Title: Welcome To Cascade: The Broken Snow
Fandom: NCIS, The Sentinel, Profiler, CSI, CSI: Miami, CSI: New York, Criminal Minds, Without A Trace, Las Vegas, White Collar, Lethal Weapon, Haven, Magnificent Seven (TV), Wind River
Characters/Pairings: Jim Ellison/Blair Sandburg, Anthony DiNozzo/Danny McCoy, Tobias Fornell, Jethro Gibbs, Samantha Waters/Nick ‘Coop’ Cooper, Nick Stokes/Calleigh Duquesne, Cory Lambert, Wilma Lambert, Raylan Givens/Tim Gutterson, Martin Riggs/Duke Crocker, Dan Crowheart, Alice Crowheart, Original Characters,
Author’s Notes: Alternate Universe – Sentinels and Guides are known. Artist prompt from Red_Pink_Dots, Chapter 9. I’ve taken characters from The Sentinel, Las Vegas, and Profiler and plunked them into the present-day at the ages they were during their shows. Tony is the age when he left Baltimore.
Summary: Tony and Danny bond. Life should settle into a routine for Tony and the newest member of the Sentinel/Guide Investigative Services … Right? While Danny completes training at the FBI Academy, Tony comes across information that piques the investigator and angers the Beta Prime Sentinel.
The past three months had been a rollercoaster of emotions for Beta Prime Sentinel, Anthony DiNozzo, and his Guide, Danny McCoy. Their bonding had caused some interesting statistics to come out of the Cascade Police Department during the week they spent sequestered in Tony’s condo completing their Bond and merging their lives. The good vibrations rolling through the city dropped violent crime two percentage points.
Marine Master Sargeant Daniel McCoy had on medical leave for injuries sustained while hunting pockets of ISIS and Taliban cells in Afghanistan when he caught a glimpse of Tony leaving McCarran Airport. Danny had arrived in Las Vegas to visit his father while he finished his healing and rehab just as Tony was leaving after interviewing CSI Nick Stokes for a job at the new SGIS. Frustrated with his father’s efforts to dictate his life choices by trying to convince Danny to take over the running of the family construction company, a week after his arrival Danny boarded a plane to Cascade, Washington, with his first stop the Sentinel/Guide Center, where he and Tony stumbled into each other.
When the Marines were notified of the bonding, they had started a heavy-handed campaign to get Tony to enlist, wanting the powerful pair serving the Corps. When the Beta Prime finally lost patience and his temper, the Marines backed off and signed Danny’s discharge papers.
While completing his rehabilitation, Danny used their downtime to train his emerging Shaman abilities with Blair. Soon pulled into Blair’s training sessions, Tony and Jim bemoaned their Guides and their tests, though Jim was happy to have company in his testing misery. Before his bonding with Danny, Tony had become an expert at avoiding Blair and his tests. Now, wanting to help his Guide lower his learning curve regarding Tony’s abilities, Danny was anxious to participate when the Alpha Shaman devised new tests for their Sentinels.
Despite the uproar in his personal life, Tony was pleased with how quickly the Sentinel Guide Investigative Service had hit the ground running. Once, everyone who needed it had been through the FBI Academy to bring the agency up to federal standards, the agency was having tremendous success, despite being in its infancy. The audits conducted by Sentinel Peter Burke and his Guide Neal Caffrey’s department had put the kibosh on burgeoning problems in the Cascade S/G Center and had turned the Las Vegas S/G Center inside out. The corruption in the Las Vegas center had proven that Sentinels and Guides were just as susceptible as mundanes to temptation thus proving the need for the SGIS.
Finally done reading the monthly reports for the SGIS, Tony smiled as he remembered the conversation with FBI Agent and Guide, Tobias Fornell about their convoluted organizational chart. Technically, because of his Beta Prime status, Tony was third in the chain of command in the absence of Director Morrow and Assistant Director James Ellison, but his heart was as an investigator. Though Nick Stokes and Calleigh Duquesne had become the Alpha pair for Cascade after their bonding, Nick Cooper and Samantha Waters were the Senior Agents on the premier SGIS team but they were the Beta pair for Cascade. Tobias claimed it gave him a headache to keep track of Sentinel/Guide dynamics at the SGIS. Tony laughed at his confusion over what he saw as ‘un-Sentinel-like behavior’ at the SGIS.
When Danny was declared fit for training, they scheduled his attendance at the FBI Academy. The Beta Primes stopped in D.C. long enough to have dinner with Fornell the night before they checked into the Academy. Tony would be staying at the Academy with his Guide but would be spending most of his time reading through cases that had been forwarded to the SGIS to determine whether the agency needed to step in and take over or simply follow up that everything complied with mundane and Sentinel/Guide laws. He and Danny had both breathed a sigh of relief when Danny qualified for the abbreviated training course due to his time in the Marines. The SGIS was way too busy for them to be stuck in Quantico for 20 weeks.
He was also perusing applications and personnel files for people to populate more teams. Less than a year since conception, they had already added another team. When the SGIS was an idea on paper between him, Blair, and Jim, their biggest fear was there wouldn’t be enough Sentinels and Guides to fill positions. If the number of application and background check files on his computer, and the paper files in his briefcase were an indication of the working conditions in the alphabet agencies ad police departments, Tony was beginning to think they needed to start auditing the various agencies now rather than after they finished all the S/G Centers in the U.S.
Following that thought, Tony put in a call to his favorite Fibbie. “T.C. How’s my favorite member of the FBI?”
“DiNoteso, some of us have bosses to answer to and actual cases to work. Surely not even you can get in trouble sitting in the Academy compound.”
“I was looking at applications we’ve received, and I began to wonder why so many were from FBI agents. Is there something going on to cause me to send the auditors in for a visit?”
“While they’re beginning to let some things slide, maybe just the thought of an audit might get them back in their lane. I think most of the applications might be from people looking for a change of scenery … A little slower pace.” Fornell offered.
“You sure?” Tony didn’t like the sounds of stress he was hearing in Fornell’s voice.
“Yeah. You know changes in upper management with the change in the administration always make the troops a little paranoid. Why are you taking applications?”
“Believe it or not, we need to expand. I’m amazed at the number of cases we’re being asked to take the lead on. Speaking of … I’m still looking for a good team lead …”
“We’ll have dinner before you and Danny go back to Cascade.” Tobias’s voice took on a sly tone.
“Of course. I’d never been to Washington without having dinner with my favorite honorary niece.” He chuckled at Tobias’ exasperated huff. “Thanks for the info, T.C.” Tony cut the connection. He refilled his coffee cup and hit speed dial 1.
“Tony, what’s wrong?” Blair Sandburg raised his voice over the noise in the background. “Wait. Don’t tell me until I get somewhere where I can hear you.” Tony smiled when he heard sounds that told him the Alpha Prime Guide had escaped outside. “That’s much better. Now, tell me what’s wrong?”
“Why do you always assume something is wrong when I call after leaving Cascade?” Tony huffed as Blair laughed at him. Nothing is wrong per se, I’ve been reading cases and applications, which in turn took me down several other avenues of thought. Several applicants I’m considering are single parents, and I was wondering what services the Center offers for new to the area parents? They’ve left their support systems behind to come work for us.” Tony let that question settle for a minute before pushing on. “I know we’re just getting the various teams settled, but I think in the name of efficiency we need to make some more changes.”
“Changes.” Blair practically squeaked. “Shouldn’t you be having this conversation with Tom and Jim?”
“Yeah, but you’re a good sounding board in case this is a stupid idea.”
Tony ignored the scolding tone from the Alpha Prime Guide, who’d become, along with Jim, the brothers he’d always wished for. “I think we need to set up several two agent advance teams to check out cases before sending in the larger team. Sending an advance team could give us a clearer picture, maybe save wear and tear on the large team, or keep them from being in one place then have something bigger come up where they’re needed more.”
“I take it you and Danny want to be one of the teams?”
“What better job for a Marine whose specialty was guerrilla warfare and counterintelligence and a cop whose specialty was undercover?”
“It would be a perfect solution for agents who want to get away from the politics of working with a large team. It would also be good for an experienced agent that might have a rookie guide or sentinel. Let me run this stuff past Jim and Tom. I’ll get back to you when we have some answers.”
Feeling better after sharing his concerns with Blair, Tony went back to his applications. By the time Danny returned from classes to get ready for dinner, Tony felt he had two bonded pairs that would be a perfect fit for his brainchild.
Six weeks later, they were all piling into cars for the drive into town, Tony joined Danny and his other classmates in the abbreviated Academy course to celebrate their graduation. Returning to their room for their last night at the Academy, the men packed their bags for the trip home.
Wanting to treat his Guide to a night of quiet luxury, Tony booked them a room at the Hay Adams Hotel. As soon as they returned from the graduation dinner at a nearby steakhouse, the two men packed so they would be to go the next morning after a quick shower. Breakfast would be on the road between Quantico and Washington, so they could have a quiet afternoon to themselves before their dinner with Tobias.
Color the Beta Primes surprised later that evening to find Tobias’ house full of moving boxes and a quietly excited 13-year-old Guide.
“Uncle Tony!” The teenager threw herself at the Sentinel. “You’ll never guess what’s happened.”
“You’re moving?” Tony looked over Emily’s head toward her father.
“Well, duh.” She let go of Tony’s neck to peek around his 6’2” frame at the even taller man behind him.
“This is my Guide, Danny McCoy. Danny, this is Ms. Emily Fornell, my, and now your, honorary niece,” Tony paused, “online Guide, and all-around bright kid.”
“Don’t keep everyone standing in the door, Em.” Tobias scolded. “Come in and shut the door.”
Once everyone was settled in the living room with refreshments, Fornell explained the upheaval in their house.
“Tony, you remember Jethro Gibbs, the pain in the ass NCIS agent that tried to recruit you while you were in Baltimore?”
“Yeah. Waltzed into the precinct like some drill Sargeant and announced I was to be at NCIS at 8 a.m. on Monday because he was hiring me. We all had a good laugh, and I moved to Cascade, Washington. Turned out to be the better choice of the two Washingtons.”
“After Morrow left NCIS to become Director at SGIS, they hired Gibbs’ old undercover partner and ex-lover, Jennifer Sheppard as his replacement. It was a disaster. She brought some Mossad spy/assassin, Ziva David, into NCIS to be trained as an investigator. David supposedly saved Sheppard’s life on a mission gone bad. Sheppard plopped her in the middle of the MCRT and told Gibbs to train her. Gibbs held out until Ms. Mossad’s half-brother, Ari Haswari, attempted to kill several NCIS agents, then he did go on a killing spree of Marines and civilians.” Tony moved to the couch holding Emily and Tobias as the Guide’s emotions began to escalate.
“Ms. David claims Haswari’s a double agent for Mossad trying to cement his infiltration of Hamas. The FBI was covering for him because he was an informant for them. Wanting to take out someone he thought would garner him a lot of attention, he went to Gibbs’ house to beard the old lion in his den. His half-sister killed him as an ‘in’ with Gibbs. Haswari also had a half-brother that’s a Russian FSB named Sergei Mishnev. When Mishnev heard his half-brother was dead, he decided he needed revenge.” Fornell reached over to pull his daughter against his side.
“My ex-wife, and Emily’s mother, Diane, was once married to Gibbs. She was a Mundane, but we had a good marriage until she got insecure about me being a Guide and eventually finding my Sentinel. We’d begun dating again and were talking about giving life together another try when Mishnev killed her thinking it would throw Gibbs off his game. Son-of-a-bitch found out it wasn’t Gibbs he needed to worry about.”
“You took him out?”
“With extreme prejudice. Since I’m now a single parent, I’m transferring to Cascade to be FBI Liaison to the SGIS.”
“Thank goodness.” Tony reached out and pulled the older man into a hug. “I hated you being stuck in the D.C. cesspool. Cascade has its share of weird and crazy, but not like here. Plus the Center has a great school.” He winked at Emily over her dad’s head.
Fornell’s chuckle was strained as he pushed away from Tony. “Preaching to the choir you big nag. I’ll probably make it to Cascade before you do if what Blair tells me is right.”
A blush climbed Tony’s neck as Danny laughed. “I may have a few ideas about how we can be better, and I may need a few more people to make it work.”
Their conversation was interrupted by the ding of a kitchen timer. “Dinner’s ready, but you can tell me your idea after Em’s settled for the night.”
Dinner conversation was dominated by Emily talking about their new house, her new school at the Sentinel/Guide Center, and her new friend, Chloe Waters, whose mother and step-father worked on the senior SGIS team. By the time they were settled in the living room with coffee for Tony and Danny, and two fingers of bourbon for Tobias, Emily had run out of steam, so bid the men goodnight.
“So, what did you come up with to piss off half of D.C.?” He leaned back in his recliner when Faro appeared in the space between the chair and couch. “Anxious much?” Fornell teased. That earned him a low growl as the melanistic leopard rubbed against his Sentinel, offering comfort.
“Looking through the case files we’ve been receiving, it occurred to me the SGIS could save money if instead of sending out whole teams out to investigate a case, we send an advance team. A two-person team to investigate if it’s a case for SGIS.”
“We start with three advance teams until we decide the feasibility. If it’s successful, we continue or expand if necessary. If not, we make the three teams into one.” Danny finished as a white wolf appeared at his feet. “Didn’t want to get left out?” He sank his hands in the thick white ruff of his spirit guide.
“Sounds like a good plan. The brass is still screaming over the last five agents you poached.” Tobias chuckled.
“I promise we’re not interested in the FBI this time. Since you’re moving to Cascade, we’re casting our net further afield.”
“We have to fill the last two spots on the Hotchner/Fitzgerald team. We’re having breakfast with a geek agent in the morning before we catch our flight to New York.” Tony continued to scratch Faro’s ears, earning him happy chuffs from the black leopard.
“We’re going to spread the misery across most of the U.S. on this trip.” Danny smirked as he finished his coffee. He looked at Tony. “We need to get back to our hotel if we want to get a decent night’s sleep.”
“Thanks for dinner. It was good to see you and Emily. We’ll see you when we get back to Cascade.” Tony pulled the older man in for a hug.
“Take care of each other.” Tobias chastised the Beta Prime pair.
“All the time, Tobias.” Danny chuckled. “Now that I’m official it’s time to shake things up.”
“The Gods help us all.” Fornell muttered as he locked the door behind his guests.
Their very early breakfast with Brody Nelson of the CSI: Cyber office had been very satisfying. The agent/tech expert was a latent Sentinel that felt like he was beginning to come online. Brody had been talking with his online friend, The Black Queen, also known as former FBI Tech Support Penelope Garcia.
The phone calls to Tom Morrow’s office were almost loud enough to be heard through Sentinel strength soundproofing when Sentinel Aaron Hotchner, his Guide, Martin Fitzgerald, and latent Guide, Penelope Garcia left the BAU for the SGIS. The calls had become so bad from the FBI higher-ups, Morrow began conferencing in Jim and Blair. The threats of audits and lawsuits finally calmed the uproar that Tony and Danny were about to rekindle by the time they returned home.
Heading straight to the airport after breakfast, the Beta Primes would be landing in New York City in time to have a late lunch with CSI Sheldon Hawkes. Both men agreed Hawkes would be a good addition to the newest Sentinel Guide Investigative Service team. Along with being an unbonded Guide, Sheldon could back up Al Robbins if the medical examiner should become unavailable.
Since their flight from New York City didn’t leave until late evening, they decided to check out the Sentinel/Guide Center in the city. Finding things in good order under the area’s Prime pair, they took advantage of a vacant bonding suite to spend a relaxing afternoon renewing their bond before voluntarily closing themselves into a flying metal tube for two and half hours for their flight to Lexington, Kentucky.
Chief Deputy U.S. Marshal Art Mullen just knew today was going to be a blessing and a curse to the Lexington office. He would more than likely lose his biggest problem child and his best snipe at the same time. Kentucky was not where most of the Marshal service wanted to spend their career, but the Powers That Be in Arlington, Virginia, seemed to think Kentucky was a good place to dump their problem children. Art wasn’t sure if that was because they thought he’d whip them into ‘real’ marshals, or that he’d simply wrangle them until he or they retired.
He also got most of the Sentinel and Guides. Mullins wondered if there was something in the water. If the Sentinel or Guide were unbonded when they got the Lexington, it didn’t take them long to find their match. Case in point, Alpha Sentinel Raylan Givens and his Guide, Tim Gutterson. Raylan had taken one look at the former Army Ranger sniper, and promptly plucked the younger man out of his chair and disappeared for a week. They returned bonded with Raylan grinning like a mule eating thistles while Tim berated his Sentinel for acting like a Neanderthal.
Raylan had no interest in taking up the duties of being the Alpha of Lexington, but he had taken Tim to Harlan to introduce his Guide to his aunt/step-mother, Helen, who still lived in Raylan’s hometown of Harlan, Kentucky. While there, he went all territorial Alpha, and the pair had gotten pulled into the toxic world of the Crowder family when Raylan almost killed Boyd after he shot the bible verse spouting bigot in the chest when his flunkies had firebombed a church attended by many of the town’s black population.
Tim had used the three-hour drive to pull the Raylan and Boyd story from his Sentinel. When Art had asked Raylan why he hadn’t shot to kill as was his want, Raylan had given his boss a look like he was too dumb to live before he turned on his heel and headed out of the office. He turned back just before the door closed.
“We dug coal together.”
Like that was supposed to explain anything, but in Kentucky, it did explain everything. Art sent up a prayer that Tim could keep Raylan on an even keel should Harlan try to suck his deputy marshal back into its drama.
The office returned to an even keel after Raylan and Tim’s bonding. Now, the Beta Prime pair for North America would be turning his whole office on its ear with their presence. Mullins couldn’t be too mad … As much as he like the numbers generated by having bonded pairs in his office, it would be good for Givens to get away from his fucked up relationship with the criminal element of his hometown. Plus Tim wouldn’t be under the gun to keep his Sentinel from shooting most of the population of Harlan.
Catching up on paperwork made for a quiet day in the Lexington U.S. Marshal’s office. Raylan noticed his boss, Art Mullins, was not his usual laid-back self and he was tempted to cajole his Guide into wedeling the information out of their Chief. His ruminations were interrupted when one of Tim’s contacts called with a lead on a case.
Returning to the office with information that sounded about halfway true, the two Marshals noticed a strange car parked next to Art’s. The Alpha Sentinel reared its territorial head as both Raylan and Tim felt the presence of another bonded pair.
“Think that’s why Art’s been like a worm on a hot griddle all day?” Raylan tucked Tim close as they headed for the stairs.
“Now’s not the time to go all Neanderthal, Raylan. I am a former Army Ranger.” Tim shoved his taller Sentinel far enough away so he could clear his holster if needed. “For another thing, we are bonded. Think it’s DiNozzo and McCoy?”
“Could be. Though I thought they’d call first.”
“Maybe they wanted to see how you’d react to a strange Sentinel in your territory. The SG in SGIS does stand for Sentinel/Guide.” Tim teased.
“Yeah. Yeah. So, I’m still a little touchy.” He pulled Tim to a stop on the stair landing to get a good taste of his Guide before heading back to work. Tim laughed at his Sentinel as they continued up the stairs to the office floor.
“Your men are back.” Tony informed the Chief Deputy as they sat with their coffee on the leather couch in Mullins office.
“I get the impression Raylan and Tim are not aware you were going to be here today.”
“They don’t. We left it open-ended based on when we finished our business in D.C.” Danny added.
“You didn’t warn Raylan you were coming?”
“Nope.” Tony grinned. “If he can’t handle little ‘ole me how’s he going to handle being around the Alpha Primes along with several other Alphas, not all of whom are bonded?”
“You sly dog.” Art offered the men a refill of their coffee as the men they’d been discussing came through the stairs door.
“So that’s the Beta Prime pair.” Tim muttered.
“Seriously?” Raylan huffed. “It looks like GQ came to town.”
He watched the two men interacting with Art. Raylan watched their body language trying to determine who was the Sentinel and who was the Guide, but nothing the men did gave them away. Raylan paused long enough to hang up his Stetson before heading for his boss’s office.
By the time they got through the door, Art was herding everyone into the conference room.
“Raylan … Tim … This is Senior Special Agents Anthony DiNozzo and Daniel McCoy. They have an interesting proposition for you that as much as you’d be missed, I think you’d be damn fools to turn it down.” He shook hands with Tony and Danny before heading back to his office. “I’ve got calls to make and paperwork to start.”
“What the Chief said.” Tony grinned at the pair. “We’ve given you the cliff notes on SGIS, but we wanted to meet with you to give you the details and what we see as your place in the organization.”
“We’d have to move to Cascade?” Tim looked up from the file Danny handed him.
“For now. I see a time in the not too distant future when we either have branches like the other Alphabets or move to a more central location as we grow. SGIS is just coming to the end of its first year, so Cascade will probably home base for a while. If this new idea I’m working on pans out the way I think, we may be figuring that out sooner rather than later.”
“Is this new idea why you’re headhunting Marshals?” Raylan sprawled back in his chair.
“Partially. We’re always getting resumes from Sentinels and Guides looking for new jobs.” Tony grinned at the older man trying to act nonchalant. “We’re floating an idea to the brass where instead of sending a whole team out of the office to investigate, we send a two-person advance team to look over the evidence and determine whether a team is needed or if the advance team can handle the case.”
“And you want me and Tim for one of these advance teams?” Raylan drawled.
“Yep.” Tony popped the p as he grinned at the pair.
“Somewhere in that pile of papers, I’m sure you’ve got particulars on this job that sounds perfect for two wolves that hate being cooped up in the office.” Both men glanced toward where their boss sat at his desk on the phone.
Danny opened a black leather messenger bag Tony had given him after they bonded and pulled out an envelope with Tim and Raylan’s name scrawled across it. He gave the Marshals his own wolfish grin as he slid the envelope across the table. The Beta pair stood as soon as Tim yanked it away from Raylan’s grasp.
“Like you read the details in your paperwork.” He chided his Sentinel.
“I do … When it’s important.” He smirked at his Guide.
“Our numbers are in the paperwork. Call us if you have any questions.” He and Danny stood to take their leave of the Alpha pair.
“Where you off to next?” Raylan settled his Stetson on his head. “What?” He asked Tim innocently. “It’s lunchtime.”
“Art’s going to love that. We spend most of the morning being headhunted then we go to lunch to read through the offer.”
“I figure he’s already decided we’re going to take the job, so he won’t be too knotted up over it.” Raylan grinned.
He was proven right as they exited the conference room and the Chief Deputy waved them away from his office. The men made small talk on the ride to the lobby where they exchanged handshakes before they split up in the parking lot to go to their respective cars.
“We can show you, boys, a good place for lunch.” Tim offered.
“Thanks, but we’ve got a plane to catch for El Paso.” Tony unlocked their rental car and opened the door.
“We’ll be talking to you fellas directly about your offer.”
“Look forward to it.”
Settled in the car, Tony and Danny exchanged a look. “I’d say we probably have our second team.” Danny grinned as Tony started the car.
“I’m thinking we may need to look for office space in Denver.” He put the car in gear as his Guide pulled out his phone to search real estate listings around Denver, Colorado.
The Sentinel-friendly room at the El Paso Airport Radisson Hotel was perfect. Soundproof, scent-free, and the high thread count sheets were a perfect place for his naked Guide to be sprawled out for their mutual pleasure. Tony lay panting against Danny’s throat waiting for their hearts to stop racing so they could head for the shower to get ready for their meeting with another potential advance team.
“We need to manage our time better, so we can take our time.” Danny huffed as Tony’s weight lifted off him.
Growing up he’d cursed his tall stature and all the names his schoolmates tortured him with until high school. Now, he was thankful. For while his Sentinel was two inches shorter, he was broader than Danny’s lanky build, allowing Tony to manhandle his Guide with negligible effort. He’d have to remember to mention the large shower in his review of their room.
Finally showered and dressed, they settled into an out-of-the-way table with coffee and files while they waited for El Paso Police Department Detectives Martin Riggs and Duke Crocker. The two men had met in Navy basic before going through BUDs. Their last posting had been in Afghanistan. Though their profile pegged them as lifers, they’d both left the service after Crocker had been seriously injured. The Sentinel and Guide had been awarded medals, but the after-action reports all read like a coverup of something gone FUBAR. They’d settled in Riggs hometown of El Paso and gone to the police academy. According to their records, they had become a scourge to the cartels on both sides of the border both as uniforms and as detectives.
“Wonder why these guys want to leave. They’re going through the ranks like superstars.” Danny tossed Riggs’ file on top of Crocker’s.
“Probably the same reason I left Baltimore.” He laid a hand on Danny’s arm to keep from asking the question he could see in his expression. “We can ask them if they come to work for us, but don’t talk about the reasons why. You don’t talk about certain things out where you don’t know who’s listening. Now, show me what you found during your sash shay through the Denver real estate market.”
They discussed the pros and cons of several properties until Tony raised his head. “They’re here.” They tucked their real estate notes away as they watched the Sentinel and Guide stride through the restaurant entrance.
Russet colored hair and mustache, Martin Riggs was slightly shorter than his dark-haired Guide. Duke Crocker seemed more laid back than his hand-waving Sentinel but carried an underlying intensity as he studied his surroundings.
“DiNozzo?” Riggs stopped so the table was between them.
“Tony. Danny McCoy.” He indicated his Guide.
“Duke Crocker.” Riggs nodded towards his Guide.
“Nice to meet you.” Danny motioned to the waitress.
Once everyone was settled, Tony went straight to business. “Why do you want to change jobs.”
“You know how it goes … Little things here and there, and then there are the things you see or hear when you don’t have your long-distance friend with you.” Martin took a healthy pull on his beer.
“I had that same problem at my job before this one.” Tony commiserated with the pair.
“So what is it y’all’s looking for.” Both former SEALS sprawled in their chairs.
Tony and Danny both chuckled at the show the El Paso team was giving them. “My specialty in Peoria and Baltimore was undercover.” Both men straightened with a laugh as he handed both men the packets, they’d prepared for everyone.
“Can’t play a player.” Riggs’ grin was all teeth as he began flipping through the pile of papers.
“Something to that effect.” Tony smirked. “Now then. I have suspicions about why you’re looking for a job …” Both men nodded. “The SGIS is looking for bonded pairs to act as advance teams, to do an initial evaluation of cases to determine if a whole team is needed or if it can be handled by the two-person team. We have two teams. We’re looking for one more for a trial of six months. If this works, we’ll be expanding to more teams. If not, the three teams will be formed into a single team. Questions?”
“Who’ll be running the teams, and what’s SGIS?” Duke looked up from his reading.
“For now … We will.” Danny pointed at Tony and himself. “If this thing flies, we’ll bring in someone as a manager … Assistant Director … Agent In Charge … To handle the bureaucracy, read through the files we get sent to either assign, or reject, and keep things running while we’re in the field. The SGIS is Sentinel/Guide Investigative Service, specializing in Sentinel/Guide crimes either as a victim or criminal.”
“We were going to wait, but something tells me we need to set up our centralized office now rather than later, so we’ve started looking for something in or around Denver. It’ll give us access to an international airport, major interstates, plus a lot of the Alphabets already have offices in the area, but for now, everyone would report to Cascade for orientation.”
“I thought Sentinels went dormant if they caused harm to the tribe?” Duke frowned as he read.
“Nothing against you two, but what puts you in charge other than it being your idea?” Martin asked at the same time as he scowled at the pair.
With a grin and an exchanged look, Tony and Danny released a bit of the iron grip they kept on their shields to expose their true selves to the El Paso pair. Duke gasped when the energy hit his Guide senses.
“Prime.” His tone was breathless.
“Beta Prime.” Danny prompted as they pulled their shields in tight. “Most do, but if they walk a very careful line or their Guide is in danger, they might … It’s a big might, not go dormant.”
“Okay.” Martin breathed out a breath he didn’t realize he was holding.
“So, are you interested?” Tony prodded.
“We’ll call you.” Duke clamped a hand on Martin’s arm.
“That’s fine. We’re heading back to Cascade on an evening flight. I hope you’ll join us. We have a good mix of investigators and forensics people, so our solve rate is climbing every day. I think having these three two-person teams will free up the teams to handle the new cases while we scope out the cases that came in when word got around about the SGIS.”
The men all stood and shook hands. “We’ll let you know our answer in a day or two.” Martin and Duke started to turn away after scooping up their information packets.
“That’ll be fine. If the answer’s yes, we can get you scheduled into the classes you need for a LEO transferring into a federal agency. We’re not connected to the government, but we’re using their guidelines, so if a case is federal there’s less chance of it getting thrown out of court on a technicality.”
Tony and Danny sat back down in their seats after the El Paso detectives left and ordered a lite supper to hold them until they got to Cascade. Sitting in the terminal waiting for their boarding call, Tony looked up from his emails when Danny’s breathing and heart rate increased.
“I found it.”
“The perfect place. All we have to do is figure out how to pay for it.”
He shoved his tablet into Tony’s hands. Then looked like a kid on Christmas as Tony read through the listing for an estate in a western suburb of Denver. Over 12,000 square feet of luxury sitting on 3 acres with great views of the Rocky Mountains and a price tag to go with it.
“We could probably get rent from the SGIS budget. If it looks like a good investment, there shouldn’t be any problem paying for it.” Tony murmured to himself as he read through the particulars.
“Not all of us have Sentinel hearing … Did you say no problem paying for it?”
“Hmm. Yeah. While you were in class, I was going through the mail Blair had forwarded. There was a letter from Uncle Clive’s attorney. Seems he split his money between Cousin Crispin, who is an absolute prat, and yours truly. I’ve been looking for some real estate to buy for an investment. This way we can write off the parts of the house SGIS uses, and the security upgrades, and collect a little rent money.”
“How much money did he leave you?” Danny sounded exasperated.
“I was going to tell you, but we haven’t stopped since you graduated.” Tony gave him his version of puppy dog eyes. Rio appeared at Danny’s side with an expression Tony remembered seeing on his instructors at military school. He whispered a number in Danny’s ear.
“Jesus, Joseph, and Mary.” He sputtered. “If I’d know that I’d have shown you the other one, but it was too far out of the city.”
“I’ll give the agent a call in the morning after we have a conversation with the Bosses then set up a time to fly out to see it. Damn, I’m getting tired of airplanes.”
“Might be a good investment and a write-off.” Danny chuckled.
“A charter might be just the thing with such a quick turnaround for my poor Sentinel sensibilities.” Tony chuckled when his Guide gave him a playful shove.
Their flight was called, and they were soon on their way to Cascade.
A peaceful night in their bed and a leisurely breakfast at their favorite diner left Tony and Danny ready to beard the elder lions in their den. It took them close to fifteen minutes to make their way through the bullpen with everyone wanting the touch base with the Beta Primes. They finally made their way to the administrative offices where they were met by Jim and Blair then promptly herded into the Director’s conference room.
“You boys have been busy since you left us.” Tom chuckled as Blair grabbed a quick hug from the Beta pair while at the same time doing a brief scan of their emotional and physical wellbeing.
“I didn’t want to look like I was laying down on the job while Danny was in class.” He pulled out his laptop while Danny handed out piles of paper and refilled their travel mugs before joining his Sentinel.
“We had dinner with Tobias before we flew out of D.C. We were glad to see him and Emily getting away from all the crap after Diane’s murder.”
“As much as I didn’t care for the woman, I think having Emily mellowed her a bit. Not toward Gibbs, but she did love Fornell even though he was an online Guide. It took a bit of talking, but he finally saw it would be better for Emily to get away from the events that brought her online. She needed away from people reminding her about the loss of her mother. Tobias couldn’t find a school that would challenge her academically and helps her with her Guide training while living at home.” Morrow started to flip through the papers Danny handed him.
The room was quiet while everyone read the Beta’s proposal for the advance teams that even included the property Danny had found. There were squawks from the Director and Alpha pair when they got the price of the property.
“You couldn’t just find offices to rent?” Jim shuffled his papers back together.
“Taking into consideration the security needed for our files, weapons, and agents, I think we should have a place where we have full control of those things. We’re not going to have people walking in off the street. Instead of finding a place to live and a place to work, the teams move into the largest suites leaving two for guest rooms. In an emergency there’s room for air mattresses, park an RV or two, whatever we need.”
“Wait, wait, wait.” Blair waved his hands. “We don’t have a budget for all this.”
“That’s not a problem.” Three mouths dropped open. “I buy the house. I upgrade the security system, put in weapons storage, and a few other changes I want made. You pay me reasonable rent.”
“Tony?” Tom looked at the young man he’d come to respect in the short time they worked together. “Has something happened? I know you had a trust fund from your mother and grandfather …”
“Uncle Clive died and split the family money between me and my cousin. I’ll keep the loft here except for my piano, clothes, bed, and movies.” He grinned at his bosses. “The Center can rent it for Sentinels and Guides in town longer than they’d want to stay in a hotel.”
“We appreciate the thought. You think you’re ready to get kicked out of the nest?” Blair carefully watched Danny and Tony. He and Jim had become very attached to the younger men. “You’re not spending your whole trust on this, are you?”
“No, Aba.” Tony teased. “It might be a week’s worth of interest.” He blushed at the expressions around the table.
“Now, you can keep me in the manner to which I want to become accustomed.” Danny piped up.
“Are you kidding?” Tony laughed. “You’re too high maintenance for me.” He kissed the back of his Guide’s hand.
“The property’s been on the market a while. I can probably knock the price down a good bit for a cash deal.”
“This is moving awfully fast. You sure this is what you want to do?” Morrow brought everyone back down to earth.
“Yeah. It’s a good central location with an international airport. Does the city have an Alpha pair?” He looked at Jim, who had been quiet for most of the conversation.
“Yeah, Vin Tanner and Ezra Standish. Worked for ATF until they became the Alpha Primes after the previous Alpha pair retired. They’ve been running the Center for three years. Talk about someone who can take a dollar and make ten. Standish does have a talent.” Jim and Blair both nodded in agreement.
“Peter and Neal’s team just finished an audit of the Denver Center. It’s one of our best-run Centers.” Blair threw in.
“I don’t want to get in their way. I only want to let them know we’re in town and what we’re doing. Raylan Givens is an Alpha, but only when it suits him. Martin Riggs is a strong Sentinel that needs people to call him on his bullshit. Whatever happened when they were stationed in Afghanistan screwed his view on authority figures.”
“I didn’t know they’d said yes.” Danny looked at Tony like he was holding out on him.
“They haven’t, but it’s only a matter of time. We’re offering him the freedom he can’t find as a LEO.”
“So, you’ll be two teams short if you move. You and Danny while you get your house squared away, and Riggs and Crocker if they say yes will have to go for training.” Tom pointed out.
“Right after I hire a housekeeper, I’m hiring a Higgins.” Tony frowned at the blank faces in front of him. “Come on guys … Big estate … Magnum P.I. … Higgins was the estate manager. They’ll make sure the work gets done at the house and keep the office going if all of us are out of town.” Everyone gave resigned sighs at Tony’s antics.
“That’s quite a job description.” Danny teased.
“I’m thinking someone retired military or law enforcement from the S/G Center. I’m even higher maintenance than you.” Tony chuckled as he teased back.
A sly look came across Blair’s face. “You seem awful anxious to fly. I thought Cascade was home?” Jim exchanged a look with his Guide. Seeing it was the Shaman asking and not the Director of S/G Center.
With a shrug, Tony looked at his paperwork without seeing it. “It is home, but ever since Danny came out of the Academy, I’ve had the urge to be somewhere.” Faro appeared, rubbing his large head against Tony’s leg, offering comfort. “You guys have given me …” He paused to clear the lump out of this throat. “A home, family, acceptance. I’m not deserting you, I … I don’t know how to express it.”
“We get it, Kid.” If Jim’s voice sounded hoarse, no one mentioned it.
“Anyway, since I’ll be carrying the weight of where all you need to do is budget for an office staffed by seven … Maybe eight if our admin is bonded, guns, bullets, printer paper, computers, etc.”
“Okay. We can handle that. We’ll get with the Council and rework the numbers. I don’t know if we should be thrilled or appalled that the SGIS has become such a success.” Morrow shook his head as Danny handed him another stack of papers.
“I think it’s more filling a gap only a few people were aware existed.” Blair thumped his pen on his pad.
“These are …?” Tom looked at the extra paperwork with distaste.
“Projected budget. Travel expenses will fluctuate according to caseload, but we gave it our best guess.” The Beta Primes smiled brightly at the Director.
“You can turn down the light on those smiles, boys.” Morrow snarked. “We know you’re pretty.”
“These numbers aren’t that bad.” Jim murmured as he turned pages.
“We should be able to get back to you later this week with a budget. Are you settling in with the teams, or …?” Blair asked.
“I’ve got some cases I want to split between the Coop and Aaron. We’ve got calls to make to real estate agents and lawyers. When we get a timeline to see the property, we’ll fly out to Denver.”
“A meeting with the Denver Alphas will probably be slipped in among all the other things.” Danny reminded his Sentinel.
“We’ll work out of the small conference room.” Tony began gathering papers while Danny grabbed their laptops.
After Jim heard the door to the small conference room close, he exchanged looks with Tom and Blair. “Tony was a bright young man before his bonding, but now.” He shook his head.
“He’s embraced his Beta Prime role.” Tom agreed.
“It’s true, Danny has steadied his senses, but this is the real Tony that only those he trusts gets to see. He feels like if he’s dismissed into the background, he can manipulate situations to the most favored outcome.” Blair stated like it was the most obvious thing in the world.
“What about this sudden urge to move? He had settled in until he went to the Academy and started interviewing people to build our teams.” Jim frowned. He didn’t like the thought of losing his running buddies.
“Cascade has its Alpha pair and the Alpha Primes are here. I imagine Tony and Danny are starting to feel like a third wheel at the dance.” Blair saw the fallen expression Jim’s face took on. “It’s not anything we did.” He reassured his Sentinel. “It’s just the nature of the beast. Denver’s just a couple of hours by plane. It’s not like he’s moving back to the East coast.”
“I still don’t like it.” Jim practically pouted.
“We’ll go by Wonder Burger on the way home to help cheer you up.” Blair promised.
“That’ll help, but I may be further down in the dumps tomorrow.” Jim winked at his Guide.
“Don’t push your luck, or it’ll be the last time you see Wonder Burger this year.” Blair threatened.
Jim turned to Tom. “You’re a witness to Sentinel abuse, Sir.”
Tom laughed at the antics of the North American Alpha Primes. “Don’t get me in the middle of your domestic disputes, Ellison.”
There was a lot of good-natured ribbing as they gathered their work materials to head to their respective offices. Though Tony and Danny had made extra work for them, they were looking forward to what came next.
Sitting at his desk, Tony wasn’t looking at the beautiful picture of summer on the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains that filled the wall of windows. His thoughts were turned inward as his agile mind replayed the events of the past six months.
In the month it had taken to buy the 12,000 plus square foot house in Englewood, Colorado, Raylan Givens, and Tim Gutterson had transferred from the Marshal’s service. Martin Riggs and Duke Crocker had resigned from the El Paso Police Department. Both teams then made their way to Cascade, possessions in tow. Neither Sentinel/Guide pair had a lot in the way of material possessions, so Tony had put his new teams in his spare rooms while they waded through their hiring paperwork, and got Martin and Duke scheduled for the Academy.
The time off had gone a long way to pulling Raylan back from the edge of hypervigilance that he had been carrying since he been transferred from Miami to Lexington. Being on the alert all the time had kept Tim right on the edge with him. The moment they’d left Lexington, both men had begun to relax. When Danny had shown them to their room, the pair hadn’t reappeared for 24 hours. Tony had fretted over the men until Danny reassured him that they were mentally and physically exhausted due to Raylan’s hypervigilance.
Blair had invited everyone to dinner and taken Tim under his tutelage to make sure the former Army Ranger wasn’t suffering from his time as a sniper. By the end of the evening, the former Marshals had promised to drop by the Center before reporting to the SGIS. Returning to Tony and Danny’s condo they both asked, ‘What just happened.’ When Tony and Danny got their laughter under control, Danny explained that was their Alpha Prime Shaman taking care of his tribe.
Martin and Duke had been tougher nuts to crack. The sense of betrayal they carried from those they should have been able to trust made the men harder to pin down, but Blair was sneakier than they were stubborn. The going away dinner Tony had prepared the night before they flew out to attend the Academy was the perfect place. He’d helpfully invited his neighbors, Jim and Blair to dinner the same night. By the time they were relaxing in the living room with after-dinner beverages and dessert, Blair pounced. When the Alpha Primes walked out the door, Blair and Danny had mostly convinced the two Texans it was safe to trust their new bosses.
Two weeks before leaving for Denver to close on the house, the youngest member of the SGIS’s second team appeared to pick up a stalker. Kono Kalakaua had transferred from the 5-0 Task Force in Hawaii to work with the FBI’s sex trafficking Task Force teams in Nevada after her daughter had been taken and killed by one of their suspects. After arresting the woman responsible for her daughter’s death, Kono had left the FBI for SGIS. Since she lived alone, Calleigh and Nick had insisted she move in with them until they could identify whether the person electronically stalking her was a threat.
Nick had worked late to finish up testing evidence from a case. Kono had seen Calleigh smile a soft smile that was reserved solely for her Guide and knew Nick must be close to home. That smile changed to a growl as she picked up her weapon from where she’d laid it in preparation for cleaning it. Kono called for backup then followed the actions of her Alpha as both Sentinels’ spirit animals appeared, spreading out in front of them.
Weapons held at their sides, the women scanned for danger to the Guide. Nick pulled in the driveway as usual though he’d felt the agitation of the two Sentinels under his care. Pulling his weapon before he exited the car, he wasn’t surprised when his maned wolf appeared in front of him. Supporting his Sentinels while scanning for any danger around him, all Nick was picking up were feelings of anxiety, concern, and signs of a familial bond. Stepping around the front of his SUV placed the Alpha Guide between his Sentinels and the strangers. The tension ramped up when two men stepped out of the shadows.
Tony, Danny, Raylan, and Tim were coming up behind the strangers with guns drawn when Kono lowered her weapon as the breeze carried their scent to her.
“Chin … Adam?”
“You know these guys, Kono?” Nick asked still not lowering his weapon.
“Yeah. Chin’s my cousin and Adam’s my ex.” She holstered her weapon.
“Maybe we should take this inside.” Everyone jumped at the sound of Tony’s voice. They’d been so focused on the two ‘stalkers’ they were unaware of their Beta Primes and their team. “And maybe work on situational awareness next training.” He suggested as everyone holstered their weapons.
Once everyone was settled in the living room with coffee, introductions were made. “Why are you guys here?” Kono sat between her Alphas.
“Rumor had it you left the FBI and disappeared from Nevada, so I found Chin in San Francisco and we decided to look for you.” Adam jumped in.
“Where’s Sara?” Kono frowned at the two men. “Who told you I disappeared?” The young Sentinel kept in touch with her family in Hawaii but hadn’t talked to her ex-husband since she’d left Hawaii and the 5-0 Task Force.
“After I joined 5-0, our FBI liaison complained about the task force losing their pet Sentinel. He didn’t have any details, so I called Chin to see if he’d talked to you.”
“So you decided to stalk me instead of just coming to the Center or the office and asking for me?” Kono sounded incredulous. She glared at the two men. “I thought you left all that obsessive behavior shit behind at 5-0.” She growled at her cousin before turning her ire on Adam. “It’s been years. Why do you care where I am? I don’t care if you are a member of 5-0. You don’t get to stalk me because we were married.”
“I know and we were worried. I called the family, and no one would say anything about where you were.” Chin seemed taken aback at the anger coming from his normally loveable cousin.
“I asked them not to tell anyone where I was. I wanted to get settled before telling people where I am.” She stood over both men. “Go home. Take care of Sara. I’ll contact you when I want to be around people from my past.”
“But …” Adam stood. Though he was a Mundane, he’d always been able to bend Kono to his will while she’d been latent. Their daughter’s kidnapping had brought her online and had hardened her soft spots.
“No. I’m getting what I need for a change. Not what’s best for you, 5-0, or the family, but what’s best for me. Go. Away.” She headed upstairs to the guest room.
“You heard the lady, gentlemen.” Calleigh and Nick stood. A united front for a member of their pride.
“You came, you saw, she’s a member of our pride and settled well at the SGIS. We hope to not see you again until Kono tells you it’s okay.” Nick added.
Standing, Chin reached in his pocket and retrieved a thumb drive, which he handed to Nick. “The weak spots in your system I exploited to find Kono. There weren’t many, but you might want to have your IT person take care of them.”
“Thanks. The Alphas of Cascade escorted their unwanted guests to the door followed by the Beta Primes and their team.
“We’ll make sure they find their way to their vehicle.” Tony assured Nick and Calleigh.
Closing and locking the door, the Sentinels had heard Calleigh teasing Nick. “At least they weren’t stalking you this time.” They heard Nick growl at his Sentinel before politely dialing their hearing down to the sounds coming from the house.
Watching how well Calleigh, Nick, and Kono worked together, cemented in Tony’s mind that it was time to take his small band of misfits and find a place for them to call home. He hoped he and Danny were even half as successful as the Cascade teams.
A crash and a string of curses from their gourmet kitchen snapped Tony out of his thoughts. Duke had offered to cook dinner since it was the housekeeper’s day off. Hearing Martin laugh at whatever happened to his Guide, Tony left his desk and settled at his piano. The windows faced the back of the house where he watched his Guide along with Raylan and Tim relaxing by the pool. He smiled at how well the six of them had meshed not only as three teams but as a unit. Each man had brought strengths and weaknesses that the others were able to adjust and compensate for to make a strong whole.
Danny and Tony had driven to Denver, towing a U-Haul trailer with their bed, clothes, and a few other necessities, to move in after the purchase of their house. They’d had the utilities switched over before they left Cascade. The former owners had already moved everything they wanted out of the house, so after walking through their new home, they found all the appliances, workout equipment, gardening equipment, grills, and outdoor furniture had been left behind. The two aquariums had been drained, cleaned and all the equipment removed. Tony had already decided to turn them into weapons storage.
Danny’s father had been helpful when he was able to recommend a contractor friend in Denver, whose clientele was high-end, so they were ready to start the changes the Beta Primes wanted. Standing on the balcony of the master suite with his arms wrapped around his Guide, Tony was finally beginning to feel he was in the right place at the right time.
“As much as I would love to just stay like this all day, we need to get the contractor here to give him a key, call the movers, and get to our appointment with the Denver Alphas.” Tony took in a breath that was pure Guide.
“Yeah.” Neither man moved as Danny reached in his pocket for his phone. “Hey, Rick. We’re at the house. Come by and get a set of keys.”
“I’ll be there in about 20 minutes. After I get the keys, I’ll get busy ordering dumpsters and supplies. I’ll have a couple of my hands get a start on the few changes you wanted in the bedrooms so you can get settled in this evening, then the weapons lockers while the main crew is prepping to build the rooms over the garage.”
“See you when you get here.” Danny ended his call to hear Tony on the phone with the movers then with Constance Reynolds, the property manager for Jim’s building along with her husband George. He gave her the date the movers would be there to get certain items out of his condo. He also instructed them to ship his Mustang along with his team’s possessions that were currently stored in his garages. He also told her to replace whatever was needed so the Sentinel/Guide Center could use it to house long-term guests and send him the bill. A quick call to Raylan warned him about the movers and let him know the house was ready for them to come to Denver at any time.
By the time Rick arrived and they spent a few minutes finalizing plans with the contractor, they had three hours until their appointment at the S/G Center. Getting on the first large street, they drove east until they crossed under the interstate. Finding a burger place called Smashburger, they enjoyed lunch before heading to a high-end furniture store recommended by the realtor.
By the time they had to leave to drive downtown, Danny was nearly catatonic at the amount of money Tony had just spent to furnish their house and the office. Going through a Starbucks drive-thru, the giant coffee he handed Danny seemed to bring him back to himself.
“It’s not that bad. I find if you buy quality at the front end, it lasts years past where most people are throwing out the stuff they bought at Sears.” He shrugged
“I’ll take your word for it. If we didn’t have our fantastic bed coming from Cascade, I’d be jealous of the beds you bought for the other suites. Did you get everything?”
“We still need a few more linens, stock the kitchen, but we can figure out everything else after we meet with Standish and Tanner.” Tony gave Danny a blinding smile as they walked into the Denver Center.
“Welcome to the Denver Sentinel/Guide Center. How may I …” The receptionist looked up from her computer. Her welcome spiel stopped as she stared at the two handsome men in their designer suits smiling at her.
“We have an appointment with Alphas Tanner and Standish.” Danny offered.
“What?” The receptionist sputtered.
“Appointment … Alphas.” Tony’s tone was teasing.
Blushing profusely the receptionist pulled herself together. “Of course. Names?”
“DiNozzo and McCoy.”
“Simply here to introduce ourselves to the city’s Alphas since we just moved here. We’ll just wait over there until they’re ready for us.” Tony interrupted the woman before she blurted out who they were.
“Sorry. I’ll let them know you’re here. Would you care for something to drink while you wait?”
“No, thank you.” Danny cut her off. “We’ll wait for our meeting.”
“Certainly. It’ll just be a minute. She turned her attention back to her computer.
Both men rolled their eyes as they waited. “How did she know? We had everything pulled in.” Tony hissed.
“Some Guides are just that sensitive. We can’t hide from everyone.” Danny squeezed Tony’s arm to settle him.
“Okay. I’m just not used to being made that easy.” He gave Danny a shy smile.
A baby-faced young man with black floppy hair seemed to tumble out of the elevator. “Hi. I’m JD. I’m supposed to escort you.” He grinned as he waited for them to stand and follow him back into the elevator. He waited until the door closed before he spoke again. “I’m really the IT guy, but Vin and Ezra didn’t have anyone else to send, and I happened to be in Vin’s office updating his computer, so he sent me. We worked together at ATF before they took over here.
“You quit ATF?” Danny was getting caught up in JD’s rambling.
“After Vin and Ezra left, Chris and Buck got promoted, Nate finished medical school and went to work at the same hospital as his wife, and Josiah retired and works as a counselor with a couple of non-profits around the city. I make more money from my computer work than I ever did at ATF, nobody shoots at me, and it just wasn’t the same without the rest of Team 7.”
“Would it be possible to get together after we finish our meeting? We need someone to install a high-security computer system for us.” Danny asked.
“How secure?” JD’s curiosity was piqued.
“You’re Sentinel/Guide Investigative Service?”
“Yeah. We’re setting up an office in Englewood. That’s why we’re here to meet with the Denver Alphas.” Tony quipped.
“We’re also looking for an Executive Assistant that can keep up with six agents, all bonded pairs, and running the office, i.e. payroll, expense accounts, etc.”
“I think I know someone. Does it matter if they’re mundane?”
“No. I only care that they’re proficient at their job and not an irritation to high-level Sentinels and Guides with obnoxious perfume and smells or projecting their emotions.” Tony huffed at the thought of discriminating against someone because they were a mundane.
“Cool.” They stopped in front of the desk of a petite redhead. “Karen, Tony DiNozzo, and Danny McCoy have an appointment with Ezra and Vin.”
“Thanks, JD.” She gave him a bright smile. “This way gentlemen.”
When Tony and Danny entered the office, they were met by two men of average height, about their age. The slightly taller of the two with long brown hair and bright blue eyes dressed in jeans and a western shirt stepped forward.
“Vin Tanner.” He held out his hand toward his Guide. “This here’s Ezra Standish.”
Ezra’s suit was on a level with Tony and Danny’s designer suits. His hair was several shades darker than his Sentinel’s with bright green eyes. “Gentlemen.” A soft southern drawl with a touch of Guide voice had the Beta Primes exchanging a look as they were directed toward the couch where a coffee service waited on the coffee table.
As both pairs were bonded, handshakes were exchanged. “Anthony DiNozzo, Jr. … My Guide Daniel McCoy. We’re establishing an office for the SGIS in Englewood. Since there are three bonded pairs moving into your territory, we thought we’d pay a visit and introduce ourselves, and ask your advice on hiring for several support positions.”
Standish’s eyes had widened when Tony introduced himself. “Would you be related to an Anthony DiNozzo from Long Island?”
“Not that I like to admit it, and I have considered taking Danny’s last name someday … Yes, he’s my father. I seem to remember him dating a woman named Standish the last summer I was home from boarding school. I forget if she was going to be wife number six or seven. Seems they found out they were conning each other, so they teamed up and spent several months scamming their way across Europe.” Tony chuckled as he fixed his cup of coffee.
“So, these bonded pairs …” Vin brought their attention back to the matter at hand.
“Tony’s Agent in Charge, one Alpha pair, Raylan Givens and Tim Gutterson, former Marshal’s …”
“Givens.” Vin interrupted Danny. “Tall drink of water with an itchy trigger finger?”
“Yeah. Getting him out of the Southeast seems to have calmed that bit.” Tony leaned back against the couch.
“You know him?” Ezra frowned at the feelings he was getting from his Sentinel. He knew Vin’s time with the Marshals hadn’t ended well. About like his time at the FBI.
“Yeah. Worked with him some when I was with the Marshals. Used to walk real close to the edge, but he always had my back.”
“And your other pair?” Ezra was getting twitchy over this crew moving into their territory. He couldn’t get a good read on the pair in front of him.
“Beta pair. Martin Riggs and Duke Crocker. Former SEALS worked for El Paso PD before we poached them.”
“Why only bonded pairs?” Vin studied Danny and Tony closely. There was something about them he couldn’t quite get a read on.
“The SGIS has two full teams plus forensics personnel in Cascade, but we wanted to try something a little different. Two-person teams to go out in advance to determine if the larger teams are warranted. We wanted a central location with a major transportation hub, so we could grab a charter if commercial flights weren’t available. Plus you can’t beat the scenery.”
“How’s that working out?”
“Don’t know.” Tony shrugged. “We’re just getting settled. Bought a house this morning big enough for the teams and an office since we won’t have many walk-ins. Your friend JD is going to handle some IT work for us. Said he might know someone who’d make a good Executive Assistant. Now, all we need is a housekeeper/chef/maintenance person.”
“JD’s probably thinking about his fiancée, Casey Wells. She’s been looking for a job with a little more challenge.” Vin nodded as though he thought she’d be a good fit. “She’s a mundane.”
“Don’t care as long as she’s trustworthy, can handle strong personalities, and the office if we’re all out of town at the same time.” Danny glared at the Alpha Sentinel for thinking they’d turn her down because of being mundane.
“I believe we can also solve your other employment needs.” Ezra glared at Vin. “We have a young low-level couple just moved to the area. Is it a live-in position?”
“No, unless they need it to be, but there would be a delay until our contractor finishes some changes we’re having made. We’re a fairly self-sufficient bunch, but with working cases and traveling, I don’t want to have to schedule in cleaning, laundry, and mowing the grass.” Tony set his empty cup back on the tray.
Ezra went to the desk and called Karen to bring him a file. The office was quiet as the men waited. “Thank you, Karen.” The Alpha Guide handed them two files. “Peter and Julie Cochran. Level 4, bonded. Met while working at a resort in the Poconos. She was in housekeeping. He worked in the kitchen and maintenance. They attended culinary school together and have been working their way around the country. They’re looking to make the Denver area home.”
“Can we get copies of their files? We think they’d be a good fit.” Tony pulled a business card out of his jacket pocket. “Have them come to this address at 10 a.m. tomorrow.” He handed Ezra the card while Vin asked Karen to copy the files.
As they had become comfortable with the Denver Alphas, Danny and Tony had both relaxed the tight hold they had on their shields. If there was safety to be had, a Sentinel/Guide Center should be it. Ezra gasped when he took the business card from Tony, his fingers brushing over the Sentinel’s hand.
“I knew your name sounded familiar, but I could not pull up the information. What was your game in not informing us who you are?” Ezra demanded, stung at the deception.
“No deception was intended.” Danny soothed. “We wanted to meet you without any preconceived notions. We’re here to live and work, not get embroiled in the Center unless invited by dire circumstances.”
“Would you rather find out now, or have us ignore you and go about our business until your Sentinel was agitated enough to hunt down the strange Sentinels and Guides in your territory?” Tony spread his hands as a sign of no harm, no foul.
“You worked undercover?” Vin returned with their copies.
“How’d you know?” Tony asked.
“Ezra acts the same way around strangers. Let’s them think I’m the one they have to watch out for when it’s really the Guide.” He threw a fond look at Ezra when the man huffed his irritation. “You know it’s true.”
“Yes, well … The community will see it as a boon that the Beta Prime pair have decided to establish a domicile in our fair city.”
“We’ll have a meet and greet once the contractor finishes, for say … 20 people, you think it would be good to meet.” Tony gave them a peace offering.
“Sounds like a good idea.” Vin nodded. “Call us with a date.” Vin slapped him on the shoulder as they headed out the door.
JD was waiting in the lobby with a dark-haired female when they stepped off the elevator. Bouncing on his toes with excitement, he introduced his fiancée. “Casey, this is Tony DiNozzo and Danny McCoy. They want to talk to us about a job. Tony … Danny … My fiancée, Casey Wells.”
“Nice to meet you.” Danny handed them a business card. “If you follow us to the house, we have time to chat while we wait for some deliveries.”
The couple exchanged a look. “Yeah. That’d be perfect.” JD grinned. “Let me grab my kit since you said you needed your network set up.”
“That’s right. Including setting up secure Internet access through the entire building. We’re having rooms added over the garage, so you’ll have to come back and make sure the WiFi reaches out there.”
JD was making notes as they walked across the parking lot. Danny looked over the youngsters’ heads and winked at Tony. “We could probably put you on a retainer if that would be something you were interested in.” Brown eyes widened. “After the initial installation, I don’t know how much work there be, but we could give it a try if you wanted to give us a proposal.”
“We can go out and buy whatever equipment you think we need … I think I want to install biometric locks on the doors and change the code on the garage doors. Something secure but simple. The key locks will be changed after the contractor is finished.”
Six weeks later, Martin and Duke arrived, the renovations were finished, adding four bedrooms and a bathroom over the garage. Everyone was settling in … Finding their favorite stores and beginning to settle in the community. JD had the securely wired from wall to wall, and Casey was running the office like she was born to it. Peter and Julie took the worry of maintaining the house off Tony’s shoulder so, all was right in his and Danny’s world.
The day after their very successful housewarming party with their Alphabet and police department liaisons and the top members of the Sentinel/Guide community, the doorbell rang as the three teams were carrying their after-breakfast coffee to their offices.
Casey answered the door and escorted a round-faced young woman with blonde streaked brown hair into the conference room. Closing both entrances to the room, the Executive Assistant went in search of Tony. She pulled him and Danny outside. The other two teams watched out the picture window as Casey turned her back to the window, keeping them from hearing her.
Tony and Danny headed to the conference room while Casey stopped in the office long enough to tell the others that an FBI agent had come to the SGIS to ask a favor.
I’m Tony DiNozzo, and this is Danny McCoy. Casey said you have something you wanted us to see.” They shook hands with the woman, noticing the FBI badge on her belt as they motioned for her to sit.
“I’m Agent Jane Banner and I want to tell you a story about two young women that lived at Wind River.” She slid two files across the table.
The labels read … Natalie Hanson and Emily Lambert.
~ TBC ~