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PostPosted: Thu Apr 01, 2010 11:48 pm 
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This will be multi-chaptered, so please put comments in the discussion thread.


The Cyber Mole's Lair
by channelD




written for: Kelley, as a Haiti auction fic
rating: FR13
characters: Tim, the team, Keating, others
genre: drama, case file
prompt: Kelley asked for a Tim-centric team story, involving suspicion laid on Keating. At least, that’s where it starts…
setting: now
spoiler warning: for events in season six

- - - - -

Chapter 1

- - - - -

“Keating’s entering building #22.”

“He must be headed for the food court. Stay on him, Tony. This is our best opportunity.” Gibbs looked out the van window. It was parked just up the street from the multi-purpose building that was the lunchtime destination of many Navy Yard workers.

“He’s rumored to be a vegetarian. I’m not. If I get a cheeseburger, will that scare him off?”

“Don’t scare him off,” Gibbs growled, and ignored Tim’s pained look.

The young agent sat in the unmarked van’s driver’s seat. He was conflicted: he should have been the one to talk to agent Daniel Keating, as a peer: he knew him best. Tim, however, had expressed his doubts, over and over, about being able to gain Keating’s confidence. Not after all the irritation Keating had caused him after the latter’s return to the squad room following the reunion of Gibbs’ team. Keating wasn’t a bad person, most likely. He was simply an annoying one; one who’d gotten on Tim’s wrong side by rearranging everything on Tim’s desk and in his computer, and then not bothering to try to set any of it back to the way it had been.

No, Keating wasn’t a bad person.

But there must be something bad about him…otherwise Vance wouldn’t have ordered Gibbs’ team to cozy up to him. The sole person left alive of the new “team” that Vance had cobbled together for Gibbs, now almost two years ago, there was something about Keating that raised Vance’s suspicions even at this late date. Solidly back in his old place in Cybercrimes, Keating seemed bland enough…but in the last four months, there had started to be irregularities in the data files. Keating’s supervisor, Agent Cary Johnstone, had reported his concerns to Vance. Johnstone hadn’t known who in his department was at fault…but Vance’s gut told him to be wary of Keating.

Now Vance hoped that someone on Gibbs’ team could befriend the nerdy loner, and find out what, if anything, he was up to.

So of course, everyone assumed that Tim would be the perfect one for the assignment. But Gibbs had misgivings. “You bristle every time your path crosses his,” Gibbs had said to Tim in that conference in Vance’s office last week. “Don’t you think he’s become aware of that? It would take a helluva lot for him to trust you, for any reason, right now.”

Tim remembered his embarrassment at that. But it was true. He disliked Keating, plain and simple. And he knew that it would take a much better actor than he was to cover that up and make Keating warm up to him. Ziva might be able to do it, if she could approach it on a romantic end…although such an attraction seemed far-fetched. That left Tony, the chameleon, who could no more speak Geek than Greek, but who could charm a slide rule into becoming a calculator. Tony had grinned and was willing. “You don’t have to be a genius to mess with the mind of a genius, Probie,” he’d said.

Doubtful, Tim only frowned at him. He could see doubt on the faces of Ziva, Gibbs, Vance, and Johnstone, as well. Everyone had expected that he’d be the one to get chummy with Keating.

I refuse to let them make me feel guilty, Tim thought as he sat in the van, trying to assure himself of this. It’s better this way. Even if Tony does slip up, it would come about long after I would have. Keating would have ‘made’ me within five minutes.

“Keating. Hey,” Tony’s voice came through the van’s audio system. He sounded neither welcoming nor hostile; just matter-of-fact.

“Hi, DiNozzo.”

“Hey, wasn’t the Chick-fil-A supposed to open by now? I came over here, looking for a chicken-on-a-pickle sandwich.”

“I don’t know. I don’t eat chicken.”

“Ah. What’s good here at the court, then?”

“Well, I usually get a wrap or a salad. I’m fond of beans…”


The conversation went on. Tim half tuned it out, and let Ziva monitor the recording. She had become talented at that.

Tim settled back in his seat, feeling useless.

- - - - -

Tony’s lunch encounter with Keating was deemed a minor success. There was no information on any wrongdoing yet, but they hadn’t expected it this early. Tony had gained Keating’s confidence; that was all they’d hoped for today.

“So what is your next move?” asked Ziva, as the team (including Tony) drove off base for the nearest Chick-fil-A restaurant, at Tony’s request. “Do you call him; invite him out to lunch again?” she teased.

He growled at her. “I still don’t like the weasel. And not just because he’s a geek. No offense, McGee.”

“None taken.”

- - - - -

Vance summoned the team, plus Johnstone, back to his office. Tony gave a rundown of his activities, and ended with, “I haven’t typed up my report yet, but…”

“Don’t,” said Vance. “For all we know, Keating has made plans to protect himself. He may have sniffers planted on the agency computers to notify him if his name comes up anywhere.”

“Could you find a program that does…that, McGee?” Gibbs asked.

“Maybe,” said Tim. “Maybe not, without a lot of time, if he’s hidden it really well, and maybe back-routed it to his home PC. Or elsewhere.”

“Keating doesn’t have authority to work from home,” Johnstone bristled. “He shouldn’t have access to our computer system from outside NCIS. No one in CyberCrimes should, other than myself.”

“We’re just conjecturing,” said Vance. “We haven’t proven anything yet.”

“So…if we cannot type in his name, do we have to write all the reports on paper?” asked Ziva. “How would we ever reference them?”

“We can’t use the name ‘Keating’,” Vance grimaced. “For purposes of this investigation, we’ll refer to him as Lloyd Jonathan Welks. Remember that name, but be advised we may change it. And then change it again, as needed.”

“Like a password,” Tony nodded. “But what if he’s suspecting that, and is following the MCRT’s case reports?”

“I don’t think he’d be that suspicious yet,” said Vance, worrying a toothpick. “He still has his own job to do. Getting into your files would noticeably take time away from his work.”

“We could encrypt our files,” Tim suggested.

“I think that would send up a flag to Keating, since nothing else your team has done has been encrypted beyond the normal,” said Johnstone. “I agree with Director Vance that Keating is likely not a frequent reader of the MCRT reports, but that doesn’t mean he might not peek at what you’re doing, now and then, when he has an off moment. He was part of Agent Gibbs’ team for a few months, after all, and has sufficient security clearance that we wouldn’t necessarily frown on that.”

“Okay,” said Gibbs, looking at the note he’d just written to himself. “Business as usual…with Mr. Welks.”

- - - - -

Tony “ran into” Keating the following day (having been alerted by Johnstone that Keating was going out for a breath of air on his morning break) and chatted pleasantries. They both liked some of the same movies. Tony carefully kept his tongue in check when he discovered that Keating’s main interest was in dour, tragic, artsy foreign films.

“Where does it go from here?” Tony asked his team awhile later, while Ziva transcribed the contents of the wired recording. “I think I’m fast running out of things we might have in common. There’s no way I can talk with him about computers…not even to get him to fix mine, if it needed it; he knows that’s the only reason I keep McGigabite on the team.” He ignored Tim’s sour look.

They were in one of the third floor conference rooms—minus Vance and Johnstone, who were busy elsewhere. “I think you’re right, Tony,” said Gibbs. “Any more attempts, at least right now, and Keating will probably have ‘made’ you. We need another approach.”

Tim felt dread at what seemed to be the inevitable. I can’t do it. Keating must know how much I hate him. He’d never trust me.

Slowly, he raised his hand.

- - - - -

They waited three days before making the next move, so Keating wouldn’t feel “crowded.” Johnstone was their “mole” in CyberCrimes, reporting on Keating’s moves…which were all unremarkable. Keating liked to stretch out and put his feet up on a spare chair when he thought no one was watching him. He had a habit of tugging at his necktie…often. He usually worked with his suit jacket off (despite everyone else’s claims that the subbasement area was cold enough to set ice cubes). He squinted a lot. He drank Pepsi, and nothing but Pepsi. He had a fascination for blonde women. He tied rubber bands together in long strings.

In the meantime, Tim did a remote scan of Keating’s work computer, using one of the IT department’s accounts for extra security. Nothing unusual turned up. Still, Tim was sure that there was something to be found, and he was just not looking in the right place.

What was Keating up to? If he was a mole, he was probably selling secrets to someone. Yet there was no noticeable change in his lifestyle in his four years at NCIS. He was driving the same car he’d had for five years, lived at the same address, and dressed the same. Any extra money he might be getting was just sitting around, earning interest in some account that Tim couldn’t trace to him. The alternative was that Keating himself was a spy…but that was too hard to believe. Keating, assuming another identity? He was a favored hand at NCIS after-hours poker games because he’d never been able to cultivate a poker face.

It didn’t square. But that made it all the more likely, Tim thought, that Keating was at the bottom of something very twisted and unlawful.

Curious beyond all belief now, Tim wished, for the first time, that he really could get close enough to snoop around Keating’s life, and try to gain his confidence…but it was not to be. Despite his offer of three days ago (when he was still considering it a sacrifice), Gibbs and Vance had selected Ziva to be the next one to try. Tim was still deemed to be not good enough of an actor, and was likely to let his animosity come through. Ziva, on the other hand, had uncovered the fact that Keating liked the ballet…as she did. That would give her a conversational foot in the door. She would find a way to arrange an encounter over the performance at the Kennedy Center this coming weekend.

Oh, well; they’re probably right. I’d be sure to blow a mission like this. But still, he would have liked to have tried it…

- - - - -

Tim was working late that night, alone. Keating had worked at the National Security Agency before coming to NCIS. Tim wasn’t about to go hacking there, but the idea of Keating there gave him a lot of thought. He’d been a cryptographer in training, and allegedly had enjoyed the work but didn’t find it exciting enough. That was according to his NCIS application (courtesy Vance, who’d given Tim a paper copy). Interesting that someone who wanted more excitement would settle for a desk job instead of trying harder to work in the field, at least now and then. (Gibbs had said that Keating was barely passable as a field agent.) It was as if Keating was biding his time, willing to sit at a desk in a too-cold part of the building, in exchange for…what? For whom?

Still, there was no doubt in Tim’s mind that Keating had to be guilty of something.

“Hey, McGee.”

Tim almost jumped out of his skin. He’d had the squad room, the lights dimmed for evening, all to himself since the night shift team had gone out on a case half an hour ago. “Keating! What are you doing here?”

The other man shrugged, and ran a hand through his sandy hair. “Putting in a little overtime. I need to build up extra hours ‘cause I want to take off four weeks this summer and go to New Zealand.”

That was probably the most words Tim had ever heard Keating speak at once, at least to him. “That sounds nice,” Tim commented.

“But I don’t think it’s going to happen,” Keating said, and he looked worried. “McGee, I think I’m in really big trouble.”

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PostPosted: Wed Apr 14, 2010 7:22 am 
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Joined: Mon Sep 01, 2008 8:26 pm
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Location: on your six, boss!
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Chapter 2

- - - - -

“Trouble? Why is that?” Tim was curious beyond his shock, and slight fear on confronting the man with absolutely no support around.

“I dunno,” said Keating. “It’s like someone’s out to get me; maybe implicate me in something. I get the feeling I’m being watched.”

Silently, Tim cursed the lack of any recording device. He wasn’t sure this was even in protocol, gathering information in off-the-clock hours. “Have you done anything to make people suspect you?”

“I don’t think so. I hope not. I try to just do my job and not bother anyone.” He looked baffled. “Look, if people are still suspicious of me after that business almost two years ago, when I took your place on Gibbs’ team…”

I wish I had a script! “Do you think anyone blames you?”

“For what happened to Langer? No; I wasn’t anywhere near where he was when he was shot. And I think it was pretty well established that Michelle was the guilty party all around…even if there were, or may have been, extenuating circumstances. I kind of liked my time as a field agent, you know? But I wish it didn’t have to come in a bloodbath.”

He sounded cool about it all; detached. He did have the soul of a field agent, Tim supposed, being able to move beyond the deaths of coworkers. That was something Tim had a hard time with. “Have you ever wondered…what if Michelle had confronted you, instead of Langer?” Tim ventured.

Keating took a deep breath. “Sure. At least a hundred times. I’d like to think I’d be faster on the trigger…but Langer? He should have been. He was an experienced field agent. He should have been faster. I don’t know why he wasn’t.”

A question for the ages.

“I’m really sure I could have held my own against Michelle; that little pipsqueak. My blood boils every time I think about her. That act of being a clumsy innocent, hiding behind a law degree…” He looked angry.

“Oh, look at the time,” Tim said. “I’ve got to go. See you around!” He powered down his computer and pulled his gun and badge out of his desk, all the while keeping an eye on Keating to make sure he wasn’t moving toward his own gun. The agent was Tim’s height, but weighed significantly more than him, now that Tim had lost excess pounds. In a hand-to-hand fight, Tim wasn’t sure he could hold his own against Keating.

But Keating’s face lost the fierceness and the classic nonchalant look returned. “Yeah, me too. See you, McGee.” He walked to the elevator and took it down.

Tim stayed at his desk a few minutes more, calming down, and drinking the last of his can of Diet Coke. Then he called Gibbs.

- - - - -

“Okay. I don’t think there’s anything we can do tonight, McGee. We’ll all meet in the morning and discuss this. Be careful in the meantime.”

“Be careful?”

“Going home. Don’t leave the building for another half-hour. Watch around you as you go to your car. We don’t know what Keating’s capable of.”

“Gotcha, boss. Good night.”

- - - - -

In the conference room, with his team and Vance, Tim relayed the story of his encounter the next day. “I don’t know what to think,” Tim ended. “He seemed angry, but not towards me. He was almost friendly.” He wouldn’t say it out loud, but his suspicions of Keating had dimmed since the encounter. Maybe he was just a misunderstood, neurotic loner.

Gibbs nodded. “Ziva, you have your ticket to the ballet for Friday night?”

Smiling, Ziva almost beamed. “Yes. It will be nice to combine work with pleasure. Do we know for sure that Keating is going then?”

Keating’s boss, Johnstone, spoke up. “We do know. He got a good deal on a ticket somewhere, and has been bragging about it to anyone who will listen in CyberCrimes.” He rolled his eyes. “Humble, he isn’t.”

- - - - -

Friday night found the team in an unmarked van again, down the street from the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in the northwest sector of the District. While Tony grumbled about having to put up with something as artsy as a ballet, even from the rumpled-clothes-safety of the van, Tim and Gibbs only smiled slightly. Ziva, meanwhile, dressed in a magnificent deep red gown, was in earwig and visual contact with the van’s inhabitants as she looked around. The doors to the Opera House section were not yet open, and patrons were slowly filling the large foyer. “No sign of Keating yet,” she murmured. She wore a rope of pearls in her tumbling hair, which covered the earwig.

“Look for the man wearing an inflated ego,” Tony suggested.

“I am at the disadvantage, Tony. I cannot see you from here,” she responded.

“Find Keating,” Gibbs ordered while Tony scowled and Tim laughed.

“I see him coming in now,” she said. “Good. He is not escorting someone,” she added, as she moved to a nearby refreshments stand to buy a bottle of water.

“There’s probably only room in his car for himself and his ego,” Tony said, unwilling to give it up.

“Ziva?”

“Keating! Well. I did not know you were a fan of the ballet.”

“A cultured person appreciates the fine arts,” he tutted. “If it doesn’t offend you, might I say that you look beautiful?”

“You may say that,” Ziva said, preening just a little. “Are you…you must be here with a date tonight. You are not married, I believe?”

“Not me. A swingin’ bachelor,” he said with an unaccomplished leer that made it hard for her to keep a straight face. “You must have someone…”

“I do. That is, I did. He is sick tonight, however, but he insisted I come, knowing how much I love the ballet.”

“That was nice. Where are you sitting?”

She pulled her ticket from her small handbag and held it up. He studied his own. “Would you like to join me? I know the box office manager; I might be able to make something happen…”

“That would be fun, to be with someone I know,” she smiled convincingly. “You can tell me how CyberCrimes has been treating you.”

“Not much to tell,” he laughed. “But sure; we can catch up during the intermissions. Be right back.” He took the two tickets and walked off down a corridor. Soon he returned with a new ticket for Ziva, next to his seat. “They had an opening,” he shrugged.

Ziva was happy…it was several rows closer to the stage than her original ticket had been. “The doors are opening,” she said, after thanking him. “Shall we go in?”

“At least you’ll be safe in there,” Tony remarked in her ear, “except from men in tights.”

“Leotards,” Ziva almost corrected, but stopped herself from saying it out loud.

- - - - -

In the van, the rest of her team settled in for a long wait (particularly since none of them were ballet fans) of distant, tinny music; fluttering figures on stage (via the tiny camera in Ziva’s necklace); and scattered bits of applause.

“Hey. McGoo. You ever consider wearing leotards?” Tony asked once. Tim’s only response was a glacial glare.

“Yeah. Gibbs,” Gibbs answered his phone. “…got it.” Snapping the phone shut, he turned back to the team. “That was Johnstone. A copy was made of a top secret file late this afternoon…and the path was traced to Keating’s home computer.”

“Thank God! I don’t think I could have lasted until the third act, or whatever it’s called,” Tony remarked. “We’ve got enough to pull him in, boss.”

“Ziva, get him out to the lobby, and wait until you see us there,” Gibbs directed. “Don’t try to do this yourself; not in a crowded theatre.”

“Yes, Gibbs. But he’s not here right now; he went out to go the men’s room less than two minutes ago.”

“Fine. When he gets back, then.”

“A shame. This is a remarkable performance, and the seats are so nice…”

Five minutes went by, and then ten. The end of the intermission approached, and patrons started ambling back into the concert hall. The lights flickered a five-minute warning to the start of the next act.

“Ziva?”

She stood up and looked back toward the hall’s doorways. “He has not returned, Gibbs. Something must be out.”

“ ‘Up’.” Tony and Tim chorused. “No invading the men’s rooms, looking for him, Ziva,” Tony added. “What works at NCIS—” He broke off at the headslap.

“We’re coming in, Ziva,” said Gibbs. “If you see him, bring him out to the lobby.”

- - - - -

A flash of their badges got the trio in, and they searched the two men’s rooms on the lobby level. There was no sign of Keating. “He’s gone,” Tim said in weary disgust as they all met up, and Gibbs called Ziva out. “How did he catch onto us?”

“I don’t know,” said Gibbs. “We weren’t watching the front entrance. Didn’t expect this.”

“His car…?” asked Tony. “Would he have had time to get it out of one of the lots?”

“He told me he took a cab here,” Ziva sighed.

“I’ll just check across the street,” said Tim. “There’s a convenience store and a pizza shop open; he might have run in there.”

“I know that look, McGuilty,” Tony said, poking Tim’s stomach. “You want to confront Keating first, because you think there must be a logical explanation for what happened this afternoon.”

Tim blushed. It was true; he’d come to believe Keating, and he knew that frame-ups did sometimes happen. Innocent until proven guilty… Ignoring Gibbs’ stern look, Tim trotted across the street and went into the convenience store.

His team stood about chatting in the mild, humid spring night. When ten minutes had gone by and Tim hadn’t returned, however, they grew alarmed. As a group, they too went into the convenience store.

The clerk looked nervous. “No, man. I ain’t seen your guy. No one’s come in here in the last twenty minutes.”

“Would you like us to drag you in for questioning?” Ziva demanded.

“No!! That guy said he’d hurt me if I told. Please, lady; my woman’s sick and she’s got a baby on the way. She’s countin’ on me to bring home a paycheck.”

Gibbs twisted the OPEN sign on the door. “Call your boss. Tell him you have to close early.” They lead the unwilling witness out to their van.

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PostPosted: Sat May 15, 2010 7:25 pm 
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Joined: Mon Sep 01, 2008 8:26 pm
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Chapter 3

- - - - -

They weren’t about to abandon the site immediately with a man missing, of course. The store clerk, one Davon Curtis, according to his driver’s license, did not seem to really be in on it, so Gibbs called for a back-up team to come and take him to NCIS. He could wait in Holding and the back-ups could do a background check on him while the search for Tim went on.

Ziva found a trapdoor to a dusty basement, but that turned up nothing. The shop was otherwise clean and tidy. The back door led to an alley. The handle was dusted for fingerprints, but it would likely be found to have many different ones.

The shop next door, a liquor store, was still open. Tony interviewed the clerks on duty, and one reported that an unmarked van with a bad muffler had driven out of the alley minutes before. He could only describe it as being light-colored.

Gibbs looked off into the distance, frustration evident on his face. Tim shouldn’t have gone off to the convenience store by himself, but then none of them had expected trouble. Yet…trouble had come. There was nothing more to go on here.

Where was Tim? And how was Keating connected to this? Gibbs pulled out his phone and called Vance.

- - - - -

Vance was waiting for them when they arrived back at the squad room. He wore a polo shirt and casual slacks, typical for someone who’d been yanked out of his home on a weekend evening.

“Did Keating snatch McGee?” he asked as an abrupt greeting.

Gibbs gave him a look, although he kept the fire out of it. That wasn’t the real question Vance was asking, he knew. That one was How could you let our chief suspect get away?

Shrugging, he only said, “Remains to be seen.” He was about to set Ziva to monitoring Keating’s cell phone, when he had an idea.

- - - - -

At this point, Tim didn’t know where he was, either, other than he was in a moving vehicle, in the cargo area (a truck? a van?), in total darkness, and his head hurt. Someone had clubbed him from behind, evidently, just after he’d entered the convenience store and had started asking the clerk if he’d seen someone of Keating’s description.

He then heard a ringing of a cell phone. Not his own; it sounded a little ways off and besides, he would never choose to have In the Hall of the Mountain King from Peer Gynt as his ringtone. That just wasn’t…an agent wouldn’t do that. Only…

Keating???

A wave of dizziness overtook him as the vehicle lurched, and Tim passed out again.

- - - - -

Gibbs pocketed his phone with a sigh. No answer in his calls to either Keating or Tim. It had been a longshot. He had Tony put a trace on both phones while Ziva pulled up Keating’s phone history.

He reflected on the misshapen team Vance had cobbled together for him two years ago. Two of the three members of it were dead now. They’d assumed back then that that was the end of things. If Keating kills McGee, I’ll… Not for the first time did he wish that he could just live a quiet life as a carpenter.

If no ransom demand came in, they’d soon be looking at a recovery mission, rather than a rescue one.

- - - - -

When Tim next came around, he was lying on the carpeted floor of a room that looked vaguely office-like. There was a desk and a file cabinet; even a phone and a computer. Not that that did much good for someone whose hands and feet were bound.

“Don’t struggle,” said a familiar voice. “They’re good at tying knots. I already tried.”

“Keating!” Tim gasped. “What are we doing here?!”

“Someone cold-cocked me. I just ran across the street for a packet of cough drops, and…but that doesn’t explain what you’re doing here.” He looked at Tim with suspicion.

“I wish I knew.”

“I was at the Kennedy Center. You don’t live around there. You live in Maryland.”

“Actually, I moved recently. I’m in that general area now.”

“Oh.”

Tim almost sighed with relief. He’d never be as good with the fast lies as Tony was. “Do you know who took you, and why?”

“No, and no. Not a clue. I was attending the ballet with a lovely young lady. I went outside at an intermission.”

“Oh? Anyone I know?” Tim tried his best to look innocent.

Keating didn’t answer. Maybe he thought Tim wouldn’t believe him. “You’ve got more experience in field work than I do,” Keating then said. “How do we get out of here?”

Maybe we were wrong about him all along. If he’s guilty of something, why is he a prisoner, too? Tim grunted as he wiggled and stretched, and finally was able to reach the knife strapped at his ankle. In a few minutes he had cut through his ropes and then was working on Keating’s. Their captor(s) had taken his gun and phone, but obviously hadn’t thoroughly searched him.

Keating rubbed his sore ankles, and then stumbled to the door. “We’re locked in!” he said in frustration.

“I’ll deal with that in a minute,” Tim said, heading for the desk and the computer and phone. Both were working, and the computer had an internet connection. Stupid crooks…

Feeling like he was in a comedy, Tim picked up the phone and dialed Gibbs’ cell phone number (which he was glad to have memorized). “Hey, boss. I’m in a bit of a jam. Can you come get me?”

“McGee! What’s going on?? Where are you??”

“I don’t know where I am. I’m captive somewhere, in a room. Oh, and, uh, Agent Keating is also captive here, and he doesn’t know what’s going on, either.”

“And your captors allowed you to use the phone??”

“Well, they don’t exactly know, yet. Are you tracing this?” Tim said, impatiently. “There’s a computer here, too. Want me to send you an email? Assuming there’s an email program on here. Is there any computer which doesn’t have one?” he murmured, his mind wandering.

“Got the trace.” Ziva’s voice in the background. “It is coming from 1135 Boscoe Street, in Alexandria, Virginia.”

“We’re on our way, McGee,” said Gibbs, then ending the call.

“You guys working the night shift?” Keating asked curiously. “Or does Gibbs have the capability to trace calls from his home?”

He’s not as dense as he appears. “Gibbs has, uh, picked up a lot of computer skills in the last year,” Tim remarked. “You’d be surprised.”

“I guess so. I didn’t think your team could be working tonight. I’ll tell you now, my date was the beautiful and foxy Ziva David.”

Keating’s smirk was almost painful to behold. Tim hoped his own look of distaste looked something like shock. “You and…Ziva???”

“We both appreciate the finer things in life,” Keating said with a haughty laugh. “Something you’ll never understand, Navy brat. I was born to culture. My father is a museum curator. My mother, a concert pianist. You’ll never have a chance with a lady of refinement like Ziva.”

Tim felt sick on a number of levels. He tried to comfort himself with knowing that the team would soon be there, he and Keating would be freed, and he could then go someplace and retch. Steady, Tim, steady…

There was a window to the room. Tim looked out of it to see a street that could be Any City, Anywhere. He had a vague knowledge of Alexandria; having gotten lost there a few times before putting GPS in his car. There were office buildings across the street and a small amount of traffic for this late hour. Boscoe Street in and of itself meant nothing to him.

“How high up are we?” asked Keating, from across the room.

“About five floors. Why? Were you planning on escaping via the window?”

“Not unless there’s a fire escape nearby.”

“Don’t see one…” How long would it take the team to drive down here at this time of night? Twenty minutes, tops. Ten if either Gibbs or Ziva drove…

There was a rustle at the door and Tim turned toward it, a smile breaking out on his face…

…which died on seeing the unfamiliar men with guns leveled at them…

- - - - -

“Who hides captives in an office building?” Tony muttered, as with a flash of their badges, the team was admitted by the elderly security guard.

“Someone who does not like the grime of warehouses and junk yards,” Ziva remarked. “Too many people today are afraid to get their hands dirty. It is like Nikki Jardine, and her fear of germs.”

Gibbs’ look was thoughtful, and curious. “Like an IT person? There’s not a lot of dirt involved in computer hardware, is there?”

“I do not believe so…Computers need to be dust-free to operate well.” As they talked, they were moving down a hall. The landline phone Tim had called from was on the fourth floor.

Arriving at the elevator lobby, Tony was about to press the up button when one of the four cars opened. Gibbs’ team jumped when out of the car came Tim, Keating, and three men with guns on them.

“NCIS! Federal agents! Drop your weapons!” Gibbs snapped, as he and his team instantly had their own firearms leveled.

One actually couldn’t have said which side been the more startled by the turn of events, but Tim took advantage of the situation and dug a sharp elbow into the chest of the guy behind him, shoving him into the guy next to him, while diving for the floor. His team should now have a clear shot if they needed it (and if Keating was wise enough to likewise get out of the way).

Suddenly fire exploded in his shoulder, and he thought he heard another shot as well, followed by others. Then all went black.

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PostPosted: Sun May 23, 2010 12:19 am 
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Location: on your six, boss!
Name: Pam
Aliases: Black-Hearted Nell
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Chapter 4

- - - - -

Gibbs, Tony and Ziva returned fire, dropping one shooter, wounding another, and causing the third to surrender, all in quick order. As emergency vehicles pulled up, Tim came back around, and tried to get up…unsuccessfully, for Tony had a knee on his chest.

“Thanks, McGee,” said Keating, who sounded sincere. “Good diversion.”

“S’okay,” Tim panted. “I do this about once a week.”

“Really?” asked Keating, shaking his head. “I think I’ll stay in Cybercrimes, then.”

- - - - -

“What does it all mean?” Vance asked Gibbs in his office, shortly afterwards.

“Hell if I know. We have a ballet buff who’s either as innocent as a spotless lamb, or as guilty as sin. We can’t question Keating without tipping him off. We can only put him through a debriefing.”

“Can’t do that until tomorrow…gah; later today,” said Vance, looking at his watch. It was nearly 1 a.m. “I made it a budgetary rule to bring in counselors at night only in the most dire conditions.”

“I don’t think he’ll suffer much until then. In fact, I don’t really care,” Gibbs growled. “McGee took a bullet tonight for him.”

“Or your team,” Vance suggested. “How is McGee?”

“I’m waiting to hear from Ziva, who went to the hospital with him. I don’t think the wound was bad; it was pretty high up on the shoulder.”

“Well, you’ve got a number of suspects to interrogate. You want to get at it, or leave them until you’ve had some sleep?”

“Leave ’em. McGee’s safe; I’m happy to get some down time.”

“You’ll get it soon. I need you to be an observer for a little while.”

“Oh?”

“You can stay in here and watch my outer office on the screens. Keating is mine tonight.”

- - - - -

Keating carried his black suit coat over one arm, and his tie was loosened. Glumly, he sat down opposite Vance on a chair in the outer office, up nest to Vance’s secretary’s desk. “Can’t I come in and type up a report in the morning, sir?” Keating said. “I’m awfully tired.”

Whiner. “And Agent McGee is feeling a little sore in the shoulder right now, I expect.” With displeasure, Vance saw that Keating didn’t even appear dismayed. He knew that Keating’s psych profile put him as being a bit self-centered.

“I paid a lot for my ballet ticket. And I missed nearly half the show. Oddly enough…Ziva…Agent David…was attending the ballet, but when I saw her later…when the MCRT team came to rescue us, she was in street clothes. Is this some weird late shift for the team now?”

Vance didn’t answer that. “I need you to tell me everything you can about the people who abducted you and McGee.”

“I’ll bet McGee can answer that better,” said Keating, a little snidely. “He’s a more experienced field agent than I am.”

Vance slammed a hand on the desk. “McGee’s in the hospital now! I’m asking you!”

Keating jumped. “Sorry, sir. I, um…I was in the convenience store across the street from the Kennedy Center…In & Out, it’s called. I was in the medications aisle when someone stuck a gun in my back and told me to come quietly, or else.”

“Describe him.”

“I didn’t see…I mean, deep voice, no accent, a little garlic on his breath. Probably about my height.”

“What happened then?”

“He made me go out the back door of the shop, and then he must have hit me on the head…that’s the last thing I remember until I came around in that office.”

“You don’t seem to have a bump on the head.”

“I heal quickly. Always have. Good genes,” Keating sniffed.

“Why do you think you were kidnapped? Was it for your good genes?”

Now Keating looked a trifle affronted. “Honestly, I don’t know, Director. I don’t do anything here that would make me worth kidnapping. McGee, on the other hand…”

Vance crossed his arms. “McGee?” he challenged.

“Well, it stands to reason, Director. I’m a likeable guy. McGee must have dozens of people who hate him. Maybe hundreds.”

Who hired this bozo?! “Yet McGee seems to have been kidnapped after you were. He entered the shop after you did. How would they know that he was coming in?”

“Are you sure he came in after I did? I would think that he went in first, and was grabbed, and then I came in just a minute or two later, and they couldn’t leave a possible witness, so—”

Vance fought to keep his face blank. He couldn’t directly answer that without blowing the investigation into this man. “Think a minute. Let’s assume it’s the other way around and you were the one they were after, and McGee is the innocent bystander. Have you angered anyone lately, personally or professionally? Anytime anyone attacks one of my people, they’ve attacked me,” he said firmly.

Keating looked pleased by the personal attention. “Like I say, I’m a popular guy, sir. I only make friends; not enemies.”

I think he really doesn’t have a clue. “All right, Keating. Go home and get some rest. Report here at noon to meet with the stress debriefing counselor.”

“Is that really necessary, sir? I don’t feel stressed. It’s over. I just want to enjoy what’s left of the weekend.”

“It’s not optional, Agent Keating,” Vance growled. “You were kidnapped and witnessed a colleague getting shot. You don’t know how that might impact you down the road, psychologically. You be here, on time.”

Keating gulped and nodded, and then left. When he was gone, Vance gave a nod to the camera and, thus, Gibbs. They knew nothing more than they had 12 hours ago.

- - - - -

It went without saying that Gibbs’ team would be working on Saturday. If they could get the case mostly tied up that day, or at least reasonably far along, they’d get Sunday and Monday off.

Ziva came in around 9 a.m. with Tim in tow, his arm in a sling. Gibbs only raised his eyebrows on seeing Tim, but didn’t comment. If Tim felt okay enough to work, even just for a few hours, Gibbs wouldn’t complain.

“I thought of something, boss,” Tim said stopping at Gibbs’ desk. “When I came to in that office, Keating was already conscious.”

“He told Vance he has a thick head. Or words to that effect,” Gibbs grunted. “He didn’t seem to have a head injury.”

“He faked being knocked out, yes?” said Ziva.

“But why?” said Tony. “He couldn’t have known that McGee was going to go into the store. He probably didn’t know at all that we were in the area!”

“Perhaps it was McGee who stumbled on something, in the store.” Ziva stared at Tim for a long minute. “We have assumed that Keating did not know the team was watching him. If he is cleverer than I want to admit, then he may have suspected he was under surveillance, and my presence at the ballet may have confirmed it.”

“And he played a little game of Follow Me, knowing that one of us would do so? Could be,” Tony said, looking thoughtful. “McGee, you still look pale. Sit down before you fall down.”

Tim did so without arguing. “That would be quite a gamble on his part.”

“Not necessarily,” said Gibbs. “If he had an appointment with someone, intermission during the ballet would be a good time for it…and still allow him to see the ballet. He could arrange for a meeting inside the store. But then Ziva turned up at the ballet and he turns suspicious…”

Tim shook his head. “I dunno. We’re accusing Keating of a lot here. He seemed to me like a pretty straight-forward guy. Arrogant, yes, but not a criminal.”

They all looked at him. “I mean, we just don’t have enough to accuse him yet!”

“What about the top secret program that was downloaded on his home computer?” Tony demanded.

“I haven’t forgotten about that. It may be that someone’s trying to frame him.”

“No one seems to dislike him as much as you do, McGee,” Gibbs said mildly. “Get to work tracing the real routing of that file. Tony, Ziva, it’s time to start questioning the people we have in Holding.”

- - - - -

It being Saturday, there were many fewer people at work than on a weekday at NCIS. There was always need for support personnel, of course…even on federal holidays, there had to be someone in MTAC, certainly. The Intel crew was there, around the clock. A few other special agents worked, to be available. Some came in just to pick up overtime hours. But compared to the bustle of the work week, things were pretty quiet.

Tim was able to give his full attention to his computer with nothing to distract him. Time went by as he kept tracking routes, only to face blockades and have to start again. Each time he made a little more progress, but it was slow…painfully slow. Being able to type only with one hand didn’t help.

Then he got the idea of running a trace from Keating’s home computer, backwards. There was his daily anti-virus download, a systems update on two programs, a game update, and something Tim couldn’t identify. It had no recognizable name on the file; just a long string of letters and numbers. The file type was also an unusual one. But the size was in the right range for the top secret file.

Where did you come from? Show me your route… There was no doubt that Keating had the file. The question was, did he download it himself, or did someone send it to him?

Trace…trace…trace… Tim took a long swallow of water. He was starting to feel tired, and would have to ask one of the team to give him a ride home once they got out of interrogation. What time is it? Almost noon…

Now the pieces were starting to fall into place. From Keating’s home computer to Portugal, to Lebanon, to Turkey, to Malaysia, to a dozen other countries the signal bounced, and then the end of the line, back at NCIS, at…

The screen suddenly went black, and Tim yelped in protest. “You don’t need to know that,” said a voice behind him. “No one does. I’ll erase that path…after I take care of you.”

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PostPosted: Tue May 25, 2010 7:44 am 
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Joined: Mon Sep 01, 2008 8:26 pm
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Location: on your six, boss!
Name: Pam
Aliases: Black-Hearted Nell
Gender: Female
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Chapter 5

- - - - -

Tim glared at the man who stood, smirking, and holding the computer power cable that was no longer plugged in. “Cary,” he said in surprise, even as realization dawned. “What are you doing?”

Cary Johnstone laughed softly. “You’re a clever man, McGee. Put two and two together. I’ll give you a hint. The answer is ‘four’.”

His instinctive respect for management was fast taking a detour. The head of Cybercrimes—who’d brought his ‘suspicions’ of his staffer, Keating, to Vance’s attention—was the one behind all of this?? “Nice little chase,” Tim remarked. “You led us down a blind alley.”

“I was a field agent once. I know how a field agent thinks.”

Tim’s mind was racing. Agents assigned to departments like Cybercrimes on a permanent basis didn’t usually carry firearms with them during the day; just the portal-to-portal part, like everyone else. Inside the building, the guns would just be put in desk drawers. They’d have to take the semi-annual firearms proficiency tests, but probably would only do middling well on them. And that included Johnstone. Was he armed now? Tim couldn’t decide on the probability of that. He only knew that he himself was in no shape to put up a fight. “You’d do all this to ruin Keating’s career? What; did he annoy you too many times, too?”

Johnstone only laughed again, quietly. He was a low-key man, not one to draw attention to himself. Tim guessed that, as he had noticed a little while ago, the only other people in the squad room were two people working at the far side. Johnstone was taking care to not draw attention to them. If Tim caused a ruckus now, it might go badly for him.

“You’ve been wrong about so many things, McGee. You and your celebrated team. I’d hoped this wouldn’t come to bloodshed, but, as the saying goes, you know too much.”

“I do?” Tim said, without thinking. Of course, now he knew the who, but he still hadn’t figured out the how and the why.

“If only you hadn’t done that trace this morning! I’d have been on my plane, going out of the country, before any of you suspected me. Your traces set off an alarm on my computer, so I had to come in to stop you.”

“Oh,” Tim said with less force than he’d hoped. But out of the corner of his eye, he saw someone approaching from behind Johnstone. Keating! Keating could save the day and redeem himself in everyone’s eyes!

Keating! Tim kept from looking directly at the agent. Keating! You must be here for your debriefing, but I need your help first! Be ready to take this guy down! On the count of three, Keating! One! Two! Thr…

“Got everything squared away?” Keating asked Johnstone as he came up next to him.

“Yeah. The boy scout had finished tracing the file, but I can wipe that off the computer.”

Keating shrugged. “Your flight’s earlier than mine. If you want to go, I can do the wipe.”

“It’s not until six. I want to make sure that all traces are gone and that he’s good and dead.”

“So, take him out and kill him. I’ve never liked dealing with blood. Ick.”

Johnstone hesitated. “You’re sure you can do a thorough wipe?”

“Do you think I want any of this traced back to me??”

“You’re already the chief suspect,” Tim remarked, hotly. Thanks a lot for destroying my fragile faith in you, ^%&*&%@!

Keating froze. “I can’t be. I’m the decoy.” He turned to Johnstone. “You promised…”

“Oh, stop sniveling,” said Johnstone. “You’ll feel better about it all when you have your share of the money.”

“I suppose.” With no guilt apparent, he remarked, “The file’s on its way to the buyers now. I sent it just before I left home to come here. Of course, it’s the middle of the night there, so I don’t think we’ll be wired the money for another six hours or so.”

“Works for me. We won’t need it until we get to where we’re going to.” Johnstone pulled out his sig. “Come along, McGee. I wouldn’t want blood splatters on the carpet here on my conscience.”

“Then I suggest you not move,” came a familiar voice from above them. They all looked up to see Gibbs, Ziva and Tony looking down at them from the balcony, each with a gun trained on them.

“I knew I shouldn’t have come back for that stupid debriefing!” Keating moaned.

“Oh, shut up!” Johnstone and Tim chorused.

- - - - -

Not too long afterwards, Tim and Gibbs sat in Vance’s office and talked with their Director (who was at home) by video phone. “That’s a pretty large capture,” Vance remarked. “Two special agents; one a department head. I’ll be in later this afternoon, after getting in some family time, under my wife’s orders.”

Gibbs smiled. “I think we can handle things until then.”

“So Johnstone was the brains, and he recruited Keating?”

“So it looks. Their recruited thugs in the fake kidnapping of Keating, plus the store clerk, sang like canaries. Guess they saw their promised rewards evaporating fast. Neither Johnstone nor Keating really have the planning capabilities of successful crooks.”

“Keating really didn’t suspect Ziva at the ballet,” Tim added. “He fully intended to have a brief meeting with the thugs, get back to the ballet, and then fake his kidnapping after the ballet was over. He figured the stolen file would be traced to his computer, but if he appeared to have been kidnapped, he hoped that would divert suspicion from him.”

“He didn’t think we’d check airplane passenger lists, eventually?”

“Like I told you two years ago, Leon; Keating isn’t the world’s brightest agent,” Gibbs chuckled.

“And there’s the small matter of the downloaded file…”

Tim couldn’t quite keep the smile off his face. “It’s that dummy file I created about a month ago, when Johnstone first came to us with his suspicions that someone in his department was bad. It’s got all the bells and whistles of a top secret file, and looks like something important, but it does…absolutely nothing.”

“Good work, Agent McGee.”

Tim only smiled again. Those four words made it all almost worthwhile.

“Go home, McGee. Get some rest. Come in on Tuesday and I’ll give you your choice.”

“Sir?”

“Filling in for either Keating or for Johnstone in Cybercrimes, until your wound has healed and we can find replacements.”

“Oh, er…yes, sir.”

Vance grinned. “Or…just take desk duty with your normal assignment to the squad room.”

“I think I’ll take that option, sir.”

“Thought you would.” In the background, a crash and a child’s wail was heard above another’s loud accusation. “Whoops. Sounds like World War III is about to break out here. I’ll see you later.”

Tim yawned as the video connection closed. “If it’s all the same with you, boss, I think I’ll go home now.”

“Okay. Want a lift?”

“Sure; if you’re offering.”

Together they took the elevator down. “Did you get anything out of this, McGee? Other than an injured shoulder?”

“Like what, boss?” Tim still felt like he was processing the events of this strange case.

“You went into this feeling like you should be Keating’s contact, since you had more in common with him—both of you being…”

“Geeks.”

“Whatever. But first Tony and then Ziva did the undercover parts. I noticed that you looked like you were being passed over.”

Tim sighed. “I’m just not an undercover person, boss. I realize that now.”

“You’re wrong there. Not all undercover work would suit you, true, but you came through with flying colors on this one, and that with having to improvise a lot. Good job, McGee.”

And that was an even rarer compliment. Tim only smiled as they walked out into the bright afternoon sunshine.


-END-

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