Hetty would have preferred to have given her team the Monday off, but they had too much on their plate. As it was, she knew her people wouldn’t be happy with the news that she was about to give them.
Eric Beale whistled from the top of the stairs, gaining the field agents’ attention. Like trained dogs, they climbed the stairs and she waited for them to enter the highly tech filled room known as Ops. One by one they shuffled in, tired from being overworked. She’d been on the phone earlier to their Director, requesting that her team have some time off. Instead he sent them this latest case which frustrated her even more.
“Miss Jones, Mr Beale?” The two began the team brief only to be halted by Sam in a matter of thirty seconds.
“Why have we been given this new case, Hetty? We are already working on who is after G and his family. Can’t this case be given to someone else? We’ve been worked like a Trojan for the past couple of months, we need to help G then have a rest.”
“I’m with Sam, Hetty.” Deeks stepped forward, the worry lines etched in his brow. “We need to do this so Callen can come home.”
Henrietta Lange sighed. “I’m sorry, I understand full well how you are feeling, but you have all been taken off Mr Callen’s case.”
“What? No, Hetty. Callen needs us. The last thing he needs is for us to abandon him, after all he’s been through in his life.” Hetty stared at her Detective, the younger man understood her team leader more than most and she was proud of him for standing up for him.
“Unfortunately, I cannot authorise any of you to continue on Mr Callen’s case. It’s too dangerous due to your close relationship with him. Anyone close to him is at risk of being kidnapped or killed, to lure him out and then his father.”
“But Callen doesn’t know where his father is, or if he is alive even,” Deeks stressed.
“Deeks is right, Hetty. We need to do this for Callen.” Kensi stood beside her partner, the worry and her resolve to stay on this case was evident in her eyes.
“It’s too dangerous. I have put another team on the case.”
“You can’t be serious, Hetty?” Sam crossed his arms over his chest, annoyed and frustrated.
“I am, Mr Hanna. Each of you are at risk, a risk I cannot afford to take.”
Sam needed to punch something, his patience was running thin.
“Director Vance has ordered you to work on this case in the meantime.” She gave her team a firm look in hope that they’d all capitulate. She turned her attention back to Nell and Eric.
“Please continue, Mr Beale, Miss Jones.”
The three field agents stood in silence, no longer wanting to be there. They listened to their new case, the details of a missing Navy SEAL down in San Diego.
“Petty Officer, Ken Jackson, was last seen entering a bar last night with a friend, who’s a civilian. His friend, Adrian Prior, was the one who raised the alarm.”
Hetty watched her people and sighed inwardly. She wished it could have been different, but she needed to keep them focused on something else. She couldn’t afford to have any more of them in danger, having Callen and his family at risk was bad enough. She needed to make contact with an old friend and she would leave to meet up with him after the team brief.
“I need a partner, Hetty. My partner. When’s he coming back?” The muscles under Sam’s shirt rippled as he flexed them.
“You know I have no clue to when it will be safe for Mr Callen to return to us, Mr Hanna. Assistant Director Granger will meet you at Coronado, to meet with Jackson’s superior, Ensign Luke Holland.” She turned to her junior members. “Mr Deeks and Miss Blye, Jackson’s friend, Adrian Prior, is waiting for you at our office in San Diego, where he’s been waiting to be interviewed since raising the alarm.”
“Couldn’t a NCIS team from San Diego work on this case, Hetty? Why do I get the feeling you are sending us far away from G and his case?”
“If it was my decision, Mr Hanna, you wouldn’t be working today or for the rest of this week. You all look knackered and I am not surprised from the hectic workload we’ve all been under recently. However, Director Vance wants your team on this case. The San Diego teams are tied up with pressing cases and they cannot take this case on too. With your experience as a Navy SEAL, Director Vance has deemed your expertise vital in solving this case and finding Ken Jackson.”
Sam reined in his emotions and exited the room. He ran down the stairs and grabbed his keys on his way out of the mission. He turned up the stereo and played jazz. He knew Callen would hate it, but he wasn’t there to complain. He was on his own now and he hated it. He missed his partner and he’d only left the day before. Granger. Why of all people did he have to partner up with him? They didn’t get along well, especially when the Assistant Director demanded that he drive Sam’s challenger. The last time he’d driven, it ended up in the workshop for new brakes.
The drive down was long and boring for the former SEAL, but he was glad he at least had the car to himself. He could’ve had Granger or Deeks in the car with him, it could have been worse. And there was no way on this planet, where he would have sat shotgun or in the back seat while Kensi drove. He’d seen the look on Callen’s face after Hunter had swapped them over and Kensi had driven him to the crime scene. At least he had his jazz. No one could ever take that away from him.
Back in Los Angeles
Henrietta Lange sat down with her pot of tea as she waited for her companion to meet her. She sat outside the boardwalk cafe, taking in the beauty of the Pacific Ocean.
“It’s been a long time, Henrietta.” Mark Burton sat opposite his former colleague and smiled over to her. “You’re looking well considering your age. You still practising your ancient arts?” He knew too well how good she was in battle against any opponent, no matter what sex, age or size. She’d learned from the master in the ancient arts and continued to keep her skills up. After thirty-seven years, she still was as sharp as she was back in the day.
Hetty chuckled. “It’s good to see you again, my old friend. Life has flashed by way too fast. I’m afraid your eyes are dim and you cannot see how I really am.”
“You know I look past the skin deep qualities, I see youth in your eyes and the strength you have always possessed. How’s Clara’s boy?”
“He could be doing better, Mark. We have a problem.”
Mark removed his sunglasses and leaned over the table. “Comescu?”
Hetty shook her head. “No. Russian trouble. Enemies of Nikita Reznikov’s.” She watched the name click with her former colleague. “You knew who their father was?”
“I’m sorry, Henrietta, I couldn’t risk their lives by revealing to you who he was. He was in a Siberian prison for a few years after Clara’s death.” He paused, the memory of finding Clara’s dead body on the beach never left him. He and his team searched for two weeks, but never found the children. It took them, including Hetty, another two years before they found the girl in Los Angeles. Then Hetty took over the job of looking out for the boy after she’d found him on the east coast. She’d found a foster family for him, but after two years already in the system, he appeared lost. Anger had surged through her from the news of how badly the boy with a letter for a name had been treated. She’d moved him but each time she’d found him a good foster family, the Comescus had found him and she had to move him again.
“Mr Callen knows who his father is now, after more Comescus tried to lure him out eighteen months ago. But we have bigger problems. Someone in Russia is out to get Nikita and anyone associated with him or his son. Innocent people are being killed, Mark. This has to stop. Before another is killed because of this.”
“Have you found Nikita?”
Hetty pursed her lips, she wasn’t sure if she should tell him or not.
“I take it you have. Has the boy seen him yet?”
“I believe he is with him as we speak. A trusted contact has arranged to place Mr Callen and his family in hiding, which is where Nikita has been hiding for some time.”
“But? I see your hesitation, Henrietta.”
“It appears someone whose known Mr Callen for some time has hidden the truth about his father from him. Another family member. I don’t believe Mr Callen will take the meeting with his father well, I need to make amends for my own part in keeping secrets from him, Mark. He needs his sister.”
“But you told him she died. He won’t take it well to see that you’ve hidden this from him.”
“It wasn’t I who told him, but the girl. Hannah Lawson. I merely played my part in the story to keep Amy safe.”
“She’s cried for her brother for as long as I have known her. I’ve lost track on how long she’s wanted to be with him. And now you’re telling me that you want them reunited? If what you say is true about the danger that they’re in from Russia, then I have more reason to keep the illusion that she is dead in place. For her and her family’s sake.” Mark flexed his muscles as he tried to rein in his own emotions. He’d taken the girl in and raised her as his own daughter. He and his wife, Sarah, have loved her as if she was their own, alongside their own children. She’d been married for twenty-five years with five children who were thriving, thanks to the opportunity that they’d given Amy. But most importantly, she was safe. They all were. “No, I won’t do it.”
Hetty sighed. “I thought you might refuse, Mark. But I had hoped that for Amy’s sake, you might reconsider. Here is the address where she can find her brother and father. This may be the only chance she gets to see them again.” Hetty stood up and walked away, leaving Mark holding the small note in his hand. In her hand writing, staring up at him was the address that would change Amy’s life forever. Her own family. He was torn on what to do. He wanted to give Amy her brother, for so long he’d argued with Hetty to get the boy out of the system, for him and Sarah to adopt him. But she’d refused. Now, with both of them in their forties, it was a chance to make it up to them. Had Hetty changed her mind in her old age? Was she going soft or was it guilt causing her to make amends for what she’d failed to do for the children long ago? He wasn’t’ sure, but he needed to think long and hard about it before he made any decisions.
Coronado, San Diego
Sam pulled up outside the Navy SEAL headquarters in San Diego and entered the reception area. He asked for Ensign Luke Holland and waited to be called. Owen Granger entered and sat down next to him.
“Do you know why we’ve been put on this case and not working to help G?” Sam pushed.
“No, I haven’t heard anything from Director Vance or from Hetty. I was down here seeing to my other teams when I was asked to meet you here.” His people were stretched, terrorist threats and crime within the navy was making his people’s working overtime and he had asked for more people. But until the SecNav came through with his request, he had no choice but to help his people as best as he could.
“Did you hear G has a wife and daughter?”
“No, all I’ve heard was that someone was after him and his girlfriend. Hang on, you said wife and daughter?” Sam saw the confusion on his face.
“Joelle isn’t his girlfriend. She’s his sister-in-law. They’d been working together to find her twin sister, Alyssa. Apparently Alyssa was pregnant when she fled. She’d seen gunmen enter her home eight years ago and now they’re back.”
“Callen never mentioned to you he had a wife?”
Sam shook his head. “Nothing. I couldn’t understand why he wouldn’t talk about him and Jo. All this time I thought we’d set them up, but all we did was reunite him with his wife’s family.” The frustrations of the weekend took hold of him.
“Your partner’s been through more than most, Sam, and although you’ve been good for him, but it’s hard for him to let people in. I get why he has trust issues. Don’t punish him for it. But you’re right, we do need to help him, so he can come home. I’ll talk with Hetty when I get back to Los Angeles. Did she tell you why you had been put on this case?”
“She thinks we’re too close to G and therefore it’s too dangerous for us to work on his case. She’s put another team on the case instead.”
“She’s worried, for all of you. She’s taken on the burden to keep your partner safe for a long time. It sound’s like it’s getting too much for her. I’ll talk with her.”