Chapter 8: Pinned Down
It was a four hour drive to Doherty, West Virginia in the dark. The town wasn’t on any major highways. It wasn’t even on a small highway. Winding, mountain roads slowed them down despite Gibbs’ single-minded driving.
Behind them, another car careened close enough to almost kiss Gibbs’ bumper and had been the only other car they’d seen on the road since hitting the state line. It carried Fornell, Sacks and two other FBI Agents—they hadn’t been about to stay behind. Gibbs didn’t know how they’d caught up to him so quickly after they left D.C., but he guessed it was because Fornell was driving. Something else the two of them had in common.
“What are they saying?” Gibbs asked, turning up yet another minor road through the mountains.
Ziva was in the passenger seat, the phone to her ear. She didn’t answer immediately, nodding at whatever she as being told by the Department of Homeland Security. When she hung up a moment later, she was typing coordinates into the GPS.
“According to DHS, Doherty’s Town Clerk did not even have to check her files—a permit for increased power and a building permit for a technical warehouse were filed about six months ago, the only one like it in the town.” She finished, and the GPS quickly mapped the route—they were only an hour out. “And the muni confirmed the increased voltage requirements.”
“They sure it’s our man?”
“Yes.” Ziva nodded, leaning back as directions appeared on the small screen. “Because the name of the applicant was Leroy Jethro Gibbs.”
Gibbs snorted a laugh.
“What’s the place like?” Tony asked from the back.
“It’s an old cattle farm,” Ziva replied. “A company leased it a year ago month to month, called…” Ziva smirked slightly. “…Viktor Enterprises. DHS is contacting the property owner now for more information on who exactly they talked with. They’re also going to email us satellite pictures of the area. What we know right now is that there are three main structures off the main road—a long cement milking barn, a house and the technical building. The barn is at a lower elevation from the other two, and it’s what you see first when you enter by the main drive.”
“How many access points?”
“DHS is still working on that,” Ziva replied. “They have promised to call us back as soon as they know.”
“Have they contacted the local LEOs?”
“Yes. Both local and state will meet us there, with an ambulance.”
“What are you expecting, Boss?” Tony asked from the backseat. “A lot or a little?”
“I don’t know, DiNozzo,” Gibbs replied, glancing up at the rear view mirror at his senior agent. “But I do know we’re not leaving without McGee.”
Reams was packing up, putting his bags together and checking his watch for the time. As soon as first light hit—because he wasn’t crazy enough to drive these hillbilly dirt roads in the dark—they were getting out of here. Stokes, Zelnitz and Cheevers would end up buried at the bottom of the compost heap, and the rest of them would disappear to watch their plan bring down the police network of the eastern United States.
Reams smiled. That amused him. He’d thought of it at the last second, and how quickly it had been done! Truly, it was almost a shame to destroy someone as clever as McGee—especially since, after tonight, Reams knew the boy would be broken. But history taught that you did not let the children live, no matter how useful they were.
Sighing, he put the cases on the floor of the small bedroom and headed out into the hall, to go downstairs. The first floor of the house was basically one large living room, with only the kitchen and a small office separate from the main. As he walked down the steps, he spotted Duncan sprawled out in front of the TV, asleep. Kid couldn’t live without some sort of media on—even asleep, the TV had to be on. It was currently trying to get the sleeping boy to purchase anti-acne skin products. Over the last year, Reams had tried a few times to turn it off during the night, but then Duncan didn’t sleep. Strange, strange kid.
To the left of the TV were the monitors from the security system, showing nothing moving outside. They showed mud, trees and more mud. Reams sneered—he’d be glad to leave this hole in the middle of nowhere. He missed the city.
Walking past the couch, he pushed out the screen door and onto the porch, shivering a little at the cold. At least it had stopped raining. The world appeared almost shiny under the full moon, as water dripped off leaves and ran in glistening rivulets down the muddy track to the barn.
Only one light was on down there, the one in the room with his two guards—and he could see the flickering of the security monitor screens down there as well. One of the men would be sleeping, the other on watch. Though what they were guarding at this point wasn’t much—three broken shells and one dead body. It really hadn’t taken long to bring down those geeks—not even a field agent had stood up for long.
He shook his head and turned around, headed back into the house, planning on catching a few hours of sleep before dawn hit.
Four police cars, an ambulance and a coroner’s van met them at the foot of the hill leading up to the farm. This wasn’t the driveway—that was still a couple of miles further up the dirt road. Gibbs glided the Charger to a stop and parked next to the coroner van, thinking vaguely about the message he’d left for Ducky. Knowing the doctor, he and Palmer were probably not that far behind him. Nor, he guessed were a lot of other agents. Ziva had already confirmed that DHS and CID had several vehicles on the road, on their way here.
Sighing, he got out of the car, looping his earpiece around his ear as he did so, and walked towards the man who was, fairly obviously, the chief of police. He was older, with nearly white hair and the worn look of a man who spent far too much time raiding meth labs. Satisfied the radio was in his ear, Gibbs reached into his jacket and raised his badge.
“Special Agent Gibbs,” he announced. “NCIS.”
“Chief Spencer Riley,” the man replied, nodding once. He jerked his head to the left. “And this is First Lieutenant Anwar Abrahams of the State Police.”
Gibbs tried not to look surprised as the young man next to the Chief lifted his hat to him in greeting. Anwar was young, not much older than Tony.
“Colonel is on his way, sir,” the lieutenant explained, “but asked me to act as liaison until he got here.”
Gibbs inclined his head, accepting that. “What’ve you got for me, Lieutenant?”
“Twenty Troopers at your disposal, sir, and a helicopter a town away—which can be called in if we need it.” The lieutenant had a proud gleam in his eye, and Gibbs didn’t doubt it was deserved. That was a hell of a call out with only a few hours notice and in the middle of a Sunday night. The lieutenant saw the approval on Gibbs face and smiled more. “And as you requested, sir, my men have formed a perimeter around the property, locking it down. No one will be getting out. West Virginia State Troopers are the best in the country, sir; we won’t let you down.” Gibbs’ smile broadened a little at the boast.
“And I’ve got my five men, with two vehicles,” the Chief of Police added with less swagger, but no less pride. He gave a small shrug. “’Fraid that’s all we got for Doherty. They’re here with me.” He waved behind him to where two local police vehicles were parked—three men and two women in khaki watched them with interest.
Gibbs inclined his head in a hello, and got mostly hat tips in return. By this time, Fornell had joined them. He flashed his badge. “Agent Fornell,” he said in greeting. “FBI.”
Chief Riley and Lieutenant Abraham nodded back.
“Chief,” Gibbs said, “why are we parked down here and not closer to the farm? It’s still about a couple of miles up to the main driveway, right?” He nodded up the dark hill—covered in trees, it was basically just a big black lump under the night sky.
“Surely,” Chief Riley replied, “but the foot of the drive’s got a camera on it.”
Gibbs’ eyebrows lifted. “You sure?”
“We regularly patrol. We saw the cameras go up about a month ago—and they made the mistake of putting one on the main road. They need a permit for that kind of thing, so we drove in and talked to the man there. Reams, he called himself.” Gibbs’ eyes narrowed slightly at the confirmation. “He said he didn’t know that the camera was on the public road, so agreed to move it back. We don’t know how far back he set it, but I’m betting it’s still close by, covering the driveway entrance. Officer Stein back there,” he nodded to one of the women, a slim brunette with her hair in a tight ponytail, “has a real good eye. She spotted about a dozen more on the property, looking in all directions. We made a note of it, since that’s pretty odd for a place that still mostly resembles a cattle farm. Fair guess, the other two access roads leading to the farm are covered as well as the drive.”
“Well, that sucks,” Tony said from behind Gibbs. Gibbs glanced at him over his shoulder—Tony and Ziva and Agent Ron Sacks were flanking the two senior agents. Gibbs sighed, and, looking back at the local LEOs, pointed at them over his shoulder.
“Agent DiNozzo, Officer David, and Agent Sacks,” he introduced. Chief Riley nodded, and Lieutenant Abraham raised a hand in a wave, smiling a bit more at Ziva.
“Any guess as to the number of men with Reams, Chief?” Fornell asked.
“Not sure, but I don’t think that many, based on the amount of food they’ve bought over the last few days. I’d wager no more than eight people, tops.”
“You know how much food they’ve bought?” Tony asked, surprised. The Chief nodded at him.
“Not many places to buy food and supplies up here, Agent DiNozzo. Truth is, this community is right small, and the strangers up at the farm have been a source for gossip. Soon as we were called, we were calling around for information. It didn’t take us long to find out where they’d been and what they’d bought in the last couple of days.”
Gibbs eyebrows were raised, and he glanced at Fornell. The FBI Agent was smiling.
“That’s good work, Chief.”
Riley just shrugged, as if this were perfectly normal for them. Next to him, the lieutenant cleared his throat—he’d been looking behind the agents at the dark highway, as if looking for more cars.
“Uh, will you be waiting for additional backup, Agent Gibbs?”
Gibbs frowned, not understanding. Luckily, Fornell answered.
“More agents are coming,” the FBI agent noted, “but I think we have the backup we need.” He nodded at them, which made Lieutenant Abrahams smile. “This will be a covert op, as they have hostages. We don’t want these guys to be awake when we hit them.” He glanced up at the sky—looking for signs of lightening. The night was their best defense right now—which made the full moon a bit of a problem.
“Where do you want us?” the Chief asked.
“Actually, based on what you just told us…,” Gibbs frowned, contemplating the female officer Riley had said had the ‘good eye’—the one who knew where the cameras were. She looked fit, though the khaki outfit made her stick out in the dark. Even so…. He sighed, catching Fornell’s eye. The FBI Agent nodded, agreeing with Gibbs’ silent question about whether they should use her. Gibbs looked at the Chief.
“We’re going to go in small and tight and on foot,” he said. “The five of us, plus…” he looked to the other FBI agents Fornell had brought with him. One was a very tall black woman and the other a young bearded man that looked a little like a young Robert Redford.
“Agent Royce,” Fornell said, to which the woman reacted with a nod, “and Agent Redford.” The young man nodded, and even Gibbs looked again, surprised to hear his thought ironically echoed like that.
“Redford?” Tony repeated, smiling. “Really?”
“I know,” Sacks whispered, a hint of a smile on his face. “Cool, eh? Claims no relation but, come on, look at him.”
Tony feigned disinterest, but he kept an eye on Redford for a little while longer. Gibbs frowned, turning back to the two local officers. They were both still looking at Redford speculatively. Gibbs cleared his throat.
“And, we’d like to borrow your Officer Stein,” he told the Chief. The young woman heard and straightened up.
Riley’s eyes narrowed—uncertainty on his face for the first time. “You sure?”
“If she knows where the cameras are, she’ll be invaluable. We’re not going to see them all in the dark.”
Riley studied him a moment, then turned back to look at her. “You willing, Cassie?”
“Definitely, Chief. You know I know that farm. I’ll get ‘em in with no one seeing.”
“Cassie grew up on the other side of the hill,” Riley told Gibbs. He grimaced then, as if still measuring the man in front of him, then stepped a little closer, his gaze locked on the NCIS agent. “You’ll take care of her?”
“Yes,” Gibbs answered without hesitation.
Riley waited a moment longer, and then nodded. “Fine. Right then,” he waved a hand at the road, “we’ll seal off the road behind you and block the other access points to the farm. And if your other agents come…?”
“Keep them with you. If we need help, we’ll radio.”
“Right,” Riley said. He hesitated, then held out a hand. “Good luck.”
Gibbs took it. Not that they needed luck—but it never hurt.
Twenty minutes later, the group followed Officer Stein, who was now wearing Ziva’s spare black NCIS jacket, on foot through the woods. She’d already steered them around two cameras—her eyesight really was good, but it was her knowledge of the area that gave her a real edge.
Before long, they came to the edge of a massive, fenced clearing, about fifty yards from the edge of a long, cement barn. A handful of orange halogen lights flooded areas of the building and the clearing—the latter of which resembled a dirt parking lot. A black, small moving truck was parked near the end of the barn.
“No wonder the ‘van’ lead never got us anywhere,” Tony muttered upon seeing it. “They used a truck.”
Gibbs didn’t answer, peering up the hill towards the house and small concrete structure. The house was a traditional two story farmhouse with a wrap-around porch, pretty looking. There was flickering light shining through the windows on the first floor—probably from a living room TV. About twenty feet away, the concrete structure was a box with wires attached to it leading to a transformer—that was probably where the computers were. The house had a black sedan in front of it, but not much else. Only two vehicles—a good sign.
There was a lot of open ground to cover.
“Where are the cameras?” he asked Stein.
“There are several,” she answered. “There,” she pointed towards the end of the barn, then to other places around the compound, “there, there, there and there. And more on the other side of the barn.”
Gibbs’ squinted, his poorer eyesight not helping in the dark. “You got that Tony?”
“Got it, Boss.”
“Okay. You take Sacks and Royce and hit the barn—make sure those cameras don’t see you. You see that light?” Gibbs nodded at the one window with light shining through it at the end of the barn—something flickered inside. Monitors, most likely, showing the camera feeds.
“Guards are probably in there. Officer,” Gibbs glanced at Stein, “do you know the set up of the interior of the barn?”
“Somewhat,” she answered. “But they’ve changed it since last I physically saw it. I only know what our fire chief told us after they inspected it for the occupancy permit six months ago. Basically, it was a milking barn. The inside was open, with low half-walls separating the milking stalls and a single separate room at the end filled with equipment. That’s the room the light is coming from. Anyway, from what I was told, Reams constructed rooms where the milking stalls used to be, separated by a corridor down the center. Of the windows, most were sealed except for the ones in that main equipment room, and the high ones you can see in the center of the structure that they installed bars in.”
“Bars,” Ziva whispered, her eyes shining in the moonlight. “Like cells.”
Gibbs did not respond, though Stein’s eyes widened slightly at the implication.
“How many ways in?” Gibbs asked.
Stein drew her shocked gaze away from Ziva, and looked again at the barn. “Um…just two, the doors at each end. Though…I guess the windows are large enough that you could climb through them if you had to.”
Gibbs nodded. “Got that, Tony?”
“Got it, Boss.”
“Good. Okay, so tell me about the house.”
“Um,” Stein frowned, “the, uh, the bottom floor is a…” She opened her hands up. “It’s a big open living room, and one wall is just a big stone fireplace with lots of dead animal heads hanging off of it. There’s also a kitchen round back and a small office. The stairs to the second floor climb up the wall opposite the fireplace, and the kitchen and office are behind that wall. Second floor is just a hallway with bedrooms. Four of them.”
“Some of our people might be in the house, then,” Fornell said then, his focus on Gibbs. “He might have split them up.”
“Potential hostages in both locations,” Sacks agreed. “That’s what I’d do.”
“Here’s hoping he was too overconfident to have thought of it,” Tony said then.
Gibbs was frowning now, gaze shifting between the house and the barn. Finally, he gave a headshake. “We’ll go with the assumption they are in two places.” He looked at Stein again. “Are there backstairs, or is there another way to the second floor?”
“No, but…” She gave a shrug. “It’d be pretty easy for someone fit to climb up onto the porch roof and get inside.”
Gibbs nodded. “Fine. Fornell,” he looked at the FBI agent as he spoke, “you, me and Ziva will take the house. Redford.” He glanced at the actor lookalike. “You get the small concrete technical building. I doubt anyone’s in it, but better safe than sorry. If no one’s there, join us at the house.” Redford nodded.
“What about me?” Officer Stein asked.
“You lead us up through the woods closer to the house and the cement structure, but you stay hidden in the trees after you point out the rest of the cameras for us. If something goes wrong, radio for back up.”
She grimaced, clearly disappointed, but didn’t say anything more.
“Tony,” Gibbs said, shifting to meet his senior agent’s eyes. “Wait ten minutes, then go ahead. Radio silence until you’ve established whether McGee and the others are in that barn or not. We’ll wait on you before hitting the house.”
At Tony’s nod, Gibbs indicated for Officer Stein to lead the way through the woods up the hill.
“You see ‘em all?” Sacks asked.
Tony tried not to bridle at the question, or its underlying sneer. Sacks didn’t like playing second fiddle on the op, but he’d have to suck it up.
“I see them all,” Tony replied, watching the way the cameras turned. There really wasn’t a time when a camera wasn’t watching an area, and it’d be foolish to assume they weren’t motion sensitive.
“Even that one?” Sacks asked, pointed across the way at some trees, where a camera was looking almost directly at them. Tony rolled his eyes.
“Yes, even that one.”
“What about that one?”
Tony frowned at Sacks. “Yes, that one too.”
“I’m just saying,” Sacks began, “It’s still night, and if you’ve missed one because of the dark…?“ He lifted his eyebrows.
“Thanks for the warning, Agent Sacks,” Tony sneered. “But I happen to have amazing eyesi—“
“What’s the plan?” Agent Royce interrupted, her voice tense due to obvious annoyance with the men’s one-upmanship. She had a quiet, husky voice—attractive—that fit her exterior appearance. She reminded Tony a little of a young Grace Jones, though not as tall or as ridiculously thin. Her pale brown eyes met his in question.
He favored her with a wry look, and turned his attention once more to the cameras. He nodded at the one opposite them. “That’s the hardest one. It’s going to spot us the moment we leave the trees.”
“No, duh,” Sacks muttered.
“For the reason,” Tony said, stressing the words as he glared at Sacks, “my plan is for us to split up and attack from three different directions. Confuse the cameras as much as possible. Royce, you see those two cameras over there? The ones near the truck?” He gestured at the building, and Royce squinted her eyes. After a moment, she nodded.
“They’re countering each other, but if you time it right…there? See that?” The cameras, for a brief moment, were pointed at each other. “Next time they do that, you come from there.” He pointed to a dark bush a few feet away. “And run to the truck before they split again. I’m hoping they’ll be too interested in each other’s movements to sense yours before you get to the truck. Then it’s just a matter of you doing it again to get to the front door.” Royce had been studying the cameras as Tony spoke. When he finished, she nodded in understanding.
“What about us?” Sacks asked.
“There’s four cameras on the other end of the barn, where the bad guys probably are. You and I will come from two directions, staying as low as possible. We move fast enough, we should be able to ghost past the edge of the cameras’ ranges.”
“You’re betting a lot on that,” Sacks said with a frown.
“There’s no other way, not without some way to interrupt the cameras.” Tony tried not to consider that, if McGee had he been here with them, he’d have thought of some geeky way to loop the cameras, like Jonathon Chow had done when they’d been guarding that radar system. Shaking off the thought, he peered up at the generator next to the house. Cutting off the power might have worked as well, if they’d been able to get to the generator. Basically, they were out of luck.
“It’s been ten minutes,” Royce noted, checking her watch. She looked up at Tony. “We a go?”
“We’re a go,” he answered, already up and moving to a better spot to approach the other end of the barn from where Royce was going to enter. Sacks followed him, until Tony stopped him and told him where to start running from. Sacks nodded, moving to where he was ordered to go. Whatever tension they’d had melted away, turning them into a team as they prepared to take the barn.
Tony watched the cameras, eyeing their movements carefully. The boast about his eyesight hadn’t been an empty one—Sacks would just have to trust him.
He lifted a hand, signaling the hold position. As the cameras all reached the limits of their turns, he flashed a “go” and took off running. Sacks was right with him, running about twenty feet away on his right.
The cameras turned swiftly back, sensing the movements. They weren’t going to make it….
Tony and Sacks hit the cement wall of the barn at the same time, and Tony closed his eyes, waiting for the alarm.
A moment later, someone tapped his shoulder and Tony peeked to his right. Sacks gave him the OK sign, along with a crooked smile—they’d avoided detection. Tony smiled back just as crookedly, and nodded. Leaning out a little, he peered down the wall towards the distant truck, trying to see Royce. He couldn’t see her, but he trusted she was there, covering the other exit to the long structure.
He nodded once more at Sacks, and started inching around the side to the front, to where the door was. The lit window was at this end—so presumably, someone was awake.
They reached the door and took up positions on either side. Tony glanced at Sacks, got a nod to proceed, and tried the door.
It wasn’t locked. Tony frowned slightly. He understood why as soon as he started to pull it open—the metal squealed and groaned, as loud as if the door hadn’t been opened in years.
And then the alarm went off, blaring through the entire farm like a tornado warning siren.
After that, everything happened extremely quickly.
Shots hit the doorway from the inside from an automatic weapon, and Tony shut it quickly. He glanced at Sacks, but the FBI Agent was already moving, running to the side—to find another way in through the window or, at least, provide cover fire through it.
Tony waited, counting inside his head. The automatic fire stopped. Tony was still counting. When he reached “eleven” in his head, glass shattered and the automatic fire was back, this time aimed at something else. A 9MM replied, and Tony took his cue, pulling the door open in one big swoop and diving inside, shouting “Federal Agents!” at the same time—just in case it hadn’t been obvious.
Bullets tore into the floor around him, but he kept rolling until he was behind cover—which turned out to be a large metal vat—a pasteurizer, from the looks of it. Bullets pinged off the container, and he backed to a more covered position, his back to the vat. Damn it! He hadn’t even seen enough of the room to know what to aim at.
Judging based purely on noise, he leaned around the edge of the vat, gun first.
A hail of bullets had him backing up fast. Damn it!
Reams was awake upstairs and at the window the instant that the alarm went off, his gaze narrowing as he spotted the flash of gunfire erupting inside the equipment room in the barn down the hill. Damn, how the hell did they find them?
Everything he’d worked for! All his plans!
Moving quickly, he stuffed his 9MM into his waistband, grabbed his rifle, wallet and his PDA, and headed for the stairs.
Gibbs swore as the alarm went off, followed swiftly by the report of gunfire from the barn—both machine gun and, after a few moments, 9MM. So much for that plan.
“Go,” he snapped into the radio to Ziva and Fornell, and ran up the porch steps he’d been crouched next to, the ones leading to the main door. Fornell jogged up onto the porch from the steps at the end, stopping at the first open window. Gibbs stopped at the open screen door and looked inside—and nearly had his head taken off when someone started firing something powerful at the door. Fornell immediately started firing from his angle.
“It’s Matthews! He’s got a…Jesus Christ!” Fornell called as he ducked away from the window, the glass shattering outwards as the same someone inside obviously fired at him now. Fornell’s expression was almost comical as he looked at Gibbs. “He’s got an AK-47 in there!”
Gibbs just arched an eyebrow. “Anyone else?”
Fornell shook his head, risking another look inside when the firing stopped briefly. “No.”
Gibbs nodded, pressing his shoulder against the edge of the door frame.
“NCIS!” he shouted into the interior. “You’re under arrest!”
Reams froze on the landing, recognizing that voice. He’d know it anywhere.
The downstairs had erupted in gunfire—Duncan wasn’t about to go quietly. Sounds like he’d finally get to use those precious AK-47s he’d gotten as part of his deal with Lensky. Eyes narrowing, Reams turned around, headed back to his room.
“Drop your weapons!” Gibbs shouted.
“Fuck you!” Duncan Matthews replied, the kid not letting up on his firing, alternating between the window where Fornell was and the front door. “Come and get me, cop! I got bullets to spare!” To prove his point, he really let loose on the door, sending the screen flying off its hinges and down the porch steps.
From somewhere else in the house, he heard a door being kicked in. Ziva, entering via the back door into the kitchen.
“Drop it!” she shouted. “We’ve got you surrounded!”
The gunfire changed direction and Gibbs managed his first real look inside—to where an AK-47 rifle was being fired over the back of a brown leather couch at a location on the other side of the room—likely the entrance to the kitchen. Matthews wasn’t actually visible, except for a tuft of blond hair—Gibbs had no shot. The kid, meanwhile, had a great position—there was nothing behind him but the fireplace, a large plasma TV, and a solid wall of stone, just as Stein described. Depending on how much ammunition the boy had, he could hold them off for a long time from there, and, meanwhile, they still had no idea where Reams or the hostages were.
Matthews must have spotted him, because the rifle suddenly switched its aim, once more pulverizing the now empty doorframe with bullets, forcing Gibbs to duck back.
Reams’ eyes scoured the landscape outside his bedroom window, looking for vehicles, for evidence of just how many agents there were on the ground, but he didn’t see anything. Not yet. They hadn’t brought in their full back up.
But it wouldn’t be long. They’d wait until they had the hostages secure, he imagined.
It left him with only a small window to get out, but it was a window he’d take.
He threw open his window. From the sounds of it, Duncan had them pinned down downstairs. His only option was to find another way to the ground below. Question then would be, did he try to escape? Or did he find a way to finish this?
Frowning, his head a muddle of rage and frustration, he threw a leg over the sill and climbed out onto the porch roof.
He already knew the answer.