Morro Bay - March 11, 4pm
Callen looked at Alyssa and Molly and he knew that this was going to be the hardest decision to leave them behind. But he was going to keep them safe. The sound of a vehicle driving up the lane towards the house caught his attention. A silver Q3 SUV drew to a stop beside the house. He furrowed his brow, his hand instinctively moved to the small of his back. He’d seen this same vehicle down at the marina, but he had no idea whose vehicle it belonged to. He watched the occupants exit the car. A woman who was a few years older than himself and a man, similar age to his father. He’d seen them the day before eating ice-cream down at the marina and the woman again, early that morning aboard the boat he was sure had been following the Kristina as he worked alongside Mike and Jake.
Alyssa moved out onto the deck as curiosity took hold of her. She watched the woman remove her sunglasses, she held a package in her hands with a card attached to it. It looked very much like a birthday present, but the only ones who knew what today really was, were family. She noticed Callen’s hand move towards his weapon, just in case, as he stepped down from the deck towards them. He was on edge and she knew it had something to do with the call from his partner. It didn’t take her years of being a Fed to put the pieces together, the look in his eyes and in Michelle’s said it all. And that was before their visitors’ arrival.
“Hello, can I help you?” Callen kept his voice levelled, not to alert anyone around him about his concerns. Especially Molly and Kamran.
“Are you Julian Miller?” It was the man who spoke, not the woman, which surprised him, because it was the woman who held a package in her hand. He’d noted how it was wrapped in blue gift paper with an envelope attached.
“Yes, I am. May I ask who you are?”
“My name is Mark Burton. I used to work at Langley with your mother, Clara Callen.”
Callen’s eyes snapped to the man’s, he wasn’t expecting this at all. His heart pounded inside his chest, but he kept his exterior calm.
“I don’t know anyone named Clara Callen.” He looked over at the woman and studied her face. She looked familiar and her eyes were just like his. He noted her hands shaking and he agreed that she was nervous. But why?
More occupants of the house came outside to see who had arrived.
“I know that you were only five when she was killed on the beach in Constanta.” Mark stepped forward, Angela had lost her courage and he knew that she needed him to help her. “Clara was my partner. I found her body on the beach, and we, my team and I tried to find you and your sister. It took us two years and then we found you in America. Your sister, Amelia, as Amy Callen in an orphanage in Los Angeles. Hetty found you in Washington D.C., living with a letter for a name, G. Callen. You were hidden by your uncle Max Reznikov with your mother’s family name to keep you safe from your father’s enemies.”
The man knew too much, Callen decided. He pulled his weapon out from his back, not sure of who this man was.
When Mark saw the weapon, fear for Angela and himself grew.
“Gale.” Angela’s plea to her brother rang out through the farm.
Nikita heard the desperation in that one word. He ran down the steps and placed his hand on his son’s arm. “It’s okay, son. Mark and I have met a few times. He can be trusted.” He turned to Mark and nodded. “How did you find us?”
“Hetty, she gave me your aliases and this address.”
“Why?” Callen narrowed his eyes, his trust for this man remained uncertain.
“Gale?” Angela stepped forward.
“Who are you?” He slightly knitted his brows, confusion spread across his face.
“I am Amelia, your sister.” Her words were soft as a whisper. Tears welled up in her eyes. “Happy Birthday, baby brother.” She lifted her hands towards her brother, handing her gift for him.
“Amy?” Callen’s voice was strained, he turned to his father with a questioning look before looking back at her. “You died.”
“No, that was meant to make the Comescus think that I was. I’ve lived with the Burtons after Mark found me and Hetty looked over you, to keep you safe.”
“Amelia?” Nikita stepped forward, finally he was united with both of his children. He choked on his words, as the emotion got too much for him.
“Papa.” Angela closed the gap and hugged her father, the present still in her hand.”
Nikita hugged his daughter and kissed her on the temple. He held her face in his hands. “You’re alive? You’re really alive?”
Angela nodded. “Yes, I am.” She turned to her brother. “Gale, I have tried to find you for as long as I can remember. Mark tried to find you for me. Hetty only told him last week where you were.”
Callen’s head spun and he felt dizzy. Hetty knew about his sister and she kept it from him. How many times was Hetty going to do this to him? How many more secrets had she kept from him. “Hetty knew about you?”
“I’ve never met her, I only heard Mark mention her to me the other day.” Angela looked to Mark. “He tried to find you so we could be together.”
Callen’s heart hurt.
“Hetty didn’t know where Amy was, she only knew that I knew had put her somewhere safe.” Mark tried to calm Callen down, as he saw the anger grow inside of him.
“But she knew that my sister was alive and instead of telling me, she went along as if you were dead?” He was livid with Hetty, if she was there right now, he wasn’t sure what he would do. It was a good thing that she wasn’t there.
“We had to keep Amy safe.” Mark stepped forward and gripped Callen’s shoulder. “We tried to do the same with you, but every time Hetty found you a good home, the Comescus found you and she had to move you.”
The realities of his life had never been good. Thirty-seven foster homes after the orphanage that had neglected him. But sometimes the orphanage was better than the bad foster families. The good ones were the hardest, because he knew that he wouldn’t stay long, so he never settled. Why was it that life was easier for his sister than it was for him?
“Please, Gale. Please accept this gift.” Angela pleaded with her brother, she caught a glimpse of the pain that he carried inside of him from the tough lot he’d been given in this life. Although she’d seen him laughing with his daughter earlier, his years in the system had been hard.
Callen took the box and stared at the envelope. A birthday card sat on top. He remembered the time he’d told Sam that he’d never received a birthday card before. Not that he could remember at any rate. After that, Sam made sure he received birthday cards not only from him and his family, but from the rest of the team. Today had been a first for him, finally he received birthday cards from his family. He walked over to the step and sat, opening the envelope. His hands shook as he lifted the flap and pulled the card out. A tear fell as he looked at the card, a family photo of the four of them. He traced the smiling faces in the photo and swallowed the hard lump that had formed. He opened the card and read what his sister had written inside.
“To my baby brother, Gale. For all those birthdays that I have missed to help you celebrate. The years I’ve lost playing with you and showing you how to do things. Let’s not waste another minute of our lives and ensure we make the most of now. Happy Birthday. Love Always, Amelia xxoo”
He wiped the tears away and sucked in a deep breath. Out of everything that had happened to him so far, this moment was the hardest. His sister was alive. Somehow he knew, which was why he’d never changed Hannah Lawson’s name to Amy’s. But it was still a shock. He placed the card down and opened the wrapping that surrounded an old box. He traced the gold letterings on the box. TAG Heuer. He knew the Swiss brand well, not that he ever could afford anything from them. He lifted open the lid and stared at the gold watch, shining up at him as the afternoon sun hit it. He furrowed his brow, why was his sister giving him something worth so much, this didn’t make sense to him.
“It’s too much,” he licked his lips from nerves.
Angela sat down beside him on the step. “Look underneath.”
Callen did as she asked and he saw the name, George Callen. “This was our grandfather’s watch?”
Angela nodded. “Yes. Mark held onto some family heirlooms from our mother after she died. You should have this, Gale, as the male heir of the Callen’s.”
Callen swallowed hard to hold back the tears but it was no good. He broke at that moment and fell into his sister’s arms and cried. He cried in front of everyone, something he hated to do, but he couldn’t help it. After a lifetime alone, he finally found his family. His uncle, father and now his sister.
Angela cried just as hard, she was surprised that she still could after all the times that she had cried over losing him. But now it was a joyful cry, finally after so long she was reunited with her baby brother.
Callen broke apart from his sister and looked at her. “I knew, somehow I knew that you were alive. After Hannah told me that you drowned and Hetty gave me the address for the grave…”
“I’m sorry, Gale, for you thinking that I was dead. For you living alone for all of these years. I tried to find you. Mark and Sarah would have adopted you too, if they could. They are good people.” She wiped the tears from his face like she used to do when he was small.
Callen looked over at Mark, the man who had taken good care of his sister, before bringing his attention back to her. “I remember you pushing me in a red cart.”
Angela smiled at the memory. “Me too. You asked for me to push you faster and faster, but then you crashed and hurt your wrist.” She noticed him tracing the scar on his wrist. “You worried me when you took risks. You wanted to do everything I could do and more.”
Callen wrapped his arms around her and held her close. “I’ve missed you so much.”
“Me too, Gale. Me too.”
Callen felt small hands land on his shoulders and he knew who they belonged to. Molly. He turned and faced her, he saw the look of concern in her eyes.
“Why are you crying, Daddy?”
Callen brought her onto his lap and brushed her long blonde hair away from her face. “I’m happy, sweetheart. I’ve found my big sister, Amelia. She and I haven’t seen each other since I was five.”
Molly looked at Angela, her big blue eyes stared at her. “You have eyes like Daddy and me.”
Angela smiled at her niece. “I used to look just like you at your age.” She picked up the birthday card she’d given her brother and showed her the family photo. “I was eight years old in this photo, your Daddy was four. We were happy back then.”
Molly took the photo and studied the people in it. “You look like her, is she your Mom?”
Angela nodded her head. “She was beautiful, our Mom. She’s your grandma. She would have loved to have met you and your cousins.”
Molly’s eyes widened. “I have more cousins?”
“Yes. I have five children who range between twenty-two and ten. Blake’s the eldest, then there’s, Kayla, Mia, Jayden and Shannon.” Angela pulled out her cell and showed them a photo.
Callen and Molly noticed the family trait, the blond hair and vibrant blue eyes. As they were looking, Michelle’s cell rang again. Callen’s eyes looked up and met Michelle’s. She walked inside the house and answered.
“Shell. Granger and I are on the way to G’s house. Has G left yet?”
“No. There’s been a hold up.”
“What kind of hold up?”
“Callen’s sister turned up. She’s alive after all.”
“What?” Sam couldn’t believe what he was hearing. “You sure she’s the real deal?”
“If you saw her you would agree. The family likeness is uncanny. Callen’s not had a chance to speak with Arkady about going yet.”
“Okay. We’ll wait at our house, tell G to call us once he’s in town.” Sam disconnected the call and looked over at Granger.
Somewhere on the PCH
“Did you know that Amy was alive?” Sam quickly brought his attention to the road as they headed north to Los Angeles.
“I did. Only a handful knew.”
“Yes. But she didn’t know where, none of us knew. Only Mark Burton, Clara’s partner knew where she was. Mark took care of Amy while Hetty and I watched over your partner.”
“Are you telling me that you joined NCIS to watch over G?” Sam couldn’t believe what he was hearing.
“Yes and no. I had an obligation to watch out for Kensi as well for her father. Hetty ensured that both Callen and Kensi were put together on the same team, it made it easier then to watch over them both.” Owen heaved out a sigh. “Callen would never have accepted that we only had his best interests at heart. But we had to keep it all a secret to protect him and his sister. So it was easier to play nonchalant with him. As if we didn’t care.”
“But you do care, don’t you, Granger? You care more for him like as if he was your own son.”
“Yes, I do. We all do. Our team were the only ones who knew the truth about the Callen children, except for whoever brought them into America. We did it for Clara. She was one of us and we were like family.”
“Is that why you’ve agreed to come with me to face these Russians head on?”
“Each and everyone one of us left will face these Russians and every enemy left of Nikita and Clara’s, until it’s safe for Callen and Amy.”
“How many of you are there, beside you, Hetty and this Mark guy?”
“Another four. I’ve contacted them, they’ll meet us when I give them the green light. Callen doesn’t have to fight this on his own, Sam. He has more family than he realises. Not just blood, but those forged through a common goal to fight evil for this country. I haven’t been able to get hold of Mark, but if you say that Amy’s turned up where Callen is, then Mark will be with her.”
“G hasn’t left yet, he’s trying to come back with Arkady. We’ll have to see what happens when they get here. We’ll wait at my house, until we hear from him.”
“I’ve sent Mark a message, I’m hoping he’ll read it and come with them.”
Callen lifted Molly up from his lap and followed Michelle inside. “Was that Sam again?”
“Yes. He says Granger is with him and that they’ll wait at his place till he hears from you.”
Callen nodded. He turned and saw Arkady in the doorway. “You’re not leaving here, Callen.”
“Yes I am and you’re taking me back to L.A.” Callen almost growled. His steely blue eyes glared back at his uncle. “We can’t keep living like this, we need to end this now. They’ve attacked two members of my team while I’ve been hiding here. No one is safe until these Russians are dead.”
Arkady shook his head, he knew his nephew was right, but he still didn’t like it. “You are going to be the death of me, Callen.”
A smirk spread across Callen’s face, he knew he’d won fairly easily with his uncle. Knowing now just how much he meant to the Russian helped him get what he wanted.
“When do we leave?” Arkady looked over to his left and saw his older brother enter the house, picking up on the conversation.
Callen spotted his father and he knew that this was going to be hard. “We leave now.” He walked to the bedroom and grabbed a few things. His government issued weapon, a magazine of shells, knowing that Sam and Granger would have more back in L.A. Hopefully they’d scoured the armoury at the mission and bring the semi automatic rifles, then the battle would be fair. These Russians didn’t do anything small scale, so they were going head on and hoping that they could take them down and find out who it was in Russia who was the puppeteer for these men. They needed the intel, so they needed to wound one with the information and kill the rest.
His body tensed when he heard Alyssa enter the bedroom. He tried not to look up at her as he packed his bag.
“Tell me it’s not true, Greg. That you’re not really going to face these Russians head on.”
Callen stopped and looked up at her, it pained him to hear the fear in her voice. She’d suffered the most from these men, hiding for eight years, pregnant and very alone. “Sairs, please don’t…” he stepped closer, cupping her face in his hands. “Don’t cry. I’ll be fine.”
“It’s too dangerous, Greg. What about all those men, there are at least six of them, maybe more. You’ll be outnumbered.”
“No we won’t.” Callen and Alyssa turned and looked at Mark, who had followed them and stood in the doorway. “Clara’s old team, we’re all coming together to help Callen and his team to take them down. We owe it to Clara. I’ve just received a message from Granger. I’m coming with you, Gale.”
Callen wasn’t expecting this, but his heart swelled that his Mom’s old team would go to any lengths to help him and his family take these Russians down. “Thanks, I appreciate the offer.”
He pulled Alyssa in for one last kiss, holding her face in his hands. “I love you and I will come back for you and Molly. Stay safe.”
“Greg, I’ll hold you to it.” She watched him leave with tears down her cheeks. She prayed that they all came back in one piece. She couldn’t bear to lose Greg now that she had him back in her life. She and Molly needed him.
Angela furrowed her brow when her brother walked out of the house carrying a bag in his hand. “Where are you going?”
“I need to end this, Amy. Mark and our uncle Max will be with me and my team. Take care of Dad and my family. Please.” Angela nodded, she knew that he had to do this, she remembered how stubborn he was as a boy and he had that look in his eyes that no one was going to change his mind.
She hugged him and stepped back so he could pick up Molly and hug her.
“Be good for Mommy, sweetheart. I’ll be home soon.”
“Please, Daddy, don’t leave us.” She gripped tightly onto him, it broke his heart into tiny pieces. How could someone so small have such an effect on him?
“Aunt Amy will take care of you and Papa for me. You help Mommy get better. I’ll be back soon, baby.” He kissed her on the temple and placed her down on the ground.
Joelle stepped in and held onto Molly as Callen descended the stairs. He paused as he hugged his father goodbye. “Take care of my family for me, Dad.”
“I will, son. You just make sure you come home to us.” Callen nodded and walked to Arkady’s SUV.
Angela waited for her other father to leave. He stood in front of her and watched the tears fall. “I’ll take care of Gale for you, Angie. I’ll make sure he comes home safe.”
“You make sure you do too. I love you.” She knew the danger that he was leaving for was serious.
“I love you too, princess.” He hugged and kissed her and followed the others.
It was a sad farewell as Arkady drove Callen and Mark away for the airport. They had a mission ahead of them that no one was sure if any of them would survive. Nikita wrapped his arms around his daughter as she cried over the man who had become her father and raised her, leave. With his heart heavy, he led her inside the house, the birthday party decorations a stark reminder at what had been a happy occasion. Unfortunately, his enemies wouldn’t even allow his son a day to celebrate with family before he had to face them. He knew that he wouldn’t sleep until they returned safe and sound.