- Alternate Universe
- Crime Drama
- Episode Related
“Langer is checking in with Abby in the forensic garage before heading over to the Hoover building.”
Gibbs grunted and took a turn with minimal reduction in speed. Kate clung to the ‘oh shit’ handle with one hand and read from her electronic gizmo with the other. “Good.” He hadn’t had a chance to see Abby before ordering Kate into the car for a trip to Falls Church and the JAG office.
“What’s he going to do at Hoover?”
“Coordinate with the FBI investigation and make sure they actually keep us informed.”
“That’s usually Toni’s job.”
“Yup.” He shifted gear and let the speed gage creep a little higher. “She’s good at smoothing feathers and getting along. Langer’s not bad, either, but he’s a former FBI agent. He can speak fed.” Kate nodded, tucking her device away. She glanced over and away a couple of times. “You gonna spit it out, or keep chewing on whatever is in your craw?”
“I’m not a bird, Gibbs.”
“Doing a good impression of circling the point, though.” She huffed. “Feathers are ruffled, too.”
“Stop it.” Kate brooded out the window for a minute before speaking again. “It’s just — Admiral Chegwidden?”
“What about him? Other than the bullet hole in his chest.”
“Toni and Admiral Chegwidden.”
“Yup.” He glanced over at her. “And?”
“You knew?” He didn’t say anything, not interested in gossiping about DiNozzo’s love life except as it pertained to the case. Besides, Chegwidden was a good officer, and Toni was happy, if wary of her own happiness. And the last thing Gibbs wanted to do was speculate on any details. “Of course you knew. It’s . . .” she trailed off, shaking her head.
“What’s wrong, Kate? Jealous?” he goaded.
“No, of course not!”
“Then what’s the problem?” he demanded. “Tell me now if you can’t work this case, Todd, and you can stay in the car — or get a cab back to the office. You can spend the duration working cold cases.”
“I can do my job, Gibbs. I just think it’s strange for Toni to go from casual . . . dating —”
“You’re an investigator, not a high schooler in health class, Kate. You can drop the euphemisms for sex.”
“ — to a relationship with a man significantly older than her. Don’t you think?”
Gibbs shook his head. The Puritan streak in Kate wasn’t something he’d seen when he’d first brought her on, and he still hoped she’d learn to separate her personal beliefs from the job. Toni said she wouldn’t as long as she didn’t have to, since believing she was right meant Kate had no real moral imperative to do so. The fact that she’d been fundamentally wrong about two different suicide cases from her own bias didn’t seem to mean much to Kate.
Toni had also said if Kate didn’t learn to keep her moral judgement out of the office, someone was going to have to make her.
“No,” he said bluntly. “Even if your impression were right, I wouldn’t think it was weird, and I would think it was none of my business. But your impression is wrong because you’ve never known Toni when she wasn’t in a relationship. They’ve been dating well over a year.”
“What? What about —”
“You inferred — assumed — things based on who Toni interacts with people and gets people to open up to her. And then you made a judgement on those assumptions.”
“I did not!”
He glared. “You damned well did. Investigators don’t discard evidence that doesn’t fit their theory, they dump theories that don’t fit the evidence.”
“He is older,” Kate stated, trying to justify herself.
“So, it looks . . .”
Toni was right, and it was time to start bringing the hammer down on Kate when she crossed the line. Toni and Langer had drawn their own already, swift to depress Todd’s pretensions of superiority, but Gibbs preferred to let junior agents make their own mistakes and learn their own lessons. Problem was, Kate wasn’t doing the latter.
“You know Toni is rich, right?”
“Her family comes from money.”
“No,” he corrected, “she has money. All the shit that the rich use to tuck money away — stocks, trust funds, property — Toni’s got them. A lot of the funds are maintained in the family name in England, but Toni has access to it all. She’d never have to work a day if she wanted to and there’s a spot for her in the family business if she ever wants it. Her father is broke, he burned through the money by the time he was your age, but her maternal family is old European wealth.”
“That gives me more questions but no answers.” She looked baffled. “Why does she bother working?”
“Because she wants to? You’ve seen her on desk duty — if Toni were that bored all the time she’d become a supervillain out of self-preservation. She also doesn’t need a sugar daddy.” Kate blushed and stuttered; Gibbs ignored it. “And it’s not about whatever mumbo-jumbo explanation for a father-figure replacement you’re cooking up, either. She’s got an uncle who took that role in her life.” He didn’t say a thing about the occasional paternal feelings on his part, either. Kate hadn’t seemed to catch on to that, either, even though Gibbs had gotten teasing comments from far less observant people than Fornell.
“You ought to reign in any judgemental urges you’ve got about Toni’s choice in partners or sexual history, Kate, because of the two of you, you’re the one who engaged in an inappropriate affair. Toni’s never risked her job for a quick bang.”
“That — it wasn’t like that!” Kate hissed. “Are you going to keep throwing that in my face?”
Her affair with a colleague while on the presidential detail had not only put her in the position Gibbs could hire her, it had been part of the actual case. “Are you going to keep judging people on moral standards you can’t maintain?”
Kate crossed her arms and stared out the window. “No.”
“Well, then, no.”
“Toni told me plenty of stories about various affairs, you know,” Kate justified.
“I’ve been divorced three times; doesn’t mean I’m married now.” He’d finally learned better than to seek comfort in substitutes. “You can be casual about sex and still be serious about a relationship.”
“I don’t see how.”
“Your problem, not mine — or DiNozzo’s. As long as you don’t make it a problem.”
If she sulked any harder, her bottom lip would be out. Gibbs was almost as amused as he was irritated and generally pissed off by the last twelve hours. “And try not to let all of JAG know you’re questioning the appropriateness of their injured boss’ choice of lovers.”
“Wouldn’t be the first time your opinion coloured your perception of a victim.”
Kate sulked the rest of the way; Gibbs let her. He’d made his point, and it was better she got it out of her system now rather than at JAG, surrounded by people skilled at cross-examination.
Yeoman Tiner, the admiral’s aide, was waiting for them. “Sir, Colonel Mackenzie and Commander Rabb are waiting in the admiral’s office. Commander Turner and Lieutenant Commander Manetti are in the conference room going over records from every case the admiral has ever tried, defended or prosecuted. Case files are still coming in, but they expect to have a short list of names by this afternoon. Sir.”
“Quick work. Don’t ‘sir’ me, Yeoman, I’m not an officer.”
“Yes, Agent Gibbs. I can show you to —”
“I remember. Been here before.” Gibbs waved for Kate to follow him and started back.
“At least no one is dead or under arrest this time,” Tiner said lowly.
“Not yet, anyway,” Gibbs called back, making the yeoman yelp at being overheard.
The office was buzzing, people moving quickly and plenty of stress-out expressions. He and Kate got a few looks or surprise and several officers and legalmen straightened or looked to approach. Gibbs wasn’t in the mood to chitchat with lawyers or soothe their concerns about their injured boss. Scuttlebutt should already have told everyone that Chegwidden was alive and recovering.
His glare sent most of them back to work without approaching. His scowl scared off the rest.
Mackenzie and Rabb were waiting in the outer office, looking severe and weary. Rabb raised a brow. “Good mood, gunny?”
“I’m a ray of sunshine, Rabb.”
Mackenzie sighed. “You’re both something, alright. We haven’t checked the admiral’s office yet, Agent Gibbs. It seemed best to wait for you.”
Gibbs inclined his head. “Thanks.”
While Mackenzie withdrew a keychain and unlocked the door, Kate leaned in. “Why do we need JAG’s help to do a search?” she said quietly.
“You’re not performing a search,” Rabb said drily, following Mackenzie inside and flipping the light switch. “That requires a warrant and, in the case of a legal professional with confidential materials on hand, would necessitate exigent circumstances.”
“Chegwidden is a SEAL, a lawyer, and a judge. He’d keep records of any threats made against him.” Gibbs studied the office quickly; it was just as orderly as during the Singer case. “File cabinet or desk?”
“Desk,” Mackenzie stated. “Harm, you and Agent Todd take the cabinet.”
The desk showed every sign of an organized but hardworking officer, right down to the reading glasses casually laid aside by the keyboard. Gibbs and Mackenzie found files for all the ongoing trials and investigations, neatly labelled, in the file drawer. The outgoing box on the desk contained a stack of legal recommendations, memos and a letter of reference for a recently discharged officer.
“Got a list,” Rabb said, withdrawing a file and raising it out of Kate’s reach when she made an attempt. “Try that again, Agent Todd,” he absently dared. Gibbs snorted. “List of anyone who made threats against Chegwidden — or anyone else at JAG, it looks like.” He handed the file to Mackenzie. “It’s updated, too. One of yours died in Leavenworth last month.”
Mackenzie flipped through, stopping to make a face at something. “I heard about that.” She raised a brow at Gibbs. “Tiner can make a copy for each of us?”
“I am not a secretary, Gibbs,” she huffed, snatching the file from him.
“No, but you are the most junior rank in this room. Welcome to the navy.”
“Does that chip on her shoulder ever get heavy?” Rabb asked as Kate stalked out.
“Only when it falls off for her to trip over,” Gibbs said.
Mackenzie shook her head and moved on to the next drawer, this one containing an assortment of stationery, pens and a hardcover address book. The following was similarly work oriented. “Not a lot of personal items.” There was the signed baseball on the desk, the admiral’s degrees and medals framed on the wall, and a photo of a young girl in a frame, but nothing else.
“The admiral is old school, prefers to keep his personal life out of work and the law.”
“He managed that pretty well,” Harm murmured. “What? Tell me I’m wrong.”
Mackenzie rolled her eyes at him. “I’m going to check the safe.”
Kate returned as Mackenzie was opening the door. “Why does an admiral have a safe in his office?”
“Not uncommon for base commanders; most duty stations and ships have a secure lock up.”
“Law offices, too,” Rabb added. “Anything?”
“The admiral’s passport and a few confidential communications from SECNAV,” Mackenzie said, shifting things.
“Kate,” Gibbs warned before she could start forward.
“We aren’t random strangers, Gibbs, we’re investigating.”
“Without a warrant or probable cause, random strangers are exactly what you are in regards to personal property,” Rabb told her. “How long have you been an agent?”
“Nine years,” Kate said.
“Six months,” Gibbs corrected. “She was secret service before.”
“A few documents he must have secured for people in the office,” Mackenzie continued taking inventory, ignoring the byplay. “The petty cash — and an FBI file?” She retrieved that and flipped it open. “A case file — oh, it’s about the attack on NCIS last month.”
“How did he get that?”
“He asked, I imagine,” Gibbs told Kate. “Anything added? Notes or anything.”
“Leave it, then.” Gibbs waved towards the last drawer in the desk. “This one is locked.”
Mackenzie pulled out her keys again. The drawer opened to reveal a handgun in a holster. “Ah —”
Gibbs picked it up, checked the chamber, and ejected the clip. He handed everything to Mackenzie. “You only get held hostage in your own office once before you take precautions. You should secure that in the safe.”
Here were the personal items that were lacking elsewhere. Gibbs found another photo of the admiral’s daughter, this time when she was a child, and one of Toni with a large dog sprawled on her lap while she grinned at the camera. Under those was a formal letter from the Navy.
“Admiral’s current contract is nearly up,” he said. “He mentioned anything about retiring?”
“He wouldn’t,” Rabb said then looked to Mackenzie. “Would he?”
“I — no? But he’s a flag officer,” she speculated. “They usually move posts or retire after four years. He’s been here eight.”
“Only so many navy lawyers who stay in long enough for the rank without leaving to make private law money.” There were two sealed letters in the drawer, one older than the other. The newest had Toni’s name on it. Gibbs set them both aside without a word; he knew what they contained, and they were none of his business.
“But retire? No,” Rabb insisted. “He’s an officer for life.”
“There’s still a few months left on his contract,” Gibbs said. “Just collecting information.” There were cards from a realtor and a travel agent along with a couple of brochures. He didn’t say anything about the letters from several law firms, just made a note of the names and moved them aside — and grunted at the distinctive box.
“What did you — oh,” Kate trailed off. “Maybe it’s old?” she tried.
“New box.” He picked it up. There was only one particular use for a velvet jewelry box of that size. “Besides, the receipt is right there.”
“So much for keeping work and personal separate.”
Rabb stepped up to tower over Kate. “Careful, agent.”
“Toni’s an investigator and nosier than a basket of kittens. She’d have found this in five minutes if he kept it at home,” Gibbs told her. “When was the last time you managed to keep a secret from her?”
“Maybe it’s for his daughter,” she tried.
Gibbs flipped the lid open. A large diamond surrounded by a cluster of smaller ones flashed fire against the black velvet. Interwoven strands of white and rose gold made the band. “Doubt it.”
“He has good taste, either way,” Rabb said. “Damn.”
Gibbs closed the ring box and handed it to Mackenzie. “That should go in the safe, too.” He returned the rest to the drawer then closed and locked it again.
“Great,” Kate complained. “What have we learned? That Chegwidden has expensive taste in jewelry.”
Rabb and Mackenzie exchanged a look over Kate’s head; she hadn’t won any favours or made any friends today. Gibbs stood up and gave her a stony stare.”We found the names of people Chegwidden considered problematic enough to keep track of and that he’s considering the future. Everything here says he would have told someone if he received a threat or if something was worrying him. And it means that unless one of those names turns up a lead, he was shot by someone who wasn’t on his radar — or it had nothing to do with him directly.”
Kate crossed her arms. “I suppose.”
“Don’t suppose, think and investigate. And Kate?” He waited until she met his gaze. “Not a word about the ring to anyone. Especially Toni.”
He leaned into her face. “Not. A. Word. That goes for you two as well,” he told the lawyers.
Mackenzie nodded then turned a look on Rabb. “That includes gossiping with Sturgis.”
“Would I ever —”
“Fine. My word as an officer and a gentleman. And because you can kick my ass.”
“Don’t you forget it.”
“Agent DiNozzo.” Toni looked up from the paper she was reading out loud — she’d clearly seen too many movies where someone woke from a coma because someone was talking to them. An ICU nurse was in the doorway.
“Ten minutes,” Toni acknowledged and rose. She laid the paper aside for her next visit and leaned down to squeeze AJ’s hand and cup his face. “See you in an hour, sailor.” She brushed a kiss over his cheek and felt the bristles forming since his last shave. “Don’t go anywhere.” Then she headed for the door with one last squeeze.
It was a routine she’d established since she’d first finagled her way in ahead of regular visiting hours at six AM. It was past eleven now, and she’d gotten ten minutes every hour to sit with AJ, talk to him, and just watch him breathe.
In the hallway, the nurse manager stopped her before she could turn back to the family room. “This way, Agent,” the navy commander said, waving for her to follow.
Since Toni had more sense than to alienate the person with more authority than God on the ICU ward, she followed. You didn’t piss off drill sergeants, kindergarten teachers or charge nurses in Toni’s experience.
They ended up in a small breakroom, complete with a tiny kitchenette, a couple of chairs and an old TV. Toni watched the news scrolling on the screen while waiting for the nurse to finish manipulating the old coffee machine. ZNN was running a story about the shooting, pictures of the intersection on the screen giving way to images of the younger DC sniper at his sentencing. That wasn’t going to cause panic in a region that had lived through a serial killing team a few years ago.
“Here.” The commander handed Toni a mug of coffee and pointed to the sugar and creamer. “You can drink it black if you’re fond of self-punishment.”
“Thanks.” She spooned both into her cup without shame. “I’m sorry, I didn’t get your name before.”
“Captain Hewitt —”
“Leona is fine since you don’t answer to me.” Toni raised a brow. “Smart girl. Drink your coffee, you’ve been up all damn night, and I doubt your workday was relaxing yesterday, either.”
“I’ve gone longer than twenty-four hours without sleep before,” Toni argued, though she took a sip. It was just as generic and bland as expected. Cops and doctors. “And I took a nap earlier.”
“I saw you curl up like a cat in the family room. What did you get, thirty minutes? And those couches aren’t bad, but they aren’t designed for someone as tall as you to sleep on.”
“It’s more than either one of us is used to getting,” she said. “You sleep when you can, push through when you can’t.”
“Sure, when lives are on the line, Agent.”
“Toni. There are always lives on the line. We just have to balance immediate needs against future ones.”
“You are a clever one, a Long Meg with a smart mouth.” Hewitt shook her head. “You are a problem for me, Toni. I got word from the ER that you were treated for a shock last night? And you’re still recovering from recent injuries?”
Damned scuttlebutt, hospitals ran on it just like an agency or precinct. “I’m fine. I was cleared to return to duty just the other day.” Hewitt gave her a stern look. “As long as I continue physio.”
“Well, sleeping in a waiting room a few minutes at a time won’t do you any good.”
Toni breathed out slowly. “You can kick me out this evening but I haven’t broken any rules, and it’s still visiting hours.”
“So it is. Let’s make a deal, Agent.” Toni narrowed her eyes. No one got to the rank of commander and nurse manager of an ICU ward, much less the one at Bethesda, by being a pushover.
“What kind of deal?”
“You get to stay with the admiral full time during visiting hours — and I won’t kick you out when they end — provided you leave when we need you to, eat regular meals, and go home every day to shower, change and sleep. At least six hours.”
“What’s the catch?” Toni wanted to know.
“You break the rules or the deal, and you’re out as long as he’s under my care. You might be his medical contact, but you aren’t next of kin,” Hewitt reminded her.
Toni turned it over. She already knew she’d take the deal but wanted to find any loopholes. “He’s got a lot of people. What about other visitors?”
“They follow the normal rules, ten minutes an hour during visitation, no more than two at a time. You don’t count as one of the two unless I say differently.”
“His daughter?” Coates had gotten word before she left that Francesca had a flight and was expected sometime tomorrow.
“If she’s reasonable, she can have the same deal as you.”
“Deal. Starting now, right?” Toni asked, ready to argue her case.
“Finish your coffee, first.”
Under Hewitt’s sharp gaze, Toni finished her coffee, without slugging it back. Then she returned to AJ’s room with the knowledge she didn’t have to watch the clock, just him.
They — Metro, anyway — found the sniper’s nest in an office penthouse that was under renovation. The bastard had even left his tripod behind, it and a chair in position by the window.
Sitting on the casing, dead centre, was a shell casing.
“No gun,” Blackadder informed him. Fornell grunted. “But, sir?”
“Spit it out, Blackadder.”
“The other chair?” She was talking about the seat across the office, facing another window. “That one looks out towards Dinozzo’s building.” Blackadder hesitated before adding, “It has a line of sight to the front entrance — and her living room window.”
“Plan B. Or maybe Plan A.” Fornell jiggled the coins in his pants pocket. “No way of knowing. Is Sacks finished canvassing the building yet?”
“Almost. Most of it is occupied, but it seems like the shooter came and went in off hours. Forensics found signs he used the kitchen area and there’s plenty of discarded food and drink containers. He could have sat here for days, waiting for a shot.”
“The right shot,” Fornell mused. “The MCRT worked a big case this week but DiNozzo was still on desk duty for most of it, Gibbs would have sent her home. If it were just about her, he’d have had a shot anytime. Even the admiral — he picked her up for dinner last night. If he was the target, why not hit him going into or out of the building?” His own gut was churning. “Anyone make an ID?”
“Three people so far saw a man coming and going from here, two didn’t get a good look, and one was inconclusive.”
“Agent Fornell?” A crime scene tech spoke from the other room. “We’re nearly done, but you should see this.”
Fornell went over and found Gibbs’ agent, Langer, glaring down at a table made with a length of plywood over two sawhorses. The tech stood by, evidence bag ready. “What’s this?”
“He marked all of DiNozzo’s usual routes,” Langer said. “Work, gym, grocery store, physiotherapy, Chegwidden’s house, Grazia’s and a couple of other places. Her running route is there, too. Even her preferred coffee shop.”
The map of DC was marked with lines in various colours. There were several circles, and Fornell would bet that at least one of them was the location of last night’s shooting. Or this building. “He did his research before picking his spot.”
“No way he tailed Toni this much without her making it,” Langer insisted. “She’s a damned good agent, and she’s an undercover cop. We challenged the last TAD in the office to follow her on a bet. She made him in under five minutes.”
“From a distance, maybe. Hell, get someone to check Toni’s car and cell phone for a trace.”
Langer cursed and pulled out his phone.
Fornell nodded to the tech, who folded and bagged the map. “Coordinate with Scuito at NCIS,” he said.
An agent made a face, but the tech nodded. “Sure. She’s good. Fast and insightful.”
Fornell returned to the main room and studied the layout again. The whole thing made him titchy; DiNutso was a pain in the ass but only when you were in her way. The rest of the time it was a pure joy to sit back and watch her work, figuring angles and spinning suspects and rivals around with words and quips until they didn’t know which way was up. And then there was the subtle way Gibbs worked himself into a knot of worry over the damned woman.
And that was the crux of it. This whole thing was all but manufactured to hit as many buttons as Gibbs had. Was it sheer coincidence? Or design?
“Sir, someone from the BAU is here,” Blackadder said from behind him.
He frowned. “We didn’t call them, and this doesn’t have any of the marks of a long distance serial killer. If someone did call, they wasted the BAU’s time.”
Blackadder lowered her voice. “It’s one of the agents assigned to profile the attacker from NCIS. She asked to look at the scene.”
Now his gut wasn’t just churning, it had indigestion. “Let them in.”
As soon as the profiler headed for the window, Langer sauntered over to her. Fornell watched and listened to the younger agent question her smoothly.
“So, why would someone leave a tripod stand but take the gun? Is it about the expense?”
“It’s about making a point to whoever finds this,” the profile said. “The tripod tells you he was here, waiting and watching and in control. Taking the gun is about telling you he can do it again — that he’s not done.”
That was what Fornell was afraid of. He made a note to pick up some Tums on his way back to the office; his gut wasn’t going to settle down any time soon.
When Sarah Mackenzie entered the hospital room, Toni turned the hand holding AJ’s enough to check her watch. “Right on time.”
Toni gave her an amused look. She wasn’t fooled. “I’ve been able to set a clock by you JAG lot all day.” Every hour on the hour, someone from JAG appeared to visit AJ — coincidentally, bringing with them something Toni might need. And for a bunch of lawyers, they weren’t great at being subtle when they hovered. “You all realize I’m not a widowed navy wife who needs an entire unit to check up on me, right?”
Mac set down her briefcase and stepped up to the bed, studying her boss. “It might be unintentional. We are in the navy, after all, and they teach us efficiency and timeliness.”
“I’m sure that’s the reason Rabb showed up exactly on time for a lunch break. And why Roberts came by at just the right moment for coffee — which he didn’t bring with him since he was very unsure of the rules,” she added dryly. Roberts had suffered an amputation and was intimately familiar with hospital procedure. “But he did happen to scout out a great coffee shop nearby, just far enough away that it was only sensible to sit and drink it there rather than head back immediately. But with coffee good enough to justify the time it took in comparison with terrible hospital coffee.”
“Bud is very thoughtful.”
“About as thoughtful as Coates. She’s been here twice today, not including the part where she stayed up all night in the waiting room.”
Mac’s lips twitched. “She’s young. She can handle a bit less sleep.”
“She’s learned to manage people, quite possibly from your example.”
“That’s quite a compliment from you,” Mac said. “After all, you ride herd on Agent Gibbs professionally, and the admiral in your off hours. I just deal with him at work.”
“Yeah, but you’ve got Rabb full time.”
“He does tend to live his work.”
Toni rolled her eyes. “Sure, that’s what I meant. You realize the two of you aren’t fooling anyone, right? You’re the worst kept secret in DC.”
Mac narrowed her eyes and extracted a bar of chocolate from her pocket. “I was going to give this to you, but I might be inclined to keep it for that comment.”
“Fine, absolutely no one is aware of the ridiculous amount of unacted-upon lust and affection the two of you have for each other. Now hand it over, and no one gets hurt.” Mac tossed her the chocolate; it wasn’t a cheap grocery brand but a bar of good dark chocolate with toffee. “Rabb is way more obvious than you are about it, anyway.”
She chuckled. “The man isn’t subtle about much. How is he doing?”
Toni dropped the chocolate bar in her bag for later and studied AJ. She might be reaching, but it seemed like his face was less lax than before. “They’re dialling the sedation back steadily. He should be more responsive by morning.”
Mac crossed her arms, looking down at AJ. “Good. Since you caught on to my cunning plan,” she added lightly, “I’ll just ask you outright if you’ve eaten dinner.”
“No.” It had just turned six o’clock.
“If I say I was planning on grabbing something from the cafeteria, are you going to offer to show me some tiny little place only locals and navy officers in the know have heard of, which just so happens to be conveniently close?”
“You got the Harmon Rabb special, I see. How about a meal without all the embellishments? You can even interrogate me for details on the investigations.”
Toni stood and stretched out her back. “Should have kept Roberts from coming by if you planned to use that as an incentive. He might be thoughtful, but he’s also very easy to extract information from.”
“It could be worse — he’s been questioned by Gibbs. I’m coming back after dinner,” she added. “They won’t kick me out for a couple of hours at least.”
“Deal.” She gathered her briefcase while Toni stepped into her shoes and retrieved her bag and coat. “Do you have a ride home? I have depositions to read so I can wait and drive you.”
Toni took the opportunity Mac provided by discreetly turning her back and bend to kiss AJ. She lingered for a second, letting his steady breaths wash over her cheek. Then she cleared her throat and replied. “I’m staying with Gibbs, and he lives in Alexandria. I’m sure it’s out of your way. I’ll call him for a ride later.”
“Why are you —?”
“I haven’t spent a night alone since the attack on Autopsy, and I seriously doubt anyone will agree its not a necessary precaution now.”
“Definitely not.” They stepped into the hallway and Mac waited until they were at the elevator. “I can stay with you if you’d prefer to sleep in your own bed tonight. It’s been a long 24 hours.”
Toni considered the offer as they headed down to the lobby. It was tempting, in a way, but she was less than enthused by the idea of her apartment. It was where she and AJ had been heading when he was shot. “How weird would it be for you to stay at your superior’s house? Because I’d rather head there, if possible. I spoke to the neighbourhood teen who takes care of the dog, but it doesn’t seem fair to leave him any longer than necessary.”
True enough. The fact the house was where she’d last shared a bed with AJ, where his uniforms hung in the closet and he’d certainly left his coffee mug on the kitchen window sill as he usually did had nothing to do with her reasoning.
Mac chuckled. “I’ve slept in a tent in the desert, during a sandstorm. I can handle the admiral’s couch.”
“I think we can manage a bed. There is a guest room.”
The elevator door opened onto the controlled chaos of the main floor. Mac led the way. “Thanks, but shouldn’t you leave the guest room for Francesca?”
Toni made it halfway across the lobby before the implication that she would be playing host to her lover’s adult daughter while he was in the hospital with a bullet wound sank in. She swore creatively; Mac pretended not to laugh at her.
He was sanding the rib of a boat when Fornell’s shoes hit the top of the stairs. The other man had a distinctive tread thanks to his height and the hitch in his stride left from a broken femur years ago.
“I thought you might stay all night at the office.”
“Nope.” He set his tool aside and picked up his cooling coffee. No bourbon tonight — he needed a clear head. “Was there last night. The team needed rest and Morrow ordered me to go home too.”
“Doesn’t look like your getting any rest.” Gibbs ignored the sarcasm. Tobias looked tired, but more importantly, he looked concerned. “Where’s DiNozzo? I’d have thought you’d have her here, under armed guard.”
“She’s got another marine on duty tonight. What’s going on, Tobias?”
He prodded a few tools on the workbench. “Preliminary forensics came back. They had it prioritized as a rush job thanks to the sniper connection.”
“You read Scuito’s report?” He didn’t wait for an answer, picking up a hand plane and turning it over while he continued. “She concluded, based on the confirmed trajectory and the placement of the bullet hole, combined with Chegwidden’s height and seat position, the shooter was aiming for his heart or the centre of his chest.”
“He’s not an expert marksman, or he’s too cocky to follow his training, then.” Gibbs went back to the rib, running his hand along it to find any rough spots. “The windshield is angled and deflected the bullet downwards. A trained sniper wouldn’t have tried for the shot.”
“He also had a line on sight on DiNutso’s building. The front entrance and her living room window.”
If he hadn’t already been due nightmares over all of this, he would be getting them now. Gibbs sanded a spot, trying to smooth away the image of Toni’s living room as a crime scene the way he would a burr in the wood. “Then he’s arrogant. Or too impatient to wait for a better shot. DiNozzo hadn’t been home in a couple of days, maybe he couldn’t wait any longer. It added to the risk, too. A public shooting brought police out on the street, looking for a shooter.”
“DiNutso said it was a regular route, that they had dinner at the same place frequently. But their usual date was delayed a couple of nights for a case. Usually, they go out on Tuesday night, not Thursday.” Tobias opened the case file he’d brought with him. “Could he have waited that long, only to pop off too early?”
“Seen it happen even with trained shooters but if that’s the case, it’s more likely he isn’t one. Could have been watching by other means, too. Still waiting on word from the geeks checking for taps or trackers on her cellphone.”
“Jethro.” At his serious tone, Gibbs set down his sanding paper and turned. Tobias handed over the FBI file. He squinted at the forensic report, practically able to hear Toni’s long-winded sigh and complaint about his lack of glasses, and skimmed the test details until he found the conclusions. He swore under his breath, shoved the file at Tobias and reached for his cellphone.
By the time he’s called Kate and ordered her to close all her blinds and stay away from the windows, then repeated the same conversation with Langer and called NCIS to get a protective detail on both of them, Tobias had left and returned with a fresh pot of coffee and a mug. He poured a cup and topped off Gibbs’ mug. “What about you?”
“You’re here, aren’t you?”
“Maybe I’ve got better things to do than protect your sorry stubborn hide.”
“No, you don’t.”
“Apparently not. Chinese is coming, and I’m not eating it with a sawdust chaser, so finish what you’re doing. I checked the doors and windows already.” He set down his cup and glared. “I don’t give a damn what you normally do, Jethro, you’re going to keep the damned doors locked for the duration.”
He grunted. “Fine.”
“One more thing.”
Gibbs set down his sandpaper. He wasn’t getting anything else done tonight. “You’re a fount of good news tonight.”
“I called the profilers to pass along the forensic report. They’ve got a profile ready.”
“About damned time.”
“They want to present it at NCIS tomorrow.”
That did surprise him. NCIS was involved in investigating the Admiral as a target, but this was primarily an FBI case. So was the original investigation of ‘Tyler’, which pretty much everyone agreed was tied to this one. “Why?”
“Because, apparently, we all need to hear it.”
This is the sequel to Nightcap