Authors Note: Planned to write this as the final chapter of this storyline, yet it doesn't want to be finished already. So… please stick with me just a little longer, will you?
To all of you who took the time to read it and find the time to leave a review – or more than one! – thank you so much! To me as the writer of this story, it really gives the feeling that what I did was appreciated.
Linda Wigington, Varvarra11, wotumba1, Morganluvr and Bandit8: thank you so much for your reviews!
Disclaimer: all the original characters belong to CBS and Shane Brennan. I just used them for this storyline. No matter how, I'm grateful for those who introduced agent G. Callen to us and make him into the agent he's become.
The big screen came to life as well and Eric started to speak. "Callen, I think you need to see this!"
Los Angeles || boatshed
Callen's attention was immediately for Eric's excitement so he had the chair back on all four legs and he slightly leaned over to the screen. "What's that, Beale?"
"This is what was going on early this afternoon."
Eric Beale's explanation was accompanied with footage of hills and small sheds, a lonely church, dusty roads. Nothing Callen recognized immediately. Then the slow feeds from the camera changed to fast forward and he understood it wasn't drone feed he watched, but feed from a camera attached to a fighter plane.
All of a sudden he knew what he was watching. The small village where he and the team met with Arlo Turk, over a year ago. The place where General Arturo Vasquez had his headquarters.
Callen swallowed away the sudden nausea he felt, not sure though how the next images would look. He was all too aware that no way a fighter jet passing by was to be connected to the US.
"The latest technology was on board and it was used. This caused electric malfunctioning inside the station which obviously deleted the servers. Oh, and it caused a fire as well. Paperwork got lost," Eric said.
"Don't know about him. I haven't been able to contact Turk's successor yet."
Callen shook his head. "Never mind Eric. In fact, I don't think we need to worry about him right now. Thanks anyway."
Eric didn't have to work that much further on contacting the new agent in Mexico, because Hetty already had, Callen was sure about it. She'd never wanted him to go, not him to be the one to be traced back to be responsible for any action at all.
Washington, yes, she must be in there but never for the purpose she'd mentioned. Callen wasn't sure what to think of this all. He detested the fact Hetty and perhaps Vance too, kept this mission from him. At the same time he was far too tired to mull over this all. In fact, he was grateful too, come to think about it. If Vasquez' systems were destroyed it meant that there would be no new digital threats coming in any longer.
Again Callen shook his head, this time more or less to himself.
No matter how Hetty mostly opposed black ops, he was aware that somehow NCIS' petite and seasoned operations manager from Los Angeles arranged a mission with or without the NCIS' director to end the continuous threat to his life, his team, which meant that most probably, Vasquez didn't live to know what happened.
With Zamora, the person most likely to replace the Williamses in Mexico and Los Angeles, in this very same building and out of the way as well, it meant he'd be safe from all of them.
There'd always be enemies and there'd always be the dangers of fighting crime, he was well aware of that. For now, he was more relaxed. All he'd have to do was to recover, get better and stronger and get back in the field with Sam.
He took his phone and pressed the pre-dial key to reach his friend. Sam just answered with a "What's up?"
"You got a moment?" Callen asked.
Seconds later the door of the interrogation room opened and were shut immediately after and his partner joined him. Sam raised his brow and said "What is so important you made me come over here?"
If it were up to him he'd summon his friend to lie down on the couch, yet it was situated too far from the screens and he knew Callen was too stubborn and too involved.
"Eric just let me know that all possible digital proof Vasquez is deleted. Permanently. Next to that, all his paperwork burned. Which means I think there are no other or new threats from Mexico or la Eme."
Implicitly Callen said he'd be safe, since the team had never been hunted down the way they discovered Callen was.
Slowly, Sam nodded. "That would be great, G."
"Yeah," Callen said with a grin. He tipped his head to the screen where Kensi and Deeks were questioning Zamora. "I guess that guy will be transferred to one of the state prisons later this afternoon. How about the other one you brought in?"
Sam rolled his shoulders as he let his thoughts go over the question. "Dunno," he finally said. "Both are, well, smug, I'd say. And 'bout my man in there, well, it was almost as if he wanted to get caught. Different from Zamora; the three of us worried about Zamora and the back-up team got their hands on the other man."
He addressed the co-workers at the OSP "What've you found out about Raoul Cortez?"
Some seconds later, Nell's voice sounded through the comms. "He's being paid by Zamorra, so if you trace it back, also by Vasquez. Still, he appears to be just a pawn on the big board. He's been in a couple of times for drug dealing and manhandling. Major debts."
Sam hummed. "So he's probably on to some extra payment."
"But why? For what?" Callen asked. "I could go and try and get him to talk about it."
"You could, but you aint," Sam said. "If he's nothing but a collateral catch, why worry? Agent Castor can make arrangements to get him picked up as well. That way, there's nothing to worry about and I can get you a ride back to the OSP, or get you back home."
"Dunno." Callen shrugged as he slowly got up on his feet. He turned and moved to the kitchenette, only to lean against it and facing his friend. "Really Sam, it's just a gut feeling."
"Feeling your gut may have to do with your earlier ridiculous attempt to work out," Sam said.
Callen shook his head. "I'm serious, Sam. It just doesn't add up in my opinion."
"Okay. You're serious. I'm giving it another try. Ten minutes. If he doesn't talk, he doesn't, and then there's no arguing any longer, and I'm going to get your stubborn ass back to headquarters until it's time to go home."
There was a long and deep sigh from his friend and partner, which Sam decided to ignore.
Callen rubbed his tired eyes. Perhaps Sam was right, as was Nell. This was only a a puppet and Zamorra was the puppeteer, as was Vasquez with Zamorra. Still…
He pressed his microphone and spoke "Deeks. Ask Zamorra about Cortez, what he's been paid for to do."
He focused on Zamorra's expression, and all he got from that was a smirk. Nothing to work with and so Callen took his tablet and tried to make sense of it all.
He still was working on an own file when Sam entered the main room. "So, you ready?"
Callen nodded. "Gimme a minute."
"Sure. I'll make arrangements with Castor and will be waiting for you, mister sunshine."
Meanwhile he shook his head, noticing how washed out his friend really looked.
Minutes later, Callen closed the door of the boathouse and squinted his eyes against the bright light of the Californian sun. Sam leaned against the hood of his car, his broad arms crossed relaxedly in front of him. "Well now, captain slow. You finally ready?" he smiled.
Grumpy because of the words Sam spoke, Callen just passed his partner to move to the passenger door. It was then when he noticed the flash of something being caught by a beam of sunlight and he immediately knew it.
"Sniper!" he yelled.
He launched himself towards Sam and floored his partner just in time and they landed behind the car Sam had driven.
A loud groan sounded when Callen managed to hoist himself upright as much as possible.
Before Sam wanted to disagree - after all he noticed the expression on his friend's face - shots were fired in their direction again. Callen had his gun at the ready just as fast as Sam. From behind the car they got up as much as possible and fired simultaneously in the direction of where they figured the shooter was.
"No use," Callen panted.
Sam shook his head. "Kensi, Deeks?"
In their earpieces they heard the response from Kensi. "What's going on? You're alright?"
Another couple of volleys came their way. This time Callen sounded, his voice strained. "Yes."
"Don't have my rifle in here."
She knew that it was useless to use the handguns against a sniper. "Can you get back inside?"
Sam glanced at his friend, then estimated the distance to the entrance of the boathouse. He shook his head. "Impossible," he answered. "We'd be exposed too long and too easy a target to hit."
"How the hell—" Deeks reacted. "Wait. That guy in room 2; Sam, has he been thoroughly searched? What did we miss?"
It didn't matter, not now. For once, Sam had taken precautions. He'd taken a car from the car pool instead of the all too familiar Challenger, knowing Callen was quite stubborn about it, still, they'd been followed. Hoping to get to Callen, somehow, and aiming for the price on his head. There was this pang of guilt he shouldn't feel. The fear of losing his partner after all.
The anger too. Mosley was the one responsible for all these people hunting down Callen. Her way of thanking Callen for saving her son, a mission which nearly cost their lives already, nearly a year ago.
New shots came their way.
"A back-up team is coming your way. ETA 10 minutes from now."
It was quiet for a second or so. Then, only three shots sounded, well aimed. It hit the car at the exact angles they'd shoot it themselves and it was Sam who noticed the fuels leaking from the petrol tank and oil of the motor itself. It would take another spark to ignite the gasses and fuel and the two of them had to leave from hiding anyway.
There was only one other way out.
"G…" Sam urged his partner to follow his gaze to the water of the Marina.
Callen understood and while they both kept as low as they could, Sam yelled in the coms "Taking the wet way!"
A short sprint and then they jumped in the cold water behind the parking nearest to the boat house. Seconds later, their coms were out, since the electronic systems didn't correspond with water.