Zach Nelson growled softly as he glanced out of the window, seeing the tall man in the suit talking to the bimbo across the way, his eyes skating up and down the street instead of focusing on what she wasn’t wearing.
“What?” Haskell asked nervously, the voices of the half dozen other group members falling silent as they waited for Nelson to answer.
“Him, across the street there, he was one of the feds that turned up at the radio station after our statement there, he’s going door to door.”
“They’re on to us? Oh God…the bomb…” Haskell squeaked, his eyes cutting toward the garage door, where a freezer harboured the components they had already put together.
Nelson rolled his eyes, his next door neighbour was such a damn wuss.
“He’s just talking by the look of it, not serving search warrants. Everyone else clear out the back way,” he ordered, not wanting to give the fed too much reason to be suspicious, if he wasn’t already.
“Aren’t you leaving?” Haskell asked as Nelson remained by the window as the others left.
“No, I want to make sure you don’t say something stupid,” he sneered.
Haskell huffed, but didn’t make any effort to stand up to the other man, instead he joined him at the window, watching as he crossed the street, knocking first on Nelson’s door, where Annie opened the door, and spoke to the agent for a few moments, before crossing the path and rapping lightly on Haskell’s door.
“Be cool,” Nelson warned as Haskell went to open the door.
Tony felt his pulse jump the moment the door was opened, the man standing in front of him looked wary, and sweat dotted his hairline, despite the wash of cool air that Tony could feel brushing past him, presumably from the air-con. In the shade of the living room, he could see another man wandering apparently casually toward the door.
“Hi, I was wondering if I could talk to you a minute,” he said.
“I’m Tony DiNardo, my wife and I were thinking of maybe buying a house in the neighbourhood, and I thought I would check it out, talk to some folks, get a feel for what the area is like.”
“Um, I’m Arthur Haskell, this is Zach Nelson, from next door.”
“Ah, I think I just spoke to your wife Mr Nelson,” he nodded.
“I noticed,” Nelson said coolly, gesturing toward the window.
Tony felt his pulse jump again, he didn’t need the confirmation they would get from Abby’s gadgets, he recognized that voice, that tone, but he couldn’t arrest him, not here and now.
His eyes met Nelson’s and he saw the instant that the man knew he’d been made, he shifted fractionally, trying to make sure the doorframe was blocking any hostile move that the man might make, but he was a shade to slow, Nelson already had a hunting knife in his hand and before Tony could move out of range, and make an excuse to back off, the knife had slipped between his ribs.
His breath hissed out of him, and he felt his knees weaken as Nelson grabbed his arm, dragging him across the threshold.
“Help me you moron,” Nelson hissed at Haskell, who was staring wide eyed.
“What have you done?” Haskell whined.
“What I had to, now get a hold of him and help me get him to the damn basement,” he snarled.
Tony tried to struggle as they dragged him through the house, into the kitchen, and pushed him through the basement door, but all the strength was gone from his body and he tumbled down the short flight of stairs onto the half landing like a discarded rag doll, and heard the door above him lock as black took him.
He wasn’t sure how long he had been unconscious, when it came crashing back on a wave of pain, but he could hear harried voices and frantic movement up above him, definitely more than two people up there now.
“Ziva, McGee, now would be a great time for the cavalry to arrive,” he gasped, each word, each breath hurting far more even than when he had been fighting the plague.
He whimpered softly, wondering what the hell had happened to them, it was a small community, and where they were parked shouldn’t have been more than mere minutes from anywhere, they had to know where he was, he had given the street name and house number before every approach to keep the evidence straight.
He fumbled in his pocket, his fingers having trouble grasping his phone, but managed to pull it out. He wondered briefly why they hadn’t taken it from him, but then realized that explained the noise above, they were clearing out.
Holding the phone up to his blurry eyes, he hit speed dial 1, and prayed that Gibbs was out of MTAC now. He felt a single tear slide down the side of his face at the familiar bark.
“Boss…” he whispered faintly.
“DiNozzo? Tony, what’s going on?” Gibbs demanded
“Hurt boss…need help…”
“Where the hell are McGee and David?”
“All right, hang on Tony, we’re coming, just hang on.”
“Try,” he agreed faintly, allowing the phone to fall from his numb fingers.
All was silent above now, he closed his eyes, wondering what had happened to Ziva and McGee, he hoped they were just captured, not hurt like he was, he didn’t want to think of them being injured too. His eyes slid shut again, it was just too much effort to keep them open, and he felt himself start to drift, he struggled to hang on to consciousness, but it quickly faded away.
Gibbs swore viciously, then looked over the partition into the next team’s area.
“Balboa, I need you and your team, something has gone sideways with my team.”
“DiNozzo’s hurt, and McGee and David haven’t reached him.”
“Have you tried calling them?”
“No, if they’ve been captured I don’t want their captors knowing we’re onto a problem, and if they haven’t….” if they weren’t in some kind of physical trouble, he wanted to know why the hell they had failed to back DiNozzo up without giving them chance to get their stories straight.
Balboa nodded and gathered his team with a gesture, the four of them following Gibbs to the elevator.
“I’ll take Davis and Young with me to find DiNozzo, you and Walsh locate Ziva and McGee. Balboa…if they’re not at the very least unconscious, I want them separated and brought back to the yard.”
Balboa nodded his understanding, feeling ill at the thought, if they weren’t dead or injured, then they had chosen to not back up a fellow agent, and that was a thought he really didn’t want to have.
As soon as the two agency cars were on the road, Gibbs pulled out his cell again, calling Abby.
“Abby, no questions right now, I need an exact location on DiNozzo’s cell phone.”
“Wh….Gibbs, I can just call Ziva and Timmy, he was giving his location with each contact…”
“NO. Do NOT contact them Abby, not under any circumstances, just get a lock on Tony’s phone for me, now Abs.”
“O…okay,” she said quietly, and he could hear her tapping at her keyboard.
“Got it Gibbs, looking at the map, there are three possible locations, 138, 140 or 142 Morningside, in the Royal Woods community. Gibbs…are the team in trouble?” she asked in a subdued tone.
“I don’t know what’s going on yet Abs, just sit tight and I’ll let you know as soon as I can.”
He hung up on her and floored the gas, hoping like hell that he wasn’t going to be too late, but his gut was churning.
Balboa had slowed his car the moment he had followed Gibbs into the Royal Woods community, and he and Walsh cruised slowly, looking for the other agency car.
“There,” Walsh said, pointing down one of the shady roads.
Balboa followed his SFAs gesture and saw the car, he turned onto the street, pulling up behind them, and the two of them got out quietly, hands on their weapons, but not pulling them yet. Approaching the car silently, they split up, one moving to the driver’s side and the other moving to the passenger door. Inside they could see McGee and David, both completely focused on the pages of the books they were reading. Pulling open the doors, they both felt a surge of annoyance as the pair scrabbled futilely for their guns, if he and Walsh had been anything to do with the killings, these two clowns would be dead by now.
“Balboa, you scared the hell out of us, are you here to relieve us?” McGee asked, blinking up at him.
“Not exactly, out of the car, both of you.”
“We do not answer to you, we do not have to do as you say,” Ziva said snottily, turning back to her book.
“Incorrect, I am a Supervisory Agent, I outrank the pair of you, as for that matter does SFA Walsh, if either one of us tells you to do something in the absence of Gibbs, you are required to do it. Chain of command doesn’t only apply to your own team, not that you pay a lot of attention to it there either. Now, out of the car.”
“Gibbs will hear of this,” Ziva bitched, getting out and fixing him with a glare.
“You can bet your ass he will,” Balboa agreed, pulling his cuffs and snapping them on her before she could blink.
“What’s going on?” McGee demanded as he too was cuffed, and they were both disarmed.
“You’ll find out when Agent Gibbs is good and ready to tell you,” Balboa said, dragging Ziva over to the car they had arrived in and locking her in the back, using the centre seatbelt to pin her hands after belting her in, he couldn’t see McGee causing much of a problem while they called for another car, but she was a completely different matter.
Going back to the other car, he stuck his head in, glancing around the interior, something was striking him as off, then he realized what it was, the silence. Looking at the recording setup, he could see that it was still recording the feed from the wire Tony was wearing, but the dial on the speaker that allowed the two in the car to hear the feed was all the way down to zero. Pulling back, he fixed McGee with a hard glare and slammed the door shut, and moved around to close the door on the other side too, before pulling out his cell.
“This is Balboa, I need another car at this location.”
Gibbs and his two borrowed team members pulled up outside the houses Abby had tagged on Morningside, looking at the three seemingly innocuous houses that ended the road.
“The door is ajar at 140,” Young pointed out.
“Let’s go, remember, we have no warrants yet,” Gibbs reminded them.
The three of them approached the open door, and Gibbs was about to knock on the frame when he saw the blood just inside the door, pulling his gun, he gestured the other two to the sides and rapped hard on the door frame.
“Armed Federal agents, we’re coming in,” he called, before nudging the door further open.
“Clear the house,” he ordered.
The two slipped past him and up the stairs, guns at the ready, while Gibbs cautiously started clearing the downstairs, following the blood trail carefully, he could see places where various footprints had walked over the trail, and he instinctively knew that they were gone, that they had gone to ground somewhere else.
“Clear upstairs,” Davis said as they came down.
“Garage,” Gibbs grunted, gesturing to the door between the garage and the house. He moved to the basement door himself, finding it locked from the outside. He swung it open cautiously, his gun sweeping the room before he registered the crumpled form lying on the half landing, and the blood, drenching the landing, pooling on the lower stairs and the floor, and the air heavy with the iron rich stench of it.
He heard someone gagging behind him, and turned numbly to face a pale faced Young.
“Call it in,” he said hoarsely before padding hesitantly down the stairs, he didn’t want to do this, he didn’t want the certainty he knew was coming, as long as he didn’t check, he could believe his SFA was alive, but he knew he owed his boy better than that.
He crouched on the step above the landing, to avoid standing in the blood, and pressed his fingers to Tony’s throat.
He heard Young asking for an ambulance, and hauled himself unsteadily back up the stairs.
“Don’t need an ambulance, tell them to send Ducky,” he said, his voice shaking, and he swiped a hand across his eyes as they blurred.
He found himself outside in the backyard without any awareness that he had moved, and sat down on the edge of the deck, his heart breaking. He couldn’t believe that it had happened again, that someone had taken yet another child from him. He couldn’t think straight, he couldn’t even begin to contemplate how he was going to go on at NCIS without Tony there.
He slowly became aware of Young standing in front of him looking uncomfortable, and swiped the tears off his face.
“What is it?” he asked.
“I thought… Dr Mallard is just pulling up outside,” Young said quietly.
Gibbs nodded and rose to his feet, he needed to warn Ducky and Palmer before letting them down into that basement, he couldn’t let them find out by being confronted with Tony’s body.
He met them as they came in the door.
“Jethro, whatever is wrong?” Ducky asked, seeing the state of his old friend.
“Ducky, Palmer, before you go in there, you need to know…its Tony, he’s…he’s gone Duck,” he said, his voice cracking.
“Oh my, Jethro….”
“Just take good care of him Duck, I…I’m going to have Vance hand this whole case over to another team, or the FBI,” he told him.
“That is most unlike you Jethro,” Ducky protested, alarmed at Gibbs’ uncharacteristic action.
“I think I’m going to have other things to worry about. Just look after him.”
“Of course Jethro.”
Gibbs passed him, stepping out of the front door, he couldn’t stay there watching the scene being processed like any other scene, couldn’t watch the cold finality of his boy being zipped into a body bag. He saw a crime scene truck pull up, closely followed by Vance’s car. Peterson’s team got out of the truck, murmuring soft words of regret to Gibbs as they hauled their gear past him, and he waited numbly for Vance to approach.
“Don’t bother Leon, I’m glad you’ve put another team on it,” he said tiredly.
“Oh. Can you explain to me why McGee and David were brought back to the Navy Yard in cuffs?”
Gibbs face hardened and a block of ice formed in his gut.
“They were uninjured, unharmed?”
“Spitting mad about being cuffed, but otherwise yes. Balboa refused to release them.”
“I should hope so, they were meant to be backing up DiNozzo, and now he’s a guest of Ducky, and they’re without a scratch, he had to call me Leon, he had to call me because they didn’t come and back him up, so yeah, they’re in cuffs,” he snarled.
“You can’t just assume they did something wrong Gibbs, it could have been equipment failure, anything,” Vance protested.
“If that’s the case, then investigation will prove it, but even there, there are questions they will need to answer. I didn’t want them to hear what was going on, and I don’t want them to have a chance to get their stories straight. You will handle it straight up Leon, and not do anything to make it go away because they’re your little favourites, because I swear if you try it, I will drop the whole lot in Fornell’s lap.”
“You would willingly hand a case over to the FBI?”
“One of the best agents I ever trained, hell no, the best agent I ever trained or worked with is dead, and his backup was nowhere to be seen. You used to be an investigator Leon, you tell me what that looks like.”
Vance opened his mouth, then closed it again, Gibbs was right, it did look bad for McGee and David, if there had been an equipment failure they should have noticed, called DiNozzo back to the car and reported it, if not…he didn’t want to have to think about if not right now.
“I’ll take you back to NCIS, you’re in no state to drive,” Leon offered.
Gibbs hesitated contemplating riding back with Tony in Ducky’s truck, but a firm hand on his arm was already guiding him into the back seat of Vance’s SUV, and he didn’t have the energy to fight it right now.
Back at the yard, Gibbs found Balboa waiting in the bullpen.
“Gibbs, Young told me, I’m so sorry,” he said quietly.
“Not half as sorry as those two will be, where were they?”
“In the sedan. Gibbs….they had the volume on their receiver off, they couldn’t hear him. They were sitting there reading.”
“Peterson’s team is taking over the case, make sure you tell him, and also make sure Vance knows.”
“I will. I uh, I didn’t know if you would want me to break it to Abby or not…”
“She doesn’t know yet?”
“Not unless she’s heard it somewhere else.”
Gibbs nodded and headed straight down to Abby’s lab, he didn’t really want to be the one to tell her that her friend was dead, but he would never forgive himself if she heard something so devastating somewhere else.
She pounced on him the moment he entered her lab, grabbing his arms.
“Gibbs, Gibbs, did you find Tony-bear? Is he OK, are Ziva and Timmy OK?” she demanded over the sound of the music.
“Abs,” he said softly, pulling her with him as he went to turn the stereo off.
“What is it, what’s wrong, are they OK?”
“Abby, just….I need you to listen to me, please.”
“OK,” she said, her voice going small.
“Tony was hurt,” he said quietly.
“But, he’s OK though, right Gibbs? Tell me he’s OK.”
“Abs, he’s gone, he didn’t make it.”
“No,” she said, shaking her head.
“He was gone before I got to him Abs.”
“What about Ziva and Timmy, were they hurt too?”
“No, they….it looks like they let him down Abs, stopped listening to his receiver. They never knew he was in trouble.”
“No,” she whimpered, her knees giving way.
He went down with her, holding her in his lap tightly as she sobbed her heart out, and if he cried again too, well, Abby wasn’t going to mention it.
Vance went looking for Gibbs a couple of hours later, after he had heard the preliminary reports from both Balboa and Peterson. Checking autopsy first, he found a sad Ducky comforting an upset Palmer, but no Gibbs.
“He has not been here yet Director, I suspect he is still with Abigail.”
“Ah, I’ll try the lab then. Have you…do you have…”
“Anthony’s cause of death?” Ducky prompted.
“Exsanguination, he bled out.”
“Could he have survived?”
“Had he received basic medical care to slow the blood-loss immediately after his injury, and been gotten into surgery…possibly. I can’t say for absolutely sure of course, but he might have stood a fighting chance.”
Leon nodded slowly, this was steadily looking worse and worse for the pair cooling their heels upstairs. They had turned off the volume, DiNozzo had been killed, the killers had gotten away, and Peterson’s team had found evidence of bomb making in the house, all while they were sitting on their asses reading books according to the information he had got from Balboa.
Leon sighed and left the MEs to their grieving, turning his steps toward the lab. He found Gibbs still sitting on the floor, Abby crying quietly into his shoulder.
“Gibbs,” he said, causing the other man to look up.
“Leon, what have you found out?” he asked.
“Peterson’s team found evidence of bomb making at the house, they’ve brought it back here, all of the evidence is in the evidence lock up, but…” he gestured helplessly in Abby’s direction.
“I can work, I want to work, I want to make sure Tony-bear’s killer doesn’t get away with it,” she croaked, pulling her head up off Gibbs shoulder.
Her eyes were red, and her face was streaked with her make-up, but her chin was set with determination.
“I can do it.”
“I’m going to have to hand this over to the FBI Miss Sciuto, we can’t afford to be accused of tampering with the evidence when this gets to court.”
“I would never….”
“Abby, quiet a minute,” Gibbs whispered looking up at Leon.
“You’re going to charge them?”
“I’m going to hand it to the FBI, and IA, it will be up to them what charges they might face, but I don’t want their lawyers yapping about impropriety if it gets to court.”
“Abs, we’re going to be busy, we have….we have a lot to get done for Tony. You know he wouldn’t want Senior anywhere near his funeral arrangements, or his apartment,” he told her, keeping to himself the thought that Senior would arrange the cheapest funeral he could, and pocket anything he could from Tony’s estate.
“Fine, we take care of making sure everything is how Tony would want, you make sure everyone involved in his death pays for it,” she said fiercely to Vance.
Vance nodded his agreement and left the room, leaving them alone once more.
“Are you going to call Senior?” she asked after he was gone.
“Be totally honest here Abs, do you think Tony would want me to?”
“I…no, no I don’t,” she admitted miserably.
“I know which solicitor has his will, I know what funeral arrangements he wanted. We call Senior when everything is in place and he can’t do anything but attend the funeral and take whatever Tony has left him.”
She nodded her reluctant agreement, and let him help her to her feet.
Fornell and Sacks were surprised by the subdued air in the NCIS bullpen as they left the elevator and headed up to the Director’s office. And were even more surprised to see that the man’s secretary had been crying.
“We’re here to see Director Vance,” Fornell said.
She shot Sacks a venomous look, and hit the intercom.
“Agents Fornell and Sacks are here,” she said.
“Thank you, send them in.”
They went in, and found a drained looking Vance waiting for them.
“What can the FBI do for NCIS?” Fornell asked after they had taken the seats that Vance waved them to.
“I have a case I need you to take over, you heard the DJ and his guest that got killed on the radio?”
“Yeah, that’s Gibbs case, why isn’t he here snarling and growling to stop us taking the case?”
“He has other things on his plate right now. We tracked a location for the killer, but we now have a dead agent, two more who may not only be complicit in his death, but also may have allowed the killer to get away, possibly with a bomb, by their actions, or rather, inactions.”
“Who?” he asked, already horribly afraid that he knew the answer from Gibbs absence and the general sense of loss in the bullpen.
“DiNozzo was murdered. McGee and David were meant to be backing him up, but they dropped the ball.”
“Where are they now?”
“Holding, waiting for IA, they don’t know what they’ve done yet. Balboa found them sitting in their car, the receiver turned down, and their noses buried in books.”
“Hell, do you have any idea yet what they planned on doing with that bomb?”
“No, DiNozzo was out there getting voice prints to try to find the radio station killer, I’d say he found him, the house is registered to Arthur Haskell, but we haven’t confirmed that he is either the radio station killer, or the one who murdered Agent DiNozzo.”
“All of the evidence is in the evidence lockup, waiting for transfer.”
“Sacks get the evidence back, and get the lab guys working on those tapes, we need to know who we’re looking for.”
“The initial reports, from Peterson and Balboa, and Dr Mallard’s autopsy report on Agent DiNozzo,” Vance said, pushing the files across the desk.
“Go on Sacks, get our people busy, I want to stay and hear what McGee and David have to say to internal affairs.”
Sacks nodded and took the files, heading down to get the evidence signed for and transferred, he wasn’t sure how he felt about this, he didn’t like DiNozzo, but he didn’t want him dead.
“Internal affairs should be about ready to talk to them now, you want to watch from the observation room?”
“I’d rather sit in.”
“If IA have no objection, I don’t.”
McGee looked up as the door to the interrogation room he had been shoved into was opened, and looked first at Fornell in shock, and then at the vaguely familiar man with an NCIS ID.
“Timothy McGee, I am Agent Wright, internal affairs, this is Agent Fornell, FBI. You are here to answer questions about the events of this afternoon in the Royal Woods development. Do you want legal representation, or a union rep at this time?”
“What? No, why would I want that, what’s going on, and why is this being recorded?” he demanded, noticing that the light on the camera was on.
“Please sign here to indicate that you have declined representation at this time, this interview is being recorded.”
McGee signed the sheet that Wright put in front of him and threw the pen on the desk.
Wright logged the date and time, and who was present in the room for the recording and then nailed McGee with a cold look.
“Now, please tell us what you were doing out at the Royal Woods community this afternoon.”
“We were out there getting voice prints for the residents, we had established that the community was the most likely location for the killer of Walter Daniels and Adam Gator on the radio. Tony, Agent DiNozzo went to talk to the residents and get the voice prints, Agent David and I stayed in the car to back him up.”
“How was the backup to be provided?”
“What do you mean?”
“How were you backing him up, was he to call you if he found something suspicious or was there something else in place?”
“Oh, we had an audio receiver so that we could hear him as he was talking to the residents.”
“And how were you to locate him if there was a problem?”
“He was giving his location before speaking to each resident.”
“Do you recall where he was when he gave his last location?”
“Ah….” Tim floundered, he had no idea, he hadn’t really been paying a whole lot of attention even before they had turned the volume down, and he had been absorbed in his book after, he had no idea how long they hadn’t been listening.
“I’m not really…I wasn’t really listening to the locations that closely,” he stuttered.
“So, you weren’t really backing him up then?”
“Of course we were, we were right there if he needed us. Look, what is this? Has someone put in a complaint about Tony? He may be a bit dense at times, a bit of a clown, but he would never do anything that would jeopardize a case.”
“When Agent Balboa located you, both you and Miss David were reading, can you explain that?”
“It was kind of boring just sitting there, we had to find something to do.”
“You mean, aside from listening to your partner, your senior partner, so that you could provide him with backup?”
“When Agent Balboa located you, and removed you from the vehicle, he found the volume on the receiver turned down, you were not listening to Agent DiNozzo at that time, can you explain that?”
“We turned it down for a while, he was going on and on and he was giving us a headache. We just needed a break.”
“And it didn’t occur to either of you to plug in headphones? To take turns listening for a while, to give each other a rest, didn’t occur to you to call someone to come and take over, didn’t occur to you to call Agent DiNozzo back to the vehicle for a while so that you could ALL get a break?”
“No, I guess not,” Tim huffed, still not seeing what the problem was.
“You guess not, huh. How long was the receiver off for?”
“I don’t know really, a while, I guess.”
Wright looked at Fornell, who shook his head before looking straight at McGee.
“Timothy McGee, you are under arrest for criminal negligence, and negligent homicide in relation to the death of Senior Agent Anthony DiNozzo.”
“What?” Tim squawked.
“You have the right to remain silent…”
“I know my damn rights, what the hell are you talking about, Tony isn’t dead.”
“You need to let me finish reading you your rights Mr McGee, at which time you will be asked once more if you wish to have legal representation present.”
Tim fell back in his seat, listening in shocked silence as Fornell finished reading him his rights.
“Do you wish to continue to waive your right to legal representation?”
“No, no, I want a lawyer,” Tim said faintly, his hands shaking. He knew they were screwed, if Tony was really dead, they didn’t really have a leg to stand on, they had turned the volume down, they had been caught by another agent not listening, and he remembered with a sick twist of his stomach that Abby had mentioned her intent to add a wire into the car in case anyone stopped and spoke to them while they were sitting there. If Gibbs or Abby heard the conversation that preceded them turning the receiver off, they were dead.
Fornell and Wright were just leaving the room when Tim looked up.
“Wait, what happened, what happened to Tony?”
“We will discuss that further when your lawyer is present, Mr McGee,” Fornell said coldly.
Out in the hallway once the door was closed, Fornell looked at Wright.
“I want to just go ahead and arrest her, she was in the car, he already confirmed they turned the sound off, there isn’t a lot of point asking her to confirm what we already know, we need to just read her her rights and offer her a lawyer,” Fornell said.
Wright thought about it for a moment, and then nodded.
“Given what McGee already confirmed, you’re right, this isn’t an internal affairs issue, they belong to you guys.”
“All right, let’s tell them we’re ready to record in the second interrogation room, you might as well witness her arrest too, keep it official until we move them over to the Hoover building.”
Wright agreed, and after telling the tech to start recording, he and Fornell walked into the second interrogation room.
“Finally, is this farcical confinement over now? Gibbs will not tolerate this, we are supposed to be working an important case,” she snarled, jumping to her feet.
“Sit down Miss David,” Fornell barked, surprised at his tone, she dropped into her seat, staring at Wright as he went through the process of confirming the time, date and who was present in the room before stepping back to give Fornell the floor.
“Ziva David you are under arrest for Criminal negligence, and the negligent homicide of Senior Agent Anthony DiNozzo. You have the right to remain silent…”
“What is this buffoonery, you cannot arrest me, Gibbs will not permit it. We are busy, we are working a case,” she snapped, leaping up again.
“What is it with you two interrupting me, sit down, shut up, and listen to your rights,” Fornell said angrily.
She plunked into her chair again, glaring at him malevolently, as he finished reading her her rights and asked her if she wanted a lawyer.
“I have no need of a lawyer, I have done nothing wrong,” she snarled.
“You couldn’t be more wrong, are you certain you do not require a lawyer?”
“I do not.”
“Fine, you are entitled to change your mind and request legal representation at any time, sign here,” Fornell snapped, slapping the waiver down in front of her. She scrawled her signature and shoved it back.
“Now, you will tell me why you have levelled such an absurd charge against me,” she demanded imperiously.
“You don’t get to make demands here, you are a prisoner, and you will be transported to the FBI offices for further questioning,” Fornell told her coldly.
It was nearly 1am when Fornell headed over to Gibbs house, knowing that the other man wasn’t going to be asleep, not tonight. Letting himself in, he could see Abby sprawled asleep on the couch, her face scrubbed clean of all make-up, making her eyes seem even redder in her pale face. Moving quietly, Fornell headed down to the basement, knowing that his friend would be there.
“Tobias,” Gibbs acknowledged quietly from where he was sitting at his workbench carving something into wood.
“Gibbs, I thought you might want to know, they’ve both been charged with criminal negligence and negligent homicide, to start with.”
“To start with?”
“Given that their action, or inaction, allowed the MaH nuts to get away from Royal Woods, with their bomb, if anyone gets killed by it, if they set it off before we catch them, we’re going to add further negligent homicide charges for everyone that dies.”
“Good. Tell me what they did Tobias.”
“You already know, they turned down the receiver.”
“Yeah, but I’m fairly sure that even the FBI would have thought to ask them why.”
“Yeah, not sure you want to hear it though.”
“Just tell me.”
“They were sick of listening to him, McGee claimed he was giving him a headache and Ziva was bored with hearing him.”
“How long, how long was he without backup Tobias?”
“A little over an hour. He found the killer, we matched the voice print to Zach Nelson, and got a warrant to search his house, got the murder weapon. He must have realized that DiNozzo had made him, stabbed him and they cleared out. We haven’t figured out what their target is going to be yet.”
“What did they say about being responsible for DiNozzo’s death?”
“McGee isn’t saying anything, he lawyered up after he was arrested, he won’t say anything, but I think its shaken him, David though…she’s smug Gibbs, she keeps insisting she has done nothing wrong, not only does she not seem to care he’s dead, she seems honestly pleased.”
“Damn her, I should never have let her back after that Rivkin mess,” Gibbs whispered.
“Why did you?”
“She needed…something, and she seemed to have settled her difference with Tony on the matter after a bit. She was bitchier than she used to be to him after we got back from Somalia, but then, she was bitchier to pretty much everyone.”
“Listening to the car’s wire, it was her that egged McGee on to shut off the audio, not that he put up a lot of resistance to her, but it was definitely her idea.”
“I want to kill her Tobias, it’s been a very long time since I’ve wanted to get my hands around someone’s neck this badly.”
“Yeah, you’re not the only one, even Sacks wants to kill the pair of them, and you know how he felt about your boy. Something about leaving your partner swinging in the wind…”
“Yeah,” Gibbs agreed, his tone weary.
“I spoke to the DA, he says that with the evidence we have of the stabbing, and Ducky’s autopsy report, we don’t need to hold his body hostage, if you want to go ahead and take care of things, or call his father or whatever you need to do.”
“Thanks Tobias, appreciate that. I’ll let you know…you know.”
“Good, there are a few of us who would like to pay our respects, he was a good kid, even if he wouldn’t come and work for us.”
Gibbs snorted a sad laugh, and shook his head at the other man.
“Yeah, well he always had better taste.”
“I’ll keep you in the loop as much as I can, Jethro,” he promised.
“Only about those two, please, the other case, the original case, I don’t care anymore.”
“I don’t care anymore. I’m done Tobias, I’m burying my boy, and then I’m quitting. All I want to know is that those two pay for what they did.”
“You’re not thinking of doing something…stupid…are you?”
“No, he’d never forgive me, but I can’t do it anymore Tobias, NCIS was my escape from the memories in this place, the loss of my girls, but now every time I step in there, all I will see is my boy, lying on those stairs with all his blood on the outside instead of the inside, and knowing that two people he should have been able to trust with his life let him down, let him die. I’m going to sell up, get out of DC all together,” he said.
“And go where?”
“Stillwater, at least in the short term, after that, I don’t know.”
“Well damn,” Tobias breathed.
“Yeah, I always thought they’d have to drag me out kicking when I hit mandatory retirement age, but without him there to hand the team over to, there doesn’t seem to be any point anymore.”
“Well, I have to go, I just came to let you know where we were, take it easy Jethro.”
“Yeah, thanks Tobias.”
Fornell trudged heavily back up the stairs, and Gibbs turned back to his carving.
Gibbs sat at the graveside, listening to the chaplain with half of his attention as Abby cried on his shoulder. Ducky sat on the other side of him, and Palmer sat on the other side of Abby. Gibbs wasn’t really surprised at the amount of people who had come to pay their last respects to Tony, he knew there were cops from all three of his departments somewhere near the back of the group, Tom Morrow was standing over with Leon and Jackie Vance, there were a half dozen Feebs, including Fornell and Sacks, and NCIS was probably at a standstill right now, because the majority of the field teams, the records and evidence staff and a good number of security were here, in fact, the only person not here was Senior, who hadn’t bothered answering any of Gibbs’ messages, and quite possibly didn’t even know his son was dead yet, unless he had heard it somewhere else.
The chaplain finished speaking and closed his book, and Gibbs rose, feeling Ducky rise too as he guided Abby to her feet.
“I’ll miss you son,” he whispered, looking down at the carved lozenge of wood set into the lid of the coffin, Tony’s name, wrapped in curling tendrils of ivy, he’d already arranged for Tony’s badge to be set in resin and made part of the headstone, but it was the location that he hoped would have meant the most to Tony, he had found that the plot next to Kelly was still unclaimed, and he had taken it immediately, burying Tony next to his ‘sister’.
“Take good care of him for me girls, because he’ll take good care of you.”
He paused long enough to allow Abby, Ducky and Palmer to say their own private goodbyes, and then led them away towards the waiting cars, he spoke to the few people who stopped them to offer condolences, but if asked even a minute later what they had said, he couldn’t have recalled a word, he just felt numb again.
Gibbs was sitting at the till in his father’s store in Stillwater, watching the door. Despite the sun setting toward evening, it wasn’t closing time he was looking out for, but Tobias. After seven months, McGee and David’s trials were finally over, and the sentencing for both had been today. Tobias had promised to drive up and tell him the outcomes in person.
The bell over the door rang, and Tobias stepped in, quirking a grin at him.
“Oddly, that suits you, you know,” he smirked.
“Yeah, yeah,” Gibbs growled, glowering at him, but the glare lacked the old intensity. Without the pressures of the job, and with his father helping him through the old grief of his girls, and the new grief of his boy, he had mellowed some.
“Flip the lock and the closed sign, and we can go get some coffee,” Gibbs said, locking the till and shoving the key in his pocket.
Twenty minutes later they were seated with Jack at the kitchen table, steaming mugs in front of them.
“So,” Tobias said, twisting the mug between his hands.
“Just spit it out Tobias.”
“Ok, McGee first, he showed remorse, especially after the additional negligent homicide charges were added for the people killed when those MaH nuts blew that bomb. There was no way to know for sure that they wouldn’t have still succeeded if that pair had been listening that day, but he acknowledged that it allowed them time to escape, and didn’t help, so he wouldn’t allow his lawyers to protest the additional charges. He got fifteen years, with at least 12 to be served before he’s eligible for parole.”
“And David?” Jack asked.
“No remorse at all, still won’t acknowledge any culpability, 20 years, no parole.”
“Good,” Gibbs said darkly.
“There are a couple more things you need to know. Zach Nelson was finally caught, in Texas, he killed three LEOs, so we’re not pushing to bring him back here yet, we’re hoping he’ll get the death penalty, especially if the DA will allow us to add the federal charges.”
“And the other thing?”
“Senior has been sniffing around. He went to the Navy Yard, but Vance refused to let him past security, we’ve also found out he went by Tony’s apartment, and your place. Good job you had the locks changed on the apartment, he had a copy of the kid’s old key, the building super took it off him. The family who bought your place wouldn’t tell him where you had gone either, they didn’t like him.”
“So he doesn’t know Tony’s dead yet?” Jack asked.
“Oh, he knows, he managed to track Tony’s lawyer, before the visit to the apartment. He was after info about the kid’s will Gibbs, when the lawyer told him to take a hike, that’s when he went to the apartment, and then looking for you.”
“Yeah? Make sure he finds out where I am Tobias, I have a few things to say to him, and I’ll be very glad to let him know what Tony left him in his will,” he said with a smirk.
“Oh, what did he leave the old mooch?” Jack asked.
“Nothing, nothing at all dad, he cottoned on pretty early that Senior had only reappeared in his life when he realized Tony had money, and only came around when he wanted something, so he left him precisely nothing.”
“Hah, good for him.”
“Yeah, look, I have to go, I have to pick Emily up from the wicked witch tonight, thanks for the coffee.”
“Thanks for coming to catch us up in person Tobias,” Gibbs said, rising to show him out.
“No problem, call in next time you come to DC to see Abby, and we’ll hoist a glass or two to the kid.”
“I will, thanks Tobias.”
Gibbs watched Tobias pull away up the road, and then turned back indoors, shutting off the light.