Consciousness returned slowly and when it finally arrived, Tim McGee really wished it hadn’t. He found himself sitting upright, with his wrists cuffed to the arms of a hard metal chair and his ankles shackled together. His head ached as if he had been hit with something quite hard and his neck was stiff and sore. When the significance of his situation hit him he gasped and frantically looked around, his mind racing. What happened? Where was he? Why had he been taken prisoner? The room that he was in offered no clues to help answer his questions. It looked like a normal interrogation room, minus the two-way mirror, and the only other objects in the room besides his chair were a table and another chair on the other side of the table, and a small TV with a video player next to door on his left. He was dressed in his normal work attire, but he had no recollection of putting on that particular outfit, or anything else he had been doing immediately before waking up in this room. He desperately tried to pull the memories out of his subconscious, but nothing worked. The past few hours were blank.
Tim tested the restraints and winced when the metal bit into the flesh of his wrists. He cleared his throat to call out to his captors, to ask what they wanted from him, but before he could the door opened and his attention was drawn to the man who strode into the room. The man’s appearance startled Tim. He hadn’t been expecting someone dressed in a suit and tie combination that screamed federal agent. When the man reached the table he slammed a folder onto the surface in front of Tim.
“Why’d you do it?” The agent snarled. “You killed a man in cold blood, not even a warning. Why?”
Tim felt the blood drain from his face as he registered what the man just said. “I…I what?”
The agent shot him a look of utter loathing. “Maybe this will jog your memory.” He stomped over to the TV and pressed a button. When the image appeared, Tim sucked in a breath: he was looking at the bullpen of NCIS, obviously the view from one of the security cameras. The picture was a little grainy, but he could clearly see himself walk to his desk, open the drawer where he kept his gun and remove it. The image of himself turned towards the desk across from his and yelled something. Soon Gibbs entered the frame, visibly furious, and Tim watched in horror as he saw himself raise the gun and fire point blank at Gibbs’ chest, sending the lead agent to the floor. Tim had one final glance of his boss lying on his back, wide eyed and quite obviously dead, before the man in the room with him hit the switch and the screen went black.
“No…” Tim barely managed to whisper his denial. “No, I couldn’t…I never…”
“But you did. In front of multiple witnesses, including Agents DiNozzo and David. I’m surprised you don’t remember what DiNozzo did to you after that little incident.” Tim suddenly became more aware of his aching head. “That’s one of the reasons your director transferred this case over to the FBI. One agent killing another? It’s an administrative nightmare.” Tim still tried to voice his denial, only to be cut off. “Don’t even try to say you don’t remember. It’s all here, documented. So why did you do it?” The agent leaned into Tim’s personal space and he couldn’t help but flinch at the hatred in the man’s eyes. “What happened? He finally push you too hard? You got tired of being the low man on the totem pole and you realized you’d never measure up? You decided you’d never be part of the family, never be anything more than the resident geek?” He scoffed. “And now you’re looking for a temporary insanity plea? Forget it. You killed one of NCIS’ most respected agents. You’re going to fry for this. It’s an almost guaranteed death penalty sentence when you’re convicted, and no judge in his right mind is going to show you any mercy.” The agent straightened and looked down at Tim with contempt. “Enjoy your stay in federal prison, short though that’s going to be. You won’t last a week.” He turned and walked out the door, slamming it behind him.
Tim’s mind was reeling, with the image of Gibbs’ body lying of the floor of the bullpen burned into his memory. He could imagine the rage with which Tony and Ziva had likely reacted, but he still couldn’t comprehend why this had happened. He had absolutely no memory of it and while he knew that sometimes memories were repressed in the wake of a traumatic event, the event itself made no sense. Had someone set him up? Had he been drugged? Or, like the agent suggested, had he just suddenly snapped? The idea that he could have become so violent terrified him and he started to shake uncontrollably. He never noticed a second person enter the room until a voice cut through the cacophony of his thoughts.
“Such a waste.”
Startled, Tim looked up and saw a whip-thin, middle-aged woman standing near the door, studying him with what could almost be interpreted as pity in her expression.
“All those brains, all that talent, wasted in one moment. A shame, really.”
“I…I don’t…I don’t know what happened!”
“So I gathered. Unfortunately the FBI and NCIS don’t believe you. The evidence is certainly not in your favor. You’re going to jail, and then…” She shook her head. “It’s certainly not going to end well for you, no matter what. But there may be a way to…handle the problem differently, in a way that is much more beneficial to almost everyone.”
“W-what do you mean?”
She stepped forward and bent down so she was looking directly into his eyes. “You murdered another agent. The rest of the agents will be out for your blood, and even of you do make it to court…well, your existence between now and then will certainly not be pleasant. Then there’s the trial. Your parents will be exposed to the shame of having their son accused and convicted of homicide. Your mother? She’s been in declining health for a long time. This will just kill her. Your father’s career will be over, and even though you haven’t been in close contact with him for years, he’ll still be associated with you, and your crime. And then there’s your sister: she’ll always have that hanging over her head, her relationship to you. It will haunt her long after you’re gone.”
Tim scrunched his eyes shut to try and control the nausea building within him. His family didn’t deserve that, not matter what their past relationship had been. He couldn’t make them go through this. He had to help them…somehow.
“I’ll plead guilty. No trial. They won’t be dragged through the mud.”
“It’s not quite that simple. There’s still the crime itself, and the aftermath…but there is a way to sweep this under the rug, if you will. We can make most of it go away.”
Tim shook his head vehemently. “No. I…I’ll take whatever punishment I’m given, but…Gibbs deserves justice.”
“And he’ll get it, but without your usefulness being sacrificed in the process.”
She smiled. “We’ll make you disappear, and your agency is already willing to help erase the black mark on their record. A cover story will be released to the public, and no one outside of your immediate associates will ever know. In return, you’ll work for us, for the security of this country. You’ll live out your sentence under our control. You’ll have the chance to atone, at least in part, for what you’ve done. You’ll be able to put your natural talents to work for the greater good: for the good of the country and its citizens.”
“It won’t work. My team…they’ll never forget. They won’t want this…”
“No, they won’t, and they’ll always hate you for what you’ve done, but they can be made to see reason. Everyone has a price, if you will, and the actual cost to them will be much less than it would if we solved this the usual way.” She leaned in closer. “Make no mistake: your life is over, but that doesn’t mean your value dies with it. You can still do some good in this world, Timothy McGee, and you can get a second chance even though you don’t deserve it.” She stood up and looked down at him. “This is a one-time offer, take it or leave it. Do we have a deal?”
Tim’s natural instincts were screaming at him that this was all wrong, but his mind was overwhelmed by the realization of how badly his whole world had come crashing down around him, and his senses were clouded by grief. Finally he was able to raise his head and meet the woman’s gaze.
“OK. I’ll do it. I’ll do what you want.”
“Good. We’ll arrange transportation immediately.” She turned to leave.
“Wait! Can you tell everyone…just…I’m so sorry. Please.”
“I doubt they’ll accept your apology, but I’ll tell them. Anything else?”
“Good.” She disappeared through the door and Tim McGee was left alone in his own private Hell.
The woman stepped into the small observation room and turned to watch the image on the monitor. It showed a man, shoulders slumped in defeat, his body shaking with silent sobs.
“I see you haven’t lost your touch.”
She turned to face the other occupant of the room. He was leaning back in his chair, his tie loosened and his suit coat removed and draped over the back of his seat.
“I could say the same for you,” she replied and he smirked.
“The drugs helped. He responded just like you said he would.” The man chuckled and shook his head. “All that repressed guilt and pain? It was like taking candy from a baby.”
“And now for the difficult part: We have a bit of a mess to clean up my friend.”
“That we do. Getting this one past Gibbs and his team is going to be a challenge. You really think he’s worth it?”
“Oh, absolutely.” Her smile grew wider, more predatory as she turned to study the image on the screen again. “He’s exactly what we’ve been looking for.”