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Give the Boys a Great Big Hand

Chapter Text

USS Jimmy Carter, off Bermuda, August 2009

"There's something snagged in the towed sonar array," said the XO. "It's making noise."

"Damn," said Captain Wolfe. "What's the weather status?"

"Good. No storms in the area."

"Okay. I don't want to surface; can we get a diver out to take a look?"

"I'll get on it right away, Captain. Probably best to send the ROV first, make sure it isn't a mine."

"You're right. See to it."

* * * *

"What have we got?" asked Captain Wolfe, looking at one of the monitors in the control room.

"Should know in a moment," said Hull Technician David Farrell, carefully steering the remotely operated vehicle down the length of the towed sonar. "It'll be in view… yes, that's it." He steered the ROV closer and ran its spotlight over the obstruction.

"What the hell is that?" asked Wolfe.

"Looks like a trash bag with duct tape around it. There's a loose end of tape, it's tangled around one of the hydrophones. It can't have been there long; it would have torn off if we'd been making more speed."

"Can you detach it?"

"I'll try, sir," said Farrell, reaching out with the ROV's pincers. "If I can get the bag separated from the line it ought to be easy enough to remove…" He pulled at the side of the bag, and it tore open.

"What the..."

"I think that's an arm," said Farrell, looking at the remains the tear in the bag had revealed. Large chunks of flesh floated out of the hole. Small fish darted in to snatch at them. "Oh Christ..."

"Don't just sit there," said Wolfe. "Grab it before it floats away or something eats it."

"Uh... Yes, Captain." Farrell grabbed at the arm with a pincer, missed it, and tried again. This time he was successful.

"Get that in and have it put on ice, then see what you can do about clearing the array. I don't want to give anyone any hint that we're here."

 

Washington Navy Yard, September 2009

"What do you make of it, Ducky?" asked Gibbs.

"I could really wish that they'd found it at the end of their patrol, not the beginning," said the elderly medical examiner. "Nearly four weeks in their freezer hasn't helped. It would have been nice to have had rather more of the body, for that matter."

"We can't always get what we want, Ducky. What can you do with what you've got?"

"It's a left hand, of course, severed quite neatly just below the elbow. Caucasian, obviously, judging by the size I'd say male. Some evidence of decay."

"How was it removed? Surgically?"

"Possibly."

"Any chance of getting prints off it?"

"Dear Abigail is already working on it, of course."

"Anything else?"

"There are odd indentations on the forearm," said Jimmy Palmer, showing them the marks. "It's like he was gripped by a pair of tongs."

"After his death, dear boy," said Ducky. "Well after. There's none of the bruising we'd expect if he'd been alive at the time."

"It was hauled in by an ROV," said Gibbs, "I've seen about thirty seconds of the tape; I think that's the mark of a gripping claw."

"I'd be grateful if you could confirm that," said Ducky. "Some imprints for comparison purposes would be good."

"I'll ask for it," said Gibbs. "Any idea when he died?"

"Far too early to tell," said Ducky. "If you can find out more about the circumstances in which the remains became... ah... attached to the submarine it might tell us a little more, of course."

"I'll ask," said Gibbs, "but everything about submarine patrol routes is classified. They may decide we don't have the need to know. Can you at least give me a ballpark figure?"

"Six months to a year."

* * * * *

"We deployed the sonar array as soon as we were out at sea on the seventh," said Captain Wolfe. "We didn't notice anything unusual until the twelfth; then we started picking up clicking noises. I'd guess that there was something in the bag weighing it down, and that's what we heard rattling. I've looked at the recording from the ROV; it seems to me that something fell downwards when the bag was torn."

"We'll need to see as much of that recording as possible, not just the moment of capture, we can probably enhance it and figure out exactly what you saw."

"That might be difficult, it shows hydrophones and other details of the sonar array."

"Anything that shows the bag or the hand, beginning at least thirty seconds before it came into view. Our techs have the clearance. And any sonar recordings you have that include the clicking."

"Do you even begin to know just how classified that would be?" asked Wolfe

"Yes. I still need them. At least a couple of minutes. Now, can you show me where you were when that happened?"

Wolfe hesitated again.

"Approximately," Gibbs said patiently. "I don't think I need to know your exact position or heading, at least for the moment, just approximately where you were when it happened."

Wolfe indicated a spot on the map, off Bermuda. "About here, fairly deep."

"Any particular reason you were there?"

"I don't think I can answer that."

"Anything special about that location that you can tell me?"

"Not really. It was a good place to monitor some surface vessels."

Gibbs looked at the chart then said "In the Gulf Stream?"

"Yes."

"Were you travelling with the Gulf Stream or against it?"

"Against it, making just enough headway to stay on station and keep the sonar array extended."

"Okay, so let's say that the bag was travelling with the Gulf Stream, just floating along. McGee, where would it have come from?"

"Roughly, somewhere in the Gulf of Mexico, or off the Florida coast. That's assuming it wasn't just thrown overboard from a ship, of course."

"I don't quite see how it ended up tangled in our sonar," said Wolfe. "Wouldn't it just float, or stay on the bottom?"

"Flesh decays," said Gibbs. "Must have made enough gas to get the bag floating around the time you came along."

Wolfe looked ill.

McGee tapped at his computer's keyboard, then said "I make it about a year if it started out anywhere on the Florida coast, longer for the Gulf of Mexico. If Ducky or Abby can give us a better estimate of time since death I might be able to pin it down more precisely, but that's the best I can do for now."

* * * * *

"Gibbs, Gibbs, Gibbs!" Abby said several days later.

"What have you got, Abs?"

"The hand! I've ID'd the hand!"

"Are you sure? I thought you said the fingerprints were too badly damaged."

"They were too badly damaged for a hundred percent positive ID, but I was able to get the blood type, A Positive. The partials gave me a couple of thousand possibilities, adding the blood group took it down to about five hundred, still not great. But the size of the fingers and the diameter of the bones gave me some rough indicators on his height, got it down to under three hundred, then I was able to work out his approximate age from calcium deposits in the knuckles. When I factored that in I ended up with forty-eight possibilities from the Florida area. There were only DNA records for five of them, but sometimes you get lucky."

"And?" Gibbs asked quietly.

"And what, Gibbs?"

"And who is he, Abby?"

"Just a second," said Abby, hitting a key on one of her computers. It began to play the 20th Century Fox fanfare. As it ended, a mug shot appeared on Abby's plasma screen. "Ladies and gentlemen, Abby Sciuto productions is proud to present Mister Nathan Marten, of Miami, Florida."

"Why are you so chipper?" asked Gibbs.

"Because he's a total scumbag, Gibbs. Child molestation, kiddie porn, multiple counts. Last seen in August last year, reported missing in November."

Gibbs silently handed her a jumbo Caff-Pow.

"All we have to figure out now how his hand ended up in the Gulf Stream."

"Well, if it was easy everyone would be doing it."

TBC

Chapter Text

"Why do you want to take your team to Miami?" asked Leon Vance.

"I want to follow up on the hand," said Gibbs, "the Marten case."

"Follow up is simple; you mail it to the Miami PD and tell them they've lost a scumbag, let them solve it for themselves."

"It was found on a US Navy vessel; that makes it our case."

"It didn't originate there. It's a matter for the Miami PD."

"Obviously we'll need their help," said Gibbs, "but the second the Navy became involved it became our case."

"That your last word?" asked Vance.

"Yes."

"Good; Have a nice time in Miami. Here's your authorization." Vance produced a brown envelope and gave it to Gibbs, with the air of someone bestowing a favour.

"Okay," Gibbs said suspiciously, "What am I missing?"

"Shouldn't you be packing your bag?"

"It's already packed. What am I missing?"

"Enjoy your flight." Vance began to leaf through a folder, indicating that the meeting was over.

After a few seconds Gibbs shrugged and began to move towards the door. Without looking up, Vance said "Don't forget to give Agent Fornell my regards when you see him."

* * * * *

Fornell was waiting at Gibbs' desk when he returned to the bullpen, uneasily watched by McGee, DiNozzo and Ziva, and handed Gibbs a coffee. Gibbs glared at his team, and said "Well, go get packed. Our flight to Miami leaves in three hours." There was a sudden exodus towards the elevators.

"What do you want, Tobias?" asked Gibbs, gesturing for Fornell to follow him to one of the private conference rooms.

Fornell smiled. "Just a small favour."

"How small?"

"There's a rumour that you're going to Miami."

"Word travels fast. What do you want, Fornell?"

"Did you ever work with Frank Lundy?"

"The profiler?"

"Yes, one of the best agents we ever had. He retired a few months ago."

"I spoke to him a couple of times, got his opinion on some perps; we were never officially on a case together. Why?"

"Four nights ago he was murdered in Miami. The policewoman he was with is still in critical condition."

"What was he doing in Miami?"

"He was on the trail of a serial killer he called Trinity. He thought he had evidence of a series of kills going back about thirty years, but it was all circumstantial, a lot of them could have been accidents or suicide. He was trying to find enough evidence to convince the Bureau and get some real resources on the case. One of the reasons why he retired was that Deputy Director Adams wasn't buying his theories."

"So Trinity killed him?"

Fornell stood and went to look out of the window, over the Navy Yard. "Maybe, but I don't think so. A couple of years ago he was lead agent on a big serial killer case in Miami, they called the killer the Bay Harbor Butcher."

"Doesn't ring any bells."

"The killer was apparently a cop called Doakes, but he was killed before Frank could arrest or question him. There was a ton of forensic evidence, and some circumstantial, but there were no witnesses. Adams decided to close the case, but Frank was never a hundred percent convinced."

"Adams always was an asshole. How did you find out about it?"

"Over a few beers, how else?" said Fornell. "Anyway, while he was in Miami the first time around he hooked up with a homicide cop called Debra Morgan, the woman that was shot with him. It was a high profile investigation; the murderer must have known who they were."

"Go on," said Gibbs.

"The reason they called him the Bay Harbor Butcher was that he was butchering the bodies and dumping them at sea in garbage bags. A lot of people called him a hero because all of the victims were killers, people who literally got away with murder because the evidence wasn't quite good enough, or there was a technicality that screwed things up, or the cops only found out about it after they were dead."

"And our victim's a scumbag, and turned up in a garbage bag? It's a little flimsy, isn't it?"

"It occurred to me to wonder if the Butcher framed Doakes and changed his MO a little; dumped the bodies in a different location, where they'd be carried away by the current. He'd be quietly getting on with his life, killing scumbags nobody would miss. Then Frank Lundy reappears, and he's hanging out with one of the cops that were after him first time around. Maybe he got nervous, and decided to eliminate the threat."

"That's one hell of a theory, Tobias," said Gibbs.

"It is, isn't it?" said Fornell "But I can't prove anything, and I don't have enough evidence to get the Butcher case reopened. Lundy was a private citizen when he died, not an agent, and Adams doesn't want us involved. Until someone proves it wasn't just a random street crime it's out of our jurisdiction."

"But not mine."

"Officially you're investigating a case that has nothing to do with Lundy, Trinity, or the Bay Harbour Butcher. It really may have nothing to do with them. But if you could keep your eyes open, and maybe find reasons to broaden the scope of your enquiry..."

"It would pretty much have to be a cop, wouldn't it," said Gibbs. "He'd need all sorts of access, to know how to frame Doakes, and to know that Lundy was back in town."

"A cop," said Fornell, "or someone with good sources on the force. But Miami Metro is a big department, and it could be any of hundreds of people."

"Okay, I'll bear it in mind."

* * * * *

Dexter Morgan

It's four nights since Trinity shot Frank Lundy and my sister Debra. Already I've learned that Trinity is Arthur Mitchell, an apparently blameless citizen. I should really kill him, but I'm fascinated by him. How does he balance serial killings and family? And how long can I keep living my double life without sleep?

"Did you see the hottie?" asked Vince Masuka.

I yawned again and said "Hottie?"

"One of the navy cops. They're in LaGuerta's office."

"Navy cops?" I asked tiredly.

"NCIS."

"What have they got to do with us?"

"Damned if I know. I think that -- Shit, here they come."

I looked up from my microscope, and saw Lieutenant LaGuerta approach, with three men and a woman following her. Two of the three men were in their thirties, I guessed, the third was probably in his fifties, holding a Starbucks cup, and I guessed immediately that he was in charge. The woman was probably in her early thirties and looked beautiful and deadly. I was irresistibly reminded of Lila, my former lover and eventual victim.

"Lieutenant?" I said.

"Good morning, Dexter, how's your sister?" asked Maria LaGuerta.

"They think she'll make a full recovery," I said, "but you know what she's like, she'll probably try to come back before she's ready."

"I'll make sure she's okay before she's cleared for duty. Now then, Agent Gibbs, if you'd like to explain?"

"I'm Special Agent Gibbs, NCIS," said the older man. "Agent McGee, Agent DiNozzo," he gestured towards the other two men, "and Agent David," the woman. He pronounced her name with a short "a", and it sounded foreign and exotic.

"Pleased to meet you. I'm Dexter Morgan, this is Vince Masuka. What can we do for you?"

"We have some human remains that we think originated in Miami," said Gibbs. "They were found by a Navy vessel under classified circumstances. We've identified the victim as a convicted criminal from this area, a paedophile named Nathan Marten."

"Okay," I said cautiously, recognizing the name, and trying to imagine how Marten had made his way from the sea bed to a ship. "If you already have the ID, what do you want us to do about him?"

"Apparently he disappeared last year; presumably a forensics team checked his house. We need to see the records."

"Nothing seems to have come through to me," said LaGuerta.

"That's odd. What was the name again?"

"Nathan Marten."

I typed the name into my computer and waited for the results, didn't get any, tried another and drew another blank, and broadened my search to the whole state. Eventually I found something. "We didn't handle it, it's a Miami Dade case." I hadn't even realised that anyone had been looking for him.

"That's odd," said LaGuerta, "His home is well inside our area."

"It says it was part of an ongoing investigation, but doesn't give details." I couldn't help yawning. "Sorry, with Debra injured and the baby teething I'm not getting enough sleep."

"Who's the investigating officer," asked Gibbs.

"A CSI called Horatio Caine," I said.

"That cocksucker!" said Vince.

"You know him?" asked DiNozzo.

"Total asshole," said Vince. "Thinks he's god's gift to forensics, and runs around with a gun pretending to be a cop. Good luck if he's had his paws on the case."

"Is that so?" said Gibbs.

"He gets results," said LaGuerta. "I've sometimes wondered about some of them. He can be very ingenious when he looks for evidence to support a theory."

"That sounds like an accusation," said DiNozzo.

"Not exactly," said LaGuerta. "The DA seems to be happy with his work."

"I see," said Gibbs.

I hoped that he did, and that he'd take anything that Caine said with several pinches of salt.

TBC

Chapter Text

Miami-Dade Crime Laboratory

Horatio Caine removed his sunglasses and peered at Gibbs again, tilting his head slightly. Pretending to take notes, Tony added another line to a row, realised it made five, and crossed through them, deciding that it must be some sort of nervous tic, like the bad joke when he'd heard of Marten's death.

"So you had no particular reason to believe that Marten was actively involved?" asked Gibbs.

"Several of his former associates were implicated," said Caine, "and the data stored with some of the recent images on their computers showed that a Canon Eos 1D SLR with a four hundred millimetre lens had been used. That was Marten's favourite camera at the time he was arrested. These days you can pick up the camera bodies for four or five hundred dollars if you shop around, that lens would add at least six or seven hundred more, if you could find one second hand. But Marten was a professional photographer before his arrest, it's possible that he managed to hold on to a lens when the rest of his equipment was confiscated."

"I remember the 1D," said Gibbs. "Good professional camera for the time, but heavy."

McGee began to tap a search into the web browser on his PDA, Gibbs ignored it.

Caine said "They can shoot twenty-one frames at eight frames a second, which makes them a good choice for someone who wants to take a lot of pictures and get out in a hurry."

"So you thought it would be worth checking on him?"

"He was a convicted sex offender," said Caine, "and his MO fitted the evidence; we got a warrant and raided his house at the same time as the others."

"Why didn't Miami Metro handle the raid?" asked Gibbs.

"The judge issued the warrants to us," said Caine. "If we'd involved Metro there would have been another judge, another set of warrants, and an increased chance of word getting out before the raid. Nobody wanted that to happen."

"I see," said Gibbs. "And what did you find?"

"Marten had been gone for at least a couple of weeks. The food in the refrigerator was rotten, and there was mould growing in a coffee cup on his desk. His computer was wiped clean, and there were no cameras in the house, although we did find a wide-angle lens with the Eos fitting. We couldn't find any evidence of foul play, so we assumed he'd run."

"Wiped clean?" said McGee. "You couldn't recover files?"

"The hard disk of his desktop computer was completely overwritten with ones and zeros, our tech people said there was nothing left to recover. We found a receipt for a laptop, but it was missing. About all that we know for sure is that he uploaded some of the files, the IP records make that clear."

"Do you still have the computer?" asked Gibbs

"We didn't have any reason to keep it," said Caine. "His landlord might know what happened to it."

* * * * *

"What did you make of him?" Gibbs asked as they drove towards Marten's home.

"Glory hound," said Tony; "wants to bring down the bad guys single-handed. A mass raid like that, you need all the help you can get. He went out of his way to keep complete control of the case."

Gibbs grunted something that might have been agreement, and Tony belatedly thought of Gibbs' reluctance to give up on the Marten case.

"It's possible I can get something off the computer," said McGee, "if it was never reused, of course, but what are the odds of that?"

"Poor," said Ziva.

"One thing, boss," said McGee. "You remember the objects that fell out of the bag in the ROV's recording, the ones that sank quickly and we couldn't identify?"

"Way ahead of you, McGeek," said Tony. "A camera body and a lens?"

"Could be," said Gibbs. "Those were heavy cameras; that would be enough weight to keep a body submerged."

"One of the objects was a light-coloured cylinder with a couple of dark bands," said McGee. "I didn't think of a lens because they're usually black, but some Canon lenses have white outer casings. The other could certainly be a camera; we just saw it from the wrong angle to identify it."

"The poor light and the blood in the water did not help," said Ziva.

"Not much chance of recovering them," said Gibbs, "and even if there was, the memory card was probably pulled before the body was dumped. Whoever we're after knew what they were doing."

Dexter Morgan

"Dexter, would you come into my office for a moment?" Lieutenant LaGuerta didn't wait for a reply. I closed a couple of files, more of my Trinity research, and followed her.

"Shut the door and take a seat."

"Okay. What's this about, Lieutenant?"

"You weren't in here when Agent Gibbs explained how the hand was found," said LaGuerta. "It reminded me a lot of another case."

"Another case?" I played dumb.

"The Bay Harbor Butcher."

"I'm not sure I follow," I lied.

"The body was dumped in the sea in a trash bag wrapped with duct tape. Gibbs wouldn't tell me how the hand was found, but that sounds a lot like the same MO."

"That case had huge publicity; it could just be a copy-cat."

"It could be," said LaGuerta, "but what if James was framed and murdered, and the butcher just kept a low profile for a while."

"The evidence was overwhelming," I said, "and you know how unstable he was."

"You can be unstable without being a killer."

"What do you want to do about it?" I asked. And thought Yes, please tell me how you're going to catch me.

"Officially the case is closed," said LaGuerta, "but I think I know someone unofficial who might be able to help. I'm hoping to see him this evening, I'd like you to come along with me, and answer any technical questions that come up."

"Okay," I said uneasily. "I hope you know what you're doing."

"We'll find out," said LaGuerta, picking up her cell and hitting speed dial. "Mister Axe? This is Maria LaGuerta again. I'd like to confirm tonight's meeting. I'll be bringing along the colleague I mentioned..." She listened for a moment, then said "Thank you, I'll look forward to meeting you and mister Westen this evening..."


TBC

Crossovers this chapter CSI: Miami, Burn Notice. Please note that the Buffyverse crossover that was originally part of this story and chapter has been deleted.

Chapter Text

Nathan Marten's Former Home, Miami

"If I'd known the sort of man Marten was I would have never rented him the house," said his landlord. "When the police raided the place the picture was in every paper in Miami, usually labelled as 'Home of paedophile Nathan Marten.' Most of the windows were broken within the week then someone tried to set fire to the place. The fire department got it out, but it made a hell of a mess."

"How much is there left of his furnishings and belongings?" asked Gibbs.

"Pretty much everything was trashed. By then his rent was three months in arrears, and my attorney told me I could evict him. I found some aunt of his in Fort Lauderdale, she agreed to take away the stuff that wasn't ruined, but when we looked at it there was hardly anything she wanted to keep. We ended up throwing most of it in the trash, gave some books and clothes to a thrift shop, that was about it. After that I had to spend a small fortune painting the house and changing the landscaping so that it wasn't so easy to recognize."

"Was there a computer?" asked McGee.

"The police returned that about three months after the raid. When I called the aunt she called it a tool of Satan, didn't want it in the house because of what he'd used it for. I thought it might be useful, but I couldn't get the damned thing to work at all."

"So what happened to it?" asked Gibbs.

"I kept it in case she changed her mind. It's out in the garage."


"What do you make of it?" asked Ziva, watching McGee disassemble the computer.

"This would have been state of the art about three years ago. I'll know more when I've had a look at the hard disk." He pulled it from the casing, and plugged it into a docking cradle connected to his laptop. "Okay, let's see now…"

"What have you got, McGee?" said Gibbs, as usual coming up behind him silently.

"It's been wiped… whoever did it knew what he was doing, I don't think I'm going to be recovering anything."

"So what can you tell me?"

"Let's see now… hmm, that's odd…" He looked at one screen, then another, then opened a web browser and checked a Wikipedia entry. "Okay. Something doesn't add up here."

"What do you mean?"

"According to the partition creation date someone did a deep level erase of the hard disk on October the twentieth last year, then reformatted it for Linux. But the partition is labelled as 'Intrepid Ibex.'"

"So who's that, McGeek," asked Tony. "Someone in a comic book?"

"Intrepid Ibex," McGee said patiently, "was a major release of Ubuntu Linux. Version 8.10, to be precise. "

"And?" Gibbs asked impatiently.

"It was released on October thirtieth last year. Before that the version was 'Hardy Heron.'"

"So someone went out and bought a brand new copy of this software to erase the hard disk? Then faked the date to look like it was earlier?"

"Not bought, boss," McGee said apologetically. "It's a free download. Anyone in the world could have gotten hold of a copy."

"Any hope of tracing it?"

"Not a chance."

"Great," growled Gibbs.

"The police raided the house on November the seventh," said Ziva. "Caine said that Marten must have been gone for at least two weeks when they searched it, which takes us back to the twenty-third. That's well before your Ibox was released."

"Ibex," said McGee. "And yes, at least a week earlier."

"Why fake the date?" asked Tony. "Some sort of alibi?"

"Good question," said Gibbs. "Why don't you and McGee go find me some answers?"

"Wait a minute, boss, there's something else," said McGee.

"Go on."

"Someone's modified the network port on the motherboard. There's an extra chip added, piggybacked on the main controller. Some sort of bug, I think."

"Easy to find?"

"Easy for me, or someone with skills like me. Someone like Marten probably wouldn't spot it."

"What about someone like Caine or his team?"

"Assuming their people are competent... yes, they'd spot it."

"So why didn't he mention it? All right, McGee, you're with me, we need to have another word with Caine. Ziva, go back to Miami Metro, get everything they've got on Marten. And while you're there, see what you can find out about the Bay Harbor Butcher. The forensic scientist there had a big mouth; maybe he can give you some useful information."

"Morgan?" said Ziva. "He did not seem to be especially talkative."

"The other guy, Masuka."

"Him? He was staring at my breasts the whole time I was there."

"So he's romantic. Use it." He ignored Ziva's glare.

"What about me, boss?" asked DiNozzo, trying not to grin.

"Find out everything you can about the Bay Harbor Butcher, things that didn't make the official reports. Try the local libraries and the newspapers. See if there's anything that didn't make it into the files that could give us a lead on him."

"On it, boss."

"And do it quietly!"


Michael Westen

When you're a spy, staying in one area for an extended period is likely to attract official attention. When you're burned, they won't let you move on – which can be a problem if you're still doing things that attract official attention. And of course it doesn't help if some of your former associates have big mouths...

"I'm really sorry about this, Michael," said Sam Axe. "I knew that Doakes was in Miami around the time you were burned, but I had no idea he knew anything about your hero for hire gig."

"Well, he evidently did," I said, "and it looks like he told his lieutenant all about it. She knows my name, my real name!"

Sam winced. "And mine," he reminded me. "My name, my contact details, he probably gave her a goddamned picture. The guy was psychotic, Michael, we should count ourselves lucky we didn't wake up in trash bags in little pieces."

"That would be a nice trick if you could manage it," said Fiona, helping herself to a can of soda. "The big question, of course, is does she know about me?"

"I don't think so," said Sam. "She didn't mention you at all,

"Okay," I said. "Maybe we can use that. You stay in the background, keep your eyes open for any snoopers. Just in case this is some sort of setup…"


Miami-Dade Police Department

"Your people must have known that there was something hinky about that computer," said Gibbs. "What's the story, Caine?"

"There were reasons for it," Caine said reluctantly. "When we were checking Marten's computer we found the main partition completely trashed, no hope of recovering anything. But there was a second partition, just a few megabytes that someone had installed on the drive. Our techs identified it as the concealed component of a Trojan, a keystroke logger that used that second chip to relay everything he typed to another IP address."

"Leading where?" asked McGee.

"I didn't tell you this," said Caine.

"I can't make that deal," said Gibbs, "until I know what you're talking about."

"A dead man," said Caine. "By the time we'd found out who it was, he was already dead."

"Go on."

"An assistant DA called Miguel Prado. He gave us a lot of the intelligence that led to the raids, said he'd been contacted by an anonymous informant. It turned out that a couple of months earlier he'd paid a private eye to bug some known paedophiles, completely illegally."

"Let me guess," said Gibbs. "He was after the DA's job, wanted a big success?"

"Yes."

"So the raids were the result of illegal taps?"

"In a manner of speaking," said Caine, "although the evidence we actually used came from legal intercepts."

"But you planned the intercepts according to the information he gave you, and that came from illegal sources."

Caine took off his sunglasses, then put them on again. "Yes."

"So when you found out what was going on," said McGee, "You had the hard disk erased completely, to cover up Prado's illegal actions."

There was a long pause, then Caine said "Yes."

"Can you give me any reason," asked Gibbs, "why I shouldn't take this straight to your DA and tell him he's got to quash the conviction of a bunch of paedophiles, and that you've been tampering with evidence?"

"He knows," said Caine. "Getting them released without triggering a major scandal has been difficult, but it's happening. Their appeals are going through the courts, and the DA isn't opposing them. The official reason is technical details with the legal intercepts."

"But some of them have spent months in prison already?" asked McGee

"Yes."

"Unfortunate," said Gibbs.

"Yes, it is," said Caine, removing his glasses again.

"Moving on," said Gibbs, "is there anything else you didn't tell us about Marten?"

"No, everything else was by the book."

"Then I think that's all for now. Oh, one more question; what happened to Prado? You said he was dead."

"He was murdered last year, one of the victims of a serial killer called the Skinner."

"Another serial killer?" McGee said incredulously.

"It's Miami," said Gibbs.

"We do seem to see more than our fair share," said Caine.

"We noticed."

TBC

Chapter Text

Crossovers this chapter NCIS, Dexter, Miami Vice, Burn Notice. See earlier chapters for disclaimers etc.

Major spoilers for Dexter S2, S3 and S4.

Give the Boys a Great Big Hand

By Marcus L. Rowland

V


Miami Metro Police Department

"So let me get this straight," said Ziva, "You have had four serial killers in four years? And all of them involved this department?"

"Five if you count the creeps we think shot Dexter’s sister and the FBI guy," said Vince Masuka, "but they're basically just robbers that kill their victims. Now, the Ice Truck Killer had style, he gift wrapped body parts. The Bay Harbor Butcher, he was neat about cleaning up after himself. But the Skinner was pretty gross, just dumped the bodies anywhere. This new guy that Lundy was after is just weird."

"Trinity?"

"That's right," said Vince, "Would you like to see some crime scene photos?"

"If it is permitted."

"Hey Dex, do you have the Ice Truck file in there?"

Dexter Morgan poked his head out of his office, and said "It went back to records. Why?"

"I was just telling Agent David about the case. Reminds me, how's Debra?"

"She's not a good patient. I'll be seeing her this evening, I hope, once the Lieutenant's through with me."

"Going out with the boss… you bucking for promotion?"

"It's not my idea," said Dexter, disappearing back into the office.

Masuka lowered his voice. "Debra was engaged to the Ice Truck Killer – Dexter and LaGuerta saved her from him."

"It sounds like she has been unlucky in love."

"You could say that about both of them. Dexter had a fling with a total psycho a couple of years back, Lila something; she ended up trying to set fire to him and Rita's kids. That would have been around the same time as the Bay Harbor case, well before Dexter was engaged to Rita, of course."

"But they are married now?"

"Yeah, and they have another rug rat, brat called Harrison. They're living the American dream."

"I hope to become American soon," said Ziva, "although I have no plans for marriage or children any time soon."

"It isn't compulsory," said Masuka. "Although if you're in the market…"

"I believe that the correct expression is "In your dreams."

"Sounds about right," Masuka said sadly.

"Tell me more about this Butcher…"

* * * * *

Miami-Dade Public Library

"Don't I know you?"

Tony DiNozzo looked up from the microfiche reader he was using, and saw a man in his early sixties who looked vaguely like a younger version of Sylvester Stallone. He searched his memory and said "Should you?"

"We've met somewhere… Baltimore PD, right?"

"Used to be. Tony DiNozzo."

"Thought I remembered you… you were our contact in Baltimore when we came to pick up a pusher we were extraditing. I'm Sonny Crockett, used to be with Metro Vice until I retired. You gave us one hell of a tour of the city."

"I remember," said Tony, vaguely remembering their visit. "You worked with… don't tell me… Ricardo something, right?"

"Tubbs. He's in New York these days. What brings you to Miami?"

Tony hesitated for a moment then said "I'm with NCIS these days. We're tracing a body that may have originated in Miami."

"NCIS? I worked with them a couple of times. Dead sailor?"

"A civilian, found by a navy ship. Can't really discuss the details."

"Especially not with an old fart like me," said Crockett. "You know Mike Franks?"

"He's retired," said Tony.

"How about his probie… um… Gibbs?"

"He's still around."

"Tell him ‘hi' from me. He'll remember why."

"Will do." Tony thought for a second then said "maybe you can help me with something, if you have a little spare time."

Crocket took a chair from a nearby table and sat. "I've got nothing but these days."

"What can you tell me about serial killers in Miami?"

* * * * *

Michael Westen

When you're a spy, any pre-arranged meeting is a moment of weakness. You're out in the open, often at a time and place someone else has chosen. When the people you're meeting are cops, you have to take a few precautions. An open-air bar is usually a good place; plenty of escape routes, and difficult to bug. Usually…

"Let me get this straight," I said. "You think that someone inside your department set up Doakes to take the fall as the Bay Harbor Butcher, and killed this Marten?"

"Yes," said Lieutenant La Guerta.

"What about you, Dexter? What's your take on this?"

"It's odd," said Dexter Morgan. "Marten spelled his name with an ‘en', and so do you. Marten instead of Martin, Westen instead of Weston or Western."

"And?" I said impatiently.

"Nothing really, it just seems strange."

"Dexter," said LaGuerta, "How much sleep have you had since your sister was shot?"

"Umm… maybe not enough," said Morgan. "I'm sorry; I guess I'm having a little trouble staying focused, between that and the baby teething."

I tried again: "What do you think about Doakes?"

"Yeah… I'm sorry, Lieutenant, I still think he was the Butcher. He was behaving really strangely those last few months, anyone will tell you that."

"Okay," said Sam. "Small difference of opinion here. Any suggestions as to how we resolve it?"

"James wasn't perfect," said LaGuerta, "but I've never been able to see him as someone who would kill like that. In a fight or a rage, maybe, but the Butcher was a cold calculating killer."

"I think I can agree that he gave that impression," said Morgan. "He'd been giving me a hard time for months, but I was as shocked as everyone else when the FBI told me he might be the killer, it didn't seem to be the sort of thing he'd do. But maybe he had two sides to him, or thought that he was helping the police by getting rid of criminals?"

I asked "Was there any reason to think he might have been framed?"

In my ear Fiona's voice said "You're being watched. Black Chrysler rental parked on the street in front of the bar; can't see the driver." I looked around casually, and spotted the glint of a camera lens through the half-open window. No sign of a gun, I couldn't see a face behind the tinted glass. Sam raised his eyebrows slightly, and I knew he'd heard her too.

LaGuerta said "He called me, claimed he had evidence that identified the real killer. I should have made him turn himself and his evidence in, but I kept quiet about it. That compromised my role in the investigation and meant that nobody ever followed up to find out what he'd found."

"What about you, Dexter?"

"His prints were all over the surgical tools that were used to cut up the bodies. The FBI found a box of microscope slides in his car; it had blood from every one of the victims, and more that we've never been able to identify. Some of them had his prints too. Why would he have that? How could he have it if he hadn't killed them?"

"Good questions," said Sam. "Did you bring the case files?"

"The little the FBI didn't take." LaGuerta reached into a large purse and produced a bulky file folder. "This is the Bay Harbor case." Another file. "This one is a copy of Doakes' departmental records. I couldn't get access to his military records. Dexter?"

Morgan reluctantly produced a much thinner file from a shoulder bag. "Fingerprint and DNA evidence for Doakes. I don't have the records for the victims. Or anything on the hand they've found, it isn't our case."

"We'll take a look," I said. "See if we can spot anything you've missed. If it looks like we can help I'll get back to you in a day or two."

"In other words," said LaGuerta, "'Don't call us, we'll call you.'"

"So far it's a free consultation. If we actually find anything that looks like it means something we'll talk again."

"It would be good if we could put this to rest once and for all," said Morgan.

"We'll see what we can do," Sam said, his voice oozing sincerity. It took us a couple more minutes to get rid of them. The black Chrysler was still there when they'd gone. The window was closed.

"Another beer?" asked Sam.

"Not for me. Maybe something non-alcoholic." I got out my phone and said "Got anything, Fi?"

"A woman, dark hair. She got out of the car while you were distracted by the cops, went into the rest room. I didn't get a good look at her." Sam heard her over his earphone.

"Better get in there and take a look. You can go in there without attracting attention."

"No need," said a voice I remembered. "Shalom, Michael."

I turned, and said "Sam, I'd like to introduce you to Ziva David. Ziva, Sam Axe."

"Charmed," said Sam, a question in his eyes. Probably wondering how many weapons she was carrying.

"Formerly of Mossad," Ziva said quietly, "now with NCIS."

"That's a hell of a career change," said Sam. "Buy you a drink?"

"Lemonade would be good."

Fiona got up from the table where she'd been watching us, and came over to us. "Ziva," I said, "This is Fiona Glenanne. Fi, Ziva David."

"We've met," they said together. Neither of them sounded happy about it.

TBC

Chapter Text

Previously…

Fiona got up from the table where she'd been watching us, and came over to us.

"Ziva," I said, "This is Fiona Glenanne. Fi, Ziva David."

"We've met," they said together. Neither of them sounded happy about it.

Michael Westen

When you're a spy, it's often a good idea to compartmentalize your life and your contacts. For example, it's probably not advisable to tell your contacts - the Irish freedom-fighter and the Israeli assassin - about each other. While they might be kindred spirits, it may turn out that they've tried to kill each other occasionally. But if you don't tell them, and they find out anyway, you risk both of them getting a little mad at you, especially if they've been more than just routine contacts…

"Just when were you planning to tell me you know this bitch?" asked Fiona.

"I could ask the same question," said Ziva.

"Ladies," I said, "why don't you sit down and let me buy you both a drink. I'm sure it's been a while, and we really don't want to make a scene."

"What do you mean by 'we,' Michael?" said Fiona. "Because that's pretty much what I want to do right now. What the hell were you thinking?"

"Oh please, and you are so perfect?" said Ziva. "If Michael had told me of the company he kept, I doubt that Mossad would have shown much understanding. Or were you forgetting who supplied training facilities to the IRA?"

"That's all in the past, ladies," said Sam. "You're neither of you working for the same people any more. Why don't you bury the hatchet?"

"For two fins I would bury it in her head."

"Fins? Do you mean pins?" asked Fiona.

"Your language makes little sense."

"Ladies," I said "this is unprofessional. Come on, we're all adults here, and I think we're all working on the same side. Let's compare notes, and see if we can help each other."

"He's right," said Sam. "This isn't getting us anywhere. C'mon, sit down and talk."

"Yes, you'd both like that, wouldn't you?" said Fiona.

"They think that because they are men they have superior logic," said Ziva.

"While the reality is they mostly think with their dicks."

"And are much too gullible."

Suddenly Fiona and Ziva were smiling.

"Did you really think we didn't know about each other, Michael?" said Fiona.

"Just how stupid do you think we are, Michael?"

I shrugged, and picked my words very carefully; "A lot less stupid than me."

"Good answer," said Sam.

Fiona and Ziva sat, and Fiona started to drum her fingers on the table.

Eventually I said "What?"

"Where are our drinks, Michael?"

I went to get them.

* * * * *

Dexter Morgan

Harry was in the car when I drove home. I'm sorry to say that my late father was less than impressed with my performance.

"What were you trying to do there, Dexter? Make them think you're a flake?"

"Better a flake than a killer. The worse they'll think of me is that I don't agree with LaGuerta, and that just makes me an honest man. Everything else was just window dressing to confirm that I'm a concerned brother and father who doesn't get enough sleep."

"You don't. You've identified Trinity, isn't it time for him to die?"

"When I'm ready; there's still more to learn from him."

"It's too dangerous, Dexter. Those people aren't cops; they don't obey police rules, and they've been trained to think outside the box."

"I can handle it."

"Like you handled Doakes? Lila isn't around to do your dirty work, and things are getting too complicated. Kill Trinity now or back off and let them catch him. This isn't a time to play games."

"I'll… I'll think about it."

I stopped at lights, and when I started again he was gone.

* * * * *

When I got home Cody and Aster were playing a boisterous game in the garden. I joined in for a while to keep them out of Rita's hair while she was fixing dinner, did a few chores around the house, then once the kids were in bed said I had to catch up on some paperwork, and settled down with my laptop.

Westen turned out to be a local boy. I found a little about him on an old high school site; his name mentioned in his father's obituary, a brother with a history of petty crime. Westen himself seemed to have vanished after high school; there was nothing more recent. Nobody moves through the world as quietly as that, not even me, unless someone takes immense trouble to cover their tracks. He didn't show up on police databases, which was odd if he was active in Miami. I thought about trying to get into the records of other agencies, but decided it would be too risky. I couldn't find anything at all on his friend Axe. It probably wasn't his real name.

What did they actually have? Just LaGuerta's guess, which was uncomfortably close to the truth; the Butcher killed Marten, therefore the Butcher isn't dead. The only edge I could see was that she thought the Butcher had killed Doakes. I'd been filling up at a gas station about thirty miles away around the time Lilah killed him, and like a good boy I keep my credit card bills for seven years in case my taxes are ever audited. I'm careful, of course, to pay cash for things I don't want traced back to me, but that hadn't been on my mind that morning. So if I was ever asked about that day I could say "Yes, officer, I remember where I was when Doakes was killed - here's the proof." Of course Westen and Axe might not be interested in finding proof, but if it ever came to kill or be killed, regardless of the evidence, I ought to be able to take care of myself.

The NCIS agents were a lot easier to trace; hundreds of hits, most of them reports of arrests and trials. They had an incredible track record, catching everything from drug dealers to spies, terrorists, and dozens of killers. There was no way a crack team like that was in Miami just to track down a dead paedophile. There had to be something more they were after, and I had an uneasy feeling it might be me, if they'd made the same guesses as LaGuerta. There was one name I recognised in a lot of the reports; Abby Sciuto, the wunderkind of modern forensics. I've been a fan for years, and her web site, Criminalistics in the 21st Century, has often been invaluable in providing early warning of new technologies that could cause me problems. One of her recent entries was a round-up of techniques for identifying body fragments from partial data; I had a feeling I knew whose body parts she had been identifying - Nathan Marten, a serious pain in the ass. I wondered how they'd got hold of them; caught in an anchor? Found by deep-sea divers? I wasn't going to find out on line, and had no intention of asking her.

I wanted - I needed - to get close to Arthur Mitchell, AKA the Trinity Killer, and figure out how he managed to juggle family, friends, and mass murder. But there was no way to get close without leaving evidence of my interest, evidence that someone like Abby Sciuto could find in a heartbeat.

For a while I thought about taking a quick trip to Washington and eliminating that particular problem. How hard could it be to get close to someone who blogged her movements nearly every day? Catch her after bowling with the nuns, or at a Habitat for Humanity build… Yes, that was a good one; a good way to wind up in the electric chair, by breaking Harry's rules and trying to kill an innocent woman with connections to a competent law enforcement agency.

There was another option, of course. Kill Mitchell right away, and forget about his family life. That would be disappointing, but it would satisfy my Dark Passenger for a while.

Wasn't I forgetting something?

"Oh. Right…" Catch Mitchell and put him behind bars, without blowing my own secrets or satisfying my cravings. It was worth thinking about, if things seemed to be impossible any other way.

The baby was crying again; I went to change him then headed to bed. Rita was already asleep, and hogging the blankets.

* * * * *

Jackson Memorial Hospital, Miami

Debra Morgan had been staring at the same page of her book for ten minutes when a nurse came into her room and said "Detective Morgan? There are a couple of agents asking to see you; should I show them in?"

"FBI?"

"No, some alphabet thing I've never heard of; NC something… NCIS, I think."

"Navy cops? Why would they want to talk to me?"

"They didn't tell me. Should I show them in?"

"Might as well, it isn't like I've got much else to do."

The nurse went out, and came back a minute later with two men in business suits, one in his thirties and the other his fifties, and left them there.

"I'm Special Agent Gibbs," said the older man. "This is my colleague Agent McGee. We're with NCIS." They showed their badges.

"What the fuck does the Navy have to do with anything?"

"I knew Frank Lundy. Not well, but I owed him. I thought I'd come by to offer my condolences, and some grapes." He put a bunch on her table.

"That's your fucking excuse," said Debra. "What's his?"

Gibbs smiled. "Okay. We're in Miami on business. Some body parts found their way aboard a US Navy ship, and there's reason to believe they came from Miami. The victim turns out to be a paedophile called Marten; nobody's worrying too much about him, but it crossed someone's mind that it might be related to one of Lundy's earlier cases, one you were involved in too."

"You're shitting me! The Bay Harbor Butcher thing?"

"Yes. The disposal method was similar. The problem is that Marten was killed nearly a year after Frank closed the case."

"Could be a copy-cat," said Debra. "There was one while we were investigating the case."

"Did you solve it?"

"Doakes caught up with him first, butchered him in the same place he'd killed the vic. I guess he didn't like the fucking competition. That and the copy-cat had killed an innocent man."

"You think it really was Doakes, then? Lieutenant LaGuerta didn't seem to think so,"

"She and Doakes had a thing for a while; I guess she still tries to think the best of him. But he was capable of it, and there was a hell of a lot of evidence… I'm not sure that Frank was a hundred percent convinced, but I was."

"What someone suggested was that the Butcher might still be around, and panicked when he heard that Lundy was back in town. Maybe saw you on the streets and thought you were after him."

"No fucking way."

"Why not?" asked Tim.

"The Butcher didn't panic. Did anyone tell you how they found Doakes?"

"Not in detail."

"We'd been looking for him for a week or so when someone reported an explosion and fire at a fishing shack in the ass-end of nowhere. When we got out there we found the remains of his body, and two druggies he'd been playing with. He had them wrapped and ready to dump, and he'd done it just as carefully as he did when he was free and clear. That's not panicking."

"Or someone left them and him to frame him," said Gibbs.

"We looked at that," said Debra. "The autopsy showed he was alive until the moment the shack blew up. No sign he'd been restrained, no sign of drugs, he was probably leaning over the gas stove when it exploded, the blast killed him. The fire investigator thought that he spotted that the hose had come loose from the cylinder, and went to shut it down just as it blew up."

"That does seem pretty conclusive," said McGee.

"If our guy was killed by a copy-cat," said Gibbs, "maybe he wasn't so level-headed."

"How would I fucking know?" said Debra. "Why would a copy-cat be scared of Frank anyway? It's not like we would be looking for him."

"Good point."

"You're making it too complicated anyway. We've been trying to catch some dirtbags who are playing Bonnie and Clyde and shooting tourists, it was probably them. I wish to hell I could remember."

The nurse came in with a plastic cup containing two tablets and a glass of water. "Time for your painkillers."

"Not yet, I need to talk to these guys, and they'll make me sleep."

"We can come back," said Gibbs.

"Don't waste time on me; if you've got nothing else to do, find the bastard who shot Frank."

"Or the Trinity killer he was looking for," said McGee.

"Good luck with that," said Debra. "If Frank couldn't find him, why should you?"

"No special reason," said Gibbs, "but we haven't been looking yet. Maybe we'll spot something Frank missed. Now take the pills, we'll take it from here."

Debra swallowed the pills and said "If you find him I want the fucking collar."

"We'll see what we can do."

"Fucking right," Debra said sleepily.

"We're not going to get any more here," murmured McGee.

"Hope you feel better soon," said Gibbs.

Debra replied with a snore.

* * * * *

Intercontinental Hotel, Miami

"Has anyone got anything useful for me?" asked Gibbs, when they rendezvoused at the hotel that evening. They were sharing a suite with a large communal room, which was now equipped with a whiteboard, display boards, and laser printer.

"I followed Lieutenant LaGuerta and Dexter Morgan to an interesting meeting," said Ziva. "a contact from my Mossad days, a former American agent who is now resident in this area. He now works as an unofficial investigator, with other ex-agents. I will give you his name if you wish, but I do not think it will be useful."

"And?"

"I confronted him after their meeting. It appears that LaGuerta interpreted our questions as a suggestion that the Bay Harbor Butcher might still be alive, and followed up on it. She gave my contact everything she had on the case."

"And?"

"And he gave me copies, of course. Everything they have that wasn't taken by the FBI." She put a thick envelope on the table.

"What did you have to give him for them?" Tony asked with a leer.

"I promised that I would not mention his location to Mossad. Although I would be surprised if they don't already know. And that I would inform him if we found evidence that LaGuerta was correct. I was careful not to say that we would inform him before we had made an arrest."

"Very good, Ziva," said Gibbs. "DiNozzo, what have you got?"

"Sore eyes and a headache," said Tony. "You know how everyone wants to retire to Florida?"

"I don't."

"Of course you don't. Well, a lot of people do, and it turns out that applies to cops and crooks too. While I was in the library I ran into an old vice cop called Crockett, Sonny Crockett, he said to say 'Hi' to you."

"I remember him." Gibbs didn't sound too happy about it. "Go on."

"He gave me the low-down. Hundreds of hoods retire to Florida every year, and some of them aren't completely retired. A high-profile agent like Lundy might have all sorts of enemies in town. He's going to try to put a list together."

"It might be that," said Gibbs, "but I don't think so. While you were socialising did you find out anything about serial killers in Miami? Especially anything connected to Frank Lundy and the Bay Harbor Butcher?"

Tony moved to the whiteboard and in the centre of the board wrote 'Debra Morgan,' and said "Some of this is on the record; some of it is gossip I picked up. I've heard of people being accident prone. Debra Morgan is serial killer prone. And she's far from the only one."

He added 'Ice Truck Killer (Rudy Cooper),' and said "Briefly engaged to Debra Morgan, and tried to kill her. She was rescued by Lieutenant LaGuerta and her brother, Dexter Morgan." He wrote their names below.

"Next we have the Bay Harbor Butcher, allegedly sergeant James Doakes. Who worked in the same office as Debra Morgan, at one time was romantically involved with Lieutenant LaGuerta, and once attempted to assault Dexter Morgan. While working on this case Frank Lundy met and got very friendly with Debra Morgan." He added their names, and drew lines connecting them.

"Our third serial killer is The Skinner, an unpleasant guy called Jorge Orozco, alias George Washington King. He killed a whole bunch of people including Deputy DA Miguel Prado, who at one time had a relationship with Lieutenant LaGuerta. He also attacked and tortured a musician and stoolie named Anton Briggs, who at the time was in a relationship with… drum roll, please… Debra Morgan."

"Finally, of course, we have Lundy's 'Trinity' theory." He wrote on the name, and added lines to Debra and Frank Lundy. "I really don't know what to make of this. It looks like there's something in it, but without Lundy's notes we're whistling in the dark."

"Getting back to our reason for being here, let's see how Nathan Marten fits into all this. Killed and dumped by someone who works a lot like the Bay Harbor Butcher, but way too late to be a victim if the Butcher was Doakes. He was a convicted paedophile, but as far as I know that's it. Is there anything I'm missing?"

"A connection to Prado," said McGee. "Prado set up the computer bugs, completely illegally."

"And that's it, so far as I can tell," said Tony. "He's about the least connected person in this tangle. No contact with Morgan, Lundy, LaGuerta or Doakes. I hate to say it, but I think it's just a coincidence or a copy-cat."

"My gut says you're wrong," said Gibbs. "Somewhere in this mess there's an answer. We just have to find it."

TBC

Chapter Text

Intercontinental Hotel, Miami

“One of these things is not like the others,” sang Tony.
“One of these things just doesn't belong,
Can you tell which thing is not like the others
Before I finish”

He was interrupted by a slap to the back of his head. “Focus, DiNozzo,” said Gibbs.

“The Butcher went after murderers, not paedophiles,” said Tony. “So why the hell make an exception for Marten? What makes Marten so special?”

“He must have seen or done something that threatened the Butcher,” said McGee.

“Like Rear Window,” said Tony. “He’s taking pictures somewhere and gets shots of the Butcher carving up one of his victims, or dumping the body.”

“It fits,” said Ziva.

“Maybe,” said Gibbs. “But why would he be taking pictures near the Butcher?”

“Kids,” said McGee. “The Butcher must have been somewhere that Marten expected to see children.”

“A school or a playground,” said Ziva.

McGee plugged his laptop into the suite’s plasma TV, and typed “Primary Schools, Miami, FL” into Google Maps. Dozens of orange dots appeared. He zoomed in. “Three schools within a mile of Marten’s home, eleven within five miles.” He changed the search to playgrounds. “Six playgrounds and he lived a mile or so from the beach. There could be children anywhere along there.”

“It’s a theory,” said Gibbs, “but where does it get us?”

“Nowhere,” said Ziva. “The local residents all heard that he was a paedophile when his house was searched. Even if he was never anywhere near a playground, they will all now believe that they saw him lurking in the vicinity.”

“You’ve got that right,” said Tony. “And they’d probably be right. Marten wasn’t a parolee; he’d served his full sentence. He wasn’t lo-jacked, he was roaming free.”

“I’m not sure I buy it,” said McGee. “If it’s the Butcher he’s been careful over years, never put a foot wrong. Why would someone like Marten have a chance to see him in action?”

“I hate to say it, but McGeek may have a point. What I read about the Butcher this afternoon makes it seem like he hit most of his targets at night. You don’t see many kids at night, so why would Marten be on the prowl?”

“Maybe Marten had moved on from photographing children to murdering them,” said Ziva. “If the Butcher somehow found out…”

Gibbs poured himself a coffee, and said “Okay, we’ve got a lot of theories but no real answers, and we can’t spend much more time on this. Sooner or later we’ll have to return to Washington. What have all the theories got in common?”

All three said “Children.”

Gibbs went back to stare at the whiteboard. “So… any of these people got kids?”

* * * * *

NCIS Headquarters, Washington DC

Abby Sciuto was busy in her lab when the phone rang, and a familiar voice said “What have you got for me, Abs?”

“Nothing exciting, Gibbs. I think the Miami forensic people were competent. Looking at the forensics evidence McGee sent me, I can see a few things I would have done differently if it had been me, but it was adequate.”

“Give me an example.”

“Doakes’ fingerprints were all over the slide box and the slides, but if I’d been checking them I would have made sure that his prints were there before the blood went onto them as well as after. It doesn’t look like anyone did that.”

“Who signed off on examination of the slides?”

“Alex Brody and Duane Farmer, they’re both FBI forensics specialists, and a local blood guy called Dexter Morgan.”

“Who would have taken the lead in the examination?”

“Looks like it was Morgan; he wrote the report, the other two concurred in his analysis.”

“Thanks. Get yourself a Caf-Pow on my tab.”

“Thanks, Gibbs, but you can buy it for me when you get back. Which had better be soon, Major Mass-Spec and the kids are missing you.”

“Goodnight, Abs.”

“Goodnight, Gibbs.”

* * * * *

Dexter Morgan

When you're a serial killer, it's rarely a good idea to rely on your emotions or instincts, that leads to mistakes. That night I decided to use reason instead. How could I steer the investigation away from Marten and the Bay Harbor Butcher, and the idea that the Butcher shot Lundy and my sister?

I wanted to learn from Mitchell, but that wouldn’t be happening; the situation was simply too dangerous. The simple answer, of course, was to point the investigation towards Mitchell. Always assuming that he’d shot them, of course. Even if it wasn’t him, I was perfectly happy to let him take the fall.

What I wanted to do, of course, was kill him, cut the body into usefully sized chunks, and dump them into the sea. But that wouldn’t solve the mystery; it might be days before anyone even started to look for a missing man, let alone suspect him of anything.

I wanted to kill him, but I couldn’t do it the way I like, the way that the Butcher likes. It took me half an hour to come up with a plan that I could bring off quickly. I had everything I needed in the shipping container I rent for some of my more questionable possessions. A couple of small diversions on the way in to work, and the problem would be solved.

* * * * *

Michael Westen

When you’re a spy, you never take anything at face value. La Guerta and Morgan had given us some very detailed information; I wondered how much of it was true. Probably most of it; Morgan wasn’t likely to lie about something that got his sister shot. Ziva could probably check some of it, but would she even tell me if there was anything wrong? Could Ziva be setting us up?

“What do you think, Mikey?” asked Sam, derailing my train of thought.

“Sorry… think about what?”

“About Morgan,” said Fiona. “Focus, Michael.”

“What about him?”

“Doakes was never interested in science when I knew him,” said Sam. “Why would he keep blood samples from his victims?”

“As souvenirs?”

“Maybe,” said Fiona, “but why slides? Isn’t it more likely that they belonged to someone who was interested in blood? Someone like Morgan?”

“What about Morgan’s sister? And Lundy?”

“Damned if I know,” said Sam. “Maybe they were shot by the killer Lundy was looking for, or the muggers La Guerta mentioned.”

“You’re saying there was a second killer?”

“You really weren’t paying attention,” said Fiona. “This case is surrounded by killers, like flies on a corpse. The Ice Truck guy, the Skinner, the Butcher, Trinity, they’re probably all real. I think that Morgan is one of them.”

“It’s one hell of a leap.”

“It is,” said Sam. “But I think she has a point.”

“So do I,” I admitted. “Now how do we prove it?”

TBC

Please note that this is no longer a Buffyverse crossover.

Chapter Text

See previous chapters for disclaimers etc.

 

Previously:


"Doakes’ fingerprints were all over the slide box and the slides, but if I’d been checking them I would have made sure that his prints were there before the blood went onto them as well as after. It doesn’t look like anyone did that."


"Who would have taken the lead in the examination?"


"Looks like it was Morgan..."

*


"...This case is surrounded by killers, like flies on a corpse. The Ice Truck guy, the Skinner, the Butcher, Trinity, they’re probably all real. I think that Morgan is one of them."

*


I wanted to kill him, but I couldn’t do it the way I like, the way that the Butcher likes. It took me half an hour to come up with a plan that I could bring off quickly. I had everything I needed in the shipping container I rent for some of my more questionable possessions. A couple of small diversions on the way in to work, and the problem would be solved.

VIII

Dexter Morgan

One useful aspect of fatherhood; it's easy to find a reason to leave the house. Around 1 AM Harrison woke us, and I "accidentally" dropped the tube of teething gel and trod on it while taking care of him. Result: a mess on the bathroom floor, and diligent daddy Dexter vows to set off there and then to get more. I went out to the all-night supermarket - ironically, perhaps, the one where I'd first met Nathan Marten - and bought some teething gel for Harrison, a couple of tubs of formula, four packs of diapers, bread, milk, and ten bottles of soda. On the way back I swung by my shipping container to pick up a couple of tools of the trade, then detoured past Arthur Mitchell's home, parked two blocks away, and paid a brief visit to his car. The rest would just be a matter of timing. Harrison and Rita were peacefully asleep when I returned, and I managed to get into bed without waking her, so hopefully she wouldn't know just how long that little errand took me. I slept like a baby, and so, for once, did Harrison.

In my experience most serial killers tend to be creatures of habit. It makes it easier to keep surprises to a minimum. Despite all of the disruption marriage and children bought into my life, I still tend to go through the same rituals - shower, breakfast, catch the news, kiss Rita - every day, and leave for work at the same time. If anything, Trinity's movements were more predictable than mine, lacking the extra complications of my job, young children, and endless sleepless nights. I'd only observed him for three mornings before the NCIS circus came to town, but he'd started the same way every morning, almost to the second. I could work with that.

The timing was relatively easy - I just had to be somewhere on his route, in a position to see the car and make sure he was alone, then make a phone call. There was a Dunkin Donuts he had to pass so I took a slightly different route than usual, got there ahead of him, bought my usual assortment (taking care to pay cash and lose the receipt) and a coffee, and sat in my car to drink the coffee and eat a tiger claw. Mitchell drove past right on schedule; I knew that he was still twenty minutes out from work, and didn't normally stop anywhere, so gave him a minute to get clear before heading off in a different direction, towards my own work. As I approached the first bridge, in heavy traffic, I pulled out an elderly pre-GPS burn phone and hit speed dial, listened as it rang then stop, then ejected the battery. As I crossed the bridge I threw the phone and battery into the sea. I don't have a police radio in the car, but with luck I would learn if it had worked within the next couple of hours.

I realised that I was being followed shortly after I dumped the phone; I just had to hope that whoever it was hadn't been close enough to see me. Whoever it was drove an elderly black Dodge Charger, which I'd seen intermittently since leaving home. I hadn't taken the most direct route, though the doughnut shop wasn't implausibly far from it, and there was no good reason why anyone else would take that exact route unless they were following me. What worried me was that the car was so conspicuous; was someone trying to spook me into doing something stupid? Was I supposed to try to evade the obvious pursuit, so that someone less obvious could continue to follow me and see me do something incriminating? Well, that just wasn't going to happen. I guessed it was La Guerta's freelance friends; the NCIS agents would be using rental cars, and they tend to be newer and much less conspicuous. I drove on to work, trying to think how an innocent man would handle the situation. By the time I got there I had a plan; not one I liked much, but one that would probably muddy the waters a little.

Intercontinental Hotel, Miami

"What it comes down to is that we're suspecting Morgan because he has kids and because Abby thinks he should have run one extra test," said Tony DiNozzo, "and pretty much ignoring the fact that his sister was shot at the same time as Lundy. There's no firm evidence."

"He's right, boss," said Timothy McGee. "There must be plenty of other people with the same opportunities, we're trying to make the facts fit our theory."

"We've been assuming that Fornell's idea was correct," said Ziva. "With so many deaths it's natural to look for a common cause. But there's really nothing to support it."

"I know," Gibbs said calmly. "He isn't our man for the Lundy killing; that doesn't necessarily mean he's not the Bay Harbor Butcher, or Marten's killer."

"Let's stop pretending we're here to solve the Marten case," said Tony. "That would be a nice bonus, but the reality is we're here because of Lundy. If it wasn't for that Vance would have told us to leave Marten to local law enforcement. Would you have really pushed hard to keep the case?"

"Maybe you're right," said Gibbs. "Let's concentrate on Lundy for a while, and see if that shakes anything loose."

Michael Westen

When you're a spy, practically the first thing you learn, after the location of the water cooler and the coffee machine, is how to tail a suspect. Mostly it's a matter of patience, timing, and communications; you need to stay focused on the target, keep him in sight, and swap tails often enough that he's never aware of your continuing presence. Sometimes, though, you want the target to know, and hope that he'll try to shake you off, and maybe lead you to something useful. This was one of those times, and it wasn't working.

Morgan's drive to work was boringly routine; one stop to buy coffee and doughnuts, then a steady pace the rest of the way to work. I was driving my Charger, which isn't exactly inconspicuous, came close to rear-ending him a couple of times, and must have been the next car behind him for two thirds of the journey. For all the attention he paid I might as well have been a thousand miles away. Was he really that dumb? Given his job, which calls for good observational skills, it didn't seem likely. But the previous evening he'd repeatedly said how tired he was, and tired people do stupid things.

After an eternity at 3 MPH below the speed limit, we eventually reached the precinct. About the only oddity I noticed was a donut stand nearby, perfectly poised to catch the obese cop market - why hadn't he bought his doughnuts there? But the queue at shift change was probably answer enough. I watched through a monocular as he went into the building, doughnuts in hand.

"Got anything?" Sam was the backup driver on this rodeo, parked a little way down the road, and as bored as I was.

"Either he never looks in his rear view mirror, or he's playing it very cool."

"Or he has nothing to hide."

"I'm voting for playing it cool," I said. "Otherwise we've just wasted a couple of hours."

"You can say that again."

"Wait a minute... he's on the move again..." While we were talking Morgan came out of the building again, carrying an equipment case, and drove off. I followed him for a few miles, ending up at a crime scene, a burned-out car, with a distinct smell of burning flesh. Uniforms were out in force, directing traffic around the obstruction so I couldn't get too close, but it looked like Morgan was taking blood samples from the body.

I went around the block, found a parking space where I could see his car through the monocular, and waited another thirty minutes for him to leave, then followed him back to the precinct. When he arrived he started talking to someone in the car park, not anyone I recognized. And then my phone rang, Sam again. "Get out of there Mikey, it's a trap!" I looked around and saw four uniforms closing in from different directions, and a big police van pulling in to block my way out. I was still trying to figure out how to get out without hurting someone or getting shot when a fifth cop I hadn't spotted told me to get out of the car, and I decided that it would probably be a good idea to oblige.

Newman Hotel, Miami

"We're always happy to cooperate with law enforcement, Agent Gibbs," said the security manager, "and I wish I could help you with tapes, but the simple fact is that we went digital eight years ago. The hard disks are small by modern standards, and the owners will only authorize replacement equipment if something goes wrong. As we've added more cameras at higher resolution the period we can record has dropped. Currently it's about four days in the lobby, convention suites and other high-traffic areas, two in corridors and elevators. Usually that's plenty of time for the police to take a look and download recordings if there's an incident, but for some reason nobody requested it this time, I guess because mister Lundy wasn't killed here."

"Any chance you could recover anything, McGee?"

"Sorry, boss, not if the disks are used that intensively."

"Never apologise. If you can't, you can't." Gibbs turned back to the manager. "Can you give me anything useful? What happened to Lundy's room?"

"We cleared everything once the police were done with it, all of his belongings are in our secure store. We're still waiting to be told what to do with them."

"Whoever cleared his room was thorough," McGee said a few minutes later, looking up from the clothing and personal items spread over two tables. "They took Lundy's laptop and all his files, must have been years of work. I don't have any idea where to begin."

"I do," said Gibbs. "I'll call Fornell, ask him to check Lundy's files at the Bureau. Everything he did before he retired was on their payroll, and the FBI keeps backup copies of everything; they won't have shredded them yet. That should give us everything up to the last year or so."

"Might be worth checking his apartment too," said Tony, "He probably kept file copies there. Or a mail box, he would have wanted to send copies home while he was on the road."

"Ask them to check his computer too," said McGee, "If he was obsessive about backups, he may have been using on-line storage when he was on the road."

"Or this," said Ziva. She held up a tiny USB stick, about an inch long.

"Where did you find that?" asked Tony.

"In his suitcoat pocket."

"Hidden?" asked Gibbs.

"Inside a handkerchief. Not good tradecraft."

"Good enough. Whoever cleared the room missed it. So did the police."

"Let's take a look," said McGee, getting out a PDA and an adapter cable. "Okay... the dates of the files correspond to the last week or so before the murder, from the size there are a lot of pictures. It's encrypted, boss, looks like one of the standard commercial packages."

"Can you open them?"

"Sure, but without the code key I'll need something a lot faster than my laptop to do it quickly. I'll email them to Abby." He headed for the door.

"Just a second. Tell her to try Debra, Debra Morgan, Bay Harbor, Bay Harbor Butcher and Trinity as key words."

"I can do that here." He tried them, one at a time, then said "Got it!"

"Which one was it?" asked Tony.

"None of them," McGee said apologetically as he checked files. "I remembered his obituary, it said he was a widower and gave the wife's name as Michelle. It seemed worth a shot."

"Good call," said Gibbs. "What's in the files?"

"So far lots of pictures of buildings, the screen is too small to make out many details."

"There's a business centre upstairs," said Tony. "That ought to have a computer we can use."

"You two go check it out, but make sure nobody is looking over your shoulders when you use it. Ziva and I can finish here."

Crime Scene, Miami Metro

"Thanks for coming over," said Angel Batista, "our explosives guy is tied up on another case, I was hoping you could take a quick look, give me some suggestions, a couple of angles I can work while we're waiting for the detailed forensics."

*My pleasure," said Horatio Caine, looking at the burned-out car. "I see they've removed the body, but let's start by making sure that nothing else will blow up in our faces..."

Twenty minutes later he stepped back from the car and turned to Batista. "This probably started out with a relatively small explosion, almost certainly a pipe bomb under the driver's seat. That shattered a brown glass bottle filled with some sort of flammable liquid; maybe gasoline, maybe something more volatile, creating an aerosol of droplets which ignited as a fuel-air explosion. The blast triggered the air bags, trapping him in the seat through the fire. If the blast didn't kill him it was probably flame inhalation."

"How was it detonated?"

"Cell phone, a simple detonation circuit and a couple of batteries. There are pieces taped to the bomb, mostly melted."

"How difficult would it be to make something like that?"

"A little basic electronics, there are plans for all of it on line. Anyone who can use a soldering iron could do it."

"Hell of a way to go."

Caine raised his sunglasses. "Someone certainly got his number."

 

Dexter Morgan

I never liked explosives; too wholesale, and too much chance of hurting innocents. But I learned to use them, in the same way that I'd learned to use a rifle, shotgun, and half a dozen other weapons; not because I wanted to, once I'd found methods I liked, but because I might need to use them one day. The decision to kill Trinity so impersonally hadn't come easily, but now that I knew he was dead, and that nobody else had been hurt, it was a weight off my mind. My Dark Passenger seemed to agree; it was still there, still needed to kill, but a little of the urgency was gone. And to be frank I was glad to have finally got rid of the explosives, they were old and made me nervous. Though the bottle of ether I'd added to the package to give it some extra punch would be missed, I don't often need it, but it really isn't that easy to get hold of the stuff without a paper trail.

I have to admit that even I find burned corpses unpleasant, so much messier and smellier than the neat bundles I prefer, but enough of his clothing was left that I was sure that it really was Mitchell, which was nice to know. I took blood samples from the body for more official identification, though it might be a while before I dared to take a slide to my secret cache.

Driving back, I noticed that I was still being followed, and put my second plan into motion, calling the precinct desk sergeant and telling him that I thought someone was on my tail, maybe the people who shot Debra. By the time I got back a small reception committee was waiting. To my feigned surprise the driver of the black car was someone I knew. I came over, saying "I'm so sorry, mister Westen, I thought... well, I'm not sure what I thought. For a while there I was worried that Trinity was on my tail. Sorry guys, it's all a mistake, you can let him go."

The uniforms went back to their coffee and doughnuts, grumbling a little, and I apologised again, adding "Is that it? Is Trinity after me?"

Westen seemed to think for a second, and I suspected that he was making up whatever lie would best suit his purposes. Eventually he nodded and said "I was thinking more of the Bay Harbor Butcher. If he's still around, and your sister and Lundy got in his way, it's possible that he'll be after you too. But if it was Trinity that shot them, it's possible it's him that's after you."

Not likely, since I just killed Trinity and the Butcher would never hurt Deb, but never mind. I tried to sound alarmed. "I still think the Butcher is dead, but you'd better come inside. I'll get you a visitor's pass."

"Why?"

"Don't you want to make sure he doesn't attack me?"

"I don't think that there's any need for that," said Westen. "He's unlikely to try to get inside the precinct."

"Yes, but I have to go out to crime scenes, what if he's just waiting to attack?"

"You didn't seem worried about it yesterday."

"I didn't think of it yesterday, but you must think there's a chance he might attack me, or you wouldn't be here." I started to head into the building, leaving the choice of following me to him.

"It's a very remote chance," said Westen, giving me a card with a cell number. "I can't stay on this all day, but if you'd like to give me a call if you have to head out, I can probably catch up. I'll be back before your shift ends."

"Okay. One thing though... isn't it more likely that he'll try to take another shot at Debra? Have you got anyone at the hospital?" I tried to sound worried; it wasn't difficult, because Westen worried me. I wanted him out of my hair and doing something that wouldn't affect me.

"That's a good point. Okay, I'll get someone over there to check it out, make sure that things are secure. Talk to you later."

I made a mental note to call again if I had to go out, say at 2 AM if I had to make another diaper run. Keep that up for a few days and he might turn his attention elsewhere.

Right now I had more important fish to fry anyway. I needed to get up to the lab, find a reason to suspect that Mitchell might not be Mitchell, and get the ball rolling on identification. He'd left evidence (which I'd carefully concealed, in hindsight not a good idea) at the office building killing. Maybe he'd done that every time. If I put his DNA into the system there was a chance he'd match something at one of the crime scenes.

8240 Palm Terrace, apartment #10B

In any form of covert operation, it helps to know as much as possible about the opposition. Sometimes this involves complicated sting operations and hundreds of man-hours of work. Sometimes it's as simple as calling a contact at the DMV. That's how I'd been ready to follow Morgan to work earlier in the day; it was also how I'd found his other address, his former bachelor apartment.

I'd guessed that Morgan might have sublet the place when he married, but it was still listed in his name. Expensive, and not something you'd expect from someone with all the expenses of a growing family. Since both of us had met him, Fiona did the initial approach, ringing the doorbell and prepared to apologise for her mistake if he answered. When nobody answered she slipped on gloves, quickly picked the lock, and was inside and had the alarm deactivated inside thirty seconds. Once she was sure she was alone she called me in, carrying a little kit of useful tools. Sam kept watch from the parking lot, ready to call us if Morgan arrived.

The first thing I did was take a few pictures to make sure that when we left it would be exactly as we'd found it. We spent the next fifteen minutes checking the apartment and planting a couple of discreet bugs. I'd found a shotgun in a locked trunk in the wardrobe, but nothing really relevant to the Bay Harbor case, and I was thinking that it was probably about time to get out, when Fiona quietly said "Michael, I've found something."

I found her using a Swiss Army knife to pry off the front of an air conditioning unit. "This was switched off, but the others are on. I took a look with the fibre-optics probe, I think there's something hidden inside. Some sort of box, could be a gun case."

"Wait a second, Fi." I got a folded newspaper from my travel kit and spread it on top of a book shelf under the air conditioner, then got out my own knife - spy tip, never leave home without one - and pried at the other side. I noticed some small scratches and indentations, enough to make me think I was far from the first to open it.

Together we got the air conditioner out, and lowered it onto the shelves. "Is that what I think it is?" whispered Fiona.

"I think so." I took a couple of pictures, to show the box's exact location, then carefully lifted it out and opened the lid.

"Jesus!" For once Fiona's Irish was really obvious in her voice.

"He's been busy, hasn't he?" Glass slides, each with a neatly centred red blob, filled nearly half the slots in the case.

"What the hell do we do?"

I took a couple of pictures and said "Put everything back exactly where we found it and get the hell out of here."

"And after that?"

"Try to figure out what we do next..."

TBC

Chapter Text

Previously:

"What it comes down to is that we're suspecting Morgan because he has kids and because Abby thinks he should have run one extra test," said Tony DiNozzo, "and pretty much ignoring the fact that his sister was shot at the same time as Lundy. There's no firm evidence."

*

The decision to kill Trinity so impersonally hadn't come easily, but now that I knew he was dead, and that nobody else had been hurt, it was a weight off my mind.

*

"He's been busy, hasn't he?" Glass slides, each with a neatly centred red blob, filled nearly half the slots in the case.

"What the hell do we do?"

Michael Westen

When you're a spy, a lot of your training involves figuring out the hidden meaning of tiny clues. A spy finding a clue as blatant as Morgan's stash of slides would normally suspect a trap or a frame, because nobody is supposed to be so obliging. But this time I had no doubt that they were real, souvenirs of Morgan's victims. I had no idea how to prove it, without falling foul of the law.

"We've got to stop him, Michael." Fiona prefers direct solutions, of course. "He must have killed dozens of people."

"If Doakes wasn't the Butcher," said Sam, "it must be Morgan that killed him."

"Maybe," I said. "Or maybe Morgan is a copy-cat killer. Or maybe Doakes planted the slides there to frame him before he died."

"No way," said Fiona, "the blood looks much too fresh."

"Can you prove that?"

"I can't, but the police could."

"That would be interesting, considering that Morgan does their blood work, but go ahead; what are you suggesting we do?"

"Tell La Guerta, let her handle it."

"She can't be involved; neither can we," said Sam

"What?" Fiona got into business via the terrorist route, and has never had to worry about legalities; Sam and I had more experience of the problems.

I shrugged. "We've just conducted an illegal search, remember? Any evidence that comes out of it is tainted, can't be admissible in court. If we tell La Guerta, she'll be tainted too. We've got to find another way to handle it."

"What about the NCIS agents?"

"Same problem; If we tell them what we've found, they're involved in a criminal act."

"That sucks."

"We need a reason for the cops to search the place, one that doesn't involve an illegal search. Or maybe we can force Morgan out into the open somehow. Now that we know that he's our man, we just have to prove it in a way that will work in court."

"We need a way to get the police in there without tipping our hand," said Fiona.

It took us all of five minutes to come up with a plan, then an hour of arguing to agree that it was the best thing to do.

Dexter Morgan

Westen tailed me that evening, and didn't bother pretending that he wasn't there. There was no sign of his friend, but I noticed Westen talking on a cell-phone when we stopped at the lights, and had a feeling that he was somewhere around. It didn't matter, I was doing nothing I needed to hide from them, but if this went on for more than a few days it would start to be a real problem for me, and for my Dark Passenger. When I got to the hospital they had Debra sedated again, so I left some flowers and a note promising to see her next day.

La Guerta, Quinn, and Batista caught up with the Vacation Killers the following afternoon. Johnny Rose was dead, killed by his girlfriend, Nikki Wald, and she was in our cells. I couldn't be involved in the investigation, since Debra was supposed to be one of their victims, but I had to make a show of being pleased. In reality I didn't much care, since I was sure Mitchell had been the real culprit, but I couldn't give any indication of that.

I wanted to visit Debra, so I arranged to leave work early and meet Rita there. There was no sign of Westen and his friend when I left work, which was a shame because I still wasn't doing anything I didn't want them to see. When I got there Debra was awake, and thought that they might release her the following day. Rita was there, and while Debra was in the john she told me that Debra had broken up with Anton - or rather, Anton had broken up with Deb - because she'd been sleeping with Lundy. I guess I couldn't blame him for that, and at least he'd waited until she recovered before telling her. I had a feeling that a lot of tears and ice cream were looming large in Debra's future - and ours, because she was coming back to stay with us, Anton had kicked her out. This was going to be awkward.

"Or she could stay in your old apartment," said Rita, and right away I knew I was in trouble.

"My old apartment?"

"I had a call from the super there while you were on your way over. Someone broke in and wrecked the place, he wants you to come over and check what's missing, and talk to the police. Dexter, you said you'd got rid of it."

I thought fast "Oh… I was just hanging on to the place until the lease ran out, that way I can claim the security deposit back."

"Why did you tell me you got rid of it?"

"I said that?"

Harrison began to cry, and Rita said "We'll talk about this later." I could tell that she wasn't happy.

8240 Palm Terrace, apartment #10B

The super was waiting outside the apartment, along with a couple of bored-looking uniforms, Murphy and Levinson. I didn't know them, but they asked me all the standard questions; when was I last at the apartment, had I seen anyone hanging around, was there anyone who might have a grudge against me? I gave them the story about waiting for the lease to run out, but I wasn't sure that they bought it, so I added that sometimes I slept there when the baby got to be too much. Showing my ID helped to speed things up, and they eventually let me take a look inside.

The apartment was a mess. Someone had torn through the place, allegedly looking for valuables, and as I looked around I noticed that the front was off the air conditioner where I keep my souvenirs. I could even see the slide box at the back of the cavity. I wanted to put the conditioner back, but knew better than to pay it any special attention while the police were there.

"Anything missing?" asked Murphy.

"I don't think so." Nothing seemed to be gone; they hadn't even taken Harry's shotgun from the old trunk where I keep it, though they'd broken the lock. More importantly, they didn't seem to have found the secret compartment under it, where I keep the tools needed for my hobby. Not that I was going to look in there with the uniforms watching.

"That's odd," said Levinson. "That's a nice gun, probably worth a couple of hundred to a collector. People who make a mess like this usually take anything that isn't nailed down."

"They didn't touch the TV either," said Murphy. "Are you sure there's nothing missing?"

"I really don't think so," I said. "Maybe they were disturbed before they had a chance to start taking things out."

"The super doesn't think so. Nobody reported anything until this morning, when someone noticed the open door."

"Maybe they were after something hidden here before you moved in," said Levinson.

"It's possible." It was unlikely, because I moved into a completely bare apartment, but theoretically possible.

"Must have been looking for something," said Murphy, "they even looked inside the air conditioner."

"Weird." And of course Levinson leaned close to take a better look. "Is there anything valuable in this box?"

What could I say? What possible answer could I give? If I said it was anything valuable they'd want to see inside, if I said it was worthless they probably wouldn't believe me: "Box? What box?"

"There's a wooden box in here," said Levinson. "Flat, you could maybe put some jewellery in there, or papers, or a small gun."

I moved to where I could see it, said "what the heck?" and pretended to reach out without thinking. I was within an inch when Murphy grabbed my wrist and stopped me. I cursed mentally; I try to be careful, remembering what happened to my first box of souvenirs, but my fingerprints might be on the box or slides, and now there was no way I could 'accidentally' touch things to explain them. Only one thing for it; do it by the book, lead from the front, and try to bluff my way out if things got sticky.

"Don't touch it!" said Levinson, "If you didn't put it there it could be anything, maybe even a bomb."

"It doesn't look like one. If I had to guess, I'd say it was a microscope slide box. Holy crap! Get some gloves and an evidence bag."

Levinson looked dubious, but went out to their car to get them, and I got out my phone. "Lieutenant? This is Dexter Morgan. I think you may be right, the Bay Harbor Butcher might still be around."

"What? What makes you say that?"

"Someone broke into my old apartment. There's nothing missing, but the uniforms just found a wooden box. I think it's a slide box, and it looks pretty much identical to the one they found in Doakes' car."

"Stay there, don't touch anything. I'll get a homicide team out to you." She hung off.

"The Bay Harbor Butcher?" said Murphy. "You're shitting me."

"I hope so. I thought we'd buried that monster… Christ, the Lieutenant was right. Doakes must have been innocent, and nobody believed her."

"But that was… what, three years ago?"

"About that. He must have changed his MO, gone underground. Why the hell would he surface now?"

Levinson came back, and I filled him in on the situation then hustled them out to wait for the forensics team to arrive.

Miami Metro Crime Laboratory

Vince Masuka pulled on gloves and a face mask. "You too." His voice was slightly muffled. "Face masks, gloves, and stay well back. I don't want any of your saliva or epithelials getting onto the slides and confusing things."

Batista followed instructions. Outside LaGuerta, Gibbs, and DiNozzo watched intensely through the laboratory window as Masuka took the box from an evidence bag, got Batista to take several pictures, then carefully opened it.

"Okay," said Vince, getting a white plastic rod and speaking into a recorder. "I'm pointing at the first pair of slides. I'm working with Sergeant Batista because my usual colleague, Dexter Morgan, may be a suspect in this case. Okay, Sergeant, I need a couple of photos showing the position of these slides in the box, then the slides before I start to test the blood. We'll need that for each pair of slides as I examine them."

"Think there's something hinky about this, boss?" asked DiNozzo.

"How could we tell?" said Gibbs. "Maybe it was the Butcher that left it there. Maybe someone planted it to make us think that Morgan is the Butcher. Hell, maybe Morgan is the Butcher and someone found out, ripped the place apart so that the police would find the evidence. Whatever went down, that box is pretty much guaranteed to be tainted evidence. I'm not sure I'd trust it if there was a fingerprint on every slide."

Masuka carefully pried the first pair of slides apart, took four swabs of the blood and put them in separate tubes, then bagged the slides for eventual fingerprinting.

"You think Dexter might be the Butcher?" asked LaGuerta. "He seems to be the one that suggested it might be the Butcher's work when they found the slides."

"Best way to avoid suspicion."

"So what do you think went down?"

"Damned if I know. Where's Morgan now?"

"After we questioned him we sent him home. He's potentially a suspect in every major case we're handling; we can't have him working here."

"You sent him home? Back to the apartment?" Gibbs was incredulous.

"Of course not. That's not his home any more; I really don't know why he didn't sell it. We still have people there, if he has any sense he's gone home to his wife and children."

"Check on that," said Gibbs, heading for the door. DiNozzo scrambled to his feet and followed him.

"Where are you going?" asked LaGuerta.

"The apartment; I want to see for myself."

"I'll warn Quinn you're coming."

As they went out Gibbs said "DiNozzo, call Ziva. There's something as hinky as all hell about this, get her to find out what her friends know about it."

Dexter Morgan

I wanted to go back to the apartment and get rid of my knives and the rest of my equipment, but there were probably still detectives there. I just had to wait until they were done, and hope that they didn't get too enthusiastic in their search. There were other things concealed in the apartment, including my emergency stash of money and fake passports; it was unlikely they'd find them, but if they did it would be almost impossible to explain.

How had this happened? What could I possibly do about it?

My guess was that the cause of my woes was Westen and his friend. They hadn't bought my act, and I should have been warned by Westen following me. Finding out about the apartment wouldn't be difficult, and searching it would be a natural reaction for someone like him. But why not go to the police? The obvious reason, of course; He'd searched the apartment illegally and nothing he found would be admissible as evidence. Even admitting that he'd been there would taint the evidence. So instead he'd given the police a reason to look around the apartment, with predictable results.

I wanted to kill them, but it wouldn't do me any good. Anything I did to harm them would just add to the evidence against me; the only option was to play the cards I'd been dealt, pretend to be puzzled, and pray that nobody found anything more incriminating. Meanwhile, I might just as well go to the hospital and help Rita move Debra to our home.

We got her checked out, and were manoeuvring her wheelchair down the ramp to my car, when I noticed Quinn's girlfriend, the reporter, waiting nearby. She started towards us, and I moved to intercept her. "I'm sorry," I said, "maybe in a few days. Right now Debra isn't well enough for interviews."

"Interviews. You think I want a fucking interview?" She reached into her bag and pulled out a gun, screamed "It's your fault he's dead, you bitch," and started to aim at Rita and Debra.

"Put the gun down," I said as calmly as I could, "whatever the problem is, this won't help." I think it was possibly the most stupid thing I've ever said, especially since I was in the line of fire when she started shooting. There was a fusillade of shots and, to use a regrettably accurate cliché, everything went black.

To Be Concluded

Chapter Text

Previously:

"We need a reason for the cops to search the place, one that doesn't involve an illegal search. Or maybe we can force Morgan out into the open somehow. Now that we know that he's our man, we just have to prove it in a way that will work in court."

*

"Someone broke into my old apartment. There's nothing missing, but the uniforms just found a wooden box. I think it's a slide box, and it looks pretty much identical to the one they found in Doakes' car."

*

"Put the gun down," I said as calmly as I could, "whatever the problem is, this won't help." I think it was possibly the most stupid thing I've ever said, especially since I was in the line of fire when she started shooting. There was a fusillade of shots and, to use a regrettably accurate cliché, everything went black.

*

Jackson Memorial Hospital, Miami

"NCIS! Drop the gun!"

Christine Hill spun round, firing wildly, and staggered as the first of three bullets hit her heart. She was dead before she hit the ground. Ziva David advanced cautiously, saw the grouping of bullet holes, and nudged the gun from Christine's hand with her foot, then turned to the other women. "Are you hurt?"

"What the fuck?" Debra Morgan's wheelchair was on its side, and she was struggling to get to her feet. Rita seemed to be in shock, staring at Dexter and Ziva and crouching over her crying baby. Dexter was lying on the ground, bleeding from his shoulder, hip, and head.

Two uniformed policemen were approaching cautiously, guns drawn, and Ziva shouted "Federal Agent!" and held up her badge. "Call this in, and get a doctor and stretchers!"

8240 Palm Terrace, apartment #10B

"Who noticed the break-in?" asked Gibbs, looking around Dexter's apartment from the doorway. Two technicians were carefully dusting the air conditioner housing for prints and bagging the mechanism for later forensic examination.

Quinn checked his notebook. "Woman in apartment 7B, she noticed the door was open when she went out shopping at about nine AM, looked inside and saw the place looked trashed, and called the super. He called it in."

"Trashed?" said Tony. "It doesn't look too bad."

"You're right, it isn't. Lots of things thrown around, drawers pulled out and dumped on the floor, books pulled from the shelves, that sort of thing, but the only things broken were a couple of plates in the kitchen and a vase in the bedroom. I've seen worse in lover's quarrels. And nothing was missing according to Morgan."

"Odd."

"They even left his shotgun alone."

"Show me."

Quinn led them to the bedroom, and showed them the wooden trunk with the shotgun, now dusted for prints.

"Nice piece. Any shots been fired recently?"

"It's clean," said Quinn; "hasn't been used in years. He said it belonged to his father."

"Okay to handle it?"

"I guess."

Gibbs picked up the gun thoughtfully, broke it, and checked the barrels. "Hmm… You're right; it's pretty clean. Overdue for oiling."

"I'll tell Morgan if I see him."

Gibbs carefully lowered the gun back onto the cartridge boxes and towels it had been lying on, rapped the chest with his knuckles, and said "Nice workmanship."

"If you say so." Quinn didn't look convinced.

"I'm a carpenter; someone did a good job of this." He looked at the chest, as if trying to figure something out, as his phone beeped. He listened for a few seconds, then said "We're on our way," snapped the phone closed, and turned to Tony; "Someone tried to kill the Morgans, Ziva had to take her down."

"Where?"

"The hospital." Tony headed for the exit, and Gibbs turned back to Quinn. "We've got to go. You might want to get the crime lab guys to check if there's anything else in here, something that might shed some light on things." He followed Tony out.

Quinn looked at the trunk, slightly baffled, and went out to talk to the technicians. His own phone started to ring.

Dexter Morgan

I can't imagine that waking in a hospital is ever fun, but it certainly beats the alternative. It felt like I was floating in bed, which probably means that the painkillers that were pumped into me were reasonably effective.

"What the fuck were you doing playing hero, Dex?" Debra was being her usual charming self.

"Whu... what happened?"

"You got your dumb ass shot, you dumb fuck!"

"How bad?"

"Flesh wounds and concussion, guess your skulls's too fucking thick for bullets to get through."

I tried to clear the clouds from my head and think clearly. It wasn't easy. But eventually I started to remember. "Wasn't that Quinn's girlfriend that shot me?"

"Yeah."

"Any idea why?"

"No."

"Me neither. Where's Rita?"

"They've got her sedated. She was hysterical."

"What about the kids?"

"They're fine; Batista's sisters are looking after them."

"Oh… good." And with that I fell asleep.

Intercontinental Hotel, Miami

"What really happened, Ziva?" asked Gibbs.

"After I received your message I called my contact. She told me that she was in the hospital watching Morgan."

"Which one?" asked Tony.

"Dexter Morgan."

"Any reason why?" asked Gibbs.

"She was… what's the expression? Caged."

"Cagy?"

"Yes. She did not say much, but I think that she and her associates suspected him. I arranged to meet her there."

"Weren't you worried that you might run into Morgan?"

"I planned that if it had happened, I would ask to speak to his sister, and question her about the Lundy killing."

"Go on."

"As I got out of my car I saw Morgan coming out of the hospital with his sister and another woman, who I now know is his wife. She was carrying a baby. I assumed that Morgan would probably notice me, and decided to speak to them. As I approached another woman confronted them, and began to fire on the Morgans. I challenged her, but she turned and was still firing, so I took her down."

"You did well," said Gibbs. "The police aren't going to be charging you with anything. What did she say before she opened fire?"

"She shouted 'It's your fault he's dead, bitch.' Or it may have been 'you bitch.""

"Meaning Debra Morgan?"

"I think so; unless she meant the wife, of course."

"Not likely. What happened to your contact?"

"She was in the hospital entrance as the woman opened fire; she did not take part. By the time I'd finished with the police she'd left. I don't think that she talked to them."

"Set up another meeting, this time I want to be there."

Miami Metro Police Department - Homicide Morning Briefing

"We need some answers, people," said Lieutenant LaGuerta.

"Preliminary forensics on the shooting," said Vince Masuka. "All three bullets in the perp came from Officer David's gun. Excellent grouping; killed her instantly." Everyone else glanced guiltily at Quinn.

"Anything else?"

"Just coming up to the best part. The gun Hill used to shoot Dexter is a close match to the gun that shot Debra Morgan and Frank Lundy. They're still making comparisons but it's looking pretty solid." There was a murmur of excited comments.

"Quinn? Can you shed any light on this?"

"I just don't know, Lieutenant. I guess she was pumping me about our cases, but it wasn't out of line with what I'd expect from a reporter, and she didn't seem to mind that I couldn't tell her much. She never really said anything about Lundy or Detective Morgan."

"Where was she on the night Lundy was shot?"

"I think… I think I saw her in the evening but she left early, said she had a busy day coming up. I think it was that evening, I wasn't really taking notes."

"Okay, you're off this case as of now, and Internal Affairs will be interviewing you some time today. Try not to embarrass us. Anyone got any ideas why she was shooting at Morgan?"

"According to Agent David," said Batista, "she was initially aiming at Debra, not Dexter. Dexter tried to stop her, she shot him instead. That's confirmed by four witnesses, he and David saved Debra's life."

"Still doesn't tell us why," said LaGuerta.

"Debra's statement says that she said 'It's your fault he's dead, you bitch.' David confirms it. Could be that we've got this all wrong, and the Lundy shooting was incidental to shooting Debra."

"That doesn't work. She had ample time to finish Debra off when she shot Lundy. She left her alive."

"Maybe something changed," said Vince.

"Changed how?"

"It sounds like someone died, maybe as a result of something Debra did. Have any of her old perps gone to the chair in the last few days?"

"I don't think so, but I'll check. Okay, people, we need to know more about Hill. Look at her family, friends, any other boyfriends or girlfriends, any connections that might shed some light on this. Any other ideas?" Vince raises a hesitant hand. "Yes, Masuka?"

"Could it be connected to the microscope slide thing? Seems a hell of a coincidence if it isn't."

"Good question. What's the status of that?"

"I'm running samples for DNA, and I've sent sets to the FBI lab at Quantico and NCIS in Washington. I'm hoping that between us we'll come up with a few IDs, but it'll take at least another couple of days. And I'm running behind without Dexter, so don't expect miracles."

"What about fingerprints?"

"Nada. Whoever made the slides wore gloves. There's nothing on the slides or the box, just smudges."

"Okay. Moving on, the Vacation Killers case, Nikki Wald has confessed to two killings and a string of assaults; she's still denying Lundy, and with Hill in the frame she's probably telling the truth. The DA wants full reports, please don't keep the man waiting, and well done everyone." LaGuerta turned to the next page on her clipboard. "That just leaves the car bomb, the Mitchell killing. Any updates on that?"

"Trace and the bomb squad confirm that the explosion was a pipe bomb triggered by a cell phone," said Vince, "with a bottle of ether adding an incendiary touch. Nothing too fancy but it did the job. It's an old burn phone, sold a couple of years ago and probably untraceable, as was the phone that called it yesterday, and the pipe bomb is about as anonymous as they get. The only unusual part is the ether; gasoline would have worked just as well, and it's a lot easier to get hold of it."

"Any way of tracing it?"

Vince shrugged. "It was in a sixteen-ounce brown glass bottle, the type they call a Boston Round. It was pretty much shattered, but we did find the label that said it was ether, trace confirms it. The label was printed with one of those old-style plastic label makers, a Dymo machine or something of the sort, on three-eighths inch tape. About all that I can tell you is that it isn't the original bottle; that would have had a paper label with safety information."

"Where would you find something like that?"

"The bottle? It could be from a high school or college science lab. They buy the chemicals in bulk then decant them into smaller bottles."

"Mitchell worked in a community college, maybe he made an enemy, one of the students or another teacher," said Batista. "Might be worth checking there. Any other leads?" There was no response.

"Okay," said LaGuerta. "I know there isn't a lot to go on, and with one of our own hurt it must feel like there are bigger fish to fry, but someone must know something. Check the family, his friends, his colleagues. Anything else?" She waited a moment then said "Let's get to work."

Michael Westen

When you're a spy you need to develop a thick skin, because most people who know what you do for a living will neither like nor trust you. The meeting at Gibbs' hotel was a case in point. I'd gone alone; it wasn't what Gibbs had wanted, but I wasn't in the business of keeping Gibbs happy. Sam wasn't far away, and if things went sour I hoped he'd be there to bail me out of trouble.

"How do you know when a spy is lying?" asked Tony DiNozzo.

"I don't know," said Ziva, "but I'm sure you're going to tell us, Tony."

I knew what was coming.

"His lips are moving," said DiNozzo. Gibbs smacked the back of his head, not particularly hard.

"Okay," I said. "Very funny. So if I'm always lying, why do you want to talk to me?"

"I want you to tell me I'm wrong," said Gibbs. "Look me in the eyes, and tell me that you didn't break in to Morgan's apartment and search the place."

"Why would I do that?"

"Your lips are moving, but I'm not hearing a reply."

I stared him in the eye. "Okay. I didn't break into Morgan's apartment and search the place."

"Now tell me that you didn't plant a box of microscope slides in his air conditioner unit."

"I didn't plant anything."

"Did I just hear a pig flying by?" asked DiNozzo.

"Let's put it another way," said Gibbs. "Did one of your little helpers break in; Axe, or your lady friend?"

"It's your fairy-tale, not mine."

"It is. Let's see… Morgan knows you and Axe, he doesn't know the woman. You'd send her in first to reconnoitre. That's smart, but it's taking a hell of a chance if Morgan's the Bay Harbor Butcher."

"You don't know Fiona," said Ziva, "She can take care of herself."

"As good as you?"

She considered for a second, then grudgingly said "Adequate."

"Where is she, anyway?" asked DiNozzo.

I decided to throw him a bone; "Keeping an eye on Morgan at the hospital."

"Interesting. The woman who shot him is dead, so why keep an eye on him?"

"Hypothetically? Too many coincidences. Too many people around him winding up dead. And he's the blood guy, the one man in this whole mess who lives and breathes the stuff. If anyone's going to be making blood slides it would be him."

"So what else did you find there?" asked Gibbs. "A microscope? Blank slides? Surgical saws?"

"We didn't find anything. We didn't look for anything. We weren't there. We didn't know the place existed."

"So what did you find in the secret compartment of his trunk?"

"Secret compartment?"

"Bzzzzt!" said DiNozzo, "Wrong answer. The correct answer is 'Trunk?'"

"The correct answer," I said, "is 'I have no idea what you're talking about.'"

"I wish I could believe you," said Gibbs, "because right now the main obstacle to solving this case is the possibility that the burglary was actually an illegal search."

There was a knock at the door and another fed came in. Gibbs said "What have you got for me, McGee?"

"Another complication. I ran a full identity trace on Christine Hill, it turns out that she's the oldest daughter of a man named Arthur Mitchell."

"And?"

"And he was murdered two days ago. Car bomb."

"Tell LaGuerta."

DiNozzo rubbed his head, and said "This case just gets better and better."

To Be Continued

Apologies - The last part ended with the words "To be concluded" and I really expected this to be the final part of the story - but it turns out that I'd underestimated how much more there is to say. There will be at least one more part.

Chapter Text

Previously:

"The gun Hill used to shoot Dexter is a close match to the gun that shot Debra Morgan and Frank Lundy. They're still making comparisons but it's looking pretty solid."

*

"I want you to tell me I'm wrong... ...Look me in the eyes, and tell me that you didn't break in to Morgan's apartment and search the place."

"Why would I do that?"

"Your lips are moving, but I'm not hearing a reply."

*

"She's the oldest daughter of a man named Arthur Mitchell... …he was murdered yesterday morning."

"This case just gets better and better."

Jackson Memorial Hospital, Miami

"Okay," said Lieutenant LaGuerta, "your account of the shooting is substantially the same as everyone else's. Do you know why Hill was shooting at you?"

I shrugged and winced; shrugging really isn't a good idea when you have a freshly-stitched bullet hole in your shoulder. "I think she was shooting at Deb, but I have no idea why."

Batista looked at some papers he was holding. "Do you know anything about her family?"

"I suppose she has one... had one... but I don't know anything about them."

"You're sure about that?" asked LaGuerta.

"I don't think I've ever talked to her, except maybe to say 'Hi.' I don't think she ever mentioned her family, not to me anyway." I didn't need to act puzzled, I really had no idea what they were talking about.

"Her father was murdered three days ago. Arthur Mitchell, the car bomb case. You took blood samples."

"I remember the case. He was her father?" Again I didn't have to pretend to be surprised; I was astonished, in fact. Though it did explain a lot; maybe homicide ran in the family.

"We also believe she shot Frank Lundy and Debrah."

"She shot Deb?" I was putting the pieces together in my head, and guessed that she must have known that Mitchell was Trinity. Maybe she helped him with some of his killings. Careless, Arthur, very careless.

"We think she was after Lundy, Deb was just in the wrong place at the wrong time."

"Okay… I guess that makes sense;" I decided to start working on my own problem, "If we can figure out why she killed Lundy. Do you think she had something to do with the Bay Harbor Butcher?"

"Why the Butcher?"

"I was thinking it must have been her that hid the slides in my apartment, but it doesn't really make much sense."

"So what's your theory?" asked Batista.

"Damned if I know. Except…" I pretended to be thinking about something.

"Except what, Dexter?"

"You're not going to like it, Lieutenant."

"Try us," said LaGuerta.

"Let's say that Doakes really was the Butcher. What if he wasn't working alone?"

"Go on, Dexter." I could see that she didn't like the idea, but I wasn't there to win a popularity contest. I had to deflect attention, or at least create some plausible deniability.

"Okay. I have no idea why Quinn's girlfriend killed Lundy, or where her father fits in, but Lundy's death, and that hand the navy found, suddenly got us interested in the Butcher again. So you decided to get some outside help for an unofficial look at the case."

"What?" Batista seemed confused, and I had confirmation that LaGuerta had never told him what she was up to.

"Go on, Dexter."

"Westen and his friend. How did you know them?"

"James told me about them."

"You're fucking kidding," said Batista, and I really couldn't blame him one little bit. "You asked a friend of fucking Doakes to investigate his death?"

I said "It felt like things started to get weird as soon as they got involved."

"So what exactly is your theory?" asked LaGuerta.

"I'm not sure. I tried to track Westen down on line; I couldn't find a damn thing. I have no idea who he is, what he does for a living, anything since he left school. He's some sort of spook, maybe Special Forces like Doakes, and that's about all I know."

"And?"

"And I don't trust him. Things started getting crazy after he got involved. Just a couple of days later Westen followed me in to work. I think it was the same day as the car bomb. And the day after that my apartment was broken into, and a box of blood slides mysteriously appeared."

"So your theory is what? Westen is trying to frame you?"

"I know it sounds crazy. Why would he do that? Loyalty to Doakes? It just doesn't make sense."

"Wait a minute," said Batista. "Maybe he's got something there."

"What are you thinking?" asked LaGuerta.

"Maybe Westen was involved in the killings. It could be they worked together, or maybe Westen was the Butcher and Doakes was an accomplice, feeding him information, identifying targets. When Doakes was killed Westen carried on, just a lot more carefully. He would have thought he was getting away with it. But then you called him out of the blue; told him that you know he was a friend of Doakes, and that you thought the Butcher was still out there. He would have to do something to throw us off the scent."

"That could be it," I said. "It makes more sense than my idea. But it doesn't explain the business with Quinn's girlfriend." I deliberately didn't mention the father. After all, I was going to pretend to be surprised when he turned out to be important.

"We need to talk about the implications of his involvement," said LaGuerta, "decide how we're going to handle it. Dexter, we'll need to speak to you again, I'm sure. Meanwhile you need to concentrate on recovering."

"Okay."

Rita came to see me an hour later. "What happened, Dexter? Why was that woman trying to kill you?"

"I think she was trying to kill Deb, not me. I just got in the way."

"You have to be more careful, Dexter. You have a family, a wife and children. What would we do if she'd killed you?"

"Use my insurance to put the kids through college?" It was obviously not the right thing to say, because she burst into tears again. I made "There, there" noises (what does that even mean?), supplied Kleenex, and waited her out.

"I don't know how I'm going to cope with two of you injured. I was counting on you to help with Debrah."

"I'm not too bad. I should be out of here tomorrow, I'll have my arm in a sling for a couple of weeks but it's all superficial."

"And the apartment?"

"The apartment?"

"You said you had an explanation. What is it? And why are the police investigating you? What's going on?"

"Truthfully…" I began to lie. "I was going to sell it when we got married, but the deal fell through, and a couple of times I ended up crashing there after a double shift when I couldn't face the drive home. So I kept putting it off, and I left stuff there I didn't want to keep around the kids or aboard the boat, things like Harry's gun. Eventually it felt like it made more sense to wait until the lease ran out and get the deposit back. I should have asked you to handle it, you're better at this stuff than I am. But it's a real mess now, I'll have to clean it out and make some repairs before we can get rid of it."

"And the investigation? The microscope slides?"

We'd already been through it the previous day, but I gave her the story again. "LaGuerta thinks that the Bay Harbor Butcher is still around, and trying to cover his tracks. The attack on Deb might be part of it, I'm not sure, what I do know is that someone hid the slides in the apartment. I spotted it after the break-in and called it in, but of course they have to investigate it properly. It gets me a few days off with pay, that can't be bad."

We talked for a while longer, and eventually she seemed to get over most of her doubts. I had to agree to get rid of the apartment, which really wasn't a problem for me; it wasn't a safe place any more, there was too much official attention. Clearing it out and making sure that everything was sanitized would have to wait until I was out of the hospital, and temporarily out from under Rita's loving thumb.

NCIS Headquarters, Washington

Abby Sciuto hugged her stuffed hippo Bert, and smiled sadly as he farted. She wanted Gibbs and his team back, but until she had some results there was nothing she could do to help him.

The phone rang, and a familiar voice said "What have you got for me, Abs?"

"Right now? A load of nothing. The DNA lab is bogged down with the last batch of casualties from Afghanistan, they're trying to squeeze our samples through but it might not be until tomorrow."

"There are a couple more on their way to you by courier; a woman named Christine Hill and her father, Arthur Mitchell."

"What am I looking for?"

"Anything that connects them to any of Lundy's cases," said Gibbs. "It's likely that Hill killed Frank Lundy, what I don't know is why."

"Can't you ask them?"

"Not unless you know a good medium."

"Okaaaay. Not really my scene, though I do know a tarot reader who kinda qualifies, but I'll see what I can find from their DNA."

Abby's computer beeped, and she added "Wait a second; we're got a couple of early results. Let's see… okay, we've got two unknowns, a man and a woman, then someone called Clemson Galt; he's a wanted fugitive, escaped from court in Miami."

"I remember; he's on the terrorist watch list. Anyone else?"

"Next we've got a very familiar name and face… Nathan Marten, come on down! And… Oh! That's weird…"

"Weird?"

"I thought the Bay Harbor Butcher only killed murderers. This is a cop! Officer Zoey Kruger, from some place called Pembroke Pines in Florida."

"Get all the details out to McGee."

"Okay. When are you coming home?"

"It should be soon, Abs; I know who killed Marten, I just need to prove it."

Miami Metro Police Department

"I'm under a lot of pressure to take you off this case," said Deputy Chief Matthews; "You, Batista, and Quinn."

"I'll admit I've made some errors of judgement, so has Quinn, but where does Batista come into it?"

"You're screwing him, and that's against departmental regulations."

"Are you planning to run the case personally?"

"You'd like that, especially if I fell on my face. No, I said that I'm under pressure, not that I was going to do it. Quinn's off the case, you and Batista stay on it. This is turning into a cluster-fuck; I don't want any part of it."

"Okay, I guess I see that. So... who does want the case?"

"Let's see… NCIS, the FBI, Miami-Dade and half a dozen other police departments, the Governor, the DA, probably the CIA and the fucking Secret Service. They all want a piece of this, and they're all going to be blaming us if it goes wrong."

"You're setting me up to fail."

"Think of it as character building."

"If there's nothing else…"

"Not quite. Explain it to me. Talk me through it. Tell me how we've ended up with more bodies than Hamlet, and why Harry fucking Morgan's son is your best suspect."

8240 Palm Terrace, apartment #10B

I discharged myself from hospital early the following day, hoping to gain some time, but lost some of my lead lurking near my apartment block, watching the parking lot and waiting for the forensics team to leave. I'd been back at the apartment and tidying for less than an hour when the doorbell rang. I wasn't surprised to see LaGuerta, Gibbs, and Batista waiting outside.

"Lieutenant?"

"Dexter, something came up when we read through Quinn's case reports. We need to take a look at your apartment again."

"Okay. Come in, would you like some coffee?"

"This isn't a social call," said LaGuerta, "maybe we'd better skip it."

"You don't seem surprised to see us," said Gibbs.

"Actually, I was a little surprised that nobody was here when I got here. I thought the forensics guys would be finishing off. I guess they worked fast."

"They thought they had finished," said LaGuerta. "Agent Gibbs has some concerns. He asked Quinn to get the forensics team to check them out, but Quinn was called to the hospital before he'd given the instructions."

"How can I help?"

"We need another look at the trunk you keep your shotgun in," said Batista.

I shrugged. "Okay." I led the way to the bedroom, where the trunk was still out in the middle of the floor. "It's really Harry's shotgun." At Gibbs' quizzical look I added "My father. It hasn't been used in years."

"It isn't the gun we're interested in," said LaGuerta.

"Did you know that this trunk has a secret compartment?" asked Gibbs.

"Sure."

"Any idea what's in there?"

"Family papers and a few things I didn't want the kids getting into." It was true, now; I'd been busy since I got home. I showed Batista how to open it, and let them look through the stuff I'd hastily hidden there; a couple of boxes of shotgun shells, some papers from my student loan days, dad's death certificate and watch, a silver spoon and fork that someone gave Harry when he was a baby, my passport (well, one of them - the real one), a couple of hundred dollars, and the lease to the apartment. There was nothing incriminating or very exciting. The usual contents would have raised more eyebrows.

"That's odd," said Gibbs, "I thought I saw some of those papers on the floor when the forensics team was here." Another reminder that he was the real threat here.

"Some were. I realised I should keep them safer, put them in here while I was clearing the mess."

Gibbs leafed through my passport, looking at the border stamps, which showed a couple of trips to Mexico, one to Canada and four to the Bahamas, my European vacation a couple of years ago, and most recently my honeymoon. There was nothing too unusual, I hoped; I don't usually kill people outside Miami, though I'd made exceptions in Bimini and Paris… oh, and twice in Mexico, but one of those was when I was in college. I'm always careful, and it would be difficult to establish a pattern based on my passport alone. He gave it back without comment.

"I think that's about it," said LaGuerta; "Unless there's something else, Agent Gibbs?"

"No, that's about it for now."

I needed to get rid of them, but I didn't want to make that obvious. So I said "Okay. Are you sure about that coffee? I was going to make some anyway, I guess."

"I need to follow up on some other leads," said Gibbs. "We'll get back to you."

"Good night, Dexter," said LaGuerta.

I watched them leave, and got on with tidying the place. I had a feeling it wasn't over. Sure enough, about thirty minutes later the doorbell rang again; this time it was DiNozzo and David.

I said "If you were looking for Gibbs you've missed him, he was here about half an hour ago."

"We were," said DiNozzo, "but it can wait. I was wondering if you're okay, it's never fun to be shot."

"So far it's a first," I said. "I could have lived without the experience. Come in, would you like some coffee?"

"If you're making it."

I guessed that they were being the 'good cops,' sympathetic and less formal than Gibbs. I'd have to be careful not to slip up.

"Sorry about the mess, I'm still trying to get things organised."

"It's understandable; whoever broke in must have searched the place pretty thoroughly. Did you find anything that you weren't expecting, apart from the blood slides?"

"Not so far, and believe me, I'm looking."

"It is a nice apartment," said David, "though the kitchen is a little small."

I had a brainwave, and said "Do you want to rent it?"

"I beg your pardon?"

"I'm going to have to get rid of it. I should have done that when I married Rita, but the deal fell through, now she's a little upset that I didn't tell her. Maybe you could rent it, use it when you're in town."

"Nice idea," said DiNozzo, "but we're usually here on the government's dime, they'd never spring for permanent accommodation."

"Oh well," I said, "it was worth a shot. Shame, it's a great bachelor apartment, and you're right in the heart of the singles community."

"Hypothetically," said DiNozzo, "what sort of rent would we be talking?"

"Tony," said David. "No… Gibbs would not be amused."

"Just think about it," I said. "Miami vacations whenever you want them, without the hassle of hotel reservations. Or buy it and rent it out for now, live here once you retire." I did my best to give it a hard sell; not that I wanted him within a thousand miles of the apartment, but I didn't want to give them the impression I wanted to get rid of them.

"So what do you plan to do with yourself?" DiNozzo asked a few minutes into my pitch.

"Do with myself?"

"Well, it's going to be difficult carrying on working in law enforcement. You're a suspect in a murder case. Even if you're cleared the defence will probably bring it up any time you give evidence. Happened to me once, someone framed me for murder and I spent a couple of nights in jail. Even though they got the real guy I still hear about it in court occasionally."

"I really hadn't thought about it." And I guess I hadn't. I'd always thought that if I was ever caught things would go quickly, not drag on indefinitely.

"You should. Mud sticks, and when it comes to something like this, it could take forever to get to the bottom of it."

"I guess I'll have to speak to my union rep if it becomes a problem." Somehow I doubted that AFSCME would help defend me from a murder charge, but short of that their help might actually be useful; if nothing else, it was the sort of thing normal people do, and I wanted to look normal.

"You might want to think about a good lawyer too."

"If someone actually charges me with something I'll do that. Until then it can wait. You'll find the truth soon enough." The trick, always, is to pretend that I'm innocent, avoid acting like a criminal. If the first thing I did was to lawyer up, they'd think that they were right; which is insulting to innocent people who get legal help, of course, but that's the police mind at work.

"So what do you think really happened?"

"Well, everyone seems to think Quinn's girlfriend… um, Hill… shot my sister and Lundy, I guess it must be right. She was certainly doing her best to kill us in the parking lot. And I should thank you for that," I added to David, "She could have hit Rita or Deb or the baby."

"It is part of my duty to protect the innocent." I got a distinct impression that she didn't necessarily include me in that, fortunately the others qualified. I wonder if she would have hesitated if I'd been the only target.

"LaGuerta told me Hill's father was killed a couple of days ago, I guess that must be connected somehow. Maybe she just went mad and decided to kill everyone she knew… no, then she would have killed Quinn too, I guess. It's a real mystery, and what I can't figure out is how that connects to whoever framed me with the microscope slides."

"Framed you?" said David.

"I can't think why else they were left there, unless it was to taunt me in some way." I thought about trying to pass on my 'suspicions' of Weston again, but I'd already laid the groundwork with Gibbs and LaGuerta, it was pointless repeating myself.

Eventually they got tired of my 'helpfulness' and left. I carried on clearing for a while, then took a couple of bags down to the trash and pretended not to notice that someone I didn't know, probably a cop, was watching me from a parked car. I stopped and listened as soon as I was out of sight, and heard a clang which I guessed was someone doing some impromptu dumpster diving. Half-way back upstairs I passed the fire bucket where I'd hidden most of my kill kit earlier that afternoon, buried under a layer of sand and cigarette ends; it was probably safe for a day or two, provided nobody dug too deep in the sand, I just hoped no-one would notice that it was now full to the rim, not half-empty. When I thought the coast was clear I'd smuggle it out and dump it.

Miami Metro Police Department

"None of the DNA from the slides can be traced to anyone who went missing more recently than Clemson Galt," said Vince, "with the exception of Zoey Kruger. She vanished a week before the slides were found, the evidence Pembroke Pines PD found suggested she'd run." He wrote her name on the whiteboard in the conference room. "She was treated as a victim in a home invasion case last year, when her husband and kid were killed, but take a look at the pictures, especially numbers eighteen and nineteen." He put the pictures on the table.

"What am I looking at here?" asked LaGuerta.

"Blood spatter," said Vince. "Look at her arms. There's blood spatter from her shoulders down, but most of it stops at her wrists. She must have been wearing gloves, and that means she killed her husband and her daughter."

"How did she get away with it?" asked Batista

"I spoke to their blood guy this morning. He wanted to follow up on it, but the chief of police there went with the perp Kruger shot. My guess is she knew where a few bodies were buried."

"So how does this help us?" asked LaGuerta.

"Know who he asked for a second opinion? Dexter fucking Morgan. Want to guess whose wife and kids were out of town for three days around the time she went missing?"

"It's not proof," said LaGuerta, "but it's as suggestive as all hell."

"I can't believe I worked next to him and didn't spot anything."

"We've got our smoking gun," said Batista.

TBC

Note: When I began this story many months ago I had no idea that the plot of Dexter S7 would cover some of the same ground. I'm doing my best to avoid copying the plot too closely; hopefully nothing I write will spoil you for the show.

Chapter Text

Previously:

“When are you coming home?”

“It should be soon, Abs; I know who killed Marten, I just need to prove it.”

* * * * *

“Quinn’s off the case, you and Batista stay on it. This is turning into a cluster-fuck; I don’t want any part of it.”

“You’re setting me up to fail.”

“Think of it as character building.”

* * * * *

“I can’t believe I worked next to him and didn’t spot anything.”

“We’ve got our smoking gun,”

Intercontinental Hotel, Miami

“Gibbs!”

Gibbs held the phone away from his ear a little and said “What have you got for me, Abs?”

“There were multiple matches for the last two blood samples you sent me, the ones for Arthur Mitchell and Christine Hill. We have several matches in the system, going back nearly twenty years. The FBI found traces of saliva mixed with human ashes at several crime scenes; the saliva is a match for Mitchell and a partial match for Hill.”

“Which crime scenes?” asked Gibbs.

“I’m going to send you a list,” said Abby, “but the bottom line is that they’re some of the deaths Frank Lundy was investigating. It looks like Mitchell was the Trinity killer, and Hill is his daughter.”

“We knew she was his daughter, but who killed him?”

“Beats me,” said Abby. “You’ll have to work that one out for yourself. I’ve got nothing to link it to any of the other cases. You should get the detailed results by courier tonight.”

“That’s fast,” said Gibbs.

“Vance called in a favour; it’s flying Navy air.”

“Thank him for me.”

He was about to end the call when Abby said “Wait, there’s more.”

“Go on.”

“I ran some searches on the FBI’s DNA database for Miami, and found a partial DNA match. Dexter Morgan… he has a brother. Had one, anyway; a guy called Rudy Cooper.”

“That doesn’t mean anything to me.”

“That’d be because they usually called him the Ice Truck Killer.”

Miami Metro Police Department

“She’s like the rock star of American forensics,” said Masuka; “If she says Rudy was his brother, it’s iron-clad. And Dex would have known, he did the DNA work on Rudy’s body. I took a quick look at our record, someone substituted another DNA profile. I’m running a search now to find out who it came from, I’m guessing it’s just some random sample from the lab.”

“Why do the FBI have the real thing?” asked Batista.

“They requested samples, wanted to see if Rudy matched any of their unsolved cases. It was the luck of the draw that I handled the request, it was Dexter’s day off.”

LaGuerta said “I knew that Dexter was adopted, but this is just…” She shook her head.

“Might explain why Rudy tried to kill Debra,” said Batista. “Why he chose Miami as his killing field.”

“Maybe,” said Vince. “It’s weird that both brothers should be killers, if they are. I’m not a profiler, but maybe it’s something genetic.”

“Leave that sort of thing to the shrinks,” said Batista, “right now our job is to prove that he’s guilty, nothing else. Don’t even mention Rudy for now, it’s irrelevant to Dexter’s guilt or innocence.”

“One other thing we should bear in mind,” said LaGuerta. “Frank Lundy was right; Trinity existed. The FBI dropped the ball when they didn’t support Lundy; they’re going to want to cover up somehow. My guess, they’ll want to emphasise the Butcher thing and make it look like it’s our fault that everything went wrong.”

“We need to put a case together fast, arrest Dexter before they fuck us over.”

“Kruger looks to be our best shot at it,” said Vince. “There’s plenty there that Dexter won’t easily explain away.”

“I want it airtight,” said LaGuerta. “Do you need help? Caine at Miami-Dade has offered.”

“Fucking Caine’s empire-building,” said Vince. “He wants Miami-Dade to handle forensics for the whole city, maybe the whole state, with him in charge. The easy way to do that is to show we’re compromised or incompetent.”

“I take it that’s a no.”

“I’d sooner work with the FBI, at least they’d go away eventually. And I really don’t want to work with them either.”

“Okay… I’ll thank Caine but take a rain check; I’m counting on you both to make sure I don’t end up regretting it. Concentrate on the Kruger case, but be alert for other possibilities. And don’t forget, we still want to know who killed Mitchell.” She checked her watch. “I’ve got a press conference in twenty minutes. I’m going to try to limit it to the identification of Christine Hill as the murderer of Frank Lundy, and the DNA identification of her father as a suspect in a series of killings Lundy was investigating. I’m also going to try to imply that she might have killed her father, and leave it at that.”

“Well, she’s not going to complain,” said Vince.

“Let’s hope they haven’t found out about the blood slides,” said Batista. “One leak on that, and we’ll never get the press off our backs.”

Michael Westen’s Loft

“…investigation is continuing,” LaGuerta said on TV. “We’re still looking in to the circumstances of his death, but there is currently no suspect.”

“Did Hill kill him?” a reporter asked.

“We haven’t ruled it out, it’s certainly one of the possibilities we’re investigating.”

There were a few more questions rehashing ground she’d already covered, then the station moved on to a story about a bribery scandal. I switched the TV off.

When you’re a spy, your attitude to coincidences changes; you start to look at apparently unrelated facts and try to join up the dots, finding the hidden connections that turn a million to one coincidence into a stone cold certainty. We were all fairly sure that there were hidden connections in the case, a pattern we hadn’t yet uncovered.

“What I don’t understand here,” said Sam, “is who killed Mitchell, and why it happened when it did. It’s a hell of a coincidence.”

He’d said the magic word, and I said “Okay… what if it wasn’t a coincidence? Did we do something that triggered it? What changed when we got involved?”

“Damned if I know.”

“Wait a second... It wasn’t us; it was earlier, when NCIS came into the picture. Everyone was looking for Trinity, but they got everyone started looking for the Bay Harbor Butcher instead.”

“So what? He didn’t kill Lundy; that was Mitchell’s daughter.”

“We didn’t know that.” I knew that the answer was there somewhere, staring us in the face; I just couldn’t put my finger on it.

“What if Morgan knew who he was?” said Fiona, looking up from the magazine she was reloading.

“Mitchell? He’d kill him,” said Sam. “Slice and dice.”

“Kidnapping someone and butchering him takes time, and means getting close and personal,” I said. “Disposing of the body takes more time. Bombs are fast and you don’t have to get your hands dirty. Maybe he was worried that we’d catch him in the act if he used his usual methods.”

“So why kill Mitchell right away?” asked Fiona, “Why not just wait until we went away and kill him then?”

“Maybe Morgan thought Mitchell shot his sister,” suggested Sam.

“That works,” said Fiona.

“It’s a possibility.” I knew there was still something we were missing. “What did he gain from killing Mitchell that way?”

“Plausible deniability?” suggested Sam. “It’s got everyone puzzled, and nobody can immediately point at it and say the Butcher did it.”

“That’s it,” said Fiona, starting on another magazine. “He’s muddied the waters. The police are looking for a bomber now, not the Butcher.”

“And that’s part of it too,” I said. “But there’s something else, something I’m missing.”

The door opened – none of us had heard anyone come up the stairs – and Ziva David came in, carrying a bulging paper bag with a smell of spices. She said “Shalom. We need to talk, I brought takeaway.”

“Indian?” I didn’t bother asking how she’d found the place; she wouldn’t have told me.

“The meat is Halal; it’s the nearest thing to kosher I could get in this neighbourhood.”

“Okay,” Sam said enthusiastically, getting out some plates and cutlery, and opening tubs of rice, meat, and vegetables; “Beer?”

“Beer would be good. I heard what you were saying as I came in.” What that meant was that she’d been listening outside for a minute or two before she came in. “I think I know your missing ingredient.”

“I’ll bite,” I said.

“It gave Morgan a reason to test Mitchell’s DNA.”

“I’m an idiot.”

“I don’t get it,” said Sam. I was pretty sure he did, but it rarely hurts to have people think you’re slightly dumber than you are. Ignoring her show of friendship, Ziva wasn’t on our team.

“DNA tests are expensive; the police don’t usually bother if they can identify a body some other way. Between the explosion and the fire Mitchell’s body was a mess. That gave Morgan an excuse to check his DNA, so it went into the system, and they identified him as the Trinity killer. If he’d been shot, or just vanished without a trace, it might never have happened, or might have taken months.”

“How did Morgan know?” Fiona asked.

“Lundy’s files were missing after his death,” said Ziva. “We assumed that his killer took them, but it might have been another person.”

“With Morgan’s sister hurt,” said Sam, “they must have told him very quickly.”

“That can be checked. Of course none of this is proof, but if Morgan knew where Lundy was staying, he would have had time to break in and steal the files.”

“So Morgan solved a case in days that Lundy was working on for years?” asked Fiona. “He must be pretty smart, or bloody lucky.”

“Lundy must have been getting close,” said Sam, “or Trinity’s daughter wouldn’t have shot them.”

“He was checking the sites of previous Trinity killings,” said Ziva, “and one of them was reused the day after he was murdered. Maybe he saw Trinity without knowing it.”

That made a lot of sense. What didn’t was Ziva telling us all this.

“That’s a good theory,” I said. “Are the police looking at it?”

“They’re pursuing several leads,” said Ziva. “But they are somewhat distracted by the Bay Harbor case.”

“It’s a big case.”

“It is. Out of curiosity, where were you when the Butcher was active, and in the months after Doakes died? All of you?”

“I was in Miami,” I said. “Why do you ask?”

“It would be embarrassing for a lot of people if Doakes wasn’t the Butcher,” said Ziva. “Professionally embarrassing for all involved and politically embarrassing for some. They are reluctant to say that they’ve blamed the wrong man for twenty-odd murders. So some are wondering if perhaps Doakes was the Butcher, but wasn’t the only one involved, and someone else took over after his death. Say the same someone who broke into Dexter Morgan’s apartment and put the slides there.”

“Son of a bitch,” said Sam.

“It gets better. Obviously they are looking for contacts of Doakes, with a similar background in law enforcement or Special Forces. Contacts like you, for example.”

“Well, isn’t that interesting,” said Fiona. “Would this idea have originated with a man by the name of Morgan, by any chance?”

“I could not comment,” said Ziva, “but it would help if you could all account for your movements at that time, show that you could not have possibly committed these crimes.”

“That might be tricky,” I said, “I wasn’t keeping records.”

“A pity.”

“Good thing the FBI was,” I added.

“The FBI?” asked Ziva.

“Round the clock surveillance,” said Sam. “Two agents were watching him most of the time, and a bunch of informants. Not to mention the CIA and other agencies.”

“What about the rest of you?”

“Oh, they’ll have been watching me as well,” said Fiona. “And Sam was spying on us for the FBI; I dare say they’ll still have his reports.”

“That is fortunate,” said Ziva. “Do you have the names of any of the agents involved?”

“Harris and Blane were the main Feds,” said Sam, “They were with the Miami office then, still are. Then there was that creepy guy Jason Bly, what agency was he with again?”

“CSS,” I said, “good luck getting information out of them.”

“The Central Security Service?” said Ziva. “Interesting.” CSS are up there with the NSA for secretiveness; supposedly their main job is communications intelligence, monitoring foreign signals and breaking codes, and acting as a middle-man between the services and intelligence agencies, but they have fingers in a lot of other pies, such as bugging.

“He was monitoring all of us,” said Sam, “and the FBI too.”

“Then their records will show that you could not possibly have been involved.”

I glanced at Sam, remembering how hard we’d worked to avoid surveillance, and guessed that we both hoped that it hadn’t worked as well as we thought.

Intercontinental Hotel, Miami

Gibbs finished another long phone conversation, and slammed the hand-set into the cradle with a faint “crunch” of breaking plastic.

“What’s happening, boss?” asked Tony DiNozzo.

“About what I was expecting,” said Gibbs. “Fornell wants to take over the investigation; Vance wants rid of it but doesn’t want the FBI to get the credit if Morgan is arrested.”

“Something tells me we aren’t going back to Washington,” said McGee.

“Not yet. But unless we get some results in the next day or two Vance is going to give in.”

“He might have a point,” said Ziva. “We are only involved by chance; the case has nothing to do with the Navy.”

“Sure it has,” said Gibbs. “We found Marten, we’re involved. But we need to do a lot more to stay in the game.”

Miami Metro Police Department

“Are you seriously trying to tell me that my fucking brother is a mass murderer?” said Debra Morgan. “Are you out of your fucking minds?”

“I know it’s hard to believe,” said LaGuerta, “and I really wish I didn’t have to say it. The slides are suggestive, and there’s circumstantial evidence tying Dexter to the Kruger murder. He had a unique opportunity to frame Doakes prior to that. If you go back far enough he even used to keep his boat in Bay Harbor.”

“Big deal. So do half the cops who own boats, it’s convenient for the precinct.”

“I think you need to consider it seriously,” said Batista. “There’s more. The more we dig the worst it gets.”

“This is bullshit.”

“Lila Tournay.”

“That bitch? She tried to kill Rita and the kids. What lies has she been telling you?”

“No lies,” said LaGuerta. “She won’t be telling anyone anything again. We got a DNA match through Interpol. Her body was found in the Seine a couple of weeks after Dexter’s European vacation, and dead about the right length of time. Her blood matches one of the slides in Dexter’s apartment. I guess he didn’t have a boat in Paris, couldn’t get rid of the body properly.”

“You’re shitting me… Oh fuck. Fuck, fuck, fuck…” She began to sob.

In the observation room Tony DiNozzo turned to Gibbs and said “Think she’s telling the truth, boss?”

“What do you think?”

“I think it’s genuine. She doesn’t know what to make of it. If she was involved she’d have some sort of backup plan, if only to dump all of the blame on her brother.”

“Sometimes I think you might actually have some of the instincts of a real detective, DiNozzo.”

“Sometimes?”

“Maybe this time.”

Tony turned back to the window, and Gibbs swiped the back of his head. “What was that for?”

“Wouldn’t want you getting cocky.”

“Think they’ll tell her about the Ice Truck thing?”

“Probably not. It isn’t really relevant to the Bay Harbor case, except for her involvement in both cases.”

In the interrogation room Debra shook her head to clear it, drank a sip of water, and said “Okay… okay, assuming that you’re right. Let’s assume that you’re right. What do you want me to do?”

“Nothing,” said LaGuerta. “You can’t be involved. In fact, you can’t even be in the precinct until things are resolved.”

“You’re suspending me?”

“In the short term. Long term, I think you’re going to need to start looking for another job. Every case that Dexter was ever involved in will be going under the microscope, and you can’t be part of the process.”

“Fucking wonderful. I’ll bet you’re really heartbroken.”

“We’ve had our differences, but you’ve been an asset to the department, and it’s going to be hard to replace you.”

“Well, I’m sorry if I’m inconveniencing you,” Debra said sarcastically. “Any idea where I should start looking?”

“Sorry, but Maria’s right on this one,” said Batista. “We can’t have you involved in any case we’re working on, or any case Dexter ever worked on, until this is completely cleared up, and that could take years. And I don’t think you should count on getting work anywhere in Florida, we think some of the victims are from well outside the Metro area. I’ve got some contacts on the west coast; that might be your best option. Let me make a few calls, see if I can set up some interviews.”

“Fuck. Okay. What about Dexter? What the hell do I say to him?”

“You don’t,” said LaGuerta. “We’ll be doing that.”

TBC

Note: When I began this story many months ago I had no idea that the plot of Dexter S7 would cover some of the same ground. I'm doing my best to avoid copying the plot too closely; hopefully nothing I write will spoil you for the show.

Chapter Text

Previously:

“So... who does want the case?”

“Let’s see… NCIS, the FBI, Miami-Dade and half a dozen other police departments, the Governor, the DA, probably the CIA and the fucking Secret Service. They all want a piece of this, and they’re all going to be blaming us if it goes wrong.”

*

“You can’t be involved. In fact, you can’t even be in the precinct until things are resolved. I think you’re going to need to start looking for another job. Every case that Dexter was ever involved in will be going under the microscope, and you can’t be part of the process.”

*

“It’s going to be difficult carrying on working in law enforcement. You’re a suspect in a murder case. Even if you’re cleared the defence will probably bring it up any time you give evidence.”

 

3319 Meadow Lane, Miami

I’ve always known that my hobby was likely to lead me to a sticky end, but I’d always thought of it as a relatively fast process; what was actually happening was more like a slow descent into quicksand… or, staying with the stickiness metaphor, tar pits. The net was probably closing in on me – or at least I guessed it was – but I was out of the loop, and had no idea when the hammer was going to drop or if I should start running. Three more metaphors in one sentence, a personal best... But I digress.

Any evidence they had was circumstantial. Without witnesses or a smoking gun it ought to take a lot to convince a DA that there was a good case. I had to hope that I would have a little warning if it happened.

The obvious solution was to run, of course; I had forged passports and money hidden in one of the walls of the apartment, and I could probably go back there and get it, shake off any pursuit, and find my way out of town. The snag, of course, was Rita and the children. I’d gone through too much to discard them casually, and there was no way I was going to be able to take them with me. I don’t really understand love as such, though sometimes I think I’ve come close, but I would be happy to kill for any of them. If things were as bad as I feared they were going to be hurt; I wasn’t going to make it worse by turning them into fugitives.

Four days after my suspension began Debra was called in to the precinct; a few hours later she sent a uniform round to pick up her bags, with a message that she was going to be out of town on police business for the next two or three weeks. I guessed that she was under orders to stay well away from me.

That evening Mitchell’s wife and son were on TV, finally talking to reporters. It seemed that the cosy family life I’d thought they had was a sham; he’d ruled his family through fear, crushing their spirits and running every facet of their lives. I was glad that I’d killed him without trying to learn from him.

“We need to talk,” said Rita, switching off the TV.

I spooned some baby food into Harrison’s mouth; he chewed enthusiastically, waited for me to remove the spoon - then spat most of it out onto the tray of his high chair. I wiped it, trying to think then said “I guess we do.” She'd been quiet for the last couple of days, and I had a feeling that she was putting things together for the first time.

“Did you want to run this family like that, with me and the kids too scared or brain-washed to say a word against you.” She gestured towards the TV, and I guessed that she meant like Mitchell.

“No… never. I just want things to be good for you and the kids. A safe home.”

“Safe? Safe?” Her voice rose. “Safe from what? From you?”

“Don’t be ridiculous.”

“Ridiculous? You have an apartment you were supposed to have sold, and there’s dead people’s blood in it. That’s not ridiculous!”

“I know, but I told you, someone must be trying to frame me.”

“The way you framed Paul?” I'd hoped that she'd forgotten that. “Who do you think is framing you?”

“The real Bay Harbor Butcher, I guess.”

“Cut the crap, Dexter.”

“What?”

“I said cut the crap. God, I've been stupid, believing all your lies and excuses!”

“Should we be talking about this in front of Harrison?” I asked.

“He doesn't understand.” I'd never seen Rita quietly angry like this before; an incandescent rage that for a moment made me think she had her own Dark Passenger. I wondered if they'd have more in common than we did. “You know what my life with Paul was like. I can't go through anything like that again, neither can the children. I think I still love you, but I think you'd better move back into your old apartment until this is over.”

“What?”

“You heard. I can't keep this from Astor and Cody completely, they'll figure it out eventually, but I don't want them to be around if the police come for you.”

“You think I’m guilty?”

“How the hell would I know? I think you might be, and that’s bad enough. I’m pretty sure that Debra does too, why else would she leave like that? I don’t think you want to hurt me or the children, that isn’t what you do, but I can’t trust you, and I can’t be around you until this is over, one way or another.”

“And when it is?”

“If I’m wrong I’ll apologise, and we’ll try to make things right. If I’m right, it’ll be one less thing for you to worry about.”

“And if I don’t agree?”

“Then I think I’ll have to take out an injunction. Do you really want to give the courts another reason to dig into our lives?

I didn’t, of course. “I’ll get packed.”

Three hours later I was driving back to the apartment, with at least two cars on my tail.

Intercontinental Hotel, Miami

“How in hell are you still here?” asked Tobias Fornell.

Gibbs shrugged. “Things are quiet in Washington right now, and Vance is juggling the other teams to cover us. Abby isn’t happy, but she’ll get over it.”

“Admit it, you’re only here because you’re too stubborn to leave the local police to handle the case.”

“Oh, they’re handling most of it; we’ve just been lending a helping hand.”

“Of course you are. Where is the rest of your team, anyway?”

“Keeping an eye on our suspect. Want to eat?”

“What’s good round here?”

“One of the Miami detectives recommended a Cuban place in Little Havana, I was thinking of giving it a try tonight.”

“That works for me. On the way there we can talk about what’s happening on the case.”

“I’m surprised you’re interested,” said Gibbs, getting his jacket. “Isn’t it a little embarrassing for the Bureau that Frank Lundy turned out to be right about Trinity?”

“It’s embarrassing for Deputy Director Adams; he’s the one that stopped the investigation and told Frank to retire. That didn’t earn him any brownie points, which means that the next Director is more likely to be someone else, someone who doesn’t have his head up his ass. The rest of us want to give Ziva a medal, even if she didn’t know she was taking out Frank’s killer when she shot her.”

“I’ll remind you of that the next time I need a favour.”

“I’ll just bet you will.”

Miami-Dade Crime Lab

“You’d think they’d want us in on this,” said Detective Sergeant Frank Tripp, “but I’m getting nothing. Have you heard anything?”

“All I know,” said Horatio Caine, “is that they’ve found evidence that might mean that one of their forensics people was the real Bay Harbor Butcher, and that it ties to a lot of other cases, but beyond that nobody is saying much.”

“About what I heard. Any idea who it is?”

“Officially I’ve heard nothing, but they’re reviewing a lot of blood and genetics work, judging by the files we’ve been asked for, and that means it’s either Dexter Morgan or Vince Masuka.”

“It isn’t Masuka,” said Tripp. “He was in court this morning, giving evidence in a rape case, they’d have to suspend him if he was a suspect.”

“What about Morgan?”

“Still on medical leave; Vince mentioned that he’s snowed under covering for him.”

“You’d think that by now he’d be back at work.”

“Draw your own conclusions. I certainly have.”

Caine took off his sunglasses and said “I think Morgan’s been doing a little blood work of his own.”

Outside 8240 Palm Terrace

When you’re a spy, you expect to spend a lot of time waiting for things to happen, or working to make them happen to your own schedule. It’s usually a lonely business. But everyone had scrambled go get eyes on Dexter Morgan when he moved out of his house, and tonight there were at least four groups of people watching his apartment. Sam and I were parked outside the apartment block – we’d bribed the super to make sure nobody tried to clamp us or tow us away. Fiona was watching from an apartment we’d rented a few hundred yards away, across the water, where she had a good view of the back of the apartment. She had a Nikon with an 800mm lens, which she was putting to good use any time Morgan came in sight of the windows, a shotgun mike which wasn’t going to work very well at that range, and a Remington 700 sniper rifle which I fervently hoped would not be needed.

Ziva and an NCIS agent I didn’t recognize were in her rental, watching from the other side of the parking lot. I was pretty sure Gibbs was somewhere in the vicinity.

The police presence was a large camper-van, parked where it was easy to keep binoculars on Morgan’s apartment. It was obviously meant to be seen, which meant that there was probably at least one other watcher, and cars patrolling the neighbourhood.

A nearby car contained the FBI presence, our old friend Blane and a woman I didn’t know. We studiously ignored each other.

With that many in sight, there were probably more I hadn’t spotted.

“Makes you wonder where the residents are parking,” said Sam.

“There are still a few empty spaces.”

“Not many. It’s nearly eleven, by midnight there’ll probably be a dozen more cars wanting to park.”

“We’ll burn that bridge when we come to it.”

My phone rang, the caller ID was Fiona’s. “Michael, Morgan just passed the window. He’s wearing a suit; I think he must be headed out somewhere.”

“Okay.” A couple of minutes later the apartment door opened, and soon a procession was headed across town, winding up outside a busy bar as Morgan parked and went inside. And there we had the inevitable problem; Morgan knew what Sam and I looked like, probably Ziva and her pal, and it wouldn’t surprise me if he knew Blane and most of the cops on the case. Fortunately Fiona arrived in her own car while we were figuring things out. As far as we knew he had no idea who she was.

“Don’t talk to Morgan and try not to catch his eye. We need to know what he’s doing there, nothing more.”

“I’m not an amateur, Michael.”

She called my cell and left the connection open, so that I’d have some idea what was going on, and went inside.

“He’s drinking a coke,” Fiona murmured into the hands-free microphone, “I think he’s waiting for someone.” In a louder voice she added “And get the large size, you know that XL slips off if you use too much lube!” There was a time when anyone seeing a lone woman sitting at a bar and muttering to herself would assume she was crazy or drunk. These days everyone assumes she’s talking to her broker, lover, or pimp - or two or more of the above, of course. She asked someone for a glass of red wine.

A car stopped outside, and someone I thought I recognised got out. I couldn’t put a name to the face, neither could Sam. He went inside; a moment later Fiona said “Son of a bitch.” There were some confusing noises then I heard the call disconnect.

Dexter Morgan

When you’re a serial killer, and a lot of other people suspect that you’re a serial killer, an anonymous note under your door which asks you to meet for a business discussion feels like it’s probably going to be a trap. I was curious and decided to go along with it anyway, to a point. I was alone and unarmed, apart from a Swiss Army knife with a 2” blade, but just before I left I called Batista and left a message on his voicemail, telling him that I thought the real killer might be trying to trap me, and hoped that it would give him time to get to the bar before I did.

I waited five minutes or so, and tried to guess who was following me; was it the two men in rumpled suits who came in a minute after I did, and seemed to be arguing about baseball, the brunette in the sun dress nursing a red wine and apparently running her sex life via a hands-free cell, or one of the other five people who came in while I was waiting. Eventually someone else came in, a bald stranger with heavy beard stubble who looked around, caught my eye, and gestured toward an empty table. I hesitated for a moment, then joined him.

“Mister Morgan,” said the stranger, “thank you for coming.”

“What’s this about?”

“Mister Morgan, we’re aware of your current... ah... difficulties. I’m here to suggest a career change would take advantage of your skills, and might make these problems go away.”

“Career change, mister…?”

“Kort; Trent Kort. I work for the CIA.”

TBC

Chapter Text

Previously:

“Officially I’ve heard nothing, but they’re reviewing a lot of blood and genetics work, judging by the files we’ve been asked for, and that means it’s either Dexter Morgan or Vince Masuka.”

“It isn’t Masuka. He was in court this morning, giving evidence in a rape case, they’d have to suspend him if he was a suspect.”

“I think Morgan’s been doing a little blood work of his own.”

*

“Mister Morgan, we’re aware of your current... ah... difficulties. I’m here to suggest a career change would take advantage of your skills, and might make these problems go away.”

“Career change, mister…?”

“Kort, Trent Kort. I work for the CIA.”

*

Little Havana

Tobias Fornell chewed a fork-load of pollo con quimbobo y platanos, swallowed, then said “That’s good. Okay, let’s get this over with… tomorrow Vance is going to instruct you to hand everything over to me, and take your posse back to Dodge. Then we’ll bring in a full task force, reopen the Bay Harbor case officially, and find more evidence to nail the son of a bitch.”

“I figured it was coming,” Gibbs said calmly, cutting his sea bass; “Why you? Isn’t there someone local who can handle it?”

“I asked for it. Lundy was my friend and he would have wanted to catch the Bay Harbor Butcher, so if there’s any chance of that I’m going to give it my best shot.”

“What about NCIS?”

“Be honest… do you think you’d nail Morgan if you kept at it?”

“Not easily. He didn’t kill Lundy, we know that now, but my gut feeling tells me he’s our man for everything else. If we’d gone in there with a warrant and found those slides we’d have him behind bars by now. As it is the illegal search will screw things up as soon as the lawyers get involved. Westen won’t admit anything, but there’s no way a judge will believe that a complete outsider just happened to break in and leave things perfectly set up for the blood slides to be found. Westen was working for LaGuerta, which makes it tainted evidence.”

“So what else do you have?”

“Without the blood slides everything is circumstantial. We think he killed Lila Tournay while he was in Paris, but without the slides all that we really know is that he was there around the right time. We think he killed Zoey Kruger, he certainly knew she was a murderer, but without the slides there’s no proof that he did anything about it; hell, there’s no real proof she’s dead. There’s not even anything to connect him to the death of Trinity; the MO is different, and he worked the crime scene so he would have had a legitimate excuse if someone had thought to test him for explosives residue.”

“What about… what’s his name, the hand guy?”

“Nathan Marten? Same again, if the blood evidence is inadmissible we can’t prove anything; he wasn’t on parole and there isn’t much record of his movements, he was keeping a low profile and paying cash for everything. We can’t establish a connection to Morgan.”

“So what could you prove?”

“Not a lot. We know now that the Ice Truck Killer was Morgan’s brother, but being related to a dead psychopath wasn’t a crime the last time I looked. He faked records when he altered the DNA samples, but the evidence wasn’t used in court – I don’t think it’s ever been used at all, so all he’d be likely to get is a slapped wrist. I can think of innocent reasons why he might want to hide it, starting with not wanting his adopted sister to know she was nearly killed by his brother. I’m damned sure he has something like that in mind, so it isn’t going to get us anywhere useful. The bottom line… He’s smart; he isn’t trying to set up an alibi or anything that can easily be disproved, he’s just denying everything and pretending to cooperate, and leaving us to do all the work.”

“I thought that was about it,” said Fornell. “Okay, the way it’s going to work, NCIS and the local police will get some credit if we nail Morgan. You know the sort of thing, ‘building on earlier investigations by the FBI, NCIS and the Miami Police Department the FBI has finally captured the Bay Harbor Butcher.’ If I can’t bring it off we’ve still got Lundy’s killer, and everything gets blamed on the local cops.”

“I still can’t believe none of them caught on to him.”

“Two words – Michelle Lee. How long had she been spying on you before you even guessed there might be a problem?”

“Point taken,” said Gibbs. His phone rang, and he said “I’d better get this, it might be important.”

Tobias Fornell shrugged and chewed more chicken, as Gibbs listened and almost snarled. “Where are you? …I’ll be there in twenty.”

“Trouble?”

“You could say that. Dexter Morgan’s having a heart to heart with an old friend of ours; Trent Kort. I’m going to crash the party.”

“We’re going to crash the party,” said Fornell. “I wouldn’t miss this for the world.” He beckoned to the waiter. “We’ll need the check and a couple of doggie bags.”

Michael Westen

When you’re a spy, a sudden loss of communications is rarely good news. I was headed into the bar when I met Fiona coming out, a glass of wine still in her hand, and said “What happened?”

“I know the man Morgan is meeting, had to get out in a hurry before he spotted me. He’s an arms dealer, used to work for that French bastard, Benoit.”

“La Grenouille?” At one time Benoit had seemed a major player in the international arms market, trading with various terrorist groups including Fiona’s old playmates. I’d heard through the grapevine that the CIA had his operation thoroughly bugged; most of the people he dealt with ended up arrested, dead, or both of the above. Eventually Benoit was killed; I’d been in the Middle East at the time, a year or so before the Agency burned me, and only heard about it much later.

“We know him too.” Ziva appeared out of the shadows, a phone in her hand. “He is very dangerous. Gibbs is on his way.”

“So who is he?” I asked. “I know I’ve seen him somewhere, and I never had any contact with Benoit’s operation. A mercenary?”

“If Gibbs wants you to know he will tell you.”

“Does anyone actually have eyes on Morgan right now?” asked Sam.

“McGee is watching them,” said Ziva. “He has found a rear door into the bar’s security cameras.”

“Don’t you mean a back door?”

“Back, rear, aren’t they the same thing?”

“Close enough for government work.”

A couple of minutes later we were crowded around their car, watching a low-resolution camera view of Morgan and the mystery man talking. There was no sound, of course, and Morgan was facing the camera, the other guy had his back to it. Judging by Morgan’s expression he was interested in whatever he was saying.

Dexter Morgan

Visions of silenced automatics and self-destructing tape recorders danced through my head. As far as I know the CIA doesn’t recruit agents in bars… of course, what I know about the CIA could be written on a very small piece of paper, but it seemed unlikely. He was obviously well-informed about my future career prospects, which implied that he knew why they were decidedly murky. Did they want to recruit me as a spy… or an assassin? The silence went on a little too long; I broke it by saying “Do you have some identification?”

He dug into his pocket and pulled out a black leather folder, and opened it to show a card with the CIA logo, his picture, a bar code and some numbers.

“Okay… since I don’t actually know what CIA ID looks like that may only prove that you know how to use Photoshop. For all I know you bought the card at a novelty store. At some point I might want more proof, meanwhile can I get you a drink?”

“Thanks. Scotch on the rocks.” He didn’t seem surprised by my scepticism.

I went to the bar and after the usual interminable wait got the Scotch and a refill for my coke. I went back to the table, and said “Why meet here?”

“I wouldn’t be surprised if your home is bugged. Here the noise level is too high.”

“Okay; what’s this about?”

“We have an occasional need for a scientific adviser; someone who can tell us how to handle certain problems discreetly, and with a minimum of evidence. Our last expert recently retired, we’ve been looking for a suitable replacement, and your name came up as a forensics expert who might be looking for work.”

“My name came up? Exactly how does that happen?”

“Oh, you know… a word here and a whisper there, requests for files and DNA identification that suggest that you might need a career change and possibly some expensive legal help, that sort of thing.” He looked entirely too cheerful about the prospect.

“What sort of salary would I be looking at?” I didn’t want the job, but it wouldn’t hurt to find out more.

“The pay scale you’re on plus fifty percent, help with relocation, and immediate legal cover up to half a million dollars.”

It was insanely generous, and I didn’t believe it for a second. For that money they’d want more than a little advice; they’d want me out in the field killing people to order, and dangerously deviant Dexter doesn’t take requests – I learned that lesson well during my uneasy association with Miguel Prado. “Relocation?”

“Mostly you’d be working at our Langley headquarters, possibly an occasional trip to an embassy overseas.”

Langley, of course; Just outside Washington. Now, who else did I know that worked in that area? The President, of course, but someone I’d met a lot more recently. Step forward Leroy Jethro Gibbs and his merry men. The job hadn’t attracted me to begin with, and the idea of living and working on his doorstep was a very powerful disincentive. “Let me get this straight; you want me to train CIA agents to… to kill people and leave minimal evidence?”

“I wouldn’t put it that way.”

“How else would you put it? I’m a blood spatter analyst, the kind of evidence I deal with isn’t going to be a problem for someone who breaks codes or watches North Korea through spy satellites.”

“Well… there might be an occasional operation that involved that side of things, but your resume says you’ve plenty of training in other aspects of forensic science. That would be most of the job.”

“I don’t think I’m interested.” I drank the last of the Coke.

“I really think you should consider it carefully,” said Kort. “It would be unfortunate if you missed this opportunity, I think you may be running out of options.”

“Yes,” I said. “Interesting coincidence, isn’t it?”

“Coincidence?”

“Well, there’s you looking for a shiny new expert, and there’s me, who’s suddenly got some very strange problems. It would solve both our problems if I took you up on your offer, but I think I’d be a little worried that I working for the people who got me into this mess in the first place.”

“Bull,” said Kort.

“I really don’t think so. And I think Sergeant Batista might find it a little hard to believe too… won’t you, sergeant?”

While we’d been talking Batista had come into the bar, and positioned himself at an adjoining table. He got up as I spoke, and said “I only heard the end of that, but it’s certainly interesting.”

“Don’t worry,” I said, patting my pocket, “I’ve got it all on tape.”

“You son of a bitch,” said Kort, surging to his feet.

And that’s when the fight started.

TBC

Chapter Text

See earlier chapters for disclaimers etc.

Previously:

“Tomorrow Vance is going to instruct you to hand everything over to me, and take your posse back to Dodge. Then we’ll bring in a full task force, reopen the Bay Harbor case officially, and find more evidence to nail the son of a bitch.”

*

“I know the man Morgan is meeting, had to get out in a hurry before he spotted me. He’s an arms dealer, used to work for that French bastard, Benoit.”

*

“We have an occasional need for a scientific adviser; someone who can tell us how to handle certain problems discreetly, and with a minimum of evidence. Our last expert recently retired, we’ve been looking for a suitable replacement, and your name came up as a forensics expert who might be looking for work.”

*

“There’s you looking for a shiny new expert, and there’s me, who’s suddenly got some very strange problems. It would solve both our problems if I took you up on your offer, but I think I’d be a little worried that I working for the people who got me into this mess in the first place.”

*

Michael Westen

When you’re a spy, surveillance is usually a one or two-man operation. There were five of us crowded around Ziva’s car, trying to see what was happening on McGee’s laptop; me, Sam, Fiona, Ziva, and one of the FBI agents. One small window on the screen showed their table; McGee was trying to find a camera with a better view in another window, and not having much luck. When Morgan left the table McGee flipped through four other cameras before finding him at the bar, and we all waited impatiently while he got drinks. Meanwhile his visitor obstinately sat with his back to the camera; when he looked around occasionally I saw a little of his profile. I was sure I’d seen him somewhere, but it just wasn’t coming to me.

“So what’s the big mystery?” asked Sam. “We know he used to work for an arms dealer. Is he a terrorist?”

“Ask Gibbs when he gets here,” said Ziva.

“He’s coming back with the drinks,” said McGee, and everyone peered at the window that showed the table. They talked for a few minutes, but we still couldn’t see the other man’s face, and thanks to the camera angle and low resolution I couldn’t see Morgan clearly enough to try to read his lips.

“This is ridiculous,” said Ziva. “All of us are spies or agents, and none of us know what they are saying?”

“Morgan knows our faces,” said Sam, “unless you can find someone he doesn’t know and get them to take a shotgun mike in there and use it without attracting attention, we’re stuck with what we’ve got.”

“And a fat lot of… Hey!”

Without any warning the visitor leapt to his feet and lunged at Morgan.

Dexter Morgan

I ducked as Kort threw the first punch, but not fast enough. He caught the side of my head, hard enough to rattle my teeth, and I had to work hard to overcome my instinct to hit back; instead I scrambled out of my seat and away from the table, and did my best to look scared. Inside me my Dark Passenger was enraged, but I knew I’d gain nothing by fighting him; I needed to be the victim, not the aggressor.

“Hey!” Batista grabbed Kort’s arm, and Kort did the stupidest thing I can imagine. He threw the next punch at him, not me.

Batista outweighed Kort by about twenty pounds, and most of that weight was muscle. Kort seemed to have some moves of his own, I’d guess he trained regularly and had some combat experience, but Batista was a street cop before he became a detective, and knew dozens of ways to take down anyone stupid enough to try to hit a cop. He caught Kort’s arm in a lock and spun him around and down. The fight was over almost before it began, with Kort face-down on the table, handcuffed, and hopefully conscious of the error of his ways. Someone screamed, and a couple of bouncers pushed towards us through the crowd, but Batista waved his badge and they turned their attention to calming things down.

“Are you okay?” I asked.

“I’m fine. This guy really a CIA agent?”

“He says he is. He’s got an ID card, but I have no idea how to tell if it’s real.”

“C’mon, you.” Batista grabbed Kort and levered him to his feet. “We’ll sort this out at the precinct. You too, Morgan.”

I followed them out, and noticed Westen, David, Axe, and a man and a woman I didn’t know clustered around a black car with rental plates. It took them a moment to notice us, and I memorised faces and had to resist the urge to give them a cheery wave as a black and white pulled up and Batista put Kort into the back.

“What about me?” I said.

“You’re riding with me,” said Batista, “I don’t want to hear one word out of you until we get to the precinct, and I can question you properly.”

“Okay, works for me. Damn, I should have got some ice before we left the bar, my jaw is really hurting.”

“Tough. Get in the goddamned car.”

Michael Westen

Spies need a good memory for faces; I recognized Trent Kort when I saw him in the police car’s interior lights. The last time I’d seen him, a couple of years before I was burned, he was a rising star at the Agency, and I hadn’t heard anything since to make me think that had changed. The inside man during the La Grenouille operation had to be a major league player; assignments like that don’t get given out casually. I wondered how badly Fiona’s friends had been hurt by him, and decided that it was probably better not to ask. Why was someone like that interested in Dexter Morgan? There was an obvious answer, though it’s one the Agency always denies; they wanted an assassin.

“Michael?”

The CIA claims that there’s a distinction between “targeted killing” of enemies of the USA and actual assassination; most others find the distinction blurry at best. Drones, snipers, and other long-range military methods seem to be acceptable; poisoning or anything else up close and personal seems to cross that line. There’s actually a good reason for that. Despite what you see in the crime shows, murder isn’t easy, and takes a huge psychological toll. Most agents don’t want to do it. One way around that is to recruit people with fewer inhibitions, such as serial killers, if you can find one competent enough to get the job done.

“Sorry, Fiona, I was miles away, trying to think where I’ve seen that guy.”

The defining characteristics of most serial killers aren’t intelligence and diabolical cunning; they’re luck, a lack of empathy and extraordinary chutzpah. Luck that nobody spots what they’re doing, that nobody wonders why their neighbour is digging in the garden at two in the morning, that their family never asks what Uncle Chuck has in those freezers in the garage. Chutzpah in finding explanations for these things if luck fails them and making them sound plausible enough to pass muster. You can’t usually expect someone like that to take out your target without exposure and a lot of collateral damage.

“Not just trying,” said Sam, “you’ve got something, right?”

Morgan was a real rarity; a serial killer with self-control and the intelligence and knowledge needed to get the job done without attracting attention. He’d be a huge asset to anyone who could recruit him and persuade him to follow their game plan.

“He is a person of interest to NCIS,” said Ziva. “If you need to know more Gibbs will tell you.”

“Gibbs wouldn’t tell me the time of day,” I said.

“You’ve got that right,” said someone behind me. “Throwing a street party?” Gibbs, of course, accompanied by someone I didn’t recognise but was probably some sort of agent. I noticed the FBI guy suddenly standing a lot straighter, and guessed that the newcomer was someone senior in the Bureau.

“There was a lot of interest in the meeting,” said Ziva. “It seemed useful to pool our resources.”

“What happened?”

“Morgan met with a… a person of interest, as McGee told you. They talked for a few minutes then a fight started. Sergeant Batista arrested Morgan’s contact; they’re all en route to the precinct.”

“Did you get it on tape?”

“It’s on my hard drive,” said McGee.

“Make sure I get a copy.” He didn’t seem too upset about the arrest, I had a feeling the recording would be playing at the next NCIS office party.

“So why are you standing around here?”

“Sorry, boss,” said McGee.

“We will go to the precinct,” said Ziva.

“Good idea. You and McGee do that, find out what the hell that was about. Westen, I want a word with you and your friends.”

Ziva and McGee took off at a speed that reminded me how lethal a driver Ziva could be, followed by the FBI car, and Gibbs said “Nice to meet you at last, miss…?”

“Call me Fiona.”

“Glenanne,” said Gibbs’ friend. “Fiona Glenanne.”

“You’ve done your homework,” said Gibbs. “Let me make some introductions. This is Michael Westen, that’s Sam Axe.”

“And he would be?” prompted Fiona.

“Special Agent Tobias Fornell.” He briefly flashed his badge; FBI. “You’ll be seeing a lot more of me.” It wasn’t a threat, it was a promise.

“Let’s get drinks,” said Gibbs, gesturing towards the bar, “and try to figure out how we end this mess.”

Miami Metro Police Department

“You showed me this ID,” said Batista, “but we put your fingerprints into the system and it says it never heard of you. What’s that about?”

“I’ve worked under cover,” said Trent Kort, “they restrict access to my records.”

“Or this thing’s a fake and you’re not in the system because you’re some sort of whack job.”

“I told you, check with Langley, they’ll tell you who I am.”

“Their night desk won’t give out any information, and it wouldn’t make any difference anyway.” Batista tossed the ID back to Kort. “The CIA isn’t allowed to conduct operations in the USA. Or are you going to tell me you’re here for some other reason?”

Kort pocketed the ID. “This isn’t an operation; we’re just trying to recruit personnel. Morgan has skills we need. He doesn’t want the job anyway.”

“So, let me get this right,” said Batista. He pressed play on the tape recorder Dexter had given him.

Kort’s voice said “…you know… a word here and a whisper there, requests for files and DNA identification that suggest that you might need a career change and possibly some expensive legal help, that sort of thing.”

Batista pressed pause. “Just to get this straight… that wasn’t an attempt to derail our investigation? Because it sure as hell sounded like one to me.”

“Everyone’s entitled to legal representation, Sergeant.”

“I hope you’ve got a good attorney, mister Kort, or Agent Kort, or whatever the hell you are.”

“I have.”

“Okay then, I’ll get someone to take you to a phone. Better get your attorney down here, by the time he arrives I may have figured out what the hell we’re going to charge you with.”

“Whatever it is, it won’t stick,” Kort said to Batista’s back as he left the interrogation room.

McGee met him in the corridor and said “You’d better know – he really is a CIA agent.”

“Can you prove it?”

“I… I guess not, not easily. His records aren’t in AFIS; you need high-level clearance to access them.”

“About what I thought.”

“I can vouch for him, I suppose.”

“For all you know he’s been fired since you last met him,” said Batista, “and even if he is an agent, he shouldn’t be operating in the USA, that’s illegal. If you’re right I’ll probably hear from the CIA tomorrow, until then I think a few hours in the holding cells with Bubba and his pals won’t do him any harm. It might teach him not to mess me around.”

“I guess so,” said McGee.

“He has been trained to resist interrogation,” said Ziva, “I doubt a few hours in a cell will worry him.”

“No, but it’ll make me happy.”

“I guess that’s understandable,” said McGee, “he always had a knack for annoying us too.”

A uniform led Kort past them, and he glowered at McGee and said “Get Gibbs, he’ll vouch for me.”

“I’ll call him,” said Ziva.

“Well?”

“When we leave,” said McGee; “The reception down here is no good.”

The uniform moved him on, and when he’d left Batista said “You know, I never have any trouble with reception down here.”

“You know that, and I know that,” said McGee, “but Kort doesn’t.”

“Okay,” said Batista, “maybe there’s hope for you. Now shoo, I’ve got to go talk to Dexter… to Morgan.”

“Whatever Kort’s after,” said Ziva, “it does not change the facts in this case. It would be an error to let it cloud your judgement.”

“That’s easy for you to say. I’ve know Morgan since his dad died, he’s worked here since he left college. I know what the evidence says, and I believe it, but it’s hard to change old habits.”

“We’ll get out of your hair,” said McGee, “I’ll tell Gibbs what Kort wanted, maybe he can get the Director to talk to the CIA, find out what’s really going on.”

“If you find out, let me know.”

Dexter Morgan

When we reached the precinct Batista left me alone in one of the interview rooms while he went to question Kort. Alone except for my Dark Companion and Harry, of course.

“You could have played along with Kort,” said Harry. “Those lawyers would have been useful.”

“I was tempted, but I really don’t want to go to Washington. Gibbs isn’t the type to forgive and forget, if I was in his area I’d never get any peace. And it sounds a little too good to be true anyway.”

“Too good to be true?”

“Maybe he’s working for Gibbs, setting me up some way. I think playing innocent was the way to handle it.”

Harry didn’t reply, and Batista came in a moment later, saying “Fucking asshole.”

“Kort?”

“Yeah. Okay, let’s start from the beginning, when did he contact you?”

I had a feeling it was going to be a long night. It took nearly an hour to get to the part of the story where I met Kort, most of another to get through a meeting that couldn’t have lasted more than ten or fifteen minutes. Batista looked increasingly impatient as we went around the start of the fight for the third time. Someone knocked on the door, and he went out for a minute, then came back in, looking disgusted, and said “Okay, that’s it for now.”

“Do you want me to sign a statement?”

“Not right now. Kort’s being released, we’ve been told to drop it.”

“What?”

“You heard. We’re dropping it. Officially it never happened.”

“He tries to set me up, and you’re letting him walk out of here?”

“Kort says it was a genuine job offer, we have no reason to doubt a senior CIA agent.”

“That was real?”

“Real as they come. Now get out of here, before I decide you started the fight.”

A uniform came in and handed him a file. Batista put it on the table, unread, one hand over part of the label, and said “Show Morgan out of the building.” It was obvious I’d just lost his attention.

I could only see part of the file label, upside-down; something Michaels. It didn’t mean anything to me, but it was obviously more important than my little fracas. I left with the uniform, and decided to do a little research once I was home.

Miami International Airport

At ten the next morning Trent Kort checked his watch, stubbed out his cigarette, and walked into the departure lounge, planning to get a coffee before his flight was called. As he went to the counter someone handed him a large cup, saying “This one’s on me.”

“Hello, Gibbs.”

“Thanks for helping me out. I think that makes us even.”

“I don't," said Kort. "You owe me a big one, that cell was bloody uncomfortable. Anyway, it was a complete waste of time, Morgan didn’t go for it.”

“I thought he might be desperate enough to sign up.”

“It’s a shame… there’s a mandatory polygraph test for new recruits. The results would have been interesting.”

“Can’t disagree.”

“You’re not even slightly surprised, are you?” said Kort, realisation dawning. “You never expected him to want the job, did you?”

“Not really.”

“Then what was the real plan?”

“I’ll tell you if it works.”

TBC

Chapter Text

Previously:

“You know what my life with Paul was like. I can't go through anything like that again, neither can the children. I think I still love you, but I think you'd better move back into your old apartment until this is over.”

*

“We got a DNA match through Interpol. Her body was found in the Seine a couple of weeks after Dexter’s European vacation, and dead about the right length of time. Her blood matches one of the slides in Dexter’s apartment. I guess he didn’t have a boat in Paris, couldn’t get rid of the body properly.”

*

“We can’t have you involved in any case we’re working on, or any case Dexter ever worked on, until this is completely cleared up, and that could take years. And I don’t think you should count on getting work anywhere in Florida, we think some of the victims are from well outside the Metro area. I’ve got some contacts on the west coast; that might be your best option. Let me make a few calls, see if I can set up some interviews.”

*

“Tomorrow Vance is going to instruct you to hand everything over to me, and take your posse back to Dodge. Then we’ll bring in a full task force, reopen the Bay Harbor case officially, and find more evidence to nail the son of a bitch.”

*

I could only see part of the file label, upside-down; something Michaels. It didn’t mean anything to me, but it was obviously more important than my little fracas. I left with the uniform, and decided to do a little research once I was home.

*

Dexter Morgan

It was late when I got home and I was tired, and on reflection I had some doubts about the wisdom of working from home, so I ended up heading for bed. The next day was Saturday; Rita had agreed to let me come over and see the kids. I was followed as I drove there, I’m not quite sure by whom, but I had nothing to hide and didn’t try to shake my tail.

The visit went about as well as you might expect; Aster and Cody had a lot of questions, and I couldn’t give them many answers. I told them the reason I was staying in the apartment was top secret, and that the CIA was involved, and I think I convinced Cody; I’m pretty sure Aster didn’t buy it, which was a shame since that part of it was actually true. Harrison had another tooth through, and I told him he was a big boy; he belched at me and started to whine, and I changed his diaper, which seemed to cheer him up a little though he still wasn’t entirely happy. Rita and I didn’t talk much, and I think all of the kids picked up on that.

As the kids were eating lunch and I was getting ready to go Rita handed me a folded note; on the outside it read ‘Dex;’ inside ‘Call me between 4 and 4, don’t use your own phone!!’ and gave a number I didn’t know. It wasn’t signed, but the writing was Deb’s. Rita murmured “It came in the mail inside a flyer for Disneyland.”

“Thanks.”

“Just keep me and the kids out of it.” She went back into the kitchen, and I saw myself out.

I had a few hours to kill before calling Deb, so I decided to finally do my research. I suspected that by now my apartment cable was bugged, but fortunately my laptop was in the car, and Miami has no shortage of places with free WiFi. I found a Starbucks that wasn’t too busy, got myself a large latte, and sat where nobody could look over my shoulder. I ran a malware scan to check for keyboard loggers, chose browser options that would delete cookies and files as soon as I closed the browser window, and went into Miami Metro via an anonymous proxy in Bulgaria, using the ID of Sergeant Joseph Novik, one of several imaginary friends I’d invented over the years. I wasn’t sure what I’d do if they ever started to check IP addresses for remote log-ins, but it hadn’t happened yet.

I couldn’t get into the forensics database; Masuka had actually changed the password, showing a lack of trust I found a little annoying. Entering ‘Morgan’ into the personnel database didn’t get me much either - my record was flagged as on ‘administrative leave’ without any other comment, Deb’s said the same. I looked for myself in ongoing investigations, found a file reference, but that was password-protected, and my first two attempts to get in didn’t work. I knew that a third would raise a flag with the systems people, so I left it at that. Ditto files on the Bay Harbor Butcher, Doakes, Trinity, etc.

After that I went looking for people called Michaels, fortunately not an especially common name. Eight files, but six of them were old minor offences, not the sort of thing Batista would lose sleep over; that left me with Annette Michaels, who appeared to be a routine date rape victim, and Frank Michaels, who was being paroled after twenty years in the state pen, and looked very interesting indeed.

Michaels was a habitual criminal, aged sixty-one, who’d spent more than half his life behind bars. He’d been jointly responsible for the death of a jewellery store clerk and a customer during a robbery in the early nineties, and killed all three of his partners in a fight over money after they fled the crime scene. The evidence against him was overwhelming, but a young cop named Batista had fumbled the ball and some of it had been ruled inadmissible; he’d ended up sentenced to twenty to life, not the lethal injection he richly deserved. Despite this he apparently held grudges; informers said that he’d vowed to kill Angel, and thrown a temper tantrum when he heard that he’d been promoted. He’d punched out another con and spent a month in solitary. There wasn’t quite enough evidence of his plans to deny him parole, though it had been close. He was going to be released on Monday, and I had a feeling that I might want to keep an eye on him.

I also had a feeling I was being watched, and I shut the browser window and looked up to see Gibbs coming towards me from the counter, with the largest-sized cup in his hand. For once he seemed to be on his own. He said “Mind if I join you?” and sat down without waiting for a reply.

“Agent Gibbs… How can I help you?”

“The FBI is taking over this case, and my team’s headed back to Washington this afternoon. I wondered if you’d answer a question before I leave, off the record, no witnesses” – He opened his jacket – “and in case you were wondering, no wires.”

“What sort of question?”

“Did Lila Tournay kill Sergeant Doakes?”

“Lila?” I was surprised – I don’t think anyone else has ever put the pieces together like that. I think I gaped at him.

“It’s the one thing I couldn’t understand about this case; the Bay Harbor Butcher punished killers, and on the whole I’ve got no quarrel with that. Hell, I’ve thought about doing it myself now and again. But Doakes wasn’t a killer; he seems to have been an honest cop. Something didn’t add up. Then I thought of Lila and realised it had to be her.”

“Doakes was the Butcher,” I said. “I think the explosion was just a freak accident.”

Gibbs shook his head. “My guess, Doakes was on your trail and found that shack, and Lila caught up with him there and didn’t want him arresting her boyfriend. She had a record for arson. I’m guessing you weren’t appreciative enough; it was a couple of days after that she tried to burn you and your kids alive, then fled the country.”

“That’s a hell of a theory.”

“Okay, let’s simplify the question. Did you kill James Doakes?”

“No.”

“That’s all I wanted to know.” He drank some coffee, and added “Good luck with the FBI. You’re going to need it.”

“Maybe they’ll start looking for the real killer.”

“Why bother? We’ve already found him.” He drank a little more coffee and stood, saying “I’d better go - I’ve got a plane to catch.”

“Have a safe flight.”

“It will be, we’re flying Navy. By the way… the French police are looking for Lila, it’ll be interesting to compare your stories.”

“She’ll lie.”

“Of that I have no doubt.”

Gibbs went out, and I heaved a sigh of relief. Let them look for Lila – she was safely beyond their reach, presumably somewhere in the North Sea by now. I checked the time – coming up to three. It was time to find somewhere a little more private and get ready to call Debra.

Intercontinental Hotel, Miami

“How did it go, boss?” asked McGee.

“I think it worked.”

“There was some action while you were out. Someone accessed the Michaels file, and several of the others we have flagged.”

“Get any ID?”

“One of the fakes I found when I checked Metro’s servers. I can’t prove it was Morgan, they came in through a proxy site in Bulgaria…” He saw Gibb’s expression and finished “...but you really don’t need the technical details.”

“What time did he finish?”

“The last hit was at two twenty-five when the file was opened, the connection closed at two twenty-seven. The way that site works, it would have disconnected automatically after a couple of minutes if there was no action, but that wouldn’t stop him reading the file if it was already open.”

“He was reading something on a laptop when I met him, about two thirty-five. Shut down when he saw me.”

“Sounds like he took the bait,” said DiNozzo. “But it’s a long shot. What if he thinks it’s a trap?”

“Ducky says he’ll think Kort’s job offer was the trap,” said McGee. “He’ll figure out that he would have had to take a lie detector test if he’d gone for it. After that, Lila Tournay would be our fall-back position, the next best way to catch him.”

“If he thinks we’re relying on Tournay to build a more solid case,” said Ziva, “won’t he soon learn that the gendarmes have her body, and think we plan to charge him with her murder?”

“It wouldn’t be enough,” said Tony. “They wouldn’t let the French extradite him without the blood evidence, and that’s tainted. He’d know that.”

“Well, standing here yacking about it won’t get him caught,” said Gibbs. “We need to head back to Washington if this is going to work. Gear up.” He went into his room, and came back three minutes later with his bag, already packed.

McGee put the last computer into its padded case, wiped down the whiteboard they’d been using to track the case, and said “Ready, boss. Tony’s getting the car, Ziva’s taking the key-cards down to reception; she’s already checked us out.”

“Good. Let’s get out of here, and hope that nobody fumbles the ball.”

To Be Continued

Chapter Text

Previously:

“I’ve got some contacts on the west coast; that might be your best option. Let me make a few calls, see if I can set up some interviews.”

*

Michaels was a habitual criminal, aged sixty-one, who’d spent more than half his life behind bars. He’d been jointly responsible for the death of a jewellery store clerk and a customer during a robbery in the early nineties, and killed all three of his partners in a fight over money after they fled the crime scene.

*

“There was some action while you were out. Someone accessed the Michaels file, and several of the others we have flagged.”

“Get any ID?”

“One of the fakes I found when I checked Metro’s servers. I can’t prove it was Morgan…”

*

“If he thinks we’re relying on Tournay to build a more solid case, won’t he soon learn that the gendarmes have her body, and think we plan to charge him with her murder?”

*

Dexter Morgan

I walked a few hundred yards and ducked through two food courts and a bar, and eventually found a good table at another coffee shop on the beach, near a children’s playground with a musical carousel; I’d been there before, when I’d taken the kids to the beach, and knew that the noise level was usually high enough to drown out anyone trying to listen in.

I didn’t want to waste a burn phone on this, but my phone has long been unlocked; occasionally I buy pre-paid SIM cards, and wait a few months to make sure that nobody remembers who bought them before I use them. I keep a couple in my wallet, and if the need arises I use them once then get rid of them. Debra obviously thought I needed to be discreet, so this seemed like a good occasion to use one.

Debra picked up on the third ring with a non-committal “Yeah?”

“It’s me… Dexter.”

“Okay. Nobody listening in?”

“No.”

“Better keep this short. You know that they think you’re the Butcher.”

“Yes.”

“I’m not supposed to talk to you about the case – not supposed to talk to you at all – until they’ve finished the investigation, and they had to suspend me until they were done. I’ll probably never be able to work in Miami again.”

“Oh. I’m sorry.”

“Fucking should be.”

“What can I do to help?”

“Stay the fuck away from LA.”

“Los Angeles?”

“LaGuerta got me a transfer to the LAPD. I’ve got to jump through a lot of hoops, but I ought to be able to keep my seniority and my badge. I couldn’t talk to you until I’d gone through the interviews and the lie detector test, knew they’d ask me too many questions about it.”

Lie detector test? Suddenly Trent Kort’s plan was clear. These days a lie detector test is mandatory for any sensitive job. Get me to Washington, get me strapped into a chair, then start questioning me about the Butcher case. Probably Westen had put him up to it. Lie detector evidence wasn’t usable in court, but the right questions might reveal information they could use to find evidence that was admissible.

“Oh, I see.”

“So… what the fuck is wrong with you, Dexter, why aren’t you fighting this, looking for the people who framed you?”

“I’m doing my best to cooperate.”

“You’d better be. Because the alternative would be you’re the Bay Harbor Butcher, which makes me an idiot for not noticing. And it’d mean that you killed fucking Doakes.”

“I didn’t. Gibbs thinks that Lila did it, the French police are looking for her.”

“Lila? Lila Tournay? Why… why the fuck would she kill Doakes?”

I wondered why she’d hesitated then, but said “She was obsessed with me, and Doakes was on my back a lot, I guess she decided to do something about it. You know what she was like, the way she tried to set fire to me and the kids.”

“I guess so. Do you think the French police will find her?”

“Let’s hope so.”

“I thought you’d gone to look for her when you went for your Paris vacation.”

“I thought about it, but when I got there I chickened out. The more I thought about it the more I figured she was crazy, I just wanted her out of my life.”

Debra took a few seconds to answer. “Okay, I guess that’s it. When things have quietened down a little I’ll get back in touch. Right now I need to be really careful, so don’t call me again, or try to get hold of me, unless you’re in the clear. Got it?”

“I guess. Let’s hope I can talk to you soon.”

“Be careful, Dex.” She hung off.

There was something wrong, I was sure of it. Was she trying to get me to confess? It hadn’t felt like it, but at the end there was something off. She was digging for something. Evidence that I’d met up with Lila in Paris? That could have been a little incriminating, perhaps, if Gibbs really thought she’d killed Doakes, but not the end of the world.

Suddenly I thought of a reason why she might be suspicious; could they know that Lila was dead? If they did, why would Gibbs tell her? Why not confront me with it instead? They’d quizzed me for hours about Zoey Kruger, and they’d had no real evidence that I’d even met the woman. They had endless proof that Lila and I had been lovers and that she’d tried to kill me and the kids, ample motive.

Lila’s DNA hadn’t been in our records; we’d looked for it, but I’d made sure we didn’t find a usable sample. That was a good thing too, because her blood was on one of the slides. It meant nothing on its own, but if the French actually had her body they’d know when she was killed, around the time I was in Paris, and they’d be able to match her DNA to the slide. It was probably enough for extradition, if the slides were ever ruled to be admissible evidence.

Gibbs must have told Debra, maybe to prove to her that I was the Butcher. Everyone else’s blood could be explained away as someone framing me for the Butcher’s crimes; Lila’s death was too intimate, too personal, the killer had to be me, or someone preparing to frame me nearly two years ago. Gibbs would have told her not to discuss it with me, but Deb was never good at keeping secrets from me. I wondered if she’d ever talk to me again then dismissed the thought; I had more urgent fish to fry.

That had to be it – Gibbs was keeping it in reserve, a slam dunk case against me if all else failed. Asking if she’d killed Doakes was the opening salvo, and with the FBI taking over it was his way of staying in the game. Always assuming that he’d even told the truth about that, of course, but that was something I could check; I called his hotel and asked for his room, and was told that the occupant had checked out.

Some time in the next few days the FBI would probably bring me in for questioning, but right now they were probably doing the usual bureaucratic dance of setting up headquarters, liaising with local law enforcement, and looking at everything everyone else had done. It gave me a window of a few days, if I could shake off the police and Westen long enough to make a few preparations. I couldn’t do much about the investigation, but I could give my Dark Passenger some relief, and I had a near-perfect target.

NCIS Office of Special Projects, Los Angeles

“Agent Gibbs, please.” said Henrietta Lange, and waited a few moments. “How are you, Jethro?” She sipped her tea and listened to the phone for a moment. “Yes, she received a call from the Miami area this afternoon… he used a new number, it traces back to a SIM card sold several months ago and never previously used, but we have positive voiceprint identification… no, she didn’t ask him if he’d killed the woman, or tell him that she’s dead, but I think that she probably said enough to arouse his suspicions... Doctor Getz believes that she is under considerable stress; he must have picked up on that. I’ll send you a recording, of course… Yes… he made one other call, to your hotel, checking that you’d booked out, after that the number went dead and we were unable to activate it remotely. I’d imagine that he’s taken out the card.”

She listened for a few moments, then said “and thank you too, Agent Gibbs. Good luck with the next phase.”

She sipped the rest of her tea, considered for a while, then called Nate Getz to her office. “Doctor Getz, now that you’ve had an opportunity to study Detective Morgan, what do you think of her long-term prospects?”

“She’s under a lot of stress and it shows, but she’s resilient, I think that she’ll be okay once her brother is out of the picture, and she’s had some time to recover.”

“Good. I’d like you to run a few checks, assess her suitability for recruitment.”

“By us?”

“Why not, Doctor Getz? The police here will treat her as an outsider, a hard-luck case they’ve taken on as a favour to their Miami contacts. I doubt that she’ll be happy there in the long term. With the exceptions of her rather colourful use of language, the blind spot where her brother was concerned, and some lapses in her personal life, she appears to have an excellent record. It would be a shame to waste her.”

“If you’re sure…”

“If I were sure I’d be doing it today; since I’m not, and since we certainly can’t do it until her brother is out of the picture, I want you to take the time to investigate her thoroughly and prepare a full assessment.”

Dexter Morgan

When I got back to the apartment I switched on the TV, hoping that the ads would annoy anyone listening, unlocked my laptop, and read through the file on Frank Michaels again. Fortunately it was still loaded into the browser; I’d intended to shut the window when Gibbs appeared, but minimised it instead. I didn’t think it would be a good idea to save it to my hard disk, or access the department computers from home.

The show on TV had rival groups of over-excited Californians bidding on the contents of abandoned storage lockers. It looked as carefully staged as professional wrestling, sanitised of the vermin and garbage that I invariably saw when I visited real lockers to collect evidence, but reminded me that in a couple of months I’d need to do something about renewing the rental on my own locker; hopefully I’d be free of surveillance by then, otherwise it might become a problem. There were things in there that would be hard to explain. I could imagine the scene: ‘Tonight on Storage Hunters, Brandon and Laurie’s big gamble pays off with a killer surprise…’

Back to business; Michaels was going to be released at 11 AM on Monday. The parole conditions included regular appointments with a probation officer, but he had forty-eight hours before his first check-in. That would have been a good time to catch up with him, but I couldn’t be sure that the FBI would hold off until Wednesday. I had to do this fast and cleanly, and without leaving a trail.

I read through the file again, concentrating on known associates and contacts, and hit pay-dirt. He’d had a cousin living on the outskirts of Miami who’d died six months earlier, and inherited a dilapidated house and five acres. The attorney who handled the estate had suggested selling it immediately, to give him some cash to start his post-prison life, but Michaels refused. He claimed to want to live there, and he’d mentioned it at his parole hearing, as evidence that he wanted to settle down and turn over a new leaf.

Paging back through the file, I found that the cousin had tried to give Michaels an alibi, and that the house and grounds had been searched for some antique jewellery that hadn’t been recovered; the estimated value then had been forty-three thousand dollars. I had no idea what it would be worth at modern prices, probably considerably more. My guess, they were still hidden there somewhere, and Michaels planned to retrieve them before selling the property; he’d head there as soon as he could. I had no interest in the jewellery, but planned to be there to meet him, if I could shake off my followers.

I found some reasonably current paper road maps – no point tempting fate by looking on line unless I had to – and tried to work out access and exit routes. The roads didn’t look promising; all of the routes into the area funnelled through a couple of key intersections that would be easy to monitor. If Michaels disappeared someone would probably check the traffic camera footage. But with the maps spread out I noticed that another narrow road ran parallel to the street, behind the lots, running from the main road to a small building and pier on one of the canals that zig-zag across Miami, leading to a tributary of the Miami River. I had no idea what the building was, but the location and route looked interesting.

It was time to be a little dishonest. It was likely that my apartment’s internet access was being monitored, but there were plenty of other WiFi routers in my condo, and every so often I ran a little utility to sniff them out and crack as many passwords as possible. I checked through the list and found an old friend, HappyHome18, still using the impenetrable password ‘p@55w0rd,’ and went into Google Maps. The satellite view was eighteen months old and showed a wooden pier, half-hidden by trees. Photos taken from the water and the pier included the building, behind high wire fences; power lines, transformers, and Miami Power signs made it clear that it was an electrical substation. It probably used canal water for cooling. I couldn’t remember if I’d ever taken my boat down that particular canal, but there are buildings like that all over Miami. It looked promising, a way in or out that didn’t rely on the roads, but I’d have to see it for myself.

I went to the back room that looked out over the parking lot, and saw Westen’s car. He was easy to spot, so easy it must be deliberate. There would be other, unseen watchers, Axe and possibly some of the people I’d seen outside the bar the previous evening, not to mention cops, FBI agents, and anyone else with an interest. If my guess was right there might even be a French commando squad out there somewhere, ready to snatch me to a trial in a Paris court. But it wasn’t likely, unless they mistook me for a Greenpeace protester. What I needed to do was get loose of the surveillance long enough to check the site out.

If I went there by road I was certain to be followed and watched; I could take my boat along the canal, of course, but it was possible that was being tracked too – that was how Doakes caught me in the act, which eventually led to his untimely if somewhat convenient death. I needed a plausible reason to be in the area, something that wouldn’t arouse suspicion. I checked a few web sites, found nothing promising, but eventually came up with a simple plan.

One of my sock puppet email accounts was signed up as a Craigslist member. I’d originally used the membership three years ago, to post an ad which lured one of my victims to his richly deserved fate – fortunately nobody had ever put the pieces together and associated the ad with his disappearance. This time I posted several ads for items from an imaginary boat-shed clearance at some moorings a couple of miles from Michaels’ house. Then I disconnected from HappyHome18, and used my own connection to look at several innocuous sites which eventually included Craigslist. Not surprisingly, I found something I wanted; an unused EPA-certified sewage holding tank ‘suitable for 1997-2004 Century 2900 center console series boats.’ I sent Mr. Sock Puppet an email asking him to keep it for me, waited a few minutes, then used HappyHome18 again to get into Sock Puppet’s email, find a couple of dozen messages including one from Dexter Morgan, and tell him that the tank was his if he could come and pick it up – today if possible. Five minutes later I checked my mail as Dexter, and was soon in my car, heading for the dock as though I hadn’t a care in the world.

Michael Westen

“He’s on the move,” said Fiona, calling me from her vantage point in the apartment overlooking Morgan’s condo.

Morgan came out of the apartment block carrying a piece of paper, glanced in my direction, and drove off. After a couple of minutes following I guessed that he was headed for his boat. I told Fiona and Sam, but Sam and I both continued to trail him in case I’d got it wrong.

I caught up with him at the dock. Gibbs wanted us to keep up the pressure, so I watched while he fuelled the boat, making it obvious that I was there. Eventually he pretended to notice me – and gave me a cheery wave. I strolled over and said “Hi.”

“Nothing else to do?” asked Morgan.

“Not really.”

“Any good at plumbing?”

“Plumbing?”

“I just found a sewage holding tank on Craigslist. It’s just what I need for the boat; the old one’s corroded. But I’ve got to fetch it today, and get it plumbed in.”

“I’m not sure…” I wasn’t sure he wouldn’t try to hack me into pieces and dump me at sea, but it didn’t seem polite to say that.”

“It’ll be fun,” said Morgan. “Bring your friend too. You’ll be happier if you can see what I’m doing, and I’ll be happier if you aren’t breaking into my apartment again.”

“Seriously?”

“Why not? Though I hope you won’t mind if I tell someone you’re aboard with me, I’d hate there to be any misunderstandings… say if I fell overboard or something.”

“Likewise. Where are we headed?”

“Miami Canal Marina. Take about three quarters of an hour each way.”

“Let me give him a call.”

I called Sam, and he arrived on foot a few minutes later – no point letting Morgan see the car he was driving.

“Okay,” said Morgan. “Your people know you’re going with me, and I’ve just left messages with a couple of people. Let’s have a nice afternoon on the water.”

When you’re a spy, one of the things they teach you is not to take lifts from strangers; more often than not it’s going to be a one-way ride. But letting people know we were aboard gave some reassurance. It wasn’t complete protection, of course; Morgan could be planning to kill both of us and take off, but I didn’t think that that was the game plan. And Sam and I were both armed, it wasn’t likely he’d get the drop on us.

Morgan took us out and soon had the boat up to cruising speed. I glanced at his chart and couldn’t see anything odd about the route he was taking, just a straight run along the coast, up the Miami River, and along one of the canals that runs into it.

Eventually Morgan said “Is Trent Kort really a CIA agent?”

“Who?”

“Come on, Westen, you were watching when I met him.”

“Oh, him. I’ve seen him around, but I never worked with him. Trent Kort? How do you spell that?” I knew who Kort was, of course, but I wasn’t going to admit it unless I had to.

“With a K. Didn’t you sic him on me?”

“Not me. They fired me, the last thing they’d want to do is help me.” And that, for once, was the truth.

“Must be a friend of Gibbs then.”

“Might be… the NCIS guys seemed to know who he was. Though I’d have to say they seemed a little surprised too.”

“Maybe he really did want to offer me a job.”

I played along. “Job?”

“Forensics.”

“Bull,” said Sam. “The CIA doesn’t do forensics.”

“About what I thought,” said Morgan, and turned his attention back to steering. He didn’t say anything more until we reached the marina about twenty minutes later. He found an empty berth and took the boat in, saying “It’s a boathouse somewhere along here. Coming?” He took the keys and climbed onto the pier. Sam and I followed him, wondering how this was going to play out. Morgan looked around, then headed towards a bait shop.

“Good afternoon,” he said. “I’m looking for the Travis boatshed.”

“Never heard of it,” said the man behind the counter.

“It should be around here,” said Morgan. He pulled some crumpled papers from his pocket, and smoothed them out. “Supposed to be by slip F-18. I’m supposed to be picking up a sewage holding tank.” He showed the page to the bait guy.

“You’re fucking kidding me. Travis and slip F-18? And a fucking sewage tank?”

“No. Why?”

“Seriously?”

“I don’t understand.” I have to admit I had no idea what he was talking about, but Sam was grinning, I guessed he’d gotten the joke.

“Travis McGee, man. He moored at Slip F-18 in the books. And his boat was called the Busted Flush! Someone’s yanking your chain!” He started laughing.

Morgan glared at him, then turned to us angrily. “This your idea of a joke? Or did you want to get me out here while someone goes through my apartment and plants more evidence?”

I shrugged. “Not me, Morgan. Might be a joke, it isn’t mine.”

“We’ll see about that.” He took off, back towards the boat. We trailed along behind him, but when we went to climb aboard he said “The hell with this. I’m through trying to be nice. Leave me alone, or I’ll see you in court.” He started the engines and took off on full power, leaving us standing on the dock.

“Well, that went well,” said Sam.

“Gibbs told us to let him think he’s given us the slip. I guess this qualifies. Okay, I’ll call Fiona, I guess she can come pick us up. You give Gibbs a call, let him know things have started.”

Dexter Morgan

“I didn’t think you’d remember Travis McGee,” Harry said as I wrapped my phone in tin foil to block its signal, then changed course for a side-branch of the canal.

“It’s a good thing you suggested I read the books.”

“I figured you’d learn from them, MacDonald wrote serial killers very well. I particularly liked the way that they usually got caught because they got sloppy, or got caught up in schemes that were way too complicated. Are you sure that isn’t happening to you?”

That’s my father, the voice of caution, like Jiminy Cricket or that annoying girl in the Harry Potter books I read to the kids. “I hope I look like an idiot – with any luck they’ll think someone conned me.”

“Or realise you wanted to ditch them.”

“It’s possible. But I hope they won’t know why I picked that particular marina.” I turned my attention back to the controls, and adjusted the fuel mix. After a few hundred yards the outboards were coughing and sputtering, and I took her in to the next pier I came to. Right next to a strangely familiar Miami Power sub-station…

There weren’t any other boats docked, possibly because the hum of transformers was loud enough to rattle your fillings, but in case someone I hadn’t noticed was watching, I made a show of examining the engines and adjusting the control lines, then climbed up onto the pier to stretch my legs.

It looked promising; there was nobody in sight, and only one car parked inside the sub-station fence, with the Miami Power logo on its door. There were cameras on poles along the fence, but they were pointed inwards, monitoring the building and its grounds. There were lights, but again they were facing inwards; no lights on the road at all. By night, and with the lights on to dazzle the cameras, someone on the road in dark clothes would be almost invisible.

I walked a little way along the road, and pretended to take a leak in some bushes – well, there wasn’t actually much pretence, I needed to go. While relieving the pressure I got out my monocular and took a look towards Michaels’ house. It was shabby, with waist-high grass and a couple of rusting cars just visible above the weeds. Plenty of cover. But I was already outstaying my welcome. I still had to check the boat for bugs, and decide what to do about them, and that was best done well away from a future crime scene. I looked round a last time, memorising the layout, then turned back to the boat.

Before I left I needed to hide a kill kit, somewhere it wouldn’t easily be found. Just the basics; some knives, a hacksaw with a good blade for bone, disposable protective clothing, Hefty bags, and so forth. Not the quality I prefer, but there was no way I’d be going near my locker any time soon, so cheap and expendable was the easiest option. It hadn’t been easy to put it together with Westen and his friends watching me, but I’d managed. It made a neat package that had fitted quite well in the storage space below my seat; now I taped it to one of the pier supports, in the shadows where it wouldn’t easily be spotted, and memorised the location.

I’d been there nearly twenty minutes, for all I knew Westen had hired a boat and was looking for me. I took a last look around, still nobody in sight, and got away from there as fast as I could.

TBC

Chapter Text

Previously

Some time in the next few days the FBI would probably bring me in for questioning, but right now they were probably doing the usual bureaucratic dance of setting up headquarters, liaising with local law enforcement, and looking at everything everyone else had done. It gave me a window of a few days, if I could shake off the police and Westen long enough to make a few preparations. I couldn’t do much about the investigation, but I could give my Dark Passenger some relief, and I had a near-perfect target.

*

Michaels was a habitual criminal, aged sixty-one, who’d spent more than half his life behind bars. He’d been jointly responsible for the death of a jewellery store clerk and a customer during a robbery in the early nineties, and killed all three of his partners in a fight over money after they fled the crime scene.

*

Before I left I needed to hide a kill kit, somewhere it wouldn’t easily be found. Just the basics; some knives, a hacksaw with a good blade for bone, disposable protective clothing, Hefty bags, and so forth. Not the quality I prefer, but there was no way I’d be going near my locker any time soon, so cheap and expendable was the easiest option. It hadn’t been easy to put it together with Westen and his friends watching me, but I’d managed. It made a neat package that had fitted quite well in the storage space below my seat; now I taped it to one of the pier supports, in the shadows where it wouldn’t easily be spotted, and memorised the location.

*

“Gibbs told us to let him think he’s given us the slip. I guess this qualifies… …Give Gibbs a call, let him know things have started.”

 

Bay Harbor, Miami

As soon as I’d moored I started to search the Slice of Life, looking for anything that seemed even slightly out of place. My secret weapons were a transistor radio and a stud finder; the radio to pick up anything that was transmitting, the stud finder to find more passive tracking devices, things like GPS recorders. I wore surgical gloves to ensure I didn’t leave prints on anything I found.

I could probably rule out the engine compartment – too much metal and interference – but something could be hidden almost anywhere else; all boats have endless nooks and crannies. I knew a little about the technology, but it was a safe bet that spies would know more.

“If I were a transmitter where would I be?” Probably somewhere where it could use my boat’s masts and aerials. I took that as my starting point and eventually found a neat little gizmo, the size of a cigar tube and painted to match the mast, clipped to the wires where it was difficult to spot from the deck. I tried the radio and eventually picked up a short wave “beep” transmitted every ten seconds or so. It’d probably be adequate to find a boat on the ocean, but I was reasonably sure it wouldn’t be much use on the canals I’d just visited. For now I left it where it was, and went on with the search.

The second bug was inside one of the cushions in the cabin; a GPS tracker according to the logo, storing its position at regular intervals on an SD card. I pulled the card and checked its contents on my laptop, and found a long list of coordinates that probably included my stop near Michaels’ home. I thought about erasing it, but realised that it probably wouldn’t stay erased for long if a computer technician got hold of it. I thought for a minute, then nuked the card in the microwave for twenty seconds and tried reading it again. It was still working. I gave it thirty and let it cool then tried again; this time I got read errors. To be on the safe side I repeated the process twice. The card would be damaged, not just corrupt, but that didn’t really prove much.

Was there anything else? I’d spent a lot of time looking inside the boat, what about outside? I took another look around the deck, and eventually found a third bug concealed in one of the rope fenders, a grey plastic block the size of a cigarette pack. I had no idea what it was or how it worked, and couldn’t pick up anything on the radio, so I pulled the fender aboard and hit it a couple of times with a mallet. Once the plastic was cracked I hung it over the side, confident that a few hours in sea water wouldn’t do the bug much good. I had to hope that it hadn’t already given me away.

Eventually I was reasonably sure I’d found everything, so I spent the next hour or so pretending to patch the sewage tank with some sheet metal and epoxy resin. I’d had to make the crack I was patching, but the fiberglass really was getting a little old and I’d had to repair it a couple of times, it was easy to make it look realistic. By then Westen was back watching me, but he didn’t come over to talk. Eventually he followed me home.

NCIS Headquarters, Washington Naval Yard

“I hate this,” said Tony DiNozzo. “Ordinary stakeouts are bad enough, but doing it by proxy just sucks. We should have found a way to stick around and do it ourselves. Anything happening, McHacker?”

“He’s back home,” said Tim. “No apparent activity on his apartment’s internet connection, but someone just logged in to the Miami Metro server using the Novik ID. It’s probably Morgan stealing someone else’s WiFi.”

“Well, find out,” said Gibbs, “Is he or isn’t he?”

“Whoever it is went in through the same proxy as before. Let’s see…” His fingers darted across the keyboard. “Where are you… yes, there you go…” He turned back to Gibbs. “There’s only one person logged in to the proxy from the same IP address block as Morgan. Tracing that back, it’s probably someone in the same building, and…” The computer beeped “…yes, 8240 Palm Terrace, the same cable provider did most of the apartments in the building. That line’s rented to the tenant in apartment 22A, the router’s probably within twenty feet of Morgan’s apartment. But there’s no way to prove it’s him except by checking the connection history on his computer, and that’d tip him we’re keeping tabs on his online activities.”

“Can you tell what he’s doing?”

“He’s checked the Outlook calendars for the Homicide squad and Forensics. About now he’ll be seeing the scheduled meeting with Fornell and his team on Monday afternoon.”

“Which gets everyone out of the way around the time Michaels should arrive in Miami,” said Ziva. “Do you think he’ll take the bait?”

“He’d better,” said Gibbs.

Metro-Bus Miami Central Terminal

There was no way I could go out to the prison, it would be much too easy to follow me, but only one bus route served it, running once an hour. I knew when Michaels was scheduled for release, and that plus the bus timetable told me he’d be getting in to Miami about three in the afternoon. I timed my day accordingly, meeting with my union’s legal representative at noon (and finding, as expected, that they couldn’t do much unless I was actually charged with something) and spent the next hour or so visiting computer shops in the area and trying laptops. At the Apple store I went on line and checked weather conditions along the coast down to Key West. I had no intention of going there, but if someone saw the browser history it might be a little misleading. The only thing that actually interested me there was the local tide and sunset times.

At 2.45 I stopped to eat at a diner that overlooked the bus terminal, one I used occasionally when I was in the area. Hopefully my followers wouldn’t think there was anything too odd about it.

The Homicide Squad calendar had told me some of my problems would be tied up in a meeting all afternoon; that didn’t mean I was in the clear, of course, Westen and his friends were still watching me, and there were probably others I hadn’t spotted.

The lunch rush was over, so it wasn’t hard to get a window seat. What I wanted, what I needed, was for Michaels to get off his bus, cross the terminal, and board a local bus for his cousin’s home. If he didn’t, if he took off somewhere else, I’d have problems.

Just before three a Miami Metro car arrived, and two uniforms I didn’t know got out. I sat a little back from the window, and tried not to make it obvious I was watching. They waited for the bus to arrive, and made a bee-line for Michaels as soon as he got off. As I watched I thought I recognised something in his eyes; another predator, maybe carrying a Dark Passenger of his own. He looked older than he had in his file, wrinkled with age spots and blotches, but still seemed to be in pretty good shape, if the heavy old suitcase he carried was any indication.

The uniforms looked at his papers, and I guess made it clear to everyone around that he was an ex-con. Batista must have called in a favour. I knew this game, of course, get Michaels mad enough and he might end taking a swing at someone, a parole violation that would get him off the streets for a few more years. But he must have realised that – he looked boiling mad, clenching and unclenching his fists, but didn’t make a move.

Eventually they let him go and he went off toward the local buses, and boarded the right one. I waited until they were all gone, had another coffee, and finished the paper.

Around 3.30 I walked back to the office block where my union was based, rode the lift up to their floor, then used a credit card to open the fire door without setting off the alarms and walked downstairs to the basement car park. There was a rack of bicycles I’d seen on a previous visit, all secured with U-locks or chains. It took me about ten seconds to spot a padlock that I knew I could pick, another thirty to get it open. A minute later I was out of there, pedalling through the traffic without a care in the world, other than my obvious need to shake off anyone who was still on my tail. I couldn’t see anyone, that didn’t mean they weren’t there.

Downtown Miami

“He’s going back up to the union offices,” said Sam. “Or he wants us to think that.”

Sam has good instincts. When you’re a spy, you learn to spot someone who’s trying to mislead you. Everything today had been just a little off; the union meeting arranged at short notice, the window shopping, the extended lunch. Since Gibbs had warned us that Morgan would probably try to shake us, it didn’t come as a huge surprise.

“What do you think? Back exit?” I was already driving around the block, leaving Sam parked across the street and watching the main entrance.

“Maybe.”

I parked where I could see the loading bay and rear entry, and waited to see if Morgan came out. About five minutes later Sam called again: “Son of a bitch… He’s back out, riding a bicycle, headed east.”

“Stay on his trail and guide me in.” I started the Charger, knowing that this was it, Morgan’s bid for freedom. We had to let him think he’d shaken us off. As it turned out, that was pretty easy. It’s relatively easy to stop someone on a bicycle if you don’t mind hurting or killing him, but incredibly hard to trail one if the rider knows what he’s doing and you don’t have a bicycle of your own.

Back in WW2 the French and Dutch resistance forces used bicycle messengers who were regularly able to avoid armoured patrols and troops on foot. In Vietnam the Vietcong built an entire supply line around bicycles, and kept their forces supplied with ammunition and weapons (including artillery) when the USAF thought they’d made all routes impassable. And when Dexter Morgan rode his bike down an alley, along the sidewalk of a gridlocked street, and into a park that was closed to cars, he proved once again that in the wrong hands they can be a serious pain in the butt. We last saw him disappearing into traffic a couple of hundred yards away, while we were still chasing across the park on foot.

I consoled myself that it was all part of the plan.

Dexter Morgan

The nice thing about bicycles is that they can fit through gaps no car can manage, and go places where cars are banned, and if you take them anywhere near a college campus you will soon be lost in the crowd. Not perfectly, because I wasn’t wearing a helmet or Speedos, but well enough for my purposes.

When I was sure I was clear I dumped the bike, walked a block, took a bus a couple of miles, then hailed a cab and headed off towards my storage locker. I saw the manager and paid cash for six months more rental, then went into the locker and found the things I needed; a kitbag containing a small inflatable dinghy and its air pump and paddles, some fishing gear, dark clothing, and a couple of things I hadn’t been able to add to my improvised kill kit; two syringes, an ampoule of veterinary tranquiliser, and binoculars. I thought about taking some better knives and saws, but the equipment I’d left at the pier would do, and I wanted to avoid anything that would be impossible to explain if I was stopped en route to Michaels’ home. The tranquilliser and syringes could be a problem, of course, but I tucked them into a plastic pouch with some fishing weights. If I threw them overboard they’d sink fast.

“You should get rid of this stuff,” said Harry, looking round the unit. “If you’re arrested and your picture gets in the paper the manager might recognise you, some of this stuff would be hard to explain.”

“There isn’t time, not if I’m going to get Michaels tonight.”

“Is it really that important?”

“Yes. I need this.”

“Well, be careful, make sure it isn’t a trap.” I pulled down the shutter and locked the unit; by the time I’d finished he was gone.

An hour and two bus rides later I was inflating my boat a couple of miles up-stream from the canal leading to Michaels’ house. As night began to fall I launched it and began to drift down-stream with a line in the water, the very picture of an innocent fisherman. I was in no hurry, I wanted Michaels tired or asleep by the time I made my move.

The Slice of Life

So here we are, then; me, my sated Dark Passenger, and four Hefty bags of body parts and bricks, bobbing over the Gulf Stream aboard the Slice of Life towards sunset. Fishing lines are out, and to any passing boat I’m just an unusually keen angler, dreaming of the one that won’t get away. I look around one last time, making sure that the coast is clear (for want of a better metaphor), then heave the first bag over the side.

I’m swabbing down the deck after the fourth when a helicopter arrives and starts to circle overhead, and the white superstructure of a big Coast Guard cutter appears over the horizon. I mop harder, making sure that there will be no evidence left aboard, and give the helicopter a friendly wave.

As the cutter gets closer two inflatable launches speed towards me; or rather, speed to either side of me and carry on, eventually stopping a hundred yards or so astern of me. They seem to be waiting for something… and soon that something appears; three divers and some flotation bags. And in moments the boat crews are helping the divers and some very familiar looking black Hefty bags out of the water. Further astern there’s a disturbance in the ocean, and the black fin of a submarine emerges from the deep. Within a couple of minutes it’s launching a boat of its own, headed straight for me. I decide that I might as well know the worst, and get my binoculars. Aboard the boat there are eight sailors, and one grey-haired man in civilian clothing. Gibbs. He’s using binoculars of his own, sees me looking, and raises his hand in an ironic salute…

*

I woke gasping, the inflatable rocking underneath me, disorientated. I checked my position and realised I’d only been asleep for a few minutes. I hadn’t missed the turning into the canal.

Half an hour later I moored the boat under the pier, recovered my kill kit and put it into a shoulder bag, and cautiously climbed ashore. As before there was nobody around, nothing but occasional distant traffic noise and the steady hum of transformers. I could see a light downstairs in Michaels’ house – at least I hoped it was his house, things looked different in the dark – and I started to make my way there, as cautiously and quietly as I could, pausing occasionally to watch the house through binoculars. Then I noticed some movement, looked again, and saw Michaels for a second, closing the curtains. It was the right house.

About half-way there the light went out, then another came on upstairs. It looked like Michaels was heading for bed. I gave it twenty minutes and was rewarded by the light going out. Slowly, and very carefully, I made my way to the only outbuilding, a barn that would be just about usable as a kill room, and covered the floor with plastic sheeting. There was no operating table, but I could bring something from the house once I had Michaels knocked out.

A little after midnight I decided I’d waited long enough.

Show time…

TBC

Chapter Text

Previously

“The FBI is taking over this case, and my team’s headed back to Washington this afternoon.”

*

Michaels was a habitual criminal, aged sixty-one, who’d spent more than half his life behind bars. He’d been jointly responsible for the death of a jewellery store clerk and a customer during a robbery in the early nineties, and killed all three of his partners in a fight over money after they fled the crime scene.

*

Michaels was going to be released at 11 AM on Monday. The parole conditions included regular appointments with a probation officer, but he had forty-eight hours before his first check-in. That would have been a good time to catch up with him, but I couldn’t be sure that the FBI would hold off until Wednesday. I had to do this fast and cleanly, and without leaving a trail.

*

I made my way to the only outbuilding, a barn that would be just about usable as a kill room, and covered the floor with plastic sheeting. There was no operating table, but I could bring something from the house once I had Michaels knocked out.

A little after midnight I decided I’d waited long enough.

Show time…

Dexter Morgan

I crept out of the barn as quietly as I could, and went towards the house very cautiously. Most of the houses were dark, their occupants away or asleep. I was fortunate that Michaels’ house was well back from the main road, making the most of its five acres; that left it at least a hundred yards from the nearest occupied building, with trees obscuring their view. Unless I got very careless his neighbours would never know I was there. There wasn’t much to be heard; an occasional night bird, the hum of the transformers down by the river, distant traffic noise.

A quarter moon had risen while I was making my preparations; there wasn’t much light, but it was enough to keep me from tripping over or falling into holes, with some very cautious use of a flashlight when I was sure it couldn’t easily be seen from the house. Someone had been digging the ground around the house; maybe police looking for Michaels’ alleged loot, or Michaels recovering it. I tried to avoid leaving footmarks in soft ground, and made a mental note to check the ground when I cleaned up after the kill. If that wasn’t possible I’d buy new shoes before returning home, and ditch the old ones well away from the apartment.

I got to the back porch quietly, got out my picks, then on a hunch tried the handle. The door began to open. I pocketed the picks, got out a syringe, and carefully crept inside, risking the flashlight again to look around. The kitchen, old furnishings and equipment, mostly covered in dust, and a doorway leading further into the house. There was a big table that would have been ideal for the coming operation, but looked too heavy to move by myself. Somehow I couldn’t imagine asking my victim to lend me a hand. But if all else failed maybe I could do the show right here, and forget about using the barn as my kill room.

Harry was leaning against the stove, and said “Isn’t it a little late to be getting cautious?”

I murmured “I’m working, dad,” and wondered why he’d chosen to show up. Or, since I occasionally try to be realistic about these things, why my subconscious had decided to dream him up at this particular moment. But it’d have to wait. I held my fingers to my lips and went on into the house.

The rest of the floor was as shabby as the kitchen, smelling of dust and dirt. I was leaving footprints everywhere I went, I’d definitely have to ditch my shoes before I went anywhere near my apartment. One of the rooms was stripped of furniture and seemed to have been prepared for redecoration, presumably before the previous occupant died since there was dust everywhere. There were a couple of trestles that looked sturdy but reasonably portable, and some planks that should do as a work surface. I had my table. But I had other things to do first.

Once I’d checked all the rooms I crept up the stairs, helped by a little light from above, staying near the wall to minimise creaking, and stopped when I was half-way up and I could see the upper floor, a narrow hallway lit by one dim bulb. Up ahead of me was a half-open door. I could hear the faint dripping of a tap, and guessed it was the bathroom. A couple of steps confirmed that. There were two other doors, one at the other end of the hallway, the other to the side. If I hadn’t got turned around Michaels’ bedroom was the room at the end. I couldn’t risk any noise this close to him, so I bypassed the other room and went straight for Michaels.

The knob turned smoothly, and the door opened without a sound. In the dim light I could see him lying on the bed, one foot sticking out from under the blankets. From the position of his foot I could tell he was lying on his side facing away from me. I listened, but couldn’t hear anything to suggest he was awake. The foot gave me an obvious injection point, but not one I preferred; there are plenty of blood vessels there, but if he had circulatory problems I might end up injecting a muscle or a clogged vein. I’m much better with arms and the neck. So I moved into the room, gently took hold of the sheet and blanket, and yanked them back, while I stabbed for his neck with the syringe.

And that would have been the end of that phase of things. Except that the man in the bed wasn’t Michaels, and wasn’t alive. It was a younger man, maybe in his forties, fully clothed apart from one shoe and sock. From the way his head lay I guessed that his neck was broken. The body was still warm. I had no idea who he was, but if he was here, where was Michaels? I was still trying to figure it out when I heard footsteps coming upstairs. There wasn’t time to find a good hiding place, so I silently shut the door, covered the body, and waited to one side, where the opening door would conceal me. After a pause that felt interminable, but was really only a few seconds, it opened and Michaels came in, carrying a plastic gasoline can, and began to pour it onto the bed and body. He couldn’t have been positioned more perfectly, and it was ridiculously easy to reach out and stab him in the neck with my second hypodermic. Seconds later he was out for the count. I checked him over, and found a SIG-Sauer P229 tucked into his belt. Where had a con on parole found a gun so fast? Probably taken from the man he’d killed.

He’d be out for at least half an hour, so I left the gun and gasoline in the bedroom and dragged him downstairs, and left him in the kitchen while I moved the trestles and planks to the barn.

* * * * *

“Are you out of your mind?” demanded Fornell, staring at the monitors. “Morgan could have stabbed him as soon as he walked in the door!”

“It isn’t his M.O.,” Gibbs said calmly, “and Mike knows what he’s doing. Every inch of that house is wired, if we’d seen any weapon he would have taken him out.”

“Mike Franks is a fucking cowboy, but you should know better. What if he got an overdose, or had a bad reaction to the drug? Or chokes on his own vomit?”

“You know all this. We know what he uses, they found traces in some of the Bay Harbor bodies, and Ducky tested it. Mike’s fine with it. And Morgan doesn’t make mistakes, he likes to play with his victims.”

“I don’t like it.”

“It was Mike’s play, and he’s taken it. We need to follow up and make the case.” He picked up a headset and said “Sound off.”

“Morgan’s moving something to the barn,” said Ziva. “One of the trestles from the house.”

“Mike is breathing normally,” said Tim. “All vital signs are nominal.”

“What if Morgan finds the sensors?” asked Fornell.

“They’re subcutaneous,” said Tim. “He won’t find them easily.”

“I hope to god you’re right.”

* * * * *

By the time Michaels started to come round I had him stripped and Saran-wrapped to my improvised table. He came back to consciousness faster than most, and I could see his eyes moving as he tried to take in the scene; the tent of plastic sheeting that enclosed us, and your humble narrator standing over him, wearing disposable scrubs, gloves, and a face mask, raised so that I could look him in the eyes.

“What the Sam Hill is going on?”

That was a change, the usual question is “Who are you?”

“Hello, Frank, you’re here to pay for your sins.”

“You some sort of fucking evangelist?”

“You’ve been a very bad boy, Frank. Three men you killed in ninety-three, and whoever that is in your bedroom.”

“What’s it to you?”

I slapped his face, fairly hard. “I’m here to punish you, Frank.”

“You a cop?”

“Get real.” I got my small scalpel and gently touched it to his cheek, and transferred a drop of his blood to a slide. “Any last words?”

“Why are you doing this?”

I put a wad of cotton swabs into his mouth, and said “I like killing people, Frank, and you won’t be missed.” I pulled down the visor and reached for my largest knife. Suddenly the barn was flooded with blinding light, so bright that for a moment I couldn’t see, and someone grabbed my hand, kicked my feet from under me. By the time I stopped blinking I was on the ground, face down, my hands cuffed behind my back, and something heavy on my back.

I heard a voice I recognised; Agent Gibbs. “You all right, Mike?”

“Asshole cut my face,” said Michaels, or whoever he really was.

“Let me get more photos,” said DiNozzo, who had also apparently joined the crowd, “then I’ll cut you loose.”

“Fuck the photos, get me my goddamned clothes.”

“Ziva,” said Gibbs, “read Morgan his rights.”

“You have the right to remain silent,” said Ziva David, who appeared to be kneeling on my back. “Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided for you. Do you understand the rights I have just read to you? With these rights in mind, do you wish to speak to me?”

I thought about my options, and said nothing.

“It’s okay,” said Gibbs. “We really don’t need a statement. We’ve taped everything you’ve done and said tonight.”

“The house is wired top to bottom,” said someone I didn’t immediately recognise - I later learned it was Agent Fornell - “and we got a couple of miniature cameras in here while you were inside. So we have conclusive evidence that you abducted an innocent man and were prepared to kill him. Any questions?”

I knew they had me, so I might as well ask. “What about the body in the house?”

“A suicide, the family let us use his body. We didn’t want you doubting that Michaels was a killer.”

“So who is he really?”

“You’ll find out in court.”

* * * * *

So that’s it.

Gibbs is a bulldog, but now I’m caught I stop being his problem; he’ll move on to other things. As for me… well, I know the Florida penal system; it’s run by people who are a lot less competent than Gibbs. It may take a while, but sooner or later I’ll find a way out.

I always do.

The End


"Eventually, most serial killers get caught. There's really not much of a retirement plan."
Dexter Morgan - Dexter episode 1.06

And that’s it. And no, I don’t plan a sequel.

At the time I began I had no idea how the plot of the Dexter TV series was going to evolve, nor that it would take me so long to finish this story. I’ve tried to avoid letting the show influence my plot, and hope that readers will be happy with the way I developed the original premise.

Apologies, again, to everyone who started reading this because it originally included an Angel crossover; it really didn’t work, and I think the story was improved by removing it.

If anyone was wondering, the dream sequence in chapter XVII was my first stab at the final scene of the story, written soon after I began - some time after writing it I realised that it relied on Gibbs knowing that Dexter is killing someone, but not stopping him, which seemed implausible. It also relies on Gibbs keeping a submarine and a coast guard boat on call for a prolonged period, which is very implausible, and I believe illegal since the US armed forces aren’t normally supposed to operate in US territory. Alternatives with the coast guard only, and with a French submarine, also failed the plausibility test. In the end I decided to go for something a little less melodramatic.

Thanks for reading!