By Sweet Lu
He lay on his back grabbing fistfuls of desert sand, his breathing ragged as he watched roaring flames destroy the remains of his car. Mosley’s words echoed through the dull pain in his head, pissing him off all over again. When he’d asked her why his partner couldn’t accompany him on this little trip, she’d questioned his belief in his own abilities, her tone sweetly obnoxious as always and her expression full of barely concealed contempt.
“If you don’t think you’re up to the task, I can assign someone else.”
His attempts at humor at that point didn’t impress her or change the outcome. Her irritating smile had remained, and her comment still stung. It was the reason why he was way the hell out in the middle of nowhere without a car, backup, or cell phone service.
“What do we do now?”
He waited for the boy to add “asshole” to the end of that question. It had been his tag line whenever he talked back to him. This time, he hadn’t, which Deeks took as a small, but good sign that he’d made some progress with the kid.
“Got any marshmallows in that backpack of yours?” He asked with a quick grin.
“Are you for real, dude?” The kid spit out. “Somebody just tried to blow us up and you wanna roast marshmallows?”
“Yeah…probably be better if we get our butts inside.”
“Ya think, asshole?”
“And there it is. Your favorite word.”
“Yeah? Well you’re the one who fucked up,” his eyes wide and turbulent. “If we hadn’t stopped they wouldn’t have been able to…”
“Almost blow our asses up? It was a drone strike, Jason…” Deeks said.
“Don’t call me that,” the kid snapped. “I told you. I’m Jase now.”
“Okay…Jase,” Deeks replied, unable to hide his irritation. “If we hadn’t stopped and gotten out we’d be the toasted marshmallows right now.”
The boy looked stunned, and Deeks could see the fear he was trying so hard to hide. “Will it…the drone. Will it come back?”
“Hopefully, they’ll think we’re dead,” he replied, sorry he’d scared the boy even more than he already was.
Deeks eased himself to his feet and held out a hand to him. “My butt’s a little sore. How about yours?”
“Wrist hurts is all,” he replied, ignoring his hand as he got up and stared at the black skeleton of what was once a decent car.
“Hope my boss doesn’t take that out of my salary,” Deeks said with a nervous grin.
“She’d do that?” He asked.
“Wouldn’t be surprised,” he replied. “I’m not her favorite.”
Deeks looked the boy over for any unacknowledged injuries, thankful when all he saw were a few small cuts and bruises on his dirty face. He had to be hurting a little since they’d both been slammed to the ground by the explosion and peppered by shrapnel and glass.
“Hey, dude, you’re bleeding,” Jase said, pointing at his left side.
A small patch of blood saturated the tail of his tee shirt just above his belt. He hadn’t felt anything until the boy had pointed out the wound, but now he felt the sting and cussed once again. Lifting his shirt, he examined the small gouge just under his ribs. It didn’t look too bad, so it shouldn’t slow him down, but it was bleeding pretty good.
“Let’s see if this dump has a first aid kit,” Deeks said.
Frowning and without much hope, he guided the kid inside the dilapidated building that served as an office for the old mine they’d stopped at. The inside of the place felt like an oven thanks to its corrugated shell and lack of insulation. A faded calendar featuring a well-endowed woman hung on the wall behind a dust covered desk, the only piece of furniture in the room. The wood floor was streaked with sand, but Deeks saw scuff marks that indicated someone had been here not too long ago.
Deeks clamped his hand down on Jason’s shoulder and signaled for him to be quiet. Pulling his gun, he moved in front of the boy and moved fluidly toward the closed door to the right of the desk.
“Federal agent,” he shouted and kicked in the door.
The room he entered didn’t look anything like the one out front. This one was clean and tidy with a file cabinet and an orderly desk. In the center of it was a laptop. One wall was covered by a large topographical map of Southern California. Five red pushpins dotted its surface. He fished out his phone and quickly took a picture of it.
“Want me to turn on the cooler?” Jase asked.
“You knew about this place?” Deeks was pissed and didn’t bother hiding it.
“Uncle Reese brought me here sometimes,” he replied, hardening his jaw in defiance.
“You want to be like him when you grow up, don’t you?” Deeks asked, saddened by the thought.
“Rather be like him than a weak-ass punk like my dad,” he said angrily. “At least my uncle taught me how to fight and take a punch.”
“Good old Uncle Reese,” Deeks said softly and shook his head. “He’s a cold-blooded killer, Jase. A terrorist. Is that what you want to do with your life?”
The boy shifted his feet and looked uncertain.
“Does he hit you?”
“I’ll be fourteen in a few months, so I don’t have no trouble taking his punch when he does,” Jase replied proudly
“Whadda you know, asshole,” the boy yelled. “You’re just some surfer dude cop from Malibu. You probably ain’t never gone hungry, or…or had to watch your mom shoot up before you went to school. I bet your dad gave you anything you wanted…”
“Only thing my dad gave me were black eyes and broken bones,” Deeks said quietly. “So don’t tell me it doesn’t hurt when your uncle knocks you around.”
“At least he wants me,” Jase said stubbornly.
“Does he? Your uncle and his men just tried to blow you up, buddy,” Deeks replied. “It’s your mom who wants you. I wouldn’t be here if she didn’t. She got clean for you.”
He saw the boy’s anger drain away, and since there were more pressing things to deal with, he let the silence between them settle in. There was a reason he had stopped here. Jason’s uncle had worked the mine on the hill above this place years ago. Deeks had had a hunch there might be evidence here that would lead them to the other members of the home grown terrorist group the kid’s uncle was a part of. They were the main suspects in an attack on a Navy supply convoy that had been carrying weapons and explosives. They’d already carried out one attack and NCIS was trying to stop them from launching another one.
Jason’s mother, who’d just come out of rehab, had flipped on her own brother in an attempt to regain custody of her son. She’d shared some information, but she was refusing to give them any more until she saw Jason. Deeks had been sent out here to get the kid, while the rest of the team followed up leads on Reese Tally, his men, and the missing weapons. Neither he nor Mosley had anticipated that Uncle Dumb Shit’s place was being watched, or that the sick group of Neo-Nazis he consorted with had the expertise to launch an armed drone attack.
He sat down behind the laptop and discovered to his surprise that the place had a pretty sophisticated Wi-Fi set up. He quickly sent an email to Eric, and in two seconds the tech was on screen with a wide smile.
“Hey Deeks. Good to see you,” Eric said, cheering him up immediately. “Where are you and when will you be back? Kensi’s been pestering me all day.”
“I was hoping you could help with that, brother,” Deeks said. “Seems our little terrorist group got their hands on a weaponized drone. They blew up my car…well, technically it’s a car I borrowed from the Marines at Twentynine Palms.”
“That’s not good. Are you okay?”
“We weren’t in it, if that’s what you’re asking,” Deeks replied. “Just a few scratches. Listen…I’m sending you a photo of a map I found, and then I need a way out of here.”
“And where might that be? Never mind, I’ll just locate you using…”
“Hold on. I think we’ve got company,” Deeks said quickly and quietly. “Download everything on this computer, Eric, and send me some damn backup. Gotta go, man.”
The sound of several trucks arriving out front sent a rush of adrenaline through him. He pulled his gun and moved quickly toward the back door. Keeping the kid behind him, he snuck a peek out back. There was a long, low shed, but beyond it there was nothing but empty desert and a rugged climb up to the mine entrance.
“Stay close,” Deeks whispered.
“What if I wanna stay?” Jase asked. “Uncle Reese won’t hurt me.”
“You sure about that, buddy?” Deeks struggled to remain calm, knowing that if the boy yelled neither one of them would have a chance.
“I ain’t your buddy,” the boy snarled.
“Those guys out front aren’t either,” Deeks said. “They knew you were in that car, Jase.”
He saw the boy’s expression change, and when he nodded, Deeks let out a breath of relief. He guided the boy toward the shed, listening intently as the men out front talked, questioning whether the two of them were dead or not. He was hopeful their discussion would give him and the kid time to get up to the mine before they were spotted. When they reached the back of the shed, he saw that the sliding metal door was completely open, and pushed Jase inside. Checking to see if there was something he could use, he felt Jase tap his arm.
“Uncle Reese used to store dynamite here,” he offered softly, then pointed at a heavy tarp in the corner.
“Jackpot,” Deeks breathed out when he flipped the tarp off. “Let me have your backpack.”
Deeks pried the top of the box off with his fingers, and was disappointed to see only six sticks of dynamite remaining. “Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth, Deeks.”
The kid rolled his eyes at the dated comment like the teenager he was and for some reason it made him feel better. He grinned and shrugged his shoulders, quickly stuffing the explosives in the backpack, wrapping them in Jason’s tee shirts. The kid handed him a coil of electrical cable for fuses and a box of blasting caps. Deeks stood and searched until he found a cigarette lighter in the top drawer of a tool cabinet. After tucking it into his pocket, he began to feel a little bit better about their chances.
“Somebody’s coming,” Jase whispered.
Deeks pointed to the tarp in the corner, and the boy burrowed under it while he took up position with his back against the wall beside the opening. He held his gun tight to his chest and waited in the shadows, barely breathing as the sound of crunching gravel moved around the side of the shed. The smell of cigarette smoke was sharp as the man’s shadow stretched across the dirt floor. When the shadow raised an assault rifle he held his breath. The man paused and then stepped inside. The gun swung toward the far corner, and Deeks took advantage, slamming the butt of his gun down on the back of the man’s skull. He fell hard and didn’t move.
“Jase. Let’s go.”
Deeks tucked his gun away and hefted the backpack over his shoulder. He picked up the man’s weapon and paused to listen for others. Hearing nothing, he pushed the boy in front of him and started through the scrub brush toward the mine. When he thought they were far enough away, he broke into a trot. By the time they reached the beginning of the incline, they were both breathing hard. Sweat coated his face, and stung his eyes. The wound in his side was pulsing with pain every time his foot hit the ground, but he didn’t stop until Jase stumbled on the uneven terrain and fell to his knees.
Deeks knelt beside him, praying he wasn’t injured. “You okay?”
“Better’n you,” he said in the surly tone he always seemed to have. “You’re the one bleedin’.”
Blood streaked down his pant leg, and he realized he’d forgotten to look for a first aid kit. With no time to deal with it, he grabbed Jase’s wrist to pull him up. The boy’s breathless scream startled him and he bent down to check him as the boy cradled his arm to his chest. Tears cut through the dirt on his face and he looked scared, his eyes wide with pain.
“Your wrist is broken,” Deeks said, angry that he hadn’t realized it earlier. “Why didn’t you tell me?”
“Uncle Reese says you ain’t a man if you can’t take a little pain,” the boy choked out.
“Quite the philosopher, your uncle,” Deeks said. “You know that’s bullshit, right?”
Deeks pulled one of the tee shirts out of the backpack, tearing it so he could wrap the kid’s wrist and secure his hand and forearm to his chest. He worked as quickly as he could, occasionally checking to see if anyone was coming. The kid never made a sound, and Deeks tousled his dirty brown hair when he was done.
“You’re a tough kid, Jase,” he said, and helped him to his feet.
He heard the crack of a rifle a fraction of a second before a bullet struck the ground behind them. More followed, kicking up the sand and gravel as they clawed their way up the hardscrabble hill. He knew the mine entrance was just above them and he shoved Jase up, shielding him from the incoming fire. Luckily the bastards hadn’t found the range yet, and he didn’t want to be in the open when they did. Just as they reached the crest of the hill he heard the roar of truck engines below and turned to see them bouncing over the rough ground toward the base of the rise.
He renewed his effort, and looked up to see Jase disappear over the edge. He scrambled up and threw himself onto the flat ground in front of the entrance to the mine as bullets peppered the ground just below him. Jase was already inside the mine, huddled against the thick wooden braces that flanked the entrance.
“Stairs would have been a nice touch, doncha think?” Deeks said breathlessly.
“There’s a dirt road,” he replied. “Off to the left.”
“Ain’t in great shape,” Jase said. “Washed out last year. Don’t think they can get the trucks up here.”
“Yeah, well…let’s give them something to think about before they give it a shot.”
Deeks pulled out the dynamite and blasting caps, laying them side-by-side on the ground. He uncoiled the fusing, and cut it into short lengths, assembling two. He smiled encouragingly at the boy before crawling out over the rough ground to the edge of the overlook. He could see the trucks parked down below, and a few of the men had already started the climb up, while others continued to fire up at the mine opening. Deeks waited until he heard someone yell for a ceasefire, then lit the fuses. Rising to his knees, he tossed the sticks of dynamite one after the other down on the men below. The explosions were loud and so were the screams that followed.
“Payback’s a bitch, ain’t it?” he said softly as he scooted back on his stomach to escape the bullets flying his way.
Jase looked impressed when he leaned back against the opposite side of the entrance. When it suddenly became quiet, he felt a small sense of triumph, at least for the moment. The men below wouldn’t have any idea how much dynamite he had, so he was pretty sure they were having a serious discussion on what to do next. It gave them a short respite to catch their breath.
“Here,” Jase said, and tossed him a grey tee shirt. “You should stop that bleeding, dude.”
Deeks ripped up the shirt and winced when he pressed a thick wad into the wound in his side. He could feel the piece of shrapnel lodged just under his ribs, and cursed softly. He was surprised when the boy scooted over to help. When he finally had a reasonably secured bandage in place he leaned his head back and tried to think.
“Why do they want to kill me?” The boy asked hesitantly as he slumped down beside him.
“They probably think you heard what they were planning,” he replied. “And they’re afraid you’ll talk.”
“But I don’t know anything,” the soft whine in the boy’s voice telling him how scared he really was.
“Don’t think they want to risk that,” Deeks said.
“I thought my uncle liked me,” he replied, snuffling back some unwanted tears.
“Ain’t your fault,” he said softly.
“You’re going to be all right,” Deeks said.
“I’m scared,” he said, as if it was the worst thing in the world.
“That’s normal when people are shooting at you,” Deeks replied.
“Or trying to blow you up,” the boy said, finally offering a quick grin.
“Yeah, that too,” he smiled softly at the boy. “Help is coming, Jase. We only have to survive until the cavalry gets here.”
“Why didn’t your dad like you?” Jase asked quietly, surprising him.
“I still wonder about that sometimes,” Deeks replied, his emotions suddenly raw with memories.
“Did you ever ask him?”
“We didn’t talk much.”
“How’d you deal with it?” He asked leaning forward to look in his eyes. “I mean…did you ever get him to stop hitting you? Did you fight ’im?”
“I shot him.”
He saw shock flare in the boy’s eyes. There was reassessment there as well, and Deeks was immediately sorry he’d shared that part of his life. He really didn’t know this boy, or what he might do with that information, and he was afraid he’d been too honest.
“Shouldn’t have told you that,” he said, nervously clawing his fingers down through his hair. “Didn’t kill him.”
“Did you go to jail?”
“No…He did,” Deeks replied in a low voice. “Got seven years for assaulting my mom and me.”
“How old were you?”
Deeks wasn’t sure he should answer that, but he needed the boy to trust him. “I was eleven.”
“No shit?” he whispered. “Did he come back when he got out?”
“Never saw him again.”
“My uncle’s gonna get killed, ain’t he?”
“You don’t know that.”
“He took care of me when my mom…when she was strung out,” Jase said. “Only hits me once in a while…when I make him mad and stuff. If he goes to jail, do you think I could visit him?”
“You’d have to have your mom’s approval,” he replied. “At least until you’re sixteen.”
A burst of automatic weapons fire shattered the calm. Deeks yelled for the kid to move further back, pointing toward the ore cart further back in the tunnel. He checked his weapon and then scooted over to the remaining sticks of dynamite, and began to prep them.
“Jase? You in there?”
The shout didn’t come from below, but from the road the boy had mentioned.
“It’s my uncle,” the boy said, moving back toward the entrance, and watching him intently. “Don’t shoot ’im. Please…I can talk to ’im. He won’t hurt you if I tell him not to.”
“You sure about that? Cause I’m not,” Deeks said.
“Come on out, boy!” Reese Tally shouted, sounding closer than before. “Nothin’s gonna happen to you. We’re family.”
“Then tell him why you sent a weaponized drone to take him out,” Deeks shouted, moving up to stand beside the opening with his gun ready.
“That wasn’t me. The boys just got a little carried away,” Tally shouted back.
“I told you,” Jase said, looking hopeful. “He didn’t do it.”
The kid made a dash for the opening, but Deeks grabbed him and held him back. “I can’t let you go out there, buddy.”
“I’m not your buddy,” Jase screamed. “Let me go. He wants me.”
The boy twisted out of Deeks’ hold just as bullets splintered the wooden supports by his head. He peered around the edge and saw three men charging toward him. He fired, hitting the man in front before another round of gunfire drove both of them back inside. When he looked to see if the kid was all right, he froze. Jase had the assault rifle pointed directly at him, his jaw rigid with determination.
“I got ’im, Uncle Reese,” he shouted.
“Don’t do this, Jase,” Deeks said softly. “You know what’ll happen.”
“Shut up…just shut up,” he yelled, his voice choked with angry tears.
“Yeah asshole. Shut the fuck up and drop the gun,” Reese Tally said, his big body silhouetted in the entrance as he and another skinhead entered, their assault rifles trained on him.
Deeks continued to stare at the kid as he let his gun drop to the ground. He thought he’d found a connection with the boy, but now he was afraid he would pay with his life for his failure to forge that bond. Jase was trying to look tough as his uncle took the weapon from him, but Deeks saw the uncertainty in his eyes.
“Thought you betrayed me, boy,” Tally said, towering over the kid. “Why’d ya go off with him?”
“He…he made me, Uncle Reese,” the boy stuttered.
“He break your arm or somethin’?” The man asked, grabbing the kid’s broken wrist and making him cry out and squirm to get away. “You even put up a fight, you little shit?”
“Leave him alone,” Deeks yelled, the man’s actions sadly familiar, stoking his anger.
“I wasn’t talkin’ to you, asshole,” Tally said, pointing a dirty finger at him. “I’ll deal with you in a minute.”
“You don’t have to hurt him, Uncle Reese,” Jase said. “We can just tie him up and leave ’im here.”
“Who the hell put you in charge?” Tally asked.
The man suddenly laughed, and when he backhanded the kid, Deeks charged, driving a shoulder into his ribs and slamming him to the ground. He pounded the man in the face until he was knocked off by a solid hit to the side of the head. He was stunned by the blow and Tally quickly took advantage, slugging and kicking him until he could barely breathe. Trying to shake off the effects, he got to his hands and knees and spit out a gob of blood while Tally continued to berate the boy.
“You tell him anything?” Tally growled in the kid’s face.
“No. Nothin’. Didn’t tell ’im nothin’,” Jase whined. “Honest, Uncle Reese.”
“Don’t you lie to me, boy,” Tally said, emphasizing the threat by grabbing a fistful of his hair and twisting.
“He’s telling the truth,” Deeks said wearily. “Refused to say much of anything. Kept calling me asshole. Wonder where he learned that?”
He looked up and saw a quizzical expression on the kid’s face that slowly morphed into surprise and then fear. Jase looked quickly at his uncle and then back at him. The stark realization of what his uncle was going to do hit the boy hard, and Deeks saw his eyes fill with tears.
“He’s a real tough kid,” Deeks said. “One of the good ones.”
Tally grunted and beckoned to the other guy. Between them, they yanked him to his feet and shoved him against the wall. Two others had now joined them and he was thoroughly searched, his phone tossed.
“Now you’re gonna tell me what you know,” Tally said, poking him in the chest.
“Well, for starters…you smell bad,” Deeks replied with a cocky grin. “Might try a nice hot shower…maybe a bubble bath once in a while. It’ll change your life…well, your dating life, anyway.”
He’d expected the punch, but he saw Jase flinch when it landed.
“Sorry. Couldn’t resist,” Deeks said, as he prepared to take more.
“Keep being a wiseass and you ain’t walking outa here,” Tally said.
“We both know I’m not leaving here alive no matter what I say or don’t say,” he replied.
“You’re a helluva lot smarter than you look,” Tally said. “Think you can take all the pain I’m gonna rain down on your sorry ass before I kill you?”
“Guess we’re gonna find out,” Deeks said. “Speaking of rain…it’s gonna be raining Federal agents in a few minutes, so you might want to bail outa here before they show up.”
“Ask Jase,” Deeks said. “I made contact with my team before you boys got here. Loved your Wi-Fi set up, by the way. You guys got your own Facebook page, or do you prefer Instagram? Wait. No. Snapchat. Am I right?”
One of the skinheads didn’t let his comment pass, driving a fist into the wound in his side. The pain sent him to his knees. Through the fog in his head he heard Tally ask the kid if what he said was true and when Jase said it was, Deeks was shoved to the ground and things began to happen fast.
“Beck…stay with the Fed. Vince? Go tell the guys to clean out the office and get ready to move,” Tally ordered. “Lang…Keller? You’re with me. We need to get that second bomb down to the trucks.”
The three men made their way past the ore cart and disappeared into the dark tunnel. Deeks knew this would be his only chance. His Smith & Wesson still lay where he’d dropped it, but getting to it without being shot was a problem. His only other option was taking the gun away from his guard.
“Is my uncle really gonna kill ’im?” Jase asked the man.
“Whadda you think, kid?” He replied with a snort of derision. “He’s one of the bastards trying to shut us down.”
“Just out of curiosity…what did you do with the first bomb?” Deeks asked.
“Guess it don’t matter if I tell you. You’ll be dead as soon as Reese gets back,” he replied. “We’re gonna send a message to the “fake news” people. Gonna blow the LA Times to hell where they belong.”
Deeks closed his eyes at the chilling statement. He had to find a way to get a warning out to the team. The guard wasn’t all that attentive, cradling his weapon loosely in his arms. Deeks scraped up a fistful of dirt and lunged for the man, flinging the dirt in the guard’s eyes as he grabbed the weapon. The man swore and clawed at his face, but he managed to hold on to the weapon as they tumbled to the ground. He hit him as hard as he could, but the guard fought back. He wasn’t a big man, but he was solid muscle and struggled against the assault, finally shoving the butt of the rifle up into the wound in his side. The bright pain weakened him, and the man rolled him over onto his back, pressing the assault rifle down toward his throat. Deeks fought back desperately, but the man was strong and began to overpower him. With one final determined effort, he slammed a knee up into the guy’s crotch and knocked him off unto the ground. Deeks yanked the rifle from his hands, and swung the butt into his face, splattering blood in the dust where he collapsed and lay still.
Deeks took a moment to catch his breath, but when he looked up, Jase had his own weapon pointed at him.
“You going to shoot me, Jase?” Deeks asked as he slowly got to his feet. “Now’s your chance, cause I’m walking out of here to try and find some way to stop that bombing. Your choice is to help me or become a murderer like your uncle. There are thousands of innocent people in that building. Unless I’m a really bad judge of character, you’re not a killer. Help me stop this.”
He watched the kid struggle with the decision, and when tears gathered in his eyes, he knew the boy was the kind of person he’d hoped he was. Jase slowly lowered the weapon as his shoulders slumped in surrender. He wiped at his eyes with the back of his hand and held out the gun for him to take.
“I think your mom is going to be real proud of you,” Deeks said as he snugged the gun behind his back. “I know I am.”
“You’re just glad I didn’t shoot you,” he replied softly.
“Yeah…no. You’re right about that,” Deeks said, breathing out a grin. “Now, lets get out of here before someone comes in and shoots us both.”
Deeks bent down and grabbed the four remaining sticks of dynamite, and moved cautiously outside. Most of the men were milling around the office and shed down below, loading boxes into the back of one pickup. The other truck was heading toward the base of the washed out road, which was the only direction the two of them could go without being seen.
“Any place to hide down that road?” Deeks asked softly.
“There’s a couple of big boulders just past the bend next to the hill,” he replied.
“Head down there,” Deeks ordered. “I’ll be right behind you.”
The kid turned to look up at him, and Deeks could tell he was suspicious.
“I’m going back for the rifle.”
He wasn’t sure the boy believed him, but he finally nodded and started making his way over the steep road with his head down. Deeks watched him go, and was grateful he didn’t look back. Gathering himself, he turned back to the mine entrance and started setting the dynamite into the wooden bracing around the opening. He was just about to set the final one when he heard a loud curse from inside followed by a spray of bullets that sent him scrambling for cover. He hadn’t had a chance to light any of the fuses, but he still held one stick of dynamite in his hand. He returned fire, forcing Tally and his men back inside. In the short lull, he lit the fuse. When good old Uncle Reese came out firing, Deeks threw the dynamite right at him, and the world exploded. The concussion set off the rest of the explosives, and the terrorists’ homemade bomb as well, blowing Deeks off the edge and down the hill.
When he slowly opened his eyes, the world was a silent place. He couldn’t hear himself breathing, but the puffs of dust in front of his face told him he wasn’t dead. His mind felt thick and every part of his body ached, so he lay still trying to remember what had happened. It was a moving shadow that made him raise his head and ease up onto his elbows, watching men fire at the helo circling overhead, only to be shot down. It was like watching a silent movie. When one of the trucks exploded in a brilliant yellow mushroom of fire, his mind was jolted into clarity.
“I blew the bastard up,” his mouth formed the words, but he couldn’t hear them.
He watched the helicopter land, spewing out darkly clad men with assault weapons. The first person he recognized was Sam, and he struggled to get to his feet. The horizon immediately tilted and he collapsed back into the scrub brush he’d landed in. He stared up into the sun, blinking sweat out of his eyes. He was hot and his body trembled in shock. He raised his arm, hoping someone would see him, but the scrub brush would make him almost invisible from a distance, so, he decided to yell. He screamed out Sam’s name, the rumbling in his chest and the rawness of his throat the only indication that anything was coming out.
“Sonofabitch,” he said softly, and passed out.
A cool hand on his cheek brought him back to consciousness, and he jerked away, reaching for a gun he no longer had.
“Deeks? It’s okay. It’s me,” Kensi looked down at him, her head surrounded by the corona of the sun.
“That’s a new one,” he thought she said.
“What? Can’t hear,” he said as loudly as he could, trying once again to get up.
“Stay down, Deeks,” Sam said as he knelt down beside him and held him in place.
They began talking to each other, but he couldn’t hear what they were saying. Kensi was upset and he could see the concern on both of their faces, making him wonder just how bad he looked. Callen appeared in his line of sight and joined the discussion, looking angry and out of sorts. His mind slowly cleared as he watched them yelling and motioning for the tactical squad, and he suddenly remembered he had important intel.
“They planted a bomb,” he said as loud as he could. “The Times building.”
He smiled when Callen immediately pulled a sat phone. He could rest now. Then he thought of the boy.
“Jase. Where’s Jase?” He asked frantically, reaching out to Kensi, worried the kid had been caught in the blast.
“We’ve got him,” Kensi said, enunciating each word precisely so he could read her lips. “He’s okay.”
She sat down beside him and brushed his hair back, holding his hand as she spoke words he couldn’t hear, but appreciated nonetheless. The rest was a blur. He slipped in and out of consciousness as they loaded him onto a stretcher and carried him to the helicopter. The silence was like a cocoon, comforting and safe. As the helo lifted off, a field medic gave him an injection for the pain. After that the world started to go grey. The last thing he saw before he slept was the hatred in Jase’s eyes.