"What's going on, McGee?" Gibbs didn't bother to wait for McGee to say hello when he answered his cell phone.
"Rockwell didn't go back to his apartment," McGee reported. "He went to the Patriot Motel in Arlington, Room 412. He must have already checked in, or he's meeting someone there. He didn't stop at the front desk."
"Find out who's checked into that room," Gibbs replied. "Then wait until I get there."
Gibbs pulled up a half an hour later. He was met by McGee and Ziva.
"The name on the registry is Anita Carmichael. She checked in over a month ago. The desk clerk says she seems nice, quiet, doesn't cause any trouble," McGee reported.
"Girlfriend? Sister?" Ziva asked Gibbs.
"Wife," Gibbs replied. "Rockwell's real name is Eric Carmichael. His son was murdered about fifteen years ago and Ducky was the ME who cleared the suspected killer."
"He's out for revenge?" McGee asked. "After so long?"
"Uh huh," Gibbs replied, heading to Room 412.
"How does Tony being poisoned fit into all this?" Ziva asked.
"We suspect Carmichael wanted Ducky to lose someone he cared about," Gibbs replied.
"Why Tony?" McGee asked.
"We'll find out." Gibbs knocked loudly. A woman in her mid sixties opened the door. "Yes?" she asked politely.
"Mrs. Carmichael?" Gibbs said, holding up his badge and ID. "Special Agent Gibbs, NCIS. May we come in?"
"May I ask what this is regarding, Special Agent Gibbs?"
"Let 'em in, Nita," a voice boomed from inside the room. She stepped aside and motioned the agents into the room.
"You had me followed, huh?" Carmichael grinned up at the senior agent. "What made you suspect me?"
"The questions you asked about Tony," Gibbs replied. "The way you asked them. Then, of course, there was the confession to Doctor Mallard."
"I didn't confess to anything," Carmichael replied calmly. "I just gave him a possible scenario of what happened to Tony."
"Pretty damn accurate scenario," Gibbs replied. "And you're right, you didn't confess to anything. You don't have to. We have the evidence that will convict you for the murder of David Greeley. We matched DNA from your water bottle to the DNA on his hands," he said in response to a flash of surprise on Carmichael's face. "You played it cool in Autopsy, I almost believed you had never seen Greeley before. Since this is a civilian matter, the local police are on their way to arrest you."
"Eric?" Anita put her hand on her husband's shoulder.
"It's okay, Nita," he said, patting her hand. "We got what we wanted."
"Why Tony?" Gibbs asked.
Carmichael shrugged. "Luck of the draw. I could have just as easily moved in down the hall from this guy here," he said, pointing to McGee. "Or down the street from you. It just had to be someone that Doctor Mallard worked with, someone he cared about or felt close to. His mother was too easy a target, plus I would never hurt a woman."
"How gallant of you," Ziva observed wryly.
"And everything you said about Tony," Gibbs prompted. "How he was a good investigator and a good person..."
"All true," Carmichael replied casually. "I liked him. I was sorry to have to do what I did to him, but I didn't kill him. Mallard did." He grinned up at Gibbs.
"No," Gibbs replied, "he didn't. Doctor Mallard spotted a sign that Tony was still alive while he was still in the apartment. We just made it seem as if Tony had died, to keep him safe from further attempts."
Carmichael looked surprised. "Tony's alive?" he said.
"Yes," Gibbs replied. "I'm going to have to take your wife in for questioning. I'll probably have to arrest her for the attempted murder of a Federal Agent."
"Eric?" Anita looked at her husband, her eyes wide with fright.
"She didn't have anything to do with that," Carmichael said loudly. "She didn't know why I wanted that toxin."
"She just handed you a dangerous substance, no questions asked?" Ziva asked doubtfully.
"Yes," he replied. "That's how our marriage works. We trust each other. She didn't have any idea what I was going to do with the stuff."
"What did you do with it, honey?" Anita asked anxiously.
"Nothing, dear," he replied soothingly. "You don't need to know anything more about this."
As the local police officers were taking Carmichael away he turned to Gibbs and said, "Tell Tony it was nothing personal."
"I'm sure that will make all the difference to him," Gibbs replied with a derisive snort.
I can't believe I'm finally home. It seems like years, but here I am, in my own living room, sitting on my sofa in front of my fifty-four inch plasma TV, watching... well, not really watching anything right now. I'm just reveling in the warmth of my own home.
It took me about a week to recover from the effects of the toxin Everett, I mean Eric Carmichael, injected me with. I still can't believe what happened. I thought he was a great guy; we had some pretty pleasant talks over pizza and beer. But he set me up to be dissected by Ducky, just so Ducky would be responsible for my death. Pretty cold.
Camichael planned things pretty carefully. He and Greeley acted like they were friends and Greeley visited him a lot, so even if he was spotted on a security tape he would be dismissed as a friend of a resident. I'm not sure how they knew I was ordering pizza that night, but because I do it pretty often they probably didn't have to wait long. I didn't get a good look at either of them when they pushed into my place, so I had no idea one of the guys was my neighbor. Carmichael had added another substance to the Tetro, Tetra ... the puffer fish poison to enhance the initial effects. Abby told me what it was, but there's no way that name would stick in my head. Whatever it was, it worked its way out of my system almost immediately. I guess that's why I went from "dead" to moving around in such a short amount of time, relatively speaking
Carmichael didn't seem like the type to befriend someone in order to have them killed, or to actually kill in cold blood. He said that Greeley killed the pizza delivery kid. We'll never know the truth of that, but there's no doubt that he killed Greeley. With that hanging over his head, and his confession of what he did to me, he's looking at spending the rest of his life in prison. He officially denied his wife had any knowledge of his intent for the poison, so she won't be charged as an accessory to the attempted murder of a Federal Agent. So Anita Carmichael loses a son and then her husband. Hopefully she can make a life for herself. I'd hate to have her go after Ducky or Gibbs. Or me.
I had a heart-to-heart with Ducky. He kept apologizing for stabbing me in the stomach and almost cutting me open. Even though I told him it was okay, that I didn't blame him for anything, I could see he wasn't going to forgive himself so easily. One evening, before I was discharged, he thought I looked feverish and wanted to check my temperature. When I told him to please use a thermometer, he looked shocked, then started laughing. I think he'll be okay.
I wanted to talk to Gibbs about what he said in my apartment, but you don't really have a heart-to-heart with him. So I hemmed and hawed, and he glowered and huffed, and I think in between all the macho 'guys don't talk about things like this' posturing, we came to an agreement of some sort without actually saying anything. So he grinned and cuffed me in the head and I pretended to not understand why he smacked me, and that was that.
The doorbell rings and I push up from the sofa to answer the door. Abby breezes into the room followed by a package-laden Gibbs.
"We brought all sorts of take-out food, Tony," Abby says cheerfully. "We couldn't decide what you would want so we decided to bring you some of everything."
"Abby decided to bring you some of everything," Gibbs contradicts grumpily. "I just wanted to grab a pizza."
"Tony eats more pizza than any human being should," Abby says, ignoring the annoyed looks Gibbs is shooting her. "So we have Chinese and Thai, which are kinda alike, but still good; we've got Mexican and some fried chicken..."
The doorbell interrupts her recitation of the menu and I go to let in McGee and Ziva, followed closely by Ducky and Palmer, each group bringing even more food.
"There's enough here to feed an army," I declare.
"That should keep you fed for about two days," Gibbs says, grinning at me as he helps unpack the mountains of food.
I grin back at him. Looking around at my friends I'm struck by an overwhelming feeling of happiness. I'm home and I'm surrounded by people that care about me. That's not something I ever thought I'd have.
"Don't just stand there gawking," Gibbs says gruffly. "Get some plates or something." He goes to smack my head, but ends up clapping my shoulder and giving it a squeeze instead.
"Right, Boss," and I go to the kitchen to grab some plates.