"Move it, McGee!" said Jethro Gibbs as he jumped out of the taxi.
Timothy McGee sighed and wondered how often he had sighed since first meeting Jethro Gibbs. He reached into his pocket and drew out the money for the fare. "Thank you," he said to the driver.
"You got a right one there, Mister," said the driver. "Good luck!" and he touched the brim of his cap in farewell.
McGee might have engaged in friendly conversation with the taxi driver but Gibbs was already sprinting through the doors in his usual determined fashion, so he just settled for a heartfelt, “Thanks!” before seizing his bags and following.
McGee experienced a slight sense of deja-vu when he saw Gibbs standing belligerently in front of the police reception desk confronting the officer who sat there with a benign, but firm, expression on his face. Momentarily, McGee was transported back three years to his first visit to England in the company of Gibbs although at that time Gibbs had been confronting a Metropolitan Police constable rather than a Plymouth City version.
“Leroy Jethro Gibbs,” enunciated Gibbs in much the same tone as he had three years before. “From Washington.”
“Ah,” said the constable, “That explains it.”
McGee shook his head as if this might halt the re-run of the earlier events but before he could speak he was interrupted by a familiar voice,
“Stop teasing our American friends, Travers! We don’t want to give them the wrong impression, do we?”
Constable Travers swung his head around slowly before saying, “If you say so, Sir.” McGee thought he could spot a twinkle in the policeman’s eye and suspected that they were indeed being teased. “Are these the Americans you was expecting, Detective Chief Inspector Paddington-DiNozzo?” he asked while fixing the visitors with a firm gaze.
“How many Americans do you think I’m expecting, Travers?” asked the Chief Inspector.
“I wouldn’t like to say, Sir,” said Travers heavily, “I’ve learned to expect the unexpected,” he added gloomily. He winked at McGee but immediately resumed a blank expression when Gibbs stared at him.
“Good to see you again, Gibbs,” said the Chief Inspector as he held out his hand to Gibbs.
“Yeah,” said Gibbs as he grasped the hand.
“Still talking the hind legs off a donkey, I see,” observed Paddington-DiNozzo.
Gibbs grinned but didn’t say anything.
“I thought you were bringing McGee with you,” said Paddington-DiNozzo as he turned to Gibbs’ companion.
“I did,” said Gibbs.
“He did,” said McGee at the same time.
“McGee?” said the Chief Inspector in surprise. He looked more closely, “You’re right! I’m sorry, McGee – I didn’t recognise you.”
“Guessed that,” huffed Gibbs.
“You look …”
“Different,” said McGee, “I get that a lot.”
“Lost 21 pounds and got fit,” said Gibbs laconically.
“So I see …”
“I’m not an analyst anymore,” said McGee, “I work out in the field now. The physical requirements of the Office of Naval Intelligence are stricter for field operatives than for technical support.”
“Yes,” said Paddington-DiNozzo, “Or is it Gibbs’ requirements that are stricter?” he asked shrewdly.
“Good to see you, Tim,” a hand was held out to shake.
“You too, Tony … I mean, Sir. I mean, Detective Chief Inspector Paddington-DiNozzo.”
“Tony’s fine. Chief Inspector Paddington-DiNozzo has got about eight too many syllables. Why not call me PD – that’s what people call me down here.” A grunt drew his attention, “But I seem to remember that Gibbs didn’t approve of that. Call me DiNozzo if you prefer. I’m sure that’s what Gibbs will go with.”
For a moment, McGee had a trapped in the headlights expression but then he simply said, “Yes, Sir.”
“Come through to my office,” directed DCI Anthony Paddington-DiNozzo AKA PD AKA Tony or, in Gibbs’ case, DiNozzo.
“Bit different to where you were last time,” commented Gibbs as they followed DiNozzo.
“Not so much traffic,” agreed Tony.
“Too quiet for you?” asked Gibbs.
Tony laughed, “A port with sailors? Don’t think that’s ever going to be quiet, Gibbs! Or are your American sailors always well behaved?”
“No, guess not,” said Gibbs.
“In here,” directed Tony as he opened the door to his office. “Put your gear down. I’ll rustle up some … coffee.”
Gibbs nodded and sat down pointing to another chair for McGee as permission for him to sit as well. Tony left them, carefully closing the door behind him. Gibbs saw McGee’s puzzled expression,
“Don’t worry, McGee. Don’t think DiNozzo’s worried we’re going to be attacked by the Plymouth constabulary. Remember his room at Scotland Yard last time?” McGee shook his head. “Smoke free,” said Gibbs. McGee nodded as he finally remembered that Tony’s lungs had been compromised during his service in the 1914-18 war: that was the reason he had transferred down to Plymouth in the West Country to escape the perilous foggy London winters.
Three years before, McGee and Gibbs had been despatched to London to work on a case and had been assigned to Inspector Paddington-DiNozzo who was working on his last case at Scotland Yard. Tony had somehow managed to breach Gibbs’ barriers and an unlikely friendship of sorts had been established with Tony even taking Gibbs to meet his family in a quiet Oxfordshire village where the marine had taken his first steps to a recovery from the shellshock he had received during his own service in the Great War.
That assignment had been McGee’s first with the Office of Naval Intelligence and, unexpectedly, he had acquired a taste for the adrenalin rush of hazardous work in the field. He and Gibbs had ended up forming an unofficial partnership with Tim being first Gibbs’ preferred researcher and later, after training, his colleague in all aspects of investigations.
Tony was soon back bearing a tea tray which McGee hoped, for his own self-preservation, also held a pot of coffee.
“How was the crossing?” asked Tony as he set down the tray.
Having ascertained that coffee was being served as well as tea, McGee relaxed enough to groan.
“That bad, huh?” asked Tony.
“You need to get over being seasick, McGee,” said Gibbs sternly, “It was bracing. Blows the cobwebs away.”
McGee forbore to mention that they had gone through a Force 7 gale and that even the First Officer had been seasick, “Yes, Boss,” he said meekly.
“Horatio Nelson got seasick,” said Tony helpfully.
“Who?” asked Gibbs.
“Greatest British sailor of all time,” said Tony informatively.
Gibbs sighed as he remembered Tony’s penchant for imparting what he considered to be useful knowledge. Gibbs had a different definition.
“Don’t remember hearing much about him in the American Revolutionary War,” said Gibbs taking a random shot.
Tony’s eyes narrowed slightly, “He was just getting warmed up,” he said. “Just as well, otherwise things might have been different.”
Tim reached for tact, “Great cookies … I mean, biscuits. What are they?”
Tony grinned, “Bourbons.”
Gibbs’ face brightened, “Bourbon?”
“Not the drink, Gibbs,” corrected Tony, “They’re chocolate. It’s believed …”
Gibbs’ groan interrupted yet another anecdote, “You know, I could almost think you’re playing for time, DiNozzo. What’s up?”
Tony looked momentarily shifty, but he said, “Can’t old friends catch up after not seeing one another for three years? I’m hurt, Gibbs.”
“Yeah, yeah,” said Gibbs, “But talking about Nelson and chocolate cookies isn’t exactly getting reacquainted, is it?”
“I like to warm up gradually,” said Tony defensively.
“You?” asked Gibbs sceptically.
“OK,” confessed Tony, “It’s just that the ACC isn’t too happy that you’re here.”
“ACC?” asked Gibbs.
“Uh, Assistant Chief Constable, Boss,” supplied McGee, “But I didn’t mean to imply that you didn’t know what it meant. I just thought you might … I’ll stop speaking now …”
“Tim’s right,” said Tony, “ACC is Assistant Chief Constable. And my … Boss.”
“And?” probed Gibbs.
“And he doesn’t think we need help.”
“Doesn’t need upstart Yanks interfering?” suggested Gibbs.
Tony’s eyes flickered as he remembered the ACC’s exact words, “You could say that,” he conceded.
“But we’re here,” said Gibbs.
“Yes,” said Tony.
“At the request of the US government.”
“Yes. And His Britannic Majesty’s government was pleased to accede to the request,” said Tony.
“So my government persuaded your government?” Tony nodded. “But not your ACC?”
“He’s a tough nut,” said Tony.
“Who persuaded him, then?” asked McGee as he swallowed the last of the biscuits.
“Ah,” said Tony, “It was a pincer movement. The Chief and I persuaded him.”
“I thought you were the chief,” said Gibbs.
“Chief Constable,” corrected Tony.
“And a Chief Constable outranks a Chief Inspector?” asked Gibbs.
“Yes,” agreed Tony.
“But an Inspector outranks a Constable?” pressed Gibbs.
“That doesn’t make sense,” said Gibbs.
“Now who’s playing for time?” asked Tony.
Gibbs decided to bypass the chitchat, “So, do we need to see him?”
“Yes. ACC Paget likes to keep his finger on the pulse of things,” said Tony.
“Let’s go then,” said Gibbs, gulping down the last mouthful of coffee and standing up.
“Not yet,” said Tony, “You’re here earlier than I expected. Which,” Tony raised his hands in a gesture of surrender, “Shows a lack of planning on my part. I should have remembered that Storm Gibbs always blows in quicker than expected …”
“We caught the milk train,” said McGee mournfully. “Just … it was about to pull out when we got to Southampton station.”
“Ah,” said Tony.
“They don’t have a restaurant car on those trains,” said McGee even more mournfully.
“Bit early for a buffet car,” said Tony.
“Yes,” sighed McGee.
Tony looked at Tim and wondered if it wasn’t the exacting physical standards which had caused McGee’s impressive weight loss but rather spending time with Gibbs who never seemed to need to eat.
The finer shades of McGee’s sorrow seemed to pass Gibbs by, “So, we’re here early. When can we see Paget?”
Tony looked at his watch, “Not for another two hours. And, no, you can’t see him before that. Go and have lunch somewhere. There are places by the Quay.”
“OK,” said Gibbs, “You coming?”
“Er, I’ve had something to eat,” said Tony.
McGee and Gibbs stared at Tony. One of their memories of three years before was that Tony had a healthy appetite and rarely turned down a chance to eat.
“What?” asked Tim.
“I had lunch … before …” said Tony making a vague gesture towards his desk.
“You don’t want to come too?” asked Tim.
“You gonna miss out on a chance to give us the guided tour?” asked Gibbs. In addition to memories of Tony’s appetite, Gibbs also remembered how Tony couldn’t help but dispense ‘useful’ information about the local area.
“No,” said Tony, “Unless you think you’ll get lost?”
Gibbs bristled at the implication that a US Marine could get lost so easily.
“Didn’t the Pilgrim Fathers said from here somewhere?” asked McGee innocently, “It would be a pity to miss that.”
“And didn’t that Nelson guy hang out here?” pressed Gibbs, “Something about playing cricket?”
“Drake,” said Tony in a longsuffering voice, “Drake – Sir Francis Drake. And it was bowls, not cricket! OK, OK, I give up. I’ll come with you.”
McGee was surprised to spot a slightly smug look on Gibbs’ face and wondered if he’d missed something.
It wasn’t long before they were all sitting on the quay waiting for their orders to arrive although it seemed that Tony really wasn’t hungry as he only ordered a pot of tea for himself.
“So,” said Gibbs, “Do you like it here?”
“Pardon?” replied Tony.
“Plymouth, do you like being a Chief Inspector?”
“It’s fine,” said Tony. “Different to Scotland Yard, but good.”
“Huh,” said Gibbs.
McGee felt something was required of him, “The air seems a lot cleaner,” he commented.
“Yes, it’s fine,” said Tony.
“And you’re … fine?” asked McGee.
“Yes. Thank you. And how are you? Both of you?”
“Fine,” said Tim.
“Yes, fine,” said Gibbs.
“Thanks for asking,” said McGee politely.
Tony poured a cup of tea as a diversion from the odd conversation. “The Mayflower Steps are just down there,” he pointed.
“What?” asked Gibbs.
“Thought you were interested in finding out about the history?” said Tony.
“We are,” said McGee hastily, “So the Mayflower set sail from there?” He looked misty eyed for a moment.
“Yes,” confirmed Tony, “But other places claim it too. Nothing’s ever settled.”
“Oh,” said McGee as he picked up an undertone of weariness in Tony’s voice. He was distracted, however, by the arrival of their meals.
“Enjoy your lunch,” said Tony, “I’ll see you back at the station in about an hour.” And he was gone.
“Gibbs?” asked Tim.
“Eat your food,” said Gibbs.
Assistant Chief Constable Cyril Paget ran a tight ship in Plymouth, so it was no surprise that Gibbs, McGee and DiNozzo were ushered into his office exactly on schedule.
“Good afternoon, gentlemen,” he said as he pointed to the seats placed before his desk. He studied the papers on his desk before frowning and then looking suspiciously at the new arrivals.
“I am puzzled,” he said after a long pause, “As to why the Office of Naval Intelligence felt it was necessary to dispatch two of its operatives to these shores.”
Gibbs sensed that McGee, out of pure nerves, might try to fill the silence,
“My superiors are considering establishing a new post, Sir.” ACC Paget gazed at him bleakly. “To supervise and watch over sailors – both when they are ashore and at sea.”
“Yes,” said Paget.
“And they decided the visit of the USS Nevada would be a good opportunity to put that plan into action,” said Gibbs.
“Am I to understand that US Naval vessels never visit US ports?”
“Of course not, Sir,” said Gibbs.
“Then why are we being used as test subjects in your experiments?”
“I couldn’t say, Sir,” said Gibbs blandly, “I go where I’m told.”
“Hmph,” said Paget. “And there is nothing else behind your visit?”
“You don’t have any suspicions that something untoward is going to happen when the USS Nevada arrives?”
“No, Sir,” replied Gibbs.
“Hmph,” said the ACC again. “And what do you require from our force?”
“Very little, Sir,” said Gibbs ignoring a stifled laugh from DiNozzo. “Just to know that we are here. And that if there should be any trouble involving American sailors we would want to be involved in any action taken.”
“I understand that you are a gunnery sergeant with the Marine Corps, Mr Gibbs,” said Paget.
“On secondment to your Office of Naval Intelligence.”
“For 10 years.”
“This seems to be a rather lowkey assignment for such an experienced person.”
“I wouldn’t say that, Sir.”
“I’m sure you wouldn’t.” For a moment there was something like a twinkle in Paget’s eyes. “But I have been told to offer you, and your colleague, every co-operation …”
“And much like you, I follow orders.”
“Very well. As DCI Paddington-DiNozzo has worked with you before I am assigning him as your liaison.”
“Thank you, Sir.”
“Welcome to Plymouth, gentlemen. Good afternoon,” Paget returned his attention to his papers and his visitors realised they were being dismissed. Just as they got to the door, however, Paget spoke again, “PD, a word, if you please.”
McGee and Gibbs left the office as Tony turned back,
“Do you buy this, PD?” asked Paget.
“You know what I mean. Do you think these two have been sent to practise babysitting a bunch of sailors?”
“I agree it seems odd, but I did wonder … it is possible … that they are getting rid of Gibbs.”
“Gibbs, despite what he just said, speaks his mind … I think it gets him into trouble sometimes. This might be a way of punishing him … or getting him out of the way for a few weeks.”
“Hmm, I don’t know what’s worse – the Yanks thinking we need help policing their sailors or using us as somewhere to get rid of their troublemakers!”
“All right, that’s all. Keep an eye on them. I know you’re busy, got a lot on your plate but do what you can, PD. I don’t want them on their own too much.”
“No, Sir. I understand.”
“And let me know if you think they are up to something else. The navy base here has got some highly classified work going on … the Americans may be our allies but if we share our secrets I want it to be on our terms not theirs.”
Paget nodded and Tony walked away suppressing a groan. He found Gibbs and McGee waiting for him a few yards down the corridor.
“When does the Nevada make port?” he asked.
“Day after tomorrow,” said McGee.
“Gives you a day to get acquainted with the place,” said Tony. “I’ll assign you a constable tomorrow to show you around.”
“Not you?” asked Gibbs.
“No,” said Tony. “DCI here is busier than being an Inspector in London – especially when the DCI is not winding down on his last case. I’ll see you when I can. Where are you staying?”
“Paradise Road,” said McGee. “Near the Devonport base.”
“Give me the address. I drive in that way in the morning. I can pick you up early tomorrow,” said Tony.
“McGee,” said Gibbs gesturing towards Tony to indicate he should provide the address. “What time?” he asked with a hint of suspicion; he never really expected other people’s definition of early to align with his.
“7 o’clock,” said Tony.
Gibbs nodded: it wasn’t his usual definition of early but he’d take it for a day which was intended as an orientation day.
“I have work to do,” announced Tony as they got back to his office. “You OK for the rest of the day? I’ll assign you someone tomorrow.”
“Sure,” said Gibbs meekly. “We’ll look around. I expect McGee’s brought a map.”
“Yes,” said McGee as he began to root around in his briefcase.
Tony grinned as he remembered McGee’s ever-present state of preparedness. “You can leave stuff here if you want. Save lugging it around Plymouth.”
“Oh,” said McGee doubtfully, “I’m not sure …”
“We’ll go to the boarding house,” decided Gibbs, “And then come back into town. Look around.
McGee looked relieved not to be leaving his gear with Tony and happily scooped his bags up.
“You can get a taxi outside,” said Tony, “Paradise Road’s a bit of a hike … especially if Tim’s bags are as full as they were before.”
McGee smiled as he remembered why he’d liked Tony when they met before.
“OK. We’ll walk back in later,” announced Gibbs.
It was about 9pm when Tony returned home that night and he realised that he probably should not have been surprised to find Gibbs sitting on the garden wall.
“Gibbs? You lost?” he asked.
“Nope,” said Gibbs peaceably.
“You haven’t murdered McGee, have you?”
“Then I give up. What are you doing here?”
“Mix up with the boarding house,” said Gibbs.
“What sort of mix up?” asked Tony.
“Don’t know,” shrugged Gibbs, “But they only had one room.”
“Huh. Couldn’t you share with Tim?”
“Nope. He snores.”
Tony’s eyes narrowed as he considered this. Somehow, he thought that McGee was far too considerate to be guilty of snoring, “And you’re such a light sleeper that you need complete silence?”
Gibbs shrugged again, “What can I say?”
“I don’t know. What can you say?”
“I thought I could stay with you. You know, until I find somewhere else.”
Tony knew there was a flaw in the argument somewhere but found that he was too tired to argue – especially as he suspected he wouldn’t win – so innate courtesy won out, “All right, come in.”
“Thanks. Your wife won’t mind, will she?”