Major spoilers for all seasons of Dexter to S4, then VERY AU. Warning, character death!
See earlier chapters for disclaimers etc.
On Twisting the Hellmouth
On Archive of our Own
Some time in the next few days the FBI would probably bring me in for questioning, but right now they were probably doing the usual bureaucratic dance of setting up headquarters, liaising with local law enforcement, and looking at everything everyone else had done. It gave me a window of a few days, if I could shake off the police and Westen long enough to make a few preparations. I couldn’t do much about the investigation, but I could give my Dark Passenger some relief, and I had a near-perfect target.
Michaels was a habitual criminal, aged sixty-one, who’d spent more than half his life behind bars. He’d been jointly responsible for the death of a jewellery store clerk and a customer during a robbery in the early nineties, and killed all three of his partners in a fight over money after they fled the crime scene.
Before I left I needed to hide a kill kit, somewhere it wouldn’t easily be found. Just the basics; some knives, a hacksaw with a good blade for bone, disposable protective clothing, Hefty bags, and so forth. Not the quality I prefer, but there was no way I’d be going near my locker any time soon, so cheap and expendable was the easiest option. It hadn’t been easy to put it together with Westen and his friends watching me, but I’d managed. It made a neat package that had fitted quite well in the storage space below my seat; now I taped it to one of the pier supports, in the shadows where it wouldn’t easily be spotted, and memorised the location.
“Gibbs told us to let him think he’s given us the slip. I guess this qualifies… …Give Gibbs a call, let him know things have started.”
Bay Harbor, Miami
As soon as I’d moored I started to search the Slice of Life, looking for anything that seemed even slightly out of place. My secret weapons were a transistor radio and a stud finder; the radio to pick up anything that was transmitting, the stud finder to find more passive tracking devices, things like GPS recorders. I wore surgical gloves to ensure I didn’t leave prints on anything I found.
I could probably rule out the engine compartment – too much metal and interference – but something could be hidden almost anywhere else; all boats have endless nooks and crannies. I knew a little about the technology, but it was a safe bet that spies would know more.
“If I were a transmitter where would I be?” Probably somewhere where it could use my boat’s masts and aerials. I took that as my starting point and eventually found a neat little gizmo, the size of a cigar tube and painted to match the mast, clipped to the wires where it was difficult to spot from the deck. I tried the radio and eventually picked up a short wave “beep” transmitted every ten seconds or so. It’d probably be adequate to find a boat on the ocean, but I was reasonably sure it wouldn’t be much use on the canals I’d just visited. For now I left it where it was, and went on with the search.
The second bug was inside one of the cushions in the cabin; a GPS tracker according to the logo, storing its position at regular intervals on an SD card. I pulled the card and checked its contents on my laptop, and found a long list of coordinates that probably included my stop near Michaels’ home. I thought about erasing it, but realised that it probably wouldn’t stay erased for long if a computer technician got hold of it. I thought for a minute, then nuked the card in the microwave for twenty seconds and tried reading it again. It was still working. I gave it thirty and let it cool then tried again; this time I got read errors. To be on the safe side I repeated the process twice. The card would be damaged, not just corrupt, but that didn’t really prove much.
Was there anything else? I’d spent a lot of time looking inside the boat, what about outside? I took another look around the deck, and eventually found a third bug concealed in one of the rope fenders, a grey plastic block the size of a cigarette pack. I had no idea what it was or how it worked, and couldn’t pick up anything on the radio, so I pulled the fender aboard and hit it a couple of times with a mallet. Once the plastic was cracked I hung it over the side, confident that a few hours in sea water wouldn’t do the bug much good. I had to hope that it hadn’t already given me away.
Eventually I was reasonably sure I’d found everything, so I spent the next hour or so pretending to patch the sewage tank with some sheet metal and epoxy resin. I’d had to make the crack I was patching, but the fiberglass really was getting a little old and I’d had to repair it a couple of times, it was easy to make it look realistic. By then Westen was back watching me, but he didn’t come over to talk. Eventually he followed me home.
NCIS Headquarters, Washington Naval Yard
“I hate this,” said Tony DiNozzo. “Ordinary stakeouts are bad enough, but doing it by proxy just sucks. We should have found a way to stick around and do it ourselves. Anything happening, McHacker?”
“He’s back home,” said Tim. “No apparent activity on his apartment’s internet connection, but someone just logged in to the Miami Metro server using the Novik ID. It’s probably Morgan stealing someone else’s WiFi.”
“Well, find out,” said Gibbs, “Is he or isn’t he?”
“Whoever it is went in through the same proxy as before. Let’s see…” His fingers darted across the keyboard. “Where are you… yes, there you go…” He turned back to Gibbs. “There’s only one person logged in to the proxy from the same IP address block as Morgan. Tracing that back, it’s probably someone in the same building, and…” The computer beeped “…yes, 8240 Palm Terrace, the same cable provider did most of the apartments in the building. That line’s rented to the tenant in apartment 22A, the router’s probably within twenty feet of Morgan’s apartment. But there’s no way to prove it’s him except by checking the connection history on his computer, and that’d tip him we’re keeping tabs on his online activities.”
“Can you tell what he’s doing?”
“He’s checked the Outlook calendars for the Homicide squad and Forensics. About now he’ll be seeing the scheduled meeting with Fornell and his team on Monday afternoon.”
“Which gets everyone out of the way around the time Michaels should arrive in Miami,” said Ziva. “Do you think he’ll take the bait?”
“He’d better,” said Gibbs.
Metro-Bus Miami Central Terminal
There was no way I could go out to the prison, it would be much too easy to follow me, but only one bus route served it, running once an hour. I knew when Michaels was scheduled for release, and that plus the bus timetable told me he’d be getting in to Miami about three in the afternoon. I timed my day accordingly, meeting with my union’s legal representative at noon (and finding, as expected, that they couldn’t do much unless I was actually charged with something) and spent the next hour or so visiting computer shops in the area and trying laptops. At the Apple store I went on line and checked weather conditions along the coast down to Key West. I had no intention of going there, but if someone saw the browser history it might be a little misleading. The only thing that actually interested me there was the local tide and sunset times.
At 2.45 I stopped to eat at a diner that overlooked the bus terminal, one I used occasionally when I was in the area. Hopefully my followers wouldn’t think there was anything too odd about it.
The Homicide Squad calendar had told me some of my problems would be tied up in a meeting all afternoon; that didn’t mean I was in the clear, of course, Westen and his friends were still watching me, and there were probably others I hadn’t spotted.
The lunch rush was over, so it wasn’t hard to get a window seat. What I wanted, what I needed, was for Michaels to get off his bus, cross the terminal, and board a local bus for his cousin’s home. If he didn’t, if he took off somewhere else, I’d have problems.
Just before three a Miami Metro car arrived, and two uniforms I didn’t know got out. I sat a little back from the window, and tried not to make it obvious I was watching. They waited for the bus to arrive, and made a bee-line for Michaels as soon as he got off. As I watched I thought I recognised something in his eyes; another predator, maybe carrying a Dark Passenger of his own. He looked older than he had in his file, wrinkled with age spots and blotches, but still seemed to be in pretty good shape, if the heavy old suitcase he carried was any indication.
The uniforms looked at his papers, and I guess made it clear to everyone around that he was an ex-con. Batista must have called in a favour. I knew this game, of course, get Michaels mad enough and he might end taking a swing at someone, a parole violation that would get him off the streets for a few more years. But he must have realised that – he looked boiling mad, clenching and unclenching his fists, but didn’t make a move.
Eventually they let him go and he went off toward the local buses, and boarded the right one. I waited until they were all gone, had another coffee, and finished the paper.
Around 3.30 I walked back to the office block where my union was based, rode the lift up to their floor, then used a credit card to open the fire door without setting off the alarms and walked downstairs to the basement car park. There was a rack of bicycles I’d seen on a previous visit, all secured with U-locks or chains. It took me about ten seconds to spot a padlock that I knew I could pick, another thirty to get it open. A minute later I was out of there, pedalling through the traffic without a care in the world, other than my obvious need to shake off anyone who was still on my tail. I couldn’t see anyone, that didn’t mean they weren’t there.
“He’s going back up to the union offices,” said Sam. “Or he wants us to think that.”
Sam has good instincts. When you’re a spy, you learn to spot someone who’s trying to mislead you. Everything today had been just a little off; the union meeting arranged at short notice, the window shopping, the extended lunch. Since Gibbs had warned us that Morgan would probably try to shake us, it didn’t come as a huge surprise.
“What do you think? Back exit?” I was already driving around the block, leaving Sam parked across the street and watching the main entrance.
I parked where I could see the loading bay and rear entry, and waited to see if Morgan came out. About five minutes later Sam called again: “Son of a bitch… He’s back out, riding a bicycle, headed east.”
“Stay on his trail and guide me in.” I started the Charger, knowing that this was it, Morgan’s bid for freedom. We had to let him think he’d shaken us off. As it turned out, that was pretty easy. It’s relatively easy to stop someone on a bicycle if you don’t mind hurting or killing him, but incredibly hard to trail one if the rider knows what he’s doing and you don’t have a bicycle of your own.
Back in WW2 the French and Dutch resistance forces used bicycle messengers who were regularly able to avoid armoured patrols and troops on foot. In Vietnam the Vietcong built an entire supply line around bicycles, and kept their forces supplied with ammunition and weapons (including artillery) when the USAF thought they’d made all routes impassable. And when Dexter Morgan rode his bike down an alley, along the sidewalk of a gridlocked street, and into a park that was closed to cars, he proved once again that in the wrong hands they can be a serious pain in the butt. We last saw him disappearing into traffic a couple of hundred yards away, while we were still chasing across the park on foot.
I consoled myself that it was all part of the plan.
The nice thing about bicycles is that they can fit through gaps no car can manage, and go places where cars are banned, and if you take them anywhere near a college campus you will soon be lost in the crowd. Not perfectly, because I wasn’t wearing a helmet or Speedos, but well enough for my purposes.
When I was sure I was clear I dumped the bike, walked a block, took a bus a couple of miles, then hailed a cab and headed off towards my storage locker. I saw the manager and paid cash for six months more rental, then went into the locker and found the things I needed; a kitbag containing a small inflatable dinghy and its air pump and paddles, some fishing gear, dark clothing, and a couple of things I hadn’t been able to add to my improvised kill kit; two syringes, an ampoule of veterinary tranquiliser, and binoculars. I thought about taking some better knives and saws, but the equipment I’d left at the pier would do, and I wanted to avoid anything that would be impossible to explain if I was stopped en route to Michaels’ home. The tranquilliser and syringes could be a problem, of course, but I tucked them into a plastic pouch with some fishing weights. If I threw them overboard they’d sink fast.
“You should get rid of this stuff,” said Harry, looking round the unit. “If you’re arrested and your picture gets in the paper the manager might recognise you, some of this stuff would be hard to explain.”
“There isn’t time, not if I’m going to get Michaels tonight.”
“Is it really that important?”
“Yes. I need this.”
“Well, be careful, make sure it isn’t a trap.” I pulled down the shutter and locked the unit; by the time I’d finished he was gone.
An hour and two bus rides later I was inflating my boat a couple of miles up-stream from the canal leading to Michaels’ house. As night began to fall I launched it and began to drift down-stream with a line in the water, the very picture of an innocent fisherman. I was in no hurry, I wanted Michaels tired or asleep by the time I made my move.
The Slice of Life
So here we are, then; me, my sated Dark Passenger, and four Hefty bags of body parts and bricks, bobbing over the Gulf Stream aboard the Slice of Life towards sunset. Fishing lines are out, and to any passing boat I’m just an unusually keen angler, dreaming of the one that won’t get away. I look around one last time, making sure that the coast is clear (for want of a better metaphor), then heave the first bag over the side.
I’m swabbing down the deck after the fourth when a helicopter arrives and starts to circle overhead, and the white superstructure of a big Coast Guard cutter appears over the horizon. I mop harder, making sure that there will be no evidence left aboard, and give the helicopter a friendly wave.
As the cutter gets closer two inflatable launches speed towards me; or rather, speed to either side of me and carry on, eventually stopping a hundred yards or so astern of me. They seem to be waiting for something… and soon that something appears; three divers and some flotation bags. And in moments the boat crews are helping the divers and some very familiar looking black Hefty bags out of the water. Further astern there’s a disturbance in the ocean, and the black fin of a submarine emerges from the deep. Within a couple of minutes it’s launching a boat of its own, headed straight for me. I decide that I might as well know the worst, and get my binoculars. Aboard the boat there are eight sailors, and one grey-haired man in civilian clothing. Gibbs. He’s using binoculars of his own, sees me looking, and raises his hand in an ironic salute…
I woke gasping, the inflatable rocking underneath me, disorientated. I checked my position and realised I’d only been asleep for a few minutes. I hadn’t missed the turning into the canal.
Half an hour later I moored the boat under the pier, recovered my kill kit and put it into a shoulder bag, and cautiously climbed ashore. As before there was nobody around, nothing but occasional distant traffic noise and the steady hum of transformers. I could see a light downstairs in Michaels’ house – at least I hoped it was his house, things looked different in the dark – and I started to make my way there, as cautiously and quietly as I could, pausing occasionally to watch the house through binoculars. Then I noticed some movement, looked again, and saw Michaels for a second, closing the curtains. It was the right house.
About half-way there the light went out, then another came on upstairs. It looked like Michaels was heading for bed. I gave it twenty minutes and was rewarded by the light going out. Slowly, and very carefully, I made my way to the only outbuilding, a barn that would be just about usable as a kill room, and covered the floor with plastic sheeting. There was no operating table, but I could bring something from the house once I had Michaels knocked out.
A little after midnight I decided I’d waited long enough.
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