Thicker Than Blood: Chapter 8

Special Agent Kim Cunningham thanked her former teammates on the west coast anti-terrorism task force before indicating to Dale to sign off, removing her headset. The office was still standing, which was always a good sign; it was now being led by an FBI agent, which was never a good sign. Once the FBI got their hands on anything, especially anything anti-terrorism related, they didn't give it back.

Oh, well. It had been fun while it lasted. And Gardezi, previously her probie and now the only NCIS agent on the task force, assured her that all was still going well.

She conferred with one of the other analysts for a few minutes before collecting her notepad and pens—primitive, but nothing with a transmitting device, including her tablet, was allowed in MTAC—and exiting the large room. As always, the light differential made her pause and blink a few times when she stepped out on the catwalk, her eyes needing the time to adjust to the bright lights after the dim conditions in the movie theater-like space.

And then promptly blinked a few more times, wondering how she could possibly be seeing what she thought she was seeing.

"Karsten?" she called out, confused about why her brother would be standing near the MCRT's bullpen in dress blues.

"Hey, Kim," he replied, a sheepish half-smile on his face.

She was still frowning as she descended the stairs, keeping her eyes on him and taking stock of the situation. He wasn't handcuffed, so he probably wasn't under arrest, but the close proximity Abrisz was standing made her fairly certain that this wasn't a social call. "What the fuck are you doing here?" she asked as she approached, and then she took stock of something else. "And why the fuck are you wearing Kanten's uniform?"

"This is Kanten," Bergman said, snidely and triumphantly, as if she had caught Kim in misidentifying her older brother. But Kim knew her brothers, and to the best of her recollection, had never mixed up Kanten and Karsten.

"No," she said slowly. "This is Karsten, wearing Kanten's uniform, and I'm guessing carrying Kanten's ID." Karsten nodded to confirm. "Did you bother to check fingerprints?"

"They're identical twins," Bergman replied. "Their fingerprints match."

"You're an idiot," Cunningham snapped. She had wanted to say those words to Bergman since the first time they met, but had been restraining herself until now. "Their DNA matches. Their fingerprints are distinct." She didn't bother waiting for a reply before grabbing Wilson's portable fingerprint scanner from his desk and grabbing Karsten's hand. She scanned his index finger and waited all of twenty seconds for it to find a match in the DoD database. "Tomblin, Karsten William," she read from the display. "Thanks," she said to Wilson as she handed back the scanner. "Now, back to my first question: what the fuck?"

"We're taking him down to Interrogation," Bergman said harshly.

"Why?" Cunningham asked with a frown. "We already established he's not the Tomblin you're looking for."

Bergman flushed. "This isn't a terrorism case," she snapped, tugging at Karsten's elbow to lead him toward the elevator.

"Wait," Cunningham said as they turned, grabbing for Karsten's other elbow. "Don't say a word," she ordered him.

"I didn't do anything," he replied, confused. "What would I have to hide?" She narrowed her eyes.

"You remember my friend Simple?"

"The amputee?"

She nodded. "His brother's a JAG. I'm going to give him a call. Until then, name, rank, and serial number."

"But Kim—"

"Name, rank, and serial number," she repeated emphatically before jabbing a finger in Bergman's direction. "Anything beyond that, and she will find a way to twist your words to use against you. And Kanten."

The only response from Bergman was a glare and a tug on Karsten's elbow, directing him back toward the elevator. "Christ," Kim muttered under her breath as she watched the elevator doors close.

She remained still for a beat before returning to motion, her iPhone out as she headed back to her desk. "Hey, Simple," she greeted when the call connected, her words coming out in a rush. "I need your brother's number."

"Dave or Brandon?"

"Why the fuck would I need Brandon's number?" His younger brother was working for some start-up in California.

"Hey, it was a reasonable question," Simple said defensively. "What do you say when people ask for your brother's number?"

"I give them Kevan's, because I assume nobody would want to talk to either of the twins," she said automatically. "Now, may I have Major Dave Simple's phone number?"

"Do you need a lawyer?" Simple asked, his voice now concerned. Cunningham sighed and pushed her hair back with her free hand.

"I don't," she replied. "I think Kanten and Karsten do."

"You should probably call Nisha, then," he offered. "She's a defender. He's a prosecutor."

She thought about that for a second. "Go ahead and give me Dave's number," she finally said. "If he wants to hand it over to his wife, I'm okay with that. But it's two brothers and they'll probably need two lawyers anyway."

"Okay. I'll text you his work and cell numbers. If he's in court, it might be a while before he can call you back. And I'll send you Nisha's contact information, too, just in case."

"Okay, Simple. Thanks."

"I hope everything turns out okay."

"So do I," she replied grimly.

It was less than a minute after the call ended before she got the text from Simple with the contact information for both his brother and sister-in-law. Just as she stated she would, she immediately called the number labeled "Dave: Work".

Despite Simple's warning, the elder Simple brother wasn't in court and answered the phone immediately. "Litigation, this is Major Dave Simple."

"Hey, Dave, this is Kim Cunningham."

"Hey, what's up?" he asked, his voice lightening. It was strange; on the phone, he sounded just like his younger brother. "Hey, when are you guys leaving for Egypt? We need to have you over for a barbeque now the weather's improving."

"Uh, not until June. I actually have a favor to ask of you."


"I wouldn't agree to it so quickly," she said warningly. "My two oldest brothers are in trouble."

"I'm assuming it's legal trouble, and that's why you're calling."

"Safe assumption," she replied. On the other end, she heard Dave sigh.

"I'm sitting in the prosecution office, Kim," he said apologetically. "Do you have Nisha's number? She's probably the one you want to talk to."

"That's what Simple—Jon—said," Cunningham admitted. "But it's two brothers. Right now they're 'questioning' Karsten about something they think Kanten did. If I know the senior field agent, and I unfortunately do, she's going to want to charge Karsten with obstruction and Kanten with whatever she can get to stick." She decided not to get into what exactly Bergman was hoping to charge Kanten with, until she got him agree to take the case.

"Aww, shit, Kim," he grumbled. She stayed quiet, knowing that tone from dealing with his younger brother. He was thinking it through and trying to figure out what he wanted to do. "I owe you," he finally said. "If it weren't for you and Jeff… Well, we all know how that would have turned out."

"You would do anything for your brothers," Cunningham said quietly.

"You know I would," he said with another sigh. "And since you already did everything for my brother, I guess it's my turn to do something for yours. Lemme talk to Drummond, see if I can switch sides for this. Give Nisha a call; I'll swing by her office and fill her in. She'll definitely take it, even if I can't. Give me an hour to figure this out. I'm assuming you're at NCIS HQ?"

"Walking distance from your office," she confirmed. It was nice sometimes having everyone on the Navy Yard. Much more convenient than back when JAG was at Falls Church.

"One or both of us will see you in about an hour, then."

"Thanks, Dave. I guess this makes us even."

He gave a genuine, albeit slightly sad, chuckle on the other end of the call. "Kim, we are so far from even that everyone in your family can commit a felony or two and I'll still see what I can do to find the best defense attorneys for each of them."