Roughly hauling the downed man up from the bathroom floor and over his shoulders like a sack of potatoes, Charcoal Sweatshirt breathes heavily with the added weight on him as he hurries down the short, dark back hall, bustling through the back door in under twenty seconds. Quickly and unceremoniously, he dumps his cargo onto the back floor of the already waiting and open van. Snatching up the spray bottle that's there for him, he douses his target liberally with the contents, insuring the unconscious state will be prolonged.
Letting the spray bottle fall back to the floor or the van, he throws a tarp over his catch, shuts the doors quickly and is around the front to the driver's side without any wasted time. Before another minute has passed, he's pulling to a screeching stop five feet after the alley has turned towards the back exit he'll need.- jumping out and throwing open the back doors of the van once again. Right on schedule, he's back in the driver's seat, hoping for their sakes, Dark Green and Black are where they're supposed to be and more than ready to do their jobs when their temp hire does his.
"Tony! For the last time, stop nagging! We will be there in a minute!" Ziva explodes impatiently as she navigates the still busy streets and ill-placed stop-lights that are difficult to spot in the best of times.
"It's your fault Zee-vah!" Tony taunts with irritation. "We'd a been there ten minutes ago if you hadn't insist..."
"If I had not gone to check on Abby, yes, Tony I know. You have said this already! How was I to know she was not coming because Vance has given her this new last minute assignment? I believed she was coming with us and needed a ride."
"And it took you ten minutes to figure out that she wasn't coming?" Tony gripes. "Besides, she would have ridden with Ducky if she were coming."
"You are just upset because your car has two flat tires and you had to ride with me to save time and money. Admit it, Tony. That is why we are late!"
"Never happens. Somethin' fishy's goin' on around here." Tony mutters angrily. "Ziva, the speed limit's 45 not 30! C'mon, already, will ya?"
"The restaurant will still be there when we arrive, Tony. As will McGee, Ducky and Jimmy. I do not understand your impatience. You cannot be that hungry because you ate a very big lunch." Ziva chastises him more calmly as she pulls onto the street they need.
"I'm always hungry, Ziva." Tony reminds her before he goes back to complaining. "Why the hell did you pick today to start driving like a normal person, anyway? Can't you step on it a little?"
"If you would bother to stop complaining, you would see that we are just one block away, Tony. See, it is that building with the alley on the other side of it, yes?"
"Thank God, Gibbs didn't come with us. He'd have head slapped you by now just for driving so slow. You're as bad as McGee these days" Tony gripes as she pulls into a parking spot and turns off the car. When did you start driving like that anyway?"
"McGee is not a bad driver, Tony. He just does not drive as fast as the rest of us and he is more cautious."
"My point exactly, Ziva." Tony replies without missing a beat.
"Have you no compassion for the terrible car accident he was in when he was 16, Tony? It is probably that experience that has made him cautious behind the wheel, yes?. How can you find fault with that? Especially since you are the one with a still climbing number of wrecked cars."
"Because that was like 18 years ago, Ziva. C'mon, let's get in there, I'm starvin'" He lengthens his stride towards the street they need to cross. "And almost all of those wrecks are someone else's fault, as you well know." He tosses over his shoulder in answer to her charge.
"Tony! Wait!" Ziva calls him back with a wave of concern when it suddenly hits her that something doesn't feel right.
How did he know Dr. Mallard was a doctor? Jimmy wonders as he works to keep up with both his mentor and the stranger asking them for help. Luring us into something sinister is more like it. His gut screams as his feet react to his thoughts and slow. "Dr. Mallard. I think we..."
"Hurry! Please!" The stranger implores with an urgency that can't be faked. They've entered the alley next to the restaurant now
"Wait!" Jimmy demands as he slows down even more. "How did you know he was a doctor?"
"I read Lips. You called him Doctor!" The stranger asks loudly over his shoulder with remarkable calmness despite the aire of impatience surrounding him and in his steps.
Jimmy reluctantly agrees and before he can stop them, the two older men are soon even further ahead of him in the alley, having not slowed down when he had. Now he has to hurry even faster to keep up. But he really should have eaten first because his diabetes is beginning to make itself known. His sugar is dropping and so is his energy.
Still he fights through it and hurries after his mentor. He's beginning to feel faint and dizzy but he doesn't want to leave Ducky alone to deal with this so he keeps on. From out of nowhere, Palmer is bumped roughly enough that he's knocked to the ground, twisting his ankle painfully as he falls on it unexpectedly. "Ow!"
"Ter...ribly so..so..rry! ...not see ..u..." A wheezing, drunken voice offers a quick apology.
Seeing stars in his vision, Jimmy can't see the face of the man who's just knocked him down. He can just barely see the unsteady hand that's offered to him to help him up and he takes it. Surprisingly enough, there's no strength in that hand and it's no help in getting Jimmy back on his feet; knocking Jimmy back down to the ground instead. For a brief minute, he struggles to get up but finally manages to do so.
In the distance, he hears a faint 'Ow!" that sounds worryingly like Ducky and with a quick apology tossed at the man who had knocked him down, Jimmy's gone with a burst of adrenaline, quickly following after the elderly man, around the corner of the alley. When he turns the corner, he freezes in his tracks. There's no car with a victim waiting anxiously for help and no sign of Dr. Mallard.
Returning from Vance's office some thirty minutes after he'd gone up there, Gibbs sighs tiredly. It's been a long day and he's relieved that his team has been able to break away and go have a meal together. They don't do it often enough. He knows that things like this builds their kinship and sense of togetherness that helps make them the tight-knit team that they are and he'd like to see them do it more often. A part of him wishes he'd participate more.
His Marine side always seems to win out though and he finds his time alone to be soothing in the afterwards of a chaotic day. Sure today's been a calm day by their definition, but with the less than positive start McGee had had to the day, and the trickle-down effect that had had on the rest of them - followed up by the boring drudgery of going through cold cases, with a last minute save from that by a call out, well, he's more than ready for the peace and quiet of the usual choice for him.
Walking back over to her to see what her problem is, Tony is quickly getting more than irritated. "What is it, Ziva?"
"Something does not feel right. Can you not feel it?"
Taking a minute to take her seriously and calm his own breathing so he can concentrate, Tony watches her. She never jokes about this when she gets this feeling and she's usually right. Still they would have gotten a phone call if anything had happened here with three of their group already here. Suddenly, he's anxious to get inside. "C'mon, let's go talk to the others."
Crossing the street through the traffic takes a minute and reaching the door of the restaurant takes another one. Once inside, they look towards their usual table and then at each other when they see that their table is empty. Approaching the Hostess, Tony questions her about their seemingly missing friends. The response they get shocks them.
"The two that just arrived a short time ago, went to help some stranger who came in asking for a doctor's help for a friend. But they made sure to tell me so I could tell you." She'd seen the two men quickly agree to help the stranger and remembered their words to her about letting his expected friends now about their situation.
"Which way did they go?" Ziva asks without wasting any time.
"They went right as they left out. I'm not really sure where exactly from there, but I know they didn't go left when they left here because I would have seen them pass in front of the window and they didn't."
"Thank you." Ziva offers as she hurries after Tony's already retreating back. Stepping outside, both of them withdraw their guns and proceed cautiously down into the alley, questioning their way through this new turn of events.
Closing down his work station, he heads out, his Team Leader voice rising to the surface in his head again as he changes his mind and decides to go spend some 'off duty' time with his team. Tony had certainly liked the idea and if he hadn't been seeing things, even McGee's face had brightened at the possibility. With a tiny grin, he heads to the elevator, pushing the button to retrieve the box, he's startled back away from his thoughts at the sound of his name being called almost urgently.
"Gibbs! Gibbs! Gibbs!"
Turning, he faces the voice. "Abby? Something wrong?"
"Yes! I can't decide which cases to use for my class! You have to help me decide!"
"Any case you choose will work, Abbs." He tries to remind her as he stays put at the elevator.
Abby rushes up to him. "No! It won't! Please, Gibbs! You have to help me! Besides, it'll be better than you going off to your basement and your solitude, right?" She threads her arm through his and begins walking him back toward the back elevator, not even catching the fact that he'd been trying to get her to do this for herself. "Please, say you'll help me?"
With a sigh as he lets her walk him in that direction, he gives up the fight. She's a handful in the best of times and maybe if he stays and helps, she'll get out of here at a decent time and get some sleep. She'll stay at this all night otherwise. "Okay, Abby. Let's see what ya got for ideas."
"Yes! Thank you!" She kisses him on the cheek and lays her head on his upper arm as they step into the elevator together. He hopes this won't take too terribly long. Abby needs to decompress from the week she's just had and switch gears into neutral for teaching. He knows it will take her a good part of the weekend to do that and that's only if she's caught up on her sleep. He'd like to get home before too much longer himself.
Seized with a wave of horror and panic at the instant realization that he'd been right and they'd been lured into a trap, Jimmy suddenly feels a sharp painful prick in the side of his neck. Instinctively, he reaches up to the point he feels the object he's been bitten by, expecting it to be a spider and grabs what's gotten ahold of him. Pulling his hand away, he's startled to see it's a dart of some kind. Before he can process anything more, his legs give way, dropping him to the ground in a heap. With his blood sugar already low, the pain of the ground meeting his body so roughly hurts even more acutely and his vision is nearly blackened out as encroaching wave of unconsciousness looms ever closer.
Quickly walking further into the alley with guns drawn, the feeling that something's very wrong is almost tangible, "Just the two of them of them, Tony? That does not sound right." Ziva surmises quietly as she clutches her piece tightly. "Where was McGee?"
"You're right. It doesn't sound right! Why the hell would McGee let them do something like that without going with them? What the hell's wrong with that kid? When I get my hands on him, I'm gonna kill him." He replies tersely as his gut clenches, Gripping his weapon tighter, he takes in a deep breath and hollers for the two missing team members, with Ziva doing likewise.
As darkness swoops in, Jimmy faintly hears his name in the distance, but the nothingness consumes him before he can answer.
Spurred on by the sound of the approaching last two targets, the temporary help grabs the downed man and tosses him roughly into the back of the already occupied van before jumping in and slamming the door shut behind himself. With an urgent, "Go!" the van pulls out of the alley with a squeal of tires. From their hiding places, the two colored sweatshirts quickly reload their weapons of choice for this one last leg of the job where the last two targets are so perfectly, even if they are faster than anticipated, walking right into their plans.
The sound of slamming doors and squealing tires spur Tony and Ziva into a full out sprint down the alley; all thoughts of being angry with their teammate vanishing from their minds as they round the corner. Coming to a dead stop, both of them freeze as they try to take in what they do and do not see. There's no sign of anyone. Whatever' vehicle it was - is gone already; the still swirling dust around the fresh tire tracks say they just missed them.
The hair standing up on the back of both their necks says they are definitely not alone. Before they can even communicate with each other, they are simultaneously pricked in the neck, both of them instinctually reaching up to pull away at whatever's just attacked them. With horror in their eyes, they look at each other with the understanding that they've just fallen into some serious trouble.
As Tony attempts to reach into his pocket for his phone, his body betrays him, his legs giving out from underneath him as the darkness takes him in; his last thought vaguely passing through. Shoulda called Gibbs.
Ziva, too, falls just as quickly, no faster at getting to her phone than Tony had been before the darkness claims her, one last thought stubbornly screaming at her, Find us. Gibbs.
With the hard part of their multi-layered, yet short-term, well-paying job successfully completed, Dark Green and Black toss their targets unceremoniously into the back of their well hidden van, spraying them liberally with chloroform for good measure before covering them up with a tarp. Their next task; scour the area for any evidence they'd been there. While Dark Green searches for any missed dart tips and obvious foot prints in the alley that would lead to where they'd been hiding, Black erases the tire marks from the first van and works to erase the evidence that their van has been parked here as well. For good measure, he messes up where they'd stood waiting for their prey, as well, leaving no obvious foot prints in the dirt.
Less than two minutes later, they're sedately pulling away, bringing no attention to themselves. There's a lot of work to be done in this - their final leg of the job. It's going to be tough since they've only got a short time to do it in. In fact, they've got less than an hour to secure all five of their targets in place. Once that's done, they'll finally get paid.
But even better, they can return home safely to their families and forever be in favor with the men who'd hired them to do this, instead of constantly living in fear for their lives and the lives of their wives and children. That alone made this job worth doing. Having the money now, to be able to support their families modestly for a long time to come, is a bonus they can both be proud of
The entire job of securing all five targets has taken less than ten minutes. As they pat each other on the back, they drove as fast as possible without drawing attention to themselves, back to the warehouse under the cover of an evening that has already grown even darker. It's all in the perfect timing.
With exhaustion beginning to plague him, Gibbs watches Abby finally get in her car, willing to call it a night. As he gets in his own car and prepares to follow her home to make sure she gets there in one piece, the Team Leader feels a stab of regret that its been a good two and a half hours since the team's gone out - making it far too late for him to join them. He's never been one to crash a gathering that late in the game and he's not about to start now.
Besides, he really is beat. For once, he plans on just hitting the hay when he gets home, even if it is Friday night and they're not working or on call tomorrow. In fact, he's relishing the idea of sleeping in. When Abby offers him a wave to let him know she's okay. He smiles back at her in his small quiet way. He stays parked behind her car as she walks to her building and doesn't head off until she's safely inside and turning on the lamp that tells him she's made it safely inside her apartment.
He's happy for her and he knows that she's really excited about this assignment so he doesn't have to worry about her getting into trouble over the weekend. The others are never a problem on the weekends either so with a sense of something he hasn't felt all week, but can't quite put his finger on, he drives home and lets the tiredness that's crept up on him over the last four hours, take him away for the count.
Stepping back to survey their handiwork, Dark Green, Black and their last minute associate who'd been assigned the task of luring the first two targets out into the alley, are breathing raggedly but have smiles plastered on their faces. Charcoal advises them to stand still in the midst of their handiwork for pictures that need to be taken and sent as proof of a job completed. Once the photos have been taken, he hands each of them their pay envelopes, claps them on the shoulder, "Now, go home to your families and never speak of this."
For the first time since this job was offered to them, without much chance of refusing, at it had been, the three of them had worked together, with a little extra help of course -for this - the final phase of the plan. While Dark Green and Black brought in a target and held it in place, Charcoal and his temporary helper did the rest; securing that target in place, to Charcoal's specifications. Time and time again, until at long last, each target had been secured, still completely out of it thanks to the extra help of the chloroform dose they've been given through a generously dosed rag held to their faces for a good minute. They're not going anywhere.
Turning to leave, Dark Green stays behind as Black and the temporary help both head out; each going their own separate way. It's not until Black is driving away in the second white van they'd used that he begins to come down from the euphoria of a job well done, enough to think about the 'weirdness' of what he's just witnessed.'...Never speak of this. Then, why take photos? If they were so damned careful about everything else that no evidence will be found, why...? Leverge! Damn! That dirty bastard! We did his dirty work and he's gonna hold it over our heads for the rest of our lives! Damn! Damn! Damn!
Back in the darkened warehouse, Dark Green has questions to ask; against his better judgment; although a part of his more sane self is telling him that to give voice to those questions is suicide. Still he can't help wanting to know why he'd just gotten paid so handsomely to do this. "You were only after two of them and one of them wasn't even part of this plan."
The blackness of the room is eerie but necessary so the targets won't be able to see their surroundings when they come to, something they were told when given the instructions on how the vast room was to be set up for this job. The boss' silence is as eerie as the darkness and yet, his curiosity is getting the best of him so he stands still for the answers he hopes are coming.
Charcoal frowns as fury begins to unfurl itself insidiously in his gut. At least Black has showed himself to be smart enough to walk away no questions asked. Even the temp had shown himself to be that smart. Thankfully, the old man in the alley was happy just to have a wad of cash thrown at him to go on his merry way with his mouth shut. The old coot was so drunk, he won't remember anything by morning anyway. But this fool standing in front of him - this fool just doesn't know when to shut up!
Asking these questions has just sealed Dark Green's fate since it signifies that he can't be trusted to keep his mouth shut. His new plan in mind, Charcoal has no qualms about giving the man who's coming dangerously close to knowing too much, the answers he seeks. He'll only know them for a short time, anyway - barely long enough to process everything.
With eyes like a cat and a menacing smile, he stares at this stupid underling as he answers the question. "This is the best revenge for that one. And when he least expects it, I'll get him, too. All in good time."
"Why all the rest of them?" Dark Green asks, greedy for more information to fill in the blanks. This job had come with a multitude of those.
"How do you know you'll get him? The challenge within the question almost too cocky for the man's own good.
"I've studied them all, he'll come." Charcoal answers calmly as he walks around his underling, slowly reaching into his waistband.
"And when you've caught him? What happens to them?" Dark Green asks, mesmerized by the motives and deeper planning that he's just now beginning to understand. He never meant to ask so many questions but the information that surrounds this job he's just helped pull off, is like a drug. It's been such a monumental accomplishment - taking six people without getting caught - that he wants to submerse himself in the details that have brought this job to him and his family. Oh, crap! His family! 'Never speak of it' What the hell's wrong with him? That hadn't been code for 'open you big mouth! Now he was as good as...
"Collateral damage. Just. Like. You. Because you - ask too many questions. ***BANG!***