AN: I don't own anything to do with NCIS, not even a mug like Cheekymice's…. I don't make any money from this or any of my stories about NCIS… or any of my other writing for that matter. (Sigh….)
I also know absolutely nothing about the workings of Swiss Banks. Although I do know how to bake a Swiss Roll.
The little black-and-white blur scampered across the grass and bounced to a halt, putting her forepaws up against the tartan blanket. The man in the wheelchair put his hand down slowly, oh so slowly, to greet her. "Blosm," he muttered, smiling, "Lo, Blo…sm…" The helpful nurse positioned the wheelchair beside one of the many benches that were dotted about in the beautiful summer garden.
"I'll see that someone brings you a drink," she said to the men following her. "I know you've come a long way. Let me know when you're going to leave, and I'll come and take care of Larry." She smiled at the two good looking visitors, and one of them made the effort and smiled back. The other sat down beside the man in the wheelchair, and only then made the effort himself. It came over as painfully forced; Kent Fuller didn't really feel like smiling.
"Hi, Larry," he said cheerfully. "I brought Blossom to see you again." The other man's head turned towards him for a moment, but there wasn't a flicker of recognition, or even acknowledgement there. He turned back to stroking the head of the Springer bitch who by now had jumped up onto his knee and was regarding him expectantly. "Blos…" he said, and she licked his face.
"I'm sorry I've not been to see you for a while," Kent went on, knowing that Larry Pearson didn't comprehend what he said, but he'd been told that the sound of voices was good for him. "I can't drive right now, see…" he gestured with the sling on his right arm. "My shoulder didn't fix so good, they had to do it again. They reckon it'll be OK this time though. DiNozzo brought me." He gestured again, towards the other man who'd been sitting quietly, regret on his face. Pearson didn't even react, just went on stroking the little dog's coat. "Blosm…" After a while he dozed off to sleep, and only then did Fuller talk about him instead of to him.
"They reckon this is the best it'll get," he said sadly. "They're surprised he came this far after the amount of damage that was done."
"He doesn't know you or me, but he remembers Blossom," Tony said. She had curled up on Pearson's lap, and was dozing like him.
"They're not even sure if he remembers, or if he just took to her when I brought her to see him the first time." He sighed deeply. "He knows about ten words… 'book' – he likes childrens' books with bright colours," He indicated the bag that Tony had carried for him, and the NCIS agent looked inside. There was an assortment of cheerful books and infant jigsaws inside. "He can say 'saw'; he loves them, although they tell me he's never completed one yet. He knows 'dinner', and 'sleep', and a few more, but he's stuck at that."
Tony nodded. He didn't want to sound disparaging, and said tentatively, "He seems to have put on some weight."
"He's being well looked after, Tony. He may not have been the sharpest knife in the box as agents go, but he was one of mine, and I wouldn't see him neglected in some dump because he's not able to speak up for himself. He loves food, and if it's manageable stuff he can feed himself. But he can't stand unaided, and he never will, so he gets very little exercise." He shook his head. "They take him swimming sometimes, but he's a bit nervous of the water, so they have to be careful. Blossom went in with him once. He liked that. They try to keep his diet healthy, but the fact is, that with his tendency to carry weight in the first place, he'll put more on. Bottom line… they give him between five and seven years before his heart gives out and he's free from all this."
"Credit to you for not giving up on him. Like you said, he won't be neglected for those years." Tony looked at the shell of Laurence Pearson, DEA Agent, and sighed as Fuller had done. "Looking guilty there, Kent," he added quietly. "You know there was nothing you could have done to prevent this."
"Logically? Of course I do. But he was part of my team. With his inept skirt-chasing, and his sometimes less than thorough approach to the job… I was working on that. Now, he's this. And nobody deserves this."
They stayed with the oblivious man for a while, eating and drinking the refreshments that were brought out to them, but the shadows were growing longer, and after a while, Fuller asked his friend to go find the nurse. "I'll be right there," she told him, "I'll just go and get his toy." Tony winced and didn't ask.
She came across the grass towards them carrying a soft cuddly plush dog that was the nearest thing to the little Spaniel that Kent's wife, combing the shops and the net, had been able to find. He called to the real thing, and Blossom jumped off the sleeping man's knee, waking him. He stretched his hands towards her, and let out a howl like a deprived toddler. The nurse placed the toy dog in his arms, which quietened him somewhat, smiled reassuringly at them, and pushed the wheelchair away.
Tony shivered as they walked back to the car.
"I'd rather die than end up like that," they both said together. Kent lifted Blossom one-handed into her travelling cage, and she settled down on her blanket. Tony got into the driver's seat of the DEA truck, and not much at all was said on the way back from Richmond to DC.
Adam Power also watched the shadows growing longer, as he sat out on the small balcony of his equally small flat in Abilene, Kansas, drinking beer from the bottle. The pleasant summery evening didn't impress him; but the hell, nothing did. This was no way to live, and he wanted to be doing things differently. Crop dusting, for hellsakes… he'd flown Tomcats. The modest stipend from the Justice Department would dry up if he wasn't seen to be working, and the only thing he knew was aircraft, but coaxing a cranky Beaver across a wheat field wasn't what he classed as flying.
Besides, he had money. Or could have… The Swiss bank account was there, gathering interest, and not a soul knew about it. It wasn't in the name of Adam Power… (The Justice Department people who'd set up his new identity had chuckled and muttered 'Austin Powers' to themselves, but he'd hated his old name, and never wanted to hear it again. They advised him to keep his first name, and the same initial as his old surname, as it was easier to slip into a new identity that was half familiar. He'd declined impolitely; he'd wanted something grander. The account wasn't in the name of Ken Starling, either.)
He'd spent quite freely until he married Isabella, but then had to pull his horns in, or she'd have wondered where it was all coming from, so he'd salted it away until he could come up with a credible explanation for it. From the point of view of living well from his illegal earnings, marrying Isabella had been a bad idea, as all his associates had told him, but he'd fallen for her even harder the second time around, and he'd always hoped he could pull it all together somehow… until she'd floored him with the news of a daughter he'd never known he had.
He hated the way things had gotten out of hand after that… he hated the DEA, especially that guy Fuller; he hated the Justice Department even though they'd kept him out of prison. He hated the US Marshals who protected him, spied on him more likely, but he hated even more the thought of what those his evidence had put where he wasn't would do to him if they didn't protect him. He hated with a passion the NCIS agents who'd taken him down, especially that tall one, DiNozzo, who'd turned away from him with an expression as if he'd found him on the sole of his shoe. Who did he think he was?
He took a morose pull at his beer. From loving, he'd gone pretty close to hating his wife, too… well, his ex-wife now, he imagined… sitting on his nest-egg and not even knowing it… he gave a short, unamused bark of laughter. Although every cent that he'd had that they could prove came from drug trafficking had been confiscated, there was still the bank account, and it wasn't the only thing his keepers from the US Marshals didn't know about…
Since he'd been a trusted member of the team, trusted, that was, to cut the stuff himself – what he'd extracted from the consignments, a patient teaspoon at a time, over all the years he'd been doing the job, had added up, by the time things went pear-shaped, to ten kilos of pure snow, street value by the time he was done with it, of almost $2,000.000. He'd even had a safe outlet figured, so that he could take Izzy, disappear from the scene, and live happily ever after. It hadn't occurred to him that who sups with the devil must use a long spoon, and now here he was, without wife, house, nice fast little long distance aircraft, nest-egg, or access to the account.
The ATM card for it was secreted with the nest-egg, and the terms of his position in the Witness Protection Program included an outright prohibition on returning to his old haunts. Because the secretive side of his nature stemmed from an almost paranoid belief that he was being watched, he didn't dare attempt to access the account through the net, either from his own modest machine, or from an Internet Café. He was effectively cut off. He swore disgustedly. What he needed was a stooge…
"Are they going to knock this wall down too, Izzy? Do you want me to take the cork-board down?" The young voice was enthusiastic.
"That's a good idea, querida… it's just where to put everything… will it fit behind the piano?" The younger woman unhooked the board and carried it awkwardly into the next room, and after a few minutes, called triumphantly, "Si!"
Isabella Moreno – she was another one who never wanted to hear the name Starling again – looked out through the kitchen window at the glorious red sunset, and sighed thoughtfully. Inez's foster mother in Pittsburgh was the one she called Mama, and that was fine… Izzy had said 'call me that one day if you think it fits', but thought it might be a while, although the business of getting to know each other was going well. Inez came over frequently for weekends, and they would tentatively do mother and daughter things. Izzy had taken the eighteen year old flying a couple of times, and she'd even taken the controls once, in that fearless way that young people do.
Inez would be gone all too soon, however; she had a place at UCLA, and Izzy thought, not for the first time, how vast America was. She had begun to calculate how long it would take her to fly across, how many stops for rest and gas… how much the fuel would cost, especially if she were to take 'Mama', Mrs. Hernandez with her, who was twice her size. Then she'd had a better idea. She smiled to herself. Patience, and no heavy demands, and life could be better than she'd ever expected in the wake of what had happened months before. Her daughter's excited voice wiped the smile from her face.
"Izzy, Tim's here!" This was the one heavy demand that she couldn't see herself avoiding. It wasn't as if the young man was encouraging Inez in any way, and he'd been such a help in the weeks since he'd talked her down out of the sky, that she couldn't ask him to keep away. But there was no doubt that the handsome young Special Agent with his badge and gun had caught Inez's attention. He was ten years older than her, far more experienced in the world, and in Isabella's eyes, just plain too old for her. She remembered her own parents' attitude, and tried not to be like them, but she felt as if she were in a barrel, about to go over Niagara. Until…
"Oh," she could hear the pout in her daughter's voice. "He's got that girl with him." Izzy stepped to the kitchen door and looked out through the front window. Tim was walking up the path hand in hand with the eccentric, fun goth girl she'd met at the Navy Yard in the wake of that strange day… Abby… yes, that was it. Abby, the forensic scientist. As she watched, he let go of her hand, and pulled her under his arm for a hug. The arm stayed there as Izzy went to let them in. Inez tried not to look as if she were sulking, and her mother could have kissed the pair of them.
Tim looked Isabella straight in the eye, and winked.
"Hi, Izzy. We brought the storage boxes I promised, for the stuff off that wall… what time do the contractors arrive in the morning?"
"Seven o'clock…we're going to go out and leave them to it; they say they'll get it all done in a day. That damn room will be history."
"Tim said you didn't enjoy knowing it was still there," Abby said sympathetically.
"I didn't. But the plasterer will come on Monday, and as soon as that's dry, I'll paint. The new units are waiting for delivery… by this time next week it'll be as if the room never existed. And I'll have a bigger kitchen," she ended with a brave smile, as if her bigger kitchen hadn't almost cost her her life, and caused injury and pain to others.
She went to make coffee, but Inez took over with a wry, sulky smile. As they sat around the kitchen table drinking, Isabella said quietly, "I came to a decision today. I don't want to stay here, new kitchen or not. Inez is going to be in LA for three years… it's all right, querida, I'm not coming to live on your doorstep and spoil your student life… but I'll look for a flying job, somewhere… anywhere that's a lot closer, and start afresh. Next week, I'm putting this place on the market."
The other three people around the table thought for a moment, and all nodded their agreement. Abby summed it up. "It'd be like living in a camcorder," she said. "A fresh start is good."
"Anything we can do…" Tim agreed.
As they left, a short while later, Izzy slipped her arm round her daughter's waist and hugged her lightly.
"He's so nice, Izzy…" the girl said sadly.
"Yes, he is… but at UCLA there will be hundreds, amor mio, por que una flor cuando se puede tener todo el jardin?"
Inez gasped, and then giggled. "Oh, Izzy… but you're right… Mama said I should find a nice young man, or three…"
AN: Here we go, then, probably another marathon…
The Spanish:- Sweetheart, why have a flower when you can have the whole garden?