Jethro the dog preceded Tim into their apartment, smelling fresh and clean. He had spent all day at the groomer's while his owner was at work. Now that he was back in his home, the pet felt that something was wrong. He smelled a new person's scent, one unfamiliar to him. Some of his military experience kicked in and he barked and whined, alerting McGee.
"What, boy?" Tim asked quietly. He noticed the small package in front of him just before he tripped on it.
The file sat in the middle of the room. It was too thick to slide under the door if it was shut- someone had to have opened the door and entered McGee's apartment!
Tim frowned and warily picked it up, absently unhooking Jethro's leash. The dog ran straight for his bed and curled up, moping about the day's bath.
The agent swept the apartment, now alert to a possible intruder. None was found, so he opened the folder, his eyes wide. This must have been some sick joke.
Inside was a collection of evidence, photos, and reports. This was obviously snatched from the Myso Valley police station. The reports of the only real 'incident' that ever occurred in the town were on top, written in a formal and somber tone.
Tim decided not to make himself go through the reports for his own sake. He skipped to an unfortunate photo and immediately regretted it.
He had never seen a picture of the wreck, and it made his heart race to see it now.
Two mangled cars, both turned in awkward positions. Bolts, tire pieces and unidentifiable items were scattered all over. There were multiple pools of blood, all running and intertwining. It told a gruesome horror story that Tim knew by heart. It reminded him of Andy Warhol's Death and Destruction photo series.
No bodies- they had all been taken to the hospital.
His stomach churned and he moved on. Most of the other photos were the same scene at different angles.
McGee knew there was a more extensive case file somewhere in NCIS since it did affect several navy families. Those files -paper and electronic- probably had verygraphic photos.
There seemed to be no reason why anyone would place this folder in Tim's apartment. He was about to just put it away and look at it in the morning when he came across a paper in scribbled red ink.
Come alone Timmy, by Noon, June 17
She dies if you are one minute late
29 Danin Dr.
A picture of an unconscious Kristen was on the back. It was a very current picture; K was obviously in her own apartment.
One look and it sent Tim running around his home. He threw on some jeans and a t-shirt, grabbed his gun, and picked up his phone and badge. He jumped into his desk chair and searched the address. It quickly came up as a house in Myso Valley. Tim scoffed at himself: of course it was. He took a moment to look at it on the street view. He instantly recognized it as the house James stayed at- his absent uncle's home.
Tim was in motion again. He had no idea who was behind this, but he was already running out of time.
The agent was faced with a dilemma: he couldn't go barging into an abandoned house on the other side of the country alone.
However, McGee also couldn't go to his team about this, could he? There was no telling what he was about to go up against. He wanted to keep this part of his life a secret and it would be dangerous to drag his team into the fight.
Put his surrogate family in danger, or go it alone?
If he didn't tell Gibbs, he would be facing the consequences later.
But it was better to seek forgiveness than to ask permission, right?
Rule 18 was going to save him or kill him.
Tim decided he would go in with local law enforcement, instead. He was all ready to leave when he was struck by an idea.
If something did go wrong, his team could at least know where he was. He texted Abby.
"Hey Abs, its me. There's no time to talk. Tomorrow morning, please track my phone if I don't call in by ten."
On his way out he dialed the airport to order a one way ticket to Alameda, California. The next flight left at eight his time. Just his luck- he had two hours.
When he got off the plane he headed straight for the Alameda NCIS headquarters. It was so late that few teams would be at work, but odds were someone was available to help. When he got there, McGee was met with an unexpected sight.
Employees were filling around in the parking lot; ambulances and police cars surrounded the building, which had a gaping hole in the side of it.
He caught the attention of a passing man with a bewildered expression.
"Bomb went off. No one was killed, there's almost nobody here at this time of day, but there were some people hurt. The whole area is in chaos."
"No help from NCIS, then," Tim murmured worriedly. He wondered who would blow up such a minor NCIS office building, and not a bigger one like Los Angeles or even Pearl Harbor. He was glad that nobody was killed, of course, but now he had no help from local agents in NCIS, FBI or even police.
No time to stop. He was not going to lose someone else if he could help it.
He acquired a car as quickly as he could and drove the long stretch of empty highway. When the minute town came into view, he sighed.
"Miss me?" he muttered to the town ahead.
The police station was empty.
"Naturally," Tim said angrily. It was locked and closed up. It was early in the morning by now- everybody was home asleep in their beds. There were probably only two men on duty, and who knows where they were. McGee looked through the window: it was dark and silent. He pulled out his phone, but there was no service.
Tim returned to the car and picked up the now-crumpled slip of paper with the address. He knew how to get to the house from there, but how could he possibly go it alone? He had to; time was running short.
He pulled up a few houses away from his destination, opting to sneak up to the side of the miserable shack. It was empty, but clean and much nicer on the inside. Someone inhabited this place.
A TV was on, a home video was playing. In it a man vaguely familiar to Tim sat behind a desk, reading through papers. He spoke aloud, facing the camera and sending glances its way.
Tim entered the house through the back, sweeping it quickly.
"NCIS," he called.
Nobody seemed to be at home in the one story building. Tim felt chills as he realized James Wilson once lived there. He remembered following Alex through the front door, ambushing J and dragging him to see a horror movie that ended up scaring them into barricading their doors that night. He smiled at the memory.
He turned his attention to the TV, where the video played on loop. The man was reading medical reports.
"-spinal trauma, concussion, broken leg, broken wrist..."
McGee frowned. He leaned towards the set, listening for more details. For the life of him, he couldn't place the speaker.
"Alex Charter: gunshot to the torso, severe loss of blood..."
Tim went pale as he realized what the video was saying.
"Diana Fitz: concussion, multiple cuts of varying severity, two gunshots to chest..."
The video looped again, and the speaker started over.
"James Wilson: ruptured discs, spinal trauma, concussion, broken leg."
Just then, the front door burst open. The man in the video came rushing through. Tim turned and drew his gun to fire, but this man had the upper hand.
He quickly fired a shot to McGee's arm.
He yelped and fell, landing on his back. His gun slid away. Kyle smirked and leaned in close to the young man, who was gasping in pain.
"Ryan Carroll," he hissed. "Concussion, severe contusions, gunshot directly through the heart."
Through the overwhelming pain, Tim recognized this person. "You're Kyle- his brother..."
He was silenced with a good kick to his side. Carroll turned and opened a door in the ground, hidden under a rug. The NCIS agent cursed himself for missing it earlier.
The criminal pulled him up, then forced him down into the cellar and through a dim cinderblock hallway. With a gun pointed at his neck, Tim could do little but stumble along, clutching his wound with his good hand and trying not to panic.
The hall ended with an exceptionally heavy door, which Kyle slid back. Due to rust and years of disuse, it made a sound similar to nails on a chalkboard.
Inside on the dirt floor sat Kristen, leaning against a wall. The room was empty save one dangling lightbulb and the air conditioning vent, which Kyle nodded at approvingly.
"That cool air was a comfort when I was cleaning this place out," he said casually. "This place held tons of crack and booze. Great uncle your friend had."
He left then, and Tim turned to join his friend on the ground.
"Hey boy scout," she whimpered. Her head had a nice cut on it. It was not lethal, but it was enough to make her dizzy and weak.
"Hey yourself. You ok?"
"I've got a headache, so..." she trailed off. "I'm trying not to move to much."
He looked at her eyes- she most definitely had a concussion.
"How long have you been here?"
"I've lost track of time. But I was taken right after we talked about our trip on the phone."
"That was..." he tried to remember. "The fourteenth. Today it's the sixteenth..." he thought about it. "Or the seventeenth, rather."
He winced as a stab of pain went through him. Kristen finally noticed his wound.
"Oh my God! Tim, why didn't you tell me!?"
"It's pretty obvious. You're just concussed."
A withering glare shut him up.
"Good thing back up is coming for you, right?"
His pause made Kristen narrow her eyes.
"Back up isn't coming? You stormed in here ALONE?!" Her exclamation caused her head to throb, and she was silent again.
"Look, I tried to get backup. Don't worry, when I don't show up for work, my boss will go looking for me. He'll find us."
The unspoken 'eventually' rang loud enough to worsen Kristen's headache.
Their captor had yet to return, so they sat in the small room, waiting for either salvation or the end. Neither had the strength to get up and look for a way out. Tim was gradually becoming pale.
"Could be worse," Tim said through his clenched teeth.
Kristen narrowed her eyes and stared at him.
"Pray tell, Timothy. How could it possibly be worse?"
"Well, we could be in a mine shaft. In the dark. Loosing oxygen."
She frowned but said nothing as he continued.
"And there could be a decomposing body with us," he muttered.
Kris became thoughtful at that. "I guess I'm lucky," she admitted. "Cause I never saw it."
"I see it several times on a busy week," he said. "That's my job. But I rarely see a victim as bad as it was that day."
"Why would you continually put yourself through that? Don't you get nightmares? I would."
"You get used to it."
She waited in silence for the admittance that came. "I get nightmares a lot, actually. But what we've been through? Not even close to some of what my teammates have seen."
It was silent for a minute.
"What does he want with us?" she asked quietly.
"I.. am guessing some sort of revenge...he's Carroll's brother."
"That makes sense," Kristen said. "But why wait all this time?"
"I have a feeling he'll be back soon to let us know."
"Tim?" K began.
"Yeah? You ok?" he said with worry.
"Oh, yeah. I'm peachy," she quipped.
"Then what?" he growled, not in the mood.
Despite all the pain, he laughed at that. It was the best thing he had heard all day.
"Yeah I do."