Judgement: Chapter 37
The hush in the room was heavy with barely suppressed outrage as men and women made their way out of the hearing room. There were a few murmured comments in Deeks' direction, but his only concern was for his partner. Joe was still rigid with anger and his breathing was ragged as he stared at the solitary figure of Owen Granger sitting not far from them with his head down. Joe tried to rise again when Granger finally stood and walked from the room alone, but Sam had his hands planted firmly on his shoulders, keeping him in his chair, while Deeks spoke softly to him, still trying to calm him down.
"Let it go, Joe," Deeks said again, "Just let it go. The bastard will pay for what he did, man."
"You sure about that, partner?" Joe said harshly. "Guys like that never pay."
"That sounds kind of cynical for you, buddy," Deeks replied, becoming even more worried by his partners unusual attitude. The role reversal didn't escape him as he remembered how Joe had kept him from charging Granger and Scott outside of Kensi's room at the hospital.
"Don't despair, Mr. Atwood," Hetty said. "Granger is a pariah now. No agency will touch him. His reprehensible actions cost him a lot of friends today. I just got off the phone with SecNav, who just finished watching the video, courtesy of Director Vance. He was appalled, to say the least. He called Granger a coward and wants to convey his apologies for what Granger did to you on his watch. He will be dealt with, Joe. Maybe not as harshly as he deserves, but he'll find himself in a place that will give him time to consider his actions and with no access to the power he was seeking. His career is in shambles and that may be the cruelest punishment of all."
"So they'll send him to some hellhole far away where he can't hurt anybody," Callen said.
"Probably," Hetty responded. "He'll be at the bottom of the barrel, but still someplace where they can keep an eye on him. He holds a lot of secrets in that head of his."
"We still have to hear what the committee has to say," Deeks said. "They might still come down on his side."
"Not a chance, Mr. Deeks," Hetty said, patting him gently on the arm. "By the way, SecNav wants to meet with you both when things settle down. Director Vance had to sit through quite a lengthy dressing down over your dismissal, Mr. Deeks. Apparently he demanded that the director get you back."
"I'll have to think about that Hetty," he said, ignoring the surprised looks on everyone's faces. "I'm not sure what I want to do right now."
Before anyone could respond, a man approached the group and the stormy look on his face caught their attention. Callen took a step in front of Deeks and Kensi stepped up next to him.
"Mr. Deeks, may I have a word with you, please?" the man asked, his voice deep and commanding. "Your friends can stand down. I'm not here to cause you trouble."
"Who are you?" Deeks asked as he stood up and faced the man. Joe rose at the same time and the partners faced him together, their faces taut and inquisitive.
"My name is Marshall Scott, US Navy, Retired," he said, almost coming to attention in front of them. "Richard Scott was my son."
Deeks turned to look at Joe, dumbfounded, his mouth suddenly dry. He felt Joe tense as he tried to prepare for what might be coming.
"I came to thank you both for your attempts to save him," Marshall Scott said, his voice suddenly losing its power as tears clouded his eyes.
"We're sorry... We're sorry we couldn't do that, sir," Deeks said, stumbling over his words as his body gradually relaxed.
"My son was always brash and overconfident and I could see he wasn't any different that night," Marshall Scott said intensely, "But he was my son and I loved him."
With that simple, honest statement he turned and walked away.
"Oh my God, he was here. He watched that video," Kensi said, her voice wavering.
"Shit," Joe said quietly.
They all moved quickly when they heard the man's voice loudly calling out Granger's name in the foyer. As they reached the doorway they saw Marshall Scott shove Granger hard against the wall, his face a mask of rage. Before anyone could stop him he began hitting Granger viciously in the face as he yelled curses and accusations at him.
Callen and Sam and a couple of security guards managed to pull him off, leaving Granger stunned and bloody on the floor. No one moved to help him up and he finally stumbled to his feet, trying to straighten his tie and reclaim some semblance of dignity.
"You got my son killed, you fucking bastard," Scott shouted as the security guards dragged him away.
"I think I need a drink," Joe said as he turned away from the scene.
Everyone nodded as Sam and Callen rejoined the group. Hetty stood solemnly staring back at Granger as he wiped blood from his mouth.
"Drinks are on me," she said, "I think a toast to Mr. Marshall Scott is in order."
She turned sharply away from the former Assistant Director and led her gang toward the exit.
The afternoon session started late and a sense of melancholy seemed to hang over the proceedings. There were a few more reports about the intelligence that had been recovered about the Chinese operatives still in the country and some statements were read into the record, but most people were there to hear the committee's recommendations.
"Mr. Deeks, I understand you would like to read a statement," Chairman Wilson said.
"Yes sir," Deeks answered as the room quieted around him. Questioning looks greeted his quick glance over at Joe and Hetty and he could tell he had surprised the others as well.
"The last three months have been a difficult time for me and for the people I care about." Deeks began slowly. "The experience changed my life. I have spent most of my life living in the shadows, doing my job without anyone knowing I was doing it except the people who sent me out to do it. During that time I kept my personal life private, but this hearing has changed that as well. To say I'm uncomfortable with that is an understatement. As everyone in this room knows, people in my line of work don't seek out the spotlight because it can cost you your life. But this hearing laid bare the most horrific moments of my life and made me look deep within myself in the process. I don't know how this committee will judge me or my actions during this operation and frankly, right now, I don't really care. I did my job the only way I knew how and I'm good with that. Your opinion won't change what happened."
Deeks took a drink of water and a deep breath before continuing. He looked briefly at Joe and saw a slight grin flashed back at him and it gave him a feeling of normalcy.
"This hearing isn't about me or any of us left standing after that night." Deeks continued, "It's about the men who gave their lives that night trying to stop a terrorist. Lee Chao might have been a Chinese agent, but he was no different than any of the terrorists he supplied arms to. He meant harm to this country and to innocent people, and the agents that died gave their lives trying to stop him. Don't forget them Senators, as you give your ruling. The mistakes that were made that caused their deaths will be debated and blame will be assigned, but those men did their jobs and should be honored by this committee, just as any soldier justly deserves. Please don't play politics with their sacrifice."
Deeks slowly let out his breath as he finished.
"Thank you, Agent Deeks," Senator Wilson said quietly.
"Mr. Chairman, I agree with Agent Deeks and would like to read the names of the men killed during the operation into the official record." Senator Michaels said. "I also proposed Congressional commendations be presented to their families."
As the names were slowly read, Deeks felt a heaviness in his chest as he pictured those names carved in dark granite, the cold, hard stone reflecting the horror of that night back at him. Lee Chao's face hovered there as well, and he relived the moment when his body tumbled over the side and down into the depths of his own ship. He had killed the person responsible and that signaled the end for him.
"I have asked Senator Ryan to deliver our opinion about the Lee Chao operation," the Chairman said. "But before I do I would like Agent Deeks to know that all personal revelations exposed during this hearing will remain classified. I hope that will give you some solace, Mr. Deeks."
"The decision I'm about to read was unanimous and not difficult to arrive at," Senator Ryan said. "We wanted answers about a compromised operation, but in retrospect we see it as a success. A Chinese agent was revealed and killed, his base of operations acquired and stolen weapons secured. This operation was part of the war on terror and we won this battle, unfortunately men died, but that comes with the territory. It is the judgement of this committee that the mistakes that caused those deaths lay at the feet of NCIS Assistant Director Owen Granger. He lost sight of what was at stake and it became obvious during this hearing that he was only interested in the political power Lee Chao's capture would bring him. He put men at risk for his own personal gain and attempted to slander the reputation of the one man whose extraordinary efforts brought about the downfall and death of a vicious foreign operative."
"Agent Martin Deeks and Agent Joseph Atwood, you are both commended by this committee for your dedication and perseverance in pursuing Lee Chao and for bringing his activities in this country to an end. His death at your hands Mr. Deeks, was not openly discussed at this hearing, but everyone on this committee thanks you for bringing him the justice he deserved."
"Owen Granger is not present this afternoon," Senator Ryan continued, "But a Congressional censure will be added to his permanent file. It is also the recommendation of this committee that he lose his position as Assistant Director of NCIS, and not allowed any further access to classified information."
"I thank all of you for your testimony before this committee," Chairman Wilson said, "This hearing is adjourned."
It was over so quickly that Deeks was surprised at how little time it had taken to render the decision. He wasn't even aware he'd been holding his breath during Ryan's reading of the final judgement until air exploded out of his lungs when Sam slapped him heartily on the back, making him cough and laugh at the same time. Relief flooded through him as Sam hugged him and then Callen. Hetty gripped his hand in both of hers and her eyes were bright as she expressed her congratulations. Joe looked as drained as he did and Deeks clapped his hand down solidly on his shoulder and they shared a look that spoke to their survival and their common relief that it was over. He felt Kensi's arms wrap around his body and he turned to see her crying. He smiled at her and wiped her tears and then pulled her in for a tight, exuberant embrace.
"God, Kens," he whispered, "It's over."
He would have said more but was interrupted by the CIA agent, Foster, who had sat next to him throughout the hearing. The man motioned for him to walk to where they would have some privacy.
"If you ever decide to leave the FBI, there's a place for you on my team," Foster said solemnly. "My superiors were impressed with you, Deeks and so was I. I'm sure you understand that this offer should remain between the two of us."
Deeks said nothing as the man handed him a card and then turned and disappeared into the crowd. He was astonished at the offer and as he made his way back to his group, John Fellers of the DIA made him a similar one, again leaving him speechless. James McLoughlan caught his eye and shook his head as he came up to him.
"I told you this would happen, Deeks," he said. "All the agencies saw both videos and are aware of what happened during that op. They probably know more than you do. And, they know a good man when they see one."
"Thank you," Deeks said hesitantly. "Can I talk to you sir?"
They found a deserted corner of the room and Hetty watched their conversation silently from afar.
"Everyone's making their move, Hetty," Callen said knowingly.
"I think Mr. Deeks might be making a move of his own," she replied.
"When will you make yours, Hetty?" he asked. "He has to know we want him back."
"Let's give him a little break first, Mr. Callen," Hetty said with a sly smile. "He doesn't need to be pushed right now, but don't worry, I'll sneak up on him at the proper time."
"I've no doubt about that," Callen said.
The others came to join them and as McLoughlan walked away, a Senate Page approached Deeks and handed him an envelope.
"More offers?" Sam asked.
"Probably," Callen said. "He already has two."
They watched as Deeks read the letter, then he turned and looked quickly around, his face creased with questions and dark with anger. Then his hand dropped to his side as he crushed the letter in his fist and let it drop to the floor. They all moved quickly toward him, but Joe and Kensi reached him first. Joe picked up the letter and smoothed it open to read it, before handing it over to Callen.
"Sonofabitch," Joe said.
Deeks looked worn out and hollow as Callen handed the letter over to Hetty.
"It has to be Granger," Callen said intensely.
"We should have known he wouldn't accept defeat easily," Hetty said.
"He still blames me for all of it," Deeks said. "It's a threat. But, it's typewritten and without a signature, so there's no proof it came from him."
"I'll make an enquiry with the Senate Pages," Hetty said, deep in thought and angry. "It's not a specific threat, just a vague one to let you know he hasn't forgotten who he chooses to blame for his downfall. I'll make Vance aware and SecNav as well."
"Well, I've had enough of Washington," Deeks said, standing up straighter. "And enough of thinking about Granger. Fuck 'im. Drinks are on me tonight. Dinner's on Joe."
"Wait. Why is dinner on me?" Joe asked as he trailed after the pack.
"Cause you're FBI," Sam said.
"Deeks is FBI," Joe reminded him.
"Yeah, but we only loaned him to you guys," Sam said with a jovial smile. "He's a temp."
Sam caught the look from Callen as they walked out and they nodded to each other.
"The sooner he's back with us the better, Sam."
"I know G."
She came up behind him suddenly, shoving him forward and causing him to trip and fall.
"That's what it's called Deeks," Joe laughed. "But you're not supposed to sit in it."
"I think Sheila's still mad at me," Deeks said as he got up and tried to brush off the disgusting slime that clung to his jeans.
"Horses don't get mad, dumb-ass," Joe said.
"They get even" the two men said in unison, both laughing as Sheila came up and placed her head against Deeks' chest.
"She missed you, Marty," George said as he handed Deeks a towel.
"I missed her too," he replied.
"Glad you decided to come back with Joe," George said quietly, squeezing his neck briefly before turning to walk back to the house. "Dinner in a hour, so you might want to shower. We've got a guest coming and I don't want you stinking up my kitchen."
The two men finished rubbing down the horses before letting them out to pasture. They stood quietly along the fence and watched them join the herd. The sun was low over the distant Tetons and Deeks took off his hat and tousled his hair, letting the wind dry the sweat along his brow.
"When were you going to tell me?" Joe asked.
"When I got up the courage," Deeks said, staring out across the field.
"We've been here almost two weeks, man," Joe said as he turned to look at him.
"McLoughlan tell you?"
"He called last night," Joe said, dropping his head to his chest and blowing out his breath.
"Sorry, buddy," Deeks said. "But I just can't stay with the FBI."
"I know," Joe said softly. "I'll miss you dumb-ass."
"I'll miss you too, brother," Deeks said as tears glistened in his eyes. "Shit."
"Don't start," Joe said, blinking rapidly. "I knew it was inevitable as soon as I met Kensi."
"She prettier than you, dude," Deeks laughed as he put his hand on his former partner's shoulder.
"She's probably tougher, too," Joe laughed as he wiped his eyes.
"Tougher than both of us," Deeks said.
"I know she smells better than you, especially right now," Joe said, pinching his nose and shoving Deeks toward the house.
When they reached the porch they heard a car pull up and walked around to the front. Deeks stopped in shock.
"Hello, Mr. Deeks. Joe," she said. "Your father was kind enough to invite me for dinner."
"Did something happen? Is everybody okay?" Deeks hurried forward, worry creasing the lines of his face.
"Everyone's fine, Mr. Deeks," Hetty said. "I just needed your signature on some paperwork."
"You talked to McLoughlan," Deeks said with a relieved smile.
"Yes." Hetty nodded.
"Hello, Ms. Lange," George said as he came out onto the porch. "I'm George Atwood. Can I interest you in a glass of Scotch while these two clean up?"
"I like the way you think, Mr. Atwood," she answered. "But please, call me Hetty."
"Hetty it is, if you call me George," he said as he led her into the house and grabbed two glasses and a bottle of Scotch. "Ever spent any time around cattle and horses, Hetty?"
"Not real ones," she said as she followed him out onto the side porch. "But I had a marvelous experience with a mechanical bull once."
"That's one story I gotta hear," George said laughing deeply.
The dinner was simple and the conversation lively, full of funny stories and shared interests. Deeks was quiet as he tried to come to terms with the fact that he would be leaving this place soon. He knew Hetty was here to offer him his job back and it gave him a comfortable feeling to know that his life would be getting back to normal. He watched Joe closely, saddened that he would be leaving the one person he had bonded with so deeply over the last three months. Even though they wouldn't be working together anymore, he knew they would see each other as often as they could. He kicked him under the table and motioned toward the door and they both rose and headed for the barn.
"Those two have formed quite a close relationship," Hetty said.
"More like brothers, I think," George said. "They'll miss each other."
"Yes, but they won't lose touch," Hetty said.
"Are they in danger, Hetty?" George asked. "Is that man Granger still able to cause them trouble?"
"Granger was reassigned to a small office in Papua New Guinea," she answered. "He arrived there five days ago. Yesterday, he emailed his resignation to our director. This morning he dropped off the grid. We have no idea where he is."
"You're worried," George said.
"Yes," she said. "It's why I called you. When I found out Mr. Deeks resigned from the FBI I couldn't waste any time. I need to get him back with my team. I have made Joe's boss aware of the situation as well. There has been no physical threats made but in our line of work and knowing Granger as I do, that is not out of the realm of possibility."
"You going to tell them?" George asked.
"Not right away," she said. "I think they need a break from all the turmoil and tension they've been living with. My team will watch out for Mr. Deeks, and McLoughlan informed me he was assigning your son to a four man team for added protection."
"Thanks for looking after them, Hetty," George said. "Marty is part of my family now. I wouldn't want to lose him."
"Neither would I, George," Hetty said. "I'm quite fond of Mr. Deeks. We all are."
He felt the powerful swell rise beneath him and he pushed off strongly, paddling rapidly to catch the crest of the wave as it broke. Wind whipped the spray around him as he slipped down the face of the rushing wave and cut in before the curl. He laughed as he worked his board, reveling in the joy of the familiar smell of salty air, the wind in his hair and the cries of the gulls as the dying wave slowly dissolved, the white water cascading around him until finally engulfing him as it pushed him toward shore.
"Oh buddy," he shouted over the roar of the surf, "There's no place like home."
Thanks to all who have followed Deeks on his long journey. I have appreciated every comment and review. Some made me laugh, some made me think, but all inspired me and encouraged me to continue. You have been gracious and kind and I have enjoyed reading every word each one of you wrote and I was touched with how many saved this story as a favorite.
Until our next adventure...