Banner By Taibhrigh
In the circle of life, it's the wheel of fortune
It's the leap of faith, it's the band of hope
Till we find our place on the path unwinding
In the circle, the circle of life
Some of us fall by the wayside
And some of us soar to the stars
And some of us sail through our troubles
And some have to live with the scars
~~~~~ Circle of Life (Lion King)
Stepping out on the porch after showering off the results of my morning run, I see Joshua has set out a fresh carafe of coffee, so I settle in one of the wicker chairs to enjoy the quiet before Lily and Mick tumble from the house, and disappear into the Outback. I close my eyes, and let the ranch sounds relax my body as my mind meanders through the beginnings and endings of my life.
My little girl graduated high school as valedictorian a month ago, and is following her Uncle Mick into the world of Sciences with a side serving of Languages at the University of Hawaii. The college is only a short drive from Robin’s Nest, but Lily is asserting her independence by staying on campus. There have been several loud conversations about her safety … All of which I lost.
I could see Higgins’ influence by the way she prissily informed me she’d been taught to fight by the finest Hunters in the Clan, and was perfectly capable of seeing to her own safety. I was one of her teachers so my arguments had been effectively cut off at the knees.
Two weeks from now, Lily and I will fly to Virginia, to visit with my mother, then home to Oahu, which brings my thoughts full circle to endings and beginnings. As my daughter is beginning the next step in her life’s journey, I have to start considering some changes in my own life.
The Navy has been a part of my life since I was eighteen years old, and even after I was Turned and trained, the Vampire became a tool like my gun or my SEAL training, to be put away until it was needed. The number of Chosen Ones in Hawaii is small, so spending a Saturday night at Rick’s night club became less about hanging out with friends, and more like scheduling staff meetings. Vampire buffet. Rick could use it as an advertising gimmick. The few Hunts Matthew has sent my way were easily covered by my missions for Naval Intelligence.
I should have bought a clue when General William Sherman commandeered ‘my’ SEAL team, including my best friend, Sam Axe. I was happy he was getting the chance to keep an eye on his Mate, but hated breaking in a new missions’ team. Sam kept me from taking myself too seriously, and helped me keep Lily from turning into a miniature Higgins.
Therein lies my corundum. Well hell, now the voice in my head sounds like Higgins. Lily’s graduation and our annual visit to Australia dissipated the fogbank I drew around myself when Sam left Hawaii. Higgins applauded what he called my elevation to adulthood while basking in the company of his Mate. Joshua teased me about empty nest syndrome, and my anniversary notice from the Navy reminded me that 30 of the past 38 years have been spent in the Navy.
Being stuck behind a desk sending the men and women under my command on missions because I’m too valuable an asset to waste in the field is making me consider retirement. Maybe I can return to my bygone days of being a private investigator cruising Oahu in the Ferrari … Minus the Ferrari … Damn, I miss that car.
Before my thoughts can go any further down the rabbit hole, I hear the scrape and jingle of spurs moving across the porch.
“If you’re done wallowing, get your gear. Joshua needs us to go check on some sheep that aren’t where they’re supposed to be.” Matthew prodded.
Looking like he just stepped out of a Charles Russell painting, Matthew Quigley stood with his thumbs hooked in his gun belt.
“Not wallowing … Just trying to see the top of the rut I seem to be living inside.” I growled.
“Uh-huh.” A stream of tobacco juice hit the dust.
“Dr. Flynn know you’re indulging?”
“Nope. He’s making his rounds. Won’t be back ‘til tomorrow.” Quigley grinned.
“Let me change, and get my gear.” I grumble as I head to my room.
“Don’t forget breakfast. You’re grumpy enough without adding to it by not feeding.”
“Not grumpy.” I continued to grumble as I dug out my jeans, chaps, and boots.
By the time I changed my clothes, strapped on my gun, and stopped by the kitchen for a pint, Matthew had the horses ready. Like Quigley, I preferred the western saddles from the States over the Australian saddles. A little more weight for the horse, but a lot more comfort for my ‘haven’t ridden a horse in a year’ backside.
After shoving my rifle in the scabbard, rolling my duster in the bedroll, and tying it over my saddlebags, I gave Bailey a gentle knee in the side so he’d blow out the breath he was holding. I pulled the cinch up a notch and settled in the saddle of the red roan gelding I rode when at the ranch. Bailey’s a top-notch ranch horse who’s just ornery enough to keep me from sinking back into my thoughts.
: Damn you, Matthew. : I wasn’t ready to give up my brooding. An unrepentant grin, and another stream of tobacco juice from the Clan’s Lead Hunter told me he knew exactly what I was thinking. Matthew whistled up two of Joshua’s Queensland Heelers as we rode away from the house.
After two days of sparse sign of the 30 missing sheep, we finally let the dogs do their jobs tracking the small flock instead of trying to prove two legs were smarter than four. The dogs soon found the stray sheep, no worse for wear, and we spent the next day and a half driving the misplaced animals back to the main flock.
I know what you’re thinking … Matthew and I spent our time around the campfire dissecting the reasons for my melancholia and withdrawal … Seriously, we’re more the ‘get over yourself and get on with it’ type of guys. The extent of Quigley’s thoughts on my brooding was I needed to get from behind a desk, and I needed to get laid. My response was an annoyed harrumph as I enjoyed one of the excellent cigars I’d liberated from Jon’s study.
I had given my heart and soul to Michelle when we got married a lifetime ago in Saigon. After finding out she faked her death, it added to my list of trust issues. Finding out she’d hidden Lily from me only deepened those issues. When Higgins gave me the Mates chapter of the Vampire handbook, I decided I wouldn’t become emotionally involved with someone I would leave as they aged and I didn’t. Then there’s the sub-chapter where my Mate could appear while I was committed to someone else. Add all those factors to raising a highly intelligent, energetic girl child, as well as having to step away from the two men who’d been with me through some of the worse times of my life simply because they were growing older … Having Human lovers didn’t seem worth the heartbreak.
By the time we jogged into the ranch yard a week later, both us and the animals were glad to be home. I was ready for my creature comforts, and in Matthew’s case … A Mate leaning against the porch post. I hope their room’s soundproofing holds up if Dr. John Flynn discovers his Mate has been indulging in his favorite vice while we were on the trail.
On the next leg of our vacation, Lily and I are heading to Sydney. I was informed at dinner last night, that she would simply die if we didn’t hit the ‘right’ shops before our flight to Virginia. Once in the city, my plan is to dodge Dr. Robert Anderson, Clan shrink, and try to mitigate the damage a teenage girl can do to my bank account. I have a sneaking suspicion Matthew will have a little pillow talk with his Mate, who happens to be the Clan doctor, who in turn will call Dr. Bob, who will stalk me through the Clan house in Sydney for a little ‘catch-up’ chat before we leave Australia.
I wonder if I can claim exhaustion from shopping with an 18-year old girl.
Leaving the Norfolk Navy offices, I felt a HUGE weight lift off my shoulders. I can already imagine the screams from Hawaii when they get notice of my retirement, but what was one more change in a year of endings and beginnings?
The peace of my mom’s backyard where I was enjoying with my evening cigar was interrupted by Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville blaring from my phone.
“Axe, you old sea dog! How’s tricks?”
“The beer’s warm, even I wouldn’t date the women, plus if I told you where I was somebody would have to kill you, and the humidity laden breezes whisper that a certain Navy Captain is retiring.”
“Damn, Sam, the ink isn’t even dry on the paperwork. Don’t you have a Mate to keep out of trouble, or a General to piss off?”
“My Mate’s fine, it’s someone else’s turn to piss off Sherman, and you’re changing the subject.”
“So what, you’re the only one that can sit in a bar in exotic locales enjoying the scenery?”
I know there was a bite to my tone, but I’ve been retired less than 12 hours. I was just starting to relax, and one of the first friends I made after my Turning is giving me crap about a career change.
“Easy there, Big Fella. I was just wondering what happened while you were on leave to make you decide to retire.”
“Nothing happened. Lily chased Mick around the Outback, I rode horses, chased sheep, and sparred with Matthew while enjoying Jon’s excellent cigars.”
“So what’s next?”
“Nothing. I’m retired. Go harass your Mate, Axe.”
The thing with cell phones is you don’t get the satisfaction of slamming down the receiver in someone’s ear. So I turned my phone off, and thought seriously about changing the number. If I did that, five minutes later Higgins would be rallying the troops because he couldn’t call me. Even though it’s been 15 years since I was Turned, the man still takes his Sire duties seriously. Right now, I just want time to put myself back together as it’s finally hit home what being a Vampire really means to the rest of my hopefully long life.
All my accumulated ‘stuff’ from being in the same office for 12 years has been hauled home, and all that’s left now belongs to my replacement. I was going through the daily updates on current cases when my yeoman ushered a Marine Corporal into my office. She snapped me a salute.
“At ease, Corporal. What can I do for you?”
“Captain Magnum, I was told to deliver this message and drive you to the meeting.”
I took the letter she held out with a sense of foreboding. Technically we were at war in the Middle East, and technically any member of the military can be kept in service regardless of their paperwork.
You are directed to attend a meeting at Camp H. M. Smith in Admiral Fargo’s office.
The meeting will commence upon your arrival with Corporal Fisher.
Naval Criminal Investigative Service
If it would have been appropriate in front of NCO’s, I would have thumped my head on the desk in hopes of alleviating my frustration.
“Let me get my cover, Corporal.”
“I’m parked just out front, Sir.”
“Lead the way, Corporal.”
At Camp Smith, I follow my escort to the conference room attached to Admiral Fargo’s office. The only person in the room was a man I assumed to be Director Morrow, but I could hear the sounds of people moving and talking coming from the speaker on the table.
“Director Morrow, Captain Thomas Magnum reporting as ordered.”
“Have a seat, Captain. We’re ready here.” Morrow informed the people on the phone. “Captain Magnum, on the line today are the heads of the country’s security and intelligence agencies. We have reviewed your service record from Vietnam until now. Your work with various Intelligence agencies has been exemplary.”
“With all due respect, Director, while this is all very nice … Is there a point?”
I always hate when Intelligence types start of the conversation by telling you about your wonderful service. By the end of the conversation, you’ve usually agreed to something that becomes new material for your nightmares.
“Yes, Captain. We’re starting a program using ‘retired’ personnel to carry out various and sundry missions as civilian operatives. You already have the training and security clearance. We, or more specifically me, will contact you from time to time with assignments that call for your particular skill set. You’ll have access to discretionary funds to cover your expenses along with substantial payment for your services.” Morrow paused. “Anyone have anything else to add?” Morrow asked the faceless voices on the phone.
“You’ve pretty much covered the basics, Director.” Came the answer.
“Do I have right of refusal?”
“Depends on the urgency of the mission.”
I gave the NCIS Director a hard stare. There was something familiar about the man I couldn’t quite pull out the memory.
“When do you need my decision?”
“Your replacement is packing his family on the Mainland as we speak, and will be reporting for duty in the next two weeks.” A different voice came from the speaker.
“I’ll have your answer by Friday.”
“Very well, Captain … Director we’ll leave you to handle any further questions or concerns.”
“Of course, Sir. I’ll keep you apprised.” Morrow cut the call. “Captain, I understand we will be attending the same dinner party this evening.”
“Then I’ll see you at dinner, Sir.”
I shook the Director’s hand, retrieved my cover and followed Corporal Fisher back to the car. On the ride back to my office, I speculated as to who was on the other end of the conference call. The only person I could think Morrow would call ‘Sir’ was be the Secretary of the Navy or the President.
My plans for retirement have just taken a very strange turn.
By the time I got home, showered and changed, Director Morrow was enjoying cocktails with Higgins, his Mate, Herbert, Lily, Clan Lead Hunter, Matthew Quigley and his Mate, Dr. John Flynn. If not for my daughter’s presence, I would have turned around and locked myself in the guest house. I splashed three fingers of scotch in a glass and glared at the gathered company.
“Thomas …” Matthew stopped at the expression on my face.
Lily, bless her heart, was so excited at seeing her ‘uncles’, she never noticed my sour mood.
“Dad! Look who came to visit!”
“I see, sweetheart. It’s been soooo long since we’ve seen you guys. Good of you to take time out of your busy schedules to fly to Hawaii.”
I could hear the growl in my voice, but I was beginning to feel a like the person at the bottom of a dog pile.
“Have you met our new friend, Tom Morrow, Director of NCIS. I understand he’s also a Chosen One for Sylum Clan.” I asked Lily, ignoring the rest of the room.
I haven’t been in Intelligence all these years without collecting a contact or three, along with having bank on quite a few favors.
“Yeah. It’s so cool, Dad. He was telling me all about the Forensics lab they’ve got at NCIS. Did you know it’s at the Navy Yard in D.C. He promised a tour if we’re ever in Washington. Maybe we could visit Meme at winter break, and visit Director Morrow while we’re there.”
“We’ll see what’s happening during the winter break. You never know what might come up between now and then.”
The weight of my daughter throwing herself against my chest distracted me from glaring at the guilty looking parties across the room.
“You’re the best, Dad. We have the coolest family ever.”
“Yeah, the coolest.” I growled.
The rest of the Clan was saved when Nalini whispered in Higgins’ ear.
“Dinner is served.” He announced, grateful for the distraction.
I took a few extra minutes to settle my temper and enjoy the rest of my scotch before following everyone into the dining room.
We kept dinner civil as Lily quizzed Matthew and John about the latest exploits of Jack and Robert, who she insisted on calling ‘Bunny’ ala Jack. Morrow asked if I was Matthew’s descendent, as Herbert and Higgins politely pumped Morrow about NCIS and the newest political gossip while I tried to enjoy Cook’s excellent dinner.
Excusing myself before the others finished dinner, I retired to lanai after a stop by the humidor for a cigar knowing Higgins would have already set up a drink tray. So I settled down to enjoy the excellent brandy and cigar before Higgins’ troops tried to be polite busybodies.
Color me surprised when Director Morrow exited the house by himself. I don’t know if he was part of some plan, or if Higgins took advantage of the situation when Morrow called about staying at the Clan’s estate. Robin’s Nest often housed visiting Clan members and Chosen Ones to save the hassle of having to scavenge for supplies on the island.
“Thomas, I want to make it clear that I had no idea you Clan members were going to be here. My offer is for Captain Magnum, Vietnam and Desert Storm vet, and Intelligence operative. It has nothing to do with Rogue Hunts.”
I blew out a cleansing breath, and sipped my brandy to help collect my thoughts.
“What’s the rest of your pitch, Director?”
“Tom, please. This is my baby. I pitched it to SecNav, who shopped it around the other agency heads. Even with the advancement of computer programs and satellites, most of our resources are going to the Middle East and North Africa. We’re getting thin on the ground from Hawaii to India. Most of the people coming into this business have forgotten about the other half of the world that hates us.”
He paused to sip his drink when Lily came out to say goodnight. She was going to a beach party, and her friends would be here soon to pick her up.
“Call me if you need a ride.”
“I know, Dad.” She rolled her eyes.
“Daaad.” She gave me a kiss on the cheek. “Love you, too.” She whispered.
She grabbed her bag and headed for the gate. I turned my attention back to the Director.
“This program gathers information from our listening posts, gives it a once over and forwards it to someone like you to do more in depth research. Depending on what you find, we’d then decide whether further action is needed. There may also be occasions where we would send you for a pick up or delivery. Mostly it would be recon … Watching, taking pictures, playing tourist.”
Morrow acted like we were discussing last night’s box scores, but I could hear his increased heartbeat as he waited for my reaction. The Director had a reputation in our business for backing his agents’ plays. Twenty plus years after the CIA got my team captured and put in a Viet Cong POW camp, I don’t have much respect for the alphabet agencies, but I’m thinking seriously about accepting Tom’s offer.
As a Chosen One, Morrow knows about the Clans throughout the world, but probably doesn’t have a lot of information outside his own Clan. One of the first things I did when I returned to active duty was take a trip with Lily to Japan. After begging prettily to see Miho, a Shogun Clan Hunter, and her beat me into the practice sands … Much to my daughter’s delight, she introduced me to Lady Blossom. The Shogun Spy Liaison was very gracious to a baby Vampire, and intelligent enough to take me up on my offer that’s been very beneficial for both our Clans.
“I’ll take your offer, but I only answer to you or SecNav. I want my security clearance as high as you can get me. I won’t work in the dark because my clearance isn’t high enough. You retire or get sick of being my handler … I may actually retire. You don’t ask from who or how I get my information.”
I stood as Morrow walked over. We sealed our agreement with a handshake.
“You’re my first, but hopefully not my last operative. As soon as we get everything in place I’ll courier you the paperwork. Get your home security up to snuff for handling classified files, and we’ll get this party started.” Tom grinned.
“Here I was wondering what I was going to do with my retirement after I slept for a month.” I chuckled.
“I look forward to a long and profitable friendship.” He stepped back.
“On that high note, I still have a day job so I’m going to bed. I’ll see you at breakfast.”
“Goodnight, Magnum … And Thomas … Thank you.”
I waved over my shoulder as I headed to the guest house. I’ll handle Higgins and Quigley tomorrow.
There’s just one more task before I called it a night. Because of the time difference between Hawaii and Australia, I sent off an email to Franklin Frost about security at the house, recommendations on safes, and a few odds and ends. There’ll probably be an early morning phone call demanding to know what’s wrong with the current security at the estate. You can retire a spy from active duty, but they never truly retire. They’ve always got their nose stuck in something somewhere. Higgins will be pissed that I’m questioning the estate’s security, but at the moment I don’t care who’s toes I’m stepping on.
At that moment between waking and sleep, I feel a smirk from my final thought of the day. Franklin Frost would undoubtedly be descending on Higgins’ domain while his Mate, Richie Courtney poked around the estate wondering why I contacted the Clan Spy Liaison about beefing up security. Sometimes the best way to get revenge on nagging mother hens is to ask the right questions to the wrong people.
It was actually Monday evening before Frankie and Richie arrived. By then I’d left copious bruising on Quigley chasing him around the grounds with a sword. As a way to work out my anger at him and Higgins … It was very therapeutic. I had buried my … ‘It’s the last chapter of my mortal life and I have to watch the Humans I love die’ crisis sitting on Virginia Beach watching my daughter, who is writing the first chapter of her adult life, play in the Atlantic Ocean. It was time for them to stop digging up that particular grave.
Matthew was finally convinced I wasn’t going to retreat inside my own head so Herbert packed up his ducklings and headed back to Sydney. Now I get the pleasure of watching the steam escaping from Higgins’ ears as Frost questioned him about the security measures at the estate. Richie settled in a chair next to mine chuckling as his Mate irritated Higgins.
“When Frankie gets done aggravating Higgins come over for a beer and I’ll give the scoop on why I sent that email.”
“I’ll do that.” Richie raised his beer in acknowledgement.
Pulling a beer out of the refrigerator, I moved out on the lanai I’d had built when I remodeled the guest house to accommodate Lily. I’d added a master suite upstairs, full size kitchen, moved the outer wall to enlarge my old bedroom for Lily, and make a den/library for me. The impact proof sliding glass doors deterred thieves, hurricanes, let in light and air, and give us more than one exit.
My thoughts were running along the lines of biometric locks, wall and floor safes when Frankie and Richie came down the stairs. I explained Director Morrow’s offer and the rough beginnings of my plan, but I needed to beef up security, get a couple clean IDs and talk to Lady Blossom. I wanted to take advantage of her chain of brothels to use for contact points. Frankie’s eyes lit up at the possibilities.
“I like it. I wonder if he recruited you for your record or if he plans to recruit other Vampires, too.” Frankie wondered out loud.
“I wonder if Nico and Bruce know about Morrow’s plans?” Richie asked.
“Might be worth a call. It’d be a good way to increase the Clans’ intel and put a burr under Lamont’s saddle.” Frankie snickered.
I rolled my eyes at the antics of the older Vampires. Frankie’s competitive streak kept him constantly trying to one up the Vampire Council’s master spy.
“I was thinking that would also be Lady Blossom’s incentive for letting me use her houses.”
“Plus she thinks you’re cute.” Richie joked.
“Don’t let Wade hear you say that. I have no wish for an introduction to his favorite weapon.”
“She takes in a stray every century or so to assuage her maternal urges.” Frost teased.
“You’re enjoying way too much.” I shook my head. “Aren’t members of my Clan supposed to be on my side?”
“Have you met my Mate?” Richie chided.
“I knew I should have gone to Lady Blossom first.” I groaned.
The murmur of their voices followed me as I went for another round of beer. Being a polite host, I kept my senses turned down as I filled a couple bowls with snacks to go with the beer. When I stepped back out on the lanai, Frankie and Richie smiled like I was a Chosen One and they’d been on a three day fast.
“Uh … Guys …?” I stuttered as I set down the tray.
“Thomas, do you have IDs you used before they put you behind a desk?” Frankie asked.
“Yeah. I even have a clean one that was a gift for services rendered in my P.I. days.”
“Sounds like a story there.” Frankie’s eyes narrowed.
“Not one I’m telling you. Let’s just say it’s from someone who was the best in the day.”
“Matthew said you hit a couple speed bumps over the idea of losing your Human family. Since you’ve retired from the Navy, Richie and I have some thoughts on the transition from Thomas Sullivan Magnum IV to your next identity.”
My danger alert went from medium to high. Marty Bishop, Frankie’s partner in their company, Sneakers, loves telling stories about some of Frankie’s more notorious plans. As soon as I my guests leave, I’m calling Matthew and letting him know how I feel about him telling tales out of school. I guess after a certain age Vampires turn into a bunch of gossipy old women.
“I reserve the right to veto any and all things having to do with my next life. I’ve heard Marty’s stories about your plans.”
“Then it’s a good thing most of this is Richie’s idea.” Frankie smirked.
“We take the new ID, have Mother build it to where you’re hired by Sneakers as a security consultant. You live a double life for a while. Captain Magnum retired … Traveling … Maybe the surf ski tour, or maybe Australia because your daughter moves there to go to grad school. You come back to the states occasionally to visit your mother. How’re your computer and B and E skills?”
“I’m no Whistler, but I’m not a Plebe either. I’ve had the classes they teach when your SEAL team is covert ops before and after Vietnam. I’ve done all the training through the years. I was in the field until my promotion to Captain. Now that I’m retired, I’m growing out my hair … Maybe down on my shoulders and a goatee. Moving to Australia sounds like a good story for Magnum. I’m sure Higgins can sell the new me living in the guest house as some stray ‘Robin Masters’ dropped on him.”
“I seem to remember Stephen McGarrett and Danny Williams having a couple properties in Honolulu they bought in the early 60’s. We could get office space, and set up a Hawaii branch of Sneakers. Use that as your address. I know there’s not a lot of choice in traveling between the city and the estate, but do the best you can to vary your schedule.”
“Probably stay in town during the week. Come to the estate on weekends. Get people used to seeing me with my new look.”
“Sounds like a good start. Get us a copy of what background you’ve got for your ID. I’ll have Marty get Mother started.” Frankie set his empty on the tray. “You ready to turn in?”
He looked at Richie. Who nodded and stood with Frankie.
“We made a good start. You might want to lay low until you get your new look working.”
I followed them to the front door.
“I’ll bring those copies over at breakfast. Have a good night, Guys.” I paused before closing the door. “Do I ever get to be Thomas Magnum again?”
“In 30 or 40 years we can bring you back as a family member ... A cousin, maybe. The up side is your family’s small. No siblings, your mother’s getting up years. Lily’s a Chosen One … She may decide to be Turned, or if she marries and has kids you can keep an eye on your descendants.”
“That’s something.” I murmured as I closed the door.
I had agreed with them, but the thought of my mother dying was not a happy one. I hope the emotional distance after the death of my immediate family makes this part of my new reality easier ... Some day.
At breakfast I handed Frankie a file with a copy of the passport for Thomas Magnus Sullivan, born August 8, 1969. No one ever accused Icepick of not having a sense of humor.
A week later the guest house had a new biometric safe and security system. The second week my goatee was looking good, and I invested in a low crown straw cowboy hat with a fancy band to draw the eye to my hat until my hair grows out.
My next stop was Japan to meet with Lady Blossom. She thought my plan was going to be great fun. She dabbed the corner of her eye dramatically and bemoaned to Jack that her little baby Vampire was all grown up. I thumped my head on the table while Jack nearly pulled a muscle laughing at her antics, but I left Japan with a list of contacts for all her houses.
With typical Frost luck, Stephen McGarrett and his Mate, Danny Williams, owned the old Arcade Building in downtown Honolulu. The two made quite an investment in Honolulu when they worked for the 5-0 task force during the 1950’s and 60’s. Sneakers leased the second floor for offices, and I took the top floor for a loft apartment.
My new home is in the very heart of Honolulu. If I listen to the quiet, I can almost hear the sounds of printing presses and reporters for the Honolulu Advertiser. Very few buildings remain from the 1920’s. McGarrett and Williams own the whole triangle shaped block next door to Iolani Palace, and they’ve fought hard to keep the historical integrity of the area.
The Oceania Head of Security was happy to go along with Frankie’s plans. Having a Clan Hunter, and a Clan business on sight gave them trusted people they could call should there be problems with tenants or their property manager.
The third floor was remodeled using materials bought from deconstructed buildings. Monkey pod wood flooring and koa wood cabinets with built-in appliances kept an open feel to the loft. The kitchen was separated from the rest of the room by a counter with stools and a koa wood dining set.
Plush sectionals made for comfortable evenings, and added sleeping space. Area rugs gave color to a classy, but comfortable living space. Patio doors led out onto a rooftop garden area just as inviting as the loft.
The bedroom easily held a king size bed, and the bathroom was built to be comfortable for my tall frame. The ‘public’ bathroom was minimalist. Overall, it was the perfect living space for a single, professional.
My morning runs included Iolani Palace and the historic buildings housing the state government. Morning swims were curtailed to my weekends at the estate, but in the grand scheme of things it was a small sacrifice. For all my bellyaching about gossipy mother hens, the support from this Clan … This family that Higgins had thrown me into the day I consented to be Turned constantly chipped away at the armor of cynicism I have worn since the Fall of Saigon. Endings and beginnings … I’m starting to see the pattern.
My last night in the estate’s guest house, I removed my Cross of Lorraine ring for what could be many years, and placed it in a ring box. I lost track of time as memories from the first time I put the ring on my finger overtook my mind. The feeling of tears on my face brought me back to the present. The box was buried in the bottom of my safe, and I locked the door on Thomas Sullivan Magnum IV.
Two months after my conversation with Frankie and Richie, Lily was settled into her college dorm, I was settled in my newly remodeled loft, working in my new office figuring out how to steal people’s stuff, and trudging through reams of information from Director Morrow.
So much for my retirement.
Thomas Sullivan settled into a successful career with Sneakers Honolulu. The thievery I participated in for our customers was fun, and came in handy when I was on the job for Morrow. Like my ops in Vietnam, there was a lot of getting in and out of places without getting caught. I became the face Customs agents came to recognize as I travelled throughout the Far East acting as a business agent for the Pink Blossom houses. Ignoring the presence of a mere employee, conversations flowed freely in the houses, and a lot of information was collected.
My mother lived long enough to see Lily graduate from college. Thomas Magnum returned from his travels long enough to see his daughter graduate college and settle his deceased mother’s affairs in Virginia since my stepfather had died five years ago. Lily was moving to The Warren and doing her graduate work at a college in Adelaide. Frankie and Richie brought the jet to Hawaii to make it easier for her to get her life moved to the Clan vineyard, and be pests at the office for a week or two.
I found myself once again caught in a whirlpool of too many endings and beginnings. I was torn between grief and relief. Grief over the death of my mother, but Thomas Sullivan was an orphan. Grief over watching the light of my life move thousands of miles away, but Thomas Sullivan didn’t have a daughter. So here I was dealing with Thomas Magnum’s grief, unable to express that grief because I wasn’t Thomas Magnum. I am Thomas Sullivan.
Standing at the edge of the estate’s lagoon, my thoughts were sinking into a morass of dark emotions. There was guilt at the relief I was feeling at being able to lock Thomas Magnum back in my safe and relief that I could concentrate on truly becoming Thomas Sullivan.
“You done brooding, Thomas?” Frankie asked handing me a beer.
I gave him a glare as I accepted the beer.
“I could swear you have a Mate to torment.”
“I do, but he’s helping Higgins and Lily organize her things. I forgot how much ‘stuff’ young women can’t live without.” He laid a hand on my shoulder. “We’ll take good care of your little girl.”
“I know you all love Lily as if she were your own. This overlapping of lives is making me a little crazy.” I shook my head trying to clear my thoughts.
“The first time’s usually the hardest. Having a new crew of Chosen Ones at the office should help. I picked them specifically because they didn’t know Thomas Magnum.”
“I appreciate that, and it has helped. It’ll all settle once you go back to Australia. I’m using the out of the sight out of mind coping mechanism.”
“If that’s what gets you through the night.” Frankie teased.
“And people say you’re a scary man with no sense of humor.” My tone was sarcastic.
“You’ll be just fine, Thomas.”
“To next new lives.” I tapped my bottle against his.
“Endings and beginnings, Man.”
A few days after the plane took off for Australia, I left Hawaii, heading to Japan. My anonymity in Kagoshima was a blessing. There were no expectations of being anyone other than who I say I am.
I know what you’re thinking … Big bad SEAL and war vet getting all tied in emotional knots. Our training teaches that to be successful on missions there must be clear thinking. Right now my thoughts and emotions were a rolling through my head like a litter of kittens with a ball of string. The quiet order of the Japanese countryside soothed the chaos in my head.
Lady Blossom, Jack, Sifu, and Miho had become part of MY Clan. MY circle within the larger circles of Clans and Council. Jack took great enjoyment in watching Sifu and Miho beat the crap out of me on the practice sands, but it was building my skillset. The bitching about the treatment of a fellow Hunter was more for Jack’s entertainment than any complaint on my part. The man really needed a hobby.
After one such session, we were enjoying afternoon tea with Katsumoto when my Caller ID showed ‘Tom Morrow’.
“Tom, how are you?”
“Frazzled. I need a HUGE favor, Thomas.”
“I’m taking some down time, Tom.” I try to never say too much on the phone. You never know who’s listening.
“Yes, I know. Your boss told me where to find you. I need you to go to the Embassy and pick up a file. You’ll know what to do with it.”
“It’s of the utmost urgency, Thomas. I need you to pick up this package. There’s a very nice bonus in it for you.”
“All right, Tom … But you owe me.”
“You’re a lifesaver, Thomas.”
“I have a long memory, too.”
“Call me when you’re back from vacation.”
“You can buy me a drink.”
“Absolutely. Take care, Thomas.”
Four sets of eyes watched as I tucked the phone in my pocket.
“I have to go to Tokyo tomorrow.” I told the room.
“I will alert our pilot to put the small jet at your disposal.” Katsumoto offered.
“Thank you, Katsumoto-sama.”
“It is the least we can do. You sharing information with us has been of great assistance in these turbulent times.”
“So much for wondering what I was going to do during my vacation.”
By noon the next day I was sitting in the American Embassy. Ambassador Baker handed me the package from Director Morrow and directed me to an empty office. After going through the contents of the package, I wanted to thump my head on the desk … Something I seem to want to do a lot around my friends and family.
The CIA had lost an agent … One Henrietta Lange. When she went dark, it was her old friend, Tom Morrow she contacted instead of Langley. Included in the package was the passport and travel papers for Gloria Edwards. Her missive told of a Chinese Cold War contact with information she felt vital, but would only meet with Lange. The package to the Director included the information along with the passport, but Tom was holding everything until Agent Lange could be retrieved. He was asking me to go to Vientiane, Laos and visit the Haw Phra Kaew temple until I was contacted by Agent Lange.
My experiences in Laos are remnants of the Vietnam War. Living and fighting alongside the Hmong rebels, raiding POW camps then retreating into the mountains until an ambush by the Viet Cong captured my team. Our time as POW’s was short, brutal, full of pain, and death … The fodder of untold night terrors. I have never been to the capital so I’m hoping my flashbacks stay locked in their cage so I can spend the flight blowing the dust off my Lao.
I tucked the agent’s passport into a hidden pocket in my cargo pants then went looking for someone who could lead me to a shredder. When I got back to Kagoshima, my first stop was Katsumoto, hoping the Clan Leader will let me keep the jet for the trip to Laos … I hate going where I don’t know the territory, and having a quick getaway has always been my first priority. Then there’s the whole flying coach. It’s a bitch when you’re 6’4”.
I’m keeping my fingers crossed we don’t get to the chapter in the spy manual that says, ‘when you’re retrieving something or someone, the other side will try to stop you from retrieving said person or object ... Usually by shooting at you.’ The Ambassador was able to expedite the visa process, and by the time my paperwork was ready and sent to the Clan house, I would be ready, too.
Dragging myself up the steps of the house, all I wanted was to face plant on a bed. If my heart still beat, it definitely would have stopped when a body stepped out of the shadows.
“Holy hell, Takezō!” I hissed. “I thought Nathan got you a damn bell.”
Looking not at all contrite, he handed me a mug of blood, for which I was grateful.
“You look like crap, Thomas.”
“It’s been a crap day, that is leading to what will be most likely be a crap trip. I need to be in Laos yesterday, but the paperwork demons must be appeased first.” I handed him the empty mug.
“A good night’s sleep will perhaps give you a different perspective.”
“Thank you, Takezō. In my rush I hadn’t given feeding a thought.”
“Sleep well, Thomas.”
Things were falling into place for the trip when I discovered the reason Katsumoto had so readily agreed to the use of his plane … I was to have company on my trip. Lady Blossom and Jack appeared about the same time my travel visa was delivered.
“Thomas, darling, Jack and I have come up with the perfect cover for your little excursion.” She announced as she swept through the room.
“Thank you for the effort, but I have that part of the trip in hand.”
Jack gave me a toothy grin to show there was no way I was coming out on top in this conversation.
“It can’t possibly be better than mine.” Lady Blossom huffed.
“I’m going to retrieve my assistant, who went to Laos ahead of me in order to begin researching viable properties for the newest house in the Pink Blossom stable.” I gave her my best bad boy smile.
First she glared. Then she gifted me with the most beautiful smile. I am a SEAL. I refuse to run and hide in my room.
“I knew there was a reason I chose you. It will add validity to your tale when Jack and I accompany you.”
I met her statement with an exasperated huff. Most of my adult life has been spent being invisible on Intelligence missions. I do not need babysitters, but there is no way I’m telling that to the beautiful woman smiling up at me. She could slit my throat with her little fingernail before I could blink. I hung my head in defeat. Her smile was blinding when she turned back to her Mate.
“He’s such a good boy.”
Throwing up my hands, I went to pack. I could hear Jack laughing as Blossom sent him in search of Nathan.
The flight was smooth, but I was grateful to stretch out on the bed in the Executive Suite of the Green Park Boutique Hotel. Tomorrow would be my first foray through the Morning Market. Hopefully Agent Lange would come in from the cold quickly.
Vientiane is fully modernized and the hotel the picture of luxury, there were still those sounds and smells that stirred old memories. Part of me wants to run until the shades of the war crawl back in their graves, but I will not leave anyone to the mercy of the enemy of the week.
Lady Blossom diverted everyone’s attention because she was not able to find her assistant. Didn’t they want to make a good impression on potential businesses … And on, and on … Employees tried to placate the politely strident rich lady, guests shot commiserating looks at Jack while I slipped out of the hotel.
By the third day, we were all ready to bite someone in frustration. Browsing the vendors at the edge of the temple grounds, I was bartering for several lengths of silk, shawls, and some beautiful handmade jewelry when movement at the back of the Temple caught my eye. I finished my transaction before moving toward the temple. Stopping at the edge of the property, I pulled a basket, with appropriate items for offerings to Buddha, out of my pack then stowed my purchases and shoes. I paid my respects, then chose a bench close to where I had seen a small figure in the shadows. I used the peace of the temple grounds to wrestle with my ghosts while I waited.
“You’ve worried your family something awful.” I commented to no one in particular.
“Have you come to help a troubled soul?” Came the soft reply.
“A good friend knew I was in the area, and asked me to inquire whether his lost sheep was ready to return home.”
“I believe I’ve seen enough of this part of the world.” Exhaustion colored her words.
“You and me both, Sister … You and me both.” I muttered. “Walk with me. I have a very comfortable hotel.”
“Certainly, Mr. …”
“Sullivan, but please call me Thomas … Gloria.”
Using my bulk to shelter the small woman from the jostling crowds, we made it into the hotel and quietly up the back stairs. Blossom and Jack were out, so I told Agent Lange to make herself comfortable and ordered room service while she showered.
Over lunch I told her about Morrow’s call, and handed over her passport and travel papers.
“I don’t mean to sound ungrateful for all you’ve done, Mr. Sullivan, but why would Director Morrow call you?”
“Well, Agent Lange, Tom and I have known each other since he roped me into one of his pet projects. He called me because I live in Hawaii. He was practically dancing around the room when I told him I was visiting friends in Japan. They offered to use their business interests as a reason to travel to Laos.”
Her exhaustion became more pronounced once we’d finished our meal.
“Why don’t you lie down until dinner. I’m not sure when my friends will be back, but I’ll be here.” I told Agent Lange as I rolled the room service cart into the hall.
“I believe I will. Thank you, Mr. Sullivan. Please call me Hetty. I hope you weren’t offended at my doubts.”
“Not at all. Not my first alphabet rodeo, Ma’am.” I gave her a lavish bow.
“Cheeky pretty boy.” She muttered as she headed to the bedroom.
I turned the TV low for background noise then settled on the couch with several journals full of the newest security systems to keep me occupied while I stood watch.
The next morning’s trip to the airport was uneventful, but we stayed alert. Hetty had lost the people following her at Phônhông when she diverted to Thalat and caught a ride down the river to Tha Ngon. From there she took the bus into the capital. Listening to her chat with Lady Blossom, I realized Hetty had probably forgotten more about spycraft than most people learn in their entire career.
Once we made cruising altitude, I wondered how many people had taken one look at her small stature and dismissed her. When the conversation turned to tea, I turned my attention inward, and soon fell into a light doze. Memories of Vietnam and a night on the suite’s couch did little for my sleep.
The pilot announcing out entry into Kagoshima airspace brought me to full alertness to hear Hetty and Jack discussing alcoholic beverages around the world. When Jack saw I was awake, he informed me that we’d be staying at the house until the next morning. I looked at Hetty for her reaction, but nothing in her expression or heartbeat gave any sign that she was distressed at the new.
“We’ll be in good hands. The house has secure communications if you need to contact anyone.” I assured the agent.
“I look forward to another restful night. Since Director Morrow is the only one to know there was a situation … Any calls can wait.” Hetty assured me.
Takezō met us at the door, and informed us with a wink that the ‘Masters’ were in Tokyo, then after introductions, shuffled Hetty off to the guest room next to mine. By this time tomorrow we’d be back in Oahu where I’d be so jetlagged I’d sleep for a week.
Sleep was still hit and miss so I slipped from the house just after dawn for a much needed run. Takezō met me at the kitchen door with a mug of warm blood and a Chosen One. It was in my mind to refuse, but Lady Blossom must have said something last night that caused the majordomo to glare me into submission. A deep bow formally expressed my thanks to the young woman before she slipped out the door.
“Thank you, Takezō. That really helped the jetlag.”
“Breakfast after your shower, Thomas.” His tone was firm.
“Of course, Kensei-san. No one in your household would dare disobey.” I chuckled as I headed to my room.
“Got that right.” He jeered.
Lady Blossom and Jack accompanied us to the door when Kensei announced the car was waiting to take us to the airport. I handed Lady Blossom a length of sapphire blue silk as a token of my appreciation for her help.
“What about my help?” Jack teased.
“I’m sure whatever that silk becomes will be thanks enough, you old goat.”
Placing our bags in the trunk, I hear Lady Blossom admonish Hetty to take care of her boy. I rolled my eyes as I bent to kiss her cheek.
“Take care, Thomas. We’ll see you soon.”
I practically tumbled into the car when I felt her pinch my ass.
“What? It’s one of the best I’ve seen.” She teased.
“Ryoko, can you get us to the airport while I still have a modicum of dignity?” I asked the driver.
“Certainly, Thomas-san.” She chuckled as we pulled out of the driveway.
We were strapped in for take-off when the navigator came through and handed me a message.
“Damn. We have supplies for this?”
“Problem, Mr. Sullivan?” Hetty spoke at the time as the navigator.
“We do. Please come with me, Thomas-san.”
Motioning Hetty to follow, we moved to the center of the plane where the navigator unlocked a roller door.
“Pick your poison, Miss Hetty.”
“I must say, you have interesting friends. That must have been some message, Mr. Sullivan.”
I reached in for a Sig Sauer P-226. Hetty picked a Glock 26.
“We may have a welcoming committee.”
“Thank you.” I bowed my head to the navigator. “Pass our thanks on to the Clan.”
She nodded and made her way back to the cockpit.
“Buckle up.” I joked. “The ride gets bumpy when we touch down in Honolulu. Seems your friends are willing to burn some of their U.S. assets to get to you.”
“Good things do come in small packages, Mr. Sullivan.”
“Yes, they do, Miss Hetty … Yes, they do.” I chuckled as the plane taxied down the runway.
While Hetty and the crew enjoyed their lunch, I finished off mine with a mug of blood. If things got messy, I might need it to get her to the security of the estate. We relaxed until the plane touched down. I tried to keep my senses tuned high, but the noise and the smells of the crowded airport made that impossible.
It took little time to clear customs, and catch a cab to the office. I grabbed keys to a company car and extra ammo magazines. The cars aren’t bulletproof, but the windows had been replaced with hurricane impact glass. It was my hope if we’re attacked, it would be away from populated areas. I thought we’d slipped any surveillance watching for Hetty, but as we approached Hanauma Bay Preserve, I noticed two black sedans in the rearview mirror.
We had the narrowness of the road in our favor, but we were limited by my not wanting Humans caught in the crossfire. The best I could hope was to get through the estate’s gate, or we were going to have a shootout in the middle of Kalanianaole Highway.
I called Higgins to warn him that we were coming in hot so he could get any staff, and the Lads shut away. Ares and Hades had taken over when Higgins retired Zeus and Apollo. The older dogs had lived out their days pampered at The Warren.
Catching sight of the black cars again, I pushed the mid-size SUV as fast as I dared in evening traffic. It had thinned considerably once past the nature preserve with only the twists and turns in the road keeping us out of sight.
A mile from the estate, we were caught behind several vehicles turning off the main road. It gave our pursuers a chance to close the gap, and I glanced in the side mirror in time to see a gun taking aim out the passenger window.
“GET DOWN!” I shouted as bullets started to fly.
Hetty began to move to return fire.
“Save your ammo. They’re going to catch us at the estate.” I hit the gate control at the outside limits of the remote, knowing I could get through, but also knowing there was no way I could get the gate closed before the bad guys came through, too. The best I could do was spin the SUV around so it protected Hetty while she ran into the house.
“When I spin the car, you get your ass to the house. Higgins will get you to safety.”
“What about you, Mr. Sullivan?”
“I’ll be right behind you.”
Hopefully, these guys are Human, and I don’t take a kill shot. I do not want to do Vampire 101.
The first car pulled through, the second stopped to keep the gate open. The first car would keep us from giving chase if the agents got to Hetty. Higgins returned fire while herding Hetty across the lanai to the house. Turning to dive out the passenger door, I was glad the SUV didn’t have a console. The side window finally shattered, and I felt the sting of a bullet across the top of my shoulder. Using the protection of the engine block, I swung around to return fire. I could hear heartbeats, but that was no guarantee they were Human. Heart simulators are practically standard wardrobe among Rogues now days.
Five men from each car sent a lot of lead flying across the yard. Hopefully, Higgins had time to call the police so all we had to do was hold them off until HPD arrived. Movement in my peripheral vision became three shooters going to my left trying to get in the house, and two going right, trying to flank me.
This was seriously going to suck. I shot at the men near the gate and moving right, leaving Higgins and Hetty to take care of the men coming their way. I hit the ground when a bullet tore through my side. Getting on my feet using the fender of the SUV, I killed the two trying to rush past me to the lanai.
Gunfire to my left, told me Higgins and Hetty were on the job. Seven down … Three to go. Vampire hearing caught the sound of sirens approaching fast. We needed to end this so I could clean up before a non-Chosen questioned the blood on my shirt.
The scrape of a shoe on stone behind me distracted me from the two men to the front. Turning my head just enough for a quick look see, the breath I no longer needed froze in my lungs.
Standing on the top step taking aim at the men focused on me, was the petite figure of Agent Hetty Lange. White hot anger joined the stress and adrenaline flowing through my body. I felt my fangs drop, and eyes flash. How dare this small Human undo all my work protecting her by breaking cover … Making herself a target.
In the time it took to load my last magazine, I ruthlessly squashed self-preservation instincts screaming not to do stupid things with bullets flying toward me. I stood and stepped in front of Hetty taking aim at the last of the shooters. I heard Hetty’s shot go past my ear and hit the assassin standing behind the driver’s door, as my shot took out the other.
My ass hit the step like a marionette with its strings cut as the final bullet from Hetty’s target cut through my torso and impacted my spine, taking my legs from under me.
“THOMAS!” Hetty yelled.
“I’m fine. The cops are almost here ... Guns.” I ordered Hetty, my voice breathless with pain as Higgins rushed to my side.
“Three.” I whispered while Hetty went to clear the shooters’ guns. “A graze to the shoulder, one through the side. The last one took out my spine. Might want to rally a few Chosen Ones.”
Higgins ignored my joke as he took in the condition of my shirt.
“We can’t let police question you covered in your own blood.” Higgins pulled me to the top step so I could lean against a pillar.
“Good thing I dressed appropriately.” My chuckle ended in a groan as I indicated my black shirt and cargo pants. “If Duke Lukela or John McGarrett are dispatched we’ll be fine.” I closed my eyes against the pain. “Get Hetty.”
Higgins and Hetty were back by my side as officers started to climb over the car blocking the gate. It was a relief to see the two Chosen Ones I named coming toward us. Right behind them was Director Tom Morrow.
“Man’s got timing.” I growled.
With the Director of NCIS on scene, he would make sure it became ‘a matter of National Security’, and bring out the local NCI Forensics team. Tom directed McGarrett to secure the scene, and call rollbacks to take the shooters’ cars to the NCI lab.
John and Duke set two patrol cars for traffic control then sent everyone else on their way. When it was all sorted, Morrow took Hetty into the house while Higgins and Duke carried me to the guest house and deposited me in my bathroom.
I was able to strip off my shirt and drop it in the trash bag Higgins thought to grab out of the kitchen, but my strength was fading fast as he stripped me to the skin, and treated my wounds. Everything faded to gray, and the next time I was aware, Higgins was standing by the bed holding a tray containing three mugs of blood.
“Still taking care of your kid?” I mumbled.
“Always, Thomas.” He said softly as he held a mug so I could drink.
“Jonathan, I know we’re not the most demonstrative of people, but thank you for everything you’ve done for me and Lily through the years.”
I let go of his wrist so he could reach for the next mug.
“It’s never been boring, Thomas. Allowing Herbert and myself to be a part of Lily’s life has allowed us to experience what it would be like to raise a child. That was something I never fathomed would happen, and for that we will always be thankful.”
“Some days I think she’s more yours than mine.”
“Thank the Gods for that.” His tone dry as the desert.
I was able to hold the third mug myself freeing Higgins to attend to the aftermath of the gun battle. It was interesting to watch the transformation from my soft-hearted Sire to Majordomo of Robin’s Nest. My eyes closed in sleep as the door closed behind Higgins.
The next morning, using crutches, I was able to do for myself, allowing Higgins to keep at the business of setting Robin’s Nest to rights. With Higgins lining up Chosen Ones like a Las Vegas buffet, the feeling was returning to my legs.
Tom was spiriting Hetty back to D.C. as soon as Morrow’s driver could get them to Hickam where they were catching a hop to Andrews AFB.
“There’ll be a hazard bonus along with your fee. Thank you for taking care of Hetty, and keeping the Chinese State Security agents from getting their hands on her.”
“That’s one way to flush out enemy agents.” Sarcasm was the topping for my boredom sundae. “You better be reimbursing Higgins for damage to Clan property.”
“He’s already presented me a bill.” Morrow frowned.
“Thanks for that something extra, too.” I winked at Tom.
Higgins insisted doing his duty as a Chosen One was the least the NCIS Director could do since I was shot protecting his asset.
“Higgins can be very persuasive.”
“He takes good care of me and Lily.” I shifted on the chaise trying to relieve the burn and spasm of healing nerves.
“Lily?” Hetty asked as she appeared around the corner of the house.
“A friend’s daughter. She’s in Australia working on her graduate degree.” I hedged.
I didn’t know what Hetty had been told while I was sleeping. Thomas Sullivan doesn’t have a daughter. I looked over at the petite remnant of the Cold War era of espionage.
“That must be the young lady in the pictures around the house. Mr. Higgins is quite proud.”
At that moment I was thankful Lily got her looks from Michelle. She got her height, eyes, and stubborn nature from me.
“Thomas, I want to thank you for all that you’ve done and endured for me. Simple words cannot express the range of emotions I’ve experienced since last night. Mr. Higgins was generous enough to explain why you weren’t evacuated to the hospital after your grievous wound.”
“Welcome to the ranks of Chosen Ones, Hetty Lange. Since you’re now in the family, let me say that if you ever break cover like that again, I will turn you over my knee.” I growled.
She drew herself up to her full height, but when my eyes flashed gold with my anger, she deflated … But only a bit.
“I admit, I thought it would be a distraction if I appeared behind you. It doesn’t happen often, but in this instance I was wrong, and you paid the price.”
“Thankfully not permanently. Waiting for your ride to Hickam?”
“Yes.” Tom exchanged a look with Hetty. “I’ll make our goodbyes to Higgins.”
“I’ll be there shortly, Director.”
Hetty remained in her chair until Morrow was around the house. She began unbuttoning her jacket and pulling her scarf loose. When her neck was bared, she turned her attention back to me.
“Since it was your protection of my person that initiated me into the ranks of Chosen Ones, I would like you to be the first.”
“Thomas, in the grand scheme of things, this a very small thing.”
I held out my hand and helped her settle alongside me on the chaise. Taking my time, I turned her head, and as gently as possible bit down. I infused each pull of blood with my caring, protection and gratitude. Lapping gently to close the wounds, I adjusted scarf and buttoned her jacket. With a soft kiss on her cheek, I urged her to her feet.
“I heard your car pull in the drive. Tom has my contact information so I expect you to come visit. Pakele hele ana, ko’u Kaikuahine (Safe journeys, my Sister).”
“Mahalo, Mr. Sullivan.”
Hetty followed Tom’s path around to the front of the house.
Within two weeks, I was healed and back to work. There was a backlog of jobs that needed my particular skillset so after supplying everyone with malasadas and coco puffs as a ‘Thank you for being Chosen Ones’, we got work.
Noelani, Adam, and Amelia had all been out to the estate to help my convalescence. Adam Charles was a recent transplant from the mainland, taking over when our resident computer genius moved home to help his elderly parents. They were a good crew and the business was doing well.
I know what you’re thinking, and you’re wrong. Everything wasn’t perfect in paradise after my shooting. Being paralyzed, even temporarily, forced me to stop … Everything. When my body stopped, my mind kicked it up a notch. I was forced to deal with all the things I’ve locked away for … Years.
So I crawled inside my head, opened all the doors and windows, and aired out all the rooms. The guest house was a dark and ugly place for several days until I got the memories consigned to the recesses of my mind leaving room for new memories.
I released the guilt I felt over moving Rick and T.C. to the fringes of my life even though they both had a lot of life to live. Acquaintances would comment about how much better I was aging than the other men, and you can only jokingly dismiss those comments for so long. One lesson I have learned from all my belly button staring is that most of my Human relationships will be short, and that the only people who will really know me are Vampires, and a few Chosen Ones. As a man whose emotions run deep, that thought saddens me. I’ll put it out to the Powers that Be to be merciful to this scarred war horse, and not make me wait hundreds of years to find my Mate.
Accidents notwithstanding, I’m enjoying my life as Thomas Sullivan. It looks like Lily is making her life in Australia so the identity I’m living now will be easier to maintain. For the first time since I was Turned, I’m finally beginning to feel at home in my Vampire skin.
I am positive I am the proudest and most exhausted Human or Vampire on the planet. I hate flying commercial, but two weeks in Australia culminating with the presentation of Lily’s PhD was worth it. She’s now working full-time with Mick, and Jack is so happy she’s going to be staying at The Warren, I was afraid he was going to freeze the grapes again. Max hid his head in his arms as Robert tried to get his Mate calmed down enough to stop the snow falling in the dining room.
Higgins stayed behind to spend time with his Mate so I promised to keep an eye on the estate and the Lads until he gets back. After the noise and chaos of the most Clan members I’ve ever seen present at The Warren, the quiet at Robin’s Nest will be nice.
It’s been awhile since I’d enjoyed the ride from the airport to the estate. It was nice to have time to enjoy an evening in paradise without worrying about traffic. It was sad to see some of the grand old places boarded up or for sale. I was glad to see that one of the old luxury getaways had been sold. I hope the new owner treats the place with the consideration it deserves instead of tearing it down and building some modern monstrosity.
A week later, I was surprised when an email from Tom Morrow asked me to meet him at the address of that same resort at 10 am the next day. I had to squeeze through a driveway full of work vans, while dodging electricians, plumbers, and IT people. I wandered around until I found Morrow.
“Thomas! Thanks for coming.” Tom was effusive as he shook my hand.
“What’s going on, Tom?” I looked around at the beautiful workmanship of the old resort.
“You’re standing in the new Office of Special Projects for NCIS.”
“NCIS, but undercover, the heavy investigations … Terrorism … Espionage … All the good stuff.”
“You’re leaving Washington?”
“Not me. I couldn’t handle the pressure of Special Projects. No, I have someone else in mind, and I called you here today to ask you to help get things up and running … Maybe handle cases until we get everyone in place.” He motioned around the room.
“I have a job, Tom … Two jobs in fact because one of them is for you.”
Tom had become Deputy Director at Homeland Security in 2005, and I moved with him. Directors at NCIS are notorious man eaters. I had just gotten used to being Thomas Sullivan, and had no desire to start over because some idiot’s ambition got me killed.
“I thought you’d do this as a personal favor for me, and you happen to know my Operations Manager.”
“Who would take a job you think’s too tough?” I teased.
“That would be me, Mr. Sullivan.”
I turned to see a well-dressed petite figure step into the room.
“Hetty! How are you?” I snatched her up for a hug and a kiss on the cheek.
“Put me down this instant, you rascal.” She ordered. After straightening her suit, she carried on like nothing happened. “I’m good, Thomas. It’s so very good to see you. Did Lily get my gift?”
“She did. She loved it. I’m sure you’ll be hearing from her after Mick gets her settled in her new office.”
I could hear Tom in the next room trying not to laugh at my antics.
Hetty and I became friends after the shootout. She often spent time between missions at Robin’s Nest, and had met Lily when she was home on break. Lily adored Hetty, and I could think of no better role model for my beautiful daughter.
“So … Operations Manager of Special Projects in paradise?”
“Yes. The problem I’m running into is time between choosing my agents, and getting them settled in Hawaii. We already have matters that need attending, but I have no one to attend to them.
“The Sneakers office is closed for vacation until the middle of June. I could help until then. Anything after that you need to discuss with Frankie. Oh … Marty sends his regards.”
“Ah, the infamous Misters Bishop and Frost. Would you consider working for me?”
I looked over at the DHS Deputy Director.
“Tom, who took over when Shepherd resigned? I don’t want anything to happen to this identity. Former spies make terrible NCIS Directors, present company excluded.” I grinned at Hetty. “They always use the agents for their own agenda.”
“Leon Vance.” Hetty curled her nose at Tom. “Your records are already in the system as my operative so it won’t be noticed if I slip in a change of status, but keep your records between the three of us … If that’s what you want.” He sounded hopeful.
“I’ll think about, but in the meantime, I’d be glad to help out until Sneakers reopens.”
“Let me dig around the boxes. I know we have guns and badges around here somewhere.”
I nodded to him as he left then turned my attention back to Hetty. With an impish grin, she brought her hand from behind her back and handed me a badge and gun. I arched an eyebrow in question as I settled the holster, and tucked the badge in my pocket.
She led me over to the space she’d carved out for her domain. The smell of a perfectly brewed Kona wafted from the service on her desk.
“I never doubted you’d help me get settled, Thomas.” She handed me a cup of coffee.
“Have you chosen your agents yet?”
“Just one. I’m bringing him on as my lead.” She handed me a file.
Of course I knew G. Callen aka Gustave du Champs … He’s a member of my Clan, and apparently being a bad influence on my Chosen.
“Good man … Good agent … Bit of loner ... So I’ve heard.” I teased. “When’s he moving to Oahu?”
“He should be here within the next two weeks.” She patted the back of my hand. “You’re still my first, Thomas.” Her eyes twinkled merrily.
“Anyone else on your agent bucket list?” I could feel the heat rise in my cheeks.
“I do, but I’ve only begun to torture their superiors. I imagine they will soon be handed over before the battle gets too bloody.”
Tom returned in time to hear her last comment. We laughed because we knew that was exactly what she was doing. I waggled my badge wallet while he glared at Hetty. Tom held out his hand.
“Welcome aboard, Thomas.”
“Yes. Welcome to NCIS Special Projects, Thomas. Now, there’s a workstation with secure Internet access and a stack of files in what used to be the ‘leisure room’, but is now the bullpen. Don’t dawdle, Agent Sullivan.”
“Aye, aye, Ma’am.” I snapped her a salute, and my best grin.
Just for fun I looked back over my shoulder and gave her Thomas Magnum’s patented eyebrow wiggle.
“Cheeky pretty boy.” She muttered as I walked away.
Life just got very interesting. I think I can hear Frankie plotting from Australia.
~ Fini ~