A/N: Welcome to a new chapter in a new year. I hope everyone was able to enjoy the holiday season and celebrate the new year as best they could. I wish to apologise for the delay in posting this latest chapter and leaving you on a cliffhanger. I hope this offering goes some way to redeem me in your eyes and I'll try not to leave it as long before I post the next one. Thanks to all who are still with me on this journey. Keep safe.

Chapter 18

When Callen heard Hetty's order, he spoke urgently. "Deeks, ditch the comms! And be careful, they're most likely expecting you."

"Copy that" replied Deeks. "Team, comms off and proceed with caution."

Switching off his earwig, Callen said "Sam, contact Hetty. We need to talk."

"Already on it, buddy," said Sam.

"Mr Hanna, Mr Callen." They heard Hetty's disconnected voice speak from the phone's speaker.

"Hetty, what just happened?" asked Callen.

"Your guess is as good as mine, Mr Callen, but I believe I can safely say we've got a mole."

"No kidding!" replied Callen sarcastically before adding contritely, "Sorry; what's being done about it?"

"I appreciate you're concerned about Miss Blye's safety and as to what is being done, Miss Jones and Mr Beal are doing all they can. Yes, what is it, Miss Jones?" Sam and Callen listened intently but couldn't quite hear what Nell was saying. Returning her attention to Callen and Sam, Hetty said, "Well, I think we've found the source of the leak. Miss Jones has just heard from the Marshalls Service in Albuquerque. It appears one of their own is on Ramirez's payroll and that is how Mr Hernandez was found and targeted."

"But how does that fit in with this operation?" asked Sam.

"It appears that SecNav has been keeping the Marshalls Service advised of the progress of our investigation," replied Hetty.

"Great!" muttered Callen.

"I thought we were taking the lead on this" stated Sam, his annoyance and frustration evident in his voice.

"Yes, we are" replied Hetty "but it appears the Marshalls Service were adamant they be kept in the loop." Hetty ignored the muttered complaints of her two senior agents. "Director Vance was following his orders to update SecNav, who in turn passed on the information."

"And now the operation is blown and Kensi is in danger," said Callen angrily. "Barclay was shot. Do we know if he's alive?"

"No, we will have to wait until the situation resolves itself," said Hetty. There was a pause before she added, "Mr Deeks and the team are about to enter the Roadhouse."

"Of course," said Callen turning his attention to the iPad where an array of video images was showing. "They may not be on comms but their button and vest cams are still on."

Callen and Sam watched anxiously, as no doubt Hetty, Nell and Eric were doing in Ops, as Deeks and his team entered the building. Flashes from the barrels of the weapons and the fallen foe were the only indications that a fierce battle was being raged, one that the good guys were winning. Slowly but systematically the team made their way through the building clearing each room as they went. Any enemy who laid down their weapon was zipped tied and left guarded as the main group continued to make their way to the storeroom where they believed Kensi was being held.

As the gunfight raged, some of Ramirez's men had retreated to the storeroom to protect their boss, closing the door behind them. Ramirez had dragged a dazed but conscious Kensi to her feet whilst his first lieutenant was arranging some cover.

On reaching the room, an agent knelt down and eased a snake camera under the door as Deeks looked at its monitor, checking the layout of the room and its occupants. Deeks swore as he saw Ramirez was holding a gun to the head of Kensi, using her body as a shield. Indicating to his colleague to remove the camera, Deeks advised the team of the situation.

Back at the hospital, Callen and Sam had seen exactly what Deeks had viewed on the snake camera's monitor and they instinctively noted the positions of everyone in the room and worked out which target they'd take down first had they been at the scene. When the camera was removed they then saw the various images of the team.

"What d'you think Deeks'll do?" surmised Sam.

"Not sure but I'd try talking to him first," said Callen.

Sam nodded. "Doubt he'll surrender though which means they'll have to go in."

"Yeah" agreed Callen. "Let's hope Kensi's ready for it."

"She and Deeks have got a great partnership. As long as she's not incapacitated, she'll know what he'll do and will do her best to help," concluded Sam.

"Yeah, she'll be ready" agreed Callen.

"Deeks, what do you wanna do?" asked one of the team, gazing at the worried face of Deeks.

"I'm gonna talk to him, see if he'll stand down" replied Deeks. "I'm not hopeful but I don't want to risk Kensi's life by immediately charging in all guns blazing." Deeks paused, gathering his thoughts and all his persuasive experience from his lawyer profession. "Ramirez? I'm Detective Deeks, LAPD Liaison Officer with NCIS. Don't make this any worse for yourself. Lay down your weapons and come out."

Derisive laughter came from inside the room. "Do you think I'm crazy? I've got your agent here. I'm not coming out."

"Agent? I don't know what you're talking about. She's a marine" replied Deeks, sticking to Kensi's cover.

"Don't take me for a fool!" said Ramirez, angrily. "I've absolute proof she's an NCIS agent."

Taking out his phone, Deeks phoned Hetty and whispered "Hetty, we've got a mole. Ramirez knows Kensi's an agent."

"Yes, Mr Deeks. We've just discovered that. The mole is a US Marshall." She heard her liaison officer softly swear. "What do you plan to do?"

"He's giving me no choice, we'll have to go in" replied Deeks seriously "but I'll give him another chance to surrender before we do."

"Be careful," said Hetty as she disconnected.

Their attention was drawn back to the screen as they saw Deeks' camera view shift position. They couldn't hear anything but they surmised Deeks was talking to Ramirez.

"I'm giving you one last chance, Ramirez," said Deeks. "Lay down your weapons and come out."

Deeks jumped back to the relative safety of the wall as the distinctive sound a gunshot preceded a bullet which splintered the door inches from where he'd been standing and embedded itself into the arm of one of the team. The man clenched his teeth and clutched his arm, blood oozing between his fingers. "Go and get seen to" said Deeks.

"I'm okay" the man assured Deeks. "I think it's a through and through."

"Go!" ordered Deeks, indicating the direction the front of the roadhouse. The man hesitated before nodding and retreated, allowing another to take his place. Deeks then looked at the rest of the team and said "On my count" as he raised first one, then two and finally three fingers.

One man crouched low, turned the door handle and shoved it hard, causing it to bang noisily against the wall. Gun raised in readiness, Deeks stepped swiftly into the room, immediately followed by an agent who stayed low, then the remaining members of the team. Deeks scanned the interior, pinpointing everyone's position and noting no-one had moved since he'd viewed them with the snake camera. He reacted spontaneously when one of Ramirez's men shot at him and the man fell fatally wounded. A gunfight ensued and the NCIS agents, their training giving them superior ability and discipline, quickly suppressed the threat, wounding or killing Ramirez's men, until only Ramirez himself remained standing, still using Kensi as a shield, holding a gun to her head.

"It's over, Ramirez," said Deeks, aiming his gun at the man as did his team mates. "You're outnumbered so put your gun down and let her go."

"No way! You won't risk hurting her," replied Ramirez, full of confidence.

Kensi stared intently at Deeks as she struggled weakly to free herself from the man's grip. They had been partners long enough to know each other's strengths and weaknesses and Deeks knew Kensi could have easily over-powered Ramirez but knew she would not risk it without backup. He also knew she was staying in character. With an imperceptible nod to show his understanding, Kensi made her move, taking Ramirez by surprise. Using her full strength, Kensi shifted her weight so he was off-balance and at the same time, grabbed hold of his arm from around her neck. Her right arm now free, Kensi smashed her elbow into his face. Ramirez, stunned by the sudden and violent assault, dropped his gun and instinctively put his hand to his broken nose. Kensi made her final move and threw him to the ground using a judo throw. She flipped him over onto his front and crouched, using her knee in his back to hold him down whilst restraining both hands behind him as Deeks stepped over, handing her a pair of cuffs.

"Nicely done, Fern," he said with a grin as she dragged Ramirez to his feet and shoved him in the direction of the door where two NCIS agents grabbed him and escorted out. Kensi rolled her eyes as she brushed herself down before picking up Ramirez's gun. Deeks looked her over and asked, "You okay?"

"I'm good" she replied as he went to look at Barclay. He bent down and touched his neck, feeling for a pulse. As Kensi watched him, Deeks shook his head before standing up.

"Dammit!" she muttered and then sighed knowing a link to Ramirez, and ultimately Gonzalez, had been lost. The fact Ramirez had killed him suggested he knew enough to cause the man concern. They had his statement and she hoped it would be enough. "You got an evidence bag handy?" indicating the gun." Deeks handed her one and she slipped it in, securing the top. "I suspect they've been watching but we'd better get back on comms and let the others know what's going on," she continued. "You got a spare earwig?" Deeks handed her one and she slipped it into her ear.

"Anyone there?" asked Deeks.

"Kensi! Deeks! Great job! Everyone okay? asked Callen.

"Hey, Callen, everything's good here," said Kensi. "Except we lost Barclay."

"Thought as much from watching Deeks" said Sam.

"We've got his gun, which might link in with other cases but we need to search the roadhouse for the knife used on Jenkins. If we find one, hopefully any dna might belong to Ramirez" said Kensi.

Hetty came online and said, "Good idea, Miss Blye. Mr Deeks can stay behind with a couple of agents to search while you go to the hospital to be checked over. The others can accompany Ramirez back to the boatshed. I've doubled the guard in case of further trouble. I must say you both did a good job."

"Thank you, Hetty but I'm fine, Hetty. Let me stay here with Deeks and then we can go and question Ramirez," said Kensi.

"Miss Blye, I want a doctor to examine you, after which you can stay with Mr Callen," said Hetty.

"Not that I don't want Kensi's company," said Callen, "but I don't need two people looking after me."

"You won't have, Mr Callen because Mr Hanna will be at the boatshed questioning Ramirez," explained Hetty.

"Hetty!" exclaimed Callen, Sam and Kensi in unison.

"Gentlemen, Miss Blye, my mind is made up," said Hetty firmly.

"Hetty..." began Callen.

"Mr Callen, I thought I had made my wishes quite clear."

"Yeah, you did," replied Callen resignedly "but I was going to say, what's being done about the mole in the US Marshalls Service?"

"They are dealing with the problem, Mr Callen."

"But will they be keeping us in the loop?" he asked.

"I have made the request" replied Hetty, "and I made it abundantly clear it was imperative they did so, but will they? That's another matter. We shall have to wait and see."

"And in the meantime…." asked Sam. Callen shot Sam a look but he continued. "If the mole is still at large and we don't know his identity, then Callen's in danger from him as well as Gonzalez."

"I am well aware of that fact, Mr Hanna," Hetty replied sharply but she softened her tone as she continued. "I have requested Miss Jones and Mr Beale to investigate independently. I am confident they will discover his identity should our request not be forthcoming."

"Let's hope they do," muttered Sam, not convinced the actions would be enough protect his friend from the new threat.