It had been almost an hour and a half since the feeling of ultimate satisfaction had washed over Timothy McGee. A mere 90 minutes ago he had watched as Abby had broken the nose of one of the most obnoxious men to ever set foot in his line of vision. Ever since he had first laid eyes on Fred Rinnert, he knew there was something about him that he hated. McGee tried to convince himself that it was because he secretly knew he was a hinky individual all along. He tried to tell himself that Rinnert had been giving him the "perp" vibe since he walked in the door. He tried to tell himself every single possible excuse aside from the one that ended in him hating Rinnert because Abby might be interested in him. He had settled on the "perp" vibe excuse and continued trawling through Rinnert's cell phone records as the bastard sat in interrogation.
Tony and Ziva had headed out to execute a search of Rinnerts home. Gibbs was in MTAC with Colonel Mann and the Director, briefing DIA agents about the security breach. McGee typed furiously, trying to find something, anything that would give him a clue as to what secrets Rinnert had sold and who he had sold them to. He wasn't going to let him get away with a deal that he didn't deserve. The man was a killer and a traitor.
Deep down, McGee knew that the crimes Rinnert had committed didn't warrant any sort of deal whatsoever, but it wasn't enough to just let him get what was coming to him. McGee wanted the bastard tried for everything he had done wrong and more. He wanted him to suffer. It was a side of himself that even he didn't recognize. He vaguely recalled feeling the same way when he interrogated Jason Geckman a few years prior. McGee had started, not looking at the situation as an interrogation, but as an interview. When "Geck" hadn't been cooperative, Tim hadn't been able to control his reaction to the teen's smugness. He had let loose, threatening the teen with aiding and abetting and selling stolen property. It was fierce, forceful and borderline cruel. He always believed that had Gibbs seen it, he'd be proud.
But there would be nothing to be proud of if he couldn't come up with the evidence that he needed to get Rinnert away for life. Rinnert himself had already destroyed the evidence on the laptop when Abby had left him alone in her lab. It was a mistake that had cost the team dearly, the case dearly, and Rinnert's nose dearly. McGee replayed the scene in his mind: Abby, complete with an angry pout, smacking the smugness right off of Rinnert's face. It had to have been one of the most satisfying moments that he had seen on the job.
"You had better be smiling because you found something in Rinnert's cell phone records McGee." Gibbs said, interrupting his fond recollection.
"Not yet boss, but I am running a program to cross check incoming and outgoing calls on both Rinnert's cell and Captain Reynolds. I'm also working on tracing the bank transfers from Bay Route, but it's gonna take a while."
"You haven't got a while, McGee. Let those programs run and you go get with Abby. See if she could recover anything off the laptop." Gibbs ordered.
"On it, Boss." McGee replied.
The elevator ride to Abby's lab seemed like a lifetime. McGee knew she wasn't going to be pleasant, she would barely be tolerable. He had stopped off in the cafeteria to get her a Caf-Pow, hoping to appease her mood. He had seen Abby scorned before and it wasn't something he wanted to relive. While he wasn't the designated target, he knew Abby. He knew her reactions and he knew what to expect.
Except this time he was wrong.
No music was playing when he entered the lab, which was slightly surprising. Abby managed to have music for every emotion, especially anger. She didn't notice his presence, but continued typing furiously on the computer she used to run copies of hard drives on. McGee knew that Rinnert had also wiped that clean.
"Checkin the servers?" he asked, making his presence known and placing the Caf-Pow down in front of her.
"Already did, he bypassed the firewall to erase the backup file." She replied, still focused on the computer.
"And he got to it?" McGee, questioned.
"He's a lead programmer for the DIA and he sold government secrets to our enemies without anyone realizing he'd been stealing them. Yeah, he got past our firewall, McGee." Abby replied sarcastically.
"What about temp files, any backups of those on the servers?" the probie probed.
"What am I? A 10th grade hacker?" she bit back.
"So what are you trying now?" he replied, unstung by her sarcasm. It was understandable, after all.
"Well, I had been beta testing this cloning software, it was pretty much an advanced edition of what I was already running, except for a few tweaks. Faster download time, frequent security updates, and a way better encryption software to prevent hacking. Basically, a temporary firewall is set up around the cloned drive and it's completely cloaked. You wouldn't know it was there, unless you knew to look for it."
"So what's the problem?" McGee asked.
"The way better encryption. I had been tweaking and I found a way to advance it and now I can't unadvance it. I'm running a password cracker right now."
"You need to password crack the software that you developed yourself?"
"Tweaked McGee. I tweaked it. But apparently, I tweaked it too hard."
"You are quite the tweaker, Abs." McGee joked. Abby smiled for a fraction of a second. For a fraction of a second, she was happy. She was herself. She wasn't devastated over the bastard who had tricked her and ruined her evidence. But then the program opened and McGee read the screen: No Recoverable Data.
"Damn it!" Abby yelled, slamming her hand down against the desk. The vented frustration was immediately followed by an "Oww!" and McGee's attention was drawn to what he had missed: Abby's swollen and purple hand.
"Abs, my God! Your hand!" he exclaimed, not believing that he hadn't noticed it before.
"Ow. Yeah, I did that when I hit that slime ball's beak," she said wincing as McGee took her hand in his to get a closer look.
"How have you been typing with this?" he questioned, seeing that almost all of her knuckles had swollen to the size of miniature golf balls.
"Painfully, but I've been ignoring it. It was working too, until just now."
"You need to have Ducky check this out, Abs. One or more than one of your fingers could be broken."
"Please, McGee. I've hit people harder. I'll survive." She replied, removing her hand from his grasp.
"Come here," he said, taking her other hand in his and pulling her towards her desk.
"McGee, really, I'll be fine. I don't need Ducky to look at it. I've busted knuckles before hitting guys in the face."
McGee didn't doubt it, but he pushed her down onto her chair and leaned over her.
"Abby, this is not a debate." She opened her mouth to protest, but he beat her to it.
"Let me wrap your hand. It'll be quick, I promise."
Abby sighed. She knew the alternative was a trip to autopsy, where Ducky would insist on icing it and then taking x-rays. She didn't have that kind of time. Tony and Ziva would be back soon with Fred's computer and she needed to devote her full attention to getting all the evidence that she could to put that bastard away.
McGee had returned with her first aid kit, and was skillfully unwrapping the gauze.
"I can't believe I left him alone in here," she said as McGee began bandaging.
"Abby, you couldn't have known…"
"But I should have! I should have known there was something hinky about him. And Gibbs? Calling me? Gibbs never calls me. I shouldn't have fallen for that. I should have known right away that something was wrong. I should have taken the laptop with me."
McGee continued bandaging, with an odd method of finagling and twisting that Abby noticed, but didn't comment on. She was still too lost in thought.
"If he gets away with this, McGee, it'll be…"
He had finished wrapping her hand just in time to cut her off.
"Hey, there is no way he is getting away with this. I'm cross checking his cell phone records with Captain Reynolds, I'm tracing the money, Ziva and Tony are searching his place. We're gonna get this guy Abs. I promise."
She looked deep into his green eyes and she believed him. With her, he was an open book. He never once lied to her, and she could always count on him. He stuck to his word. If he made a promise, he kept it.
"Is that better?" he asked clearing his throat and breaking the simple yet slightly awkward silence that had formed. He tapped her hand gently and she looked down at his skillful handy work. He had managed to wrap each of her fingers individually, giving her the ability to still move each of them freely, and still type.
She sighed, reality hitting her once again. She smiled sadly, but remained silent.
"Abby please," McGee begged. He hated more than anything to see her upset and her emotions were eating away at him. But more than anything, what was really eating away at him was the fact that he wasn't entirely sure why she was taking this so hard. The notion that she had even one iota of a feeling for Fred Rinnert hurt him ten thousand times worse than any other time she had simply been upset.
"I promise you, I'll get him. He won't get away with this, Abs. I won't let him." He took her injured hand and kissed it gently. "Better?" he questioned again.
A cold, steely voice provided the answer. "You won't feel any better in a minute, McGee."
McGee jumped up from his squatting position and turned to face Gibbs.
"Boss, I was just…I was…" McGee stuttered, afraid of what to say and afraid of the response.
"He was making me feel better Gibbs. Tony, is that Fred's laptop?" Abby asked, retreating from her chair and walking out to the main lab to greet Tony and Ziva, who had also arrived.
Gibbs retained his ice-cold gaze, fixated on McGee.
"I'm gonna, go check.. check on those programs. See what I came up with." McGee explained.
"Yeah, that sounds like a good idea, McGee." Gibbs replied, not changing his gaze.
He followed McGee out and watched as he got into the elevator. He locked eyes one more time before the doors closed, and he returned his attention to Abby, who was fielding invasive questions from Tony. He slapped him in the back of the head and focused on Abby.
"Anything on the laptop?" Gibbs asked.
"Nothing. He completely wiped it. Same with the copy. Hopefully, I can find something on his laptop."
He stared at her, his eyes telling her to rephrase her answer.
"I mean, I will find something on his laptop."
1 hour, 2 Tylenol, and 1.5 Caf-Pow's later, Abby wasn't any closer to finding answers she needed. She'd tapped into his private emails and found the confirmation for his flight. She'd found his subscription to five various porn sites. She'd found videos and pictures that would make even Tony blush. She couldn't, however, find the one thing she needed to: the file sharing application. It was the one solid link, besides the bank account that McGee had discovered, that would tie Fred to Captain Reynolds murder. His fingerprints being 1 of 80,000 found in Reynolds kitchen wouldn't stand up in court. She knew that any defense attorney with half a brain could work their way around that. And without the evidence on Reynolds' laptop, she knew that the possibility of him pleading out to deal in exchange for the sensitive information he had was more than plausible, it was almost a done deal.
Abby stopped typing in order to suppress the dull throbbing in her hand. McGee had probably been right. One or more than one of her fingers were probably broken. If she had gone to see Ducky, she could have gotten a shot of something to numb the pain. She wondered if McGee had had any luck. She was tempted to go see him, but she knew Gibbs would be on his case and that DiNozzo would only be fueled to ask more questions. She wasn't sure just how much of their conversation had been overheard by the rest of the team. Normally, whenever anyone entered her lab, she knew right away. But the way McGee had looked at her, the way he was holding her hand and swearing to protect her…she had completely blocked everything else out, and not by choice either. It was strange, the way that his words filled her ears like the deafening roar of the ocean, yet seemed so sweet and subdued.
She remembered his promise. She remembered how he cast off the rest of team and made it his own sworn duty to bring down Rinnert. But she knew he couldn't do it alone. Abby Scuito was hardly going to let herself be a damsel in distress, especially not at the hands of Fred Rinnert. She began typing furiously once again.
"Boss, we gonna interrogate this guy or what?" Tony asked, his mouth half full of a cheeseburger. It seemed he was the only one eating the dinner he had so graciously gone to pick up for the team. Ziva had shoved hers aside to continue making phone calls to anyone and everyone who had ever had contact with Rinnert. Gibbs hadn't touched his. The colonel had thanked him, but continued working a little too closely with Gibbs and McGee was typing so fast he was certain that he was in nerd overdrive.
"When we have something DiNozzo, we'll interrogate him. Let him squirm for now." Gibbs replied coolly.
As if it had been his cue, McGee spoke. "Boss, I think I found something."