It was times like these when Tim wished for a dead body.
Not that he was morbid or "ooh, dead body" or splatter-happy like Abby, but it would beat sitting in front of his computer watching the display of colored cubes rearrange themselves during defrag. Again.
He hated testifying
"Keep sighing like that, Probie," Tony muttered to his left, "and you'll bore yourself into a coma." He sat back in his chair with his feet on his desk, eyes closed.
Tim stopped sighing—not because Tony told him to, but because Gibbs really could show up any minute. His testimony to the grand jury had just finished. Judging by the abrupt call Tony got a few minutes before, it had gone well enough. But it also left Gibbs without anything to do but wait until the grand jury returned an indictment. Or not. Lawyers and chicanery annoy Gibbs. And too much free time riles Gibbs up even more. It was a weird sort of inverse relationship: the less they have to do, the more irate Gibbs gets.
"You know, you shouldn't have made Ziva get the coffee," Tim murmured half-heartedly, because he did want his half-caf latte with whip and the mocha chip muffin he promised to split with her. It was a reward for his daily jog up the stairwell. Too bad he missed the "Wet Paint" sign this morning. "She might forget your order."
"I didn't make her go," Tony pointed out. He folded his arms behind his head. Downtime never seemed to bother Tony. "Ziva volunteered."
"Only because you kept bugging her," Tim reminded Tony. Tim absently rubbed at the gray paint on his thumb. "She went because she was sick and tired of you asking her how to spell—" Tim's eyes widened. "Wait a minute. Your spelling isn't that bad."
Tony frowned. Whether it was because of Tim's comment on his spelling or because he had been found out, Tim wasn't sure. Knowing Tony, it was probably both.
"You want Gibbs to come back to find no coffee waiting?" Tony challenged.
Tim winced. Tony did have a point.
"Maybe we should go over our testimonies again?" Tim suggested lamely.
"If I go over mine one more time, I can start making limericks out of it."
Tim snorted. "That should go over well with Judge Reinfeld."
"I could bronze my testimony and have Hedy Lamarr hand deliver it to the old guy and it still wouldn't go well with him." Tony narrowed his eyes at Tim's blank look. "Boom Town? Crossroads? My Favorite Spy?" He rolled his eyes. "She was the 1940's version of Angelina Jolie."
"You watch too many movies," Tim grumbled as he surreptitiously typed out "Lamarr" on Google. He blinked at the images that popped up. Wow.
"No, I watch the right ones," Tony returned, "not every blockbuster or pointy-eared epic that comes out qualifies as a classic, McGeek."
Tim retorted without thinking, "So says Professor DiNardo." He grimaced the moment the words left his mouth. "Tony, that was…I didn't mean to—"
"You gotta admit," Tony said in an overly bright voice that made Tim unable to meet his eyes, "all that trivia made me a pretty convincing professor."
"Yeah," Tim laughed awkwardly. He glanced over at Tony, who was now staring dully at his computer. Tim took a deep breath. "Tony. I—"
"You think if I call Ziva, she could get me one of those muffins?"
Tim blinked. "Uh…" He stared at the stiff shoulders. His stomach did a flip flop that left a knot inside him. "Probably not." Tim took a deep breath before falteringly adding, "I think right now she's probably debating how to screw up your order."
The strained laugh was a relief to hear. Kind of.
Tim started picking at the dried paint on his hand again. He wondered if Abby had turpentine. If not, she could probably make some.
"I'll split my muffin with you?" Tim offered hesitantly.
"And get McCooties?" Tony scoffed. "No thanks." He swiveled around to look at Tim, his mouth quirked into a crooked smile. "I'll just get a candy bar at the vending machines later."
Facing his computer again, Tim gnawed on his lower lip. "Lieutenant Vista's court martial took only three days to convict him for Commander Ford's murder," he commented awkwardly because the silence between them had stretched for too long. "We've had to wait weeks before we finally got a grand jury for Jose Brinon."
"Civilian contractor," Tony grunted, making the words sound dirty.
Considering all the evidence they were able to decode so far from Ford's laptop, Tim thought the generalization was fairly accurate. Tech was still deciphering gigabytes of encrypted data.
Every phone in the bullpen was ringing save theirs. Testimony time, especially for a case of this caliber, had exempted them from Dispatch's call list for the past two weeks. The FBI had wanted to take over the case once Brinon Industries had been linked to Ford's death but, of course, NCIS (mostly Gibbs) hadn't been interested in sharing.
Tim eyed Tony's monitor and the new racing game Tony had installed. He was tempted, but with his luck, Gibbs would catch him in the act.
"Think our testimonies tomorrow will stick?" Tim asked. It was lame, but it was better than staring at nothing in particular and failing to look busy.
Shrugging, Tony sat slouched in his seat, idly running his cursor around the screen, trying to select a car for his game.
"Physical evidence would stick better," Tony said finally. He decided on a red mustang. He nodded toward the stack of folders at the center of his desk—the ones he'd been bent over well before Tim got in from his sprint up the stairs. "Defense may be good enough to dismantle what we have to say if we eventually go to trial, but physical evidence?" Tony scowled. "If the cyber-geeks could have gotten the rest of Ford's computer cracked, we could've submitted it, too."
"We still could," Tim reminded him. "At the trial."
"If there is a trial. You never know with grand juries. And that defense lawyer is like David Copperfield," Tony grunted. "What are those guys doing down there?"
Tim bit his tongue. Several weeks ago, he had been one of those cyber-geeks and Tony had been an agent afloat. It was too recent for him to divorce himself completely from Cyber Crimes, yet a part of him grumbled as well. The encryption couldn't be that hard to crack.
A few minutes later, boredom finally drove Tim to open his notepad software to draft out a scene for his next novel. His publisher has been leaving messages on his voicemail, asking for the next chapter and he was still stuck on the first paragraph.
When he heard the rattle of a mop bucket bouncing empty in a cart, Tim cringed.
"Agent Tony!" Thankfully, Albert's usual haltering greeting stopped in front of Tony's desk. The slimly built janitor nodded in his direction.
Tim mumbled a "Morning" and ducked his head lower and tried to look preoccupied.
"Hey, Al," Tony returned easily. He never seemed to mind Albert. "Didn't see you last week. Vacation?"
"No, no." Albert laughed awkwardly. He coughed. "Ornella was sick. Stayed home with her."
"Ouch. Your sister feeling better?"
"Better. Gracias." Albert rubbed his arms up and down as if he was cold and scratched his wrists.
Tim frowned mildly. From his desk, he could see Albert was sweating. He must have caught whatever his little sister had. Time to break out the folic acid.
Albert checked his watch. "You are early, no?"
"Court case," Tony grumbled. "Always fun."
Tim could hear the artificial rev of a car veering around a tight corner. He rolled his eyes when there was a tiny, mechanical screech of brakes.
"Say, nice, Albert. Is that new?"
In spite of himself, Tim peered over his monitor and caught Tony gesturing toward a white object clipped to the janitor's belt. iPod. Old gen. Huh. Albert could probably sell it to a collector.
"Sister's." Albert shifted from foot to foot, his gloved fingers rubbing across the top edge of the device. He glanced over to Tim, who ducked his head again. Last time, Albert stuck around for thirty minutes grilling him about buying a computer for his little sister.
"Ornella wants new. Gave me her old one."
"Yeah, new ones play movies now, you know."
Albert made another sound like a cough. "What they pay me? No."
Tim grimaced from behind the screen. He studied the last sentence he typed with a frown. Hm, that didn't look right.
"Uh...Agent Tony?" Albert's cart squeaked as it rolled back a bit. "You were policía before, sí?"
There Albert goes again. Tim remembered Ziva's polite smile frozen on her face as she once tried to explain why, though she wasn't a US citizen, she could still work for NCIS. Albert said it was for some citizenship course he was attending. He had been grilling everyone the past few days. Ziva was now elsewhere whenever Albert rolled by; some of the other agents as well.
Tony's one fingered typing and the tinny sounds of a motor revving eased. "I was. Everything okay, Albert?"
"Sí, no, I mean…" Albert's shoes creaked. He exhaled. "I have a question."
Tim highlighted the word "said" in the sentence. His left index finger tapped on his desk. "Spoke"? "Exclaimed"? Maybe "sighed"?
"Ah…a police question."
"Sure." Tony's chair creaked as he swung his feet off the desk. "What's up?"
"How do I...I need to report a...I need to report someone's murder."
Tim paused, his fingers poised over his keyboard.
"Oh?" Tony's voice sharpened and, out of the corner of Tim's eye, he spied Tony straightening in his chair. "Who?"
Tim's head whipped up in time to see something black in Albert's hand. He froze, his eyes wide with shock and there was a moment—the longest he had ever felt—before Tim could recover and leap to his feet, shouting.
The flash that bloomed out from Albert's hand still came as a shock.
"Low see in o…"
Tim choked, outraged as he watched Tony jerk and fall out of his chair without a sound. Then there was another shot. Tony thrashed, disappeared under his desk.
It happened in a matter of seconds. Less.
"Gun!" someone shouted. At that moment, something exploded in the far corner. Then another by Pacci's old desk. Paper scattered with smoke and sparks.
There was a sudden rush of sound and smoke and heat, everything snapping back into real time since that moment when Albert had first fired.
The smell of charged gunpowder, burnt paper and blood filled Tim's nostrils. His mind flailed—briefly like a swimmer caught in a riptide—before he rallied, his body moving faster than his mind could instruct it.
Tim yanked his drawer out to grab his service weapon. Albert's pale face turns his way. A bullet pinged the file cabinet by his head. His chair spun and broke into two pieces when Tim threw himself to the ground.
Someone fired. An overhead light exploded. He could hear running.
"Stay down! Stay down!"
Another bullet flew past him and made a ripping sound in the screen behind him. A shot from another direction pierced the plasma screen and it toppled, shattering between the desks.
"Put your gun do—!"
There was a sharp report of a gun. Another spat back. Two shots from behind his cubicle. One beyond it. One above him.
"Hands in the air! Hands!"
The shots seemed to be coming from all directions. The stench of burnt gunpowder was overwhelming in the air.
One, two, three. In rapid session, gunfire threw the bullpen into further chaos. It sounded like it held a lot more people than it ever had.
But all Tim had eyes for was Tony—his head under his desk, his arms pinned under his body, his backup still holstered and strapped to his ankle.
Tim grunted as he accidentally slammed his hand on the underside of his drawer. Still watching Tony, Tim stayed crouched by his desk as he yanked the drawer hard enough to come completely off of its rails and spill its contents on the floor in front of him.
Shoving away the bits that had collected on the bottom of the drawer, Tim grabbed his weapon. He yanked it out of the holster and emerged from behind his desk, his heart pounding hard against his ribs.
Albert was right there.
"Put your gun down!" Tim gasped. He couldn't gather enough breath to make it sound demanding, an order to be obeyed.
Albert startled and swung his gun toward him. The janitor's face was bone white, his brown eyes huge and his mouth gaping. Was he high? Was that it? It looked like Albert was trying to say something when he was interrupted by a black canister rolling over and hitting Tim's desk. Albert glanced down at it and jumped back.
Tim twisted from his desk and threw himself over Tony's prone body.
"Grenade!" he shouted before he heard a deep-echoed boom. Someone screamed. Tim felt a hard push that forced him to the ground, crushing Tony underneath him.
Everything went blinding white then completely dark.
He needed coffee, damn it.
Gibbs had drove directly from the courthouse, bypassed his usual liquid breakfast and drove straight to the Navy Yard.
Years in uniform had honed the habit to greet when greeted no matter what mood he was in. So Gibbs nodded, grunted toward the meek hellos floated his way as he stormed through Security, retrieved his weapon and his badge from the bins and zeroed in on the elevators with all the accuracy of a sniper. He waited, eyeing the stairways as the indicators stayed frozen on one floor for a few minutes. He was tempted to go up Exit A next to the elevator but the "Maintenance" sign and the heavy smell of paint warded him off. So instead, he silently fumed at the doors stupid enough to stay closed.
When the car finally arrived at ground level, Gibbs found he was the only one entering. The doors closed in the compartment with agents still waiting out in the hall. No one got on the elevator with him. Which was fine with him.
Gibbs said nothing as he jabbed a finger to his floor. He stared ahead of him, not at the numbers. Gibbs rocked on his heels slowly to calm the thrumming in his gut. He glowered at the double doors, waiting for the eventual ding when he heard something else: two short barks, muffled above him. Gibbs slammed his back into the elevator wall, his weapon out against his right shoulder.
The elevator shivered as it continued to climb and Gibbs heard five more, from several directions now. Then muffled thunder that was both alien and damningly familiar. He smelled smoke.
The elevator stopped.
Gibbs pressed against the side as the doors lazily opened. He punched down the emergency stop, stalling the car from going further, blocking it from being an escape route. Immediately, his eyes watered as fumes wafted into the elevator. He could hear shouting outside. Feet pounded past him. He grimaced at the taste of ash and fire in his mouth.
"Gibbs! Elevator!" he shouted, giving his position. "How many?"
Someone called out one. Another stammered out two. He heard someone throwing up in the back.
"Are we clear?" There was no more gunfire and Gibbs could see what looked like a grenade in the center of the carpet, smoke belching out of its top.
A trembling voice called out in return. "Carter! By stairs! Clear!"
"Gands, exit A! Clear!" another sputtered.
"Trinston, exit C! Clear!"
Gibbs narrowed his eyes as several other agents called out, barely audible as they coughed huddled under desks. There were fire alarms screeching in the background. Gibbs could see thin black plumes scattered throughout the bullpen. He could also see two distinctive columns of smoke spewing out from the center of the bullpen. His desk.
"I have one down!"
"We need some assistance here!"
"Anyone with the director?" Gibbs shouted as he edged closer to the elevator opening.
Gibbs crouched low and peered around the edge, his foot toeing the threshold. "McGee! David! DiNozzo!"
McGee's voice rang out within the haze already clearing. Gibbs pointed his gun into the fog, memory not sight guiding him toward the desks. When he could make out the clear profile of Tony's desk, he finished the rest of the distance at a run. He whipped his weapon to his left, to his right and then rolled the smoke bombs away with his foot.
"What happened?" Gibbs demanded even as he veered around the upturned contents he recognized were from DiNozzo's desk. He dropped to his knees to press a hand over a wound on Tony's right shoulder. McGee looked up with a bruised jaw and a cut forehead, relief in his eyes. He had both hands clamped over a bloody patch on Tony's abdomen.
"It was Albert," McGee gritted out as he blinked teary eyes, trying to see.
"Who?" Gibbs demanded as he pressed down harder. Tony grunted. The small pool of blood under him spread. Gibbs's slacks clung to his knees now. He slipped a hand under Tony's shoulder and hissed. It was a through and through. Gibbs looked up as agents gathered.
Agent Trinston jogged up to the crowd, panting. His pale, round face was splotched red with anger when he caught the tail end of what McGee said. He started. "Albert? The—"
"Janitor," one of the agents spat out as he staggered over. "He just started shooting."
"He shot Tony," McGee blurted out. He flinched when Tony made a small sound, feebly fidgeting as if to push hands away. "Sorry," McGee muttered, more to himself before he nodded toward the desk. "Albert stood right there and..." McGee clenched his jaw. "Then there was an explosion. No, two, I think."
"Wastebaskets blew," another confirmed as he coughed into his fist. "More flash bang than bomb. Must have planted them during his rounds."
"Think he threw out something too. Couple of them in fact," Trinston added. The agent cupped his left ear and grimaced.
"It looked like a grenade," McGee supplied. He blinked at his surroundings, at Tony's desk with a dazed look.
"Smoke bombs." Otherwise he would have come back to bodies instead. "Covered his escape," Gibbs muttered. From Trinston and McGee's faces, maybe a stun grenade was thrown as well. "Anyone else get hit?" He spared the others a glance.
Agent Fritz rose to his feet from his position by Gibbs's desk. He gestured to the floor with his gun. His narrow, tanned face screwed up into a scowl. "Hanks is dead."
"Couple of minor cuts and burns," Trinston reported after he scanned the area. "Crest was too close to one of the explosions."
Gibbs glowered up at the agents surrounding them and felt something hot curling in his gut. Why were they all standing there? "Do we have him?"
The negative head shakes made him want to hit something.
"Check the exits—"
"We blocked all the exits as soon as the first shot was fired. Gands, Trip and Carter are still guarding them. No way Albert—" Trinston began.
"Check them again!" a voice boomed from above. Everyone looked up at Vance, his hands curled over the railing as he stood on the landing, three of his security detail huddled around him. "He couldn't have gotten off this floor without the stairs."
"Sir," Gands called out from his position, "I've been maintaining A. No one has come through here!"
"I'll help Trip secure C!" Fritz volunteered. He gave Gibbs a curt nod before jogging off.
"Search from top to bottom. Gands, partner up with Marks on A." Vance gave the bullpen a quick scan as the others split up. "What's the count?"
"Agent Hanks is dead!" someone reported. "Four others with minor injuries. Johnston was grazed. Crest has first degree burns."
"DiNozzo's down," Gibbs added tightly. "Two bullets: one to the shoulder, other in the abdomen."
Vance slapped a hand on the rail. "Do we have confirmation on the shooter?" he demanded.
"Son of a bitch said good morning to me minutes before," Trinston confirmed. "It was definitely Albert."
Gibbs ground his teeth as he shrugged off his suit jacket and folded it under Tony's lower back. He kept his hands clamped over the matching wound in front.
Vance gave his guards an annoyed look as they shuffled closer around him when he tried to take a step down. "Gibbs, already called the paramedics. ETA's five minutes. Move all injured personnel to the elevators. Everyone else follow procedure: move to the holding area. And shut those damn alarms off! I want—"
Suddenly, all the lights went out.
Then the monitors blinked out.
Phones abruptly silenced. The klaxons muted. A hum heralded the red glow of backup generators powering up emergency lights.
The agents surrounding Vance tensed, their guns in hand and ready. Agents on the bullpen stood up in alarm.
"What the hell?" Gibbs glanced down and caught a sliver of hazel dulling into a dark green looking up at him. He slipped a hand over a cooling neck and squeezed.
Tony's lips parted but all that came out was a low groan.
"We went into lockdown!" Vance stared at the electronic ticker screen on the wall. He leaned on the rail like he was going to vault over it.
Gibbs could see the red "LOCKDOWN. LEVEL FOUR. SECURE POSITIONS." scrolling across the strip.
"Level Four? That's for bio-weapon response," McGee exclaimed even as he knelt to exert more pressure on Tony's wound. His eyes were wide when they darted over to Gibbs. "But that means—"
"No one can get in or get out," Gibbs finished.
"Who authorized this?" Vance snapped at the closest agent, who grabbed his radio. Even from where Gibbs stood, he could see they were having trouble getting through. "Check with MTAC!"
"MTAC's offline!" An agent ran back to Vance. "I could hear them inside, but the power's down. They're locked in."
"Backup power for it should be kicking in," Vance checked around the bullpen. "Someone get me through to security."
Gibbs could hear everyone around him trying the phones, their cells, their radios. He didn't remove his hands from stemming the blood flow. McGee flicked a worried look their way but he, too, remained where he was.
After a few moments, Vance's face hardened as an agent raced up the steps and leaned into his ear. Vance nodded to his security detail. "Find a way into MTAC," he ordered. "Get our people out of there."
"Someone called in the lockdown codes," Vance announced to the rest of the agents.
"Who?" McGee said as he stared up at Vance.
Vance's eyes moved to Gibbs. "Special Agent DiNozzo."