Unlocking the door to his and Quinn’s ground floor rooms, Eliot sent an energy pulse of thanks to Sheena for turning on lights throughout the big house. He was a little irritated with himself for letting the empty feeling permeating the historic farmhouse bother him. He’d been alone most of his adult life and had accepted that was way of things due to his role as The Elyat, Chief Enforcer for The Gwydion, Head of the International Council, in charge of oversight for the Old Races, and world renown Retrieval Specialist.
In the last eight years he’d gained a Pack and a Mate. Things had been quiet at the office for the last three months. Two members of his Pack, Parker and Alec Hardison, were in Oklahoma, with Walter Black Dog, the Guardian who raised Eliot and his sister, Rhiannon. Walter was mentoring Parker in the use of her Fae abilities. He and Quinn had done a few retrievals, and pulled several small jobs that the two men could handle without a bigger crew. Seamus had called Eliot two days ago about the murder of an American sailors in Sweden and Germany. Eliot sent his Beta to investigate the deaths since both sailors were wolf shifters.
Maybe he’d go for a run, let his wolf hunt instead of cooking for himself. After getting used to cooking for his Pack, it was a bother to cook for one. Letting the decision about supper hang, he headed for the kitchen to fix a pot of tea and check the mail. Hearing a crash in the family room, Eliot sauntered down the hall with his mug. With the magical wards he and Sheena had set around the house and property, only a family member would be able to use teleportation spells to get in the house. He’d ask Hardison what he thought of being Parker’s guinea pig, except he could hear the young Human berating his lover at a very shrill volume.
“How was your trip?” Eliot smirked at the couple.
“Great!” Parker flung herself at the Mage/shifter. Balancing his tea mug, Eliot caught her as she wrapped her legs around his waist. “Walter says ‘Hi!’, and sent you a bunch of stuff.” She gave him a smacking kiss on the cheek before letting go to watch Alec trying to gather himself off the floor.
“How far did she ‘port you?” Eliot reached a hand out to the Hacker.
“From the airport. She didn’t want to call you, rent a car or ride the shuttle.” He grabbed the calloused hand to lever himself off the floor. “Where’s Quinn?” He pulled Eliot in for a quick ‘bro’ hug.
“Checking into a couple odd deaths in Sweden, for the Council.”
“We got any clients that need quick actions?”
“No, but there’s something in the air …” Eliot paused as though listening. “Get unpacked, and I’ll see what I can rustle up for supper.”
Over supper, Parker prattled on about her lessons, Walter, and Hardison living ‘in the wilderness’ with dirt, wild animals, and his non-existent allergies.
“It was worse than running handcuffed through the woods with Eliot. At least I knew that wouldn’t last forever. I wasn’t too sure about being at Walter’s. Parker liked it way too much.” Alec grumbled.
“I had to hear Walter’s stories.” Parker insisted.
“Have you heard from Archie, lately?” Eliot interrupted the couple getting each other wound up.
“Yeah. They invited me and Hardison to Thanksgiving dinner.”
“Is it okay. What about you and Quinn?”
“We’ll be here with Sheena, Davin, and Iona, or maybe we’ll go to Scotland.”
“Okay then.” Parker bobbed her head as if there were other people around the table. Knowing Parker … There might be.
By the time Eliot settled into his empty bed, his shifter side was mostly settled with part of his clan back under his protection. He sent a tendril of energy to his Mate, and when he got a positive response, he closed his eyes.
When Eliot went for his morning boundary run, he stopped when he saw the sedan sitting at the head of the drive. Stalking through the pre-dawn shadows, Eliot approached the car, and focused his senses. Inside the car were two Naval officers, one with binoculars waiting to see the lights come on in the house. As Eliot ran back to the house, he wondered which of his friends was dead.
Showering, and starting the coffee pot before turning on the lights, Eliot mentally prepared himself for what was to come. Not wanting to wake Parker and Alec, Eliot opened the door before they could ring the bell.
“Didn’t mean to startle you, my sister and her partner got in late, and I don’t want to wake them.” Eliot listened to their formal announcement of the death of his friend, Commander Christopher Fike, a wolf shifter with whom he’d worked on the mixed teams under Colonel Vance and developed a deep friendship. Eliot had been thinking of asking him to join the Leverage Pack. “Let’s go back to the kitchen, have a cup of coffee, and you can give me the details.” After everyone was settled, Eliot asked what happened to his friend.
Commander Frank Walten wondered about the man sitting across from him and his partner, Lieutenant Marcia Popilek. He held a security clearance high enough to be told the details of the Commander’s death, though he didn’t have many.
“Where’s Chris’ body?” Eliot asked.
“NCIS morgue since it’s believed he was murdered.”
“Thank you both very much. You can leave your file with me. I’ll call when I need you to make funeral arrangements.”
“Commander, I don’t wish to step on your toes, but do you know who I am?”
“Eliot Spencer, I can’t read most of your file because it’s above my clearance level. Member of the Old Races.”
“Have you heard of The Elyat?”
“Head Enforcer, International Council of the Old Races.” The Lieutenant recited.
Eliot pulled out a badge and ID that confirmed his position. “I will be taking over this case. Who do I need to see at NCIS?”
“Leroy Jethro Gibbs, Lead Agent of MCRT.”
“Thank you. Do I need to call your CO to keep you out of trouble?”
“We’re good, Sir.”
Once the Casualty Officers were gone, Eliot settled in his office with his phone and computer. After making several calls, he called the number that should have called him as soon as he found out about Christopher.
“Why did I have to hear from the Casualty Officers about Chris? That call should have come from The Primus.”
“Yeah. What the hell is going on with the Old Races in the Navy, and why do I have to get a call from The Gwydion to find out we’re losing wolf shifters?” He rapid fired the questions to the leader of the North American Old Races.
“You were going to be my first call this morning.”
“Why is a Human team investigating Old Races?”
“It’s MCRT. DiNozzo is Gibbs’ second.”
“There’s no way they can handle an investigation not knowing the victims were wolf shifters. Old Races teams should have the case.”
“DiNozzo is Old Races and has clearance.”
Eliot rolled his eyes. “Good. DiNozzo can join my team when we get to NCIS. Send me his file.”
“Now just a damn minute, Eliot.” Morrow started to work up a head of steam. “This is a North America case.”
“Not anymore. I’ve got a man out on an investigation in Sweden. I’ll have my team there a half hour after you open the doors. I expect all your information. Why did you let NCIS have your case?”
“They got there before we did.”
“Gibbs doesn’t play well with others, and he doesn’t share his cases.”
“It never should have been his case.” Eliot insisted. “How far up the ladder do I need to go to get what I need? Isn’t it about time for The Primus to step up for his people, or have you become too much of a political creature?”
Sensitive ears picked up the sigh that indicated, he’d won his point. “Come by my office, and I’ll have the paperwork to get the evidence and the body.”
“If you’ve lost the stones for The Primus position, step down. Our people don’t deserve second rate representation.”
Eliot cut the call, and took a deep breath to get a hold of his temper. As much as he wanted to let Parker and Hardison sleep, he needed to get them up to speed.
Tom Morrow rubbed his hands over his face. He knew the minute he let Leroy Jethro Gibbs run over him on Fike’s case it would come back to bite him in the ass. The Unit Chief of his Old Races terrorism task force, Retired Admiral A. J. Chegwidden had warned him. Even though Fike was Navy, he was also a wolf shifter, and that designation always precluded the military. Since he was going to have to be both Primus and the Principal Deputy Undersecretary of Intelligence and Analysis for Homeland Security, he might as well get to the office.
Anthony DiNozzo sat quietly in the middle of the storm taking place in the MCRT bullpen. The Director had just informed them The Primus of The North America Council of Old Races was sending an investigative team to take over the Commander Fike case. She’d told Tony that he would be acting as the NCIS liaison to the Homeland Old Races terrorism task force during the investigation. The Senior Field Agent stared at the Director.
Balboa gave him a wink over the partition. The Kelpie had been encouraging Tony to quit, transfer, or change agencies to get away from MCRT. Ever since Catlin Todd and Tim McGee had joined the team, Tony’s work environment had gone downhill. The only reason members of the Old Races continued to work for NCIS was because of their large numbers that served in the military.
“Why me?” Tony asked, afraid Morrow may have outed him as Old Races. As a Mage, there was no physical indication he was anything but Human. Over the years, Gibbs had always rejected agents for the MCRT that weren’t Human.
Tony’s attention was brought back to the present at the sound of Kate’s voice.
“Why does Tony get to stay on the case?”
“Security clearance.” Gibbs offered.
“As a Presidential Secret Service Agent I had …”
“Not high enough for this.” Gibbs growled.
“Agent DiNozzo does work with many of our sister agencies that require a higher clearance.” The Director spoke slowly as if addressing a child.
Before anymore could be said, the elevator door opened allowing two men and one woman to exit. The aura of power that surrounded the shorter man, marked him as the leader, and caused everyone to look up as they headed straight for the Director.
“Who was at the door.” Parker shuffled through the kitchen rubbing her head.
“Someone with a message for me.”
“No message that comes when you’re sleeping is good.” She plucked a fortune cookie out of the bowl sitting on the table.
“Chris Fike was killed. I’m in charge of his estate.”
With a deep frown, Parker cracked her fortune cookie remembering the gray wolf that always had time for her questions. “Are we doing something about it?”
“Yeah, and we don’t even have to scam our way in. Get Alec out of bed, and I’ll do a briefing. We have to go to Washington and deal with Homeland Security and NCIS, so dress accordingly.”
“Cool. Do I get a badge?”
“Sure do. It’s even real.”
So excited about the prospect getting a real badge, Parker teleported to their suite on the top floor of the house. Smiling, Eliot set up for their briefing.
Morrow was waiting for them in the lobby to quickly get them through security. Once they were signed in, he took them to a subfloor three levels under the parking garage.
“This is where we house our terrorism unit. Unit Chief, A. J. Chegwidden, his present SIC, Captain Aife O’Haver, and the rest of the investigators … Lieutenant Commander Patrick Myers, Lieutenant Zoe Williams. All members of the Old Races. We use specialists from Little Creek when we need bodies in the field. Everyone, this is the investigative team from the International Council. The Elyat, Eliot Spencer, his SIC, Quinn is in Sweden investigating a case similar to Chris’. The rest of his team, Parker, and tech expert, Alec Hardison.”
The two teams exchanged hellos and handshakes. Eliot arched an eyebrow at Parker.
“What?” He continued to stare. “You’re no fun.”
“We don’t steal from our own unless they’re bad.”
“Okay.” Parker dumped her pile of medals, watches, services rings, and handed Morrow his wallet. They all starred dumbfounded as they reclaimed their possessions.
“We’re on our way to NCIS to pick up Chris’ body, the files, and evidence. I am also the executor of Chris’ estate, and I’ll let you know when the arrangements are made for his funeral. On Morrow’s recommendation, we’ll have Special Agent DiNozzo with us as a liaison to NCIS.”
“DiNozzo is a Mage … Post-cog, aura tracker, but hides it from his team mates. Gibbs, for some reason he’s never explained, only allows Humans on his team. The situation at NCIS is not ideal for Old Races, but they stay to make sure our people get justice.” Chegwidden added.
“Is he Fae like me?” Parker looked excited.
“There’s no one like you, Parker.” Alec teased.
“Great.” Eliot rolled his eyes. “We need one of you to go with us, so we don’t have to go through a load of red tape to get back in the building.”
“Captain O’Haver will accompany your team.” The Admiral gave his SIC a nod.
“Tom.” Eliot gave The Primus a glare.
“Here’s your paperwork. I’m sure you’ve done your homework on the MCRT, but their computer tech is good. Gibbs will probably have him keep copies of everything, and try to run a parallel investigation. I’ve known him to do it in the past when he had to give up a case, or he may have McGee try to hack us to copy our information.”
“That’s Hardison’s gig. In fact, he probably already has any reports they’ve entered. Tell him where to send them. He’ll take care of it. We’ll need to know what Chris was doing when he was killed and figure out if he was a victim of convenience or targeted.”
The Hacker grinned as he continued to work on his tablet. “Files are in a secure Cloud account. I’ve forwarded the information to everyone’s email. Other than the autopsy and some forensic reports, they don’t have much.” Hardison looked up to see the DHS team staring. “What?! Eliot didn’t give me much time.”
Taking the paperwork, he looked at O’Haver who grabbed her cover, and fell in behind Eliot.
“Okay people. Let’s get to it.” Parker snapped as she followed Eliot. This was turning out to be fun … For being legal.
Everyone froze as on a primal level they recognized an apex predator had entered the room. Tony’s tracking senses were pinged as he realized three out of four people on the team were Old Races, and two were magic users. The dark-haired man in the lead handed a bundle of papers to Director Shepard.
“Director … Eliot Spencer, The Elyat of the International Council of Old Races. My team, Parker, Hardison, and O’Haver. We’re here for Commander Christopher Fike and all information pertaining to his death, also Agent Anthony DiNozzo.” Arms crossed over the broad chest as he waited for the Director to finish reading.
“Agent Spencer, why don’t you come to my office, and we can discuss these orders.” Director Shepard bared her throat.
Parker rolled her eyes. “Seriously. He’s married, lady.”
Everyone fought to not laugh as Eliot sighed. “I think we’ll dispense with the pleasantries, Director. Give us the files, show us where to pick up the body, and we’ll be out of your hair, so you can get on with your day.”
“Agent Gibbs, please take care of the formalities, Agent DiNozzo, you’ll be TAD to Homeland for the foreseeable future.” Director Shepard was red faced as she huffed her way up the stairs.
The Leverage team saw Agent Gibbs exchange a look with the pudgy agent sitting against the partition. Hardison was ghosting McGee’s computer to see where the agent put Chris’ information. Hardison had left a little surprise for when McGee tried to access the files he copied.
“DiNozzo, take them to Ducky and Abby. Kate get them our hard copies. When finished take your lunch break then cold cases since we’re a man down.” He grabbed his weapon and badge before heading for the elevator.
“That went smoother than I thought.” Aife commented as they went back to the elevator.
Eliot exchanged a look with Tony. “We’ll see.”
Tony cringed at the blue/grey glare. “I’ll show you how to get to the loading bay.”
Once backed in the dock, they followed Tony into the morgue.
“Ducky, The Elyat and Captain O’Haver are here for Commander Fike.”
“Ah yes. Director Shepard called down to advise us to cooperate fully.” He motioned his assistant, over to the drawers. “You are aware that Commander Fike was …”
“The only thing you can tell me about Chris is cause of death.” Eliot growled.
Eliot’s show of emotion caused everyone to pause. “I see.” The medical examiner continued with his work.
“If your next words are going to be you’re sorry for my loss … Save it. As a Human you know nothing of my loss. You want to help, get me his results so we can get whoever did this.”
“Of course. Mr. Palmer, help Anthony get the evidence from Abigail.”
“Sure Duck. Come along, Gremlin.” Tony forced a smile to help lighten the atmosphere. With their victim having a personal connection to The Elyat, there was no way Gibbs would get away with his usual tricks.
As Eliot and Aife wheeled their friend’s body to the van, sensitive ears picked up the sounds of arguing from the direction of the forensics lab. Exchanging a look with O’Haver, she nodded that he could leave her. Silence filled the room when Eliot stepped through the door.
“Agent DiNozzo, is there a problem?” He asked as eyes like the arctic watched the forensic scientist.
“Abby is a bit territorial about cases.”
Tony tried to diffuse what he knew could get nasty. Abby had a lot of knowledge about the Old Races and their abilities, but she’d only dealt with the ones that worked for NCIS.
“Gibbs should …”
Eliot cut her off before she got ramped up. “What does Agent Gibbs know about investigating the death of a member of the Old Races?”
“It’s just like any case.” Abby crossed her arms over her chest and jutted out her chin.
“Is it, now?” Eliot’s smile held a lot of sharp teeth. “What does he know about ways to kill a wolf shifter? What do you know about the ways to kill a shifter. What tests can you do to indicate how he was killed.”
“I keep up with all the latest information in forensics.” She pouted.
“So, what did the evidence tell you?”
“Nothing.” She looked down.
“What did the autopsy tell you?”
“Nothing, but you didn’t …”
“You will continue to find nothing because Human forensics can’t detect what killed Chris.”
Anger forgotten, Abby brightened up. “What killed him?”
“Above your security clearance. Are we ready, Agent DiNozzo?”
“We are.” He and Jimmy picked up the boxes and headed to the van.
Everything loaded, Eliot turned to Tony and handed him a badge wallet. “Morrow thought this would make it easier for you while you’re TAD.” Tony flipped it open to see a DHS Intelligence badge. “Tell them you’re working with Admiral Chegwidden’s unit.”
“How did you …”
“Wasn’t going to out you. There’s more to me than my fur coat.” He winked at the befuddled agent. “See you there. You might want to hurry. Hardison left a little gift for your geek.”
Instead of waiting for the elevator, Tony took the stairs to get his desk cleared before everyone got back from lunch.
Personal effects collected, Tony had made it to the parking lot without meeting any of his former team mates. He huffed out a laugh when he saw Balboa leaning against his Mustang.
“So, what’s happening, Brother?”
Tony handed him his new ID. “Good choice. Looks like Morrow doesn’t want you to come back when the case is done.”
“Yeah. Chegwidden’s task force.”
“Yeah. Spencer told me to dust off my abilities. He knew. Said there was more to him than his fur coat. Seems like this case is personal for him. He nearly bit Ducky’s head off when Ducky started to go on like he does.”
“I’m thinking there’s going to some changes coming when The Elyat makes his report to the Council.” Balboa smirked. “You might be safer with the Admiral.”
“The only Human on Spencer’s team is his geek. That Agent Parker sniffed Kate, and told her she smelled funny, and just glared at McGee. I think she might be a bit Fae touched.”
“She’s not just touched. She is Fae. This is going to be … I don’t know. I’ve hidden so long I don’t know how to be my Old Races self.”
“Sounds like you’re going to get practice.” His friend chuckled and slapped him on the shoulder.
Tony settled behind the wheel of his classic Mustang. “Oh, you might want to be somewhere else when Gibbs has McGee pull up the files on the Fike case. Seems their geek probably out-geeked McGee.”
“I might just stay and watch.” The Kelpie headed for the entrance.
Feeling lighter the further he got from the Navy Yard, Tony was actually looking forward to meeting the people working under Admiral Chegwidden.
Introductions made, Eliot got everyone’s attention. “Hardison, did you get hooked up with Quinn?”
“Yeah. Just give me a … There.”
The wolf shifter appeared on the screen.
Knowing they were working, Quinn kept it formal. “Elyat.”
“Quinn, what do you have for us?”
“I don’t have your nose for magic, but one of the investigators here is a Journeyman. She couldn’t unravel what was done, but her best guess was his life force was taken after he was rendered unconscious.”
“Like a succubus?” Chegwidden asked.
“No. Like it was harvested.” Quinn’s gave Eliot a questioning look.
“Quinn this is Unit Chief and retired Admiral Chegwidden. His team, Captain Aife O’Haver, Lt. Commander Patrick Myers, Lt. Zoe Williams, and NCIS Agent Tony DiNozzo. Quinn is my SIC.”
“Pleasure. I’ll send you copies of everything the Swedish investigators have.”
“Hardison has a secure Cloud account for everything.” Eliot twitched an eyebrow at the hacker.
Translating Eliot-speak, Alec gave his attention to his laptop. “You should be getting an email with a link.”
“Quinn, was your victim a wolf shifter?” Eliot looked up from a message on his phone.
“Yeah. He also worked on a national terrorism task force trying to track any terrorists that slipped in with the refugees.”
“I just got a message from The Gwydion. There’s an Air Force case at Ramstein, and an NCIS RU agent from the London office. Seamus’ people will handle London, and upload their results to the Cloud, and is sending out a general warning to all wolf shifters. Chris was the latest. I asked him to have Rhiannon check the bodies. He’ll call with her results. You need to get yourself back here. Have Rhiannon send you to me. If whatever is making these kills is after wolves specifically, I don’t want you taking any chances.”
“Will do. Anything you want me to bring you from there.”
“No. I’m beginning to get an idea of what we’re dealing with, but I need more information.”
“I’ll see you for breakfast.” Quinn leered at his Mate.
“You better.” Eliot growled.
“They’re so cute.” Parker told Hardison in a not so quiet whisper.
Alec gave her an indulgent grin. “I’ve started working on a list of everything that have wolves as their number one enemy.”
“Anyone got any comments or observations?” Chegwidden asked.
“It seems what or whoever our killer is has moved from Sweden to Germany to England to the US.” Tony threw out to the agents.
“So, we need to check ports of entry, but who are we looking for?” Zoe asked the newcomers.
“We need the pretty one.” Parker elbowed Eliot.
“Which one is the pretty one?” Patrick looked around the conference room.
“Agent DiNozzo …”
“You, Parker and I will head down to the morgue. Since you’re a post-cog, we need you to see what you can get off Chris’ body.”
“Parker and I will be there to back you up, add juice to the scene if you need it.”
“I don’t … I haven’t …”
“You are now.” Parker gave the tall agent a shove toward the elevator.
“There’s a lot of ports of entry on the east coast. We’ll get started on phone calls to get access.” Aife called after the magic users.
“Put Hardison with your tech people. For a Human, he’s a wizard with information.” Eliot ordered as the elevator door closed.
“Your team is very strange.” Zoe sidled up to the Hacker.
Alec took a step back. “You’re a pretty kitty, but I’m allergic to cats. Plus, Parker will freeze my man bits …” He stopped and thought for a moment as the slender black woman watched him. “I don’t know … Parker might take a shine to you and drag you back to The Farm.” Hardison grabbed his tablet. “Now, take me to your geeks.” He gave the Lieutenant a wide grin at her confused look.
Eliot stopped inside the doors of the morgue.
“How do you take your coffee, Tony?”
Surprised at being addressed, it took Tony a minute to respond. “There’s a shop on the next block over … La Colombe Coffee Roasters. Order a DiNozzo special.”
Pulling Parker in close, he asked the thief to bring back two coffees apiece, and any kind of muffins or fresh pastries.
“You mean like when you do heavy work?” Her dark blue eyes went wide.
“Don’t start without me.” She admonished Eliot. “I’m still learning this stuff, and I don’t want to miss anything.”
“You know where you’re going?” He pulled up a map on his phone.
“Yeah. Saw it on the way here.”
“Take your time. I want perfect not fast.”
She gave him a mock salute, and a buss on the cheek as she disappeared.
“Fae?” Tony had a bemused look on his face.
“Yeah. She just found out a few years ago. She’s a little twisted, but aren’t we all.” Eliot gave Tony a once over. “How are you doing? I know things have been moving fast, and we sort of drug you from pillar to post this morning.”
“Yeah you did. I thought I had an idea of who was what in D.C., but this morning’s been quite the education.”
“Yeah, well, you’re wasted at NCIS. All our people are, but we just can’t seem to keep our people out of the Marines and Navy. To have mostly Humans on the major case team is a waste. If you weren’t on the team I’d have to wonder how many cold cases were caused by one of us, and they’d never see it.”
“Only the other members of the Old Races know I’m not Human. I’m under the radar, including my records. My old man doesn’t even know.”
“It’s hard to know what’s going on with your kid when you send him away to boarding school.” Eliot arched an eyebrow.
“Turned out for the best. Hard to tell what kind of scam he’d have cooked up.”
“Good Grifters are hard to come by.” Eliot winked. “Parker should be here about … Now.” Tony took a step back as Parker nearly landed on top of him. “It’s a work in progress.”
“Let’s go.” Parker’s grin was a little off center as she shoved the coffee tray and bag of pastries in Tony’s hand. “For after.” She took off after Eliot.
“After what?” Tony muttered as he trailed behind.
Chegwidden must have called ahead. The morgue assistant had taken Chris from the drawer, and transferred him to a table. Tony set his burdens down and watched Eliot fight his emotions over his dead friend.
“I’m sorry about your friend.” He offered.
“We did some ops together. He used to come out to The Farm to run. His family disowned him after he manifested. The family thought the ability had disappeared when no one manifested for a few generations.” Getting a grip on his anger at his friend’s death, Eliot got back to business. “Chegwidden says you’re a post-cog, so I need you to do your thing. Parker and I are here to supply extra power if you need it and sketch the scene.”
“I know you said Parker was Fae, but a shifter wouldn’t be able to help me.”
“Ain’t just a shifter.” Eliot thinned his shields.
Tony took a step back. “Okay … I guess you can provide back-up power.” He moved to stand by the body. Holding his hands above Chris’ chest, he chanted quietly under his breath. As he built layers of energy, a scene began to appear in the air above the table. “It’s been long enough that a lot of the death energy has begun dissipating. We’ll need to go to the crime scene tomorrow, see if I can pull anything there.”
“We’ve got a male and female, dark hair, swarthy complexion, dark eyes, maybe Middle Eastern or Israeli. Assassins, close emotionally … Lovers … No … Siblings.” Eliot muttered to himself as Parker made notes.
“They’re both armed.” Parker noted.
“Gun and knives on him. Knives on her. “They walked around the table as Tony held the image.
“What’s that?” Parker asked pointing at the man’s hands.
“Tattoos. It’s hard to tell, but looks like their glowing, but are they performing a spell or absorbing energy.” They walked around one more time. “You can let go, Tony.”
Eliot got ready to prop the taller man up in case the heavy energy drain weakened him. Tony had barely released the spell when Parker was shoving a cup of coffee under his nose. “Drink. Helps the crash.”
“Bossy little thing.” Tony mumbled as he leaned against Eliot.
“Yep. Masterminds most of our normal jobs.”
“Council investigators aren’t your day job?” The NCIS agent grabbed a muffin as he moved away from the body.
“No. Usually, cases like these don’t come along very often, thank goodness. It’s normally a case here or there.” Eliot pulled a card out of his wallet. “Come visit The Farm, and we’ll talk about our day job.”
“It’ll be fun.” Parker winked as they gathered their snacks, and let the attendant know they were finished with Chris’ body.
“She really is a little off center.” Tony said from behind his coffee cup.
“You have no idea.” Eliot gave her smile as she skipped through the doors with a neon colored donut.
Back upstairs, the DHS team reported on Chris’ movements on his last day. He’d been on his way back from JAG where he’d met with Captain Harm Rabb. He stopped at Garfield Park on his way back … He did that sometimes to just take a few minutes at the park to shake off being inside all day. The three members of Chris’ team took turns reporting.
The blonde stepped forward with her sketchpad. “I was only able to get them from the side. The scene didn’t show their whole faces.” She pouted.
Hardison took the paper. “Not to worry, Tink. A little geek magic, and we’ll have something to work with.”
He plugged in a handheld scanner and ran it over the page. Ten minutes of manipulation showed a full face for the computer to scan and start facial recognition.
Looking at the time, Eliot shared a look with Chegwidden, who nodded.
“It’s been a trying day, so everyone Pack up and head home. We’ll start again at in the morning. Facial recognition gives us somewhere to start, so we’ll be spending the day looking at security tapes for our perps.” The Admiral headed for his office.
“We’re at the Eldon Suites.” Eliot offered. “Any good places to eat close by?”
The team gave them several recommendations as they locked away paperwork and gathered their belongings.
“We’ll check out Garfield Park in the morning, and see if you can get a read on the crime scene.”
“You got it.” DiNozzo agreed as he tiredly slung his backpack over his shoulder. “I hear my shower and bed calling my name. I forgot how tiring it is to do a post-cog reading.”
“Like a muscle, Man. You gotta use it.” Eliot admonished.
Tony gave an absent-minded wave as he headed toward the elevators.
Files and Chinese food were scattered across the dining table of their suite. They stopped when Rhiannon’s ringtone came from Eliot’s pocket. Watching the change of expressions on the Mage/shifter’s face told Parker and Hardison Rhiannon hadn’t found any new information. It also told them the minute Maeve and Eirnan got on the phone with their uncle.
Before he could relay any information from the call, Eliot’s phone rang again. He listened for a few minutes before ending the call with a simple, ‘Keep me posted’.
“They’re releasing Chris’ body Thursday. The service will be at Arlington Saturday afternoon.” He paused to down half his beer. “Other than deducting their life forces had been drained, Rhiannon couldn’t get a fix on the cause. Not being a post-cog, she can’t pull up the scene like DiNozzo.”
“What is the 411 on DiNozzo. I mean I read his file … His whole file.” Hardison frowned. “He’s like a cross between Nate and Sophie with a badge.”
“He’s been neglecting his abilities because he’s on the team of Humans, who have no clue he’s a Mage. He’s rusty.”
“We need him in the Pack. He’d be a perfect Sophie.” Parker announced. “Besides, he’s pretty, and Leverage Pack ranks are a little thin.”
Eliot and Hardison exchanged a look of surprise. Parker rarely took to strangers, especially after knowing them only a few hours.
“We can always invite him to The Farm over the holidays. Get to know each other away from cases and jobs.” Eliot suggested.
Parker ran her fingers over her yellow diamond Eliot had given her the previous Christmas. It was a tell she’d developed when she was feeling anxious about one of her ideas. Eliot had given all his Pack members pendants embedded with locator spells.
“Since Chris spent so much time at The Farm, we could invite everyone to the house after the funeral. That way they don’t have to be on guard about what they say.” Alec suggested.
“We can ask. They might not want to drive out that far.” Eliot liked the Hacker’s idea of giving Chris’ friends a chance to grieve in private.
“This is so cool. We’re going to steal a task force.” Parker danced across the suite.
Exhausted, Tony dropped his backpack and shoes by the door. Not wanting to stop until everything was in place for the evening, he grabbed a container of penne with meat sauce, slid it in the oven. Dinner taken care of, Tony headed for his bedroom and comfortable clothes.
Feeling the day’s tensions beginning to fall away, he pulled a pre-mixed bag of salad out the fridge along with wine and fixings for garlic bread, he puttered a few more minutes in the kitchen before sprawling on the couch to enjoy a glass of wine while he sorted his mail.
Mundane tasks completed, Tony let his mind drift over the events of the day. Things had happened so fast, all he’d been able to do was hold on for the ride. From Morrow snatching him and the case from under Gibbs’ nose, and using his rusty abilities as part of looking for clues to Fike’s murder … His mind was reeling. Yet, there was a big part of him deeply satisfied he was being recognized for all his abilities.
His dinner detritus washed and put away, Tony headed for his piano. He had a feeling major changes were coming his way, and he wanted to work through how he felt about all the possibilities. The team Morrow and Chegwidden had assembled were a well-rounded group. He’d slotted into the team like he’d always been there. What had really fascinated him was the team from the International Council. Every member of the Old Races knew about The Elyat, but there were no rumors about the Fae and Human. Tony had a feeling Parker’s little demonstration of her pickpocket abilities had more to do with thievery than her being Fae. Her blunt observations were astute and unnerving.
Anyone listening to the music coming from the piano would wonder at Tony’s thoughts as the pieces ranged from heavy and moody to light-hearted. His phone ringing brought the music to a jangled halt. He considered letting it go to voicemail, but seeing Gibbs on the ID had him straightening his spine before he let call connect.
“Why didn’t you come back to the office?”
“Why would I do that. I’m TAD to Homeland.”
“So, you come back and share your files. Homeland had no right to take my case.” The senior agent growled.
“Didn’t McGeek make copies?”
“He said he did, but when he tried to open them, they disappeared.”
“Your next play’s usually to have him hack Homeland’s database.” Tony fought hard to keep from laughing.
“McGee couldn’t get in the files. Made some excuse about Homeland updating their computer security.”
So that’s why the Council geek had been smirking all day. “Sorry about McGoo’s bad luck.”
“About those files …”
“Sorry, Gibbs. No can do. With it being one of their own, they’re keeping it real buttoned up, and I’m not going to risk my security clearance.”
“That mean you haven’t found anything?” Gibbs fished.
“Didn’t say that. Said I couldn’t share. It’s been a long day, and I’m going to bed.”
“When are you going to be back at your desk?”
“No clue. Goodnight, Gibbs.”
Because he wanted undisturbed sleep, he turned off his NCIS issued phone. If anyone else wanted him they would call the phone Eliot had given him with his new credentials, or his personal phone. Feeling good about his life for the first time in a while, he settled down for the night.
Gibbs stared at his phone for several minutes contemplating the satisfaction of watching it shatter against the basement wall. The money out of his paycheck to replace said phone was the only thing staying his hand. He knew DiNozzo was a stickler when it came to need to know, but he’d never had it directed at him before. Grumbling under his breath, he pulled the Ten High bourbon bottle off the shelf and filled his mug. Picking up his hand plane, he let his frustration flow into shaping the wood.
Having come to terms with the loss of Commander Fike’s murder investigation, Gibbs was in a decent humor when he stepped off the elevator the next morning. After growling Kate and McGee down from their whining about no case and no Tony, the morning took a downhill turn when Director Shepard called all her team leads to the conference room to introduce them to the compliance auditing team from the International Council for the Old Races. Balboa was smirking as he followed several grumbling team leads out of the room. He pulled out his phone to send a text.
Hearing a delighted laugh roll across the bullpen, Chegwidden stuck his head out of his office to see what had tickled his agents in the middle of a murder investigation.
“I bow to the deviousness of The Elyat.” Tony chuckled. “I have been informed by one of the team leads at NCIS that they will be undergoing an audit by the compliance team from the Council.” While everyone was busy discussing the implications of an audit, Tony winked at Eliot. “Thanks, Man. I don’t know what I’m going to do when the case is closed, but for all the Old Races agents still there … Thanks.”
“Just doing what’s right, and Parker didn’t like the way Shepard smelled.”
“You called for an audit because Parker didn’t like Jennifer Shepard’s perfume?” Lt. Williams sounded incredulous.
“Parker’s nose is never wrong.” Hardison looked up from his laptop.
“Okay, people … Chop … Chop.” Parker barked. “DiNozzo, you’re up.” She pulled him toward Eliot.
“Easy on the suit. You don’t treat Armani like something from Men’s Warehouse.” Tony pouted.
“I don’t know what that means.” Parker looked at her guys for clarification.
“It means … Don’t wrinkle the threads. They cost a lot of money.” A voice came from doorway.
“Quinn!” Parker took a flying leap at him that would have landed a Human on the floor.
Quinn simply caught her as she wrapped around him like a pipe cleaner doll. “I’m glad you’re back. Eliot’s been grumpy since he isn’t …” Quinn covered her mouth.
“Hey, Darlin’.” Eliot greeted the chestnut-haired man as he hefted Parker over his shoulder to the sound of her delighted squeals. “Everyone this is my SIC, Quinn.”
“I’m your huckleberry.” Quinn tossed a flash drive to Hardison as he grabbed a kiss from Eliot. The rest of the task force stood with gaping mouths at the antics of the Council team.
“Did you steal me a present before you came home?” Parker asked from her upside-down position before flipping over to her feet.
Handing her a beautifully wrapped box, which she promptly demolished. “For my tree!” She danced through the bullpen holding a sparkling crystal snowflake. She carefully packed it back in the box, which she handed to Alec with a smile.
“I’ll keep it safe Lil’ Mama.” He promised.
That earned him a kiss before she descended on Quinn while Hardison turned his attention back to the flash drive.
“They have got to be the oddest team of law enforcement I’ve ever seen.” Chegwidden commented to Tom Morrow as the Undersecretary wandered into his office.
“You don’t know the half of it.” Tom muttered. “They get amazing results for all their idiosyncrasies.”
“Show and tell, Ladies and Gentlemen.” Hardison announced.
Everyone turned to the large screen on the wall.
“Hardison sent me the composite of the couple DiNozzo got from his walk in the past.” Quinn narrated. “I got with CCTV footage from the area around the crime scenes and the airport along with the ID’s they were travelling under.”
“I want to send Tony and Parker to the crime scene. He can do a post-cog looksee while Parker sketches. I’d like O’Haver and Myers to go with them to keep things secure while they’re working. I want Williams to work with Hardison on the security footage, and Quinn … We’re going to check out the Embassies. See if there’s any scuttlebutt about Old Races operatives coming to town. Oh, don’t let Parker drive.”
Morrow and Chegwidden nodded in agreement until Eliot got the Embassy part. “You can’t just …”
“We’re discrete. We have a lot of contacts we can call on, but they’re very private people.” Eliot gave them a wink as he grabbed his jacket. “We’ll bring back lunch.”
Two men climbed out of a Jeep Renegade parked in Melvin C. Hazen Park. Other than noting their rugged good looks, none of the other walkers, runners, or bird watchers paid them any mind. Two men walked along the trail taking pictures, and talking quietly. One man crossed the street to walk along in front of many of the world’s embassies.
Quinn held his phone to his ear recording the sounds coming over Eliot’s ear bud. He wasn’t sure what shape his Mate was wearing but was glad the electronics Eliot and Hardison had spent weeks developing to withstand his magic and shifting, were working. He listened to the bits and pieces of conversations until he heard something that caught his attention.
“Eliot. Stop. I think we’ve got something.”
He continued to walk along the block because there was no way he was taking the chance of getting detained for standing in front of an embassy. Crossing the street, he put an extra block between himself and the embassies. He wanted nothing to make security suspicious while Eliot was roaming around. Making it back to the protection of the trees in the park, Quinn took a minute to focus on the sounds coming from his earbud. He was about to question the location of his partner when he noticed the large black tom cat winding around his ankles.
“Sneak.” He smirked at the cat.
The air shimmered and Eliot was back on two legs. “Did you get any of that?” They headed back to the Jeep.
“Got what there was. Where were you when they were talking about ‘finding possible rogues’?”
“I slipped into the Israeli embassy when people were going in and out for their cigarette breaks.”
“Recognize anyone?” Eliot nodded as Quinn backed out of his parking space. “What are we taking back for lunch?”
Looking at his phone for a few minutes, Eliot called in an order for several pizzas. “Place called matchbox a block south of DHS.”
“You did order ones for real people that aren’t food snobs.” Quinn gave him a side-eyed look.
“Gods, you’re worse than Parker.”
“At least I don’t eat fortune cookies for breakfast.”
“Only reason I kept you, Leannán.”
Tony stood outside the crime scene tape looking over the area. Feeling someone behind him, he looked around to see Parker peeking around him.
“Don’t like this place.”
“Most people don’t like the energy that lingers after someone dies.”
“I don’t care about that. It’s whatever killed Chris. It’s something my Fae doesn’t like. I’m going to miss him.” Her voice was small.
Tony made a mental note to check out enemies of the Fae and wolves when they got back to the office. He was jarred out of his thoughts by Parker’s strident tone.
“Let’s get this show on the road. Eliot’s buying lunch and he always brings me the best food.”
Aife, Patrick, and Tony made sure the scene was clear before the shifters settled in the most strategic place to watch the entire area while Tony and Parker worked. Grounding and centering himself, Tony began casting his talent across the area inside the crime scene tape.
The energy had begun to dissipate, so it took a few minutes before he got the scene to begin to coalesce into the murder of Commander Christopher Fike. Parker seeing how hard Tony was working to pull the energy into something she could sketch, the Fae moved closer to the Mage in case he needed to use some of her energy.
“How you doing?” Her pencil flew across the page as she worked to capture the scene before it faded.
“If we’d have waited another day I’m not sure we’d have gotten anything. Whatever killed the Commander sucked up a lot of the energy.”
“Maybe someone tried to fix it.”
“There’s no one else’s energy overlaying the Commander and his attackers. How much longer. It’s getting hard to hold the scene together.”
“Done.” Parker stared at the picture she’d drawn. “They look alike.” She handed the sketchbook to Tony.
“I’d say brother and sister.” He waved to Aife and Patrick. “All done. Let’s head back to the office. You sure Eliot will get something good for lunch.”
“Are you kidding.” Parker looked amazed. “Cooking is like Eliot’s secret power. Wait ‘til you come to The Farm, and he cooks.”
“The Farm?” Tony exchanged a look with Aife and Patrick.
“Sanctuary outside Annapolis for members of Old Races. Creekfront that runs out to the Bay. Caretakers are Fae. Great couple. I’ve never met the owner.” Aife answered.
“Lots of room to run on two or four legs.” Patrick added.
“It’s where we live.” Parker grinned.
“The Elyat owns The Farm?” Patrick looked surprised.
“Yeah. The Gwydion is his brother-in-law. Made the four of us an official Pack.” She shoved a befuddled Tony into the backseat.
As they rode back to Homeland, Tony realized how out of touch he was with his real self. He’d gotten so entrenched in the Human world since he’d joined MCRT, he’d lost track of the movers and shakers among the Old Races. Sure, everyone knew the titles, but only a few could put faces to those titles. In just two days the information he’d found out was mind boggling. He wondered why Balboa or one of the others at NCIS hadn’t told him about Morrow, or the Old Races team at Homeland. He wondered if Morrow being The Primus was the reason the man nagged him to jump ship to Homeland. Maybe he’d call Balboa during lunch.
They arrived back at the office at the same time as Eliot and Quinn, who were each carrying three pizza boxes.
“Matchbox. Good choice.” Aife noted.
While they ate lunch, everyone traded the information each team had found.
“We found who we think is our couple going through the airports where all our wolf shifters were killed. They used two different sets of ID.” Hardison put the pictures and IDs on the big screen. “Even with my tweaks, it’s a lot of information to sift through. The personal connection with Commander Fike is making the progress faster in his case. Still looking for their place of origin and real names.”
“Try Israeli intelligence.” Eliot suggested. “Probably Mossad.”
“It’s the only recording.” Quinn tossed his phone to Hardison.
A.J. came out of his office when he heard the word Mossad. “What about the Mossad?”
“I heard one of the Kidon agents on the phone with Eli David.”
“How do you know it was a Kidon?” Zoe asked.
“The way they carry themselves is very distinctive.” Eliot glared when Parker and Hardison snickered. “The Israeli embassy conversation should be somewhere around the thirty minute mark. Those new coms worked like a champ.”
“Age of the geek, Ba-by.” Alec handed the phone back to Quinn.
They cleared away the pizza boxes while the Hacker cued up the recording. Chegwidden settled in a chair next to Captain O’Haver.
“You know those recordings won’t be admissible in court.” The Unit Chief stated.
“There won’t be a trial.” Eliot’s tone was flat.
“But …” O’Haver started before A.J. reached out to stop her.
“They killed four wolf shifters in four countries. If they survive capture, The Gwydion and the Council’s Tribunal will give the order for what’s to be done. I don’t believe the Israelis will want their dirty laundry out flapping in the wind.”
Chegwidden must have signaled Morrow of a problem because he appeared just as Quinn was about to give them a lesson in why they were working with Homeland.
“He’s right.” Tom backed up Eliot.
As Primus, I asked the Council to send The Elyat and his team. We’re included as a convenience to them and a favor to my position with Homeland, and as Primus. We will assist, but not interfere with the ruling of the Tribunal.”
“If they’re truly rogues, I doubt they’ll let themselves be taken alive.” Quinn quipped. “Depending on how long lived they are, they may not want to serve life in prison.”
“The Fae don’t like them, and they sucked a lot of energy from the scene. I probably wouldn’t have been able to pull anything off the scene if we’d have gone any later.” Tony spoke up to divert attention from the Council investigators.
Parker handed her sketchbook to Hardison.
“How do you know about the Fae thing?” Alec looked at Parker.
“It felt icky.”
“There was a murder.” Patrick tossed in.
“No. This was more like a sign that said, ‘We hate Fae’ type icky.”
“Play the recording.” Tom ordered.
They sat and listened as the Kidon received his orders from the Mossad Director. They heard him question those orders due to their relation to the Director. They could tell the call was ending, but the agent questioned his boss one more time.
‘No Sir, I have never gone against any of The Gwydion’s enforcers ... I understand the implications if anyone finds out you lost control of your assets, and that it would reflect badly on our government … I will begin my search immediately, so that when your team arrives I will have information for them.’
“How did you get that recording?” Morrow looked directly at Eliot.
The air shimmered. A black tom cat jumped up on the desk and glared at the Homeland team. He jumped down, and with another shimmer, Eliot was back on two legs. “Hardison and I worked on our earwigs until they would shift with me without screwing up the circuitry. It’s a combination of magic and electronics. We haven’t perfected it for bird forms, yet.”
“How many shapes can you shift?” Zoe asked. Working with Hardison had emboldened the young Lieutenant.
“All of them. I’m not The Elyat because Seamus is my brother-in-law.” He snapped. When his eyes landed on Tony, the NCIS agent was nearly frozen by the cold expression in his eyes. “What other impressions did you get from the crime scene.”
Tony closed his eyes, and took a deep breath. “They were rushed, afraid someone would see them. The park will probably have to reseed the grass. They were grabbing energy hard and fast even after Commander Fike had died.” As Tony finished, two files flashed up on the screen.
“Ari Haswari and Ziva David. Same father, different mothers, but both Djinn.” Hardison recited. “Father, Mossad Director Eli David.”
Everyone stared at Eliot’s team. “If they’re from a strong enough line, they can take Human form, and have societal structures like Humans. Natural enemies of wolves.”
“So that’s why they targeted wolf shifters. Feed and take out the enemy.” Tony suggested.
“Why did they go rogue?” Zoe stared at the screen. “They’re highly trained, highly placed in society …”
“Rumors say David craves power. Could be more Daddy Dearest, and less Father of the year.” Tony quipped.
“So, they go off the reservation leaving a trail of bodies, but trying to cover their tracks by changing IDs.” Quinn looked almost pained at the mess the Djinn left behind.
“If they’re Mossad, they kind of suck at it.” Parker started rooting through the pizza boxes for a snack.
“So how do we find them?” Morrow asked the obvious question.
Everyone looked at Eliot who turned to Tony. “How’s your tracking?”
“Rusty. Haven’t used it much since I left Baltimore.”
“We’re about to knock the rust off.” Eliot’s grin sent a fissure of excitement through Tony’s body.
They were going hunting.
A non-descript sedan pulled up to the guard house gate at the Navy yard. A beautiful dark-haired woman smiled at the Marine that stepped up to her car.
“Can I help you, Ma’am?” The guard’s partners began checking over the car.
“I hope so. I have information about the murder of Commander Christopher Fike.”
The woman’s simpering tone set the Marine’s instincts on edge. “I’ll make a call to find out where you need to go to report your information.” The look he exchanged with his partners caused the gate crew to settle around the vehicle.
The woman looked surprised, but forced herself to relax. It would not look good for her to appear anxious.
“Balboa.” With most of the Human agents, and all the upper echelon of the D.C. office in meetings and interviews with the Old Races Council’s auditors, the Kelpie was the most senior team lead in the office.
“Tell her Commander Fike’s case was transferred to the Old Races Terrorism Task Force at Homeland.” Hanging up the phone, the senior agent was glad the Director and Gibbs were unavailable for the call. They would have used any information to horn in on The Elyat’s investigation, though Balboa had to wonder why the Director was more upset than Gibbs about losing the case and DiNozzo to Homeland.
When the guard informed the woman she needed to go to Homeland Security to report her information, her demeanor became incensed.
The Commander was in the Navy, yes?”
“Then why is the Naval Criminal Investigative Service not investigating? Shouldn’t your Major Case Response Team be on the case? This is what I have been told.” She added to try and get the Marines around her car to relax. The attention they were paying to her, and the unraveling of her plan to gain entrance to NCIS was making her nervous. She needed to get away, and regroup. “You have the address for the task force?” She smiled at the guard. Getting the address, she turned around and headed toward downtown.
Director Jennifer Shepard was livid. She hadn’t been on the job six weeks, and all her plans were going to Hell in a handbasket. Not only didn’t they have the Fike investigation, but the whole agency was under an audit. Feeling her phone vibrate, she answered without thinking. Ziva began a litany of complaints before she could say ‘Hello’.
“Director Shepard, are we boring you with these allegations and problems within your agency?” The very proper English accent broke through the haze of the complaints coming through the phone.
Disconnecting the call, she flushed red at being called on the carpet. “Not at all. As the Director, most of my calls cannot be ignored.” She justified.
“Considering you could soon not have an agency to be Director of, I would think we would have your total attention. I am sure your agents can handle any case that should arise.”
“Of course. It won’t happen again.” She answered through gritted teeth.
Ziva stared at her phone. Jenny had hung up on her. That was not a good sign. She needed to get back to her brother.
“So, what happened to this foolproof plan of Director Shepard’s.” Ari gave his sister a sly look. “Don’t tell me one of Abba’s grand plans didn’t pan out? Big surprise. I was looking forward to pitting myself against this Jethro Gibbs that everyone says is so brilliant.”
“We cannot go into Homeland. They have a task force devoted to the Old Races. I think the man we killed may have been was one of theirs.”
“Bad luck for us. We have no friends at Homeland. We’ll have to pick another target.” Ari watched his sister going through the files Shepard had given them on the MCRT. “Why are you rooting through those files? They’re worthless now.”
“As they were walking away from the car, I heard one of the guards mention ‘calling DiNozzo’. I am sure he was in the files.”
“Agent Meatball I believe Abba called him. Of no consequence, he said.”
“There must be something if the guard thought he was important enough to call.”
“Perhaps it is time to get out from under the thumb of Mossad, and disappear into a life of our own making. This plan has suddenly gone from an easy way to infiltrate American agencies to being fraught with the unknown.”
“We will give Jenny until the morning to contact us. If she does not, we will make new plans.” Ziva threw the file she had finally found back in the pile. “This is all worthless.”
“Come, Achoth, the energy we drew from the Naval officer has begun to wane. We should find somewhere to discretely acquire some lunch.”
Placing the files in her backpack, Ziva nodded her agreement. “We will have to be most careful. We do not want to draw attention with another body.” She gave him a glare.
“We will be the soul of discretion. I promise.” For the sake of the only person to support him, Ari would keep his vow. There would be time for indulging himself once they returned home.
Eliot and Tony leaned against the doorway listening to the two teams argue over who would be acting as backup for the two Mages. The only one who had noticed they had moved was Parker. A loud whistle brought silence to the task force bullpen.
“Listen up!” Chegwidden’s growl drew every eye. “Meyers. As wolf shifters you’re vulnerable, you and Quinn work with Hardison, as a Human, you’re even more so. O’Haver, you’re in the air. Williams, you’re in the van with Parker as backup for Eliot and Tony.” Giving the two men a wink, the admiral retired to his office.
The closing of his office door acted like a signal for everyone to move. Once their surveillance van was checked out, Eliot slid behind the wheel while Tony got comfortable in the passenger seat.
“Lucille is way cooler.” Parker whispered in Eliot’s ear.
“We have better funding.” Eliot reminded the Fae.
“Oh yeah. All these rules can be a real pain.”
Tony gave the pair a wide-eyed look. Later. Eliot mouthed to the NCIS agent.
He pointed the van toward Garfield Park. They would have to start at the crime scene for Tony to pick up the Djinns’ trail. They all got out of the van at the park, and waited as Tony sifted through the different energy floating around the area. Thankfully not too many people had used the park since the murder, making it easier to pick out the very distinctive energies of the Old Races.
Their energy from the day of Tony’s post-cog reading was the newest Old Races’ energy signatures besides the team’s. It took him a few minutes, but he finally found the trail.
“They got on 695, and headed for the bridge.” Tony looked at Eliot.
“Quick, cheap motel/hotels in a ten mile radius.” Parker barked at Zoe and Hardison.
“Left on 295.”
“Anything?” Parker asked.
“Temple Hills, Maryland …” Came through their earbuds.
“Budget Hotel on Branch Avenue.” Zoe added.
Eliot looked at Tony. “Right on Pennsylvania.” They drove for a few minutes before Tony had the Retrievalist turn right on Branch, and find someplace to pull off the road.
“Talk.” Eliot demanded.
“I think Zoe’s right about the motel, but they’re not there. Their energy trail is moving back toward the city.”
“We’ll check out the motel, then decide our next move. We need information. I don’t want to collect another folded flag because we’re running blind.” Eliot headed for the motel.
Ari Haswari glowered at his sister across the chipped Formica of the diner’s table. She had, without so much as a by your leave, snatched him out of their motel room and drove around the area until she stopped at the small diner where they ordered lunch.
“What has set the cat among the pigeons, Ziva? We have covered our trail too well for father to have found us.”
“Things are not going according to Jenny’s plan. I was not allowed into the Navy yard. The guards informed me the Commander’s case had been taken over by Homeland Security. When I tried to call Jenny, she disconnected the call. I could hear someone admonishing her in the background.”
“That is unfortunate. I was looking forward to matching wits with NCIS.” Ari sighed. “What do we know of this task force?”
“Nothing, and we cannot go to our usual sources.”
“Perhaps it is time to become acquainted with some of the people from my mother’s side of the family.” Ari gave her a wolfish smile as the waitress arrived with their meals.
The hotel room was a treasure trove. Tony and Zoe gave him an odd look when he sent Parker to open the door, so they didn’t garner attention by asking the clerk for a key. They took pictures of everything in the room, cloned the phone lying on the nightstand, and used one of Hardison’s gizmos to connect the Hacker to their machines. When Alec had control of the devices, Parker and Zoe moved to help Eliot and Tony go through the hard copy files.
“They have dossiers on the entire MCRT.” Tony sounded horrified. “That’s odd.” He started flipping through his own file.
“What? That someone gave them copies of official NCIS files.” Eliot noted.
“How can you tell?” Parker was always curious how Eliot knew these things. She couldn’t see anything distinguishing.
“From the rag content, and the watermarks, I would say someone in HR or the Director’s office.”
“When Morrow was Director, I remember his official letters were always on the good stuff, as he called it.” Parker tilted the paper and ran her sensitive fingertips over it until she understood what the two men were telling them. “The good news is they only have my public file … The bad news is our new Director may have sold out the MCRT.”
“Make sure everything is put back. The room needs to look the same as when they left.”
“Won’t they know we were here anyway?” Zoe looked confused.
“Nope.” Eliot, Parker, and Tony began to reset the room, using the pictures they’d taken. “Everybody out.” Eliot announced. Once clear, the Mage/shifter sent a spell through the room. “Hardison?”
Parker had herded everyone in the van by the time Eliot settled behind the wheel.
“Back to the hunt?” Tony settled himself to get back to work.
“Nope. Back to the office. It’s obvious they’re coming back, and Hardison has their electronics. We need to see what he’s found, and figure out what’s going on with NCIS files. You, Morrow, and Chegwidden are going to need to get with SecNav and the Secretary of Defense with that little tidbit.”
“Leave me with the easy stuff.” His grumbling caused Parker to snicker.
“You could be helping Zoe get all the pictures sorted, so we hit the ground running once we get to the office. I’d like to get this wrapped up, so we can get back to our real life.”
Parker gave him a mock salute before turning to Zoe. ‘That’s not his serious growl, that’s his week without Quinn growl.”
Zoe covered her mouth with both hands trying to hold back her laugh. Tony didn’t even try.
“Girl ain’t never been right.” Eliot turned the van toward downtown.
Quinn had returned from grabbing a shower and change of clothes shortly before Eliot’s hunting team got back to the office. Hardison brought him up-to-date on the team’s findings, so he was up to speed when they filed in the office. The shifter noticed Parker hand a tablet to the NCIS agent before he split off to go into Chegwidden’s office.
“You didn’t finish the Hunt?” He caught Eliot’s belt loop.
“What we got at the motel was more important. Let’s just say there’s some hinky stuff going on at NCIS.” As he said that, Morrow appeared in Chegwidden’s office. “Okay. Hardison, time for show and tell. What did you find?”
“We’re still going through the laptops, but the two phones are burners registered to the alias for Haswari. Both have international and domestic service. There are a few numbers we’re tracking on one, but nothing on the other. Now, the laptops are a different story …”
When Alec finally finished his presentation with a dossier on an arms dealer known as La Grenouille. “The file is marked ‘for Jenny’. Whatever she does with this information, she’s going to be stepping on some very big, nasty toes.”
“Jennifer Shephard’s father was a General implicated in a weapons theft case where Rene Benoit aka The Frog was a key player. Rather than face the consequences, he committed suicide. Jenny never accepted his suicide. She’s always sworn Benoit killed her father.” Morrow joined the group with Chegwidden and DiNozzo.
“We’ve contacted SecDef and JAG about the files you found. We’ll need copies of everything found in the motel room. I’m going to steal Agent DiNozzo for this since he was NCIS. Tony if you would gather the needed files, we have a meeting at the Pentagon in an hour.”
Flabbergasted, Tony stared after the Admiral for a minute before he turned back to the people he’d come to like and respect since the three members of the Council team stole him from the MCRT.
“Help?” He ran his hands through his hair.
“Okay, people … We’re on the count!” Parker announced to the room at large.
The Leverage team snickered as the task force members jumped to make copies and print photos. Hardison and Parker exchanged grins and a fist bump. Quinn caught Eliot’s eye, and with an arch of his eyebrow, the pair slipped out of the chaos.
“I was looking through files on all four of our murders. Each had the same patch of dead grass. Each victim was a shifter in their prime. Wolves and Djinn are enemies, so how did two Djinn contain healthy, combat trained wolf shifters long enough to drain them to death with no blood or destruction at the scene other than a patch of dead grass?”
“Tranqs ... Spells. We need to check the toxicology reports.” He grabbed a quick kiss from his Mate before they headed back to work.
The members of the MCRT sullenly set in the meeting room with 30 other Humans from the Navy yard. They were participating in HR seminars called Working and Interacting with Members of the Old Races. Many of those people were looking around noting who wasn’t in the seminar, and wondering why they were exempt.
Caitlin Todd was wondering why she, who had worked with Old Races in the Secret Service, wasn’t exempt. She hadn’t interacted all that much with those agents, but still … She fumed because Tony hadn’t been recalled. He … Well, she’d never heard him express any opinion about Old Races. It would probably be some immature frat boy sexist … Her attention was jerked back to the speaker when she heard a question.
Tim McGee was bored. Not sure why he had to attend this seminar. He was the tech guy, and when they were in the field, Tony or Gibbs dealt with the living. As junior agents, he and Kate only dealt with the evidence. Ducky and Gerald took care of the bodies, so he failed to see the reason he was wasting his time … Until the speaker started talking about their fellow agents. His fellow agents? All the agents in the office were Human … Weren’t they. They didn’t look any different.
“Agent Gibbs, as one of the few supervisory agents here today, can you tell us how the talents of the Old Races are helpful in your investigations.”
“Wouldn’t know. My team is all Humans.” He glared at the speaker.
“Surely at some point in your career you have worked with Old Races’ agents.”
“Don’t care what they are as long as the case gets solved. Besides, DiNozzo takes care of talking to other people.”
“What about the other agents on your team?” The speaker’s curiosity was peaked. She might need to spend time with the MCRT after the seminar was concluded. “Agent Todd … Agent McGee … What about your experiences?”
“Of course, we had Old Races in the Secret Service, they make excellent protectors.” When Kate saw the instructor’s eyebrows heading for her hairline, she realized how patronizing she sounded. “I mean …”
“I think I will be spending some time with the MCRT after the conclusion of the seminars. You can try to remove your foot from your mouth, Agent Todd.”
“Now wait just a minute …” Gibbs started to stand.
“Stand down, Marine.” The instructor’s eyes flashed as she glared at the team lead. Surprisingly he did. “I find many of the Humans in this agency woefully ignorant of the ways of the Old Races. I WILL be spending a great deal of time with all the teams until I drag this agency into the 21st century.”
That announcement elicited a collective moan from the room.
Tony breathed a sigh of relief when he saw the desks in the MCRT were empty. He and Harm followed the SecNav up the steps to the Director’s office.
“She in there?” Secretary Jarvis stopped in front of Cynthia’s desk.
“Yes, Sir. I’ll just …”
“We’ll just surprise her.” Though his voice was bland, his expression was hard as he marched to the door.
“Who do you … Secretary Jarvis … What a pleasant surprise.” Jennifer Shepard tried to recover from her surprise. She glared at Tony. “Captain Rabb. Agent DiNozzo, I thought you were working with the Homeland task force.”
“He is, Jennifer. That’s why we’re here.”
“Let’s sit at the conference table. I’ll have Cynthia bring …”
“We’ll sit, but we’re not here to be social.” Jarvis growled as they settled. “Agent DiNozzo.”
Tony opened a folder he’d carried with him. Picking up a photo, he watched the Director as he began his report. “Through facial recognition we have two suspects in the murder of Commander Fike. We haven’t yet made an arrest, but we were able to find where they’re staying, and have installed surveillance. We also made a disturbing discovery while we installed said surveillance.” Tony handed Shepard the picture.
The three men watched a blush raise on her cheeks before they went pale, as she realized the implications of the photo. As she opened her mouth, Jarvis held up his hand.
“It would be extremely embarrassing to this agency, which has just gone through a major audit, and been found lacking regarding the Old Races, to arrest our new Director for espionage. Then there’s the added embarrassment of you being linked to the people involved in four murders of American service personnel.”
“Sir, I didn’t …”
“We could be escorting you to a ride headed for Gitmo just for what we’ve discovered so far. Be very careful about how you try spin this little bombshell.” Harm warned.
“I suppose there’s nothing I can do.” Shepard tossed the photo back at Tony.
“Get the affairs of this office in order for Deputy Director Granger. You will then report to the DHS office, and meet with the task force at four o’clock for a briefing on your part in capturing your Djinn friends. After that you will be meeting with Rabb, the AG, and The Gwydion to determine whether you will be going to trial in the US or before the Old Races’ Tribunal in London.”
“Yes, Sir.” Tony watched as Shepard deflated.
“Captain Rabb, Agent DiNozzo, you’re free to go. My driver will take you back to Homeland since I’ll be here until Deputy Director Granger arrives.”
“I’ll be submitting my recommendations for Ms. Shepard within 48 hours of the conclusion of the case.”
“Very well. Agent DiNozzo, I expect daily updates.”
The two men headed back down the stairs. Kate and McGee were at their desks, the tone of their voices whiney. Gibbs was nowhere to be seen.
“Tony! You’re back!” They practically chorused.
“Sorry, Probies. Just making a report to the Director.”
“So, when are you coming back?” Kate demanded.
“Aww, you miss me.” Tony smiled.
“No, we just need you back to do your paperwork. Gibbs has become more demanding than usual.” Tim whined.
“Especially after the seminars we have to take since they finished that stupid audit.” Kate huffed.
“You’re just getting a taste of uncensored Gibbs. Have fun with that. Time for me to get back to my team.” Tony waved over his shoulder as he stepped into the elevator.
“You haven’t told them?” Rabb chuckled.
“Nope. I think Tom wants to see Gibbs’ head explode. Not how one would think The Primus should act. I was on the fence about transferring, but openly using my abilities the past few days made me realize how much of myself I’ve been hiding. I was passing as Human because I know anything out of the ordinary make Gibbs squeamish, which leads to temper tantrums, and I didn’t trust Kate and Tim enough to tell them. So, I came by yesterday on my way home, handed in my NCIS credentials, service weapon, rolled my retirement, and finished cleaning out my desk. Obviously, no one noticed, and with all the chaos that’s going to descend when Granger takes over as interim Director, it could be weeks before they catch on.”
“I don’t think it’ll take that long. Granger won’t keep MCRT off rotation.” Harm countered. “I didn’t realize you had such a sadist streak, Tony.”
“What happens when you hang out with the Mob.”
The guards exchanged a look at the laughing men. There was very little laughter at NCIS these days.
“I need police reports and inventories of break-ins at veterinary practices near the motel. I’m looking for missing drugs.” Eliot demanded. He noticed Quinn on the phone with the investigative team in London.
“I got one five miles from the motel here.” Hardison.
“Quinn’s on the phone with Europe. Check Sweden.”
“Petty cash, syringes, and Ketamine.” The thief reported.
“Same thing in Germany and London.”
“Sweden was the same.”
“Pros. No prints, or any other evidence.” Quinn added.
“Pretty lady chats up our guys while the brother hits them with the drug. They never get a chance to shift or defend themselves.”
“Defend themselves against what?” Tony asks as he and Captain Rabb entered the office.
“Our victims were probably dosed with Ketamine before they were killed.” Eliot growled.
“So, they never realized David was a Djinn, or that she had a partner.”
“We have to put that aside, and come up with a plan using former Director Shepard’s house to bring down our suspects.” Tony looked at Eliot.
“What’cha got, Man?”
“Seems the Director gave copies of the MCRT files to her little minions. She’ll be here at 4 to try and save her ass from prison. We want to wire her house for picture and sound then call the siblings to meet at her house. We come in and make the arrest. No muss, no fuss.” Always sensitive to his surroundings, Tony looked around the room to see what caused the shift in the energy. He noticed Chegwidden and Harm had come out of the Admiral’s office. “I missed something … Didn’t I?”
“You’ve been in the Human side of life a little too long, Son. With The Elyat and his team involved, things are a little different. We don’t hold with Old Races killing each other. Since all parties involved are Old Races, David and Haswari will go before the International Council’s Tribunal.”
“What about Shepard?”
“She’ll also go before the Tribunal. Even though she’s Human, she’s an accessory.” The Admiral rubbed a hand over his smooth scalp.
“You’re okay with this?” Tony looked at Harm.
“Sarah and I are both Old Races. We both specialized in Old Races laws since so many of us serve. We’ll do a refresher on Human accessories to a crime. I’ll be at the Tribunal to represent the US’s interest, but Eliot and the Council will handle the arrests and transport to London.”
“The entire task force, including you, and Morrow will be attending.” Chegwidden informed them.
“Let’s get busy.” Eliot broke the spell. “Shepard’s address, any information about her house …”
The team scrambled to obey.
Jenny Shepard sighed as she finished preparing things for Deputy Director Granger to take over. Cynthia helped gather the items she didn’t want to leave for strangers to pack. The executive assistant would get someone in to handle the rest of her things after she left, which would happen shortly. She had gone over the events of the past several days, but she could find no glaring errors that would have directed anyone’s attention to her. She thought she was dealing with professionals when she allowed Eli David to talk her into using Ari and Ziva. The Mossad were supposed to be the best, particularly the Kidon division, now she would never clear her father’s name. She would soon have plenty of free time, and copies of the La Grenouille files were secreted away at her home. A heavy sigh escaped as she caught sight of the two female task force members waiting to escort her to DHS.
“I’m ready.” Jenny announced as she slipped her large purse over her shoulder, and grabbed her briefcase.
Captain O’Haver took point while a young Lieutenant brought up the rear as they trailed down the stairs. Jenny was surprised to see Owen Granger waiting at the sign-in desk.
The group paused long enough for Shepard to hand over her credentials and service weapon. “Cynthia can brief you on anything SecNav missed.”
“I’m sure it’ll be fine.” Granger disappeared into the building.
The former Director stiffened her spine, and pulled her tattered dignity around her. “Shall we go.”
“Yes, Ma’am.” The agents escorted the red-head to their car.
Jennifer Shepard sat in the backseat of the sedan in a state of shock. She might go to prison. A prison in another country. On top of that, Agent DiNozzo was now working for Tom Morrow at Homeland Security. How could so much happen in just a few days. He was supposed to be a liaison, but Tom Morrow had seen his chance to poach the young agent. Tony had apparently become disenchanted with his treatment at the hands of the MCRT team, had accepted.
Now, Homeland Intelligence Agent DiNozzo, and one of the agents from the International Council investigative team were escorting her home. Somewhere there was a black van full of people who were going to invade her home to install cameras and microphones. She would call Ziva and invite her and Ari to come to the house on the premise they would be safer there. No one would think to look at the home of the Director of NCIS for fugitives. Her resignation was being kept on the downlow until arrests were made.
As they followed the agency sedan to Jennifer Shepard’s house, Eliot murmured under his breath. Soon all anyone saw was a Land Rover following a government sedan.
“What have you done to my Lucille. I swear y’all take some kind of perverse pleasure in doing unmentionable things to my Lucille.” Hardison whined.
“Lucille is fine.” Eliot snarled. It’s just a little glamour so she fits in the neighborhood.”
“She’s a Mercedes. How could she not fit in the neighborhood?” He pouted.
“If David and Haswari are Mossad, the first thing that will stick out will be a big black van in a high end residential neighborhood.”
“You may have a point. So, what’d you do for this makeover? Just so I know what vehicle to run to.”
“She looks like a black Land Rover.” Eliot gave Parker a glare.
“What? I can’t help it if being a good guy makes him cranky.” The thief shrugged.
“After we close this case, Chris is buried, and we get the bad guys before the Tribunal, we’ll go by Scotland on the way home, and see the family.”
“Oooo, I like that. We can take Tony with us. You can talk him into being our new Sophie.”
“I thought you didn’t want a new Sophie.” Hardison was double checking his electronics to install in Shepard’s house.
“I changed my mind. I like him. He’s neat with his energy, and good at hiding. Plus, I haven’t been able to sneak up on him … Yet.”
Eliot and Hardison exchanged a look. DiNozzo didn’t stand a chance. Looks like Leverage International would be getting a new grifter … Probably before the Tribunal.
“Okay, we’re going to get out and start down the street away from our target house. Parker can use her Cloak, and I’ll cover me and Hardison. We’ll double back, and slip into the house without being seen. Parker, you’ll cover getting Hardison back to the van. Aife will be in the air, Tony and I are with Shepard … Zoe, Patrick and Quinn will be on the perimeter. Parker, it will be up to you to protect Geekboy in case Haswari or David make a break. It was time for justice to be served.
Tony and Quinn followed Jenny as she stormed into her study. Trading her stilettos for a pair of flats, she splashed two fingers of bourbon in a glass.
“Oh, sit down. I’m sure your friends will be …” She was interrupted when Quinn opened the door. Several people along with several briefcases appeared in the foyer after the door shut behind them. “Here so soon?” She took a hefty swallow of liquor. “I don’t think I’ll ever get used to what you people can do.” She looked at Tony.
“Why do you think I hid? I bet you can’t tell me which of your agents are Old Races.”
“To tell you the truth, I never gave it a thought because I don’t care. You’re all simply assets. As long as our numbers look good for SecNav, and the budget committees …” She shrugged. “You’re there for me to use as I see fit.”
“Including selling us out to a foreign government so you can cover up the fact that your father was an idiot that got caught with his hand in the cookie jar. Killing Benoit won’t clear the stain off your father’s reputation.” Tony growled. “It’s unbelievable how you, Gibbs, and Mike Franks think NCIS is here as a cover for your personal vendettas.” He drew a deep breath to rein in his temper. Before he could continue, Eliot came back in the room.
“Make the call.” He glared at Shepard. “I’m tired of the bodies piling up around you.” Quinn and Tony moved so they were standing at The Elyat’s right and left shoulder.
She eyed DiNozzo’s support of the Council investigators. Realizing she would find no loyalty there, she dug her phone out of her bag. Before she could dial Ziva, the phone rang. “Shepard.” She eyed the trio wondering how much they could hear. “Something came up, and I had to leave the office. Granger will be in charge until further notice.” She watched Tony roll his eyes. “You know things come up that have to be handled that you don’t need to know. Do your job, Jethro. Follow the chain of command. As a Marine, I shouldn’t have to remind you.” She disconnected the call.
Gibbs stared at his phone. Ever since those foreign agents had taken his case and his SFA, his world had gone to hell. He had combed through Tony’s file … His real file but could find no reason for an Old Races Terrorism Task Force to be interested in his agent, but Morrow hadn’t stopped trying to get Tony to jump ship since he’d gone over to Homeland. Granger had informed him this afternoon that he had a week to pick a new SFA, and no, he couldn’t promote Todd because she was still a probationary agent. That was when Gibbs realized Tony would not be returning to NCIS. That was when he noticed his SFA’s desk was cleared of any personal effects. Damn Morrow for stealing his agent. Now, Jenny was acting weird. Once he could get out from under Granger’s scrutiny, he’d be tracking his former partner down, and getting to the bottom of all this craziness.
Ziva answered her phone when she saw it was Shepard. “Jenny, what happened. Why did you hang up on me?” She made her voice plaintive. It always caused the older woman to fold to Ziva’s demands thinking she was helping her get away from her manipulative father.
“You caught me at a bad time. I was in a high-level meeting. They were not happy to be interrupted by a phone call.”
“I forgive you. I was calling because the guard at the Navy yard gate told me that the MCRT is not investigating the sailor’s murder. That was supposed to be my way into NCIS.”
“That’s why I’m calling. A lot has changed. I need you and Ari to come to my house, so we can make a new plan.”
“Yes, it’s the safest place. The Homeland task force is close to identifying you and your brother. You need to get off the streets.”
“You would be exposing yourself as well.”
“There is nothing connecting us, and I would never forgive myself if something were to happen to you and your brother.” Shepard crooned.
“You make a good point. Send me the address. Ari and I will collect our things, and be there as quickly as we are able.” Ziva assured her.
“At least it will be more comfortable than this.” Ari sneered at the economy motel as they began collecting their gear.
Ari parked a few houses away from Jennifer Shepard’s address. They watched the house for almost an hour before deciding it was safe to approach. Apparently, the Director was home for the night since there was no protection detail patrolling the area around the house. Ziva called to alert Shepard of their presence.
“I’ll raise the garage door, so no one notices a strange car on the street. Come straight through to the study. You’ll see the light on.”
Seeing the door on the two car garage open, Ari pulled their rental in next to Shepard’s car.
Jenny came around her desk to greet the siblings. “I’m glad you got here safely. When I saw the bulletins go out with your descriptions, I was so worried.” She hugged both Djinn before directing them to the couch and offering them refreshments.
“Why would they do that?” Ari tone was harsh.
“They discovered you had entered all the countries where our service people died. Facial recognition picked you up at the airports.”
“Bah. That means nothing. Mere coincidence.” Ziva flicked her hand in dismissal.
“Perhaps, but the Old Races Terrorism Task Force does not believe in coincidence. Especially when one of the people who died was a member of the task force.”
“They’ll be motivated.” Ari nodded his head. He looked at his sister. “Perhaps we should come up with something large that will distract them from something as small as the death of their compatriot.”
“Not so small to them. I’ve discovered this week that the Old Races are very protective of their members, and wield quite a bit of power. The International Council has sent its own investigators to help find whoever killed the four victims. They also sent auditors to NCIS, and they cut quite a swath through the agency, and are in the process of turning Washington on its ear.”
“The International Council?” The pair exchanged a look. How could their Abba not have warned them about someone who would hunt them for their actions?
“Yes, I thought Mossad was familiar with all the front-line agencies.”
“I admit that because of father’s position, our training was conducted by those hand-picked by him. It now seems that he has also controlled the information to which we were exposed.”
“Ignorance will not be a viable excuse when you are brought before the Tribunal for the murders you committed.” A disembodied voice came from behind them. The air shimmered and two men appeared.
“What is this?” Ari demanded as Tony and Eliot snapped handcuffs specifically spelled for the Djinn before they could attack.
“Ari Haswari and Ziva David, you are under arrest for the murders of Commander Christopher Fike, Petty Officer Dwayne Price, Lieutenant JG Olivia Morgan, and Seaman Jesse Winston. You’ll be taken to a Homeland Security holding facility until we transport you to London.” Eliot informed the pair.
“I wish to call my father.” Ziva insisted.
“Your father will be informed of your predicament when we arrive in London.”
Ari broke out of his shock at being handcuffed, and began to struggle. He stiffened and fell to the floor. Ziva tried to reach her brother until a woman with a taser appeared.
“Parker! You’re supposed to be watching out for Hardison.” Eliot reached down to throw the unconscious man over his shoulder.
“He’s fine. There’s some gray-haired guy stomping this way.”
“Gibbs.” Tony reminded them.
“O’Haver … Quinn, handle Gibbs. Meyers … Williams, I need you in the house. Parker, you and Quinn grab Hardison’s doodads, and get back Lucille and Hardison back to DHS.”
“Tony, Patrick, Zoe, and I will be taking a shortcut.”
“You’re going to have fun.” Parker elbowed Tony before she began collecting camera and mics.
“Zoe, grab Shepard’s arm. Tony grab David.” Eliot handed Haswari off to Patrick. Tony reached for Zoe, who caught hold of Patrick. Eliot grabbed Tony. Shepard’s study disappeared, and they re-appeared in the ORTTF offices at DHS.
Gibbs had tried three times to slip out of the office. Three times he’d been stopped. Once by Abby with questions about Tony. He’d cut her short by bluntly telling her his former Senior Field Agent was not coming back. The commotion she caused brought Granger out of the Director’s office to see the cause of all the noise. He’d shut down Abby’s tantrum with a few choice words while eyeing her outfit. He suggested she review the dress code and regulations to maintain their lab certifications. The Goth scuttled back to the basement.
The second time, Kate got between him and the elevator. The probationary agent had insisted he appoint her Senior Field Agent. Because he was frustrated, Gibbs had growled, told her she was still a snot nosed probie, and to go read the qualifications to be a Senior Field Agent. Once again Granger came to check on the ruckus when Kate squawked about discrimination and chauvinism.
“If you have a complaint, Probationary Agent Todd, I suggest you make your way to HR.” Granger suggested. “Gibbs, have you made your decision?” Todd flounced into her chair.
“Not yet, I was just …”
“Getting ready to come to my office?” Granger’s stare was deadpan.
“I’ll have a decision in 30.” Gibbs finally gave in and sat down to read the two files on his desk.
He saw a handwritten note stuck to the top file. Boss, I know how your hate this part of the job, so I took the liberty of checking out the eligible agents between here and Quantico qualified for SFA. If you need to do something quick to get the team back on rotation, pick Langer as Cassie Yates is undercover for at least a month. Thanks for everything, Gibbs. I’m sure we’ll run into each other, DC’s not that big … Tony.
The lead agent smiled. Tony knew him too well. Since he wanted the team back on rotation as soon as possible, he put Yates’ file aside, and concentrated on Langer. He was familiar with the former FBI agent, and looked forward to Agent Bythebook Langer butting heads with Kate. Satisfied with Tony’s choice, he picked up the files, and headed for the Director’s office.
Now, there were two more obstacles between him and finding out what was going on with Jenny. When they finally let him in the house, the only thing he found was the skinny blonde, who was with the investigators that took DiNozzo, and some wavy-haired guy he’d never met. They were collecting electronic equipment.
“Where’s Director Shepard?” He demanded.
The two smiles he got were all teeth, and made him feel like a dinner entree.
“DHS with our murder suspects.” The male agent informed him.
“Why’s she there?” This situation was beginning to give him a headache.
“You’ll need to ask the boss.”
“You mean Morrow?”
“Sure, you could ask him, too.” The blonde was hanging off the library ladder removing something from between the volumes of books.
“What are you doing?” Gibbs pinched the bridge of his nose.
“Cleaning up after a job. We had to get everything on camera. I thought Tony said he was an agent?” The blonde landed on her partner’s back before slithering to the ground.
“He is. He’s just used to the way Humans do things. You have to be special to work the way we do.”
“Where is DiNozzo? I need someone to tell me what’s going on in a way I can understand.”
The man rolled his eyes while the blonde looked confused. “You speak English very well. What language would be easier for you.”
“What he means, Parker, is that he can’t figure out what his little honey is involved in, and our explanations aren’t making any sense.”
“Why didn’t he just say so?”
“Well you don’t need to get huffy. We told you where to go.” Parker frowned at Gibbs. “Done?” She looked at Quinn.
“Yeah, let’s get your boy toy back to the office.”
They left Gibbs standing dumbfounded in the middle of the study.
“Oh man! You’ve got to teach me that spell.” Tony exclaimed as the two women staggered to catch their balance.
“Sure. Come out to The Farm anytime. It won’t take long.” He looked up as Morrow and Chegwidden came out of the office where they’d been listening to the com traffic. “Where do you want the trash?” Eliot asked.
“We have a special cell for Old Races.” Morrow offered. “You can leave Shepard with A.J.” Zoe and Patrick took the prisoners while Tony and Eliot stayed with Morrow, Shepard, and the Admiral.
“Tony, take Ms. Shepard’s statement, and then we’ll decide how to handle her incarceration until we go to London.”
“WHAT! You can’t … What about calling my lawyer?” Jenny stopped at the hard looks from DiNozzo and Chegwidden.
“We don’t get to decide. We must consult with the Council about how they want to handle your part in this misery. You’re lucky you’re not joining your cohorts in the cells we have for Humans. Call your lawyer, give your statement, Jenny, and don’t make waves. I need to figure out who I’m calling out of bed.”
“I can probably help with that.” Eliot offered. “I need to call my sister anyway.”
“What’s calling your sister going to accomplish, Chegwidden asked.
“She’s the Lady Gwydion. I imagine she’ll be making travel arrangements to London, and getting her staff working on getting the Tribunal scheduled.” Eliot explained while he waited for Rhiannon to answer the phone. “Also, Chris’ funeral is Saturday at 1500 hours.” He put the phone on speaker when he heard his sister answer the phone.
“Eliot, what news is there?”
“We’ve caught the people responsible for the murders.”
“Excellent. I’ll send the Council’s plane to transport them to London.”
“Send the Gulfstream with agents. We’re going to have at two prisoners, Jennifer Shepard, her lawyer, and probably her former partner.”
“Bringing the family? I’ll send the Boeing.”
“Not this time. We were setting up for a job when Seamus called. Quinn will be in charge since he handled the Europe and Sweden investigations.”
“It’s beginning to sound like most of Washington was involved.”
“It’s going to get worse before it gets better. Our murderers are Ari Haswari and Ziva David. They’re Djinn. They’re also the children of Eli David, Director of the Mossad.”
A rash of Gaelic came through the phone. “I’m guessing the kids are in bed.” Eliot chuckled at Rhiannon’s show of temper.
“Got Seamus’ attention from his ‘football’ match. I’ll tell him what’s going on. Stay on your toes. David gets wind of this before he gets the official call, he may send some of his operatives.”
“Chris’ funeral is Saturday. We could have all the reports, evidence, and people ready to go Sunday morning.”
“Shouldn’t be a problem. I’ll put things in motion soon as I hang up. Tell Quinn he’s staying in our cottage on the Tribunal grounds. The kids will want Uncle Quinn at their beck and call.”
“Will do. Just don’t forget to send him back. Give us a head’s up on the hearing date as quick as you can. We’ll clear the decks to spend some time. Kiss the kids for me.”
“Watch your back until we get something hammered out with Eli David. I’ll call you when I know the pilot’s schedule.”
“Make sure you send veteran agents, and remind Eli who your brother is, and what happened last time he crossed me. It might not stop him, but it should slow him down.”
“Will do.” Rhiannon was chuckling when she disconnected the call.
“Your sister thinks Eli David is funny? I may have to have a scheduling conflict.” A.J. looked at Eliot.
“My sister is an ass kicker in her own right. An adept class Mage that birthed two babies to her lump of a husband.”
“I’m telling Seamus what you said.” Tom threatened.
“He knows I can kick his ass, too.” Eliot bared his teeth. “No one tougher than us Spencers. Now, Tom, while Tony’s still chatting with Jenny Shepard, you and I need to have a little chat about Tony’s employment contract.”
“A.J.” Morrow motioned to the retired Admiral. “You’ll need to be in on this, too. The Elyat named you the North American Council second-in-command, so you might as well get to enjoy this, too.”
“I blame this on you for not setting up a proper Council.” Chegwidden growled. “So much for my retirement. This job was supposed to be regular hours. More of a figurehead, you said.”
“I know the Nemed people … You’d have been pestering Rabb before the ink was dry on your retirement papers. This will keep you out his hair and you won’t be bored. Now that I got Tony away from Gibbs, your life should get easier.”
“Yeah, well, if I hadn’t already lost mine, he would have been the cause of it turning gray. I’ve heard rumors that DiNozzo’s as bad as Rabb ever was.”
“Remember when you told me you were bored, and the next thing I knew you were graduating from BUDs.”
“See, you’re perfect together. You’ll need to get the rest of your Council in order.” Eliot interrupted their trip down memory lane.
Morrow thought about for a minute. “I’m thinking of asking Quinn to be my Enforcer. Being a freelancer, his schedule would be more flexible that someone with a job.”
Eliot growled as Chegwidden got up to shut his office door but couldn’t deny that his Mate would be perfect.
Jennifer Shephard was mortified that she was sitting in an interrogation room at the Department of Homeland Security giving a statement about her collusion with the Director of Mossad, which led to the murders of four service members. She’d not only lost her job, she’d also lost any power she had in D.C. None of her former associates would come near this fiasco for fear the International Council would send The Elyat after them.
Her lawyer had worked a deal with Morrow, and only the fact of how bad it would look for the Director of NCIS to go to prison saved her. She had to testify, turn over all her files, would be blacklisted, gagged from speaking about this case with anyone, and never again hold a security clearance. The news she received from her doctor on Monday past, made her punishment inconsequential with the short amount of time remaining of her life.
It took two hours, but Tony wrung every detail from how she met Ziva and Ari until they fired her. If she had the energy to spare, she would have been mortified about how badly she underestimated him, but now all she could think about was whether Jethro would come take her home. She was surprised she was being released on her own recognizance, but apparently there would be some sort of magical leash attached. She’d have to start packing for the trip to London Sunday. Jenny was pulled out of her thoughts when movement caught her attention.
“Is there anything else you’d like to add to your statement before we conclude?” Tony started gathering his notes.
“No, that’s everything.” She looked at her lawyer, who nodded his agreement.
“The Gwydion is sending the Council’s jet to transport everyone to London. Departure will be Sunday. You’ll be contacted with the time, but I already know it will be early. I suggest you have your affairs arranged for an extended stay since a date has not yet been set for the Tribunal.” Tony signaled for the technician to shut down the recording. “Is Mr. Miles taking you home, or do you need to call a cab?” He asked as he led them from the room.
“I’m going to call Gibbs. I saw him outside the house before your teleported me out. I’m surprised he hasn’t been on a tear through your office.” She gave him a little smile.
“He probably tried, but no one here will be intimidated by a middle-aged Human. Most members of the Old Races are stronger than Humans. An added bonus, he won’t cross Morrow and Chegwidden.”
Shepard’s face turned serious. “Don’t let him talk you into going back, Tony. I forgot how good you are because you hide so much. The agent I’ve seen here is comfortable in his skin, and not hiding his attributes behind a mask.”
“Thank you, Jenny. I won’t see you again until we come to London for the Tribunal.” He extended his hand for her to shake.
She pulled his head down to place a kiss on his cheek. “Thank you for fighting to keep me out of jail. I’m glad to be given the chance for a little piece of redemption for my actions.”
“Not much of a fight considering we could all sense your health situation.” Tony said solemnly.
“You … Oh … I didn’t realize …” She stuttered before gathering her dignity around her.
They both noticed Gibbs sitting quietly in the reception area with a cup of coffee.
“Looks like I won’t have to make that phone call after all.” Shepard brightened to see her ex-lover.
“You might consider telling him and Ducky. They’re good men to have in your corner in a fight.” Tony counseled.
“I’ll take that under advisement, Agent DiNozzo. Good luck in your future endeavors.” She laid her small hand on his arm.
“Good-bye, Jenny.” Tony said quietly as she moved toward Gibbs.
“I’ll call you when Jenny needs to come in and sign her statement.” He told the lawyer while watching Gibbs and Shepard. He walked over to where the couple waited. “Gibbs.”
“Tony. I’m sorry to lose the best young agent I’ve ever worked with, but I can see, even after a few days, it’s been good for you.” Tony nodded in acknowledgement. “I picked Langer to be SFA. I wanted the team back on rotation, or I’d have picked Yates.”
“I think Langer will be the better fit. He’ll remind you of the rules, and the chain of command. He won’t take Kate’s reverse chauvinism crap. I should have transferred when Tom moved. I no longer have to hide who and what I am anymore.”
“What do you mean. I thought Tom wanted a token Human. There’s nothing in your file.”
“Because I didn’t want to be discriminated against for being Old Races.”
He saw the flush climb Gibbs’ neck. “It wouldn’t have been like that.” He insisted.
“Now, you don’t have to worry about it. Take care of Jenny. She’s going to need a good friend, and a lot of support in the coming months. Good-bye Gibbs.”
Tony left his past standing in the reception area as he turned toward into his future.
When he entered the bullpen, Eliot was passing out bags of Chinese food. “Just in time, Tony.” He handed him a bag. Everyone settled in with their dinner, including Chegwidden.
“Had some Undersecretary stuff to handle, including informing his bosses the Council has taken over the prosecution of the case.”
“I thought I heard screams from upstairs.” He chuckled as he noticed Parker rooting through his bag of food. “Is there something you need, Parker?”
“Fortune cookie. I haven’t had any good fortune cookies since we left home.”
“Don’t even try, Bubba.” Eliot rolled his eyes. “That’s twenty pounds of crazy in a five pound bag.”
The group talked about scheduling time to come to The Farm for a weekend. Eliot reminded them to call Sheena or Davin. When everyone began making noises to go home for the day, Eliot stood to get their attention.
“I know we haven’t had time to talk about Chris while we were hunting his killers, but his service will be at 1500 hours Saturday at Arlington. There’s no one scheduled at The Farm this weekend, so everyone’s invited out after the funeral. You’re all welcome to come … Relax … Stay overnight. We’ll be taking the prisoners, evidence, and Shepard to the plane Sunday morning. We’ll hand them off to the agents coming from London. Quinn will be going to London now, since he handled the European and Sweden cases. We’ll all travel to London for the actual Tribunal.”
By the time everything was sorted out, the team, Tony, Chegwidden, and Morrow was coming to The Farm after the funeral. They cleaned up their dinner trash, then grabbing bags and covers. Eliot settled beside Tony and informed the man he expected him Saturday afternoon, too.
“Why am I staying?”
“Well, there were those spells you wanted to learn, plus we need to discuss your employment contract with DHS. Since Tom and A.J. are going to be there, we can all sit down together.”
“They’re normally pretty standard.”
“Not this one. It has a couple special conditions we need to talk about.”
“Nothing bad. You’re just a real popular guy.” Eliot grinned.
“The belle of the ball.” Tony relaxed.
Eliot gathered Parker and Hardison to their hotel. They just needed to get through the next two days.
Glad to be back in his home territory, it hadn’t taken long for the Leverage crew to finish their reports for Homeland, and head home to Annapolis. After stopping at the office long enough to make sure things were good, they headed to The Farm. Eliot was thankful Sheena had done his market run for him, so he had everything he needed for weekend guests.
Eliot soon had everything prepped for dinner tomorrow, so they were scattered around the farmhouse’s office, reacquainting themselves with the case they were prepping before Chris’ murder investigation.
“You know, it was kind of cool being real good guys.” Parker rolled over on her stomach to watch Eliot and Hardison. “There was a lot of boring parts, and rules … I liked the part when Tony did his thing, and setting the trap for the Djinn …”
The men exchanged a look. “I’ll ask Seamus about establishing an office in D.C.” Eliot sighed.
“Oh. Can we live there, too? They have way better stuff to steal.” Parker urged.
Eliot sighed. He was probably lucky the two city kids hadn’t complained before now about not living in the city. “Sure. Quinn and I can always come out here when we want to run.”
“Want me to look for some place?” Hardison looked up from the records check he was running on their mark.
“I got a couple places. I just need to pick the right one.” He was surprised when Parker landed in his lap. “Parker?” He sounded strangled as the Fae hugged him tight. “Gotta breathe, Sweetheart.”
“We don’t want you to think we don’t like it here, ‘cause we do, but being in Washington this week was exciting. Plus, we have new friends.”
“Quinn? You get a say.” Eliot looked over at his Mate.
“I vote for the house on Mass Avenue. It’s only a couple miles from downtown.”
“Yeah, but the place is so big it doesn’t matter.
“N Street is big, and has a yard.”
“Mass Avenue is a classier place for the ‘International Council of Old Races Investigative Services’.”
“Point. Massachusetts Avenue it is.” Eliot sighed. I’ll call Isaac to open it up, and stock the kitchen.”
“Isaac?” Hardison perked up.
“Property manager for my DC properties.”
“You have a property manager?” The Hacker’s voice nearly squeaked.
“I have several property managers. I can’t look after all of them by myself.”
“Eliot is hell on wheels at investing his money.” Quinn smirked at the couple.
“Cool. That’s what we’ll do for vacations … Visit Eliot’s houses.” Parker bounced on the couch with Alec. “Hey, since you’ve got people you trust, maybe I could use them, too.”
“You have real estate?” Hardison’s voice did squeak this time.
“Well yeah. I like cash, but you gotta have places to live.” Parker huffed like her boyfriend was an idiot. You bought that house with no toilets in Los Angeles.”
“I borrowed that house.”
“Give me a list, and I’ll tell you if I’ve got someone in the area.” Eliot interrupted their squabbling.
“Cool. Now, how are we going to fix this.” Parker waved the file.
“Might be the perfect job to break-in Tony.” Quinn suggested. “Fresh face … Fresh ideas.”
“You sometimes have good ideas.” Eliot pulled his Mate in for a kiss. “We can talk to him Sunday after Morrow and Chegwidden leave. If Tony’s not available, I’ve got a couple ideas, and on that note, I’m going to take advantage of a quiet house to spend time with Quinn before he runs off to London.” He grabbed his Beta’s hand and pulled him toward their suite. “See you guys in the morning.”
“Good idea.” Parker swiped Hardison’s laptop, and shoved him off the couch.
“You going to argue about your computer over having sex?” Parker put her hands on her hips.
“Uh … No.” The Hacker ran for the stairs.
“Good answer.” Parker smiled.
No one said a word when Eliot came out of the house in his Army uniform. Quinn saw Parker open her mouth to begin asking the meanings of the pins and ribbons until she saw the shifter shaking his head. They climbed in Eliot’s truck and headed for Arlington National Cemetery.
They spent the hour long trip bouncing around ideas about their next job. The Black Book company was their usual type target, but there were some inconsistencies that were troubling. The company was public with the majority of the company shares held by company’s founder. It was only in the last ten years some unsavory practices had garnered the company’s place in The Black Book.
“What if the people at the top don’t know what’s going on with the company?” Eliot asked.
“How’s that possible?” Hardison picked up his tablet.
“You mean like plausible deniability?” Quinn picked up on Eliot’s line of thinking.
“Or after years of working their ass off to be success they have people that are supposedly trustworthy in positions of power, so they sit back, take a breather, and begin to enjoy the profits of their hard work. Maybe they don’t watch the books as close as they once did.”
“The managers give the boss smoke and mirrors while they fiddle away Rome.” Parker looked over Alec’s shoulder.
The job was put aside when Eliot pulled through the gates of Arlington National Cemetery. As Christopher Fike’s official family, Eliot, Quinn, Parker, and Hardison were moved to the front of the crowd by the Officer In Charge. Due to their fast healing, it was rare to lose a shifter to injury, so for Chris to be murdered by a Djinn was more devastating than if he had been killed in battle. They stared at the flag draped coffin of their friend, who the weekend before was at The Farm playing hide and seek with Parker.
The shifters on the two teams flinched as sensitive ears were assaulted by rifle shots. Eliot stiffened when the honor guard approached with Chris’ folded flag.
“On behalf of the President of the United States, the United States Navy, and a grateful Nation, please accept this flag as a symbol of our appreciation for your loved one's honorable and faithful service.”
Eliot heard Parker sniffle as he accepted the flag, and the spent shell casings from his final salute. As the service concluded, he noticed most of Chris’ team wiping their eyes. It was a subdued group that made their way back to their vehicles.
“We’ll see you at The Farm.” Eliot reminded them in the parking lot.
Tony looked around the guest room where the Fae who introduced herself as Sheena had left him. The cool shades of green soothed his spirit, as did the view of the backyard and the river. After settling his toiletries in the bathroom, he wondered down the backstairs where Sheena invited him to join her, her daughter, Iona, and husband, Davin, for lunch.
“Himself and his Pack will be home around five. Feel free to enjoy the property. Play the instruments, take a swim, use the shielded workrooms to practice, or enjoy your coffee and a book in the screen room.” Sheena encouraged.
“Sheena.” Davin scolded.
“What? This is his first time.” She set Iona on the floor when the toddler indicated she was finished eating.
Tony chuckled as he watched the Fae couple though their brogue caused him to have to listen close to catch everything. “It’s fine Davin. It’s been so long since I’ve been out of the city, I’d forgotten how it can relax you. I worked with a team who thought I was Human, so it’s been several years since I really relaxed and recharged. Now that I know this place is here, I won’t let it go that long again.”
“With the youngsters be wantin’ to move back to the city, I worry about Himself and Quinn. Hopefully they’ll be makin’ time on the weekends to come home.”
“Moving to the city?” Tony felt a tug on his pants leg. Looking down he saw golden eyes staring back.
“Up.” Iona demanded.
“Child …” Davin started for his daughter.
“She’s fine.” The Mage picked up the toddler and settled her on his lap.
“She’s used to Parker doting on her, so believes we’re all here for her convenience.” The proud father chuckled.
“Parker be hardly more than a child herself.” Sheena reminded him. “They’re moving to one of the Washington houses. The one near the Irish Embassy, if I heard right.”
“But …” Tony frowned. “She’s …”
“For a Fae she’s a youngster. Raised by Humans in the foster system.” Sheena frowned. “She was not well-served.”
Davin patted his wife’s hand. “We be takin’ care of that now, we are.”
“Am I understanding you’re teaching a Fae how to be a Fae?”
“Aye, that we are. The dear child had no idea. Himself, and his grandfather, Walter Black Dog, have been a help, too.”
“Sounds like Eliot has made a good place here.”
“Aye. When last they visited, The Gwydion gave his blessings for the forming of The Leverage Pack, an offshoot of The Gwydion Pack, and Elliot Clan. Himself made all his people members. Parker, her Human, Alec, myself, and Davin. We’re small, but diverse.” The couple chuckled at Tony’s shocked expression. “You’ve really have been out of touch with your people.”
“When I joined NCIS, my schedule was so erratic I lost touch with a lot of my Old Races friends. There were Old Races agents, but after Tom Morrow moved to Homeland Security, it seemed like the higher ups forgot we existed.”
“Perhaps that will be changing.”
“It will be without me. I’m staying with the terrorism task force at Homeland, though I have a feeling there’s more to it since the Council’s investigative team has gotten involved.”
The Fae laughed at Tony’s understatement. “Go take your walk ... We’ll soon have a house full of Old Races for you to begin rebuilding your network.”
Standing from the table, he bent to put Iona on the floor, but the toddler was having none of it. “If you’re going with me, you’ll need a jacket.” That comment got him a lower lip protruding stubbornly. “I’m going to put on my jacket, and have your máthair fill my travel mug with some more of that wonderful coffee.”
“Okay, but you wait for me, Mr. Tony.”
“I promise.” Tony started up the backstairs.
The caretakers smiled as they watched the tall Mage bending down to explain something to the youngling. “Looks like Himself has picked another.” Sheena leaned against her husband as a strong arm wrapped around her waist.
After a buffet spread that would have caused any foodie to have an orgasmic food coma, the two teams had spent the evening relaxing around the outside fire pit. The shifters had come and gone throughout the evening as they decided to take advantage of being away from the prying eyes in the city. The men were staying in the big house while the women had taken over one of the guest cottages.
“Sheena told me you’re thinking of moving into DC.” Tony looked at Eliot and Quinn as he asked.
“Yeah. Parker’s stolen everything in Annapolis, and Washington’s next on her bucket list.”
Silence reigned over the patio. “What?!” Parker swatted at Eliot. “I gave it all back.” “She huffed.
“And I thank you for that, Pretty Lady.” Hardison pulled her down on his lap.
Nobody dared asked if they were serious, and the trio didn’t seem worried about all the law enforcement sitting with them. “As Hardison pointed out, until Tom gets an investigative team set up for North America, we’ll be the ones that get the call. It’ll be more convenient if we’re already in DC.”
“I can recommend some places.” Both Morrow and Chegwidden offered.
“Thanks, but I already have a place picked out. We’re meeting my property manager tomorrow so Hardison can get started on any services needing wired. We’ll be on Massachusetts Avenue next to Ireland’s Embassy.”
“That Belgian Renaissance monster with the two balconies?” Tom reached for the carafe to refill his coffee.
“Yeah. Offices will be street level front. Hardison and Parker top floor front. They’ll be a couple three spare bedrooms. I’m sure we’ll figure out ways to fill the space.”
“Excellent.” Tom rubbed his hands together. It will make things much easier than when you were gallivanting around the world.”
“This move is not an excuse for you not to put your own team together.” Eliot growled. The Primus sighed. “Besides you have a second to help. I’m sure he knows people that are looking for something part-time to alleviate the boredom of retirement. Not like they have to pass physicals and the like.”
“Fine.” Tom grinned over at A.J, who frowned at his friend.
“I’ve sent an email to Rhiannon to let her know you’re finally stepping up to the plate, and establishing a North American Council. She’ll be contacting you with a list of requirements. Do you have a spouse, or are you in between?” Eliot asked.
“Then it won’t be a problem for you to establish a Council house.”
“Rhiannon and Seamus are a fount of information.”
“I think I hate you.”
“Just sharing the love, Brother.” He chuckled as he pulled a beer out of the cooler. “Anyone else?” He passed one to Tony and Hardison. “You’ve got a task force with an experienced team lead …” He winked at Tony.
“Wait. What about Aife … The people already in place?”
“They’ll be rotating out soon. They’re TAD from their regular duty stations. I need my new AIC to build a civilian Old Races team. You and A.J. are going to make a helluva team.” Tom smiled wide at the two men. “I was just waiting for you to get fed up with Gibbs’ head games.”
“If this is what’s getting settled tonight, I’m afraid to ask what the topic will be tomorrow.”
“Enough business tonight.” Quinn declared. “Come on, old man, let’s go run while we have the chance.”
Tony was awestruck as the large red wolf took off across the field followed by a larger silver wolf.
“That never gets old.” Alec commented to no one.
“We’re going to have to find someone for Eliot to punch about Thursday.” Parker cracked.
The men turned to stare at the blonde.
“I know I’m going to regret this, but what happens Thursday?” A.J. asked.
“Day five with no Quinn, so no sex for Eliot. Makes him grumpy.” They watched the blonde shimmy up the side of the house using the bricks and drain pipe. “Maybe he’ll have a training session with your team instead.” Parker snickered.
Tony spit his beer across the patio. “What is she doing?”
“Keeping in practice.” Hardison took one last drink of beer. “It’s also my cue. Just because Eliot’s gonna be grumpy doesn’t mean I have to be.”
“What have you gotten me into, Tom?” Tony looked at his favorite Director.
“I think I’ll save that surprise for tomorrow. I bid you gentlemen goodnight.” He set his coffee cup on the service tray.
After Eliot and the task force members dropped everyone off at Regan International’s private plane hangar, he let Isaac know he’d be dropping by the house. Wandering through the 9,000 square foot mansion, the Hitter felt like a pea rattling around a bucket, but knew once his Pack was moved in, the old mansion would come back to life.
Checking his and Quinn’s suite, he was happy to see his Mate had gotten Isaac’s crew to collect his things from his storage unit. He’d get Isaac to recommend someone to man the office in Annapolis. There shouldn’t be many calls or walk-ins, but it would be better to have someone there. Maybe offer the top floor apartment as incentive. Hearing the front door open, Eliot headed down the two flights of stairs to meet his friend.
“You want WHAT?!”
Parker gave Tony a confused look. “We want you to be our new Sophie. Are you losing your hearing?”
“Parker, you gotta give the man time to think. I don’t think he knows what a Sophie is.”
“Of course he doesn’t. Good guys aren’t supposed to know about the bad guys.”
The two older men were fascinated by the back and forth between the young people. “Eliot exactly what does Leverage International do?”
“We pick up where the good guys leave off.” The Retrieval Specialist offered.
“Is this like don’t ask, don’t tell?”
“You could say that. You’ve probably picked up the credit for some of our jobs.”
Eliot bared his teeth. “Damien Moreau.”
Both men paled at the nightmare of a retired general going rogue and being involved in the theft of an extremely powerful explosive device.
“’Nuff said.” A.J. interrupted before Tom could ask anything else.
“Eliot, you want come rescue Tony from Parker?” They watched the Fae drag the Mage across the patio into the room.
“She’s your girlfriend.” He admonished Hardison. “Here’s how it goes. He paused until everyone was in the room. “Hitter/Retrieval Specialist.” Eliot pointed to himself. “Hacker …” He pointed at Hardison. “Thief/Mastermind.” He pointed at Parker. “Most of the time we can handle all the parts of a co … case, but sometimes we need an extra body. That would you … Grifter.”
“Grifter? You want me to con people?”
“If you want to get technical.” He handed Hardison a piece of paper. Tapping a few keys, the TV screen lit up with pictures from their past cases. “Remember the airplane that landed on the freeway in Florida?”
“Something about toxic fertilizer, and a plot to kill anyone that knew about it.” Tony answered. Another picture flashed on the screen. “I know this one … corrupt mayor in … Belbridge, was a CI for the FBI, and laundering money for an arms dealer.”
A picture of Mark Doyle, the loan shark that tried to take McRory’s from Cora after her father’s death.
“Okay. I get it. Sometimes the only good guys are bad guys. You got it put in my Homeland contract that I can work with you when you need a grifter?”
“Close enough. More like you’ll be available on an as needed basis for special projects for an unnamed contractor involved in Eyes Only cases.”
“And you approved this?” Tony looked at Tom, his expression incredulous.
“It gets me access to The Elyat, The number one thief and hacker in the world along with the number one and number two Hitter/Retrieval Specialists. I thought it was a good deal even if all I do is pick their brains about security.”
Tony took a pen off the desk. “I guess you’ve got yourself a new grifter, and Tom and A.J. got themselves a new Agent In Charge.” Tony signed his name on his new contract.
“We also have room for you at the new location. It’s only two miles from Homeland, and there’s room for your piano.”
“How do you know about my piano?”
“The camera on your computer may have accidentally come on and showed us your living room.” Hardison smiled wide at their newest team mate.
“Don’t worry. You get used to it.” Eliot commiserated as he handed Tom the contract. Come by this address tomorrow for lunch. You can see your room.”
“Don’t I have a say?” Now he was getting confused. He’d only known these people a week.
“Sure, you have a say, you’re Pack now, but who says no to living rent-free in a mansion?” Parker asked.
“On that note, I need to get back to Washington. Tony we’ll see you tomorrow at the office.”
“Yes, Sir. I need to get back myself. I have a lot to think about.”
Eliot walked over to the desk in the entrance hall, which was the size of most people’s apartments, Isaac had set up an office. He retrieved the list the property manager had left with the upgrades he’d had made in the Internet and security. A squeal that carried from the top of the house let him know Parker found the rooftop terrace. He handed Hardison the technical specs as he headed upstairs to get lunch ready. Tony would be arriving anytime.
“There’s a gym just a half mile from here … Or downstairs.” Hardison was scrolling through pages on his tablet when Tony was pulled toward the kitchen by Parker as he barely cleared the front door.
“Good to see you, Man. You know it’s possible to get lost between the first and second floor?” Hardison asked Tony as he caught up.
“When you said you had room, you weren’t kidding.” Tony exchanged a look with Eliot like he knew Eliot was gathering his Pack under one roof. “Sheena clued me in.”
“Your piano would look great in the library, and the soundproofing is second to none. Your rooms are one floor up to the left. Quinn and I are in the front room. The kids are on the top floor.”
“There going to be a problem with me cooking?”
“No. It’ll be nice to have someone to trade off with. Plenty of cabinets for my gear and yours. Let us know the nights you’re working late. Keeps Parker from worrying.” Eliot smirked. “Oh, something I didn’t want to tell you in front of Tom … Sometimes there are windfalls from our jobs. Any job you work that has a windfall, Hardison will be setting up in a very private account. Makes a good retirement or go off grid fund.”
“Why are you …”
“You’re the first person that’s fit both sides of our life, so welcome to the Leverage Pack. You’ll get to meet my sister’s family when we go to London for the Tribunal. There’s an old Cherokee that wonders in and out occasionally named Walter Black Dog. He’s the Guardian that raised me and Rhiannon after our parents were killed.
“Wow. Going from passing as Human to being thrown in the deep end. You sure know how to woo a guy.” He chuckled as he enjoyed Eliot’s lunch.
“Before I started down this path my life was gray with shades of black creeping in fast. Now, my life is full of chaos and color, and I’m enjoying the fruits of being number one in my profession.”
Tony held up his bottle of sparkling water. Before he could make a toast they heard Alec yelling Parker’s name.
“Stop being such a baby.” She admonished. “You act like this is your first time.”
The two men left the kitchen to find the Hacker hanging upside down tangled in the ropes of Parker’s climbing rig.
“Dammit Hardison.” Eliot growled.
Tony raised his bottle in a toast. “Here’s to a technicolor life.”
“Amen.” Eliot raised his bottle.
~ Fini ~