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Four on the Docket

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I. "I was constantly amazed by how many people talked me into arresting them." ― Edward Conlon, "Blue Blood"

It was the first day back from their holiday break and Hetty already had them on the move. Deeks was going back to FLETC for more training - this time with hazardous materials. Kensi was off to the NCIS's Quantico labs for re-qualification in firearms forensics. Both were flying out on the Saturday before their work week of training. With their week on the East Coast ending just before the start of the Martin Luther King holiday weekend, Hetty mentioned several cultural and civic events in D.C. if the two were looking to extend their East Coast stay. Deeks wanted to extend their stay and changed his ticket to DC and their return tickets from D.C. to Los Angeles to tickets to Miami then returning to L.A. If they were spending a January weekend on the East Coast, they were spending it on the beach in mid-70's weather and not a barely above freezing city.

Since the drive from Atlanta to Brunswick was a half-hour longer than his layover, Deeks rented a car and got to FLETC before his now delayed scheduled flight even left Hartsfield. As he was settling into his dorm room for the week, a knock on the door brought a staffer from the front desk with a pouch marked classified and an envelope from LAPD.

Deeks was concerned when he saw the sealed signature on the classified pouch was Hetty's. Opening the pouch first, he found two sheets of paper, a padded envelope and a card. The first piece of paper had directions from FLETC to the Federal Correctional Institution in Jesup, GA - about an hour away - and booked time with a prisoner Sunday at 10AM. The second sheet had the name of the federal prisoner - Quinn Johnson. The card, with Hetty's meticulous cursive on her personal Prantl stationery, simply read "In case you are interested."

Deeks was interested. Especially in the name.

Opening the padded envelope, there were several pieces of ID with his photo for a DEA Special Agent Dexter Martin including a driver's license, a California Bar Card and a badge along with instructions to use them at FCI Jesup before FedEx'ing them back to Hetty. Hetty even provided the return envelope and FedEx mailing label to the NCIS OSP drop location. Hetty had all things covered. And obviously an interest in Quinn Johnson.

The envelope from LAPD contained some personal stationery - this the sort of mass produced "from the desk of" note pads every desk jockey at LAPD was issued. "From the desk of Lt. Roger Bates" offered instructions in his rather sloppy cursive to find a former DEA Agent turned DEA FLETC instructor and AA six-month chip holder Lindley Richards. She had a thumb drive Deeks was to deliver to Bates.

After getting in some early gym time Sunday, Deeks left FLETC just before 8:30AM for the ride to Jesup. It was uneventful - the traffic that was on the road all seemed to be people going to or returning from church services. Once at the facility, he provided all of Dexter Martin's identification and because nobody is better at building a legend than Nell, Dexter passed muster.

A corrections officer escorted Deeks to a conference room with a two way mirror. The officer explained that while there was no recording equipment in the room, a guard would be watching from the other side of the two-way mirror. The corrections officer told Deeks that raising his right hand would signal the end of the meeting, raising his left would signify distress. The officer joked that Deeks looked like he could take care of himself and Quinn Johnson was a badass for an accountant but not a real threat.

A moment later, John Quinn walked into the room. Deeks could have disagreed with the corrections officer - John Quinn almost blew up Deeks's life - but he kept those thoughts to himself.

Once the corrections officer left, Quinn sat across from Deeks, offering a hand. "Thank you for seeing me."

Deeks shook his hand. "I'd say I was in town but that would be a lie."

"I mentioned to Ms. Lange if you were ever at FLETC or doing some work out here for NCIS at Mayport, I'd like to see you. It took less than six weeks."

"This year and last, Hetty started January by sending me to the East Coast for training. Bombs last year, hazardous materials this year. Fun start to 2016, I guess." Changing the subject, Deeks asked, "Does this visit count against your visitor points?"

"Nobody to visit Quinn Johnson. Only child, dead parents, no wife or kids. Just a 15-year sentence for keeping the two sets of books for a printing business that was a drug money laundering front." Quinn leaned back in his chair. "Meanwhile, the recaptured John Quinn confessed to killing Frank Boyle and has been moved to Florence Federal Supermax. He's in isolation for his own protection and doesn't cause much of a fuss for a fellow cop killer."

Deeks looked at Quinn, wondering how much he knew. "You didn't kill Boyle."

"No, but that was part of the deal. I confess to murder, I get a better life."

Deeks shook his head, amazed. "Why'd you agree? You had five years left on your old sentence before you could be paroled."

"Well that's assuming I'd be paroled. And that I'd survive five years," Quinn said, leaning back in his chair. "Do you know how badly I was treated at the CMC? I agreed to a Supermax to get away from that place. So I'm sent to Pelican Bay. 23-hours of solitary and I still got jumped. Your Ms. Lange approached me in the prison hospital ward. It was easy to say yes. I got to pick this place and my new life. Well not this place, I was in FCI Allenwood but they were getting a stock broker who Bernie Madoff'd some clients. We went to Harvard together so now I'm someplace they don't put Wall Street guys."

"And what do you get here?"

"I'm here as a dirty accountant and get to work in the library. I've applied to the library sciences program at Wayne State to get my degree online. I may figure out how to have a life after this place."

"So you plead guilty to a crime you didn't commit..."

"Oh, I committed it," Quinn interrupted. "I didn't kill Boyle personally but I set up the scenario where he got what he deserved."

Deeks shook his head. "I don't understand."

"I found out where Boyle and Steadman were keeping their stash. Boyle's mother was in a nursing home with Alzheimer's so her garage was a great storage place and around the corner from Boyle's condo. I knew Steadman was working a homicide over in Montecito Heights for the overtime. He was seriously into Lincoln Tate after the Jets beat the Cowboys and when he took the over on Pats-Cowboys. Then there was the ten grand he owed after a bad streak with the ponies. Boyle wouldn't let him cover his gambling debts with their drugs and gun money. Anyway, one of the detectives there had a problem with Steadman so IA was on alert every time Betting Bruce worked with them."

"And how was he not being investigated for being that deep into Lincoln Tate," Deeks threw his hands up in the air. If IA did half their job with Steadman and Boyle...

"He was. But Clarence Fisk gave Tate his startup money for his book and if Tate could own a cop so would Fisk. He owned me, why not own Bruce Steadman too."

"Yeah, because he was a keeper."

"The devil we knew. So Steadman is actually working a real case when I paid Tiffany to keep Boyle busy until I got everything moved. When I was done, I'm barely home when I get a call. Boyle was dead, Tiffany was gone and I mean completely gone. But you know that. All the working girls knew you were the go to guy on Bates's squad. What did you do, become her lawyer and invoke privilege?"

Deeks remembered telling Tiffany he was a lawyer and not to worry about what happened that night. Quinn would have been a good cop if he wasn't dirty. "I was investigated for killing Boyle."

"You should have been investigated for helping Tiffany. Your Ms. Lange told me you were under investigation, which proves how clueless IA remains. Haven't they figured out you're the last Boy Scout?"

"Excuse me?"

"You reported Boyle, Steadman, Versey, Daniels and McClain in the time I was in IA. Most cops don't report one guy in a 20-year career. You report five in six years."

"Boyle abused a suspect in my presence. He and Steadman threatened me for reporting it. Versey was drunk, called me by my real name while I was undercover and wanted to fight in the squad room afterwards. Daniels and McClain stole from me while I was working a case when they didn't know I was a cop. I did what IA told me to do - reported dirty cops."

"You were incredibly diligent. Let me guess, you also raised your hand in grade school at 2:15 on Fridays asking for homework."

"Not even close. You still didn't explain why you confessed to killing Boyle."

"I sent Tiffany Williams in. I sent a 17-year old runaway in to deal with Frank Boyle. Rock, meet bottom. I should be in jail just for that. She killed him. You know what, good for her. He was probably too drunk to perform and took it out on her."

For a smart guy, Quinn got this part all wrong. Deeks shook his head, knowing how he was supposed to react. "A 17-year old girl."

"But a ballsy one. A gun shot in chest and one in the junk - that girl made damn sure she got out of that hotel room and then got out of Dodge."

"So you confessed to protect Tiffany."

"I confessed because it was part of the deal," Quinn admitted. "But between you and me, and I'll deny I ever said this, I also killed Gary Finley, so I'm working on my karma by confessing to Boyle."

"Finley ate his gun after he was caught..." Suddenly, the suicide of the cop everyone thought was true last Boy Scout until he was caught taking bribes finally made sense. "You set him up."

"He was getting too close to Clarence Fisk. When Fisk sent an underling who was working for another dealer to offer a bribe, Finley arrested him. Fisk owned a banker with a raging coke habit. Coke-head banker moved some money and presto-chango, Finley is explaining to my old boss, his old boss and the union why he has three deposits of $75K in his savings account just around the time LAPD had three useless raids against Fisk. The underling swore out a complaint that Finley only busted him because the bribe money was late."

"Oh my God." Deeks liked Finley. Finley didn't like him but Finley didn't like any of the undercover cops.

"His mother sued the department after my arrest. The six other cops I set up as dirty all sued the department. By February 1st, LAPD should settle with all of them. I hear Finley's mom is going to make them go public to clear his name. Finley is the only death. The other guys are getting million dollar settlements with recommendations for law enforcement gigs with the feds or sheriff's departments wherever they're living now. Mama Finley is getting about five million."

"And you get to be Quinn Johnson."

"John Quinn is currently in Florence Supermax as both a punitive move for escaping after a doctor's appointment and for his own protection. Once the payouts are made, he really doesn't have any reason to be alive. John Quinn will have a heart attack around Valentine's Day if everything goes according to schedule and die in the hospital ward. Quinn Johnson is now in the system as an accountant for Clarence Fisk if anyone is looking but I have a feeling, nobody is looking."

"Fisk..."

"Has already agreed that Quinn Johnson was an accountant for him. He got moved from Pelican Bay to some Supermax facility in Maryland. He's got family in that part of the country. I can understand why you stay at NCIS. That Ms. Lange gets things done."

That she does, Deeks thought to himself. He wondered how long Hetty was working on this. Wondered why she'd do all this for him. "Why did you want to see me?"

"Outside of your Ms. Lange, you're probably the last person who will ever know who I am. Who Quinn Johnson really is."

"Fisk knows," Deeks reminded Quinn.

"Fisk was told he'd be out of his Maryland prison and sent to Angola in Louisiana if he ever spoke of John Quinn again."

Deeks whistled. Hetty got things done. "Do you need anything?"

"Unless you can make it 2030, no. I'm working my way up to trustee status. I've been treated about as decently as I could expect here. If you read a good book, maybe throw it in the mail to me. Even if I don't read it, the library here could always use the books."

Deeks thought as a request, spare books was a good one. "Anything else?"

Quinn paused for a minute. Taking a deep breath, he asked, "Have you seen Angela Tully?"

"Yeah. I was at the precinct a few weeks ago telling LAPD I was being sent east for FLETC training. She was picking up Bates for the DA's Office annual holiday party."

"Is she happy?" he asked quietly.

"Seemed to be," Deeks replied. Deeks remembered making a joke about Bates's pornstache with Angela telling him that she thought the mustache made Bates looked distinguished.

"I stole from Boyle for her. I was going to frame Bates, who Fisk hated, and get him out of Angela's life. Figuring I'd be in Fisk's good graces with Bates gone, I planned to give him nearly a quarter of million dollars' worth of Steadman and Boyle's drugs, guns and ammo to buy my freedom. We were going to have a life, Angela and me."

"I'm not sure what I'm supposed to say," Deeks replied honestly.

"Be happy NCIS found you. Your Ms. Lange was really adamant about you being cleared."

"Though she be but little, she is fierce."

"Quoting Shakespeare," Quinn said, impressed. "The benefits of a higher education."

"You had a higher education. God, you went to some of the best schools in the country. Why didn't you tell someone the minute Fisk approached you?"

"Thought I could manage him. He was a drug dealer. I graduated Harvard. How hard could it be?"

Deeks shook his head. He thought the same thing as he covered up killing Boyle.


II. "I never understood why Clark Kent was so hell bent on keeping Lois Lane in the dark." ― Audrey Niffenegger, "The Time Traveler's Wife"

Deeks knew more about what awful things chemicals could do to the human body than he was honestly comfortable with. A Marine addressed his class. He picked up a shell casing in Afghanistan after a firefight. It was an old piece of Soviet ordnance, possibly from the 1970's, and whatever it was coated with left him with permanent nerve damage in his right hand. Life lesson - don't touch anything suspicious. Of course, he sort of knew that from years of sleeping in alleys with only Artie to keep him company.

He found Lindley Richards teaching classes in drug enforcement practices. She told Deeks she checked into rehab after Kamal Pajman was safely back in Afghanistan. She transferred to a teaching position at FLETC for the DEA, finding life in Georgia a good deal more agreeable and affordable than working in LA. She was clean and sober for nearly seven months and was enjoying every minute of her second chance. The humidity, however, she could have lived without.

Richards had a thumb drive for Bates was some information the DEA was sitting on because of other, ongoing investigations. Now that those investigations were closed, Richards, who knew Bates from some LAPD/DEA joint operations, wanted to share what she had but share it quietly. Deeks took the thumb drive which Richards said could only be read by Bates's laptop.

Deeks had a 10:15AM flight out of Atlanta to Miami International landing an hour later, Kensi's 9AM flight landed a half-hour after his. Finding the Terminal D's Blye Nirvana - a Dunkin Donuts - he picked up an iced tea for himself, a chocolate chip muffin and an iced coffee for Kensi. She was properly appreciative as they made their way to the cab line.

The Fontainebleau Hotel was everything he hoped it would be. Fancy rooms, pool with a bar, lounge chairs and cabanas; beach with day beds for two; wait staff bringing food and drink both to the cabanas and the beach. This was a Marty Deeks approved vacation.

They spent Friday at the pool. Kensi and her Del Mar Anika Straps bikini garnered quite a bit of attention even with a number of other beautiful women walking around. They had dinner at Joe's Stone Crab where he had the jumbo lump crab cakes, she had the famous fried chicken and they both demolished some key lime pie.

Saturday, they enjoyed a covered day bed on the beach. Deeks went jet skiing, Kensi sunbathed and read a book about leadership lessons learned from the SEALs. She also found true happiness with the hotel's freshly made gelato and cupcakes at their confectionary shop. Saturday night was dinner at Strip Steak and a night of dancing at Lux.

In her Nike tankini, Kensi spent Sunday afternoon parasailing while Deeks paddle boarded the day away. They had a quiet dinner at Scarpetta before Deeks invited Kensi to grab a nightcap at the hotel's famous lobby bar.

Sitting at table looking out at the well-lit but empty pool, Deeks took a deep breath. "We need to talk," he said, looking at his club soda.

"Do I need another one of these?" Kensi asked, holding up her martini.

"Just going with the no secrets deal we made a Christmas."

"You're worrying me."

"I saw someone while I was at FLETC."

"Good someone or bad someone?" Kensi asked.

"Well both now that I think of it. Saw two people. Remember Lindley Richards?"

Deeks could see Kensi was searching her memories. "The case with the Afghan soldiers being trained by the DEA?"

"Yes. Richards is clean and sober"

"Good for her."

"And she had something she wanted me to pass on to the Lou and I'm playing messenger boy."

"If she's the good," Kensi started, "who is the bad?"

Leaning over, the rest of the bar probably thought he was whispering something romantic. John Quinn's name would have stunned the on-lookers nearly as much as it surprised Kensi.

"I thought he was in..." Kensi was suddenly aware that while they were having a private conversation, hotels had cameras everywhere. "Colorado."

"So did I. Seems he traded up. Pay for what happened in the hotel room in Los Angeles and be relocated." Deeks was equally aware of their public location. But he wasn't sure where they could have this conversation so a bar nearly three-thousand miles from home seemed as good as anyplace. "For his cooperation in the matter, he's been offered a 15-year contract in an establishment more to his liking with the opportunity to start over."

"Wow."

Repeating the line he gave Quinn, Deeks told Kensi "Though she be but little, she is fierce."

"Wow," Kensi repeated. "How does he explain his exit from his current circumstances?"

"He's working alone right now, enjoying the solitary life. In about a month, he'll be on terminal leave."

"Emphasis on terminal, I guess," Kensi said.

"You should be an investigator - you're good at this."

"What did he want from you?"

Deeks chucked. "Books."

"Books?" Kensi asked. "I don't..."

"He wants books. Real books. He's running a book club for troubled folks. He's the club's trustee."

Kensi shook her head, understanding. "Books."

"I was thinking of setting up a bogus Amazon account, buying some gift cards and start sending him a book every month."

Kensi took a sip of her drink. "You know, you're not responsible for everyone. You don't have to save everyone."

Shaking his head, Deeks smiled. "You know, that could have been me. He's where he is..."

"Not because of you. He put himself in a situation where this was his best outcome."

"Could have been my situation and my outcome."

"Woulda, coulda, shoulda - three worst words in what we do," Kensi told him. "And you would never be in his original situation. You protected a young woman, the way you protected your mother, you protected that attorney in the boat shed. It is why you do what we do."

Deeks shook his head. He became a cop to save people like his Mom or Tiffany. Not to be grateful for not being caught.


III. "Sometimes goodbye is a second chance." - "Second Chance" by Shinedown.

Deeks drove to the Pismo Lighthouse Suites Friday night of the long President's Day Weekend. The trip started by dropping Kensi off at LAX for her flight to Napa. Kensi was spending Kat's bachelorette weekend with the bride-to-be, Mindy, Mandy, Tiffany and Tiffany doing winery tours, cupcake parties and a spa Sunday afternoon. Brad, Mr. Kat-to-be, invited him for a weekend in Vegas with his broker buddies but Deeks politely declined. A weekend playing Marty the environmental attorney with a group of hedge fund managers and investment bankers would have been a lot of work. Besides, he had other plans.

The surf at Pismo had been crazy - El Nino meant 20-foot swells. He didn't expect to surf in that but maybe rent a WaveRunner and have some fun. But that was for Sunday. The reason for his trip to a visit was being handled Saturday. Leaving Monty on the hotel balcony in the sun, he drove about half-an-hour south to the Curtis Flower Growers and Nurseries.

The parking lot was full of pick-up trucks and SUVs of area's weekend gardeners. Easter was early this year, Deeks remembered, and if you wanted nice flowers in the spring you'd need to start planting now. Nursery had a surprising large and busy coffee shop in the back where the owners would meet with future brides and prospective commercial gardening clients. It also turned into a respite for the non-gardening spouse who let their loved one do their thing. Deeks called ahead and found Barry Curtis walking up to him from the coffee area.

Barry Curtis extended his right hand to Deeks. "Barry Curtis. The Marshals sent a photo of you so I'd know who to look for. You found your way up here without any problems?"

"Marty Deeks. No sir, directions could not have been better," Deeks said, as Curtis gave him a Sam Hanna-like firm handshake.

"That's great. Julie's just finishing up with the dean and the junior class president from the local high school. Prom season will be here before you know it. We provide the entrance and table flowers at cost. Unless they want to do something crazy. Last year they were looking to recreate a rain forest. When we quoted the school the cost it was back to topiary floral trees at the entrance and white roses in vases on all the tables."

Deeks looked at the people milling about. "Looks like you do more that topiary floral trees and flowers in vases."

"My granddad opened this place just before World War II. He mostly sold fertilizer to farmers, provided flowers to some of the hotels in Santa Barbara. My dad got back from Vietnam and decided the world needed more flowers."

"And now you've got coffee and pastry..."

"Took a little sabbatical from the family business after my father finished paying for me to attend business school. Tried my hand at running a coffee place in Santa Barbara. Starbucks liked my location and made me an offer I couldn't refuse. Found my way back here and talked the old man into doing things like gardening classes, coffee and pastries, etc. Showed I actually learned from business school so we made it a weekend destination, not just a place to buy manure."

"Looks like it works."

"It works because my father and his father built a lot of trust with the locals and kept changing with the times. I'm doing that too. And we find good people. Julie's been a God's send. She's working here, helping my wife as a part-time au pair. Suze is an awesome mom and a great woman but the twins were a surprise."

"Father of twins, that's great."

"The girls will be two in July. And we have a boy at Texas A&M studying agribusiness and playing shortstop and relief pitching for their baseball program. He still considers himself an only child, Calls the girls the grandkids." Curtis said with a chuckle. "Suze and I had a little too much time to celebrate being empty nesters and nine months later I'm back in the diapers business. Times two."

"That is a surprise. Times two."

"The best kind," Curtis took out his phone and showed Deeks a pair of toddlers in their Christmas dresses. "Julie's staying in our old guest room since there are not a lot of guest when you have teething twins. She works here during the day, helps out at night when she's not taking classes."

"She's in school?"

"When Marshal Brooks told us about her situation, Suze and I asked the Marshal Service and Julie about her going back to school. My father came back from Vietnam alright but a lot of other guys didn't. He'd always give a vet a chance, set up in an apartment building he owned in town, loan 'em some money for college. Some worked out, most actually did. A few didn't but it never stopped him from trying again. Suze's old man was a bad guy. She ran away when she was a kid, lived on the streets for a while before her mom finally wised up. Julie's story hit her hard. When Julie's old boss at the florist down in LA offered a glowing recommendation we decided to take a chance."

"She's a good kid."

"Yes she is. We helped her get her GED so now she's at Cuesta College taking two classes this semester. If she likes it, we'll work a schedule where she can get an associate's degree and maybe figure out if she wants to do more than sell prom arrangements."

"But I'm very good at that," Tiffany, now Julie Bryant joined in on the conversation. "They're going with red roses instead of white this year," Julie told her boss. "It seems white roses are a symbol of the patriarchy or something I really didn't understand."

"They look nicer on the table," Curtis said. "They brighten up the room."

"Is that your opinion as a member of the patriarchy?" Deeks joked.

Curtis sighed. "It's the opinion of a person who has been providing flowers to the prom at Kennedy High School for two decades. Red is it, down with the patriarchy. Wait until they see how dark everything looks in the pictures. I'll write it up..."

"Already done boss. Would it be alright if I spoke to De...Marty for a while."

"The Jamieson wedding party will be here at 1PM. We don't need you until then," Curtis turned to Deeks. "Nice to meet you, man. Ever have a party that needs flowers, we service events from San Francisco to San Diego."

Deeks shook the man's hand. "Good to know. Thanks for all you're doing."

"Paying it forward," Curtis said as he walked away.

The former Tiffany Williams, now Julie Bryant brought Deeks to a small table just off the snack stand. "Be right back," she told has before running off. When she returned, she had two cups. "Soy latte, if I remember right," she said as she set the blue Curtis Growers Cafe cup in front of him.

"You remembered," Deeks said with a smile.

"You use to take me to that all-night diner when you thought I was looking too skinny and make me eat. The owner was always pissed you'd walk in with your own coffee since he wouldn't make you a soy latte."

"It was usually four in the morning. He was lucky we weren't vomiting in the booth."

"I always wondered why you didn't flash your badge."

"He didn't need to know I was a cop."

"But Barry knows."

"The Marshals Office arranged this meeting. Barry knows your background and wanted to be in the loop if anyone from your past was going to show up."

"He's a good guy." Julie/Tiffany looked down. "I'm living with his family. When they offered me the spare bedroom in their house, I thought Barry was going to try to make some sort of creepy move on me."

"The Marshals Office checked him out, checked the whole family out. Is there a problem?"

"God, no. They're amazing. Susan mentioned to me about locking my bedroom door every night and how I had nothing to fear from her, from Barry or from their kid when he comes home from college. If I wanted to keep locking the door, she wanted me to know the family wasn't offended but they also were never going to hurt me and they hoped one day I'd believe that. I left the door unlocked that night, haven't locked it since."

"There are good people in the world, Tif..Julie. Really good people."

"I'm looking at one."

"Not really," Deeks said quickly. "It looks like you have a good life here. Barry and his family want you to have a better one. And so you know, I'm the last guy you'll ever see from your old life."

"I hope so."

"I'll try not to be offended." Julie/Tiffany started to apologize but Deeks shook his head and raised his hand to quiet her. "A few days ago, John Quinn was found dead in his prison cell in Colorado."

Tiffany now Julie gasped. "Who killed him?"

"Bad heart. His parents died young so there wasn't much of a medical history for him. Went to sleep, never woke up," Deeks lied with ease.

"Wow."

"Boyle is dead. Quinn is dead. Steadman is on video unlawfully detaining a civilian and a police officer..."

"You?"

"Me. He also injured that civilian on video. A huge cache of weapons, drugs and stolen goods were found at his home. He's going to be in jail for a very long time."

"Good."

"I agree. Everything from that part of your life in LA is over. You don't have to worry about that ever again."

"That's what Marshal Brooks told me."

"She's right. You're Julie Bryant now - your life is whatever you want it to be. Barry told me you were taking some classes at the local college."

"Introductory Algebra on Tuesdays and Thursdays at four, American Literature for three hours every Monday night at seven. I just finished "Go Tell It On the Mountain" by James Baldwin."

"Great book. And good for you for going back. That's not easy."

"It isn't but in a way, I sort of feel like a normal person. I'm one of the crowd. Everyone taking night classes is an adult catching up."

"You're 26 - you don't have much to catch up on. I was 25 when I finished school."

"Law school."

"School is school," Deeks said kindly. "You happy here?"

"Barry and Susan are so nice. Their girls are cute. Their son is a good guy."

"Barry said you're more than living with them, you're a part-time au pair."

"They let me watch their Grace and Hope when Susan goes grocery shopping or into town for something. I help in the kitchen. I use to like to cook before I left home."

"You know part of your deal with the Marshals..."

"I'm never going back there. This is my fresh start."

"You earned it," Deeks reached into his pocket. "You also earned this." He handed her an envelope.

She opened it and pulled out a check. "What is this?"

"Well, NCIS, the agency I'm working with, put you in for a reward clearing my name. John Quinn was part of an NCIS investigation - this all goes back to that case."

"This money isn't from you, is it?"

"No, the Marshals explained to you when you entered WITSEC that there would be no more 'keeping you safe' money coming from me. This money is for your assistance in clearing my name. It is an official government check."

Looking at the check total, Tiffany smiled. "This will take care of my tuition for the next few years."

"You helped me when I needed it. Filling out the reward forms was the least I could do."

"Did the big guy help take Steadman down? I spoke to two guys about you - normal sized guy and a guy who was like football player big. I don't think Steadman would like football guy arresting him."

"Football guy was one of the arresting agents. But it was a female NCIS Agent who got the drop on him."

"He'd have hated that more. Cool," Tiffany said with a smile. She looked at the check and then at Deeks. "I'm not going to ever see you again, am I?"

"No. Your boss offered me his floral expertise in the future but the Marshals bent over backwards to let my come by and drop off the check. For your safety, this is goodbye."

Tiffany, now and forever Julie, stood and hugged him. "Thanks for everything, Deeks. You really are one of the good guys."

Deeks knew that wasn't quite true.


IV. "This city is dying of rabies. Is the best I can do to wipe random flecks of foam from its lips?" - Alan Moore "Watchman"

Deeks was wearing his going to court suit and a blue tie Hetty thought worked well with his eyes. He agreed - he felt spiffy. After a night of sleeping on the couch in Kensi's room after a better but still tough day for her in physical therapy, he needed all the spiffy he could get.

Detective Whiting saw Deeks about the same time he saw Detective Whiting. "Are you here to gloat?" she asked. "You look a bit overdressed for gloating."

Deeks smiled as he stood beside her outside court room 685. "No, I have business here at the courthouse but to tell you the truth," Deeks pretended to confide in Whiting, "I'd have crawled over broken glass to be here. Besides, I am listed as a victim in this case. Kidnapped, beaten, my life threatened. I wouldn't have missed this for the world. I'm properly dressed for the hearing and looking good if I say so myself."

"Ego much?" Whiting said dismissively. "So NCIS can carry on without your alleged skills for a few hours? I thought you sent in the written victim impact statement because they needed you so desperately."

"What part of my skills are alleged - the ability to slip out of your interrogation room? The ability to get Steadman on video abusing a woman? And I submitted the written victim impact statement because I have to leave Los Angeles from time to time because of my mad skills. I was out of the US six-weeks ago as part of an assignment. Even spent some time on the USS Eisenhower. I wanted to be on the record even if I was out of LA on this happy sentencing day."

"Do you think this wins you any friends at LAPD? You arrested one of their own."

"Actually, I think Internal Affairs was credited for the actual arrest. That's why you were down by the marina, right? I'm a victim. I was a kidnapping and assault victim in all this. If arresting one of our own is a problem, do you have lots of friends at LAPD?"

"Every Internal Affairs detective knows that we police the police. But you, you see yourself as one of the guys. And how did that work out for you?"

"Since I was cleared, just fine."

"But LAPD treated you like crap the night you were brought in and everyone hated Francis Boyle."

"All true. But I'm an acquired taste. And they don't hate me, I annoy them sometimes. I'm an occasional pest but I'm also a useful pest. You and your buddies in IA - you all hate me. But I'm not a pest for your division. No, I'm a problem. I'm a problem because I got Steadman on video abusing Monica Lee and demanding the rest of his drugs, guns and money. Your folks hate me because in my six years with NCIS, I've dealt with three dirty cops and they were all given massive sentences. All dirty cops IA missed. Hell, one of them was an IA detective."

"The book on John Quinn was closed in February when he passed away."

"No, the book on Quinn was closed when the city had to pay out millions of dollars to good cops he framed. Speaking of which, I heard you personally got Teddy Jackson suspended for three days without pay for tardy paperwork. Your captain must be so proud."

"Jackson was warned."

"Jackson took a bullet for two years ago for a handicapped kid in hostage situation."

Whiting gave him a look. "Let me guess, you're the one who put him in contact with Steve Downey at KWLJ."

"I met Downey a few years ago. Back then, he was a cameraman for Adriana Gomez when she was killed. Now he's KWLJ's assistant news director. Always good to have a friend in the press when a hero cop is being treated poorly by the desk jockeys. Helps keep up my status as a useful pest."

"You made the department look awful."

"No, the pencil pushers looked awful. The department looks great because Teddy Jackson is a hero. Internal Affairs and the suits at the PAB look awful because, well, you are awful," Deeks smiled and did the emoticon shrug. "I mean TV just loves a story where hero cop with a bullet still in his back is losing three days of pay because cops like you who never saw the outside of the Internal Affairs department need to justify their paycheck. Just in time for the start of the November Sweeps. Lord knows the camera loved Teddy and his pregnant wife Janice and their way too cute three-year old Tasia. The good citizens of Los Angeles love the Jacksons."

"The Chief didn't love the coverage. Jackson has been assigned an administrative assistant to work with him when his paperwork is behind and a medical retirement may be offered if he's interested in it."

"Both solutions I believe our union rep suggested when you hard working protectors of the department's image were figuring out how to damage a man's career. And then there's Councilwoman Hernandez."

"The handicapped kid Jackson saved lives in her district."

"And she wants to be mayor one day so as a decent human being who understands that Jackson took a beating in the arrest where his paperwork was late - LAPD late, not court problems late - and instead of sitting in agony and trying to get his A-465's in, he will be able to work and heal."

"You done?"

"Not even close," Deeks said. "I may not be everybody's cup of tea but there isn't a cop on the beat who doesn't love to share bad news about IA. I heard that you're not allowed to interrogate honest cops who are late with their paperwork alone anymore. Oh, I'm sorry, I guess you consider them suspects."

"Partially thanks to you, I've been moved to an administrative position."

"Maybe you can help Teddy Jackson with his reports." Deeks suggested.

"Now are you done?"

"Nope. Frank Torres told me if anyone in IA threatens to send another cop to County to get a confession that won't stand up in court since it was made under duress, they're suspended three days and could face other administrative discipline. You can thank me for that change in policy. I filed that complaint."

"I read it. For the record, your mother mentioned your juvie record and at no time did I threaten to use it against you," Whiting glared at him.

"No, you just threatened to send me to County and into gen pop - something my mother knew all about because of my father's arrest for beating her. You took an already difficult situation with her son in jail for something another cop confessed to and made her recall her life with a monster. Another win for the sisterhood, am I right?"

"You know, there are dirty cops."

"One is about to be sentenced today. Steadman had a nine-hundred page IA file, Boyle's was over seven-hundred pages." Deeks's tone turned angry. "Were either ever marched through the precinct in cuffs, fingerprinted and interrogated over their behavior? Because I reported those dirty cops a couple of times and got nothing but a gun shoved into my mouth for my trouble."

"Your IA file is closing in on one-hundred pages and considering you've spent what, six years on a task force."

"Liaison." Deeks shook his head and sighed. "And you know as well as I do that half those complaints are from dealers I busted who file a report on every cop who arrests them."

"An excuse Boyle and Steadman offered time and time again. Why would we not believe them if we believe you?" Whiting sighed. "Why do you even stay with LAPD? They seems to appreciate your act over there at NCIS. Just sign up."

"And leave all the love and respect I'm feeling right now behind?"

"I'm not the villain in all this, Deeks. There are dirty cops. They have to be investigated, arrested and put in front of a judge."

"Maybe start looking at the guys with the nine-hundred page files. Frank Boyle might still be alive if he was thrown off the force after his first brutality charge. Or his fifth. Or his fiftieth."

The bailiff called the court to order. Deeks moved into a seat saved for him in the back row of the gallery behind the DA's desk. Roger Bates was there. Whiting sat with her IA supervisor in the front row, also behind the DA's desk. The defendant's side of the courtroom was empty.

Bruce Steadman shuffled in wearing a dark blue California Correction button down shirt, a matching pair of chinos, white sweat socks and generic black men's slides. He was also wearing leg irons and a waist chain with handcuffs. Not quite the Men's Warehouse suits Steadman thought looked great and Deeks thought looked like what you bought when you had a $500 winning day at the track.

The start of the sentencing went largely by the books. Deeks did note that Steadman agreed to administrative confinement as part of his guilty plea. Steadman would be kept away from the other prisoners, an option actually used against Deeks. Steadman's statement to the court was that while he did some of the things he pleaded guilty to in order to guarantee his safety in prison, his arrest was a set-up. It was probably the only truthful statement Bruce Steadman made in court in the last decade.

The judge offered to throw out Steadman's deal, including the guaranteed administrative confinement, if Steadman felt he was pleading guilty to crimes he did not commit. In fact, the judge would not go forward with the hearing until Steadman reworked his statement to the court. Once everyone was on the same page, Bruce Steadman, disgraced former LAPD Detective, was given a 23-year sentence for kidnapping, assault and a number of theft charges. The judge adjourned the hearing.

"Showtime," Bates said as hit the send on a text message.

The courtroom door opened. Lindley Richards walked in with Callen, Sam, DEA Agents Leo Bremmer and Mark Cornell. "Bruce Steadman," Richards said.

Steadman looked at Richards - really more leered. It had been a long year in prison. "That's me, honey."

Showing her badge, Richards announced, "You're under arrest for the murder of Christine Riley."

Deeks saw Whiting turn around and just stare at him. "This was my business here at the courthouse," Deeks told her in a stage whisper as he and Bates went to stand with the DEA and NCIS agents.

"What?" Steadman looked at his lawyer.

"As part of an ongoing investigation into the LAPD about ten years ago, the DEA was in contact with several LAPD officers who believed there was a drug ring inside the department," Callen told Steadman. "One of the officers working with the DEA because she didn't trust LAPD's Internal Affairs Division was Christine Riley. Her DEA handler was killed a few years ago. John Ness was afraid to recruit another officer after Riley's death, which Ness always believed was a cold-blooded murder. His records, some interviews with people on the streets no longer afraid of you - DEA has a made rather tidy case."

Steadman shook his head. "You can't do this. I have a deal."

"You have a deal with LA County for kidnapping, assault and theft. You have no deal for murder. In fact, your deal is void if you didn't come clean with all the crimes you committed as a cop," Sam nearly spat out the final few words of that sentence. "But don't worry, DEA will make sure you stay in the segregated part of the Corcoran before they put you on trial for killing a law enforcement official providing information to a DEA Task Force. That's a death penalty eligible crime."

Richards handed the LA County court officers paper work. "We'd like to process him at the Federal Building."

The female court officer in charge looked at the paperwork and smiled. "He's all yours. Just a head's up - he's got a filthy mouth."

"I'll be happy to go to the Federal Building with former Detective Steadman," Sam said with a smile.

"Me too," Callen added.

"The Marshals Office has a van waiting," Richards said as she and the DEA Agents took custody of Steadman. "We'll see you outside."

Roger Bates shook Callen's and Sam's hands. "Thank you so much for your help here."

"It was only a few interviews, we were happy to help," Callen said.

"I know you're short-handed so I'm glad you made the time," Bates said as Whiting walked past the men, shaking her head.

"Anything that puts guys like Steadman away forever is a good thing," Sam said.

"Deeks tells me Agent Blye has started physical therapy. You tell her I'm sorry she missed this but if she spent six years with this guy," Bates slapped Deeks on the back, "she's the strongest woman on a planet and I expect to see her in the field soon. Thank again for your help." Turning to Deeks, Bates said, "Stay away from Whiting and IA for a while. Stay out of trouble in general."

"Yes sir."

Bates walked away.

"I'm taking off this monkey suit and swinging by to see Kens," Deeks told Callen and Sam.

"Nobody expects you in the office this morning," Callen said as they started to walk out of the courtroom. "Tell Kensi we want to come by and visit."

"I will. And thank you. Thank you for helping out with this, for helping with Christine Riley. For everything."

"I heard Whiting talk to you about joining NCIS," Sam said as he hit the elevator button. "Ever give that any thought?"

Pulling off his tie and opening the top button of his dress shirt, Deeks answered. "Only thoughts I have right now are getting Kensi home and giving her the ring I've had since a couple of days before we left for Syria."

"Bates is right, Kensi is a strong woman," Sam started to say as they got into the elevator.

"Especially for putting up with you," Callen interrupted, "Bates is right about that too."

"And she will get this done," Sam said as they walked off the elevator. "Do you need anything from us?"

Deeks looked at the two men who worked with the love of his life to make sure that wasn't him being sentenced today. "No, I'm good." And for the first time since that night in the no-tell motel tell five years and a month ago, he was.

-30-


Odious author notes: I've been kicking this around for about ten months. Most people write a novel during NaWriNoMo, I clean out my "to do" folder.

Have a very happy holiday season, all the best in 2017.