Agent Toretto stopped in the mirror on his way out of the ritzy mansion the LAPD/FBI joint operation had been set up in. His head sported a fresh shave, he had two days' worth of growth on his face, and for the first time in years he was wearing a plain white undershirt instead of the succession of worn Army t-shirts he threw on for the weekends, or when he was working overtime at home.
His face was unreadable, something of the blankness that had been so disconcerting to others when he was a teenager, never clear whether he had been hiding rage or intelligence behind the mask. Hell, when he'd been a dumbass kid he hadn't known either.
Dominic had believed, really and truly believed, that he'd left racing behind after his father died. Toretto Senior had been killed on the track, clipped at 120 miles per hour to spin out of control and be consumed by flames. The only thing that kept Dominic from going and beating the shit out of the guy that caused it was his sister, the only family he had left, desperately clinging to him with tears in her eyes; and the Army recruiting station he'd walked past a thousand times before without ever seeing it.
The Army had been a way to take care of Mia; it had been a way to get out of Los Angeles, to start a new life. Eight years in the service netted him a decent separation package, Mia all the way through school, and a decent enough application for the Federal Bureau of Investigation to accept him as an agent. He'd thought he'd be riding a desk, chasing paper around, but on his first assignment he'd managed to outrun the senior agent he was assigned to and take out the fence he'd been suspicious enough about to request a quick visit. When the fence was spooked, he ran, but his ass was thrown in jail after Dominic tackled him to the ground to his partner's panting breaths and sardonic slow clap.
Once he was booked, the fence began to talk like he was born to be a pigeon, and suddenly the simple television and VCR bust turned into a huge, joint operation with the local LEOs to try and rustle out the punks that were bringing down semis in the greater LA area for all the insured goodies inside.
Agent Bilkins, Dominic's superior and a very, very good mentor to have in the LA field office, had a photographic memory for Dominic's record--or so it seemed, because as soon as "Honda street cars" came into the conversation his gaze sharpened and landed on Dominic.
"Toretto," he said, the room going quiet as his voice rang out through the conference room, "you used to race, right? When you were a punk kid?"
Dominic had sucked in a breath and schooled his features. If he said no, Bilkins would know he was lying and it would come to bite him in the ass later. If he said yes, he'd probably have to do something he didn't want to do. Three months on the job and the possibility of taking point, maybe an undercover assignment, was not only rare, it was unheard of. He paused for a split second and said, "Quarter-miles, sir. I used to run the flat-out stretch with my punk kid friends down in La Brea."
Bilkins' smile was not reassuring, but he did look pleased.
And that was how Dominic found himself about to walk out and pick up a car, drive it down to East LA to find the race that was almost certainly going down tonight. He was going to run a hot car picked up in Arizona by the Bureau in a bust, modified by Dominic himself, and see if he could win himself some respect--or at least some notice.
He'd told Mia that he wouldn't be around for awhile, and she was busy enough with her medical internship that she didn't protest too badly; but then again, he didn't tell her just how dangerous this undercover assignment was going to be.
Dominic didn't actually know how dangerous the assignment would be. But he was going to find the team that was pulling down those trucks. It was either Hector Guiterrez, Johnny Tran, Edwin McFarland, or Brian O'Conner. They were the only ones with the probable bankroll, the resources, and the fucking stones to pull it off.
He had his guesses. He didn't think it was McFarland--he was too much show and not enough substance to think through the kind of precise assault the heist required. Guiterrez was a maybe; it depended mostly on the read Dominic would get off of him when they met. Tran was bad fucking news, that much was obvious to everyone on the joint task force assigned to the operation. His father was deep into the drug industry out of Southeast Asia, not to mention human trafficking and import/export fraud--not that the LAPD or the FBI had been able to pin anything on Tran despite a decade or more of trying. His son was a hot-head, who definitely had the attitude to pull it off, but despite the theatrics from the reports of the truck drivers who'd been attacked, it felt a little too controlled for the temperamental Johnny Tran.
That left O'Conner. Dominic had stared at the handful of photos Surveillance had managed to take of O'Conner--in the telephoto lens, he looked more like a bumming surfer dude than the mechanic behind one of the better mod shops on the West Coast. But the looks were deceiving, because the Chucks and the cheap t-shirts and dime store sunglasses were definitely a front for intelligence. There was something in Brian's eyes that Dominic couldn't quite place, after hours of reviewing files on the man, something that seemed oddly familiar.
O'Conner. Not Brian. Dominic really had been staring that those files too long.
Blowing out a breath, he grabbed his leather motocross jacket from its place on the back of a chair, took one last look in the mirror, and grabbed the keys to the NOS-fueled matchbox outside. He opened the door, and Bilkins called his name just as he was about to leave.
Dominic turned back, and Bilkins was giving him that smirk he reserved only for the people who were on his agents-of-interest list. "Don't fuck it up," Bilkins said frankly.
Dominic narrowed his eyes. "Just watch me for those ten seconds, sir. You'll know everything you need to know," he said, and let the door fall shut behind him.