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PostPosted: Tue Mar 30, 2010 10:59 pm 
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This will be a couple of chapters, so I'll make a discussion thread for it.


Countdown
by channelD




written for: Mad, as a Haiti auction fic
rating: FR13
characters: Tim and the team
prompt: running out of time

- - - - -

Chapter 1

- - - - -

He looked so bruised, so grimy as to be almost unrecognizable. But there are different clues that each of us use to identify people, and for Gibbs, it was always the eyes. He’d know those green eyes anywhere.

“It’s okay, Probie. We’ve got you. You’re safe now.”

Yes, leave it to Tony to do most of the talking for the team. He was a natural talker. Gibbs always used fewer words.

“Take my hand, McGee. And you might want to shield your eyes. It will seem very bright out in the light.”

Ziva; effective but caring. When a soul needed warming, she was often the one to do so. Gibbs only led, as a leader does.

Tony was talking again. Tim so far hadn’t said anything, still appeared to be shocked and disbelieving. “Hey, Probie; you don’t look too bad for being locked in this…dungeon for four days. We would have come to get you earlier, but another case came up involving some fun-loving blondes, and then Vance’s agency golf tournament was yesterday, and…”

“Do not listen to him, McGee,” Ziva laughed. “We have been looking for you non-stop since you disappeared. And we are glad to have found you.”

“Four…days?” Tim’s voice was like something being grated.

Tony put an arm around his shoulders; got him to unsteady feet and moving. “Yes, and there’s no point in making it five. The rates change at this ‘hotel’ after four. Come on.” Together they moved out of the derelict bomb shelter. “Thaaaaaaat’s it. One foot after another.”

“Water,” Tim said. It was almost a whimper. They stopped in the shade of a tree.

Gibbs produced a bottle. “Just a few sips, McGee…no, that’s enough for now.” He took the bottle back, ignoring the hurt in Tim’s face.

Ziva met all of their eyes. “I should call for an ambulance, yes? McGee should be checked out at a hospital.”

“No,” Tim said, his voice now a little more moist. “Wasn’t…hurt. Just want to go back to NCIS…do my report, while it’s still…fresh in my mind.”

This wasn’t the answer they were expecting. As Tony and Ziva exchanged glances, and then looked at Gibbs, Gibbs finally said, “Okay. But you have Ducky give you a quick workover before you type a word.”

- - - - -

“Some cuts and bruises, some dehydration…otherwise, you seem to be all right, Timothy,” Ducky said shortly thereafter in Autopsy. “I’d be happier if you got some rest and took a day or two off, but I can see you’re not interested in that.”

Tim picked up the clean shirt next to him. He was eager to type up his thoughts before they flew away, but getting a shower to wash off four days of sweat and grime was more pressing. “I’ll be okay.”

“Take things slowly, lad.”

Hopping down from the autopsy table, Tim had the strange thought that that was the last thing he should be doing.

- - - - -

Once upstairs, at his desk in the squad room, Tim found it harder than he thought to put his impressions into a rational report. Even factual things: how many captors, how he’d been overpowered, and when, all seemed to slip from his grasp. He ate a bit of the Chinese food that Ziva bought for him, hoping that protein would stimulate his brain cells. Perhaps it was too many days of too little food and water. He looked around. Tony and Ziva were working at their desks. Gibbs wasn’t around.

What do you want???

The thought, the shout in his mind came rushing at him from nowhere. He blinked, and recognized the voice as being his own.

But he didn’t remember having said that. Or had he?

What do you want???

“Whoa! Steady there, Probie!”

Tim fought off the assisting arms. “Let me go, Tony!”

“You suddenly turned white and looked like you were about to pass out. I kept you from falling.”

“Oh…well, thanks, then.”

“What happened, McGee?” asked Ziva, her brown eyes concerned. “Shall I call Ducky?”

“No…really, I’m fine. I just…I don’t know. Maybe I need to eat more.” He picked at the white rice. “Tell me how you found me.”

“We opened the door, and there you were,” Tony grinned. “Cutest little 31-year-old foundling we’d ever seen. Crammed into a wicker basket, with a little blankie tucked around you, and a note pinned on it saying Please care for my little McGuffin.” When Tim glared at him, he cleared his throat and began again.

- - - - -

“Do you remember that you went out on a coffee run on Monday morning break? You didn’t come back. I was positive that you had fallen for the new barista at the coffee shop. When you were really overdue, we started phoning you, but only got voice mail. Then Gibbs sent Ziva and me out to find you. The coffee shop people said they hadn’t seen you that day. Abby tracked your cell phone signals and we found your phone in a field in Maryland later that day. No sign of you.

“We spent days trying to track you. Abby lifted a few prints from your phone that weren’t yours. She found them in the AIFIS database. It was that guy you’d collared late last year from the embezzling operation, George Gomez. Still out on bail, awaiting trial. We tracked his movements and the movements of people he knew and turned up with that piece of farmland in western Maryland, with a bomb shelter (not kept up), that was owned by his ex-wife’s family. Schultz' team is out looking for Gomez.

“See? Easy as pie. We would have had you out sooner if it hadn’t been for that golf tournament—ow!” Tony winced at the headslap Ziva gave him.

“Does it help to know that, McGee?” Ziva asked. “Perhaps you would be better off seeing the debriefing counselor before you try to write your report.”

“No,” Tim said firmly. “No! I have to write this now!”

“But why, McGee? Gibbs will not make you turn it in today. You have had an ordeal.”

What do you want???

“I do have to do it today. It’s…important.”

“Why?”

“I…I don’t know why. But it is.”

Tell them.

“I do not understand.”

“It’s…hard to explain.” In truth, Tim didn’t understand it, either.

Tell them.

That was not his own voice in his head now. It was someone else’s. Gomez’? He couldn’t tell. Nor did he know why he was hearing it now, nor what it meant.

The four days had been hard on him…mentally, though not so much physically. He hadn’t been beaten. Ducky’s exam had proven that. He didn’t remember having been threatened. He couldn’t remember much of it at all, and perhaps that was why he was having trouble with the report.

He scratched an arm.

“Probie, I think you’re just plain exhausted and you should go home and sleep for about 18 hours.” Tony came and sat on the corner of his desk. “Not that we’re trying to get you out of our sight, or anything. It was horrible here, those four days with no one for Ziva to pick on.”

Ziva squawked appropriately, and Tim smiled a little. They were good friends; they were showing they cared. And, yes, going right back to work immediately after being rescued from a kidnapping did not make a whole lot of sense, when it came right down to it. But he felt driven…a compulsion that he couldn’t explain; couldn’t even understand.

Tell them.

Tell them what?? He wanted to scream. Tim resisted the urge to claw at his brain. That would really convince his teammates that he needed clinical help.

Tell them.

“I, uh, I’ll be right back.” Tim got up, and moving not too swiftly, headed for the men’s room. There he threw what he wished was cold, but actually was lukewarm, tap water on his face. He looked at himself in the mirror. A few bruises still showed. He didn’t remember when or how he’d gotten them. Otherwise he looked normal. No phantoms lurked behind him, no clouds of smoke, no—

“Are you all right, McGee?” Ziva stood in the doorway, holding the door open.

“Ziva,” Tim groaned. Her fondness for cornering her team in the men’s room had not abated. Kate would never have…

“Tony thinks you need privacy. I think you need company.” Her smile was saucy, but he knew she was just trying to lift his spirits.

He wiped his hands on a paper towel. “I need…to get back to my report.” But he did give her a grateful smile as he walked by her.

- - - - -

How could he write a report when he didn’t even remember going out for the coffee Monday morning, nor anything after that?? Gibbs would tan his hide if he didn’t write something. Worse, he’d have to meet with the debriefing counselor first thing tomorrow morning, and the counselor might recommend further mental evaluation before he was returned to work. It was a lose-lose-lose-lose-lose situation.

Tomorrow was Saturday, but the team was working this weekend. Tony called days like that “Friday +1” and “Friday +2” for Saturday and Sunday, respectively. At least, they’d then get Monday off.

24 hours.

No, it was 72 hours until Monday, and then—

24 hours.

With a start, he realized that that was his own voice in his brain this time, and it wasn’t talking at all about Monday. Monday was off its radar.

24 hours.

That sounded like a warning. Or a threat. Something picked up in his time as a captive. But what?

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PostPosted: Sun Apr 11, 2010 1:24 am 
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Chapter 2

- - - - -

He’d thought he wouldn’t be able to sleep after the stress of the ordeal, but he slept very soundly. The jangling of the alarm clock startled him. Still somewhat on autopilot, he showered, ate a little breakfast, shaved, dressed and went to work. It being Saturday morning, the traffic was light.

Yes, Tony DiNozzo felt jittery for Tim’s sake. Ziva had driven Tim home last night, and had said she would make him a light dinner; one that would be easy on his food-deprived stomach. Whether she was driving him to NCIS today, or Tim was making it on his own, Tony didn’t know.

Tim should have had the debriefing yesterday, Tony thought as he drove. The poor guy looked like he could use all the emotional support he could get. The experience Tim had been through must have been harrowing…particularly in wondering if he would be found in time. Tony wanted to get him to talk about it, as much for his own sake as for Tim’s. In a way, he found himself jealous of Ziva’s attention to Tim. I just want to know. I also want him to know that he’s safe now. Trite as that sounded.

But there Tim was, already at his desk, as Tony entered the squad room. His face still bore bruises and cuts, but his eyes were a bit calmer now. The look of the hunted animal had been replaced with one a bit cautious, but secure in its den. “How ya doin’, Probie?” Tony asked with a wan smile.

“Okay,” Tim said, after a moment’s hesitation. “I guess okay. Thanks for asking,” he added as an afterthought.

No, you’re not okay, Tony thought. “When do you meet with the shrink du jour?”

“Nine o’clock.” Tim drummed his fingers on the desktop nervously. It was just before seven now. “Nine o’clock.”

Definitely not okay. “I, uh…can I get anything for you? Something from the vending machine?” He’d offer to go for coffee, but he wouldn’t be back before 7, and Gibbs could be a bear sometimes about punctuality on weekends. Besides, Tim didn’t look like he needed to get any more wired.

“No. Thanks, but no.”

“What is on your mind, McGee?” asked Ziva, coming in then. “You look…haunted. Hunted? No, haunted.”

So Ziva sees it, too. “You could use some time off, Probie. After you have your little coffee date with the shrink, why don’t you go home? Gibbs will give you the time off. You just need to ask.” Tony realized how charitable he was sounding, but also that was a sign of his concerns.

Tim shook his head. “No, I think I should be here, because…”

They waited, and then Ziva asked. “Because why, McGee?”

At that, Tim looked baffled. “I don’t know. Something…important.” Then his face colored. “Now you must really think I’ve gone nuts. I should just try to get some work done before you both start laughing.”

Stung, his teammates were speechless for a moment. Ziva then said, “We were not laughing when we were searching for you, McGee. We wanted you safely back here.”

“You stopped for a golf tournament!”

Wincing, Tony said, “That was a joke, Probie. Vance’s tournament is next month.”

“Next…month?” Tim’s eyes took on an unfocused look.

“Probie?”

“Do you want to tell us now what happened in those four days, McGee? Is it time?”

His mouth gaping, Tim slowly turned his head to face her. “Is it time?” he echoed.

Tony glanced at the clock, and mentally corrected for Roman time. It was a six hour time difference. With an unvoiced sigh, he realized that was probably a McGee-thing to do. Now I’m identifying with him. “Probie, I don’t think any of us can last until the shrink hour comes.”

Tim took a deep breath. “Okay,” he said as Gibbs came in and joined the gathering at Tim’s desk. “On…Monday? I went out to get coffee or tea for all of us…”

- - - - -

“I remember going to the food court. At the Café Yard I got the three coffees and the tea. I walked out of the building; I remember the light mist hitting my face, and then…I guess someone must have hit me on the head and dragged me away, for the next thing I knew I was waking up in the bomb shelter, tied to a chair.

“No, I never saw who did it. He only talked to me, at times, through a speaker on the wall, and his voice was altered—tinny-like. I asked him why he was holding me. He never answered that. Never. I…must have asked that six times.” His voice cracked a little.

“Tim, maybe it’d be easier for you if you waited to tell this to the counselor. Or started typing it up,” said Gibbs, his voice low with concern.

“I would, but…” Tim clenched his fists. “I just can’t remember! And I don’t know why!”

“Did he beat you? Hurt you?”

“I knew he should have gone to the hospital,” Tony muttered.

“No!” Tim insisted. “Don’t you think I’d remember that??”

“Why, if you are having trouble remembering other things?” Ziva said quietly.

Tim lowered his head, knowing that what she said made sense. “I don’t know. It’s like I remember some things, but…”

“What do you remember?” Gibbs prodded, reading his face intently.

“Nothing of consequence. Strange words. Meaningless. Like my mind is pulling them out of some archive.”

Tony frowned. “You seemed surprised when we got you out and told you you’d been missing for four days.”

“Yes…but I couldn’t tell how long…no light to go by…meals were irregular, I think…”

Snapping his fingers, Tony walked over next to Tim and ordered him to take off his blazer. When Tim had done so, Tony rolled up the sleeve and looked at his arm carefully. “Did Ducky see this?” he asked, watching Tim’s face. “Or are you giving yourself injections for some reason? I think you’ve been drugged.”

Gibbs sighed and got out his cell phone. “It’s Saturday, but let’s see if we can get Ducky and Abby in here to draw some blood and see if there’s anything in your blood stream that doesn’t belong there.”

- - - - -

Blood drawn, Tim flew out of Autopsy and up the elevator to meet with the debriefing counselor. This was part of the job that he really disliked.

“Agent McGee. You’re late. Do you want to talk about that?” Doctor Turkoyse grumbled as Tim entered the small conference room.

Inwardly, Tim groaned. Walter Turkoyse was his least favorite of the five or so counselors available to the DoD in this area. The man was rather cold and clinical in nature, and Tim got the feeling that Turkoyse didn’t like him…or perhaps he didn’t like agents in general. Ziva had had him once, and had said the same things about him.

“Only by two minutes, Doctor. I was seeing Doctor Mallard.”

“Your appointment is with me.”

“It was in relation to a case.”

Turkoyse frowned. “Let us begin.” He turned on his recorder and set it on the table between them. “You have come out of a kidnapping.”

“Yes.”

“Tell me how it began.”

Tim related what he had told the team earlier than morning. It took less than two minutes.

“And?”

“ ‘And?’ There’s nothing more. That’s all I know.”

“Agent McGee, I can’t help you if you won’t make an effort. Your agency is paying for an hour, perhaps two, of my time for this Critical Incident Stress Debriefing. I suggest we make the best use of it.”

“I’m not trying to be difficult. I just can’t…my memory seems locked.”

“You have amnesia.”

Tim didn’t answer that. He didn’t want to admit that that might be possible.

“When during the event were you frightened?”

“Probably the whole time. I…once I couldn’t figure a way to get out by myself, I knew I’d have to wait until the team could find me.”

“You take solace in knowing that they’re good at what they do.”

“Yes. They’re the best. The number 1 team.”

“And how did you feel when they didn’t come right away?”

Tim shrugged. “These things take time.”

“But four days?”

“I didn’t notice how much time had elapsed. It was dark where I was. I couldn’t read my watch.”

“You had no sense of time?”

Nine hours.

“What did you say?”

“I asked if you had no sense of time passing.”

Nine hours.

Tim realized now it was his brain signaling him. Yes, about 15 hours had passed since he’d had that thought of 24 hours yesterday. But why was he thinking this??

“Agent McGee, there are various measures that you can use to get you through this time. You might choose to see a professional if you are concerned about your amnesia. It doesn’t appear to be harming you, I’ll say that much, so I won’t put it down as a recommendation on my report to your Director. It may well be that these memories will be coming back to you shortly.

“In the meantime, I strongly suggest that you accept whatever aid and comfort your friends and family offer you. It’s important to know that you don’t have to go through this recovery alone. Your agency will stand behind you, as well. They want to have you back on the job as soon as you are able.”

Nine hours.

“I’m able now,” Tim protested. He’d heard the same you have support spiel from Turkoyse the couple of other times he’d had him. Turkoyse probably said the same thing to all of his clients.

Turkoyse shook his head. “I don’t recommend that. Take a few days off. Sit in the sun for awhile, with sunscreen applied, of course. Relax. Get sleep. Go see a funny movie. Interact with people.”

Yes, the same things as always.

Tell them.

Oh, not that again! Tell them what, in the name of St. Gibbs???

Tell them.

“Agent McGee? You look bothered by something.”

“No; my mind just wandered.”

“All right, then. Are you interested in a referral for psychotherapy?”

“No; I’m good.”

If there was one thing Tim was sure about, the tell them message was meant for the team; not for a shrink. But what did it mean? And what did the countdown mean? Eight hours from now would be quitting time for the day, unless they got involved in a case.

But as he said goodbye to the counselor and headed back for the squad room, Tim wasn’t sure that he wanted to tell the team, either. They’d just question his sanity.

People who hear voices…that’s not normal, is it?

- - - - -

“Finished already, McGee?” Gibbs looked at his watch. “That took under half an hour. Everything okay?”

“It was fine. I had Turkoyse.”

Ziva groaned. “I am so sorry, McGee. I would not want to talk to him for long, either.”

Gibbs looked back at the file open on his monitor. “Ziva, Tony, get over to Lance Corporal Dwyer’s house. Ask his wife—”

“Wait!” Tim cried. “I have to tell you.”

Gibbs arched a brow at him; not liking being interrupted. “What is it?”

“Eight hours from now. Something’s going to happen.”

“What, Probie?”

“I don’t know. But I get the feeling it will be big, and…terrible.”

- - - - -

“Gibbs!” Abby called up on the videophone. “Tony’s suspicions were right—McGee was drugged! There are traces of nepenthe in his system. That’s an ancient Greek opiate, used in one form or another to treat pain, but which usually caused amnesia as a side effect. There’s other stuff as well which I’m still identifying…”

“Good work, Abbs. Finish up and then you can go home.”

“Can I take McGee with me?” she said with a wink in Tim’s direction.

“That’s up to him. Once he does his report, he can take the weekend off.”

“Boss!” Tim protested. “Sorry, Abby. But you can’t discount my feelings. You may need me here. And I think we should all be here, inside NCIS, for our own protection.”

Gibbs raised his arms in surrender. “Have it your way, McGee. Stay or go, as you want to. But you can’t expect me to put a lot of credence in the voices in the head of someone who’s been drugged.”

Crestfallen, Tim returned to his desk. Gibbs was wrong, he knew. A threat had been made against the team, and if they weren’t prepared…

Tim didn’t want to consider the worst possible scenario.

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PostPosted: Tue Apr 27, 2010 11:01 pm 
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Chapter 3

- - - - -

Tim finished the report of his kidnapping, what little of it he could remember of it to write down, shortly after 11 a.m. He spell checked it and scanned it for errors and inconsistencies four times. That was excessive even by his standards.

Finally Gibbs came over to his desk. “Finished, McGee?”

“Uh…I don’t know, boss. There might be something missing. I should check it over again, and—”

“I appreciate the effort, but you’re stalling. Give me the report, and then go home. I don’t want to see you until Monday.”

“But, boss…”

“McGee, nothing’s going to happen. You were kidnapped by Gomez who then messed with your mind. None of it was real.” His look was sympathetic, but unyielding. He picked up Tim’s backpack from the floor and set it on Tim’s desk.

“But—” One look told Tim that it was useless to argue the point. The voices that lived in his head were silent on the matter. Maybe it had just been the drugs, after all.

Sighing, Tim logged off his computer and left the building.

- - - - -

Klara Schultz’ weary team brought in the kidnapping suspect an hour later. After nearly 24 hours of searching, they were glad to have the man who had hurt their friend, Tim, in custody, and also glad to drop him off to Gibbs for questioning. They then left to go home for much-needed sleep.

An hour after that, Gibbs confronted George Gomez in an interrogation room. In the observation hallway, Vance and Ducky stood: Ducky to create a psychological profile, and Vance as witness to the questioning of the man who’d hurt one of his agents.

Gomez was tall and muscular, about 35; a cold-looking fellow with tinted glasses and no criminal record prior to the embezzling case of last year (still awaiting trial). In that, he was supposedly the leg man to a more accomplished crook, who had died of a heart attack soon after the crime. Gomez had a choir boy-like face, and perhaps that had aided his quest for release on $50,000 bail. Not a bad deal for a guy who claimed to be an innocent data entry clerk in the Naval supplies firm that had been embezzled.

It had been Tim who had traced the illegal activity to Gomez’ computer, and Tim who confronted him, after hours, in a call to the firm in which he and Ziva had only intended to talk to the CEO. When Gomez panicked and rabbited, Tim had seen and chased him, eventually making the collar. Gomez had made note of who he was then, Tim had been sure. There was a look in criminals’ eyes when they wanted to remember you, probably in case they ever got an opportunity for payback. He’d seen that look in Gomez.

It hadn’t mattered to him much, then. Gomez would be going up the river, in due course, and that was that. You couldn’t work in law enforcement and be afraid of everyone you arrested. Tim wasn’t afraid of this guy.

Gibbs knew that. Tim’s risks were calculated, for the most part. Even knowing that Gomez was out on bail didn’t seem to disturb Tim. White collar crime. Non-violent stuff. It was all about money; something that concerned some people overly. Gomez couldn’t be a threat; he didn’t seem like the type.

Yet the kidnapping (with little physical trauma)…With no ransom demand, it seemed like a revenge motive, perhaps a plot to let Tim slowly die.

Never assume.

The curious thing was, other than making the collar and doing the computer tracking, Tim hadn’t done much to have inspired such antagonism in a crook like Gomez. Ziva had reported that Tim had been calm and professional throughout; hadn’t threatened Gomez; hadn’t even raised his voice. Unless Gomez had picked on him for just being there…

Gibbs slapped the manila folder he carried on the table and sat down. He then spent his usual amount of time staring at the suspect.

Out in the observation hallway, Vance asked for impressions.

“Not much to go on yet, Director,” Ducky said. “Gomez’ posture broadcasts confidence. He doesn’t think that we can charge him with anything. He must have a good alibi.”

“He looked confident at his embezzling arraignment,” Vance remarked.

“I am sure that he did. White collar criminals are smart, in part because their positions demand a certain level of education. Many have researched the possibilities before they even commit the crime, and have rehearsed what they’ll say if they’re caught. Most feel they’re smart enough to get away with it.”

“I know that,” Vance growled. “Tell me something about Gomez that I don’t know.”

“Yes. Well. Note that he has his fingers interlocked. That’s a signal of being extremely patient. It’s a mocking gesture. And now he’s turned his head to the side, showing he’s already bored with being here. Overall, he’s trying to get the upper hand in the interview.”

“Sum up?”

“Unfortunately, this doesn’t mean anything more than he’s a rather arrogant soul.”

In the room, Gibbs said casually. “I’ve got all day. I trust you don’t have to be anywhere?”

For the first time, Gomez was seen to sweat…just a little.

“You do have to be somewhere. I’m sorry,” Gibbs continued mildly, keeping the edge out of his voice. “You can speed this up by cooperating, you know.”

“I don’t know why I’m here, Agent.” Gomez’ voice was smooth. “I haven’t done so much as littering since I was released on bail. Ask anyone.”

“Where were you five days ago, about 10 a.m.?”

“Working at my job at the bank.”

“You managed to get a job at a bank? Considering your arrest?” Of course Gibbs knew the answer; he just wanted to see Gomez’ reaction.

“I wasn’t required to disclose that on the job application. I haven’t been convicted of anything. And my…former employer can’t disclose that, either.”

“Convenient. You want to tell me why you kidnapped Agent McGee?”

“I don’t know anything about that.”

“You do know who Agent McGee is.”

“Yes; I have a memory for names and faces. He’s the one who arrested me.”

“And you’d like to get revenge on him.”

“I’m not a vengeful person.”

“Your fingerprints were on Agent McGee’s cell phone when it was found. We found McGee on property owned by your family.”

Gomez sneered. “Huh. So he was trespassing. The rest is circumstantial.”

Gibbs knew he was right. A good lawyer would see that the case would be thrown out before news of the arrest had even leaked. The agency didn’t like to take the black eye of having a case dismissed, although it did happen now and then, even on a tight case. And there would follow days of phone-badgering by Faith Coleman of JAG.

He tired a different tack. “You want to get something off your chest, now’s the time to do it.”

“You mean like a plea bargain.”

Gibbs shrugged.

“No dice. I’m not guilty of anything. I’ve got nothing to say. And you have no grounds to hold me.”

“Don’t be so sure. We have enough for probable cause. Get comfortable; you might be here awhile.”

Gomez bit his lip, and looked quickly from side to side. “Are you charging me? Because if you are, I want my lawyer. He’ll get me out.”

Raising his arms lightly, Gibbs only said, “We’re not holding you. Not charging you at this time. You’re free to go. We know where to find you if we want to.”

He personally escorted Gomez out of the building. “Tough customer,” Vance said when Gomez was gone.

“He’s guilty,” Gibbs said simply.

“Of course he is. But we can’t prove it. Yet.”

“We will.”

“How’s McGee doing?”

“Still shocked. I sent him home. The drugs they injected him with have caused him to hear voices, but Ducky thinks they’ll wear off quickly. That and the feeling of doom he has.”

“Doom,” Vance chuckled. “I get that feeling every day that I walk in here and see how many messages I have.” They both laughed.

- - - - -

Tim hadn’t gone home. His sense of impending doom only grew by the hour, and he wouldn’t…couldn’t…leave his friends in danger. This makes no sense, he argued with himself. There are no rational, scientific grounds for these beliefs. It’s drugs on top of dehydration and a lack of good food.

He walked around Leutze Park, in the northeastern corner of the Navy Yard. It was far enough from NCIS that no one from there would be able to see him. A couple of Marine guards saw him, recognized him, and smiled and waved. He waved back.

The Yard gate at “O” Street was closed. Traffic to the Yard was all channeled in through the Hull gate on M Street on weekends. That was a smaller gate, and could create bottlenecks if too many people tried to come in at once, particularly if they weren’t expecting a delay. Old Turkoyse must have hated it, Tim thought with a wry smile. He’s such a stickler for being on time. Twit. Well, if there was such a thing as Luck, it would be a long time before Tim had to meet with that counselor again. There were other, much friendlier ones.

Four o’clock, according to a large clock on a wall. Tim went to a small food court for a bottle of water and a sandwich, and then sat on the grass in the sun, reading a book. It couldn’t hold his attention, though, and he soon put it away. He thought about forcing himself to go home. Once the troubling hour had passed, it would be over, and he could relax. It was all in his mind, after all. But he didn’t move.

As five o’clock approached, Tim became more anxious.

Tell them now.

In despair, he slapped the side of his head. No! Not again! After having not spoken for hours, he’d hoped the voices were gone for good.

Time is running out.

Yes, it was coming up on that 24-hour range; that still vague and elusive marker. And Tim had no more understanding of what it meant now than he had yesterday.

Tell them. Tell them.

What? What could he do? They already thought he was a little cracked. Even if he put faith in these voices, what was he supposed to tell the team? He had no idea.

Tell them. Tell them.

Less than an hour.

Tell them.


If he tried phoning them, they’d just hang up on him. He’d have to confront them in person. He’d make them see. They just had to understand. If they all put their heads together, they’d figure it out.

He had a horrible feeling that if he failed at this, it would be the worst day of his life, and would live with him…forever.

And so he set off for NCIS at a run.

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PostPosted: Fri Apr 30, 2010 12:13 am 
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Chapter 4

- - - - -

Gibbs filled in Tony and Ziva on the afternoon’s events when they returned to the squad room around 3.

“I don’t get it, boss,” said Tony, hooking his chair with one leg to sit down. “If you had probable cause, why did you let him go?”

“Because he didn’t act alone; I’m sure of it. Our case wouldn’t have been strong enough. It’s like that missing piece that we’ve kept out of the media on the embezzling case: Gomez is bright, but not experienced enough to have done this by himself.”

“His accomplice died of a heart attack.”

“And the money hasn’t been traced back to Gomez, so where did it go? There’s a third person involved, all right.” Gibbs reached for his coffee, and then frowned at it for being cold. He finished the cup anyway.

“But the case is no longer about what happened to the money, is it?” asked Ziva. “That part is up to the prosecutors now.”

“That’s the embezzling case. Probie’s kidnapping is something new.”

“We do not know why McGee was kidnapped. We can guess that Gomez wanted revenge, but why did he wait so long? He has been out on bail for months now.”

“You wanted to avoid being bored on a Saturday,” Gibbs grunted. “Find some answers.”

- - - - -

Ziva tapped a pencil on her desk, thoughtfully. Tony looked at her, and then finally said, “Are you trying to get attention, or practicing to be a drummer?”

“My mind wandered to Dr. Turkoyse,” she admitted. “I do not like that man. Having him here in the building gives me the crepes.”

“ ‘Creeps’ ” Tony corrected. “Unless he’s buying you desert.”

She shuddered. “I would not accept desert from him. McGee told me that Turkoyse scolded him because he arrived two minutes late.”

“What would that matter to Turkoyse? The shrinks are paid whether the agent shows up or not. And paid very nicely, I understand.”

“That is what puzzles me. Have you ever had him?”

“Nope. Lucked out. He’s only been in the shrink pool about a year, hasn’t he? I think he sounds like a control freak; someone who also just doesn’t like agents. Maybe he’ll retire soon…But that’s got nothing to do with this case.”

Gibbs came back in and his agents got back to work.

“Gomez was out of work for four months following his arrest,” Ziva remarked. “He started work at the bank three months ago. It is true that the bank would not have been able to ask him many questions, but…”

“But a simple background check should have told them something,” said Tony. “The guy’s probably bragged about it all over Myspace.” He pulled up the popular social networking site on his computer, stopping briefly to see if there were any new comments on his own page. He then switched to Gomez’ page, narrowly avoiding a head slap from Gibbs.

- - - - -

Tim arrived at the NCIS entrance, breathless.

Running out of time.

No! Tim thought. I can’t be too late!

“Well, hello, Agent McGee!” The young female guard on duty gave him a big, devouring, grin. “Can I call you ‘Timothy’? How are you today?”

Inwardly, Tim groaned. Cloetta Calderson was man-crazy, they said, but he swore that 90% of her attraction was directed towards him. Ignoring her forwardness, he only said, “Fine, thanks.” He put his ID card back in his wallet as he walked through the security scanner.

“I haven’t seen you a few days, Agent McGee,” she continued, beaming at him.

“I was away,” he said simply, and tried to move past her.

She subtly (or not-so) blocked his way. “Oh, a little vacation time?”

“Um, not really.”

“Visiting family?”

“No, none close by.”

“You have a younger sister, don’t you?”

Running out of time.

“I really have to go. Sorry!” Placing one hand on her shoulder to lightly push her aside, he then stepped past her and ran for the elevator.

As the door closed behind him, she lightly touched that shoulder, and smiled. Cloetta considered never washing that company shirt again.

- - - - -

Tony looked up as someone came out of the elevator. “Probie! I thought you’d gone home!”

Gibbs’ look was equally curious, but with an added look of sternness. “I told you to go home. I meant for you to stay there.”

“I know, boss. But there’s something…” Tim waved his hands, helplessly.

Ziva took pity on him. “You had said you were hearing a countdown in your head, McGee. Do you still hear it?”

“More so than ever. That’s why I came back.”

Tony groaned. “McGee, we really need to find you a girlfriend. Then your mind would be on other things than this unhealthy obsession with work.”

“I’m not nuts!” Tim shouted. “I’m sure there’s a logical explanation for what I’m hearing! I don’t want…” His voice dropped back to a calmer level. “…I care too much about you guys. If something happened, and I might have prevented it by being here…”

“How much time is left, McGee?” Ziva asked softly.

Tim cocked his head for a minute. “About 25 minutes.”

“That’s not enough time to search the building,” said Tony. “Assuming there’s something in the building.”

“It’s more likely than assuming the building’s going to be dive-bombed,” Gibbs acknowledged reluctantly. “It’s Saturday; not many people are working today. Vance has already left. I can get everyone else out.” Quickly he issued the evacuation order over the telephone intercom system.”

Tim fidgeted. “Tony’s right, boss. The four of us can’t possibly search the building in this short of time.”

“Don’t gamble much, do you, McGee?” Gibbs said with a slight smile.

“Uh, no, boss. My parents always felt that gambling was throwing away hard-earned money. And as for poker, I’ve never been good act keeping my face…uh, but that’s not what you mean, is it?” He clamped his mouth shut to stem his nervous chatter.

Gibbs smiled again, and then got serious. “I’m betting that this threat is related to the time of your arrival back here yesterday, after we rescued you. Essentially, after normal workday hours on Friday to sometime today. That eliminates much of the work area of the building. No one other than Abby and Ducky would have gotten into the basement floors, and Abby’s lab and Autopsy would have been locked without them there. Nothing on floor 1 would be open. That leaves this floor and floor three. DiNozzo, you and Ziva take this floor. McGee and I will take three.” He looked at his watch. “You have 15 minutes. No more. At the end of the 15 minutes, get out. No matter what.”

- - - - -

Running out of time.

“I know that! But what is the danger?!” Tim snapped, but blushed at feeling Gibbs’ eyes on him. He hadn’t meant to say that out loud. “Sorry, boss,” he said.

“Any new, useful information?” Gibbs asked quietly. They had just entered Vance’s outer office, and were looking under his secretary’s desk, behind the pictures, behind the flag stand, and everywhere.

Tim was silently glad that he had Gibbs’ support in what must seem like a crazy situation to most people. The boss wouldn’t often take his side in something like this. Why he was doing so now, Tim couldn’t guess. It wasn’t like Gibbs to humor delusions.

You’ll never find it.

Yelping, Tim put a hand to his head.

“What?” asked Gibbs. “McGee, we don’t have much time…”

Take solace in knowing that you’ll die with your friends.

“It said ‘you’ll never find it’. It must be a bomb, boss!”

“Any idea where, McGee?”

Suddenly, it did make sense, and McGee took off at top speed.

- - - - -

“I’m sure it’s connected to Gomez’ being here this afternoon,” said Tony, after he and Ziva had swept the squad room and headed down a hallway for the interrogation rooms. “Do we waste time calling Gibbs to ask which room Gomez was in? Or if he spent time in Holding?”

“No,” Ziva shot back. “Three minutes, Tony.”

“That’s not much time,” Tony said. “I really hope McGee is wrong. Not because I want to show him up, as fun as that usually is, but because—”

He never finished the sentence as a massive concussion shook the building.

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PostPosted: Sat May 01, 2010 3:52 pm 
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Chapter 5

- - - - -

“…explosion in the Washington Navy Yard. ZNN was unable to gain admittance to the Yard, as Yard officials cited security concerns, but firefighting equipment is on the scene. There is no word at this time on casualties…”

Dr. Walter Turkoyse harrumphed at the TV news from the comfort of his easy chair. Danged military ‘security’. A citizen had the right to know these things, and these rights outweighed the military’s; or at least, they should.

- - - - -

“Nice digs,” Tony remarked as he and Ziva stepped out of the elevator. The condo building’s cost was evident in the beautifully decorated hallway.

“It would take a lot of money to live here,” Ziva acknowledged. They stopped at the door labeled 4C.

Tony knocked.

Turkoyse opened the door and looked surprised, then resigned. “NCIS,” he said, recognizing Ziva.

“Your plan almost worked,” said Tony, handcuffing him. “But ‘almost’ only counts in horseshoes and tactical nuclear weapons. Remember that next time. Not that you’re going to get a next time.”

“It is all about time with you, is it not?” said Ziva. “You are under arrest for attempted murder of federal agents, accessory to kidnapping, destruction of federal property—we lost about 20 windows—and oh, the dumpster company will want a new dumpster.”

“I am so glad we’ve caught you,” said Tony. “From the tales I’ve heard, I would never have wanted you to be my debriefing counselor.”

“I was good at my job,” Turkoyse snorted. “I was an invaluable source of helping people get through traumas.”

“Yeah, maybe…when you weren’t setting them up for new ones.”

- - - - -

It was the longest two minutes of Tim’s life. It was also almost the last.

Gibbs had just given the five-minute warning…as if any of them really knew whether this was precise or not. But the answer to the puzzle suddenly came to Tim, and, calling out, “I’ve got it! I know where it is!” he tore out of Vance’s office over Gibbs’ shouts to stop. His destination: across the hall to room 304, the conference room in which he’d met with Turkoyse that morning. He threw a chair out of the way, roughly, and then dove under the table. Yes, there was the bomb; its timer showing 1:50 to go.

Tim ripped it free of the duct tape holding it to the table and scrambled back to his feet. No time to worry about making a
good decision; any old decision would have to do, and if he was very, very lucky, it would be good.

Down the hall he raced. At the end of the hall was a small room, mostly unused (poor ventilation). It looked out over the small street that was barely more than an alley behind the NCIS building. There, Tim knew, some renovation was being done during the week.

Nine seconds.

The window wouldn’t open! Tim threw a chair at it and made an opening. He then aimed for the dumpster below, and…

The bomb went off just as it fell below the dumpster level.

Tim fell onto his back with the shaking of the building, and prayed his thanks over and over.


- - - - -

A team from the Pentagon had been dispatched to pick up Gomez, now that they figured they could tie him to Turkoyse. While Vance, having trekked back in from home, met with the fire department, Gibbs had led the Saturday crew in setting up shop in WNY (Washington Navy Yard) Building #200; one of NCIS’ auxiliary buildings.

The interrogation of Gomez was routine. His defenses now blown with the news of Turkoyse’s arrest, he told all: how he had met Turkoyse, a company partner, while working at the firm that had been embezzled. Turkoyse had lost bundles in the economic downturn, including being laid off from his job at a practice that was suffering (allegedly because he—he!—had a “bad attitude” toward patients, they had said. Stuff and nonsense!), and had been desperate to continue his lavish lifestyle. Signing on as a pool counselor for the DoD had seemed like a great come-down for him. He’d recruited Gomez to help in the embezzling. The death of the third man had seemed fortuitous; it was likely that nothing could be traced back to them now.

But Gomez had wanted his revenge on NCIS for his arrest, and promised Turkoyse a larger share of the embezzlement proceeds for his help. Gomez bided his time until he was able to capture Tim. A small amount of roughing up, and drugs administered with Turkoyse’s help…and the cell phone clue left so that NCIS could find Tim. That was all in the plan. They wanted Tim to be aware of his friends’ deaths, or (better still) die with them.

To do that, Turkoyse had pushed his way onto the top of the CISD availability list. He knew that the other counselors didn’t like to work on weekends. He made sure NCIS knew that he was available then. Gomez planted Tim’s missing phone on Thursday evening and even, helpfully, turned it back on, to make finding it easier. And so Gibbs’ team had, and found Gomez’ prints on it. The tracing of Gomez’ family property in Maryland, and the disused bomb shelter on it, had only taken about seven hours.

The timing was right. Turkoyse was on the list of being available Friday evenings, and all day Saturday and Sunday. No one would question the briefcase he brought in (people doing contract work didn’t have their belongings subject to search or x-ray; Gibbs made a note to see that that would change now). He’d go to the conference room and be alone there until Tim arrived. No one would see him plant the bomb.

The charge would be enough to take out most of the interior of the NCIS building…along with probably anyone working there when it went off.

It would be something to remember…and glory in. He’d had enough counseling work. He looked forward to taking his money to a friendly country that didn’t ask a lot of questions, and living out his days there in the sun. He’d already packed his bags and purchased his plane ticket.

- - - - -

It was late when the team finished processing Turkoyse and Gomez and sending them off. HQ didn’t appear to have damage other than the broken windows, on a visual check, but one close call in the day was more than enough for Vance. The engineers would arrive tomorrow.

Tony ordered in pizza for the team and Ducky. About to take a big bite from a pepperoni-heavy slice, he said, “All’s well that ends well, eh, Probie? Don’t you usually buy a pizza for yourself on Saturday?”

Tim grinned and nodded, even though he usually had a different topping on his. “I just want to thank all you guys for…for putting up with my craziness in this. Voices in my head! That’s absurd…and yet you went along with me. I don’t know why you did it, but you believed in me. That means a lot. Thank you.”

“Wellllll…maybe we felt a little sorry for you, McGee,” said Tony. “You were held captive for four days, and that couldn’t have been fun. Even if we did stop for the Director’s golf tournament.”

Ziva laughed. “Stop the golf tournament jokes, Tony! McGee,” she said, and her eyes turned warm and kind, and her smile was genuine. “You make good decisions, and your instincts are often right. I think we were willing to trust you in this. Who is to say that only Gibbs has an all-knowing gut? I was glad to side with you, in the end, and glad that it all worked out.”

“You, too, boss?” Tim said, hopefully.

Gibb snorted. “I don’t believe in voices and all that mumbo-jumbo.” Seeing Tim’s crestfallen look, he added, “I figured there was another explanation. Ducky, what we talked about a little while ago?”

Ducky stepped over to where Tim sat, and said, “Timothy, if you will allow me…?” He pushed up the hair at the back of Tim’s neck, and peered through a magnifying glass. “Ah, this does not appear normal…” Gibbs and the others crowded around. Something that looked like the head of a pin was under his hair, near an ear.

Putting on gloves, Ducky carefully pulled it out, and then swabbed away the tiny amount of blood that followed it. He then put a small bandage on the wound, negating Tim’s attempt to scratch at it. “We shall have Abigail look at this tomorrow or Monday. I dare say that we will find it is a transmitter, through which Dr. Turkoyse broadcasted his commands. They would have seemed like auditory hallucinations to you, Timothy.”

“You were under Turkoyse’s control!” Tony whooped, before getting stern looks from the others. “That was a very bad thing that Turkoyse-stone did,” he said, his face now appropriately solemn. “He was a bad, bad semi-precious gemstone.”

“It’s late,” Gibbs said. It was indeed almost 10 p.m. “Go home. We have to work again tomorrow. McGee, you stay a minute.”

When the others had left, Tim remained seated, wondering. Gibbs got up and slowly walked behind him before administering the head slap.

“Don’t you ever do that again!” Gibbs snapped. “I gave you a direct order to leave the building when we reached the five-minute stage. You disobeyed. This is going on your record.”

“But boss, I knew where—”

“That doesn’t matter! Forget the building! Buildings can be rebuilt. Dead agents can’t.”

“Got it, boss.”

Tim kept his smile to himself. It didn’t matter, really, that Gibbs’ confidence in him was for reasons other than Tony’s and Ziva’s.

“I mean it, Tim.”

“I’m in no hurry to do that again, boss; don’t worry.”

Time had almost run out…but it hadn't. While Tim had no doubt that Gibbs would have tried the same thing himself, he knew that Gibbs was right. He’d taken a gamble, and he shouldn’t have. He’d won…this time. He tucked away in his mind the notion that he shouldn’t try it again.

All in all, another week at NCIS…another case, now closed.


-END-

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