Past Lives Moving Into The Present.
There they were, staring at the casket. It wasn't a greatly attended funeral, but it had a few people who had known him over the years. A few of them stood together, all in dark suits, with their sunglasses on because it was, of course, a bright and sunny day on a day to mourn. It always seemed to happen that way.
"There should be a flag," one said quietly.
"He did covert things. They wouldn't even think about blowing that," another said quietly. They watched the others there to mourn. They knew some of them. A few they had worked with. One walking up to join them was a former teammate when they were teenagers. Way back when really. They felt so old standing there in their early thirties. They had lived through a lot to get to that point and the man in the casket had made sure they lived through it. Even if they hated him for it.
Another joined them, nudging one to look in a direction away from the people. He looked then nudged the next one so he would look. They found another person watching. The stranger barely nodded then they watched the minister walk up to start the graveside service. They'd figure that out afterward. When they went to talk to him, they found no person, but a picture of them there. They all understood the warning it was. They had broken cover and someone would love to see them in the open. They broke apart without a dinner or any hanging out time, heading back to their own cities. One found a note in his car's front seat. Plain unsealed envelope. Whoever had put it there knew they'd be paranoid. Inside was a plain note that was in the dead man's handwriting. Someone had been hunting information on their unit before he had died. It was possible his death was a way to get them into the open. Because they were still hidden under covert regulations by the government they had served as teenagers. He texted that to the others then drove to the airport. The others would ignore him if they ran into him there. It's the way they had been trained and taught to survive.
If someone wanted to hunt them, they'd have a very hard time doing it. Especially with these guys. Near the tops in their current fields and tops in their former field.
Ryan Wolfe was working his current scene and found a new piece of evidence in a bush. Which wasn't right for what had happened. He looked back at the scene then at the piece of fabric. "Eric, is her shirt torn? I've got a piece of red fabric here in the bush. Looks like a fresh tear. It has strings hanging off still."
Eric Delko looked it over, then shook his head. "No, not that I can see. Red?"
He held it up in the clear baggie he had sealed it into. "It looks like her top's under fabric."
Eric looked then shook his head again. "Not from here. Maybe it's from the killer." He looked around the scene. "Why would they be over there though? His path was the other direction."
"That's what I was thinking." He brought it over so he could look at it better. "It looks fresh."
"It does. It's still wet too it looks like." He put it into the plastic bin with the other evidence envelopes and baggies. "I think we're done here. Alexx?"
She walked over. "Thank you, boys."
They watched her look over the body, then checked under where the body had been laying. Eric drove the hummer back to the lab and they got to work, Ryan working on the more mundane samples. Something was bothering him about that piece of fabric so he'd wait until they had the other evidence so he could fit it in instead of letting it lead him wherever it went. What he came up with was a cologne he knew was custom made. That made no sense. He sat there staring at the report and the fabric, trying to figure out how this fit into his crime. He went to Eric's lab to get the pictures and frowned as he watched. "He backtracked," he muttered, taking them to Horatio since Eric was gone for the day. He found him in his office doing the dreaded paperwork. "H, do you have about ten? It's a problem on our case."
"What sort of problem, Mr. Wolfe?" He put down his pen and leaned back. "A problem with the evidence not giving you what you need or another problem?"
"Oh, it's much worse than that." He took a deep breath. "I have a suspect but I can't tell you how I know and I can't be there to question him." He put it down. "That's a custom cologne from a very old house in Paris."
"You can't tell me how you know this?"
"No. I also can't question him unless you want one of us to walk off with a gunshot wound, probably in me. He's a faster draw than I am."
"A former friend perhaps?"
"No. And I'm not at liberty to stay more. I'm sorry. Do you want me off this case?"
"I want you to let Eric find him and question him after you tell me what you can."
"I can't. At all. It's beyond classified. I'm sorry but I don't feel like having to disappear."
"I see." He looked at it. "Why do you think it's connected."
Ryan pointed at the pictures. "He backtracked to make it a different escape path. This person would *never* not pick up after himself. It was trained into him."
"Which sounds like government service." Ryan just stared at him. "I understand about classified materials, Mr. Wolfe."
"I still can't tell you. I can tell Eric how to find him and how to get him to admit to
anything. I have no idea why he showed up on my scene if it wasn't him."
"Could this be him getting your attention?"
"He doesn't like me, H. If he sees me he's sworn to kill me. If he's down here, he already knows where I am. Apparently he's decided to leave me alone at the moment or he's on vacation enjoying the scantily clad college girls." He looked out the window then back at him. "If he's not here about her, then he's on vacation or he's here about me. I don't know which but I don't want to make the department try to cover up him going on a fit and trying to shoot me in public."
"I'll let Eric know that about him. You will help us when we question him?"
"Of course." He grinned. "The feeling's mutual, H. I'd like to end him too." He walked off to call Eric. "We have a problem. That piece of fabric led back to someone so high up the government's ass he can't see anything but incoming farts," he said quietly. "And he wants to kill me." He smirked. "He might be the club with you, Eric. He goes for the same cheap, easy women you do. I'll write down what I know then I'm removing myself from the case." He hung up and went back to his lab, looking over as someone snuck in and closed the door. "Valera. Not who I was expecting. I almost expected Eric to be one of his."
"No, he's not. I checked when I got here. He does seem like he trained with one of the
commanders." She came closer. "He's not here about you, Ryan. There's a higher
ranking target in town that he's here to watch. I'll ask him about that girl this morning if you want."
"Please and let Eric know. I had to let H know I couldn't question him."
"He'd love that," she said dryly. "He did call when he got down here to ask me to look his target up through our system here. He said nothing about you or the others."
"That's wonderful. Doesn't mean my commander wasn't killed because someone was
looking for intel." She hissed then shook her head. "He left us a letter. Someone gave us a clear warning they knew we had broken cover for the funeral. So I'm going to be a bit paranoid."
"I can understand that. It's how you guys stayed alive. I never had the need to train like your team did. Mine did a lot less of the heavy stuff."
He grinned. "So we heard. Don't worry about it, Valera. As long as you're not here to hit me."
"No, I'm not."
"Any others in the lab I should know about?"
"No. Not that I know about. I thought maybe Hagen knew once but I think he was hitting on me instead of trying to get intel from me." She grinned. "Relax. It's not a bad thing for you. Just stay out of sight." She walked off, closing the lab's door behind her. She watched Ryan leave later then went to corner Horatio on his way out the door. "Got a few?"
"Are you going to tell me something about this mystery suspect that Ryan can't talk about, Miss Valera?"
She looked at him. "You're good, Horatio. I can tell you if he did her, it wasn't his target."
"Which means he's Homeland or CIA?"
He looked at her before stepping closer. "Tell me what you can."
"I can tell you that he hates Ryan because at one point in time there were competing projects using talented and gifted teenagers. I can tell you Ryan was not on this guy's team, which is about half the conflict. He thought the others were going rogue and manipulated things to end the program under a termination order if they popped up in any way related to the project's goals. It came down to a problem of putting teenagers into stressful situations that they couldn't emotionally handle well enough." He nodded slowly at that. "I can tell you that he knows Ryan's down here but I'm told he wasn't here this time for Ryan. He's in town for a higher profile target. Ryan's safe but paranoid."
"Is he right to be?"
"That's what kept him alive for years, Horatio. I do know he said he wasn't here for him."
"That…that is good to know," he decided, thinking it over. "What can you tell me about this man? Is he capable of this sort of act?"
"If it's got a good reason. I don't know if he could do it for no reason. I never got that deeply into his head. He wouldn't allow people that close to him. We were like soldiers to him."
"I see." He nodded. "Can you help Eric question him?"
"Only if you can put me into witness protection on another planet. That would be considered a betrayal."
He nodded. "I understand, Miss Valera. Thank you for filling in some more details."
"I don't want anything to happen but I'd think it was out of character for him to just up and kill someone for no reason, Horatio. Kill in the line of duty yes. But not for fun and games."
"I'll keep that in mind. Thank you."
"You're welcome." She bounced off to go home for the night.
Horatio went back up to his office to do some digging. He did not like people like that working in Miami. It upset things when agents tried to cover up whatever was going to happen. It led to too many problems with the department and usually missing people or cases that would be permanently open. Justice wouldn't get done.
In a small office just outside Washington, DC, a computer beeped a warning. The operator looked over from his cup of coffee, staring at the information being sought. He canceled their search on them and called a higher up. "This is Jenkins. I had to cancel someone in Miami looking for information on a name I don't know but it was listed as top level secret clearance, sir." He watched as a new one came in. "There's a second one. Miami." He canceled that one on them and hacked into their database to close down t hat person's computer. "Sir, I shut down their system but it's the Miami-Dade PD's crime lab." He listened. "I can't do that, sir. It's not my job. I'll make sure nothing else gets searched from there on them." He hung up and put in that order to block any future searches from that area. It'd screw with their system but oh well. They didn't need to know.
His boss looked at the canceled searches and the information they had pulled in that day on cases. It had to lead back to one. "Two of them working in the same lab," he muttered. "Who spilled?" He found the case and groaned. "No wonder. His boss probably asked him enough to know why he couldn't be on the case." He looked at his record then sighed. "He broke cover. First the funeral then this." He noticed the name on the notice of them breaking cover for the funeral. The same one that was a suspect now. "He must be hunting him for that." He sighed as he put in the command to issue a hunt for breaking cover and/or clearance rules on his prior project. That had to be why they had sudden interest from that area. The other agent down there could handle it if her former commander wanted her to. She could probably get close enough for a humane poisoning or something.
Ryan looked around as he got into his car the next morning on the way to work. Something was wrong and he knew that. He had stopped to get his morning coffee, like he did most mornings he had been up all night doing something. Now he was going to be late for work. "Great, just what I need. H'll toast me if I'm late," he muttered as he started the car. He backed out of his parking spot and headed off down 5th Ave. Then he'd cross the McArthur Causeway to get to Bicentennial Park and then the lab. That was derailed when a car pulled out in front of him on 5th Ave and tried to get him to stop by suddenly stopping in front of him.
"Yeah, not cute," he complained as he spun around them and sped up a bit. With his luck there'd be a cop nearby and he'd try to pull him over. Then whoever these guys were would try to shoot him too. That was not going to happen around him. He called the lab. "Hey, Eric, tell H I can't make it in today please," he said, sounding perfectly calm. "No, car issues. Thanks, man." He hung up and spun to get onto Washington Ave. There was a lot of traffic there this time of day since it was a major road and led closer to a school.
He wove around a few of the cars, getting some police notice but he knew the guy driving. "Gotta love my old unit," he complained. He pulled over and got out, jogging back to the car with his badge shown openly. "Someone just tried to ram me. I'm going to somewhere safer then heading in." He pointed out the car when it went past them. "That's them. "
"Which department are you with, Officer?"
"Wolfe. I'm with the Lab." That got a nod. "Lieutenant Caine knows. I called in already. Just let me get away?" The officer nodded so he took off in another direction, heading back to his hidey hole. If anyone searched his apartment too hard, they'd find it. That'd still give him some time to pack. He parked and calmly got out, watching around him as he went inside. Two deadbolt locks later and he was inside. Then he turned off his security system and rearmed it so he was protected in case they tried to break in. He walked past his desk and grabbed a bag out of his closet. He kept it packed in case he had to leave suddenly for some reason. Apparently that reason had come.
He had no idea what was going on. He hadn't broken confidence. He hadn't given out anything classified. Unless… unless someone had went searching and had found something and they blamed it on him. Which was like his former masters. They would do something like that. That explained it then. He checked the clothes, adding more from his closet. He remembered to pack socks and underwear even. He was proud of himself.
He had never lived down that time he hadn't on the way to Prague. The others had picked on him each time they had to pack anything. He paused to send a coded email to them then went to the armory. This was his baby. He loved his guns. He respected them so they worked for him. He sat down to check over what he had. He had to weed down what he'd carry with him. There was no way he was paying to take 3 bags of guns on board the airplane he'd be taking. Speaking of, he called his old comm/intel person.
"Hey, it's Ryan. Proston showed up in Miami on a case. They have a hunt order out on me. I need a safe house. Armory at the moment. I can fly. Thanks, man." He hung up and got back to work checking them over. He narrowed it down to American guns. Even if he went overseas they were easily exchangeable and dependable if he had to use them. Most of his were lightweight, lower caliber ones. Nothing above a nine millimeter. He'd have trouble finding ammo otherwise.
He got a text message with a location. He smiled. "That's not a bad place to be," he decided, going to make flight reservations. That was done easily enough and he finished packing his bags of guns. "One carry on and two checked," he decided, checking them for weight. He removed one and put it back, then he locked his armory. He checked his watch and changed his clothes. He didn't want to fly sweaty. He needed to look calm and collected, like he was moving. Which he now was because he couldn't stay in Miami anymore.
Ryan heard the knock on his door and frowned, then groaned. "They checked the building records," he moaned. He grabbed something from the armory to answer the door with. "Hi, H," he said, not really surprised he was there.
"What is going on?" Horatio asked quietly, stepping inside.
"Whatever's going on is going to get me killed now. Sorry, but I think I have to resign. I've liked working with you guys." He gassed him and helped him to the floor. "Sorry, H, but it's safer for you if I do it this way." He grabbed his stuff out of his desk to put into his pockets then carried his bags down to his car. It was a fairly common car for Miami. Nothing too flashy. There's plenty of them in Miami and the hunt team would check for license plates on the way to the airport but he knew Miami pretty well so he'd be able to take the back streets that way. He came back and got Horatio, carrying him down to the car. He locked him in then went back to lock up his hidden area.
He jogged back down to the car. "James Bond doesn't have days like these," he told Horatio's limp body. "Too bad I'm not British." He backed out of his space and headed off toward the traffic filled streets. He found a place he had looked up once for a cookout he hadn't went to. Pulling in was easy enough to do and he had a pretty good cover story already made up. He got out and walked around to get Horatio out, walking him up to the door. He rang the bell, giving the older woman answering a look when she gasped. "Someone tried to take him out and ended up gassing him. I found him on my doorstep. Can you watch him until Eric can come pick him up, Mrs. Delko?"
"Do I know you?"
"I'm Ryan. I work with your son in the lab."
"Oh, you're him." She helped him get Horatio to the couch. "I'll call Eric right now. Do we know who did it?"
"No, ma'am, but I'm sure he'll be finding out very quickly today. I'm pretty sure it's about his current case." Horatio moaned. "Let me get to the lab and work on that case, ma'am. Thank you." He smiled and left, heading for the airport.
Mrs. Delko got a wet washcloth for the poor man's head while she called her son. "Do not answer your phone like that, Eric. I taught you better. No, that nice Ryan boy you work with just dropped an unconscious Horatio on my doorstep. He said he found him gassed on his doorstep and it had to do with your current case?" She listened then frowned. "No, he said gassed, Eric. He's trying to wake up. He said it had to do with your current case. I have no idea but he said you'd probably come get him in a while? Well I do have that church luncheon today with the other senior ladies." She smiled. "Good boy. I can wait that long." She hung up and checked him over, getting him some ice water. "Here you go, Horatio. Ryan made sure you were safe before he went to find out who did this to you," she said, trying to keep him calm.
"Where is he?" he moaned, sipping the water. That gas had left an unusual, bad taste in his mouth.
"He said he went to work on that case that probably got you gassed. You just rest, dear. Eric's on his way over to pick you up."
"That's good." He sat up with her help. "How long was I out?"
"Not very long. It's only been a few minutes since he dropped you off."
"I'll be thanking him later." After he found his running lab geek and beat him for this. Severely beaten him for this. Eric walked in a few minutes later. "Let's go. Thank you, Mrs. Delko." He gave her a kiss on the cheek.
"This won't put Eric in danger, will it?"
"No, I don't think it will," he assured her with a calming smile. Eric grinned and shook his head too, walking Horatio out to the hummer. "Eric, we have to go to Mr. Wolfe's place."
"Why did he drop you off with my mother?"
"Because something on your case yesterday led back to something he used to be a part of when he was a teenager and they've now put out an order to hunt him down and kill him." Eric moaned. "His second place is on Ocean Drive."
"Second place? What was he? Rambo?"
"I'm thinking it was more like _Spy Kids_ personally," he said dryly. "Considering he had knock out gas on hand to use on me." He looked at him. "Do you have your phone on you?" Eric handed it over. He found Ryan's number programmed so he dialed it, getting an out of service message. "He's had his phone turned off." He called the lab. "Calleigh, good. Find out which flight Mr. Wolfe just took out of Miami. Do not try to have him stopped. No, it's important. Because someone wants to kill him, Calleigh. Then I want you to get Miss Valera over to Ryan's second address on Ocean Drive immediately." He hung up and leaned his head back again. "I would like to know what was in that gas. It does not taste like the normal sedative gas."
"There's no telling, H. You really think he was something like a kid spy? I mean, he wears sweater vests and he's got OCD. He's the poster child for lab geek. Even worse than Cooper is."
"Looks can be deceiving."
"Uh-huh, but I don't think they can go that far."
"Miss Valera seemed to know something about this as well," he said quietly.
"She's not femme fatale material," he said, looking confused.
"I know, Eric. We'll figure it out and stop this threat so I can beat Mr. Wolfe for gassing me that way." Eric laughed. "Go left. There's my hummer." They parked beside it and headed up. The door had two locks. It was clearly wired for an alarm system. Maxine Valera joined them ten minutes later. "Have you been here before?"
"We worked on different projects," she admitted, glancing around.
"Can you open the door?"
"Sure." She picked the locks then moved to disarm the alarm system. "There, in." She looked around. "Ryan needs to learn how to decorate." She sighed, heading for the desk. It wasn't that hard to search it. "His escape kit is gone. No passport, no fake ID's. Nothing on what his second identity is." She looked at them. "Why the call out?"
"Ryan gassed him because he thinks someone's hunting him."
"Aw, crap," she muttered. "Horatio, if you went looking, it got him put on a termination list."
"That was not my intention. Would it be the person he was worried about seeing in person?"
"If there's an order, he's a legal target for anyone. No one's called me to help them with it but that doesn't mean anything."
"He called me earlier to say he had car trouble."
"Easiest way to get him. Stop him and shoot him, Eric," she told him. "He probably
broke his path using another officer if he was trained the same way I was. Then he came here to pack and had Horatio surprise him. Gassing was a good choice so he'd be out of the way of being shot too. Now, Ryan's contacted someone or has a safe house already set up somewhere." She browsed the apartment. "Clothes missing. One in a bag that's sweaty. Ah, the guns." She opened the cabinets, making Eric gasp and Horatio moan. "He does Calleigh proud I'm sure," she said dryly. "He's also got about twenty with him." She checked the nearby drawers. "Ammo too. Smart boy." She closed things and looked at them. "We should pack this up. He'll have it closed down by the end of the month."
"We can do that," Horatio agreed. "I want you to aid Eric on his case, Miss Valera. I do not like how coincidental this is becoming."
"Horatio, it wasn't just Ryan on his team," she said dryly. "Each unit had at least 3 and a communications person or an information giver. Someone to man the truck and monitor the radios."
"Do we know who they are?" Eric asked. "And how do you know, Max?"
"Classified and no."
"I'll pack this and put it into my garage. As well as his regular apartment," Horatio decided. "Go work on that case. I want this person either behind bars or out of my city."
"Can do," Maxine agreed. She walked Eric out, letting him lead the way back to the lab. "Maybe I can rent that place. It's already set up." He gave her an odd look. "It is." They were on the lab's steps.
"What is going on?" he demanded.
She patted him on the cheek. "If I tell you, it would make your mother cry, Eric. I don't want to be asked to bear your posthumous child."
"Eww." He walked inside. "Find him for me please, Max. I'll deal with him with your help."
"Sure. He's at the Tropicana." He walked out, pulling her with him. "Easy on the shirt, Eric."
"Shut up. I'm sure you've been dragged before."
"Yeah but you're not wearing a mask." The others hearing this gave them both odd looks but Eric was used to it.
Tony DiNozzo got a note during a case. While at his desk researching the case of the moment. He didn't show that it meant anything more than a passed on phone message but that was what was expected of him. He finished his current research and handed it to his boss, Gibbs, then grabbed his jacket. A grab for his wallet and subtly grabbing a few other things he wants to take with him and he's set. "Boss, going to lunch."
"You have a half-hour," he ordered. "This looks like we could raid this afternoon."
"Sure thing, boss." He left the building in his car, heading for his house. He had to pack quickly and then head to a place he has stuff stored. With the way he's moved around moving that sort of material is not easily done. Twenty minutes of packing, a forty minute drive, and he's at the train station. It'll take him a few hours to get to New York but it's safer than flying and he'll be able to get some important setting up done on the way up there. He called their info person, Charlie, and got a text message address from him. "Sure, I can do that. I'll have the rest of my stuff packed up and moved later this week. After Gibbs has searched it for wherever I disappeared to," he muttered, setting that up on his laptop.
Gibbs looked around with a scowl forty minutes after his senior agent had went to lunch. His phone was off. "Where is DiNozzo?" he demanded. No one answered him. "Text him or something, McGee."
"I just tried. His phone's not receiving them. It's probably off." He looked up. "The GPS tracking system was turned off for his phone. The one you slipped into his car last year during that case is registering at his house. The phone there is going straight to voicemail. I tried to get around it with his 'paging' feature but it hasn't worked yet."
"Where in the hell is he?" he said loudly.
Ducky coughed from the end of their row. "I dare say that's not a question that has a good answer." He walked over. "We should talk about what I just got told at lunch by an old friend, Jethro."
"Is it one of Tony's ex's that've kidnapped him?" he demanded more quietly.
"No, not in this case. I'm afraid it has more to do with who he was as a younger lad,
younger than McGee and before he went to college. I do know that he was warned and has left to protect *everyone*, including you. The ones who are after him are not going to care about collateral damage. It would be best to do as they advised and let the situation solve itself for now. Anthony is in much danger but as long as he's not *here* he's in better shape to handle it than we are."
"That makes no sense. Tony was a rich kid."
"Yes, but he wasn't always one. Remember, his father did not favor him." He patted him on the arm. "Let it go for now, Jethro. When we can, we'll get him back. Until then, he's safer wherever he may be."
"Who told you this?"
"A contact from the other side of the city. I can't name names, Jethro. You know that." He left him to think on what he had said. It was more important than obsessively hunting for the young man. Hopefully the note he had slipped him would give him at least a little piece of mind until this dreadful situation had been solved.
Gibbs scowled at his friend's back then looked at McGee. "Get me into a database," he said quietly. McGee nodded, coming over to hack into the databases he needed to start searching. Then he went back to his own seat to work on their present case. "Take Ziva and arrest him, McGee. I'll question him when you bring him in."
"Yes, boss." He left, going to gather Ziva from her lunch break outside. This was not looking like something that was going to make Gibbs very happy. He wanted out of the range of yelling. Far out of the range of yelling. "Ziva, we've got a suspect. Let's go."
"Looking up something on another case. He'll rejoin us to question this guy." She nodded, following him to the company car they had checked out for the investigation.
Gibbs ignored most everything around him as he read. It made absolutely no sense with Tony's family background. He had to guess at which one was DiNozzo since all he could find was codenames. He was guessing Tony was the one playing a model in the one case they had gotten access to but he didn't know who the others were so he couldn't say for sure. After a few hours, he finally got tired of trying to decipher the notes and called someone in the same agency as had sponsored the teams to get something back for a favor he had once done him. An hour later a simple envelope was dropped off by courier for him. Inside was a photo. A picture at a funeral. Three men in sunglasses and serious suits standing close to each other but not looking like they were together, just happened to be standing near each other. He tried to run it through the photo ID program they had but it wasn't going to work for him. He went to switch out with McGee. "I want their ID's by the time this person begs," he ordered quietly. McGee nodded, going to run that for him.
Gibbs read over the file and walked in there to talk to their suspect. He was in the mood to hear begging. Preferably from DiNozzo but this putz would do. "You stole a statue off an Admiral's desk and then used it as a centerpiece of a supposed art installation piece that highlighted the faulty thinking on some ships by their commanders?" he asked with deathly calm. "And then you had the audacity to try to blame his daughter?"
"We were dating," he defended.
"I don't care. Though it was nice you just admitted to it. Any other…art projects you want to admit to? Like the disgusting graffiti we have on the side of the mess hall there that shows graphic sexual images?"
"No, not my thing. I make political statements, not sexual ones. That's for the frat boys
that came out of the academy."
"You do know that you're being charged with insubordination?"
"Why?" he demanded.
"Because your job is not to question authority until you've got bars," Gibbs said dryly. "That's the Navy way. You should've learned that when you questioned your drill sergeant in basic training." The kid shuddered. "Any other political statements you want to make before we book you on grand theft, insubordination, and staging a public display without a permit? Your future cellmate is waiting on you."
"Cellmate?" he demanded.
"Leavenworth's overcrowded. If you're lucky you'll only have *one* cellmate." He stared him down. "Any other sins?"
"No. Not that I'm going to tell you."
"Agent McGee is digging into your background right now. He'll find every test you cheated on and every time you lied to your former girlfriends or your parents. If he finds something I'm sure we can add those charges as well." He closed the file. "Book him," he ordered the guard with them. The guy got hauled up, and Gibbs got to listen to him complain about the state of the government's decision to let women on boats all the way down to booking him. Personally he didn't care about the subject but the guy was clearly having issues with female empowerment. He should sic Abby on him. He went back to his desk, finding the picture on it with a post-it note. The note had the names, left to right, of who was in the picture. One had a few people it could be, but not definitive because it was too blurred at that angle. And another interesting note. "CSI Wolfe is listed as missing?"
"Missing but there's a note in the file that says he probably left due to a threat to his life. His boss is huffy according to someone I talked to down there."
"I've met Caine at a few conventions." He settled in to call him, then found the fax number on the back of the post-it note. "Did you send it already?"
"Yes, boss. Figured you wanted to liaise with him."
"I do. I want to know what the hell is going on." He got connected finally. "Horatio Caine? Special Agent Jethro Gibbs, NCIS. We have a missing person case in common. My senior agent just took off to be with your CSI Wolfe." He leaned back to listen to him. "What I've found? Not a lot. It's sealed higher than my classification rating. I managed to get into a few case files. One with details and codenames but no actual names. Someone got me the picture from the funeral as a favor. The third one is identified as probably being a detective in the NYPD, otherwise I have no idea. Where have you looked? Disappeared off the face of the earth."
He nearly smirked at the story of him being gassed so his CSI could run. "At least he didn't shoot you. It means he wasn't panicking that badly. I don't know. DiNozzo got a phone message and then left for lunch after finishing up what he was doing. I would like to get together over this one. I want to find whoever ordered the hit and then get our people back so I can beat my agent's six until he begs at the moment." He grinned at the shared sentiment over beating the boys. "I can send it down." He listened. "McGee, they stopped him from searching out his person last night by screwing with his system."
"It's probably a Trojan horse blocking access to any search strings with certain phrases. Abby has something that'll remove it, boss."
"Our forensic scientist is a hacker. My team's hacker said she has something to remove it. I can do that. Do you have video conferencing?" He nodded once. "One hour," he
agreed. He hung up. "McGee, meet me in Abby's lab. We need to dig deeper to find these people."
"Yes, boss." He went to warn Abby what was going on and what he had already found. Gibbs was ready to bite and he didn't want new scars from his teeth. "Abby, huge problem," he said as he walked in. The director was in there. "Ma'am. Gibbs needs her to hunt something down for us."
"A new case? A terrorist?"
"A threat to Agent DiNozzo's life," he told her. "He's in hiding."
"Why haven't I been told about this?"
"We're just now figuring it out ourselves, ma'am."
Gibbs stomped in. "Jenn, I need into some highly classified materials. Someone in the NSA put out a hunt and termination order on DiNozzo."
"Who did he sleep with this time?" Abby asked.
"No one. This dates back to when he was a teenager." McGee was pulling up the information he had on Gibbs system by logging into it remotely. "That's all we have so far but it links back to another CSI who's gone missing. His boss is not happy either and we're working together."
She read over what they had then shrugged. "That's beyond my rating as well, Jethro." She looked at Abby and McGee, her two known hackers. "Don't get caught. How long will this take?"
"I don't know," he admitted. "As soon as we can end it, I will, Director."
"Fine. Whatever. Don't let it interrupt cases but I'll give you some leeway until they come to take you away in the middle of the night." She left them alone. She didn't want to know whose bad idea that had been. If she couldn't handle an operation like that, three teenage boys certainly hadn't been able to.
Jethro sat down to wait. "We're conferencing with Miami in an hour."
Abby finished reading and looked at him. "Tony?"
"Yes, DiNozzo. It's news to me too." He put the picture down on the desk. "That's what I got for burning a favor."
"Want us to start with the codenames or with whoever this other guy is?" she asked.
"Start with him. I'm working on the intel and communications officer," McGee told her. She nodded, getting down to work.
Don Flack looked up as his suspect was put into the back of a squad car. Across the street was a face he knew. He had no idea why he was here in New York or what it meant. So he nodded politely then went back to helping a second suspect into the back of the police car. When he glanced over, the man was gone. This was not a good sign. Not in the least. It could mean he had been recalled to service, which would make his parents throw fits loud enough to reach him on Pluto without a megaphone, or it could mean they had been made into a direct threat. He got into his car to head back to the station to book his suspects. It took him a few hours but at the end he was done for the day. He headed to a warehouse he and Tony shared space in. Tony was in there looking over ordinance and weapons. "What's up? Were we recalled?"
"Proston showed up on Ryan's scene in Miami and got us all busted. They put out a H&T order."
Don shuddered. "Charming. Ryan?"
"Already hiding. I left when I got told about it. I'm packing."
"Give me two hours to pack my house." That got a nod and they got to work packing what weapons they might need to defend themselves. Nothing too big, nothing that the airlines would object to. "How far are we heading?"
"Deep in the bowels of the desert."
"I'll pack shorts then." He looked up when the door opened. "What the fuck?" he muttered. He walked over, hand on his gun. "Monroe. What do you want?"
"Someone called in a tip to Danny's desk that said you were in trouble and here." She looked around, spotting the weapons boxes and the ones being packed. "Oh, no. Don, are you a dirty cop? I never expected you to be this bad. Maybe a free hotdog now and then; not weapons trafficking!"
He snorted. "What makes you think if I was I'd tell you, Monroe?" She glared. "No, I'm not, but you're now inconvenient." Tony tossed over something and he gassed her.
"Stupid CSI," he muttered, walking over her on his way back to packing. He called the man in question himself. "When you get this voicemail, I'll be gone. Not as in for good, but you might wanna talk to Monroe about her nosy ass nature that could've gotten her killed when she accused me of being dirty. I'll try to write now and then, Danny. Be safe out there." He hung up and finished up. Tony gave him a few odd looks while they
packed. "He's a good guy and a friend. We're tight."
"That sounded like a Special Forces Dear John letter from someone being called out," Tony joked.
"Not that tight." He glared at Monroe. "Think he'd let me kick her?"
"We're not interrogating her. I don't see why not." Don got in a good kick then pinned a note Tony had written onto her before they dropped her off and went to Don's place to pick up his emergency stashes of cash, ID's, passports, and clothes. Don Flack Junior was no longer NYPD royalty. Now, he was just Don 'Concierge' Flack leaving town with Tony 'Sunny' DiNozzo. Don bid his city a silent goodbye as they sped over a bridge on the way to the airport. Mac could deal with Lindsay's hangover from the gas and teach her manners. Someone had to before she said the wrong thing to the wrong person.
Horatio and Gibbs got together over the teleconferencer, sharing information back and forth that they had been able to find so far. Mostly from Horatio asking Maxine Valera repeated questions until she gave up and told him something. Then he dragged her in to help them somewhat. He saw Calleigh in the hall and excused himself from Gibbs interrogating her to talk to her. "I know we'll be short-handed with Mr. Wolfe gone, but can you do some overtime, Calleigh?"
"Why is he missing? He sent me a note today about some evidence." She held up the envelope. "He said Eric needs it but I can't find him."
"He's at home with a headache. Someone on his last case came back as a threat to Mr. Wolfe and he had to leave before the suspect shot him." She glared at the wall. "Indeed. We're searching for information to get him back faster but so far we've been stymied by a classified materials wall."
She opened the envelope. "Oh, crap. That's a termination order."
He snatched it to look at. "Thank you. This may be invaluable." He went back to the conference, sending it to Gibbs. "Who was the signer?"
Gibbs read his copy and smirked. "I know of him. I can find out more information." He looked up. "Good work."
"Mr. Wolfe sent it to Calleigh, one of my senior CSI and our ballistics tech."
"I told Calleigh she needed to talk to you about Ryan's gun collection and how to store it so it wouldn't get damp," Maxine told him with a grin. "It made her day that you were protecting a collection of guns."
"Of course it did. She loves weapons of all classes."
"Let me get onto this. Hopefully it'll mean more information so we can find whoever was doing their intel gathering. That's who they would've talked to about finding a safe spot," Gibbs said.
Horatio nodded. "That's fine. You have my number, Jethro. Let me know what you find out and I'll work on this end."
"I have two hackers, Caine. If anyone can find them, Abby and McGee can."
"Let me know what you find."
"Sure. Have a better night."
"Considering I started out this morning gassed, it can't get much worse," he said dryly.
Gibbs shook his head. "I'd have beaten DiNozzo to death if he had tried that on me."
"I'm contemplating corporal punishment myself," Horatio assured him. Gibbs laughed at that. "Have a better night, Jethro." He hung up. "Thank you for your assistance earlier, Miss Valera."
"I'm almost scared that he'd ask me more questions," she joked. "Our interrogation instruction had nothing on that guy." She got up and walked out, going back to her lab to grab her jacket and purse. Horatio was outside enjoying the last of the sunlight shining down on the concrete stairs. She walked up to him. "Heading home?"
"It's been a long day and that gas has given me a headache all day," he agreed quietly. He looked across the parking lot, seeing who else was still there. He saw a car coming in and instinctively reached for his gun.
Maxine spotted the same car and shoved him out of the way and fired on it before they could do more than push the gun out of the window. "Stupid young agents," she muttered as she took another shot. More officers came running but the car took off. Badly holed but it was still going. She moved around the officers to look at Horatio. "Are you all right?" She helped him up.
"I think I'm fine." He looked at himself then at her. "How competent are you with a weapon?"
"I'm not Calleigh but we all had to learn how to shoot. Not my best skill, but I'm proficient." She put it back into her purse. "Maybe you should stay somewhere safer tonight, Horatio. They weren't aiming at me this time." He stared at her. "Not my place," she said with a grin. "You're not my type and the old boss might be showing up sometime later to rant."
"Should he, would you arrest him for me?"
"I'll try but the last time he snuck in while I was asleep and had my guns next to him and my pet cat." She shrugged and walked off. The officers tried to stop her but she patted one on the cheek. "Get out of my way. I have PMS and a firearm permit, kid." He scrambled out of the way, to the amusement of the other officers. She got into her car and headed home.
"Lieutenant, can we start your car for you?" one officer asked.
"I think you can," he said, handing over the keys. "That was clearly a warning to stop my investigation." They all shuddered and silently vowed to never apply for a CSI spot. They did dangerous stuff that made people shoot at you and hate you. Just look at how many of them hated Wolfe.
Tony and Don walk into the safehouse Charlie had chosen, looking around. Ryan, of course, was cleaning. "There's supposed to be dirt. We're in the desert," Tony pointed out dryly. "Otherwise we've been the victim of a dirt slide."
"Not this much. Besides, you love my cleaning because it means you always have clean clothes," Ryan joked back.
"I wish my current maid had OCD," Don joked. They settled in to stare at each other for a few minutes. "You okay?"
"Horatio's going to kick my butt. I had to gas him to get away."
"We had to gas one of our CSI that heard I was at a warehouse having problems and showed up to help outta the goodness of her heart," Don said dryly. "She asked me if I was dirty after seeing the weapons stores. I left a good note for her boss to fix her broken parts again."
Tony shook his head. "All good CSI are supposed to be a bit nosy. Even my kind in the Feds. Though I don't spend any time over a microscope so I guess I'm lucky."
"Didn't you pass forensics with a Highest?" Ryan asked, looking confused.
"Yeah but we have Abby, who is a goddess in her own right because she does it *all* for us." He smirked. "Even with Gibbs breathing down her neck to get stuff done sooner than it should be humanly possible to do."
"I do what I do best and stand there looking attentive and impatient so my CSI give me what I need to beat someone down," Don told him. "Danny's pretty good, so's Stella and Mac, but Lindsay has *got* to have an owner somewhere. She's just missing her tags from when she escaped from Montana."
"I like the fussiness of the lab but man; some scenes are gross," Ryan complained. Tony and Don both grinned at that. "We've had fast food dumpster bodies."
"We had one'a those last November," Don told him.
"Then it was cold. Miami doesn't get cold. We had it in ninety degree weather with the usual humidity. Not even Delko could stand the stench of that body." The other guys laughed. "So, did they come for you yet? They tried to cut me off this morning because my boss went searching."
"By now Gibbs has his teeth in someone or something and they're being eaten," Tony told him. "But I managed to escape any attempts. I got the guy they had watching my place before I went inside. I tracked Don but nothing else was yet. Which makes no sense since he's the more dangerous of us three."
"Maybe they thought I'd be easier to get after you two, use you to lure me," Don said with a small shrug.
"Nope. They tried to cut me off in traffic to shoot me," Ryan told him. "I had to dodge using a cop pulling me over."
Don looked around. "This is nice, how did Archimedes find it?"
"No clue," Ryan admitted. "It might belong to a friend of his. He's teaching at a college right now."
"Math?" Tony guessed with a small grin.
"Oh, yeah. Works with the physics department all the time too. He sounded pretty happy the last time I accidentally ran into him at a conference." He looked around again and started to rearrange things but Don stopped him and handed him the bags of guns they had all brought with them. They were all good with them and it gave them something to do for the next few hours plus a way to know what they could count on if and when they were found this time. Because they would be coming sometime soon. They were all sure of it. The only way to get back to their own lives was to trust their bosses to get the orders removed and to wait it out while surviving. Though, it probably would've been easier to do in Europe than the US. Maybe their planner had lost some of his contacts. If so, they all had some somewhere over there from mutual acquaintances and the programs the other countries used to run.
Don found one missing in his bag and groaned, grinning but shaking his head. "Airport screeners." The other two laughed. Someone would be reporting it somewhere. That guy wasn't going to have it for very long. All Don's guns were registered and someone would be looking. Probably his CSI friends.
Horatio finally found something that might help and called Jethro. "It's Horatio. I keep running into an Archimedes. Three different mentions so far. He's their communication person. Apparently he also handled giving out intelligence. One report lists him as the reason the operation went sour - he had been given the wrong facts for the wrong case and the team had solved it anyway but it had led to an additional death that wasn't planned for. Yes, that one." He leaned back to read it better. "There's no indication he's a computer hacker or anything like that so what fields could he be part of? If he went to a normal life, would he be with the government or would he be an officer like the others? Or would he have perhaps went to a university?" He sat up suddenly. "There's been a recent paper published by a mathematician out of LA."
He searched his desk until he found it. "Predictive analysis equations for robbery sprees," he read. Gibbs had someone look that up on their end. They read it over together then they both smirked. "That does sound like a planner. What can you find on him?" He leaned back again. "High security clearance? Who would ask a sixteen-year-old boy in college to work for the NSA on an algorithm for predicting terrorist attacks, Jethro?" He nodded. "So he's our Archimedes then." He smirked evilly. "Well, it does give his college. We can go look for him." He nodded. "That sounds reasonable to me. I do have this weekend off. I can meet you there Friday evening?" He made a note. "I will ask her if she knows of him. Thank you, Jethro." He hung up and walked the article down to the DNA lab. "Miss Valera, may I have a moment?" She looked up, giving him a dirty look. "Why do you have a black eye?"
"Because my former boss was not pleased that he can't kill you fast enough to make you quit digging. I refused to take you out," she said. Her labmate walked in. "Give me ten to finish this, Lieutenant. I'll bring you the report in your office?"
"That's fine. Thank you, Miss Valera." He walked off thinking about that. Someone was quickly climbing his crap list. This one was getting higher than drug dealers at the
moment and quickly getting to the same point as serial killers and child murderers. A few more days and he might top the list. Maxine joined him with a folder, letting him take it. "That's even on my case. Thank you."
"Not a problem." He handed over the article. She frowned. "Charlie Epps? There's a name I haven't heard in years. He was part of the project in the analysis unit." She handed it back. "Why show me that?"
"Could he be the team's Archimedes?"
She considered it then nodded. "Quite possibly. He was listed as too valuable to risk but being a comm officer wouldn't have been too hard on him. It would've gotten him into the field now and then. I remember he was a geeky kid but he didn't have many of the kid genius problems. His parents had done a good job making him be a normal boy and all that stuff. He was kind of nice really. Sweet. Remembered birthdays and all that."
"It appears he's in LA at the moment teaching."
"More power to him. High school?"
"Even more power to him bashing it into stupid people's skulls. If I remember right, he said his brother played minor league baseball. If you're going to track him down, start there." She walked off. "Calleigh still needs to see that."
"I'll show her in a few minutes," he agreed, smiling at her back. He went to tell Jethro that this was definitely the person they were looking for. It'd help them find their people to beat them a lot.
Horatio walked into the college building, looking at the directory. He found the office where it was listed. The students were being quiet at the moment since classes were going on. He had some fond memories of college. This one seemed pretty nice. He found the office he wanted and the door was open so he knocked and walked in. "I'm looking for Charlie Epps, is he available?" he asked politely.
The man in there stared at him. "Who're you? I can tell you're not a college student or professor."
"Lieutenant Horatio Caine, Miami-Dade PD's Crime Lab head."
"Need Charlie to do some analysis for you? Because he's off on a retreat at the moment."
"No, I need to talk to him about a few people he knows. One of which is my CSI who happens to be in trouble thanks to me researching someone who came up on a case."
The other man stared at him. "How would Charlie know them?"
"Back when he was about sixteen or seventeen he worked on a project with them. We're pretty sure he got in contact with Doctor Epps since that's happened."
"I don't know where my brother is."
"Are you his assistant?"
"She won't know either."
"I'm afraid it's important. It isn't just my CSI. It's also a Federal Agent out of DC that's being threatened. We know he has been in contact with him via text message, Mr. Epps."
"Agent Epps," he said, pulling his ID. "FBI."
"Interesting. Agent DiNozzo is NCIS."
"Out of DC? That means he works with Gibbs."
"He's flying in later today. There was a holdup at their airport when someone was drunkenly swinging his Marine Corps sword around." He moved closer. "All we want to do is talk to your brother, Agent Epps. We're worried about our people and are working to get the hunt order canceled."
"Charlie wouldn't know anyone like that."
"They worked on a project together for the CIA and NSA," Jethro said as he walked in. "Flight ended sooner than I thought."
Horatio smiled. "Anxious to be out of the air?"
"Very. The stewardesses ran out of liquor. People were getting restless. I nearly arrested a few for harassing her." He looked at the young man. "You are?"
"Special Agent Epps, FBI. Charlie's my brother. What sort of project?"
"Looking into the background of my CSI got the hunt and terminate order sent out," Horatio said quietly. Don shuddered. "Exactly. Now they've gone into hiding and we can't stop it without their help. No one believes why I was looking since one of their leaders showed up on a case in Miami."
Don shook his head. "Charlie never would've been part of something like that."
"I don't think they gave him much of a choice," Gibbs said, handing over a folder. "My team's hacker found that."
"You guys have a legal hacker?"
"Yup," Gibbs agreed. "Comes in handy since I don't do computers as well as some of the younger agents."
Don looked over the folder that showed his father had been talked into letting them talk to Charlie, who was naïve during those years, because he had been arrested for protesting something. "Great of our government."
"Very," Gibbs agreed, "but we can't change it now. It might help you protect him better if we can find our people."
"Charlie's hiding at the moment so I'm sure he's safe." He handed it back. "Is the guy in Miami the reason for the hunt order?"
Horatio nodded. "It seems like he managed to arrange things so I would ask by showing up on a scene he had no reason to be on. My CSI figured it out and warned me he had to take himself off the case, citing a classified relationship I should not know about. Of course we researched him."
"Wish I could help you. If I hear from him, I'll let him know you two are looking for him." There was no way he was going to endanger his brother's life for someone else. Especially not over something like this. People who carried out those hunt orders weren't gentle about it.
"I'm sure he knows," Jethro said dryly. "You do realize they could be trying to take him out too? Anyone on that team is fair game and he was their intelligence officer."
Don shrugged. "I'm guessing that's why he's on retreat for stress problems."
"How good is he at hiding?" Horatio asked. Don glared at him. "It would be mutually beneficial to find him at this moment, Agent Epps. Then you could help him hide somewhere better than wherever he is at the moment. I have no doubt you know more safe houses than your bosses think."
"I do," he agreed. "He hasn't contacted me or our father. I'm sorry, guys."
Gibbs nodded. "That's fine. If he does, we do need to talk to him."
"If I can talk to him, I might be able to find it for you."
Gibbs looked at him. "No deal, Epps. I have no doubt your brother is more than smart enough to give a coded message to wherever they are that you'd misunderstand or misrepeat."
"I'm not like that."
"No, but it has been known to happen and too many lives are at risk at the moment," Horatio said. "It would be helpful for you to hide him instead of relying on whatever skills he picked up since they mostly kept him in the office in those days. The only time he got out was to do communications work for his team. Do you really trust him to be able to protect himself? Can he even fire a weapon? We couldn't find any indication he had been given firearms classes."
"I've given him some gun safety lessons," he admitted. "If I hear from him I'll tell him you're looking for your people. That's the best I can do."
"That's fine," Gibbs agreed. "Should we report this talk to your bosses so they know to guard you as well? They've recently tried to take out my forensic scientist and his lab." Don went a bit more pale. "These people aren't playing nice movie spy games, Agent Epps. They have every intention of killing everyone who's ever come in contact with this team and who might know who they were. It's now an embarrassment to the government."
"Then should you have that file?" he shot back.
"No, but someone already paid their life to get it to us. They were warned because their former team leader and oversight person was killed to bring them into the open." Gibbs held up the picture. "Looks like your brother, doesn't it?"
Don snatched it to look at the figure in the background. "That is Charlie." He called his desk, getting one of his team. "David, it's me. Listen….." He frowned, listening to him. "What do you mean someone shot at Megan and Larry while they were at lunch?" He looked at them. "I'm on my way in with two people who know why. Are they okay?" He nodded. "Thanks, David. Be there soon. Charlie's office and I've got another agent and a CSI with me."
"Former bomb squad," Horatio said, putting on his sunglasses again. "You don't have to worry about me, Agent Epps. Only worry if we're fired on out here."
"We're on our way in," Don ordered. "Get them there." He hung up. "Go to the FBI Building. I'll be behind you." They nodded and he called a number that had been put in magnets on their fridge. "Edgerton, where's my brother? Because a CSI and an agent from NCIS are looking for him to see where their people are since apparently they were all part of the same team of teenagers being used as spies by the government." He listened to the choking. "Charlie was apparently involved when they arrested Dad for something. I need him at my office ASAP. They're hunting their people to protect them better and I need Charlie better protected. He's somewhere near you. He left your number on the fridge. He said he's on retreat." He smirked. "That's probably him. He did just get a haircut and him going scruffy does make him look a lot more tough than he usually does. Thank you." He hung up and went for his car, checking it over carefully. Edgerton was on the outskirts of town by the noise. He could have Charlie to them within a few hours at the most. No one wanted this to go on for very long.
Charlie Epps stomped into the office. "This makes me a bigger target," he complained.
Jethro looked at him. "You were already a target, kid." Charlie glared at him. He held up the file. "This is Horatio Caine, out of Miami-Dade's crime lab. He went looking when a former unit commander showed up for no reason on a scene."
"What?" Horatio handed him the folder then stared at him while he read it. "That makes no sense."
"Ryan warned me that there had been a classified relationship so he had to be removed from the case. One of my other people told me a bit more so I researched our suspect." Charlie moaned, sitting down. "I had no intention of starting this off but someone is highly embarrassed by all of this. They've tried to take out people around all of you."
"They tried to get Larry and Megan earlier," Don told him quietly. "They're fine but I had Megan put him into protective custody for a few days." Charlie groaned, rubbing his eyes. "I know it's hard, Chuck, but you left a few too many clues to where you were. I can help you hide better than you can do on your own. You know that. You could have told us."
"Dad knew and hated it," he told his big brother. "He wanted to gut the people who came to talk to me. He nearly did I think." He read it over again. "There's no reason for him to be on that scene."
"We think, since there was a warning, that he may have set you four up at the funeral," Horatio said calmly. "Mr. Wolfe got a warning letter saying that they knew you four had been there together and a picture."
"I remember seeing them there. We didn't talk or anything. We've kept to the rules."
"Yes, but the other side didn't," Gibbs pointed out. "The same as he's the reason the program got shut down. He's the one who filed the reports of your team going unstable." Charlie nodded he knew that. "Now he's making his move to make sure his team is the last one standing. One of the people down in Miami has been pressured to take on the contract for his lab being destroyed."
"I'm not surprised," Charlie said, handing the folder back. "I can't really help you two. Why come to me?"
"We know at least Tony and Ryan have been in touch with you," Horatio said. "We think we can help them hide better than they presently are. We know there's a formal hunting team after them."
"All three have contacted me for a safe house. They're safe at the moment and they're all very well trained in how to hide from the untoward events that used to happen on assignments. Ryan had some of the worst luck running into accidental contact with other groups."
"There's other groups?" Gibbs asked. "Other than the three teams here?"
"Russia had their own program. So did England and Sweden. They were kind of nice and a bit strange. The only goth blondes I've ever met in one team's case. England's was basically a bunch of kids they took from prep schools and put into the field. Russia's was a lot more hardcore than ours but their adult spies were too."
"I thought you sat in the office," Don said, staring his little brother down.
Charlie grinned. "Most of the time. I got into the field now and then to watch their backs as their communications officer. That was out of sight but in the field. A few times we broke protocol when we ran into one of the other teams to sit down and have dinner with them so we had someone to talk to. After the mission was done with but we spent some time with the other teams whenever we ran into them." He stared at the folders. "I can't tell you where they are."
"You should. They've only got each other watching their backs and a lot has changed since then," Gibbs pointed out. "Including DiNozzo nearly dying from the plague a few years back."
"I knew that. I've kept covert watch over their lives over the years. That's why I put them somewhere warm and dry."
"Can you at least give us hints?" Horatio asked. "We're working very hard to remove this order."
Charlie shook his head. "Too many like him."
"He showed up on a homicide scene without authorization. I'm told his bosses aren't happy and they do realize that something's going on since Maxine has sent back the information that it was not Ryan who had been searching."
Charlie looked at them. "Chuck, it could be their deaths if you don't," Don said quietly. "Then we'll put you back into a more hidden area. I think the only reason Edgerton recognized you was because I told him but I can find you somewhere better."
Charlie looked at him. "I can find my own. That way they can't come after you for information, Don." He stood up, looking at Horatio. "Yes, they're in the desert. They're in a very dry, windy spot that has no nearest road and no nearest town," he said very quietly. "They're at the house of a fellow professor of mine. He's in Calculated Ergonomics and Robotics if it matters. They're very safe and they had to fly into Phoenix to get there." That got a nod of thanks from both agents. "Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go back into hiding until you can fix what you started."
"I can help," Don reminded him.
Charlie smirked. "The only reason you found me the last time was I had been looking for Edgerton to talk to a student of mine and I stopped in to talk to him." He left, sneaking out of the building and heading to his car so he could go to a better safe house. No matter what his brother and father would want, he didn't want them shot because of him.
"He's a strong young man," Gibbs pointed out. Don glared at him. "If he survived this, he's got some skills. Track him and make sure he's safer this time."
"I'm going to do that. Need some research time?"
"Please," Horatio agreed. "If I have access I can find the records we need."
"Go to David. David!" His teammate leaned in. "This is Caine and Gibbs. Help them with a bit of research on a missing person's case. Charlie knew them. I'm going to go guard my brother before he gets into more trouble.
David looked at them. "A missing person's case?" Gibbs pulled out his ID. "Not going through your local office? I know you're out of the DC office. They've all told horror stories about you, Agent Gibbs."
Gibbs smirked. "Only a few of those were earned." David smirked back. "We ran into something that's threatening some of our people's lives. My senior agent and one of
Caine's CSIs is in hiding. We're finding them."
"Sure." He led them to a free desk and used his log-in to get them into the system. "It should work about like your office's systems do. Let me know if we can be of any other help. Is this what got Megan shot at?"
"It was," Horatio agreed. "They've been going after anyone who might have come in contact with some people. Since Agent Epps brother had been involved…."
"So she might not have been the target," he said thoughtfully. "Larry's his best friend."
"It's possible they'll take out the whole team and him," Gibbs told him. "They won't take out too many of the geeks because that would waste a resource, but there's always people who want to be agents. These people are *that* stupid."
"Good to know. I'll tell them that." He left them to their search and went to find his teammate in an inner, safe room. "I know what happened." Colby looked up at him, looking worried. "Larry, did Charlie ever say anything about some sort of government project that has a hunt and extermination clause?"
"No. Charles was involved in something like that?"
Horatio strolled in. "Unfortunately they got him very young and made sure his father would have to agree or faced magnified charges over something he had been protesting. It was a program to evaluate and train future agents and operatives at a very young age."
Larry growled. "That I have heard of. Though mostly in fiction and movies."
Megan looked at him. "Who're you?"
"Lieutenant Horatio Caine, Miami-Dade PD."
"Why are you on this?"
"One of my CSI was on Dr. Epps team." She groaned. "They used him to evaluate data and intelligence."
"They think someone spilled?"
"We think someone maliciously set it up so someone would go looking for them so they could eliminate this problem," he corrected. She growled. "He's in hiding. So is my CSI and Gibbs' senior agent as well as another detective. They were trying to either bring him back into the open or to take out those who might know something else."
Larry nodded. "It appears I'll be taking the hospitality of the unit after all," he told Colby.
"I'll watch over you two myself with David," he promised.
"Thank you," Megan said. "Good luck, Lieutenant."
"You as well. We hope we'll have it solved soon enough. All we have to do is find that one suspect and then get him into a compromising position." He smiled. "We'll be going soon, gentlemen. Thank Agent Epps for his help, and you as well, Agent Sinclair. Have a better week." He left, gathering Gibbs in the garage. "Anything new?"
"A few things. This detective with them is bothering me. I think I've heard his name but I can't remember him."
"Detective Flack…. I do know of him. I know a CSI in New York and he's mentioned him a few times. He's out of their homicide unit." He called up there. "Mac, Horatio. I am looking for information on a detective you've mentioned a few times. Flack. Junior, yes. About Ryan Wolfe's age perhaps?" He listened. "Are you all right? They've been trying to take out associates to bring them into the open." He hummed. "Thank you and I'll let him know you said that when we find them. Be safer, Mac." He hung up. "He is the one I heard about before. Mac got one of his nosier CSI dropped on his doorstep with a note from him about being too nosy and asking bad questions that nearly got her killed. Mac is covering for them because the hunt team is up there at the moment."
"They all right?"
"So far. Mac is a former Marine. He heads his lab. He's got a lot of people he can count on and the NYPD does not take kindly to anyone screwing with one of theirs. Since Don's third generation in their ranks…."
Gibbs snorted. "His dad out for blood?"
"Probably. Mac said he understood the clues given and he has fixed her problem with blurting out stupid questions. She apparently asked Detective Flack and your agent if they were dirty because she saw them loading weapons."
"At least they planned something. Though I'm surprised Tony didn't beat her for that."
"Perhaps he was too tired at that time," he said with a slight smile. "They're prepared for the worst. She reported seeing higher weapons there but when Mac went there the next afternoon they were gone."
"What did Wolfe have?"
"A lot of handguns. My ballistics tech was sighing in pleasure over them."
"Your ballistics tech is girlier than most female cops I've ever worked with."
Horatio smiled. "All the better to ruin the bad guys' day when she goes into CSI mode, Gibbs."
He snorted. "Is she really that sweet?"
"Usually. Unless you upset her. There's been a few times I've feared for my hummer being set on fire by her hand." Gibbs laughed at that. "Are we heading to Phoenix?"
"We are. How long is the drive out to where they are?"
"About an hour if the roads are in good condition but we'll need something that can handle some rougher terrain just in case." He pulled out his PDA to order their tickets and rental car online. "They'll be waiting on us when we get there." Gibbs nodded, speeding up so he could move around the slower driver in front of them. Now Horatio knew how Eric and Frank felt when he drove the hummer a bit too fast in pursuit. Federal Agents must get a lot better driving course than the regular police departments did at the academy. They also obviously had a lot more leeway about traffic rules they wanted to ignore.
The boys looked up as someone knocked politely on the door. "Can't be the hunt team," Don said. Ryan grabbed his gun. Tony grabbed his. Don got the door. "How many times do we have to gas you two before you give up?"
"I slipped off; I didn't have to," Tony admitted. "Hi, boss."
Gibbs looked at him. "They're in the process of canceling the orders. We can keep you safer at home, boys."
"Bull," Ryan told him. "Were you followed?"
Don looked out the door. "I don't see any signs of it yet." He closed the door. "How's Mac doing, Horatio?"
"Fine. The hunt team was up there earlier today. He did say he straightened Lindsay out and told her why she nearly died."
"Good," Tony said with a grin. "You still shouldn't be here."
"How did you find us?" Ryan asked.
"We talked to Charlie Epps. His brother was most upset that he had been talked into such a program," Horatio said, taking off his sunglasses. "We can protect you three better than if you're alone. There's people we trust in each of the three cities. Don, your father has been giving Mac fits about you being missing and him not doing anything."
"I'll call Mom later. She'll beat him with a frying pan again and it'll be good on that end." They took their lunches into their rooms to pack. Don smiled as he heard the dual thumps of the helpful supervisors who went in to help them pack. Someone did not have a clue how paranoid they were or how well trained. He grabbed the rest of his things and headed out to the rental car. "This is a nice choice."
"H always drives a hummer," Ryan told him, putting his stuff in the back then going to get Horatio out of his bedroom so they could be put into the trunk area of the SUV. Tony got Gibbs with some help from Don and they were off with Ryan driving. "Which way?"
"Out," Don told him. "We'll go catch up with Yuri or someone."
Tony looked back at him. "Is that a good idea?"
"He's quiet enough. It'll be safer over there. I have more contacts in that area than I do in New York."
Tony nodded. "That's fine then. Where are we dumping those two?"
"Town sheriff's office?" Ryan suggested.
"That'll work and keep them safer," Tony agreed.
"Kinda melodramatic," Don complained.
"But it works so well and they should be used to it by now," Tony joked with a grin for his buddy. "We'll figure it out, Don. Call your mom so she can beat your father with that frying pan." Don pulled out his tossaway cellphone to leave a message for his mother so she'd stop his father. It was only endangering them further. When he got done he hung up and put the phone into a bag once it was off. "Okay. How much longer? Horatio snores."
Ryan laughed. "That's not what I expected from him. Maybe some mumbling but not snoring."
"Should hear Mac when he's sick," Don said. "I think it's a CSI thing." He leaned back to gas them again. "That should keep them out for a bit longer. How long to the town?"
"About two hours the day I got here," Ryan told him. He switched lanes then frowned. "Aw, crap," he said with a point and a bit of evasive driving since the van was trying to
ram them. "I think they left New York alone for a while."
"Safe to say," Tony agreed, doing up his seatbelt. "You're not half as good as Gibbs. We should get him to teach defensive driving since he always drives like he's in pursuit."
"We have hummers. Most everyone knows to get out of the way when you see one speeding toward you," Ryan said with a grin for him. "You guys only get company sedans."
"We have Explorers," Don offered. "Want me to drive, Ry?"
"I'm doing just fine, Don. Thank you," he said impatiently. "But we're going to have to drop them off somewhere else. Find a small town," he ordered. Don bent over to get onto the map machine the SUV came with while Ryan got busy losing these idiots in the desert. When they finally did lose them, Don gave him a heading and he drove that way. Tony had to gas them again but that was fine. It wouldn't hurt them. Much. Maybe a headache if they were being mean.
Horatio woke up with a moan, looking at the small room he was in. "We were arrested?"
A male voice coughed. "No, it's the only recovery place we have around here. Those boys were mean to you I guess. They dropped you off and said it was better for you to be here than with them. Don't know why but one had a federal ID so I trusted him. They were joking about some bar in Bosnia that'd be perfect but the locals had destroyed it when the easy women dried up."
Horatio sat up, holding his head. "They're probably right but we're trying to protect them from something hunting them. They're young and overconfident," he said, looking at the amused other man. "I'm Horatio."
"They said that. The other guy's groaning so he'll be up soon."
"Can I borrow the phone?" Horatio asked. "I doubt they left my cellphone?"
"Even if they did, you'd never get a signal out here." He handed over the desk phone. "Dial 8 to get a line out." He went to check on Jethro, finding him blinking at the ceiling. "You're gonna be just fine," he promised quietly. "The boys said you might have a headache or something."
"That too," Gibbs admitted, sitting up. He looked over. "Which office are you calling?"
"Mine. They can call yours and Mac." He smiled when the line was finally answered. "Rick, take a message for Calleigh for me please? I have found him. He just gassed me to keep me safe, Rick. Because she has all the numbers she needs to alert others and I'm on a nice sheriff's phone, Rick. Tell her we're fine. Where are we?"
"We're in Dunherd. I'm assuming they left the country this time, yes. Tell her to call the others so they know. Thank you, Rick." He hung up on his question. "Thank you for that." He stood up and straightened himself out. "How far are we to the nearest airport or car rental place?"
"Airport? If you want to fly commercial about 3 hours. If you want to take a plane from a drug or people trafficker, about a half hour."
Jethro and Horatio shared a look. "They local?" Jethro asked. The sheriff gaped. He held up his ID. The sheriff laughed. "We've probably done that in the past."
"Quite a few times," Horatio agreed. "Miami is a prime landing spot."
The Sheriff shook his head. "You two are nuts."
"It comes with the job," Jethro assured him. "Is there a place to stay?"
"Small motel near the diner." He walked them that way. "So what's going on?"
"Our people were used when they were younger to beef up a government program that's now classified. When someone from it came up on a scene, they realized someone would object so they're trying to kill them," Horatio told him.
"Huh. Pity about that. They be okay?"
"They should be. All three are now officers," Gibbs told him. "I'm guessing they're heading for a contact out of the country to protect themselves better." Horatio nodded but was staring off into the distance. "What?"
Horatio pointed. "I do believe that's them." The van speeding their way sped up farther to make a fishtail swerve in front of them so they could fire on them. Horatio's gun cleared his holster. Gibbs' gun too. The sheriff wasn't far behind and at the first shot a few others came out of the diner and the few stores in town to help them.
Gibbs looked over once the guys were bound on the ground. "They're federal agents on
the wrong team."
The sheriff gave him an odd look. "We hunt ‘round here. Need them to be waylaid?"
"That could help while we get someone to gather them," Horatio agreed.
"Hey, Barney, take these nice Feds out to the Crossroads with some water so they have ta walk back," he called. A youngish guy jogged over with some friends to carry them to his truck. They watched them leave and Horatio smirked a bit. "It's gonna take them about 3 or 4 hours to get back here. That be enough time?"
"Definitely," Horatio agreed. Gibbs nodded, both of them heading for the nearest phone to call their people to get someone here to arrest them. Then they could find their people and beat them senseless before they could reach for the gas they all seemed to habitually carry.
A few hours later agents show up with Maxine Valera. Horatio gave her an odd look. "They wanted to meet someone here." She pointed at the man getting out of the car.
Horatio walked over and pulled out his cuffs. "You are under arrest, Agent Proston, on the charge of assisting in a homicide and obstruction of justice. You're also being charged with hiring a hit team to take out a federal agent, which is a felony offense, and two officers." He cuffed the laughing man. "I would not laugh if I were you. Your men are now out in the desert hiking back this way."
"They'll still get me free."
"I doubt that very much. No one and nothing can save you at the moment."
The local Sheriff was laughing but handed over his cell's key. "Here you go, Lieutenant. Looks like you'll need it more than I will until tonight." He watched him walk the man off. "You two seem like a lot of fun for this small town. Maybe you'll come back on vacation sometime. Without all this drama that makes it seem like a soap. If you need me, I'm going to get some coffee at Meg's."
"Thank you for your help, Sheriff," Gibbs told him. He took the phone Maxine was talking on, hanging up to call his director. "Director, Gibbs. We have the person who ordered the hunt in custody for various charges. Dunherd, Arizona. I think we're still in Arizona. Town has about fifty people but the locals have been very helpful when the hunt team showed up to kill us. We need to set up a meeting to get this canceled once and for all. I know you know someone over there."
Maxine took her phone back. "Conference us in on line 151 at the CIA's backup number." She smirked. "No, I'm a simple lab tech but I do outrank you in this and I can dial it directly, leaving you out of the loop if you so desire, ma'am. I have no problem with that." She got the conference call started. "Chuck, it's Valera. Delta 151 dash z. Yes, it's still important. Because I'm tired of this dancing and I want someone to take care of Proston before he gets more innocents killed. It's the bosses or me, Chuck. Which would you prefer?" She smirked. "Actually, I'm here with Agent Gibbs and his director is helping us. We're in Dunherd. Yes, there. The hunt team's walking back from the middle of nowhere. Proston's in custody of Lieutenant Caine. Who do you think is more stubborn?" She laughed. "Yes, I know all three are more stubborn than field oxen. They're headed to somewhere safer and the bosses want a meeting. Here, there, wherever. Handing you back to Gibbs." She handed it off then walked off to talk to Horatio. "It's nice to get a vacation from the lab, Horatio, but this is getting ridiculous. Even these agents came for me."
"I told them to," he said with a small smirk. "Because I didn't want to deal with the usual sort who think they're God when they're pitiful."
She smirked back. "Uh-huh." She swatted him on the arm. "Gibbs is setting up a meeting between you guys and them." She looked at her former overseer. "You know, the more I get to know Ryan the more I like him. He's a pretty nice guy who has some strange ideas. Must've gotten it in training since you were over all of them at that stage."
"This defection will be noted, Maxine."
She nodded. "And? I just talked to Chuck. They *all* know up there, boss." She strolled off to the diner to get something to eat. She was starved. They had woken her up at the buttcrack of dawn for the trip out here. She was not a happy DNA tech at the moment. She came out when a new car drove over to the sheriff's office. "Clearly not a local," she said as she walked over. "Head Bitch."
"Miss Valera. What is going on?"
"Proston arranged things to suit his desires again. Pissed me off because it broke my cover, Ryan Wolfe's cover, Tony and Don's cover.... All because he showed up on a homicide without reason to make Ryan tell his boss that he couldn't come in contact with him." She looked over at the two worried bosses and the sheriff. "Guys, this is Secretary Head Bitch of the old unit. She's as high as most of us ever saw. The others back yet?"
"They were gotten on the outskirts of town," the Sheriff admitted. "They're being driven in now." He nodded politely at the woman in the business suit. "I have a charming desk chair if you'd like to borrow it, ma'am."
"Thank you, Sheriff. My bosses are very eager to hear what happened this time."
"Same thing as last time," Maxine muttered, following her. She set the desk chair near the cell and took her own seat. Gibbs and Horatio came in with the hunt team to add them to the cell then took their own seats. "Horatio, since it started with you, can you tell her what's going on?"
"Of course." He pulled the file out of the bag that had been with him. "This is the case he showed up on. Ryan Wolfe's case." He handed it over. "They teach forensic?"
"They did," she admitted, looking over it at him then at Gibbs. "I'm almost shocked Anthony isn't in a lab since he got top scores in that class." She went back to reading it. "Was he directly related to the homicide?"
"No, we think he picked that one because he knew the other tech we have is overloaded with cases so we'd send out Mr. Wolfe. Which we did with CSI Delko." She nodded at that. "Upon figuring out he had been there but there was no reason for it, he told me he could not continue on the case or come in contact with that specific suspect due to a classified relationship he would not talk about."
"Which is when I butted in because I realized what had happened after peeking at the case," Maxine said. "I called in first to warn them he was showing up as a suspect in a homicide in my town and two of us were in the lab. I got permission to fill in a few minor gaps."
"Yes, she did," Horatio agreed. "Which meant I went looking for more information on this matter to help us catch this dangerous man."
"Which got his CSI, my senior agent, and Detective Flack all hunted down," Gibbs said. "Plus Charlie Epps and the people around us. They tried to take out a fellow professor and the agent he was eating with in LA. They tried my junior team member and my forensic scientist a few weeks back."
"They tried to drive-by the lab in Miami," Horatio told her. "Fortunately Miss Valera was on hand to help that day as well."
"I'm being put in the middle here. If it were up to me, it's long over with and in this case I would've spilled it all to Horatio. We trust him to deal with this stuff for all the other agents, officers, and CSI in Miami."
"They met in a public location, got together again," Proston pointed out.
"Someone shot their oversight person, ma'am, and they went to the funeral. They did not really talk. One of the agents watching said one mentioned the casket should have a flag. The other said he had done covert work. At no time did they stop to chat about stuff."
She nodded at that. "I was at the funeral myself. I didn't see them interact at all."
"Afterward, this was left in my CSI's car," Horatio said, handing it over.
She looked at the picture and the note. "That was cheezy theatrics," she told her former coworker.
"Ryan thinks he killed him to set them up," Maxine told her. "Because their team was better than his."
"In some matters they were," she agreed, putting it into the file. "Where are the boys?"
"Hiding, again," Gibbs said.
"It's not Ryan's fault Horatio's so nosy," Maxine pointed out. "It's part of the job and the calling he has to help the victims. Of course he researched his suspect. He does it to most of them. It shouldn't mean that others are going to die for it."
"This is still a betrayal, Valera," Proston said.
"Shut up before I beat you," she told him. "Or find Ryan's gas." He glared. She reached through the bars. One of the hunt team grabbed her hand. Horatio got up to help her. The very sore agent backed off to be babied by his teammates once Horatio was done with him for that.
"Next time, just shoot him," the secretary said dryly. "We would." She glared and they all settled down as far away from the bars as they could be. She stood up. "Let me take this back to the higher ups, Maxine. We'll see what can be worked out."
"Until then, I would expect them to not try to break Agent Proston out of Miami's jail," Horatio told her. "Because he will be there with that team."
"We don't want him back," she assured him with a small smirk. "If he's that stupid, more power to you, Lieutenant. Or you, Gibbs." She looked at them. "Give me a few days to see who needs talked to." She left, heading back to DC to talk to her bosses. She had taped it all anyway, but this was information Proston had withheld after setting things up. They didn't like this trait of his. It would have to be stopped one way or another.
Maxine looked at Horatio. "Have fun on the way back, Horatio. There's a spa appointment waiting for me in the city. The agents I came with are going to help you get him back to Miami." She walked off, taking her rental car back to the spa she had chosen. She deserved a treat.
Gibbs and Horatio let the assisting agents cuff them and get them ready for transport, thanking the Sheriff for his help earlier. Horatio did the same then they followed the villains back to Miami. The Sheriff went to tell the others what had happened, winning him a 'best crazy story' award at the bar that night so he got free beers.
Don stretched before settling back into his chair at the café he was waiting in. He loved Vienna. It was a beautiful city full of great history and about a quarter of the retired spies in the world. Which was why he was waiting here. His contact sat down across from him, sniffing at the cup of coffee left for him. "Cream, not milk, no sugar since I heard you've got a problem with your blood sugar, Yuri. How's Carmen?"
"She's not bad, but we divorced last year." He sipped, nodding. "Good ordering."
Don grinned. "Better'n Starbucks any day." That got a snort and a nod. "What've you heard?"
"A lot but not why. You broke the rules of contact?"
"No. One of the old overlords in our program showed up on Cleaner's case. He had to tell his boss he could not question him and that it was classified. He's a criminalist, and they're all nosy. His boss researched so here we are."
Yuri snorted. "Set up?"
"By the same guy, who killed our oversight person first. It got us to the funeral, which he used to show that we were breaking the no-contact rules."
That got a head shake. "You Americans make things too complicated."
"Yeah, well, no one said that putting angry, hormonal teenagers on the world stage was a good idea either," he said dryly, taking a sip of his coffee and settling back again. "Any luck?"
"A bit. You didn't ask for anything hard." He pulled out an envelope. "New identities fit for that region. Are you sure you want to be there? They do look down on anyone too American."
"We can be reporters or we can be teachers or something. Cleaner's dancing in eagerness to do anything beyond clean the hotel room."
"I always wondered how he got his name," Yuri said dryly.
"He's got OCD."
Yuri shuddered. "I can't imagine what our bosses would've said about that problem."
"They knew when they recruited him." He smirked. "Proves some of the higher ups were on the pipe."
"Yes they were." He slid over the envelope. Don pulled out the payment to hand over. "Thank you. Though I would like to suggest something else. You three can't hope to get into your emergency accounts."
Don looked at him. "You wanted what sort of fee?"
"A night with Tony to talk about Leningrad."
Don texted him, getting back an agreeing one. "He said that's fine." Yuri handed it over. "Thanks, Yuri. Have a good retirement with the teenage girl." He smirked and finished his coffee before walking off.
Yuri shook his head. "Americans are all insane. In the project or not." He finished his and went back to make his notes on the case and run a background check on his current girlfriend. If they knew about her then she wasn't the pure little girl she portrayed herself as. Some countries hadn't given up their programs as a bad idea after the great fight in Egypt their last year.
Then he'd go beat Tony for humiliating him in Leningrad in front of his bosses. Though he wasn't as easy as he had been when he was younger. Yuri came away with as many bruises. He heard Tony calling their intel person on the way out to give him hints to their location then they disappeared from Vienna on the morning train. Which meant a lot of locals could relax again. New spies always upset the order they had set up around town.
Mac Taylor looked up as someone knocked on his office door then walked in when he waved. "Todd, I haven't seen you in ages. What's wrong?"
"My brother sent some information to me for you." He handed over the email. "He thought you could search them out since they can't find the list to look on and it doesn't always have pictures on it."
"I can do that." He settled in to read the email. Then he smirked. "They rescued an injured MP and shot the jeep that was out searching for them later that week?"
"Yeah. Paul said it's a strange thing and he's worried they're the sort that moved over there to join Al Queda."
"No, I think I know about them. Let me get you a picture." He turned to his computer, pulling up a photo collage Abby had sent him of the three in case they should show up in their cities. "Ask Paul if this is them," he said, handing over the CD. "If so, they're harmless but we need to know. One's one of my detectives and he's hiding from some trouble that's been ended. We need to find them."
"Sure, I'll email Paul that. Thanks, Uncle Mac." He grinned and left. Mac faxed the email to Horatio and Gibbs once he had blacked out the addresses. That was the first good news they'd had in months. Though, if he knew anything about the other two, they were probably browbeating Don about doing that and getting them noticed. Later on, Paul sent him an email saying it was them so he faxed over a copy of the desist order they had for delivery. That way they could have their people back to beat them senseless for leaving that way.
Paul walked into his commander's tent, saluting him until it got waved off. "I asked my brother to ask a detective we know at home about those three guys, Sergeant." He handed over the email he had sent, the picture collage, and the desist order. "They were hiding from someone illegally hunting them. So they're not turncoats, they're government people and one detective who somehow got caught up in this."
The sergeant looked over the information. "Any idea where they are right now?"
"I know where they're living. I tracked them subtly one night. They also hit the market locally every Thursday because a contact shows up that day."
He handed over the information file. "Give it to 'em. Better to have them out of harm's way around here." That got a nod and another salute, then Paul walked off. "Poor guys. They had to run *here* for safety?" He shook his head, going back to his work.
That Thursday, Paul stalked around the market, finding one of them in there looking at vegetables. He followed him once he was done there, hoping for a more private talk. Instead, he lost him until Tony grabbed him and threw him against a wall in an alley, holding a gun on him. "Sir, Mac Taylor sent something for you," he said, trying to sound not scared. He pulled out the paper. "We wondered so I talked to my brother since we know Mac. His dad and ours served in the same unit. We knew he could figure out if you guys were the sort who came over to help the locals blow us up and that stuff. He sent that back for you three."
Tony read it one handed then backed off of him. "Pay more attention to your surroundings, kid. I was behind you. It could've been anyone." Paul grimaced but nodded. Tony left, heading back to their rented house. He put it on the table in front of the others, looking at them. "Well?"
"Who sent it?" Ryan asked.
"One of the locals has a father that served with Taylor. He asked if we had turned, had Mac search us out."
"Funny how that works but Mac said everything's connected," Don said dryly. "Well?"
Ryan looked at them. "Call one of the bosses to make sure it's real?"
Tony nodded. "Let's start with Gibbs. He would've heard if it was a fake. He's scared all sorts of contacts all over the government agencies littering DC." He picked up their prepaid cellphone and called. "Hey, McGee, is Gibbs there? Quiet. Do not shout my name," he ordered when he heard the indrawn breath. "I know I'm missing. I'm hiding from a death threat by another agency, Probie. Now, put Gibbs on." He handed over the phone. "Is it a real order?" He looked at the phone. "He's growling." He put it back against his ear. "Without coffee, boss?" he quipped. "It got delivered to us by someone who knows Taylor. We need to know if it's real." He nodded. "Thanks." He hung up. "He growled a 'get here now, DiNozzo, before I sent someone else out to hunt you three down and beat you senseless. Then gas you like you did us'."
Ryan smirked. "Clearly he needs coffee."
Don snickered. "Some places don't have a good coffee shop. Only a Starbucks." They looked at each other then went to pack and make arrangements for a subtle way back into the country.
Three weeks later, Gibbs walked into the hotel room the three were staying at. "Your new ID's were weak. Once we found you, we looked at them. They were paper thin."
"Yuri's not as good as we are," Don joked. "It got the job done. We weren't looking for anything permanent. That would draw too much attention. He got it done quietly."
"Yeah, we didn't need anything that solid," Tony agreed. "Odds were we'd have to ditch them in a few months anyway."
Gibbs smacked all three of them on the head. "Car. Now." They followed him down to the sedan, letting him drive them to the office they all knew pretty well.
"Think we should sneak in the skylight in the library for old time's sake?" Ryan hissed to Don.
"Nah, they hopefully shut it by now."
"You'd hope the other trainees had been caught," Tony agreed. Gibbs gave him a dirty look. "We used to sneak out all the time to go play in the clubs, boss."
"I don't need to know." He parked in the underground parking area and got them out then up to the Head Bitch's office. She looked up at them then pointed at a conference room nearby. They filed in there and got comfortable. She came in with packets. Ryan kissed her so she slapped him hard but smirked. Gibbs looked at him. "Is that normal for you? Horatio said you hardly ever date."
"Not really." He grinned at her. "I wanted to do that years ago. If we had moved up, you would've been our pick for Moneypenny."
"Sexual harassment on that level is not tolerated in the US," she reminded them, handing down folders. "These are the new contact rules. You're free."
Tony looked up. "Totally free?"
"As long as you three don't write an autobiography. Non-disclosure, no telling anyone who doesn't have an absolute need to know. Now that your bosses do, don't worry too much about it." That got a nod. "But you're all free. You can chat with each other and Epps, or any other team's members if you want. You can date them, have warped little spy babies with them; just don't tell the general public.
Ryan opened his folder to look the orders over. He finally looked up. "They don't want to keep us on an emergency list?"
"If we're that desperate, we'll call. Until then, go be normal people again. Take Valera out to finally settle who dances better, Wolfe." Ryan smirked at that, shrugging one-sidedly. "Sign them if you agree." The other two looked it over then they all signed and slid them down the table. "You're done. Go back to your jobs, boys. Though...why did you all go law enforcement?"
"It went with the training," they said in unison, then gave each other funny looks.
She laughed. "Good to know. Go back to your lives. It was cleared as you three were on special government assignment. That way no one's boss could fire them."
Gibbs looked at them. "The other two can join DiNozzo at NCIS." Tony gave him an odd look. "It'd be safer. You three seem to get along. We could always use new agents."
Don shook his head. "We need a break from each other. We don't fit that well after being in close contact. Ryan's OCD, Tony's playboy ways, and my good, but naughty, boy nature rub on each other in too much close contact. Ryan keeps trying to pick lint, Tony hits on all my women.... It'd drive everyone around us nuts when we fight."
Horatio was let in. "Good afternoon, boys. Good to have you back in the country."
"Gibbs wants us to transfer to NCIS," Don said with a grin. "We think we'd rub each other now and then."
"Mr. Wolfe's OCD doesn't usually affect him in the lab but you three have been living together so it's probably magnified." He patted Ryan on the back before sitting down. "Are we heading home tonight?"
"If there's a problem, I can transfer up to New York's lab," Ryan offered.
"Hit him for me please, Jethro?" Horatio requested politely.
Gibbs smacked him on the head. "All together or to your original cities and DiNozzo can't leave again. Next time Abby's promised she's hunting him down with whatever chains and cuffs she has laying around her house." Tony shuddered. "But they're more than welcome to transfer into the DC office."
Horatio smacked Gibbs on the head. "That is stress relieving. One last night, boys. Then you turn into pumpkins." He put on his sunglasses. "Let's go."
Gibbs shook his head as he watched Horatio walk out. Way too dramatic for him. Horatio was apparently the CSI Drama Princess. He'd have to make sure DiNozzo didn't learn bad habits from him. He would not put up with drama like that on his team.
Calleigh spotted Horatio and Ryan coming in for their first day back in the lab and decided this earned Ryan a good, long teasing. She walked over to them with part of her lunch. "Ryan, can you open my olive jar? I'm sure you've found some interesting ways to do that."
He took it to tap on the lid then opened it for her. "Not like I'd shoot it open," he said dryly.
"You are so getting it later," she vowed with an evil smirk.
He grinned back. "I'm pretty good at planning escape routes."
Eric walked up behind him and handcuffed him to Horatio. Then he walked Calleigh off talking about the revenge he deserved for leaving them with a worrying Horatio and the extra work load.
Horatio looked at the cuff. "You have to come home with me anyway. All your things are in my garage."
Ryan picked the lock and walked off shaking his head. He started to call Don but Maxine took his phone. "Yes?"
"You owe me dinner and a night out for stopping the assault on the lab and covering for you."
"A dance-off was suggested," he said with an amused look. They watched the other officers come in for their shift. It was like nothing had happened so they moved back into their 'real person' roles. Thing s would go back to normal. No one would remember this in a few weeks. Right?