Catch Me If You Can!
Disclaimer: - The guys don't belong to me although I
wish that I could keep them. I'm just borrowing them for a little
while to play with before I return them back where I found
- Five Weeks Earlier -
Sometimes it was just safer to stay below Gibbs' radar and today was definitely one of those days. Agent Caitlin Todd sighed as she began the search of the small six-foot by eight holding cell where only an hour before Peter Harding had managed the seemingly impossible and escaped. The vicious serial murderer and his female accomplice had killed at least eight victims before he came to the attention of the NCIS agents a little over a week ago.
She swallowed back the hot bile that rose to the back of her throat as memories of the terrifying case slammed into her mind like a tidal wave. What had started out as a kidnapping, torture and murder investigation of three marines lured away from bars ended in an undercover case almost going tragically wrong after Tony was snatched under their very noses. A sickening cat-and-mouse game quickly ensued with the team being teased with photos, phone calls and videos of Tony being tortured and drugged by the couple. The game had finally been bought to an end after Tony managed to escape.
"Todd, what the hell are you doing? Those damn photos aren't going to take themselves!"
The sound of Gibbs' irritated shout startled Kate out of the disturbing memories and she quickly uttered an "On it, Gibbs!" as she hastily pulled the camera up to her eye and began to photograph the cell from every angle. Yep, today was definitely the day to stay under Gibbs' radar. With the possibility of Tony in danger from this madman and Gibbs' guilt over the undercover operation, Kate knew that working as an agent in the top team of NCIS was not going to be a fun position until Harding was caught!
NCIS NCIS NCIS
"Good morning, Kate, Probie!" The cheerful voice of Tony DiNozzo echoed through the bullpen. DiNozzo strutted happily across to his own desk, rotating his now newly healed arm around as he grinned happily. "Ducky just removed the cast and cleared me for active field duties!"
Entering the bullpen, Gibbs hesitated unnoticed behind the partition as he heard the younger agent's excited announcement. The silver-haired lead agent felt his blood chill with a sickening fear as his thoughts returned to the undercover case that had led to DiNozzo being kidnapped, drugged and tortured. The broken arm had been only one of injuries that he had suffered at the hands of Harding and his girlfriend Kiki. Clenching his fists, Gibbs remembered Tony's dramatic, drugged escape and the desperate minutes on the roof of the building when Gibbs had feared that Tony would try and jump believing in his drugged state that he could fly. Haunting memories of Tony's cardiac arrest on the roof and then sitting in the hospital room, trying to reassure Tony that he was safe as the terrifying hallucinations plagued the young man rushed to the forefront of his mind.
The man behind the horror, Peter Harding, had killed his own accomplice and tried to take him hostage after Tony's rescue. He had managed to turn the tables and subdue the power-hungry drug addict. The investigation showed that the couple were serial killers who had roamed the country for at least two years, kidnapping, torturing and killing their victims. The count was up to nineteen victims so far but more victims were still unaccounted for, their bodies yet undiscovered.
The escape of Harding five weeks earlier from the holding cell had scared Gibbs more than he would ever admit. The fear that the man would return wanting to finish what he started was a constant that Gibbs now harbored. He knew the anxiety would not subside until Harding was back under lock and key.
Gibbs stared at Tony. It had been easy to protect the agent when he was recovering from his injuries, but it would be much harder to do so out in the open. 'No!' He decided. 'Field work for DiNozzo was definitely out of the question!'
"I can't wait to get back outside! Into the fresh air, the sunshine, the birds …" Tony's excited voice drew him back to the conversation.
"Photographing the crime scenes in a muddy field, sketching in the cold winter rain." Kate added with a grin. "Any girls watching wrapped up in thick coats and sweaters!"
McGee snickered from behind his computer screen as Tony threw Kate a disgusted look and opened his mouth to respond. Before he managed to utter his comeback, Gibbs' angry edict cut him off. "DiNozzo, you're not back on field duty until I say you are and I haven't said you are! That clear?"
Tony turned stunned at the heat in Gibbs' order as the lead agent stepped from behind the partition and moved towards his desk, coffee cup in hand. He shot a quick glance in McGee and Kate's direction, confirming that the two of them were as stunned at the edict as he was.
Slowly Tony moved towards Gibbs' desk waiting till the lead agent had settled in the seat before he quietly spoke. "Boss, Ducky says I'm fit for full duties and that includes field work. I don't understand…"
He gave a small involuntary step backwards as Gibbs snapped his head up, his eyes blazing with anger and another emotion…fear?
"What don't you understand, Tony?" Gibbs growled in annoyance. " Don't you understand that you are still under protection until we catch Harding? Or the fact that if you are out in the open on field duties it makes that protection much more harder to provide?"
Tony swallowed as he tried to verbalize the belief that Harding was no longer a threat to him. "Boss- " He began hesitantly before deciding to rush in. "Boss, it's been over five weeks since Harding escaped and he hasn't made a move against me. I don't think that he is crazy enough to stick around here just to finish me off. I think he's long gone, probably another state, maybe even Mexico or Canada. I can't hide forever on the assumption that he is still after me. Besides, I know you'll have my six!" He pleaded.
Kate and McGee exchanged glances. Both knew how much the undercover operation and Tony's recovery had affected Gibbs but both were aware of how much Tony needed to be back on the team in his role of NCIS agent and that definitely included field work. They watched as the battle of wills was silently carried out between the two men's eyes before Gibbs sighed loudly. "You can do field work provided that one of us are with you at all times. That means no wandering off out of our line of sight for any reason!" he ordered.
"YES!" Tony jumped and punched the air in excitement at Gibbs' tentative agreement to let him back to full duties. "I promise, Boss, no wondering off when we are out on the field! I'll stick to you, McGee, Kate or Ducky like glue!" He promised animatedly as he continued to dance from foot to foot.
"You better, DiNozzo, "Gibbs growled in warning. "Because the first time you don't, I WILL suspend you so fast it will make your head spin! Understood?"
"Got it Boss!"
"Now get those damn reports that you were suppose to have on my desk yesterday finished!"
"On it, Boss!" Tony grinned as he turned and hurried back to his own desk.
Picking up the cup of coffee, Jethro Gibbs tried to hide a small grin behind the cup as he lifted it to his lips. A small quiet voice tugged at his mind asking him if he had just made the biggest mistake of his life. The grin faded as he felt the knot of fear settle again like a rock in the pit of his stomach. He glanced across at Tony, who had his head bent down towards the keyboard as he furiously typed the report. 'God I hope not!' Gibbs thought before he turned and began to study the latest negative reports on the search for Harding.
NCIS NCIS NCIS
Stepping across the
small stream, Tony quickly opened his pad and began to sketch. He
moved a little closer as he swiftly drew the position of the Marine's
body, located half in and half out of the water. The dark bruises
marring the bare back and legs spoke of the violence the young man
had endured before his death. Concentrating on his work, Tony was
only vaguely aware as Gibbs moved around him instructing Kate and
McGee to start a perimeter search and to photograph the
Finishing the drawing, he stepped back as Ducky and Gerald arrived. He lingered a moment, watching as Ducky knelt down to examine the corpse, talking softly to the dead man reassuring him that he would take care of his mortal remains. Stepping away, he moved to the edge of the forest and turned the page of his sketchbook over as he prepared to sketch the full crime scene and add in his measurements of the scene.
Gibbs' unexpected, irritated shout startled him and he snapped his head up as he instinctively answered, "Yeah Boss?"
"What the hell do you think you are doing?" Gibbs yelled as he stalked over to his younger agent.
Tony stared at him in surprise and bewilderment at the strange question. Out of the corner of his eye, he noticed that Kate, McGee, Ducky and Gerald were all watching the exchange between the two of them with the same confusion that he now felt. He swallowed before answering. "Umm, just doing the crime scene sketch, Boss."
"Didn't I warn you when I told you could join us back on active duty that you were to stay in our line of sight at all times in the field?" Gibbs growled as he stepped into Tony's personal space, glaring at the younger man.
Tony blinked before he glanced around, realizing that he had stepped back into the wooded area where he could not be seen by the team. "Ummm, sorry? Look, I guess I wasn't paying attention to where I was." He murmured, growing acutely uncomfortable under the older man's furious stare.
"Well start paying attention, DiNozzo!" Gibbs warned in a deadly tone. "In case you have forgotten, you are still under protective custody. If I can't trust you to obey orders and remain with in sight in the field, I'll have you sitting at a desk doing reports for the rest of your life! Got it?"
"Got it, Boss." Tony answered, stepping back into the clearing. He released the breath that he was holding as Gibbs spun and stormed away. It had been over a week since he had been cleared by Ducky to return to duty. Gibbs had been resistant initially, tending to delegate him with the safest jobs when they were out in the field, ensuring that he was in sight of at least one of them at all times. Tony sighed silently as he began to sketch the scene from his new location, aware of both Kate and McGee watching him with sympathy in their eyes. His mind wandered back to his kidnapping and escape. He remembered very little of what happened and would never admit to anyone that when he had been told of his kidnapper's escape he had even been scared about Harding coming after him.
Gibbs had seemed to launch into a protective mode that Tony had never seen in the man before. At first insistent that Tony stay with him at his house under twenty-four hour guard, Tony had finally been able to convince Gibbs that he no longer required the costly protection. After four weeks of freedom, he doubted that Harding was still around the area and a danger to him any longer. Gibbs had reluctantly withdrawn the guard and allowed Tony to return to his own apartment and back to office duties.
He had the sensation that Gibbs was unofficially covering his six during the night. He suspected that the lead agent was spending half the night in his car, carrying out his own form of protective custody. While Gibbs actions were comforting to the younger agent, Tony also found them a little smothering. The protective streak had really become evident to everyone on the team when Tony had asked to return to active duties.
"DiNozzo, are you going to stand there daydreaming or working?"
Gibbs' impatient shout yanked Tony from his thoughts and he quickly refocused on his job and began to draw. Standing in the shadows, a figure raised his camera and clicked the shutter several times. He smiled to himself as he watched the team for several more minutes before he turned and silently walked away.
NCIS NCIS NCIS
The bullpen was silent as Gibbs sat in the dim light of his computer screen, sipping scalding-hot coffee and staring at the negative reports on Harding as they flickered across his screen. He glanced down at his watch and sighed. He would give DiNozzo at least another hour to fall asleep before he headed over to the young man's apartment to carry out the clandestine surveillance in his car.
"You know, Jethro, that you are smothering young Anthony with the way you are treating him at the moment!" Ducky's soft cultured voice caused Gibbs to jump a little, splashing coffee onto his hand.
Quickly grabbing his handkerchief to wipe the hot liquid from his hand, Gibbs looked up into Ducky's worried face. "That madman is still out there, Ducky, and as long as he is a threat to any member of my team, I will do my utmost to protect them!" He growled in defense, surprised that Ducky seemed fully aware of what he was doing.
The Medical Examiner sighed as he sat down on the desk edge and slowly removed his glasses, taking a moment to rub his eyes tiredly before replacing them and speaking. "I was worried about what after-effects the whole undercover operation might leave on that young man but I can see that the effects are more severe for you, Jethro. I know you feel responsible for what happened but it wasn't your fault. You did your best and Tony knew the risks when he went undercover! I think you need to talk about what you are feeling." Ducky ignored Gibbs' heated look and the deep-throated growl at the suggestion as he continued. "You have become obsessed with Anthony's safety, even to the point that it is starting to interfere with the work of this team! You know you can't guard Anthony for the rest of your life. Go home tonight, Jethro, work on your boat or get some sleep. Anthony will be safe, I promise."
Gibbs objection was cut off abruptly as Ducky rose to his feet. "I mean it, Jethro! Go home!" Ducky ordered firmly, his hands on his hips as he stared at the younger agent over the rim of his glasses giving no opening for disobedience of his order.
Gibbs sighed as he tiredly stood up. "Okay, Ducky, you win. I'll go home!" He muttered in defeat.
NCIS NCIS NCIS
Moving stealthily through the dimly lit apartment, the dark figure silently entered the bedroom and stood next to the side of the bed watching the young man sleep. He remained motionless for several minutes enjoying the sight in front of him, watching as the man's chest rose and fell evenly, undisturbed by his presence.
Grinning, he carefully reached for the compact cell phone discarded on the small bedside table. He picked it up and quietly left the room, stepping into the small living room before he flipped it open and quickly checked the numbers in the digital phonebook. He smiled as he found the number he was seeking and pushed the speed dial, only hearing the phone at the other end of the call ring twice before being answered.
NCIS NCIS NCIS
Snatching up his cell phone after the second ring, Gibbs flipped it open, immediately identifying the caller as DiNozzo from the caller I.D. "This better be good, DiNozzo, it's two in the morning!" He growled into the phone, not wanting Tony to know that he was still awake worrying about his safety.
"Ahh, Agent Gibbs. So nice to hear your voice again." The soft voice sent chills through Gibbs' body as he immediately identified the voice as not DiNozzo's but the man who had caused Tony so much pain and suffering only weeks before.
"Harding!" The name was spat out of Gibbs mouth like a curse. He felt the fear rise to anger. "What are you doing with this phone? Where is…?"
The soft laughter of the drug-addicted murderer reverberated into his ear. "Why Gibbs, he is here with me sleeping peacefully in his bed. I must admit though, he does look so much younger when he is asleep. Don't you agree?"
"If you hurt him in any way…" Gibbs warned but was cut off abruptly by another evil laugh.
"Why Agent Gibbs, Agent DiNozzo is perfectly healthy. Why would I want to hurt my play toy? If you don't believe me, you are welcome to come and check on him!" A soft chuckle echoed through the phone before the loud click disconnected Gibbs from Harding.
NCIS NCIS NCIS
Fear was not an emotion that Leroy Jethro Gibbs very often experienced but it almost overwhelmed him now. He paced in the shadows of the silent apartment building, waiting for McGee and Todd to arrive. The sickening knot that had formed in the pit of his stomach as he listened to Harding's taunts over the phone now morphed into a hard rock and he glanced down at his watch in nervous agitation before his eyes drifted to the dark windows of DiNozzo's apartment above. Damn it! He should have been here, watching DiNozzo's six. He knew that Harding was still a threat so why the hell had he allowed Ducky to talk him into going home.
The sound of a car's wheels turning on the concrete driveway pulled him from the self- recriminating thoughts and he moved out into the open to meet with the car's two occupants. The trio spoke briefly before one moved back to the car and opened the trunk, pulling out the three bulletproof vests contained within. The vests were quickly donned as the dark figures moved silently towards the stairs, each un-holstering their weapons in preparation as they silently approached the door to their colleague's apartment.
Positioning themselves on either side of the door, Kate and McGee held their guns in readiness as they watched Gibbs hold up three fingers. He lowered them one at a time silently counting down. As his last finger dropped, he lifted his foot and kicked open the door. The trio moved in, quickly scanning the outer rooms for intruders before moving to the closed bedroom door.
The sound of his front door being kicked in woke Tony with a start and, disorientated by being pulled so abruptly from a sound sleep, he reached automatically for the weapon on the bedside table. He barely had time to pick it up and aim it towards his bedroom door before it was also kicked violently open and the light was switched on, blinding him with it's sudden brightness. Only instinct prevented him from pulling the trigger as he recognized Gibbs' voice yell. "NCIS! Drop your weapon!"
"What the…? Boss?" The confusion in Tony's voice was evident as he lowered his gun and lifted his hand to shelter his eyes from the bright glare of the light as he stared at his boss and colleagues in totally bewilderment. "What…? Why…?"
"Where's Harding?" Gibbs demanded, his eyes scanning the room expectantly. "What did he do?"
Tony blinked in bewilderment, uncertain of what answer Gibbs seemed to be expecting. "Harding? Why would you think Harding was here?"
He glanced at Kate and McGee in total confusion as Gibbs quickly crossed the room and pulled open his closet, gun raised as if he expected to find the criminal hiding within, surprised as Gibbs uttered a curse when he found the closet empty. "What's going on?"
"Gibbs got a call on your cell phone…"
Kate's answer was cut of abruptly as Gibbs re-holstered his gun and moved over to the side of the bed. "Harding just talked to me from your cell phone! To taunt me that he was in the apartment with you!" Gibbs growled, his eyes now darting over Tony, searching for any sign of trauma or abuse.
The sudden realization that Kate was in the room caused Tony to blush and pull the sheet that had fallen away when he sat up back up covering himself as he stared up into Gibbs' tense and worried face. "From my cell phone?" He asked as he quickly searched around for the phone that he had left on the bedside table in easy reach when he had gone to bed. Unable to initially locate it, he began to search around the side of the table in case he had knocked it from the table in his sleep. He sighed in relief as he found it entangled in the sheet, open and the last called number flashing Gibbs' name. "Ummm, I think I might have accidentally hit the speed dial in my sleep, Boss." He sheepishly admitted holding up the phone for the others to see. "Sorry."
"Bag it!" The terse order startled the three younger agents and they stared at the senior agent in surprise.
"Bag it?' Kate asked, uncertain if she had heard the order correctly.
Gibbs turned and pinned her with an angry glare. "Are you having trouble understanding orders, Todd? I said 'Bag it!' and that's what I meant! I want it over to the lab for Abby to take fingerprints. I want a lab team over here now! Everything is to be fingerprinted and photographed. This apartment is to be treated as a crime scene. I want to know how Harding gained entry; if anyone saw him and what the hell he was doing here! Is that clear?"
Kate nodded silently as she turned and left the apartment to radio for the ordered lab crew and to get the equipment required to transform Tony's apartment into a crime scene.
Turning back to the man still sitting stunned in the bed, Gibbs growled. "I want you to get dressed, DiNozzo, and then pack a bag. You are staying at my place until this maniac is caught!"
"But, Boss…" Tony's objection was cut off before he had a chance to voice it.
"That was not a request, Tony, that was an order! Harding has proved that he can reach you here in your apartment. That means you are vulnerable here and you are still under protection. I never should have allowed that protection to lapse! I'm not going to give him another chance to get near you!" Gibbs growled angrily before he turned and stalked out of the room with McGee casting a sympathetic look towards Tony before hurrying out of the room after Gibbs.
McGee stood and waited patiently for orders as he watched Gibbs prowl the room as if searching for evidence that Harding had been there. Finally Gibbs stopped and turned to face the probationary agent. "I want you to help Kate to photograph the apartment and, after you are finished, I want a full background check on all of Harding's acquaintances, anyone who may be harboring him here in the DC area. I also want another full check on the guard - Owens? Think his name was. The one that helped Harding to escape. I'm taking Tony back with me to NCIS."
"On it, Boss!" McGee stammered as Gibbs turned away from him and back to the bedroom to hurry Tony along.
NCIS NCIS NCIS
Following Gibbs into the dimly lit NCIS building, Tony was surprised when Gibbs led him directly to Ducky's lab and not to the bullpen. As they entered, he caught sight of Ducky, dozing in his chair. Used to listening for his mother even in slumber, the M.E. instantly woke as he heard the quiet footsteps of the men. It was obvious that the older man had been woken from a deep sleep and called in to NCIS just to examine him. Several empty syringes and a tourniquet were carefully arranged on the table near where Ducky now waited.
Tony turned slowly towards a reticent Gibbs and quietly asked. "What's going on?"
With a light shove to his back, Gibbs directed him towards the seat that Ducky had just vacated. "You are going to have a blood test, Tony."
Tony frowned as Ducky instructed him to sit down and then rolled up his sleeve. He gritted his teeth as the needle slid into the crook of his arm and Ducky fished about for a moment before entering the vein. Looking back up at Gibbs, Tony asked. "OK Boss, what exactly are you expecting to find?"
"The reason why you didn't wake up when Harding was in your apartment. "Gibbs stated simply as he leaned back against the counter and watched as Ducky drew the three vials of blood.
NCIS NCIS NCIS
Leaning back against the counter, Tony surreptitiously rubbed at the small puncture wound in the crook of his arm as he watched everyone gather in Abby's lab to update Gibbs on the intruder in his apartment case.
He sighed internally at Gibbs' overprotection but wondered if something more than just Harding's escape motivated the streak. His thoughts were pulled back to the room as Gibbs finally entered and handed a large cup of Caf-Pow to Abby before demanding. "OK what have we got?"
Abby accepted the drink and took a sip before placing the cup down on the desk as she swung herself around and picked up the evidence bag that held Tony's cell phone. "Zilch, Gibbs!" She announced as she passed the bag across to him. "The only prints on Tony's phone are Tony's- no latent or any other prints that would indicate anyone wearing gloves had used it. All the prints we found in Tony's apartment have been identified. If Harding was there, Boss man, he didn't touch anything or he was wearing gloves. No signs that the lock to Tony's apartment door had been tampered with and there were no signs of forced entry to any of his windows. I'm still examining the splinters of the door you kicked in. I'm hoping to find some indication of some type of break in."
Gibbs nodded silently as Kate began her report. "Nobody noticed anyone hanging around Tony's apartment building and the security camera shows no one arriving or leaving the apartment complex after 10 pm until our arrival at 2.15 am. Nothing in the apartment seems disturbed or missing, Gibbs, but Tony may need to check later and confirm this."
"All of Harding's acquaintances come up clean, Boss." McGee added. "All of them are still under full surveillance. So far Harding hasn't surfaced at any of their locations. The guard who helped Harding in the escape is a dead end as well. He had a heart attack two days ago and is in Washington General Hospital in the ICU." He concluded softly.
Gibbs growled in frustration before he turned to the Medical Examiner for his report. "Duck?"
Ducky shook his head tiredly and removed his glasses. "Anthony's blood results have returned clear, Jethro. No drugs detected at all. His blood count is a little low and he needs an iron supplement but that is to be expected after all the trauma his body endured a few weeks ago."
"Damn it, we are missing something here. Harding was in Tony's apartment tonight!" Gibbs yelled as his frustration and anger boiled over at the negative reports.
The small group surrounding him glanced at each other, none willing to voice what they believed had happened. Finally Ducky sighed and with a nod dismissed the others from the room. He waited for them to go before he walked around to where Gibbs stared at the small cell phone he held in his hands. Placing a hand gently on the younger man's back, Ducky quietly said. "Jethro, Tony told me that he believes he may have accidentally called your number in his sleep when he knocked the phone onto the bed. It is possible you know."
"Ducky, I know who I heard on the other end of the phone. Harding must have placed the phone in the bed with Tony after he made the call. He is playing games with us!" Gibbs insisted.
Ducky studied the agent silently for a few moments before he quietly explained. "I know that you believe you heard Harding, Jethro, but look at you! You are exhausted. I think what may have happened is you fell asleep with young Anthony's safety on your mind. When Tony accidentally hit your number, you only partially awoke, saw his number on the caller I.D. and your tired imagination did the rest."
"Ducky, I know what I heard!" Gibbs defended angrily. "Harding is still out there and tonight he managed to get into Tony's apartment and use his phone to taunt us. I am NOT going to allow that to happen again!"
Ducky sighed. "Go home, Jethro, get some sleep. Young Tony needs to rest as well. We will talk about this more when you return in a few hours time!"
Glaring at the older man, Gibbs suddenly turned on his heel and stormed from the room. Passing Tony and Abby in the outer corridor, he ordered Tony to follow him as he angrily stepped into the elevator, certain that Tony was not far behind.
NCIS NCIS NCIS
Standing silently against the back wall of the elevator, Tony studied the tense posture of his boss. "You know, Boss, you don't have to baby sit me. I can take care of myself." He said quietly.
He watched as Gibbs' posture stiffened with his words before Gibbs' fist slammed the emergency button, bringing the small elevator to a sudden and sickening halt. His breath caught in his throat as he saw the look in Gibbs' eye in the dim emergency lighting when the older man swung around towards him.
"You're one of mine, DiNozzo!" he breathed quietly, his face only inches from Tony's. "And I take care of my own! And until I say otherwise YOU will do as I say! Is that understood?"
Tony nodded and looked over the older man's shoulder before he whispered, "I'm one of yours, Boss, got it!"
He felt Gibbs' reach up and gently grab his jaw forcing his face to look up at Gibbs as Gibbs quietly ordered. "Tony look at me!"
Tony swallowed hard as he looked into Gibbs' eyes as Gibbs whispered more forcibly, "You're one of mine and I protect my own, understand?'
Tony could only nod wordlessly as he felt the firm grip that Gibbs held onto his jaw loosen and almost turn into what felt like a caress before Gibbs' hand dropped away and the older man turned and hit the button that would send the car to the parking lot. Tony allowed his head to drop back against the back wall as he closed his eyes listening to Gibbs' words as they echoed through his mind. 'You're one of mine!' A small smile tugged at the younger man's lips as strange sense of belonging washed over him. 'Gibbs would watch his six!'
NCIS NCIS NCIS
Grimacing as he took a sip of the now cold mug of coffee, Gibbs stepped back and studied the rib he had just been sanding. He sighed and took a large swig of the contents of his mug; frustrated that even working on the boat bought him no escape from his thoughts and fears.
It was Harding who had phoned him on DiNozzo's cell phone earlier. Harding had been in that apartment, had stood over Tony as he slept to let him know how easy it was to get assess to the young agent. They had been extremely lucky tonight that Harding had only wanted to taunt, lucky that the drug addict had not had other more sinister motives for tonight.
A growl erupted from his throat and the mug sailed across the room, shattering against the wall before crushing to the floor. Dammit, this was not some trick of his imagination! He didn't care what the search of DiNozzo's apartment showed or rather failed to show - he knew what had happened! Whether he was exhausted or not, he had not imagined the call Harding had been in that apartment and nothing would change that fact!
Startled by the soft-spoken question, Gibbs turned and stared at the figure on the stairs. He felt his heart beat a little faster by the sight of the man standing there. DiNozzo looked even younger than he normally did with his hair still tousled by sleep, his firm, lean body silhouetted by the brighter light shining down the basement stairs from the kitchen.
Swallowing hard, Gibbs cleared his throat before he growled. "What the hell do you think you doing, DiNozzo? You're supposed to be still sleeping! Ducky told you to get some more rest!"
Tony grinned as he stepped off the bottom stair and began to walk around the skeleton of the boat, examining her as he spoke. "I'm not the only one Ducky told to get some rest, Boss, if I remember correctly."
"I am resting, DiNozzo!" Gibbs snarled .
"Aha." Tony replied as he carefully ran his hand over the wood admiring the smoothness beneath his hand. He glanced at Gibbs, biting his lip in indecision before he asked softly. "You really think that Harding was in my apartment, Boss?"
Reaching for the sandpaper, Gibbs froze at the question. He looked up into the green eyes that were studying him waiting an answer. "Tony, I have no doubts at all that Harding was in your apartment. I know that we have found nothing so far to support this but I DO know that Harding phoned me with your cell phone from your apartment tonight. And I DO believe he is still a danger to you!"
Nodding his head in silent acknowledgement, Tony swallowed hard, trying to hide the fear that rippled beneath the surface. He looked across at his boss and forced a small smile. "I guess we should start getting ready for work, Boss. Want some coffee before we go?"
Gibbs glanced down at his watch; surprised to discover it was a little after seven. He had not realized that he had been down in the basement for so long He grinned as he looked back at DiNozzo. "We can grab some on the way."
Tony smirked. "What about Ducky?"
"Go get dressed, Tony. Leave Ducky to me!" Gibbs grinned as he walked towards the stairs. "I want to leave in ten minutes."
"Ten minutes Boss, got ya!" Tony acknowledged as he turned and sprinted up the stairs.
A grim look flittered across the older agent's face as he watched Tony disappear through the door. He had let done his guard last night and Harding had taken the advantage and had taunted him with how vulnerable Tony was. He would not allow that to happen again! He would cover Tony's six like glue even if it meant keeping the young agent by his side 24/7.
NCIS NCIS NCIS
He watched as the two agents emerged from the house, a small smile playing on his lips. "Ahhh Gibbs, you really don't believe that this will protect him, do you?" he whispered. Laughing heartily, he watched the car they had just got in pull away before he started the engine to his own and followed at a discreet distance.
NCIS NCIS NCIS
Kate frowned as she studied the crime scene pictures from Tony's apartment, looking- no- searching for some clue that something was amiss. So far she had found nothing that indicated either Harding or anyone else having been in the apartment with Tony the previous night. 'Not even a female.' She thought quirkily, a small smile momentarily brightening her exhausted demeanor. She filed that little tidbit away in her mental box of Tony zings for use at a later date. She gently rolled her head around on her shoulders trying to loose the tension in them as she glanced across at McGee. "Find anything?"
Jumping at the unexpected soft call, McGee looked up from his screen. "If Harding is in Washington, D. C., then he is doing a good job at staying under the radar. It's like he has disappeared in a puff of smoke. There is no trail of him anywhere, here or anywhere else." He told the other agent frustrated by the lack of progress from hours of computer searching. "Still no sightings or even phone contacts with any of his acquaintances! Nothing!"
"Well, you better get me something, McGee, and get it fast!" The senior agent ignored the startled gasp and the "On it Boss!" from the young agent as he strolled briskly towards his desk, followed closely by Tony.
"I thought that Ducky sent you home to rest?" Kate asked, surprised by the very unexpected arrival of the two men.
"He did. I did. Now I'm back! So what have you got for me?" Gibbs answered as he reached his desk and sat down, his eyes never leaving DiNozzo as the younger agent settled at his own desk and powered up his computer.
"Not much I'm afraid, Gibbs. Still no evidence that Harding was anywhere near Tony's apartment last night. Abby managed to put together the splinters of the door but we did the only damage she found." Turning her attention to Tony, Kate added. "The apartment manager wasn't too happy about the damage but I have managed to cool him down by promising all the damage will be repaired by NCIS."
"Thanks Kate." Tony smiled.
"Any way Harding could get into the apartment without being noticed?" Gibbs growled.
"None that we can see, unless he had a key I suppose." Kate ventured. The security cameras are fixed, I guess if he was careful enough he might be able to avoid being filmed but he would have cased the apartment building out thoroughly and then got Tony's key."
"Any chance of Harding getting your apartment keys, DiNozzo?" Gibbs asked, pinning him with a stare.
"My keys are with me at all times, Boss. Have them on the same ring as my car keys." Tony answered. He felt his pockets and breathed a sigh of relief at the bulky lump he found indicating his keys were indeed safe.
"Check it out, Kate. I want to know if anyone has seen Harding around the apartment building in the last few weeks. If there are any duplicates of apartment keys and who has access to them." Gibbs commanded before his desk phone ringing broke his attention.
Grabbing the hand set, he snapped, "Gibbs."
"Ahh Agent Gibbs, I see that you decided that Tony is safer under your watchful eye."
Instantly recognizing the voice. Gibbs signaled McGee to begin a trace. "Harding!" he growled, looking automatically across at Tony. Tony's head snapped up and he watched Gibbs intently.
The voice on the other end of the phone chuckled and deepened. "I must admit, Gibbs, DiNozzo did look so good in those green boxers he was wearing at your house this morning. It was a pleasure watching him get dressed before you left for work. Mmmmm - A pleasure indeed!" The voice ended with a chuckle as the words chilled Gibbs' blood. He sat with the receiver still to his ear as the quiet beeps of the call being disconnected echoed through the phone. He forced his attention away from Tony and turned to McGee, hoping for a positive result.
"Sorry, Boss, not long enough."
"Not long enough or were you TOO slow!" Gibbs snapped as Harding's words resonated in his mind. "I want that call traced and I don't care how you do it!" He demanded, knowing he was ordering the impossible.