Chapter Eight: Jenny

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She stood at her window, looking out on a near-perfect Hallowe'en night. The third-quarter moon journeyed across the cloudless sky. Were the base not a serious place of business, one might see people in costume, rather than people in uniform, strolling by. Winds raced through the trees, bent on stripping them of their leaves. Jenny, too, felt the trees' struggle; the pain of feeling torn apart.

The late-afternoon meeting at the Pentagon with her boss, the Secretary of the Navy, had not gone particularly well, in her estimation. Kel was a personable enough man, and she both liked and respected him. But he knew her problems, and they were, to some extent, formidable. She rehashed bits of it in her mind…

"You are driven, Jenny. But by what? Old scores you're trying to settle? What about the current business of the agency?"

"I always have my mind on the current business, Kel."

"That's not what I hear on the street."

She had not told him yet about the problem with Human Resources. Before she did that, she wanted to write up her action plan, and implement it. That would certainly keep her up nights for awhile. Where has that information gone? Where is it going right now? How much damage has been done?

As much as she loved this job, she hated it, too.

"Jenny, do you think you have the right ratio of special agents to support staff? This war on terror we're in—it's ever more a matter of having more intelligence than the other side does. I think we should beef up Intel, and cut back on the number of special agents hired."

"But NCIS is not just about the war on terror—"

"No, it's also about the war OF terror, as Borat said." Kel had a sense of humor.

She'd smiled politely. "It's not just about that. Day to day, we investigate criminal, non-terrorist, matters. Navy and Marine personnel who do bad, though human, actions.Or have badness done to them. Murders, thefts, drugs, and so on. Our agents have brains, too. Intel is only a part of what we do."

Of course Intel would always be the lesser-favored child to her, much as she hated to think of it that way. She'd risen up as a special agent, and that was the job she understood best. They will not take food out my babies' mouths, she thought.

"There's also the matter of you and…or should I say, 'versus'?...your personnel, Jenny. I hear you've had some confrontations with your middle managers over some of your actions."

"I don't believe everything I hear; I don't think you should, either, Kel." Ouch. That came out sharper than she'd expected. She really wished her beverage was wine or scotch instead of simple coffee, but Kel was a teetotaler. She really wished she didn't have a yen for alcohol when the going got tough.

I used to be able to get along anywhere without a crutch…

"I'm sorry, Kel. I'm surprised to hear of a report like that. I can't imagine anyone would think we have any more than the usual amount of, uh, disagreements. The kind that every agency gets."

Looking out at the night, she raised the glass of scotch to her lips. The higher up you go, in any company, the more you have to lie.

She didn't like what she'd become. But there was no going back now, if she was to get the job done. Was there?

"Well, that's good to hear. You know, Jenny, people say that you have more temper than is good for you. And they don't think it's just something that goes with red hair, either."

"People say all sorts of unkind things." She'd put on a fake smile to show that the remark didn't hurt her. Her father had always told her to be proud of her beautiful red hair, but all her life she'd heard the cruel remarks. Kel was too nice to be unkind; too smart to be thoughtless. He was serious.

"You don't think your temper affects your performance?"

"I certainly try to keep it in place. But you know, Kel, there is a season for everything. Including temper."

Almost ten o'clock. She should think about going home soon.

Trying to get Kel out of her mind for a few minutes, she sat down in front of her computer and called up the performance reviews. All were finally in, although Jethro had turned in McGee's at 5:58 p.m.; it had been the last one to arrive.

What a good group I've got, she thought, looking through the reviews. She never second-guessed the first line supervisors on this. Not that she ever fully read all of the reviews; ones from other posts were often just skimmed. The people she saw on a day-to-day basis were different; she looked forward to a good report on her people the way a parent looks to a doctor for a clean bill of health on a child. Some of the reports from this building stood out.

Palmer. Nice to see that he's doing well. Ducky won't be around forever.

Lee. Legal says she can be a handful, but they like her a lot.

Ziva. She's aiming for the top. She'll work hard to get there. Good for her.

Tony. The score isn't really a big deal to him. As long as he's shown some appreciation for the work he does, he's happy. That's not a bad attitude.

Tim. When did I stop thinking of him as just McGee? A perfect 20. Heavens. Gibbs is so proud of him. He doesn't say it; he never would. But I can see it there, between the lines.

"Jenny, I'm glad I don't have to rate you on this silly one-three-five scale."

"So am I, Kel. So what's the verdict? Do I pack my bags, or get to order a new desk lamp?"

He smiled then. "You passed. I've known you for a number of years, Jenny. You don't really need me to tell you where you could use improvement, or how to do your job. I don't think I could do your job. In fact, I'm sure I couldn't. Just look at you. While you're mostly a desk jockey, you maintain proficiency in the use of a firearm!"

"I have to. The Director of NCIS is still a special agent."

Again a smile. "And a very good one, most of the time. Well, just don't shoot any of your agents and then say, 'I don't think I meant to do that…'"

She snickered then. "If I shoot one of them, it'll be because I meant to."

"Just be sure you have a good alibi. Thanks for coming in, Jenny. May the next fiscal year be more successful for you than the last."

"And for you, too, Kel. See you at the Senate hearing next week."

She set the glass of scotch down. The dimly-lit room echoed with the words of the people she'd evaluated.

Ducky: "Rather than pretend you can't do it, maybe you should assume that you can, and find a way to make it so. You want people to work because they feel appreciated? That's your ticket. Good day."

Abby: "The Cole was bombed in 2000, Director. Seven years ago! Don't they realize how fast this job, maybe all our jobs, change?!"

Jethro: "If you're set on maintaining the status quo, you'll lose a lot of good people…and emotionally maim others. Is that what you want to see happen, Director? Is that your vision for NCIS?"

She had a lot of work to do in the new fiscal year: a lot of wrongs to be set right, a lot of procedures to overhaul, a lot of people's confidence to win back. It would be hard work, particularly that last item, but she felt up for it.

With a determined nod, she closed all the files and, using the most up-to-date encryption, sent them to HR, with a note to HR's head to call her in the morning.

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