DISCLAIMER: Not mine. Just playing with them and promise not to break anything.
I. “That is a good question for you to ask, not a wise question for me to answer.” - Anthony Eden
Deeks opened the door to his apartment with his weapon in his right hand, his phone cradled to his ear. Kensi held up a 6-pack of Abita Golden and a takeout bag from Brooklyn Johnny’s. Deeks looked around outside before pulling Kensi into his apartment. He returned to his phone conversation, "You're sure you don't need me to come in?"
Deeks watched Kensi walked into his living room. He saw her turn her fine investigative eye to his place. She tried to invite herself over after he was shot, after Stan King bruised her jaw and sprained his hand, after they dropped Eric home when he survived almost being frelted but he always managed to keep her out. It was the last bit of his life that didn’t include her - his last hiding place.
He knew the living room looked like a furniture ad. There was a large, white sectional couch with two arc floor lamps behind it. A big flat-screen TV sat on a white media cabinet that housed his fairly impressive sound system, the electronics courtesy of the monthly LAPD auction. By the front window sat a desk with both a desktop computer and his LAPD laptop. Monty’s empty dog bed was near the desk.
The place did not have one photo, one magazine, one knickknack. There was a breakfast bar by a kitchen that had all stainless steel appliances. It was sleek, it was modern and it really wasn't him. That was the idea. If someone followed him home, well, it wasn’t much of a home.
She put the beer and the food on the breakfast bar and turned back to him. He needed to get off the call. "Alright, just call me when it all goes down. Bridges not answering his phone would worry me more if he didn’t have a history of losing the damn thing once a month.” Deeks holstered his gun then ran his hand through his hair. “I know you guys were wrapping this up but today didn't help." Deeks smiled as he finished up his call, "Yeah, I'll stop by. See you there."
"Do you need to leave?" she asked. “Do I need to leave?”
"No, this was LAPD business. Long undercover for some folks I know is coming to a slightly abrupt end tonight."
"If you want to go..." Kensi picked up the beer.
"No, they don't need me there and it is probably better for everyone if I'm not there." Deeks pushed his cell phone into his pocket. "And why are you here?"
"Rough day, I'd figured we'd have a beer, you told me you liked this Brooklyn place.
"Yes I did.” He walked into the kitchen and grabbed a couple of plates. He watched Kensi open her beer and look around to figure out where to put the cap.
“Vet’s office. He’s been limping around the last day or two. I had three messages from the vet when I got home but the office is closed.” He put the plates and on the breakfast bar and started unpacking the food. "What don't you like about the apartment?" He figured the meatball hero was hers and the chicken parm was for him.
"Like it all. Very clean look."
"Says the woman who is going to be on “Hoarders” one day."
"No, it is ...."
"Sterile? I had someone call it sterile once. Stark too."
"If you're comfortable...."
"It was the model apartment for the complex. The woman who owns the place is married to one of my old training officers. I was looking for an apartment, his wife always liked putting cops in her rentals. Worked out for everyone."
She joined him, eyeing her hero. “Those look good.”
“Worst thing about being shot. Can’t get dinner from Johnny’s once a week anymore.” He thought about it for a minute. “Well, second worse. Getting shot was actually the worst part of getting shot.”
Kensi took a big bite out of her dinner. “Oh God, this is amazing.”
“Told you, second worse.” Deeks smiled and tore into his meal. An apple he had at the courthouse was the last thing he remembered eating. The two ate in comfortable silence with Deeks grabbing a beer of his own. With one bite left, Deeks turned his attention back to his partner. “While I am happy with the free food and beer, not having to reset the Sam Hanna don’t eat at the same place twice a month clock and of course, the company, why are you here Kensi?”
Kensi seemed startled by the question. “I thought you might want to talk.”
“Yeah, you know, about today...”
“This from a woman whose could get ‘Shut up, Deeks’ to trend on Twitter.”
“No it’s just....”
Deeks’s cell phone rang. He fished it out of his pocket. “Hold that thought,” he told Kensi. He walked away from her as he answered the phone.
Kensi finished her meal while watching Deeks pace by his desk.
“So Bridges was with Anderson when the bust happened. Perfect.” Deeks exhaled in relief. “I’ll be there. I’ll even bring the doughnuts. See you tomorrow.”
He felt like a weight was lifted. Normally, he’d be thrilled to share dinner with Kensi, even if she finally saw his model apartment lifestyle. The end of the long undercovers and Teddy Bridges not answering his phone made him poor company. Plus, he knew she was up to something. Kensi had many wonderful qualities, a light touch where her friends were concerned wasn’t one of them.
Kensi finally got him out of his own head. “Can I ask?”
“Max Gentry got a number of friends,” Deeks emphasized the last word with air quotes, “into some different enterprises over the years. The plan was to have Ray go into WITSEC and spend the next few days bringing everyone in.”
“How many friends?” Kensi smiled as she mimicked Deeks’s air quotes.
“Four. One with a fence, one stealing cars for a chop shop, one second-story man - Max’s old area of expertise - and one crooked accountant.”
“Nice night for the LAPD.” Kensi handed Deeks a celebratory bottle of beer.
“Four years work for two of those guys. Good night for everybody but the bad guys.” Deeks put his beer down on the table and finished Kensi’s clean-up. “So, why do you think I want to talk?”
“You always want to talk, Deeks. You never shut up.”
“I disagree with ‘never’ but since you’re the one usually insisting on me not talking, why are you really here Kensi?” Deeks took dishes, empty beer bottles and what was left of the take-out wrapping into the kitchen waiting for an answer.
In silence, Deeks rinsed the dishes before loading them in the dishwasher, put the beer bottles in his recycling bin and even tied up the trash to take it out in the morning. When he returned to his living room, Kensi was sitting on the end of his couch looking at her boots.
“Kensi, you’re still here?” Deeks feigned being startled. “With the long silence and non-response, I figured you just dined and dashed.” Deeks looked at her curled up on the right side of the sectional, her boots off and on the floor. In typical Kensi fashion, one was tipped over, the other facing in the wrong direction. Yes, he thought, she’s now got a foothold in every part of his life.
“You don’t want to talk?”
“No. Do you want me to talk?” Deeks watched Kensi react in surprise to that question. Her return to silence bothered him. “Kensi?” Deeks wasn’t teasing any more.
She looked at him. “I know you, I think.”
“You know me, Kensi.”
“Do I? I know you had some rough ops with the LAPD but I guess you surprised me today.”
Deeks plopped down on the chaise side of the sectional. “Remember your question outside the bar this morning about Max being a beer guy or a wine guy?”
“My guys weren’t beer guys or wine guys. They were wannabes, assholes and-or dirt bags. Max managed to be all three.”
“And a second-story man.”
“And a second-story man. A highly under-appreciated skill.” Deeks stood and moved to his desk. Pulling out a yellow legal pad from a drawer, he fished around for a pen. He dropped his phone on the recharging mat next to his laptop. “Notice how easily I slipped into the handcuffs? Not the first time for Max.” Returning to her, he handed Kensi the pad and pen before plopping on the chaise side of the couch. “You want me to talk, write.”
Kensi lifted an eyebrow.
“I, Kensi Marie Blye, NCIS Special Agent 17239....”
Kensi smiled. “You know my badge number off the top of your head?”
“I have to identify you in every report I write for the LAPD so yes, I know your badge number off the top of my head.” He pointed to the pad before continuing, “I, Kensi Marie Blye, NCIS Special Agent 17239 will answer, now leave a blank space, questions asked by Marty Deeks, LAPD 4417 at a day and time of his choosing.”
“But what if I don’t want to answer your questions?”
“So I have to tell you everything about me but you get to keep your secrets.” Deeks figured he put just enough challenge in that reply to get Kensi’s competitive juices going.
“I get follow-up questions.”
“On a case by case basis. Sign.” After Kensi signed, Deeks motioned for the pad and pen. He smiled when he saw she signed with her badge number next to her name. He did the same. “We’ll initial where the actual question number is added.”
“You really did go to law school, didn’t you?”
Deeks smiled and just as he went to open his mouth Kensi yelled “No! Rhetorical question, doesn’t count.”
“OK, the meter is running - go.” Deeks put mark for the first question on their contract.
Kensi thought for a few seconds. “Why did you go to law school?”
Deeks was not expecting that as an opening question. “I took the police entrance exam when I was still in college. The classes at the Academy were being deferred due to budget cuts. I had to do something, didn’t see the use of an MBA, didn’t know what else to do so law school made sense.”
“Why didn’t you stay with the law? You like to talk.”
Deeks smiled, marking another question asked. “I interned in the DA’s office between first and second year of law school. Had no interest in that. I was starting my third year when my LAPD class got called. Since they were catching up, I was allowed to move back a class and finish school. Timing worked out fine.”
“Follow-up. Why no interest in the DA’s office?”
“Fair follow-up. Too many deals. Can’t really see giving a guy dealing to teenagers in South Central a break just because he can give you his distributor. The people in that neighborhood in deserve justice.”
Kensi nodded. “Ray’s file said you were Max Gentry for over a year.”
“562 days. Just short of 19 months.”
“Were you Max every day?”
“I was. 562 days of fights, loan sharkings, numbers running, drug deals, weapon trafficking, a little grand theft and some second-story work. It was great.” There was a hint of disgust in his voice. Deeks stood, “You want another beer? I want another beer.”
“Can I ask you a question? Give you a freebie on one of yours.”
Deeks wandered back into the living room with his beer. “What was your longest cover?”
“You know I haven’t had...”
“I know, you haven’t had a long cover like Max but what’s your longest? Like a month?”
Kensi looked down.
“So for eleven days you were...”
“And what did Kensi Benson do?”
“Tutor for Vice Admiral Michael Dial’s 14-year old daughter. There was a credible threat against Dial and his family in Alexandria. He wouldn’t take protection for himself but when he was mailed photographs of his daughter, I moved in with the family as a Georgetown grad student. Sharon Dial was a bit of an underachiever at National Cathedral School. It worked.”
“For eleven days.”
“It was just before I was assigned to Special Projects. After the threat was neutralized, Hetty and Lara Macy, an old boss, met with me the Navy Yard and I moved here. Kensi Benson got a note from Sharon when she got into Georgetown. Threat against her father sort of scared her straight.”
“I’m glad for your, and Sharon’s, happy ending.” Deeks saluted her with his beer. “Your free question is?”
“What really happened with Nicole?”
Deeks scrubbed his face and sighed. “Ray was never really good with money. If he had any, there’d be a party. Big party. Lots of liquor, some drugs, loud music, girls. One night, Nicole showed up with another girl who we kind of ran with. She saw Ray and figured he was some big shot.”
“Not a CI on the LAPD payroll.”
“Ray spent whatever money we made as part of the Max and Ray show. My cut kept me in a lousy apartment, kept gas in my car and gave the LAPD a road map to the financials of a number of less than upstanding businessmen.” Deeks started picking at the label on his beer. “Ray was interested in Nicole but his interest went way up when he learned her father was Paul Anderson.”
Kensi shook her head, “Paul Anderson?”
“We need to get you up to speed with your L.A. crime players. Paul Anderson owns a couple of pawn shops in the Valley. He also is probably the best fence in the state of California.” Deeks to a long pull on his beer. “Nicole grew up knowing that daddy wasn’t a saint but he provided a good life. Her dad set up her up with a legit business - she’s a florist. Pretty good one too. Nicole didn’t want to be a florist; she wanted to be her mom. Francine Anderson held the purse strings. Paul knew the business, Francine was the money man.”
“And she thought she could do that with Ray.”
“Until she figured out that Ray did not always make the best business decisions. Max usually made the right ones, so she started hanging around more with him.”
“Max. I was busy getting Terry Harrison, also known as Detective Ted Bridges, in with Nicole’s dad. The gun deals were easy at this point of the operation so Ruben, my handler, wanted to expand things. I got Nicole to trust me, she got her dad to trust me, I got Teddy in with the best fence in L.A.”
“How’d she wind up marrying Ray?”
“The deal that would lead him into getting involved with Nelson Saunders paid really well. Really well.” Deeks answered, marking another question on his sheet. “Ray booked the three of us a weekend in Vegas. Big payday, big fun. I didn’t want to go. It was about the one year anniversary of being Max and I just wanted to be away from them all. I faked a business deal in San Miguel and surfed for the weekend. Ray and Nicole came back from Vegas as husband and wife.”
“Nothing Ray does ever surprises me.” Deeks shook his head as he made another check mark, “Nicole’s friends were getting married. After that deal, Ray looked like he had a good thing going. The fact that LAPD was running things never came up. She wanted something and since Max didn’t really exist...”
“You cared about her.”
“Not a question.” Deeks look at Kensi but Kensi did not back down. “She was...” Deeks ran his hand through his hair and restarted. “The people who Max hung around with, the women, weren’t,” Deeks struggled for a word, “substantial, I guess. You couldn’t talk to them about the news, what was going on, a good movie or a book unless that book included sparkly vampires.”
“Nicole was different.”
“Nicole went to college. She read interesting books. She watched good movies and television programs. She was someone who could hold up her end of the conversation. The assortment of Tiffani’s and Cyndi’s, both ending in an ‘i’, that Max and Ray attracted were just boring. After months of months of “Real Housewives” updates and what the Kardasians were doing, Nicole was someone to talk to.”
“My name ends with an ‘i’.”
“Yes it does but I doubt you ever bought beer at the supermarket with a prepaid credit card and put a little heart on top of the ‘i’ when you signed your name on the slip.”
Kensi smiled and nodded. “No, I never did. What did you do after Max?”
Deeks made another mark on his sheet. “Forty one days at a cab company. There was a dispatcher and a driver who were using one of the cabs for pick-up and delivery of coke, crack and meth. Nobody notices a cab moving around. Ingenious in its own way.”
“Was Max your worst?”
“No.” Deeks made a mark.
Kensi waited for him to continue but he stayed silent. “Just ‘no’ Deeks?”
“No, Max was not my worst undercover. I let you slide on the non-question about Nicole.” Deeks tried to smile didn’t quite get there. “You asked if Max was the worst, he wasn’t.”
“Who was?” Kensi asked and then quickly added “And what was the case? No, make it what was your worst case, I don’t need the undercover name.”
Deeks marked the sheet again. “83 days as Eugene Hall. Computer programmer by training, pedophile by choice.”
“It was supposed to be a six month investigation. After a week, I told Ruben and my boss, Roger Bates, that I wanted out. One meeting with those walking horror shows I was investigating and I wanted to take a day-long shower.”
“Why were you there?”
“Someone at sex crimes heard that there was an insider with corrections that was involved with a group of pedophiles.”
“You wanted out after a week, how did you make 83 days?”
“Ruben is an excellent handler. Bates knows what buttons to push. A decent amount of tequila and surfing most days. I almost bugged out on day 59. It was Thanksgiving and I spent the night with three guys in a dive bar who were recalling their favorite pre-teen conquest.”
“I hate Thanksgiving. On day 73, I found out why they recruited Eugene Hall.”
“The person in the corrections system met with me. It was a part-time social worker who worked or who was supposed to be working with the incarcerated pedophiles on more positive behavior.”
“Yeah, what he was doing was getting a list of their victims, offering his family counseling services to the victims and their families. He would molest the pre-teen female victims - that’s where his interests were - and would share intel on other victims with his friends.”
“Oh my God.”
“He wanted Eugene to put together a website where all this information would be shared. One stop shopping for kid touchers. Pull down menus, case histories about the past abuse, photos, the works. Thought he could make some money and travel to places like Thailand with the profits”
“Oh, Deeks.” Kensi’s eyes were wide looking at him.
“I left the meeting and went to the apartment where Eugene lived. When I got there, I threw up, jumped out the back window and walked to the precinct. Took over an hour and I needed every minute of it to calm down. Called Ruben and Bates in when I got there and told them if this wasn’t wrapped up in a week, I would wrap it up as my last act for the LAPD and probably as a free man.”
“What was their reaction?”
“I was wearing a wire so I had the website plan all on tape. Ruben was willing to be Thelma to my Louise if the arrests didn’t start. Bates had all hands on deck the next morning. It was wrapped up in ten days.”
“Worst. Case. Ever.” Deeks leaned back and an involuntary shiver ran through his body.
“They’re all doing a lot of time. That’s the only good thing about the case.”
“What was your best case?”
“I don’t know if I had a best.” Deeks made another check mark on the paper. “I ran a bar for about nine months. Ended badly but it was fun while it lasted. Club King Wannabe Tim was fun. I caught a terrorist once who with his physicist girlfriend wanted to arm a nuke to crash the stock market.”
Kensi smiled, “I think I heard about that case.”
“Yeah, it was excellent. There was this law enforcement sniper who just dropped the lookouts like bad habits and then took out the getaway driver. Two other team members found the nuke, some computer dude took down the internet to keep the whole loose nuke story quiet and little old me handcuffing the mastermind. That was cool.”
“Sounds like fun.”
“Any more questions? I have some question counting and initialing to do.”
“Open forum? Not just what happened today?
“Why not?” Deeks shrugged. “I do intend to use this.” He picked up the legal pad and waved it at her.
Kensi wasn’t smiling. “Who is Gordon John Brandel?”
Deeks let out a deep breath. “I’ve been waiting for you to ask about old Gordo since February.”
II. "There's sometimes a weird benefit to having an alcoholic, violent father. He really motivated me in that I never wanted to be anything like him." - Dean Koontz
"Any more questions? I have some question counting and initialing to do."
"Open forum? Not just what happened today?
"Why not?" Deeks shrugged. "I do intend to use this." He picked up the legal pad and waved it at her.
Kensi wasn't smiling. "Who is Gordon John Brandel?"
Deeks let out a deep breath. "I've been waiting for you to ask about old Gordo since February."
"You don't have to answer."
Deeks made another check on the legal pad. "Oh, but I do. Gordon Brandel was a pretty good electrician. He was an excellent alcoholic. Really outstanding in that area. He was a lousy gambler. He did six years on an assault charge in the early 1990's. Died in a car wreck in '98. Didn't know that until after Vakar was dead, you were safely home and I was successfully re-stitched up. Hetty told me."
Kensi waited for more but again got nothing. "That's it, counselor?"
"You asked me who Gordon John Brandel was, I told you."
Frowning, Kensi asked "Who was Gordon John Brandel to you?"
Deeks looked down, took a deep breath and then lifted his head. "My father."
Kensi's jaw dropped. "Oh my God, Deeks, I'm sorry."
"I'm, it's just, oh God." Kensi's hand moved to cover her open mouth.
Deeks did not like her reaction. "Kensi?"
"Your Thanksgiving story, when we were in the desert looking for the missing Marines..."
"Yeah, I figured I'd stop any talk of my family by revising the history of my last Thanksgiving with Pops."
"I am so sorry."
"No, Deeks, I'm so sorry. I go on and on about my Dad."
"And I want you to. I like your stories about your Dad." Deeks voice dropped. "I like hearing about the good times you had with your Dad. You having happy memories of him, that's great."
"I won't ask..."
Deeks put the legal pad and the pen on his coffee table. "Free questions on old Gordo. Ask now Kensi, I don't ever plan on talking about him again. With Ray gone and me out of Reseda, there isn't a person I deal with right now that knew him." He leaned forward and told her in a rare, serious tone. "Speak now or forever hold your peace."
He watched her try to put her thoughts to words. She couldn't, something he thought was rare - Kensi Blye trying and not succeeding. He decided to save her. "The day before that last Thanksgiving, he had a half day at work. He and a few of his buddies went out for a beer or six. From there, he moved to his usual bar. He got home long after I was in bed. That was not uncommon."
"Deeks, you don't..."
"Just once Kensi, so you know. When I got up the next morning, my Mom warned me he was in a mood and I should be on my best behavior. He was still drunk when he woke up, had a beer for breakfast. Hair of the dog that bit ya.'" Deeks's tone was disgusted.
"Don't apologize. Anyway, he had Redskins and the over in the Cowboys-Redskins game. Cowboys won, he should have taken the under. I knew right there and then that meant no gifts for Christmas." Deeks shook his head. "Game was over around four and Mom started talking about dinner. He backhanded her and told her he wasn't hungry. I knew enough to hide in my room."
Kensi just stared at him.
"Around six, she called me for dinner. He was a lot drunker. She was quiet. She was always quiet when he was in a mood. It stayed quiet until he decided that the turkey was dry, the rolls were burned, the stuffing tasted wrong and she was, well, he said some awful things."
"She just kept eating, he just kept raging."
"What about you?"
"I made the mistake of speaking up a few weeks earlier..."
"He accused her of doing something, I don't even remember what, and when I tried to defend her, I was reminded of my place in the family."
"Punching bag number two."
"Anyway, she finished her meal, I did the same - no reason to get yelled at for not eating the food he worked so hard to put on the table," Deeks's voice was a mix of disdain and anger. "When Mom started clearing the table, he lost it. Mom told me to go to my room and I did. I listened to them argue for a long time. Then I heard her yell at him to put down the shotgun."
"Oh God." Kensi put her hand up, "Deeks, you don't..."
He continued. "Ray's uncle Mike took Ray and me to a Dodgers game that summer. When the Stan Javier singled in two runs, I jumped up and Mike saw some bruises on my side. In the car ride home, Mike asked who was beating me. Ray answered."
"Ray's uncle didn't go to the cops?"
"No, Uncle Mike is Mike Martindale."
Deeks shook his head. "Know your LA crime players 2.0, Kensi. Mike Martindale was the go-to guy in Los Angeles for guns. Actors, rock stars, rappers all bought from Mike. Same with grocery store owners in bad neighborhoods, girls afraid of psycho boyfriends, battered wives - Mike could get you a gun. Had a sliding price scale. Twenty-year old college coeds with stalker boyfriends got a much better deal than some wannabe rapper looking for some street cred."
"He got you a gun."
"Ray gave it to me but it was from Uncle Mike. Uncle Mike took me every afternoon one week in August to a shooting range and taught me how to shoot. Took me once a week after that. Told me the gun was only if I thought the old man was going to kill me or kill my Mom. Told me that if he saw me walking around with the gun or doing anything with the gun other than defending myself and my Mom, he'd make damn sure the beatings the old man gave me would be a light punishment."
"So you took out the gun that Thanksgiving..."
"Yep. Walked into the dining room and saw him aiming the shotgun at her. She was a mess. All bruised and battered. I pointed the .38 at him and told him to put it down. He swung around, laughed at me, called me an ungrateful little shit and took a step in my direction."
"And you fired."
"And I fired. He went down, my Mom screamed. I walked over, picked up the shotgun, moved to the living room and called 911. She tried to treat him. I remembered her begging him to hold on, the ambulance was coming, that he was going to be OK. Her right eye was nearly closed, she had bruises on her arms and legs and she was begging him not to leave her." Deeks shook his head at the memory.
"What happened when the police arrived?"
"Well, the neighbors called the cops too when they heard the gunshot. They figured he finally killed her." Deeks sighed. "The cops showed up. I was sitting the in the living room with both guns, my Mom and Dad were in the dining room. They went to the hospital, I went to the police station."
"How long were you there?"
"I spent the weekend in juvie. Holiday weekend, nobody really knew what to do with an eleven-year old shooter whose parents are in the hospital, one because of the eleven-year old."
"They sent you to jail?"
Deeks saw Kensi's outrage and decided to defuse it. "Juvie, sleep away camp for bad kids. I was in with eleven to fourteen year olds. I shot someone. I was left alone."
"Oh Deeks, I'm so sorry."
"Tell me you got out after the weekend?"
"There was an emergency hearing the following Monday and I was put into foster care. Frank West was a history teacher at the local high school who coached swimming at my school. He and his wife took in foster kids. I was with them for four months."
"It took a while for Mom to get custody of me. Time away from him, away from me, sort of straighten out her priorities. That was a worry for my Dad's defense attorney. He wanted to make sure she wouldn't be an undue influence on me."
"She rented out the house. We moved into an apartment."
"Did they ever find out Ray's uncle gave you the gun?"
Deeks smiled for what seemed like the first time in a while. "No. That was the only good part of this whole story. The cops asked me where I got the .38 and I told them from the closet. They just assumed it was old Gordo's gun from his closet. He had other guns in the house. Nobody ever asked again."
"When was the trial?"
"Just after I finished school for the year. It was a four day trial. I was on the stand for an afternoon after my Mom testified. Prosecution just let me tell my side, defense tried to see if I was doing this on orders from my Mom." He shook his head. "He testified on his own behalf, explaining how he was just trying to take the gun away from me. Prosecution just took him apart. The defense attorney tried to make it that he paid for years of beating my Mom and me with the bullet wound and he was a changed man. When the jury found him guilty he was taken from the court calling my Mom a whore and telling me how much he hated me."
"Oh, Deeks, I'm so..."
"Don't apologize. Long time ago."
"What did you and your Mom do?"
"She went to work for the family court lawyer who got me out of foster care. Jim Miller at the time worked for O'Neill, Rose, big law firm. She started as a temp and when his secretary went on maternity leave and never returned, she became his secretary. Judge Miller loved her like a daughter."
"Yeah, my sophomore year of high school, Judge Miller got appointed to the Family Court bench. Took my Mom with him. She got a good salary, good state pension and benefits, job security as his secretary. It was good."
"Does she still work for him?"
"She died in 1998, too."
"She was walking to her car in the courthouse parking lot the Wednesday after Thanksgiving and collapsed. The autopsy said she had a brain aneurysm. She was dead before she hit the ground. I really do hate Thanksgiving."
"How old were you?"
"A couple weeks before my nineteenth birthday."
"You've been on your own since you were nineteen?"
"Physically, yeah. Mom and I were more like roommates than mother and son. The only family thing I can really remember doing with her is going to my high school graduation. She worked all the time. I had a couple of jobs, ran around with Ray and some of our friends, surfed. We lived in the same apartment, we weren't much of a family."
"Surely, she didn't blame you for shooting your Dad?"
"Oh no, she'd tell anyone who knew the story that I saved her life. I'd tell them I saved my own life because if he killed her, I was next. But no, she didn't blame me. She just didn't know what to do with me. Not a lot of parenting books explain what to do with your pre-teen son who shot your husband in self defense. I also went off the reservation for a few months just before I was sixteen."
"Off the reservation?"
"So-so grades after getting good ones for a long time. A lot of pot, a lot of acting up with Ray. Stole a car one night."
"You stole a car?"
"An idiot left the keys in a Camero as he ran into a liquor store. You know the old saying about a fool and his money soon being parted?" Deeks saw Kensi nod. "Well, an idiot and his Camero were lucky to be together in the first place."
"We got caught. Again, Ray was no criminal mastermind and really bad driving a stick. We got caught. Judge Miller called in a favor or two and got me out as an underage kid running with the wrong crowd. Ray had to wait for his old man. As I'm being walked through the precinct I can hear my Mom crying in the waiting area and Judge Miller trying to comfort her. She said it was all her fault, making me the man of the family at eleven, not protecting me."
"What happened after that?"
"Judge Miller showed up at the apartment the next day. I had half days on Fridays that semester because the school had some asbestos abatement program going on. Mom was at work, he took his lunch hour to see me. It was a 'shape up kid' talk. He got me out of Reseda High and into this fancy Catholic high school he went to. I was a hardship kid. Way too much homework and after school responsibilities to get into trouble." Deeks sighed deeply. "Judge Miller didn't have to have this conversation with me. The last time I heard her cry like she did in that precinct was when the old man was beating the shit out of her. I wasn't going to make her cry like that ever again."
"After your Mom died, what did you do?"
"Judge Miller got me a good lawyer who took care of my Mom's money and insurance policies. The Judge helped me arrange the funeral. He paid for it. Said that she took good care of him while they worked together, it was the least he could do for her."
"Did you think he loved her?"
"You obviously don't know Judge Miller."
"Gay man about twenty-five years older than my Mom. I wasn't kidding when I said she was the daughter he never had. She made him go to the doctors, she made him eat better. Looking back, maybe she took care of him because she never thought she took care of me."
"It's OK. I moved into a smaller apartment but had enough money to finish college and pay for two years of law school. Student loans took care of my final year. Judge Miller showed up for my graduation. Said my Mom would be so proud. That was the thing I learned about her at the funeral. Her friends talked about how proud she was of me doing well at college, walking away from a bad spell as a kid."
"You've become a hell of a man Marty Deeks."
"Wasn't hard to outdo where I came from." Deeks looked at Kensi and offered a bit more, "Right before I got back to work after being shot, that weekend before I requalified, I flew up to Redding."
"He lived there before he died. Hetty gave me a dossier on Brandel's post-prison life."
"Stopped drinking, stopped gambling. Found God in prison and seemed to be legit about it. Worked regularly for a construction company. Married a woman who was a high school teacher."
"Did you find her?"
"Marty Deeks, no. Jason Wyler did. I introduced myself as Wyler. Told her I knew Brandel's son."
"Why as Wyler?"
"I wasn't quite sure if I was up to having a family moment with the woman who was my step-mother."
"Why would she talk to you?"
"I explained Wyler was a writer, which he was on the Zuna case. Told her Marty was injured and started wondering about his family. She wound up being a good woman."
"What did she tell you about him?"
"He was a changed man after prison. He turned his life to God. He was a good provider, active in their church, mentored the young men in the community using his failures to show there were bad choices and there was a way to start over. She said he was sorry for what he did when he was drinking, beating his family and whoring around. The whoring around was news to me but at eleven, I probably missed things."
"Did she mention what he thought of you?"
"She said he was sorry that a ten-year old kid - nice of him to remember me, huh - was forced to be in that situation. He knew that he'd never finish his twelve-step program because he could never make amends for what he did to me and to my Mom. He didn't think he deserved our forgiveness." Deeks took a deep breath. "And he didn't. A couple of weeks ago when we went out with Rose after she lost her assistant."
"Yeah, Edgar. Anyway, I asked her a hypothetical question about beatings and brain aneurysms and she said that there are a lot of reasons why women have them. Women have them more than men. Rose told me that head injuries over time could weaken the artery walls. Maybe he did kill her."
Kensi asked, "Did you find out anything else about him?"
"Almost stepmom gave me the name of their minister and a local kid he helped after he got himself into trouble. I wasn't really interested in that. Just disgusted that he finally figured out how to be a good man while I was working two jobs with a full course load, my Mom was working hard all week and then typing papers on weekends for law students for extra money. Went back to my hotel, ordered some Thai food to be delivered and watched HBO. Great weekend away. Was thrilled to go back to LAPD to be drug tested, requalify with my gun and get lectured by my boss about what to do when you walk in on a robbery." Deeks sighed. "Let's not talk about old Gordo ever again."
Kensi took a long pull on her beer. "Why did you keep saying 'don't apologize' before?"
"Every time I told you how sorry I was about what you went through..."
"Not interested in pity Kensi. Yours or anybody else's."
"I don't mean it as pity. I am sorry," she held her finger up to keep him from interrupting, "that you had it so rough. You're a good man Marty Deeks. You deserved better."
"This afternoon you sort of implied that I thought it was easier to be Max than to be me."
"I was just trying to understand what you were doing."
"I was trying to find Ray."
"I understand that now."
"Do you? For 562 days as Max all I wanted to be was me. I don't like treating people like garbage. I joined the force to help people not beat the shit out of some lowlife who owed Max some money. Being Max worked today because it got things done. Didn't have to try hard to work an informant when Max was being Max."
"I get that now. You as Max was a surprise. When you first went into the bar looking for him, it was strange to hear you being that way."
"You're good with people. People like you for some reason."
"I'm charming." Deeks's smile didn't quite make it to his eyes.
"If it helps you to believe that, I guess that's OK." Kensi teased. "But today, listening to people fear you. The bartender was nervous telling you what he thought you didn't want to hear. God, Jenna sounded like she'd rather have a root canal than talk to you. And no, I don't think it was easy for you to be Max. You work perfectly fine as Deeks."
"Did you just say I'm fine? Because I am mighty fine." Deeks batted his eyes at Kensi.
She rolled her eyes. "Shut up Deeks."
"Now see, first you want me to talk, now you want me to shut up. Can't be sending mixed signals like that." Deeks smile grew as they slipped into an easier exchange.
Kensi made a face but didn't seem to mean it. "One last round of questions. You can say no."
"I have every intention of using this." Deeks leaned over and picked up the yellow pad again. "Go."
III. "We are responsible for the effort not the outcome." - Unknown
"One last round of questions. You can say no."
Deeks leaned over and picked up the yellow pad. "I intend to use this one day. Go."
"Where did you disappear to last summer?"
Deeks looked at her but didn't move to make a mark on the legal pad. "I was working on the Emilio Ortega-Radovan Lazik case, 147 days. You know that. You guys got me out. I always assumed you shot Lazik's bodyguard and your first words to me were shut up. It was as if I never left."
"But you did. You left in the middle of April..."
"Late April actually and the case wrapped up a couple weeks into September. I was back at the Mission in the beginning of October because I had to wrap things up with Internal Affairs and ICE. I also needed to get back here and open the windows, go through 147 days of mail. Get back to being me. That's all I did." He looked at her completely confused by this line of questioning. "Well, I helped you guys out a couple of times in May."
"Yeah, you were able to squeeze us in."
"Yeah." Deeks started racking his memory, trying to figure out where she was going. "You called in May fairly early one morning about a hit and run. You want LAPD out of things so LAPD was out of things. You called about day or two later about a couple of dead guys in an old rec center somewhere and you'd be handling it. There was something else about a warehouse in West Covina. I'm sorry if I don't remember the specifics but I just passed things on to the folks who could handle it."
"Where were you?"
"Sully's apartment probably. I think I was in the car going to see Ortega when the dead guys in the rec center call came in. Kensi, if I blew you off or you wanted to talk, I'm sorry."
"You stopped answering when I called."
"Things picked up. Jess asked Ruben, who was riding a desk because he was about to retire, to start handling the calls. I know Ruben, I'm sure he took care of everything."
"Detective Ramos was fine. You just disappeared."
"Things picked up," he spoke slowly.
"You showed up for Dom's memorial service."
Deeks felt like he was getting whiplash. "Before I started as Sully, I set up all sorts of alerts. Anything that came in with Dom's name, your name, Sam's, Callen's, Hetty's, Eric's, Nate's - anything happened to any of you, I was supposed to be contacted immediately. Hell, I'm still supposed to be contacted if your names show up for any Los Angeles police, fire or medical emergencies. You guys ordered a MedEvac helicopter for Dom so I got the call. It was pretty early in the morning if I remember right."
"How did you know about the service?"
"I know where Eric surfs. Like all good surfers, after a shitty day, he went to where he would feel better. I made sure I wasn't followed, I made sure we ran into each other. He was wrecked."
"We all were."
"I'm sorry. I asked him to tell me about any funeral or memorial service and he text'd me a day or two later with the memorial service info. I am sorry if you thought it was wrong to go, I'm sorry that I couldn't stay. It wasn't a great idea for my case but I knew how everyone felt about Dom and wanted to pay my respects."
"Dom was a good guy."
"That's what I got from the service. Good man, learning to be a good agent. I read our forensic report about the theater. You guys were seriously outmanned and outgunned and you almost saved him."
"Almost," Kensi's voice cracked a little. "How did you see the forensic report?"
"For a lot of May, Ortega was just using me to show up at closings for some properties involved in his drug and trafficking businesses to make sure he wasn't getting screwed. I had plenty of free time and LAPD gave me legal documents to review for them. I asked for anything that included NCIS so I saw Dom's rescue, an explosion at a warehouse where you, Sam and Callen were witnesses. I was trying to keep up with LAPD and NCIS before things picked up. "
"In early June, I mentioned if Ortega set up a corporation, there were breaks he could get in insurance, taxes - well, the taxes he was willing to pay - leasing things like cars. I laid it all out for them. Sully's fee, which was $3,500 a closing went up to a $20,000 a week retainer and I was on-call 24/7/365."
"Sully was disbarred."
"No, he had his law license suspended. If he behaved himself, he could get it back. He could show up with money and post bail for Emilio's crew, file papers, negotiate agreements. Sully was a business advisor, not a legal advisor. Even had cards made."
"So you couldn't spare a minute for us?"
"This may come as a surprise to you but a man who worked his way up from teenage gang member to a mini-crime lord was not very understanding when you didn't answer the phone right away when he wanted to talk. $20,000 a week bought him Sully's complete loyalty and attention and when I was a late bailing out Luis Fellano's idiot nephew for one afternoon it was made clear to me that Sully's time was Ortega's time."
"Why were you late?"
"Dentist. I had a bad tooth. It was taken care of because it got knocked loose during the beating I took. Told the dentist I was mugged and just had him pull it. I surfed with my phone in my wetsuit after that."
"Deeks," Kensi's offered an unspoken apology.
"So I'm sorry if I missed some call or if you didn't want to deal with Ruben. He was a good cop, a good handler and I'm sure he did whatever needed to be done for you guys."
"He did. What were you doing when things picked up?"
"Besides posting bail in a timely fashion for idiots going forward, I became the person looking at the properties for all the real estate deals. I was a lot more acceptable to most of the real estate agents than Ortega and his gang neck tattoos."
"And what was Det. Traynor doing?"
"Babysitting me, building a case with the land deals, working with Interpol tracking Lazik."
"In the beginning, nothing was going on and I was bored. I'm not good at bored."
"Shocking, I know. My boss wasn't a fan of this operation. He was the one sending over paperwork of other cases for me to review. He thought this was a waste of time and was punishing me by giving me my old legal bureau stuff to do. I was on the phone with her bitching about it every day."
"So she got to listen to you whine every day, lucky girl."
"I thought about calling you to whine a couple of times but I was sure you were out saving the world while I was reviewing search warrant requests for upcoming trials to make sure there was nothing the defense could target as improper." Deeks frowned.
"But then things picked up."
"When Sully was put on the full time payroll, Ortega wanted me at all his meetings, I sat there and listened to people talk about moving teenage girls using words like 'merchandise,' 'cargo,' and 'shipment.' Sully negotiated a deal with a doctor with a suspended license to keep the 'shipment' minimally healthy once they were set up in the whorehouses. Lazik liked Sully's initiative on that one. Nothing like having a guy who thinks a 15 year old girl and her 14 year old sister are 'cargo' to be transported like tee-shirts or ceramic bowls compliment you for your good business sense. It just was soul crushing every day but Jess would call at night and she was so committed to the cause that it made getting up and getting through another day worthwhile."
"Do you need little pep talks when you're undercover?"
"Pep talks?" Deeks was a bit taken back. "What did you do Labor Day weekend? Have a case where you hot-wired a tank, rappelled down a skyscraper before chasing the bad guy through the subway?"
"No, I was in San Diego. A few friends were back from Afghanistan after a deployment and we had a barbeque. It was fun."
"I went to a barbeque too. Well, on Saturday I did. I'm at the beach, playing catch with Monty and my phone rings. I'm invited to Ortega's family barbeque. I thought it was a joke but no, I show up and he's got his family, the families of all his trusted lieutenants over for barbeque fun."
"Nope. I'm sitting there with Grandma Ortega having these awesome fish tacos, shooting hoops with Fellano's idiot nephew."
"The one who cost you the tooth."
"One and the same. Then the idiot nephew's sister comes up to me. She's an honors student at Marymount High School and wants to be a lawyer. She's sitting there asking me questions about being a lawyer and I'm looking at this pretty 16-year old girl whose parents are spending a fortune getting her educated and if she was in the wrong place and the wrong time in Mexico, she could be on one of those trucks her uncle's boss owns as 'merchandise' or 'cargo.' Made me sick."
Kensi just shook her head in disgust.
"So I finish with this sweet kid and Fellano comes up to me to thank me for being nice to the girl. He then starts making fun of the girl's dad, his half brother. Manny's got a job at the post office, a wife who is a nurse, three teenage kids. Fellano is laughing about how Manny thinks he's better than him but Fellano's paying the tuition for the two girls at Marymount - about $60,000 a year. And the idiot nephew is in Loyola on Fellano's dime when he's not selling drugs. That's where I wound up after stealing the Camero and it costs over fifteen grand. Suddenly, the girl goes from being lucky to be on this side of the border to being someone who is going to lose her free ride at a good school and possibly her brother when we start making arrests. Awesome, huh? But then the fun starts."
"I'm afraid to ask."
"But then you'll never know when I need a pep talk."
"Deeks, that came out wrong before..."
He just ignored her, "Around eight o'clock, the family members start leaving and I figure I can leave, call in and tell Jess I'm trusted enough to spend the day at a barbeque. But no. The party for the men folk isn't over. Out comes the expensive scotch, Cuban cigars, some coke, couple dozen joints, a bowl with Viagra in it."
"Yep. Doorbell rings and a bunch of the strippers from one of Ortega's legit, yet sleazy, businesses. They're the evening's entertainment. There's some stripping, two of the girls put on a show and then it's time for to pick a girl for a fun time. Mandatory fun time. The girls were all paid for, the host wouldn't really tolerate inhospitable behavior."
"What did you do?"
"Found the oldest looking girl, took a few joints, went out on the back deck, smoked a joint with the girl, I think she told me her name was Donna, got a blow job and talked about how she could redo the mortgage on her mother's house. We both had a beer and I offered her a ride home."
"Probably not a good idea for you to be driving."
"No. Especially with three joints left in my shirt pocket and both of us bringing a beer for the road. Got her home OK, gave her all the money I had in my wallet and one of the joints, drove back to Sully's place, sat out on the balcony, finished off a second joint and another beer. I got up that morning to surf and hang with Monty, maybe catch a movie. I never did see "Iron Man 2" that summer."
"Didn't miss much."
"No. Caught it on Netflix. Stunk. Still would have been better than sitting with a group of gang members and drug dealers watching two strippers make out and having the men make crude comments to the girls."
"What happened after that?"
"Dozed off on the balcony. Monty was out there, the two of us sleeping under the stars. Woke up around 7, flushed the remaining joint down the toilet, took a long shower. After I walked Monty, I got into my car, got some take out pancakes, I wasn't that hungry since college." Deeks shook his head. "Showed up at Jess's and just unloaded. The whole night before, just spending day after day with these men who kept surprising me by how horrendous they are. It needed to end. I needed it to end."
"How did she react?"
"She listened. Didn't say anything, just let me go on and on. When I was done, she told me to just get some sleep and we'd talk. I slept for nearly eight hours on her couch. When I woke up, she was watching the end of the US Open Tennis and I was a lot less nuts."
Deeks watched Kensi pick her words carefully. "She talk you down after that?"
"No, we started figuring out how to wrap this up. It was coming to a head. Ortega had all the real estate, I got him some day laborers to rework the houses so there enough bedrooms, bathrooms and high walls in the ones being used as whorehouses. There needed to be enough locks, soundproofing and higher walls around the homes being used as, for the lack of a better word, warehouses for the girls. All we needed was Lazik to start the pipeline. That's when she told me about Christina."
"That story about her cousin was true."
"Yes. She also told me that she wanted to approach Ortega. Make it look like she wanted a bribe and then get him as a witness against Lazik."
"She didn't want him in jail."
"Oh, she wanted him in jail but she wanted Lazik more. Lazik mattered more. Higher profile, bigger bust. Jess had plans."
"After she took down Lazik, she was going to bring Christina's case to Congress, press for legislation, press for FBI task forces, get ICE involved. Big plans."
"Where would that have left you?"
Deeks was surprised by her question. "Where I wound up. Finish the case, file the paperwork, take a few days off to get my life back in order, then report to LAPD and Hetty and go back to work."
"You wouldn't have gone with her to bring the case to Congress, press for legislation."
"No, that was her cause. I'm an undercover cop. I told you I'd be back."
"And you were." Kensi looked at her beer.
"The LAPD was a means to an end for her. It is for some cops who want to join the DA's office, private security, the FBI..."
"NCIS. Some men seek NCIS, others get NCIS thrust upon them."
"You would have left her?"
"There wasn't much to leave. Kensi, she threw me a mercy..." Deeks searched for a kinder term than fuck, "bit of affection. She got me out of a place where women were victims, merchandise, whores or strippers. If you want to know if I slept with her, I did. I liked her, I think she liked me. Lazik had a photo of me leaving her building, probably courtesy of Scarli. So while she kept me sane for the last three weeks of the case, I probably helped get her killed. Frank got pictures of me with Jess, of me with Ortega and of Jess with Ortega. We were all going to die at that point, I just lucked out and was rescued by you."
"You didn't luck out."
"Please don't go with it not being my time. One of the LAPD counselors tried that. I lucked out. I got out of the car when the security game wouldn't open. Probably because the transmitter for the bomb was screwing with the transmitter for the gate. Ortega and Fellano were blown to bits because they were too damn lazy to get out of their car and I was the paid help. I was plowed under on pain killers from my injuries when Jess was looking for me so we weren't blown up together. You, Eric, Nate, Sam and Callen found that old plant where I was getting the shit knocked out of me before Lazik could execute me."
"It wouldn't have come to..."
"Kens, I was on my knees spitting up blood when Callen walked into the room. Before that, I was only hoping that my body would be found before the rats got to me. I got lucky. Jess didn't, I did."
"She seemed like a good person."
"She was. She wanted to work in television before her cousin was kidnapped. She wanted justice for Christina after that. She was finishing her masters in public administration. She was going to run somebody's human trafficking division in law enforcement in a short time. Probably be on CNN talking about it to Anderson Cooper. God, she loved cable news." Deeks's shook his head sadly.
"And you could have walked away from her?"
"She would have done the walking. I was part of her means to an end. Again, I think she liked me. She certainly tolerated me. But she would have been off to Sacramento, off to Washington and I would have been here. Got a friend in a band who calls his relationships on tour 'road-mances'. That's what I had with Jess - investigation infatuation. We'd have been friends, nothing more."
"Maybe she would have stayed with you."
"No. Jess was a woman with a cause. I respected her, I respected it. We mostly watched Anderson Cooper, Raiders football and played Madden. She always had to be the Raiders, I was always the 49ers. Again, it was nice to be with someone who didn't need to have the fine points of not cutting off an employee's hand because they thought, but could not prove, that the employee was stealing."
"Did you have to talk Ortega out of cutting off a man's hand?"
"Teenager's hand. Ortega had a number of high school students who were dealers for him. One kid was about $5K short and had a new motorcycle. Ortega saw this program on the History Channel about justice in some foreign country and they chopped off the hands of thieves. He wanted to make this kid an example."
"I recommended putting the fear of God into the kid might make the money show up. Fellano agreed. Kid with no hand might not give back the money, kid who is scared, maybe knocked around a little, would find the cash. They beat the kid into a coma and stole the bike. His father came up with the five grand by selling the family car. I didn't consider this one of my successes as a business advisor."
"Oh, Deeks. I was out of line when I said what I did about pep talks."
Deeks shrugged off her apology. "So if I didn't call, if I didn't write, it was because I was honestly busy with a group of people I wouldn't spit on if they were on fire."
Kensi nodded. "No more about Ortega. Are you happy at NCIS?"
Deeks moved to make a check-mark but decided not to. More whiplash questioning. Looking right at Kensi, he answered, "I'm happy working with NCIS. I'm well aware I lack the secret agent training Callen has, the Navy SEAL discipline of Sam and your general bad-assery but I hold my own."
"My general bad-assery?" Kensi smiled.
"I could make a joke about your ass but since you'd likely kick mine, yes, your general bad assery."
"Do you miss the LAPD?"
Deeks finally made a check mark on his legal pad. "Since I still work for them, no."
"You know what I mean."
"No actually, I don't."
"You don't miss your friends? Your co-workers?"
"Last summer, I would have told you Frank Scarli was one of my friends. He was always good to me until, you know, he tried to kill me so no, I don't miss him."
"You don't miss them at all?"
"Kensi, I worked alone. I had a handler, a boss and a person I was pretending to be. I didn't have intelligence officers getting me in time data to keep me alive. There was no Sam and Callen to run a side investigation if any of my cases started falling apart. There was no you providing cover while I'm getting shot at or helping me sell my grief over my best friend's death as a computer genius blows up a truck allowing my witness to survive. NCIS gives me an opportunity to do what I do but do it better."
"Do you miss working alone?"
"Only when you're in one of your control freak phases. I've spent years making things up as I've gone along. I'm good at that."
"Like when you're on your knees hoping the rats don't get you?"
"Another moment I won't consider a career success but there are times I missing doing what I think needs to be done." Deeks saw Kensi try to keep from having a reaction but her eyes said she was hurt. "But then a car needs to be hot-wired and I can't do that. Someone looks suspicious to me because as a cop, everyone in an investigation is a suspect, you see a grieving fiancé."
"Your instincts about people are usually fine."
"Usually but not always. Nice to having someone to bounce ideas off."
"Even if I'm in a control freak phase."
"I told you a while back I am trying to take this all more seriously - though I always took things seriously, just always didn't look like it. I know you're trying to dial it back and I'm grateful for the effort."
"You don't think I'm succeeding."
"You succeed at everything Kens, you'll get it."
"Are you going to go back to the LAPD?" Kensi's words came out in a rush.
"You want a new partner?"
"No. Would you think about applying to NCIS?"
"No." Deeks was surprised by this line of questioning. Shocked actually.
"I'm a cop."
"There are a lot of former police officers with NCIS."
"You could do that. You'd need some training but …."
"But I like being a cop."
"You can do so much more."
"I think I'm doing fine."
"What happens if LAPD or NCIS ends the liaison program?"
"I've been assured by both Hetty and my boss that everyone is happy with my work and the program." Deeks smiled. "Besides, Kensi, I'm not going anywhere. LAPD would have to find cause to fire me and I'm not dirty, I do my job well and my arrest record when I was there full-time was fine. They don't miss me. So the only way LAPD gets rid of the liaison program is if they really want me back or if there is an opening in the Island of Misfit Toys precinct, I'll be at work tomorrow."
Kensi opened her mouth but said nothing. She just wound up nodding.
Deeks took a deep breath and in a serious tone, offered his assurance. "Kensi, I'm not going anywhere."
She pretended it did matter but Deeks knew better. "Island of Misfit Toys? Really?"
"You could join the LAPD? We could go all "Starsky and Hutch" - we got the right hair colors, there's that cool car you'd never let me drive."
"Deeks." Kensi tried to be stern but wound up laughing. She suddenly got serious. "I am sorry about pep talk. That was out of line."
"Be happy you've had short covers." Deeks smiled at her and winked. He picked up the yellow pad. Knowing he let her get away with murder on the count, he decided to cut a deal. "How about we leave this at twenty questions. I get twenty questions free and clear..."
"At a day and time of your choosing. Deal."
Deeks wrote the number twenty on their contract and initialed it. He handed the legal pad to Kensi and she did the same. "You know, with Sam and Callen causing problems today, you and I probably get the next Clandestino assignment. Nothing like gambling with a beautiful woman on my arm." Deeks took back the legal pad.
"You're gambling? Who says you get to be the wealthy guest at the club?"
"I could be happy as a kept man." Deeks wiggled his eyebrows at Kensi. "I'm totally on board for being you boy toy." He tore their contract from the pad, folding it several times. Standing, he pulled out his wallet and tucked it behind his driver's license. "What do I owe you for dinner?"
"You're a kept man, dinner's on me."
"Thanks." He was truly grateful. He never really had anyone who cared enough to listen to him talk about his past. Never told Jess much. Couldn't tell Nicole or the collection of crazy, bitter ex's he had. He told her though, he thought as he plopped back on his chaise. He told her.
"Contractually obligated or not, thanks for being so open."
"I'd have told you some of it eventually." He would have never told her about Labor Day Saturday without her "pep talk" insult. He knew that. "Easier to get it all out tonight."
"You gonna be OK here tonight?"
"Sure. I'm well fed, Ray's safe, so's Jenna and the future Ray Jr., I got twenty questions in my pocket and every intention on using them some day. Christmas in May."
"Well, Jolly St. Deeks, I think I'm going to hit the road." Kensi stood and so did he. "I'll see you in the morning." She smiled at him as they started walking to the door.
God, he thought, he'd love to see her do that more often. "Thanks again Kens. You're a good partner."
"Night." He watched her as she walked to her car. Ray was right. They have a thing.
If you made it this far - bless your heart.
While I have no sequel planned for this story, I wouldn't be surprised if the "twenty questions" contract come up again. Much like poor Det. Traynor, I have plans.