Why did you become an NCIS agent?
For the guns and the babes.
-NCIS, 6x07 Collateral Damage
Tony stood there looking out the window at the cityscape. It was late, well past time to go home for the day, and the city's lights were bright against the night sky.
Gibbs stepped up next to Tony and said, "That view never gets old."
"Huh? Sorry, Boss, I was just thinking about our rookie."
"What about Dwayne?" Gibbs asked, adding a little southern twang to the name.
Tony turned to Gibbs, and Gibbs could see that Tony's expression was thoughtful and serious. "I think he's gonna be a good cop, a good agent."
"Why do you say that?" Gibbs pressed.
"Cause he wants the job for the right reasons. He actually wants to make a difference."
"The agents that last are the ones that never lose sight of that, Tony."
Tony turned back to the window and chuckled. "Yeah. I know."
They stood there for a quiet moment before Tony offered, "He asked me why I became an agent."
"Whatcha tell him?"
"That I did it for the guns and the babes."
Gibbs laughed. He was one of a scant few that knew the real reason why Tony became a cop. And though it had to do with weapons and women, the context was, in reality, completely different.
Tony had found his future career during his senior year of college. Or more specifically, it found him.
Ohio State 1989
Tony looked at the clock on the library wall for the umpteenth time. Bonnie was late. She was actually over a half hour late, and she was never late. Her punctuality versus his frequent lateness was a running joke between them.
Bonnie Doyle was tutoring him in chemistry. She was an excellent student, at the college on full academic scholarship and was herself majoring in bio-chemistry. Bonnie was a plain, no-frills kind of girl. After their first few study sessions Tony had found himself enjoying her company. She was quick to laugh at his jokes and zing him back with some of her own, and she was smart and actually enjoyed teaching him. When his fraternity brothers teased him about having to spend time with her, Tony found himself defending her to them. Sure she wasn't the cheerleader type and wore baggy comfortable clothes and no makeup, but she was a good person that didn't deserve their ridicule.
At the forty-five minute mark, his gut started churning.
Tony, along with everyone else on campus, had heard about the three rapes that had occurred on campus in the past two weeks. It had everyone on edge, especially the women. Women were advised to walk in pairs or groups and Bonnie had promised Tony that she wouldn't walk to the library alone.
At the hour mark, Tony threw his textbook in his knapsack and headed for the door. He knew the route she took to get to the library from her last class. It was only a ten minute walk at most.
He was hoping that she just lost track of time in the lab and that was why she was late. The sick feeling in the pit of his stomach wasn't buying it though.
Tony rounded a corner and started up a small hill that had a small copse of tall pine trees decorating it. His eyes were drawn to a familiar object lying on the ground near the trees. He quickly crossed the grass and crouched down to get a better look at the object. It was Bonnie's lumpy, heavy, book-laden knapsack.
Tony felt like the ground fell out from under his feet. He whipped around frantically and yelled, "Bonnie! Bonnie, where are you?" But there was no sign of her.
He heard a shuffling among the pine trees and he unconsciously shifted his own knapsack off of his shoulder and to his hand to use as a weapon if he needed it. Cautiously stepping through the branches Tony saw a sight in the dim light that he would never, ever be able to get out of his head.
On the ground among the pine needles and litter was Bonnie. Her face was a bloody and swollen mess. Her clothing had either been ripped or cut off of her and Tony's heart broke for her as she tried in vain to cover her battered nudity with the remnants of the button-up shirt she had been wearing. She was trying over and over again to button it, but the buttons were long gone. That fact didn't seem to be registering with her.
Gently Tony whispered, "Bonnie?"
Her eyes met his and as her hand moved on its own to smooth down her hair she said, "Tony? I'm running a little late."
Tony had no experience with shock to pull from save what he had seen on television and he didn't know what to do. He knew they needed an ambulance and the police though and he replied, "That's okay, Bonnie. I'm gonna get you some help, okay?"
His plan was to stick his head out of the trees and yell for help but when he went to turn, Bonnie latched onto him and pleaded with him not to leave her alone.
That created some misunderstanding when he was finally able to get the attention of some folks passing by. The couple assumed that Tony was the rapist. And when campus security arrived, Tony found himself in handcuffs.
Detective Parsons was two years away from retiring when the serial rape case landed on his desk. The case struck home deeply with him, his oldest granddaughter was planning on starting Ohio State next fall. She was only a year younger than the first victim. When he arrived on scene and saw that campus security had a handsome, clean-cut young man in cuffs, part of him hoped that they had their man. But there was something about the young man's demeanor that told him they were reading the situation wrong.
He climbed up into the ambulance where the victim was being looked after. He wanted her version of things before he got anything from the campus police or other witnesses. The young woman wasn't cooperating with the EMT's. She kept insisting that someone named Tony wasn't the man who attacked her and that they needed to let him go. Parson's assumed that Tony was the guy that the campus police had in cuffs.
As gently as he could Parsons took her initial statement. When he left the ambulance he promised that he would see about getting Tony released which seemed to calm her agitated state a little. What he didn't say out loud though, was that Tony wasn't going anywhere until he answered a few questions.
Parsons took a long time talking with the campus police before he went over to where they had Tony sitting on the curb. A nod to the campus officer got the cuffs off.
Tony stood there rubbing his bruised wrists and boldly met Parson's eyes and asked, "Is Bonnie alright?"
"She's been raped, DiNozzo, what do you think?"
Tony winced and replied, "I... I know that. I just... I didn't know what to do. She looked like she was in shock or something."
Something in Tony's countenance let Parson's know that the young man honestly cared about the victim. It wasn't an act. His own demeanor softened a little. "The EMT's are taking good care of her. You did everything you could."
Anger flashed across Tony's face and his next words let Parson's know it was directed at himself, "No. No, I didn't. I should have met her after class and walked with her to the library. This would never have happened."
"Let me give you a piece of advice. The could haves and the should haves will eat you up inside. What's done is done and all you can do is move on past it. Now, while it's all fresh in your mind, tell me what happened tonight. Everything you remember, no matter how insignificant you might think it is."
Step by step Tony went through it all, nothing and no one stood out in his mind. He had passed several other guys on his way to finding Bonnie, but none looked out-of-place. Frustrated and feeling useless, Tony asked Parsons, "What can I do to help you catch this guy?"
Parsons was about to tell him to just go home, but there was something so earnest about Tony, something told Parsons that the young man actually wanted to help. He offered, "You up for looking though mugshots? See if anyone sticks out at you?"
Tony watched the ambulance pull away and his eyes were a little sad as he replied, "Yeah, anything I can do."
Tony went down to the police station where an officer set him up at a table with a pile of mugshot books and a cup of really bad coffee. The table was out in the open and he could see and hear everything and he was intrigued by the machinations of the police department.
He spent hours looking through those books with no one sticking out at him. Tony got up to stretch and walked over to a bulletin board that had a map of the campus marked with the locations of the rapes pinned up along with pictures of the three previous victims. It made Tony angry that Bonnie's picture would be going up near the other three. He focused on the map, he knew the campus well and his mind's eye filled in images of the actual locations of the rapes. Something niggled at him about the locations and he reached up and traced a line with his finger between the locations.
He ticked his head to the side and thought hard for a minute. His eyes flicked over to the pictures of the victims, they were all similar in appearance, the rapist apparently had a "type". He refocused on the map traveling the route between the rape locations in his mind.
Back and forth between the pictures and the map he went until it clicked. Tony spun around and found the nearest officer. "I need to speak to Detective Parsons right away."
Parsons and Tony were standing at the bulletin board. Tony traced the route on the map with his finger.
"This is the route that the girls' cross-country team uses to practice."
"How do you know this?" Parsons asked.
Tony shrugged and admitted, "I dated a couple of girls on the team."
"Is this route common knowledge?" Parsons asked.
"I guess. I mean, it's not a secret or anything. But the route isn't what's important."
Tony picked up last year's yearbook that one of the officers had found for him and opened it to page he had marked. It was a memorial page for a girl named Susan Gardner. She would have been a senior, but had died in a car accident two months after classes had started last fall. She looked eerily like all the rape victims and had been a member of the cross-country team.
Tony took a deep breath and said, "Her fiance, Jack Thomspon was the driver of the car. He just came back to school at the start of the semester. And I saw him earlier on my way to look for Bonnie."
"And you think he's our rapist?"
Tony met Parsons' eyes and replied confidently, "The first rape happened on the anniversary of the accident. The second on Susan's birthday. And I'd bet that the others are more dates that are important to them."
Parsons studied the yearbook page for a long moment before meeting Tony's eyes and clapping him on the shoulder. "Good work, DiNozzo."
Tony lingered around the police station while Parsons and his partner went looking for Thompson.
He watched as officers frog-marched a couple of rough and ready types into holding cells, and he watched as an officer carefully took down information from a woman about her missing mother that had Alzheimer's. Tony was fascinated. He also liked how the officers all presented a united front to the world, like they were a team.
Parson's "Good work, DiNozzo" kept replaying on a loop in his head and it started other wheels turning.
Tony also tried hard to not to think about what was going on with Bonnie, what she was going through at the hospital. He knew that the image of her under the pine trees would haunt him the rest of his life. He hoped she would get through this somehow, someway, and not let it break her.
Tony was standing at the vending machine getting a soda when the entire police station became a flurry of activity. He heard over multiple radios as officers rushed by that shots had been fired and all units were requested to the one of the campus dorms.
No one at the station would tell him anything so Tony took it upon himself to grab backpack and head for the dorm in question.
The crowd at the campus was large, full of both police and students. Tony pushed his way to the front of the crowd to see Jack Thompson on the ground, riddled with bullets.
Tony, along with everyone else, watched in grim fascination as the scene was photographed and the body was loaded onto a gurney. The police started dispersing the crowd and Tony was one of the last students.
Parsons saw him and approached. Tony's brow was furrowed and he asked in a low voice, "Is this my fault?"
Parsons shook his head and said gently, "No, Tony. He pulled a gun. We call it suicide by cop."
"So he was the rapist?"
"Yeah, he admitted it before he died."
Tony scrubbed his face with his hands. "I still feel like it's my fault he's dead."
"You just have to tell yourself that he's not going to hurt anyone else."
Tony studied Parsons' face for a moment and nodded. "I guess that's something."
"Yes, it is. Oh, by the way, you should head over to the hospital and see your friend Bonnie, she's been asking for you. I think she's afraid we've got you locked in a cell somewhere."
"I don't know what to say to her."
"You'll figure it out, son."
Tony knocked on the hospital room door hesitantly. A muffled voice bid him to enter.
Tony struggled to keep his expression neutral, but seeing Bonnie so battered and bruised made him both angry and sad at both himself and Jack Thompson.
He moved to the bed side but didn't crowd her. "Hey, I heard you wanted to see me."
"I wanted to make sure you weren't in jail."
"Detective Parsons took care of it."
"Did they find the guy who did this?"
Tony swallowed hard and replied, "Um... yeah. Look you don't have to worry about him."
"Who is it?"
"He's... he's in my calculus class. Oh my god, I know him. He just came back to school."
"Yeah. I know."
"So they arrested him?"
Tony took a deep breath. "Not exactly."
Tony sat down and explained exactly what had happened.
If at all possible, Bonnie's battered face looked even sadder when he was done telling the tale and she said softly, "I can't say I'm sorry he's dead."
Tony stood to go and Bonnie asked, "Tony?"
"Will you come by tomorrow?"
The next day Tony's afternoon started with an awkward hug from Bonnie's mother at the hospital. Bonnie's parents had driven all night to get there.
Bonnie's bruises had started darkening and she looked even worse than she had the night before.
Their visit was short, Tony being uncomfortable and Bonnie had become very quiet and withdrawn.
Tony didn't know why exactly he did it, but he headed over to the police station.
Detective Parsons saw him come in and waved Tony over to his desk.
"How's your friend?" Parsons asked.
"Yeah, that's to be expected. I spoke with her folks earlier, she's lucky to have people who care about her. They'll help her get through this."
Tony nodded in acknowledgment but didn't still didn't say anything, so Parsons asked, " So how are you doing?"
At Tony's non-committal shrug, Parsons quickly glanced at his watch. Seeing it was near five, he stood up, and grabbed his jacket off the back of his chair. "C'mon. Let's go get a beer."
They were soon ensconced in a small bar a couple of blocks from the police station. They sat and talked for a couple of hours, Parsons suspected that Tony didn't have a father that he could really talk to about things.
They talked about police work and all its good, bad, and ugly. They talked about where police work could take him in the future, and they also talked about what it might cost him to be a police officer and the real hazards of divorce and alcoholism.
When they got up to leave Parsons clapped Tony on the shoulder and said, "Think about it. If you want in the academy, I'll do everything I can to help."
Six months later, Parsons wrote Tony a wonderful letter of recommendation for the police academy and went on to make a couple of calls to personally touch base with people he knew at the academy. And when Tony graduated, most people at the graduation assumed that he was Tony's father by the way he clapped and carried on when Tony's name was called.
Gibbs asked lightly, "Whatever happened to that girl... Bonnie?"
Tony chuckled and the grin was wide on his face as he looked to Gibbs and replied, "Get this- she works for the FBI now."
"She runs one of their forensic labs. She and Abby talk all the time, actually. DNA stuff."
Bonnie had taken the rest of the year off from school after her attack but had come back the following fall with a singular purpose: to find better ways to identify criminals through DNA. She had worked tirelessly to become one of the earliest DNA experts in the country and pioneered many tools and techniques.
It was evening and the bullpen was quieting down and dark. Tony turned off his computer monitor and reached in his drawer for his weapon. He settled it on his hip like he had done thousands of times before and a flash of Bonnie trying to button her ruined shirt filled his mind. He frowned like he always did at the memory. It hadn't faded in all the years since it happened.
He picked up his knapsack and headed for the elevator. He paused again at the window and pulled out his cell phone and scrolled for a number.
Bonnie was a still a plain, no-frills woman, but was now confident and outgoing. Tony kept catching himself staring across the table. She was animated and lively and telling him anecdotes that had him in stitches. There was absolutely no trace of the person he had found under the pine trees.
Bonnie caught him staring and reached across the table and gave his hand a little squeeze and asked, "Tony? You alright?"
"Yeah. I just... we had some rookies in this week. One of them asked me why I became a cop. It brought some stuff up that I can't shake. Sorry."
"You and I have come a long way since then."
Tony turned his hand over under hers and gave it a squeeze of his own. "Yes, we have."
After dinner Tony walked Bonnie back to her car. He teased as they walked, "You know, your husband is a very lucky guy.
"I may not know it, but he sure does."
Tony chuckled and put his arm warmly around her as they walked.
They reached Bonnie's car and she dug out her keys. She was about to turn and open the car door when she thought of something. "Oh, hey. What did you tell the rookie? About why you became a cop?"
Tony ticked his head to the side and gave her his patented smirk. "That I did it for the guns and the babes."
Both of them managed to hold their composure for a second before snorts of laughter filled the parking lot.