Office of Special Projects
It was a Saturday, their first free weekend in ages after all the terror alerts that had come their way, since two months ago. The team were running on the dregs of their energy level when they had all been called in. Deeks moaned the loudest but stopped when Hetty glared at him. “I’m sorry for having to call you all in on the weekend again,” she told them. “But Director Vance has asked us to take this case onboard.” She turned to face Eric and Nell for them to start briefing the agents.
“Last night, residents in Solvang, California, reported to local police of hearing gunfire coming from a helicopter. The helicopter fired upon one property, Sunford Wineries. The owner, Steve Crawford and his sons, live on this property. None of them have been seen since the reports came in. Mr Crawford is a former marine who retired ten years ago after his father died, to take over the family business. We’re not sure if this has anything to do with his previous operations in Iraq or Serbia. But employees for the winery reported some foreign men inquiring about a woman who was suspected to be living with the Crawfords. They only knew her as Sarah, no last name is known by any of the employees. Questioned further, the employees stated that she’s lived with them for eight years and keeps to herself. Their employer told them that she was his niece who came to live with them after his wife died to help around the house and raising his twin sons, who were only ten at the time. They’re now eighteen and missing,” Nell explained to them.
“Do you have any details on the woman?” Callen studied the photos of the Crawford family closely.
“Nothing at the moment. She kept to the house, no one knows much about her, only that she existed and has a daughter. We’re trying to find details from the local school if she attended there.” Callen stared at Eric as if he had an alien sitting on his head.
“A daughter? How old?” His chest tightened as he took in the details.
“Old enough to be in school,” Eric looked over to Nell concerned with Callen’s facial expression.
The team left immediately for the two hour drive north to the crime scene. They would join the search for clues of where the Crawfords and this woman and her daughter had gone to.
Callen appeared quiet on the drive with none of his usual banter with his partner, or talking about their new case. Sam looked over to him every so often confused on what was going on in his partner’s head. “You want to share, G?”
Callen turned and looked nonchalantly to his partner. “No.” He returned to gazing out at the scenery as they headed north.
“Something hit close to home?” Sam wondered if this case had unburied pain from his past, such as losing his mother at a young age. The boys had been ten when their mother died. Older than Callen had been when he’d lost his own mother, but still, sometimes a case like this would dig up the pain and have him brooding.
Callen glared with his steely blue eyes over to his partner. “You trying to shrink me, Sam? I don’t see Nate here, so don’t go there.” He snapped at him and regretted his reaction immediately. “I’m sorry, Sam.”
“No problem. I get it, you’re brooding again. I just wish you’d talk to me about it. You don’t seem to talk to me about anything anymore. Not even about you and Joelle. How are things going there?” Sam put on his big bright smile, hoping the change of subject would lighten the mood.
“What is it with you and Michelle wanting details about Joelle and our relationship all the time? We’re good, okay. What’s there to tell?” He heaved out a sigh, annoyed for Sam bringing up the subject of Joelle again.
“Because we care. We want you to be happy. Is there a crime in that?” Sam worried when Callen didn’t reply and remained focused on the outside of the car. His thoughts were far away, Sam noted, and he saw how tense his body was as he sat in the passenger seat.”
After two hours of silence between the two partners, Sam and Callen pulled up in front of the mansion. It was the only way to describe the house. It was huge and reflected on how successful the wine business was doing these days. Kensi stepped in line and complained to them that Deeks wouldn’t shut up for the two hour drive. Sam turned and looked at her. “You can go home with Callen. He won’t talk even to me.” He mumbled and Callen glared at him again, annoyed.
The four agents entered the house and they were greeted by the local police department. They were updated on what they had found in the house, but still no sign of the family had yet been found.
“Is there a basement underneath this house?” Deeks inquired, thinking that if his house was under attack and he had a basement, that would be where he would hide.”
Deeks and Kensi followed the local detective, while Sam and Callen searched the pool house for evidence of the woman and her daughter. The house had no trace of the woman and her child ever living there, but Sam picked up on covered tracks outside in the garden. He followed them and found himself on a trail along one of the rows of vines. Callen followed him, knowing to trust Sam’s instincts. They came to the end of the row and looked over towards the river. “Someone’s gone this way. They’ve covered their tracks well. Could be Crawford and his sons. From what I can see, two or three people moved through here.” They walked across the dirt track and found some more. “They’ve crossed the river. No one followed them.” Hope rose within them that the family had escaped. They found more trackes on the south side of the river which led them into the wooded area, but they stopped at a tree. To the untrained eye they wouldn’t have been found, but Sam’s training as a Navy SEAL led them to this particular tree. He looked up at the tree and he could see signs of someone hidden up there. He placed his finger over his mouth and indicated upwards to his partner. He began to climb and had almost made it when he heard the familiar sound of a click of a gun. He looked up and came face to face with a Glock. “I wouldn’t move any closer, if I was you.”
Sarah held her weapon at the man below her with her left arm. Her right arm throbbed with pain and sweat beaded on her forehead. She knew she had a fever and most probably had an infection set in from her bullet wound. But she would fight with all her might to protect her daughter and herself.
“It’s okay. I’m a Federal Agent. You’re safe.” Sam tried to appease the woman. He was surprised at how beautiful she was even in her dirty state. He noted the girl who gripped the trunk of the tree had hid her face from view.
“Which agency?” Sam knitted his brows slightly, this woman must be one of them. It was the only cause for her to ask such a question. The covered tracks was proof that this woman had some form of agent training.
“NCIS.” He pulled his identification out of his pocket and showed the woman. “You must be Sarah. My partner and I have been looking for you. Locals reported the helicopter and gunfire over the property overnight. You look like you’ve been hit.” He studied her arm and also noticed blood dripping from her right foot. “You’re still bleeding from your foot.”
The woman looked down and furrowed her brow. She hadn’t noticed the hit in her foot until he’d mentioned it. The adrenaline that pumped through her body had dulled the pain in her foot, although she’d felt the one in her arm. It was then that she noticed another figure climbing up the other side of the tree. She moved her weapon towards him as he moved closer.
“It’s okay. It’s just my partner,” Sam tried to appease her, but she was still very much on edge.
Callen looked up and caught her gaze. “Sarah.”
“Greg?” Eight long years it had been since she’d vanished and after all of the searches, here she was, up a tree, hiding in fear for her life and that of their daughter’s.
“You two know each other?” Sam looked over to his partner and noticed that he wasn’t surprised to find her there. Frustration surged through him that once again Callen refused to talk to him about it.
Callen looked over to their daughter who’d seen him climb up the tree. Her matching blue eyes stared back at him, now that her mother had removed the brown contact lenses. Dirt had gotten underneath and caused pain for her. She knew his name and focused her attention only on him. For all of her life she had waited for this moment. “Daddy?”
Sam’s eyes widened over to his partner’s. His brooding made sense to him now, but why hadn’t he told him that he had a daughter.
“It’s okay, sweetheart. Daddy’s not going to let anyone hurt you or Mommy again.” It was a promise that he was determined to keep. They were his family, although he’d only discovered they had a daughter a few hours earlier.
“You’re a Fed?” Surprised crossed over Sarah’s face at the irony of the situation. “I ran to keep you safe.”
“Whose after you, Sarah?” Callen held onto his daughter as she moved to the branch closer to him.
“I don’t know. I found some armed men raid my house. I didn’t know who they were or why they were there. I wasn’t sure if my real identity had been burned. So I ran, but my car broke down near hear. Steve found me sick on the side of the road. Are they okay?” Concern for the Crawfords entered the forefront of her mind.
“We don’t know. We can’t find anyone,” Sam told her.
“They’re hiding in the basement,” she wiped her forehead and suddenly felt dizzy.
“We need to get you down from this tree.” Sam worried over the physical state of Sarah.
She nodded in response. “Molly, go down with Daddy. He’ll take care of you.” The girl nodded her head and climbed down with Callen.
Once they’d reached the ground, Sam held onto her for support. But another wave of dizziness overcame her and he picked her up and placed her at the base of the tree. Molly clung onto Callen in fear that if she let him go he’d vanish.
“Jo and I have been searching for you.” Callen managed to kneel down beside her and checked over her wound. He looked over to Sam. “We need a medical kit to attend to her wounds.”
“You found Joey?” Callen nodded and surprise crossed Sam’s face.
“Yes. She’s been looking for you. She moved to L.A. to find you.”
“How did you find her, I never told you my real name.” Callen gently brushed some hair from off her face.
“She taught Sam’s daughter in kindergarten.” He looked over to his partner who was carefully taking her shoe off her injured foot to take a closer look at it. “Sam and his wife had this brainwave of an idea to set me up on a blind date with her.”
“You’re dating my sister?” Her voice raised higher, as pain shot through her.
“No. But Sam here thinks we are. How could I? I’ve been searching for you for eight years.”
Sam shook his head in disbelief. “You’re Alyssa. Joelle’s twin sister.” They’d heard Joelle tell them about her plight in looking for her sister for the past eight years. She’d moved from San Francisco for that very reason. He just hadn’t been clued in that Callen had a past with her and had used his time with Joelle to find her.
“Yes, I am.” She furrowed her brow in pain. Her left arm moved with her weapon in hand as she heard footsteps come their way.
“Whoa!” Deeks held his hand up to surrender to her. Although she was injured and clearly exhausted, Deeks didn’t want another bullet wound in his body.
“It’s okay, they’re with us,” Callen told her and she instantly relaxed. He looked to Kensi. “Have you got your medical kit with you?”
Callen knew she could be depended on for being prepared. He looked to his daughter. “I’m just going to put you right down next to Mommy, okay?”
Molly shook her head and buried herself into his shoulder.
“Look sweetheart. I need to tend to Mommy’s arm. You see how she’s hurt?”
Kensi gave Deeks a look of surprise to see Callen being so good with the girl. But she wouldn’t let him go. Callen stood up and stepped back. He looked to Kensi. “I need you to clean her up and redress her wound. Molly won’t let go.” Kensi nodded and moved in beside Sarah.
Deeks watched on intrigued how the girl latched onto Callen so easily. “Did you find anyone in the basement?” Callen inquired of Deeks, knowing that he’d asked the question earlier and after what Sarah had told him, he’d hoped with them being now with them, that they had found them safe.
“We did.” Deeks looked to Sarah and then to the girl.
“Are they safe?” Sarah looked at Deeks with hope in her eyes.
“Both boys were shot in the leg. They did a good job of tying some fabric from their shirts for a tourniquet to stop the bleeding. They were dehydrated and exhausted, but relieved to be alive. They’ve been taken to Santa Ynez Valley Cottage Hospital.” Deeks took in a deep breath and looked back over to Sarah. “I’m sorry, but your uncle didn’t survive his injuries.”
Sarah took in a ragged breath and tears fell. She shook her head as she tried to rein in her emotions. Molly clung on tighter to Callen who tried to soothe her softly. “He was such a nice man. He didn’t deserve any of this.” She looked over to Callen and saw him soothing Molly. “It’s all my fault. I should never have stayed.”
Callen’s head turned and caught her gaze. “No, it’s not. Don’t go blaming yourself for this. I just wish you had come to me and not ran.”
Kensi looked up to her partner and saw the confusion in his expression. “Are we missing something here?” Deeks finally asked.
“Apparently so,” Sam replied, still feeling hurt from being kept in the dark by his partner.
“I’m sorry, Sam. All of you. But with our line of work, I kept Sarah from you. Then she vanished and I’ve been searching for her for the past eight years.”
Deeks went to open his mouth, but quickly shut it. He looked to Sam who was dressing Sarah’s foot and saw the hurt there.
“Until Eric told me Sarah’s name and that she had a daughter, I had no idea about Molly or that Sarah was hiding here.”
His words hit Deeks and Kensi and they both realised why the girl was clinging onto Callen. He was her father.
“We’ve got to move them to a safe location, before whoever did this comes back.” Sam stood as Callen’s cell rang.
Callen pulled it out of his pocket and saw that it was their boss, Hetty.
“Mr Callen. Have your found Sarah and the girl?” Callen knew instantly that Hetty had discovered the truth over who she was.
“Yes we have, Hetty. How…”
“Mr Beale and Miss Jones have been working tirelessly here to find out the woman’s identity. They discovered a seven year old girl who looks like the spitting image of you, carrying your alias’ family name of Walinski.” He picked up the annoyance in her voice.
“I only discovered about my daughter today, Hetty. I had no idea where Sarah’s been hiding for the past eight years, and it’s not from not trying.” He heaved out a large sigh.
“Why didn’t you trust your partner and myself with the news that you were married to Miss Taylor? You led us all along about you being in some sort of relationship with her twin sister, Joelle, for the past six months. We could have helped you in finding them.”
Callen’s jaw clenched tight, he was sick of people interfering with his personal life all the time. “Well you’ve had no luck in finding my father for all of these years, Hetty, so how would you’ve been able to find my wife for me?”
Deeks and Kensi shared another look of surprise between them. This woman was not only the mother of his child but she was also Callen’s wife.
“I never once stated that Joelle and I were in some form of a relationship to any of you, Hetty. You went along with Sam and Michelle’s ploy to hook me up with her. But I have to thank you all for your part, because I found my wife’s family and her true identity.” His reunion with his family hadn’t gone to plan at all. It had become some form of public display amongst his team, with his personal life being dragged through the mud with them pointing accusations at him over his so called relationship with his sister-in-law. “We’ve been working together to find her. That’s why there was never anything to tell you.” He huffed and would have hung up, but he took in a deep breath to rein it all back inside of him for his family’s sake.
“Well we have another situation arising down here, Mr Callen.”
Callen furrowed his brow. “What’s going on, Hetty?”