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Captain Karen Simms was seriously contemplating destroying city property. Damn machine is out to get me! she thought, staring angrily at her computer screen. It was frozen again, for the third time this morning. The usual mode of operation in cases like this would be to yell for Kermit through her open door. But not today. Kermit had elected to don his "I'm an asshole" personality for the day and she simply didn't feel like dealing with him.

Piles of bureaucratic busy work were accumulating on her desk, her appointment would be there any minute, and she had a headache. A bad day.

A sharp rap on her door yanked Karen from her mental whining. A masculine voice announced, "Excuse me. Captain Simms? I'm Early." The door opened to reveal her visitor.

Attempting to gather her disheveled appearance into a more professional presentation, Karen stood up and offered her hand, "Well, no, you're not. You're right on time."

"No, I'm Early."

"Well, actually, I like that, Agent...."

"Early. Agent Early." The tall man began to smile at her misunderstanding.

Karen slapped her head at her stupidity. "Sorry, Agent. Who's on first?" Gesturing him to a chair, she leaned back on the edge of her desk. Agent Early had been sent by the CIA to brief her on an upcoming operation in the area. No details. Just a courtesy call to put them on standby. He was similar to another man of her acquaintance. Tall and solid. An intimidating presence. Salt-and-pepper hair with an intensity that made her a bit uncomfortable. People from the agency generally made her prickle. They tended to hold back information. Something infuriating to the captain.

"Agent, that's an interesting accent. European?"

Seeming to relax a bit, he replied, "I spent a great deal of time on assignment in South Africa. Rubbed off on me before I knew it."

Suddenly, the doorway was filled with a dark suit. "What the hell are you doing here!?" Kermit Griffin growled at the captain’s guest. Even through the dark glasses, his anger was barely controlled.

Karen wanted to defuse the tension almost as much as she wanted to hear the back story on these two. "Detective Griffin, I assume you know Agent-"

Cutting off her inquiry, Agent Early answered, "Why, yes, Captain. We met during that lengthy assignment in South Africa I was telling you about. Our collaboration ended, how shall I say, uncomfortably for your detective here."

"You can say that again, you son-of-a--.... YOU SHOT ME IN THE ASS!" Kermit was still seething. The ex-mercenary held a grudge like a pit-bull when it came to trips to the hospital.

Offering a solicitous smile, Agent Early folded his arms and replied, "Well, old man, as I have tried on NUMEROUS occasions to tell you, I didn't shoot you in the ass." Pleased at the blood pressure rise he had induced, he added, "But you did learn to duck after that."

Karen summoned all her strength to avoid smiling at the way this stranger with the accent was twisting Kermit Griffin's control.

Kermit turned to face her and stated, matter-of-factly, "WHATEVER fiasco HE'S about to be part of...count me out!" He turned and slammed the door behind him.

Early tsked at the closed door. "And I had heard that he had mellowed. Guess I heard wrong."

"It was that bad?" Karen asked. "I hope not. We may need his help if this 'backup' you mentioned in your phone call is necessary."

"Oh, don't worry about that. We'll receive full benefit of his skills if needed. He won't be able to resist," the agent said with a gentle smile. "Isn't that right, Griffin?" he said to the wall. "Should I talk a little louder? How's this?"

Karen watched him, mouth agape. Kermit wouldn't DARE bug her office, would he? "You are kidding, I hope."

"Halfway," Agent Early said, grinning.

"Why did you shoot him?"

"I told him to take cover, but he just wouldn't listen to me," he shrugged, smiling again. "Now, back to business?"

"Yes, please."


Days like this, he wished he had gone through with bugging Simms' office. It had become a running joke with Blaisdell. He would plant them. Paul would find them. It ended when the temperamental captain swallowed one waterproof device anchored in his coffee cup.

Simms would be easy. But something...something akin to being a gentleman...stopped him.

"Stupid!" Kermit spat into his computer. "Well, Agent," he muttered, firing up his modem, "let's just bust in that back door and see what you have going in my backyard." Not as much fun as listening in but functional.

Playing the keyboard like a pianist, the ex-mercenary danced skillfully through the CIA's walls of electronic protection. You'd think Uncle Sam could do better, he mumbled, crushing the last barrier and accessing the regional assignments.

Scanning for the correct area, he searched the list. "Backstrom...Davidson...Dawson...Early! There it is!" The uncharacteristic glee turned to boredom in an instant. Just surveillance of an Iraqi national. "Boring," he chimed to himself.

"Ah, yes, Griffin," Agent Early called from the doorway, "and your life is so exciting?" Making himself at home, under a dark green glare, the agent flopped down into a chair. "Can't be shooting mercs on every assignment, can I? Your back is to the door? If I hadn't seen it for myself, I wouldn't have believed it."

Snatching a disc from his unwelcome visitor's inspection, Kermit growled his disgust. "This is my playground. Get out."

"Oh, I plan to, Griffin." Rising to his full height, he buttoned his jacket and moved toward the door. "You don't mind me taking your lovely commanding officer to lunch, do you?"

Early felt the prickling fury stiffen his former adversary's back. Craning his ear to catch a muffled curse, he shouted, "What's that, Griffin? You don't mind me taking your extremely capable and... uh...'fit' captain out to an expensive lunch at a cozy restaurant? Just the two of us? Discussing 'procedures' that I'm certain you know nothing about?"

"Why should I care?" Kermit said flatly, ignoring the rise in his blood pressure.

"Just checking, old boy," the agent lilted with an accent notes heavier than before. Opening the door, he bent down, picked up a package that he had placed just outside Kermit's door and set it on Kermit's desk. "A present for you," he said sociably.

Kermit made a special effort to ignore the box. And him. "Take her to lunch if you like." He resolutely kept his eyes glued to the screen. "She wants to go slumming with some government stooge, that's her business."

That's what I thought, the man nodded mentally at his successful interrogation.

"Ready to go, Agent Early?" Karen paused outside the doorway, peering in at her computer expert's back. "I assume you won't be joining us, Detective."

"Not hardly," came the snapping reply. "And if I were you, I'd watch my as-"

"Careful, my brother," the agent cut off the retort. "That's no way to talk to a lady." Offering his arm to Karen, he said, "Shall we go?"

"STOP calling me that," came the accompanied snarl at their retreat.

Karen raised a curious eyebrow. Kermit's tone was pure acid. With an effort, she took the agent's arm and walked away. Only jumping slightly at the crashing sound as Kermit slammed the door with his foot.


"'Brother?'" Karen inquired with a smile as they were seated. Karen was impressed. The restaurant was the classiest in town. The menus didn't even have prices. And Karen was almost dancing with curiosity as to why Early called Kermit brother.

Early laughed. "Long story, my dear. I take it he enjoys playing the mysterioso with you, too."


Early heard volumes in that one syllable. He casually played with his cocktail napkin as he ruminated. Captain Simms was certainly attractive, capable and, it seemed, quite taken with Kermit Griffin. And Griffin seemed to hold her in high regard, as well. That was the missing piece to the puzzle and part of the reason he had volunteered for this duty in Sloanville.

He had learned that Blaisdell accomplished something that he himself had wanted to do: make Griffin accept a badge. It made sense that Kermit would stay to work with his mentor. However, it did not make sense that Kermit would stay there after Blaisdell's departure. Now, he knew. The reason, or at least part of the reason, Kermit Griffin had decided to stay at the 101st was now ordering iced tea and soup du jour. Griffin's eyes had been hidden by the sunglasses as per usual but Early caught the protective body language. The body language from one man to another that said, "Stay away from her!" It was crystal clear to Early, yet he doubted that even Griffin or Simms knew about it themselves. He had to chuckle, wondering if next year, he would be buying a wedding present instead of his norm.

"What's so funny?" Karen Simms asked innocently. "And you were telling me about your 'brother'?"

"Ah, yes. Well, if you are really interested...." He quickly gave their order, in perfect French, to the waiter before continuing.

Meanwhile, back at the 101st, Kermit Griffin was trying to ignore the smallish, wrapped box sitting in front of him. It was just like Early to do this. There was probably nothing in the box at all, except possibly a note, saying "I knew I could make you look." He tore his gaze away from it. He wouldn't give the man the satisfaction. Early had already gotten plenty of laughs at his expense.

They remembered long ago...it seemed like a lifetime ago.


Kermit Griffin was all smiles as he entered the room. He saw no reason to be anti-social, especially when he saw four guns pointed at him. And those were just the ones that he could see. He was sure of many, many more around the warehouse that he couldn't see.

He didn't even say a word when rough, gnarled hands forced him into a spread position against the wall as they frisked him, with another man holding a gun to his head. They quickly found his prized Desert Eagle and took it from him as they turned him around.

One man said something in a foreign language, then approached Kermit. He glanced quickly at the gun and back to Kermit again. "Griffin carries a Desert Eagle," he said informatively.

"I know," Kermit replied, trying to keep the smirk out of his tone. Paul had warned him that these men were touchy. People this desperate were generally touchy...and dangerous. "Blaisdell sent me."

"The password?"

"Little Saigon."

The man stared at him for a full minute before nodding once. The men released their bruising hold on him, but the guns remained where they were, upraised and at the ready. "The computer is this way," the man informed him, stretching his arm out in the indicated direction, "but you will be watched. Any wrong move and you die."

Tell me something I don't know. Kermit once again put his sardonic comment on hold as he followed the man to the computer. Paul owes me on this one, he thought.

He sat down at the computer and brought the ancient machine to life with a flick of the switch. He plodded through the beginning commands and was just about to begin work on the decoding when a sudden burst of noise at the door distracted him. He looked up at the man seemingly in charge, who nodded to the man behind Kermit.

"Hands up," he growled at Kermit, who grudgingly complied. He had two of his minions cover the weaponless computer expert as he went to the door. "What's going on?!" he barked.

"S-s-sir," one of the younger thugs stammered. He knew the penalty for failure. "Sir, there's-"


"There's another man outside, claiming to be Kermit Griffin, sir!"

The man snapped his head back to look at Kermit, who was open-mouthed with surprise. Blaisdell had told him that he would be alone on this one. He hadn't the slightest idea as who it could be.

"Bring him in."

The armed guards unceremoniously shoved a tall, dark-haired man into the room. Same height and coloring as the initial Griffin claimant, they could have been relatives. The new player remained stiff and sure under the rough treatment. Dark eyes fixating on his predecessor.

The man in charge waved a finger in Kermit's direction. "Turn off the computer!" he ordered, "and cover him!"

Kermit was gritting his teeth as the orders were obeyed. The computer was turned off and two more guns swung to point in his face.

Meanwhile, the stranger was cooperatively submitting to the spread and search. The thugs pulled out a Desert Eagle from inside his jacket. Kermit rolled his eyes in disgust. Paul had warned him that this was the danger of gaining a reputation.

"Your name?" the man spat in the stranger's face as he was turned around.

"Kermit Griffin. Blaisdell sent me."

Kermit snorted his derision. This was a mistake because it called everyone's attention back to him. The man in charge walked over. "Who should I believe?" he purred evilly. "Should I just shoot you both and the one Blaisdell rescues will be the real one!"

There was general chuckling as Kermit glared at the stranger. "Only Kermit Griffin could decode this software," he said. "Turn the computer back on and I'll show you."

"You mean, I will show you," the stranger said from the doorway. "And you forgot to ask me the password. It's 'Little Saigon.'"

The man started cursing. He would dump both of them out into the street without the disc in a second if not for their deal. Their cause needed money. If Kermit Griffin - whichever one he was - didn't get the information, they just might as well take up residence in the poorhouse. "Bring another computer," he ordered. His men began wrestling with the cumbersome computer setup in his office to bring it to the spot indicated, right in front of Kermit. The computer was plugged in, and both were turned on. The other 'Kermit Griffin' was escorted at gunpoint to the other computer where Kermit was glaring at him right over his own computer screen. The setup became an amphitheater, with the two men facing each other in the middle and guns all around them, watching for a clue to identify the real computer expert.

At the boss's nod, both men, taking a deep sigh at his doppelganger, set to work. Their fingers moved equally sure of themselves as they stared at the screen, decoding at lightning speed. The armed men watched as they typed commands furiously, every once in a while, looking up at the other man with a scowl, determined to be first.

Finally, the triumphant men sat back, watching as the deciphered document scrolled down, revealing dates, names, and places.

The man in charge was still at wits' end. Both were computer experts of equal caliber. No doubt if he put the Desert Eagle in their hands, they would shoot equally well. How was he going to know which man to send away and which man to kill? "I have no choice," he said. "You will be locked up while we call Blaisdell for a physical description."

Kermit, knowing that Paul was unreachable, lowered his head in frustration. It might take days, even weeks, before Paul even got the message. Looking up, he appealed to the leader. "Blaisdell is unavailable. There has to be-"

Gunshots began to riddle the outside of the building. Kermit and the stranger both dived under their computer table as the thugs' attentions were directed outside. As the Gunfight in the O.K. Corral times fifteen began, Kermit grabbed the stranger by his jacket. "Who the hell are you?!"

"C.I.A. Special Agent Early," he said, yanking his jacket free. "And you are under arr-"

They ducked as a hailstorm of bullets took out the computer that Early had been working on. Desperately, Kermit bobbed up, saved the information to his disc, and pocketed it. Irritated, he saw that Early was putting his disc in his pocket, already having saved it. They ducked again and, as there was a split second of reloading, Kermit ran at a crouched run to one side of the building.

"Where the hell-?!!!" Early hissed, but it was too late. He wondered why Griffin would run back toward the warehouse insides instead of the door. He knew Griffin and Blaisdell needed that information. As a CIA agent, he was sworn to protect the U.S.A. and all Americans, of which, unfortunately, Griffin was one of them. The flying bullets wouldn't allow him to follow Griffin's same path, but he did the best he could.

Catching up to the computer expert, he realized with a shock that Griffin had instigated his own personal killing spree. He had obtained a firearm from one of the thugs and shot each man as he came across them. Early let his jaw drop open in astonishment. This was mindless, cold-blooded carnage that was just not necessary. And every time, Griffin shot someone, he would search the body and move on to the next victim.

Finally, Griffin stopped his rampage as he discovered his prized Desert Eagle in the jacket of one of the downed men. Early shook his head in disgust. Griffin was just as crazed as he had heard. He stood up and waved Griffin over, taking a small packet out of his pocket and shaking it.

Kermit glanced over at the agent. Oh, yeah, right - like I'm really going with him to be arrested! The agent was making strange motioning signals now, like he wanted Kermit to duck down. He turned away from the agent deliberately as he searched for a way out.

Early grimaced. He's not going to be happy with me....

Kermit was cursing mentally. Agent on one side, bullets on the other. SHIT! His curse became an audible yell of pain as his left shoulder exploded, sending him to the ground as a blinding flash went off in the center of the room. On his way down to the floor, another bullet bit into his backside like an alligator. Kermit's eyesight had been protected by the boxes he was behind, but he didn't notice. His arm felt like it had been shot off! If that wasn't bad enough, his entire leg was spasming from his hit to his behind and he'd even twisted his ankle in the fall. Cursing silently, he hyperventilated, trying to control the pain, when suddenly Agent Early was next to him.

"Sorry," Early said, helping him to sit, "but you wouldn't duck. I figured you would prefer a flesh wound to being blinded for half a day."


"Guess I was wrong," Early muttered, hauling Griffin to his feet. He was looking for an exit when he felt the disc slide out of his pocket. He made a grab for it, but Kermit threw it into the fire that the opposition had started. He shook his head and grabbed Kermit's sore arm. Griffin fought his pain, and his screaming as Early took Kermit's disc from him. "Now, now, play nice," he admonished.

Pocketing the disc, he shrugged, seeing no choice in the matter, and wrapped an arm around the injured Griffin to support him as they ran toward the door as fast as Griffin could limp. Griffin held his aching arm with one hand and held onto his precious Desert Eagle with the other as he and Early ran outside to safety.

To Kermit's astonishment, a jeep pulled up to them just as they cleared the doorway. Early, expecting it, piled Kermit face-first over the passenger seat and climbed onto the footstep without even managing to climb all the way inside. "Go," Early ordered.

The jeep sped up in a matter of seconds. Kermit struggled, realizing that the agent was sprawled on top of him. "Get off of me!"

"Can't do it," came the calm reply. "My position is the only thing keeping us in this jeep. Hospital, please," he told the driver. "Besides," he continued with a smirk, "I certainly do not want you to put pressure on your injured area-- might cause brain damage, after all."

Kermit was sweating, feeling the loss of blood as the weakness coursed through his veins. "Ha ha." Just wait till they got to the hospital. He would let himself get treated, on the Agent's expense account, play cooperative until they dropped their guard and then slip away.


Karen smiled softly. She would have given anything to have known Kermit in those days. But then, she was a different person, too. She wondered what would have happened. Her mind began to wander...than imagining...then fantasizing....


Karen jumped. "I apologize, Agent Early," she laughed, more than a bit embarrassed. "Your story is just so fascinating!"

Early nodded, sipping his wine. Mm hm. I know exactly what is 'fascinating' her....

"So, Kermit failed his mission with the disc. He lost his information, and you got it," she asked, still smiling, caught up in the tale.

"Um, well, no," Early said, embarrassed. "He...um...picked my pocket again and escaped the hospital soon after he was treated. That's when I discovered my loss. I didn't suspect Griffin since he escaped with little more than a hospital gown, so I assumed that I lost the disc in the bumpy jeep ride. There was nothing I could have done."

"So, you lost out," Karen mused sympathetically. "You lost Kermit and the information."

"Not entirely," Early said. "I lost the proof to arrest Griffin, but I had memorized the information when it first came up on the screen. I have a photographic memory."

"But he was right." Karen carefully appraised her companion over her water glass. "You did shoot him in the-"

"No, ma'am," he argued, smiling. "Unfortunately, that didn't occur to me. That was the pleasure of one of the bad guys. I was the one who shot him in the shoulder."

"What was on the disc?" Karen's curiosity precluded her hesitation at prying into Kermit's past.

"That's classified," came the smooth reply. Reading the woman's unspoken concerns, the man relented a bit. "Don't worry. Griffin wasn't working for the bad guys, just not the side I would choose."

"And that would be?"

"Mine, dear lady."

Karen smiled. "So that's why you call him brother? Because you impersonated him once?"

"Um...well, no. That's not why." With a slightly embarrassed grin, Early continued. "It was when we were attempting to leave the country. I bummed around for a bit in Africa, deciding not to leave for a few days, look up old friends, sight-seeing and the like. When I did decide to leave, just whom did I happen to run into?"


Kermit Griffin stood back, fuming, as Agent Early cut in front of him in line, packages given to the attending customs manager. The customs manager asked for identification, which Early cooperatively conceded, taking out his badge and I.D. for their perusal.

"What the hell are you still doing here?" Kermit scowled. "You were supposed to leave with the rest of your circus."

"Couldn't turn down another chance to see your grinning visage, old boy," Early grinned. "If I still had that disc in my possession, I would be stuck with said visage all the way back to the States."

The men carefully typed in all the information before waving Kermit forward. Kermit obeyed, unable to resist a smirk of his own. "What a shame you lost your evidence. You really should be more careful."

"I'll have to inspect this, Agent Early," the customs manager said.

With a carefully restrained sigh, Darrell Early sighed his assent as Kermit approached the counter with his precious cargo, glaring at the agent all the while.

"What's in the package?" Kermit asked, carefully shifting his weight to his uninjured leg. Gently, he laid his own parcel on the table for examination.

"I knew you couldn't resist asking," the agent smirked. "But I am afraid that that information is classified." Actually, he was grateful that his adversary had chosen not to make a scene.

"Mine, too," came the arrogant retort from behind the dark green shades.

Through clinched teeth and smile so congenial as to charm paint from the walls, the agent replied, "You cannot have a 'classified' article unless you are employed by the government, moron."

"More than one government around the big blue ball, moron," Kermit hissed, with a grating crooked grin. Both men silenced their well-supplied battle of wits at the approach of another customs agent.

"Identification, please."

Kermit proffered his own I.D.

"So, who are you this time," Early inquired jovially. "Jimmy Hoffa or Al Capone?"

Kermit grinned sardonically. He had been warned about the possibility of a federal tag on this mission. He had come prepared. "Emulating only from the best, huh?" he asked. "Well, Agent Early, sir, I have no intention of dealing in illegal-"

His sentence was cut off as the entire customs counter came alive with guns of every size, shape and variety aimed at Kermit and at Agent Early.

Early frowned. "What is the meaning of-"

"HANDS UP!" the customs manager yelled.

Baffled, the agent's hands slowly went up as did Kermit's. They looked at each other, not fathoming in the slightest what went wrong.

The manager sidled over to them, gun waving. "You think we are totally blind? You think we are stupid???!!! Search the packages!"

"I truly don't understand-" Early's protest was cut off by a hand painfully gripping him on the shoulder.

"Americans are so STUPID!" he spat in his face. "You think we would not notice??!!"

"Notice WHAT?!" Kermit insisted. He was just as befuddled as the agent. He was using his own I.D. this time. Nothing was faked. There should have been nothing that would have warranted this-

The custom manager slid over to Kermit. "You think the next time you fake an I.D.; you should use different dates than that of your friend!"

"Listen!" Kermit blustered. "This...agent is not my friend!"

Darrell Early, a glimmer of understanding surfacing in his brain, managed to slip closer to the table. "May I see those?"

"Of course!" The manager fairly threw the I.D.s at them. Early caught them nimbly. "Check out the artwork! It is quite impressive."

Despite the fact that it brought his physical proximity closer to the agent he despised, Kermit leaned forward to examine the I.D.'s in Early's hand. Then, in unison, they spotted it. Or rather, them. They peered closer to make sure there was no mistake, then looked at each other in shock. All of a sudden, Agent Early burst out laughing!


Kermit closed his eyes in restrained frustration as Early couldn't help but howl with laughter at the 'mistake'. "I don't believe this," he muttered.

"This is.... this is your true I.D., is it not?" Early asked Kermit through his laughter. At Kermit's flush, he laughed harder, as the gun-wielding men looked at each other in doubt. He reached for his pocket then, causing the manager to aim the gun at his face. He held his hands up again. "My...my pocket...has indisputable proof," he managed. "My brother..." he said to Kermit's scowl, "show them your proof." He laughed harder. "I don't believe it...."

Within seconds, the proof was examined by all parties. It was amazing but true. The birth certificates held up the I.D.'s claim that both Kermit Griffin and Darrell Early was born on the same day: October 13.


She couldn't help but laugh out loud. For anyone to know Kermit Griffin's birthday, much less share it, had to be a burr the size of the space shuttle under his saddle. After an elegant sip, she asked for clarification. "Let me get this straight. You were transporting items out of a foreign country with your legitimate I.D.? Not exactly skilled in smuggling, were you?"

"As Mark Twain once said, 'If you never lie, you don't have anything to remember.'" The man couldn't help smirk at the impending volcano that would erupt when Griffin found his secret revealed.


"Darrell, please."

"All right, Darrell, at the risk of endangering national security," she leaned closer, "what was in the package?"

After a torturous pause, the man replied, "Pottery," he sipped from his glass, "for my wife."

"And Kermit's?"

"A paperweight emblazoned with 'I left my heart in Johannesburg." Accepting the check and offering his VISA, Early chimed, "I only hope that his taste has improved with each passing year."

Suddenly, a lightning bolt flashed before the thoroughly entertained captain. Karen gasped her surprise. "TODAY is October 13...."

"Yes, I know," smirked Darrell Early. "I still send Griffin birthday cards to commemorate the event. I imagine that he's having some birthday blues about now. Courtesy of Moi."

Karen Simms snickered. She had had some bad birthdays herself. But this...this was priceless information. And she knew just what she could do for a birthday present....


Kermit tried not to clench his teeth at the laughing and chattering that accompanied his captain and adversary as they re-entered the precinct once more. They sound like a gaggle of geese! he thought, irritated, as he turned his back on them.

Karen smirked a secret smile at Agent Early, who nodded understandingly and made a sweeping "you first" gesture with his arm. He stood back politely as Karen very nearly tip-toed to Kermit's office.

She tried to withdraw her kittenish, mischievous look as she peered into his office. "Hello, Detective."

"Enjoy your lunch with the little people, Captain?" came the predictable, sardonic retort.

"Immensely!" Karen grinned, the glee breaking free from her control. "Unfortunately, Agent Early just gave me more work to do. Such as updating a certain personnel file with some very interesting information...."

Kermit stopped typing and turned to her. "What did he tell you?" he demanded.

She just smiled sympathetically and came forward into his office. She bent down toward him, causing him to eye her warily like she was a poisonous reptile in his face. The sheer caution of it made her laugh and she gave in to the impulse as she leaned forward still. She tenderly brushed his rough, coarse cheek with her lips, kissing him softly. "Happy Birthday," she whispered.

His body stiffened as he slid the chair back roughly, nearly banging it into the wall. "He told you! That ass-!"

Karen held up a finger to halt his tirade. "Now, now," she told him, smiling. "If not for him, you might have had a very unpleasant day. Now, I'm just going to have to think of a way to make the evening...special for you."

He quirked a questioning eyebrow at her, taking interest despite himself. Is she saying what I hope...? Naahhh.... He looked into her eyes. Well...maybe.... He cleared his throat. "I'm a bit too big for cookies, cake and ice cream."

"Maybe I can think of something...better." Her caressing smile was a promise.

Kermit found himself smiling back. This may not be such a bad day, after all. He suddenly caught a glimpse of Agent Early, near the doorway, waiting patiently. On the other hand....

Karen cocked her head as Kermit's scowl returned. She glanced over her shoulder. "Oh. Seems like there's some unfinished business here. Agent...." Early came forward, his face a mask as to what he'd just heard. Karen nodded a good-bye to the embarrassed ex-mercenary. "I need you to stay late this evening, Detective Griffin," she said crisply as she walked away. "You will be compensated for your time."

I'll bet. Strangely, both Kermit's and Early's thoughts were an echo of each other.

Kermit began to type savagely once more. "What now?"

"Just thought I would drop in to say goodbye...brother." The tall, stately agent leaned casually in the man's doorway. Noting the still-unopened package on Kermit's desk.

"I live for the moment when your smartass finds its way into the sights of my weapon." Kermit never turned around from his computer. Typing his frustration out onto the keyboard.

"Yeah, yeah." The man stepped carefully inside. "It's good to see you, too." Shifting from the icy banter, Early offered a farewell warning. "Watch out for Hussein's man when he comes to town next week. He's probably just passing through but watch your back."

"Thanks," came the flat expression of appreciation. The information could come in handy. "And if you need me to rescue your starched and pressed pretty boy agents, you know the number."

"I'll keep that in mind." Agent Early smiled. A quiet "Happy Birthday" wafted through the air upon his departure.

"You, too," Kermit muttered under his breath.

After allowing ample time for the distinguished agent to leave the premises, Kermit finally sighed and surrendered to his own curiosity. Peeling open the lid with caution, he withdrew a small, ceramic duck. Muttering his confusion, Kermit read the card and immediately launched into a litany of cursing.

The card read, "Just a reminder, brother. Agent Early."




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