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PostPosted: Sun Apr 04, 2010 11:52 pm 
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This will be multi-chaptered, so please put any comments in the discussion thread.


Compass Rose
by channelD



written for: Nat, as a Live Journal Haiti auction fic.
rating: FR13
characters: Jimmy and almost everyone else
genre: drama/case file

- - - - -

Chapter 1

- - - - -

The photo of the missing Navy lieutenant was of a handsome young man with sandy hair and a sparkling smile. Tim noticed Ziva’s own smile, perhaps an unconscious one, as the team stood before the plasma screen. Adonis, Tim thought. The kind of looks that just reeled women in. Silently, he bemoaned his (in his mind) all-too-average looks. But Tim wasn’t willing to change places with someone who’d failed to report back from weekend leave on the day that a crate of arms was discovered to be missing from his ship.

Tony was reading from his notes. “Lieutenant O’Keefe’s ship, the Circe, docked in Norfolk four days ago. For his leave, the lieutenant gave his contact address here as 1515 Moon St SW…”

“Apartment 1C,” added Jimmy Palmer, morosely. He sat to the side, in Tim’s chair. “You have to put the apartment number on or the mail might go into the wrong box.”

“Apartment 1C,” Tony added, as if he hadn’t been interrupted. “The apartment is listed as being rented to a James Palmer, employed by NCIS.”

Gibbs headslapped him for the snark. “We’ve established that O’Keefe is your friend, Palmer, and that he spent the weekend visiting you. But he didn’t report back to the ship last night, the only one who didn’t, and there’s a small matter of—”

“I don’t know anything about a crate of arms, as I’ve told you,” said Jimmy, his head hung low. “Ellery didn’t have a crate with him; just a duffel bag. And I don’t think he knows much more about arms than I do, well, except for his general training. He’s just about to enter the Law Education Program, and get a law degree, and move onto JAG.”

“Career Navy man, then?” Gibbs asked with a grunt.

“Definitely. He loves the Navy. Loves arguing law. He couldn’t afford to go to law school right out of college, so he joined the Navy instead, and hoped they’d help pay for it.” He laughed a little morosely. “He always wanted to be in the Navy. When we were in high school, he said he’d one day plead my case in court to force the Navy to take me.”

“What; your bathtub boat collection wasn’t impressive enough for the Navy?”

“DiNozzo!”

“I was going to join the Navy, because Ellery knew that that was what he was going to do,” said Jimmy. “Then, shortly before we started college, I found out that if you’re diabetic, you can’t join the Navy. Not even for a desk job. Not even if your diabetes is fully under control. It was a real blow to me.”

“That’s true of all of the forces,” Gibbs said quietly. “They’re a little behind the times.”

Jimmy stared at the image on the plasma. “Well, nothing to be done about it. Ellery is my best friend. I just want to know that he’s safe.”

“If he has the crate of arms, he has protection,” Ziva said darkly.

- - - - -

Jimmy had been the last person to have seen Lt. Ellery O’Keefe. The previous day, Sunday, they’d gone to the Navy Memorial at O’Keefe’s request, Jimmy said. They’d gone over the granite plaza and looked at the statues and reliefs, the world map and the compass rose, and the fountains in the warm May sun. They’d then cooled off in the adjacent Navy memorial museum. O’Keefe had left at 4:45 to take the bus back to Norfolk. That was the last thought Jimmy had given to him until he was summoned to the squad room now on this Monday morning and asked about his friend.

“Okay, Palmer; you can go back to work,” said Gibbs. “If we have any more questions, we’ll find you.”

“You’ll tell me when you find Ellery, won’t you?”

Gibbs only looked away. Jimmy felt bleakness all over again.

- - - - -

“Grab your gear,” Gibbs ordered later that morning. “Shooting at Annapolis. McGee, gas the truck.”

It was at least a distraction from the O’Keefe case, which seemed to be going nowhere. They’d gotten corroboration from all of the places that Jimmy had said he and O’Keefe had been over the weekend. O’Keefe’s bank and credit card records were quite in keeping with a young lieutenant who was still paying off student loans. His expenses were modest; he didn’t have a wife or ex-wife, and no high-maintenance hobbies or interests. He was a teetotaler, who also didn’t smoke and didn’t even have any magazine subscriptions. He was largely uninterested in the internet, using it mostly for email. The Norfolk NCIS office had taken his laptop from the ship and was having an agent drive up to DC with it. It should be there when the team returned from Maryland.

- - - - -

“Mister Palmer; I must insist that you keep your mind on your work!”

Jimmy noticed that he’d picked up the wrong implement to hand to the doctor. “Yes, Doctor. Sorry, Doctor.”

“Where has your attention been today, lad? You spent over an hour upstairs, and then you returned looking like you’d been threatened with a hide-tanning.”

It would take too long to explain, and Jimmy didn’t even want to give the matter voice. It was bad enough that it wouldn’t leave him alone. It’s not like I can do much to find Ellery…right?

But what if I could…?

A ridiculous notion. He had no investigative training; he wouldn’t know where to logically begin. Admittedly, he was fairly adept in flying by the seat of his pants, however. Take that time last year when he had blundered into the convention of secret agents, and bluffed his way through that; even onto a panel discussion (without ever really saying that he was an agent).

Yes, I could probably start a decent investigation.

No. Ridiculous, still. This was best left to the Amazing Gibbs & Co. He’d only be in the way.

But what if another case comes up, and they get busy with that? Ellery could be a prisoner or lying hurt somewhere. He may not have time to wait for them!

Yet if he poked around, just a little…

Gibbs would kick my butt from here to next week.

Wait a minute, brain! I’m confused. Which side are you arguing now?


He knew it was a sign that he was thinking about this too much.

No more thought. Action!

“Mister Palmer!”

“Wha—what?”

Ducky sighed. “Is there something on your mind, lad?”

Yes!

“No, Doctor.” He felt Ducky’s eyes burning into him, and turned away. “I’m sorry, Doctor. I’ll try to do better. Really.” He couldn’t ask for time off; he had little to spare, and he had three days saved for his mother’s upcoming 55th birthday.

Harrumphing, Ducky likewise turned away. “Well, then let’s get back to work. We have plenty to do.”

- - - - -

After a few hours, Gibbs’ team was back, their shooter in custody. His victims were all expected to survive. Reports would be written, and they would be onto other things.

Ziva sat down at her desk and logged onto her computer. In a moment she had leaped to her feet and was snarling. “Oh…! Death to the creators of computer viruses!”

“Not you again!” Tony groaned.

Tim raised an eyebrow her way. “Is it the same popup you got before?”

“Yes, the same fake warning. McGee, will you not fix my computer for me so I can get to work??”

“Didn’t you call IT like I told you to, last week?”

She twisted her hands. “No. I do not like being held prisoner to their schedule. Can you not—?”

Tim already had his phone in hand. “I could, but IT needs to be the ones to fix it. They’ll want to see if any other computers are infected. They may need to download a patch, but maybe just an anti-malware scan will do the trick… Hi, Marvin? Ziva’s computer has a virus. Can you come right up?...Thanks.” He smiled. “He’ll be here within half an hour.”

“I need to type up my report,” Ziva growled. “I need that half hour.”

“Use mine,” said Gibbs. “Got a meeting to go to, anyway.” He heard her add, as he left, “Will IT be able to trace who created the virus? I may ask for time off to go on a journey…”

- - - - -

She created a folder on Gibbs’ computer and labeled it Ziva’s Report. Opening a Word document, she saved it to that folder. She could then just email it back to herself at whatever point she was at when the IT person was done, and paste it into the agency report form later.

While making sure that the new folder was on Gibbs’ computer desktop, and not hiding somewhere else, she noticed something there. It was a file labeled Palmer May 2010. She frowned, and then changed her expression to cool, just in case her teammates happened to be looking her way.

How odd. There are not folders with our names on his desktop. She didn’t doubt that most of the couple dozen icons on the desktop, which had been installed by IT and McGee, had never been touched by Gibbs. It seemed remarkable that there would be a folder for Jimmy, likely related to the O’Keefe case, and here just hours after the first conference. It was not like Gibbs to spring to technical action that fast.

She was about to quietly click on it when—

“Agent David? Could you log onto your computer and show me what you’ve seen?”

Marvin, the IT guy. “Yes, of course. I will show you.” Reluctantly, she moved back to her desk.

- - - - -

After work, Jimmy made a beeline for the Navy Memorial; an easy trip on the Metro. In the light of the setting sun he crossed the granite plaza, walking over the map of the world, looking for the bronze plaque on the low wall where he and Ellery had stopped and talked. If I retrace all the steps, maybe I’ll…

“Palmer. Hold up.”

Instinctively, Jimmy threw his hands into the air. “I only have $12 in my wallet. Take it, but please don’t hurt me!”

There was a loud sigh. “You watch too much TV, kid. I just meant for you to stop. Fornell, FBI. Remember me?” He pulled out his badge.

“Agent Fornell. Yes, yes. I remember now.” Down, adrenaline! Down! “Last year. The secret agent convention.”

“And the medical examiner convention. What are you doing here?”

“I, uh…” I don’t work for him! “What are you doing here?”

“Do I need to bring you in for questioning?”

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PostPosted: Sat Apr 17, 2010 10:21 pm 
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Chapter 2

- - - - -

There was a small café just off the Memorial plaza, and there Fornell steered Jimmy for a cup of coffee. Fornell, after stirring in a packet of sugar in his, was to the point. “We know that you were here on Sunday, Palmer. And we know that you were here with Ellery O’Keefe. And that he didn’t report back to his ship.”

“How—how did you know all that? Have you been talking to Gibbs?”

“Gibbs? Why would I talk with Gibbs?”

“Because they say O’Keefe—” Jimmy clamped his mouth shut before he went too far. “Nothing.”

“Why is NCIS involved with O’Keefe? You guys don’t handle cases of AWOL or desertion; the Navy Military Police does.”

“Why do you have an interest in this?” Jimmy said, roughly.

“I don’t have to tell you.”

“Well, I don’t have to tell you, either.” Jimmy got up to go.

“Sit down,” Fornell snapped. “I’ll run you in as a material witness if I have to.”

Jimmy gulped. “I want a lawyer.”

“I’m not arresting you!”

“I still want one.”

Fornell sighed. “Maybe we can compromise…”

- - - - -

It was a group of grumpy people who assembled at the Washington FBI field office on 4th Street, NW, at 8 that evening. Gibbs had just arrived at home when Vance had called him to come back into the District. Vance, for his part, had been working a little late and now realized his kids would be in bed before he got home. Neither appreciated being summoned to the FBI, but they were less willing to have one of their own thrown to the wolves.

“What is the charge, Tobias?” Vance asked casually. He and Gibbs subtly flanked Jimmy, sitting in Fornell’s small, cluttered office. Using the office instead of an interrogation room was Fornell’s quiet acknowledgment of friendship for the NCIS men.

Fornell steepled his fingers. “Charge? Did I say there was a charge?”

Vance snorted while Gibbs smiled slightly. “If this is going to be a long night, Tobias, I suggest you break out the bottle of whiskey you keep in your desk,” Gibbs added.

“I hope it won’t be that long,” Fornell frowned. “Your young man, here, seems to be caught up in an FBI investigation, involving one Lt. Ellery O’Keefe.”

“And why does the FBI want O’Keefe?” asked Vance.

“He’s wanted in connection with a federal crime,” said Fornell. “His actions came to our attention about two months ago.”

“Are you going to tell us which crime?” Gibbs asked coolly. “And how this relates to Palmer?”

“That depends,” said Fornell. “What’s your interest in O’Keefe?”

“O’Keefe? I don’t think I know an O’Keefe.”

Fornell’s face darkened. “Don’t you play games with me, Gibbs. I can hold your man—”

“We can work together,” said Vance, equally cool. “If it’s within our own interests to do so. We do have an interest in Ellery O’Keefe. How does a Navy officer come under the jurisdiction of the FBI?”

“When he’s possibly the one of the principals in a ring affecting national security, then yes, jurisdictions may become a little blurred.”

“What’s the crime?”

- - - - -

Tony laughed the next morning, when Gibbs assembled his team and told them of the meeting at the FBI. “Sedition!” He raised his hands and started to dance, singing to the tune of a song from Fiddler on the Roof.

Sedition! Sedition!
dum dada dum dada dum sedition!


“Can it,” Gibbs snapped.

“ ‘Sedition’,” Ziva murmured. “I have heard the word, but I cannot remember what it means.”

“It’s inciting the citizens to overthrow the government through force or violence,” said Tim. “It’s not very common, but is definitely unlawful. In some cases, it’s tied into treason, but that’s a separate charge.”

“And that is what Palmer’s friend has been up to? Along with stealing top secret files?”

“We absolutely need to find better friends for Palmer,” said Tony.

“What did Palmer say in his defense?” asked Tim. “Assuming the FBI is accusing him of something…or are they?”

“No more than we are,” said Gibbs. “At the moment, anyway. Fornell says he just happened to run into Palmer at the Navy Memorial. I think it’s more likely that Fornell followed Palmer after Palmer left work, and the Memorial was just a good place to confront him.”

“Why did Palmer go to the Memorial?”

“He said he was trying to reason out O’Keefe’s disappearance.”

“He was looking for clues?” Ziva asked, sounding surprised.

Tony laughed again. “Palmer, an investigator! That’ll be the day!”

Gibbs shrugged. “In any event, he found nothing. The sedition charge is serious, of course. If proven, O’Keefe faces a long stretch in prison.”

“What exactly is he said to have done?”

“The FBI’s investigation places him as a principal in a reactionary ring calling themselves It’s Our Nation. The group formed in 2004 in West Virginia at the university; had sleepy beginnings but started to mushroom in 2008. They advocate the violent overthrow of the government, starting with the so-called ‘military-industrial complex’.”

“Wow. Shades of Students for a Democratic Society,” said Tony. “I remember my dad talking about their power. Or dreams of power through anarchy. The FBI’s secret COINTELPRO program back in the ’60s infiltrated that group…is that happening again?”

“Don’t know,” said Gibbs. “But that was on my mind.”

“O’Keefe was a student at the university in West Virginia,” Ziva said, thinking.

“And so was Palmer,” Tim said, soberly.

- - - - -

Ducky listened as Jimmy poured out his fears in Autopsy. While they had a pressing case, for which Gibbs wanted answers immediately (as he always did), the older man was more than willing to set work aside to listen to his young assistant.

“And you haven’t kept in close touch with the lieutenant since you two left college?” Ducky queried.

“Of course I have! He’s the best friend I’ve got!”

“When did you see him last, before this past weekend?”

“Um…well, it’s been a couple of years. He’s all over the world with the Navy. He’s just back from thirteen months in the Persian Gulf. But we email each other, at least once every week or two. So I feel like I’m always in touch with him.”

Ducky pointed a gentle finger at him. “Ah, but email is no different than the older form of letter-writing was. The writer dictates the subject and adds or omits as much as he chooses. Would your friend have confided in you if he was doing something underhanded?”

Jimmy flushed, and couldn’t continue for a moment. “No,” he said at last. “He knows I’m honest. As I told Agent Fornell, Ellery has never tried to recruit me for a cause. But I can’t believe that he’s guilty of anything! He’s a patriot; as loyal an American as they come!”

“We always want to think the best of our friends, Mister Palmer. The sad truth is, though, that even the best of friends is only human, and humans sometimes falter along life’s path. I do hope that is not that case with the lieutenant, but…”

“I know,” Jimmy’s head was down, and his voice carried unshed tears. “I don’t want it to be true. I know they say it could be. I don’t want it to be. I don’t want to lose my friend. I…I don’t have many friends. Not many people like me.”

Ducky blinked a few times, and then grasped Jimmy’s shoulders. “You have more friends than you know, Jimmy.”

“I find that hard to believe, Doctor. Everyone wants to think the worst of Ellery. I’m guilty by association, they think. If he’s bad, I must be, too. I don’t think I’d ever heard that word, sedition, before last night.”

“I don’t believe you’re guilty, Jimmy. I would happily be your character witness, anytime.”

“You’re not afraid of guilt by association?”

“I don’t consider that. I’m not an investigator. In matters of friendship, I go by the heart.”

- - - - -

In his office, Fornell sorted through printouts and thumbed back and forth among windows open on his computer desktop. James Palmer, James Palmer, commonly called Jimmy Palmer. A geek and a nerd; a bright mind with a bumbling mouth. An unblemished record (save a few scoldings for inappropriate remarks). He’d been involved with that Agent Lee for awhile. She’d died, he knew. The special agent community talks when one of their own goes down, even if the details are unavailable. NCIS wouldn’t talk about her death, but Fornell sensed that she’d been bad. There was no suspicion clinging to Palmer over that…was there?

Was there another, older reason for NCIS to be watching Palmer besides the O’Keefe matter?

Fornell didn’t believe in coincidences. He had nothing to go on—yet. But he would be keeping a watch on Palmer. It wouldn’t be the first time that someone as innocent as an altar boy was a cover-up for something sinister.

- - - - -

Gibbs stared at the folder on his computer desktop. Palmer May 2010. Vance had sent it to him, and suggested, casually, he check it out in his spare moments. So far, Gibbs had avoided doing so. Palmer was someone that Gibbs didn’t really consider to be under his command; he reported to Ducky, who signed his leave slips, conducted his performance review, and probably wiped his nose when the situation called for it. Gibbs would not have enough patience to deal with the scatter-brained geek on a regular basis. To open, then, a file on someone he did not supervise seemed tinged with ‘invasion of privacy’ issues.

Still, it had to be done. Vance was, for the time being, delegating this initial investigation to him, and he had to do it.

He clicked the file to open it, after making sure that he was not likely to be disturbed. Tony and McGee were out in the field, and Ziva could be counted on to work diligently and quietly at her desk, enjoying the peace and quiet that came with the men being out.

At first, the file showed nothing remarkable; nothing Gibbs didn’t already know. Palmer’s pre-hire background check had turned up a squeaky-clean bookworm who, in high school, studied at home or with his friend O’Keefe instead of partying. He never got into trouble. He had the bare minimum of extra-curricular activities to show that he wasn’t a loner, in order to get a college scholarship. He studied hard there, and worked at fast food restaurants for extra cash between classes. He had no time for campus activities.

Except…

There was a photo of him at what looked like an outside party, or gathering. There were signs…Gibbs put on his reading glasses, but still couldn’t make out what the two signs said.

Dang. Abby was busy with a rush job for the SECNAV. Ziva could probably help, and she’d be discrete if he asked her to be. “Ziva, got a minute?”

She came to his desk. “Yes, Gibbs?”

“Is it possible to enlarge this picture, and possibly identify the people in it? And see what those two signs read?”

“Well…I am not McGee, but I will try. Send the picture to me.”

“Send…?”

She reached over him, clicked open his email, and quickly sent the graphic to her own email account. “Give me a little while. I shall have to remember the best programs to use before going on to facial recognition.”

“This is just between you and me,” Gibbs directed.

“I understand,” she said. She’d already recognized Jimmy in one quick glance, and was pretty sure that that O’Keefe was in the picture, too. Oh, well; there is always a flaw in the Adonis types.

She hoped she wouldn’t find anything that would hurt Jimmy.

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PostPosted: Thu Jul 29, 2010 11:13 pm 
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Chapter 3

- - - - -

Image

The Navy Memorial Plaza




Jimmy’s cell phone rang at 10 that evening, just as he was finishing a chapter of his studies.

“Jimmy! I need to meet with you, right now! It’s urgent!”

For a few seconds, Jimmy trembled in disbelief. “Ellery?? Is that you? Ellery!!”

“It’s me. Jimmy, remember where we were on Sunday, at the Navy Memorial? Meet me there, at the compass rose.”

“Ellery, I can’t—it’s late—do you know people are looking for you??”

“I’m not surprised. Jimmy, I wouldn’t ask this of you, but I’m kind of in a bind and I know I can count on you. We’ve been friends since we were kids.”

“Are—are you in some kind of trouble, Ellery?”

“I don’t—I’m not sure. But I haven’t done anything, Jimmy. I need you to do something for me, though.”

“What?”

“I don’t want to say it over the phone. I might get overheard. Please come, Jimmy. And come alone.”

Jimmy swallowed. “Okay. I should be there within an hour.”

“Good. Look for me at the compass rose.”

“Got it.”

- - - - -

The night was a little cool . Not entirely pleasant weather for May. Jimmy pulled the belt of his raincoat tighter. He wasn’t really cold, but the whole Ellery thing had him a little frightened.

He walked up from the Metro stop and thought about going half a block up 7th Street to the Starbucks. Coffee, hot, might help…but he was afraid that Ellery would leave if he wasn’t on time. Ellery; Ellery; what’s all this about? Do you know what kind of trouble you must be in with the Navy, for going AWOL? I wonder at what point ‘AWOL’ becomes ‘desertion’?

Ellery, you’re throwing your career away. I’m worried about you.

But what they’re saying…I know it can’t be true. Ellery, I know there’s a logical explanation for all of this, surely…

And no, I’m not calling you ‘Shirley’.


The Navy Memorial plaza was lit, as Jimmy had guessed it would be. It was probably lit around the clock. Of course there was traffic on the street, and foot traffic on the sidewalks. Washington never slept. The weather kept most people from lingering outside, but several of the cafes were still open.

The plaza fountain splashed and gurgled as it did during the day. It was louder now, or more apparent, in the quieter bustle of the evening. Jimmy was street-savvy enough to know that it was always wise to be on one’s guard in a city at night, even in a so open area as this. His eyes flicked back and forth, taking in his surroundings. There were a few people sitting in the area; mostly young couples, some sweetly lit by the reflection of the light on the fountain’s waters. Where is Ellery?

Jimmy walked slowly toward the street-end side of the plaza. The compass rose, set in stone, was a little less distinct by night, but its arrows still faithfully pointed directions; guiding the sailors and then turning them to home again.

“Jimmy.”

He turned, the relief evident on his face. “Ellery! Man; what is going on with you?!”

His friend, Lt. O’Keefe, was no longer in uniform, but wore instead jeans and a dark shirt. “It’s crazy, bro. Thanks for coming.” He laid a hand on Jimmy’s shoulder. “I knew I could count on you.”

Jimmy gulped. “Are you in some kind of trouble, El? You didn’t report back to your ship…and they say there’s something missing…?”

This is your cue, El. Look puzzled, as I know you must be. You don’t know anything about a missing crate of arms. This is all a big mistake. Maybe you had amnesia and, and, forgot about the ship, and…

No. This isn’t a mistake at all, is it?
“El. What are you involved in?”

For a second, Jimmy saw a flicker of something in his friend’s eyes, but it might have been a trick of the light. “It’s…big, Jimmy. Bigger than I would have thought possible. There are people…people who have shown me a new way of thinking.”

“El…why did you call me here?” Jimmy said, feeling himself tremble. “What are you getting me into?”

“Didn’t I make that clear? It’s an opportunity, Jimmy! Remember when we were kids we talked about what we would do if we ruled the world; if we could change the way things are, to make it a better place. We said we would end world hunger. Everyone would have enough to eat, and a roof over their heads, and shoes, and an education, and access to doctors…that was when you started thinking about being a doctor, remember? You were going to go to Africa.”

“We said a lot of things when we were kids. We were idealists. We didn’t understand how the world really worked.”

“But we were on the right track! Change comes about when the downtrodden stand up for themselves.”

“Neither you nor I are really downtrodden, El…”

“But we were meant to be leaders, Jimmy! I’m an officer; you’re a man of science…our time has come. To force the change that was meant to be.”

No more holding back. “No, El. This is nuts! You’ve deserted from the Navy. You’re involved in that stolen crate of arms, it sounds like. And, Ellery…sedition? I had to have that word explained to me! I’d never known there was a name for violent overthrow. El, that’s not me. I’m a pacifist.”

“You work for the Department of the Defense!”

“Yes, for an agency that helps keep the peace. I won’t apologize for my job, El. The work I do is for good. It helps bring lawbreakers to justice.”

“Justice! It’s all a pack of lies, Jimmy! There can be no true peace, no equality, with the status quo.”

“Can’t you just work within the system, El? Work for peaceful change?”

“No. That would take forever, and the people suffering in poverty can’t wait that long. We’ll get arms spread out among the willing, and when it’s all in place, the revolution will begin. I don’t want to have to kill people, but if that’s what it takes, I will. Are you with me, Jimmy? I can use a good man like you at my side.”

Jimmy took a step back. “No…no…no…”

That was when Gibbs and Fornell came out of the shadows, guns drawn, and handcuffs ready.

- - - - -

Jimmy didn’t even go back home that night. He spread a blanket he kept in his locker over an Autopsy table, and slept there. Ellery had looked so surprised when Gibbs and Fornell had appeared and arrested him. Jimmy wasn’t even sure where Ellery had been taken. If he’s here in NCIS, I’m not sure I want to know. I might be tempted to visit him and talk to him.

“Mister Palmer! A bit early for work, are you?”

Ducky’s voice woke him. “There was an incident, I guess you’d say, Doctor. Ellery contacted me last night.”

“Oh?”

Jimmy sat up and told him the whole story: how he had agreed to meet Ellery at the Naval Historical Center…but hadn’t told Ellery that he was going to call Gibbs before he left home.

“Good move, Mister Palmer. You feared for your friend, but you did the right thing in letting NCIS know. The consequences for you, had you not done so…”

“I know,” Jimmy said with a touch of misery. “I’ve picked up enough over the years to know that.”

“And were you surprised by the conversation with the lieutenant?”

“Surprised?? You could have knocked me over with a feather! I still can’t believe that Ellery did any of that. That’s not the Ellery I knew.” He folded his hands. “And I’ll probably never know what happens to him, unless it makes the papers…”

“I shall have a word with Jethro,” said Ducky, looking thoughtful. “It is hardly my place, either, unless a body turns up, but I might be able to persuade him.”

“Thank you, Doctor!”

“It may not work, Jimmy. But we shall see.”

- - - - -

Fornell dropped by NCIS around noon, and beckoned Gibbs to a corner. “Has the canary sung yet?

“Not a peep,” Gibbs said. “I’m not pushing him, yet. He’s secure in Holding.”

“Word out, yet?”

“Oh, yeah. I don’t know where some of these sources get their information. I’ve heard from his commander, the Secret Service, the NSA, the CIA…I think that’s it. So far. All want a piece of him. Right now. You want a piece of him too, Tobias, or else you wouldn’t be here.”

“That’s where you’re wrong. I want all of him. How much longer are you going to wait?’

Gibbs gave him a sideways look and a half-smile. “I’ll let you know.”

“You’re up to something, Gibbs,” Fornell said shortly.

“He’s our case. Not yours. Not yet.”

With a glare, Fornell turned and walked out.

“Gibbs.” The soft call came a minute or so later. It was Vance, calling down from the balcony. He then went back into his own office. Gibbs trotted up the stairs after him.

“How much longer can you keep this charade going?” asked Vance once his office door was closed. “The SECNAV wants to know.”

“That depends, largely, on O’Keefe.”

“You haven’t questioned him yet?”

“Nope.”

“Gibbs…”

“I want to be sure that protections for Palmer are in place. He’s not an agent; he can’t sufficiently defend himself.”

Vance sighed. “Yes. Everyone’s so jumpy right now. I don’t want Homeland Security to ‘disappear’ him on suspicion of guilt by association. We might never see him again...”

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