Sometimes you don’t realise how weird things can get. I mean, I’m a vampire, it shouldn’t get much weirder, but sometimes the level of coincidence weirds out even me.
It was pretty clear that Josef was really busy. His apparent death in LA had meant a change of identity and a relocation to Baltimore. Josef Kostan had become Konstantin Janov and I was still struggling to remember to call him Kostya in public and not Josef.
For all my eighty five years, I’d never had to deal with such a major identity switch for any of my close friends or associates. Watching Josef, damn, Kostya create a new life for himself was at once both reassuring and overwhelming. Reassuring in that it was a clear possibility and overwhelming at the level of work that Kostya (definitely Kostya) was putting into it.
His biggest problem was the active investment of his money. Josef has plenty of cash in offshore accounts, saved for a rainy day, but a new life meant the loss of pretty much all of his old contacts. He’d had to dump all of the mortal contacts and move into completely new business areas, which meant a whole round of new business deals.
And that’s where I come in. New business partners mean new risks, and new risks mean new background investigations. Josef trusts no-one .
Mick looked up at the building. It couldn’t be further from Josef’s last residence. The sparkling glass and steel were gone and the vampire formerly known as Josef Kostan was now living in an over-sized brownstone on a leafy avenue. Technically it was three brownstones, but some creative remodelling had merged them into a single premises.
The butler equivalent let Mick in and showed him up to Josef, who was looking at art in his “studio”. Josef had retained some of the same staff but, in keeping with his new persona, a large number of the new staff were Eastern Europeans or Russians (Mick wasn’t quite sure which).
Konstantin Janov was in shipping and had a hobby of appreciating and collecting fine art. Josef had taken advantage of all the modern world had to offer in personal restyling and Kostya Janov was a blocky, buzz cut thug who looked a good ten years older than Mick thought Josef had looked before. He still appeared to have retained his taste for expensive dressing, but the stylish personally tailored suits were gone. Instead he was wearing something Mick identified as a) designer, b) lurid and c) frankly hideous.
Josef spotted his arrival immediately, but finished viewing the artwork being displayed to him before telling the man presenting it to him “Продай это” and walking over to Mick.
“Mick.” He said with a smile and a very strong accent.
Mick nodded at him. It seemed that ‘Kostya’ was able to let out Josef’s predatory instincts to a greater extent than Josef had previously. Kostya’s smile was positively shark-like. Mick threw off the urge to shudder and followed as Josef gestured him out of the room, all the while dropping orders to the staff in what Mick assumed was Russian.
“How’s it going?” He asked Josef, once they were installed in an office.
Josef indicated a well stuffed leather chair before dropping into its partner across the coffee table. Mick seated himself and took the file Josef handed him.
“Busy.” Josef sat back in his chair.
The accent was rather disconcerting, but Mick understood Josef’s need to retain it. A slip in the wrong place could be disastrous.
“Too many new deals to make.” Josef continued. “I got a large number of people for you to look into.”
Josef shrugged. “At the moment? About twenty, but I can prioritise. That one’s the first.”
Mick opened the file. The front page was a basic info sheet with a head and shoulders ¾ angle portrait shot of an older man, grey-white hair brushed back off his face, california tan and broad smile. The file listed him as Anthony DiNozzo Snr, businessman and investor, laying out a series of known associates, former business partners and listing a next of kin in Anthony Dinozzo Jr, adult son.
“What’s the rush on this one?” Mick asked.
“His history is...concerning.” Josef told him with a frown. “He’s given solid evidence of having the goods and financial liquidity in question, but his history concerns me.”
Mick nodded, scanning over the papers behind the front sheet. Addresses, company data, accounts and other listings.
“I’ll look into it.”
[ Продай это - Sell it ]
Anthony DiNozzo Snr had lived in a wide number of cities in the US and overseas, and had run an even wider number of businesses and business deals. However, Logan was always happy to track down data on pretty much anyone if Mick was willing to pay in blood so Logan didn’t need to leave his basement.
Mick spent a good amount of time reviewing the information Logan sent him, while lounging around in the apartment that Josef had made available to him. Constantly on the move, married multiple times, usually on the brink of bankruptcy; DiNozzo was, to an initial overview, a crook, a conman and a cheat. Mick had created a timeline on the wall with post-its and the story it told was not flattering to the man.
The thing Mick found hardest to process was how the man had never actually ended up bankrupt or in prison. Whatever happened he seemed to live a charmed life, apparently able to talk himself out of any trouble he was in. There was always another investor or another deal popping up just has he needed it. Each time however, DiNozzo’s dealings took it all south. He didn’t seem to be able to keep a con going for more than a few months at most, which seemed unusual given his evident skills and focus in setting them up.
Mick sighed as he put the glass of A+ down on the table next to him. It was lucky for his son though. Turned out the son was a federal agent, and a con-artist father involved in fraudulent business activities would not be a credit to the man’s career. He pulled up the small file on the son up.
Anthony DiNozzo Jr was a handsome man probably in his late thirties or early forties with short glossy dark hair, laughing blue eyes and a broad smile. Mick could see the resemblance to the father. Junior’s career both academic and in employment had been extremely different to his father’s. It appeared that after the death of his mother, his father’s first wife, Junior had been packed off to boarding school. He later obtained a sports scholarship to Ohio State, due to injury was forced to change his focus of study to physical education with a minor in criminology, and then moved on to a pretty stellar career in law enforcement leading to a role on the NCIS Major Crimes team. It was weird how families diverged.
He spent a couple of days tracking down DiNozzo Sr’s business ventures, a couple of evenings watching the man himself. The business and sales conversations he’d listened into didn’t seem to have the level of push he would expect from a con artist and the man himself did not change his demeanor between his client facing and private time. At the end of it, Mick still did not have an answer to his misgivings about the background. Was the man truly just incompetent? If so, he must have someone pulling him out of trouble and covering his back legally. Maybe it was the son, but that did not seem right either.
Tony carefully folded his shirts and hung his spare suit in a suit bag. His usual go bag wasn’t going to do for this trip. A funeral in sunny LA; that required a better cut of suit and smarter shoes. He gave his closet a speculative look, then put his swimming shorts in the suitcase. Just in case. He was examining his tie collection when his phone rang.
He picked it up without looking away from the ties and answered briskly. “DiNozzo.”
“Dad.” He said, looking away and sitting back on the bed next to his case. “What is it? Where are you? Are you back in the US?”
“Yes, I got back a few months ago.”
“You didn’t call.” Tony said calmly.
There was a short pause before his father continued, in the background Tony could hear something that sounded like machinery. “I’m sorry son, I’ve been busy.”
Tony sighed. “Yeah Dad.”
“Look,” his Dad continued, “I was wondering if anyone has been in touch about me.”
Tony pressed his lips together to calm himself before continuing. “No Dad. Who would be in touch?”
“There’s a man, ‘bout your height and age, but slim, shaggy light brown hair, blue eyes, really fair skin.”
“That describes a pretty wide cross section of the population.” Tony said irritatedly. “Why does this guy want you? What are you into now?”
Tony could hear the huff that has dad gave out.
“Nothing!” Senior replied in offended denial. “I’m not doing anything out of order. I’m trying to cut a deal with a company and I think some...competitors... have been trying to discredit me.”
Tony sighed. “Dad, your business history is spotty at best. It wouldn’t be a challenge.”
“Junior!” DiNozzo Senior sounded hurt but resigned.
Tony paused for a moment. In the background of the call, a ship’s horn sounded. “Are you on the docks somewhere Dad?”
His Dad ignored the question. “Look, I was expecting a level of due diligence from the company, but this is more than that. I think that someone’s put a private detective on my tail to try and undermine me.”
Tony realised his free hand was opening and clenching into a fist repetitively.
“Dad, I’ve got to go, I’ve gotta travel for work. I’ve not seen this guy and I’ve not got time to deal with all this.”
“Son…?” His dad’s voice sounded pleading and kind of worried.
“Okay, if anyone approaches me, I’ll let you know.” He said. “I gotta go. Bye Dad.”
Tony rang off.
Mick read them carefully, but the business records on DiNozzo Senior did not give up anything more exciting. What was clear was that DiNozzo never seemed to work with the same people more than once, twice at the most. There were very few exceptions to this rule, and most of those were weirdly powerful people, like middle eastern royalty. That was one area Mick decided he would steer clear of investigating.
Something about the whole gory history struck him as particularly weird though. If DiNozzo was a con artist, where was the money? Where was the evidence that would put him in jail? It was almost as if he was the unluckiest man alive.
He sighed and went to see Josef.
“I’m on this, but there’s something weird going on here.”
Josef tilted his head and nodded.
“I’m guessing that’s why you called me in.” Mick continued.
“True.” Josef admitted. “I coulda just said no to the guy, but the documentation he brought me looked legit and...you know...it’s hard to con a conman.”
Mick gave him a wry smile. “Yeah. I’m gonna go back and see Logan, see what else he can find me.”
“I’ll have my people get you a flight.” Josef clapped him on the shoulder.
Logan was playing a computer game as usual when Mick arrived. This one appeared to involve rolling a ball around a brightly coloured cartoonish world. Things were sticking to it. A bouncy happy tune played in the background and Logan was singing along.
“Na na na na!”
“Logan!” Mick interrupted.
“Na na na na!”
“Hey Mick! Wait a moment.”
Logan paused the game and turned.
“What the hell is that?” Mick asked him
“This? Man this is cult! An underground hit!”
Mick gestured his comment away. “No matter.” He waved a shopping bag at Logan.
Logan gave him a speculative look. “You don’t bring me presents.” He said slowly. “What can I do for you?”
Mick put the bag of blood on the table. “That information on DiNozzo.”
Logan nodded enthusiastically. “Yeah, that was pretty straightforward, man.”
Mick nodded along. “I need a deeper dive.”
Logan frowned. “I thought you were just interested in his business history?”
“That was then.” Mick corrected him. “Now, I need a full background. Family history, personal accounts, anything you can get me. There’s a quart in that bag and I’ll get you another quart after. Two quarts if you can get me a decent background on this guy and his family.”
Logan stood. “That’s pretty high pay for this.” He countered, picking up the bag and putting it in his refrigerator. “What do I need to be aware of here?”
Mick shrugged. “Son’s a fed. NCIS?”
Logan balked, then looked confused. “What’s NCIS?”
“Navy feds.” Mick clarified.
With a shrug, Logan walked over to his other computers and sat down. “I’ll call you when I got something worth having.”
Mick left, once Logan disappeared into the internet, there was no talking to him.
It took fourteen hours for Mick to hear back from Logan. The geek texted him, telling him to look at his email. Logan’s email contained a link to download a file with his interim findings about the family background. Mick clicked the link and downloaded the file, then printed it and sat down to look through the findings and paperwork.
DiNozzo Sr was originally a reasonably wealthy man, the grandchild of Italian immigrants who had started a transportation company. The company had been sold by the time he had been born, but his father ran a successful import-export business focusing on small machined goods from Europe and some items of art and culture. The older generations of the family were now deceased and his only remaining relatives in the US were his son and a cousin who apparently ran a butchers shop in Long Island.
He had married a woman called Claire Paddington, a British national, in April 1966. They had started their married lives in Long Island and just over two years later had a son, Anthony DiNozzo Junior. Comparing this with the business history, this appeared to be the point that things started to deteriorate, but slowly.
Claire DiNozzo died about ten years after the marriage, leaving her husband and son behind. It looked like Senior did not cope well with the loss of his wife and from this point on, things seemed to go from bad to worse in terms of business and home life. The records Logan had provided showed several subsequent marriages none of which lasted for more than a year and within a few years, DiNozzo Jr was being sent away to boarding school.
Mick paused. At this point, Senior’s financial situations were extremely volatile, but DiNozzo Jr was not being sent to low budget institutions. He replied to Logan’s email with a request for him to look into the financial situation around Junior’s education in his teens. As an afterthought, he texted Logan about the email then washed up his glass and went to bed.
By the time he was awake and up and about the next night, he had a reply from Logan. He poured himself his dinner and sat down again with the new information. According to what Logan had been able to find, although it was an incomplete record, it looked like DiNozzo Sr was pretty desperate to get his son out of his house. The son’s education appeared to have been prioritised over a lot of other costs.
Mick hadn’t expected the son to have much of interest to contribute to the story, considering he had been a minor, and then a law enforcement officer for his entire working life. Weirdly though, whenever Senior appeared to run out of cash, his son’s fees were covered by a “foundation” based in England which paid the costs of the child’s education and care. From the actual records and looking at patterns in the business record, it seemed this had happened several times.
By the time it came to university, DiNozzo Jr appeared to be spending no time at all at home with his father and by this point he had been enrolled and expelled from multiple boarding schools. He had finally landed up at Remington Military Academy for his senior year, which launched him into attending at Ohio State University where he had entered as a rising sports star.
From what Logan had established, DiNozzo Jr. had been expecting to live off of a trust fund provided by his mother in her will, however it looked like Senior, apparently living on his last few cents, had found a way of accessing the fund and cleared it out. The strangest thing was that, although it was clear DiNozzo was not aware of what was happening, the same foundation had provided the sports scholarship that DiNozzo eventually relied on for his academic and living costs while he studied. The final note in Logan’s file was a short statement that although Logan couldn’t prove it yet, he was pretty certain the Paddington family were involved with the foundation.
The flight out to LA for the funeral had not been too bad, if for no other reason than they got to fly business class with the boss. They were expedited through the airport as they were with a VIP (of sorts at least) and once land-side, Tony was able to look at his phones again. There were three missed calls from an overseas number on his personal phone. +44, that was England right? Or the whole UK?
They picked up the rental car and he drove them to the hotel. The hotel was nicer than what they would usually have stayed in which was a nice bonus for a really boring assignment. Checking in was quick and Director Shepperd announced she would eat in her room and suggested they either do the same or book into the hotel’s restaurant. Tony’s decision was clinched by Ziva announcing she would book room service.
Once in his room, he unpacked his clothes as the late afternoon sunshine gradually declined into evening and contemplated whether it would be possible to go for a swim. His ruminations were cut off by his phone ringing again and a quick glance at the screen showed it was the UK number again.
“DiNozzo.” He answered.
“Tony, it’s Lance.” The voice eluded him for a moment, until he placed it. One of the Paddington cousins.
“Lance!” He said. “Haven’t seen you for, what, five years?”
There was a chuckle in reply. “No, it must be five years, maybe six.”
Tony hung the shirt bag in the closet with his free hand and went to sit on the little balcony as he spoke.
“What can I do for you? Nothing wrong with the family?”
“No, not that.” Lance reassured him. “The English branch of the family are fine.”
“Huh?” Tony kicked his feet up on the railing. “What’s wrong then? Thought I was the only one over here at the moment?”
“At the moment yes.” Lance said, his voice dropping to a more serious register. “Tony, I’m sorry to call you about this, but we’re aware that someone is investigating your father and has connected him to the Paddington family. We’ve always been concerned this might happen, you know we suggested you take your mother’s name professionally to avoid any trouble.”
“Lance…” Tony cut in, restraining a sigh, but his cousin spoke over him.
“Tony,” Lance replied in turn, “look, we know he’s your father, but his business dealings have got progressively more...complicated, the longer time has gone on. We have genuine concerns that his...interesting business practices will cause problems for the family’s reputation and business interests and for your career as well.”
The pauses to find polite words of description were as telling as they were so politely English.
“He’s already been in touch.” Tony said. “He’s got some business deal in the works and it sounds like the company have a private investigator doing basic background for due diligence.”
Lance sighed. “And what will that turn up? If they are looking into his dealings and connecting them with ours and with yours, what sort of trouble will that stir up? If your father is outed as a fraud, what level of scrutiny will that put on your completed cases?”
Tony held the phone away from him for a moment, before putting it back up to his ear. “Look, I can’t deal with Dad at the moment, I’m away for work.”
“Tony, please.” Lance asked him. “Your father is quite probably getting himself into significant trouble at the moment, and potentially you and us also. None of us need that kind of trouble.”
“I can’t do it now. I’m away. I will give him a call when I get back and see if I can get to the bottom of it all, okay?”
“Alright.” Lance sounded resigned. “What more can I ask.”
“Cool.” Tony agreed.
“But you must promise me you’ll come over to see us in England soon.” Lance counter offered.
“I’ll see what I can do.” Tony said. “Maybe Christmas. My team covered it last year, so we should be stood down.”
“Excellent.” Lance said. “We’ll see you at Christmas.” He added firmly. “Goodbye Tony.”
The phone went dead.
The evening began with another text from Logan:
[More info C Pad UR Eml]
After a moment, Mick established that there was a further email with information about Claire DiNozzo nee Paddington. He himself had already sought out the obituary and newspaper coverage of Claire DiNozzo’s death, she had died in hospital of liver cancer.
Logan had provided background on Claire’s family and her relationship to them. She was the youngest child, her father was some kind of minor nobility in England, the family had lots of assets, both inherited property and businesses. Claire appeared to have had a similar high school career to DiNozzo Jr, culminating with her running away to America as soon as she turned eighteen. About a year later, she married DiNozzo Sr. Mick spent some time in historical news archives on the internet and managed to find a marriage notice with photograph, although it was very grainy. From the photograph’s caption, none of the guests shown were related to Claire.
Logan’s notes also included a reference to a substantial allowance that the Paddington children were reputed to receive, but that he had found no evidence of Claire receiving this before or after her marriage. Well, Senior hadn’t married her for her money then.
He sketched out a rough family tree in his notebook and moved on. The timeline was looking more and more complex. He had moved it into several different parallel streams in order to find correlations. He scribbled quick notes on the information on Claire on appropriately coloured post-its, added them to the “family” and “financial” streams and stood back to take a look. It didn’t add much to the picture, except suggest that the Paddington/DiNozzo nuptials had been a love match.
He ran through the lines again, comparing them with the notes until he found something he had missed. DiNozzo Sr’s plundering of Junior’s trust fund corresponded with a serious legal action he was involved in. The case had subsequently been thrown out of court for lack of evidence against him, but the fees he had needed to contest it had been steep, very steep. And, as always, as soon as DiNozzo Jr. was in financial difficulties, the Foundation had stepped in and provided a scholarship.
It was probably a good idea to look into the court case. And time to look into DiNozzo Jr more intensively. Could he really not know that the Foundation had bailed him out so many times?
Mick had been extremely careful in looking into DiNozzo Jr’s background so far. He was a federal agent. It wasn’t too hard to establish that he had been employed as a police officer and detective in Peoria then Philadelphia then Baltimore, where he had uncovered a ring of dirty cops, including his own partner. Unsurprisingly he had left Baltimore PD after that. Despite what the police forces said, and most officers genuinely welcomed getting rid of dirty cops, no-one was ever quite comfortable with the whistle-blower in a situation like that. Better to take the reputation of being a straight arrow and ethical hard-ass and move on to a situation who already knew what you were when you arrived and welcomed it.
The limited information he had been able to establish on the man suggested that he was a very respected agent, despite somewhat of a reputation for being rather a playboy. However, taken with the evidence of his whistle-blowing at Baltimore, the likelihood of him being substantially associated with any criminality seemed very low. Considering his reputation as an excellent investigator, Mick wondered how likely it was that DiNozzo Jr. had not known about the Foundation?
He sat back in his chair, looking at the information in front of him. The divergence of outlook between father and son was interesting and left him with more questions. He checked the time, just past eight in the morning, almost time for bed. Two minutes on the internet gave him the main switchboard number for NCIS Headquarters, it was worth a try.
“May I speak to Agent Anthony DiNozzo please?”
“ I’m sorry, Agent DiNozzo is not in the office.”
“Could you ask him to call me back later?”
“I’m sorry, he’s out of the office at the moment. I can leave a message for him, but he won’t be back for a few days. Or I can put you through to another member of the Major Case Team?”
“Thanks but no, it’s a personal matter. If you can tell him I called? My name is Mick St. John. I’ll call back in a few days.”
“I can do that.”
Damn. He dropped Logan a message and decided to get an early night. He’d probably need to be up in the daytime tomorrow.
DiNozzo dressed carefully, the double importance of representing NCIS with the Director and it being a fellow agent’s funeral. On the counter, his phone rang. He went over to look at it, tucking his tie under his collar as he stepped across the room. The screen showed “Dad”. Tony looked at it for a moment and then walked away. The cell phone rang for a few more times before diverting the call through to voicemail. He tied his tie, straightened it in the mirror, then turned the volume off on his personal cell phone .
Tony had four more missed calls while he and Ziva were chaperoning Jenny to the funeral, all from his dad. Senior knew that Tony always had the ringer of his personal cellphone turned off while he was working, the fact that he did not call Tony’s work cellphone indicated something. Probably that Senior did not want to risk anyone listening into the call because it was something illegal.
Tony sighed and put his phone back on the table. At least he and Ziva would get some time to actually enjoy the hotel’s amenities. He went hunting for his swim-shorts and towel.
When Mick woke late morning there was another typically cryptic text from Logan. It was mainly made up of punctuation. Mick blinked at it. Gave up and went to look at his email. The email contained just a flight number and the address of a hotel, surprisingly in LA. He looked at his watch. Was it worth a visit? He picked up his car keys and went out.
DiNozzo and his colleague were actually at the hotel. Mick lurked in the shadows granted by the position of a parasol, an awning and some slightly overgrown decorative bamboo planting. Mick had not expected to see the man there at all, and it was only sheer chance that his ears had caught the man’s name being said with some frustration.
The man, and the woman who had snapped at him, were at the swimming pool. DiNozzo was taking photos of the very unimpressed woman, apparently called Ziva, who certainly wasn’t American. Probably Israeli, Mick guessed from the accent, which struck him as strange. DiNozzo’s behaviour though did seem to tie in with the playboy joker profile Mick had already established.
It wasn’t long until the conversation had turned to their boss’ behaviour, which explained their presence at the hotel. Listening in, Mick agreed with them. People who were being body-guarded did not slip their chaperones unless they were up to something. He watched the conversation play out and the pair of them, Ziva reluctantly, agree to go out. Inconvenient from Mick’s point of view. In this weather, there was no way he would be able to follow them.
Mick did manage to covertly see them leave however, and at least caught a look at the car and it’s numberplace. It was not an easy deal following two federal agents through the hotel. Although there was something odd about the woman, more military than law enforcement? It was hard to tell.
Mick gave it up as a bad idea and left for the day. He would try again later, in the evening.
Tony staggered slightly as he entered the hotel. The exhaustion of the day of dealing with Jenny’s death, finding her body and working the crime scene, was catching up with him. Ziva either politely ignored his misstep or, he thought more likely, was herself too exhausted to notice. Even Mossad agents were human, and Ziva had been much closer to Jenny than he. Gibbs on the other hand, Tony thought in annoyance, Gibbs was not human. Gibbs was a bastard.
Vance had commandeered several of the agents from the LA office. Some had taken charge of the evidence that Tony and Ziva had collected from the scene and it would be safely stored in their evidence lock up overnight before being securely flown back to DC. Tony looked at Ziva, she really was flagging. He put a hand on her shoulder and ordered her to stand down for the day. For a moment she looked like she would argue, but then her shoulders slumped a little and she announced her intention to bathe and order room service. Tony nodded, thinking that was what he wanted as well, but there was more for him to do first.
“Special Agent DiNozzo?”
Tony turned, looking for whoever had called him. A man edged through the crowded lobby.
“Sorry,” the man apologised, “can I have a word with you?”
“Who are you?” Tony scowled.
“Mick St. John.” The man introduced himself, holding out his hand.
Tony shook the man’s, surprisingly cool, hand but did not even try to keep the look of annoyance off his face. St. John took a step back and tucked a thumb into the pocket of his jeans casually.
“Is there anywhere we can talk more privately?”
“No.” Tony said flatly. “I’m busy.”
“Okay then, I’ll keep this short. I’ve been hired to look into your father in connection with a series of high value business deals he’s hoping to make with my employer.”
“You’re the PI?!” Tony exploded. “What the hell has he done now?”
St. John did not flinch back from him. “As far as I know, nothing problematic, we just need to do some due diligence before my employer goes into business with him.”
“Due diligence?” Tony spat the words out. “You’ve hunted me out just for due diligence? Look, I have no idea what illegal method you used to track down a federal agent travelling on business,” he emphasised, “but I have no interest in any conversation with you Mr St. John. So, I suggest you take yourself off elsewhere, before I consider calling local LEOs to report you.”
“I’m sorry Agent DiNozzo. I’ll not bother you further today.”
Tony did not miss the clarification of ‘today’ on the end of the statement, but did take the business card the man proffered. If nothing else, he would know who to complain about. Tony took a deep breath to centre himself as the man disappeared into the scattered crowds in the lobby, then turned towards the concierge desk.
A flash of his badge got him a meeting with the duty manager. The severely trouser-suited woman was appropriately shocked at the death of an important federal director whilst staying at their hotel, although obviously pleased it had not happened on site. She was less sanguine when Tony announced that the Director’s hotel room would need to be examined and the contents packed for evidence in the investigation into the death of a federal agent on duty. The arrival of agents Callen and Hanna with a warrant and evidence kits resolved the discussion swiftly.
By now Tony was running on fumes, and he gladly handed over responsibility for that scene to Hanna and went to bathe, eat and sleep in that order. Out of habit, he turned on his personal cell phone and growled when he saw the four voicemail messages from his father . He closed the phone and slung it on the bed. That could wait, possibly for a week or so till he was less tired and less pissed off.
I don’t really have much to do with other vampires. With the exception of Josef and Logan, I tend to avoid them. I mean, I know a few more. I know how to call The Cleaner though I rarely need her services, but by and large I’ve kept out of vampire politics and society. My early break with Coraline who sired me, not that long after I had got myself under control, meant that I wasn’t introduced to her wider family and contacts. And Josef, Logan and Guillermo, the friends I’ve made since, aren’t particularly active in vampire society. At least not at the moment. Which means that when I’m needing information about other vampires, I usually need to ask Josef. He may have stepped out of the politics for a while, but it doesn’t mean he’s forgotten any of it.
Leaving the hotel in the gathering dark, Mick pondered his next move. He could not fail to have noticed the demeanour of both agents and the arrival of two additional agents with crime scene equipment. Something had obviously gone very wrong. From the conversation he had heard earlier it seemed likely something bad had happened to the director of NCIS. To get any information from DiNozzo Jr now was likely to be futile and, being honest, a bit of a dick move.
His thoughts were derailed by his cell phone ringing. He pulled it out, but the caller had rung off before he could answer. Call history showed him it was Logan, explaining the missed call. There was also a text he had missed while he was in the hotel.
[UR Email. Deep info re DN Sr]
Mick pulled out his car keys and made for home.
The information Logan had provided this time was slightly more informative. It was a really deep dive on several of Senior’s business deals over the years. Mick scanned through quickly, prioritising the ones where it was likely to be possible to talk to involved parties then settled in to read.
Three hours and several pages of notes later, a pattern was emerging. Senior did indeed seem to be trying to hide his business deals. Some of what Logan had turned up was completely new deals and these ones were mostly, as far as could be seen, completely above board. Some of them were with the kind of investor who you would really not want to upset. Of the rest, most of them appeared to be completely legitimate deals at the outset. It was only later that problems seemed to emerge. Fund transfers would be delayed, suppliers and shipping agents would drop out, be bought out or in one case completely go out of business very suddenly.
DiNozzo Sr had originally come from money. His family had worked hard and seemed to have prospered, and DiNozzo Sr had been active in the successful family business from a young age. It was only later, when deals started going wrong that he had been forced to gradually sell off family asset after family asset.
As you looked through the timeline Mick had created on the wall, you could also see that as time went on, DiNozzo Sr was making deals with riskier and riskier people. People like Josef’s current cover, on the borderline of legality and criminal enterprise, foreign royalty and some outright crooks. None of whom Mick would have recommended anyone going into business with. Looking at the string of calamities which had assailed the man’s business, they were however people who would be difficult to threaten, buy out or damage without serious risk.
Considering that it appeared that all of his troubles had started after his marriage to Claire Paddington, permanently estranged runaway from the Paddington family, it wasn’t a stretch to think that that had something significant to do with it.
The Paddington family were not hard to look up online. They were minor mobility in the UK and their family tree was therefore a matter of record. Tracking down cadet branches was less simple, but it did not take too much time to have established a reasonably comprehensive family tree which included the two DiNozzo men.
He found no photographs of Claire Paddington-DiNozzo. The few historical pictures of the Paddington family Mick found showed a family characterised by mid to dark brown hair, mediterreanean colouring and dark eyes. Only DiNozzo Jr’s hazel eyes diverged from the family colouring and looks-wise he wasn’t far from several of the pictures either.
One notable point from the family was the significant number of cousin marriages, at least one pair of second cousins and sometimes first cousins married each other in every generation. They seemed to like to keep the family assets in the family. Another slightly weird point was the repetition of certain names, Claire being one of them. Over the generations there were also multiple variations on the names Crispin and Mark, and also Alfred, Caroline, Lance, Morgan, and Quentin. Even in the modern day, the names turned up multiple times as first names or middle names across the wider family tree.
Mick looked at the names again. Caroline, Morgan. Lance. Well, damn.
He looked back through the family tree, hunting down the holders of those names and how many of them had died young. Flagging each of them there were a large number of family members who had died either in infancy, or in middle age. It was perfect. Take up the identity of a child bearing your name, a very common name in your family whose looks matched your own, until such time as your lack of aging meant you had to duck out again. Wait a generation and then do the same again. And over and over again.
He called Josef. It took a while to get through the Janov staff, but he was eventually put through.
Mick didn’t waste time with pleasantries. “I need to see you.”
Josef immediately picked up the stress in his voice. “What is it?”
“The DiNozzo investigation. I’ve found some information and I don’t want to talk over the phone.”
Josef paused a second. “How bad is it?”
“Put it this way, it looks like some of the extended family are in our line of business.” Mick told him flatly.
Josef hissed out his breath savagely. “Get to the airport, I’ll have my people book you on the next flight.”
There was no wait to see Josef when he arrived this time. Mick was shown straight through to Mr Janov’s office and the door was shut firmly beside him. Josef closed the heavy blackout curtains himself and gestured Mick to a chair.
Mick pulled out the file he had brought with him, laying the family tree out on the table. Both DiNozzo’s names were highlighted, as were all of the instances of the names Caroline, Lance and Morgan. Josef’s glance swept over the page for less than a second before he stood, whirled away and started swearing in about three languages.
It took Josef almost a minute to calm down before he came back to sit at the table. “What do we know?” He asked Mick intently.
Mick shrugged. “That’s it. All I know about them is what you told me when Coraline was in LA. If I hadn’t gone looking in the family tree, I’d never have spotted any connection. I thought they were French.”
Josef scowled. “I can...ask a friend, see what I get back.” He said. “I’ll tell you soon as I have anything.” He stacked the papers back in a heap and put them on his desk. “And Mick?”
Mick looked up at him.
“You stay here.” Josef said. “Don’t go home.”
Josef’s staff put me up in the same apartment I had stayed in before. The fridge was freshly stocked with my preferred blood, the desk held a stack of brand new notebooks and other stationery, all my preferred brands, and I was pretty damn sure the paintings on the walls had been swapped out for things closer to my personal tastes since I was here before. The piano was definitely new.
Things felt more complicated with Josef since he had been responsible for the second turning to vampire in my life. Vampire family relationships are complicated at the best of times, driven by blood and instincts as well as emotions, and my experience with them was pretty limited. It looked like Josef’s connection to me was feeling a lot more parental to him than it had before and I wasn’t sure how I felt about that.
Mick wrote a few desultory notes on the information he already had, but his mind was not really on the task, skittering from line to line of text without really taking in the information on the page. In the end he gave up and went to sit at the piano.
Just over two hours later Josef found him still there, idly playing jazz numbers from his youth. Mick recognised his footsteps and did not turn, and the older vampire stood and listened to him play through three more tracks before approaching the piano.
“I got some information.” Josef sat down on the couch.
He looked strained. Mick just waited for him to talk.
“When the French Revolution came, Lance and Coraline’s family already had a mortal family, nobility, pets who worked for them.” Josef said, looking at Mick intently. “My contact doesn’t know for certain, but likely when a new sibling came into their family, some or all the new vampire's mortal family was married into the pet family. During the Revolution, a bunch of the family were sent to Britain. Could've been family members there already, vampires and mortals. The Paddingtons are the main branch of the pet mortal family.”
Mick swore under his breath. “Now what?” He asked.
“We need to find out how much the DiNozzos know!” Josef said angrily. “Am I being set up by the Paddingtons after all that shit with Coraline last year?” He slammed his hand down on the arm of the chair, which creaked alarmingly. “Are they pissed because I turned you, instead of letting you fade back into their family in the fullness of time?”
“Do they even know it was you? And what difference would that make?” Mick asked, confused.
Josef glared at him, then his look softened. “I forget how young you are and how poor an education you were given.”
Mick was not sure whether to be offended or not.
“If you hadn’t been turned by that crazy bitch Coraline, made that spectacular emotional break from your relationship with her, you might have understood a bit more.” Josef told him. “For most vampires, properly created and raised vampires, family is everything. Why do you think that Lance was so pissed with Coraline?”
“It’s the blood.” Josef told him. “The blood ties us together. If you hadn’t repudiated Coraline so young, you’d feel it too. If you don’t wanna develop that tie with me, you’re gonna have to leave.” He looked away not meeting Mick’s eyes for a while before looking back at him.
“When you set me up such a nice apartment for when I stay?” Mick asked him.
Josef grinned at him. “Yeah, kid. Yeah.”
There had not even been time for him to go home and shower after getting off the plane, Gibbs had ordered he and Ziva straight into the office.Tony sat at his desk, working through their limited leads and tried not to scream and rage in frustration and anger.
Tony’s personal cellphone vibrated on his desk. The screen flashed “Dad” as it rang and rang before eventually going through to voicemail.
“I can’t COPE with this!” He snarled.
He threw his pen across the office. It bounced off the office divider behind McGee’s head.
“Tony!” McGee protested.
“I need a coffee.” Tony snapped.
He stood and walked out. He stood outside in the fresh air and took a few deep breaths before he felt calm enough to open his cell phone. The voicemail was short.
“Junior? It’s Dad.”
“No shit.” He muttered.
“I need to talk to you. Look, I’m really bothered by this son.”
There was a beep and the message ended. Tony paused. It was very unusual for his dad to admit anything like that. He pressed 3 to return the call. It only rang briefly before his dad answered.
“Dad.” Tony replied. “Why am I getting tracked down by a private detective to a Russian businessman to ask me questions about you?”
“It’s business. Real business.”
“Dad, I can’t get involved in any more of your ‘deals’, I’ve got too much on.”
DiNozzo senior harrumphed. “I’m actually still involved in negotiating some absolutely above board business deals with Mr Janov, and it’s just the company doing due diligence.”
Tony clenched his teeth for a moment then spoke. “Dad, this is the guy you warned me about before isn’t it?”
“Yes, but I was wrong. He’s not the person I thought he was. Mr St. John definitely works for Mr Janov.”
“Dad, whatever you’re doing, it’s getting attention and people investigating it.” Tony snapped. “I’ve had phone calls from Lance, asking why they’re being investigated. People are investigating Mom’s family!”
Senior made a few abruptly cut off sounds before speaking intently. “I have no idea why people are looking into the Paddingtons. Nothing I have done has had anything to do with them now you’re an adult, I have no contact with them and don’t want to!”
“Dad!” Tony interrupted. “They’re being hounded because of your business. What are you even doing?”
“I’m not doing anything.” His dad actually sounded genuinely annoyed. “And I’ll thank you not to discuss my business affairs with your mother’s family.”
Tony was confused. “Why would that even be a problem dad?”
“I’ve gotta go Junior.”
His dad put the phone down on him. Tony put the phone down and stared at it in surprise, then sighed and went back indoors.
The search for information on Jenny’s killer was mentally and emotionally draining. He was exhausted, insufficient sleep and constant focussed attention had drained his batteries to pushing zero on top of the emotional burden of guilt. Ducky had taken it upon himself to order food for them all and to make them eat, but no amount of food and coffee could fix the lack of sleep and the pain.
Tony woke up at his desk the following morning, exhaustion had finally flattened him. Opposite him, McGee was snoring quietly. Tony say back in his chair, stifling a yawn, and moving quietly so as not to wake Tim. He stood up, several other agents were in the office, despite the fact it was only a quarter to six. Agent Collins met his eye and gave him a sympathetic nod. He gestured at Tim questioningly. Tony nodded, putting a finger to his lips, receiving a nod in return. Tony had only had just under three hours sleep and Tim had been awake the last time he looked so he couldn’t have had any more than that.
Someone had put a pot of coffee on. Tony wanted to kiss them, even more so when he spotted the empty coffee packet left next to the filter machine; it was the good stuff, not the barely adequate stuff usually available.
He took his coffee and walked out into the corridor to call his dad. He felt a bit of a heel for leaving the conversation where they had, the investigator had not actually suggested that there was anything dubious about the situation. His dad’s phone went to voicemail and he had to leave it to get back to his desk.
The day progressed in steps forward and backwards as leads were found, chased and closed. Tony tried his dad’s phone four more times throughout the day, but every time it went to voicemail. Tony became progressively more bothered by this. Just another thing he did not need while all the rest of his life was going to hell. Restraining the urge to throw things again, he got up and went to try to call his dad again. The phone went to voicemail. He looked at his watch, it was mid afternoon. He made a decision and walked to the lift.
Abby was in her lab, which was unusually silent. She looked at him, eyes red and swollen and he simply opened his arms. She threw herself into his embrace and he let her cry for a while before gently pushing her back to her stool.
“I’m sorry.” She apologised. “It’s just....” Her voice tailed off.
Tony nodded. “I know Abs.”
“And I didn’t even ask you what you needed!” She said, dismayed. She tried to jump up.
Tony put his fingers over her mouth. “It’s okay Abby, I just wanted a favour.”
She pulled his hand away. “What? What can I do?” She demanded, the words tumbling out of her mouth. “Is there something new in the case? I can…”
Tony interrupted her. “No. It’s personal. It's ...not case related.”
Abby leaned away from him to give him a long look.
“It’s my dad.” He explained. “He phoned me yesterday but we argued and he put the phone down on me. He’s being investigated by some kind of private eye though, and it looks like it’s getting… strange... and now I can’t get a hold of him. All the calls are going through to voicemail.”
Abby patted him on the shoulder. “What did you want me to do?”
“See where his phone is?” Tony said apologetically. “But it’s not…”
She shrugged. “You can’t get Jenny’s case solved if you’re all worried about your Dad, Tony!”
She spun around and tapped at her computer. “What’s his number?”
Tony swallowed down his misgivings and rattled off the number.
“I’m not getting anything.” She told him after a few moments. “It could be turned off?”
Tony pulled out his cell phone and tried the number. “You’re right.” He said.
“But it was last in Baltimore.” She said.
“Baltimore?” Tony said surprised.
Abby spun round again shrugging. “Where should be be?”
“I don’t know, but I wasn’t expecting Baltimore.” Tony told her. “Okay, I need to go about this a different way.”
Abby was more than happy to look up a Janov for him, and a Konstantin Janov in Baltimore with a business that also dealt with shipping and a recent donation to the Baltimore Museum of Art was a very strong lead. Tony took the contact details from Abby with thanks and a hug and went back to his desk.
A couple of phone calls and a report from one of the agents in LA pulled him back to his work for three quarters of an hour, but as soon as he got a pause he pulled out the number to call the Janov Company before the end of the working day.
“Mick!” Josef strode past Mick into the apartment. His face was a mask of anger.
“DiNozzo’s son has been calling me!”
Mick was momentarily confused. “Where did he get your number?”
“The business.” Josef growled.
Mick followed him through and sat down at the counter in his kitchenette. “Why?”
“Apparently he can’t get in touch with his father.” Josef said pacing up and down. “I can’t get hold of him either and he is not at his office, or where he was expected to be. His phone is turned off and my people can’t find him.”
Mick frowned. “Do you think he’s in trouble?”
“My contact in Europe says that Lance has flown here.” Josef snapped. “I do not need trouble with Lance or his family! What if DiNozzo’s son finds out about my business and talks to Lance?” Josef slammed his hand down on the counter.
“I doubt either of them actually know about any Paddington vampire link.” Mick offered. “I mean, there’s no such thing as vampires.”
Josef snorted. “It will not stop this federal agent son looking into my business!”
Mick stood. “I’ll look into it.” He told his friend. “I’m not gonna let you get in any shit with the european boogeyman.”
“Or the food.” Josef muttered.
“That too.” Mick agreed.
“DiNozzo.” Tony answered his phone, hoping for some actually pertinent information this time.
“Special Agent DiNozzo, Mick St. John.” The private investigator introduced himself.
Tony gave a huff. “Mr St. John, I’m really busy on a high profile case at the moment and don’t have any time to chat with you.”
“You called my employer, Mr Janov.” St. John told him. “I’m following up on your call. Mr Janov hasn’t been able to get in contact with your father by any of the means of contact Mr DiNozzo provided which is very odd, he’s always been very accommodating to Mr Janov. Based on this out of character behaviour and your concern he has asked me to find him and make sure he is alright. Can I meet with you?”
Tony leaned back in his chair and stared at the ceiling tiles. “Look, I have no idea where to find Dad, I’m really up to my neck in it here and I have no time to spare to come out and meet up with you.”
“I’m just outside the Navy Yard.” St. John said. “If I can just have a few minutes of your time, just get a little background…?”
Tony looked at the clock, past seven in the evening, then at the paper wrapping from the sandwich he’d eaten over six hours ago. “Okay, I need to get food, you can tag along for the duration of that trip. I’ll be out in five.” He put the phone down and turned to McGee and Ziva. “I’m getting food Probie and Probette. What do you want?”
McGee gave him a startled look. “What are you getting?” He asked.
Tony shrugged. “Chinese? There’s that Lebanese place just opened?”
“Oh yeah, we were there last week,” McGee said with some enthusiasm, “I’ll have their soujok wrap, and the muhallabia.”
“The halloumi wrap and muhallabia please.” Ziva added. “Muhallabia is a milk pudding.”
McGee scribbled the orders on a post it note and handed it to him, going for his wallet.
“My treat.” Tony walked away leaving a very startled McGee and David. “Just keep running those names.” He called back over his shoulder.
St. John was waiting just outside the Navy Yard as he had indicated, leaning against a lamppost by his car. Tony pulled up opposite him and wound down his window.
“Want a lift?” He asked.
St. John grabbed a messenger bag out of his car, then crossed the road and slid in the passenger door that Tony had opened.
“Thanks.” He said as Tony pulled away.
“I need to get food.” Tony told him.
St. John shrugged. “No problem.”
“So, where have you looked for my Dad and what’s the big deal about him that got you involved in looking into him?”
St. John pulled out a small pocket notebook. “I’ve got three numbers for your father, a cell phone, an office number and a number for his PA.”
Tony raised his eyebrows. “He’s gotta PA? Okay, I’ve only got a cell-phone number.” He rattled it off.
St. John shook his head. “That’s the same one I have. It’s been turned off since you called Mr Janov.” He flipped a page in the notebook. “His office number turns out to be in the same office that his PA is in, and she hasn’t seen or heard from him in two days and is also worried.”
Tony’s frown deepened.
“Look, Agent DiNozzo, we’re genuinely worried about your Dad. I know you’re concerned about why we’re looking into him like this, but I wouldn’t be telling a federal agent that I’m trying to track down a missing person if I was going to do anything untoward.
Tony pulled the car up at an intersection and turned to St. John. “My dad has a history of,” he paused briefly, “complicated business deals. It wouldn’t be the first time he’s had to disappear.”
St. John tilted his head. “I can see that.” He met Tony’s dubious look. “I’m good at what I do Agent, your dad has had an interesting business history, but I can tell you without breaking confidences, a lot of it ain’t as bad as it looks, there’s…”
He was cut off as Tony’s phone rang.
“Crap.” Tony said, looking down at his phone and the screen which read “Lance.”
He pulled off the road into a parking lot and picked up the phone.
“Lance.” He answered the phone.
“Tony.” His cousin replied. “Can you talk?”
Tony looked at St. John for a moment before he replied. “Yeah.”
“Have you been able to talk to your father?” Lance asked him.
In his peripheral vision, Tony realised St. John had gone very still.
“Not yet.” He replied to his cousin. “He’s out of contact at the moment.”
“On business?” Lance asked.
“Not sure, haven’t been able to contact him.” Tony replied.
“You don’t know where he is?”
Tony frowned at the rather direct question. “No,” he replied, “not at the moment.”
“A pity.” Lance said, sounding disappointed. “I wanted to speak to him. Do you have his contact details?”
“I’ve got a phone number.”
In Tony’s peripheral vision St. John was shaking his head, trying to make eye contact with Tony.
“But not with me.” Tony prevaricated.
“I just wanted to give him a call just to make sure that there wasn’t any conflict of interests with his current business venture the family business interests. It seems a risk if the background checks have crossed into the Paddington family business like I mentioned last week.”
Next to him, St. John was still shaking his head.
“I’m solidly caught up on a case at the moment Lance, not at home, I’ll have to get back to you once I get back.”
The minute the man spoke to Tony, Mick recognised the voice as Lance, Coraline’s weird eyed brother. He was expecting Tony to defer the call, but he continued with it, apparently not expecting Mick would be able to hear both ends of the conversation.
He listened in as Lance pumped Tony for information and when he started asking for information that would allow him to track down DiNozzo Sr, Mick could not help but shake his head. Luckily, Tony appeared amenable to his suggestion and put off giving Lance an answer.
When Tony rang off the call he put the phone back in its cradle and pulled back out into traffic before speaking to Mick again.
“Do you want to explain why I shouldn’t tell him my dad’s phone number.”
“Can I ask how you know Lance?”
“You know him?” DiNozzo countered.
“Yeah.” St. John admitted. “I’ve had some dealings with him.”
DiNozzo pursed his lips. “He’s British.”
“Not originally.” St. John countered. “He was born in France.”
Tony glanced across at him in surprise. He took the turn into the parking lot in front of the Lebanese restaurant and pulled up in front of it before turning to Mick.
“Okay.” He said, looking distinctly suspicious. “Lance is one of my cousins from my mother’s family. A second cousin or something.” He took the keys out of the ignition and they got out of the car. He looked at Mick across the car roof. “Now spill. What’s your problem with Lance?”
Mick looked at him. “When I was looking into your dad, there was some weird stuff about your dad’s business history.”
DiNozzo snorted at him. “His entire business history is weird.”
Mick looked at the man across from him. “Yeah, but what’s weird about it is pretty much all his deals look like they start out legit. Every time he gets involved in something, some kind of crap hits him. And it’s real crap, not him bullshitting his investors. When I found what looked like serious irregularities, I thought like you did. So I did a deep dive into his background, all the available records, spoke to a couple of people. He’s either the unluckiest man alive, or someone has consistently been stitching him up. From when your mom died, right through your childhood and right up to today, every time he tries to get on in business, something screws him over.”
DiNozzo looked angry. “That doesn’t explain him stealing my trust fund, all the times he ran out on me, didn’t seem to have the money to even pay my school fees until the last minute. He fucking left me in Hawaii!”
Mick put his hands up placatingly. “I’m not saying he made all the right decisions, but several of those times match up with him getting caught up in legal problems, and from what I can see, none of it actually came back to him. He’s been implicated in a dozen or more legal actions over the years and none of them have ever actually managed to prove any wrongdoing on his part. If it could have been tracked back to a single person, I’d say someone was trying to screw him over financially, cause every time it happened, he had to find money to pay his legal bill somehow. And every time that happened, the Paddington Foundation bailed you out. Paid for your school fees, provided you with scholarships, bought up a couple of businesses to make sure you still had a tutor. They also bought up a whole bunch of businesses your dad wanted to do business with. And a whole bunch of his competitors.”
DiNozzo looked at him in shock. “How the hell did you find that out?”
“You don’t want to know.” Mick countered. “But I can show you the paperwork I have.”
DiNozzo stepped away from the car. “This is, unbelievable. I’m…”
“When did your cousin call you about your dad?” Mick interrupted him. “I started actively looking into the Paddington connection only a couple of days ago. I didn’t have anything that connected your mother’s family into your dad’s business before that.”
DiNozzo locked the car and walked away towards the restaurant. Mick caught him up at the door. “If you’re telling the truth. Lance called me the day before that.”
They walked inside.
“I’ve got solid evidence that the Paddington family have had a hand in some of your dad’s business problems.” Mick told him. “I can show you the records.”
He backed off, letting DiNozzo calm down a bit while he made his order.
“You want anything?” DiNozzo asked him.
“Nah, already ate.” He demurred.
They took a seat at a table while the order was cooked. DiNozzo sipped at a coffee and tapped at the table with his other hand.
“Okay,” he said finally, “show me what you got.”
Mick pulled the papers he had prepared out of his bag and passed them to DiNozzo. “Here, these seem to be the clearest.”
DiNozzo scanned them. “Where the hell did you get these?” He demanded.
Mick shrugged and DiNozzo gave up and went back to scanning the papers. When he had finished he looked back up at Mick.
“Taking it as read that these are legit, it’s a pretty damning set of evidence against my mom’s family. Can I keep them?”
Mick nodded. “They’re copies.” He sat back in his chair. “As far as I can see, your mom’s immediate family are all pretty above board. Your uncle, aunt, immediate cousins, all pretty straightlaced.”
DiNozzo seemed reassured by that.
“The wider family though, there’s a lot of family businesses and old money floating around in the background and some of your more distant cousins, lets just say they play business hardball. My guess is they weren’t happy when your mom ran away to America, even less happy when she married your dad and stayed, and when she died I’m guessing they blamed him.”
DiNozzo looked bemused. “She died of cancer.” He said. “No-one was to blame.”
Mick shrugged again. “Families aren’t always rational about grief.” He said.
DiNozzo looked back down at the papers then back up at Mick. “How come you know Lance.”
“He knew my ex-wife.” Mick told him. “The break up was… acrimonious. She did some stuff that was… unacceptable. And illegal. She knew Lance and… well, he came over and threatened me to keep out of their business. And it wasn’t an idle threat.”
DiNozzo stared down at the paperwork again. “And you think my dad’s at risk.” It wasn’t quite a question.
The waiter came over with DiNozzo’s order in a bag and Mick waited until they had left the restaurant before replying.
“Yeah.” Mick said quietly. “I think he’s definitely in some kind of trouble.”
They got back in DiNozzo’s car.
“Look. I’m in the middle of a complete shit show of a case.” DiNozzo gave Mick the bag of food to hold and started the car. “I can’t just leave. I’ll do what I can to track down Dad and get back to you as soon as I can.”
“I’m on this.” Mick reassured him. “I’m on this, and Mr Janov said he’s good for me to do it. This all blew up fast because he was doing this business with Mr Janov. I’ll track down what I can and get back to you, ‘kay?”
“I got news.” Mick said when Josef picked up the phone.
“Tell me.” Josef ordered.
“I can definitely identify the Paddington vampire.”
Mick waited while Josef apparently broke something.
“How do you know?” Josef demanded.
Mick turned his car out into traffic. “He phoned DiNozzo Jr while I was in the car. I heard him. DiNozzo thinks he’s one of his distant cousins.”
“Crap!” Josef snarled. “You’re gonna have to find DiNozzo before Lance does. I do not need him spilling his guts about my business to Lance.”
“I’m way ahead of you.” Mick reassured him. “Soon as I realised it was Lance I shared a bunch of the information about the Paddington family with Junior. Nothing about our kinda people, but enough that he thinks they’re seriously after his dad and his dad’s in trouble. He’s agreed to help me track him down.”
“Find DiNozzo Senior and get him back here.” Josef sounded beyond pissed. “I want him either in my hands, completely cut off from my business or dead. I don’t care which.” He said flatly.
“I’ll track him down.” Mick said. “I’m sure we can work something out.”
Tony walked back into the bullpen feeling like his stomach wanted to churn itself into pieces. Ziva was away from her desk, but he put her food in front of her screen. He put the sandwich he had bought Gibbs on his empty desk, sent a random agent down to the lab with a sandwich for Abby and finally walked over to McGee.
He placed the sandwich, dessert and a coffee down on the desk in front of Tim. “I need a favour McGee.”
McGee looked down at the food then back up at him. “What’s up?”
“I think my dad’s in trouble.” Tony said quietly. “Serious trouble. I need to know where he is. Can you track him down? His phone’s been off for the last few hours, but his credit card or something?”
“That’s not a legitimate…”
“I don’t need to know any details about what he’s bought McGee. I just need to know where he is. I need to speak to him. It’s important.”
“Okay, I’ll look into it. Gimme all the details you have. But I have to run these first.” He gestured at a stack of notes. “For the Director.”
Tony nodded. “Understood.”
By the time McGee came back to him with the data it was gone nine at night.
“No details,” McGee warned him, “but he made transactions at a number of businesses in the area of the Port of Baltimore over the last couple of months, right up to the last couple of days.”
“He's actually in Baltimore?” Tony said, surprised.
“Uh-huh.” McGee agreed. “Didn’t you know he was around here?”
Tony shook his head. "Dad's, cagey, about his business." Potentially with reason, he thought. "Thanks Tim."
He walked away from Tim's desk. Port of Baltimore tied in with the background noise of his dad's phone call the previous week. He phoned back down at his own desk and phoned St. John. St. John picked up immediately.
"Special Agent DiNozzo."
"Look, call me Tony."
"Thanks." St. John replied, apparently surprised. "Mick."
"Okay," Toby said with no more preamble, "I can tie my dad to a pretty tight area in the Port of Baltimore over the last couple of days."
"Hmm," Mick made a nose of agreement, "they ties in with my information. He noted a warehouse by the docks in his pitch to Mr Janov."
Tony grabbed a scrap of paper. "You got an address?"
Mick rattled off an address. "I can get up there and check it out." He offered.
Tony pulled the address up on his screen "It's a private business park," Tony told him, "you won't get in at this time of night."
"And you will?"
"Federal agent." Tony said slightly smugly.
"I'll meet you there." Mick said.
"I won’t be able to get a civilian in." Tony told him.
"Trust me." Mick said.
"Okay." Tony agreed. "I'll ring when I'm close." He rang off.
He looked up at McGee. “I’ve gotta go.”
“You can’t go!” McGee sounded flustered and stressed. “We’re still working on the case!”
“It’s almost ten o’clock at night McStressed.” Tony told him. “And we slept at our desks last night. I need to go see my Dad, I can get over to Baltimore and be back in time to catch a few hours sleep before we need to be on the go again.”
“Right,” Tony interrupted McGee and stood up. Ziva walked up to them and stopped, looking at him. “Gibbs is not here, and not in contact. I tried already!” He said, putting his hand up and forestalling their imminent complaints. “Vance is also not here and I am the senior agent on this team. I am ordering you both, go home. Shower. Get some sleep. Come back in the morning fresh and ready to work. We’re overtired and we’re going to miss things.”
This time it was Ziva who interrupted McGee. “You are right Tony.” She turned to McGee. “The Director would want us to work clever as well as work hard.”
Tony resisted the urge to correct her language. “Go home probies.” He said. “I’ll send Abby home too.”
It took him ten minutes to get Abby out of her lab. The scientist was overwrought and he had to talk her down to a more rational level before sending her off home to sleep. Finally he escaped the building and was able to drive away.
Tony stopped only once on the way to Baltimore, to fill up on gas and text St. John with his ETA.
The address Tony had been given was a warehouse complex down by the river. His sat nav had a couple of false starts in directing him to the manned entrance, but he pulled up eventually at a gatehouse with a security gate the height of the surrounding steel barred fence.
The guard on the gate was surprised to see someone this late in the evening. However, after Tony flashed his badge and they had a short conversation, he had no problem with letting an NCIS federal agent into the warehouse compound to take a look at the ‘site of an old cold case’ at the approximate time of day the crime had occurred. Tony filled in the required details in the book the man provided. For a moment he wondered if the man would recognise his name. How much time did his dad actually spend here? The man however just took the book back, scanned his details and copied the details onto a visitors badge which he handed Tony. Tony accepted the badge with a brief thank you, then got back in his car and drove through the opening gate.
The compound backed onto the docks and the gatehouse was much closer to the docks than the landward side. There was street lighting here, but it was wide spaced. Just past the spiked steel fence to his right was the docks where straddle carriers were loading and unloading containers from train wagons under bright white flood lamps. The orange glow of the lights above him was almost drowned out by them until he turned the end of the row. His eyes took a moment to adjust and Tony was glad for his headlights and the bright moonlight from above, as the lighting here was equally sparse.
The warehouse site was laid out with the outer ring-road he was currently driving along and parallel streets cutting across the site, parallel to the river. Without an index map of the site, Tony drove up and back down a couple of the streets till he found the right building. It was one of the smaller warehouses on the site, further away from the gatehouse. Larger sites, providing bigger rental income, commanded the prime spots nearer the entrance.
He drove past and pulled up down the side of a warehouse a few buildings down, not that he had seen anyone else on the site at this time of night. His phone had buzzed as he was driving around looking for the entrance and he took a moment to check it, expecting a text from St. John. The text was from Abby.
[Phone back on near U] and a bat emoji.
He texted her back.
[Thanks. Go to bed!] and a moon emoji.
Within a couple of minutes his phone buzzed with the reply.
[Okay bed now] and a coffin emoji.
He smiled and checked both his phones were on silent, then took a torch out of the glove box and quietly got out of the car. A moment of silent watching and listening from the shadows gave him no reason to assume there was anyone in any of the buildings here. No sounds of movement, no voices, no machinery and no lights on. He frowned. In theory, his dad was here.
He made his way cautiously towards the warehouse that was apparently his dad’s. Like all of the others he had passed, it had a roll front door large enough to drive a large truck into and a further standard sized door for pedestrians next to it. He knocked on the door and waited. No answer. No movement.
In the alley down the side, towards the back of the warehouse there was a further door and it was this he approached, listening carefully again, before pulling out a roll of lockpicks. A minute of quiet work later he carefully opened the door and stepped in. Next to him a small panel lit up green in the dark. Six underscore lines began to flash on the screen requesting a pin number. Apparently no-one was here and the alarm was activated.
“Crap!” He muttered, turning to face the alarm panel. “What the fuck would he put in? Here goes nothing.”
His father’s date of birth got him an “incorrect entry 1” warning. The numbers 346699 which would be D-I-N-O-Z-Z on a phone resulted in “incorrect entry 2” and a faster flashing. Tony closed his eyes for a moment, then typed in his mother’s date of birth. With a beep-beep, the system flashed up “alarm idle” and Tony let out the breath he had been holding. He closed the door carefully behind him.
Deciding not to turn on the lights yet, he flicked on the torch, shading the beam a little with his hand. He was in a small hallway. Double swing doors ahead of him appeared to open onto the warehouse floor, a door to his left was apparently an office from the sign on the door and the two doors further to his right were labelled with a sign saying “Break room” and a picture of a toilet.
He tried the office door first. It wasn’t locked and opened with the tiniest of creaks. Inside it was incredibly ordinary. Two desks up against the walls, a trio of filing cabinets, an old fashioned safe, the usual array of computer equipment/phones/printer-copier and a filter coffee machine. The desks were largely clear of papers but a few scribbled post-its and notes were scattered across them, some in his father’s handwriting and some in another. The room was completely empty though.
The breakroom, with its pair of sagging couches, counter with sink and microwave, and table and chairs was equally deserted. He stepped back into the hallway, thinking to check the toilet just in case, before he looked at the warehouse proper, when a tapping on the external door almost made him jump out of his skin. He drew his weapon and levelled it at the door as it began to creak open slowly.
“Shit!” He hissed. It was the PI, Mick. He let his gun drop.
“Hi.” Mick greeted him quietly, stepping past him. “He’s not here.”
It seemed more like a statement than a question.
“He’s not in the office or breakroom.” Tony murmured. He put his gun away. “I was going to check the bathroom.”
“Unlikely.” Mick replied.
Tony shrugged, and checked the bathroom anyway. Unsurprisingly the tiny room was unoccupied and Tony turned back to where Mick was waiting for him.
“Okay.” Tony told him. “Warehouse.” He paused. “Why are we whispering if there’s no-one here?”
“No idea.” Mick replied louder.
Tony turned towards the double doors, pulled them open and stepped through. He stretched a hand out sideways, feeling around for the lightswitch next to the door as Mick stepped up beside him. The lights clicked on, momentarily blinding him as Mick’s voice rang out in a shout of warning. Before the other man had even got the first syllable out the sound of gunfire cracked out, louder still. Tony had only a microsecond to register movement in front of him then something slamming him back into the wall. Another microsecond of stunned shock passed before he landed on the concrete floor and pain exploded in his chest. He registered excruciating pain, pressure, unnaturally pale eyes and an inability to breathe, before blackness stole him away.
Mick cursed. The warehouse where he needed to be was unfortunately several rows in and closest to the far end fence, which annoyingly adjoined a floodlit logistics centre parking lot and delivery area full of trucks and warehouse workers. He looked across the concrete for a moment before walking further up the street until he found a more likely access, less well lit, a hundred metres or so further along. Nipping across the open but darkened parking lot of a small office building, he checked for security cameras pointing in this direction before making an inhuman leap over the fence into the warehouse compound.
This site was virtually deserted. Only the sound of a single car somewhere reasonably close gave the indication of anybody at all on this side of the site. He stood and listened for a moment, but his hearing picked up nothing within a hundred metres or so. The only activity on the site seemed to be around the larger warehouses much nearer the gate. Back here where smaller companies were located, there was nothing.
He made his way swiftly towards his destination, registering the sound of a car door closing and footsteps. As he got closer, his hearing picked up a “Crap!” which was definitely DiNozzo Jr.
DiNozzo Sr’s warehouse was as deserted as the rest of the site. By the scent trail, Junior, appeared to have gone in through the side door. Down the side of the building the ambient sound of the port and traffic was even further muffled and he pressed his head to the metal side of the warehouse to listen for heartbeats. One set of footsteps. One heartbeat. DiNozzo Jr was searching the building, DiNozzo Sr was absent. Mick waited for the footsteps to approach the side door, then tapped on it. The door swung open.
“DiNozzo!” He hissed, stepping forwards.
He was met by the muzzle of a SigSauer pointed at his face.
“Shit!” Tony swore at him. He stepped back and let his arms drop.
“Hi.” Mick said softly and stepped into the building. “He’s not here.”
“His cell phone came back on in the area.” Tony replied in a low voice as he holstered his gun. “He’s not in the office or breakroom. I was going to check the bathroom.”
“Unlikely.” Mick replied, but there wasn’t any convenient way to explain that there were no actual heartbeats in the building except for Tony’s and he watched the man go and check the bathroom.
Mick took in a deep breath. The warehouse smelled strongly of old and new wood, steel, old fabric, dust, paper, vehicles, old paint, linseed oil, and other scents which he couldn’t identify specifically but which he registered as either ‘museum’, ‘warehouse’ or ‘furniture’.
“Okay.” Tony walked back towards him. “Warehouse.” The man paused, looking at him quizzically. “Why are we whispering if there’s no-one here?”
“No idea.” Mick replied in a normal voice.
Tony pulled one of the double doors towards him and stepped through into the warehouse, his hand reaching out sideways to feel for a lightswitch. As Mick stepped up next to him, there was the faintest sound of a footstep from above and in front of them. Mick inhaled sharply to warn DiNozzo and caught the scent of gun.
“DiNozzo!” He barked, darting forwards as the light came on, trying to put himself in between DiNozzo and where the sound had come from.
The concussive slam of a gunshot made his ears ring a microsecond before the round hit him, slamming him back into DiNozzo with a surprising force. What the hell kind of gunshot was that? Pain rocketed through him as he pulled himself up off the floor, looking down at DiNozzo. His eyes flicked up and then down again in horror at the hole the bullet had smashed through the wall, after it had first gone through him and then DiNozzo. DiNozzo’s blood was a huge red splash and smear down the wall and it spilled freely from the massive hole in his chest and in a rapidly widening puddle from underneath him.
“Shit!” Mick reached down.
Tony’s eyes connected briefly with his, then the life faded out of them.
Mick was aware that with the shock of being shot his eyes and fangs had come out, but the shooter with no heartbeat was unlikely to find that a surprise and he whirled, cursing the pain in his chest and ran towards the footsteps clattering down the metal steps from a mezzanine floor.
The vampire caught sight of him, realised he was also a vampire and hissed in fury, dropping the heavy rifle and leaping away at supernatural speed. Mick laid chase, but the vampire was several long bounds ahead of him, slamming into the release bar on the fire exit in the back wall. Mick caught the rebounding door on a shoulder as he followed him through to see the vampire making for a motorbike approaching up the narrow alley between the rear of the warehouses.
As the vampire approached the rider, he looked over his shoulder and seeing Mick only a few steps behind chose to desert the mortal riding the bike and leap for the roof of the next warehouse. The startled mortal raised a gun to shoot at him, but at the speed Mick was going, he was on the mortal in seconds, using his speed to knock the man flying. He made a leap to the warehouse roof, but the impact with the man on the bike had slowed him sufficiently that the shooter was too far away for him to catch up with him. He dropped back down into the alley.
The motorbike was on its side and the rider still on the floor. Mick flipped open the visor on the man’s helmet and his head lolled weirdly to the side. Mick pursed his lips sadly. The impact with the warehouse wall appeared to have broken the man’s neck, and the motorbike landing on him had further crushed his ribcage. He was in the process of dying and there was no way to get him help in time to save him. As Mick looked, the man let his last breath out in a sigh.
Mick quickly pulled the dead man and the bike into the warehouse. He estimated he had no more than ten minutes before the security guard showed up. Someone must have heard the shot. The biker had a cellphone in his pocket, and Mick used it to phone Josef.
He didn’t wait for Josef to say anything, speaking instantly the phone was answered. “Josef. DiNozzo is dead. There was a vampire here. Shot him. Shot me. Through me. His ride, motorbike, died. He got away.”
“Which DiNozzo?” Josef snapped.
Josef let out a profane stream of Russian invective then stopped suddenly. “Shot him through you?” He demanded.
Realisation dawned on Mick. “Fuck.” He breathed. “Okay, I’m here with DiNozzo and a dead body.”
“Is there sewer access?” Josef demanded. “Can you hide DiNozzo?”
“No. Not big enough.” Mick said. “ I can get him up on a roof though.”
“Get him up there.” Josef ordered. “I’ll collect him. Strip what you need off him first, then burn the warehouse. Leave the biker in it, with DiNozzo’s gear, make sure the fire is hot.”
“I got it.”
Mick rang off. He stripped the biker leathers from the man, who turned out to be maybe five or ten years younger than DiNozzo and very slightly smaller. He swapped the biker’s undamaged shirt for his own, then swapped most of the man’s clothes with DiNozzo’s, moving as swiftly as he could without breaking bones. DiNozzo’s holster fit well enough around the man’s chest and he put the NCIS badge in the inside pocket. A crate that smelled of fabric smashed easily enough to provide what looked like a vintage tapestry and he used it to roll half naked DiNozzo and all the biker’s gear into a large bundle. He lifted the bundle up against him and leaping up onto the roof out back, left the bundled man well out of site.
Back in the warehouse, Mick fired a single shot from DiNozzo’s gun towards the back of the warehouse, hoping the sound would not later incriminate him. He moved the dead biker towards a set of crates, some of which smelled of furniture and fabric, and some of which smelled tellingly of oil paints, turpentine and other flammable art supplies. Getting the shots at roughly the right angle would be a challenge, but he managed to hook the collar of the jacket over part of the crate to hold the body up briefly. Then, using his cuff to protect from fingerprints just in case, he picked up the rifle one handed and muffling the barrel with a wad of fabric, quickly fired two shots through the body which collapsed to the ground.
He walked away from the body towards the back door firing a number of shots into various crates then finally into the crate of painting supplies next to where the body now lay. Turpentine bottles smashed and caught fire, flaming liquid splashing down over the body. As he left the warehouse he pushed over further crates, including ones that smelled particularly flammable. He dropped the rifle near the tumbled crates, secure in the knowledge that no-one mortal would have been able to fire it one handed and muffled. They would not have had the strength to pull the trigger with arm extended like that and the recoil would have dislocated shoulders, bruised flesh or torn ligaments.
He sprang up to the roof to leave his own damaged shirt with the bundle of dead NCIS Agent then ran and leapt over a few roofs before dropping down a good way away further up the alley. He ran back to the warehouse’s front entrance. He could see the flames through the glass in the door already. The fire had caught fast in the wooden crates and boxes of extremely flammable art and furnishings. He swore loudly for the sake of any witnesses before phoning 911. As he was ringing the security guard arrived in his imitation squad car.
“There’s a guy who shot at us somewhere round here, he shot a federal agent in there dead, but it’s on fire!” he told the security guard quickly, then demanded “Fire and Police!” as the call connected. At the operators questions he gave the address, that a federal agent had been shot dead, that he had chased the shooter, lost him and that the warehouse was now on fire.
The security guard was staring in shock through the warehouse door as Mick rang off and fumbling with the lock.
“Don’t!” Mick yelled as the man pulled the door open.
The flames blew out with a deafening whump, knocking the man flying. Mick reeled back. He hadn’t realised there was anything in the warehouse that would go up like that, but the sudden influx of air had caused a massive backdraft and the warehouse was now solidly alight. Mick could see that there would luckily be no chance of anything significant surviving the fire.
He went over to the security guard. The explosion had singed away the man’s eyebrows and the hair from the front of his head. Mick used his own jacket to make sure the fire was out then pulled the man further away from the flames towards his vehicle. By the time the police and fire department arrived he was using the first aid kit from the security car to cool the flash burns from the groggy man’s face and clean the wound on the back of his head where he had hit the concrete.
The rest of the night was a series of interviews with police officers, first at the scene, then at the police station. Mick gave them the same story, careful to vary his language enough, to be appropriately vague and unclear in the parts which would have moved too fast to recall all the details.
He had been tasked to look into DiNozzo Sr because of some business deals. Mr DiNozzo Sr had disappeared. He had spoken to Agent DiNozzo who had also noted his father had gone missing. He had gone to the warehouse, yes, he had entered the compound over the fence, as Agent DiNozzo was already there first. They had entered the warehouse together, whereupon a man had opened fire on them and shot Agent DiNozzo through the chest. Killing him instantly. Yes, he was sure that DiNozzo was dead, a fist sized hole in the front of someone’s chest was not survivable. The shooter had ran out the back, pausing to fire a few more shots, Mick had grabbed Agent DiNozzo’s gun and fired back, but some crates had tumbled and he had fled. Yes, they could check his hands for gunpowder residue, he had fired the gun, of course it would be there.
Mick had given chase, but had lost him and on returning had discovered the warehouse was on fire. He had phoned 911, the security guard arrived, opened the door, the warehouse exploded, and he had treated the security guards injuries until the emergency services had arrived. No, he didn’t know why the front door was unlocked, he had been let in the side door by Agent DiNozzo. Yes he had met Agent DiNozzo before, he had met him at NCIS Headquarters to ask him about his father being missing. He had also phoned NCIS previously to try and contact Agent DiNozzo and left a message. They could check with NCIS.
Some time in the early morning, they decided they had sufficient information and let him go, asking him not to leave the city. Mick agreed that he was happy to stay, and gave them his business card with his cell phone number.
He caught a taxi back to Josef’s, showered off the grime of the night in his apartment and went to find Josef.
The one thing I said I would never do was create another vampire. I’d almost lost Beth because I wouldn’t turn Josh for her. How the hell she’ll take this I have no idea. Not like I had a chance of preventing it, once the blood got in there, it was pretty much a done deal. Maybe had I not chased the killer, maybe I could have stopped it somehow. I’m still not sure I could have brought myself to cut his head off or burn him alive. Unalive. Thank fuck Josef is Josef and willing to keep Tony on ice till I can get it all sorted. Family, something I think I can get used to.
Josef was sitting next to a bed containing former NCIS Agent Tony DiNozzo. Someone had washed him up and he looked like he was laid out ready for a funeral,
“He not woken up yet?” He asked Josef.
“With the size of his wound, and the damage to his heart, it’ll take time for him to rise.” Josef told him.
He pulled back the counterpane, and Mick could see the wound on Tony’s chest was almost healed over, a pinkish indentation already, rather than the bloody gaping hole it had been. He would definitely awake a vampire. Josef stood and gestured Mick to the chair.
“He’s your childe.” Josef said quietly. “Now you’re here, you should be here when he wakes. There’s food in the fridge, I can send someone through later. But he should have more of your blood. It’s...good for him, good for his physical and emotional health.”
Mick frowned, then nodded, took Josef’s place and sat back to wait for Tony to wake up.
Tony awoke with a start, brain suddenly kicking in. The ceiling above him was white plaster. Not the hospital ceiling tiles he was expecting. His hand flew to his chest. He had been shot. Nothing. No pain. He tipped his head to look around.
He was in a bedroom. A very nice bedroom. Movement to his other side startled him and he turned his head. Weirdly the motion seemed too fast, too hard and his body rocked slightly as he focussed on the man in the chair.
He blinked. “St. John.” He said. “I was shot.”
He was confused. How could he be here, feeling fine. He had taken a round to the chest. There was no way he could have survived that.
“Yeah.” St. John said. “About that....”
Tony sat up. He was apparently naked. He clutched the covers to his waist as he looked down at his chest. There was nothing there. No dressing, no wound, no scar.
“What the hell?!” He stared at his chest then spun to Mick. “What happened.”
Mick took a breath. “The round went through me first, before going through you and then into the wall.”
“It can’t have.” Tony looked back down at his chest. “How long have I been here?”
“We got shot yesterday.” Mick told him.
Mick reached down and picked up a bag from the floor. He handed it to Tony.
Tony unzipped it and pulled out his shirt from the previous day. There was no mistaking the shirt was his. The blood, that must be his too. The massive bullet holes front and back…
The scent of blood hit his nose as he turned to shirt over and over and his mouth watered. Involuntarily he brought it up to his lips, licking at it, before realising what he was doing and throwing it away with a cry of disgust.
“What’th going on?” He demanded of Mick.
“I’m sorry.” Mick told him. “You got shot. You died. The bullet took some of my blood with it into you. I probably bled on you more. Enough got into you before you finally died that you came back.”
“What’th wrong with you?” Tony yelled. “What have you done to me?”
“You’re a vampire.” Mick said bluntly. “I didn’t shoot you. That was an enemy of your dad. But when you died, and my blood got in you, you woke up again. As a vampire. Like me.”
Tony scooted back across the bed, away from him. Mick realised Tony had not realised that he himself had popped fangs. He stood, took a mirror from the wall, and held it up to Tony. The man froze in shock.
“You’re a vampire.” Mick said again. “Like me.” He took a deep breath and let his fangs drop.
Tony looked up at him, just a shift of his red rimmed, ghost pale eyes, which then flicked back down to look at himself in the mirror. He finally reached up slowly to explore his fangs with a finger and inevitably cut himself on them. He sucked his finger, then sucked harder, eyes widening.
“It’s the blood.” Mick told him. “It tastes good.”
Tony stared at him, over his hand, finger still in his mouth. Mick put the mirror back on the wall and came back to the bed.
“Hungry?” He asked Tony.
Tony nodded. He still hadn’t taken his finger out of his mouth. Mick reached out and gently pulled it away.
“You need real food.”
Mick nodded. He let go of Tony’s hand and walked over to the small refrigerator. There were several bottles of blood inside. He took one and poured it into a glass. It smelled very fresh. Josef must have had some of the staff donate this today. Suddenly starving hungry himself, he poured himself another glass and took them both back to the bed.
“Drink it slowly.” He told Tony. “It’s...pretty overwhelming to start with.”
Tony was staring at the glass, sniffing.
“Tony!” He snapped.
The other man’s attention snapped back to him.
“Listen to me. This, the blood, being a vampire, it can be like alcohol to a drunk, or heroin to a junkie when you start. You gotta slow down.”
He watched Tony take a deep breath and steady himself, before he handed over the glass. Tony looked at it, sipped, then gave a sigh of pleasure.
“Yeah.” Mick said in agreement. “I know.”
He settled himself on the bed next to Tony and they both drank their blood in slow sips. Mick had almost forgotten the sheer pleasure of drinking blood slowly, savouring it. He knew he was still struggling with his nature, preferring to inject it or not focus on it, not to ‘give in’ to the taste. But now he needed to teach Tony how to be a sane vampire, how to do it right, and if that meant he had to act the part he was willing to do it. It did have some benefits. He took the empty glass from Tony and put it on the bedside table with his own.
“Josef says I need to give you more blood. More of mine.”
“Who’s Josef?” Tony said. Hunger satisfied for the moment, his teeth had retreated.
“He’s my friend, and technically my sire. He turned me into a vampire this time.”
“This time?” Tony asked.
“Yeah, there was a...something happened, and I temporarily wasn’t.” Mick said, looking away. “I had to be turned back in a hurry.” He swallowed hard. “I had to save a friend.”
“You can stop being a vampire?” Tony asked him.
Mick shook his head. “No,” he said sadly, “there’s a way to make it go away for a while, a really rare way, but being a vampire is forever.”
Tony looked at him intently, and Mick was suddenly reminded that this man was an experienced and senior investigator.
“You didn’t choose this either.” Tony said. It wasn’t a question.
“No.” Mick said.
“Was it an accident? Like me?” Tony asked.
“No, she did it to me without asking.”
Tony looked at him with sympathy. “Who was she?”
“Crap.” Tony said sympathetically. “That’s some wedding present.”
“Yeah.” Mick really did not want to talk about this.
Tony seemed to realise this and changed the subject. “You said I needed more of your blood.”
Mick nodded, pleased to move on. “Josef said it’s important for a young vampire to stay healthy.”
Tony looked at him. “So, uh, how do we do this? Do you open a vein?”
Mick tilted his head and gave him a look. “Do you have teeth?”
“Oh, yeah.” Tony looked sheepish. “Yeah.” He thought a minute. “How do I get them out again.”
“Just think about biting and blood, or get angry, but think about wanting to bite me and they’ll…” Mick saw Tony’s teeth slip out again. “Like that.”
Tony grinned. “I can’t talk round theeth thingth properly yet. I gotta lithp.”
“Where do I bite you?” Tony asked.
“Somewhere with an easy vein.” Mick said. “Wrist is usual. Neck or inside thigh is… intimate.” He finished.
Tony’s eyes sparkled with slightly lecherous amusement. “I’m not thure I’m ready to play out my daddy ithues in bed yet.” He quipped.
Mick groaned at the terrible line and held out his hand. Tony took it and lifted it to his face, running a tongue over the inside of Mick’s wrist. Mick shuddered and Tony obviously noticed, because he looked up at Mick, eyes widening. He licked over Mick’s wrist without breaking eye contact and this time Mick groaned aloud, a long low sound.
“Wow,” Tony murmured, “maybe I am ready.”
He went back to running his tongue over Mick’s wrist, tiny flicks of the tip of his tongue, interspersed with strong swipes over Mick’s theoretical pulse point. Mick leaned back against the pillows, as Tony went to town on his arm, now moving up to give the veins in his elbow the same treatment. Considering Tony had been a vampire for less than twelve hours and awake for less than half an hour, he was a fast learner.
Mick was rock hard in his pants by the time that Tony finally pierced the veins on the inside of Mick’s elbow with the tips of his teeth, pushing them in so slowly that Mick almost came in his underwear.
“Shit!” He gasped.
Tony made a groan of agreement, muffled by his lips being pressed in the crook of Mick’s elbow. He was laying on his side only half covered by the bedclothes and Mick could see he was pitching a tent to rival Mick’s own. Tony’s fingers clenched around Mick’s arm, but Mick could feel he was only taking tiny sips of Mick’s blood, groaning each time and rubbing up against the bedclothes.
Tony’s head tilted sideways a little to make eye contact with Mick. He made a questioning noise and then his hand was pulling at the zip on Mick’s pants.
“Shit!” Mick repeated.
Tony repeated the questioning noise and Mick nodded sharply. “Yeah.” He agreed.
Dextrous fingers unzipped him and freed him from his underwear. He sprang free only to be wrapped in Tony’s hand and stroked roughly. Mick yelped and bucked against Tony. The other man’s eyes narrowed in calculation and suddenly Tony was releasing Mick’s arm, moving vampire swift and enveloping Mick’s cock in his mouth. Mick bucked again, as Tony pinned an arm across his hips to hold him in place, sank his fangs just lightly into Mick’s cock and sucked hard.
Mick was fairly certain he screamed when he came. Tony kept the pressure up while Mick bucked through the remains of his orgasm, then released him, sitting up and licking blood and come from his lips.
“That was something else.” Mick said.
He looked across at Tony. The covers had come away from his body and he was still hard as nails. Mick flipped him onto his back, shoved his legs apart and bit into the femoral artery in Tony’s groin, grabbing the other man’s cock and fisting it hard as he sucked. In two firm tugs and swallows, Tony shouted and his back arched as he came over Mick’s hand in pulses.
Mick gentled him through it, then sat back and licked his hand clean. It was bitter-salt, but to his surprise, unlike most food still tasted edible.
Tony lay on his back, blinking up at the ceiling. “That was new.”
Mick collapsed back on the bed. “Yeah.”
Tony turned his head to look at him. “You not done that before?”
“No.” Mick admitted.
“How long have you been a vampire?” Tony asked him.
Mick shrugged. “Fifty years or so.”
Tony rolled completely onto his side to stare at Mick. “You’ve been celibate for fifty years?” He asked in shock.
Mick looked up at the ceiling. “Wife.” He said shortly.
Tony looked away guiltily. “Okay.” He said. “You got me on that. You were… when she…?”
Mick grimaced. “Yeah.”
“That would do it.” Tony agreed.
Mick started to laugh. It was obviously contagious, because he caught Tony’s eye, who started to chuckle and suddenly it was all they could do not to fall off the bed they were laughing so hard.
Josef had sent up clothes with one of his minions and was waiting for them, once they had emerged, showered and dressed from the room. He looked them over, sniffed and grinned toothily.
“I think I like your Tony already.” He told Mick.
Mick scowled. Tony grinned back.
“You’re Josef?” He asked.
“I was Josef.” Josef corrected him. “Mick has known me as Josef. But now I’m Konstantin Janov. You can call me Kostya, you’re family.”
“So, you’re Grandad Kostya.” Tony said. “Or do I call you Dedushka?”
Josef rolled his eyes and looked at Mick. “I can see he’s gonna fit in.”
He showed Mick and Tony through to a sitting room. “Tell me about yourself.” He told Tony.
Tony say down on the sofa. Mick sat next to him feeling a little possessive.
“What do you want to know?” Tony asked. “I’m an NCIS special agent.” He paused. “Was NCIS. Before that I worked for Baltimore PD as a detective. Philadelphia and Peoria before that.”
Josef smiled at Tony. “What department?”
“I worked vice and homicide. And undercover.”
Josef’s glance at Mick was positively gleeful. Mick rolled his eyes. Tony, observant as he was, did not fail to notice the interplay.
“You like that huh?”
“It’ll be a useful skill set.” Josef told him. “If you live as long as me, you’ll need to change who you are every twenty to forty years or so. Remake yourself and move on. Are you a good undercover agent?” Josef asked him. “You still alive, so you can’t be too bad.”
“I’m the best.” Tony replied, without a hint of his previous joking.
“The best?” Josef asked him with more than a hint of challenge in his voice.
Tony shrugged. “You know the Macaluso family?”
Josef’s smile went from arch to shark-like. “You’re that Tony?”
“Don Macaluso declared you’re his son and heir.”
Tony nodded again.
Tony nodded again.
Josef turned to Mick. “You can have any gift you want for bringing Tony into my family.”
Out of the corner of his eye, Mick saw Tony’s eyes widen. Tony obviously saw more in that statement than Mick did. Mick was not sure how to reply so just nodded, putting a hand on Tony’s knee.
“Part of the famiglia .” Tony grinned.
“I’ve created a monster.” Mick muttered. “Are you really that good?” He asked Tony.
Tony shrugged as if it was not anything special.
“He’s legendary!” Josef interjected. “He infiltrated the Macaluso family, Mafia, got in with the Don himself and his inner circle. When he took them down, the Don was so impressed with his performance as a family member and his calculated strategy, he declared him his son and heir. From prison.”
Okay, now Mick could see why Josef was pleased. Josef started to talk business at Tony. Tony obviously understood and followed Josef’s train of thought, so Mick tuned out until Tony asked “So why did I get shot by a vampire?”
Josef gestured, handing the conversation back to Mick.
“Your mother’s family is basically owned by vampires.” Mick said. “I don’t know how many mortal members know, but they’re supporting at least one vampire, maybe more.”
Tony looked shocked.
“Put it this way. Your cousin Lance probably is still a cousin,” Mick said. “Just a few hundred years earlier than you knew.”
Tony sat in stunned silence.
“Your mom seems to have run away to America to escape them,” Mick continued, “and pissed someone off. When she married and then died, it looks like they blamed your dad.”
“And me.” Tony added.
“No.” Josef corrected. “Mick’s information suggests they’ve been looking after you.”
“They shot me!” Tony contradicted with a disbelieving look.
“I’m pretty sure he thought he was shooting your dad.” Mick added. “I called you DiNozzo, not Tony when I went in the warehouse. He shot you as soon as you turned on the light.”
Tony paused for a moment before asking “Lance?”
Mick shook his head. “It wasn’t Lance. I met Lance before. I didn’t know this guy.”
Josef spread his hands expansively. “He would’ve ordered the hit. Lance is trouble. And old. He’s well known in the right circles.” He added. “If you’re gonna pick a vampire you don’t wanna upset, he’s a good choice.”
Tony frowned. “But why was my mom important?”
Josef shrugged. “Who knows. They might have wanted to arrange a marriage with another family? Maybe she tasted good. She might look like a vampire who wanted to take her place in society.”
Startled by a sudden thought, Mick looked at Tony hard, then pulled out his phone. He held up a picture to Tony.
“Yeah, that’s Mom.” Tony said. “I haven’t seen that picture before.”
Mick showed the picture to Josef.
“Coraline.” Josef said flatly. “That explains a lot.”
Tony looked from one to the other.
“That’s not your mom.” Josef said. “That’s Coraline, Mick’s crazy ex-wife and Lance’s sister.”
“Well crap.” Tony said.
“Looks like I’m right again.” Josef congratulated himself. “They were trying to keep it in the family.”
“What would they have done to her?” Tony looked slightly queasy.
“Killed her.” Josef said with a dismissive gesture. “Probably locked her away first. They would have needed an heir out of her before they killed her. That family have even less respect for the food than I do.”
Tony looked like he was at the extent of his ability to cope with any more surprises and Mick removed him for a rest, citing his recent recovery from having his chest blown out. As he led them out of the door, Josef called after them.
“Oh, my associate in the Baltimore coroners office will be providing a copy of your death certificate. You’re scheduled for autopsy today.”
“He’s an associate of mine. And if you don’t have an up to date last will and testament, you need to write it now,” Josef added. “My attorney can have it produced as being done a while back. If I were you, I’d leave it all to your dad. He’ll be easy to scare the crap out of to get it all back again.”
Tony turned. “How long have I got to think it over?”
“Day or two.”
“I’ll get back to you.” Tony told him and made for the stairs.
Mick was called into Baltimore PD a second time later that day. He had been asleep in his cooler, Tony tucked up against him, when one of Josef’s minions had woken him. Tony had only woken just long enough for Mick to let him know he had to go before falling back into sleep. The young slept hard.
The weather was bad enough that Mick had no problem in driving down to the police department without any risk of overexposure to the sun. He was left to wait for half an hour in an interview room before the door slammed open and an older, military looking man slammed in followed by the police detective from before.
He was unsurprised to discover the grey haired federal agent was Tony’s former boss Gibbs. The harried looking detective gave up within the first five minutes as Gibbs basically threatened Mick with various charges associated with being complicit in the death of a federal agent, the loss of his license and a fair amount of violence. Mick stayed calm, gave a variation on his story from before and tried to resist the urge to phone Tony here and now and ask him how the hell he ever put up with working with this blowhard.
Finally fed up, Mick suggested that the reason Tony was shot must have been the case he was working. Obviously Tony had only mentioned something about a challenging case, but it was not hard to put together his employment on the Major Case Response Team and then him being gunned down when his team were not there to support him. For a split second it seemed touch and go whether Gibbs would dive over the table and try and kill him, but the federal agent took the second option and slammed out of the room.
“I’m sorry,” the detective apologised to Mick, “we’ve got your statement. If we need to ask you anything else we’ve got your contact details.”
“I’m staying in Baltimore for a few more days at least.” Mick offered. “If you need anything else, I’m happy to talk.”
Mick was shown out of the interview room. He was putting his coat on in the lobby and getting ready to leave the building when a familiar face passed him. A familiar angry voice greeted the man from behind him.
“Senior!” Gibbs growled.
Mick didn’t wait to hear that conversation, but went outside and sat in his car, waiting for Anthony DiNozzo Sr to be let out of Baltimore PD.
Just over two hours later, the man left the building. He was clearly making for the taxi rank, but Mick started his car and swung around to pull up in front of him. He leaned over and opened the passenger door to DiNozzo Sr.
“Get in.” He said.
DiNozzo Sr balked for a minute, but then got in. “Mr St. John.” He said. “I was expecting that Mr Janov would want to talk to me.” He gave his toothpaste advert smile.
Mick was fairly disgusted that the man would continue to act like this so soon after the death of his son, but as he pulled the car away from the kerb the man slumped back in his seat.
“Mr Janov obviously has some concerns about doing business with you now.” Mick told him. “Especially with the death of a federal agent, your son, in your business premises. It doesn’t look good for the kind of enemies you have.”
Senior huffed out a harsh breath. “I would have thought Mr Janov would have been clear who it was that killed Junior.” His breath caught in his throat and it was a moment before he could speak again. “I thought going into business with another vampire would have deterred them,” he said, “at least for a while.”
Mick pulled over, put the car in park and stared at Senior.
Senior looked at him, looking older now than in any of the photos Mick had seen of him. “They shot Tony.” Senior told him. “Instead of me. Claire’s family killed my boy.”
Senior turned away and stared out of the window.
Mick pulled his phone out and fired off a text. A reply came back within a few minutes and he pulled off again, Senior silent and broken in the passenger seat next to him. He pulled up in front of Josef’s place and lead the man in.
“Dad.” Tony was waiting in the hallway.
Senior stared at him and Mick had to catch him as the old man’s knees went out from underneath him. Mick steadied him on his feet.
“How…?” Senior asked. His voice almost a whisper.
“An accident.” Tony said, and let his teeth drop. “I should have died.”
“Thank God.” Senior breathed.
Mick showed them into one of the sitting rooms and left them to talk.
They waited in the car until Ducky arrived at his house, getting out and walking up to him as he got out of his car. Mick looked at Ducky’s car with covetous eyes.
“Ducky?” Tony called quietly.
“Oh! Oh my!” The old man startled back from them. “Anthony?” He breathed.
“Hi Ducky.” Tony grinned at him.
“You’re meant to be dead my boy.” Ducky chided him. “Is this some kind of undercover case?”
“Not exactly.” Tony said. “Can we go in? I don’t want to be seen out here if possible.”
Mick stepped up to join Tony.
“And who is your friend?” Ducky asked, turning to unlock the door.
He gestured them both in.
“This is Mick St. John.” Tony said. “He saved me.”
“Well then, you are very welcome in my house, Mr St. John.” He reached out and shook Mick’s hand warmly. “Very welcome.” He reiterated, but he cast a look down at Mick’s hand before letting go and Tony knew he’d spotted the low temperature of Mick’s skin.
“Can I get you gentlemen a drink?” Ducky asked, bustling into the room Tony knew Ducky referred to as the parlour.
“No thank you, Dr Mallard.” Mick declined politely.
“Oh, do call me Ducky my boy.”
They both sat in on the settee, side by side. Ducky took the armchair by the fireplace.
“So, I think you have some explaining to do!” He told Tony. “As I’ve received the report from your autopsy and a copy of your death certificate. If this is another undercover operation, you’re going to have to tell me how long you need to remain dead.” Ducky leaned forward in his chair, punctuating his words with gestures of his fingers. “Because I can guarantee you that Jethro won’t be satisfied until I have performed a second autopsy on whichever poor individual is pretending to be you in the Baltimore morgue.”
Tony sighed. “That’s why we’re here.” He said sadly. “I need to stay dead, forever.”
“Whatever for?” Ducky exclaimed. “If you’re in some kind of trouble, I’m sure…”
“Ducky!” Tony cut him off. “I know you’ve seen some strange things in your career.”
Ducky gave him a long look. “I have at that my boy.”
“Things that can’t be explained by normal means.” Tony persisted.
“Anthony,” Ducky said quietly, “what have you got yourself into?”
Tony took a deep breath. “I died.” He told his old friend. “I was shot, through and through, straight through the left side of the chest with an armor piercing round. I died. Immediately.”
“That can’t be true.” Ducky told him.
“The round went through Mick first.” Tony said. “Then me.”
Ducky stared at him, troubled, but held his tongue.
“Mick is a vampire.” Tony said.
He waited for Ducky to contradict him. There was a long pause as Ducky considered his words.
“You aren’t the sort of young man to take up strange fancies.” Ducky told him eventually. “I’m assuming that you firstly believe this, and secondly can provide some sort of evidence?”
Tony looked at Mick.
“I’ll do it.” Mick said. He turned back to Ducky. “Please don’t be startled.”
Mick let his face drop into his vampire visage. Ducky started, but then controlled himself visibly and leaned further forward.
“Would it be rude to ask to examine you, Mr St. John?” He asked politely.
Mick shrugged and nodded. “You’re welcome.” He said affably. “You might want to use a stethoscope.” He offered.
Ducky got up, left the room briefly and came back with the stethoscope Mick had suggested. He gave Mick a gentle, but thorough examination before stepping back.
“Well,” he said, “well.”
Mick let his face slip back into humanity. Tony smiled at him, then got up, went over to the sideboard and poured Ducky a brandy. Ducky took the glass and sat down. He took a sip, and then another, before speaking.
“I’m assuming that if I examined you I would get a similar set of results?” He asked Tony.
Tony nodded, and brought out his own fangs and eyes.
“Indeed.” Ducky said. “You are definitely a pair.” He took another sip of the brandy. “And who may I ask is the well charred corpse?”
Mick looked apologetic. “He was one of the men who came to kill Mr DiNozzo.” He offered. “He was actually the getaway driver. Unfortunately the shooter was one of us and got away under his own steam. The corpse broke his neck, by accident, the shooter slammed him into a wall. He was close in build to Tony. A couple of shots from the rifle through the chest and neck to hide the injuries, a really hot fire and a sympathetic coroner and Tony is listed as dead.”
Ducky sipped from his glass again and put it down. “I see.” He said. He looked curiously at Mick. “How many of you are there?” He asked.
“Not many.” Mick said. “A few hundred worldwide. We keep a low profile. There are rules, not going out killing people so we get found out being one of them.”
“So you do drink blood?” Ducky asked.
Mick nodded. “Yeah. It’s...unavoidable. But you don’t need to kill to do it. These days most of mine comes via blood donation. Hospital surplus.”
“I see.” Ducky picked up his glass again and swirled the brandy around the wide bowl of the glass. “Well. I can definitely say this is very unexpected.”
Tony huffed out a laugh. “You want to try waking up as a vampire.” He said cynically.
Ducky chuckled. “No, I think I can give that one a miss.” He said. “I may not have that many more years left in this world, but I think I will be more than satisfied in what I have been allotted.”
Mick gave him a warm smile. “You’re a wise man, Ducky.” He told the doctor. “I swore I would never create another vampire, it was done to me without my consent. I’d never inflict it on someone else willingly.”
“So the bullet passing through you into Tony...?”
“My blood in his system as he died.” Mick confirmed.
“How remarkable.” Ducky replied, transfixed.
They sat in silence for a while.
“So,you need me to certify our hapless corpse is you.” Ducky said finally. “What will you do then?”
“We’ve got new identities set up.” Tony said. “We’ll relocate somewhere that no-one knows us. It’s...” he paused. “It’s looking pretty good.” He told Ducky with a smile.
Ducky smiled back at him.
“I’ve even got a new piano,” he told Ducky, “Mick plays too. He’s coming as well.”
“It’s been on the cards for me for a while.” Mick agreed. “You need to move on before people realise you’re not aging.”
“If I’m not being rude, may I ask your age?” Ducky asked Mick.
“Eighty-five.” Mick told him. “Eighty-six in a couple of months. I’ve been like this for fifty-odd years.”
“How remarkable.” Ducky repeated. “And I’m assuming that you will expect me to keep this absolutely secret.” They both nodded. He sat himself up straighter in his seat, seeming to come to a decision. “Well then,” he said, “I believe that the second autopsy I will no doubt be requested to perform will confirm the findings of my colleague in Baltimore, Tony DiNozzo was sadly killed while looking for his father.”
Tony relaxed back in his chair.
“But please keep in touch my dear boy.” Ducky entreated him. “I do fully understand that you will need to cut all ties with us here, but I’m sure you can find some way to keep me updated on how you are doing?”
Tony stood, Mick copying him.
“I’m going to miss you.” Tony told Ducky. Tears pricked at his eyes.
“And I you, Anthony. I will miss your sense of fun and your keen insight more than you can imagine.” Ducky reached out and Tony let himself be pulled into a firm hug. “Take care of each other.” He instructed them both.
“We will.” Tony reassured him.
“Course.” Mick agreed.
They slipped out of the house, leaving the old man sipping his brandy by the fireplace, tears rolling down his cheek. “Oh Anthony.” he murmured.
Outside a car revved and pulled away and Ducky listened as his young friend drove away into the dark and a new life.
Sometimes you don’t realise how weird life can get. Even for a vampire, life - or death - still throws you curveballs.
For the first time in my eighty six years, I’ve done the major identity switch. Having Tonio with me to create a new life for himself too is keeping it from being overwhelming. He’s also pretty amazing, and a great piano player.
Tonio turned out to be the player Kostya hoped he would be and Seattle has plenty of rainy days for him to spend the cash he’s making. I can’t say we’ve dumped all of our mortal contacts, we’ve got a secure line to both Senior and Ducky, and Beth still keeps in touch, despite how much she struggles with Tonio’s existence. Tonio’s busy making new contacts though, running the west coast branch of Kostya’s business.
And that’s where I come in, new business partners mean new risks, new risks mean new background investigations, and Tonio trusts no-one but me.