The day after Hobbs got back to the office, an FBI agent showed up. An older guy, nearing retirement; name of Bilkins, a face Hobbs recognized from his files.
Bilkins came off mild-mannered when he walked in, politely dismissing the agent who'd showed him to Hobbs' door, a cup of coffee in one hand. Hobbs knew better than to take him at face value, though. The people who passed through his doors-- or his custody-- were rarely actually defined by what they displayed for public view.
He straightened in his chair, feeling the pull along his ribs from the last of the bruises from the mess in Rio, and steepled his fingers on the desk. "Agent Bilkins," he said. "What can the DSS do for you?"
"I think you know why I'm here," Bilkins said, settling casually into the chair across from Hobbs.
Hobbs gave him an unimpressed look. "O'Conner," he said. Bilkins had run the former federal officer undercover twice, the first time back when the blond adrenaline junkie had been a cop in California, the second time the job in Miami that led to the first indiscretion with Toretto being swept under the rug. Bad judgment call, from Hobbs' point of view. But presumably Bilkins had had his reasons.
"Toretto," Bilkins agreed. "He got to you, too."
Hobbs narrowed his eyes at him. "They got away during the fight with Reyes," he said, firmly.
"Uh-huh," Bilkins nodded at him, the corner of his mouth turning up a little. "Funny how no one ever seems able to keep Toretto in custody."
Hobbs took a deep breath, and let it out. No sense working his temper up over this. His report had been a little thin on the details of what had happened between the murder of his team and the confrontation that had resulted in Reyes' death. He could hardly have confessed to being a party to a hundred million dollar heist and the fugitives' subsequent escape. When he'd made the offer of a twenty-four hour head start, he'd done so expecting that they'd be on limited funds, with the money safely in his custody-- and the mitigating knowledge that it had undoubtedly been Reyes' men, not Toretto and O'Conner, who'd killed the DEA agents whose deaths brought him to Rio in the first place.
He'd made the mistake of underestimating them, after all his lectures on just how dangerous they could be. But he had to admire their talent, their dedication-- and their sheer balls. And unless he missed his guess, Bilkins did, too.
"Funny," Hobbs agreed, a wry twist to his mouth, "isn't the word I'd choose. I'll track them down eventually; there's nowhere they can run that I won't find them."
"Good," Bilkins nodded, smile widening. "I was hoping you'd say that."
Hobbs blinked at the Fed, then drummed his fingers on the desktop for a moment. "Why exactly are you here?" he asked, taken aback by Bilkins' cheerful statement.
Bilkins didn't answer; instead, he leaned forward and slipped a file onto Hobbs' desk.
Hobbs flattened a palm over it, staring at Bilkins for a moment longer, then shook his head and flipped the folder open. There were two sheaves of paper inside, stapled separately and fronted with mugshots-- one for Carter Verone, the Customs problem O'Conner had wrapped in Miami, and another for Arturo Braga, the cross-border drug-runner whose takedown operation had killed Toretto's girlfriend and set O'Conner and the Torettos on the run in the first place.
"I recognize them," he said.
"I thought you might," Bilkins nodded. "What you might not know is that Braga's been in contact with Verone since he went into the system. We don't have any specifics, but the rumors aren't pretty, and we won't be able to keep Verone behind bars much longer."
Two drug lord scumbags, both jailed through O'Conner's efforts, joining forces: that didn't bode well, for either the former agent or the 'War on Drugs' in general. Still. "You think he'll have any more success tracking these guys down?"
"Maybe, maybe not," Bilkins shrugged. "But you might want to keep an eye on his movements, if you're serious about wanting to bring Toretto and O'Conner in alive."
Something about the way Bilkins referred to the fugitive pair niggled at the back of Hobbs' mind, and he frowned at him. "You talk about Toretto and O'Conner like they're joined at the hip. But they weren't travelling together between the border and Brazil. And they certainly weren't working together when you ran O'Conner in Miami. If Verone tracks O'Conner down he might get the sister, too, sure. But all indications are O'Conner and Toretto split again after Rio." So much for taking them as a team.
He'd seen the connection himself. The driving they'd done, dragging those vaults through the streets of Rio-- Hobbs had whistled in admiration when he'd watched the footage back later. Precision wasn't an accurate enough term. It was like they'd been reading each others' minds, pulling stunts they couldn't possibly have rehearsed ahead of time. But there was nothing in their files that explained why O'Conner had been so effortlessly accepted back into Toretto's group after five years and what must have seemed like some pretty significant betrayals. They had nothing in common on the surface except for a passion for cars-- and Mia Toretto.
Hobbs could still hear the ring of that wrench hitting the concrete by his ear, and the look on Toretto's face as his sister screamed his name-- that trapped expression when the penny dropped there was no way out for him or his team. Hobbs had genuinely feared for his life, something that almost never happened, especially in a physical confrontation. Toretto was a man who felt deeply, and didn't know how to back down. Obviously that appealed to O'Conner-- and Neves, and even, though he'd never admit it, Hobbs himself to a degree. But he wanted to hear what Bilkins thought would make Toretto risk himself for O'Conner.
Bilkins raised his eyebrows at him. "Toretto has been losing people he cares about to violence since he was a teenager. Parents. Friends. His woman. And O'Conner-- the shrinks will tell you he joined the force after juvie in search of a sense of belonging he never had growing up. My guess is, they recognized something in each other when they met. And now that word has it O'Conner's giving Toretto a niece or nephew...." He shrugged. "It would be smarter for them to travel separately, sure. But odds are you take on one, the other will be right behind him."
A kid would definitely complicate matters. A family... hell.
The job was still the job, and Hobbs was pretty sure Bilkins still hadn't got to the real point of the conversation. "At least it'll make it easier to bring them in," he replied, closing the folder.
"Maybe-- for you," Bilkins said, nodding.
"Why me?" Hobbs frowned at him, nonplused. "And don't say because they got to me."
"Because whatever happened down in Brazil-- they've seen you in action. Enough to respect you, maybe let their guard down more than they would with most cops. There are maybe five law enforcement professionals on the planet you can say that about, if you include myself and Sergeant Tanner in LA-- and neither of us are known to Toretto."
"Who are the other two?" Hobbs asked, digesting that.
Bilkins shrugged, laughing a little. "Neves. And the customs agent O'Conner and his friend Pearce worked with-- Monica Fuentes."
"Ah." Hobbs nodded. Elena Neves had stayed on duty in the favela after Reyes' death, continuing the work her husband had died for-- but she'd started disappearing for 'vacations', and Hobbs had a pretty good idea who she was spending them with. She'd be no help orchestrating an arrest. As for Fuentes-- well, she didn't know Toretto, either. And Hobbs wouldn't want to stake an operation on whether she was still soft on O'Conner.
"So... you came here to, what. Give me a little more background?" Hobbs asked, skeptically.
"To commiserate," Bilkins chuckled. "The aftermath of LA-- the first time-- wasn't pretty. And, well. They're criminals, unquestionably. But they're useful-- and I have a feeling it'll come in handy to have them in our pockets again someday. There aren't many with their skills, and the principles to use them without unduly endangering innocent bystanders. Whatever tools I can give you to help you bring them in with minimum loss of life, I felt duty bound to offer. You know they won't come easy."
Hobbs scrutinized the agent a moment longer, then sighed and nodded. "Nothing worthwhile ever does, though," he said, wryly.
"I'm glad we had this conversation," Bilkins replied, smiling. Then he stood, offering his hand.
Hobbs shook it, and stared after the FBI agent as he walked out the door. Then he turned to look up Monica Fuentes' contact information.
Couldn't hurt to see if she had more information to offer.