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
“Tomorrow Vance is going to instruct you to hand everything over to me, and take your posse back to Dodge. Then we’ll bring in a full task force, reopen the Bay Harbor case officially, and find more evidence to nail the son of a bitch.”
“I know the man Morgan is meeting, had to get out in a hurry before he spotted me. He’s an arms dealer, used to work for that French bastard, Benoit.”
“We have an occasional need for a scientific adviser; someone who can tell us how to handle certain problems discreetly, and with a minimum of evidence. Our last expert recently retired, we’ve been looking for a suitable replacement, and your name came up as a forensics expert who might be looking for work.”
“There’s you looking for a shiny new expert, and there’s me, who’s suddenly got some very strange problems. It would solve both our problems if I took you up on your offer, but I think I’d be a little worried that I working for the people who got me into this mess in the first place.”
When you’re a spy, surveillance is usually a one or two-man operation. There were five of us crowded around Ziva’s car, trying to see what was happening on McGee’s laptop; me, Sam, Fiona, Ziva, and one of the FBI agents. One small window on the screen showed their table; McGee was trying to find a camera with a better view in another window, and not having much luck. When Morgan left the table McGee flipped through four other cameras before finding him at the bar, and we all waited impatiently while he got drinks. Meanwhile his visitor obstinately sat with his back to the camera; when he looked around occasionally I saw a little of his profile. I was sure I’d seen him somewhere, but it just wasn’t coming to me.
“So what’s the big mystery?” asked Sam. “We know he used to work for an arms dealer. Is he a terrorist?”
“Ask Gibbs when he gets here,” said Ziva.
“He’s coming back with the drinks,” said McGee, and everyone peered at the window that showed the table. They talked for a few minutes, but we still couldn’t see the other man’s face, and thanks to the camera angle and low resolution I couldn’t see Morgan clearly enough to try to read his lips.
“This is ridiculous,” said Ziva. “All of us are spies or agents, and none of us know what they are saying?”
“Morgan knows our faces,” said Sam, “unless you can find someone he doesn’t know and get them to take a shotgun mike in there and use it without attracting attention, we’re stuck with what we’ve got.”
“And a fat lot of… Hey!”
Without any warning the visitor leapt to his feet and lunged at Morgan.
I ducked as Kort threw the first punch, but not fast enough. He caught the side of my head, hard enough to rattle my teeth, and I had to work hard to overcome my instinct to hit back; instead I scrambled out of my seat and away from the table, and did my best to look scared. Inside me my Dark Passenger was enraged, but I knew I’d gain nothing by fighting him; I needed to be the victim, not the aggressor.
“Hey!” Batista grabbed Kort’s arm, and Kort did the stupidest thing I can imagine. He threw the next punch at him, not me.
Batista outweighed Kort by about twenty pounds, and most of that weight was muscle. Kort seemed to have some moves of his own, I’d guess he trained regularly and had some combat experience, but Batista was a street cop before he became a detective, and knew dozens of ways to take down anyone stupid enough to try to hit a cop. He caught Kort’s arm in a lock and spun him around and down. The fight was over almost before it began, with Kort face-down on the table, handcuffed, and hopefully conscious of the error of his ways. Someone screamed, and a couple of bouncers pushed towards us through the crowd, but Batista waved his badge and they turned their attention to calming things down.
“Are you okay?” I asked.
“I’m fine. This guy really a CIA agent?”
“He says he is. He’s got an ID card, but I have no idea how to tell if it’s real.”
“C’mon, you.” Batista grabbed Kort and levered him to his feet. “We’ll sort this out at the precinct. You too, Morgan.”
I followed them out, and noticed Westen, David, Axe, and a man and a woman I didn’t know clustered around a black car with rental plates. It took them a moment to notice us, and I memorised faces and had to resist the urge to give them a cheery wave as a black and white pulled up and Batista put Kort into the back.
“What about me?” I said.
“You’re riding with me,” said Batista, “I don’t want to hear one word out of you until we get to the precinct, and I can question you properly.”
“Okay, works for me. Damn, I should have got some ice before we left the bar, my jaw is really hurting.”
“Tough. Get in the goddamned car.”
Spies need a good memory for faces; I recognized Trent Kort when I saw him in the police car’s interior lights. The last time I’d seen him, a couple of years before I was burned, he was a rising star at the Agency, and I hadn’t heard anything since to make me think that had changed. The inside man during the La Grenouille operation had to be a major league player; assignments like that don’t get given out casually. I wondered how badly Fiona’s friends had been hurt by him, and decided that it was probably better not to ask. Why was someone like that interested in Dexter Morgan? There was an obvious answer, though it’s one the Agency always denies; they wanted an assassin.
The CIA claims that there’s a distinction between “targeted killing” of enemies of the USA and actual assassination; most others find the distinction blurry at best. Drones, snipers, and other long-range military methods seem to be acceptable; poisoning or anything else up close and personal seems to cross that line. There’s actually a good reason for that. Despite what you see in the crime shows, murder isn’t easy, and takes a huge psychological toll. Most agents don’t want to do it. One way around that is to recruit people with fewer inhibitions, such as serial killers, if you can find one competent enough to get the job done.
“Sorry, Fiona, I was miles away, trying to think where I’ve seen that guy.”
The defining characteristics of most serial killers aren’t intelligence and diabolical cunning; they’re luck, a lack of empathy and extraordinary chutzpah. Luck that nobody spots what they’re doing, that nobody wonders why their neighbour is digging in the garden at two in the morning, that their family never asks what Uncle Chuck has in those freezers in the garage. Chutzpah in finding explanations for these things if luck fails them and making them sound plausible enough to pass muster. You can’t usually expect someone like that to take out your target without exposure and a lot of collateral damage.
“Not just trying,” said Sam, “you’ve got something, right?”
Morgan was a real rarity; a serial killer with self-control and the intelligence and knowledge needed to get the job done without attracting attention. He’d be a huge asset to anyone who could recruit him and persuade him to follow their game plan.
“He is a person of interest to NCIS,” said Ziva. “If you need to know more Gibbs will tell you.”
“Gibbs wouldn’t tell me the time of day,” I said.
“You’ve got that right,” said someone behind me. “Throwing a street party?” Gibbs, of course, accompanied by someone I didn’t recognise but was probably some sort of agent. I noticed the FBI guy suddenly standing a lot straighter, and guessed that the newcomer was someone senior in the Bureau.
“There was a lot of interest in the meeting,” said Ziva. “It seemed useful to pool our resources.”
“Morgan met with a… a person of interest, as McGee told you. They talked for a few minutes then a fight started. Sergeant Batista arrested Morgan’s contact; they’re all en route to the precinct.”
“Did you get it on tape?”
“It’s on my hard drive,” said McGee.
“Make sure I get a copy.” He didn’t seem too upset about the arrest, I had a feeling the recording would be playing at the next NCIS office party.
“So why are you standing around here?”
“Sorry, boss,” said McGee.
“We will go to the precinct,” said Ziva.
“Good idea. You and McGee do that, find out what the hell that was about. Westen, I want a word with you and your friends.”
Ziva and McGee took off at a speed that reminded me how lethal a driver Ziva could be, followed by the FBI car, and Gibbs said “Nice to meet you at last, miss…?”
“Call me Fiona.”
“Glenanne,” said Gibbs’ friend. “Fiona Glenanne.”
“You’ve done your homework,” said Gibbs. “Let me make some introductions. This is Michael Westen, that’s Sam Axe.”
“And he would be?” prompted Fiona.
“Special Agent Tobias Fornell.” He briefly flashed his badge; FBI. “You’ll be seeing a lot more of me.” It wasn’t a threat, it was a promise.
“Let’s get drinks,” said Gibbs, gesturing towards the bar, “and try to figure out how we end this mess.”
Miami Metro Police Department
“You showed me this ID,” said Batista, “but we put your fingerprints into the system and it says it never heard of you. What’s that about?”
“I’ve worked under cover,” said Trent Kort, “they restrict access to my records.”
“Or this thing’s a fake and you’re not in the system because you’re some sort of whack job.”
“I told you, check with Langley, they’ll tell you who I am.”
“Their night desk won’t give out any information, and it wouldn’t make any difference anyway.” Batista tossed the ID back to Kort. “The CIA isn’t allowed to conduct operations in the USA. Or are you going to tell me you’re here for some other reason?”
Kort pocketed the ID. “This isn’t an operation; we’re just trying to recruit personnel. Morgan has skills we need. He doesn’t want the job anyway.”
“So, let me get this right,” said Batista. He pressed play on the tape recorder Dexter had given him.
Kort’s voice said “…you know… a word here and a whisper there, requests for files and DNA identification that suggest that you might need a career change and possibly some expensive legal help, that sort of thing.”
Batista pressed pause. “Just to get this straight… that wasn’t an attempt to derail our investigation? Because it sure as hell sounded like one to me.”
“Everyone’s entitled to legal representation, Sergeant.”
“I hope you’ve got a good attorney, mister Kort, or Agent Kort, or whatever the hell you are.”
“Okay then, I’ll get someone to take you to a phone. Better get your attorney down here, by the time he arrives I may have figured out what the hell we’re going to charge you with.”
“Whatever it is, it won’t stick,” Kort said to Batista’s back as he left the interrogation room.
McGee met him in the corridor and said “You’d better know – he really is a CIA agent.”
“Can you prove it?”
“I… I guess not, not easily. His records aren’t in AFIS; you need high-level clearance to access them.”
“About what I thought.”
“I can vouch for him, I suppose.”
“For all you know he’s been fired since you last met him,” said Batista, “and even if he is an agent, he shouldn’t be operating in the USA, that’s illegal. If you’re right I’ll probably hear from the CIA tomorrow, until then I think a few hours in the holding cells with Bubba and his pals won’t do him any harm. It might teach him not to mess me around.”
“I guess so,” said McGee.
“He has been trained to resist interrogation,” said Ziva, “I doubt a few hours in a cell will worry him.”
“No, but it’ll make me happy.”
“I guess that’s understandable,” said McGee, “he always had a knack for annoying us too.”
A uniform led Kort past them, and he glowered at McGee and said “Get Gibbs, he’ll vouch for me.”
“I’ll call him,” said Ziva.
“When we leave,” said McGee; “The reception down here is no good.”
The uniform moved him on, and when he’d left Batista said “You know, I never have any trouble with reception down here.”
“You know that, and I know that,” said McGee, “but Kort doesn’t.”
“Okay,” said Batista, “maybe there’s hope for you. Now shoo, I’ve got to go talk to Dexter… to Morgan.”
“Whatever Kort’s after,” said Ziva, “it does not change the facts in this case. It would be an error to let it cloud your judgement.”
“That’s easy for you to say. I’ve know Morgan since his dad died, he’s worked here since he left college. I know what the evidence says, and I believe it, but it’s hard to change old habits.”
“We’ll get out of your hair,” said McGee, “I’ll tell Gibbs what Kort wanted, maybe he can get the Director to talk to the CIA, find out what’s really going on.”
“If you find out, let me know.”
When we reached the precinct Batista left me alone in one of the interview rooms while he went to question Kort. Alone except for my Dark Companion and Harry, of course.
“You could have played along with Kort,” said Harry. “Those lawyers would have been useful.”
“I was tempted, but I really don’t want to go to Washington. Gibbs isn’t the type to forgive and forget, if I was in his area I’d never get any peace. And it sounds a little too good to be true anyway.”
“Too good to be true?”
“Maybe he’s working for Gibbs, setting me up some way. I think playing innocent was the way to handle it.”
Harry didn’t reply, and Batista came in a moment later, saying “Fucking asshole.”
“Yeah. Okay, let’s start from the beginning, when did he contact you?”
I had a feeling it was going to be a long night. It took nearly an hour to get to the part of the story where I met Kort, most of another to get through a meeting that couldn’t have lasted more than ten or fifteen minutes. Batista looked increasingly impatient as we went around the start of the fight for the third time. Someone knocked on the door, and he went out for a minute, then came back in, looking disgusted, and said “Okay, that’s it for now.”
“Do you want me to sign a statement?”
“Not right now. Kort’s being released, we’ve been told to drop it.”
“You heard. We’re dropping it. Officially it never happened.”
“He tries to set me up, and you’re letting him walk out of here?”
“Kort says it was a genuine job offer, we have no reason to doubt a senior CIA agent.”
“That was real?”
“Real as they come. Now get out of here, before I decide you started the fight.”
A uniform came in and handed him a file. Batista put it on the table, unread, one hand over part of the label, and said “Show Morgan out of the building.” It was obvious I’d just lost his attention.
I could only see part of the file label, upside-down; something Michaels. It didn’t mean anything to me, but it was obviously more important than my little fracas. I left with the uniform, and decided to do a little research once I was home.
Miami International Airport
At ten the next morning Trent Kort checked his watch, stubbed out his cigarette, and walked into the departure lounge, planning to get a coffee before his flight was called. As he went to the counter someone handed him a large cup, saying “This one’s on me.”
“Thanks for helping me out. I think that makes us even.”
“I don't," said Kort. "You owe me a big one, that cell was bloody uncomfortable. Anyway, it was a complete waste of time, Morgan didn’t go for it.”
“I thought he might be desperate enough to sign up.”
“It’s a shame… there’s a mandatory polygraph test for new recruits. The results would have been interesting.”
“You’re not even slightly surprised, are you?” said Kort, realisation dawning. “You never expected him to want the job, did you?”
“Then what was the real plan?”
“I’ll tell you if it works.”
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