Chapter 21

Unreasonably early that same morning, Gibbs stepped off the jet, followed by Ziva and Tony. Deciding that it would be best to follow the clues that Tim left behind, they found themselves in California.

It was only a hop, skip and jump from the air field to the NCIS office of Alameda. To their surprise, the building had a hole in the side of it.

"Gibbs," Ziva said quietly. "You do not think that McGee was in the building and something happened?"

"No," Tony said. "His phone wouldn't be in the middle of nowhere if Tim got caught up in this."

Without a word, Gibbs turned and beelined to a much smaller building on the lot. Tony and Ziva followed.

Inside the structure was a secretary's desk. A prim woman looked up as they entered.

"May I help you?"

"What happened?" Gibbs asked, looking out the window at the damage, which was being cleaned and repaired by a diligent working crew.

"There was an attack, a bomb went off. No one killed, thank god!"

"When did this happen?" Ziva asked.

"What is today.. June 18th? It happened early yesterday, so-"

Gibbs was getting impatient. Noticing this, Tony cut in. "I'm sorry, but is there someone we can talk to about a missing person? We're from the Washington D.C. office." He showed her his badge.

"We understand that you must be very busy," Ziva said tactfully. "But if we could just use a computer and some forensic equipment we might be able to track-"

"Leroy Jethro Gibbs!"

The three agents turned to the door, where a man about Gibbs' age stood. He grinned broadly at the sight of the agents, and Gibbs grinned back at the sight of the man. He stuck his hand out to shake with the newcomer, who laughed.

"It's been a long time, Lewis," Gibbs said.

"I'll say!"

Lewis turned to Tony and Ziva. "This man saved my life! We knew each other back in the day, in the Marines."

"Sir, these agents were asking-" the secretary began.

"Help them with whatever they need." He turned to Team Gibbs. "I'm the Alameda director now. The old director quit after the explosion, so I can't stay and chat, what with all of this bomb craziness. If you need a dispatch team for something, Gibbs, I'm sure we could find you one later."

He left after that, and the secretary cleared her throat to get the agents' attention. "What will you need, Agent Gibbs?"

"Tony," Gibbs said, nodding to his SFA. DiNozzo produced a file and leaned on the secretary's desk. "We are looking for a man: Special Agent Timothy McGee."

She nodded and typed on her keyboard, going through records. She stared at the screen then looked up suddenly. "It's really interesting that you would come here now, because apparently we were contacted half an hour ago by police officers who reported a car crash on the road outside of town. There was no driver on the scene, but an ID was found. An NCIS badge was in a backpack, along with a wallet. Identification is confirmed as a Timothy McGee."

She printed directions to the site. "Police have been waiting for a response team for a long time now."

Gibbs nodded and headed out the door.

"Thank you," Tony said as he and Ziva hurried to catch up with the Boss.

Thanks to Gibbs, they reached the scene in no time at all, cutting a twenty minute drive in half.

The agents approached the crash site, which was on an isolated road surrounded by dense woods. Tony was out of the vehicle first, happy to be on firm ground after Gibbs' crazy driving. He saw the scene and stopped short, going slightly pale.

The officers at the scene were happy to hand off the wreck to the agents, and soon left.

Tim's rented car sat on the side of the road. It's front bumper was warped as the result of a collision- with a tree. The windshield was a mangled mess of spider-web cracks, and the driver's door was open, as though the driver had gotten out and simply walked away from the wreck. The air bag had gone off, and there were smears of blood on it and the rest of the front seat.

It was indeed Tim's car, there was no doubt about that. The description matched perfectly, and the license plate checked out with the rental agency Tim had visited. If that wasn't enough proof, Tim's backpack was in the trunk. In it sat his badge, wallet, and phone.

"Ziver," Gibbs said.

"I will call for backup," she responded.

Gibbs looked at Tony, who wore a grim expression. His lips were pressed together in a hard line and his eyebrows were knitted together.

"There's no way he got up and walked away from this, Boss," Tony stared finally. "Is there?"

Gibbs stared at the wreck and responded with a gruff "Photos, DiNozzo."

The backup team arrived from Alameda looking worse for wear. The attack on the Alameda office had ensured a stretched and exhausted set of NCIS agents. This team looked particularly bad; each had large circles under their eyes and were dead on their feet.

"Rough night?" Tony asked with real sympathy. They knew all too well the pain of a bomb attack.

"Yeah," the agent closest to him-a tall, muscular man- muttered. "Damn explosion."

"Do you know who or what caused it?" Ziva asked.

"No, they've got a task force working it now," he said.

There was an awkward pause, then Ziva said "All the same, thank you for helping us."

"No problem," another agent, a short young woman with big eyes, said. "We were lucky. Our whole team was unhurt during the explosion. But we know how it is to lose someone."

"Don't worry," the last agent, a tall thin guy, said. "We'll find your man."

"Thanks," Tony muttered. He looked at the agent who spoke last. "You look familiar...Did you play basketball in college?"

He shook his head. "No, football."

Gibbs approached them just then and the Senior Field Agent turned to his boss. "We're finished."

Gibbs nodded. "Load it up."

10:30 AM

Despite the fact that it was still relatively early in the workday, the makeshift field office was buzzing with workers. While the main office building was being prepared, all of the case agents were using a secondary building as home base. It was loud and crowded, but it would do. Gibbs' team found their way to the temporary forensic lab. Though it was not half as extravagant as Abby's lab, it had most of the same machines. There were several forensic technicians running around, most likely processing evidence from the attack. Team Gibbs passed by them and walked to the back of the room, where a short man sat at his table. He faced a laptop screen, which held the face of Abby Sciuto via videochat.

"Hey Gibbs!" Abby greeted them as they came in view of the laptop camera. The forensic tech noticed them and stood.

"Agent Gibbs," he said cheerily. "I've heard a lot about you and your team."

"This is Daniel Parker," Abby explained. "We knew each other in college."

"Yes. Good times," Parker said with a smile. Noticing Gibbs' famous "I-don't-need-to-know-this" look, he cleared his throat and gestured to the pictures in front of him.

"We reviewed the wreck, and there are some things that, quite frankly, don't check out."

"Like what?" Tony said.

"Like the blood spatters," Abby said. "Or really, smears. In a car crash like this, blood from a driver would either drip onto things or spatter."

"No matter what it would do," Daniel put in. "It wouldn't do this. These stains are scattered around the front seat in splotches. It looks like someone wiped them onto the airbag and steering wheel with their hands."

"Do we even know if its Tim's blood?" Tony said, hoping that it wasn't.

"Unfortunately, yes, it is Agent McGee's," the scientist said.

The agents were silent for a moment, wondering what this meant for Tim.

"Is that all?" Gibbs demanded.

"No! We have more," Abby insisted.

"Yeah," her friend assured them, pulling out a set of records. "Obviously, we can't take reliable finger prints off of the car, since its a rental and any number of people could have used it. But we did manage to pull some prints off of Agent McGee's phone and badge. We found a couple of these..."

He drew up another window on the laptop screen, displaying full finger prints.

"They don't match Timmy's prints, Gibbs!" Abby said. "And they aren't in any criminal database, either."

Just then, one of the agents from the crime scene, the thinner man, approached the team. "Agent Gibbs, we have something to add to the report. After we left, I decided to call out some dogs to track your agent's scent based off of his backpack. Although they recognized his scent inside the car, nowhere around the scene did they find a trail. He wasn't around the area anytime recently."

"Gibbs! Do you know what this means? Well of course you do but..." Abby trailed off.

"It means the scene was set up," Gibbs said.

"McGee did not crash his car?" Ziva asked. "Then where is he?"

"I double checked Timmy's phone signal," Abby said. "It's weird, the phone went to that small town we talked about? Myso Valley? Then doubled back to the wreck. So the last place the phone was at before the car crash was Myso Valley. Timmy might be there."

"Considering his history with the place, it would make sense, Gibbs," Ziva agreed.

"Myso Valley..." Parker typed on his computer. "Ah, here it is. It's only an hour and a half from here? I didn't even know it existed!"

He gave the directions to the agents, who rushed out, leaving Abby and Daniel behind.

10:30 AM

Tim opened his eyes to see Kristen staring at him. "Hey," he croaked.

"Hey," she said. "You passed out after I let you out of the ties. Its only been a couple hours, I think. Creepy has not come back yet to feed us or anything. I don't know what I would have done if he did."

Tim frowned. His shoulder was itchy. He sat up and tears sprang to his eyes; he had forgotten about his arms. There was a faint burning sensation in his bullet wound, and McGee realized that what he was feeling was the beginning of an infection.

"Your arm stopped bleeding. Actually, I'm not sure it did, I can't tell. There's too much blood around it," Kristen said, feeling nauseous at the thought.

"Yeah, it's stopped."

"And the air conditioner stopped working some time last night. That's why it's so stuffy in here," she informed him.

"Well, I would bet that its the reason Carroll hasn't come down here yet. He's probably fixing it himself, because it would be too risky having some repair man come here and do it for him."

"Why fix it at all?" Kristen asked. "Why not just let us suffocate to death?"

"He's enjoying himself, keeping us locked up like this. He wants to torture us, but he wants to keep us alive for a little longer."

"How kind of him!" Kristen exclaimed in an exaggeratedly gracious voice.

Tim rolled his eyes but said nothing.

"So what are we going to do? How're we getting out?" she asked him.

"It wouldn't be hard to get out now," Tim said hesitantly.

"He left the bolt open," K said. "What an idiot."

"No, he's not exactly an idiot," Tim said. "He's arrogant, especially for assuming that neither of us would be able to reach the door."

"Well, I don't know if I can," she admitted.

"I know. I can. But what do we do when we get out of the basement? We can't sneak out of the trap door discreetly. He might be in that same room! And he's armed."

"So what? We wait until he comes back?" Kristen said irritably.

When Tim fell silent, she moaned. "I'm scared, Tim."

"I know. Don't worry, we're going to get out," he assured her.

"When is your team coming, by the way?" she asked patiently.

"I'm not sure."

"Why didn't you just go to the Alameda NCIS office?" she asked, remembering her childhood on the Naval Base.

"There was some explosion the morning I ended up here. I think it was a bomb? The whole Alameda field office was in disarray."

"Oh," she said simply.

Tim thought for a moment, then slowly moved to stand up.

"I'd help you, but I really can't," K said, trying hard not to jostle her collarbone.

"It's ok," he grunted. Once he was standing, he took a deep breath. Despite everything, he chuckled.

"It seems like we've been here for months," he said. "But this is only the second day for me. I was taken down here early yesterday!"

"Lucky you," she said.

"Oh right," he said sheepishly. "What is today, the fourth day for you? The fifth?"

"Something like that," she said absently. "So, do you have a new plan, Boy Scout?"

"I'm going to the trap door. If I hear him walking around, I'll come back and tell you. Make sure you to stay silent while the door is open."

She nodded, and he walked over to the sliding door. He inched it open as quietly as he could. With one final glance at Kristen, he crossed the threshold into the dim hallway. Tiptoeing down the hallway, he reached the stairs, and climbed up them silently. The stairs ended with the door to the house. It was closed, but Tim could hear their captor muttering to himself as he struggled with something that made a metallic noise. McGee assumed this to be the air conditioner.

Cursing to himself, the NCIS agent made his way back to the cellar. He slid the door closed again, effectively sealing in the room and making it soundproof.

"What?" Kris asked hurriedly.

"He is right there next to the trap door!" Tim said angrily. "There's no way we can just get out with him there. We don't have the element of surprise because he would hear us before we could actually get the door open. He might have the gun right there, and right now he is stronger than either of us."

The artist nodded. "So...?"

"So we wait until he comes down here, and we jump him," Tim said. "My team will get here for sure, but we can't wait that long. As soon as he comes down here to give us food, we take the upper hand."

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