the pieces in one place."
DiNozzo propped his legs up on the crate in front of them. "Then I'm going to take a nap," he said. "I don't think I'll get a chance once we're there."
As DiNozzo dozed, Gibbs looked down to see Grace sitting on Abby's lap as McGee read to both of them. Abby rested her chain on Grace's head, and Gibbs couldn't help but picture Shannon reading to Kelly when she was little. Whatever else these bastards did with this weapon, at least they had attacked just McGarrett, not Williams and his daughter. Not that it would save them, especially in interrogation. He'd never worked directly with Hetty before, but he'd heard enough stories to think that the two of them should get first crack at interrogating anybody they found.
Abby listened as McGee read Chronicles of Narnia from his e-reader app on his phone. Grace leaned back against Abby, and Abby was pretty sure she'd have her arms full of sleeping girl soon. Especially if Grace had started the day on British time, which was a full nine hours ahead of Los Angeles. When they landed at 1800, Grace would feel like it was 0300. She had a feeling Hetty was prepared for that, though.
McGee looked over at her and she smiled at him, enjoying his answering grin. Eric had told her enough Nell stories in the past year that she was looking forward to having the four of them work together in ops.
She looked across the way to see Danny giving Steve a scalp massage, even though the SEAL was asleep. The lines in his face seemed to disappear the longer it went on, though, so she figured Danny knew what he was doing. She'd seen Tony fall asleep on Gibbs like that after a couple of long cases. And on Timmy. And on her, come to think of it. She sometimes wondered how much of Tony's willingness to use them as pillows came from how little affection Senior ever showed him growing up, then wondered what Steve's reason was.
McGee stopped reading, and she looked down to see Grace was fast asleep on her lap.
"Good work, Timmy," she said. "She's had a long day."
"She's not going to be the only one," McGee said. "Between Gibbs and the time zones, none of us are getting any sleep any time soon."
"There's a sofa at OSP," Abby said. "From the way they all talked when I was out there a few years ago, Callen used to sleep there pretty regularly."
"Instead of at home?" McGee said.
"He was usually between places," Abby said. "He changed apartments the way Tony changes girlfriends."
"Not touching that one, Abbs," McGee said. "Here, let's see if we can shift Grace so she's lying down, before your legs fall asleep."
Abby helped him shift the sleeping girl to the sling seat, then covered her with a blanket. Abby ran a hand along her back to make sure Grace didn't wake up.
"No need," Danny said. "Once she's out, nothing wakes her up. Even this one's explosions."
Steve made a face, and Danny just shook his head. "Put Aneurysm Face away, Aquaman," he said. "Go back to sleep."
"I thought he was asleep," McGee said.
Danny wobbled his hand side to side. "I'm not sure the goof ever gets into really deep sleep," he said. "There's always another mission or another burglar or another something to keep him from relaxing."
Steve made a face and started to roll over.
"No, Steven, you have cracked ribs and bruises and you are staying like this for the rest of the flight. Do you not remember North Korea? You sleep on your back, or I'm making you sit up and then you're going to fall over when we get to Los Angeles, and Hetty will just stand you back up again, trust me on this." Danny's hands were waving everywhere, and Abby tried not to giggle.
"North Korea?" McGee asked.
"Believe me when I say you don't want to know," Danny said.
"Must be either his Israel, his Somalia or his Mexico," McGee said to Abby.
Once the feed was killed, Callen watched and waited to see what the operations manager had in mind.
"Detective Deeks, Ms. Blye, I have agents picking up Detective-Lieutenant Kelly and Officer Kalukaua and bringing them to the boatshed. Please go there and wait until I tell you it's safe to bring them here. Agent Gibbs, his team and the rest of Hawaii Five-0 will come directly here once they land," Hetty said. "Mr. Hanna, until we have the perpetrators, you're in protective custody. Mr. Callen?"
"Come on, big guy," Callen said. "You're with me." He turned to Hetty. "Michelle and the kids?"
"The girls are in New Orleans," Sam said. "Michelle's sister wanted to go to the blues festival this weekend and invited Michelle and Cam to come. Aiden's off at school. I can call them and let them know to keep an extra eye on Cadet Hanna."
"I will call Agent Pride and have him make arrangements with your wife for any additional protection they need down there," Hetty said.
"Sam, you'd better stay with me until this is all sorted," Callen said.
"G, you have no furniture. I am not sleeping on your floor," Sam replied.
"I will arrange a safehouse for you, but for the moment, Mr. Hanna, I am confining you to the building."
Callen nodded. "Eric, Nell, pull background on the other members of the SEAL team," he said.
"I'll run a vector search," Nell replied. "Maybe we can figure out from that who we should be looking at more closely at the research facility."
"Good," Hetty said. "Now, everybody go. We need to solve this before whoever is behind this begins infecting the food supply or we won't be able to stop it."
Chapter 5: NCIS: Los Angeles: Act 1
No, I'm not dead, and no, I didn't abandon this story — though I can't blame you for thinking otherwise. The short version is a lot of RL insanity that's sidetracked me. I'm on vacation this week and trying my darnedest to get the rest of this drafted so I can edit and post over the next month or so. Thank you all very much for your patience with my tardy writing and posting and for not giving up on this story.
"I don't get it, G," Sam said as he sat at his desk. "Why now? That op was ten years ago."
"It might have taken the Russians — or whoever is behind this — ten years to find out that we have their scientist," Callen replied. "I'm more concerned about the timing behind the leak. How is it that we got a tip about this just a few days before McGarrett was attacked and about the same time the other member of your team died from this bioweapon?"
But Sam wasn't the one to answer.
"I've been wondering that, too," Nell said as she walked into the bullpen. "I did find out more about Lt. Singer. He left that Navy on a medical discharge after some shrapnel damaged his left leg and hip. He did extensive rehab at Bethesda, but his mobility is pretty impaired."
"That might explain why they targeted him first, then," Sam said. "If this affects your heart muscle, Singer is the only one who might not have noticed. Master Chief Wardell is still active duty, which means he's training at SEAL levels. I don't train like that anymore, but-"
"You train plenty," Callen said.
"That's because I have to make up for you dragging your ass around," Sam retorted. "I would notice the effects of this heart-exploding poison before my heart actually exploded, and McGarrett would, too."
"But even if you noticed, it wouldn't matter," Nell said. "There's no treatment once you've been infected."
"But we would know he had been," Callen said. "That's it. Singer was the only person they could get with this poison, but he's also the easiest one to target. By waiting until McGarrett was off Hawaii, they were able to get to him."
"If his trip is the key, then if we can find out how they knew about it, we'll be able to backtrace the connection from there," Nell said. "If we can't connect that person with Singer, we'll at least have two points to run a vector analysis on and that should lead us to anybody else involved."
"I don't know," Sam said. "It still seems fishy that the tip should come just as all this is happening."
"The only thing fishy around here are those tacos Eric had for lunch," Callen said. "Either we got the tip because they got careless-"
"They don't seem careless," Sam said.
"Or they leaked the news about the stolen research to get us on the case so they had a clear shot at you," Callen said. "Think about it: Your tradecraft is impeccable. Hetty's protection for our personnel files is, frankly, scary. If all they knew about you was that you worked covert ops, the case might have been bait to lure you out."
"Great," Sam said. "Forget about a safehouse — if you're right, Hetty'll have me bunking on the damn couch, and I'm a lot taller than you are. That couch wasn't meant for me to sleep on." He stood up. "I'll be in the gym."
Nell started to say something, but Callen put his hand on her shoulder. Once Sam was out of earshot, he turned to her. "For Sam, the gym is like one of Eric's video games — it's his way to blow off some stress. He'll be fine."
"As long as we catch whoever's behind this," Nell said. "I'm going back up to ops to see what we can find."
"If Hetty hears you saying that, she'll think you're questioning her tradecraft," Deeks said. "You know her cover story will hold up."
"And if they're watching Sam, they know what Callen and I look like," Kensi replied.
"Then your cover's already blown," Deeks said. "If they were watching Sam already, they know Callen. And if they weren't, then Hetty's cover story holds up."
"Fern, relax," Deeks said.
She rolled her eyes at the old nickname. "I can't relax when my- when you guys are in trouble."
"Relaxation isn't a four-letter word," Deeks said. "If you get wound any tighter, Hetty's going to bench you." He turned to face her. When she finally gave up and angled her body to match his, Deeks put his hands on her shoulders, his fingers firm. "I didn't let anything happen to your mother that one time, and none of us are going to let anything happen to Sam — or Callen. Your family is safe."
"How can you-" But the sound of the door opening made her stop. She looked over to see Agent Wilson escorting the two Hawaiians into the building. "You're early," she said.
"We had a tail wind," Chin said. His Hawaiian shirt fit the relaxed atmosphere of the boatshed. "Are the others here yet?"
"Not that we've heard," Deeks said. He stood up to greet them. "We can head over to OSP and see."
"What is this place?" the woman asked. She held out her hand to Deeks. "Kono Kalakaua."
"Wait, you're the Kono Kalakaua?" Deeks said. "It didn't click before."
Kensi turned to glare at her partner, but it didn't make a difference. It never did.
"I saw you win the junior championships at Mavericks when you were surfing for Coral Prince," Deeks said. "You were amazing."
"Until a wave spit me out the next month," Kono said. "You like surfing?"
"I'm not in your class, but I get out there as many mornings as I can," Deeks said. "Good thing I went out today — with this case, I don't think I'll be out again this week."
"Brah, we'll wrap this up and then go surfing," Kono said. "With all of us, how long can it take?"
Kensi tried not to growl as she said "Too long." She made herself take a deep breath. "They got to Steve already. How long before they try to take out Sam?"
"It's Sam," Deeks said. "They won't get him. He's unkillable."
"That's what we thought about McGarrett," Chin said. "It hasn't stopped them from trying."
"Well, they're going to have to go through all of us," Deeks said. "They won't get either one of them."
Kensi didn't object this time. Maybe, just once, Deeks was right.
"Ah, Miss Jones," said the director. "Mr. Beale. I have some additional information."
"What kind of information?" Nell asked.
"We've been able to confirm there was no security breach at Annapolis," he said. "However, there was a story about the ceremony Commander McGarrett was attending in the sailor's hometown paper in Iowa, announcing the award. It did not mention Commander McGarrett, but it did provide the date of the ceremony."
"How long ago did it appear?" Nell asked.
"A month ago," Vance said. "The paper did a story about a street in the town being renamed in the sailor's honor, and it mentioned the Navy was giving him several posthumous commendations, and the information about the Annapolis ceremony. I spoke with the public affairs office at the Academy, and they knew about it. The reporter went through the proper channels and the information about the ceremony wasn't classified."
"But that doesn't explain how anybody could have used that to track McGarrett," Eric said. "What, were these guys guessing?"
"Unlikely, Mr. Beale," the director said. "But this sailor and McGarrett were at Annapolis together, went through BUD/S together and were friends as well as teammates. It wouldn't be a stretch to think he might come."
"Eric, check hotel servers in Washington from the date the article appeared until last week," Nell said. She looked back at Director Vance. "If he thought the commander would come, he could check hotel logs for a reservation in his name," she explained. "They're easier to hack than either the Navy or airline computers."
"I'll leave you to your work, Miss Jones," Vance said. "If you find anything that indicates a greater security breach-"
"We'll let you know right away, sir," she said.
She walked over to stand next to the lead agent. "Not enough investigating to do, Mr. Callen?"
"I'm just waiting on-" He broke off as his phone beeped. "Nell has a lead for me." He retreated from the cavernous space.
"Mr. Hanna," Hetty said.
"I'm almost done," Sam said.
"You are done, Mr. Hanna," Hetty said. "Your commitment to fitness is admirable, and your insistence on proving to yourself that you have not, in fact, become infected with the bioweapon is understandable under the circumstances. But now that you've done that, I suggest you find something more productive to do with your time."
"Like what?" Sam threw one final punch, then steadied the heavy bag with one hand as he swiped away his perspiration with the other. "I can't go out and do my job — you confined me here."
"Might I suggest you find some additional chairs for the bullpen?" she said. "There are rather a lot of agents coming in this afternoon, you know."
Chapter 6: NCIS: Los Angeles: Act 2
Callen met Nell in the hall outside ops. "You found something?" he asked.
"Eric's still checking hotel servers in DC to see if somebody hacked them to find McGarrett's reservation, but I found a different link," she said. She pulled up information on her tablet, then herded him into a corner where nobody could hear them. "The newspaper in Indiana where the article about the Annapolis ceremony appeared is part of a chain, and they use central servers for all their newspapers. There were a lot of page views on the story itself — young sailor killed in action, Navy SEAL, decorated for heroism — nothing too unusual."
"But?" Callen knew there had to be more.
"But the papers all use a paywall, and your login for any paper in the chain will let you into all the newspapers. I pulled the information on all the users who weren't local and cross-referenced them to eliminate people with non-military connections to the sailor who was being honored, then ran a vector analysis and found one user that lives near Lt. Singer."
Callen thought about it for a second. "That could mean he-"
"She. Anna Peters."
"She had access to Singer to poison him, but that doesn't connect her to the lab here or to the actual attack on McGarrett." Callen looked down at the petite analyst. "Unless you know more you're not telling me."
"I'm running a full background on her, but I've already turned up several encrypted sat phone transmissions from the area near her house and her toll booth transponder has multiple trips to Washington in the past six weeks, including one yesterday. About half the trips were to Dulles airport, with return trips two to four days later. I'm still checking flight manifests to see where she went."
"Good work, Nell." Callen wondered what role this woman played. "She wasn't one of the people who attacked McGarrett, based on the information Gibbs, Abby and Ducky sent over. Those were all men."
"Peters is five feet, six inches, tall," Nell said. "The commander didn't mistake her for a man."
"Hired muscle, maybe," Callen said. He thought through all the information Nell had given him. "Nell, do a search for anyone named Anna Petrovich or Pietrovich who emigrated from Russia or one of the former Soviet republics after the wall fell."
"Peters is only about thirty years old," Nell replied. "She would have been a child when glasnost happened."
"It wouldn't be the first time the Russians used children as sleeper agents," he reminded her. "If they were already training her when the Soviet Union fell, somebody might have sent her over once there was free passage to sneak another sleeper agent into the country."
"And once she was here, they could wait until they really needed her to activate her," Nell said, her red hair bouncing as she nodded. "That would fit." She typed on her tablet, then stopped and looked up at him.
"What?" Callen asked, when she didn't say anything.
"Would Arkady be able to tell you anything?" she asked, her voice less confident than it had been.
Callen sighed. "Can he? Probably. Will he? That depends if he wants us to owe him a favor more than he wants to keep what he knows a secret." He checked the time. "Once Gibbs gets here, we can go see him."
"Don't let Sam hear you say that," Nell said. "He won't like being left out."
"If you think Hetty will let Sam go to Arkady's when we suspect a Russian connection-"
"She'd sooner drink coffee," Nell said. "I'd better go see what Eric's found. You better go talk to Hetty."
"Talk to me about what, Miss Jones?"
Callen managed not to visibly start at Hetty's voice, but this was one of those times he thought maybe they should let Deeks try to put a bell on her.
"Now, Mr. Callen, you know better than that," Hetty said. "So, what does Miss Jones think I need to know?"
Callen looked over, but Nell had already disappeared. If she learned any more from their operations manager, they were all in trouble. "Well, Hetty, it's like this," he said, outlining what Nell had found.
Before Hetty could reply, they heard a commotion downstairs and looked over the rail to see Deeks, Kensi, Chin-Ho Kelly and a young woman who must be the fourth Five-0 member.
"Gibbs and his team should be here shortly," Hetty said. "Perhaps we can save this discussion for then."
Chin remembered the OSP team from the smallpox case, but he didn't know the Washington team at all. Sitting back and observing until he knew how the personalities played together would be his best play right now, especially since the technology Eric and Nell had at their disposal put anything he had to shame.
He leaned against one of the support columns while Kensi and Deeks bantered and Deeks and Kono talked surfing. Callen took his own shots at both Kensi and Deeks while Sam put a frightening amount of attention into setting up chairs in the space. The former SEAL radiated a different kind of intensity from McGarrett — more Zen, fewer explosions — but it was almost a force field around him. The energy levels in the room were buzzing, and with a whole other team coming in, plus McGarrett and Danny, it wouldn't take much for tempers to flare.
"Do not worry, Detective-Lieutenant Kelly." The voice down near his elbow was pitched low enough that only he could hear her. "If Agent Gibbs has not head-slapped your voluble colleague into a concussion by the time they arrive, I believe this collection of investigators will prove to be far more impressive than the sum of its highly skilled parts."
Hetty smiled, much the way a kahuna had smiled at him once before all hell proceeded to break loose. Chin was wary of those smiles.
"Jethro has little tolerance for foolishness or poor judgment and takes the admonishment to slap some sense into people rather literally," she said. "I suspect Detective Deeks will find him an even more challenging supervisor than myself, in some ways."
Before Chin could reply, he heard "Danno, this place is so cool!"
Chin stifled his grin as Grace's voice floated through the hallways.
"I believe our guests are here," Hetty said. She stepped out into the middle of the bullpen just as the team of people Chin had seen on the video conference walked in, along with McGarrett, Danny and a girl with the palest skin Chin had ever seen.
"Hi, Hetty!" the girl said. "Eric's upstairs?"
"He is indeed, Abby," Hetty said. "Send Miss Jones down, if you would."
Abby moved upstairs faster than Chin would have imagined since she had on giant boots that must weigh five pounds each.
"Abby Scuito is the best forensic scientist in NCIS, and probably in all of Washington," Callen said to him. "Don't let the clothes fool you — she has three master's degrees and is almost as old as I am."
Before Chin could say anything, Grace ran over to hug him. "Uncle Chin!" she said, as she wrapped her arms around him. If she was holding on a little tighter than normal, well, this was a lot of new people and Danny was busy trying to make Steve sit down, with little success. Chin knelt down. "Hey, Gracie," he said. "Howzit?"
"Miss Abby and McGee read to me on the plane," Grace said. "McGee does good voices — almost as good as Daddy's." A giant yawn stopped whatever else she was about to say.
"Ah, Miss Grace," Hetty said. "I'm Hetty, and I understand from your father that you like tea."
"Mommy makes it for me all the time," Grace said. "She's English, and she says they make the best tea."
"They do indeed," Hetty said. "While I am not, I did spend enough time there to learn how to make a decent cuppa myself, so if you'd like, I can make you some tea and then you can take a nap in my office. It's rather a lot quieter there."
Grace looked over to Danny, who was still arguing with Steve, then up at Chin.
"I'd listen to Miss Hetty," Chin said. "It sounds like Uncle Steve and Danno will be busy for a while, and so will Kono and I."
Grace nodded, yawned again, and followed Hetty.
Steve ignored Danny's fussing as he scanned and assessed the OSP office. It was more like a cover building in a foreign country like Morocco than anything he'd ever seen in the United States, but Sam had told enough Hetty stories over the years that he supposed he shouldn't be too surprised.
"Danno, I'm fine," he said, as Danny tried to get him to sit.
"Steven, you have said that after being beaten, stabbed, shot and rescued from countries you shouldn't even have been in," Danno retorted. "You are not fine and you need to sit down before you fall down or you're going to have to sit this one out."
"Danny's right, Bossman," Kono said. "Sit down so we can figure out who's trying to kill you."
She looked like she was ready to find a sniper rifle just to threaten him with if he didn't listen, so Steve gave in and sat.
"Oh, good, Commander, you can occasionally listen to reason," Hetty said as she returned to the bullpen. "From the stories I've heard, I had begun to wonder."
"Don't look at me," Sam said, holding up his hands. "I know better than to tell Hetty some of your stories."
"Commander White and I worked together a few times before," Hetty said. "'Unorthodox, yet effective,' I believe was his assessment of you."
Steve ignored that. "Do you have any better idea of what's going on than you did before we all spent six hours cooped up in a plane?"
"Mr. Callen?" Hetty said.
"Nell has one lead she can tell us about," Callen said. "Gibbs, how would you like to visit an old friend this afternoon? Na etot raz, my politsiya, ne on."
"You and Gibbs know a former Russian FSB agent?" Danny said.
"KGB," Callen said. "You know Russian?"
"I worked mob cases in Jersey," Danny said. "I know enough to get by."
"Arkady's involved?" Sam said. "Why didn't we go see him while we were waiting for the planes to land?"
"Mr. Hanna, I know you would like to solve this case, but until we know more, we cannot risk sending you into what could turn out to be a lion's den," Hetty said.
"Could somebody enlighten the rest of us?" Steve asked.
The little redhead started talking, and even though she looked like a good storm would knock her over, she had skills at least as impressive as Cath's.
"An Anna Pietrovich of the right age and coloring did arrive as a Soviet refugee, along with her parents, back in 1990," Nell said, sending photos up onto the flat-screen in the bullpen. "Her father claimed that his father had been an enemy of the state, was sent to Siberia, and with the turmoil, they weren't safe."
Steve looked at the photos of the young girl and her parents. "Do you have any photos of her father when he got older?"
"No, he died three years later," Nell said.
"Sam, look at Mr. Pietrovich," Steve said.
"He wouldn't be Pietrovich," Danny said. "He's Pieter something-else. -vich means 'son of,' so his last name was probably whatever his father's first name was with that added on. Deciphering Russian family trees is worse than Italian ones — they might all have the same last name, but at least that way you know who's in 'The family.'"
One of these days, Steve really needed to get Danny to tell some of those Russian mob stories — this was the second time they had come up in a case.
"Ivanovich," Sam said. "I'd bet money on it."
"Let me guess, the scientist you smuggled out was Ivan somebody," Callen said.
"And being an enemy of the state with a sentence to Siberia is a good excuse for somebody to disappear because he's been sent to Afghanistan to develop killer poppies," Steve said.
A stampede down the stairs stopped anybody else from commenting.
"What do you have, Eric?" Callen asked.
"Anna Peters was staying two blocks from the hotel where Commander McGarrett was attacked and she's made four trips to LA in the past two months," he said. "She left on a flight out of Reagan sixty minutes after the attack today and was picked up by a green minivan at LAX when she landed. I've got Kaleidoscope scanning for it now."
"As soon as that van turns up, Eric, you let us know," Sam said.
"Agent Gibbs' team has the lead on this," Hetty said.
"Hanna, McGarrett, you two sit this one out," Gibbs said. "Too risky."
The resulting babble was impossible to decipher, until a whistle split the air.
"Hetty," Gibbs said.
"Speaking from hard-won experience, Mr. Hanna is apt to persuade Mr. Callen to let him come along," Hetty said.
"Steve doesn't sit anything out," Danny said. "Even when he should, he won't. The last time we tried to bench him, he broke into the governor's mansion, got framed for her murder and ended up in prison until he broke out of there."
"Hey!" Steve said.
"You know Danny's right, Bossman," Kono said.
"It was efficient," Steve said.
"It was stupid," Danny retorted.
"It's not happening on my watch," Gibbs said.
"Because you've always been happy to sit by when the director tries to bench you?" Tony said.
Gibbs had the glare of the gunnery sergeant he used to be, that was for sure. Steve wondered what the story was there.
"Uh, guys? We have a problem." Eric looked up from his tablet. "The CIA flagged the file on Operation Strawberry Fields — it's been locked down. I can't get to it anymore."
"This wasn't a SAD operation," Steve said. "Why is the CIA involved?"
"McGee, go." Gibbs didn't even look up.
Steve watched the agent run up the stairs and wondered what in the heck was going on.
Chapter 7: NCIS: Los Angeles: Act 3
Yes, this is finally done, five years later. I'm posting the chapters that never got posted here, plus the final one all in one go right now.
Eric watched McGee race up the stairs, but then Danny's rant distracted him.
"You see, Steven?" Danny said, hands flailing. "This — this is why I hate the CIA. They come in, they keep secrets and every time they do, you almost get killed."
"Don't worry, Danny," Tony said. "We'll find out what's going on soon enough. McHacker's on the case."
"You can't just hack the CIA," Steve said. "How do we know the hacking he did earlier isn't the reason the file was locked down in the first place?"
"I am not hearing this," Hetty said. "Jethro, if he gets caught-"
"Oh, McGee never gets caught," Abby said. "Even when Leon doesn't give him a get out of jail free card."
"Really?" Eric headed for ops. This he had to see.
"Come on, Nell," Abby said. "Why let the boys have all the fun." He could hear them following behind, Abby's boots clomping up the tiled steps.
Eric ran into ops, sandals skidding on the polished floor, to find code he couldn't even begin to imagine up on the screen.
"Whoa!" he said. "Dude."
McGee didn't even look up.
"What can we do to help, Timmy?" Abby asked.
"Eric, can you and Nell set up a series of Trojans to bombard a server?" McGee said, rattling off an IP address.
"Sure," Eric said, dropping into his chair next to McGee. Nell was across the way, and Eric wished McGee hadn't picked the computer next to his chair for his hacking.
"Nell, can you-"
"Propagate the bots? Yes," she replied.
It was all quiet except for keys clacking for a few minutes until Eric looked over and-
Abby turned to look at him, her long arms still looped around McGee's shoulders so they were both typing… on the same keyboard?
"It's faster," she said. "Gibbs always wants faster."
Before Eric could say anything, McGee jerked his head up so fast he knocked Abby in the chin.
"Sorry, Abbs," he said. "But look!" He pointed at the screen and Eric's eyes widened as he saw what was on there.
"Dude, are you kidding me?" he said.
"Get the others," Nell said from behind him. "This is big."
Eric left ops and headed for the steps to whistle.
Tony wondered what the geeks would find — and if it would happen before Danny Williams spontaneously combusted.
"Time out," Danny said. "Steve, if this is CIA, there is one really big possibility that we need to consider."
"No," Steve said, shaking his head.
"Just like that, no?" Danny said. "No, you cannot say that. After everything that has happened, you cannot rule the possibility out without considering, at least for a moment, that it might be possible."
Callen stepped forward. "Does somebody want to fill in the rest of us?" he said.
"My mother was CIA- Is CIA," Steve said. At Danny's hand wave, he sighed and kept talking. "She got out when she married my father, then the Yakuza tried to kill her on Wo Fat's orders — he's an arms dealer — so she faked her own death when I was in high school and went into hiding for twenty years. I found her a few years ago, after Wo Fat ordered my father killed, and last year she went back to working for the CIA. I don't know where she is."
"Thank you, Steven, that was very basic and efficient and doesn't begin to reflect the amount of chaos your mother causes," Danny said. "Now, I ask you all, does it seem possible to anybody other than me that Doris McGarrett might — just might — be involved?"
"She wouldn't try to kill Steve," Chin-Ho said. "She can't be the one behind this."
"No, but she might be the target," Steve said. "If they get me, there would be a funeral and they would have to figure my mother would find a way to be there."
"Steve," Kono said, her voice quiet. She tipped her head toward Grace, walking over from Hetty's office.
Steve lowered his voice. "If Wo Fat wanted another shot at her, it would be a good play: He gets a valuable bioweapon he can sell and he gets me and her at the same time." He looked around the room. "If this is Wo Fat, he's not taking any more of my family."
The last time Tony had seen that look on somebody's face, he could still remember the taste of Kate's blood on his face, but with a child now within earshot, he kept his comment light. "Great. Commander Ahab to go along with Captain Ahab," he said.
"Who's Ahab?" Grace asked as she walked up to Danny.
The detective crouched down so he was eye-level with Grace. "He was a very silly whaleboat captain who kept chasing a whale that he was determined to catch even though it meant he wasn't doing all the other things he was supposed to do."
"You mean like when you and Uncle Steve chase the bad guys and Mommy complains because you have to drop me back at home?" Grace said.
Tony thought he might have ruptured something from holding in a laugh, and Deeks and Kensi looked like they were in the same state.
But before Danny could reply, a whistle split the air.
Chapter 8: NCIS:Los Angeles: Act 4
When the whistle split the air, Steve looked up to see the blond computer tech at the top of the stairs. The LA team scrambled, and Hetty turned to the rest of them. "While I deplore the mechanism by which he employs it, Mr. Beale has indeed trained the team into quite an effective Pavlovian response."
"I think that means we're supposed to follow them," Tony said. "Come on."
Steve got up and forced his mind to ignore all the complaints his body was sending him. Case first, rest later. This wasn't any worse than he felt after some of the training sessions in BUD/S. He also forced himself to ignore the little voice that sounded suspiciously like Danny pointing out that he was 15 years younger then.
When they all walked into the second-floor ops room, Grace stopped dead. "Whoa!" she said. Steve could agree — this was impressive. And the team of four at the front of the room was as mind-boggling as some of the technology. Nell was connecting things on one huge touchscreen, while McGee and Eric sent information to the screens and Abby tapped away on a tablet.
"The Navy gives you guys more technology than some of the SEAL missions I've been on," he said. He looked up at the screens where images of files and photos and data kept popping up. "Wait, that's-"
"That's Doris," Chin said. "John used to keep a photo of her in that same outfit on his desk at the station."
A memory surfaced in Steve's brain: It's the name I went back to the day I met your father. "She couldn't have been on an op when Dad met her — he only ever knew her as Doris."
"She was," Eric said. "McGee hit the motherlode."
Steve tried to process everything he was seeing, but-
"Nell, what do we have here?" Callen asked.
The analyst stepped away from the screen and took the tablet from Abby, who stepped up to continue moving images around.
"Doris had been a loyal CIA operative since she started college, first infiltrating campus radical groups, then moving on to more dangerous ops after graduation," Nell said. "But she tired of the pace and wanted out."
"The Agency doesn't let you out," Steve said.
"No, but they don't like disillusioned agents sticking around, either," Tony said. "How did Doris make it out alive?"
"They made her a deal," Nell said. "She would be sent to Hawaii as herself and would essentially be an agency asset on the ground in a state that was difficult to infiltrate because of its isolation."
"That part is true," Chin said. "It's easy to visit Hawaii, but because there are so many haoles, the kama'aina keep to themselves, especially about important things."
"Yeah, tell me about it," Danny said. "So you're telling me that Doris was using John, Steve and Mary as cover? That stinks. No, it's worse than than that, but with my daughter in the room, I don't have the words to tell you what I think of this arrangement."
"Danno, I've heard bad words before," Grace said.
"Yes, but you shouldn't be hearing them and I shouldn't be saying them in front of you, Monkey," he said. "And if your mom finds out I did, she would be very mad, and she would be right to be."
"Is Danno right?" Steve asked. Although he was fairly certain he knew the answer.
"We don't know," Nell said.
McGee turned around and flexed his fingers. "From everything we can find, Doris never communicated with the CIA again until two weeks before her alleged death in 1992, when Langley sent her a message through an agent that Wo Fat was looking for her."
"And then she faked her death and dropped off the grid until the Boss found her last year," Kono said. "But how does any of this relate to what's going on now?"
"That's the hinky part," Abby said. "Tell 'em, Timmy."
"About three hours before the attack on Steve, a CIA operation based in Honolulu started receiving a stream of encrypted messages," McGee said. "They've bounced the signal all over the place, but some of the messages originate from Langley."
"And the rest?" Callen asked.
"From Los Angeles," Nell said.
"Okay, I'm going to say what we're all thinking," Deeks said. "We're-" He broke off at a glare from Danny. "We're hosed."
Steve couldn't argue with that.
Callen looked around at the motley collection of agents in the room. This was shaping up to be one of their most complicated cases — even worse than the one where Cold War-era spies came out of the woodwork for that damned little black book.
"We have missing research here, and a CIA operation in Hawaii and Langley back in DC," Callen said. "But it doesn't make sense to divide our forces at this point — there's more risk to Sam and Steve that way and I think we're going to need all our skills to unravel this."
"Langley's not even a factor," Tony said. "Sure, that's where this is coming down from, but it's not like we can just bust in there and let Gibbs stare them into submission."
"The research lab isn't the real focus," Kensi said. "We need to find the leak, but it's probably somebody who was hired or bribed — I didn't see anybody there that could mastermind something like this. We need to find the people responsible."
"Kensi's right," Callen said. "That means Hawaii and the operation there has to be our focus."
"Five-0 has full immunity and means," Steve said. At a cough from Chin, he said, "Well, mostly. But in this case Gov. Denning isn't going to get in our way. If we go to Hawaii, I can deputize everybody temporarily."
"First, we need to find Anna Peters and talk to Arkady and see what he can tell us," Callen said.
"We're not getting on another plane tonight," Danny said. "Aquaman here needs sleep before he falls over, and Gracie is on her umpteenth timezone in the last fifteen hours. Flying to those hunks of rocks has to wait until tomorrow."
"Detective-Sergeant Williams is quite correct," Hetty said. "I will make arrangements for your trip tomorrow."
Callen nodded. "Deeks, Kens, you two need to take Sam, Steve and Grace to a safehouse until then." He looked around the room. "Gibbs, we'll go find Arkady. Kono, why don't you come along as backup. Just in case."
"Sure, brah," she said.
"Chin, stay here in ops and work with Eric, Nell, McGee and Abby to figure out as much as possible about what we'll find in Hawaii. Your local knowledge can only help." He paused for a second. "Everybody, feed your information to Danny and Tony so they can come up with a plan. These guys are good, and if we want to get the jump on them, we need to be ready to roll as soon as we land tomorrow."
Tony motioned for Danny to join him and they followed Hetty downstairs to her ornate office, if you could call it that.
"Now, I suggest a cup of tea while we decide our next moves," she said. "Agent DiNozzo, Detective Williams?"
"This is a nicer setting that I'm usually in for tea," Tony said. "Okay, Danny, you're the expert on Hawaii. What should we expect?"
Danny started laughing. "You, you're funny," he said. "You're asking the haole? Now I know we're in trouble." He paced around the tiled end of Hetty's space. "We have the CIA gunning for Steve's head and for Doris, not that she doesn't deserve it if anybody does, and absolutely zero idea of what we're walking into when we land and you think I can tell you what to expect? Explosions, because McGarrett likes to blow things up, and about a million broken rules and I don't even know what else because I stopped being able to predict what my days would be like, unlike Jersey, where you had your dope-pushers, your gang-bangers and your thieves who would knock over a store to pay for whatever bad habits they had picked up. No espionage, none of this insanity that has become standard operating procedure since I was hijacked into Steve's band of merry men."
"Now, Detective Williams, do calm down," Hetty said and handed him a tea cup that made Ducky's look like cheap yard sale pickups. "Agent DiNozzo?"
Tony took the cup and thanked her. "From what I hear, Callen and Sam have a knack for things that go 'Boom!' too, so explosions seem inevitable. We'll just make sure to keep Gibbs clear — I don't think even Franks can unscramble his brains if he gets blown up a third time." He sat back in the leather chair opposite Hetty's desk. "The McGeek Squad will have a location for us in Hawaii, so we'll be able to plan our approach on the actual cell at that point."
"You believe this to be a terror cell?" Hetty said.
"I think that anything involving Russian sleeper agents, Afghani heroin, a Navy SEAL mission, the CIA, NCIS and the Hawaiian governor's task force isn't your run-of-the-mill arms dealer," Tony said. "Especially not when we know Mrs. McGarrett was a sleeper agent on Hawaii herself."
"No surprise the agency wasn't willing to let her leave," Hetty said. "She was quite an effective agent in her day."
"You know Doris McGarrett?" Danny said.
"I knew the woman you know as Doris McGarrett," Hetty said. "We worked together once or twice. Even then she was beginning to become disillusioned with the agency, as many were then. It seemed as though we were often on the wrong side of everything, yet we could hardly do anything else."
"Is that when you joined NCIS?" Tony asked, keeping his voice light.
"In those days, it was still NIS, and would remain so for another two decades," Hetty said. "As you might imagine, I did not meet the minimum height requirements for a sailor, even had I wanted to attend boot camp. But I did manage to find assignments that were more to both my skill set and my taste."
Tony decided he wasn't about to ask. Not after all the urban legends he'd heard about Hetty Lange over the years. Before he could ask the question on his mind, Nell walked in, tablet in hand.
"Yes, Miss Jones?"
Nell turned the tablet around. "We have a location in Hawaii. Chin says it's a warehouse district where you've made some raids before."
"Not just some raids," Danny said after looking at the map. "That's where Sang Min used to have his headquarters."
"Low-level scumbag and human trafficker we put away on our first case. Like a bad penny, he keeps turning up. He's useful, as long as you know you can't trust him. If his boys are involved, it's a good thing you're all coming — they know all of us by sight." Danny leaned against the railing. "They get people on and off the island, so that probably means our boys didn't fly over on Hawaii Air or on those damned black planes."
"CIA wouldn't risk an op by using that type of transport," Tony said. "An African op, or something in the Middle East, sure. But on American soil, far easier to just travel using a cover, or an agency plane."
"Unless the agency raided the warehouse," Hetty said. "Perhaps we have this backward and the agency is working with us."
"And Gibbs suddenly started talking like Abby?" Tony shook his head. "If anything, they're probably trying to cover up their own mess."
"It wouldn't be the first time," Danny said. He set the tea cup down and walked over to where Nell still held the tablet. "Nell, can you find…" He paused, then rattled off an address.
"That's an import-export company," Nell said.
"No, that's the official office of the CIA in Hawaii," Danny said. "After they got on our radar a few years ago, we made sure to keep an eye on where they set up shop. Are there any messages from the warehouse, LA or Langley to that address?"
"We'll find out," Nell said, then she turned and left.
"What are you thinking?" Tony asked.
"I think that just like Doris has gone rogue before — no wonder Steve's such a lone wolf sometimes — we might have a loose cannon in the CIA," Danny said. "If they're trying to keep an op off the official radar-"
"They would have to treat this like infiltrating a foreign country, and one with limited, high-visibility access points," Tony said.
"That narrows this down a little," Danny said. "The only way they could get in through the human traffickers would be if they looked like the came from Asia, or one of the islands scattered between Hawaii and Asia. That's where most of the operations originate."
"While disguises can be quite effective, this is one case where an agent of the proper background would be the first choice," Hetty said. "Concealing the tape that alters the appearance of the eye structure is damnably difficult in close quarters, especially with limited privacy."
"Like a shipping container on a freighter," Tony said, his tone grim.
"On a giant island, that doesn't narrow things down much," Danny said.
"Then I suggest we wait for Miss Jones to return with more information," Hetty said. "Until then, gentleman, please enjoy your tea."
"Does this traffic ever end?" Kono asked.
"Only when you fall into the Pacific," Callen said. "Do you speak Russian?"
"Only Danny does," Kono said. "Even Steve doesn't."
"Then if they draw a gun on you, shoot first and ask questions later," Callen said. "They will."
Gibbs couldn't help a quirk of his lips at that. Not that there was anything to laugh about in this situation.
"Arkady's moved up in the world," he said as they pulled up to a mansion with extensive grounds.
"Capitalism is lucrative, especially when you can scare people into working with you," Callen said. "He doesn't ever have to get involved with the Russian mob — everybody just assumes that if you mess with Arkady, you'll end up running from them."
"I don't scare," Gibbs said.
"Let's hope Arkady remembers that," Callen said.
Gibbs followed Callen to the side door, dodging the guards circling the grounds.
"Knock?" he asked.
"I prefer the informal approach," Callen said. "He'll be at his pool eating dinner."
Sure enough, at the table by the inground pool sat an older version of the KGB agent Gibbs had met during those days of the crumbling Cold War Soviet Union, his last assignment before Paris.
"Old friend, why do you never knock?" Arkady said as they walked up. "And who is-"
"Vy pomnite menya,"Gibbs said. You remember me.
"Gibbs," Arkady said. "Or should I say-"
"No." That alias was going to stay hidden forever if Gibbs had any say over it.
"What brings you to Los Angeles?" Arkady shifted in his chair. "If I had known this was going to be a reunion, I would have prepared more food."
"Anna Pietrovich," Callen said.
"Is good Russian name." Arkady shifted again.
"You know her?" Callen asked.
"Is also common Russian name," Arkady said. "You might as well ask if I know Mr. Jones."
Gibbs took the photo Eric had printed for them from his pocket and slapped it on the table in front of the former agent.
"She is most beautiful," Arkady said. "She reminds me of my third, no, my fourth wife."
"Sneaky, duplicitous and conniving? Can't argue with you there, my friend," Callen said. "She was an asset. Who's her handler?"
"You act as though I still have my old role," Arkady said. "I have been gone from Russian for many years now."
"So has she," Callen said. He pulled up the photo of Anna and her parents when she was a child on his phone and showed it Arkady. "This ring any bells?"
The arch tone of his voice set Gibbs temper to simmer. "It is if you had anything to do with sending her here," he said. "One SEAL is dead, one was almost killed earlier today and two others are in danger."
"I oversaw many operations while I was in Russia, but it was long time ago. Details are fuzzy."
Gibbs leaned in, hands on the table, until he was inches from Arkady's face. "Think harder."
"If the files on that operation still exist, they would be at a very high level," Arkady said. "If she is not working her own angle, she is being directed from the very highest levels of the FSB."
Not until they were back in the car did Gibbs say what he was thinking.
Chapter 9: Hawaii Five-0, Act 1
The next morning, they were in the air at dawn. Well, most of them. Hetty, Eric and Abby had stayed behind to work as many angles as they could from there. Nell pulled her feet up so she was sitting cross-legged on the sling seat and wondered why she got to go.
"You're trained for the field and we need all the help we can get," Callen said, sitting next to her.
"You've been taking classes from Hetty," Nell said once her heart stopped trying to jump out of her chest.
"You're hardly one to talk," Callen said. "Five-0's not like us. They are high-profile, which means everybody on the island knows them. We need agents who can blend in."
"Then I should have dyed my hair," Nell said. She looked around the plane to where everybody had clustered in pairs and small groups. Kensi and Kono were down one end, and based on their movements, they were discussing sniper rifles. McGee was sitting with Grace Williams, reading to her from his tablet. Grace's dad, Tony DiNozzo, Deeks, and Chin-Ho were sitting together, and Nell could hear bits of laughter coming from the group.
"Cop talk," Callen whispered in her ear. "They have different training than us."
"So Gibbs and Sam are talking about their time in the military?" she asked.
"More likely, Sam's trying to get Gibbs to give up embarrassing stories and Gibbs wants to know more about McGarrett," Callen said. "Lucky for me, Deeks says more in ten minutes than Gibbs says in a year."
"Callen…" Nell stopped when she couldn't find the words, but the agent didn't say anything. She realized he was waiting her out. "Steve looked surprised by all the information we found on his mother, but Danny and Chin didn't. Did they know?"
Callen shook his head. "They didn't know the information, but I don't think either one has a high opinion of Doris McGarrett," he said. "There's a reason Michelle isn't active, why Hetty never had children," he said. "What we do is a risky business, and children are the innocents."
Nell remembered Romania. "Children who might be there when they come for you, who then are left behind or used against you," she said.
"My parents apparently did a lot of good work," Callen said.
"But they weren't there for you and your sister, and you needed them." Nell squeezed her eyes shut as she realized she'd said that out loud to the most private person on the team.
"It's okay, Nell," Callen said. "You're not saying anything Sam and Hetty haven't been thinking since you two and the DC Wonder Twins briefed us."
Before Nell could say anything, she heard "Who's got the sat phone?"
Steve sat up near the front of the C-130 in one of the few actual seats to keep his ribs from grinding quite so much. While they were still an hour out, he caught enough of the radio transmission to lean forward.
"What was that?"
"Something at Pearl, but they say it won't affect our landing," the pilot said. "I don't have any more details."
Steve headed back to the main cargo hold, keeping one hand on the vibrating metal side of the plane for balance.
"Who's got the sat phone?" he asked.
Callen held it up. "Why?"
"Something went down at Pearl," he said.
Callen didn't need to hear anything else, just started dialing. "Hetty?" he said. After that, all he did was nod, then hang up.
"Well?" Danny asked.
"Hetty sent an earlier plane as a decoy, after Tony suggested it," Callen said. "As soon as it landed at Pearl, there was an ambush inside the base gates. The Marines on board fought off their attackers, but weren't able to capture them and they escaped."
"They know we're coming," Tony said. "We were afraid of that."
"And they got inside the gates," McGee said. "How secure is Pearl?"
"Because of the Arizona and the Missouri, there are sections of the base open to the public," Steve said. "But the restrictions on what people can bring over to Ford Island are pretty tight — no bags, just what you can hold in your hand."
"Coming from a man whose hands are lethal weapons, that's not a big restriction," Danny said.
"The man has a point," Sam said. "Also, if this is the agency, they could easily have arranged a cache of weapons for anybody who did sneak on."
"If they escaped, they'll be back," McGee said. "We need to be ready for them."
"McGee's right," Chin said. "Especially since we don't know who at Pearl we can trust."
Callen nodded. "Nell, if McGee will let you borrow his tablet, why don't you and Grace go up near the pilots and finish reading."
The little redhead raised an eyebrow, then nodded. "Come on, Grace," she said.
Callen motioned for everybody else to head toward the back of the plane where Kono and Kensi were sitting, then turned to look at Steve. "How bad are those ribs?"
"McGarrett, if we're walking into an ambush, I need to know our plan is solid. How bad?"
"If Sam tried to take me down, I'd probably have to upgrade a couple from cracked to broken," Steve admitted. "Nothing I haven't dealt with before."
"Now I know why I drive Hetty and Sam nuts," Callen said. "Come on."
Steve followed the LA agent, and suppressed a sigh of relief when he was able to sit.
"The landing field at Pearl is big enough for several planes to land," Steve said. "Usually, VIPs come in near the main building."
"But that would give these guys, whoever they are, cover to come take us out," Danny said.
"What if the plane taxied to a spot away from all the buildings?" Kono said. "We would see anybody coming, and the buildings around the airfield are too low for a sniper to get a good shot from that distance unless he was standing, and we'd see that."
"Too much ground to cover," Sam said. "Once we're on the tarmac, we're sitting ducks until we get to someplace secure. The more territory we have to cover, the greater time we're exposed."
"Sam's right," Callen said. "We land near the main building, the way they expect. Kensi, Kono, Gibbs, you'll act as spotters with the rifles. The rest of us will stay back, near the cockpit, until it's clear to leave."
"Who's going to clear the area?" Tony asked.
Steve started to speak.
"Not you." Callen, Tony and Sam all spoke at once.
"Steve, you and Grace don't come off until we're sure it's safe," Sam said. "Too risky." He looked around. "DiNozzo, you and McGee will clear the left side and G and I will take the right."
"What about me and Chin?" Danny said. "Oh, wait, we're the bait, right? Because anybody who knows Five-0 will see us and figure Steve's right behind us, ready to take on the free world with just a knife and his freaky ninja skills."
Steve sighed. "It's a good plan, Danno."
"Yes, yes, it is, and I'm glad to see that just because the Navy made you think you're invincible, the crazy didn't infect these nice NCIS agents," Danny said. "Now all we need is for you to follow the plan instead of going rogue on us, Aquaman. You think you can handle that?"
"Yes, Danno," Steve said, rolling his eyes.
Callen nodded. "Nell will stay back with you and Grace to provide an extra layer of protection. And yes, she knows what she's doing."
Steve just nodded again.
Callen looked around. "We still have a case to solve, so we keep this simple: We get out alive and find a safe place to hole up. If we can capture somebody for intel, that's a bonus, but don't take unnecessary risks." He looked at his watch. "We land in thirty minutes, so get ready."
Steve made his way back to the space where Grace and Nell were reading and forced himself to sit and pretend he was interested, even as they buckled in for the descent and as the wheels bounced down once before rolling along the runway. He could see everybody else lined up, ready for whatever was waiting, and wished he was up there himself.
As the C-130 stopped and the cargo ramp at the back started to lower, Steve moved so whatever happened next, Grace wouldn't see it. Rachel was going to kill Danny as it was for getting Grace involved in this mess.
Sam, Callen, McGee and DiNozzo moved down the ramp, guns at the ready, and Steve waited for the first gunshots to ring out.
Chapter 10: Hawaii Five-0, Act 2
Danny held his gun at the ready as he walked down the metal ramp of the C-130, the Hawaiian sun nearly blinding after the dimness of the metal sardine can they'd been bouncing around in for hours. Los Angeles had palm trees, but they weren't these palm trees, and when had seeing Pearl started to feel like a comfort instead of a reminder he was on a sun-drenched rock with volcanoes and McGarrett explosions around every corner?
He watched the four NCIS agents start to clear the area, and held up a hand to keep Chin behind him. If these sons of bitches who were after Steve were out there, he wanted a clear shot at them.
Danny was glad he had his Chucks with him, not his work shoes, as he paced down the metal ramp, the ridges barely sufficient to keep traction for dress shoes. For once, he was glad this had interrupted a vacation, not a work trip, though Steve was still going to hear about this forever. Once he was safe and Doris was dealt with and they could get rid of all this cloak-and-dagger nonsense and get back to actual police work. The kind-
A balding man in a suit approached and Danny heard Sam say something.
"A stranger? Well, did you expect them to send somebody you knew?" Danny said. "It's not like this is civilized society and the bad guys walk up and sit down for tea and crumpets before mowing us down."
Sam turned to face him. "No, I said 'Granger,' as in the assistant director who oversees our office," he said.
"So a friend," Chin said from behind him.
"Maybe," Callen said. "Sometimes, even we aren't sure of that." But he and Sam holstered their weapons and motioned for Tony and McGee to do the same.
Danny wasn't so sure — he kept his out.
"You people land in more trouble than any team I know," Granger said. "And I hate to ruin your day, Agent Callen, but I'm here to help."
Danny wondered about that, but decided not to ask as Granger motioned for four black SUVs to drive over and take them all to Five-0 HQ.
"I'll be in touch, Agent Callen," Granger said. "The CIA is sending an agent to assist you. Director Vance will provide you with more information once you're safe."
Steve recognized that he wasn't in charge, and forced himself to sit back and let Agents Gibbs and Callen take charge. At least until they got back to HQ. Once inside, he turned to Danny.
"Before we do anything else, we need to get Grace someplace safe," Steve said. "Kamekona?"
"I have to pick between Shamu and Rach?" Danny asked. "Are you trying to drive me insane? No, wait, that goes without saying."
"Fine, Kamekona," Danny said. "At least then we won't have to explain why we're back two days early and why Grace is caught up in your crazy again."
"Have Kono bring her over," Steve said. "We need to figure out a plan."
"Have Kono-" Danny sighed. "Yes, Steven, I will have Kono take my daughter to a shrimp truck safehouse." He walked off and Steve watched him go, wondering how much trouble Rachel was going to cause over this.
"You don't think Grace is in danger?" Callen asked.
"Not with Kamekona, and not on the island," Steve said. "Danny might be, once Rachel finds out about this whole mess."
"That's Grace's mom?" Callen said.
"Yeah, and she and Danny are cordial at best," Steve said. "She couldn't live with the kind of danger Danny put himself in as a cop, and any time she thinks Grace might be in danger because of his job, things get ugly. Uglier." He sighed. "The governor — the old governor — stepped in once, and I've spoken to Rachel a couple of times, but one of these days, something will happen and she won't listen."
"Danny doesn't need to worry," Callen said. "Hetty and Jethro will talk to Rachel if need be."
"Two agents who don't have kids?" Steve said. "That's not going to help."
Callen was quiet for a few seconds, then said, "Jethro had a daughter." He paused again. "She and her mother were killed while he was in Kuwait in Desert Storm. They witnessed a murder of a Marine by a cartel member, and Shannon agreed to testify. The Mexican drug dealer killed both of them, and the two agents protecting them."
Steve looked over at Callen, whose face was a careful blank. "How old?"
"She was eight," Callen said. "I was five when my mother was killed in front of me and my sister. They didn't try to kill us. Just her, because of who she was."
"Wo Fat didn't come after me or Mary until he thought my parents were both dead," Steve said. "But Danny doesn't make enemies like that."
"It doesn't have to be an enemy," Callen said. "And I've seen Danny — he protects her. If anything happens to Grace, it will be in spite of him, not because of him. Hetty and Jethro will make that clear to Rachel if she tries to make trouble."
"Let's hope that after today, that's our only worry," Steve said. "Because if we don't stop this crew from whatever they're planning, they have bioweapon in their hands that could wipe out the world, and that's a pretty good consolation prize if they fail to get my mom."
Before Callen could reply, McGee called them over.
"We've got trouble," he said when everybody except Kono was gathered around the table. "Vance just sent us a secure message. The agent the CIA sent to help us is Kort."
"Kort?" The Washington and LA teams spoke in unison, except for Nell.
"Who's Kort?" Danny asked.
"Trent Kort, CIA scumbag," Tony said.
"You've worked with him?" Callen said.
"Not by choice," McGee said. "We have… history with him."
"You're not the only one," Callen said, his tone grim.
Nell was tapping away at the computer table. "His file is highly classified and heavily redacted, but he's listed as inactive," she said.
"Trying to get back in the game," Gibbs said.
"Every time he tries to get back on the floor, we end up taking all the fouls," Tony retorted. "If you see a guy with a British accent and an eyepatch, go the other way as fast as you can."
"We're running from Capt. Jack Sparrow?" Danny said. "Great. I can hear us trying to explain this one to the Governor now."
"I thought Director Vance said Kort was here to help us," Chin said.
"Kort doesn't help anybody but himself," McGee said. "If he's here, it's because he thinks we can help him."
"Is that what happened in what was it, Operation Lodestone?" Danny asked. "The one you mentioned back in Washington."
"Don't mention that fiasco," Tony said, his tone starkly tenser than at any other point. "Just… don't."
"Yes, Lodestone was where we first met Kort, but we've had several run-ins with him since then," McGee said. "None of them ended well. The last one ended with SecNav resigning."
Steve whistled. "I heard there was something unusual about that change of command, but I never heard details."
"You don't want to," McGee and Tony said.
"If Kort's on our side, who does that leave on the other side?" Chin asked.
"Probably nobody good," Nell said. "Sam…"
"Agent Snyder is assigned to the Honolulu office — they pulled him off the Siderov case and sent him here."
"Now I'm really glad Michelle and the kids are in New Orleans," Sam said. "If Frisbee is involved, we've got even bigger problems."
"Don't ask," Callen told the others. "Let's just say we don't have a lot of regard for Agent Snyder."
"We need a plan," Steve said.
Nell's phone dinged. "Eric and Abby have something for us," she said.
Chin pulled up the video conferencing software and connected them with the OSP office.
"Guys, we've got a location," Eric said.
"Not a location, location, like where they're hiding out, but we know where they are now," Abby said. "Kaleidoscope — Gibbs, we need to get this for McGee to use — located the cars that were parked by the building in the warehouse district. They're down at a beach. Pupukea."
"Bad guys who take a beach break?" Kensi said. "Eric, are you guys sure about this."
"That's not just any beach," Chin said. "That's one of Kono's favorite surfing spots on the North Shore, and everybody up there knows her."
"So they can show up, pretend they were supposed to meet her there for some reason and get the people on the beach to help them find Kono," Callen said. "Find Kono and you find the rest of the team sooner or later."
"Babe, if they're up on the North Shore-" Danny said.
But Steve already had his phone out.
"Who's he calling?" Tony asked.
"Kawika," Danny said. "Head of the Kapu."
"The Kapu protect the North Shore," Chin said. "Kawika will make sure nobody gives out any information until we get there."
"Looks like we're going to the beach," Callen said.
Chapter 11: Hawaii Five-0, Act 3
Callen reached into the bag Hetty had sent with him and wasn't surprised to find swim trunks and a loose tank top. "She always knows," he said. "Steve, where can we change?"
"Locker rooms, around the corner. Kono, show Kensi and Nell where to go. Callen, you and Tony can follow Chin."
"I hate to say it, but I didn't bring a suit," Tony said. "I didn't figure on going to Hawaii when I left Washington, much less to the beach."
"I've got a suit for you," Callen said. "Hetty probably figured we were headed here before you guys even landed."
"She gets spookier every day," Deeks said. He bent down and rifled his bag, then pulled out two pairs of trunks. "McGee, these must be yours."
Callen watched as Kensi pulled out a yellow bikini that he'd seen her wear at the beach before, then looked over to see Nell pull out a dark green two-piece and a large tube of sunscreen. "Oh, good," she said. "Otherwise I'd look like a Christmas decoration by the time we finished this."
"How come only Callen has a T-shirt?" McGee asked.
"Bullet scars," Callen said. "They'll attract too much attention. You and Deeks will have your towels nearby to hide your guns, and Tony, you'll have to carry a towel to hide yours."
"This is why it's a good thing we can carry beach bags," Kensi said to Nell. "Come on, let's get ready."
As soon as the women had left, Gibbs turned to Callen. "She ready for this?"
"Nell's been in the field before, and she does all the same qualifications that the other agents do," Callen said. "She'll be fine."
"I hope so," Tony said. "We need to get these guys, soon. Before they infect anything else with this heart-exploding bio-weapon."
Chin took his board out on the waves and paddled.
"Good thing we have waterproof earwigs now," Kono said from her perch up on the ridge. "Everybody in position, brah?"
Chin scanned the beach. He could see Deeks and McGee over near Mamo's surf stand listening for anybody who tried to approach Mamo. Kensi and DiNozzo were walking down the beach one way, while Nell and Callen came the other way. He spotted a few of the Kapu scattered around the beach. "All good," he said.
Chin sat on his board and watched, and wondered if Danny, Gibbs and Sam Hanna had managed to keep Steve in HQ. The SEAL had bitterly protested about staying put until they managed to convince him that he needed to prep the teams for the tactical assault once they had a lock on the targets. Chin hoped Sam and Gibbs were ready for an attack plan that included grenade launchers and whatever else Steve got it in his brain to try.
He saw the men pass Kensi and Tony's position several feet above where they were walking. "Callen, Nell, they're about 100 feet from the sidewalk, headed your way," he said.
"Good thing Kawika made sure to have some umbrella drinks handy," Callen said, his tone light. "Ready, Nell?"
Chin watched as the agents made their play.
Deeks watched as McGee lay on the surfboard and pretended to paddle through the sand, then popped up.
"You've done this before," he said quietly, moving in to pretend he was adjusting the agent's stance.
"When my dad was stationed at Coronado, my little sister begged to learn how," McGee said. "I had to learn so I could teach her. It's been years since I've been on a surfboard."
"It's like sex and riding a bike — you never forget how," Deeks said.
The snort of laughter through the coms sounded like Kensi at first, then Deeks realized it was DiNozzo.
"Don't start, Tony," McGee muttered.
"I was just trying to picture Abby on a surfboard," Tony said, his voice the sound of perfect innocence.
"They don't make them with umbrellas," McGee said. "And if she knew you'd said that…"
"She'd be making comments right back, McPrude," Tony said. "She always does."
"Guys, I don't think we want to know where this conversation is going," Callen interrupted.
"And Tony, I can hear you," Abby said. "We'll talk later, mister."
So Deeks settled for shooting McGee a questioning look. The smirk on his face combined with the short skirt Abby had been wearing when they showed up the day before had Deeks re-evaluating the skinny agent in front of him. But he put that thought aside.
"Fern, you getting any nibbles?" he asked.
"I see a couple of suspicious-looking guys, but we're too far away from them," she said. "Callen, Nell, this one's on you."
"We'll be ready when they head to Mamo's," Deeks said.
Nell clutched the small tube in one hand and a tall glass in the other as she waded through the sand.
"Don't forget, you're supposed to be tipsy," Callen said, putting his hand around her shoulders as though she needed the support.
"If that drink had actually been real, I'd have alcohol poisoning," Nell said as she stumbled and lurched against him. "That's a drink for somebody Sam's size."
"See, you'll be even more convincing," Callen said.
"I'd better be," Nell said. "If we don't get them tagged with Overwatch, we're in trouble."
Callen steered her toward the men they were targeted, but made it look like they were headed for the parking lot. "Resist," he whispered, then raised his voice. "Darcy, honey, why don't we go back to the hotel."
"Nuh-uh," Nell said, lurching away, then crossing her foot over to lurch back. She raised her voice. "Wanna stay on the beach."
"Sweetheart, we really should go back," Callen said, reaching out for her and "missing" her shoulder as she stumbled a few feet away, toward the two men. "This sun is a lot stronger than in Iowa. You'll burn."
"We came here to go to the beach," Nell said, her words slurring. "I wanna stay on the beach." She stepped one way, then stumbled a few more feet until she ran into the two men they were targeting. "Huh," she said, flailing and dumping the remains of the drink in her cup all over them.
Callen rushed over. "I'm so sorry," he said. "The drinks are so strong here, we didn't realize…" He let his voice trail off as he tried to help Nell up in such a way that she could crash into the other man.
"We have two Overwatch signatures." Eric's voice was quiet in his ear. "Better get out of there before they get suspicious."
"Darcy, let me help you," Callen said, picking Nell up in his arms. "I'm really, really, sorry," he said, letting a touch of embarrassment seep into his voice. "We're-"
"Don't worry about it," one man said. "Better take her home to sleep it off."
Callen nodded and carried Nell off to the parking lot until they were out of sight of the men. "You're up, Deeks," he said as the men crossed the stand. "Is Mamo ready?"
"Is Kensi a slob?"
Nell snickered at the comments in their earwigs, then looked up at him. "Callen, I think you can put me down now."
"Not until we're completely out of their sight," he said. "Besides, you lost a flip-flop in your drunken ramblings and you'll burn your feet."
"Plenty of slippahs in the car," Chin said.
"Slippers?" Nell said.
"That's what they call flip-flops here," came Danny's voice over the coms. "If these guys don't head someplace soon, we're going to have to tie Steve down — he's ready to go all Rambo on them."
McGee watched as the men approached the surf stand. Chin had briefed Mamo before they started, but McGee was still waiting for this to go pear-shaped with everything else.
"Pretend you're frustrated," Deeks whispered. "Walk away."
McGee didn't even acknowledge the cop's words, just let his arms flail out as he tried to pop up. "I'm never going to get the hang of this," he said. "Learn in an hour. Sure. That's a great pitch for tourists like me who don't know you're just trying to make a fast buck." He walked away, ignoring Deeks' efforts to make him stay, and headed for the surf stand. He could hear the men talking.
"I saw her compete once," the first man was saying. His voice had no accent that McGee could detect, not even one that placed him in a U.S. region. "Such a shame when she got hurt. But somebody at our hotel said she still surfs here often."
"That one's been on a surfboard since she was a keikei," Mamo said. "She comes out here two, three times a week. You can tell as soon as you see her on a stick that it's the great Kono." He pretended to look out over the water. "I don't see her here today, though."
"Thanks. Guess we don't get to add that to our list of great Hawaiian sights we were able to see on this vacation," the second man said.
They walked away, headed for the parking lot. McGee turned to look at Deeks. "Did it seem like they gave up easily to you."
"Too easily," Deeks said.
"Guys, we have two signatures headed out — in different directions," Eric said.
"Two locations, two teams," Steve said. "Chin, Kono, get everybody back here so we can gear up and head out."
"Be careful, ladies and gentlemen," Hetty said. "We do not know what we're dealing with, and these men are likely quite ruthless. I do not want to explain to Director Vance or Governor Denning why any of you didn't come home from this op."
Chapter 12: Hawaii Five-0, Act 4
AN: Yes, this is FINALLY done. I did not intend to leave everybody hanging for five years, I swear. Life got a little hectic (two moves, three+ jobs at two different companies, taking up running again, marathon training, etc.), but I was determined to finish this before moving (again) this week. Hopefully it lives up to expectations. One note: Everybody in the field can hear the people at Five-0 headquarters and in LA, but the folks in the field can only be heard by others if they activate their mics. Otherwise there’s too much cross-talk. Oh, and as a reminder, this is set in 2013/2014-ish, during the gap between Ziva and Ellie on NCIS, before the S4 finale on LA and before Kono and Adam flee on H5-0 — but Doris McGarrett has left Hawaii and her whereabouts are unknown.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Sam stood to the side of the computer table in the Five-0 office and watched the screen with the data Eric and Abby were feeding them from LA. Gibbs was across from him, with Steve and Danny at the head of the table.
“Guys, it looks like one team is turning off on Farrington,” Eric said.
Abby chimed in. “Steve, do you or Danny have any idea where they might be headed? That part of the island doesn’t look as developed.”
“It’s not,” Steve said. “If they’re trying to hide, Mokule’ia Forest is a good spot.”
“No, see, if the CIA is behind this, which it seems they are, we should be thinking like them, Steve,” Danny said, hands moving as fast as his words. “If they’re bringing in one of those black planes-”
“Coming in dark,” Steve said.
“Whatever. My point, Steven, is that if the CIA is involved, that these scumbags are probably headed for Dillingham.”
“That’s correct.” At the sound of the British accent from behind him, Sam turned.
“Kort,” Gibbs said. “Wondered when you’d show up.”
“You weren’t kidding about the eye patch,” Danny said.
“No, Detective Williams, he was not,” Kort said. “The result of a narrow escape from a serial killer a few years ago.”
Sam was not going to ask. “Do you know they’re headed for Dillingham, or are you just guessing?” he asked.
“They’re headed there,” Kort said.
“Eric, can you and Abby find that plane and figure out an ETA?” Sam said.
“So there’s a plane coming in dark to Dillingham,” Steve said. “Where’s the other car headed?”
“Still on Kamehameha, headed back toward Honolulu,” Eric said.
“Sand Island, but it’s a trap,” Kort said at the same time.
“Sand Island again?” Deeks was audibly rolling his eyes. “Isn’t that where you guys found the smallpox testing site?”
“It’s a small island,” Steve said. “Kort, what do you—”
“Whoa!” Abby shouted. “Gibbs, Gibbs, Gibbs!”
Sam looked over to see the forensic scientist bouncing up and down on the screen.
“Whaddya got Abbs?” Gibbs asked.
“There’s chatter coming in from across Asia and the Pacific Rim that McGarrett’s dead,” she said. “I can’t tell where it started because it surfaced in several places at the same time.”
“That’s because the CIA is behind it,” Kort said.
Gibbs motioned for him to continue, even as Danny opened his mouth and grabbed Steve’s arm to keep him from advancing on the CIA agent.
“As I was saying,” Kort said. “Unless you would rather attack me than hear what I have to know?”
Steve held up his hands and stepped back, and Danny mimed zipping his lips.
“The CIA put out the word that McGarrett was dead to lure a former asset out of hiding, after they were unable to track her,” Kort said.
“What does the CIA want with my mother?” Steve said, and Sam wondered if G would be dealing with things like this if his mother was still alive or if Steve’s mother was uniquely problematic.
“A better question might be why the car headed back toward Honolulu has just dropped back behind us.” Chin sounded calm, but he’d sounded the same way throughout the smallpox case, so Sam wasn’t buying it. “Cuz, you still see them, right?”
“We don’t have to track them,” Sam said. “Eric can monitor them with Overwatch. If this is going down, we need to get everybody back here and geared up.”
“Mr. Hanna is quite right,” Hetty said. “Make haste in returning, and let Eric and Abby focus on tracking these miscreants.” She stepped up so her face filled the screen. “Now, Mr. Kort, perhaps you should finish telling us what you know.”
“The CIA plans to use the research the Naval Lab has been developing in a few operations,” Kort said. “Somebody who looked at the file saw McGarrett had been involved with the original operation to extract the scientist, and decided the Agency could take care of two problems at once.”
“Remove anybody who might know this research existed, and find their former operative,” Gibbs said.
“She might be their agent, but she’s my mother,” Steve said. “Besides, I didn’t know what the research was. None of us did.”
“He’s right,” Sam said. “We knew just enough to complete our mission, and the research wasn’t part of the brief.”
“Hey guys, we have a problem.” Kono’s voice broke in, followed by a screech.
“Boss, that second car dropped back again and is now trying to run us off the road.” Sam couldn’t tell which agent that was, until Gibbs said, “We’re on it DiNozzo.”
“Kono, you got this?” Steve asked.
“ Could use a distraction.”
“DiNozzo, check the glove box,” Steve said. “You should find a distraction in there.”
“What have I told you about storing grenades in my car?” Danny said. “Although yes, they are probably helpful now, but still. No normal car needs its own stash of explosives.”
Steve held up a hand as he dialed a phone. “Cath, where are you?” he asked, then listened. “Great. We need some help. Kono’s driving Danny’s car, and the guys we’re after are trying to run her off the road on Kamehameha.” He gave her the coordinates. “Thanks, Cath. I owe you.”
“You still with Lieutenant Rollins?” Sam said, but wasn’t surprised when Steve ignored him.
“Kono, Cath’s going to run interference for you,” he said. “She’s about eight minutes out. DiNozzo, watch for a blue ‘73 Corvette Stingray, and don’t throw any of those party favors at it.”
“Classic like that? Not a chance.”
“Chin, get back here, fast. Danny, call Duke and give him a heads-up before HPD gets in the middle of this.” Steve rubbed a hand over his face. “OK, we need to split into two teams, one to Sand Island and one to Dillingham.”
“Haven’t you been listening?” Kort said. “Sand Island is a trap.” He walked forward until he was less than a foot in front of Steve. “The Agency knows how Five-0 operates, McGarrett. They’ve set this up to draw you and your team out to Sand Island so they can ambush you. Abduct Kalukaua, force you and your team to ride to the rescue, then attack you.”
“They clearly have never seen Kono’s roundhouse kick,” Danny said.
“And they are at Sand Island,” Steve said. “So we go in and take them out before they’re expecting us.”
“Steve, you are not walking into a trap, I don’t care if you are Super-SEAL,” Danny said. “We are going to figure out how to do this so nobody ends up dead.”
“I can get a couple of people close to the Agency’s Sand Island location,” Kort said. “My face won’t ping their radar, so one person in the trunk and another in the backseat can get in unnoticed.”
“G and Nell,” Sam said. “She stands the best chance of hiding in the backseat, and G has experience coming out of car trunks firing.”
“Just as long as you’re not beating on me first. This is not going to be another ‘turned on my partner’ play.” G’s voice wasn’t as cranky as his words, at least.
“No worries, partner,” Sam said. “If we do this right, you’ll slip out where nobody can see either of you.”
“I’m eight minutes out,” Chin said.
Sam looked over at Steve, who looked like he was arguing with Danny without saying a word.
“Fine!” Danny threw up his hands. “But not until we hear back from these nice LA agents that they succeeded.”
Sam turned to face Steve. “What did Danny just agree to?” he asked his old teammate.
“As soon as Callen and Jones clear Sand Island, we take out the bastard trying to run Kono off the road, then head to Dillingham,” Steve said.
“About that.” Tony’s voice silenced the room.
Tony braced himself as he reached for the grenades in the glove compartment of the Camaro. “You people usually store explosives in your cars?” he asked as Kono swerved between cars on the highway.
“Bossman does, even though this is Danny’s car,” she said. “I’m glad he insisted we take it if we’re-” The other car bumped them from behind. “Playing bumper cars with these okoles .” She sped up and squeezed in a space smaller than anything even Ziva would have attempted. Tony decided he wouldn’t mention that.
Deeks was swearing in the backseat. Tony glanced back to see Kensi had turned around. “No sign of the Corvette yet,” she said, gun in one hand. “I could take out a tire, but with all the traffic—”
“Too risky,” Tony said. “Kono, is there someplace along here we can take this off the highway?”
“As soon as—” Kono grinned. “The Navy has arrived!”
Tony glanced over to see a metallic blue beauty had pulled up parallel to them. Kono looked over to the woman with long, dark hair, grinned, and took a hand off the wheel enough to motion, her body hiding the movement from the car behind them.
“Hang on,” she said. “We’ve got to do this before we get into Waipi’o.”
The Corvette dropped back and Kono started moving toward the right lane, followed by the dirtbag’s car. McGarrett’s Navy friend was in that car’s blind spot, also moving over toward the right.
“Everybody, brace yourselves,” Kono said. She beeped the horn twice, then slowed. The Corvette boxed in the dirtbag on the left, so his only option was off the road, into farm fields.
Kono pulled over, and Tony was out as soon as she was off the highway, Deeks and Kensi right behind him. All three trained their guns on him.
“Hands on the wheel,” Tony said. The man scowled, but did. “Deeks.”
“Right.” The detective advanced and got the man out of the car, then searched him. “Kens, look at this.” He flipped a wallet backward without looking.
Kensi caught it and opened it, then held it up so Tony could see. “State Department,” she said.
“I don’t understand why Langley doesn’t come up with a better cover that doesn’t scream ‘I’m a spook’,” Tony said. “Boss, we got our guy and he’s definitely related to our least-favorite pirate.”
“I don’t want to know, do I?” said the sailor with the muscle car.
“Cath, at least wait for the Danny version for entertainment,” Kono said. “Now what?”
“Give me a minute,” Tony said. He walked over to Cath. “Hi, I’m NCIS, and I’m pretty sure you know how to use this.” He offered her his gun. “If you wouldn’t mind helping everybody else make sure Mr. CIA behaves while I question him?”
“My pleasure,” Cath said. She leaned closer and lowered her voice. “Commander Joe White used to run SAD operations during his time with the SEALs, and he taught Steve everything he knows. You might find his name useful if your spook doesn’t want to talk.”
Tony nodded, and turned, walking up to where the CIA agent was still braced against the car. “Turn around,” he said. When the man complied, he gave him a Gibbsian stare. “We have you. We know about Operation Strawberry Fields, and that you and the rest of your group of spooks went rogue and killed a former SEAL, attempted to kill Commander McGarrett and targeted former Master Chief Hanna, who is an NCIS agent.” He grinned, the one Abby compared to a shark’s smile. “I don’t take kindly to people who try to kill NCIS agents, especially when they’re from the CIA. Neither does my boss.”
“Your boss?” The man looked bored, but the question popped out anyway.
“Leroy Jethro Gibbs. And if you have any doubts about the wrath he’ll unleash on anybody from the Agency who messes with an NCIS agent, well, just ask Kort about his first run-in with Gibbs, during Operation Lodestone.” Tony grinned. “So, when is the plane landing at Dillingham.”
“We aren’t-” He stopped. “I don’t know what you’re talking about. Dillingham Airfield is basically abandoned.”
“Wrong answer,” Tony said. “And you know it, because you’re lying your little spook heart out. I wonder, if you told the truth, would it grow three sizes? Or are you so far gone, you’re worse off than the Grinch?”
“You’re crazy.” The CIA agent started inching away.
“Ah, ah, ah. No moving,” Tony said. “You see, I might despise your sneaky CIA ways and desire to kill an NCIS agent, but everybody else here? They work with either Hanna or McGarrett. I’m the best friend you’ve got right now, because with them, it’s personal. I just hate you on principle.”
“I want a lawyer,” he replied.
“Now, see, that’s where pulling off this caper in Hawaii was your bad decision,” Tony said. “In case nobody told you and the rest of your spooky gang, the Five-0 task force has— What do you call it, Kono?”
“Full immunity and means,” she said. “Besides, we all know there’s no way this case is ever going to court. So if I were you, I’d listen to Agent DiNozzo.”
“Or we could take him back and let McGarrett interrogate him.” Tony smirked. “After the Agency targeted him and his mother, I’m sure he’ll go easy on Agent—”
“Matthews,” the man said.
“So, Agent Matthews, will you tell me, or would you rather take your chances with McGarrett?”
“I’d talk to DiNozzo,” Deeks said. “McGarrett and Sam Hanna interrogating you? That’s going to be worth making popcorn to watch.”
“Usually only Gibbs interrogations are good enough for popcorn, but I’ll give you that one Deeks. Especially since I heard something about a shark tank…” Tony made his grin as big as he could. “So-” He stopped as he heard the conversation from the palace, then activated his mic. “About that,” he said. “Nobody needs to come help us. We’re about to bring Agent Matthews in for questioning. Seems he’d rather not talk to me, even though I warned him McGarrett and Sam were waiting for him.”
Tony listened for a second, then moved so he could see the rest of the team. “Kono, you and Kensi get back to the palace. Sounds like your sniper skills are needed. Deeks, if you wouldn’t mind keeping an eye on this joker while I drive, I’ll follow Catherine back.”
“Oh, Steve’s going to owe me two dinners for this one,” Cath said as Kono and Kensi left. “Come on, let’s go.”
“I’m sure the CIA can find this car later,” Tony said, taking his gun back from her. “Deeks, if he tries anything, shoot him.”
“With pleasure,” Deeks said.
“Nell, you getting this?” Callen asked as they watched Chin use his lights and siren to clear a path back to the palace.
“We’re going in with Kort to Sand Island?” she said. “Who knew being the short one had advantages sometimes.”
“Hetty,” they both said at once.
In the front seat, McGee’s phone beeped once. “Abby and Eric think they found the plane headed for Dillingham,” he said. “Looks like it won’t arrive for another 90 minutes.”
“It will only take us half that to get there, less if we use the lights,” Chin said.
Callen nodded. “McGee, your team has dealt with Kort more than I have. How much can we trust him?”
“Tony doesn’t trust him at all, but that’s because Kort once blew up his car,” McGee said. “Gibbs, well… Usually when Kort comes to us, it’s because he thinks we can help him. As long as helping us also helps him, he’s reliable.”
“That’s … not very reassuring,” Callen said. “So, why is he helping us now?”
“Well, the original mission was against the Russians, which means they’re the ones most likely to be angry if they found out the CIA had stolen their research,” Nell said.
“You’re forgetting Doris McGarrett,” Chin said. “Most of her work was in Asia, and she has a lot of enemies. She knows where a lot of bodies are buried. She put some of them there.”
“If she still knows enough to be dangerous, maybe Kort thinks getting on her good side will help him at the Agency,” McGee said.
“This is why I left the CIA,” Callen said. “NCIS involves getting shot at a lot more, but at least I know who’s on my side.”
“So, Kort could be leading us into a trap,” Nell said.
“Only if he has a death wish,” McGee said. “He knows better than to double-cross Gibbs, or he should by now.”
That “should” kept echoing in Callen’s head as they returned to the palace, geared up, and hid in the sedan Kort was driving for the trip to Sand Island. He braced himself as they pulled onto a dirt road on the small island, probably not far from where the smallpox testing space had been.
He listened, then heard three quick thumps, a pause, and then a fourth — the signal for him to get out.
The car slowed, but never stopped as Callen eased his way out of the trunk, pushing the lid down quietly once he was out. Nell already was crouched in the shadows, shielded from view of the building by a stack of empty pallets. Kort continued driving at that same glacial pace.
“Kort says the men we want are in this building,” she said.
“Satellite thermals show three people in the northwest corner,” Eric said.
“Blueprints from the city building department show a small room in that corner, likely an office,” Gibbs said. “G, remember Gdansk?”
G scanned the building, noting windows and doors. “That’ll work. Now, radio silence until this is over, in case they’re scanning our frequency.”
“Gdansk?” Nell looked up at him.
“The office is on this wall, at that end,” Callen said, motioning. “We move along this wall to the office window, then I’ll pop up firing at them. That will force them into the main warehouse area, which should be empty based on Kort’s information. You’ll be waiting at that doorway to pin them down, and I’ll come around to join you.”
After everything else that had happened so far, the takedown was anticlimatic. By the time Callen joined Nell at the doorway, two CIA agents were on the ground and this third was putting his gun down.
Callen trained his gun on them. “Nell, do you have enough zipties?”
She nodded as she holstered her gun. “Shouldn’t there be more people here?”
Callen had been wondering the same thing. “Let’s take a look around once they’re secure.” He flipped on his mic. “Sand Island is secure,” he said. “Three hostiles, all alive.”
“Danno, call Duke and have him send a couple of squad cars over,” Steve said. “Make sure he knows they need to go to the Palace, though, not HPD.”
“Send Gibbs with them,” Callen said. “He’ll get answers faster than anybody.”
“No need, Mr. Callen,” Hetty said. “Assistant Director Granger is already at HPD briefing the chief, and will make sure these rogue operatives don’t talk their way out of custody.” She paused, then added. “Although, Jethro, I imagine you and Owen could get quite a lot of information from them if you were to team up.”
Nell’s eyes widened at that, and Callen heard somebody snort on the comms, but he couldn’t tell who. “Thanks, Hetty,” he said. “McGarrett, we’ll look for any intel on what they’re planning at Dillingham while we wait for HPD.”
“Roger that,” McGarrett said.
“Nell, I’ll guard them,” Callen said. “You go see what you can find in the office.”
She nodded and disappeared, returning a few minutes later with a folder stuffed with papers, two laptops and a thumb drive.
“If we get these back to the palace and upload them, Eric, Abby and I can analyze what we have while the rest of you are driving to Dillingham,” she said.
Callen thought about it for a second. “We’ll still have 10 people for Dillingham, even with you and Gibbs staying behind.”
“That should be plenty,” Nell said, then activated her mic. “It doesn’t look like they have many people up at Dillingham. They must be figuring it won’t take too many people to handle Mrs. McGarrett.”
“Then we know one more thing about them: They definitely never met my mother.” McGarrett sounded resigned.
Just then, they heard sirens and cars outside. “HPD is here,” Callen said. “We’ll be back at the palace in a few minutes.”
Sure enough, when they walked outside, Kort was waiting. “This is the last time today I play chauffeur,” he said.
Back at the palace, Steve enlisted Sam’s help to pull equipment from the armory. “Listen, man, I really appreciate you and your team coming all this way to help,” Steve said.
“You still owe me a steak dinner,” Sam said. “You weren’t here the last time I was in Hawaii.”
Steve switched off his mic, and motioned for Sam to do the same. “Yeah, I was in Japan. Looking for Shelburne, who turned out to be my mother.” Steve paused. “You ever chase down something that seemed so important, and then when you found out, wished you’d stopped before you got there?”
“You and G should talk. He’s been looking for answers about his family for a long time, and every bit he learns satisfies him for a minute, then he’s back looking for more.”
“Yeah? I doubt he ever found out his mother was CIA,” Steve said. When Sam didn’t reply, he looked over to see his former teammate smiling at him. “Really?”
“And her father was OSS,” Sam said. “G worked for the agency for a while, too. But that work got his grandfather and mother killed, and almost got the rest of us killed a year or so ago.”
“Wait, I think Danno mentioned something about this. A blood feud, or something?” Steve thought back to the wave of words that his partner had deluged him with after he returned from Japan and needed something to wash away all the questions he still had. “I thought he was exaggerating.”
“G’s life is just that weird,” Sam said. “Sounds like maybe yours is, too.”
“So do you want me to give him advice, or him to give me advice?” Steve asked, recognizing the tone in Sam’s voice.
“Maybe I just think you each have some perspective the other might benefit from,” Sam said. “Now come on, let’s finish this thing so I can get my steak.”
“Sounds like Kono’s back,” Steve said as noise filtered into the armory. He flipped his mic back on, then headed back to the main room, Sam following.
“So, here’s the plan,” Steve said. “Kono, you and Kensi head out now in your car. There’s just the one runway, so set up where between the two of you, you can cover the most ground.”
Kono nodded and the two women headed for the door.
“Jones will stay here and work with Beale and Scuito. Gibbs and Granger can handle interrogation,” Steve said. “That leaves eight of us for the rest of the op. Four pairs: Hanna and Callen, McGee and DiNozzo, Deeks and Chin, me and Danny.”
He paused to listen to Nell’s report from Sand Island, and tried not to sigh. “Then we know one more thing about them: They clearly never met my mother,” he said. As he was listening to Callen’s reply, Cath walked in. “The guys are putting your spook in interrogation,” she said. “Anything I can help with?”
“We could use another set of hands to sort through all the intel that NCIS is bringing back here,” Steve said. He quickly introduced her to all the visiting agents. “OK, everybody gear up. Sam, you and Callen will ride with me and Danny. Everybody else, go with Chin.”
“Babe, then we’re either taking your truck or two cars,” Danny said, grabbing the Camaro’s keys from him.
“We’ll take the truck,” Steve said. He needed Danny’s words to distract him on the drive up. Why couldn’t Doris be a normal mother?
“What about Kort?” Sam asked.
Before Steve could say anything, Gibbs replied. “He stays here, where I can watch him,” he said.
“I heard that, Gibbs,” came the British voice through the coms. “I promise, I’m on your side.”
DiNozzo snorted and McGee rolled his eyes.
“Let’s go.” Steve led the way outside. Chin headed out, McGee, Deeks and DiNozzo with him.
The closer they got to Dillingham, the tighter the skin around Steve’s eyes got. Not for the first time, Danny wished Doris McGarrett had actually died in a car accident back in 1992. Or at the very least, that once she’d returned from two decades on the run, that she had retired and spent her time with the two kids who’d mourned her when she’d faked her death. This... This... This rejoining the CIA and going on missions and making new enemies who decided to use Super-SEAL as bait, that was too much. He ignored the voice in the back of his head, who sounded remarkably like a pissy Steve, pointing out that this wasn’t solely because of a new mission of his mother’s, it was because of the original one he was involved with, and he’d be in the cross-hairs even if she was actually dead.
But he couldn’t actually say any of this to Steve’s face, not now, so he rambled on about Grace and cheerleading and her pleas to go surfing next weekend, baiting Steve into a defense of surfing as though Danny was still the schmuck who refused to set foot near a longboard. Sure, he was no Kono, but he surfed more than he probably should with his bum knee.
He caught Hanna and Callen exchanging glances, but neither one told him to shut up, so he could only hope that they understood what Steve needed now was a tidal wave of words to drown out the ghosts in his head.
The com crackled in his ear, a burst of static, then Cath said “The plane’s twenty minutes out, coming in low.”
“Roger that,” Steve said. “We’re almost at Dillingham now. Chin, Kono, everybody in place?”
“We’re set in overwatch, Bossman,” Kono said.
“North side of the runway is covered,” Chin replied.
That left the south side for them. More buildings for cover, but more people, too, with the main building on that side. Danny vowed that whatever else happened today, nobody else was dying. Except maybe a CIA agent or two.
They piled out of the truck and Steve motioned. Hanna and Callen went one way and Danny followed Steve over to their spot, concealed from prying eyes by stacked shipping containers. By the time they were in place, Cath was back on coms.
“Three people in the warehouse next to DiNozzo and McGee,” she said. “Another two in a car by the west gate.
“Chin, see if you four can take out the three in the warehouse,” Steve said. “Quietly, so the two by the gate aren’t alerted.”
“And if they are?” Danny said. “We cannot, repeat, cannot move without a plan for what happens if this goes like every other case and we have a hail of gunfire.”
“Chill, brah,” Kono said. “If it gets loud, we can cover and take them out if you can’t cross the tarmac in time.”
“We’ll get there in time,” Steve said. “Danno, we have to take these guys down before that plane lands. You know that.”
“Yes, yes, I know. But when this is over and your mother is safe, I want words with the CIA.” If Steve wanted to put somebody in a shark tank, Danny had a couple of candidates, starting with whoever was behind this disaster of a plan.
“If you ladies are done, we’re going to move on three,” Chin said.
“I’m done,” Danny said, throwing up his hands.
“Yes, on three,” Steve said.
Danny listened to grunts coming through the earwigs, but no shots rang out.
“One down,” DiNozzo said.
“Two down.” McGee sounded out of breath, but triumphant.
“You don’t want to do that,” Chin said. “Put the gun down.” Danny could hear talking in the background, but not the words. Then it abruptly cut off.
“Three down,” Deeks said.
“Chin?” Steve asked.
“Deeks pistol-whipped him while he was busy threatening me,” Chin replied. “Steve, they’re tracking the plane, which looks like it’s only a few minutes out, coming in from the northwest.”
“I’ve got eyes on it,” Kono said. “Cath’s right, it’s coming in low.”
“Have the two by the gate noticed anything is wrong?” Danny asked.
“Not yet,” Kensi said. “Kono, I’ll watch them. You keep an eye on the plane.”
“No need,” Callen said. “We can see it.”
Steve stepped forward and looked around the corner of the building.
“We’re not clear yet,” he said. “We still have two hostiles who could try and attack the plane, plus we don’t know who’s on the plane and if they’re friendlies or not.”
Cath chimed in then. “Kort says the CIA didn’t get anybody on the plane. They decided it was too risky.”
Yeah, too risky to take on Steve’s spooky mother and her ninja skills. No wonder Rambo was who he was — look where his genes came from. Steve looked back and raised one eyebrow and Danny realized he was muttering. “Just … let’s see if we can finish this off without explosions,” he said to the big goof. “For once.”
“I can’t promise that,” Steve said.
And then the plane was coming in, landing down by the other end and rolling, slowing as it passed the buildings between the LA agents’ position and theirs. Nobody else made a move on the runway, but Danny could see the coiled tension in Steve’s body, ready to attack if somebody did make a move.
The plane stopped, and the hatch opened, a stairway descending to the ground. Doris stepped out, her hair darker and redder than the last time she’d been in town.
“Chin, Danny, let’s go meet her. Everybody else, cover us,” Steve said.
As they walked across the tarmac, Danny caught a slight pause in Doris McGarrett’s walk, and wondered if it was because she saw she had a welcoming committee she didn’t expect, or if it’s because it was Steve.
“Steve?” she said, as they got closer. “But… I heard…”
“I’m not dead, Mom,” he said. “They tried, and failed, but made it sound like they succeeded to draw you out.”
“The Agency,” Steve said.
“The two by the gate are on the move,” DiNozzo said. “Overwatch, cover us.”
Danny whipped around, gun drawn, ready to cover Doris if they slipped past the others.
Somebody fired, then it was an all-out gun battle, with the DC and LA agents converging on the two men headed straight for the plane. One of the perps dropped, and McGee waved on Deeks and DiNozzo as he stopped to grab the gun and check for a pulse.
“He’s dead,” McGee said, just as the other man swerved once, then again, blood blooming on his shirt, before he fell.
Callen was the first one to that body, and he was quick to announce “So’s this one.”
“Excellent work, everyone,” Hetty said. “Now, Commander McGarrett, you should get your mother and your team back to the palace, before anything else should happen.”
Chin joined them, and the other agents were crossing the runway, headed toward them as well.
“Does somebody want to tell me what’s going on?” Doris asked. “Steven?”
“You want to know what’s going on, Mom?” Steve’s tone was one Danny had become too familiar with in the past two years. “The CIA wanted to find you and couldn’t, so they decided to kill me and a team of SEALs I worked with because they thought you would surface for my funeral. And it’s not like I had any way to reach you to let you know once we figured it out, so we had to take them out to protect me and another SEAL and keep them from kidnapping or killing you when you landed. So, you tell me: Why is the CIA that interested in finding you?”
“I don’t know,” Doris said. “Are you sure it was the Agency?”
“Am I-? Yes, Mom, I’m sure,” Steve retorted. “You know what? I’m not going to do this now.” He turned to Chin. “Chin, Doris is going to ride back with you. Deeks can ride with Kono and Kensi.”
“Of course,” Chin said, but Danny made a note to pick up a bottle of Chin’s favorite tequila — and get Steve to help pay for it — for taking one for the team.
By the time they were back at the truck, Steve was pale and listing a bit. Danny grabbed the keys from his hand. “You are not driving,” he said. “You have cracked ribs and have been through too many time zones with too little sleep in the past 48 hours, so you are going to let one of us drive.”
“Sam,” Steve said. “He can see over the steering wheel.”
Danny smacked him lightly on the arm. “Short jokes? I’m going to let that one go because you’ve had a rough day — days — but seriously Steven?” He handed the keys to Sam Hanna. “Farrington to Kamehameha, then follow that all the way into town,” he said.
Once they were in the truck, he looked at his watch. “It’s too late for everybody to head out today, and seriously, I think we all need a good night’s sleep that’s not on a cargo plane, but tomorrow, we should all get together for a barbecue at Steve’s.”
“Luau, Danny,” Steve said. “This isn’t New Jersey.”
“Fine, then, a luau,” Danny said. “Something to thank everybody for coming all the way to Hawaii to stop this little CIA caper and save your life.”
“Kono’s probably already figured out what we need and made a shopping list,” Steve said, but his head was against the door and his words were beginning to slur.
By the time they were on Kamehameha, Steve had fallen asleep, and Danny hoped he would stay that way the rest of the drive back.
The next day, Callen was sitting on the grass, beer in hand, watching Kensi, Deeks, Kono and Chin in the water with surfboards and Danny’s daughter, when Steve sat down next to him, grunting a bit.
“How do the ribs feel?” he asked.
“Like I’m going to be sleeping in a chair again tonight. Sam even chased me away from my own grill, told me to relax,” Steve said. “Listen, I want to thank you again for bringing your team out here to help.”
“Thank Hetty,” Callen said. “I’m glad this trip to Hawaii ended better than our last one did.” He looked over. “How’s your mom doing?”
“Yeah, I’m not sure I’m the best person to ask,” Steve said. He blew out a breath. “Sam, he said your mother was CIA?”
“Hetty was her handler,” Callen said. “I only found that out a couple of years ago, after the Comescu family came after me.”
“The ones from the smallpox case?” Steve asked.
“Yes. They killed her when I was a child. I barely remember her,” Callen said. He waited, wanting to see where Steve was going with this.
“Doris, she faked her death when I was 16,” Steve said. “They told me and my sister it was a car crash, but it was a car bomb. My dad thought it was because he was investigating the Yakuza, and they had tried to kill him and accidentally gotten her.” He paused. “I didn’t know any of this until a couple of years ago, and then my mentor in the Navy, my dad’s best friend, took me to Japan and then it was ‘surprise, she’s alive.’ I still don’t know if I can trust either of them.”
“Because if they kept those secrets, what other secrets are they keeping,” Callen said, remembering the same feeling. “If they lied for so many years, how can you trust they’re telling the truth now.”
“Yes, exactly,” Steve said. “Do you trust Hetty now that you know she kept it from you?”
Callen chuckled. “Hetty is … Hetty.” He smiled. “I’m sure Sam’s told you stories.”
“He has. Are they true?”
“The ones that sound the least plausible are probably the most accurate,” Callen said. “Hetty is a force of nature, and has the best tradecraft I know. When I finally sat down with her, months after Romania, I didn’t trust her. She knew I had no memories of my family, or even my name, and she kept that from me. But she did explain, and she answered all the questions she could.” He thought back to those dark days. “I don’t know if I agree with what she did, but I understand why she did it, and I trusted her so much before I found out that eventually I got back to trusting her, even after that.”
“You trusted her before,” Steve said. “I guess… Maybe that’s my problem. I don’t know that there’s any basis for trust with Doris. She lied about everything when I was a kid, even to my dad, then she faked her death and it ended up breaking our family apart. I blamed my dad for the next twenty years, and then he was dead, killed because of my mother, and by the time I learned enough to realize why he sent us away, why Victor Hesse killed him, I’d stopped trusting anything.”
Callen thought about that for a minute. “Hetty was the first person I could trust,” he said. “She identified me when I was a teenager bouncing from foster home to foster home, and recruited me. I spent time with the CIA and DEA. Finally, we both ended up at NCIS. The only part of our shared past that was changed was that Hetty knew about me well before that. Everything else, that was history.”
“Foster homes?” Steve asked.
“Thirty-seven of them between when I was five and when I aged out at 18,” Callen said. “Do you wish that you had stopped looking, that you hadn’t found out?”
“I don’t know,” Steve said. “I think it’s inevitable I would have found out something, because the terrorist who had my father killed and who was after my mother has been after me for the past few years. But yeah, sometimes I do wonder if life would be easier if Mom was just the schoolteacher who died in a car wreck when I was 16.”
“There’s a chance my father might still be alive,” Callen said. “Possibly in a gulag, but who knows.” He looked over at Steve. “I want to find him, find out why my mother was trying to flee to America with us, why he wasn’t there when we needed him.” He sighed. “What the G stands for.”
“You don’t know?”
“No, and neither does Hetty,” he said. “At least you know your name, and where it came from.”
“My grandfather,” Steve said. “I was named after him. He was on the Arizona on Dec. 7, 1941.”
“My grandfather worked for OSS and made enemies of the Comescu family, who eventually killed him,” Callen said. “Sometimes I wonder if he would still do what he did, if he’d known what would happen.”
“And?” Steve asked.
“That is one of the unsolvable riddles of my life,” Callen said.
“There are no easy answers, I guess,” Steve said. “And I don’t think I can stop asking the questions at this point.”
“Same,” Callen said.
“To finding the answers, then,” Steve said, holding up his beer bottle.
“To answers,” Callen said, clinking his beer against Steve’s. He looked around. “So, let’s go see if the big guy’s finished grilling. I don’t know about you, but I’m starving.”
Thank you again for sticking with this over a five-year hiatus. Also, any comments are greatly appreciated, though my replies might be slow because of moving. If you’ve been reading my latest Breathe story for NCIS, now that this is done, I’m returning to that. No promises on posting schedule because it just seems to tempt the news gods to hurl more thunderbolts, but I still plan to finish by year’s end.