Callen drove out to Morro Rock and parked the truck. The rock was as huge as he remembered, towering over him as he stepped out of the truck. To the south of the rock was the entrance to the bay, protected by two walls of rocks. He studied the entrance till he had it embedded into his brain on what to expect early the next morning. The surf was calm with neat rolling waves crashing close to shore. The colours had deepened in the Pacific Ocean from the silver blue from early morning, it was a beautiful contrast to the golden sands along the beach. He had to bring Molly here to play on the beach. Build sandcastles, teach her how to surf, even fly a kite. There were so many things he wanted to do with his daughter, he had seven years to make up for after all.
But he wasn’t there for Molly at that moment. He needed the time to reflect on everything that had happened and over what Mike Hobson had told him about his father. His words replayed over and over in Callen’s mind. “You’re father’s not going to be able to keep running the farm on his own, not with his health as it is.” What did Mike mean by his father’s health? Was he sick? He looked healthy to him, although what would he know, he didn’t know the man. All he had to go by, was the man on the old film strip that was kept safe in the tea box. He needed to watch that film again, to double check that Daniel Miller was who he said he was. The last thing he needed was to be fooled by Arkady and be drawn into their story of who they were.
Callen walked around the rock and headed north on the beach. He took in deep breaths of the fresh ocean air as his feet squished into the sand. It felt good to walk in bare feet along the beach. He remembered a time, a happy time when he was four or five. Building sandcastles and running along a beach. That beach was thousands of miles away now, in a foreign land, but it had once been home. His home. Strange how life changes so dramatically for some people and for others, they remain in the same town they were born in for all the days of their life.
Home had never been anything for Callen. He moved so much growing up, the house he lived in now, was the longest he’d ever lived in the one place. And now he couldn’t go home. He was stuck in a new place where he’d visited with Alyssa a few times and it had felt like home to him. But now he was forced to live here, he wasn’t so sure if it felt like home. Home to him now was with his family. Alyssa and Molly and the team. It had only been two days since he’d farewelled Sam, Kensi and Deeks back in Solvang, but now it felt like a lifetime. He hadn’t even said goodbye to Hetty, all he’d done was ring her to get her approval to trust Arkady. She knows, he realised. Hetty must have managed to pull the truth from Arkady. Because there was no way she would have dared to have lied to him, when he’d asked her about his father. After all the secrets that she had kept from him, she wouldn’t dare to hold any more, not after how he reacted after he’d found out that she knew his mother. Surely if she’d known his name, she would have told him. He trusted her like a mother.
He needed to believe it. He pulled out his cell and dialled her number.
“Mr Callen, how are you settling into your new abode?” It was a secure line, at least he had this lifeline link to his other life still.
“Hetty, what is my name?”
“I take it that Mr Kolcheck has told you the truth then?”
“You knew?” His voice sounded strained from everything.
“I only managed to extract the truth from him on Saturday, Mr Callen. Before that, I had no clue of who or where your father was.” She sipped on her tea, before she continued. “How are you doing?
“It’s not been easy, Hetty. I need your advice.”
Her heart swelled with pride. Finally her boy was fully letting people into his life. How far he’d come since she found him in that orphanage at age seven. “How can I help you, Mr Callen?”
He talked with her over all that had gone on since his arrival and the news he’d learned from his new boss. After he’d finished, he became silent, waiting for her to reply.
“Would you like me to ask Miss Jones to take a look into your father’s medical records to find out what this health issue is?”
Callen turned and found Arkady walking up the beach towards him. “Yes, I would like that very much. I need to know the truth, not what he and Arkady tell me.”
“Very well, Mr Callen. I will call you once we have something for you.” She paused as she caught Nell’s attention, drawing her into her office. “I realise this is difficult for you, after being alone for so long, however, this is something that you’ve wanted more than anything. To find your family. I suggest you take your time and give it a go.”
Callen thought for a moment. “Thanks, Hetty. I knew I could count on you.” He disconnected his call just as Arkady came into hearing distance.
“What don’t you understand, Arkady? I don’t want to speak with you.”
“It’s not what you want, Callen, it’s what needs to be said. I don’t think that you are being fair on your father. He’s been through a great deal as well. Do you think it was easy on him to keep his distance from you? Everything he did was to keep you safe.”
“And he achieved that so well, especially with Amy. Or has he got her hiding somewhere to surprise me with and then explain that he tried to find me and bring me home but he couldn’t?”
“You’re not being fair, Callen. Your father has grieved for your sister for a very long time. Like he’s grieved for your mother and for you, when he thought he’d lost you. It wasn’t until you showed up in Russia with the DEA, did we have any idea that you were still alive. You became a ghost and even after working with you, you were still impossible to find.”
“So you’re saying it’s my fault because my father couldn’t find me? You’ve known where I’ve lived for how long, Arkady? How come you’ve not once arranged for him to visit me?”
“Would it have made a difference if your father had turned up suddenly at your home? Would you have accepted him into your life back then?”
Callen looked out over the ocean, he watched the waves roll in and crash into the shore.
“I don’t think you would have, Callen. Let’s be honest here. You’ve lived so long alone, that you don’t know how to let someone in. You even manage to keep that partner of yours at a distance. You never told him about your wife, did you? Hetty looked surprised when I saw her the other day, to find out that you have a wife and a daughter. And I don’t think you really let Alyssa into your life either, did you?”
Arkady’s words were like a searing knife, burning into his flesh and heart. “You have no right to say that to me.”
“Actually I do. I’m your uncle. Your flesh and blood, whether you like it or not. And your father has never stopped loving you. You need to give him a chance.”
“What’s wrong with him?”
“What do you mean, what’s wrong with him?” Arkady frowned as he looked over to his nephew.
“I met a friend of Daniel’s at the marina. He told me that he was surprised that I wasn’t learning the family business…”
“I’m with him on that too, Callen. Why are you so stubborn and refuse to spend time with your father and learn the business?”
“I’ve never farmed before. Fishing I can do, but avocados and apples?”
“Mike also mentioned something about Daniel not being able to run the farm for much longer due to his health.” Callen turned and faced Arkady, studying him as he waited for his reply. “He’s never told you, has he?” He saw the look of surprise on Arkady’s face.
Arkady sighed. “You and he are too much alike, Callen. Both as stubborn as the other. No, he’s not mentioned anything to me.”
“But you’ve noticed something…” Callen had seen some hint in his uncle’s eyes that he’d noticed something.
“Only today when you went off into town. Your father took it hard, you leaving like you did.”
Callen shoved his hands into his pocket and looked back out over the waves. “I needed to do a few things. He can’t expect me to stay on the farm every moment of the day.”
“He needs to know that you’ll at least give this a try.”
Callen turned and looked directly into Arkady’s eyes. He saw the concern there for his father and he realised that the two brothers were close. “I will.” Callen took in a deep breath to rein in his emotions. “But I can’t promise anything.”
His cell rang and he noted it was Hetty. “Callen.”
“Mr Callen. Miss Jones has been successful in her search for you. It appears that your father was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease two months ago.”
The news hit Callen harder than he thought. He associated the disease with old people. He didn’t see his father as old and it hit him that his father would need him more now, not just to have him back in his life, but to have his son with him. To help him on the farm. It was a good thing that his father-in-law was there also to help, while he fished. But Arkady was right, he needed to learn the business, to help his dad. He needed to put his own pain aside and focus on his father, before it was too late. Callen swallowed hard and took in a breath.
“Thanks, Hetty. I appreciate you finding this out for me. Please thank Nell too.”
“You’re welcome, Mr Callen. Take care and I expect a weekly update from you on how you are all going.”
“I will.” He turned away from his uncle for a moment and took a few steps away. “Hetty? How’s the search going for the armed men who were after Alyssa and Joelle, and who invaded my house?” It had only been two days, but he’d hoped his team had found something by now.
“Miss Jones and Mr Beale are busy working on finding them. I have a team chasing up the leads….”
“A team, so not my team?” He held his breath, he should have known that Hetty would take his team off the case, his case. They were all too close to him and it was too dangerous for them also. But he couldn’t help feel the abandonment that his team weren’t having his back.
“No, Mr Callen. But I must advise you that I faced a good defence in your team who tried valiantly to defy me on my orders. They want you home, Mr Callen, and we are doing all that we can to make that possible. However, in the meantime, your team have been assigned to a new case by Director Vance.”
Hetty knew him better than he knew himself sometimes. How did she do it? He wasn’t even in the same city and she could still sense his feelings.
“Thanks, Hetty. I appreciate knowing that.” He did feel better, knowing that the team had fought for him. He turned around and faced Arkady, who waited patiently to walk him back to the car park. “I had our analyst take a look into Daniel’s medical records.”
“Callen, you didn’t?” Arkady raised his brows, surprised that he would pry into his father’s personal affairs.
“You expect me to just stand here and accept everything that you and Daniel tell me to be the truth? After all the years you’ve known me, you lied to me. I deserve the truth.”
“I know you do. I am sorry that it had to be this way.”
“You weren’t even going to tell me that Daniel was really Nikita were you?” Callen crossed his arms over his chest in defence.
“I wanted you to get to know your father before I told you. But then you recognised him didn’t you?”
“I…I had some flashes.” Callen heaved out a sigh. “I still don’t remember him. He’s a stranger to me, I can’t just pick up from when I was five and be the son he’s been waiting for. Nor can he just step in and be my father. It has to develop.”
“Then let it. Come back to the farm with me, Callen. Get to know your father.”
“I wasn’t running away, Arkady. I have responsibilities to protect my family. I had things to do.”
“Like getting yourself a job fishing.”
“Yes. Why is that such a big deal? Because it doesn’t fit into Daniel’s dreams of how the family reunion would turn out? Life isn’t a field of dreams, you know. People have feelings and my life was screwed up because of the decisions you and Daniel made when I was defenceless.”
“But you’re not defenceless now, Callen. You are a grown man. A good man.”
“I am a self made man. Who I am is because I’ve made choices to be who I am, not thanks to anyone to help me along the way. Well, except for Hetty.”
“Your father had people to watch over you, Callen. Not just me.”
“I know. I found Michael Rhinehart, remember? Well, after the Comescus did and killed him.”
“I remember. You looked lost then. Like you’d found hope of finding your father and then it was taken away from you before you could deal with it.”
“And you never considered to tell me that you were my uncle and that my father was living here in Morro Bay? Why is that?”
“It wasn’t safe. It still isn’t. But it’s not safe for you now either.”
“I wish you had told me, when we first met. No, actually I don’t. I wish that you had never abandoned me and my sister in this country. You should have kept us together with family somewhere. Anywhere but in the orphanage. Perhaps I was directing my anger at the wrong person. Perhaps I should be angry at you and not Daniel.”
“You know he is your father and you should get used to calling him dad.”
“Don’t tell me what to do. You of all people know I don’t like it.”
“Perhaps that’s what you think, Callen, but I disagree. I think that you’ve been on your own for way too long and you need to be told. As your uncle, it is my duty to ensure that you and Nikita make an effort to be father and son again. For both of your sakes you need each other.”
“Not me. I don’t need him. I’ve survived this long without him. But I know that he needs me. I will stay, for him. But not because you tell me to, but because it’s the right thing to do.”
Arkady was thrown by Callen’s admission. “What did you find out?” Worry ensued him over his brother.
“He was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease two months ago. He can’t be on his own. He’ll only deteriorate and find things harder to do. He needs someone to help him.”
“Parkinson’s?” The news rocked Arkady hard. His brother was facing years of deterioration of his body. A humiliating way to age until he could no longer do the simplest of things. With his mind intact, his body will betray him.
“Yes. That is why I will stay. Not because you tell me I should.”
Arkady watched Callen run away at lightening speed back to the old truck. Time was running out and he’d brought his nephew back just in time.