After another hour, Tim found the strength to get up. The bleeding in his arm had stopped almost completely thanks in part to a tourniquet he fashioned out of his belt. It wasn't comfortable, but it would have to do.
Sometime around two o'clock, Kyle came in and demanded McGee's phone. He also used a small airport metal detecting wand to confiscate his NCIS badge. After that he left without another word.
As Tim pulled himself up (using the wall for support) he groaned, and Kristen looked up at him.
"Do you need help?"
"No, no. Stay on the ground. You shouldn't be moving right now."
She obliged and continued to watch him struggle. When he was upright, Tim made his way to the door and pulled.
"It's locked of course," Kristen called. "You're not concussed too, are you?"
He sighed. "It never hurts to try, right?"
Glancing around the room, Kristen pursed her lips. "James never told us about this place. But I guess it was hidden, so maybe he didn't know."
"He knew," Tim said. "But he didn't want to tell Alex...You know. Charter would've had the idea to clear it all out and put it in the church donation basket or something."
She smiled fondly but frowned when she realized what Tim was saying. "Wait. Did you know about this place?"
"Not really," he said with a shrug. "J told me his uncle had a secret room where he kept his stash, but he never told me where it was. I can't believe I missed it. Under the rug..." he scoffed.
"Don't take too hard," K said. "I opened the door to a fake pizza guy."
"That's how I ended up here," she confessed. "He just knocked on the door and I opened it to tell him I didn't order the pizza he was pretending to deliver."
Tim was about to reply when the latch on the door slid back with a bang. Kyle pulled the sliding door as far as it would move, entering with a gun and a baseball bat."
"Sit down," he ordered of Tim. He grabbed the wounded agent by the arm- the injured one, and shoved him back next to Kristen.
His demeanor changed almost immediately. He was suddenly the pleasant host of a party.
"Now," he said. "I apologize for the delay. I had to take care of some things. I am sure you are wondering what I am to do with you."
"Kill us?" Kristen muttered under her breath sarcastically.
"Eventually," he agreed cordially, as if he was talking about the prospects of rain in the afternoon. "I'll get around to that. But first..."
He placed the bat on the ground next to him and handled the gun. It was at all times pointed toward the prisoners.
"I thought that it would be fitting to let you die on June 28. It is the day that your friends died, yes? Early in the morning."
"Well, my brother died that day too. Yes, you were right, he was my brother. Because of you he is dead. Actually, I read the report. You all had a part in it but your little friend shot him in the chest, right?"
Kristen narrowed her eyes and repressed a shiver.
"Anyway," the man said brightly. "I have spent lots of time reviewing he reports and medical exams. How're your hands, Timothy?"
McGee subconsciously flexed his hands and balled them into fists. "Just fine," he snapped.
"Oh good. So I figured that we would revisit...or rather...open old wounds, right? I know its been a long time but I'm sure you remember."
He picked up the baseball bat and looked at Tim for a moment. Then, quick as a flash, he swung in Kristen's direction. She was so taken by surprise that she did not get a chance to defend herself, and the metal bat collided with her collarbone, breaking it.
K screamed. Tim moved to help her but Kyle pointed the gun in his direction.
"Don't move," he said cheerily. He glanced at the writhing girl.
"For example," he continued his monologue. "Remember that, my dear?"
She could barely hear him over the sound of blood rushing in her ears, but Kristen spoke nevertheless.
"Never...forgot," she gasped, recalling the brace she had to wear for so long.
"I didn't think so," he said gravely. Then he grinned at McGee.
"Mr. Alex Charter was shot in the torso... Don't worry, I'm not looking for confirmation, I have it all memorized. I'm just recapping."
Tim's heart momentarily stopped; he braced himself for a bullet that he was sure would come.
"Oh no," Kyle assured him. "Not today. But you're getting the idea."
He took a step back and addressed them both.
"Your three friends sustained heavy damages in their last hours. Each day you will receive one of their major injuries- of my choice. Then, you will sustain some of the injuries my brother received. You are going to be atoning for your mistakes By then it will be the 28th. And if you're not dead already, you will be killed."
He looked at Tim once more. "I'll be right back."
Kyle left the room and closed the door behind him.
McGee rushed to Kristen's side. "What can I do?"
She sputtered through the pain. "You wouldn't by chance have something to brace my broken bone with?"
Kristen blinked at the tears as they ran down her face. "Help me lay down flat."
He gently put her on the ground. She coughed and groaned.
"Don't worry," he said quietly. "I have a plan. First step is to take him by surprise."
She was quiet for a minute; eventually the door was pulled back again.
"Well, my headache's gone," she said finally as Kyle reentered the room.
McGee turned at the voice. There was the second Carroll brother, rope in one hand and gun in the other. He motioned for Tim to stand away from Kristen and approached them. He tied heavy knots around the agent's wrists and then tied the extra rope tight to a solitary pipe running along the wall.
Tim's arms were stretched up and over his head. He felt foolish, like a puppet.
Both Kristen and Tim were afraid that the crazed man would tie her similarly, which would be agony for the artist now that she had a major bone broken.
However, Kyle Carroll knew better. He simply tied her wrists together and connected them to the pipe via a long and loose cord. He realized that she would not be going anywhere and was simply making sure she didn't crawl towards Tim.
He stepped back to admire his work.
"I'll be back to bring you some food in an hour," he said. "It'll be up to you to figure out how to actually get it in your mouths."
He smiled again and exited, latching the door behind him.
"What's...with...the cheery...attitude?" Kristen huffed.
"It's from a movie," Tim said.
"I can't remember. Ask my partner when my team gets here."
Despite her pain, she rolled her eyes at him. "Really?"
"Either that or he's happy to finally be able to kill us after all this time."
"Yeah...Tim, I'm adding another step to your brilliant plan. Step one is now to get out of the rope."
Early That morning,
"Where's McGee?" Gibbs said gruffly as he entered the bullpen with his second cup of coffee. Both Ziva and Tony were present, but their youngest team member was missing.
"No idea, Boss. Probably traffic," Tony said.
"I called his phone but it went straight to voicemail," Ziva said with a frown. "No answer at his home phone either."
Tony's frown matched hers. "He knows not to be unreachable, Boss."
"I know that, DiNozzo. Swing by his apartment," the agent in charge ordered. He hoped that Tim had just overslept, but his gut told him to be careful about this situation. McGee didn't sleep in; whenever he took off of work (a rarity) he told both Gibbs and Vance about it a week ahead of time.
Tony left with his gun, telling himself that the Probie was just stuck in traffic and his phone was dead.
When he left, Gibbs turned to Ziva. He was about to speak when Abby came running into the office, absolutely terrified.
"Gibbs Gibbs Gibbs! I got a text from Timmy. Is he not here?! "
He caught her and tried to make her focus.
"Abs, calm down. No, he's not here. What was the text?"
She showed him the phone, which he took and held away from his face- to read the small print. Ziva looked at it as well.
"Hey Abs, its me. There's no time to talk. Tomorrow morning, please track my phone if I don't call in by ten."
"It is not ten yet," Ziva said. "But it is strange that he would send you that."
"Did you track his phone?" Gibbs asked.
"It's running the search now," she replied with a sniffle.
The three of them went down to the lab and walked through the doors together. After a minute, the machine beeped.
"His phone is off, it can't track its current location," Abby said. "Luckily I have a program that records the history of the phone's whereabouts. Timmy wrote the program himself."
Her fingers flew across the keyboard as she spoke. Windows came up on the screen, showing a path that ran from Washington all the way to California.
"Why is his phone on the other side of the country?" Abby asked.
"He must be there," Ziva said.
"Not necessarily," Abby argued. "It might have been stolen."
"But how would he text you to track it if it was stolen?" Ziva reasoned.
"He...knew that it would be stolen?" The Lab Rat faltered, not liking her own statement. It didn't seem to make enough sense, even to her.
Gibbs said nothing. He knew what they needed to do, but felt guilty about invading his agent's privacy like a suspect. But if this was a matter of Tim's safety, then any measures were necessary. He turned to his favorite forensic scientist.
"Can you pull up his credit card history?"
Abby hesitated, but knew that the Boss would only ask her to go through Tim's private records if he thought it was important. She silently pulled up records dating through the past week.
The most recent purchases were the ones that caught Ziva's eye.
"A plane ticket to Alameda?" she asked. "He grew up there, yes?"
"Family emergency?" Gibbs asked, his low voice stating it more than asking it.
"I have Sarah's number, I can call her," Abby said. She scrolled through her contacts and found the younger McGee's name. It rang three times before Sarah's hushed voice asked, "hello?"
"Hey Sarah, its Abby. I was wondering...if everything is ok?"
There was a pause as Tim's sister considered the question. "Yeah everything's fine. Why?"
"No reason, your brother is just acting strange," Abby replied truthfully. She didn't want to worry Sarah, so she didn't tell her about Tim's absence.
"Oh, that's because its June," she said matter-of-factly.
"What does that have to do with it?" Abby asked curiously.
"Uhm...I'm sorry Abby I can't really talk right now. I'm in the library and the librarians are giving me looks..."
"Oh! Ok, sorry. Bye."
She hung up and turned to Gibbs and Ziva. "It's June...?"
"Call his grandmother," Gibbs said. "Have her come in."
Ziva went off to contact Penny, and Gibbs hugged the scientist.
"It's ok," he said. "We'll find him."
Tony didn't have a key to Tim's apartment. Actually he did have one, but it was at his house- he only had it for emergencies. If he had known he would be looking for his missing coworker, he might have brought it along.
Picking the lock was no problem, anyhow.
He got inside and was greeted by a happy Jethro. Usually the dog would be very unkind to burglars, but he knew the Senior Field Agent. Tony bent down to pet the him, but was showered with wet kisses instead.
"Ugh," he muttered. "Thanks."
The pet pranced back to his bed and laid down contentedly.
Tony stalked into the bedroom, planning on pouring ice cubes on a sleeping Tim's head for his trouble.
"Come on, McSleeper, time to get-"
He turned the corner into the room, and stopped when he saw that no one was there. Frowning, he backtracked into the living room. McGee's computer was off, as were all the lights. Jethro watched with curiosity.
"Where's Tim?" he asked absently.
Tony went to the bathroom and noticed that Tim's toothbrush, deodorant, and other toiletries were gone.
Puzzled, DiNozzo went back to the kitchen. He was about to give up and leave when he noticed that there was a rather thick file sitting on the table.
Tony grabbed it and sat down on the couch. Jethro jumped up next to him.
"Are you allowed to be up here?" Tony said to the dog. Jethro looked at him as if to say 'No, but get over it.'
Opening the file, Tony was met with gruesome photos of a car wreck. He grimaced as he saw the pools of blood. Having worked in big cities, Tony was used to seeing traffic wrecks. However, there were some things missing from the file. It was lacking any photos of victims- and one could tell that not everyone involved could have walked away from such a wreck.
Why would Tim have this?
This manilla folder was also much too thick to include simply one accident. The SFA skimmed through and noticed that there were extensive reports included.
Then a certain name caught his eye:
TIMOTHY MCGEE, AGE 16
He felt an electric shock to through him. He wasn't sure what exactly this was, but he felt that Tim was in trouble. He packed up all the notes and was about to leave when his cell buzzed.
"DiNozzo. He there?"
"No. But you're gonna want to see this..."
He didn't drive like Ziva or Gibbs, but Tony made it back to the Navy Yard in record time. Upon arriving in the bullpen he slapped the file onto Ziva's desk. Abby and Gibbs were both there, as was Ducky. By that point the M.E. heard about Tim's suspicious whereabouts and had come to help investigate.
Palmer was on vacation with Breena that week and did not know about the incident.
"I don't know what this is," DiNozzo said. "But it involves McGee."
Ziva opened it and studied the pictures of the wreck.
"What is this?"
"Some report about a car accident," Tony said. "I didn't get a chance to go through the rest yet. I have no idea why Tim would have this."
"He was in an accident when he was sixteen, right?" Gibbs said.
"It might be that!" Abby agreed. "But there is a lot of blood."
"It's not the wreck he told us about. He said that the car was 1984 Camaro. Neither of these cars is a Camaro."
"Read the reports, Abigail," Ducky said, curious. She picked one up and passed it to Ducky. She kept the other one and Ducky read aloud.
"It's a police report. Dated June 30-"
"Wait. What is the report from? What town?" Gibbs asked.
"Uh, some town called Myso Valley."
Gibbs looked at Tony, who immediately got the hint. He searched it up on his computer.
"There is a Myso Valley, California. It's closest major city is Alameda."
"That's it!" Abby said. "Timmy flew to Alameda last night."
Ziva nodded. "What does the report say?"
Abby read it and said. "It says: the party of teenagers were pursued by the suspect, Ryan Carroll, when the vehicles collided. There was a struggle, during which timeTimothy McGee ran for help. He was met by Officer Jake Hughes, who rushed to the sight. At this time, Diana Fitz fired a defensive shot to the victim's chest. Both the suspect, and Diana collapsed, followed by Timothy. All four teens were rushed to the hospital. Carroll was dead on site and taken to the morgue."
Five heads shot up at the voice. Penny Langston stood there, eyebrows raised.
"Ms. Langston-" Tony began.
"Penny," the woman smiled. She addressed them again. "I am sure you are confused by this report? Timothy most likely never showed it to you...where is he?"
Gibbs stood up and went over to her. "He didn't come into work."
"We were wondering if you knew where he was," Abby spoke up.
"I have no idea!" Penny said. "But how did you get that file, then?"
"It was on his kitchen table," Tony said sheepishly. "We dropped by to check on him and he wasn't home."
"Perhaps we should start by having this information cleared up," Ducky said. "Would you mind enlightening us, Penny?"
"Of course, Doctor Mallard. But Tim wouldn't exactly like me sharing this part of his life."
"It might help us to find him," Ziva said encouragingly.
The grandmother's eyes filled with alarm. "You don't think something bad has happened?"
"Not yet," Gibbs said. "But you can help us."
"Why don't we all go to the conference room to discuss this?" Ducky suggested calmly.
They all did just that, and when they were settled, Penny began.
"I used to live in a very small town called Myso Valley. I spent my summers there as a girl, and it was a nice retreat after all my time working for different big-time companies. It's the kind of town that everyone knows each other in. Anyways, during the summer Timothy would come to visit. Well, during that summer, four of his closest friends were also shipped out to Myso. James, Alex, Kristen and Diana. They were just awesome kids, all of them. The whole town loved them."
She paused and took a deep breath.
"They were out hiking on the edge of town, and they... witnessed something. I'm still not sure of what, but basically they overheard two criminals talking- and they were discovered. Now this is where it gets fuzzy. The kids were locked in some small confined space for several hours. Whatever happened that night still bothers Timothy, I'm sure. He looked pale as a ghost when he came home. Anyway, they were smart and escaped. The two- Ryan Carroll and his brother Kyle- found out and set to get them."
The ever so strong woman's eyes became a little glassy.
"James was hurt first. He fell over a cliff during a fight with Ryan Carroll. He was hospitalized. I wanted to send the kids home to Alameda, but they insisted on staying near him. They stayed indoors for safety after that. But the one time they did go out..."
The team could see where this was going, and braced themselves.
"The four of them were getting something to eat when they ran into the Ryan Carroll. There was a big fight at the restaurant. Alex was shot."
Kristen, Timothy and Diana piled into a borrowed car, and took off towards the hospital. There is this large stretch of land to get there...there was a road fight, and a crash."
She nodded towards the pictures Ziva was holding.
"Kristen broke her collarbone. All three of them had concussions and Timothy's hands were all torn up. They struggled, and he almost killed them. Diana shot him, but she was shot twice herself. Basically everyone at the scene collapsed when the police finally got there."
"Why didn't they get there sooner?" Tony asked hoarsely. He had no idea that his friend had been through so much when he was so young.
"There were only ten officers in town back then. And there was a jewelry store robbery at the exact same time. There was a hostage crisis, and the force was inexperienced with that sort of thing," Penny said angrily.
"Did they catch him?" Abby asked.
"No, he got away," Penny sighed. "But Ryan died."
"What about Timothy and his friends?" Ducky inquired.
"James died that night. Diana and Alex didn't make it either."
Abby's eyes filled with tears. Ducky and Ziva both looked moved and ashamed.
"All the time we have known him," Ziva said. "And he never said a word about it."
"Timothy and Kristen are very close today," Penny said. "They drifted apart some during high school, but made up eventually. She's an artist in New York."
"Ziver," Gibbs said.
"I will contact Kristen. What was her last name?"
"Macheer. I have her address as well," Penny offered.
"Tony, search up the file in our records."
They left to do their jobs.
"Abs. Take Penny with you. See if you can find anything else on where Tim went."
As they left the room, Penny and Gibbs made eye contact. He nodded at her: a promise to bring Tim home safe.
Then it was just him and Ducky.
"Why did he never tell us, Duck? Why didn't he come to me for help?"
"I don't believe Timothy felt comfortable involving you in a problem he might be having. He didn't even tell Penny where he was going- or Sarah, and he is her brother!"
It snapped for Gibbs at the word "brother". He got on the phone and called Abby's lab. She answered immediately.
"Nothing yet, Gibbs. I'm not that good!"
"It's ok Abs. Just keep looking. Put Penny on the phone."
"I'm here, Agent Gibbs," Ms. Langston's voice said over the speaker.
"What happened to Carroll's brother?" Gibbs questioned.
"Oh! Timothy assumed that he was dead. He told me that Ryan implied that. Why?"
Ducky had caught up with Gibbs. "Doesn't it seem strange that a jewelry store would be held up- at the same time that the force was needed to save the kids?"
"Oh my god! All this time and I never realized..."
"Don't worry," Ducky said with a chuckle. "Jethro is a professional- he's been doing this for a long time. Just find out what you can on him."
Tony reentered with an even thicker folder.
"It's got lots of pictures," he said.
They flipped it open and DiNozzo picked up a sweet photo of five kids. It was easy to see which teenager was Tim McGee- the thin one with the mousy hair and the big green eyes. On his right was Alex and Kristen. On the left was James, with Diana on his shoulders.
"Penny!" Tony called over the phone. "What did each kid look like?"
"Kristen is tall and athletic."
Penny laughed. "Yes. Alex is the tallest. James is obviously the other boy, and Diana and is the petite girl with the spiky hair."
They hung up and Gibbs left to update Vance on the situation. Ducky and Tony continued through the file.
"Do you think McGee's ok, Ducky?" Tony asked. "I mean, he could have been visiting the town just because its almost the anniversary of the incident."
"If he was, Anthony, wouldn't he just take time off for it?" Ducky reasoned.
"Yeah... I just don't want to expect the worst."
Ziva opened the door and came to stand behind DiNozzo.
"Where is Gibbs?"
"With Vance. Did you call Kristen?"
"No answer at her home. She was reported missing a few days ago by her boyfriend."
Tony's frown deepened. "Well that's clue. Anything else?"
"Yes. Apparently she was planning a trip to California."
"What've you got?" Gibbs asked, returning. Ziva retold all that she knew.
As she was finishing up, she was interrupted by a small "oh my," from Ducky.
"What is it?" the Israeli asked, seeing Tony's pale complexion. She looked over to see three horrible pictures. They were all taken postmortem. All autopsy pictures.
The first was of James. His broken bones and other contusions made for a gruesome photo.
The second was of Alex. He looked just like he was sleeping, except for the wound in his side.
The third was of Diana. Her beautiful face was bruised and bloodied. A large cut down her shoulder was partially obstructed by the sheet covering her chest, as were the gunshot wounds that killed her.
Stoic Ziva felt herself incredibly saddened. She hated to lose kids- child and teen alike- to criminals.
But the worst photos were next. Everyone barely glanced at Kristen's photo (take after surgery) because they were too busy gasping at Tim's picture.
Their coworker, their friend, had never looked weaker. This photo was taken as he was entering surgery. Blood was seeping out of a gash in his forehead. His eyes were both black. His hands were indeed mangled, and his lip was cut. That and many more injuries on Tim's face indicated to the team that their friend was morethan lucky to be alive. For now.