The bull pen was unusually noisy for so early in the morning. The team had arrived at eight a.m. for a pre-arranged workout that started life as a sparring session and quickly morphed in to the two sets of partners attempting to best each other. A points structure was determined and challenges defined that included the climbing wall, a basket ball match and wrestling. Sam and Callen were still smarting at losing by just one point overall. Sam's good natured attitude had been eroded on the climbing wall after he repeatedly lost to Deeks and his competitive streak had taken over. Unfortunately this was after he seemed to have gone easy when wrestling Kensi, who had become decidedly angry that Sam had not treated her as 'one of the guys'. Callen had simply looked on in amusement whereas Deeks was openly happy that he had not had to wrestle with Sam. And he was ecstatic that he and Kensi had won the tournament. The arguments continued after their showers; technicalities, accusations of cheating and requests for rematches were all hotly debated as they sat at their desks. Thirty minutes later, Callen and Deeks had given up trying to talk sense in to their partners and were leaning back in their chairs, observing with smug grins on their faces. Sam was trying to placate a still irate Kensi when a shrill whistle interrupted them.
'Guys' Eric Beale leant on the balcony and shook his head. 'Y'know we can hear you in ops? And that means Hetty can hear you too...we have a case and she said whoever makes the next remark about your - quote "ridiculous game" unquote - will have to pass the Hetty Lange fitness test. Now I don't exactly know what that is, but I bet she'll make it impossible to survive...'
The team glanced at each other and Kensi mouthed to Sam.
'I'll get you back'
'Yeah, right. C'mon, let's before Hetty hears.' Sam muttered, looking towards the ops centre.
'You're so full of joy, big guy.' Callen remarked, standing and stretching. 'Anyone would think you're a sore loser.'
'G, do you really have a death wish?' Sam retorted. He was starting to wonder whose side his partner was on.
'Whoa man, you can't kill him for that!' Deeks laughed.
'Deeks, Hetty has eyes and ears everywhere.' Sam reminded Deeks as they walked up the stairs. 'Do you really think she'll let Callen get away with having the last word about this morning's training - after she said that she doesn't want to hear another word on it?'
'So you've got your partner's back. That's good to know.' Deeks spun around to face Kensi, walking backwards as she continued towards him. 'Kens, I just want you to know that I'm with you every step of the way, even after you mouthed the last words to Sam down there.'
'Deeks!' Kensi pushed past him and entered through the sliding doors to the operations centre.
Nell, Eric and Hetty were all present and standing in a row, waiting for the team to arrive. Eric peeled off and moved to his desk leaving the two women facing the large screen. Hetty turned to face Kensi, holding her stare until the younger woman broke away.
'You're so busted,' Deeks whispered from the corner of his mouth.
Kensi pretended not to hear him but could see Callen smirking from the corner of her eye. She was also pretty convinced that Sam was trying not to smile. It looked like being one of those days where the guys were just going to gang up on her. She thought she'd let them have their fun. Revenge would be hers to enjoy a little later, and boy would she make them pay.
'Mr Deeks,' Hetty reprimanded. 'This is not a playground.'
'Of course not Hetty,' Deeks looked down at his feet briefly before looking at the screen. 'Sorry.'
'And that goes for you too, Mr Callen.'
'What did I do?' A look of confusion washed across Callen's face.
'And Mr Hanna, you are also not above reproach.'
Sam narrowed his eyes and shook his head, wisely remaining silent.
'As I have heard all of you mention this morning's training fiasco - after you were warned - I've decided that you will all face the rigors of my training regime.'
The team groaned and started to protest. Hetty held up her hands to stop them.
'But that will have to wait. First we have a case of suspected home grown terrorism. Nell?'
Nell stepped forward and swiped her finger across her iPad and a grainy photographic image appeared on the large screen. It was clearly taken from a CCTV camera on a busy street. Nell quickly tapped the tablet and more photos accompanied the first.
'Ten minutes ago a number of simulated attacks took place here in LA.'
'Simulated?' Sam questioned.
'Yes, the attacks themselves appear to be threats of what might happen next time. Simulated as smoke grenades were used in a number of attacks that took place simultaneously at the VA medical centre in West LA, the social welfare office, tax office and at a realtor. At the same time, LAPD received reports that eggs were being smashed against the windows of this navy recruitment office. No one has claimed responsibility and we believe this is a warning of more serious attacks to come.'
'Any leads?' Kensi asked. 'All the places targeted will have cameras inside and out. And why do you think it's a warning to something more serious - it sounds more like disgruntled vets or someone that's lost their house.'
'I agree, at first glance it doesn't seem that serious, using smoke bombs and throwing eggs. But when you think about it...all the targets were carefully chosen and would have been staked out in advance. And as the attacks took place at the same time, it suggests there are a number of people involved. The smoke bombs weren't bought off the shelf and the bomb squad already believe they were rigged up to a cell phone for remote detonation. They haven't started analysing the materials used yet.'
'And lastly,' Eric added. 'As you said there is CCTV and video footage so we've just started to trawl through the days and weeks leading up to these events, which may take a while. What we do have though is this.'
The images on the screen faded into the background and were replaced with four different video clips of the VA, social welfare office, tax office and realtor. All were time coded at five minutes before the detonations and the common vector was a child. In each clip a child entered the shot with what looked like a bag of rubbish that was conveniently and cleverly left just inside the doorways. A fifth clip filled the centre of the screen, this time showing a group of four youths removing eggs from the carton and hurling them at the full length glass windows of the recruitment centre. All promptly ran in different directions before anyone could even begin to give chase.
'They're using kids?' Callen quizzed.
'Keep watching, Mr Callen.' Hetty said.
Visible at the edge of the frame in all except the recruitment centre, were adults with cell phones, texting or maybe dialling in to remote detonate the bombs. There wasn't just a single person, but at least four or five, most with the faces away from the cameras, wearing non descript clothes of jeans, plain t-shirts, sneakers and a baseball cap.
'This is why we're concerned. There are clearly a large number of people involved who are skilled in counter-surveillance, maybe bomb making, are clearly targeting Government establishments and have no qualms about using children. Homeland Security is already on the scene, working with LAPD but as a Navy recruitment and a VA centre have been targeted, they are welcoming our assistance.'
'So we gotta work alongside Homeland Security? They're not going to give us anything.' Sam complained. The others nodded in agreement.
'Just - play nice, Mr Hanna. And that includes you, Mr Callen...' Hetty warned.
Callen narrowed his eyes and refrained from answering back.
'What about the realtors?' Deeks asked, studying the images on the large screen.
'Well,' drawled Nell. 'This is a group who clearly want to protest about the welfare state, the US military, care for veterans. We think it's a home grown terrorist group who are disillusioned with the US, maybe they've had their homes taken away from them, their children. Somehow they've come together and pooled their resources and knowledge. We have already identified a person of interest.' Nell tapped again on her iPad. 'This is former Master Gunnery Sergeant, Joshua Lyneham, honourably discharged from the Marines back in 2003. CCTV shows him in the surrounding streets of the VA Centre five minutes after the grenades exploded, talking to the same children seen in the other photos.'
'But you'll always find vets and a vet medical centre Nell. Why pick him out of hundreds of others that were there this morning?' Sam had to challenge Nell's logic. 'And how do you know he wasn't just asking those kids if they were OK and where their parents were?'
'Lyneham struggled to readjust to civilian life. He attended psych sessions and was vocal about how they were not helping. He failed to hold down jobs and his behaviour became erratic which led to the breakdown of his marriage. He went to ground after his wife took out an injunction against him for domestic abuse. On one of the police files she's recorded as saying he never even looked to raise his hand against her until he returned from active duty. His ex-wife left the country with their only child and flew into Paris over ten years ago. Lyneham has no credit cards, no drivers licence, no forwarding address, no hospital visits, no arrest records, nothing since his wife disappeared. He was a ghost until facial recognition found a match just now. He was using a cell phone in the moments leading to the blast. We'll be looking to see if he appears in footage from the weeks leading up or if he shows up at any other sites.'
'But that still doesn't mean anything. Maybe he surfaced because he needs help now. Maybe he's been getting help using an alias? It can be hard for some ex-military to admit they need assistance.' Sam was getting agitated, which was clear for all to see.
'That may well be Mr Hanna,' Hetty said. 'But so far he is the only lead we have. I want you and Ms Blye to find him and bring him to the boatshed for questioning.'
The team paused and exchanged looks.
'You're pairing me up with Sam?' Kensi was bewildered.
'He's not that bad, if you train him right' Callen answered before Hetty could.
'What?' Sam shook his head at Callen and then stared at Hetty as Kensi just opened her mouth, ready to mirror Sam's objections.
'Thank you Mr Callen.' Hetty glared at the lead agent, before continuing. 'Ms Blye, Mr Hanna if you would oblige and start searching for Gunnery Sergeant Lyneham. I would suggest the VA as a starting point. As you both grew up in a military family you are more suitably qualified to work this angle together in the field...Together...' Hetty emphasised her final word to the new partners. 'Mr Callen, Mr Deeks, Homeland Security is waiting for you in the boatshed. They will brief you further on the intelligence they have gathered so far.'
Callen looked quizzically at Sam before turning back to Hetty.
'Look, Sam's right. Why are we focusing on one guy. There must be a number of other ex-forces men and women with a similar profile around the VA when the bomb went off. If he was a ghost before and he's involved in this - he'll definitely have gone to ground now. And what about the kids? Have you been able to identify them or the other adults who were on their cells at the time of the bombing?'
'They are all excellent questions Mr Callen, to which I expect you as a team, to find the answers. Miss Jones and Mr Beale are working through the CCTV footage and isolating further persons of interest. Now what are you all doing still standing here? You all have your assignments, now shoo!'
Hetty stared at each of her field agents, reading their hesitance and reluctance to swap partners as they followed her instructions and exited the operations centre. She also recognised that their leads were indeed rather flimsy. Still, she thought, at least they had a starting point.