The words blurred in front of his eyes. It didn't matter, because he knew them off by heart anyway. I did write the damn thing, after all.He leaned back, lifting his good hand to pinch the bridge of his nose, trying to rub away the headache that seemed to have settled into his skull for good.
Callen set a cup of coffee on the table in front of the blonde haired man and dropped into his own seat, letting his eyes run over his team mate in barely hidden concern.
The other man looked ragged, leaning hard on the end of his endurance. Dark circles ringed his eyes in his otherwise pale skin. He blinked hard every few seconds. Tension played through the muscles in his arms, making them jump and twitch, as he drummed his fingers on the hardwood table.
Deeks picked up the coffee, biting back a bone deep flash of irritation. He swallowed a mouthful of the steaming liquid and met Callen's eyes squarely.
"I'm fine," he said evenly. "Worry about finding Kensi and the girl."
"No, you are not fine," Hetty said as she walked around the corner. "You're worried and exhausted and more than likely in some pain," she added, frowning at him. "You should still be in the hospital."
He swallowed hard and met her gaze, a soft, silent plea in his eyes. "It won't affect the job," he promised.
"I know that, Mr. Deeks." Hetty shook her head. "If I thought it would affect the job, you wouldn't be here."
Some nameless tension drained from him when he realised that she wasn't going to send him away, wasn't going to make him stand on the sidelines while the rest of the team rushed into fix the mistake he'd allowed to happen. I should have killed Williams when I had the chance, he thought, stomach twisting with self disgust and shame. We were partners once and he betrayed me. I was stupid to think he'd never do it again.
"Any word on Anna?" Deeks asked, tearing his mind away from his wandering thoughts, and tapped the file. "I've been going through the reports from that operation, trying to figure out where she might have gone. I've found a few leads, but none of them look very promising."
"Eric scanned her photograph. He's running it through facial recognition now. If she's in a federal database, we'll find her," Hetty said. "Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go and brief the Director."
Callen waited until she was safely at her desk before he spoke. "You think Williams has already found the girl, don't you?" he asked Deeks.
Deeks bit the side of his thumb, thinking. "She's a much softer target that I am. Much more likely to talk under pressure… I think that he went looking for her. I just can't decide if he found her," he said honestly.
"Are you sure that there was no money?" Callen asked, sipping his coffee.
He glanced around for Hetty, then swung his feet onto the desk when he realised that the coast was clear. The chair squeaked in protest as he leaned back, stretching his spine out after long hours of sitting still.
"Yeah. LAPD looked into it thoroughly. Took them months to chase down every lead. They never found any trace of it." Deeks lifted one shoulder in a tired shrug. "I don't believe that there was ever any money. The bastard liked the drugs too much himself to run a decent business."
Deeks set his cup back on the table, pushing it away with one fingertip. He'd reached the point where the caffeine just wasn't helping, and the bitter drink was making his stomach roll.
His cell phone rang. He looked up sharply, heart pounding with fresh adrenaline. "It's Kensi," he said, thumb hovering over the button to accept the call. It almost hurt to believe that his partner was okay, that she was unharmed, but the thought was all that was keeping him going.
You'll get me back. Her words from another time, another dire situation echoed in his mind. I will. I promise, he vowed softly, and tapped the button. "Kensi?"
"Answer it," Callen said, and yanked his own cell phone from his pocket. "Eric, I need a trace on Kensi's cell right now. She's on the line with Deeks."
Keys rattled in the background as the tech typed something. "Got it. Starting it now."
"Kensi, are you there?" Deeks held his breath, waiting for an answer to his softly spoken question. "Are you alright?"
Static crackled down the line. "Hey, partner," she said, "Williams wants me to set up a meet with you. He wants the money and you here within an hour or…" she paused, and he heard her suck in a shaky breath. "Or he's going to kill me."
"Don't worry, Kensi," he said grimly. "I'll be there. I just need an address."
She told him, giving him an address that sent a chill through his veins.
"I know it," he said hollowly, the echoes of old, used engine oil and cloying dusk trickling though his mind, followed as always by the barely-there sting of a razor sharp blade as it scraped over his skin, leaving welling blood in thin, snaking lines. "Don't worry, Kensi. I won't let him hurt you."
She made a sound of protest as the phone was ripped from her hands.
"Very touching, Detective Deeks," Williams drawled. "How exactly do you plan of stopping me from doing whatever I want to your dear, sweet partner?"
Rage almost stole his voice. He shoved it away, cramming it into a box in the back of his mind. "If you hurt her, I swear to God, you'll never see so much as a cent of the money." He didn't threaten, because he didn't need to. The threat was implicit in his voice, soft and heavy and dangerous, like a sharp blade wrapped in thick velvet. It wouldn't take much to tear the violence loose.
"You have one hour." Williams said, and his voice had turned cold, as cold as the artic on a bitter winter's day. "Be here, alone or I'll start cutting pieces off your partner." He ended the call.
Deeks stood slowly, laying his cell phone down gently on the table. "Did Eric get that?" he asked softly, waiting for Callen's nod before he turned and walked towards the armoury with swift, sure strides.
Round two, you bastard, he thought grimly. Only this time, you're not going to win.