Callen jumped violently, which was unfortunate because he had his head tilted back and a mouth full of Red Bull. When he’d finished coughing - and glared at Sam for the ‘helpful’ thumps on his back - he ignored Kensi’s barely smothered laughter and reached over the debris of Thai takeout to snag some napkins.
Hetty tutted not quite sympathetically as she lifted the case reports out the way of his mopping. “I’m sorry, Mr. Callen. I was hoping to have an update.”
Callen glanced at a remarkably unapologetic-looking Hetty, “You always sneak up behind me.”
“I wasn’t sneaking, I was approaching. And even if I were ‘sneaking’, I wouldn’t expect quite such a reac – ah, I see.”
Hetty picked up the can from the top of the small – okay, maybe not that small now Callen looked at it – pyramid of cans at his side. She pursed her lips and said levelly, “May I suggest, Mr. Callen, that you consider investigating the world of natural stimulants? While I applaud your support of the economy, I do feel the manufacturers will survive even without your sterling efforts to single-handedly keep them in business.”
Callen studied her for long enough to appear as if he was giving some serious thought to her recommendation and then said, “Or you could just sneak up behind Sam next time.”
Sam snorted. “Yeah, right. No offence, Hetty, but I can always smell you coming.”
(Callen’s not sure when he started awarding himself points for making Sam smile, but it’s something to do late nights and long stakeouts. A snort isn’t a laugh or a smile, so Callen can’t give points that.)
Hetty smiled benevolently and said, “No offense taken, Agent Hanna. It’s always gratifying when one’s attention to the art of per fumum is appreciated.” She brought her wrist to her nose and took a delicate sniff. “I have worn many remarkable fragrances, but I always return to Prada. Ah, memories.”
Kensi leaned forward with her chin propped on her hand. “Dashing men and wonderful parties?” She lowered her voice. “Was Frank Sinatra involved?”
“Not … that time.” Hetty’s eyes twinkled and then she drew herself up – back to business. “Deputy – I’m sorry, Senior Deputy White has requested another update.”
“Okay, seriously, every hour on the hour? Doesn’t Senior Deputy White have better things to do? Is Ventura that boring? Do they not have crime in Ventura?” Callen paused and then looked to his partner. “So, I’m thinking I’ll go live in Ventura.”
Sam rolled his eyes and pushed the last of his dinner away. “Please - you’d go crazy in under three minutes. And stop saying Ventura.”
(Sam’s eye rolls sometimes precede a smile or grin, but not always and really they happen too often for Callen to give himself points for. It seems like cheating.)
“I’ve been there, it’s nice. There’s a -” Kensi started, and then caught Hetty’s piercing expression of inquiry. “There’s nothing relevant in Ventura. At all.”
“You may not want to work in a Tourism Office. Ever. Because-” Callen shut his mouth at Sam’s glare.
”We done?” Sam asked mildly.
Callen nodded dutifully, if not contritely. It was way, way too late to fake contrite. “We’re done.”
”So we can work now?”
“We’ve been working for fourteen hours,” Callen pointed out with the most pathetic expression he could come up with.
(The left-hand corner of Sam’s mouth twitched, but by Callen’s scoring system that didn’t count either - it twitched when Sam was amused, or angry, or bored, or concentrating: too easy.)
Callen subsided into silence.
“Thank you, Sam.” Hetty smiled.
Sam nodded. “No problem. We’ve eliminated most of the theories we started with; none of them tie Lela Gillespie with Lucas Shaw.
“Gillespie was a Petty-officer – widow, no kids. Shaw was a househusband with two kids - his wife, Anne, worked at Affinity Bank until it was closed down. Gillespie was at the Navy recruitment office out on Rodeo, while according to Shaw’s wife – and from his cell and card records - Shaw hadn’t been outside Ventura in the last five years. Guess he should’ve made it six.”
Kensi took over smoothly, “Gillespie was thirty-seven, Shaw was forty-six. They’ve never lived in the same city or gone to the same school or college, or worked at the same places. They didn’t use the same bank, shop in the same stores, go to the same restaurants or jog in the same parks.
“They’ve got nothing in common except where they were found and the way they died.”
Hetty nodded, “And the lab has nothing for you?”
“With the storm, the crime scene was a mess. And since that thing with the Commander, they’re backed up all the way to next Christmas,” Sam answered, and then smiled slightly.
(Callen doesn’t award points for smiles he doesn’t cause, and definitely not for that one - it’s not real. It’s the one that comes out when the alternative is hitting something. Or someone.)
“Our next move is getting Kensi to go down there in that little black dress she wore last week, see if that would move us up the ladder a little,” Callen offered.
Kensi threw a plastic fork at his head; it missed by two inches, ricocheted off the wall and flew somewhere into the darkness of the dressing rooms.
Callen grinned. “And if that doesn’t work, we’ll send Sam to smile at them. He’s so cute, how could you say no to that face?”
Sam stared at him. “De-caff, man. It’s for your own good. Really.”
Hetty cleared her throat quietly and then said deliberately, “So am I to understand that, in your sterling work eliminating the irrelevant details, you’ve made several important steps forward in forming a solid theory of events?”
At their blank looks she took pity and prompted them with a slow nod. They nodded slowly back.
”Excellent.” She smiled brightly. “I’ll be sure to emphasize your tireless efforts in my next report.” She glanced at the clock on the wall to her right and sighed. “Which will be in about an hour, I suspect.”
When she’d gone beyond hearing range – they devoutly hoped – Callen said, “So, by tireless, she means …”
“No one’s going home tonight,” Kensi confirmed. Then, “Wait, do you even have a home? Has it been two weeks yet?” She looked at Sam.
Sam shook his head, “He lasted ten days.”
Callen shrugged philosophically. “Not enough walls.”
“It was a studio apartment, G.” Sam called back as he carried the sad remains of the takeout to the kitchenette.
(His eyebrow was raised but, seriously, who counts eyebrows?)
“Yeah, but then there was this thing with this guy and his home gym, and it got a little more open plan than intended.” Off their looks, Callen shook his head. “I don’t want to talk about it.”
He sat straighter and raised his voice with all the soulless enthusiasm of a motivational speaker. “Hey, let’s talk about Lela Gillespie and Lucas Shaw some more. Senior Deputy White will be calling in fifty-two minutes.”
Kensi rolled her eyes. “I guess it’s good to know people, and to get us jumping he must really know people.” She stared at the files for a long moment and then spoke quietly, without looking away. “They were frat brothers, right? Shaw and White?”
Callen dropped the caffeine freak act and snapped back into focus; he knew that look. “Yeah, something like that.”
“Where? And where did Gillespie go to College?”
Sam sat back down and pulled the files back towards him. “White and Shaw were UCLA, Gillespie – Herrera then – was at MIT.”
Callen stared at him. “And she ended up a Petty-officer working recruitment?”
Sam nodded absently. “She didn’t get enough credits to graduate. Her father was a Chief Warrant Officer; looks like he died a few months after she left college. Reading between the lines …”
“Right. Too far, go back to college,” Kensi directed. “Was she in a sorority?”
Sam flipped a few pages and shook his head. “If she was, it’s not in her records. Eric could maybe pull something up.”
“Never mind, what about her husband?”
Callen leafed through the files. “Patrick Gillespie. He was doing some serious post-grad work at MIT, but he left the same year she did. Looks like he followed her back to LA. He was killed in a – huh.”
Kensi finally tore her attention from the heap of files, “Huh?”
“Mugging. He was killed in a mugging. In LA. Ten years ago, age thirty-six – it’s a cold case.” He looked up. “Bets he was in a fraternity too?”
Sam pulled his cell from its holder. “We need Eric - he can get this stuff way quicker than we can.”
“It’s nearly midnight,” Kensi pointed out.
Sam’s finger paused over quick dial. “So?”
”So if he’s asleep, you get to go pick him up this time. You know what he’s like when he gets woken up.”
“He’s probably playing computer games,” said Sam, but warily. He did know what Eric was like when he was woken up. “Fine, I’ll go get him, but you make the call. I’m not dealing with repeating everything seven times and conversations about asparagus or whatever the hell.”
Kensi took the cell and stood to go find a comfier chair; this could take while.
“Think we should bring Dom in too? Nate, maybe?” Callen murmured.
Sam looked at him suspiciously. “Why?”
(If Callen gave himself points for every time he made Sam look suspicious, there’d be no point in playing.)
“Because they could provide invaluable insights into the investigation?” He suggested.
“Uh huh. And when it hits 3am, you want company.”
Callen grinned unrepentantly. “That too.”
Sam grunted. “Call Dom, it will be good experience for him. Leave Nate, unless you want to see what a behavioral analyst can do when you’re tired and he’s cranky.”
Callen thought this over for a few moments and then nodded. “That’s a really good point.”
“By the sudden hive of activity, do I assume there is movement on our case?”
Callen didn’t jump this time, but he did grit his teeth. When he was fairly confident he could present an appearance of professionalism – or a fairly close approximation - he turned to face Hetty. “Not just ours. Kensi came up with a possible connection; we think there may be a link to a case from six years ago. Patrick Gillespie was murdered in LA.”
“I see.” Hetty’s bright gaze was as sharp at midnight as it was at midday. It was a little unnerving, but Callen reminded himself he hadn’t actually done anything wrong. Finally she went on, “In the same area our bodies were found in?”
Sam shook his head. “No, we don’t get that lucky. But it might be something. It is something.”
“Then I will be pleased to report your progress to Senior Deputy White, and would suggest you all retire to your places of rest and return fresh in the morning.”
Callen coughed quietly, “We could, but Eric and Dom know where we sleep.”
Hetty looked askance at Sam. He supplied, “We called them in. We need Eric to access the old case files. And some other stuff.”
“Well, in that case, I will wish you good hunting, retire to my place of rest and return fresh in the morning.”
Hetty began to walk back towards her office and Callen called after her, “Enjoy your walls. You never know when you might lose them.”
She didn’t even turn around. “Yes, Mr. Callen. Perhaps your next apartment building should be one with stricter rules on the presence of home-made gyms.”
When she’d disappeared again, Callen looked back to Sam. “Does she have us watched?”
“Like they’d approve the budget for that.” Sam grinned. “For you, maybe.”