While Nell focused on hacking into the surveillance from back at headquarters, the four agents remained at the crime scene as Kensi and Deeks worked to question each of the witnesses, hoping that they might be able to share information about their suspects and Callen and Sam began to question the owner and an employee of the electronics store in order to find out if they had spoken to their friend.
The owner spoke up saying, "We both know Eric pretty well. I met him years ago before he started working for, well for you guys, while surfing and he's a regular here."
Sam observed the surroundings, noticing the oddly decorated shack like store, then replied, "Somehow that doesn't surprise me much. Let me guess, he used to help you out of a parking ticket or two by hacking into the police database?"
"That was a long time ago," the owner answered in Eric's defense. "He hasn't done anything like that for me or the rest of my employees ever since."
"Don't worry," Callen responded. "He uses his skills for us now. He's a friend. Is there anything you can tell us that might help us track down the men that took him? Anything at all, even if it's as small as a tattoo or a scar?"
The employee standing beside the owner replied, "Well, there wasn't a tattoo or a scar, but I did notice a patch on his jacket, a small one on his right shoulder. I don't know if it will be of any significance, but…"
Sam interrupted, "What did this patch look like?"
"It was a black dragon inside a triangle," the kid said. "The jacket looked worn and fairly old."
"That's great," Sam answered as he pulled out his phone and dialed Nell's number, then when she picked up he quickly asked, "Hey Nell, we think we might have something that could help us track down one of the thugs that kidnapped Eric. Can you look up something for us?"
Nell quickly responded, "Yeah. What have you got?"
The ex navy seal replied, "One of our witnesses said that he noticed one of the men wearing some kind of patch on the shoulder on an old, worn down jacket. It's a black dragon inside a triangle. That's it. It's possible that it's an old gang insignia."
"Actually, you're exactly right," Nell answered as she ran her fingers across her computer keys. "It belonged to an Asian American gang here in Los Angeles that called themselves the Black Dragons. It appears that they disbanded back in 2002 when the FBI created a special task force that convicted multiple members after a three year investigation. Are you saying that there may still be a small group of these thugs that are behind all this and have Eric?"
"We don't know, but can you look up any known associates and their arrest records in order to see if any of them have been released?" Sam responded. "It's also possible that only one of these guys split himself off from his old friends and joined whoever's in charge of all this."
Nell continued typing as she replied, "I would guess it's the latter because it looks like there's only a small number of ex gang members that were released from prison several years ago for whatever reason and that are still alive. Most of them were killed off. I'm sending you the list."
Sam spoke again saying, "You're the best, Nell."
Deeks walked over to them and said, "Well that questioning was a total bust. No one noticed anything, not that I really blame them, seeing as our kidnappers came in here shooting up the place. They're all still really shaken up. What'd you guys get?"
"A possible lead on one of our scumbags," Callen answered as another message popped up on his phone. "And it looks like Nell and Hetty found something from the surveillance footage. It's time to head back."
"That's great because we've totally got nothing," Kensi responded as she walked over as well. "Except, one of the witnesses said that Eric really put up a hell of a fight until one of our guys tased him in the neck."
Sam felt the tension between his teammates and then replied, "He's going to be fine. He's a lot tougher than he looks."
Callen agreed saying, "Sam's right. We just have to do what we've always done in any other case."
Twenty-five minutes later…
"It's good that you're back," Nell said sadly, as she had seen the footage of her partner roughly being taken and then knocked unconscious with a taser to his neck. "The video is awful, which you can watch all of it yourselves later, but there's something you need to see. Eric left us a message before they spotted him, as he looked directly into the camera. However, it's in sign language."
"It is the best way of communicating when words can't be spoken," Hetty continued.
Deeks quickly asked, "Unless one of us knows how to sign, which I would honestly be very surprised if that was the case, then the message is useless."
Hetty answered, "We may not be able to sign, but it turns out that we have a friend who does fluently and she's only a quick text call and soon to be video chat away."
"Oh my goodness, Nell, it is so good to hear from you again," Abby from NCIS in D.C. stated as she suddenly appeared on the main screen after having been sent a text from Nell. "What's going on out there in the sunny winter wonderland? Hi guys! What's hangin'?"
"We actually need your help with translating a message in sign language, Abbs," Nell responded. "Something's…"
Abby cut her off as she asked, "Why aren't you asking Eric? He's actually better at signing than me, though please don't tell him I said that, unless of course he's there and in that case…"
Hetty stopped her as she quickly replied, "Unfortunately, we need your help because Mr. Beale has been taken, Miss. Sciuto."
"Oh… taken as in kidnapped, but who would do that?" she asked in shock. "I mean, this is Eric we're talking about. He's the sweetest person you'll ever meet. He would never hurt a fly."
"A lot has happened," Hetty answered grimly. "Nell has sent you the video. Can you translate what Eric is trying to tell us? It's rather urgent."
Abby appeared to look over at another computer screen as she watched the footage and gasped, then responded, "Yeah. He's telling you that you need to take a look at his home computer. That's it."
Sam replied, "I don't understand. Why would he tell us that?"
"Something tells me that even though Eric may have quit working here, he didn't quit altogether, and it appears that he's found something," Hetty answered. "You four must get to his home immediately. We need that computer."
"We're on it," Callen responded as he and the others rushed out of the ops center.
Nell looked back up at the computer screen as she spoke up to the spunky, Goth computer tech saying, "Thank you, Abby."
Abby saluted as she stated, "It's what I do. Now find our surf loving, computer hacking, happy-go-lucky friend of ours before those criminals try to destroy everything that makes him our boy. If Gibbs were here, he'd say we don't waste good and that's exactly what Eric is; good."
"You are absolutely right, Miss. Sciuto," Hetty said. "As are you."