Ziva looked up from her paperwork to see Gibbs staring at her. He nodded his head to the side and she glanced across the bullpen to see McGee sitting at his desk, head in his hands, eyes closed. Ziva returned her gaze to Gibbs and nodded once in understanding.
It had not gone unnoticed how the younger agent was forced to stop reading every few minutes and close his eyes before snapping them open and squinting at the words on the monitor. The man was working with an intensity that both Ziva and Gibbs not only admired but completely understood. He had been double-crossed and wanted justice, but the younger man was in no shape to find a killer if he couldn't keep his eyes open for more than few minutes at a time.
"We're leaving." Ziva appeared in front of McGee's desk, shocking the man out of his rest.
"What?" The agent glanced between Gibbs and Ziva in surprise. "No," he declared as he returned to his work.
"McGee, do not insult my knowledge—"
"Intelligence," McGee corrected without looking up from his monitor where he was scanning through the security footage from the surrounding area.
"No matter," she deflected. "You need your rest. You were injured during a protection detail, almost blown up and have a mild concussion."
McGee looked up at her in shock before realizing that Ziva was more human lie-detector than Gibbs.
"You will still need someone to stay with you in case your concussion worsens," she continued, grinning slightly with the knowledge that after five years, she could still surprise her partners with her advance deception techniques.
"Ziva, I'm not leaving."
"Go home, McGee," Gibbs ordered from his desk.
"Either that or you come home with me."
"I…I don't want to impose on either of you," McGee admitted, scrubbing his forehead with his hands, taking great care to avoid his nose.
"It will not be imposing. I need you to fix my electrical system," Ziva stated. "It is quite a selfish demand really. It had not worked correctly since the electrician stopped by last week to adjust the wiring. Everything works properly until BLAM!" Ziva exclaimed, spreading her fingers in a mock explosion, "the lights shoot on, as well as my TV, DVD player and stereo. I have not had a full night of sleep in nine days! Please say you will help me out, McGee."
"You're sugar-coating it. You just want me out of the office."
"I am not putting sugar on anything," Ziva returned. "I honestly need your help before I am forced to do something drastic that may or may not involve a well-placed explosive."
"You'd better help her out, McGee," Gibbs added.
Gibbs turned to Ziva. "What is the best way to get an uncooperative subject to cooperate?"
Ziva paused and considered what method would best disable McGee temporarily with little permanent damage, but with a large enough window for her to drive him to her house.
"This is coercion," McGee stated, with a deep glare in the Israeli's direction.
Gibbs raised one eyebrow, daring McGee to challenge him.
McGee sighed heavily, grabbing his gear from alongside his desk. "For the record, I am not going willingly. Like it or not, we will be back here at seven A.M. Sharp."
"Who is keeping a record?" Ziva questioned, confusion present in her features.
"Never mind," McGee answered as they exited the bullpen leaving Gibbs pouring over Iniguez' financials. Even after all these years, he still did not trust the computer to find the connection between two distinct withdrawals or deposits that were in actuality related.
McGee turned to Ziva as the elevator doors slid closed. "So, do you have access to your fuse box?"
Once in the cover of the woods, Tony broke into an awkward run, pressing his arm tightly against his side to keep from tearing his stitches. He couldn't take his car, since it was parked right in front of the Marshals' vehicle, but after he had helped out an old frat buddy with a "girl problem" a few years, they had reached an agreement that Tony could borrow one of his luxury cars anytime he needed. Tony hadn't yet taken advantage of the offer, since his frat brother had taken quite a liking to him in college and had always made sure they attended the hottest parties in OSU's history. Tony considered the debt repaid, but the offer still remained.
Tony arrived at the house in less than five minutes. Breathing hard, he punched in the code to the garage with full knowledge that his friend was out of town for Halloween weekend. Tony couldn't help gasping in surprise as the garage door creaked open to reveal a brand-new Mercedes Benz luxury sedan. There was no way he was taking that to the meet.
He saw a small door leading to the back of the house. He knew his friend loved showing off his wealth, but he was fairly certain he would have to have a more mundane car for day-to-day driving. He followed the cobblestone path and discovered a smaller building in the backyard, just large enough for a small car. Unfortunately, there was a large padlock wrapped around the door's handles.
He knelt beside the garage and extracted his lockpick kit from his back pocket. Within seconds, he had the door open and was driving the Chevy Impala toward the Red Line.
Driving in a manner that would have made Gibbs and Ziva proud, DiNozzo arrived at the station with two minutes to spare. He turned off the ignition and sat in the car, scanning the area for Keenan or any other signs of surveillance, though neither was immediately present.
Deciding it was safer to wait in the Metro station, he exited the vehicle and was locking the car when he heard footsteps approaching. Before his mind had time to process this piece of information, a large arm wrapped around his upper body and a meaty hand was clasped over his mouth.
"Don't even think about it," warm breath hissed in his ear.
As the man ordered, Tony didn't think—he just reacted. He drove his elbow into his attacker's solar plexus, stomped on the man's instep and twisted out of his grip. Still holding the man's arm, Tony spun him around and slammed him against the hood of the car, wrenching his arm tightly behind his back. As his attacker writhed in pain, his face was illuminated by a nearby street lamp.
"What the hell Keenan?" Tony shouted angrily. "You could have gotten yourself killed."
"Had to make sure it was you," Keenan scowled, his face scrunched tightly against the pain.
"Ask for my name next time, it's better for your health," Tony glared, pulling the man's arm a fraction higher before releasing him.
Keenan stood silently, rolling out his injured shoulder, glaring at Tony.
The NCIS agent narrowed his eyes, but said nothing, knowing this was not the time for one of his witty remarks.
"Follow me," Tony instructed as he headed toward the Red Line terminal where there were plenty of possible witnesses, and enough screaming children and frenzied people to make even the evilest villain think twice about planning meetings in public places, which made them perfect for the clandestine meeting with Keenan.
"Not there," Keenan grabbed the back of Tony's jacket and motioned toward the dark alley.
"No way." While there was only one way in or out of the alley, it was a tactical nightmare with millions of places on the nearby rooftops that would serve as perfect sniper's nests for one of Iniguez' men. That and the fact that there was a myriad of trash and other junk lining the walls, leaving thousands of opportunities for someone to hide behind. Walking into the alley was as good as signing Keenan's death warrant.
"I'm not talking in a public place," Keenan stated. "I'm not sure who to trust: I think the Marshalls guarding me are in on it with Iniguez, trying to silence me."
"I promise you can trust me, but the alley is a no-go. Haven't you ever seen a horror flick?" Tony asked, trying to lighten the situation to in an attempt to calm the frazzled witness, even though he didn't feel particularly cheery himself.
The witness did not look impressed. "Shut up, DiNozzo. You need to hear what I have to say."
"You've said that before, but so far nothing that's come out of that mouth has been Oscar material."
Keenan stopped suddenly, grabbed Tony's lapels and shoved him against the wall. His breath caught in his throat, his side exploding in pain, as his back came in contact with the sharp brick, cutting through the soft jacket material and slicing into his skin.
"I'm trusting you here, DiNutso," the witness repeated, emphasizing that particular portion of Tony's name. "What I'm gonna tell you is going to help you bring down the entire Iniguez empire. If I'm talking, it'll be somewhere where I'll be safe."
"Fine," Tony conceded. "But not the alley. Pick somewhere else, but make it snappy. The longer we're out here, the greater chance of exposure, which, for those of us who didn't go to college, means the better chance Iniguez has to kill you." Tony brought his hands upward and broke Keenan's hold, roughly shoving the witness away.
Keenan glared at Tony.
"Scary," Tony remarked, his tone dripping with sarcasm. As he spoke, he was scanning the area around them, looking for people who lingered too long around them, people who seemed overly interested in their conversation, anything and everything that would be considered out of the ordinary.
Keenan intensified his glare.
"It needs work," Tony added before returning to the present agenda. "Now, what's this information you were so keen to share?"
But the witness wasn't satisfied that the area Tony had chosen was completely safe. He walked partially into the alley, but before Tony could protest, he turned into a small doorway and banged once on the rusted door. It fell open and Tony could see the building had once been a storefront that had long since been abandoned.
Tony threw one last look over his shoulder before following Keenan into the dark room, his skin crawling as he walked through the small patch of alley. Once inside, he switched on a small penlight and walked around the perimeter of the room. Other than the two of them, the room was completely abandoned with a Dumpster framed by two towers of boxes stacked along one side.
The boxes suddenly swayed and Tony reached out, resting his hand on the wall, pretending to be inspecting that particular section of the concrete while his vision righted itself. After a long moment, he forced himself upright and continued to examine the room, mumbling something about the strength and security of the wall in an attempt to downplay his sudden vertigo.
The store was constructed of solid concrete with the exception of two empty squares at the top of each wall that must have once been windows, but have long since lost their glass. Through the window, Tony could see only sky, meaning the windows weren't a problem unless someone could sprout wings or jump at least ten feet into the air in order to fire a bullet through the gap. He returned to the front doorway and shoved the rusty deadbolt into the door jamb. Temporarily satisfied with Keenan's arrangement, Tony turned back to the witness, semi-accidentally shining the light directly in the witness' eyes.
"This safe enough for you, G-man?" Keenan quipped as he flinched away from the bright light.
"Start talking, Keenan," Tony demanded, choosing to ignore Keenan's barb, his own tone revealing his unease with the situation.
"It's about the Jackson case. I never meant to get caught up in this, it just happened. It was out of my control. I never usually walk by the pier on my way home, but I got this note, telling me to be there at this time—" Keenan swallowed hard, hesitant to continue.
"Who was the note from?" Tony coached.
"No one. No return addr—"
A sharp crack of a rifle reverberated through the room, silencing all conversation as Tony and Keenan took cover.
DiNozzo shoved Keenan to the left into a far pile of boxes while he dove into nearest pile, only midway through the dive realizing that the impending collision was really going to hurt. He crashed into the wood, seconds before another shot buried itself in the Dumpster, sending metal shards flying in all directions.
Tony forced himself into a small a target as possible as he pulled his SIG from the small of his back. It was his own equivalent of Rule Nine, though he had his trusty knife in his belt buckle as well if need be. He poked his head over the boxes, gun locked and loaded, trying to locate the shooter, but no more shots were fired.
Where the hell had the shot come from? he wondered as he waited silently for the shooter to expose himself. It hadn't come from a window, since the angle was humanly impossible; the walls were solid concrete; and the door was locked and bolted.
He remained crouched behind the boxes for a few long moments before grabbing his penlight and rolling it across the room. There were no additional shots fired and no other sounds in the building
"Keenan?" Tony shouted, cautiously stepping out into the open, gun still raised. "Keenan!"
"Here…" a weak cry came from the other side of the room.
Tony rounded the corner to find Keenan sprawled against the wall, blood gushing from a small hole in his left shoulder. He yanked off his jacket, ignoring the burning pain in his side as he did so, and pressed it tightly against Keenan's wound.
"Stay with me!" he ordered as the front door banged open, sending the wind whipping mercilessly around him, driving sharp needles of ice into his skin.
Keenan's eyes were glassy and unfocused. He was gasping for every breath, and coughing a wet phlegm-filled cough every few seconds. Tony pressed harder on his shoulder, despite the incredible pain he knew he was causing the witness.
"Don't talk!" Tony barked as he tried to dial the ambulance with his bloodless, but still bandaged, left hand. Swearing under his breath, he placed his knee over Keenan's wound so manipulate the phone with his working hand.
"Ha-ha-ha-ve to," Keenan wheezed.
"Damn," Tony swore as his cell phone blinked repeatedly, unable to connect to the satellites in the abandoned building.
He turned back to his witness who continued to pant unevenly. He fumbled with his belt buckle and managed to unloop it from his waist after a few tries. He wrapped it around the bandage so it would hold tightly and cinched it tight, eliciting a small groan from the witness.
"I'm going for help." Tony forced himself to his feet, directing his instructions to Keenan. "You will be alive when I get back."
Keenan opened his mouth but no words came out.
"Don't try to speak," Tony ordered. "Just stay with me."
"C-a-a-a-n't," Keenan sputtered.
"There are more lives at stake than just your own," Tony said quietly.
Keenan's eyes sharpened slightly and he dropped his head on his chest, symbolizing the affirmative.
"I'll be back," Tony promised as he sprinted toward the door, practically separating the deadbolt from the door was he yanked the door open. He sprinted toward the front of the alley, holding his phone as high as possible.
At the end of the block, the phone clicked on. Tony stopped dead in his tracks and dialed 911.
"Federal witness down," he spoke quickly and clearly into the receiver, spinning around to find the exact address.
"Alley behind the Red Line terminal." Tony dropped the phone, making sure the line stayed connected so the ambulance could trace the phone's GPS, and dashed back toward the storefront where he had left Keenan.
His mouth dropped open in surprise as he burst through the door and rounded the Dumpster. He glanced around wildly, looking frantically in every direction, but to no avail: James Keenan was gone.
And worse than that, there was no sign the federal witness had ever entered the building.
David Talbot sat in a currently unoccupied two story house, directly across from the house he was surveilling. The three-person family that owned the property was vacationing this weekend, leaving this house conveniently empty. How perfectly that coincided with his mission, the man thought as he set his soft drink container next to a rather impressive Barbie doll collection and watched two people enter the second story of the apartment complex across the street.
He bent over his rifle and peered through his scope in order to get a better look at the two: the target, Timothy McGee, was a tall male, who had lost quite a bit of weight since the surveillance picture had been taken two years ago, the other was an exotic female who exuded deadly energy. The man flipped through his massive file until he came across a copy of her dossier.
Ziva David, he read, former Mossad officer turned NCIS agent. Well that would make this assignment slightly more difficult, but nothing a man of his incredible skills couldn't manage.
The target stopped directly in front of the window and checked left and right before fastening the lock and snapping the shutters closed.
What the agent didn't know was that the layered oak shutters still allowed the shooter a view of the room. As he watched, the target sat down at a stylish wooden table and talked with Agent David for a while until the Mossad liaison slipped into the kitchen, presumably to cook a meal for the two.
The man grinned and slipped his finger onto the trigger of his favorite rifle, focusing on the exact center of his target's head, slightly under the brown cowlick.
Easiest $5000 he'd ever made, he thought as he tightened his finger on the trigger, ready to bring an end to Timothy McGee's worthless life.