"Someone has to have something!" Gibbs stormed into the squad room on the third morning since the incident.
"We do," Ziva responded. "She ran it through CODIS and narrowed the results to cellular activity within the area during the time of the assault." She grabbed the remote from her desk and pulled up a picture of a rather scraggly-looking redhead on the squad room's plasma.
"Sam Fries," McGee snatched the remote from Ziva and pulled up Fries' criminal record. "He's your standard thug for hire, indicted in the kidnapping of Jeremy Hallow, a famous Senator who was looking for harsher punishments for drug dealers, especially those associated with Iniguez' gang. Hallow was found dead two weeks ago in an abandoned apartment complex that once owned by a family with suspected ties to the Iniguez' drug business. There was no conviction since since Metro was only able to gather circumstantial evidence, most of which was dismissed by the judge. According to Tony's description, he is the one called Sheffield."
So Fries walked due to shoddy police work, Gibbs thought…wonderful. "Known associates?"
"David Talbot," McGee recited, adding another picture to the plasma, this one of a darker-haired, stockier male. "Did four years in Leavenworth for armed robbery, got out early for good behavior. Been clean ever since. Hasn't even skipped a parole meeting until—"
"Three days ago," Ziva finished. "He matches Tony's description of Davies."
"We got 'em boss," McGee grinned.
"ID-ing them is only half the battle, Tim. Need something more substantial to make it stick."
"Right," McGee's smile fell.
"None listed, but according to their files, Metro discovered Fries and Talbot are known to hang out at a local pub, named Mulligan's, no criminal activity known to have stemmed from there though," McGee responded, jotted down the address and handing it to Gibbs.
"Call Metro—" Gibbs began, grabbing his weapon from the drawer.
"And have them send their evidence to Abby. Already did." McGee reached for his backpack.
"Not you, McGee. You're staying here."
"You're not safe 'til we have them in custody."
McGee opened his mouth to protest.
"Do I have to threaten a mandatory hospital stay for that concussion I know you have?"
"No," McGee replied, the word tasting like vinegar as it left his mouth.
"Good. Now find something to stick to Fries and Talbot. Let's go Ziva."
The Israeli shot her friend an apologetic look as she collected her weapons. "It is for the best," she offered.
McGee frowned at her, before turning back to his computer, determined to find something substantial that would put those bastards away for life.
"What do you mean they haven't been here?" Gibbs growled, leaning over the bar into the man's personal space.
The bartender, a pudgy man in his late forties, leaned back slightly, but matched Gibbs' death stare.
"They. Have. Not. Been. Here," the man repeated, slowly and carefully as if he was speaking to a classroom of kindergarteners.
"You are aware it is a crime to lie to a federal agent?" Ziva asked from her seat where she was examining the abnormally sharp laminated edges of the drinks menu.
"One year minimum," Gibbs added, watching for a reaction from the man. The man gulped once but held his ground, showing no signs of additional nerves.
"Wasn't aware. Doesn't change the fact that I haven't seen them in over a month."
"The last time the two of them were in here, they got in a big fight. Destroyed half my place."
"What was the fight about?" Ziva questioned.
"Dunno," the bartender shrugged.
Gibbs reached over the counter and grabbed the man's lapels, pulling him across the bar.
"Okay, okay! It was about some job they were about to pull. Fries wanted more money, but Talbot was telling him to be happy with what they were getting. They were bi—" he glanced in Ziva's direction and saw her arch one eyebrow challengingly, "—complaining about their boss, some guy named Sheldon."
"You catch a first name?"
"My memory's a little foggy. Maybe some dead presidents will help…" the bartender suggested.
"Answer the question or spend a night in federal lockup," Gibbs glared.
"He is serious," Ziva added, raising her right arm and taking aim at the spot directly above the bartender's head with the super sharp menu.
The man narrowed his eyes, but decided it wasn't worth it in the end. "Nate, Ned, Neal, something like that."
Gibbs extracted a business card from his pocket and dropped it in the man's breast pocket before storming from the pub.
"Thank you for your time," Ziva said as she followed. "Please give us a call if you remember anything else."
She paused as she reached the doorway. "I'd dull the edges on those menus if I were you. Where I come from, I learned to kill with objects that were half as sharp."
Yeah whatever, the bartender thought, running his finger along the side of the menu and grimacing as the laminate left a deep cut in his thumb. He looked up in shock at the woman, but she was already gone, having left with the man who appeared to be ready to snap someone's neck at a moment's notice.
"You ready to go, DiNozzo?" Gibbs asked, pushing in a wheelchair past the discharge nurse. The unusually subdued DiNozzo sat on the side of his bed, dressed in a pair of sweats and a NCIS T-shirt that someone, probably Abby, had grabbed from his home.
"Really, boss? The chair? I am fully able to walk the three hundred some feet to the car," Tony protested half-heartedly. It wasn't that he hasn't glad to see his boss, but he would be happy when he was home. Alone.
The large security guard who had been stationed outside Tony's door decided it was time to intervene on the grey-haired man's behalf.
"It's hospital policy that all patients must be discharged in a wheelchair. Now, we can do this two ways," the guard growled, poking his head into the door and cracking his knuckles menacingly. "The easy way or my way. Which would you prefer?"
Tony raised one eyebrow at Gibbs, who just shrugged.
"The chair," Tony frowned, carefully maneuvering his way into the mobile, scowling at the guard as he was wheeled out of the room.
"A pleasure having you, Mister DiNozzo," the guard smiled widely, waggling his fingers at the agent.
Tony screwed up his face at the guard, but the man was already walking the other way, off to protect another helpless victim.
Gibbs helped Tony get situated before starting the car and gently pulling out into traffic, driving much more carefully that he usually did.
"Can I go home, boss?" Tony asked softly after a few miles.
Gibbs understood how Tony was feeling—hell, he'd been there himself a few times, but given Tony's current state of mind, Gibbs wasn't sure that was the right decision. "I don't—"
"Yeah I know. There's still two killers out there who might want to add Anthony DiNozzo to their kill list, but there'll be an agent assigned to my home at all hours, and you and the team will be stopping by frequently, so there's really no reason I can't stay there. Besides that, I lock my front door," he added with a sideways glance toward his boss, "and I really don't want to inconvenience you."
"You just got shot, DiNozzo."
Tony was silent for a long moment, gripping the door handle tightly as Gibbs took the right turn on two wheels. "Please, Gibbs?" he asked quietly, barely able to be heard over the screeching car horns.
Gibbs was silent for a moment, reading between the lines and knowing that Tony's statement about putting Gibbs out was code for he wanted to be alone. Tony needed some time to cope with what had happened, alone, and without anyone to placate him and without anyone he would have to assure that he was fine. DiNozzo also had a valid point: there would be a guard at his home at all hours but, if DiNozzo wouldn't be staying at Gibbs' home, one of the team would also always be with him.
After considering all his options, Gibbs nodded his approval. If Tony wanted space, Gibbs would give it to him, but not before a few extra security measures were in place. He would even have McGee's crew from the CyberCrimes unit install a few more cameras around Tony's apartment. Lord knows the man could use some additional protection from the many criminals he had put away in his many years in law enforcement.
Gibbs stayed to help Tony get settled, but quickly gathered that his agent wanted to be left alone. He called Vance who quickly assigned an additional agent for Tony's home with the number of the on-call team on speed dial.
Oh DiNozzo is going to love that, Gibbs thought, as Vance announced that Sacks was the only available FBI agent for the detail.
Tony watched through the front window as Gibbs remained in his driveway until another sedan pulled up and parked across the street. He groaned inwardly as he saw who was in charge of his protection detail. Of all the people in the FBI, they had to pick Sacks to guard his home? The agent would probably roll out the red carpet for Iniguez' men if they ever came calling.
He slipped into the kitchen and filled a large glass of water from the sink. It wasn't really his beverage of choice, but he had promised Ducky he would stay well hydrated in order to avoid an IV of fluids. He grimaced as the over-mineralized fluid slid down the back of his throat, almost catching about halfway down. Maybe it was time to invest in a water filter…
Tony finished the rest of the water in a giant gulp and, having fulfilled his obligation to the doctor, reached in the fridge for something stronger.
He maneuvered his way to the refrigerator where he pulled out a six-pack of beer, popping the lid of one. He wasn't supposed to drink alcohol with the painkillers, but his side was barely a two on the scale of one to ten so he hadn't taken his last batch, hiding them under his tongue until Elaine had left the room, when he had promptly spit them into the nearest trash can. He had no intentions of drinking until he was totally wasted – it pained him to admit that he was far too old for that – but he wanted, at least for a little while, not to feel, not to have memories flashing through his head.
He set the alcohol on the side table next to the church key, leaned back into his recliner and turned on his flat screen television. He flipped through the many channels, unable to find anything that caught his interest. After a while, he turned off the set and stared at the far wall as his memories, and hopefully additional details that would help the case, finally caught up with him.
Carson had been a real pain in the ass but, when she thought she was truly going to die, her true personality had slipped though. Tony knew how she was feeling, obliquely. He knew what it felt like to lock up his feelings and not confide in anyone, even his teammates, choosing instead to let the emotions build until even he was unable to keep them hidden any longer.
He placed his empty bottle on the side table and opened another. From his many hours spent with Abby, he knew alcohol was a depressant, so it didn't really make sense for him to be drinking it when he already felt so out of sorts. But he was well aware of his own limitations despite what Ducky or Gibbs might think and knew how many alcoholic beverages his body could handle; after what had just happened, the total was a small number and Tony had no intention of pushing that barrier. He really wasn't interested in additional relaxation, he just wanted to not think for a while. He took a long swig of the second beer and exhaled loudly as he felt the cold liquid move through his system.
Carson was no spring chicken, but she still had plenty to live for, a great-grandchild she would never see, never hold in her arms, never have over for summer vacation, never teach how to sew or cook or play ball. He had been unable to save her from the inevitable. That had been his job, hadn't it? Protect the witness at all costs? Yet, he had been unable to do even that, and in the process, his partner had gotten injured. That was no example for the Probie. Maybe Vance was right. It would be better for him to be assigned to some ship that only docked a few times a year, where the most dangerous situation he would have to deal with was an underappreciated doctor who handed out extra Ibuprofen to Marines so they could continue to defend their country without pain.
A small part of his brain that was still thinking clearly realized that that statement wasn't true in any form, yet, Tony couldn't help returning to that thought. The team would survive without him; it might take longer than a few months for them to adapt to the new member, but they'd be all right.
McGee was easily able to be Senior Field Agent, and in a few years, might even be assigned his own team. Tony had seen how easily McGee had adopted the mentor role when those interns had arrived: he had hazed the blond collegiate without a second thought and had even convinced him to apply for their summer internship. Ziva was more than capable of protecting whatever new agent was assigned to the team until they gained their "sea legs". Gibbs went though agents like bottles of bourbon. There had been many more on Team Gibbs before Tony, and he had no doubt that there would be plenty more after he had left as well. Gibbs was the constant in the NCIS equation: everything else could change, but as long as Leroy Jethro Gibbs was in charge of the MCRT, cases would still be solved, and murderers would still be arrested.
He popped the lid on a third beer, feeling his heart rate slow slightly, and his breathing even. He felt relaxed, free from emotion, free from pain, even if it was just for a short while, but in the haze, he was still aware enough to push the six-pack away from him, knowing this was probably all the liquid courage his battered body could stand for a while.
Gibbs had even told him, the first day he returned to work, that the team had gotten more done in the two weeks than they had in the whole last year. Again, part of Tony knew that Gibbs was only joking—that that was just Gibbs way of saying he had missed his second-in-command—but still, Gibbs knew how hard Tony worked to seek the approval of others, why would he say something so callous and potentially harmful?
His reverie was interrupted by the ringing of his phone.
He sighed his complaint and twisted around, reaching into the kitchen with his long arms and snatching the phone from the counter.
"DiNozzo," he barked with a slight slur.
"Are you the Special Agent Anthony DiNozzo of NCIS?" a man panted.
"Yeah…" Tony thought hard, trying to place a name with the voice.
"Keenan! You're not supposed to be using the phone," Tony accused, having placed the voice with a name.
"Then we have to make this quick," James Keenan paused to catch his breath. "I need to meet with you. There's something you need to know about Ensign Jackson's murder, something important."
"You need to tell the Marshalls. That's why they're there—"
"I can't. I think they're on Iniguez' payroll. I don't have anything concrete, but I just have this feeling, and my gut is hardly ever wrong."
Another set of rogue Marshalls? Even Tony knew that was statistically improbable without having taken a single class at MIT. But in such a high-profile case anything was possible. "You need to call Gibbs—"
"I'm calling you, DiNozzo. Can you handle it?"
Tony glared at the phone, his anger once again flaring at Keenan's inability to trust in the capable agent he was. "I can handle it. Where are you now?"
"I can't tell you over the phone, your line may be bugged. Meet me at the Red Line terminal in twenty minutes."
"Keenan, I can't—"
"It's a matter of life or death, DiNozzo. I'm asking for your help here. Please don't let me down."
That was all Tony needed to hear. He would not add Keenan to his list of failures.
"I'll be there," Tony promised.
Now he had to sneak out of the house without alerting the Marshalls. Good thing he had never gotten that bathroom window fixed…
Tony discarded his unfinished third beer. It was time to be serious and hopefully save another life. He contemplated calling Gibbs, but decided against it at the last moment. If this was a trap, it wasn't worth his boss' life as well.
DiNozzo waiting for Sacks to pass by the bathroom window on his regularly scheduled perimeter check before slipped out the window and landing softly in his neighbor's bushes. He crept across the open back lawn and into the woods that ran behind his apartment complex in the one stretch of grass that wasn't covered by any security camera.
Tonight, he was on a mission. He'd help Keenan out, save him from the rogue Marshalls, if they even existed. But most of all, he make sure there was a case against Salvatore Iniguez, so the man was going away for murder one, attempted murder, drug-running and a myriad of other crimes.
If Keenan's lead panned out, Iniguez would never see the light of day again, and as far as Tony was concerned, that was just fine with him.