He managed a smile when Callen drove up in a car from the motor pool, the agent’s look of disgust when Hetty assigned him to overwatch still fresh in his mind. Not that he was surprised. None of them got too close to him when he was in his full homeless guy regalia, and they certainly didn’t want him in their cars, even Kensi. He had two sets of clothes for this kind of undercover assignment, but this one might last a few days, not being anything like the quick ones he did with the team, so he was dressed in the smelliest outfit he had assembled over the years. He hadn’t showered in the last eighteen hours after they found out where their witness had run to, and he’d even spent a disgusting half hour sitting in the dumpster behind his apartment. He didn’t want his cover blown because they smelled any lingering vestiges of his real life. Even Monty had sneezed loudly and whined when he’d hooked on his leash, and as he opened the back door to the nondescript sedan, the mutt did it again.
“Traitor,” Deeks complained as the dog moved as far away as he could get.
“I should have brought a gas mask,” Callen choked out as he covered his mouth and nose.
When Deeks didn’t reply, Callen eyed him in the rearview mirror.
“What’s going on with you Deeks?”
“Just working on my alias, man,” he replied distantly.
“She’s still mad at you, isn’t she?” Callen grinned as he pulled out onto the dark street.
“She thinks I’m being overprotective,” he conceded as Callen lowered all four windows.
“No, I’m not,” he said slowly.
“I’ve been under in this particular encampment before,” he replied. “Most of the men there are your average down-on-their-luck kind of guys, but there are groups that hang out there that are hard core and mean. Ex-cons, meth heads, all round crazies and the down and out veterans we’re looking for.”
“And you don’t want Kensi anywhere around them,” Callen said softly.
“I know she can take care of herself, but it might cause more trouble if she had to come in,” he replied, pausing before sharing his plan. “I’m not going in as a happy-go-lucky homeless guy.”
“Who are you going in as?” Callen asked.
“One of the crazies,” he laughed, wildly rolling his eyes as he spoke.
“Well, that shouldn’t be too much of a stretch,” Callen quipped.
“Thought you might say that,” Deeks replied.
“It wasn’t a criticism, Deeks. You’re good at this, or I wouldn’t be sending you in there,” Callen’s voice firm as he eyed him in the mirror. “Just watch yourself, and if things go sideways when you locate Stafford, say the magic word and I’ll be there.”
“Thanks,” he replied quietly. “Monty was a little worried there for a second.”
“He doesn’t have to be,” Callen said. “I got both your backs.”
“Hear that Monty?” Deeks said. “Uncle Callen will come save your mangy butt.”
“Look who’s callin’ who mangy.”
The ripe smell of unwashed bodies hit him full force as he limped across the broken asphalt and moved under the dark freeway overpass. Wary eyes followed him as he wove his way through the makeshift constructions that served as desperate homes for the lost men who lived here. Some were made of cardboard, others loosely hung tarps stolen from somewhere, or sheets of weathered plywood that formed a tent, all stuffed with foul smelling blankets taken from homeless shelters or gotten from donations left in Goodwill drop boxes. There were a few fires still burning in metal barrels, but it was very early in the morning, so most of the men were asleep, allowing him to search for a place to settle in without being bothered.
He shuffled along with his head down, mumbling incomprehensible sentences and gibberish and occasionally saying Monty’s name, the dog looking up at him each time with a soft whine. He’d had to practically plead to be allowed to bring Monty, needing the companionship the dog always provided, arguing that he served as an icebreaker when interacting with the rough men he’d be spying on. Granger had finally given in when Hetty shot him one of her annoyed looks, and he remained grateful for that as he surveyed the joyless surroundings.
“That’s a ugly fuckin’ dog,” a scraggly looking man grunted as he came out of the dark.
Deeks stopped, searching for the right response as the man came closer. He was a big, strong looking dude, wearing filthy jeans and an unbuttoned denim jacket with the sleeves cut off, revealing a scattering of crude prison tattoos. His hair was stringy and unwashed and he carried a heavy chain in one hand, slapping it against his leg as he approached. There were several men waiting in the darkness, and he heard Callen caution him through the comm in his ear.
“Don’t you say that,” Deeks screeched out, sounding unhinged, his eyes wild and slightly unfocused. “I love my dog…an angel gave him to me…a beautiful angel with big blue wings.”
“You’re a crazy sonofabitch,” the man had stopped, wary now as Deeks widen his eyes and looked to the heavens as if seeing something that wasn’t there.
“Leave him be, Turk. He’s not all there,” one of his friends called out.
Deeks looked back at the man who was now standing quite close and Monty started a low growl. He saw the man’s eyes shift, but wasn’t prepared when a fist connected with his chest, sending him backward onto the ground.
“Keep that fuckin’ dog away from me, you hear me you crazy shit?” Turk warned. “Or next time I’ll kick the crap outa both of you.”
Harsh laughter followed the man back to his friends as Callen voiced his concern in his ear, but he had no breath to respond. Monty began licking him as he fought to breathe, and struggled to sit up. A firm hand gripped his elbow and he scrambled to his feet, but this man simply raised his hands to let him know he meant no harm as a little white dog danced around his feet and a huge one leaned against his leg, his pink tongue lolling out the side of his mouth.
“I won’t hurt you, brother,” the man said with a soft voice that belied his size. “What’s your name?”
“I don’t…I don’t know you,” Deeks stuttered weakly as he backed away rubbing his chest.
“They call me Peaches, and this big guy is Tiny and the little one is Chico,” he said, spreading his arms wide as he introduced himself and the dogs.
“This is Monty…I’m…I’m…” Deeks whispered, stopping and looking confused as if he wasn’t sure where or who he was.
“You stayin’ somewhere ’round here?” He asked kindly in a soft Southern accent.
“Why…why do they call you…Peach…Peaches?” Deeks asked, intentionally stumbling over the man’s nickname as he assessed him.
The man was broad chested and was missing a front tooth, had a wildly overgrown beard, and his hair was greasy and slicked back. It looked as if his nose had been broken a few times and one ear was mangled, matching the big pit-bull by his side. Deeks noticed that the man who had accosted him kept his distance and that the few stragglers around gave him a wide berth as well.
“Everybody calls me Peaches cause I used to be from Georgia,” he said. “There’s some of us with dogs that camp a little ways up. You’re welcome to join us if you want.”
Deeks simply nodded and watched as the three dogs sniffed each other in a slow moving circle. The big man smiled softly and walked past him, leading the way to his new home for the next couple of days or until he spotted Stafford, the former Marine they were looking for. The man had been on and off the streets for several years, but had begun to make a go of it by working at one of the homeless shelters. When a former Marine he’d served with had been killed right in front of him, he had given a rather shaky statement to police and then just disappeared somewhere down here. He was the only witness they had to a murder they believed to be a revenge killing tied to a major drug operation out of Afghanistan.
He had to smile when he saw where the man was headed. The collection of jury-rigged structures was a colorful mixture of plastic tarps and sorry looking cardboard boxes covered in faded graphics and type announcing the various contents they used to contain. The area was surrounded by low sections of chain link fencing that were tied together with twine and lined with a variety of waiting dogs. Poking their noses through the fence, they sniffed the air as their tails wagged in anticipation of Monty’s arrival.
“You never told me your name,” Peaches said as he opened a gate, barking dogs milling around their legs as they made their way inside.
“Jim…Jimmy,” he stuttered.
“Well, Jim Jimmy, you can crash under that green tarp tonight,” he said. “I’ll introduce you around in the morning.”
“Okay,” he said and shuffled quickly over to where he had pointed.
He knelt down and was quickly surrounded by several of the big dogs, who sniffed him and Monty thoroughly. Their friendliness surprised him, and he looked up to see a couple of hardened men staring back at him. No smiles there, just suspicion and caution.
“Don’t mind ’em,” a gravelly voice called out from next door. “Strangers are usually trouble.”
The old man had a mouth full of bad teeth and wispy gray hair stood out all over his head. A long legged and very skinny dog was draped over his lap watching him with soulful eyes. Both looked as if they hadn’t bathed in a very long time.
“This here’s Martha,” he said, gently stroking her long brown ears, his eyes suddenly filling with tears. “She’s sick…hungry too.”
“I’m sorry,” Deeks said. “I got a little bottle of milk. Maybe it’ll help.”
Deeks rummaged through one of the deep pockets of his ratty coat and pulled out a small plastic bottle, handing it over to the surprised man, who shyly murmured his thanks.
“Stole it this afternoon…it’s still fresh,” he said as the man poured a little into a beat up pie tin, holding it while the big dog slowly lapped at it.
“We ain’t had much to eat lately,” the old man confessed. “Can’t get around like I used to.”
Deeks had heard lots of similar stories when he was undercover in places like this, and it always made him sad, and grateful for what he and Monty had in life. Searching through his pockets again, he pulled out an apple he’d brought and gave it to the old man, telling him he wasn’t hungry. When he looked around, he found acceptance had replaced the caution on the faces of the men who’d been watching. He settled in with Monty and listened to the muted voices and snores around him, dozing occasionally until the gray light of morning came.
“Kensi brought donuts and lattes,” Callen teased in his ear. “Donuts were good, but lattes are a poor excuse for good coffee.”
“You’re mean,” Deeks whispered as he crawled out of the drooping tent of plastic.
“Anything new?” Callen asked.
“Got a tip from an old man,” he mumbled quietly as he walked out of the enclosure. “On my way to check it out. It’s close.”
“He wouldn’t lie. I helped his dog,” Deeks said.
The old man’s directions led him behind a fairly substantial wall of battered sheets of plywood that enclosed a space at the base of a freeway off-ramp. There were a few tarps and worn sleeping bags scattered across the dirty ground, and the men lounging there looked rough, most with buzz cuts and sharp eyes that followed him as he shuffled past. The air was dense and sour and his fingers twitched as he mumbled to himself, finding it difficult to make out faces in the dim light.
“Get the fuck outa here,” someone snarled from the shadows. “Go back to the dog people where ya belong.”
He was being watched. He was new here, so that might account for it, but had him wondering if he’d been made. He pulled his dirty wool cap down lower and kept moving. It was if the men were on guard, standing their ground the way a military man might and that was suspicious. He wasn’t surprised that Stafford had friends here and though he didn’t spot the Marine, it was a good guess that these men were hiding him.
“What you looking for dick head?” A man asked, shoving him roughly against a concrete pillar.
“Angels…blue ones,” he gasped out as he held his arms over his face and cowered before the man.
“You’re in the wrong place for that, dude,” the bald man laughed as he let him go.
“He hooked up with Peaches,” reported a black guy wearing a khaki tank top and dog tags. “Don’t mess with him, Zack. That dude will bust you up.”
He was surrounded by three of them, all rough looking men, their muscles taut, their eyes staring out of stark, unshaven faces that looked as if they’d seen more than anyone should. The reek of whiskey was strong in the confined space and without any food in his stomach it made him nauseous. Callen suddenly spoke in his ear and he unintentionally jumped and the biggest guy grabbed his coat and pressed him back against the cold column.
“No…no…no. Don’t come,” Deeks shouted as he stared blankly up at the underside of the off-ramp.
“Who the hell are you talkin’ to?”
“My…my guardian angel,” he whispered in awe. “He spits fire…and brimstone too.”
“Okay, I’m outa here,” the black man said as he and the other guy started backing away. “The guy’s a whack job, Zack. Staff don’t have nothin’ to worry about from him. It’s those other dudes he told us to watch out for.”
“Guess you’re right,” Zack replied. “Would like to see a fire-breathin’ angel though.”
The three men were laughing as they walked away and Deeks could hear Callen being teased by the team in Ops. He stooped through a hole in the plywood wall and once on the other side, settled down in the dirt to continue his surveillance of the three men.
“I spit fire now?” Callen asked.
“Don’t forget the brimstone,” Deeks replied softly as Monty curled up next to his leg.
“Sounds like you’re close to our guy,” Callen said.
“And we’re not the only ones looking,” Deeks replied.
“Might be why he ran,” Callen said. “He might have been more than just a witness.”
“You think he was involved?”
“Wouldn’t be surprised,” Callen said. “We’ll check it out…and watch yourself, okay?”
“Thought I was supposed to be watching for our witness?” Deeks said lightly.
“You know what I mean,” Callen replied, his tone quite serious.
“Not to worry…I got a fire-breathin’ angel lookin’ out for me,” Deeks replied flippantly.
After their interchange, Deeks settled in to wait and watch. Callen’s protectiveness had touched him, having only seen him that way with Sam. He’d wanted to ask about Kensi, but it would have been distracting, so he let the thought go. Sam relieved Callen and stayed until dinnertime, both men teasing Deeks about the thick sandwiches they were chowing down on, causing his empty stomach to rumble. He and Monty had shared an energy bar and an apple, but that definitely wasn’t enough, so he was a bit irritable by the time it started to get dark.
Moving silhouettes caught his attention and he began to follow two men who didn’t look to be part of the local population, quietly alerting Callen as he shuffled after them. Hiding behind a couple of shopping carts full of assorted clothing and blankets, he saw them talking with Turk, the man who had accosted him the previous night. When money and a fifth of whiskey changed hands he moved closer, keeping silent until he could figure out what was going on. He turned when Monty growled, but didn’t get his arm up fast enough to ward off the blow that sent a brilliant explosion of pain through his head before he spiraled into semi-darkness. He could hear Monty barking, which only increased the blinding pain behind his eyes, but it was the discordant chorus of dogs joining in that was confusing as he struggled to right himself.
“I got you Jim Jimmy,” Peaches’ voice dragging him toward full consciousness.
“G?” Deeks called softly, but he got nothing in response.
“It’s Peaches, man,” he heard as multiple hands helped him to his feet amid filthy curses and angry shouting.
When he managed to get his eyes focused, he saw the standoff taking place in front of him. Peaches and a few other dog people were challenging Turk and his boys, warning them off Deeks, while Tiny the pit-bull and a couple of the bigger dogs stood stiffly between them growling. Deeks wiped at the blood trickling past his ear as he searched the ground for his earwig so he could reconnect with Callen. It was coated in dirt when he found it, but by then there was a full-scale brawl going on.
“Deeks! What the hell’s happening?” Callen shouted breathlessly into his ear. “You didn’t answer. You good? What’s all that noise?”
“Guys are fighting over me…literally,” he replied as he staggered to his feet.
“Really? You’ve not that attractive,” Callen sniped. “Especially in those clothes.”
“I’m gonna need backup,” Deeks said as he stumbled away from the chaos. “Two guys paid off one of the locals for information on Stafford’s hideout. I’m headed there now.”
“You wait for me, Deeks,” Callen ordered. “I’m coming and so is Sam.”
“They’re gonna kill him if they find him,” he argued, weaving unsteadily as his head began to spin.
“Just get here as fast as you can, G,” interrupting whatever order Callen was about to give.
He found the hole in the plywood barrier and reached up under all his layers to find his gun still snug against his back. His balance was getting ragged, but he fought through it and snuck back through the makeshift wall, moving cautiously in the gathering shadows as he listened for anything that would point him to Stafford. The soft report from a silenced handgun had him moving swiftly as he alerted Callen that shots were fired, ignoring the warning he got in return.
He came upon the body of the black man with the dog tags, and heard desperate pleas coming from behind a plywood lean-to built against the concrete wall of the freeway off-ramp. Zack, the man who had challenged him earlier, was lying dead on the ground with blood seeping from a bullet wound in the back. His two assailants had Stafford on his knees between them, one tightly gripping his ragged shirt while the other pressed the barrel of a gun against the back of the former Marine’s head. If he went in firing, there was no guarantee Stafford would survive. Knowing Callen and Sam were close, he decided to stay in character to buy time for the agents to get to him. Keeping his gun hidden by his side, he started speaking gibberish loudly before stepping out where they could see him, and Monty started to bark hysterically at the same time, distracting the two men.
“I’m look…looking for angels with big blue wings…you seen ’em?” He asked with wild eyes. “They spit fire…and everything…I was hopin’ to see ’em…soon.
He was grinning widely and the two men looked at each other and shook their heads, obviously irritated, but distracted from what they’d been about to do.
“No angels here, whack job. Now get outa here before I shoot your fuckin’ head off,” the man said as he moved the gun off Stafford and swung it toward Deeks.
The air was suddenly filled with the eerie sound of howling dogs, the disconcerting sound bouncing off the hard concrete around them, causing the man to take his eyes off of Deeks.
“LAPD,” he announced, bringing his gun up and firing a few seconds before he was fired on, dropping the man instantly.
Stafford slammed a fist into the midsection of the man holding him and took off running, only to be corralled by Sam. Callen charged onto the scene shouting he was a federal agent and telling the last man standing to drop his gun.
“This is over,” Callen said, his gun trained on the man’s face.
“I’m guessin’ you’re the angel with the big blue wings,” the man said in resignation, tossing his gun to the ground.
“You’re lucky he didn’t spit fire or you’d be dead,” Deeks said with a cocky grin.
Sam cuffed him and ushered both men away as Callen stepped up to take a look at Deeks.
“You okay?” He asked gently.
“Will be as soon as the world stops spinning,” Deeks replied, gingerly touching the lump on the side of his head. “Better arrest me though. I’m starting to like this crazy alias.”
Callen smiled as he pulled Deeks’ hands together and cuffed him. He was about to lead him out when the dog people showed up. They weren’t looking too friendly and neither were their dogs.
“He’s harmless,” Peaches said flatly. “Let him go.”
Low growls started coming from the dogs and Deeks’ face broke into a big goofy grin as Callen smirked back at him.
“Gentlemen…I’m his guardian angel,” Callen said quietly. “He witnessed a crime and I’m taking him into protective custody, so please call off your dogs.”
“You wanna go with him, Jim Jimmy?” Peaches asked, as the group stood their ground.
“He promised…promised to show me his big blue wings,” Deeks said. “Me and Monty want to see that.”
“He’s not right in the head you know,” Peaches said as he eased his rigid stance.
“I knew that the minute I met him,” Callen said as he led a laughing Deeks past the men and dogs.
Deeks pushed the battered shopping cart across the uneven ground, his face lit with a silly grin as he made his way to the dog people’s camp. He was still wearing his raggedy clothes, but he’d showered and had a butterfly bandage on the side of his head. Monty ran ahead of him, alerting the dogs, who sent up a chorus of barks and howls in welcome.
“Hey, it’s Jim Jimmy,” someone called out.
Peaches slipped out of the doorway of a plywood structure and smiled, the others gathering around to greet his return.
“How’s your head?” He asked.
“Pretty angels fixed it,” Deeks replied, smiling goofily.
“Looks like they let you shower too,” Peaches said. “You back to stay?”
“Nah…blue angel put me in a home,” he said quietly. “But he gave me all this stuff…stuff for the dogs.”
Deeks pulled an old towel off the top of the shopping cart, revealing big bags of dog crunchies and cases of canned dog food. There were dog toys, balls, yummy bags of treats and chew sticks, all of which disappeared quickly as the dogs danced around excitedly, somehow knowing it was all for them. The rough men smiled shyly at him as they took their share, some even patting his shoulder in a gesture of thanks.
“I guess there really are angels,” Peaches said softly, tossing a yellow ball to Chico.
“All around us,” Deeks said as he watched long legged Martha down a whole can of dog food as Monty and Tiny circled his legs.
Find out more about how you can be an angel and help those in need by visiting our Pets of the Homeless page.
Marty Deeks and the other wonderful characters of NCIS:LA are the property of Shane Brennan and CBS. Neither CBS, NCIS:LA, nor Eric Christian Olsen are involved in wikiDeeks’ Pets of the Homeless campaign.