Sam continued down the hallway, stopping as a shadow crossed his path.
“NCIS… show yourself.” He ordered, raising his firearm.
A man in an Air Force uniform stepped out of the shadows. “You gonna shoot me son?” The large man’s voice rumbled.
“Colonel?” Sam lowered his gun.
“Samuel.” The man smiled.
Sam’s gun wavered, “What’s going on here?”
Sam shook his head, “That’s kids’ stuff.”
Sam saw an old chair and moved over to sit on it, “Who are you?” He did not believe his eyes, even though his knees and his gut were telling him who it was. He needed to sit down before his legs gave way.
“It’s me Samuel.” The Colonel said. “You’ve grown a lot.”
“Yes, sir.” Sam replied, even if this… thing was not really his father, it looked like him and his gut told him he could not disrespect a man in uniform, especially when he had done nothing to deserve his disrespect.
The man crouched down on one knee, a move Sam remembered from his childhood.
“Samuel, I’m proud of the man you’ve become.”
“How are you here?” Sam asked, still not putting away his weapon, his hand shaking slightly.
“Your friend Eric warned you about this place, today… especially today, this place is a vortex, I knew you were coming and took the chance to be here.”
“You know about Eric?” Sam asked shocked.
“I’m dead Samuel, not stupid.” The Colonel replied.
The Colonel smiled, “I watch over you all. You, your wife, your son and daughter. I am proud of the man you have become.” He said again. “Your friends… you need to be there for them. They will need you.”
“Deeks!” Sam jumped to his feet, remembering why he was here.
“Callen… Deeks, they will need you.” His father said. “They don’t have good spirits around them. They need you and your friend, they need family.”
“Callen… he doesn’t…”
“Nonsense son.” The Colonel snapped, reminding Sam of the times he had answered back to his father as a child. “That boy has been your brother since you learned of his background. We do not recognize family in the same way over here. You consider him your brother, then he is my son. Your brother needs you. Deeks… he will need you as well.
“Although he has his own family to help. Callen is in danger now, follow me.” The Colonel requested. “I cannot interact with his demons, but I can guide you to his rescue.”
The Colonel walked towards the door and vanished.
“Hurry…” His voice resonated in Sam’s ear, and Sam hurried to follow in the direction his father had walked off in.
For a second, Deeks thought he had heard the voices of his team calling out to him.
As he opened his mouth to reply, the large black mass moved over him again.
“Not a sound kid.” The voice warned. “One sound out of you and I’ll kill them, you fight back and I’ll kill her.” It growled.
Deeks whimpered, his mind thrust back to his childhood when the same voice had uttered the same threats.
He felt like he had been there for weeks, even though it had in fact been days.
He was black and blue all over, and had not looked this bad since the day he had shot his father. He cowered from the blows he could not see that had never stopped, even when he had passed out from the pain.
He knew who this shape was; he had thought he was safe. However, he did not know if it was a combination of the drugs he had been given and his imagination, or if this was real.
If this was real, then he was without a doubt in Hell.
Every once in a while, through his blackened and bruised eyes, he could make out the face of his father leering at him, smiling at the pain he was in. A large hole was over his heart, a blood stained shirt and the remembered smell of alcohol wafted over him.
“You killed me boy… you think I’d forget that?” The spirit snarled at him.
Deeks shook his head, that was not right. He had never killed his father when he was eleven? Sure, he had shot him, but Gordon Brandel had gone to jail and died in a DUI accident in ’94.
“Didn’t…” Deeks started, and stopped as he felt hands he could not see cut off his air supply.
His arms flailed, as he tried to pull the unseen hands on his face away from him until he passed out.
The shadow seemed to lose cohesion for a moment, then unseen voices, whispering undecipherable words seemed to cause the shadow to darken. It whirled as if it were a tornado and twisted away, leaving the battered body of the detective on the floor, unconscious but alive.
The darkness surrounding Callen was suffocating, he fought it as much as he could. He had hated the dark as a child. A few foster parents, especially Malone had taken it upon themselves to try to teach Callen a lesson, and for misbehaving had locked him in a closet or basement. At first he had not minded, after all it was just darkness, then came Malone.
Malone kept rats.
Not the cute pet rats that a child might keep, but wild ones. He had encouraged them in his basement, leaving scraps out for them to eat for just one reason. Punishment.
The basement was empty of everything except a thin mattress and a bucket. All the kids who went through the Malone home and came out the other side passed on the word about the basement.
Callen had heard about it when he was told he was going to stay there, a hushed whisper from a frightened kid the night before. However, he had assumed that it was just another story to frighten him so he would beg to stay at the group home. Especially as the child telling him about the rats in the Malone basement, was the same child who had been bullying him for the past month, stealing his food and putting gum in his hair so he would have to have it cut.
So after waking up with yet another nightmare, his first night in the Malone home and the other boy, Jason, not being able to silence his sobs, the screaming child had been dragged down the stairs and thrown bodily into the basement to ‘shut up and behave’.
Instantly Callen had stopped crying, not realizing that that was the last time he would ever cry in front of anyone ever again. It was also the last time he would not fear the dark.
Everyday run of the mill darkness did not scare him. Even up until that day, total pitch blackness had never bothered him, so when he landed on the floor in that basement, he had just wiped his eyes and brushed himself off. Waiting as his eyes adjusted to the darkness, he saw the mattress in the corner and moved to sit on it.
It was not long before the sound started, scratchy scrabbling sounding noises, just outside his vision. The occasional squeak of a mouse, he assumed. It was not the first time he had spent an hour or two locked in someone’s basement. The mice were not frightening, they were usually more scared of him and he was not bothered by them.
He curled up into a ball and tried to get some sleep. After all, he was a growing boy and usually slept eight hours a night. Never again.
He had awoken to something scratchy on his face.
Figuring it was one of the other children, he waved his hand away and opened his mouth to tell them to get off. Something smooth, warm, with just a hint of fur fell into his mouth.
He coughed and sat up as whatever it was fell into his lap. Then it moved.
He screamed as he realized that it was too big to be a mouse, and whatever it was had friends, hundreds of friends and they were climbing all over him, mostly trying to get into the pockets of his jeans which he had not taken off before getting into bed that night.
Trying to get to the half-eaten sandwich he had wrapped up and put in there.
He waved his arms around, trying to make them go away, which in turn made more climb over him. He curled himself into a ball and sobbed, praying that someone would come and save him.
What seemed to the child like hours later, the door opened, a light from the kitchen upstairs flooded down and the hideous creatures scuttled back to the darkness.
With wide, terrified eyes, Callen looked up expecting the angry face of Malone. Instead, his blue eyes met the green eyes of the older boy whose room he shared.
Jason looked down at the shivering eight-year-old and beckoned him upstairs.
“Malone’s out, gone to the liquor store. You can run now if you want.” Jason offered.
Callen nodded and ran up the stairs.
Jason packed them both a bag each and made it as far as the stairs as the front door swung open. Both boys rooted to the spot in fear.
“WHO LET HIM OUT!” Malone roared as he saw the young child clinging to the hand of his older savior.
Jason pushed Callen behind him, “When it’s safe, run.” He hissed as he squared up to their foster father.
Malone grabbed the teenager by his throat and slammed him up against the wall, fear making Callen move back up the stairs.
The drunken man punched the boy repeatedly for minutes that seemed to Callen to be hours, not noting that the older boy had gone limp and all sound having ceased from him.
Eventually, he had thrown the limp body of the teenager to the floor.
Callen had not said a word since Jason had saved him from the basement. He opened his mouth to try to wake up the older boy, but no words came out. He shook him and turned his head towards him, scrambling back his voice a silent scream as Jason’s sightless eyes stared at him.
He sat there, holding his knees and staring at the body, not even hearing the sound of the police officers banging on the door after a neighbor had called them. Not acknowledging their words of comfort as they moved to check on the two boys, finding to their horror a dead child and a traumatized one. He sat in the fetal position, holding his knees, not saying a word, not even resting until a doctor at the hospital had sedated him so he could sleep. Even then the terror of what he had endured forced him to fight the sleep so he would not wake up to the rats again.
Now he was back there, back in the basement. A scream of terror ripped from his throat as Malone, unseen and above him gloated reminding him of the rats and his terror of the dark.