Both men remain silent, Gibbs' full attention on the road before him as the cars flash backward past him. McGee's attention is on Ziva. He clings to the handle over the passenger door as Gibbs weaves through expressway traffic, blasts past cars as though they were stationary instead of doing the posted limit.
Gibbs shoves his car through the afternoon traffic, slices into spaces with half-inches to spare, slashes across lanes, rockets to 98 in 50 zones.
McGee wishes he would hurry.
They turn off at the exit in a shriek of tires. McGee clings to the handle as he feels himself almost pressed out the side door. Gibbs locks his horn and slows to 80 on the side streets.
When they approach their destination, they see the flashing lights. Gibbs stomps the brake at the last instant, the Charger skids over 70 feet to a shrieking halt as both men brace themselves against the powerful deceleration. The EMTs have been standing beside a long white sheet stretched upon the ground, scurry away from the piercing screech and dive for cover.
McGee's out of the car first, but when he sees the long motionless white sheet and the distinctive outline of a woman's body, his heart turns to ice.
He stares at the sheet, gasping for breath that won't come. He can't move. He tries to fight the tears that threaten to consume him.
Life, hope, love are crushed and left dead under that sheet.
"Tim?" A voice distracts him from the horror and he realizes with a detached late part of his brain that this is the third time he's heard it. He looks to his right, to the two uniformed men talking to two women - to the two policemen with a black haired woman - to Ziva talking to the police!
Tim McGee has, in his career, done some unprofessional things - and he grants he will probably do many more - but he knows none of them will exceed his charging the distance in an eighth of a second, crashing into his beloved so hard she would have been knocked off her feet except for his arms wound tightly around her body and whatever exclamation she might have made at the collision silenced by his lips on hers.
Gibbs closes his door and walks over more sedately, not letting any witness see how his heart had been slamming in his chest and had almost stopped when he'd seen the sheet. He exchanges bemused looks with the two uniformed policemen and the unknown blonde woman with them, for the first time in such a situation feeling no compulsion to slap the back of a head.
"What happened?" Gibbs asks sharply from inches away from the duo, sufficient to tell them that the seconds he'd allowed are over. They were the only leniency he'll allow.
In full detail Ziva reports all the facts about the death of Miranda Higgins, her capture of and subsequent defeat by the 'Iceman'. "I thought I had everything covered, the belt seemed to have nothing significant about it; I'd checked it. To say the least I was shocked."
Neither man is in a punning mood; Tim is faster with his reprimand, "You could have been killed."
"Yes, I realize that, Tim," she tells him sharply. "I also realize I have now fallen for the same trap twice, so I will appreciate your not bringing that up."
"I'm not DiNozzo," he protests.
"Fortunately Miss Peterson here," she indicates the blonde woman beside her with a grateful nod, turning off her anger, "knew what to do."
"I saw a program on the Discovery Channel on helping victims of electrocution and other accidents."
"I don't know how to thank you," Tim admits gratefully, but his chaotic emotions have him turning on Ziva again, "but she wouldn't have had to if you were more–"
"Hey! You two ready to work?"
"We are ready, sir," Ziva reports an instant before McGee's nod.
However, returning to work is simply not practical. Metro PD has the scene and a civilian has saved the life of one of his Agents and that can be no means be diminished.
"That's Higgins, I take it?" he indicates the shroud covered body now being lifted into the rear of the City ME's van.
"Yes. I did not make it in time."
"Ya think?" He looks at McGee. "Are these weapons, the bat thingy and the dack-tang–"
"D'k tahg," McGee corrects, most unwisely to judge by Gibbs' silent glare.
"From Jack Carson's place?"
"Of the vacant spots on his walls, few were of an age to allow discoloration of the walls, but I would say 'yes'."
"How many blank spaces were there?" He'd stopped counting at twenty five.
"Thirty four, including wooden display boards, pegs and hooks."
"And thus far 7 accounted for, one of which he still has."
It's not a happy prospect.
"McGee, what do you know about these people from the files? Is the 'Iceman' going to wipe out the whole team?"
"He can't, boss. Everyone else is back at th..." He trails off at Gibbs' sustained glare. "Captain Morris was 'Project Director', presumably he knew it all. Lt. Stratton was Senior Physicist. Her work mostly concerned the practical application of the theory."
"So far as I can tell, Dr. Parseur headed that part of the team. He was apparently not the originator of the theory, but he made major contributions to the initial outlining and planning."
"She was the Senior Design Engineer. She was charged with constructing the various apparatus."
"And where does Carson fit into this?"
"He's on Parseur's team, the theoretical end, turning theory into construction."
"Could he recreate this weapon?"
"Doctor Shaw indicates the entire project's data files were copied so, given suitable resources, I would say 'yes'."
Gibbs looks at the ME's van driving away, "Ducky's tied up at Parseur's place. We're going to have to bicker over this body later but for all the evidence the body can give us we've lost to the city and their forensics lab." He'd much rather Abby had her hand in this, he trusts her far more than her counterpart, but he must use what he has, not what he wants.
"You got pictures?" he questions Ziva sharply. If she says no, he is going to teach her what being shocked really means. Fortunately she has the good sense to say 'yes'. "I'll head over to Parseur's, you two get back to the bullpen. Things are moving too fast, too many bodies on the ground too quickly. Find Carson. No one disappears; they just think they do: bank, telephones, family, friends, enemies, girlfriends; hell, boyfriends. Find him!"
Finding Carson is far easier to say than to accomplish, but over the next two hours the three Agents manage much of the Herculean task. By the time Gibbs comes up from the Autopsy at 1800, they are close.
"His cell phone has a GPS chip, but he knows that," McGee reports. "He didn't even bother to disable it, it's sitting in his house. If he's in contact with anyone, the smartest thing to have done is to geet a burn phone."
"'On-Star' reports he canceled his service a month ago." DiNozzo takes up the narrative. "They can't even put it on for special cases, apparently he disabled it if he even kept it in his car. He has a girlfriend, or had; hasn't seen him in months - not since this project started."
"You believe her, DiNozzo?"
"Get on her," he hesitates; about to rephrase, remembering who he's dealing with, but changes his mind.
"I have researched his phone records," Ziva reports, "and his cell phone before he abandoned it shows numerous calls to an unlisted number, very likely an unregistered cell phone."
"All right, what do we know about the 'Iceman'? How did Carson hook up with him?"
"I think a better question would be why did he hook up with him?" DiNozzo points out.
"If you've got something, spill it."
"Shaw told us that Carson disappeared and then they found out that the files had been copied, but only after Morris was killed. If Morris hadn't been killed, it'd be a Missing Person case. But since they're so tip-top secret, we'd never have been brought into it. And if we were, it'd be a race between that call and Christmas and my money's on Christmas. We'd probably be New Year's before we'd find out he copied files."
"So Carson tipped his hand. Why?"
"Killing everyone makes it hard to reconstruct the weapon after he sold it to al-Qaeda or whatever he's planning on doing with it." He stops, reconsiders. "But if that's his plan, he'd have deleted them and the backups, rather than just copying and stealing them.
"So what is he doing with them?"
"Gibbs? Yoo hoo, Gibbs?" Abby's voice sounds from the black plasma screen speakers.
"I wish she wouldn't do that," DiNozzo mutters, less put off at having been interrupted as worried that, if she can override systems from her lab to talk to them on a 'turned off' system, what can she do when it comes to listening?
McGee picks up the remote control, officially turns on the screen. Upon it, the image of Abby looking up at them from her lab table appears.
"What have you got, Abby?" Gibbs asks, knowing she cannot see them when using the overhead camera, wondering why she doesn't use the two way visual doohicky and dismissing the question because answering it would require fully understanding Abby.
"I've got something that will definitely rock your world," she promises broadly.
"I have found Jack Carson's hideout."
"Come on down," she makes the invitation sound juicy, "I'll tell you all about it."
"I was reading 'Sonja's' writings–"
"The smug," Ziva interjects accusingly, implying Abby's time could be better spent.
"That's 'smut' and it sounds so tacky when you say it," Abby bites back.
"Five seconds, ladies." He doesn't tell them what will happen if they continue their sniping. Let implication supply the gruesome details.
"Anyhow, it's not pure fiction - shut up everybody - there's some journal aspects to it, like repeated references to a 'Jaycee' who's got a sword that will - well, better left to the imagination. But the imagination is very specific about where Sonja always meets Jaycee and they practice their jousting, so to speak. She describes landmarks which translate into reality."
Abby activates the plasma screen, upon which appears in the upper right corner a line figure of a tower. "She tells the exact distance and angle, relative to the sun at dawn on the equinox, from the Kings' tower." The image changes to a familiar photo of the U.S. Capital building and a thin green line appears cutting diagonally across the screen toward the lower left, disappearing two thirds of the way down the left side of the screen. "She does the same for the headquarters of the King's fleet," in the lower right a line drawing of a ship appears, "which is guess where?"
She gives no time for anyone to guess before the ship is replaced by an aerial shot of Norfolk Station, this time with a line ascending across the screen toward the upper left, intersecting the first line.
"She also gives the exact distance and angle from the Field of Swords to where all the money in the Empire is hoarded." The Treasury building appears, its own line slicing through the first two, right at the point of the initial intersection.
"You have an address?" DiNozzo asks.
"Do I have an address," she scoffs, rattles off the location from memory and then hands Gibbs a printout with the landmarks and lines superimposed over a D.C. map. It is a site deep in the woods beyond the Washington suburbs.
"Am I a genius or what?" she asks proudly.
Gibbs, standing next to her, leans closer. "You're a genius," he kisses her cheek, making her smile in greater pleasure as the team trails him. But as he goes out, he calls back just as the doors close: "you're also on Report for reading porn while on duty."