Category Archives: Cover Story

Holiday Cover Story


Besides opening up presents on Christmas morning, I loved baking with my mom.  We would start about a week before the special day and didn’t stop until our dining room table was filled with amazing delights.  Last year I brought in my favorite Italian cookie to our holiday party at the Mission.   I am delighted to say by the end of the night, there was not a single one left!  I thought I would share this easy and fun cookie recipe with you.  Hope you enjoy it!  All the best to you and yours this wonderful holiday season!  Love, Nell.


Nell Jones Favorite Italian Christmas Cookie Recipe



4 eggs                                                                                                  1 cup of sugar

6 Tbsp. melted butter                                                                    3 tsp. baking powder

2 tsp. vanilla                                                                                     3 ½ to 4 cups of flour

¼ cup of milk                                                                                    10 X confectionery sugar


Put the flour on a pastry board and make a well in the center.  Beat eggs in the center of the flour.  Add the sugar, the melted butter, vanilla and milk.  Thoroughly blend together.  Gradually begin to absorb the flour.  Gently knead the dough.  Break off small pieces of dough to make 1 inch round balls.  Place on a pan about 2 inches apart.  Bake at 375 degrees to 400 degrees in the oven for 10 minutes.  When cool, ice the cookies with an egg white and sprinkle 10 X confectionery sugar and colored candy sprinkles on top.

Cover Story: “Ten Important Life Lessons I learned from Hetty Lange”

Kensi watched as her partner stared off into space. She wondered what was bothering him but decided not to press. She sat at her desk and tried to work on a report Hetty was waiting for but she found it hard to concentrate. Her partner was sitting at his desk turned toward the windows, fiddling with a pen and was obviously ‘zoned out’. She searched her brain for something that could have triggered this unusually quiet and contemplative version of her partner but she couldn’t think of anything that might have brought on this peculiar behavior.

Her curiosity finally got the best of her. “Hey Deeks. What’s up?”

He turned back to her and smiled but it wasn’t his usual carefree grin.

“Nothing. Just thinking.”

“About what?” she asked tentatively.

“Nothing important. Don’t let me keep you from finishing your exciting report,” he mocked.

She snorted and replied, “You’ll be in just as much trouble as I am if we don’t get these finished before we leave.”

“Wrong again, Princess. I’m done,” he smirked as he closed the file and began gathering his things. Sam and Callen had finished theirs and left an hour earlier.

“What? No way!” she sputtered.

He ceremoniously placed the folder in his out box then put on his jacket. “Have fun. I’m going surfing.”

“You… I mean… why are…” she stuttered then sighed loudly. “Fine. Just leave me here to suffer Hetty’s wrath alone,” she said dramatically.

He laughed and winked, “Better you than me. Night Kens,” he said as he walked out.

She just stared after him. Something was definitely bothering him. He almost always waited for her to finish up and usually suggested they go for a burger or pick up take out on the way to either his place or hers. She glanced back at Hetty’s desk to see her talking quietly to someone on the phone. She turned back to the report with a renewed determination to finish up then go find out what was wrong with her partner.

He drove to his favorite surfing spot and was a bit disappointed to see the small waves. While they were obviously ‘surfable’ he was in need of something a bit more challenging. He stuck his board in the sand then sat down to watch the beginners struggling to learn.

Their work day had been uneventful but for some reason he had felt the need to be alone. He knew Kensi was probably worried about him but his recent revelation needed further examination. His thoughts drifted to the topic that had intrigued him earlier in the day.

The report he had been working on made him wonder what would happen if Hetty had actually resigned. Yes, they had worked without her for a short time last year but they knew she was coming back which made it somewhat bearable. What would they actually do without her? How could the team function at their current level of success without her contacts and the endless number of people who owed her favors? How could they function at all?

He smiled as countless memories flashed across his mind. He had learned so much from her in the two and a half years he had been their liaison. He was quite sure he wasn’t the same person he had been before he met Hetty.

He had learned to take more precautions with his life and his safety not to mention the safety of the team. Unfortunately he had learned the hard way what happens when you unintentionally lead a bad guy to the rest of the team. He shivered when he thought about how close Kensi had come to being taken or killed.

Hetty always seemed to know what was going on with each of them. How she did it he wasn’t exactly sure but he had learned how important it was to keep an eye on his teammates, especially his partner. He knew where Kensi was most of the time but he would never tell her that. She would probably permanently maim him if she knew. He couldn’t help but smile at the thought.

One of the most important things he had learned from Hetty was how to work with a team. He was used to working alone and hadn’t really needed anyone else. He had to admit it was nice knowing someone had your back on assignments and yes, even in everyday life. How he had managed to become part of such an elite team, he had no idea but he had Hetty to thank for it.

Loyalty was another thing he had experienced. There was nothing they wouldn’t do for one another. He had never really had that before. Not as a child, obviously. Not as a lawyer and certainly not as an LAPD officer. He had been a loner and had managed to wander through life that way. Of course he’d had Ray as a friend as a teenager but admittedly it wasn’t an ideal friendship. Ray had been a negative influence during that time but when you grow up the way he had, any friend was a welcomed friend even if they were bad for you. They had managed to turn it around in recent years but Ray was no longer in his life since he was now in witness protection. Best friends are hard to find. He smiled again when he thought about who he considered to be his best friend at this point in time. Without a doubt it would have to be his partner.

She knew more about him than anyone on the planet. With the exception of Hetty, of course. He was sure she knew everything. He hadn’t told Kensi much about his past. Some things were just too painful to talk about. He also didn’t want her to look at him differently so he kept a lot of his nightmares to himself which was something else he had learned from Hetty. She was the master of keeping her own secrets but she also knew when it was time to inform them of important things.

Well, most of the time. He had also learned how to deal with ‘lone wolf’ behavior because of her. When she had run off to Romania, he had seen firsthand how much they all respected and cared about her. He didn’t think twice about going with them to find her. They were a team and Hetty was in trouble. Again, the concept of loyalty made him proud to be a part of their incredible team.

When Kensi had run off to find her father’s killer, he had known what he had to do. She was his best friend and she had needed him whether she knew it or not. It’s what friends and partners do. He felt a twinge of something in his chest when the thought flashed across his mind that there might be something more between them. He shook his head and pushed it to the back of the ever growing jumble of thoughts. He couldn’t think about that. Not now. It was dangerous and… well, it was just dangerous territory.

He watched as a couple held hands and walked along the water’s edge. The sun was beginning to slowly dip toward the horizon and he couldn’t help but wish he wasn’t sitting here enjoying the evening alone. The twinge in his chest again presented itself when he subconsciously wished his partner was sitting next to him. This time he didn’t push the thought away. He trusted her with his life but could he trust her with his heart? He had trusted a precious few with his heart and most of them had let him down in some way or another. Yes, he trusted Kensi to have his back and to be a loyal friend but he knew deep down that she was also the only one who could truly hurt him. Not physically but emotionally. He wasn’t ready to take that chance. He wasn’t sure if he would ever be ready to open himself up to that possibility.

Some wounds never heal and he was all too aware of that fact.

Hetty had made sure he was there for Kensi when she needed help. He assumed she had done the same for him. For someone who rarely trusted another human being, it was strange to realize that there were now several people he trusted with his life. He had Hetty to thank for that too.

He watched as the couple moved further away. He had been sitting for over an hour and the sunset was just beginning to splash the sky with beautiful colors. He loved this time of day. The sounds of the gulls, the waves and the salty ocean breeze could always calm his soul. As he watched a group of children building sand castles, he became suddenly aware of another presence nearby.

He didn’t turn around to look. He just smiled and said, “Finally get that report finished Fern?”

Kensi walked up and sat down cautiously next to him. “How did you know it was me? I could have been a serial killer or worse, an old girlfriend,” she said with a smirk.

He laughed and turned toward her with a shrug, “I don’t know. I just knew it was you. Besides, if it had been an old girlfriend, she would have probably done the same thing as the serial killer.”

Kensi grinned and pointed at his board, “I thought you were surfing.”

“Too flat for me today. I was just enjoying the sunset. What are you doing here?”

“Looking for my partner. You know, the one who was shockingly quiet this afternoon.”

He turned back to look at the sunset but didn’t answer immediately. After a couple of minutes of comfortable silence he finally asked, “Would you say you had spent more time building relationships during your lifetime or burning bridges?”

“Oh no. You’re getting all philosophical on me again,” she teased. “Why do you ask?”

“Just humor me. Which is it?” he said watching her.

“Definitely burning bridges. You know how I treated my mother when I was a kid. That pretty much sums it up I think,” she said sadly.

“But now you have the opportunity to fix that. You have a second chance. Not many get that opportunity, Kens.”

“I know. And we’re doing pretty well, I guess.”

“I’m really glad,” he said then paused for a minute as he looked at his feet. “I’ve definitely been a bridge burner. I’m sure you knew that.”

She frowned and looked at him, “Maybe when it comes to all those ex girlfriends but I honestly can’t understand why you have such a hard time with people from LAPD. You’re very good at your job, you’re professional when you deal with witnesses and suspects and you get along with all of us just fine.”

He looked up surprised and stared at her.

“What?” she asked.

“You think I’m professional?”

“When it comes to dealing with witnesses and suspects,” she clarified smiling.

He grinned briefly then looked back toward the ocean and replied, “My temper used to get the best of me, I guess. I should really make more of an effort to rebuild some of those bridges but I always manage to rub people the wrong way.”

“I think we’ve all done that from time to time.”

“You ever wonder how Hetty managed to cultivate all those contacts over the years? Especially since she has so many aliases?”

She pondered it for a minute and replied, “Well, just think about it. How hard is it to get angry at a four foot, nine inch tall woman? She’s deadly but no one would ever suspect it. And she’s very diplomatic.”

“I guess you’re right. I never really thought about it. But just so you know, I’ve been scared of her since the moment she stepped in that bar and offered me the liaison position,” he said as he turned to her and grinned. “Seriously, I don’t want to be a disappointment to her. I find myself taking pride in my work, my reports. I’ve taken all those extra courses she’s suggested to please her. I guess you could say she’s made me a better cop. I know for a fact I’m not the same man I was when I first met you guys.”

Kensi smiled and nodded. “I know what you mean. She’s like a parent to most of us.”

“She’s listed as my next of kin,” he said quietly.

“She’s your family,” Kensi replied.

He smiled again and reached up to brush her hair away from her face, “You’re my family too, Kens. You all are. Hetty has managed to show me what family really means. Blood doesn’t matter. It’s the relationships that matter.”

He turned back to watch as the sun finally slipped below the horizon. He reached over and took her hand in his but said nothing. He felt her shudder slightly and realized how much the temperature had dropped. “It’s getting chili out here. Why don’t we grab a pizza and go back to my place. Monty misses you.”

“I miss the little mutt too. I’m also starving since I skipped dinner to look for my wayward partner.”

He stood and pulled her up with him. He grabbed his board and headed toward the parking lot never letting go of her hand. “We better hurry then. We must feed the Kensi monster before it’s too late!”

Kensi laughed and turned to look at the smile on his face. She realized, not for the first time, just how much that smile meant to her.

Hetty arrived at her usual time before dawn at the mission to find a package on her desk. She looked around but saw no one. She sat in her chair and carefully removed the brown paper from the box. Inside was a tiny, petite bonsai tree in a small porcelain container. She marveled at the craftsmanship used to trim the delicate plant. She noticed a card taped to the box and she slowly removed it.

She considered herself to be a hard woman. It took a lot to rile her and even more to touch her emotionally which was why she was surprised to feel a tear slipping down her cheek as she read the note.

Dear Hetty,

Thank you.

I could say it a thousand times but it will never be enough. I can honestly say the last two and a half years have been the best of my life and I owe it all to you. You have taught me more than I can possibly mention here but I have included my ‘top ten’ list of things I could never thank you enough for teaching me. Most of all I want to thank you for taking a chance on this broken cop and for believing in me when I couldn’t.

Ten Important Life Lessons I’ve Learned from Hetty Lange
Safety comes first for myself and my teammates
It is important to keep tabs on your team, especially your partner
Working together as a team is much better than working alone
Be loyal to your friends and teammates
Keeping your past from interfering with the present is preferred
Going ‘lone wolf’ is unacceptable, except when it is
Earning the trust of your teammates is paramount to all else
It is important to cultivate relationships rather than burning bridges
Taking pride in the job you do makes you a better person
Family is everything

Thanks for giving me a family!

Happy Times with Charlene and Why Sam Still Misses Her by Phillydi

In 1970, Sam Hanna’s dad bought a brand new Dodge Challenger right off the line. This started a love affair between the man and the muscle car that has lasted until this day.  It’s the reason why he still drives one today.  But there was a unique Challenger Sam found later in life that he lovingly restored to perfection and named Charlene.  It was this car that held a special place in Sam’s heart.  So when the car was suddenly stolen one night, Sam was devastated and depressed…. although he would never come out and admit it to his concerned partner!

At first he thought his colleagues were playing a prank on him (Deeks being the first to one to be blamed, of course!).  As he grilled the team and strong-armed Eric to find his beloved Challenger, Callen became concerned that his partner was becoming more and more depressed and put out an APB to find the stolen car.  For Deeks it was just a car, something to get from point A to point B.  But as Kensi tried to explain to her indifferent partner, it was not just any car!  Oh, no!  It had a V8 Magnum and a 4 barrel carburetor with dual exhausts!  Truly a work of art and a car that defined the term swagger.

What is the mystery behind this iconic car that certainly beguiled our tough special agent and made a name for itself in the automotive industry?  NCIS:LA Magazine goes back in time to discover the origins of Sam’s beloved car, and find out why it became one of the most sought after collector cars today!

It all goes back to 1959 when the first Challenger called the Silver Challenger came off the assembly line.  Later Chrysler made three different generations of a new muscle car called the Dodge Challengers with the first being produced in 1970.   That’s when the new ‘pony’ car came into its own.  ‘Pony’ was the term used for all muscle cars that were out to compete against the Ford Mustang.  Chrysler wanted its new car to be the biggest and the best pony car out there.  The new Challenger shared its components with the Plymouth Barracuda but it was more than able to stand up next to the Mustang and Camaro’s of the day.  Chrysler also wanted its new upstart to be able to compete with the Cougar which was a more luxurious and expensive pony model.  So they designed the Challenger with a longer wheel base, larger dimensions and a more luxurious interior.  The base price on the car started at $4,480 in 1970.  Not exactly inexpensive when you started adding all the bells and whistles that made the car so sought after.

In 1970 more than 76,000 cars were produced by Chrysler.  The Dodge Challenger was among the fastest and wildest cars on the market and it created its own culture and buzz.  Although the muscle car was well-received by the public, the press was not so kind.  It was criticized for some of it drawbacks like poor outward visibility and feeling too bulky for its size.  Yet, despite its drawbacks, the 1970 Dodge Challenger is still prized by collectors today and one in mint condition can go for over $80,000 on the resale market.

By 1974 sales had fallen off and Chrysler ceased production, although Dodge resumed production later, the car is still selling over 28,000 models each year.

Kensi’s description of Sam’s Charlene may the DC T/A (Trans-Am) model.  It was a racing homologation car which Dodge built to race in the Sports Car Club of America.  There were less than 2500 of these models made.

The Challenger certainly has a unique personality much like many of its owners, including Sam Hanna. It’s a muscle car that has stood the test of time making it one of the alpha cars of its generation. Strong and imposing, the 1970 Challenger was an impressive car that turned heads.  Luckily for Sam, Callen couldn’t stand to see his friend suffer any longer over his loss and spent his rainy day fund to buy him another Challenger (Deeks:  With copious amounts of potential!) that Sam will once again restore and begin a whole new love affair with.  What name will Sam christen his new Challenger?  Callen suggested Jennifer but I guess we’ll have to wait and see.  Sam may never know Charlene’s fate (and Nell and Eric will never tell!), but it’s for sure he will never forget her.  Long live Charlene!

The Art of the Undercover Agent….an Interview with Marty Deeks! by Sweet Lu


“Is there an ‘Art’ to losing yourself in an alias? I’ve always thought so, although I’ve had arguments about it with some of my fellow undercover buddies. Becoming someone else has always been easy for me. It’s fun. I did it all the time when I was a kid. It helped me forget who I really was and pretend just for a while, that I was a normal kid, living a normal life.”

Undercover Officer Marty Deeks of the LAPD and now liaison officer with NCIS laughed lightly after making that statement to me over the phone. He hadn’t wanted to give this interview, but after I told him it had been Hetty’s idea, he quickly agreed. He sounded vaguely self-conscious about it and I asked him if he was afraid of giving away some of his secrets.

“Secrets? No. The way I assume an alias is different than the way others go about it. We all have our own style and when I go under I go totally ‘Method’. I draw on my own emotional experiences to try and connect with the feelings and perceptions of the alias I’m creating. If this guy is supposed to be a violent man, then I call up the anger I experienced when I was young and feed it until it simmers just below the surface. I let it take over when needed during the op and the violence I would normally control is given free rein and that can get scary.”

“Controlling it is the hard part, and sometimes that makes it difficult to come back to your true self when the case is over. If the undercover operation is a long one, it’s even harder. You have to be that person twenty four seven. You can’t let your own feelings slip in there or react the way you personally would or you’re done. You have to be that alias, that person, no matter what happens and sometimes you have to do things that are at odds with your own sensibilities in order to stay in character. All of your reactions have to be true to that person you are portraying. You don’t get to go home at the end of the day and hang that alias up in the closet, you have to wear it until the job is done.”

Detective Deeks has one of the highest success rates in the department. He has been in deep undercover operations for months at a time where his only contact with the outside world is with his handler for short debriefing sessions two or three times a month. He has been wounded several times and commended for his work by the department four times. His move to liaison officer with NCIS:OSP changed the way he worked. When I asked him about the differences, he paused and got quiet and after a deep sigh he told me about being rescued by the NCIS team after he had been deep undercover for LAPD for four months with a human trafficking ring. He almost lost his own life in an explosion and his handler had been killed and I could tell it still hurt to talk about it.


“When I go undercover with LAPD, I go in alone. No one to count on if my cover is blown, like it was on that last op. The team saved my life that day. I was shocked when Callen walked in that room. I was preparing myself to die, but they all came for me, even though it wasn’t their case and I have never forgotten that.”

He asked for a moment to collect himself and I could hear the emotion in his voice.

“When I’m under with NCIS I’m never completely alone. I know they are watching and are ready to give me whatever back up I need to survive the assignment. Hell, Hetty even dresses me for the part I’m playing, and believe me, that can be quite an experience in itself. She used to be a costume designer so you don’t argue with her choices. Of course, if I get blood on anything, the cost comes out of my paycheck and she has this letter opener she likes to wave around. She knows how to use it too.”

I can hear the smile in his voice and a fondness as well for the Operations Manager who told me that I would be dealing with a charming, but “cheeky bastard”, as she put it. She told me he had a tendency to “fly by the seat of his pants” when he had to adopt an alias on the spur of the moment, but that he was the best she had seen at getting effectively into character almost instantly. Her admiration for him was evident.

I asked him how he prepared an alias and he gave a lot of the credit to the tech wizards at NCIS, Eric Beale and Nell Jones, the analyst.

“Nell usually prepares my backstory and Eric makes sure it will hold up to scrutiny, something I don’t get at LAPD. But when I have to do it for myself, then I pay attention to details. To be an effective undercover operative, you have to have great powers of observation. If you have to be a drug dealer or an addict, you better know what those people look like and how they act. So, I might spend a night observing down at the homeless shelter and pick up some of the mannerisms of the addicts there and then I practice them until they feel like second nature to me. I might adopt how they walk or a turn of phrase they use over and over again. It helps me get into character. I grew up around drug dealers, so I’ve got a good idea how those bastards operate. If you get it wrong though, you’re dead. I go under as a homeless man sometimes for LAPD and I never wash those particular clothes. My partner says they stink, but after a week or so wearing them I don’t notice. Besides they’re authentic and that gives me some measure of protection when I’m out there on my own.”

I asked him about going undercover with his partner, Kensi Blye and I heard a warm laugh explode on the other end of the line.

“Now that was dangerous. Eye opening, too.”

It was all I could get out of him about that assignment. I think there’s another story in there somewhere.

Maybe next time.


Check out Sweet Lu’s latest Deeks-centric fan fic:  Judgement at