Warnings: A little bit of violence, but nothing too graphic
Author's Notes: Many, many thanks to smacky30 for the quick beta. And the cheerleading. And the general awesomeness…
Written for the girlsavesboyfic ficathon on LiveJournal; previously posted there. Because girls rule.
The iconic stop watch of 60 Minutes fills the television screen, and the ticking accompanying the picture clicks out from the speakers. The image shifts to that of Morley Safer, seated on a stool, beside a blow-up of a magazine mock-up featuring a picture of the US Embassy in Mexico City overlaid with a photograph of an elegant, dark haired woman. Mr. Safer begins speaking immediately; his distinctive voice as much a part of the American landscape as the Grand Canyon.
"Long before Hilary Clinton and Condoleezza Rice, there was Ambassador Elizabeth Prentiss." A series of images click across the screen: Elizabeth Prentiss flanked by Presidents, shaking hands with royalty, speaking at the United Nations. "The ambassador politely declined the post of Secretary of State for three presidents, and she has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize twice." The still images become film of Elizabeth at her desk, rhinestone studded glasses resting on the tip of her nose. She's speaking on the telephone while two assistants place documents in front of her for review and signature in a carefully choreographed exchange. "A career diplomat, she was an expert in Middle East policy since before most of today's experts were born. She is, in short, a legend and a force to be reckoned with."
The image shifts to the inside of a bookstore where a dark haired man in his mid-fifties is sitting at a table signing books with broad strokes of a pen. Occasionally, he pauses to smile for a camera or exchange a laugh with someone waiting in line. "This," Mr. Safer intones, "is FBI Supervisory Special Agent David Rossi. He was one of the founding members of the FBI's now famous and wildly successful Behavioral Analysis Unit. He has written six books, been married three times, once to a movie star, and is something of a legend himself."
"So how did these two legends from vastly different arms of the government become involved with the world's largest drug cartel and a lethal hostage situation at the US Embassy in Mexico City?" Photographs cascade across the screen: Ambassador Prentiss in an evening gown standing beside the president of Mexico, several dozen bales of marijuana, the bed of a pick-up truck loaded with heroine bricks, frowning men carrying machine guns, bodies lying facedown in puddles of blood, the sun drenched front of the US Embassy.
The venerable Mr. Safer continues, "To find out, you need to meet this man." A surveillance photo of a dark haired, bearded man in army fatigues, flanked by two men in Armani suits, appears on the screen. "This is Félix Guzman, often referred to as the lord of the drug lords and a subject of extensive study by David Rossi."
The camera focuses on David Rossi's face; behind him are the comfortable, elegant furnishings of what looks like someone's living room as Morley Safer asks, "Guzman isn't American and to our knowledge has never set foot on American soil, why was the FBI studying him?"
"Behavioral Analysis is still a relatively new method of locating serial killers. When we first started the unit, we gathered as much information as we could on serials and Guzman came to our attention." Rossi is clearly unfazed by either the camera or the famous journalist asking him questions.
"But he's not a serial killer, he's a drug dealer," Safer counters.
Agent Rossi holds up a hand. "Most drug cartels see killing as a necessary evil. They kill for revenge or to guard territory. They're ruthless about it in order to convey a warning to everyone that they're not going to tolerate any interference or challenges. These killings are usually done by the foot soldiers, much lower down the food chain. But Guzman?" Rossi shakes his head. "The drugs and money almost seemed secondary to the murder for him. He displayed all the characteristics of a sadist, often torturing someone from a rival cartel for days before killing them. And he did the killing himself."
Stills flip across the screen (a slaughterhouse with abandoned shoes littering the floor, more blood, more bodies) again as Safer speaks in voice over. "In fact, Guzman was so ruthless the mention of his name was the equivalent of telling a horror story on Halloween."
"He'd been in control for a long time, and he'd been quiet for years." David Rossi sits with his fingers steepled in front of him, expression intent.
The camera cuts to Morley Safer, his face equally intent. "And how did you know this?"
Rossi's voice is a little curt as he answers, "I'd been keeping up with him."
"Even during your time away from the Bureau?"
Safer's eyebrows climb and his brow furrows. "Wasn't he going to be the subject of book number seven?"
Rossi laughs. "Actually, he was supposed to be book number two, but no one knew how the story ended. I'd been following him all those years, done a lot of research and I felt like I knew him inside and out, but I didn't have any resolution."
The camera cuts away again to footage of the streets of Mexico City and the guarded exterior of the US Embassy as Safer continues in voice over. "But what Agent Rossi didn't know was Félix Guzman knew just as much about David Rossi as David Rossi knew about him." The film switches to grainy news footage. "When a member of the kitchen staff at the US Embassy was found with Guzman's signature carved into his forehead, David Rossi headed to Mexico. What happened next was part hostage situation, part coup de tat and full scale political nightmare."
The camera is now focused on the face of Elizabeth Prentiss, dressed in an elegant black suit with a brightly colored scarf over one shoulder, seated on a cream colored sofa. The sofa and the woman on it are artfully displayed against a blood red wall with what appears to be an original Rothko behind her. The Ambassador looks thoughtful, as though she's reliving those moments and reabsorbing all the details. "I was in Dubai and I'd just heard the call for afternoon prayers...so, it would have been around 5:30 in the morning in Mexico City."
"Were you concerned about the safety of your own Embassy?" The question from Mr. Safer appears innocuous but earns him a slightly haughty raised eyebrow from Ambassador Prentiss.
"No. The United States has an excellent relationship with the people and government of the United Arab Emirates. There was no reason to be concerned." Her eyebrow comes down and her expression shifts to one of earnest severity. "Besides, what happened in Mexico wasn't terrorism or an act of aggression against the United States; it was a crime, pure and simple."
"What happened in Mexico was indeed a crime." More news footage flashes by on the screen as Morley Safer speaks again. "Guzman and a large group of armed thugs infiltrated the US Embassy in the middle of the night, killing eight guards and taking over the grounds. It was two hours before anyone at either the State Department or the FBI was alerted."
Morley Safer looks concerned, even a little pained, as he asks David Rossi. "What was it like?"
The veteran agent shakes his head. "It was mayhem. They had people on the inside and they were sent to the appropriate rooms to contain their occupants before the real assault began. Thank God the Ambassador and his children were in the States visiting family. We were rounded up and taken to one of the large meeting rooms. I didn't know who was missing, who was accounted for or if this was all of us. Several people on staff were whispering that guards had been killed. It was a battle to remain calm."
In voice-over, Morley Safer expounds. "It seems miraculous now how few people were actually in residence when the assault occurred. With the first murder, the staff had been quietly reduced to the bare minimum. But everyone who remained was rounded up and herded into a meeting room. There, they were ordered to kneel with their hands on top of their heads; anyone caught talking or relaxing that posture was either beaten, or in one case, shot. It was Guzman himself who called the media to inform them of the hostile takeover of the United States Embassy in Mexico City."
Morley Safer smiles benignly at Ambassador Prentiss. "Does the State Department notify all of its Embassies when something like this happens?"
The Ambassador nods. "Thank God things like this are very rare, but, yes, any serious breach in security is conveyed to all the embassies and consulates."
"So, the State Department called the Dubai Embassy to inform you?"
The ambassador shakes her head. "No. That call came later; the first call was from Emily."
Like a digital scrapbook, images of a dark haired baby, then toddler, then girl, then woman shift across the screen as Mr. Safer narrates her life in a few quick words. "Emily Prentiss, only child of Ambassador Elizabeth Prentiss. She took her first steps in the presence of a Queen and sixteen years later took a Saudi prince to her Senior Prom. She's a Yale graduate, has her Masters from Georgetown and works on the same elite team of profilers at the Behavioral Analysis Unit as David Rossi."
Morley Safer looks a little timid as he asks the ambassador his next question. "Do you often help Emily?"
Elizabeth gives a small, tinkling laugh. "Oh, trust me, no. Emily has been quite adamant that our professional lives stay completely separate."
"But she asked you this time? What made this so special?"
The Ambassador smiles. "David Rossi."
Again, the setting shifts and David Rossi's face fills the screen as Morley Safer asks, "Were you scared?"
An incredulous look comes over Rossi's face. "Scared? Are you kidding? I was terrified." He infuses his words with such feeling that there is no doubt about how grave or frightening the situation was. "I knew the man was deranged, I just didn't know he knew who I was or that I was in Mexico City."
"So-" Morley's voice is a little slower, as though he's trying to wrap his mind around the situation, searching for the right words. "Guzman was not only aware of who you were, he was aware of your movements?"
"He was aware." Dave's voice is like heated steel.
The interviewer tilts his head. "He hurt you?"
Rossi's eyes stare off into the distance as he answers. "He had his goons rough me up a little. But then he started hurting people in front of me...it was the cruelest thing he could do and he knew it. And he let me know my death would be slow and painful."
"What were you thinking? Were you trying to think of a way out?"
Dave's lips tilt slightly. "There was no way out."
Eyebrows raised, Safer nods. "So, you were sure you were going to die. What were you thinking about?"
Unapologetic, unashamed, he looks at his interviewer and, by extension, the camera, and says, "Emily. I was thinking about Emily."
Back on screen, the ambassador waits as Safer asks, "Did you have any idea your daughter was involved with a co-worker?"
Again, Elizabeth laughs. "No idea. Emily has always been reticent to discuss any part of her love life with me."
"But you could tell this was important to her?"
The woman on camera softens, and anyone can see her shift from politician and diplomat, to mother. "From her first syllable I suspected nothing has ever been as important to Emily. And if this situation couldn't be resolved, if her team member couldn't be saved, I suspected no one would ever be able to save Emily."
His own face softening in response, Safer asks quietly, "What did you do?"
Her tone of voice is matter-of-fact. "I did what I had to."
The images shift back to news footage of soldiers and helicopters and men running through darkness as the voice-over informs the viewer. "What she had to do was call in a lot of favors, make a few political threats, grease a lot of palms and basically, plan a military operation."
"There were tunnels," Elizabeth says. "I'd been posted to Mexico City in the early eighties. Things were rather volatile all over the world after the Embassy take-over in Iran and my predecessor had several tunnels dug...I was informed of them when I took up residence. The exterior entrance to the tunnels had been filled in but the tunnels themselves were still there."
A film shot of the Embassy's exterior at night accompanies more exposition from Mr. Safer. "It only took a few hours of digging under cover of darkness for the police to access the tunnels. Shortly after that, a hundred armed men dropped down into the basement of the Embassy while a helicopter flew over the roof to distract the drug lord."
"People are saying you paid for the helicopter yourself."
Elizabeth shrugs. "The hard part was finding one. Paying for it was easy."
"And pay for it she did. An armored UH 60 Black Hawk helicopter circled the Embassy, drawing fire from the gunmen, while the rescuers took back the Embassy from the ground up." This is accompanied by footage of a helicopter circling the Embassy and the flash of machine gun fire in the dark.
Morley Safer is grinning at David Rossi. "Not many men can say their future mother-in-law bought them an armored helicopter."
Dave laughs. "Well, I have been told I'm incredibly hard to shop for."
"That has to smooth a lot of the usual in-law problems." Safer is absolutely merry in his delivery, but Dave's face shifts to a more serious look, and his voice, when he speaks, is sincere.
"She saved my life. I won't ever forget that. There's just no way to repay that. At least no way I can think of."
The image shifts back to Elizabeth Prentiss as she listens to Mr. Safer. "He says you saved his life."
She smiles and waves an elegant hand.
"He says there's no way he can think of to repay you."
Elizabeth smiles even broader. "He could start by giving me a grandchild."
The scene cuts to the stopwatch and the television screen goes black immediately after.
Emily turns to Dave as he places the remote on the coffee table. "What? You don't want to spend a few minutes with Andy Rooney?"
He grabs her hand and tugs. "Come on, let's go to bed."
Her brow furrows. "It's not even eight o'clock."
"Emily." His tone is overly patient. "I was just told by your mother to give her a grandchild. That means she wants me to have sex with you; she just said so on national television."
Emily laughs and allows herself to be tugged off the sofa. "I didn't hear it quite the same way..."
Giving her a mock incredulous look, he pulls her close. "Emily. She's a high ranking official in the State Department. It's my patriotic duty to take you upstairs and do you right now. If I don't, it's like saying no to baseball. Or apple pie. Or the American flag."
"I see." She rubs herself against him. "So, is that a flagpole in your pocket or are you just glad to see me?"
"Giving the woman who saved my life a grandchild is the least I can do." Grinning, he begins walking her towards the stairs. "Come on, sweetheart, let's go make your mother happy."